Getting Worked Up Over Black-powder Deer Rifles

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 1, 2010

testing black-powder loads. Start by pre-labeling targets for the loads you plan to test. Mark each target with the date, distance, number of shots, type of primer, type and amount of powder, type and weight of bullet and, if you're shooting round balls, patch and lube type.

Shoot groups of at least three shots, using a sandbag or a bench rest for best shooting. Allow your rifle barrel to cool between shot groups. When shooting on a sunny day, shade your barrel from the sun. Hot barrels shoot differently than cool ones, and your barrel is not going to be hot when you draw a bead on a deer in November.

Barrel fouling also causes accuracy variations in muzzleloaders. The buildup of powder residue changes the fit of the bullet in the bore, affecting bullet velocity and accuracy. Again, this creates conditions that won't exist when you squeeze the trigger on a deer. To minimize the effect of bore fouling on your gun's performance when working up a load, it is important to clean the bore between shot groups. This can be done with cloth patches moistened slightly with water. Finish with dry patches so moisture doesn't affect your powder.

Before starting, check recommended maximum loading information in your gun's user manual. Begin your range test at 60 percent of the recommended maximum powder charge and work your way up to the maximum. For example, if the manufacturer of your rifle specifies a maximum load of 100 grains of powder for a 50-caliber rifle, you should shoot your first target with 60 grains. Clean the bore and shoot a new target with 70 grains of powder and so on until you finish the progression with three to five shots at a target with 100 grains of powder.

Save all your targets for comparison. With rifles smaller than .50 caliber, increase the powder charge in increments of five grains. For rifles .50 caliber and larger, go up in 10-grain increments.

If none of the powder/bullet combinations produces satisfactory accuracy, you may need to try a different bullet, patch material, lubricant or powder. If misfires are a problem, try a more powerful primer cap or a different nipple.

Muzzleloader hunters often fail to take into account tamping pressure. After pushing the bullet down on top of the powder, most shooters finish seating the bullet with several taps of the ramrod. This ensures that there is no gap between

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