How This Website Got Its Start
Several months back, in an e-mail, a fairly new "regular" user of both this website and the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website tried to take me to task over the wide variety of muzzleloader topics covered on the two sites He wanted to know ... "Who's books are you getting all this info from?" Adding, "No one can know this much about anything!"
I e-mailed him back, simply stating ... "You're right ... no one could learn all of this from just reading books. To know this much about muzzleloading, it has to be the primary focus of one's life - and that person would have to literally "Live Muzzleloading".
Well, I guess I've been living something of a charmed muzzleloading life now for nearly 60 years ... and I guess more of it made more of an impression on me than even I realized.
Sometimes ... You have to stop and take a look back, to remind yourself about how fortunate you have been through life, to be satisfied about how you have accomplished at least some of your major goals ... even though you may not have had a clue about what those goals were - until you found yourself smack dab right in the middle of a new challenge ... or new adventure. Likewise, a good partner or two during your life gives you the incentive to "make life good" ... and to give whatever endeavor you take on everything you've got ... to give it your full 100%! (There's no such thing as giving anything 150% ... all you have is 100%.) One of the good people I got to know during my lifetime had a saying that pretty much sums up one's efforts ... "Always shoot for excellence ... if you don't ... you're doomed to live a life of mediocrity."
My 45+ year run with the muzzleloading industry wasn't something I planned ... or for that matter, even thought about. It was the opportunities I had ... which I took full advantage of ... that unknowingly sent me down this road. In a way, I owe who I became to a lot of great folks, most of which I never had the opportunity to meet. "They" would be the outdoor, shooting and hunting writers of the 1950's and 1960's. People like Jack O'Connor, Bob Steindler, Corey Ford, John Madson, Major George Nonte, and especially one regular Field & Stream contributor by the name of Donald Jack Anderson.
It was a huge stack of old Outdoor Life ... Sports Afield ... Field & Stream ... Fur-Fish-Game ... American Rifleman ... and a few other outdoor magazines that were piled next to my bed that became "Toby's Library" during my early teens. I had a lot of older friends saving the magazines for me, and most nights before going to sleep, I would read an article or two.
In a late summer, early fall 1964 issue of Field & Stream, I came across an article by Donald Jack Anderson, titled "Old Snake Root". The article was about a backwoods trapper who had a knack for finding and digging ginseng roots. My father and two of my uncles used to spend a great deal of time in the early fall woods seeking out the precious medicinal root as well, and I loved to tag along ... finding a few plants of my own and making a little spending money ... which typically went toward a new rifle or shotgun. I was impressed with Anderson's writing style, and how well he told the story. I wrote him a letter, via Field & Stream, applauding him for the article ... and inquiring how one pursued a career as an "outdoor writer". I wrote that letter in early February of 1965.
Less than a month later, I received a package from him, containing a copy of the 1965 edition of the 623-page book, Writer's Market. On the very first page was the above inscription. The following year, I was on the staff of my high school newspaper ... and convinced the school to let me write a monthly "Outdoors" column. Some 20 years later, after I had gotten a couple of hundred magazine articles published, I received another note from Donald Jack Anderson. It read ... "I've been seeing your by-line in a number of magazines. You Made It! Congratulations!"
Prior to 1965, I had shot a grand total of, maybe, a dozen shots out of muzzleloaders owned by others. During the fall of 1964, a hunter I met in the woods allowed me to use his original Remington .58 caliber Zouave to put in the finishing shot on a young buck I had hit with a 12-gauge slug. In June of the following year, a couple of weeks before my 15th birthday, I acquired a percussion .45 rifle that looked just like the Dixie Gun Works "Squirrel Rifle" shown above. The muzzlelosder had originally been a .40 caliber, but several years before I traded for the rifle, the owner had installed a new .45 caliber Douglas barrel on the long-barreled Kentucky front stuffer. That fall, I took my first ever horned buck, in Missouri, with the rifle ... and exactly a week later I took another in my home state of Illinois. At that point, at 15 years old, I was hooked on muzzleloading. And by the time I went into the Marine Corps in 1969, I had harvested a grand total of five deer with muzzleloaders - and had bought/traded for two other muzzleloaders. One of those was a percussion .50 caliber Tingle half-stock, the other was a percussion single barrel shotgun that had been made from a cut-down Model 1863 Springfield rifled musket ... with the barrel bored out to 16 gauge.
While in the Corps, I honed my writing and photography skills, while also working out of the Public Affairs Office at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, CA. During that time, I also spent almost two years of "Temporary Additional Duty" on Presidential Security (of Air Force One) under President Richard Nixon. (That's an old Marine Corps PR photo above, with me standing between Pluto and Goofy.) I wrote for the base newspaper, which won the Thomas Jefferson Award as the "Best Military Newspaper" two years in a row. During that period, I also received several writing and photography awards.
All of this caught the attention of a Marine Corps Reserve major, who just happened to own a publishing company located in Brea Canyon, CA ... who managed to get me out of the service a few months early to become an Associate Editor for both GUN WORLD and BOW & ARROW magazines. This was the opportunity that opened the door to becoming a true outdoor writer ... and little did I know then ... offering a threshold for jumping right into the muzzleloading industry.
While working with Gallant Publishing Company, several of us knocked out a handful of books for Digest Books, which also published the big annual Gun Digest. I served as the Research Editor for "Law Enforcement Handgun Digest"; as the Technical Editor for "Hobby Home Gunsmithing Digest", and the Research Editor for "Motorcycle Digest". That work, and the articles written for GUN WORLD magazine, including many on black powder shooting, led to my writing nearly 80-percent of the 288-page book shown at right - the first edition of "Black Powder Gun Digest". In it's day, it was the No. 1 selling book on muzzleloading ... which opened the door for going to work for Dixie Gun Works a few years later.
All of us at Dixie had more than one job. At one time or another, practically every week, I worked as an antique gun buyer ... gunsmith ... machinist cutting cherries for making bullet moulds ... cutting bullet moulds ... shooting photography for the catalog ... writing for the catalog ... public relations ... and working with the company's advertising. At the same time, I continued to write muzzleloading articles, eventually being published in most major outdoor, shooting and hunting magazines. During the 7 years I put in with Dixie Gun Works, I worked a lot of gun shows and National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association matches with Turner Kirkland, founder of Dixie. During this period, I also got to know and become friends with many of the icons of the muzzleloading industry, including Val Forgett of Navy Arms ... barrel maker Bill Large ... T/C Hawken designer Warren Center ... founder of Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Company - Branch Meanly ... "Doc" Gary White ... Pyrodex guru Dan Pawlak ... the gang at Hodgdon Powder Company ... Mick Fahringer of GOEX Powder ... Pierangelo Pedersoli ... and many, many others who were still hard at work building the muzzleloading industry.
While most "muzzleloading" and "black powder" writers of the early to late 1970's concentrated on reliving history through muzzleloading ... my work tended to concentrate on getting the most out of muzzle-loaded hunting rifles - and going for a bit more range and/or knockdown power. That old 1973 photo at left shows a 22-year old Toby Bridges, just out of the Marine Corps, shooting T/C Hawken Serial No. 627 - my first scoped muzzleloading big game rifle.
Through the 1980's, I wrote quite a few magazine articles and columns on muzzleloading - primarily on hunting with a muzzleloader. I also wrote the book "Advanced Muzzle Loader's Guide" (1985), for Stoeger Publishing. In the years following, several more Stoeger books carried my by-line - "Advanced Black Powder Hunting" (1998) ... "Complete Book of Whitetail Hunting" (1999), "Hunting America's Wild Turkey" (2001), and "High Performance Muzzleloading Big Game Rifles" (2004).
My other books include "MUZZLELOADING" (1997) ... "MUZZLELOADING - 2nd Edition" (2000) ... "Pronghorn Hunting" (2001), co-authored with publisher Don Oster ... and "Hunting Record Book Bucks" (2002) ... all published by Creative Publishing International (Complete Hunter Series). Two more books written along the way were "Muzzleloading For Whitetails ... And Other Big Game" (1995), by Target Communications Corporation ... and ... "Muzzleloader Hunting - Then & Now" (2005) by Woods N Water Inc.
These books, combined with close to 1,400 magazine articles and columns on muzzleloading since 1972 - should make it very evident that I truly love to write about muzzleloading. What I love even more is sharing what I've learned about muzzleloading since shooting a muzzle-loaded rifle for the first time way back in the spring of 1962.
During the early 1980's I also had the opportunity to work as a consultant to Thompson/Center Arms ... and with the development of their New Englander and Cherokee models. Through the late 1980's and early 1990's, I worked as Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops, also helping them build their selection of muzzleloaders and black powder accessories. In 1992, I took over "Market Development" for Knight Rifles ... to build a viable market for the still fledgling modern in-line rifles. After leaving Knight Rifles in the late 1990's, I got back into writing almost full time - plus doing a lot of test shooting for the new Markesberry Muzzle Loaders. Then, in 2000 Savage Arms had me working with them in a consulting capacity - and doing a great deal of test shooting with their Model 10ML II rifle.
The NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website was born out of necessity, back in 2003, when we began to lose the muzzleloading print magazines. First to go was the old "Black Powder Times" tabloid ... then "Black Powder Guns & Hunting" ... followed by "BLACKPOWDER Hunting". Muzzleloader sales took something of a nose dive during the early 2000's, and the manufacturers and suppliers of muzzleloading guns, loading components and accessories pulled back on their advertising ... and those print publications just could not survive without the advertising revenue.
At NAMLHUNT.Com, we took a different approach .... to publish a web magazine on the internet. Originally, the site was known as HIGH PERFORMANCE MUZZLELOADING - primarily featuring just the modern in-line ignition rifles. In 2006, we changed the name to NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING, and devoted about 30-percent of the coverage to the older traditional style muzzleloaders.
Whether you embrace the modern in-line ignition rifles or not ... they are here to stay. That rifle shown above is likely the top performing in-line rifle available today - CVA's new .40 caliber Paramount HTR ... which can get a high b.c. bore-sized 225-grain bullet out of the muzzle at 2,700+ f.p.s. and with 3,500+ f.p.e. This is an honest 400- to 500-yard muzzleloader. We include it here for one reason only ... to acknowledge that it does not have a place on this site. But ... the rifle is changing the modern side of muzzleloader hunting ... and the articles published on the Paramount models on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING site are the most read articles. Many traditional muzzleloading hunters won't even visit www.namlhunt.com because of its modern muzzleloading coverage.
And ... that's exactly why the TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website ... or "web magazine" ... was launched in early January 2021!
I love every aspect of muzzleloading ... traditional and modern. And I get great enjoyment out of hunting with either. I'm pleased with the growth of this site in the short time it has been on the World Wide Web. With the Covid pandemic shutting so much down ... and making so many things "unavailable", both 2020 and 2021 have been tough years for the muzzleloading industry ... muzzleloading shooters & hunters ... and muzzleloading in general. The current administration in Washington D.C. sure hasn't been much help in getting the economy turned around ... and getting life back to something that resembles "normal".
I'm now 72 years old, and while I plan to step up the amount of time I spend on the shooting range, I've decided to scale back my big game hunting just a bit. I don't have a family to feed anymore ... and small game is a lot easier to pack out. However, I want to encourage any of you who wants to try their hand at writing to drop me an e-mail at the following address and share your article ideas with me. I would sure love to work closely with some of you to get your hunting stories published on this site. - Toby Bridges, TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
Many of our blog posts will be reasonably short Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting features, news from our industry, new product announcements, hunting regulation changes, maybe even a biography of an individual within the sport of muzzleloader hunting. In short ... if it pertains to shooting and hunting with an old style muzzleloader ... it could show up here!