Hunting technology has made some incredible advancements over the past two centuries. Smokeless powder, repeating rifles, and compound bows have all helped expand our opportunities to take game. While it can be easy to get caught up in using the latest technology, there is a growing contingent of people who choose to utilize older and simpler weapons.
Muzzleloading rifles seem to be making a bit of a comeback lately. For many, the challenge of using a more primitive weapon adds to the suspense of the hunt—sort of leveling the playing field and strengthening the element of fair chase. On the management side of things, biologists and wildlife officials have found it useful to run muzzleloader seasons. They can expect a smaller harvest to occur due to the added difficulty of using a muzzleloader and its decreased range. This in turn allows more hunters to purchase licenses while still not exceeding harvest goals for a specific population of animals.
If you are new to the world of black powder and muzzleloaders, getting started can seem daunting. Once you understand the basics using one can quickly become second nature. If you’re interested in muzzleloaders, you can find a decent black powder gun for just a few hundred dollars. Budget another $100 or so for the accessories you will need: black powder, primers, bullets, a powder flask, bullet starter, and a powder measure. Choose a modern inline design for your first black powder gun if it is legal in your state to hunt with. The break-action design and removable breech plug makes them a breeze to clean. Also, They use commonly found shotgun primers which are cheap and still ignite when wet.
If you prefer hunting with a less modern design than an inline muzzleloader, a sidelock or flintlock rifle may be for you. Be aware though, that they can be trickier to load and use. The exposed flint or percussion cap can be less reliable, and generally, they are more difficult to clean. In the end, it will come down to what you want out of the gun. If your goal is just to be able to hunt some muzzleloader-only hunts and extend your range then an inline gun will be a good choice. Modern muzzleloaders fitted with scopes can easily be accurate past 200 yards. If you are truly interested in the challenge and history of black powder guns, you may opt for the more classic choice.