In-line muzzleloader handling

by Guest Author | December 3, 2013

Modern in-line muzzle-loading firearms earn their name from the fact that the ignition primer is loaded into the exterior breech of the firearm “in line” with the interior charge and bullet. They have become popular in the last decade as their accuracy, ease of use, and dependability have improved on the older style primitive firearms of the same category.


Assume every firearm is loaded
Control the muzzle direction at all times
Trigger finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard
See that the firearm is unloaded

Point the firearm in the safest available direction
Remove all ammunition
Observe the chamber
Verify the feeding path
Examine the bore each time you pick up a firearm

The law
Non-restricted muzzleloaders fall under the same storage, possession, and transport laws as non-restricted firearms in Canada. It’s important to know and comply with the storage and transport regulations that apply to in-line muzzleloaders.

As with all firearms, you should practise ACTS and PROVE it safe, as per the Canadian Firearms Program.

While in storage, a muzzleloader cannot have a charge of powder or a bullet in the barrel. It must be completely unloaded.

According to the Canadian Firearms Program, there are 2 scenarios for transporting a muzzleloader.

Between hunting sites, a percussion cap muzzleloader can have a charge in the barrel, but its firing cap must be removed.

When transporting to any other location (i.e. home or to a shooting club), a muzzleloader must be unloaded.

Once you’ve completed ACTS and PROVE, the first step in loading a muzzleloader is to pour the required powder charge down the barrel. Next, ram a projectile down the barrel and firmly seat it against the powder charge. Only when you are ready to hunt should you take the third step of placing a primer in the breech.

Always remove the primer before attempting any inspection, process, or manipulation of the firearm.

Loaded or unloaded?
In your empty rifle, place the ramrod in the barrel so it lays to rest at the breech plug. Mark the ramrod at the spot where it begins to protrude out the muzzle by making a visible scratch in the ram, or by applying a piece of tape around it. When you want to verify that the gun is charged, simply insert the ramrod into the barrel and look for the empty line marking on the ram. Still not sure? The only way to be positive the barrel is empty is to remove the breech plug and inspect the barrel for any obstructions. Remember ACTS and PROVE.

The easiest and fastest way to unload your rifle is to shoot it, in a safe manner, into an appropriate backstop. You aren’t wasting anything by doing this, as any bullet you retrieve while forcing an unload (as detailed above) will be damaged.

Modern muzzleloaders have a removable breech plug that screws into the barrel breech. Your gun should have come with a breech plug removal tool. Always carry this with the gun. To unload the powder charge, use the breech tool to remove the plug, then invert the barrel to pour the powder charge out. Once the powder is removed, you can either push the bullet or sabot through the breech hole, or use the ram to force the projectile back up the barrel and out the muzzle, depending on your gun. This can be difficult, as many modern bullets have built-in sabots or gas seals that must be pushed up the barrel, and will resist being turned by the barrel’s rifling while moving forward.

Be sure to ACTS and PROVE and clean your gun before using it again.

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