Picking the Best Muzzleloader

OUTDOORS

   10.01.21

Picking the Best Muzzleloader

Updated: Oct. 1, 2021

Muzzleloaders continue to gain in popularity as a great way to extend your hunting season. They are also a lot of fun to shoot. Whether you’re looking for a muzzleloader for yourself, or for a gift, there are a lot of options and price ranges to choose from. Here’s some of our favorites to help you in picking the best muzzleloader. The latest muzzleloaders us barrels with tighter tolerances that are designed to increase your shooting range and improve accuracy. They have come a long way from the old flintlocks of legend, but in the end, it is still the same basic idea.

A quick run down on muzzleloader basics. Most modern inline muzzleloaders all use the same standard elements. For powder, most have switched from using loose powder, to compressed pellets that are precisely measured for repeatable accuracy. You can still use loose powder, as it keeps the tradition alive. Classic, sidelock-style muzzleloaders are a great example.

For primers, inlines tend to use the hotter 209 primers, which are the same used by shotgun shell reloaders. Bullets tend to fall into three groups – Solids, sabots (pronounced sah-bo) and hybrids. Solids are simple. They are a chunk of metal, like lead, copper or other material. These include lead balls, and conical bullets that have a cupped base. When the gun goes off, the base expands to grip the barrel’s rifling. Sabot bullets have a regular bullet that sits in a plastic shoe. The plastic grips the grooves of the barrel and then leaves the bullet as it flies toward the target. Hybrid bullets include the extremely popular Powerbelt. This type of bullet usually has a plastic base on a large bullet, often a mix of copper and lead. The plastic cap makes sure that the gasses pushing the bullet down the barrel don’t escape, giving you an accurate bullet with a lot of oomph behind it.

1. CVA Accura MR-X Cerakote Sniper

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CVA Accura MR-X Cerakote Sniper

Muzzleloaders used to be mainly for hunting within 100 yards or so. That range stretched a bit, but as that range opened up, the accuracy decreased at a similar rate. Some of the latest muzzleloaders can reach out quite a ways, and the newest rifle from CVA blends that long-range ability with superior accuracy with the Accura MR-X Cerakote Sniper – a real reach-out-there rifle that packs some serious punch. These rifles are built around a 26-inch Bergara Barrel that is fluted to save weight. This .50 caliber rifle throws a serious chunk of lead and can give you opetions when it comes time to take the shot. An adjustable stock, piccatinny rail scope mount and DeadZone recoil pad help make this rifle one of your favorite. All you need to do is shoot it to see why.

Pros/Long range accuracy and power

Cons/A tough on the pricey side for a muzzleloader

Bottom Line/If you’ve been frustrated at the range and accuracy level of you current muzzleloader, this is the one you should replace it with.

2. Traditions NitroFire Muzzleloader Rifle with Scope Combo

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Traditions NitroFire Muzzleloader Rifle with Scope Combo

The Traditions Nitrofire has caused a lot of buzz with how it works. It uses a special, breech-loaded powder and primer combo developed with Federal Premium and Hodgdon Powder. The result is faster ignition and reduced risk of weather-related misfires. The rifle has a fluted, chromoly steel 26″ barrel with a 1:28″ twist ratio for superb accuracy. When you add in a premium trigger system, you get a truly sweet muzzleloader that gives you truly outstanding accuracy.

Pros/Weather-proof ignition and accuracy

Cons/The cost of the powder/primer sticks are pricey and harder to find.

Bottom Line/If you’ve ever missed a buck due to wet powder, you will want to check this one out.

3. Thompson/Center Bone Collector Triumph

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Thompson/Center Bone Collector Triumph

Leave it to Thompson/Center and my buddies over at Bone Collector to come up with a serious inline muzzleloader for the hard core hunter. The Triumph series has a Speedbreech plug that can be removed by hand for easy cleaning. It has a FlexTech stock with a built-in Limbsaver’s recoil pad and overmolded grip areas for a solid grip in your hand regardless of the weather. Speaking of wether, the metal parts of the Bone Collector gun have Thompson/Center’s WeatherShield, making them impervious to rust. This is easily one of the best muzzleloaders on the market, period.

Pros/Weather proof and accurate

Cons/Costs more, but you get more

Bottom Line/If you’re serious about hunting with a muzzleloader, this is the one to get.

4. Traditions Tracker

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Traditions Tracker

If you’re completely new to muzzleloader shooting and hunting, one of the easiest ways to gt started is with a ready-to-shoot kit, like the Traditions Tracker inline. This kit comes with everything you need to get started except the bullets, primer and powder.

If you’re looking for suggestions, we recommend Powerbelt bullets for starters. We’d also use Hodgdon Triple7 pellets, too.

Pros/Ready to shoot kit

Cons/No scope in this kit

Bottom Line/Perfect for beginners

5. CVA Wolf

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CVA Wolf

The CVA Wolf is one of the most popular muzzleloaders on the market, and with good reason. These easy-to-use smoke poles pack a lot of value into an affordable package. In chatting with local retailers, the CVA Wolf is easily the most popular gift package for muzzleloaders by far. The best package is the scoped, stainless model. It comes with a 5.50 cal. Wolf with a 3-9×40 Konus scope and CVA’s DeadOn scope mounts, which are among the best ML’er scope mounts available. It even comes with a soft, padded case. This gun is simple to operate, easy to shoot and clean. It is easily one of the best muzzleloaders available for the money.

Pros/A great package for any level hunter

Cons/None

Bottom Line/An easy to shoot package.

6. Traditions Buckstalker

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Traditions Buckstalker

Traditions muzzleloaders cover the entire spectrum of black powder guns. You can get modern inlines all the way to traditional side-lock rifles. The company even makes specific models to meet select state requirements. The Buckstalker is their most budget-friendly model of inline and they pack a lot of cool stuff into this gun. It has their Accelerator Breech Plug that makes quick ignitions as well as being easily removable for cleaning. It comes with a mounted and boresighted 3-9×40 scope and is a sweet deal at around $250. It also has a dual safety system, making it one of the safer muzzleloaders available.

Pros/Safe, accurate and reliable

Cons/Be aware of rust

Bottom Line/Possible the most bang for the buck

7. CVA Optima

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CVA Optima

The CVA Optima V2 rifle is an outstanding value. You get a lot of features, like a weatherproof finish, T-handle ram rod, Crushproof recoil pad and easy cleaning. The barrel is fluted to cut down on weight, while still providing all the accuracy you need and expect. It comes with CVA’s Dead-On scope mounts, which are among the best you’ll find for a blackpowder gun. Simply mount your scope of choice and be ready to hunt anything. I have a Vortex Diamondback scope mounted on mine.

Pros/Premium rifle without the premium price

Cons/Would be better with a scope package

Bottom Line/A great rifle at a great price. Perfect for the serious hunter and beginner alike.

Muzzleloader Care

One of the biggest mistakes people make with muzzleloaders is not caring for them properly. You ned to clean them often and soon. That is to say that if you shoot it, you’d better clean it. The chemicals in the powder can do a number on the internals of your barrel. You can use any of the typical cleaners you’d use for any firearm. I once heard of a guy using dish soap and hot water, so I had to try it. It worked, butI’m not sure I’d do it again unless in a pinch. You need to oil it, too to keep everything working right. When storing it for a long time, I often will oil everything a little excessively and then clean it again before I go shooting.

Many states rule that a muzzleloader is deemed “unloaded” if the cap is off the ignitor, or nipple. This makes it so you don’t have to go shooting it after every hunt, and can transport it back home and so forth. While this ruling comes in pretty handy, I strongly urge you to not do it for more than a couple days, tops. And then, never bring the muzzleloader into your house when you come back home. The temperature difference can cause moisture to get into the barrel and to the powder, creating a bad situation. When I do this, I leave it locked in the garage when I come home. If you go a few days, touch the gun off in the afternoon as a reasonable spot, then take it home, clean it and you can reload the next time you go out.

Muzzleloader Regulations

Here is another area that will require some thought before you make a purchase. You need to check the regulations in the state you live in, or the state where you plan to hunt. There are multiple states that do not allow pelletized power of any kind. You have to use loose powder. These states include Oregon, Idaho and New Mexico. California requires that your projectiles contain no lead and many states require that you do not use a scope.

These regulations play into rifle selection because there are quite a few muzzleloaders that are set up only for a scope. The loose powder requirements also exclude a couple of ML’ers that use Federal’s new Firestick. Loose powder are burns a little differently, so you’ll need to work with it to perfect your load and loading techniques. This can mean extra work, and extra expense with trying out different combinations, but hey, that’s a lot of fun, too.  Muzzleloaders are a fun way to hunt and often extend your hunting seasons for firearm-style hunting.

CVA
Make sure you’re 100% legal before heading out with your muzzleloader

About the Author

Avatar Author ID 667 - 2104277183

Derrek Sigler has been a professional outdoor writer for more than two decades since earning his Master’s Degree in creative writing with a thesis about fishing humor. But if you ask anyone that knows him, he’s been telling fishin’ stories since he was old enough to hold a pole. He has written for Cabela’s and served as editorial director for Gun Digest books. Over the years, he has also written for Petersen’s Hunting, North American Whitetail Magazine, Wildfowl, Grand View Media, and has worked with Bass Pro Shops, Hard Core Brands and Bone Collector. Successful Farming had him write for their magazine and he has appeared on their TV show to discuss hunting and ATVs on multiple occasions. He writes about the things he loves – hunting, fishing, camping, trucks, ATVs, boating, snowmobiles and the outdoor lifestyle he enjoys with his family in their home state of Michigan and more as they adventure around North America.

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