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Hunting & Shooting  >> Black Powder

Black Powder

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    Black Powder Guns 101: What to Know About Muzzleloaders

    Using black powder guns, or muzzleloaders, while hunting is like taking a little piece of history with you. Many models are ornately decorated, making them just as fun to look at as they are to use. Filling the gun with powder, taking care of the equipment, and firing the rifle or pistol emits a vintage feel that is still wildly effective for today’s hunters.

    Muzzleloaders are great for target shooting and hunting both small and big game. Your hunting area might even have a separate black powder hunting season, which extends your possible hunting time. Before you purchase one of our excellent black powder guns, be sure to check where you wish to hunt has caliber restrictions.

    The Basics

    Our wide variety of muzzleloaders includes varying styles, ammunition, and powder. No matter what type of black powder gun you’re using, here are some basic features:

    Black Powder

    The larger the caliber, the coarser the powder you’ll want to use. Pyrodex is a commonly used black powder substitute. It helps reduce grimy deposits and corrosion on your black powder rifle, and it is compressed into pre-measured pellets.

    Check out our powders and primers here.


    You can use either bullets, such as conical slugs, or round lead balls with cloth patches while shooting a muzzleloader. If you use a round ball, you’ll need lubricant for the patch that wraps around the ball. Different types of projectiles work better for different types of rifles, so testing your muzzleloader with several varieties can lead you to the best choice. When buying ammo, consider the twist rate of the rifling in your barrel, which indicates how far it takes the projectile to make a complete revolution.

    See a variety of our available black powder bullets and sabots, which are the small plastic shoes or sleeves used to nestle rifled bullets in, here.


    Some black powder guns come with powder horns or flasks to carry the black powder before it is transferred to the powder measure. The powder measure is used to determine the powder charge, which can then be pre-measured to save time. You’ll need a bullet starter to press the bullet into the muzzle, while a worm and ball screws are used to retrieve patches stuck in the bore and remove balls from the barrel. You may also consider using a nipple prick to clear the nipple, a nipple wrench to remove the nipple, and a patch box to hold pre-lubricated patches.

    Check out our available black powder accessories here.

    Safety First

    Like any hunting gun usage, safety needs to be a primary consideration. Carefully read the instruction manual that comes with your black powder rifle, since every model has unique methods for usage and care. Knowing how to load the gun properly prevents misfires and accidental overloads.

    Before loading your rifle, be sure to make sure the barrel is wiped clean with a patch and that the nipple is clear. Point the muzzle in a safe direction before touching off and firing caps to make sure the breech is dry.

    Use a powder flask or horn to pour in a measured amount of loose powder, or insert the powder using a pre-measured bag or paper packet of gunpowder, or a cartridge, or by inserting solid propellant pellets. Always measure carefully: too little powder and you won’t have adequate velocity; too much and you could damage your weapon and yourself.

    When loading your black powder guns, always use black powder, never smokeless powder since smokeless will cause the gun to malfunction and could result in serious injury or death.

    You’ll want to make sure the ball is firmly seated against the powder charge so dangerous pressures do not build. Make sure there is no cap on the nipple or charge in the flash pan while loading the rifle.

    Cleaning Your Muzzleloader

    In order to keep your muzzleloader working properly, it will need to be cleaned after every use. Refer to the instruction manual to find specifics on how to take care of your black powder gun. Frequent cleaning is key to ensure any deposit is removed; see our cleaning options here.

    Whatever type of black powder rifle you’re searching for, Sportsman’s Warehouse has an option for you. Have a question about your first black powder rifle or pistol? Call us toll-free at 800-286-3076, or send us an email here.