Thursday, January 29, 2009

A muzzleloader by any name is still a muzzleloader

© By Othmar Vohringer

Yesterday my wife and I drove to the Lower Mainland to visit with friends and family. Apart from the Coquihalla summit where it was icy and slushy on the highway the drive went smooth.

On arrival in Langley my wife attended to family matters and I meet up with a member of a gun club who had previously asked me for my opinion on a muzzleloader shooting program. Apparently the club wants to get more members involved in muzzleloader shooting and the man wanted my input on how to achieve that. “What do you think Othmar” he asked, “Should we make two programs, one for traditional flint and cap lock muzzleloaders and one for modern in-line muzzleloaders? The way he said “in-line muzzleloader” gave me the impression that he was not thinking very highly of them.

Since I was asked for my opinion I gave it to him regardless of his feelings he might harbor against in-line muzzleloaders. “If you want to make the front stuffer shooting program popular then why not include in-line muzzleloaders too instead of making two different programs. After all a muzzleloader is a muzzleloader and there are more people shooting in-lines these days then other types of front stuffers.” I had a fair hunch of what the guy was about to say before he opened his mouth. The look in his eyes was telling me what was about to come.

Sure enough, as suspected, I was subjected to a lengthy monologue of the usual in-line rhetoric. I am not going to bore you with its entirety. Suffice to say it ended with, “…and they just don’t look like muzzleloaders.” Other key phrases where “unfair advantage” and, “Inline muzzleloaders are unethical.”

Hang on a minute, what exactly did the guy mean with “unfair advantage”? Well here is the narrated explanation. An in-line uses a different ignition system and uses the much hotter shot shell primers, rather then the slower burning ignition of flint or percussion cap. This means the likelihood of failing to fire or delayed ignition is reduced to almost zero in an in-line muzzleloader. Maybe I am missing the point but to me that is a good thing.

So what’s up with the argument that modern in-line muzzleloaders are unethical? There is no such thing as an unethical hunting tool. Guns are tools without a brain and without feelings. It’s the person using that tool that makes the decision to act ethically or not. You can use a hammer for what it is intended and drive a nail into the wall or what it is not intended and smash someone’s skull with it. Does that make the hammer an unethical tool? Not likely. It’s the same with a hunting tool.

Another argument that came up was that in-line muzzleloaders hit the targets, made for the softer impact of traditional muzzleloaders, too hard. That’s easy to fix. In that case you either build stronger targets or make a stipulation that in-line muzzleloaders can’t use high powerd loads when the shooter uses the traditional muzzleloader shooting trail. The good thing about muzzleloaders is that you can up- and download the load to your exact needs. You're not reliant on factory loads like the ones used for bolt-action rifles.

Before I moved to Canada I owned and shot a Thomson Center Renegade with cap lock ignition, shooting round balls and lead conical bullets. I also owned and shot a Thomson Center Black Diamond in-line muzzleloader loaded with saboted pistol bullet, pushed out the barrel at lightening speeds and power by 150 grain of Pirotex pellets. Unfortunately I ended up selling them both, along with all my other firearms because I couldn’t be bothered to get involved with the endless and expensive paper trail to get all my firearms across the border into Canada.

In the near future I am going to buy new muzzeloaders. I have set my eyes on a Thomson Center Triumph Bone Collector. Sadly Thomson Center doesn't make the Renegade anymore. The next best choice to the Renegade in my opinion is the Lyman Deerstalker. Why two different muzzleloaders you may ask? Simply because I can and because I like to shoot and hunt with both types. For me hunting and shooting is all about having fun. and not about fitting into a category. But I digress.

Having experience with both types of muzzleloaders qualifies me to give my unbiased opinion on the matter of traditioanl v. modern front loaders. I have shot round lead balls pushed by 50 grain of black powder from my Black Diamond gun and I have shot sabots with pistol bullets pushed by 150 grains of Pirotex from the Renegade. While it is true that the Black Diamond, with a faster rate of twist, was less accurate with a slow load and the Renegade was equally less accurate with a fast load pushed through a barrel with a slow rate of twist the difference was minimal. What I am trying to say with that is that both types of firearms can be up-loaded and down-loaded and still maintain acceptable accuracy. With that said, an inline muzzleloader could be used on a target trail built for traditional black powder guns without destroying the targets designed for slow and soft loads.

As for the argument that a modern Inline looks like a centerfire rifle, you’re right it looks like a centerfire rifle but that is where the similarity ends. A modern inline is still a traditional muzzleloader because the shooter still has to build each load individually and push it from the front down the barrel. The only difference is that due to a better ignition and the capability of handling bigger loads you’re able to shoot a bit further with it then with a cap lock or flint muzzleloader. Mind you, I tweaked the Renegade and built up a load using a conical bullet that retained enough power and accuracy to take any deer sized game out to 85 yards without any problems.

This is the 21st century and we’re faced with huge problems that could end the hunting and shooting tradition for the next generation if we do not wake up to the challenges we face. I am glad that with sound reasoning and knowledge I was able to convince my hunting club acquaintance that with a little good will and respect all types of muzzleloaders can be combined into one. I am also pleased to see that the guy realized that we’re faced with more important issues then who shoots what. It is my hope that in the future we can concentrate more on what unites us all and less on what divides us. We’re all in the same boat and the sooner we realize that the better our future will look.

Image courtesy of Thomson Center Arms

Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
Founding Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit

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Albert A Rasch said...


You bring up several very valid points. Shooting is shooting, hunting is hunting, and muzzleloaders are muzzleloaders.

Where your taste lie is for you to decide. I would prefer to use traditional flintlocks should I ever have the oportunity. Joe next door uses an inline with a scope. I don't criticize his choice, though in a good natured manner I may needle him. He's out there doing his hunting, helping to fund the Dept of Fish and Game, keeping access available to everyone. Who am I to criticize.

Your last paragraph, really sums up the whole issue, and I can assure you that I'll be quoting it in the near future!

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit
Southeast Regional OBS Coordinator

Rod McBellanic said...

Good work and right on. Thanks for stopping by my friend.
Chad "Rod McBellanic"
Field Dress

Rick Kratzke said...

I have been shooting muzzleloaders for almost as long as I've been hunting. I started out with a cap and ball Hawkin and now I shoot a new modern inline.
I will say this and that is The gun shoots only has good as the person shooting it.
If you know what your doing and you have figured what works best for you and your gun than it does not matter whether it is traditional or modern.

gary said...

I am not a muzzleloader person, never owned one, but it seems like the reasoning is much like the crossbow issue. I think by combining the two in the club your friend is going to see some curiosity from each side towards the other and in so doing they will come to a better understanding of one anothers preference. Never can tell, you might even see some movement back and forth across the line. With knowledge comes choice and with choice comes whats most comfortable, challenging and exciting.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Albert – Go ahead and use my quote wherever you feel it’s appropriate. There are days when I get an itch to take a deer with a traditional muzzleloader or the traditional bow. Then there are days where I want to be high-tech and use an in-line muzzleloader a compound bow or even the crossbow. Variety is the spice of live and makes for good experiences.

I think sometimes we forget how fortunate we are here in North America. Having traveled all over the world I know how restrictive hunting and shooting is in other countries. We’re truly blessed to have such a variety of game, long seasons and the opportunity to use so many different methods to hunt and think that this is worth to defend because the alternative does not look rosy.

Chad – I love to stop by other blogs to see what others write about. Unfortunately I am very pressed for time in the last two month and have not as much time as I would like to commit to blog visits. I appreciate that you find my post “right on”.

Rick – You’re the ultimate deer hunter and it does not surprise me that you also hunt with a muzzleloader. It only makes sense to take advantage of all the hunting season segments a state offers. Way back when I started bowhunting I did so to take advantage of the long Illinois bow season. Hunting with bow, muzzleloader and slug gun meant that I could hunt deer without a break through all seasons.


Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
Founding Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit

Othmar Vohringer said...

I missed you Gary. You must have posted your comment at the same moment as I posted my answer to the other comments.

You’re absolutely right. There is so much false information and animosity between different camps that it only can be good to bring the two together in the hope to create a better understanding and with that unity. From my own experience I know that if you get a traditional bowhunter to shoot a crossbow they are genuinely surprised that it is not as easy as they have been let to believe. The same is true for muzzleloaders. It is also my experience that the ones that are against crossbows or in-line muzzleloaders never have shot one and formed their opinion entirely on what they have heard. The same is true for those that say that traditional bows and muzzleloaders are not good hunting tools. Somebody told them so and they take it as the gospel.


Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
Founding Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit

Adam said...

I have never hunted with a muzzleloader and am wanting to get me one.Thanks for the informative article.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Your welcome Adam and good luck in finding the muzzleloader you want, there are many different types and brands that are a real joy to shoot and hunt with.


SimplyOutdoors said...

Amen Othmar.

It seems these types of arguments are happening more often then they should.

In my neck of the woods people keep squabbling about crossbows.

I say, if it's legal, then shoot what you want. We have too many people trying to bring hunting to its knees, and we're only helping by fighting amongst our ranks.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thank you for the comment Arthur. Like you it pains me to see so many hunters “squabbling” with each other over nothing while missing the big picture or are totally oblivious to the very real threats to our hunting heritage.


Jeff Hunt said...

Great article. And I totally agree that hunters/shooters need to stop arguing about such trivial matters and keep an eye on the bigger picture of ours sports survival.
Also, they just legalized crossbows here in SC, and the same kind of arguments have been going on about them. And like you said about the black powder weapons, once archers become familiar with them, they quite being so threatened by them.
And since I have never been a black powder shooter, I was very interested in your take on the different versions. Thanks for the insight!

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