© 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
Tags: Muzzleloaders, Thomson Center Arms, Black Powder Guns, Lyman Deerstalker