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Loading or charging a muzzleloading firearm presents some special concerns because it requires the muzzle to be pointed upward.

For rifles, position the butt on the ground between your feet. You should be facing the underside of the barrel. The muzzle should be pointed upward and away from your body. Never work directly over the muzzle.

Determine if the gun is already loaded by checking the barrel with a marked ramrod, which has an “unloaded” or empty marking. If you aren’t sure, consult an experienced muzzleloader hunter or gunsmith.

Always load a muzzleloader with muzzle pointed away from your body

Put the safety on safe, if so equipped. 

  • If you have just fired, wait one full minute in order to let smoldering sparks in the barrel burn out before reloading.
  • If you have not recently fired, use a cleaning rod to run a dry patch down to the bottom of the barrel and back up again to absorb any oils which could cause a misfire. Dispose of the patch.

Retract the bolt (or breechblock) and place a percussion cap (or 209 shotshell primer, depending on the gun) on the nipple or breech-plug. Point the rifle in a safe direction. Close the bolt, which cocks the gun.

Push the safety to off and press the trigger to fire the cap with no charge in the barrel. This will clear any oil or debris out of the priming hole.

Put the safety on safe, and rest the butt of the rifle on the ground as described above. Pour a measured amount of black powder or black powder substitute down the barrel, or drop the correct number of compressed powder pellets down the barrel.

Use the short starter rod to push the bullet into the barrel.

With the longer ramrod, push the bullet all the way to the bottom of the barrel until you feel it seat solidly against the powder. (A bullet which is not firmly seated against the powder can cause dangerous pressure on firing.)