A Market for Muzzleloaders

There are a host of reasons why people hunt with blackpowder rifles that often coincide with how deep they're willing to dig into their cash reserves.

A Market for Muzzleloaders

Photo from TC Media - Thompson/Center Bone Collector.

The muzzleloading rifle was a lifeline for early American frontiersmen — called upon to put protein on the dinner table, provide personal and home protection and defend a newly acquired and somewhat fragile state of liberty and independence. Crude by today’s standards, these firearms were an impetus for exploration and settlement, providing the firepower needed for western expansion into forbidding and often hostile territory. Flintlock and percussion rifles were the modern firearms of pioneer times, state-of-the-art in every respect. 

Then somewhere along the line, things changed — in a big way. With the appearance of repeating breech-loaded rifles during the mid-1800s, modern muzzleloaders became, well, not so modern, and they were soon relegated to heirloom status, reposing above the fireplace mantel. Only traditionalists hunted with them, or in more modern times, those looking for extra muzzleloader-only tags to fill. It wasn’t until 1985 that things changed again. That was the year Tony Knight introduced the MK-85 Knight rifle, a truly modern muzzleloader that used an inline ignition system that was far superior to the flintlock and sidelock rifles on the market. This was the catalyst of things to follow, as muzzleloader manufacturers’ R&D teams all set out to best Knight by building a better mouse trap — the result a veritable renaissance of modern front-stuffing guns that in some respects have pushed the technology envelope beyond what traditionalists would even recognize as a muzzleloader. 

But the truth of the matter is that while so many things have changed in regard to muzzleloaders, especially those topped with modern optics, many of their limitations have remained the same: You still get only one shot followed by a lengthy reloading process, range is somewhat limited, and blackpowder guns are more susceptible to the effects of foul weather than modern centerfire rifles. But for many, that’s the allure of hunting with these “primitive” arms — a throwback to simpler times by avoiding all of the technical bells and whistles of truly modern firearms. Of putting hunting skills and determination to the forefront.  

It seems that today’s blackpowder hunters fall into two camps: those who enjoy the tradition and challenge and those who see it as a means of extending the hunting season where muzzleloader-only tags are abundant. This is a win-win for retailers, but the key is to recognize this diversity. Only by displaying a wide variety of guns and accouterments with a wide range of price points will you capitalize on the full potential of this market when a potential customer walks through the door. Here are a handful of examples.

Remington Model 700
Remington Model 700

Remington Model 700 LSS Ultimate Muzzleloader

Big Green has a long history of supplying outdoorsmen with every conceivable firearm configuration imaginable to aid them in procuring protein for the dinner table and trophies for the man cave — including what the company refers to as the Ultimate Muzzleloader. 

Remington’s Model 700 LSS was designed to deliver super-magnum power for a lethal range of 300 yards. With its revolutionary U.M.L. ignition system and .50-caliber Premier Accu Tip bullets, it can reach out and touch big game at ranges never before imagined with a front-stuffing firearm. Pre-primed cases load with the ease of a centerfire rifle, and super-hot magnum primers ignite up to 200-grain loads with near smokeless powder efficiency. The flash channel stays clean and ready for the next load — there’s no need to remove the breech plug for cleanup. The system is paired with a trusted Remington Model 700 receiver for precision, power and performance. With a 26-inch stainless steel barrel and action and laminate wood stock, the Model 700 LSS Ultimate Muzzleloader also provides all-weather durability. MSRP: $967.98. www.remington.com

Best Feature: Ignites up to 200-grain powder charges

Traditions Nitrofire
Traditions Nitrofire

Traditions NitroFire

With a long tradition of producing accurate, innovative and dependable front-loading rifles, Traditions Firearms has provided blackpowder enthusiasts with quality firearms for more than 30 years. From DIY rifle and pistol kits to classic sidelocks and modern inlines, they’ve been an innovator in the evolution of the modern-day muzzleloader — culminating with the introduction of the NitroFire in 2020. 

Traditions Firearms has partnered with Federal and Hodgdon to make a safer, more reliable and more consistent-shooting muzzleloading rifle in its NitroFire, the only muzzleloader that uses the new Firestick from Federal — an encapsulated polymer powder charge loaded with clean-burning Hodgdon Triple Eight powder. The NitroFire is designed so that the Firestick can be loaded from the breech, while the bullet is still loaded from the muzzle. This makes the powder totally impervious to moisture and the elements and provides for fast, effortless loading and unloading. The NitroFire features an ultralight 26-inch chromoly steel fluted and tapered barrel with 1:28-inch twist rifling, Dual Safety System and Traditions new Elite XT trigger system. MSRP: $549-$699. www.traditionsfirearms.com

Best Feature: Breech powder load

Dixie Gun Works Kodiak
Dixie Gun Works Kodiak

Dixie Gun Works Kodiak Double Rifle

A company with a nostalgic bent, Dixie Gun Works has earned a reputation for providing blackpowder traditionalists with classic guns that possess the look and feel of days gone by. Its Kodiak double rifle by Italian gun maker Pedersoli is a prime example — the nostalgic big-game hunter’s dream come true. 

This authentically styled side-by-side muzzleloader — available in .50- and .54-caliber — harkens to days of old, extensively field tested in Africa and North America. Its classic American walnut half-stock sports a satin finish with checkering on its straight-grip wrist and on the fore-end. Barrels are attached to the stock by a single barrel key, and the front action lock and hammers are engraved. Trigger guards and breech plug tangs are color case hardened. Other features include double triggers, a bead-style front sight on a ramp, and two folding adjustable rear sights. The Kodiak comes with a nipple wrench and leather sling — and a history that’s as old as blackpowder hunting itself. MSRP: $1,525. www.dixiegunworks.com

Best Feature: Traditional look and feel

Thompson/Center Triumph Bone Collector
Thompson/Center Triumph Bone Collector

Thompson/Center Triumph Bone Collector 

Inspired by the Bone Collector himself, professional hunter Michael Waddell, Thompson/Center’s Triumph Bone Collector muzzleloader has all of the bells and whistles an avid blackpowder hunter could want. And that’s just what Thompson/Center has been doing since 1967 — building firearms with innovative features hunters can rely on. 

From the accuracy and innovation to the touch and feel, the American-made T/C Triumph Bone Collector muzzleloading rifle meets and exceeds industry standards. Built on an ultra-light frame made from aircraft-grade aluminum, it features T/C’s toolless Speed Breech XT — just twist it 90 degrees to remove for easy cleaning and access to the bore. Its fluted barrel enhances accuracy by increasing the stiffness of the barrel and expanding the barrel’s cooling rate, and a Weather Shield coating provides corrosion resistance. The Triumph Bone Collector comes dressed in Realtree AP camo and includes a FlexTech stock with a SIMS LimbSaver recoil pad with dual compression chambers that reduces felt recoil by 43 percent, reversible hammer extension for left- and right-handed shooters, and a lifetime warranty. MSRP: $638. www.tcarms.com

Best Feature: Toolless Speed Breech XT

CVA Paramount Pro
CVA Paramount Pro

CVA Paramount Pro Muzzleloader

Founded in 1971, Connecticut Valley Arms has become a household name in all things blackpowder, early on specializing in traditional side-lock rifles and build-it-yourself rifle kits and evolving to technically advanced inline muzzleloaders — the Paramount Pro being the latest addition to its Paramount line of modern muzzleloading rifles.

The Paramount Pro was designed for hunters who want to squeeze every bit of energy out of their front-loading rifle. It is equipped to handle “super-magnum” propellant charges — providing the higher velocities necessary for killing shots at 300 yards and beyond, and for 2020 comes upgraded with a custom quality Grayboe fiberglass stock, TriggerTech trigger and Cerakote finish. The Paramount Pro also features a custom quality, free-floating Bergara barrel in nitride-treated stainless steel. Paired with PowerBelt’s ELR bullets, which were specially designed for the Paramount, this barrel can produce tight groups at extended ranges. Also offered for 2020 is a .50-caliber Paramount Pro Colorado version, which includes a Williams peep sight. MSRP: $1,667.95. www.cva.com

Best Feature: Long-range capability

Upselling a Muzzleloader Purchase 

A muzzleloading rifle is only as good as the components that go into building a load that assures the best combination of accuracy, consistency and terminal performance — and that means creating a bullet/powder/primer recipe that best achieves this goal. The good news is that there’s a wide selection of these goodies out there designed specifically for muzzleloaders that deliver precision, deep penetration and massive controlled expansion at the relatively slow velocities these rifles generate. Retailers who are serious about catering to devoted blackpowder enthusiasts need to provide all of those accouterments that go into making the muzzleloader the best it can be. This creates an opportunity to upsell a muzzleloader purchase while sending the customer home with everything he or she needs for a successful hunt. It only makes sense that when a customer walks out of your shop with a new front-stuffing rifle in one hand, he or she should have an armload of supporting gear in the other. Here is one effective bullet/powder/primer combo to get the creative juices flowing. 

Hornady .50-Caliber MonoFlex ML Sabot Bullet

At the heart of the high speed/low drag 250-grain MonoFlex ML is the .452-inch diameter MonoFlex bullet — a monolithic solid projectile made from a copper alloy and topped with the Hornady exclusive Flex Tip design that works as a catalyst for uniform expansion, even at the low velocities of longer-range impacts. The MonoFlex won’t separate and retains 95 percent of its original weight. Specifically engineered to provide phenomenal accuracy, penetration and high weight retention, the MonoFlex ML is a nontraditional/alternative metal construction bullet option for big-game hunters. Retail: $24.99/Box of 20. www.hornady.com

Federal FireStick Powder Charge

The Federal Premium FireStick is the critical component of a revolutionary new muzzleloader ignition system that uses an encapsulated polymer propellant charge that loads from the breech, while the bullet is loaded from the muzzle. This makes the powder totally impervious to moisture and the elements and provides for fast, effortless loading. The FireStick is fueled with clean-burning 100- or 120-grain Hodgdon Triple Eight powder charges and is compatible with Tradition’s new NitroFire muzzleloader. The FireStick unloads quickly, simply and safely by slipping the polymer charge out of the action — there’s no need to fire the rifle. MSRP: $26.95. www.federalpremium.com

CCI 209 Inline Muzzleloading Primer

Optimized for blackpowder firearms, CCI’s  209 Inline Muzzleloading Primers are built to provide reliable, consistent ignition and remove all uncertainty each and every time the shooter squeezes the trigger. They utilize modern, non-corrosive and non-mercuric initiator mixes to ensure a clean burn and absolute ignition even in humid conditions. MSRP: $9.99/100 primers. Contact: www.cci-ammunition.com


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