Black powder guns--commonly referred to as muzzleloaders--are one-shot firearms that are loaded through the muzzle of the barrel. Original black powder guns started in the 1830s and have evolved into technical weapons with the use of technology and construction. Hunters have used muzzleloaders for centuries to harvest a variety of species.
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Each state that allows black powder guns for hunting will have a specific set of regulations. Regulations are set to determine season dates, powder types, use of optics, primers and bullet types. For example, Colorado allows in-line muzzleloaders at a minimum of .40 calibre for deer, pronghorn and bear and a minimum of .50 calibre for elk and moose. Pelletised powder, sabots and magnified optics are not allowed with black powder guns.
Black powder guns are available in a variety of different types. The original black powder guns were flintlocks that use a flint to spark the ignition. New inline muzzleloaders have been introduced and are characterised by the powder, bullet and primer in one line. Black powder guns are available in rifles or shotguns. Calibres for the rifles can range from .40 calibre to .50 calibre and black powder shotguns are common in 12 or 20 gauge.
Special hunting seasons are typically available for black powder guns. These seasons either have their own special season or overlap with an archery or rifle season. For example, the muzzleloader season for whitetail deer in Nebraska runs the entire month of December. Hunting with a black powder gun increases a hunter's opportunities to head afield.
Most big-game species in the United States can be hunted with a black powder gun. Common species include elk, black bear, whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, moose and even turkey. Each species will have a set of minimum calibre requirements to legally hunt.
There are several leading black powder gun manufacturers, including Thompson Center (T/C), Connecticut Valley Arms (CVA), Knight and Traditions. Each brand releases several different models with different features at different prices. Popular T/C models include the Encore and Triumph, Traditions makes the Vortek and Pursuit, CVA makes the Optima and Wolf, and Knight makes the Shadow and Rolling Block.
Black powder guns require a large selection of accessories. The most important accessories include a cleaning kit. Black powder is highly corrosive, and the barrel on a black powder gun can rust very quickly. Cleaning the black powder gun can prevent failure or misfires while hunting. Other accessories include sabots, bullets, scopes, primers and a possibles bag.
Always check the local, state and federal hunting regulations before hunting. Changes occur annually to these regulations, and the regulation booklets are typically free at local sporting goods stores. Similar to any firearm, always make sure of your surroundings while shooting a black powder gun.
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