Muzzleloader Ammunition and Powders
Three types of projectiles—the round ball, the bullet, and shot—are used in muzzleloaders. Most are melted and cast from pure lead.
Round balls are used mainly for target practice but also can be used for hunting. Bullets are preferred for hunting because they are generally more accurate at certain ranges. Shot pellets are designed to spread, just as with today’s shotguns.
Black powder is the only type of powder that should be used in muzzleloaders. However synthetic substitutes, such as Pyrodex®, also can be used. Don’t use modern-day smokeless powders in black powder firearms. Smokeless powders can cause serious injury if used in muzzleloaders.
Black powder is made of potassium nitrate (saltpeter), sulfur, and charcoal. When ignited, it causes a dense cloud of white smoke. It comes in four sizes or granulations.
- Coarse grain typically used in cannons, rifles larger than .75 caliber, and 10-gauge shotguns or larger
- Medium grain typically used in larger rifles between .50 and .75 caliber, 20-gauge to 12-gauge shotguns, and pistols larger than .50 caliber
- Fine grain typically used in smaller rifles and pistols under .50 caliber and smaller shotguns
- Extra-fine grain typically used as a priming powder in flintlocks
Pyrodex® and Clear Shot are black powder substitutes that can be used in amounts equal to black powder, but loading may vary. Be sure to get instructions from a qualified gunsmith for loading procedures. Substitutes are not recommended for use in flintlocks because they may not ignite from sparks as easily.