Muzzleloaders always seemed to me to be on the fringe of modern-day weapons. Some of them have this antique-looking, musket-resembling look about them, but nevertheless, they are an intriguing piece of weaponry. The question I was always asking is: “WHY?”. Why would you use a muzzleloader firearm? And then, some years ago, I got an answer. It is fun, it is challenging, and yeah, it takes you back to a time when this is all there was.
Many muzzleloader shooters are hunters, but in the past couple of decades, there has been an awakening. Have you felt it? It seems that nowadays there are many competitions and events surrounding muzzleloading rifles. They are coming back, and some would say they never really left. Modern-action firearms be damned, this is the Fast Five: Top Muzzleloaders.
This is probably the “go to” of modern-day muzzleloaders, but as always it is a matter of taste. Ever since its establishment in 1985, Knight Rifles has been well-known for its shotguns and muzzleloaders. For over 30 years, it has been synonymous with great quality, fine American craftsmanship, and traditional values. Although it did hit a setback which caused it to cease production for a short time in the late 90s, they were back in business quickly.
Among the various muzzleloaders Knight has to offer, one of the more famous ones is the Bighorn. This is a company which – financial difficulties or no – has always guaranteed safety and reliability. This next statement is true to many shooters and firearms, but still – when you are shooting a muzzleloader, specifically, you have to trust that single shot to find its mark. The Bighorn is one of those rifles which gets you to quickly understand what muzzleloaders are all on about. MSRP: starting at $646.99
Another shoe-in for winning the “Best American Muzzleloaders” award is CVA and its wide range of rifles. The company was established in the early 1970s, and since then it has been providing American shooters and hunters with some of the best gear and weapons ever seen.
The company’s more serious claim to fame lies in its in-line muzzleloaders, which resemble bolt-action rifles. On the one hand, they offer a greater measure of convenience and fewer chances of a misfire (which is crucial when it is a one-shot kind of deal). But on the other hand, there is no replacing the traditional look and feel of the flintlock or cap block. The CVA Optima series (the original and its many variants) is probably the company’s best-selling line of products. The series boasts high-quality parts, inside and out.
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Thompson Center Muzzleloader
This is a company which was founded in the mid-1960s, and it is known for its pistols and rifles. The arms manufacturer used interchangeable barrels to make various weapons and calibers more accessible to the general population. In the 1970s, it introduced a series of muzzleloading rifles, and that played a big part in the ‘comeback’ which muzzleloading rifles seem to have made in the last few decades.
It was the Hawken rifle which made it happen. This rifle, a 1970s reproduction of a 1820s rifle by the same name, managed to get shooters very excited. It was different, to say the least, and it managed to make black-powder hunting popular again. It influenced the way people thought of hunting and of the use of single-shot hunting rifles.
The Hawken has since been discontinued, and currently, T/C has several muzzleloader rifles to choose from. Of those currently being produced and sold, it is the Triumph Bone Collector that is probably most notable. MSRP: starting at $638
Remington 700 Muzzleloader
Remington needs no introduction, but its muzzleloading 700 Ultimate might. The original muzzleloading model 700 rifle was in production from 1996 to 2004. It was discontinued for a time, and then it resurfaced. It was changed, made more modern, and was reintroduced in 2014 as the 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader.
The 700 Ultimate borrows heavily from its model 700 brethren. The well-known model 700 – a bolt-action centerfire rifle – has been popular for many decades, and its muzzleloading counterpart utilizes many elements which make the 700 bolt-actions so popular. It has the second highest price of the different rifles on this short list, but as is the case with many firearms – you get what you pay for. If you can afford it, the 700 Ultimate is certainly something to consider.
This is an old-school, Italian, family-owned firearms company. It was first established in 1957, and until 1996 was headed by its founder, Davide Pedersoli. After his death, the family continued his work. The Pedersoli Firearms company specializes in black powder weapons replicas. It takes those designs of yesteryear and brings them up a notch or two, putting a modern spin on their inside and outside. Pedersoli also produces rifles for competitions and reenactments.
The Hawken replicas are just beautiful and are available in many variants. Whether for collectors, reenactors, competitors, or those who want to go wild game hunting in vintage style – this is a unique way to go about it.
With the muzzleloader, you get one shot. Therein lies the sport, and therein lies the challenge. In order to get that kill, you need to be able to get close while staying far. This is where the scopes come in. Are they for everyone? No. But there are several scopes for muzzleloaders which are definitely worth mentioning.
- Nikon – the XR BDC series is great, and though it is quite expensive, it is well worth the money.
- Leupold – VX Freedom 3-9×40
- NightForce – NXS has several in the series, and a popular one is 2.5-10×42
One of the best ways to start your way in the world of muzzleloading is by diving right in and building your very own muzzleloader from a DIY kit. These are usually inexpensive (ranging in the several hundred), and make for a great project. When you are done assembling your rifle – and depending on the model – it can be used however you see fit: collection, display, hunting, or simple target practice.
Essentially, there are several projectiles which fit a muzzleloader rifle:
- Balls made of lead. A classic. This was the original muzzleloader projectile, and it has remained a favorite among hunters and shooters of all kinds.
- Conical balls, also made of lead, close in their appearance to ordinary bullets than balls, but are related more to the balls. These are more fit for larger game, but may have slower velocity.
- Sabots, often called sabot bullets. They are not bullets, technically, but are referred to as such. Made of plastic or lead, the sabots often possess greater velocity.
- Controlled expansion bullets. These are the more modern take on muzzleloader projectiles. They are available from several manufacturers, and their attributes make them fit for all sorts of game in the United States.
- Other modern bullets, aka specialty bullets. These are ones which don’t belong to any other category, though they may be sabots or controlled expansion. They will be tailored for certain models, conditions, or circumstances.
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