Take a shot at muzzleloading

By: Brennan Kohls

On Sunday, Oct. 25, my dad and I went out to the Black Hawk Park shooting range. Out there were all styles of tactical rifles. We sat at the 100-yard range, and next to us were three guys shooting a tactical Remington Model 700 rifle. It had a custom camouflage stock with an expensive scope and a pimped out bipod.

When I pulled our old flintlock muzzleloader out of its case, their jaws dropped. When I fired it, they watched in awe as the first explosion in the powder pan ignited the powder inside the barrel, and then another burst of smoke and fire came out the barrel with the round ball.

I shot the same target just as well with our almost 250-year old style rifle with iron sights as they did with their modern rifle equipped with a $500-plus scope.

Many gun enthusiasts these days have never owned a wood stock weapon, let alone a muzzleloader. The only thing you see in stores today are black synthetic stock shotguns, rifles and handguns. I’m not saying those aren’t cool because I like shooting 30 rounds out of an AR-15 just as much as the next guy, but there is something about having one shot and seeing and smelling the cloud of smoke after you fire.

Muzzleloaders are a fun hobby that not many people know about. With muzzleloaders comes the stigma of having only one shot and having to take two or three minutes just to reload. This is true, but once you have shot one, you never want to stop shooting them.

There are many different kinds of muzzleloaders: there are flintlocks, which are more expensive and more work; there are percussion caps, which are usually less expensive and easier to work; and there are in-line muzzleloaders, which are the modern ones that are the least work and fairly inexpensive.

A flintlock is the most expensive of most muzzleloaders at an average price of a good quality rifle being about $600 to $1,500 or more. A percussion cap Hawkins-style rifle can be purchased for anywhere between $400 to $800, but like everything else, the fancier rifles will cost more. The average in-line costs $200 to about $800.

Muzzleloaders can be a fun tool to hunt with as well. I shot my first deer with a .50 caliber Thompson Center Arms New Englander percussion cap rifle. In Iowa for deer seasons in most counties, it is only shotgun, bow or muzzleloader hunting. Muzzleloader hunting is a fun and traditional style of hunting that anyone can do. All you have to do is have your rifle, wear orange, find a tree and a cornfield, and wait for a deer. Smaller caliber rifles can be used for smaller game like squirrels and rabbits as well.

With a muzzleloader comes all of the heritage that it represents. Flintlock rifles and muskets were used by colonists settling the New World; they were used by Americans fighting for our freedom; it was used by David Crockett at the Alamo. Percussion cap rifles and muskets were used by Jim Bridger, the famous Mountain Man; they were used by Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. When firing a muzzleloader, it’s not just about hearing a boom and feeling a jolt, it’s about holding our American heritage.

So if you’re a “gun guy” like I am and you need a new shooting hobby, check out muzzleloaders. They’re a cool, fairly inexpensive alternative to an expensive modern rifle shooting sport, and they were the backbone of how our nation was started and shaped.

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