Simply speaking, a muzzleloader is any firearm that is loaded with the projectile through its muzzle as opposed to modern firearms, which can be loaded from the breech or rear. Muzzleloaders are also referred to as “black powder rifles” because they are typically used with black powder instead of smokeless powders used in modern ammunition.
Types of Muzzleloaders
Muzzleloaders are divided into three different types, which are as follows:
Flintlock muzzleloaders are also known as “black powder” guns due to their use of black powder and flintlock mechanism, which shoots patched balls at the target. These muzzleloaders consume more time than modern muzzleloaders due to the effort involved in successfully discharging the propellant.
As the name suggests, they consist of a flint that strikes a piece of metal known as a frizzen. The flint scrapes pieces of this frizzen and deposits these pieces to a pan of priming powder that will ignite the gunpowder in the barrel. This process can be challenging since so many variables are involved. But with proper practice, flintlock muzzleloaders can be as accurate as modern firearms on a hunt.
2. Cap Locks
Cap lock muzzleloaders consist of a cap held in place by a nipple to the left of the barrel. When you shoot, a hammer strikes that cap which produces a flame that travels to the nipple and then to the barrel. However, if the cap got wet, it would be complicated for the user to shoot the gun.
This kind of muzzleloader was considered an innovation in the 19th century when it was developed. The cap lock muzzleloader is the predecessor of the modern-day rifle cartridge.
An inline muzzleloader is constructed so that the cap is placed in line with the barrel and hammer. The nipple is attached to the barrel’s breech and can be accessed through a bolt or a brake action. You can remove the breech in this kind of muzzleloader, making it more reliable since you can easily clean it if it gets wet. This type of muzzleloader resembles the modern-day rifle more closely than the other two types.
Usually, as a fuel, the powder is used in muzzleloaders. But in some cases, pellet charges can also work. You will need to load the powder into the muzzle before the bullet. True black powder-like Goex will work with all three types of muzzleloaders. On the other hand, synthetically produced powders like Hodgdon Triple Se7en and Hodgdon Pyrodex will only work with modern inline rifles.
Before you pour the powder into the muzzle, you will need a powder measuring device. Measure the amount of powder you will need and then pour it into the muzzle. Traditionally, black powder is used with muzzleloaders, but pellets are also available, making the loading process much more manageable. However, you can only use pellets with modern inline rifles.
Traditional “round ball” or even elongated projectiles can both be used with a muzzleloader. The range of grain of the bullets is from 245Gr. To 300Gr. The size of the grain of the bullet is directly proportional to the size of the game sought.
In simpler terms, the larger the animal you want to hunt, the larger the grain of the bullet should be. For cap locks or flintlocks, you will need to use a “Sabot,” which is a lead round ball patch that is pre-lubricated and is also known as a “wad.” You can also use a maxi-hunter to pre-lubricate the bullets. Modern inline muzzleloaders rifles can be used with all types of muzzleloader bullets.
6. Ramrod & Short Starter Rod
To start the bullet down the muzzle, you will need a T-shaped handle called a short starter rod. After that, you can set the bullet on the powder by using a ramrod. You can ensure accuracy by marking the ramrod during the installation of the bullets. This mark will represent the length of the powder column and the bullet.
After settling the bullets on the powder, you will need to put the primer in the pan of the rifle, after which the rifle will be considered a loaded firearm. A flintlock will use black powder, a cap lock will need CCI Percussion Caps No.11, and lastly, an inline rifle will require a CCI Primer 209.
History of Muzzleloaders
One of the reasons hunting traditionalists prefer the muzzleloader over the more modern rifles is its historical importance. The muzzleloader rifle is arguably the oldest in the world. Its inception dates back to the 17th century, but the past 25 years have seen a resurgence of interest in this type of firearm.
Martin Le Bourgeois, an inventor, and gunsmith in 1610, constructed the first flintlock. It was developed for King Louis XIII of France. Over time, Bourgeois’ design garnered high popularity. Moreover, it was one of the leading choices of a firearm for the European army until 1840.
The Long-rifled Muzzleloader became more popular amongst the settlers in North America in the early 1700s. This Muzzleloader rifle weighed from 7 to 10 pounds. It was used as one of the primary firearms during the American Revolution and during the 1812 War. Known as the Kentucky Rifle or the Pennsylvania Rifle, this muzzleloader is a very iconic gun for American History.
Reverend Alexander Forsyth patented the first percussion ignition mechanism in 1807. This type of rifle was constructed after a rainy duck hunt in his native land, Scotland. He became frustrated with the slow firing time for which the flintlocks were notorious.
In 1823, Samuel and Jacob Hawken designed an eponymous rifle that became one of the most favored muzzleloaders for hunting games. The Hawken rifle was shorter than the frontier rifle and was owned by some of the famous hunters of their time:
Kit Carson, Daniel Boone, and even Theodore Roosevelt.
What Is a Scope?
A rifle scope is essentially a telescopic magnifier that can allow the shooter/hunter to magnify his vision and shoot his targets from a long distance with accuracy. Hunters usually use scopes for hunting big game as it would be dangerous for them to get a shot from up close.
The quality of the scope you purchase with a rifle is just as important, if not more important, than the rifle itself. A hunter can shoot a target using a good quality scope and a mediocre rifle. But he will have difficulty hitting a target with a good quality rifle and an inadequate scope.
Difference Between Muzzleloader Scopes & Rifle Scopes
One of the main differences between muzzleloader scopes and rifle scopes is the eye relief or the distance you can hold your head behind the scope. Muzzleloaders tend to have more recoil, which is why they have a more considerable eye relief so you can keep your head the farthest and avoid getting hit in the eye.
Now that you’ve learned about the history, construction, and types of muzzleloader rifles, it’s time to learn how you can choose the best muzzleloader scope for your rifle.
How to Choose a Muzzleloader Scope
Before choosing a scope for your muzzleloader, you will need to learn what to look for. Following are a few of the things you need to be looking for when choosing a scope for your muzzleloader:
A muzzleloader rifle has a tremendous amount of recoil, so you will need a scope that can withstand that kind of force time after time without falling apart. Durability is essential when it comes to a muzzleloader scope.
Choosing a scope with excellent eye relief is ideal due to the tremendous recoil a muzzleloader rifle possesses. To avoid getting a bruising or even worse, you will need at least a three-inch eye relief.
Bullets used with black powder rifles tend to drop over a considerable distance when shooting a target. This can significantly affect the accuracy of your shot. To prevent this, you will need a scope with a Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) reticle. This will help you adjust your aim when shooting a target from a distance.
You won’t be dropping deer at a 500-yard distance with a muzzleloader regardless of what type of scope you have on top of it. Ideally, 100 -yards is the sweet spot for a muzzleloader. High magnification will be more of a nuisance than help with a muzzleloader. Something in the 3-9x range will work best in most situations.
After learning what to look for in a muzzleloader scope, it’s time to review the best muzzleloader scopes!
Top 5 Best Muzzleloader Scopes
1. Leupold VX-Freedom
Leupold optics is arguably one of the best manufacturers of riflescopes in the market today. Along with offering a variety of scopes for different applications, they also provide a lifetime warranty. This model is manufactured from 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum. Not only does it have a generous amount of eye relief, but the O-ring is also sealed correctly, which gives it shockproof, waterproof performance.
It also has Leupold’s UltimateSlam Reticle with BDC for black powder sabot loads. It also features Leupold’s Twilight Light Management multi-coatings, enhancing light transmission to provide clear and sharp visuals even in low light situations.
2. Nikon Prostaff P5
Even though the Nikon Prostaff P5 is not marketed as a muzzleloader scope, its durable build and shockproof construction can withstand heavy recoil with ease.
The Nikon Prostaff P5’s BDC reticle and solid build combined make it perfect for hunting with black powder. With fully multi-coated optics, an ample amount of eye relief, and the ability to provide crisp and clear images even in twilight, this scope is not a wrong choice at all.
3. Traditions Muzzleloader Hunter Series
When looking for a cheap, entry-level, reliable optic for a muzzleloader, the Muzzleloader Hunter series scope from Traditions is the best way to go. It offers a nitrogen purged tube that provides proper shockproof, waterproof, and fog-proof performance.
It offers a three-inch eye relief which is more than enough for entry-level and also comes with crystal lenses that are multi-coated to provide low light clarity that is more than adequate.
This scope also offers all the rings and bases you will need to mount on most common inline muzzleloading rifles.
4. Konus Pro 275
This scope was specifically manufactured for a modern muzzleloader. The Konus Pro 275 offers 40mm objective lenses, 3-9x magnification, and fully multi-coated lenses to provide crisp, bright, and transparent images even in low light conditions.
The Konus Pro 275 weighs over 14 ounces and is 5 ½ long, which may be a little bulky for some. However, its build makes it very durable for harsh recoils and rough usage.
5. Vortex Optics Crossfire II
The Vortex Optics Crossfire II is an excellent choice for your first scope. It offers everything one might need, multi-coated lenses for clear images, long eye relief, and a Dead-Hold BDC reticle.
It is also waterproof and fog proof. This scope offers different magnification configurations, but 2-7x 32 mm should be more than sufficient for most muzzleloader owners.
Hunting in today’s age has become more of a hobby than a necessity like it used to be. In ancient times, the men of the tribe would go out for a hunt to provide meat for the tribe. People made these hunting trips out of necessity for the survival of their tribes.
These days, with the modernization of society and the development and advancement of livestock farming, hunting has become more of a choice than a need for survival. The state government can also conduct these hunting trips to decrease the population of predatory species, which may end up consuming our livestock.
Why Should You Start Hunting As a Hobby, and Why Do Scopes Matter?
Hunting as a hobby can be very beneficial for individuals who have been diagnosed with Post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety disorders, and even depression. Although your psychologist may not prescribe you hunting as a remedy off the bat, studies have shown hunting to be a therapeutic hobby, especially for combat veterans struggling with Post-traumatic stress disorders.
You may ask, well, what about people who don’t suffer from mental illnesses? Why do they hunt? There are probably as many reasons to hunt since there are many hunters out there.
One of the reasons people will say they hunt is to be a participant in nature rather than just a spectator. They are immersing themselves in nature, finding their target, anticipating the right moment to get a shot, and later feasting on the animal’s meat. This offers them a kind of thrill and solace like no other.
However, if you plan to start your journey as a hunter, you need to prioritize purchasing the proper scope. Casual hunters do not know about the specifics of scopes. We hope that after reading this buyer’s guide, you have the answers to all your questions. So make your hunting experience even better by choosing a muzzleloader scope that checks the box for all your requirements!
While having the best rifle/optic combination will give you an edge when it comes to hunting games, it’s essential to remember that hunting requires practice before you can be proficient with your weapon of choice. You won’t improve solely because you’ve got the best muzzleloader scope on the market. You will need to invest countless hours at the gun range to practice your skills before you can go hunting for a game. So we hope you now know everything you need to know after reading this buyer’s guide.