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.

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Here are some recommended accessories for Shooting, Hunting & Cleaning 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 mass 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.

modern muzzleloader guide


  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, 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.

    • First I want to thank you for your information. I got myself a Colorado elk tag for area 201 this year. It took me 25 years to get the tag and I didn’t want to mess it up. I spent many days at the range with very little success or consistency. I am shooting a CVA inline. I used your system but went to 3 targets and cleaned after three shots. After over 150 rounds fired I narrowed my load down to 100 grains Alliant MZ powder with a Thor .500, 300 grain bullet. I used a peep sight with a hooded front sight. No sabots or pellets or scopes allowed in Colorado. I got my groups down to 3 inches at 100 yards with old eyes and no scope. I shot a 343 rough scored six point bull at 75 yards downhill after eight days of hard hunting. The thing that I found was the biggest problem with consistency was keeping the flash hole in the breach plug cleaned out with a 1/8″ drill bit. The 209 primers put a residue in the flash hole that does not come out with soaking. My motto is get close to those animals. People who shoot those long range shots are only taking a chance on wounding those beautiful animals. I set my longest range at 125 yards and passed on more than one bull that was not inside that. My opinion is if you can’t get inside that range you should not be lobbing bullets out there. Happy Trails Guys

      • That MZ powder is the bomb, I’m shooting one of the first guns Tony Knight ever made, a MK85 made in his basement when he first started making muzzleloaders, this one has the Italian barrel. He told me to try this combo and use bore butter on the bullet every shot, try Barnes spit-fire 50 cal. 250 grain heads with 90 grains of powder; 1″ groups at 100yds. This old KNIGHT has one up on any muzzleloader I have seen. still one of the best muzzleloaders you can own, I did convert it from percussion to 209 primers. Knight’s conversion kit is outstanding.

        • James Perrow says

          I found an old knight t-bolt with green mtn. Barrel.
          Shoots cloverleafs at 100
          It’s literally a black powder Benelli super black eagle
          Shoots anything 1-1.5 in. Groups at 100
          Stuck with the old percussion cap, loose triple seven and #11 cap= No hang Bang every
          time! Not nearly as convenient as the newer models to clean though

  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 Blackhorn 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?

    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 the 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 powder. 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 Blackhorn 209 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 didn’t 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.

  21. I have 3 muzzleloaders and have hunted deer with them since Vermont allowed a special season. One is the Knight BK2 and a Ruger 77/50 as well as a Traditions Hawken style side hammer percussion. I too had to Learn by myself as no one here had shot black powder. I read a lot and shot all kinds of loads and have killed many deer with them.
    All you have said is true. For shooting the “in-lines”, I have very good accuracy and plenty of power with the 250 gr Barnes Expander and 90 gr of loose Pyrodex RS.
    I swab well after each round with a spit patch and at 100 yards rival my center fire accuracy. OK that said my guns are all scoped as I don,t see as well (old).
    What is strange is my Traditions has a twisted 1/66 barrel (normally a ball gun) but with Butler creek sabots and Hornady 240 gr bullets it will shoot 2 inch groups with no key holes. It likes 80 gr of Pyrodex RS. This shouldn’t be but you I never know until you try.

  22. Jeffrey Vest says

    Just an update on my dilemma, I learned how to work on simple locks, adjusted the mainspring, came up with a devise that secures two strike anywhere matches in place of the flint. This is probably the most fun have ever had with a gun and its very accurate! Fires every time.

    • Excellent! Your appropriate technology and self sufficiency is appropriate for the weapon.

      Another good example of human ingenuity. A friend once told me that years ago, he ran into two young men while squirrel hunting in Tennessee. They were hunting with an old single shot 22. It took one boy to aim the gun and another to strike it with a hammer to fire it.

      Jeffrey sent two photos of his DIY fix to his Navy Arms Harpers Ferry 1803 reproduction.

      Photo 1
      Photo 2

  23. Hello. I am having difficulty finding anyone who can help me diagnose my problem.
    I own the TC triumph bone collector. I’ve had the gun for 5 years and have always had the same problem. The confidence to have a follow up shot in the woods is important to me. If I sit down, load my 100 grains of pyrodex pellets and my 295g powerbelt aerotip bullets and shoot my first shot out of a clean barrel, I will hit the center of the middle of the bullseye perfectly. This is consistent and repeatable every time with a clean barrel. If I practice as I hunt and load after the first shot, do not run any patch, fire the second shot, I consistently hit 6.75 inches above the first shot. If I shoot a third, I consistently hit 12 inches above the first shot. I’ve been shooting this gun with the same results for 5 seasons. I have tried the Barnes loads but have inconsistency in seating depth after the first shot. I am ready to just buy a new gun. Have you ever encountered this symptom? Thank you for your consideration.

    • First thing I see (and everyone that knows me or has read my book will agree that I never miss a chance to say this)… I never got consistent shots from Powerbelts.
      If you can, more power to you.

      There was an issue with a loose hinge pin and perhaps the forearm interfering with the movement of the barrel of a center-fire TC Encore (See comments by Alan Rockwood here).

      But the TC Triumph does not have inter-changeable barrels, so no chance a hinge pin could loosen.

      If you consistently hit 6¾ inches high on every uncleaned 2nd shots, what could that tell us?

      If you are loading the same amount and kind of powder, we know the initial energy should be the same (or very close). In fact, it would be impossible to put enough powder in the load to deliberately make the gun shoot that high.
      Then 12 inches high?

      My only thought is that the barrel must be flexing as it heats up and it must be flexing in one direction.

      A response to your comment about Barnes Bullets not having consistent seating depth. No bullet should have a consistent seating depth between a 1st clean barrel shot and a 2nd or 3rd dirty barrel shot. If the bullet fits snugly in the barrel, it will push all that crud down on top of the powder or pellets.

      Powder/pellets + crud will take up more space than powder or pellets alone. Also be advised that pellets can be crushed. That too will lead to inconsistent seating (and inconsistent powder burn and energy).

      I am curious to know if your gun shows the same pattern with Barnes (or other) Bullets.

      I am also curious to know what TC says about your situation. They may want you to send it in, but something needs to be done so you can trust this gun to shoot where you want it.

      Thanks for the comment and let me know what you find out.

      • scott menke says

        Scope on Gun, or iron sights.? I had a TC shooting way low. Sabots were not seating fully. Barrel needs to be cleaned well each time, and use butter bore so the sabot will indeed seat. Are you using a Barnes seating tool?

      • Thank you!!
        I had not thought about barrel flex. I recall many times after reloading a second shot and hours going by in a tree etc. that the second shot was still 6.75 high. I will have to put some thought into it.
        I feel silly but had not yet thought to ask TC. I will today.
        I will be at the range this weekend and will work on loads to see if I can find a variation. I will note, one of my close friends has the old TC Omega and his 4th and 5th shot with the Barnes (bullet) fit in the exact same hole as shots 1-3. Believe it or not this adds to my frustration…
        Thank you again for your consideration!

      • I can’t agree more about the Powerbelts. I’ve never been able to group them. I’ve been shooting with my TC omega for over a decade now and have definitely had my ups and down…in order for me to shoot tight multiple shot groups I do the following:
        One spit patch, damp, 1 pass each side
        Clean out breech channel each time with cleaning pin
        Let barrel cool!
        Loose powder only (no pellets)
        Shotshell primer
        Tiny tiny bit of bore butter on sabot

        I would also try TC Shockwave bullets

    • scott menke says

      Wow, I have not seen this. I would expect the barrel to be fouled i the powder zone. The sabot seating well I would call into question. However since you are shooting high, maybe the barrel is warping a bit as mentioned. My buddy can shoot a fast load without cleaning in his $299 gun. I cannot in my TC. Can you – or have you dropped back to 80 Grains of powder on shot #2.?
      I think I’d try that one time…

      • I can get 1 inch groups from my older TC Encore. Dirty barrel 2nd shots are not as tight, but I’ve never noticed them to be high.

        But another thought. I would hunt with Tommy’s gun if it is always dead on with the first cold barrel shot and if it is always 6 inches high on the 2nd shot. Just aim 6 inches low (or whatever the ballistics would predict for the distance). I would prefer to do that than to use less powder. The 2nd shot is not likely to be closer than the first.

        Also, my gun likes the Barnes TEZ bullets better than Barnes TMZ bullets.

        • I feel comfortable hunting because I know where the bullet is going to hit. I have only once had to follow up, and believe it or not the deer was at 150 on the first shot and 50 on the second (lucky me). It’s the confidence walking into the woods that counts. Just because I know my gun does not make it right. If a change of bullet works I will be thrilled. My guess is a new TC is in my future. I can’t express how appreciative I am of everyone’s comments and I wish I could have you all with me at the range this weekend. no comment from TC yet.

        • scott menke says

          Hey thanks for confirmation on the Barnes TEZ Bullets.

  24. scott menke says

    And Best of luck to you Sir… This is a good forum for sharing info and helping solve issues. At the Gun shop today, There are so many choices of Sabots.
    Also chief Gun seller told me to switch to the Blackhorn 209 powder & use 80 grains.
    He said it is much cleaner than White Hots or Pyrodex.

    • Try different powders and sabots and switch powders and if your gun likes the combination…
      I have not tried many different powders and use only Barnes bullets since my gun shoots them consistently and I like they are all Copper.
      If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…
      Now if I can just find an elk that wants to get into the back of my truck in the next 8 days.

  25. Hi there,
    I have a .50 cal CVA Wolf muzzleloader that I shoot 250 gr Hornady SST sabots with 100 grain of Jim Shockey Yukon Gold pellets. The load and powder combo has done me well in the past; however this year when sighting the gun in, my first shot was perfect up/down but 2 inches to the right. Made an adjustment to the scope, reloaded and fired and the shot was about an inch to the right but now 1 1/2 to 2″ low.

    No matter what I did to adjust the scope I couldn’t get the muzzleloader to leave that 2″ low 1″ to the right group…
    I had a four shot-one inch grouping at 50 yards, but all low and to the right. All shots were taken from a lead sled. Any thoughts as to why this may be or what I should do?

    • Very puzzling Andy. If you had confused the vertical and horizontal adjustments on your scope, that could explain the first result, but since you’ve gone back and forth many times, I’m sure you would have figured that part out.
      If you had a terrible habit of jerking the trigger, that could explain the results you are seeing, but not if the rifle is anchored in a Lead Sled.

  26. scott menke says

    Andy– Just curious, are all of the mounting screws tight to proper torque. Could the scope have been nudged a micron or 2..?

  27. scott menke says

    FYI–recent learning that does work. Blackhorn 209 is a terrific powder to use in place of White Hots, and Black Jacks, and other powder pellets. Blackhorn is a tiny crystal of very clean burning black power. You can shoot repetitive shots with just some bore butter. The rifling in my barrel was always trashed after 1 shot. Also you will only need 80 grains as there are no binders like pellets. I have shot Barnes TEZ and Power Belts aero tip. 3″ cluster at 60 yds. You will need a flask to put the Blackhorn in, and a 100 grain measuring tube (set at 80%) to pour into the barrel. Upon pulling the breach plug on a Bone Collector I was happy to see rifling all the way to the breach. Very clean shooting.. $35 for 1 container. Scott

    • Blackhorn powder is great, but check your local regs as it might be illegal in your state or specific hunting units. I use the shotshell primers with Blackhorn… Also, Blackhorn is more powerful than regular powders so please follow the load data requirements…
      Andy if you are still having problems after everyone’s recommendations, I would remove the scope and shoot with iron sights at 25-50 yards to rule out barrel or breech issues. And as I always say, let that barrel cool down. Thanks!

  28. scott menke says

    All good info. Hopefully Andy can zero in with iron sites. Then remount scope.
    thanks for all of your useful comments and suggestions.!

  29. Hi guys. Sorry for not following up sooner. I burned up lots of powder and tried several bullets. At 100 yards the Hornady SST grouped the best. I still had a bit of bullet rise but only 2”-3” on shot 3. Shot 2 was just barely higher than shot 1. The groups were also very consistent. I did not even need to adjust my scope after the change. I feel much more comfortable walking into the woods. Thank you for helping me see that powerbelts were part of the problem. I fell in love with my TC all over again.

  30. scott menke says


  31. Scott Menke… That is a possibility of the scope screws not being tight… however, I cleaned the ML and I took a picture of the target where the grouping was and headed out hunting. Two does came out into the food plot and fed to about 70 yards. I aimed for the ML to do what it had been on the target and squeezed the trigger. The doe piled up within 75 yards of being hit and on inspection I hit practically where I was aiming with a double lung shot. I am obviously not complaining with that outcome; however I like to know exactly where my firearm is hitting. I will check the torque on the scope mounts and try again. Thanks!

  32. Jack Larensen says

    all i can say is stop using inlines because inlines aren’t really muzzle loaders they suck there made out hard plastic and there garbage…. you can’t hit nothing with them then the powder isn’t really black powder sorry to say and there not accurate i bet if we were on a line i can beat y’all with the old school

    • Thanks for the opinion Jack. Don’t hold back… Tell us what you really think. I appreciate the fact that you are a traditionalist.
      But I beg to differ…
      I can hit something. My inline is very accurate once I found the bullet and “powder” (yes, powder substitute) combination it likes to eat.

      I don’t doubt you are a fine marksman, but I have yet to see (in person) an old school muzzle loader hit consistently at 50 yards (granted I don’t see many at the range; sorry to say).

      I would love to see someone that could really shoot a traditional muzzleloader. No doubt a lost skill and art.

      I also assume you mean “they’re” and not “there”, but I left it as you wrote it.

  33. Jeffrey Vest says

    Dang it the humidity sucks here in the mountains of western Va I finally got my .58 flintlock replica firing reliability last fall but haven’t had a chance to mess with it much since. I was gettin fairly accurate with it despite the few shots I was able to get off. By that I mean I had it down to the barn door on the broad side of the barn. Maybe soon I’ll get er out see if I can video a few shots.

  34. I shoot in the North south skirmish association. I shoot a 58 with 45 grains of black powder. I am sorry for being so bold just not a fan of in lines. I think reason why people are having bad luck is this it’s the powder, charge I am not sure how many grain is in each pellet. People pull not squeezing the trigger, and the time of the trigger squeeze to the bullet leaving the gun after the gun is fired they take it off the shoulder let it stay on for 5 seconds longer, you will see a different results.

  35. Jeffrey Vest says

    This might sound silly but I have a couple of bug-a-salt guns. Plastic guns that shoot table salt, they are fantastic my wife and I sit on the porch and murder insects by the hundred. The I’m guessin at least ten pound trigger is great practice I noticed a huge difference after hundreds and hundreds of target acquisitions and trigger operations the muscle memory really kicks in and I can feel the control noticeably improve. Just gotta get used to taking the pan flash full in the face as I shoot left handed and keep the rifle on target at the same time.

  36. I have recently switched from Pyrodex 777 to Blackhorn 209 powder. BH recommends no cleaning between shots for best accuracy. Ive got the 3 shot group under control as I shot my first ever cloverleaf with a muzzleloader. My Problem is after shooting at the range last week, I left the gun fouled to simulate a hunting situation and fired one shot yesterday and one today as if I were in a hunting scenario. With the barrel fouled and dead on at 100 yes, I hit 2″ high yesterday and 3″ low today.
    Any advice?

    • Also remember if you are simulating a hunting situation (2nd shot from a dirty barrel) the barrel and the crud will be warm. That is a slightly different situation from leaving the crud in the barrel and then shooting a day later with a cold barrel.

      In addition, one shot does not a group make… And we will never be able to shoot a group of cold barrel shots.

      When I practice, I always take 2 shots before cleaning. First shot (clean barrel) at one target, then 2nd shot (dirty barrel) at 2nd target. It is very instructive. Then you can adjust your powder for the 2nd shot as well.

      I get better control from powder (Pyrodex) on the 1st shot, but use pellets (Pyrodex or 777) for faster re-loading for the 2nd shot.

      You can’t argue with the results you were getting at the range, but I do not carry a dirty barrel into the field when hunting.

      Which to you think will shoot more consistently? A cold dirty barrel or a cold clean barrel?

      You need to test yourself with a clean, cold barrel at various distances, angles and wind directions to simulate hunting shots. If you miss, reload, do 10 pushups, run away from the target 10 more yards and shoot again.

      Yes, we need 1 inch groups at the range (constant distance, steady platform, no pressure, etc., etc, etc…) so that will hopefully translate to 6 inch groups in the field.

      I always wonder about those that can’t shoot 3 inch groups at the range. What does that translate to in the field?

      Good luck on your hunt and let me know how it went.

  37. I love reading peoples comments… Inlines to me are not true muzzle-loaders. If you can’t hit your targets don’t cry that muzzle-loaders suck. Try shooting a 1860 true muzzle-loader, iron sights, free stand style in hunting or competitive competition matches. Do waste your money on inlines.

    • Hi Phil, You obviously have an opinion and you are welcome to it. I know I don’t shoot a “real muzzleloader”, but I still enjoy it and it is legal to hunt during the muzzleloader season.
      I even admit I first added a non-magnifying scope so I could see; old eyes and all, then after my state made it legal to use magnifying scope, I put one on it because making clean kills is more important to me than authenticity.
      I still don’t take shots much over 150 yards, but I am as comfortable hunting with the muzzleloader as I am shooting my 7mm.

      I applaud those of you that keep old school traditions alive, especially if you can shoot them accurately at distances greater than 50 yards.
      Unfortunately, the only guys I have ever seen at the range shooting traditional muzzleloaders can not shoot 6 inch groups at 50 yards. I don’t think it was the gun’s fault though one guy said his real muzzle loader sucked too.

      I got into shooting muzzleloader by pure accident. I was looking for a new elk rifle and looked in the local online adds (guns were sold that way back then). When I went to look at the rifle, the guy said it also had a 50 cal ML barrel. I bought it and fell in love with the inline.

      Would I love shooting a real ml like yours? Probably, but that it now what I found first. I have enough toys and hobbies to keep me busy, so I probably will not start a new one.

      I see you tried to put links to two muzzleloader shooting associations; North South Skirmish Association and the American Civil War Shooting Association in your comment. There was an error, but I fixed it and included them for you here.

      Thanks for the comment and keep your powder dry

  38. Gary Morby says

    I appreciate all the good advice. I used a traditional for a couple of years but was bummed when shooting out a load and had a misfire. It is pretty frustrating after working so hard to get a good shot at an elk and then hearing the poof of a misfire. I went to an inline to avoid the misfires. I learned a lot by using your two target system. My second shot never does as well as a clean barrel. I had to go to a peep sight because of these old eyes and I live in Colorado. I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know my new inline and your methods are a real help. I loved carrying the traditional but having that removable breach plug changes things for the better. Thanks again. Gary

  39. Any experience with the Cooper Muzzleloader? I am trying to get mine dialed in using Parker bullets and Blackhorn 209 powder.


    • No experience, but they sure look like nice rifles… Did you get wood stock or composite?
      I found some chatter on the internet about shooting and working up a load for a Cooper Muzzleloader.

      One guy used 110 grains of Blackhorn 209 powder and a Harvester 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold (sabot) bullet. Claimed it only took 5 shots to sight-in.

      Another guy loaded his Cooper with Nosler BT 300 grains with 80 gains of BH 209 (used CCI primers). They had problems with wind and found the forearm was touching the barrel, so the gun was sent back to Cooper.

      A third guy sighted in with 80 grains of BH 209 powder with Nosler ML BT bullets (But didn’t specify the bullet weight – also used CCI primers). But he already had his gun up for sale because he only bought it because his guide was booked up for rifle season.

      Anyway there are some starting points for you to find the bullet/powder combination your Cooper likes to shoot. Let me know what you find out since there is so little info on the internet. Good luck shooting and on your hunt.

  40. I got a slight problem I can not figure out. Bought a tradions trappers pistol. The set trigger pulls really hard, tried to set the screw, but did not seam to change any thing. What can I do?

  41. I have been trying to fined out the answer to a question, that no one can answer. How long can you leave black powder in a gun that was clean, and you load it, to hunt, with out doing damage. In the 1800’s did they fire them at the end of the day and clean them or did they leave them loaded for days? Hope you can give me a answer.

    • Sorry for taking so long to respond, been busy trying to put meat in the freezer.

      I doubt they wasted much powder or bullets in the 1800s… Despite Hollywood depictions of firing bullets in the air… making people “dance” and leaving perfectly good arrows behind in someone’s body…

      Black powder and substitutes (un-fired) do not appear to be very corrosive. They are corrosive after firing due to the water that is absorbed.

      I have left my gun loaded for an entire 9 day hunt season without any noticeable effect on the barrel (my barrel is stainless; modern in-line)…

      Many folks suggest firing the gun at the end of everyday so the powder can not absorb moisture from the air. Assuming the humidity effects the powder causing it to have less power and causing your ball or bullet to shoot slower and low.

      I have believed this was the reason I missed an elk years ago; at least that is the only reason I could believe since I ranged the elk (so assumed to be accurate and not unrealistic – 165 yards), the wind was low and I believe the holdover was correct. If the powder had lost 10-15% of potency, that would account for a low shot and missed elk (I read other posts where the autors claimed this was possible).

      But since then, I have read where others have tested this (and I have tested it myself)… they deliberately left powder out in very humid conditions and found no effect at all. I left pellets and powder out, exposed to the air for a year without any noticeable difference (but I do live in a very dry climate).

      Ultimately you will have to make your own decision, but I wouldn’t worry about leaving your ml loaded for a week at a time.

  42. wayne zettlemoyer says

    HI I use a Traditions deerstalker 50 cal. with T/C maxi hunters 275 grams and 70 grams of triple 7 FFF. It shoots a good group. If I increase my load to 90 grams How much would that change my zero?

    • Hi Wayne. We need more information to estimate how your ballistics are altered by the addition of powder.

      Using a ballistics calculator, we can estimate how much higher the impact of a bullet would be given an increase in muzzle velocity. If you knew your muzzle velocities with several different amounts of powder (same bullet), we could plot those on a graph and then see where the next points would theoretically fall on the curve. There are many variables involved if you want to be accurate, so you also need to know your elevation and the air temperature.

      You can also work backwards and estimate muzzle velocity if you get good groups from at least two different loads and if you know the difference between the impact points (ballistic trajectories) for the two loads. Simply plug in all the variables for both loads and compare the trajectories. If the predicted difference in impact levels is the same as what you actually see, then the estimates of muzzle velocity are close.

      You can also estimate if someone else has muzzle velocity data for the same gun with the same powder and bullet as you shoot…

      I suggest going to the range… many people that spend lots of time there have shooting chronographs they will let you use to measure muzzle velocity. Anyone that is serious about reloading and ballistics needs a chronograph.
      Good luck

  43. I bought a .44 cal. New army pistol, should I use .451 balls or .454 balls which would be the best?

  44. wayne zettlemoyer says

    Correction I have a Traditions Deerhunter with 1:48 twist. I shoot 275 gr T/C maxi hunter with 70gr goex black powder having trouble getting a good group. Any suggestions?

    • Yes.
      First you have to identify the problem. You need to be sure if you (the shooter) or the gun/load is the problem. Make sure you are shooting from a very steady position and that you are not jerking the trigger. Also, it will be nearly impossible on gusty windy days… The wind will move that bullet more than you think. Look at some ballistics tables (I use point blank ballistics calculator. A 10 mph cross wind could deflect the bullet 5 or 6 inches at 100 yards.

      If you are convinced the gun or the load is the problem, then you are going to have to experiment just like I explain in the post. For accurate shooting, you need to do these 4 things: 1. Consistent Cleaning, 2. Consistent Loading, 3. Consistent Shooting & 4. Systematic Testing of powder loads and bullets…

      That gun should shoot conical bullets the but maybe your gun doesn’t “like” TC maxi hunter bullets. Try different bullets and also try lighter bullets to see if they shoot better in your gun. Also, a general rule is to start with low amount of powder and work up. Start with 50 g powder.

      I have heard that some people get better accuracy with round balls and you can also try sabot rounds unless they are restricted for hunting where you live.
      Good luck

  45. I have a TC 50 cal Prohunter. Last year I shot a one inch group at 50 yds. This year just to make sure it was on, I fired three shots and had a three inch group. I use 270 bore loc federal and 120 volume BH209 & Rio 209 Primers. I have a Zeiss conquest that has a turret set at 1900 fps.

    This was a disappointment. I took out my RCBS scale and measure 10 loads in three different powder measures. I was amazed at the huge difference in weight between the three flasks one was plastic, one was fat brass and the other a skinny brass. The worse was the plastic for constancy. The best was the skinny flask. 10 weighed powder measure group was .6 grains; difference 120 volume was 87.5. Black Horn (BH) said to Multiply the volume by .7 to get the actual weight. Ummmmm in that case I should have been shooting 120x.7 = 84 gr.

    I shot 3 shots cleaned between the loads I had measured with the plastic measure and found velocity difference was 258 fps. The spread at 50 yds was 2.5”. So I called BH they gave me some loads to try. I needed to be close to 1900 fps for the turret to be right. The best I came up with was 82 Weighed grains of BH209 with a three shot group 1.25” at 50 yards velocity diff if 44 fps. BH said 50 fps or better difference is what i should get. Average was 1908 Fps. I want better but no time. So that’s what I finished the last week of hunting with.

    So I also got a new breech plug as i saw the primers looked like i might be getting some blow by. That can hurt the velocity. If velocity isn’t consistent the groups won’t be good.

    So before next year I got more work to do but I’m weighing all loads from now on. I want to have the confidence I thought I had but didn’t.

    I was disappointed in the difference BH said the weighed weight would be compared to what I actually got. The best powder measure showed 120 but rather than 84 it was 87.5. I will trust weighing not a powder measure at least with BH209. But more work for me to do to find the sweet spot I’m looking for.

  46. I went through quite an array of bullets and sabots. The federal [bullets] at least goes down the barrel. I had a retired navy marksman watch me for many shoots and flinching was not a problem. But just in case I ask a shop who specializes in trigger to set me trigger at two pounds. Unfortunately it was set to 1.5 pounds, so I have learned not to put my finger on the trigger until I’m ready to shoot. My breathing moves the gun a lot so I learned to push my body against the bench rest to minimize gun movement during heart beats. My late friend the marksman said you can’t flinch with that gun. If you learn to shoot it. I agree with you clean barrel consistently and clean the breach every shot. I just ran out of time didn’t realize i had a problem until I checked. And shooting at public ranges takes forever, with guys checking their rifles at 100 never bring scopes three or five shots… “hey can we go down now I’m hot”. So I’m done muzzleloading at public ranges. What my friend said zero at 50 not 100 use the tables to set up the scope verify at 100 for confidence. He should know he was responsible for training recruits… Its a shame the good ones die first. Miss my good friend.

    • If shooting is training to hunt, you have to shoot like you will hunt. 50 yard zero if you would only shoot 75 yards or less… 100 yard zero if you would take a 100 yard shot… You will also have to find a way to shoot accurately in unsupported positions… It should be easy to get good groups from a steady bench, but not so easy from different positions in the field. Yes, it takes a lot of time to shoot if you clean every shot (I clean every other shot; but shoot at different targets), so I know what my gun does on first (clean barrel) shots and what it does with 2nd (dirty barrel) shots since I may have to take a 2nd shot when hunting.
      Shooting at the range has it’s value, but you should also practice (like you would hunt) in places with varying winds, shooting angles and distances.

      • Yep agree i need to shoot from those elevated blinds as practice and zero in on what is happening when I hunt. Thanks for the help and perspective you provide to the hunting community.

  47. Roger l Edwards says

    can sabot fouling be the cause of shot group problem? I have not changed my load or bullet but over the last year my groups have expanded drastically. I am wondering if plastic fouling could be hindering the bullets ability to stabilize (spin). It shoots ok at 25 yards but will not hold a group at 100 yards. They sell a product to remove shot cup fouling from shotguns. Should I be using a plastic removal solvent when I do my cleaning of my BP rifle. Harvester sabots using 100 gr. of 777 powder

    • Hi Roger. Anything that changes muzzle velocity will change your shot groups. You would think that fouling would be a gradual change that would slowly decrease muzzle velocity and slowly make your hits drop down on the target. It is also possible, that fouling also changes the way the barrel moves, so that could also make groups start moving left or right. You would think tiny bits of plastic fouling should have little effect on a sabot and bullet being blasted down a barrel, but tiny bumps in the road could have a big effect on fast moving object.
      I think Copper fouling is a bigger problem. I use a Chiefs Pro Clean Retriever to clean the grooves. I have never noticed much junk coming out of the grooves, but use it every time I give the gun a good cleaning.

      • Roger l Edwards says

        my thoughts exactly. Is it possible that fouling could lead to a reduction in spin rate causing the bullet to act more like a smooth bore slug?

  48. Taylor Green says


    I just got a Thompson center impact sb muzzleloader .50cal. I installed the Williams western precision sights and I’m trying to get it sighted in with the bullets going all over the place I’m trying to get it on at 100 yards. I’m using triple seven 50 grain pellets (I use 100 grain so 2 pellets) with Hornady SST 250 grain bullet with a triple seven 209 primer. I’m at a loss not sure what to do. I’d get it close but then it would be way off. Open to any good advise thanks in advance.

    • The only things I can think of that causes that is scope or sight comes loose and have also seen bullets start to tumble due to using the wrong sabots.
      Many folks are using Barnes TMZ bullets, but can be very hard to push down into some barrels. So they buy thinner sabots so they can use them. Problem is, the TMZ is a boat tailed bullet. So unless you use a strong sabot, they must crush and that starts the bullet tumbling. Jron Inc makes a “crush rib” sabot that solves that problem. They are a little tighter in the barrel than the Barnes TEZ sabot, but they work with the TMZ boattail bullet.

    • Couple of questions: Did you shoot the rifle prior to changing out the sights? What is your cleaning routine between shots? The bullets going all over the place scenario can be a result of many things however a wet breech from an over saturated cleaning patch can cause inconsistent firing. Just a shot in the dark but consistent breech plug cleaning between shots is a must. I clear the firing hole with a steel welder cleaning rod.

    • I had a heck of a time with my CVA optima. I finally got the Thor bullet sizing pack. Once I got the right diameter and figured out you have to clean out the breach plug with a 1/8” drill bit and the flash hole with an orifice file I started getting consistent groups. The Thor bullets are great. I had perfect mushrooming and they are all copper. I have to shoot with open sights and loose powder here in Colorado.

  49. So i have been shooting my encore prohunter 50 cal for many years. I have zeroed in on BH209 measured with a rcbs auto scale 87.5 grains, rio 209 primer, and the federal borloc 270 grain bullet. A friend who was a marksman told me to just shoot at 50 to figure things out. Unfortunately he has passed.

    This first firearm season i shot a doe 89 yards. It was last legal light and wasnt able to get a second load loaded in my tc speed loader do to me and my disability. The doe had gotten up and ran. Lost blood next day son in law found it 40 feet from where we stopped looking. He said i hit it in the but.

    I accidently step on the scope when j reached the truck. So i set up a target at 50 pushed the tripod field rest against a porch post and was right on.

    So muzzleload season shot a nice buck at 111 yards hit in the neck went down and flopped. I remembered a couple years ago nice buck 77 yards again hit in neck.

    So the fact i checked accuracy between last two deer im comfortable the gun is accurate.

    The difference is my 14’ high elevated shooting blinds have windows and i place the gun forearm on the window sill a 2×8. And sit in a office chair. The doe and buck this year same blind. The one before i shot in the neck a different elevated blind but same style of shooting.

    As i think through this i am thinking when i shoot my shoulder is pushed (rt hand shooter) back making the barrel rotate clockwise. Its always a horizontal problem. This moves the point of impact about the same distance when i kill a deer.

    When checking zero i typically use long coldwell shooting bag under the forearm. I get one inch groups. When zeroing i clean barrel and plug with bh solvent and use a 1/8 drill bit to clean plug and touch tips to clean the plug hole. I oil with a cleaning cloth. Then fire three primers down the barrel to remove the oil just like you would at the beginning of the season when pulling the gun out from storage.

    I was going to screw a cut out u on a 1×4 in front of my windows this spring and zero using the blind. Then during the hunt the u cut outs would be on all my blind windows.

    Please give me your input.

    • Yes, everything you do or don’t do effects the shot. As you mentioned… when shooting from a comfortable position on shooting bags, you get 1 inch groups.
      But from you blind position, many things change (including check weld, shoulder position and probably your supporting hand position as well.
      It is so easy to go from 1 or 2 inch groups at the range to 6 or 8 inch groups in the field when actually shooting at game. Not sure how to explain 3 feet jump from heart lung to butt. Sometimes the animal jumps at the same time you pull the trigger and you may not have seen it.

  50. Why would my cva 50 cal muzzleloarder spit out fire after i pull the trigger?

    • Not sure I understand the question… What should it spit out and if not after pulling the trigger, when?
      If you are asking why fire comes out of the barrel…
      That would be super-heated propellant gases (and/or unburned powder) exiting the firearm behind the projectile.

  51. I shoot a T/C Triumph that is very accurate. 1”moa. I had a few issues when I first got it with the power shock bullets being so tight to push down the bore it just wasn’t worth the effort. I found some Hornady XTP 240 gr sabots that really shoot well out of my gun. I’m just worried they will stop making them so I stock up every chance I get. Enjoyed reading the article. I clean the barrel every other shot. Didn’t know I should do the same for the breeches plug. I’ll have to keep that in mind. Thanks.

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