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recent decades, interest in black powder shooting has spread worldwide,
enabling muzzle-loading competitions to become annual events. The
National Rifle Association (NRA) has even formed a special black
powder committee and includes muzzleloaders in several of their
sponsored events. Additionally, the National Muzzle Loading Rifle
Association (NMLRA), and other, smaller clubs around the country
provide an outlet for muzzle-loading interests. Both historic and
modern muzzleloaders are used in matches at these events.
Modern muzzleloaders have in-line ignition, which provides surefire
ignition. Most have removable breech plugs, which makes them easier
to clean as you can get to both ends of the barrel. Also with today's
new all-day lubes, the fouling stays soft, making clean up easier.
Modern muzzleloaders have contemporary triggers with contemporary
safeties. Sights are also like the ones on today's cartridge rifles.
In addition, these guns come drilled and tapped to take regular
scope mounts, however magnified sights and scopes are often not
allowed during muzzleloader hunting season.
target shooting encompasses a wide variety of guns, targets and
situations. Shooting matches range from highly regimented to highly
informal, the two main types are Rendezvous and National Championships.
Rendezvous are a gathering of shooters and bystanders usually characterized
by clothing and accessories common to the 18th and 19th centuries
and where the targets are basically the same as those used during
are of two typesprimitive and modern. The former, in particular,
strives to recreate the historical and aesthetic qualities of muzzleloader
shooting, which helps to keep the black powder tradition alive and
growing. Shootings tend to be informal matches like gong shooting
and split the clay on the axe blade shooting. National Championships
are more standardized shootings, emphasizing shooting skill rather
than historical accuracy in dress and equipment. They are held annually
at Friendship, Indiana.
or Unlimited Class matches allow the use of the modern in-line muzzle-loading
rifles, which resemble contemporary centerfire rifles. However,
most muzzle-loading matches require that rifles be like the traditional,
historic hunting types used in past centuries.
Rifle Shooting Events
divisions are included in several of the traditional rifle events,
which are also discussed in the various "Shooting Sports
Rifles" sections of this Website:
Type Shooting - such as at the Western National Shoot sponsored
by the NMLRA.
Silhouette Event - the black powder rifle shooters generally use
the same course as the centerfire rifle shooters. But, in deference
to the "handicap" of firing the antiquated muzzle-loading
guns, muzzleloaders are often allowed to fire their rifles from
any position, including use of traditional crossed stick rifle rests.
Rather than the traditional game silhouettes, muzzle-loading silhouettes
include the shapes of crow, groundhog, buffalo, turkey and bear,
at ranges between 50 and 200 yards.
Black Powder Target Rifle Competition - this includes breech-loading
as well as muzzle-loading rifles with distances of 100 to 1,000
yards. The targets used are the same as for the NRA High Power Rifle
Competition. There are two basic courses of fire. At 100 to 600
yards, matches are fired standing, sitting or kneeling with crossed
sticks, and in the "any position"; depending on the target
and distance. Competitors have 30 minutes to fire up to four sighting
shots and 10 shots for record. At distances of 800, 900 and 1,000
yards, competition is fired in the "any position"; Competitors
are allowed 30 minutes to fire 10 shots for record.
matches which include muzzle-loading events:
Muzzle Loading Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun Competitions - Distances
are typically 25, 50 and 100 yards or meters in the standing, sitting
o r kneeling or prone positions. Match competition can be as quick
as a single stage of 5 shots in 30 minutes or longer over the four
target rifle aggregates. Generally, any safe black powder gun is
allowed here. See the NRA contact information below for more information.
Rifle Shooting - Follows the same basic guidelines as traditional
rifle offhand shoots, but also has specific rules that apply under
Traditional and Unlimited (or open-class) Offhand Rifle - similar
to those used prior to 1840
Rifled Musket Offhand - muskets are longer barreled than rifles
and handle ammunition differently than muzzleloader rifles.
Scheutzen Offhand - vintage butt style (and sight) on riflesan
specific to muzzleloaders:
Split the clay ball on the axe blade games
As most shooters currently involved with black powder can attest,
the muzzle-loading rifle and single-shot pistol are the most common
firearm choices, especially among beginners. However, most muzzle-loading
events also include muzzle-loading shotgun games such as trap, skeet
and sporting clays.
Traditional Offhand Rifle is one typical of those commonly available
prior to 1840 and the Unlimited Offhand, Traditional Offhand and
Rifled Musket follow the same basic guidelines, but have specific
rules which apply under NMLRA auspices. The Squirrel Rifle cannot
weigh more than 10 pounds and must be 40 caliber or smaller, and
the X-Stick (Buffalo) Rifle cannot exceed 14 pounds in weight.
mentioned earlier Open or Unlimited Class matches allow the use
of the modern in-line muzzle-loading rifles, but most other contests
require that rifles be the traditional hunting types like those
in use over 100 years ago. The ball, bullet or shot charge must
load from the muzzle and be ignited by an approved ignition system,
usually percussion cap or flintlock.
firearms use either black powder or Pyrodex as the propellant. A
few of the modern in-line muzzleloaders use smokeless powder. Black
powder has remained virtually unchanged for more than two centuries
and is a mixture of 75 parts potassium nitrate, 15 parts charcoal
and 10 parts sulfur. Pyrodex is a 20th Century product, which offers
black powder qualities without some of the black powder problems.
Pyrodex fouls the bore less than black powder. It functions best,
however, when the bore has been properly dressed with up to 5 warm-up
have their uses, but Pyrodex is not listed in the same explosive
category as black powder for transportation purposes. So shooters
who fly to matches across the country may find that some airlines
prohibit carrying black powder, especially in amounts required for
extended contests, but will allow Pyrodex.
muzzle-loading supplies are not as readily available as traditional
supplies, but form a growing market and many sources are listed
online. Serious shooters often cast their own projectiles and experiment
with powder charges, patch thickness, different percussion caps
and priming charges. They do the same things that modern reloaders
do in search of accuracy and precision, but without the machines
modern handloaders have access to use. In older muzzleloaders, the
lead ball, bullet or shot loads from the muzzle and is ignited by
an approved ignition system, usually a percussion cap or flintlock.
Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA)
P.O. Box 67
Friendship, IN 47021
Phone: (812) 667-5131
Fax: (812) 667-5136
Action Shooting Society (SASS)
23255-A La Palma Avenue
Yorba Linda, California 92887
Phone: (714) 694-1800
Fax: (714) 694-1815
Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)
11 Mile Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470-2359
Phone: (203) 426-1320
Fax: (203) 426-1087
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
courtesy of National
Shooting Sports Foundation