It would be a very safe bet to wager that easily 3/4ths of the current muzzleloading hunters of North America have never shot a charge of real black powder. Even so, there now seems to be a growing interest in once again loading... shooting...and hunting with older style muzzleloading guns - which could result in bringing a lot of today's "modern muzzleloading" crowd to the "traditional muzzleloading" side of the sport.
Let's face it ... the truth is ... the majority of North America's muzzleloading hunters came into the sport in order to take part in the special muzzleloader big game seasons being established in the U.S. and Canada - and likely as much as 90-percent of these new muzzleloading hunters chose the newer in-line rifle models over the traditionally styled reproductions of flintlock and percussion rifles from the 1700's and early 1800's. They also went with more modern powders - first with Hogdon's Pyrodex, and then moved on to Triple Seven...and recently more have moved on to another ultra-modern black powder substitute - Blackhorn 209.
There have been a few "other" black powder substitutes come and go through the years - but the three just shared have been and still are the most popular. Many of those who have hunted with a modern in-line ignition muzzle-loaded rifle since the late 1980's and the early 1990's may find that to get the best performance from a pre-1860's style muzzleloader will require a different mindset ... and different loading components. Likely, one of the most frequently asked questions will be..."Which granulation of black powder should I load and shoot?"
Well, the answer isn't necessarily anything close to "rocket science".
An old accepted rule of thumb that served muzzleloading shooters and hunters 150 to 200 years ago tended to be loading with FFg black powder if the rifle was .50 caliber or larger, and loading smaller caliber .32 thru .45 caliber rifles with FFFg black powder. The number of "F's" represents the granulation of the powder. The more "F's", the finer grained the powder. For "sporting" purposes, there are typically four grades, or granulations - Fg, FFg, FFFg and FFFFg (or 1F, 2F, 3F, 4F).
There are always exceptions to that "rule". First, and foremost, is how well the rifle is built. The Pedersoli .50 caliber Missouri River Hawken shown above has been built with a fast-twist rifling bore, for shooting heavy conical bullets that can weigh upwards of 500 grains. (A patched round ball rifle of the same caliber is loaded with a much lighter 178 to 181 grain soft lead ball.) Heavier bullets create much higher internal barrel pressures - and so does going from FFg to FFFg powders...especially when loading and shooting 400 to 500 grain conical bullets.
The Missouri River Hawken is also built with a mid 1800's state-of-the-art breech plug design, known as the "Patent Breech". This style of breech plug and ignition system (with a built in bolster for a percussion nipple) threads into the rear of the barrel. It is a much stronger breeching and ignition system than the old "drum and nipple" arrangement that simply threads into the side of the barrel. This rifle is definitely an "exception to the rule" when it comes to the powder being shot. This .50 caliber turns in it's best performance when loaded with FFFg black powder (or Pyrodex RS) and shoots very well with a paper-patched 480-grain elongated bullet. The buck shown in this photo was taken at just over 170 yards - shooting a Hornady 300-grain FPB copper-clad hollow-based bullet.
We will get more into traditional loads as TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTNG and this blog progresses. We would definitely love to hear from some of you who do hunt primarily with black powder. When it comes to choosing a granulation of powder, what have been your experiences? - Toby Bridges
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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!