Must-know rules for muzzleloader hunters

by Steve Galea | September 11, 2014

When it comes to muzzleloaders, federal and provincial definitions for what constitutes a loaded firearm differ, says MNR Provincial Enforcement Specialist David Critchlow.

It’s loaded when…

Under the provincial Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, in the case of a percussion muzzleloader, if there’s a charge of powder and a projectile in the barrel and a percussion cap on the nipple, it’s considered to be loaded.

In the case of a muzzleloader which is not a percussion muzzleloader, if there’s a charge of powder and a projectile in the barrel and the vent is unplugged, it’s considered to be loaded.

Under the federal Firearms Act (Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations) a gun, including a muzzleloader, is considered to be unloaded if any propellant, projectile or cartridge that can be discharged from the firearm is not contained in the breech or firing chamber of the firearm nor in the cartridge magazine attached to or inserted into the firearm.

Storage and transportation

Also, Critchlow notes, “Under the federal Storage, Display, Transportation and Handling of Firearms by Individuals Regulations Transportation of Non-restricted Firearms section, muzzleloaders must be stored and transported unloaded.

There are, however, some exceptions, including storage at a hunt camp in a remote wilderness setting, or while being transported from one hunting site to another,” he explains. “In the latter case, while the muzzleloader does not have to be unloaded, it must have the firing cap or flint removed. Note that this exception does not apply to transporting anywhere other than from one hunting site to another. For further information on the Firearms Act and its regulations you should contact your local police.”

Critchlow says muzzleloading hunters could be held to either federal Firearms Act or the provincial Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act at the discretion of the Conservation Officer. Similarly, hunters dealing with provincial police forces might be subject to either standard.

Therefore, the most prudent course of action is to unload projectile and powder from muzzleloader when storing them after hunts or during transport.

More muzzleloader considerations

For hunting, a muzzleloader may be used in any season except a bows-only season in Ontario. The province offers several special bow- and muzzleloader-only seasons for moose and deer.

There are no calibre restrictions for game being hunted with a muzzleloading rifle. However, when hunting wild turkey with a muzzleloading shotgun, the same gauge restrictions apply as to any other shotgun, i.e. must be between 10 and 20 gauge. When hunting migratory birds, non-toxic shot restrictions apply.

Check your  Hunting Regulations Summary or contact your local MNR office for more details.

First published in the August 2014 issue of Ontario OUT OF DOORS



  1. Mike McEvoy wrote: So if the cap is removed its considered unloaded under Provincial regs but the Federal rules require the breech to be emty?
  2. Gary Elderman wrote: So, if I hunt out of my back yard, is it unlawful to just remove the primer on my T/C pro hunter even if I intend to hunt with the same powder and bullet the next day?
  3. Ron Alton wrote: Officer Critchlow's take is misleading- CO's don't have authority to enforce the Federal Firearms Act so they would have to act under Ontario's F&W Conservation Act- unless there has been a recent unpublicized official delegation of authority under the Federal Act to include CO's there's only a handful of OPP with this delegated authority via the Chief Firearms Officer officed in Orillia i.e. not ever police officer has this authority
  4. MARK RUTLEDGE wrote: Just wondering if there's a black powder hunting season around Parry Sound 46 and 49 Wildlife Management areas thank you.
  5. Martin wrote: Don’t contact police, they have no idea what the gun laws are; according to Algoma OPP in Elliot Lake a bolt action rifle with the bolt removed & locked away in gun safe is capable of being fired and unsafely stored