Hunters put a muzzle on old-style guns.

spectr17

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Hunters put a muzzle on old-style guns.

By Tim Renken, St. Louis The Post-Dispatch.

10/04/2001


When Missouri's regulations were changed in 1999 to allow deer hunters to use muzzleloaders or modern guns, many people bought muzzleloaders so they could hunt in a special season in December.

A lot of those guns are collecting dust or for sale. Many newcomers to the sport discovered that they really couldn't hit much with the old-style guns. After the novelty wore off, these folks went back to their modern guns.

Many Illinois deer hunters, too, bought muzzleloaders to take advantage of a special late hunt but eventually went back to using their modern shotguns.

Why? Aren't the old-style guns accurate enough for deer hunting? Is muzzleloader shooting really that difficult?

Potential accuracy isn't the problem. An experienced black powder shooter can routinely put three of those ponderous .50 or .54 caliber bullets into a bottle-cap-size circle at 100 yards can consistently pour bullets through the same hole and at 25 yards.

And, no, muzzleloader shooting isn't difficult. Kids do it all the time, and they do it well, according to Jim Ragland of Florissant. He teaches muzzleloaders basics in the Missouri Hunter Education Program.

"But there are some things you should know before you get started," he said. "And it's best to learn them before you go out and buy your first gun."

Ragland, 70, who has been a shooter for more than 50 years and a blackpowder shooter and hunter for 10 years, said that he spent some time at local gun shops in over the past two years and talked to some of the people buying their first blackpowder hunting rifles.

"Most of them had never fired a muzzleloader before," he said, "and many of them told me that since they didn't expect to take any shots beyond 50 yards that they didn't see any need to sight-in or practice with the rifle."

Those people, Ragland said, were unlikely to enjoy their old-style guns much.

"Almost none of them know how important proper seating of the bullet is," he said "Most will do what they saw in the old cowboy movies, shove the bullet down, then give the ramrod a whack or two or three.

"But accuracy demands that the bullet be seated just right, just on top of the powder, and that it be seated exactly the same way each time."

According to Ragland, the two most important factors in a gun's accuracy are the barrel and its sights.

For the novice, Ragland recommends rifles with in-line actions if only because of their similarity to modern rifles.

"Sights, too, should be something familiar," he said. "In Missouri you can use telescopic sights on your muzzleloader. You don't want to have to learn to shoot all over again."

Ragland said that the novice muzzleloader must remember that the gun has a limited range - 100 yards maximum with bullets and about 75 for balls.

"Beyond that the bullet drops abruptly and loses energy," he said. "And then there's that thing about good bullet placement. With these guns there is effectively no second chance."

Ragland will give a seminar Saturday at the Jay Henges Training Center at Forest 44, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. To register, call 636-441-4554.
 

Chairman

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Thanks for the info, Jesse!  I'm one of those who are thinking about getting a muzzleloader.  Since there are a lot of them going to waste in people's closets, maybe I'll find a good deal! :D

Chairman


(Edited by Chairman at 1:46 pm on Oct. 6, 2001)
 

Matt in MO

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Well since I didn't bag the big one with a bow or rifle yet, I'll be joining the masses who run out and buy a muzzleloader at the last minute. Got a disposable (cheap) one at Bass Pro and will try shooting it tonight! look out!
 

Chairman

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I bought a T/C Arms 209x50 ML, and took my first deer with it Monday evening @ 40 yards - with open sights, AND it was my first time out!  I was looking for something different, and I found it.  Mine ain't wasting away in a closet.......
 

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