Shooting a muzzleloader is pretty much the same as shooting a cartridge gun. Here are a few tips on things common in muzzleloaders and less so on modern guns.
Donít Let the Big Numbers Scare You
In target competition, you may ask the range master for a fouling shot. Don't hit the paper! The benefits are:
I used to need to run a wet cleaning patch after 3 to 10 shots with pre-lubed patches. Now I use spit lube and frequently pass 20 shots without needing to swab it out . This is with ďhit or missĒ targets. For bullís eye I like to swab with moose milk every shot. Confession: For this I have a little plastic spray bottle.
Develop a Load
For hunting you may be shooting bullets and will want a high energy impact. After selecting the bullet, just vary the powder charge. An old method was to shoot over a white sheet (or snow). If you see little black spots, you have overloaded and are seeing unburned powder. If you have use of a chronograph, increase the charge in small steps until more powder does not increase velocity. (Note: At this point it just blows unburned powder out the muzzle.) Back off five grains. You have your max load. Adjust the sights to move the group to the bullís eye.
Your accuracy load for competition will take more work since there are more variables. Powder charge, ball diameter, and patch thickness all need to be considered. The old rule of thumb was one grain per caliber number, i.e. fifty grains for fifty caliber will probably be a bit heavy. Next variable is ball fit. Unless you have special needs (and deep pockets) stick with the readily available ball size (.490 for a 50) and adjust fit with patch thickness. There should be resistance all the way, but you shouldnít need to pound on it. Start shooting different powder charges for group. Since common ranges for us are twenty five and fifty yards, I develop my load for smallest group and adjust my sights at twenty five. Then increase the load to move impact up at fifty yards to match without moving the sights. Take two powder measures to the range.
Dealing with fouling
Using set triggers
Sights and Aiming
The most restrictive, often labeled primitive usually specifies open and/or iron sights.
Many tang sights have a knob adjustable elevation, calibrated for different distances and both can and may be adjusted between shots.
4H, YHEC and many others use a less restrictive iron sight definition. Peep sights, covered sights, tang sights and even fiber optic maybe OK. Check!
The most modern is a zoom scope, usually on an inline, which is accepted for hunting in most, but not all, places. I have rarely seen any muzzleloading competitions allowing scopes but then again, this discipline is mostly rewarded with meat not medals.
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