A Web Magazine Specifically For The Traditional Muzzleloading Hunter!
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.
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!