Solve Your Modern Muzzleloader Accuracy Problems

When I first bought my modern inline muzzleloader, I relied on the advice of too many people that didn’t know what they were talking about. I recognize all the B.S. now, but back then I was glad for any advice I could get. That bad advice set me back many months before I learned how to clean, load and shoot accurately.

target shooting with muzzleloaderI was not the only beginning muzzleloader to be given bad advice. This week, I watched two young men trying to shoot their new muzzleloaders. I say trying, because I no longer consider 6 inch groups at 50 yards to be getting the job done.

Most modern muzzleloaders should be capable of shooting one inch groups at 100 yards even if every shooter is not. They were having problems because they had been given some of the same bad advice I was given.

What kind of bad advice was I given? Here are a few examples:

Free Bad Advice Given while Learning to Shoot My Muzzleloader

  • Always use magnum loads (150 grains) in magnum gun
  • Use Power Belt bullets because they load easy
  • Don’t need to clean barrel after each shot

If you’re not laughing at me by now, then you are the person I wrote this post for and I can help you shoot more accurately.

Want another laugh at my expense?

I also wasted several weeks trying to learn how to “season” my barrel like a cast iron frying pan. Pure non-sense, but back to the problem at hand – achieving 1 inch accuracy with your muzzleloader.

Why Not Use Magnum Loads?

So, why shouldn’t we use the maximum 150 grain loads if our guns can handle the stress? Stands to reason that maximum load creates maximum velocity, which creates a flatter trajectory. Flat trajectories and increased energy at the point of impact are usually good characteristics for hunting.

For one reason, there are many muzzleloaders that are not capable of shooting anything close to “magnum” loads. Do not test any loads of modern powder in your muzzleloader unless you are certain it can withstand the pressures.

For another reason, even massed produced modern guns can have their own peculiarities. Some guns shoot best with different bullets and different amounts of powder. It’s your job to discover that combination and it requires systematic testing to discover the best combination.

Differences in Muzzleloader Barrels and Bullets

For starters, different manufacturers of 50 cal barrels may have different sized barrels. Thompson Center (TC) barrels are produced very consistently at 0.500 inches. Savage barrels are consistently 0.501 and Knight rifles are consistently 0.502 inches. Other brands may not be consistent from one gun to the next.

Also, the 45 caliber bullets we use in our 50 cal muzzleloaders are not all exactly 0.45 inches. Hornady bullets actually measure 0.452 inches, Barnes bullets are 0.451 and Sierra bullets are 0.4515 inches. The sabots that go with these bullets also come in different thickness, so it should be obvious that different barrels will perform better with different bullet and sabot combinations because they fit differently. I have learned that Barnes T-EZ muzzleloader bullets shoot best in my TC Pro Hunter.

Why Not Use PowerBelt Bullets?

What about those Powerbelt bullets? There are so easy to load. Did the salesman at the sporting goods store lie to me? No, Powerbelt bullets probably worked well for him in his muzzleloader, but they did not work well in my TC encore. I could never shoot better than 3 inch groups with Powerbelts (245 or 295 grain Aerotip) at 100 yards. Plus, later I learned that Powerbelts have poor ballistic coefficients and very poor weight retention when compared to other bullets. Look for a post in the future about making fishing sinkers out of Powerbelt bullets.

Do You Really Have to Clean the Barrel after Every Shot?

Not if you are just shooting for fun, but if you want to shoot for accuracy, like when sighting in your gun or working up a load, then Yes! You really need to clean the barrel and breech plug after every shot (or every other shot).

NOTE: I actually shoot two times before cleaning. Once with the clean barrel at one target and once with the dirty barrel at a second target. I use powder for my first clean barrel shot and reload with pellets for a quick second shot. Why not practice as if we were hunting? If you missed while hunting, you would have to reload quickly and take a second shot from a dirty barrel.

Consistent shooting requires consistent loading and cleaning. How consistent can the load be if you push all that left over crud down on top of the powder when you seat the bullet? Crud gets mixed with the powder and crud increases the distance of the bullet from the spark. Also, how can the bullet exit the barrel consistently when sometimes it’s clean, sometimes its a little dirty and sometimes it’s real dirty?

Also ever considered the inconsistency of using pellets that have chips missing? And, does it make a difference if you sometimes crush the pellets when ramming them down the barrel?

I’ve read articles claiming the bore will be more consistent if you don’t swab after each shot because swabbing causes inconsistencies. I agree that inconsistent swabbing can be a problem, but consistent swabbing, lubing and drying has to create a more consistent barrel than not swabbing. Anyway, I know what has worked for me and that is to clean the barrel and the breech plug after each shot.

I suggest that you try it both ways and see what you think. Which method gives you the smallest groups?

How To Shoot Muzzleloader Accurately

So, how did I escape from the dark side and get back on the right path? It is a very simple process, but requires steps.

  1. Consistent Cleaning
  2. Consistent Loading
  3. Consistent Shooting
  4. Systematic Testing of powder loads and bullets

Consistent cleaning and loading are simple tasks, but require organization and discipline. Shooting is a perishable skill that we all have to practice constantly to stay proficient. I suggest that while sighting in your muzzleloader or while testing to find the best load for your gun, that you use a bipod, sand bags or a bench rest rests to remove as much of the shooter variation as possible.

My Load for Thompson Center Encore

For mule deer, the most accurate load for my TC Encore is a 250 grain Barnes T-EZ sabot and bullet with 95 grains of Pyrodex Select Powder. I use Federal or Remington 209 primers. Nothing fancy, but it works for me.

For elk, I use a 290 grain Barnes T-EZ sabot and bullet with 120 grains of Pyrodex Select Powder.

For a second shots during practice and in hunting situations, I use 100 grains of Pyrodex Pellets with the 250 grain Barnes T-EZ bullet and 110 or 120 grains with the 290 grain Barnes T-EZ bullet. (110 grains = 50+30+30; 120 grains = 4 X 30).

I have written several articles on muzzleloader accuracy, muzzleloader bullets and systematic load testing: (Find The Right Bullet for Your Rifle) and (Are 6 inch Groups Good Enough for You?).

Don’t know why you missed that deer or elk with your muzzleloader? It might have something to do with those 6 inch groups at the range that automatically turn into 12 inch groups (or worse) in the field.

I suppose I am like a reformed smoker in a way… Now that I know modern inline rifles can shoot tight groups, it drives me crazy to see people that are satisfied with less, especially if they plan to wildly lob those bullets at deer and elk.

I’ve written a book about learning to shoot a muzzleloader accurately. Learn more about my book: Modern Inline Muzzleloader Guide to Loading, Shooting & Cleaning for Accuracy where I share the bad information I was given, the mistakes I made and the valuable tips I learned along the way.

Comments

  1. I need some help… I took my brand new Thompson Center Impact to the range today and shot the TC Maxi Balls (320 gr) at 25 yds and could not get a group! The gun was thoroughly cleaned before I shot the first round. I was shooting seated, off of a sand bag and swabbed the barrel clean between shots.
    What is your recommendation for non-sabot rounds (Colorado restricts sabots) that work well with the TC impact. Also, is it true that cast rounds like the maxi-ball don’t do so well in 1:28 twist barrels, like the impact barrel?
    Any advice is appreciated!
    Joe

    • Joe, it sounds like you are doing most things right. The only other questions I have are (1) What load were you using? and (2) Did you also clean the breech plug after every shot?

      Before I knew better, I was using maximum 150 grain loads and found my gun shot 240 & 290 grain sabots better at 90 – 120 grains. But that should be a fine tuning issue at 100 yards plus, not just trying to get a group at 25 yards.

      Also, just like a dirty barrel, a dirty breech plug can affect each shot as the spark may not be consistent and the bullet may not be seating in the exact same place. I know it is a pain to clean after every shot, but if you want real consistency, you have no other choice.

      The 1:28 twist barrel is really designed for the faster shooting sabots. I read a claim that the best twist for swaged conical lead bullets are 1:38 twist barrels, but don’t know what bullet grain they recommended. Your 320 grain bullet is heavy and takes lots of energy to get moving and to get spinning. Imagine what is happening to that lead bullet with a ton of powder behind it and all those twists in front trying to slow it down.

      Since I don’t have an Impact, I took a quick look online to see what others are saying about that gun/bullet combination. Seems like everyone using sabots with the TC Impact are very happy with the gun, but many people using conical bullets are not. There are folks that claim good results with conical bullets in 1:28 barrels.

      If you were using 100 – 150 grains of powder, try using 70 – 80 grains just to see what happens. Remember, the old 45-70 killed thousands of bison (45 cal & 70 grains powder).

      All rifles are individuals, so you will have to find the right bullet/powder combination that works in your gun and since Colorado restricts the bullets you can use, you don’t have very many options.

      Since all rifles are individuals, sometimes you can get a dud. One of the shooting forums described a similar situation as yours that was fixed with a replacement, but I believe that person was shooting sabots.

      Anyway, good luck and let me know what happens.

  2. Thanks for the response! I was shooting 90gr of Triple 7 (FFg of course) every shot.

    I thoroughly cleaned the beach every other shot. But picked the center clear between all of the later shots, when the groups would not cone together.

    I also tried the great plains 385gr bullets. Those left shavings of lead in my barrel, so your info makes a lot if sense. After two shots of those I was done with them.

    I guess next is Power Belts and FPB? however my shooting pal couldn’t get those to group in his omega. I will clean the breach each shot.

    I will probably try the smaller grain bullet weight and start at 90gr of powder, unless you have other thoughts. ..? Thanks again

    • Well, 90 grains doesn’t sound like too much powder. My guess is dropping down to 70 or 80 grains won’t help too much with that same bullet, but you have to try.

      My gun does not like Power Belts, but many people swear by them. They are also not good at staying together on impact, but you also have to give them a try until you find something that is legal in Colorado and that your gun can shoot accurately.

      I hope you can find a bullet/load combination that will work. I guess the last resort is to trade that gun in for another that will shoot large conical bullets.

      Good luck.

  3. Hello,
    The best advice I got was to shoot loads under 100 grains. My first flintlock was a Deerslayer. I found it shot best with Hornady round ball and 75 grains of 3F. I also used 3F in the pan because no matter how carefully I carried the weapon, the finer powders always fell out of the pan. I have been told the coarse powder would ignite slower but the deer never noticed it.

    • Thanks Chas.
      I’ve heard the old school muzzleloader shooters recommend starting with the same amount of powder as the bullet grains size. (45 grains of powder for .45 cal bullet; 50 grains of powder for .50 cal bullet) and then work up as long as patterns are consistent.

  4. How can you tell if your cheek is in the same place when shooting a scope? I’m must be moving all over because the bullet is never in the same place!!

    • Hi Troy.

      Try to bring the gun into firing position with your eyes closed, then open your eyes and see if your eye is properly spaced behind the scope and centered in the scope. If not, you will have an inconsistent cheek weld.

      Modern scopes are supposed to remove the parallax error, but you need to have the proper eye relief so you don’t get “scope bit” and you need to be looking down the center of the scope. (Not all the black on one side or the top).

      The main problem of inconsistent cheek weld is like inconsistent shoulder pressure. The bullet will come out slightly different each time. Some people put tape, cut notches or wrap something around the stock so they have a consistent cheek weld.

      But I suspect if you are shooting muzzleloader your problem is more likely to be inconsistent cleaning and lubrication. Or perhaps you have a habit of flinching or jerking the trigger.

      My book should help with those issues. I also suggest going to a range and let the “professionals” critique your techniques.

      Anyway, good luck… get those groups in the center before hunting season is over.

  5. Joe, I shoot 90 gr 777 powder and a 250 gr Thompson Center sabot in my TC Impact. She’s dead nuts and kills deer too.

  6. I just purchased a .32 cal muzzleloader. At 25 yards a .310 ball and 20 grains of powder hits 2 inches low. Can I bring up the impact point by adding 5 more grains of powder? Or do I need to file down the front sight?

    • Yes, adding 5 more grains of powder will increase velocity and cause the bullet to hit higher, but at 25 yards, I don’t think you can add enough powder to raise the impact point by 2 inches.

      Before filling down the front sight, see if your gun shoots a 0.315 ball better or it might shoot the .310 ball better with a bigger patch.

      Good luck, but I am curious… Why the 25 yard limit?

  7. I will be hunting squirrels, rabbits, and grouse. That is the distance that I can get to them, when I am hunting them, I use a .22 cal rifle, when hunting them, like the challenge, but love shooting my .54 cal rifle hunting Deer. That is why I purchased the .32 cal rifle. I thank you for getting back to me with the answer.

    • I like it. Sounds like my days as a teenager hunting squirrels with a .22 in the South.

      I read that a 45 grain, .310 cal ball and 20 grains of powder has very similar muzzle velocity and energy to a 40 grain .22 long rifle. Obviously, the round lead ball looses velocity and energy faster than the elongated .22 bullet.

      Good Luck.

  8. Scott Menke says:

    Hi, I have a Thompson Center Bone Collector.
    Using 100 Gr powder (white hots) and 245 Gr bullet (Barnes Spit Fire MZ .451), this gun has consistently shot low…
    No groups at all. With a scope and laser sighted it was shooting 4′ low. Yes 4 foot.

    I have gone to iron sights. Rear sight now all the way back. I can put 6 in 8″ at 50 yds.
    Are there any bad guns out there?

    • Yes Scott, some guns can be bad. Each barrel has to be treated as an individual.
      But something is also wrong with your scope or the way it was set up. No way shots with a scope should be 4 foot low, but iron sights are able to make 8 inch groups.

      Each muzzleloader will have a “favorite” load combination, but there are many factors other than the components that contribute to accuracy.

      If you have plenty of muzzleloader experience and have been able to accurately shoot other muzzleloaders, I say contact TC and have them check the gun.

      If this is your 1st muzzleloader, I suggest getting help from someone to see if they have the same problems you are having.

      Good Luck and let me know what you find out.

  9. Hi. Well, I am now the new guy and looking to buy my first muzzleloader. My thoughts are that I want one for all the states I plan to hunt (western states), for Elk, deer, bear and pig. The state laws are varied but it appears the lowest common issues are as follows: 1. Must be .50 cal and no sabots, 2. Must use black powder or a substitute (no smokeless powder). 3. The primer/ignition must be visible just prior to firing (Idaho), 4. Iron sights but fiber optic is O.K., 5. It must only be able to be loaded from the muzzle. (Does that mean it can not have a breach block?) There are others but these are the significant ones.

    I would like to maximize accuracy, range, corrosion protection and minimize weight. Where do I start? Bad bull is nice but not legal. Knight looks good but which one? And is it the most accurate? Austin and Hillock is too nice i.e. pretty and looks prone to rust. T/C has a variety. Why so many? And CVA has a large selection too. Why so many? Looks like the Accura is the one they recommend.

    • Hi Jim: Welcome to the club. Also consider there are differences between legal muzzleloaders for hunting during the rifle (any legal weapon) season and the muzzleloader only season. Some Western states like Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Colorado basically require “old school” flint locks to hunt muzzleloader only seasons, but modern in-lines with pellets, sabots and scopes can be used during the rifle seasons.
      Most other states will allow modern inline muzzleloaders, but be careful to make sure you understand all the rules. And those rules are changing as more people shoot muzzleloaders. 209 primers, pelletized powder and sabots are generally O.K. now and just this year, I notice that Utah will allow magnified scopes on muzzleloaders even during the muzzleloader only hunts.
      So yes, go with 50 cal. (required to hunt elk in most states) and go with muzzleloader only, but decide if you want to go old school so you can hunt all seasons in all Western states or go with a modern inline and stick with muzzleloader seasons in some states and any legal weapon seasons in all states.
      Asking about advice on which is the best muzzleloader is a lot like asking about pickup trucks. You will get lots of opinions about the good, the bad and the ugly. But like most pickups get you there and back home most days, most muzzleloaders will get the job done if you work at it.

      Why are they so many? Because we buy them. Some people always have to have the latest and greatest or all always looking for an excuse to buy another gun.

      As for accuracy, there are many claims about accuracy. I hear stories of tack drivers coming straight out of the box, but almost never see anybody shoot better than six inch groups at the range, so I don’t buy it. You will have to work to find the right powder/bullet combination for your gun. Start with the same combination someone with the exact gun uses, but be prepared to tweak it. Maybe you can find a gun store with a range so they can demonstrate loading, cleaning and accuracy for you.

      Personally, for elk, I use a 290 grain Barnes T-EZ bullets with 120 grains of Pyrodex Powder in my older model TC Encore and can shoot one inch groups at 100 yards if I clean after every shot.

      Good luck and let us know which muzzleloader you decide to buy.

  10. Hello again,
    First off, Thank you for your advise and quick reply. I waited to reply till I made a decision.
    Well, I decided to go with the Knight Ultra-lite, western style with a scope. Now hear me out. I want to have it ready for Colorado and Idaho this year. So, it will be sighted in with the scope. Once I know my best bullets, loads and holds, then the scope will be removed and the iron sites installed. Then more practice on the range.
    Now, in the future hunting in other states (without all the hard rules of ID, and CO) is possible, so the conversion kit for 209 primers was also shipped.
    There is a local gun range and they should be able to provide a little help. CVA also has some good videos on their site as well.
    OK, so now to the loading. If anyone else is shooting the knight Ultralite and has any input on a good, .50 cal, lead round, powder, wad, and load please pass on what works for you. Oh, and were do we buy the power and bullets? That seems like a very stupid question but this muzzleloader is a whole new game.
    I called around, a lot and there were some guns stores that sell large quantities of guns, but did not have any muzzle loaders. One gun store did not know what a muzzleloader was. And so, I suspect finding the supplies will also be an “interesting” hunt. Thanks.
    I am excited to get started.
    Best, Jim

    • Congrats on your purchase. I know you will enjoy shooting and hunting with a muzzleloader.
      I am a little surprised to hear that a gun store didn’t know what a muzzleloader was. I get that kind of thing fairly often, but would assumed they didn’t understand my Southern accent instead of not knowing what a muzzleloader was.
      But I do get a lot of attention when I take the muzzleloader to the range, even from very experienced shooters. There are lots of shooters that have never seen one. I have plenty of time to talk to them because I spend so much time cleaning.
      As for finding components, you can find them at Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shops and I have ordered bullets, powder and patches online.
      I suggest you start testing with conical bullets (like Great Plains/Hornady) that are larger than required for the game you will be hunting with a reasonable amount of powder. Don’t start off shooting “magnum loads”. Remember the 45-70 that killed thousands of buffalo was a .45 grain bullet with 70 grains of powder. Obviously if the gun shoots well, step up the powder so it will shoot flatter and hit harder. Continue increasing the powder up to 150 grains until the accuracy falls off (or your shoulder falls off).
      Swab the barrel often. I usually shoot twice at two different targets between cleanings. Try to reload as fast a possible (keep safety first!) to shoot at the second target to replicate the stress of a reload while hunting. Start this only after you are comfortable at loading the gun. Don’t let people distract you while you reload so you don’t double load powder or bullets or leave an aligner tool in the barrel.
      Take all the advice you can get, but I warn you, most of the advice I got when I was learning to shoot a muzzleloader was bad. That’s why I wrote the Modern Inline Muzzleloader Guide to Loading, Shooting & Cleaning for Accuracy.
      Well, good luck and let me know when you bag your first elk or mule deer.

  11. Hello again,

    Well, the adventure continues! The Knight Ultralight arrived, then I need a lot more stuff as you can imagine. Finally, went to the range and fired only Pyrex 777 ffg. The first thing I learned was those Maxi-balls in the yellow box, doesn’t fit.
    Do some guys use a hammer or what to get those down the barrel?
    Then I tried the Hornady bullets. They fit at home but not on the range. That’s a strange one. I tried to force it down the barrel. That is when I needed my bullet puller. Glad that accessory was purchased. So finally I started shooting No Excuses 460 gr bullets and was in heaven. So, after several rounds, I thought I should clean the barrel. The ram rod went down ok but did not want to come back. So I pulled and pulled. Then the brass end came off! So I took the BP out and pushed it out. My fiberglass range rod was not good enough so I bought a nice brass one now.

    OK. Its now time to get serious. So, I was starting out with all lead bullets since Colorado would award me a tag, right? Nope. But as strange as that one is, I now have an Arizona tag. Its for rifle but I may need to use or want to use my muzzleloader now. After reviewing their web page it seems they do not have any special ML restrictions. So, the plan is to use 209 shotgun primers, and likely BH 209 powder.
    OK, the big question now is, what is the most accurate bullet, Powerbelt or sabot etc? I can try various loads to find the best one. And is there a good source for them?
    Thanks.

    Jim in CA

    • Jim: I read that the Maxi’s have a rear/base bearing band of .500″ – .503″ and a forward bearing band of .505″ -.506″, so that will be tight (I believe Knight barrel is 0.503), especially if the lube has dried up. Try cleaning them off and lubing them again. Tight is good, but so tight you are not sure if the bullet has seated against the powder is not good. That’s why you should make a mark on your rod, to verify the bullet is seated. (Or at least makes you question if it may not be seated).

      I have used a wooden dowel to knock bullets out of the barrel.

      As for your most accurate bullet, that will depend on your gun and you will have to find that combination. If you were “in heaven” when shooting the No Excuses 460 gr bullets, why not start there?

      Lots of guys like Powerbelts, but I turned mine into fishing sinkers…

      Personally, I like T-EZ Barnes Bullets with sabots because they shoot well in my TC. I like the fact that there is no lead in the meat and they have proven to have great expansion. All the big sporting goods stores should carry them, but when they don’t have the size I need in stock, I buy them online at Cabelas. I just wish they weren’t so expensive, but a small price to pay considering all the time, money and effort we put into a hunt.

      May the adventures continue… In Colorado, Arizona or where ever…

      • One more question. You mention cleaning between every shot (or every two shots). Anyway, are you saying to remove the breach plug for every shot? Or just push 1-3 patches down the muzzle and pull them back out until clean? Removing the BP for every shot seems like a lot of work.

        • Yes Jim, when working up a load or when sighting in, I shoot one clean barrel (and breech plug) round at one target and then reload as fast as possible (practicing for a fast re-load is important) and shoot the dirty barrel load at a 2nd target. Try this yourself and see which group you like best.
          It is a lot of work, but think about it this way. Anything that can affect combustion and pressure will affect bullet velocity.
          Try just swabbing your barrel, then remove the breech plug and look at it.
          Does it matter if the the flash hole is partially blocked?
          Does it matter if crud and/or bore butter is pushed down into front of the breech plug (in front of the powder)?
          Also, by taking the time to clean the breech plug, the barrel has cooled off again, so I am basically testing clean, cold barrel shots and second shots just like real hunting situations. By the time it is time to hunt, I know exactly what my rifle and load will do.

  12. TC Omega with 300gr TC shockwave bonded w/ super glide sabot. With open sights I get 2-3 inch groups at 150 yards. I can’t agree with you more. Consistency equals accuracy.
    After you find the round that shoots well than a strict regimen between rounds is necessary for smaller groups. I carry two breech plugs on me for this reason. I use a small breech plug cleaning pin up to 6 shots than I completely change out my plug.
    I lick the patch for cleaning between shoots so there isn’t to much moisture entering the barrel. I finish each cleaning with a very very small amount of bore butter. I tap the barrel after loading the powder to displace and seat the powder consistently on the breech plug.
    I also use shot shell primers. Great article! No one muzzleloader is the same and if you can decrease the variables than you will decrease your group sizes.

  13. Hi, having a problem, bought a 50 cal. trappers pistol for deer hunting. Having trouble sighting it in at 25 yards, Can not remember if you drop the rear sight will that rise the impact on the target or will it drop it?

    Also what would be the grains of powder, and the best projectile to use to get best accuracy? I am using 50 cal. round balls and 30 grains of powder greased patch.

    • Hi Greg: I have to visualize it this way. If you raise the rear sight, to maintain the same line of sight, you are pushing the breech down and/or pulling the muzzle up.
      If you lower the rear sight, you are pulling the breech up and/or dropping the muzzle down.

      See Diagram showing rear sight adjustment effect on bullet path here.

      The old saying “adjust the rear sight in the direction you want the bullet’s point of impact (POI) to move” works.

      As for the amount of powder and projectile that will be the most accurate… You will have to test various options.
      Cylindrical bullets will be more accurate than round balls and modern bullet/sabot combinations are the most accurate. And each gun will be more or less accurate depending upon the bullet powder combination you use.

      Try a conical bullet with 25 – 45 grains of powder (do not exceed the maximum load) and see which works best for you.
      Let me know how it goes.

      • Thank you for getting back to me. I was right, I raised the rear sight and it seemed to hit lower. I run a cleaning patch down the barrel, after each shot, is that enough to keep the accuracy? Any information on that?

        • Greg: If you raised the rear sight, you should have raised the point of impact, not lower it.
          Everything effects accuracy and consistency is the challenge in muzzleloading. It is difficult to get the exact same measurement of powder, same clean and lube conditions of barrel, same compaction of the load and consistent spark and pressure to the powder from the primer or whatever is used as the spark source.
          Running a cleaning patch down the barrel after each shot will result in more accuracy than not.
          When shooting, set up two targets fire clean barrel shots and one and dirty barrel shots at the other. See what you think.

  14. So when you were talking to Joe about his impact you told him to clean his breech plug in between every shot. My question is when you say “clean the breach plug” are you saying just the tiny hole or remove it every time?
    I have a TC Encore and was wondering if I need to remove it and clean it after every shot. Also what do you suggest for cleaning solvents and method for cleaning the barrel between each shot? Thanks Eric

    • Eric:
      When I am shooting my muzzleloader at the range for accuracy, I clean the barrel after every other shot. One clean barrel shot at one target, then one dirty barrel shot at a 2nd target (re-load and shoot just like any second shot while hunting.

      Since I have to remove the breech plug to clean the barrel anyway, I take a few minutes to clean the breech plug too.

      I drop the breech plug in an old film canister full of dish soap & water (or bore cleaner) to soak while I use a bore snake to clean the barrel. I simple add a little of the same dish soap & water or cleaner to the upper part of the bore snake (1st part to go into the barrel). One pass with the bore snake and the barrel is clean and dry. (I could have sold 5 or 6 bore snakes at the range while I was sighting-in for the muzzleloader deer season).
      Then I lube the barrel (with a clean patch) with bore butter. Then remove excess bore butter with a dry patch.
      As for the breech plug… after soaking, the threads and recessed face clean easily with an old toothbrush. Use a dental pick to clean the fire hole. Do this last and make sure you can see light through the hole.
      Clean the primer chamber with the butt end of an 1/8th inch drill bit. At first it will be tight, but continue to insert and wipe off until it is clean (it will spin freely).
      Dry the threads with a paper towel or clean patch and lube the threads with the patch that just lubed the barrel.
      Compare your clean barrel shots and dirty barrel shots to see what you think about a clean barrel and accuracy.
      Is it necessary to clean the breech plug after every shot? Probably not. But why not clean it if you have to pull it anyway.
      Good luck (but count on skill).

  15. I disagree with you think seasoning the barrel is a joke. I bought a brand new Remington 700ml back in 2003 upgraded to 209 primer and tried sighting gun in 3 group shots cleaning between each shot. I could not group anything closer than 8 inches at 50 yards. I used T/C 245 grain XTPs and 90 grains of pyrodex. I was ready to get rid of gun when my dad’s 75 year old friend told me to buy a box of round balls and patches and shoot the whole box through gun.
    I bought 100 .490 round balls and .10 patches and using 70 grains at a time, shot the whole works through it. I cleaned every ten or so shots with a brass brush but I think the patches I fired though the barrel kept it pretty clean.
    When done I gave it a thorough cleaning. I went back out next day and to my disbelief, I was now shooting 1-2 inch groups with exact same bullets and powder as before cleaning after each set of three shots.
    I then thought I’d try to shoot as many sabots as I could through gun without cleaning. I gave up after I shot all 39 sabots that I had along that day with minimal fouling, so I believe “seasoning” barrel you are preventing lead and powder fouling to stick to barrel as fast as you would with fresh steel.

    • Rick that was the best description of someone claiming to have seasoned a barrel I have ever read.

      The reason I have considered seasoning a muzzleloader barrel to be non-sense was because there is almost no info about how to season a barrel and what is actually happening to the metal as a result. I even read instructions for baking a barrel in the oven, just like seasoning a black pan.

      Lodge, the maker of black skillets and Dutch ovens, recommends seasoning cast iron for one hour at 350 – 400°F.

      Wikipedia defines Seasoning as “the process of treating the surface of a saucepan, wok, crepe griddle or other cooking vessel with a stick-resistant coating formed from polymerized fat and oil on the surface”. But our muzzleloader barrels are not made of cast iron. Most barrels are made of 4140 Chrome Moly steel or Stainless Steel (type 416). How much polymerized oil is expected to remain on the surface after the barrel is fired?

      I can not find one word about “seasoning” barrels or “breaking-in” muzzleloaders at Thompson Center, CVA or Knight. You would think they would discuss it if it were an important thing.

      The Knight Owner’s Manual does mention the importance of a “fouling shot” for conical bullets, but the Remington 700 ml owner’s manual does say this: “Prior to loading and shooting your firearm, it is necessary to thoroughly clean the bore to remove any residual oils that may cause the powder to foul and reduce accuracy… In order to achieve desired accuracy it is necessary to “season” or break-in the barrel. This is accomplished by the initial cleaning, followed by shooting approximately ten (10) consecutive rounds (preferably lead balls or conicals) and repeating the cleaning steps 9-16 and again shooting ten (10) to twenty (20) rounds and again cleaning. The group sizes achieved by this process will decrease as more shooting, followed by cleaning and lubing of your bore, is done.“.

      This is similar to articles about “shooting-in” or “breaking in” new barrels (read here) which is supposed to eliminate fouling and makes new barrels easier to clean. But is this really seasoning the metal?

      The real problem for me, is is the use of the word “seasoning”. Are we really talking about conditioning or lubricating the metal?
      Or are we smoothing out reamer marks left in the throat of a barrel or in barrels that are not finish-lapped?

      I am going to assume that by firing 100 round balls through your barrel, it got fairly hot, but what material actually “seasoned” the metal? Especially since you did not use oil and simply brushed the barrel with a copper brush. Plus, as the Remington Owner’s manual said, the oils must be removed to prevent fouling.

      I suggest by firing 100 lead balls through your rifle, you polished the throat, not that you seasoned the barrel.

      There is still much talk on the forums about seasoning a barrel with bore butter and other type oils, but not much talk about doing this with a hot barrel, which would seem necessary to season it.

      If someone with a new muzzleloader is having problems with accuracy or excessive fouling, perhaps it does need to be “broken-in”. But let’s not call it “seasoning”.

  16. I’m thinking of getting into muzzleloader and was thinking of using the Powerbelt aerotip as my hunting round. Should I be using the same round and same amount of powder/pellets to sight in my gun at the range or will any round with the same weight do the trick? Please don’t laugh if you think this is a stupid question.

    • Carlo, there are no stupid questions except the ones people are afraid to ask. If you read my article, you know that I do not think highly of the Powerbelt bullets, so I will ask you this: With all the choices of muzzleloader bullets available today, why is that the bullet you want to use?
      But to answer your question, No. Since all bullets and/or bullet sabot combinations fit into the barrel differently, you can not shoot a bullet of the same weight and assume your gun is sighted in for the hunt with a different bullet.
      You must use the same bullet and type and amount of powder. And for accuracy, you must also have the barrel cleaned and lubed exactly the same. The only thing you can’t do is fire all “cold barrel” shots at the range.

  17. I have a CVA side hammer left to me when my uncle passed away. I think he put it together in the late 80’s. I want to take it deer hunting but I can’t get a decent patter with it. I installed a Mag Spark to shoot so I can use 209 primers. I shoot 100 grains of Pyrodex select with a Hornady .490 round ball and .015 lubed patch. I can barely shoot 8 inch groups at 30 yards. Any suggestions?

    • Eric: I have more experience with modern in-line muzzleloaders. But something is definitely amiss if your groups are that big at 30 yards.
      One thing I have learned is that every rifle is different and your biggest challenge will be to find a combination of type and amount powder, bullet and patches.
      And it makes a huge difference if the barrel is fouled or clean.
      I would be very interested to see if your rifle shoots any better if it were shot from a shooting vice or even from solid shooting rests. It is hard to shoot tight groups with open sites and with the delayed firing.
      Try shooting the round balls with 70, 80 and 90 grains of powder to see if group size improves.
      Try using larger patches if the balls are easily pushed down the barrel.
      Also try conical bullets to see if they shoot any better.
      Anyway, good luck.

      • Brian Neabel says:

        Eric: 100 grains for round ball is probably to much, the patch needs to be well lubed also. Round balls do not like too much twist because too much twist combined with too much powder tears the patch and therefore breaks the seal so parts of the bare lead ball will touch the barrel.

        Did you look for your patches on the ground to check them out?. A twist of 1 in 48 is enough for round ball. If gun is 1 in 32 or less, you should use conical bullets or maxi balls.

  18. I’m shooting a Thompson Center (TC) Impact with 75 grains of black horn powder and 200 grain TC Shockwaves with a new Vortex 3×9 scope at 25 yards.
    The first shot was 2 inches left of center, second shot was the same. Shot the next shot after a few clicks on the scope (1/4 MOA) and it wasn’t even on the target. I moved the adjustment back and the next shot was 3 inches right and another shot wasn’t even on the target. Could the scope be bad?

    We cleaned the gun and shot it for about an hour and decided to call it quits.

    • That is the definition of frustration…
      You have to isolate all possible causes to find the problem.

      Being that far off the target at 25 yards makes me suspicious of the scope.

      Look for the obvious first; make sure the scope is securely mounted.

      Assuming you are a descent shot and don’t have a bad problem jerking the trigger or flinching, take off the scope an shoot with open sights.

      Shoot 3 shots to get a group. We can’t make any decisions about adjusting the scope if we don’t have a group.
      If no real group, then you might consider putting the gun if a shooting vice or shooting rest.

      I would also clean the barrel (and breech plug) after every shot. Some say cleaning breech plug isn’t necessary, but since I have to pull it, I clean it too.

      Actually, I shoot a 2nd shot at a different target before cleaning. That is how we have to shoot a 2nd shot at a deer or elk, so that is how I practice.

      Cleaning (and drying and lubricating) between shots guarantees the barrel is consistent between shots and also cools the barrel some so there is not a huge difference between the first cold barrel shot and the following shots.

      Good luck and let me know what you find out.

  19. I have a H&R Huntsman in .58 caliber, I tried a lot of combinations with RB, sabot and maxi balls. I now shoot a 2 1/2″ 3 shot group at 60 yards using only my elbow as the rest with 90 grains of FFG Pioneer powder, a 560 grain T/C Maxi-Hunter and a Remington STS 209 Primer. I converted it to use a 209 with the Mag Spark from Warren Outdoors (Great Product). The clean up is minimal and the consistency is awesome.

  20. Jeffrey Vest says:

    Hi, I have a navy arms harpers ferry 1803 reproduction. I cannot properly set the flint no matter what I try. I knew ” something” had been replaced the guy that gave it to me didnt know what. I have it apart and the hammer spring and possibly the hammer “pivot” appear to be different from everything else. The spring looks hand made but pretty well. I think the timing is out. Suggestions? Help? Hang it on the wall and forget it? I have ammo patches powder and all the other doodads. Now its a matter of principle I will shoot this gun.

Comments, Opinions, Questions?

*

Notify me of new posts by email.