During the past couple of seasons, it seems that interest in hunting with a muzzleloader is on the rise. This is undoubtedly due to the amount of exposure a certain company is getting on all the major outdoor shows. But something that is seldomly addressed is differences between sighting in a muzzleloader versus a standard high powered rifle. For the most part, the basics are the same. Whether you are shooting on a range or in your backyard, safety is the number one concern. A muzzleloader is only “HOT” when the primer has been placed over the nipple. Therefore, maintaining gun safety on the range is much easier. The primer shall be the final step in preparing to fire. But like any other weapon, a muzzleloader should always be treated with respect as if it was loaded and primed.
Now assuming that you have the correct mechanics, firing a muzzleloader is no different than the firing of a rifle. However there are a few tips that can save you time, ammunition, and money as well as improve your accuracy. Many of today’s muzzleloaders are often sold with a scope combination installed. The gun shop technician or sales associate may offer to bore sight it for you. This is a procedure where a laser is installed at the muzzle end of the barrel and the scope is calibrated to match the lasers projection. Do NOT accept this in place of actual bench time. Bore sighting will have you cutting paper but is typically not accurate enough to hunt with confidence.
Begin with a target at 50 yards and gradually work out to 100 yards. Unlike my 30-06 that I have sighted in to be 3″ high at 100 yards, I keep my muzzleloader dead on a 100. A muzzleloader does not have the range of a typical rifle and most of the compensating scopes require a zero at 100 yards.
The most important thing to remember is to clean the barrel between each shot. The barrels of all weapons become fouled when fired. Fouling is the deposition of spent powder and projectile remnants on the interior surface of the barrel. This process is accelerated in a muzzleloader and accuracy can suffer greatly. The deposits change the way the projectile interacts with the barrel and makes it increasingly difficult to maintain proper and consistant seating.
When you are finished at the range you return home, clean your muzzleloader, and wait til the season opens. Therefore the first shot fired at an animal is from a squeaky clean barrel. You want to replicate this condition during your practice at the range. By running a quick wet patch, followed by a dry patch between each shot, you will maintain a more consistant barrel and shoot tighter groups.