- The term “muzzleloader” encompasses a variety of firearms that are loaded through the muzzle of the barrel, from revolvers and singleshot pistols to rifles and shotguns.
- When the shooter fires a muzzleloader, the propellant is ignited and expanding gases force a projectile out of the barrel. This is controlled by the ignition system, which is known as the lock. Locks used in muzzleloaders were replaced by actions on modern conventional firearms.
- The earliest muzzleloaders, the matchlock and wheel lock, are generally considered collectibles rather than practical firearms for shoots or hunting. Three of the most popular muzzleloading firearms in use are the in-line, percussion lock (or caplock), and flintlock rifles.
- Muzzleloaders used for shooting are usually rifles. However, there are also smooth-bored muzzleloaders—shotguns, known historically as fowlers or muskets.
- Shotgun muzzleloaders can have either a single barrel or double barrels joined side-by-side.
- When loading the double-barreled muzzleloader, be sure to avoid putting two loads down the same barrel. Double-barreled guns usually have two locks, one for each barrel. This allows the shooter to fire each barrel separately before the gun is reloaded. Most double-barreled guns are designed with two triggers.
- Muzzleloading handguns come as both pistols and revolvers. Pistols are mainly singleshot. Revolvers contain multiple-shot chambers. Chain firing muzzleloading revolvers can be dangerous. When the chamber round is fired, it produces sparks that could accidentally ignite loads in other cylinders. Protect each load in a cylinder with a coating of grease to prevent sparks from entering the open end of the other cylinders.
- Black powder and approved black powder synthetic substitutes, such as Pyrodex® and Triple Seven®, can be used in muzzleloaders. Unless specifically designed to use smokeless powders, don’t use smokeless powders in muzzleloading firearms. Smokeless powders create extremely high pressures, can cause severe damage to muzzleloading firearms, and can injure the shooter seriously.