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
How many of you have had to get extremely creative in order to hunt with "a muzzleloader" this fall ... due to the shortage of just about everything muzzleloading?
Think about how tough the settlers and explorers of North America had it during the 1700's .... especially when they lived a hundred miles or several hundred miles from the nearest settled area (city) where they could buy or trade for powder and lead for their muzzleloading rifles. It's a good bet that most tried to keep a good supply on hand ... and that they guarded that supply ... and sure as heck didn't foolishly waste it. Hopefully the majority of you foresaw what was happening back in 2020 and hoarded away the much needed loading components to keep your frontstuffer stoked and ready to go. NOW ... even knowing someone who has a couple of years supply on hand doesn't mean much ... because it is unlikely they'll share what they realize could be impossible to replace any time soon.
That short ... light .... and fast handling half-stock rifle shown above is the percussion .50 caliber Hawken Woodsman offered by Traditions. It has kind of become my traditional "Go In After 'Em" muzzleloading deer rifle. When I first got the rifle five or six years ago, I found that it shot the Hornady swaged 178-grain .490" soft lead balls, with a .015" lubed cotton patch, very well. At 50 yards, shooting from a bench, I could keep hits inside of an inch ... most days anyway. One afternoon, as I browsed through a new Ballistic Products catalog, I discovered a page listing all sorts of "swaged buckshot" diameters ... including .490" diameter. I had one of the 8-pound containers sent to me ... and found that using the very same 80-grain charge of GOEX FFg black powder ... those patched swaged lead balls shot just as well.
One of my favorite Montana deer hunting spots is along the Musselshell River in West-Central Montana. On an eight or nine day hunt there, I would concentrate on filling my buck tag first ... typically using a scope sighted modern in-line muzzleloader. Then, I would get busy to fill a couple of doe tags ... often using the Traditions .50 Hawken Woodsman rifle. Those swaged .490" diameter pellets put those does down every bit as well as the Hornady swaged .490" lead balls.
Here's the only real difference I could tell between the two ... the cost!
One of the 8-pound containers consists roughly of 315 of those 178-grain spheres of swaged lead. That container sells for $38.99 ... and shipping adds right at $10 - bringing the cost of those 315 .490" diameter balls to roughly $49.00. For just the ball ... that would be about 15 1/2 cents per shot. The Hornady .490" swaged round balls retail for $20 per box of 100 ... with a shipping cost of around $5. Cost per shot, just for the ball, would be right around 25-cents.
I'll bet right about now there are a lot of .50 caliber patched round ball rifle shooters wishing they had an 8-pound jug of those lead balls sitting on a shelf. Ballistic Products also has .440" diameter (for .45 rifles) ... and .310" diameter (for .32 caliber rifles) available. Likewise ... if you would happen to own and still shoot an older rifle of an odd-ball bore size ... the company offers a couple of dozen other diameters, from .160" to .500".
The tube sighted rifle shown here is definite one of my favorite muzzleloaders. A dear old friend built the rifle and made the sight (which is not a scope) ... and gave it to me shortly before passing away. Some 25 years earlier, I had given him an old original circa 1830-1840 .31 caliber Remington barrel ... which he finally got around to using on his "Last Rifle". The barrel had a fast 1-in-24 twist ... and he had been shooting a 92 grain .32 caliber lead bullet ... swaged down to fit the .31 caliber bore. With 30-grains of FFFg ... The rifle was a tack driver at 50 yards. My friend had built it for hunting groundhogs (a.k.a. Eastern Woodchucks).
My plans for the rifle were a little different. Where I have been living in Northwest Montana for the last 14 years, it is legal to hunt fall turkeys with a rifle. I wanted to shoot a patched round ball out of the little .32 caliber rifle ... at a velocity that would pretty much duplicate the ballistics of a standard velocity .22 Long Rifle round.
Only problem was ... no one offered a .300" diameter ball ... or a mould for casting a ball that size. Or ... so I thought. I discovered that Ballistic Products offered swaged No. 1 Buck ... which is .300" in diameter ... and the "pellet" weight was 40-grains. With FFFg black powder charges of 12 to 18 grains ... the rifle and patched .300" diameter swaged buckshot was still a tack driver to 50 yards! A few days before Christmas 2017 ... and with more than a week of fall turkey season still open, I managed to get within 18 yards of the big tom shown above right. I had the rifle loaded with 18 grains of GOEX FFFg ... and waited for the tom to turn broadside ... and put the tiny swaged lead ball right where the facing wing attached to the 24-poubd bird. When the rifle barked ... the big bird dropped into the fresh layer of snow.
It was a Christmas to remember ... and each Christmas since I have managed to put another bird on the table ... using this rifle and Ballistic Products' No. 1 buckshot.
As I write this, I have just about gotten all of my things packed and ready for a move back to the Midwest. While I won't be able to use this rifle on fall turkeys back there ... come next September when the fox and gray squirrels are up in the hickory trees cutting away ... I'll be using this rifle and sight to knock a few of them off of those lofty limbs. I've lived the dream of living in the Rocky Mountains for nearly 15 years now ... but I have accepted that I'm not a young man any longer. The winters here are too long for me ... and the summer fire season too hard on me. This is my last piece to be published on this site until early December. Take care ... enjoy a great hunting season ... and I'll catch up with you once I'm far, far on the other side of the Great Divide. - Toby Bridges, TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
If you own and shoot a .32 caliber small game rifle, the Ballistic Products swaged .310" diameter No. 1 1/2 Buck could be a real money saver for you. One of the 8-pound bottles contains right at 1,244 of those 45-grain swaged balls. The container sells for $38.99 ... and will take right at $10 to have it shipped. So, for $49.00 ... your cost per shot for just the ball would be less than 4-cents a shot. That's less than half of the retail cost of Hornady .310" swaged balls. And you would probably have a lifetime supply!
Muzzleloading Under Socialist Rule ...
Nearly 200 countries on planet Earth have a "Constitution". Only three of those "Constitutions" include a right to bear arms: Guatemala ... Mexico ... and the United States. Of these three, only the last does not include explicit restrictive conditions.
Right here, before you read much further, I want to warn you that in this post, I will share some personal thoughts and feelings about the "State of the World" we now live in ... some of which are sure to anger a few of you. If that is the case, so be it ... at least if what I have to say angers a few of you, it has made you think about what's being said.
Take a good look at the two photos directly above. To the vast majority of you reading this, on this website, there is a huge difference in the two rifles. The upper rifle is clearly a "Modern" bolt-action Winchester Model 70 center-fire hunting rifle. The bottom rifle is a near exact reproduction of an "Antique" circa 1840's-1850's percussion ignition half-stock muzzleloading rifle. This one being the .54 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle built by Davide Pedersoli & Co.
As much as I hated the "Gun Control Act of 1968", back when it was enacted, and still enforced today, at least this "National Gun Control" effort differentiated between these two "firearms". Here in the U.S., to purchase a "Modern" firearm of any type from a federally licensed dealer, now requires a federal background check and the filing of mandatory paperwork. Except in just a small handful of states, a pre-1898 "Antique" firearm, or a modern-made muzzle-loaded firearm can be bought without any such paperwork or background check. Muzzleloaders like the one shown here can even be bought through the mail, or via internet, and it can be shipped right to your home ... In most states.
I was just 18 when the 1968 Gun Control Act was signed into law, and even at that young age, I saw it for what it really was - socialism and communism rearing its ugly head in the United States. I still feel the same way today, and feel it needs to be repealed. In my opinion, it is a direct violation of the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution - "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." I also feel that any state or city which imposes even more harsh or strict gun control is in violation of our Constitutional Rights.
As good as muzzleloading shooters and hunters may have it here in the United States, others around the world are being ruled by far more stringent regulations and restrictions. Here in this country, there are now an estimated 3 1/2 to 4 million shooters and hunters who own a modern made muzzleloader (maybe 3 or 4)
... of either traditional 1700's/1800's design or of modern in-line ignition design. The United States is definitely Earth's number one "Muzzleloading Nation" - with every state in the Union scheduling a "Muzzleloader Season" or "Special Muzzleloader Hunts" for hunting big game - plus freely allowing hunters to use a muzzleloader during any other firearms hunting season. Ironically, the one state which had somewhat turned its back on the muzzleloading hunter was Montana, which has not specifically schedule a "Muzzleloader Season". However, earlier this year legislation was passed for the first ever Montana Muzzleloader Season ... shortly after the close of the 2021 general firearms season.
A couple of years back I learned from a good friend in South Africa, that muzzleloader hunting there was being severely restricted due to the poor selection of muzzleloaders available - along with an even poorer selection of muzzleloader powders. Both situations are due to harsh government regulations which practically eliminate the importation of modern manufactured traditional reproduction and in-line ignition muzzle-loaded hunting rifles - and especially the importation of today's advanced muzzleloader propellants or powders. Currently the muzzleloading hunter there is limited to shooting the black powder produced by a South Africa powder facility - Obatex.
In that country, before one can buy black powder, and obtain a permit for the purchase of black powder, he or she must first pass a "competency" test. Without passing that test, the shooter/hunter cannot obtain the permit to buy the powder ... or for that matter a muzzleloading gun. Thanks to the monopoly situation created by the South African government, a half of a kilogram (just a little over a pound) of black powder could set the muzzleloading hunter back in the neighborhood of $180! (In South Africa, a percussion cap-n-ball revolver must be registered, the same as a modern cartridge handgun.)
Following the publishing of a report on shooting .475" diameter bullets out of .50 caliber in-line rifles several years back, I also heard from another good friend, Pierangelo Pedersoli (shown above left), who heads Davide Pedersoli & Co. in Brescia, Italy. He was interested in obtaining some of the big bullets which had shot so well out of the .50 Rolling Block Muzzleloader produced by his company.
I asked, "Do you have any FFFg Triple Seven or Blackhorn 209? If you don't, the bullet is simply not going to perform the same ahead of black powder."
He shared that those powders simply were not available in Europe. According to him, the best powder available across most of Europe is Swiss No. 2 or No. 3 black powder. The regulations imposed by the so-called "European Union" or individual countries make it impossible for any shooting supplier to offer the more efficient North American produced "black powder substitutes". Across Europe, the United Nations is clearly in charge - implementing their "Small Arms Treaty" regulations and conditions to make it impossible for the average citizen of member countries to own a firearm ... or ammunition for a firearm ... OF ANY SORT!
Pierangelo shared with me that the only country that actually conducts a "muzzleloader hunting season" in Europe is Hungary. He also pointed out that in Germany ... it is illegal to hunt with a muzzleloader.
Now, if you are snickering to yourself ... maybe shaking your head a bit ... and wondering ... "Why in the world would the United Nations intervene in something as low key as shooting with muzzleloaders and muzzleloader hunting?"
IF YOU ARE ... YOU'VE BEEN ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL!
That is even more true if you honestly don't have a clue about what Agenda 21 really is ... or have never even heard of it. In a nutshell, the goal of the United Nations is to rule Earth ... to become the "One World Government" - where all will live under Socialistic Rule. What you eat ... where you sleep ... what you do ... will all be determined by the United Nations. That "World Organization" will totally control your life, if you are still alive. Another goal of Agenda 21, as outlined at the UN's "Earth Summit" in 1992 ... is to reduce the planet's human population by as much as 90-percent.
If you think all of this sounds like a Stephen King novel with a ludicrous plot, you need to begin brushing up immediately. Here's a link to a good place to start, with many links to many other aspects of Agenda 21 ...
HMMMM! Just perhaps that world wide Covid-19 Pandemic is just a trial run...
This summer, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California have been literally on fire ... and so far this summer, the region has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500,000 acres to devastating wildfires - and they are still raging. In just Western Montana where I live there have been more than a hundred different fires which have destroyed prime habitat for elk, moose, deer, bear and bighorn sheep - not to mention wild turkeys, grouse and snowshoe hares, plus a variety of furbearers. The lucky among those animals escaped, but a number, maybe the majority, probably perished.
Wildfires are a natural part of nature, but the fires are now burning hotter than ever. All across the West, human lives have been severely impacted, forcing people to leave their homes - and many of those homes were consumed by the flames. So, what do these fires have to do with the United Nations?
A major part of Agenda 21 is to push people off the land and into "Sanctuary Cities" of a different sort. The goal of the United Nations is to return a vast majority of Earth back into humanless wilderness - establishing major core areas where apex predators manage game populations ... not human hunters. Never forget, the organization also plans to depopulate the planet by nearly 90-percent - and the United Nations looks to become the one and only World Government of a socialistic society where humans only have what the U.N. allows them to have, and do only what the U.N. allows them to do.
See those "contrails" in the photo above - they are over the wide open plains of Eastern Montana. These are not "contrails" ... they are "chemtrails" which are purposely sprayed as part of the United Nations driven "geoengineering" of the atmosphere to change and make weather. The condensation of a contrail from a high flying jet will typically dissipate within 5 or 10 minutes, these chemtrails, plowed in the sky to intersect one another, are laden with a variety of powdered metals - which eventually settle to cover everything below. Those microscopic particles can also be breathed into our lungs ... into the lungs of every breathing life form.
Those dust like particles are also extremely combustible, causing accelerated burning and a much hotter flame. A few summers ago, there was one fire that burnt off 273,000 acres in Eastern Montana ... that was directly beneath an area which had been heavily chemtrailed just about every day, and was practically unstoppable. Fire fighters claimed they could extinguish a line of fire ... and minutes later it would spring back to life. That same fire season, it probably was no coincidence that while firefighters risked their lives and some 21.5-MILLION dollars was spent to try extinguishing the flames of another huge fire on Lolo Peak, just 12 miles from where I lived in Missoula - high flying jets were still spewing out those chemtrails ... directly above the fire area.
And ... about all those protests to tear down all those statues, to burn police precincts, to destroy and loot stores, and to ruin American lives last year ... rest assured that the United Nations was behind that idiocy as well. A number of those arrested at protest clashes, like the one shown in the above photo ... to destroy a Confederate statue ... commented that they were a part of a World-Wide push for Socialism. For a free nation, like the United States, to allow that to happen first requires the U.N. to destroy any pride citizens have in their country and its history - and that's exactly what these protests are all about.
Likewise, the push for "Open Borders" ... where Earth's ethnic populations can freely move from one country to the next is another accelerator to force a "One Planet...One Race...One Government" ideology down our throats. Forcing all of those "refugees" from around the world on this country has absolutely nothing to do with providing "Humanitarian Aid" ... again, it's all about eliminating pride in who we are as Americans ... it's all about destroying our identity!
As you can see ... there's one hell of a lot more to lose than just our right to hunt with a muzzleloader. So, before getting lost in a squabble about which muzzleloaders should be allowed or banned during the special "Muzzleloader Seasons" ... let's all first fight together to take this country back. Right now, we have the two most dangerous Anti-America individuals to ever hold the top two offices in Washington D.C. Both are admitted Socialist-Communists ... and their only goal is to destroy the United States of America. Removing them from office ... deporting them ... and permanently banning them from ever setting foot on U.S. soil again would actually be far less than what they truly deserve. - Toby Bridges
I bought my very first percussion .45 Dixie Gun Works "Kentucky" rifle a couple of months before my 15th birthday, back in 1965. The rifle had originally been a .40 caliber, but the owner had replaced the Belgium-made barrel with a .45 caliber Douglas octagon barrel, and that rifle proved to be a tack driver. Shooting 70-grains of FFFg black powder (DuPont) behind a pillow-ticking patched 128-grain cast soft lead ball, I could consistently hit a tin can at 50 to 70 yards. I took my first muzzleloader buck that fall with the rifle in Missouri...and a week later took my second muzzleloader buck with the rifle in Illinois.
The "like new" rifle, .440" ball mould, lead melting pot, a couple of pounds of DuPont black powder, a yard or so of pillow ticking, a powder flask, a half-dozen other loading accessories, and 500 imported Italian No. 11 percussion caps had cost me $125. While that may sound ridiculously low, you have to keep in mind that back then you could buy a brand new, in the box, Remington Model 700 bolt-action center-fire rifle for $97.50.
Getting started into traditional muzzleloading today can be an extremely expensive venture. One of the upper end, very authentically styled "Hawken" rifles offered by the Davide Pedersoli company can easily set you back $1,000 to $1,500. And to amass all of the loading components and accessories for loading and cleaning such a rifle can easily add another $200. But, this isn't to say that if you shop around, you can't enjoy traditional muzzleloading for a more reasonable $400 to $500 start up cost - especially if you can find a good used rifle in excellent shooting condition.
The slick little half-stock rifle shown in the photo at the top of this post is the .50 caliber Traditions "Hawken Woodsman" - which retails for a much more reasonable $529 for the percussion model (shown), $575 for the flintlock model. These are Traditions' suggested retail prices. The muzzleloading fancier willing to shop around, can find the percussion model for just under $500, and the flint model for a few dollars over $500.
Back when I bought my first .45 muzzleloader, 51 years ago, a 1-pound can of black powder cost all of $4 to $5 (depending on who made it)...and a hundred of those .440" diameter balls for the rifle could be bought for about $4 as well ... and a tin of 100 No. 11 caps cost about $1.50. Back then, I didn't know of anyone who used "pre-cut" patching, all simply used good ol' pillow ticking...which could be bought for less than $1 a yard (that would easily patch 200+ of those round balls).
Even if a shooter bought cast balls (swaged balls were not available then), a .45 caliber rifle shooting 70-grains of black powder, could be loaded and shot for about 10-cents per shot. A .50 caliber, shooting a heavier .490"-.495" ball and a heavier 80- to 90-grain charge of black powder, could be shot for 12- to 14-cents per shot. By casting my own lead balls, I could actually shoot my first muzzleloader for about 6- or 7-cents a shot!
TODAY...LEAD ROUND BALLS FOR .45 OR .50 CALIBER PATCHED BALL RIFLES EACH SELL FOR MORE THAN WHAT THE ENTIRE LOAD COST BACK DURING THE 1960'S!
I've used a Traditions .50 Hawken Woodsman to fill a few doe tags. The rifle I have shoots well with a 90-grain charge of GOEX FFg black powder, and will get a patched 178-grain Hornady swaged .490" diameter soft lead ball out of the muzzle of the 28-inch barrel right at 1,750 f.p.s. At the muzzle, the rifle and load have 1,405 foot-pounds of energy. By the time that sphere of lead gets to 50 yards, velocity has dropped to around 1,330 f.p.s. - and the level of energy has diminished to just 720 foot pounds. I consider 50 yards the absolute maximum effective range for the rifle and load. The doe in the photo at right was shot at 43 or 44 yards ... and went just 20 yards after the ball punched all the way through the rib cage.
So, what does it cost to shoot that load today? At current retail prices ... that 90 grain charge of GOEX FFg runs right at 29- to 30-cents ... a pre-cut and lubed patch is about 9- to 10-cents ... that Hornady .490" ball will set you back around 25-cents ... and a No. 11 percussion cap averages 9- to 10-cents per pop. In other words ... to load the Tradtiions .50 Hawken Woodsman with a patched round ball hunting load totals right at 70- TO 75-CENTS PER SHOT.
If you already have a lead melting pot and a round ball mould for your rifle, along with a cheap supply of good soft scrap lead...and rely on loading with pillow ticking patching, you can actually cut the cost per shot of loading a traditional patched round ball rifle by as much as 30- TO 35-PERCENT per shot (depending on rifle caliber). However, if you have to buy a lead melting furnace ($60 to $100) and a round ball mould ($30 to $100+) - you'll have to to do a lot of shooting to save enough to cover the cost of the equipment.
That "tube sighted" custom small-bore shown above is definitey one of my favorite muzzleloading rifles. A very good friend built the rifle ... and the sight ... and just gave it to me. Through the years he and I gave each other a lot of things. In fact ... the barrel used to build this rifle was an original circa 1830-1840 Remington barrel ... a .31 caliber barrel I had given him 20 years before the rifle was built.. I wanted to use the rifle for fall turkeys in Montana ... but could not find a .300" diameter ball anywhere ... or a mould for that diameter. Then, when checking out buckshot sizes available in the Ballistic Products Inc. catalog ... something caught my eye ... Soft Lead Swaged Buckshot - and the No. 1 pellets are .300" diameter - and weigh 40-grains. They come in an 8-pound container ... which means there are right at 1,400 of those small diameter swaged balls in that container ... which sells for $38,99 ... which works out to less than 3-cents a shot.
Ballistic Products Inc. also offers that swaged buckshot in a lot of other diameters including .490", .440", and .310". To give you an idea of the savings, there are 1,244 of those 45-grain .310 diameter balls in an 8-pound plastic container ... which works out to less than 4-cents a shot. Hornady swaged .310 round balls retail for $12 to $13 per box of 100. My little .31 caliber is a tack driver with the patched No. 1 Buck ... and i've shot some of the .490" Buck out of my .50 Hawken Woodsman rifle ... and that rifle shoots it every bit as well as Hornady or Speer swaged .490" balls.
Yes, there is shipping to be added ... but you'll still save money. There are 314 of the 178-grain .490" balls in one of those containers ... and I seriously doubt there are a lot of you .50 patched round ball shooters who shoot more than that many shots during the course of a year., Check out the diameters of buck shot available ...
Buckshot at Ballistic Products, Inc.
If you have a few tips on how to cut down the cost of shooting a traditional rifle ... please share in the comment section of this blog post. The more all of you chime in on the TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTiNG Blog ... the more we all learn. - Toby Bridges
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How many of you got started into muzzleloader shooting and hunting with the rifle shown here - the Thompson/Center Hawken rifle?
Originally built in .45 and .50 caliber, the rifle was introduced in 1970...and remained in production until early fall 2012. I acquired my "first" T/C Hawken back in 1971 - Serial No. 625. The rifle had a .45 barrel on it initially, but within a couple of months I had acquired a .50 caliber barrel, also with a low serial number. Since I had gotten the rifle for hunting deer, I gravitated to the .50 caliber barrel more than the .45. The big 370-grain .50 caliber T/C "Maxi-Ball" delivered a lot more wallop than the 240-grain .45 bullet of the same design.
Prior to getting this rifle, with both .45 and .50 caliber barrels, I had never attempted shooting a muzzleloader at 100 yards. I became so obsessed at getting the rifle, especially with the .50 caliber barrel, to keep 'em in the "Kill Zone" at 100 yards, I mounted one of the early Bushnell 2.5X long eye-relief handgun scopes on that barrel - to tap whatever the barrel could produce. The 1972 photo at left shows a much younger and trimmer me ... preparing to take an off-hand 100-yard shot with the rifle.
Keep in mind, back then I was fresh out of the Marine Corps - and during my stint in the service, I had repeatedly qualified as an "Expert" marksman. Leaving the Corps, I went directly to work as Associate Editor for GUN WORLD magazine, where each month I spent a great deal of time on the range test firing a wide range of firearms. Due to my interest and experience with muzzleloaders as a kid, I became, unofficially, the "Black Powder Editor" for the magazine...and handled all of the publication's coverage of muzzleloading and black powder shooting. (It was during this period when I put together my first book - Black Powder Gun Digest.)
I shot this rifle a lot, in fact just about every chance I got. Any time I headed to the range, it went with me - and I was always trying to tighten my hundred yard accuracy. I tried powder charges from 70- to 90-grains (DuPont FFg & FFFg)...different lubes on the bullet... even different percussion caps - and 4- to 5-inch groups were the best "off-of-sandbags" hundred yard accuracy I could get with the scoped T/C Hawken rifle (my first scoped muzzleloader).
I finally accepted that was as good as accuracy was going to get, and hunted with the .50 T/C Hawken for two seasons, taking several whitetails, a good mule deer buck, an Aoudad and a couple of wild Texas hogs. The big 370-grain "Maxi-Ball", propelled by a 90-grain charge of FFg black powder, plowed through everything except the near 400-pound Aoudad (Barbary) ram. The old (and damaged) 1973 photo above right shows that recovered slug...which still weighed 364 grains when pulled from under the hide of the sheep's opposite shoulder.
Perhaps This Post Should Have Been Titled ... "What If Thompson/Center Had Gotten The Hawken Right"
The first TRUE muzzle-loaded bullet rifle I ever had the pleasure and opportunity to shoot had been built in the mid 1800's by St. Louis gunmaker H.E. Dimick - a competitor of the Hawken brothers. The rifle was very similar to the H.E. Dimick rifle shown here. It belonged to a good friend, who shot it regularly through the 1970s. That .50 caliber rifle had a rifling twist of 1-in-22 or 1-in-24, and would keep a big 1.140" long 500-grain bullet in tight 2-inch groups at 100 yards. Powered by an 80-grain charge of GOEX FFg, this rifle delivered the big bullet with enough authority, and accuracy, for taking deer out to 200+ yards. In fact, my friend demonstrated that he could punch a tighter group with the old 1850's rifle and load at that distance than I could with my nearly new T/C .50 caliber Hawken and 370-grain "Maxi-Ball" at 100 yards.
There's no denying that Warren Center's version of the Hawken rifle appealed to American shooters and hunters. Even though the rifle at the top of this post is far from being correct to be a Hawken...it had great looks, nice style and just enough flash to be eye catching...and it was well balanced (for a muzzleloader). Thompson/Center's goal had been to offer the shooting public a muzzle-loaded rifle that would shoot EITHER the patched round ball or the conical of Warren Center's design.
Perhaps, but the fact remains ... the 1-in-48 twist chosen for this muzzleloader, and other T/C traditional muzzleloaders that followed, was not proper for either projectile. Even so, somewhere around 1,000,000 traditional T/C muzzleloaders were built and sold in this country over a 40-year period. What if Warren Center had gotten the rate of twist right... or maybe offered the rifle in two different rates of twist - a faster rate of twist for shooting conical bullets and a slower rate of twist for shooting the patched round ball? What if serious muzzleloading hunters looking for an effective game-taking range of greater than 50 to 75 yards had been able to group more aerodynamic 350- to 450-grain conical bullets inside of 2 inches at 100 yards?
If Thompson/Center had actually spent a bit more time to research the fast-twist bullet shooting muzzeloading rifles of the 1840's and 1850's...and had built their Hawken to produce that kind of longer range accuracy...do you think the modern in-line rifles and saboted bullets would have taken over muzzleloading so quickly?
If you cut your muzzleloading teeth shooting a T/C Hawken, and especially if you continue to shoot and hunt with one of the rifles today, please share a few of your experiences - and what you settled on as the best shooting and best game-taking load. There are a few hundred thousand T/C traditional muzzleloader owners out there still looking for a super accurate big game hunting load. - Toby Bridges, TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
For True Hawken Styling & A True Patched Round Ball Bore ...
Check Out The Pedersoli .54 Rocky Mountain Hawken...
For A True Conical Bullet Shooting .50 Caliber Half-Stock ...
Check Out The Pedersoli 1-in-24 Twist .50 Caliber Missouri River Hawken ...
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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By Toby Bridges - Host
TRADITIONAL MUZZLELOADER HUNTING
As I write this, spring bear season here in Northwest Montana opens in just two weeks. I normally do not get into seriously hunting black bear this time of the year ... until the first of May. The bigger and better bears here in the Northern Rockies den much higher on the mountains ... where 3 or 4 feet of snow likely still covers their denning spots. Those bears will almost immediately head down the mountain to find tender green grasses to feed on ... just as soon as they do leave their dens. But ... that's typically not until early May.
I hunt with both modern and traditional muzzleloaders, and for each spring bear season I will have at least one of each set up and sighted in for the typical 40 to 75 yard shots that I will take. This spring, my "Traditional Bear Rifle" is that Pedersoli built Dixie Gun Works percussion .54 caliber Early American Jaeger rifle shown above. I had planned to do quite a bit of shooting with the rifle by now (early April), but like many (probably the majority) of you, I just could not find what I had really planned to shoot out of the rifle. There are a couple of honest 500+ pound bears in the mountain valley where I do most of my bear hunting ... and since this rifle has a fast 1-in-24 twist bore, shooting a hunting charge of 80- to 100-grains of GOEX FFg black powder behind anything other than a conical bullet was (and is) out of the question.
The bullet I truly wanted to shoot out of the rifle ... and hunt bear with ... is the .54 caliber 380-grain Lee REAL (Rifling Engraved At Loading) Bullet. That's a drawing of the design I sketched back in 1985, for my book ADVANCED MUZZLE LOADER'S GUIDE. Now and then you can find someone offering pre-cast bullets of this design ... but anyone wanting to shoot and hunt with any of the REAL Bullets (offered in .45, 50, .54, .58 caliber) is most likely faced with buying a mould and casting the bullets. So I went directly to the Lee Precision website (www.leeprecision.com) ... and immediately knew that I was in trouble. Every mould they offer was marked "Out of Stock". I went to Midway USA ... "Out of Stock". I contacted Dixie Gun Works ... "Out of Stock."
No one has the Lee Precision moulds in stock ... not even Lee Precision. Now, from following the shortage or total unavailability of almost anything that's "Shooting & Hunting" related on the internet, it's very clear that the anti-gun and anti-hunting Socialist-Communist-Democrat governmental regime now in power in Washington D.C. is in full attack mode against our 2nd Amendment Rights, and if we find hunting and shooting our "pursuit of happiness" ... against our Constitutional Rights as a whole.
If you voted for the Biden-Harris ticket ... or just about any other Democrat running for office ... SHAME ON YOU!
Still determined to hunt bear with the fast-twist .54 Early American Jaeger, I began digging through the thousands of projectiles I keep on hand, hoping to find a few "other" .54 caliber lead conicals I thought I might still have stored away. The truth is, the only .54 caliber rifles I have shot since moving to Montana in 2007 have been my Pedersoli .54 Rocky Mountain Hawken patched round ball rifle ... and a short and fast handling .54 modern in-line rifle built on a Knight Disc Extreme action - the Green Mountain Limited Edition .54 "Brush Rifle". I knew I had no reason to still have any traditional .54 lead conical bullets ... but I kept looking anyway ... and when I came across a small cache of Harvester Muzzleloading .451" diameter 400-grain Hard Cast flat-nosed lead bullets ... I knew I had found the solution (shown at right)
During a 2008 hunt with the Green Mountain/Knight Disc Extreme .54 "Brush Rifle" I had dropped a dandy 8-point buck at just 19 yards. The big bullet had driven the buck straight to the ground ... right where it stood.
I went into my supply of Harvester Muzzleloading sabots and found a package of the company's .54x.45 High Pressure Sabots ... and I was off to the range. In 2016, I had taken a good bear with the big saboted lead bullet at just 23 or 24 yards ... putting it down hard and fast - but that was with a modern in-line rifle as well ... a Cooper .50 caliber Model 22ML ... shooting the bullet with a black Harvester muzzleloading .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot.
For shooting the saboted bullet out of the Pedersoli built modern Jaeger copy, I decided to switch from GOEX FFg black powder to Hodgdon FFg Triple Seven ... to get just a little more velocity to get the heavy sleeves of the .54x.45 sabot to open more quickly. And to insure ignition of the slightly harder to ignite black powder substitute, I removed the No. 11 cap nipple and installed a musket cap nipple. As you can see in the above right photo, the larger winged musket cap contains a lot more of that explosive compound which puts a lot more and a hotter flame through the rifle's "drum & nipple" ignition system.
My first shots with the saboted 400-grain Hard Cast bullet were powered by 80 grains of FFg Triple Seven. Ignition was spontaneous ... both of my first two shots on a sighter target, at 50 yards, were about 1/2 inch below my aiming point ... so I filed the top of the front sight blade just enough that you could tell it had been filed. My next two shots were right at the bottom of the "X". I stroked off just a bit more steel from the top of the blade ... stapled up a new target ... and went for a three shot group.... shooting a 90-grain charge of the powder. Note ... I did run a lightly dampened patch down after each shot, followed with a dry one. Then the rifle was loaded for the next shot ... with the same bore wipe routine before loading shot No. 3.
At left ... that's my first 3-shot 50-yard group punched with the Pedersoli-Dixie .54 Jaeger ... 90-grains of FFg Triple Seven ... and the saboted Harvester Muzzleloading 400-grain Hard Cast lead bullet. I plan to begin my bear hunting season the evening of May 1. Before then, I'll probably only get to the range one more time with this rifle ... and plan to load and shoot the same powder charge and bullet ... but use Harvester Muzzleloading's .54x.45 Crush Rib Sabot ... which I consider the best sabot available today.
I'm very pleased how all of this worked out. While I still plan to work up a somewhat more traditional bore-sized conical bullet hunting load for this rifle ... at least I will be hunting with a lead bullet this spring. If a good bear does work through the well used travel corridor I tend to favor, 60 yards is likely the longest shot I would have to take. The closest shot could be at just 10 or 15 yards. I've been disappointed about a number things lately, one being that a two month search could not turn up one Lee Precision mould for the 380-grain REAL bullet. But mostly, I've been disappointed in the manner in which the Democrat Party has been hell bent to destroy this country and our Constitution.
About this time next year, campaigning for the 2022 Mid-Term Elections will begin to heat up ... and I predict we're in for a lot of violence. The Socialist-Communist brain washers now controlling Washington D.C. are sure to try full confiscation of our firearms ... so stockpile ... horde ... and hide all you can ... and keep just enough at hand for emergency use. Let's make their lives as miserable as they have made our's ... and take back the House and Senate in November 2022. The Biden-Harris administration will forever stand as a reminder of how this country has totally wasted their four years. And if they continue to get even more brazen and more stupid about our right to "Keep and Bear Arms" ... it is the duty of All Real Americans to remind them of why we have a Second Amendment.
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To All Of My Marine Corps Brothers And Sisters Out There ...
Semper Fidelis ... Always Faithful!
When It's Time To Take This Country Back May Prove To Be Your Finest Hours!
The very first muzzleloader I ever shot was in the spring of 1962. I was 13 years old, and had ridden my bicycle out to a friend's family farm ... with a brand new Marlin Model 39A .22 lever-action rifle strapped across my back. I had sighted in the Weaver 4x scope on the rifle ... and I was itching to shoot a few groundhogs (Eastern woodchucks). When I got to the farm, I found the entire family, and an older family friend, hard at work remodeling the kitchen of the 100+ year old farmhouse.
When I showed everyone my new "pride & joy" ... that family friend confessed he had brought along a unique small-bore muzzleloader for all to shoot, and figured that right then was likely a good time to break it out. It was one of the circa 1850's "Buggy Rifles", just like the one shown above ... built by Wm. Billinghurst in his Rochester, New York shop. The short, but heavy, .31 caliber "pistol/rifle" was topped with an original Wm. Malcolm "telescopic rifle sight" ... a.k.a. scope. We shot the rifle a couple of dozen times and it was definitely right on at 40 to 50 yards. When I asked about slipping down to a nearby creek bottom hayfield to see if I could get a shot at a groundhog ... the owner of that Billinghurst "Buggy Rifle" loaded the short muzzleloader and handed it to me, insisting ... "Use this ... it's probably been more than a hundred years since it's shot anything other than paper targets and tin cans!"
I couldn't resist ... took the rifle ... with just that single shot and headed down to the field. Easing down the narrow dirt farm road leading to the field, I spotted a big ol' chuck out in the just greening hay crop, munching away on the clover. I slipped into the woods for cover and managed to get within 30 yards of the varmint. Using a fence post for a rest ... I held on the groundhog's facing front shoulder, just as I had on the tin can we had been shooting at a half-hour earlier ... squeezed off the shot ... and the critter dropped right where it was feeding. I had just taken my very first muzzleloader game!
I can remember seeing magazine advertisements for the Hopkins & Allen underhammer muzzleloading rifles as early as 1963 or 1964. I really didn't know a lot about muzzleloaders then ... but what 13 or 14 year old boy did in those days? Heck, most adult shooters and hunters didn't know much about muzzleloaders then either, especially about loading, shooting and hunting with them.
What I remember most about the H&A rifles was their extremely low price. One ad that I recall offered one of the rifles in .45 caliber...a half-pound of black powder...25 lead balls...and a tin of No. 11 caps for the grand total of $49.95.
When I did begin shopping for a muzzleloading rifle in early 1965, to hunt deer with in my home state of Illinois, I seriously considered buying one of the H&A underhammer models. However the glint of brass on one of the early Dixie Gun Works "Squirrel" rifles had caught my eye. The gun had originally been bought with a .40 caliber barrel, but the owner had installed a Douglas .45 barrel on the muzzleloader, and it shot extremely well. I bought that rifle for $90, and took my first two bucks with the frontloader that fall.
Back when I first worked at Dixie Gun Works during the early 1970's, I can remember seeing a lot of the Hopkins & Allen rifles being shipped. At that time, they were selling for around $90 to $125 - depending on the model a customer ordered. For many of the "veteran" modern day muzzleloading hunters among us, who began hunting with a muzzleloader during the 1960's and 1970's, one of these rifles in .45 caliber or larger could have very likely been their first muzzleloader. The rifles were definitely affordable, and the very simple underhammer action was reliable - putting the fire from a No. 11 percussion cap straight into the powder charge.
Over the years, I have owned at least a half-dozen of the H&A bottom slappers, most of which I bought for little or nothing, or took on trade for something I had for sale. One of my early underhammers was the little .36 caliber rifle shown at right with a pair of cottontails ready for the dinner table. I couldn't even begin to tell you the load shot, but I do remember casting my own .350" diameter lead balls. My guess is that the powder charge was no more than 15-grains of FFFg black powder. I always shot the mildest charge I could when hunting small game, to avoid too much destruction of edible meat. This little rifle, made during the 1970's, probably cost all of about $80 when brand new, and was a tack driver at the under 25 yard shots taken at rabbits and squirrels.
The very first of these rifles I owned and shot was a big .58 caliber model, which shot well with a 90-grain charge of FFg black powder and a patched .570" diameter ball. I acquired that rifle within a few months of getting out of the Marine Corps in early 1972. I took several deer with the rifle, and was impressed with how well the .58 caliber bore put down whitetails.
Several "other" companies ran with this design up until about 15 years ago. If you follow the gun auctions on the internet, you can still find these rifles for sale at anywhere between $200 and $400.
If you've owned and hunted with a Hopkins & Allen underhammer rifle, share a few comments about your experiences. - Toby Bridges
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Above - Pedersoli Magnum 10-Gauge Double With A Hard Earned Ruffed Grouse
Has The Muzzleloading Industry Lost The Ability To Work Together?
By Glenn D. May
Senior Field Editor
Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting
The Industry ... This is a term that is widely used but I wonder how well understood it is? What is it? What does it mean to you? It is analogous to the shadowy and mysterious “they” that we have all heard of at some point or another in our lives. Is this “industry” a coherent whole? Is it self-aware? Is it some sort of all-knowing cabal of muzzzleloading illuminati? Hardly.
The “industry” is actually a group of firearms industry professionals who are employed by companies that manufacture the muzzleloaders that we love to use as well as the varied products that we require to support those muzzleloaders. There are also people who work with the industry professionals by testing, reviewing, promoting, as well as offering feedback on features and design. These folks can be loosely referred to as the “outdoors media”. The outdoors media loosely consists of authors, television personalities, and these days social media influencers. Arguably, these folks are a part of the industry too.
Above - Traditions . 58 Caliber Zouave Rifled Musket - With Hi-Lux Optics 6x Wm. Malcolm Model 1855 Scope
While there is the larger outdoors industry as a whole, we are focusing on a subset of a subset and thus only a small part of the larger industry at large. However, as small a part of the whole as it is, the muzzleloading industry has a role to play that is not as well-known but is of equal importance to the continued success of the sport.
The secondary role could be best summed up by the term “promotion” and actually has two distinct parts. The first part of promotion is working with and supporting the “outdoors media”. The second part is lobbying with and working with state game management agencies to safeguard and expand the opportunities we have to use our muzzleloaders.
There was a time when the industry was a cohesive and well-oiled machine that went out and did what needed to be done to ensure its success (the archery industry has mastered this). There were dedicated enthusiasts within the industry that really cared and who poured their hearts and souls into going out and advocating for the rest of us. These people fought for and got various states to not only legalize muzzleloaders for hunting but also got the first muzzleloader specific seasons established. These same professionals also recognized the outdoor media for the allies that they are and strove to make sure that they received the support that they needed.
Above - Original English Built Joseph Bourne Circa 1830-1840 Percussion 10-Gauge Fowler
Sadly, those days seem to have fallen by the wayside. The industry became complacent and lax. They stopped advocating for muzzleloading hunters and their seasons, they began to neglect the outdoor media, and they allowed product innovation to stagnate. The once dedicated enthusiasts were slowly replaced with professionals whose main enthusiasm was centered around moving product and maintaining bottom lines.
Yes, it’s obvious that the advocating, lobbying, media support, as well as innovation were costly. It's not hard to see how cutting back on these activities could be seen as a good idea to someone working in an industry that they are not an active part of or an enthusiast in. However, this is like starving the goose that lays golden eggs to save the cost of feed. It’s easy to become fixated on “front end money” when concerned about a bottom line because it is easier quantified and tracked, but “back end” money is also a very real thing and important even if it is harder to quantify.
To help clarify all this, every state game agency that could be persuaded to establish or expand a muzzleloader specific hunting season created or expanded a market for the industry to cater to. Every piece on muzzleloading authored and every advertisement bought also fueled the fires that powered the industry. These ads and articles fueled the imaginations and opened the wallets of millions of prospective and already established muzzleloader hunters whose generous patronage is the lifeblood of the industry itself (not to mention the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation as a whole)!
Above - A Custom Built Small Game Rifle & Tube Sight ... Using An Original 1830's Remington .31 Caliber Barrel
So where did all this leave things? Well product innovation basically stagnated, no new muzzleloader specific hunting opportunities became available, some muzzleloading specific opportunities were actually rescinded and became “restricted/primitive” seasons that allowed shotguns, pistols, crossbows, & even rifles firing straight walled casing ammunition. The portion of the outdoor media that catered to muzzleloading withered and all but starved to death. Those were bleak days indeed.
Wait, “were”? Yes, we feel confident (optimistic?) in using the past tense. Sometime recently, things began to change. The industry it seems is beginning to stir. There seems to be legitimate innovation occurring and the shoulder exposed to the muzzleloader based outdoor media isn’t quite as cold. We feel like we could be on the cusp of a muzzleloading renaissance in the making. The professionals in the industry are seemingly coming around and gaining enthusiasm for muzzleloaders, they are upping their support of the outdoor media, and it seems that the customers are responding positively.
Now, there is still a long way to go but the industry has taken the first tentative steps toward regaining its former glory and the weight has shifted and the momentum is pushing us all forward towards the goalpost. Let’s hope that we all do our parts to make this all be successful.
Why A New Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting Website?
Back in 2003, I launched a new website known as HIGH PERFORMANCE MUZZLELOADING. That site was totally devoted to modern in-line ignition muzzleloaders and loads. In 2006, I changed the name of the site to NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING ... because I was seriously missing the traditional side of our sport.
I have always been a "performance minded" muzzleloading hunter - whether I'm hunting with a very traditionally styled frontloader ... or an extremely advanced and honest "high performance" ultra modern primer ignition in-line rifle. I've always believed in hunting with the hardest hitting load for a given rifle that would still shoot with accuracy. The game being hunted deserves the quickest and cleanest harvest we can deliver.
The two rifles pictured in the above photos are currently my two favorite traditional muzzle-loaded big game rifles. Both are of fairly true late percussion Hawken styling - and both are produced by Davide Pedersoli & Co. of Brescia, Italy. (Available in the U.S. from Dixie Gun Works and the Italian Firearms Group). The barrel from one will fit right into the hooked breech tang and stock of the other. But as much as these two rifles are alike ... they are also as different as night and day.
That rifle in the top photo is the .54 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken ... the rifle pictured in the bottom photo is the .50 caliber Missouri River Hawken. The .54 caliber rifle is built with a 34 11/16" long 1-inch diameter barrel that's rifled with a slow 1-turn-in-65 inches rate of rifling twist. This is my patched round ball rifle. The .50 caliber model sports a slightly shorter 30-inch barrel that's rifled with a much faster 1-in-24 inches rate of twist. This is my traditional 1840's-1850's bullet rifle. Both versions of the rifle are period correct for 1840 thru the 1860's. And, yes, that long "telescopic rifle sight" mounted on the .50 caliber Missouri River Hawken is just as traditional as the rifle to which it is attached. The earliest rifle scopes were developed on the muzzleloading rifles of that time period. The reproduction Wm. Malcolm 6x Model 1855 rifle optic shown in this photo is from Hi-Lux Optics.
I've shot the Pedersoli .54 Rocky Mountain Hawken with charges of GOEX FFg black powder ranging from 90 to 120-grains ... behind a .015" lubed cotton patched 230-grain Hornady swaged .535" lead ball ... and no matter which charge I shoot ... the rifle tends to keep hits inside a 2" group at 50 yards. That shooting is, of course, done from a solid shooting bench and rest. For deer, I go with a 110-grain charge ... which gives me an effective range of 75- to 80-yards. If I were to go after elk with this rifle, I'd likely move up to a 120-grain charge ... and try to keep my shots inside of 60-yards. That big ol' doe in the above left photo was taken with my 110-grain charge ... and at about 60 yards the rifle and load pretty much dropped the deer where it stood.
The Malcolm scoped 30-inch Missouri River Hawken barrel very often ends up on that gorgeous curly maple stock for photos. So, if you see a Pedersoli Hawken on this website topped with one of these scopes ... and a curly maple stock ... I'm just playing my stock options. No matter which stock the scoped barrel is on ... I'll likely be shooting the rifle with 100-grains of GOEX FFg black powder behind a paper-patched cast 480-grain conical bullet. The rifle with that load is effective on deer sized game to just over 200 yards. I've gotten great accuracy with the rifle shooting the copper-clad Hornady 300-grain hollow-based FPB bullet as well ... also shooting 100-grains of GOEX FFg black powder. The buck in the above right photo was dropped at 171 yards with that load.
Later this spring or summer, Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting will bring you a more detailed test report on these two Hawken half-stock rifles. Right now, I'm awaiting the arrival of a rifle just like that shown directly above - one of the Pedersoli fast 1-in-24 twist percussion Jaeger Hunter rifles. My plans are to hunt black bear with the rifle this spring ... shooting 90 or 100 grains of black powder behind the Lee Precision 380-grain REAL bullet. We'll also see how light a powder charge we can take the rifle ... and still get target quality accuracy with a patched round ball. Keep an eye open for our report on this rifle.
Use the comment section to share what you consider your favorite traditional muzzle-loaded hunting rifle ... and the load that performs best for you. - Toby Bridges, Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting
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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!