True muzzleloaders aren’t as popular as they were several years ago for the simple reason that the “primitive firearms” season now allows hunters to use centerfire rifles.
But there are still some of us who love the satisfaction of killing deer with black-powder rifles.
Unfortunately, after spending a day in the stand without killing a deer means a rifle that is still loaded. Sure, you can take the firing cap off and the gun can no longer fire.
And, if you’re like me, you can then just stick the gun back in the cabinet until your next hunt — and hope the powder will still fire reliably.
Or, if you’re smarter than your average magazine editor, you can unload the gun and reload it before your next hunt so you don’t have any doubts about it firing when that old mossy-back walks out.
Obviously, unloading a black-powder rifle is more involved than your standard .45-70 or .444.
So what’s the best way to pull the load from your gun’s barrel?
“There are two ways to unload a muzzleloader,” said Mich Stobl of Hunter-Ed.com.
The first method is to remove the breach plug and use your ramrod to push the charge and bullet out the rear of the barrel.
If, like me, you use a side-hammer rifle, you have to use either a screw tip for your ramrod to screw into the bullet and pull it out — a proposition that is easier said than done — or use a CO2 load discharger kit that can be purchased at retailers such as Cabela’s.
But, there is another way — the fun way.
Set up a target and fire the rifle. The double duty of removing the load and ensuring your sight is still set correctly is accomplished.
“But remember: The powder can sometimes be slow to ignite,” Stobl said in a video on his website. “If the gun does not fire, keep it pointed in a safe direction for at least 30 seconds. Then try another primer, or disassemble and unload.”