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Muzzleloaders take significantly more knowledge to operate than modern firearms. They also present greater risks. Several rules must be followed to ensure safe operation.

Hunter loading muzzleloader in kneeling position
  • Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Do not lean over, stand in front of, or blow down the muzzle.
  • Use only black powder or a safe substitute, such as Pyrodex, in a muzzleloading firearm. Don't use modern-day smokeless powders, which could cause serious injury if used in muzzleloaders.
  • Wait until you’re ready to fire before you prime or cap a muzzleloader. This prevents accidental discharge if the cock/hammer moves and causes a spark or hits the cap.
  • Wear ear protection to avoid hearing loss.
  • Wear shooting glasses; a long-sleeved shirt is also advisable. Burning powder creates smoke and residue that could get into your eyes or irritate your skin.
  • Never smoke while shooting or loading or when near a powder horn or flask. Burning ashes can ignite black powder and cause an explosion.
  • Load a muzzleloader directly from a calibrated powder measure—do not load from a horn, flask, or other container. A loose spark or glowing ember in the barrel can cause the powder to explode.
  • Load only one charge at a time, and load only from a calibrated measure—using too much or too little powder may cause damage or injury.
  • Have an experienced gunsmith examine any used firearm you acquire.
  • Never blow down the barrel when reloading. You may add enough oxygen to the residue from the last shot to ignite the powder.
  • Use loading equipment made of brass, which does not create sparks while loading.
  • Stay with your charged muzzleloader at all times. It's difficult to tell if your muzzleloader has been tampered with in your absence.
  • Unload a muzzleloader before bringing it into your home, camp, or vehicle. Powder may ignite in the barrel, causing damage or injury.