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Old February 28, 2008, 12:44 PM   #1
bapfreak
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First muzzleloader for long time shooter

I am a long time shooter and have shot a variety of firearms in almost all genres, except muzzleloaders. I really want to give it a shot, but I don't have a terrible lot of money to spend. I was looking at the Thompson Center Triumph, but the price tag is a little too high. I am looking for a rifle around, preferably under, $300 ( for the rifle only ). This rifle will be used mostly for plinking and informal target shooting. I might go deer hunting with it also, but the annoying thing is in Nevada you aren't allowed to have a scope on a black powder gun for hunting ( strange ). I don't really want to deal with a flintlock as I have heard many issues with reliability and accuracy ( did I hear wrong? ). The classic and modern feels both appeal to me; I especially like the black powder rifles that mix new looks with old looks ( like Traditions Deerhunter ). The ignition system doesn't matter terribly a lot to me as all are legal in my state. I am planning on using loose powder unless hunting. I will probably shoot mostly ball rounds when practicing, as it saves tons of money. Stainless steel ( or equivalent level of rust protection ) with fiber optic sights are a must for me. 50cal is what I am looking at. Accuracy and function are, of course, to the upmost importance to me.

Here are some of the guns I am considering:

New England Sidekick Stainless: My main concern with this gun is that it is no longer being made; consequently, I fear that NEF might stop making primer holders for the rifle. My first shotgun was a NEF Pardner Single Shot and I enjoyed it fully.

Knight Pull-Action: I like this rifle because it can use 209, musket cap, or #11 cap. If I were to ever move, I wouldn't need to worry about the legality of this rifle. My concern on this gun would be the difficulty in cleaning. I have heard that Knight rifles are amazingly accurate, is that true?

Traditions Deerhunter Percussion: I really like the looks of this gun. I was at Sportsmen's Warehouse last week and handled a newer model with a slightly bluish laminate stock with stainless steel. It felt awesome and it looked awesome. My concern on this one is the reliability of the ignition and the accuracy of it. I asked the guy at the counter if it was accurate and he gave a general answer that all the black powder rifles they stock are accurate ( yeah right ). I do like the mesh of old and new looks with this one. Probably hard to clean? If this one is accurate and reliable, I might just go with it. I might consider the flintlock version, if it is reliable.

Traditions 209 Tracker: This one looks butt ugly, but the price is right. I am concerned with every aspect of this rifle ( ease of cleaning, accuracy, reliability, etc. ). The one plus I give it is the stainless steel and synthetic stock. I have seen pictures on the internet of these rusted, which scares me. I do take really good care of all my firearms and clean them throughouly.

Traditions Purist Pro: Break actions are always nice in my opinion, if they work well. Don't know what to think about this rifle.

Traditions Evolution: Bolt actions are always good, but does that really matter in a black powder firearm? Is this gun really "long range accurate" as the site says? I heard the bolt on this gun is horrible, is that true?

CVA Optima Pro: Heard some good things on this rifle, but mostly bad things. I heard that some of the CVA guns have ruptured under normal loads, is that true?

CVA Buckhorn: Cheap plunger gun. Any good?

Drop actions, for some reason, don't appeal to me. Neither do the flip style, like the Remmington Genesis.

Recreations, like a Kentucky or Hawken, mildly interest me, but they are usually more expensive than the modern rifles anyways. Plus they aren't stainless steel. But, if any of you think that a Hawken or Kentucky replica is accurate, reliable, and worth looking at, I will give it a shot. I do smile when I look at the ridiculously long rifle replicas, I don't know why.

Are the older style rifles less accurate and harder to clean?

Any, worthwhile, suggestions will be greatly appreciate. Except for spend more.
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Old February 28, 2008, 01:11 PM   #2
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Looks like you have done a bit of homework on this and my compliments. You have listed many assumptions about Traditionals that are just not so. However, looks like you are leaning toward an in-line. I shoot and teach both regularly but love my Traditionals, so won't or can't put any of them down. Keep looking and here are some recommendations with your price range in mind. I might add that I own T.C's, Traditions, Lyman, CVA and Knights. Hope you enjoy your new shooting adventure to a point of wanting a Traditional.

1) TC Black Diamond; No longer listed in their current catalog but still available from suppliers. You have the option of #11, Musket and 209 Primers.
Thompson will still support this rifle.

2) TC Omega. Strictly a 209 primer, simple and easy.

3) Traditions: Pursuit or Tracker Family. Again, strictly 209 primer. Not S.S. but nickle plated for weather protection.
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Old February 28, 2008, 02:00 PM   #3
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Smoke Poles

I have owned a NEF huntsman when they first came out, very accurate and reliable, don't worry about not finding primer holders there are plenty of suppliers out there that sell these(for reasonable price). I sold it to buy the CVA Optima Elite( the one you can change to a rifle barrel) the only reason I sold it was to fund the new one. The CVA Optima Elite is a good accurate gun, I don't see how it could rupture as thick as the barrel is. And the one I have had the longest is my ole CVA Hawken, I have killed several several deer with this gun, in fact since I have a bought an inline I haven't killed a deer with black powder(gonna go back the hawken next year). Its all up to you wich one you want, there are good and bad stories about every gun maker you just have to pick the one your most cumfortable with and hope its not a lemon.
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Old February 28, 2008, 02:35 PM   #4
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Bryce...You do sound like an inline is what you`d like to start with ...BUT then again you say you`d like to shoot round balls for target shooting ...can`t be done with an inline muzzleloader ...they have a fast twist rifleing ..load patched round balls in them and you would be luck to hit a target paper at 25 yards . The side lock muzzle loader Hawken style uasually come in 1 in 48 twist rifleing ..they will shoot eaither the round ball or the inline bullet sabots .
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Old February 28, 2008, 02:46 PM   #5
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BUT then again you say you`d like to shoot round balls for target shooting ...can`t be done with an inline muzzleloader
Not so!! Even with the listed twist, you can shoot round ball with a reduced load and do so accurately and consistant. But, if you try and drive it to hard, it will not shoot well. We routinely shoot reduced target loads at 25 yds or so. Borrow one from a buddy and prove it for yourself.

Be safe !!!
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Old February 28, 2008, 03:49 PM   #6
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I never even thought about the twist rate! How foolish of me.

Now that you mention that, I will probably go with a side lock percussion style rifle. I am going to go back to Sportsman's Warehouse this weekend to see if that rifle I liked was really a Traditions Deerhunter.

The reason I want to shoot mostly ball rounds is that the saboted, mini-ball, convex, whatever you want to call them bullets are so expensive that I don't think I can afford to shoot that many when I go out.

Now, more questions:

If I do get a more traditional style rifle, can I still shoot non-ball rounds if I go hunting ? What kind of powder is best for a traditional style rifle ( traditional powder, pyrodex, 777, etc ) ? Do the rifles with the really long barrels have an accuracy advantage or range advantage, or is it just looks ( like the Kentucky with a ~35 inch barrel, looks kinda neat ) ? What is a good barrel length ( ~26 inches I am guessing ? ) ? What do you know about twist rates ?

Sorry about bothering you guys with questions, its just that I am new to this whole genre of shooting and want to get all the facts.
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Old February 28, 2008, 04:07 PM   #7
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Most of the traditional "Hawken" style rifles have 28 inch barrels with a 1:48 twist which works well with round balls and conicals. A slow twist like 1:66 is a round ball barrel only and won't shoot conicals worth squat. a fast twist like 1:38 shoots conicals better than round balls unless you use reduced loads like Pahoo said. Real bp IMHO is the best if you can find it. Any of the subs will work but 777 is a little hotter than the rest so you'll need to reduce loads by 10%. Pyrodex is the cheapest of the subs and 777 is the most expensive at almost twice the price of Pyro(around here anyway). Many deer fall to round balls every year. Don't count them out for hunting. With an unscoped muzzleloader keep your shots to 100 yds. or less and you'll be fine.
I don't shoot inlines so don't know much about them but from the way my couzin talks who does shoot one cleaning an inline is a PITA compared to a traditional rifle. She says it's easy to clean but the way she talks it takes her twice as long as it does me or maybe she's just slow.
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Old February 28, 2008, 04:21 PM   #8
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Great info guys!

I am surprised by the fact that the traditionals are supposedly easier to clean than the inlines. Does a 1:66 twist ( like a Kentucky ) shoot round balls better than a 1:48 twist? Best brand of percussion cap? Why do people use black powder substitute if its worse? Do companies make substitute just to get around shipping restrictions of black powder? Which would you choose: a modern styled side lock, Hawken replica, Kentucky replica? How accurate can one be at 100 yards with one of these rifles? Is it possible to consistently get around 2.5 inch groupings? Any trajectory charts available? What is with the 54 and 58 caliber rifles? Are they expensive to shoot? Do they offer better range, power or something?
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Old February 28, 2008, 05:11 PM   #9
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A 1:66 twist will shoot round balls better than a 1:48 but a 1:48 isn't shabby with them. I'd say most 1:48's will shoot 2 1/2 inch groups at 100 yds. The cheap Hawken's like Investarms, Thompson Center, CVA, etc. aren't really replicas but they wouldn't be as out of place in the 1840's as say a Ruger Old Army would be in the 1860's. The Lyman Great Plains is about as close of a Hawken replica as you can get out of a box but most of those come with round ball barrels. The .54's and .58's do have more power and IMHO make better kills than a .50 but a .50 will do the job. They cost a little more to shoot and ready made balls are harder to find. Range should still be kept to 100 yds. with open sights. IMHO nothing is as good as real bp but it's hard to find with the storage regulations on it. Shipping it isn't bad but you have to order more of it than I can afford. I like CCI caps best but you'll get a lot of different opinions on that.
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Old February 28, 2008, 05:50 PM   #10
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Pahoo I had a early Knight inline 1 in 28 twist ...I couldn`t even sight it in with patched round balls ..it wouldn`t hit the same hole twice from a bench . I gave it to a friend for his wife to deer hunt with . I don`t remember the charge I was useing but it was a target load , probally 50 grs of goex .
It was a tack driver with the Sabots .
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Old February 28, 2008, 06:20 PM   #11
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Many good answers here - these guys know their stuff.

Re: the CVA barrel thing - back in the late 90's CVA did have a group of inferior barrels that ruptured. In August of 1997 they issued a recall of inline barrels with serial numbers ending in "-95" or "-96". In 1999 the assets of CVA were purchased by Blackpowder Products, Inc., which is now doing business as Connecticut Valley Arms, or CVA. Blackpowder Products assumed no liabilities of the original CVA as a result of the purchase.

So, if you buy a CVA inline, check the barrel serial number. Otherwise, don't worry about it.
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Old February 29, 2008, 12:24 PM   #12
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sundance44s

I understood that bryceadamprescott, was refering to target shooting, for fun, with a round ball. Although he did not state the range, I shoot at around 30 to 40 yds. and we shoot an American Knight and T.C. Black Diamond and hold a 2-1/2" group. That meets our training expectations. We load 35grns of 777 and when we shot Pyrodex we loaded 40-50 grns. The one thing that I have not determined or probably never will, is at what load does it really go all to hell and as you stated, at some point it surely will. I'm not sure what your setup was and I know that 2-1/2" is not good enough for you but it works for us, in training. This is not what I shoot at 100yds. either in an in-line or side cocker.

Be safe !!
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Old February 29, 2008, 01:57 PM   #13
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Pahoo..it couldn`t have been over 60 grs of goex ...I was hopeing it would do better so the wife could use it left handed at our target shoots ..she is right handed but has a blind right eye , so I was teaching her to shoot left handed , the inline was a light one ,black plastic stock Knight ..and could be shot right or left handed . Benching it There were times I thought it was going to group , and then the next shot would leave the paper at 25 yards..not a large paper we use copy paper with our printed targets on them ..Free that way ..
I got so flustrated I almost threw the rifle in a small pond beside the shooting benches .LOL ..My friend that wanted it for shooting sabots stopped me and I just gave it too him ,Maybe some of the newer ones can do it ....this one just couldn`t . I did check the twist and it was 1 in 28 .
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Old February 29, 2008, 03:06 PM   #14
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Good information and thanks. I think it's all in the twist and will go back and check the M/L's mentioned and confirm the twist. I know what we have been doing and you might ask why?? Well, the state use to supply us with strictly #11 percussion side locks and were eventually phased out. Had to provide our own and as you know, most are now going to the 209. Well, the state is still providing the shot string in support of patched round ball and #11 primers. We load down for the kids and ladies and have no choice but to shoot patched round ball. The American Knight that we bought, came with 209 ignition system. Had to go back to the factory and converted to #11. This gun shoots great as well as the Black Diamond. Your point is well taken about how the twist dictates what you shoot. .... Be Safe
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Old February 29, 2008, 08:29 PM   #15
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brycea,sounds like your leaning towards "traditional" shooting and i`ve found it to be cheaper as previously stated. i`d like to also second what was stated about deer hunting with prb. sounds like you plan on alot of practice so a well placed shot won`t be a problem. i also own traditional and a few inlines. i may be cleaning wrong but all my inlines clean easier than sidelock. when it comes to the most bang for your buck out to approx. 100yds my vote is for traditional and i love my old t/c hawkins. goodluck.
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Old March 2, 2008, 05:33 PM   #16
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The 1 in 48 twist is a poor compromise for a muzzle loading rifle. It doesn't do its best with either round ball or mini ball. I would go for a Lyman Great Plains rifle (1 in 66 twist) in 50 Caliber. Join up with a black powder shooting club and shoot all the matches. You will get better with it and have a lot of fun.
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Old March 2, 2008, 05:54 PM   #17
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Spade Cooley + 1

If you are serious about shooting round ball??!!
I have a Pennsylvania Hunter, 32" barrel 1 in 66" percussion and peep sights. In my book, I do not think there is a better round ball shooter except, perhaps for my .40 Cal. Have never seen an M/L that fits all needs and that is why I own about eight of them. I say "about" cause who is counting and still have room in my safe for more. Still looking for a .36 TC Seneca and the wait may outlive me. Be safe !!!
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Old March 2, 2008, 09:22 PM   #18
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I have 4 muzzleloaders here in the rack. Three of them are Hawken replicas, and one is a CVA Big Bore Mountain Rifle. The 3 Hawken replicas are Santa Fe Hawkens, one a .53, one a .54 and one is a .50. The old CVA is a .54. They have 32" barrels. Please dont call those Italian imports Hawkens.

My Hawken Rifle in 172" Whitetail from my ranch.

There is also a .54 companion pistol for the rifles. All of my rifles are either 1:60 or 1:66. There is a lot of argument about whether this or that twist will shoot balls or bullets. Hawg and I participate in several forums and it has been going on for years. The slower twists do better with shorter projectiles and the faster twists do better on longer bullets. Just the same as modern cartridge barrels. My ranch rifle wont handle 50 gr .223's at all but makes one hole with 60 gr's. It is the 9" twist.

I cant speak for anyone elses rifle barrels, but my pet rifle (the .53 with1:66) gets shot mostly with patched round balls. I dont get a charge out of shooting paper, I am a hunter. My rifle gets its best accuacy with PRB with 120 gr of FFg. I can do 3" at 100 with the original iron sights. That is close enough for how I hunt. Scopes do not belong on muzzleloaders. The muzzleloading season was created as a primitive season, not as an excuse to extend the other hunting seasons. Scopes and copper plated bullets belong in centerfire rifles during the regular hunting season.

As far as "conicals", my rifle just plain does not like the TC maxi balls. I do however get excellent accuracy with the Buffalo Ball-ets and the Hornady Great Plains Bullets. The Hornadys are too expensive to shoot, so when I need a heavier load, for bear for example, I just load a Buffalo Ball-et over 100 gr of FFg.

Unless money is no object, consider the cost of shooting an inline compared to shooting a traditional rifle. I am not a flintlock fan, I shoot percussion. I'm not against them, I just prefer percussion. So, considering the cost of the imitation pyro pellets compared to real black powder, your loose Goex is about 1/3 the cost. Considering the cost of the plastic sabots and pistol bullets therein, compared to a round lead ball, the round ball is about one tenth the cost. Add in the cost of the shotgun primers against the percussion cap. Overall, a traditional rifle will cost about 1/5 the cost per shot to shoot, and is just as accurate, and is just as powerful. My .53 will shoot a hole completely through a large buck deer--in one side, and out the other--how much more does it take?

The last thing. If you plan on hunting bear or elk, you should use a suitable caliber for that, with a .54 being in that category. Some folks say that the .54 is "too large". You dont have to fill the barrel full of powder you know. You can target shoot with 40 grains to get started if you want. You can teach your lady, kids or grandkids with that load. You can hunt small game with 60 gr, or hunt deer with 90 up to 120. It is a matter of shooting hundreds of shots to find out where your barrel dials in and gives up its best accuracy. For what it is worth, the .53 Hawken that I built in 1984, will put ten consecutive shots in a sheet of typing paper at 200 yards with the open iron sights rested from a bench.

There are a couple Muzzleloading forums out there, join in on them and share.

Afterthought: My .45-70 Trapdoor Springfield rifle has a 1:18 twist. OK? I load "guard loads" for coyote calling. They are a three .457 balls seated on 40 grains of compressed FFg powder with the top one being crimped in gudentite. They will shoot to point of aim out to about 80 yards. One will hit point of aim and the other two will be within a couple inches. I hope that sheds some light on the twist arguments.
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Old March 2, 2008, 09:58 PM   #19
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Well said.
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Old March 2, 2008, 10:34 PM   #20
W. C. Quantrill
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The thing is about black powder, it doesnt get any better than using real black powder. Also it costs less. People say they cant find it and merchants mark it way up to promote the sales of the more profitable imitation stuff. The market at this time is in the inline rifles, and the push is to make the profit from their components. Now, the prime economic motive of running a business is to maximize profit. However, I cant see that it all has to come from me. So, what most of the shooters are doing is ordering their powder. If you shoot enough you can order a case. Delivered to your door step by UPS it will cost you somewhere around $12 a pound. If $250 worth of powder is going to be a problem at your house, you can talk to your friends and order a case and split it up amongst several people and you still get a couple cans for $12 each. So do they. If Hawg and I didnt live 988.61 miles apart, we could do that.
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Old March 2, 2008, 10:44 PM   #21
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If Hawg and I didnt live 988.61 miles apart, we could do that.
It would be nice. I'd love to get my hands on the real stuff.
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Old May 25, 2008, 03:22 PM   #22
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CVA Optima Elite

Hey there,
I am a little late on the forum but just wanted to throw an idea for the thread originator. I have done alot of research and found that without a doubt the T/C Encore is favored for the single shot ML and rifle. However, those that do own CVA Optima Elite's really like the gun. How could they not? Each gun in the Elite line has a Bergara barrel which are made in Spain from none other than Shilon himself. The barrles rank in the top 3 of the best built with outstanding accuracy. Not only do they carry the fine barrel but they also have DuraBright adjustable top line fiber optic sights, Quake Claw sling, and a Crushzone recoil pad. These are a lot of top line features. You can get the rifle in 6 different calibers. One thing that I noticed is that the Elite series comes stock with the Bergara barrels where the T/C comes with there own made however, Bergara sells there barrels to fit the T/C encore for better accuracy. So it appears that the CVA Elite has a better barrel to start. All of this for 1/2 the cost of the T/C Encore. I am ordering one from Walmart this coming week. I am getting the
.243 Win in stainless steel with the Realtree camo stock. $353 plus tax.
Not bad huh?
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Old May 25, 2008, 05:47 PM   #23
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the annoying thing is in Nevada you aren't allowed to have a scope on a black powder gun for hunting ( strange ).
We also have this rule in Washington. However, I asked the Department to give me a ruling on that, when using my BP Hawken during regular rifle season. The answer was that I could trick out my muzzle loading rifle with anything that was legal to use on a regular rifle, while hunting during regular rifle season.

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Old May 25, 2008, 05:52 PM   #24
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I've owned 3 CVA rifles including one that was affected by that old recall and replaced free of charge. (So I guess technically I've owned 4).

All have given excellent service and have been very accurate guns. I've taken several deer at 120+yds with them including one at 150 and one at 220. (and yes I had a witness for that one).

My current smokepole is a CVA Optima Pro 26". Have had it for 3 seasons and it has given great service. Very easy to take down and clean.
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Old May 25, 2008, 10:44 PM   #25
W. C. Quantrill
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When you speak of plastic, and stainless steel, and scopes in the same sentence you speak of black powder firearms, you are just talking about a cheatline. It isnt a real muzzleloader, and it isnt going to be used for traditional muzzle loader purposes. It is just an excuse to get another game tag. Once you go to synthetic powder and copper jacketed pistol bullets in plastic sleeves, you might as well just take a .30-30 and be done with it. There isnt any pride left in that.

Whoever it was that spoke about flintlocks not being accurate or dependable obviously didnt know squat about what they were telling you. I do not use flinters, because I am a fan of the Hawken era, but they shoot just as hard and just as accurate as any other rifle. Once you blow a hole though both sides of an animal, how much more do you need? I use percussion rifles and patched round ball. That is what the traditional muzzle loading rifle was designed to use. Thank God, Colorado just outlawed that CVA electronic ignition and scopes.
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