The gun stores are filled with semi-automatic rifles, so why would anyone decide, on purpose, to go hunting with a muzzleloading rifle? At the very least, taking the blackpowder route would seem a huge step backwards, especially in these hi-tech times of ours.

And that, of course, is a huge part of the attraction. There’s no “spraying and praying"—or even the relatively quick second-shot opportunity provided by a bolt gun—with a single-shot .50 caliber rifle. You must be on your A-Game as a shooter and a woodwise hunter to bring home game using a muzzleloader.

All things being equal, the muzzleloading hunter is going to have to get closer to their game than if they were using a centerfire rifle, and they need stoic patience to wait for the right shot opportunity. Then, they are going to have to drill home the shot, knowing a miss means no second chances.

Most of today’s muzzleloaders are of the “in-line” variety. You load the propellant and bullet down the muzzle, then “break open” the rifle at the breech. A primer is inserted into the end of the breech, the rifle is snapped closed, and you are ready to fire. These types of muzzleloaders are easier to use and they're also safer, as you can take out the primer, making the rifle safe, without clearing the barrel. You can also access the breech fairly easily by removing the breech plug on an in-line muzzleloader if you do have to use a rod to clear the bullet and charge. It also makes cleaning a lot easier.

And another big plus: in many states, using a muzzleloader can significantly increase the length of your hunting seasons (and, in most states, the guns can be delivered right to your door, saving on those transfer fees).

If you want to truly earn that buck, or whatever your quarry might be, consider hunting with a muzzleloader. But where to start? Right here! From beginner to more advanced, here are some of the best muzzleloader options available today:

Traditions Redi-Pak, including Buckstalker Rifle

Traditions Redi-Pak
Want to get into the field fast? Traditions Redi-Pak come equipped with nearly everything you need, including a Buckstalker .50 caliber in-line muzzleloader.photo from Traditions Firearms

Weighing in at just six pounds and sporting a 24-inch barrel, the Buckstalker is a lightweight rifle at home in a tree stand or slung on your shoulder during a hard hike. The rifle is equipped with the Accelerator Breech Plug, which is removed in just three turns—by hand. It can use both loose or pelletized powder. The Buckstalker’s Dual Safety System combines an internal hammer block and a trigger block safety for one of the safest guns on the market.

The rest of the Redi-Pak includes the needed accessories, large and small, to get you shooting and hunting, including:

  • .50 Caliber Cleaning Jag
  • Black Composite Round Handle Ball Starter
  • Dry Cleaning Patches
  • (3) Tubes of Traditions XTP Bullets
  • (2) Universal Fast Loaders
  • DVD, " How To Load, Shoot, & Clean Your Muzzleloader."

The only other things you need to buy are powder and primers! With a retail price of $269, it is tough to find a better muzzleloader value. MSRP:$269

CVA’s Accura Mountain Rifle

Accura Mountain Rifle
Anyone serious about getting into muzzleloading needs to take a hard look at the quality rifles from CVA, starting with their flagship line of Accura Rifles.photo from CVA

A great all-around choice is the Accura MR (Mountain Rifle). This lightweight .50 caliber rifle (6.35 pounds) is more compact than many other in-lines thanks to 25-inch barrel. The ACCURA MR sports all the top Accura features including a custom-quality stainless steel Bergara Barrel, a Quick Release Breech Plug, and a premium SoftTouch stock with rubber grip panels for superior control in all weather conditions. Comes optics ready with DuraSight DEAD-ON one-piece scope mount.

CVA is so sure of the accuracy of these rifles, you can test fire the Accura MR (and any other Accura) for up to two weeks. If it isn't dead on accuate? Return the rifle within two weeks of purchase for a full refund. Stock option finishes ae Realtree MAX-1™ camoflague or solid black composite stock. MSRP: $493.50 for the black finish, $546.00 for the camo version.

Thompson/Center Pro Hunter FX

Thompson/Center Pro Hunter FX
One of the coolest-looking in-lines on the market today, T/C's Pro Hunter FX comes standard with many quality features.photo from Thompson/Center Pro

This .50 caliber, in-line features a Hogue Overmolded stock and forend for a secure grip, plus T/C's FlexTech recoil-reducing system built into the rear of the stock. The stock is available in both a black composite and a Realtree AP camo finish.

The Pro Hunter FX also sports T/C's Speed Breech3, a hand-removable breech plug. You can twist this out with your fingers; with many other in-lines, a tool is required. The FX's Reversible Swing Hammer allows for easier access under mounted scopes for both left and right-handed shooters. And, it comes pre-drilled and tapped for easy scope mounting. T/C's Quick Load Accurizor allows for fast and easy loading by incorporating a false muzzle design, aligning the projectile with the rifling.

The rifle’s Weather Shield coating has been tested to be 50 times more corrosion resistant than stainless steel. The “FX” stands for fixed barrel, meaning this T/C rifle does not have a barrel system which is interchangeable with other T/C rifles. Lots of rifle for an MSRP of $649 in black, $709 in Realtree.

Lyman’s Great Plains Rifle

Lyman’s Great Plains Rifle
If you want to go Old School black powder, check out the Lyman Great Plains Rifle, with looks right out of America's Frontier circa 1800's.photo from Lyman Products

The Great Plains is a unique combination of traditional style and modern performance, harking back to the classic muzzleloaders made by originally designed and built by Hawken and other famous rifle makers from history.

The Great Plains rifles feature a 32-inch barrel with 1 in 60-inch twist for patched ball and hunting loads, double set triggers, Hawken style percussion "snail" with clean out screw, and an ultra-reliable coil spring lock with correct lock plate. The rifles are made in .50 and .54 caliber, and can be ignited via flint or percussion. Right- and left-hand models available.

The Great Plains Rifles come as complete rifles or in build-it-yourself kits. Complete rifles start at $785.00, rifle kits at $640.00.

Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader

Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader
Traditionally, muzzleloaders were a short-range proposition; 100-yards was pretty much the norm. The Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader is truly capable of accurate 300-yards hits.photo from Remington

The move to in-lines and other design improvements kicked that up to 150- to 200-yards. Then, Remington punched through the distance barrier, big time, a couple years ago by introducing the Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader, a black powder rifle truly capable of accurate 300-yards hits.

Remington took the proven bolt-action of its flagship 700 Centerfire rifles and melded the bolt into an in-line muzzleloader, and added a unique ignition system, too. Instead of placing a primer at the back of the breech plug—standard for most in-line muzzleloaders—Remington’s U.M.L. Ignition System has a magnum primer inserted into an empty, centerfire brass case. The casing-plus-primer is then placed into the open chamber, the bolt is pushed forward and locked down in place, and you are ready to fire.

The ignition system plays a big part in cleanly and efficiently setting off the recommended 200-grain powder load. (Most muzzleloaders recommend no more than a 150-grain powder charge). The rifle stays surprisingly clean compared to most muzzleloaders, which require a cleaning after every shot or two. Despite its weight (8.75 pounds in the wood laminate stocked version) and a 26-inch stainless steel barrel, the Ultimate Muzzleloader has a pretty significant kick when loaded with the max 200-grains of powder. MSRP: $1,015.00.

SilencerCo’s Maxim 50

SilencerCo’s Maxim 50
The people at SilencerCo, West Valley, Utah, love to shake up things in the world of firearms, and they really did so last year when they launched the Maxim 50, the first production-made muzzleloader with an integral suppressor.photo from Silencer Co.

SilencerCo took a Traditions Vortex Strikerfire in-line muzzleloader, cut the barrel down to 20-inches, and welded a SilencerCo suppressor to the end of the barrel. And because it’s a muzzleloader, you don’t need a $200.00 tax stamp from the ATF to buy it.

When loaded with the recommended 100-grains of powder, the Maxim 50 is rated at just under the 140-decibels threshold considered dangerous to hearing. I used the Maxim 50 at the range and during a hog hunt, and it was hearing safe without protection. The suppressor also contains much of the smoke blast, so you can actually see if you hit your target or not (not always possible with other muzzleloaders).

Now, the suppressor makes the Maxim 50 a bit quirky to load and clean, and yes, it is front heavy. But it's accurate, a solid 150-yard hunting rifle, and is really unique. MSRP: $999.99.

Feeding Your Muzzleloader

primers and powders
Your basic in-line muzzleloader will need primers, powder, and bullets.photo from Alliant Powder and Federal Premium

Your basic in-line muzzleloader will need primers, powder, and bullets. There are many choices out there today, but good places to start include:

  • Federal Premium Ammunition for muzzleloader bullets and primers. Most in-lines require a 209 shotshell primer, and Federal Premium's 209 Muzzleloading Primer is very resistant to moisture and goes off very hot, providing reliable ignition for both granulated powder and pellets in any conditions. Burns clean, too, without the excessive fouling in the breech area typical of standard shotshell primers.
  • Alliant Powders, for easy-to-use Blue MZ 50-grain pellets. Simply drop two, three or four pellets down into the barrel (per gun maker's recommendations), and you are ready to add your bullet. The pellets are fast burning and require little clean up. For those who prefer loose powder, Alliant also makes Black MZ, a superior powder that resists moisture and provides increased velocities.
  • For bullets, Federal offers a great selection of their B.O.R. Lock MZ Bullets. B.O.R. Lock's are very accurate and easy to load. The polymer cup attached to the bullet base provides for consistent seating depth f the bullets; it also helps clean the bore as the bullet is being pushed into place. Available in 350-grain Lead bullets and 270-grain Trophy Copper bullets.