The Secret of Muzzleloader Accuracy
These words on how to achieve muzzleloader accuracy come from Cecil Epp and I have put them to the test and found that following exactly the method he uses to achieve tight groups really does make all the difference when it comes to shrinking that
"Use this simple five step sequence every time you shoot and groups will shrink and velocities will stay constant, shot after shot. Using this method, I have shot my flintlock 100s of times without a full cleaning."
"I have read many postings on various sites, in addition to your own, regarding the outstanding accuracy that shooters are getting from your bullets in their muzzzleloaders. What loading / shooting / loading process do you use that makes it possible to achieve this level of accuracy?"
"As our shooting background includes benchrest and extensive varmint hunting, absolute accuracy has always been at the top of our priority list. We do not have a single muzzleloader that will not shoot 3 shot groups at 100 yards of 1.5" and better. Considering our collection includes a CVA that boasts more rust than barrel, that's saying a lot for the potential accuracy of a muzzleloading rifle when loaded properly with match quality bullets.
I recently had a lengthy debate with a prominent sabot manufacturer regarding accuracy. His criteria for accuracy was to be able to shoot three shots in succession without doing anything except dumping in powder and loading a bullet. His feeling was that this would be a realistic representation of the needs of the hunter. Accuracy for him is to hit an orange at 100 yards off a benchrest three times.
I disagreed with his logic. I could not think of a single hunting experience when I did not have time to follow my simple, accuracy enhancing, reloading process. Accuracy for me is to hit a golf ball at 100 yards off a benchrest ALL DAY LONG .
Here are the steps I follow in loading every shot, every season, every circumstance with all my muzzleloaders. Period.
1. After the shot, lick a clean, cotton patch. (yes, lick a patch; with your tongue) Place it wet side down on top of your barrel. Using your ramrod with a cleaning jag attached, work the patch in ever-lengthening strokes to the bottom of the barrel.
2. Remove the ramrod, flip the patch over and run the other side of the patch to the bottom of the barrel.
3. Remove the ramrod. Discard the patch.
4. Dump in the pre measured powder charge.
5. Seat the bullet until the powder stops compressing.
Done. Use this simple five step sequence every time you shoot and groups will shrink and velocities will stay constant, shot after shot. Using this method, I have shot my flintlock 100s of times without a full cleaning.
Here are some simple DON'Ts.
1. DON'T use any type of cleaner on the patch. Blackpowder and Pyrodex shoot much, much better on a fouled barrel than they shoot on a clean barrel. Using cleaner will remove the "first shot fouling". The "spit patch" will remove the excess fouling while leaving the "first shot fouling" on the barrel. Chronograph three - five shot strings with the same load. For the first string, do nothing between shots. For the second string, swab with a patch dampened with cleaner. For the third string, swab with a spit patch. You will be amazed at the results.
2. DON'T go hunting with a clean barrel. My best example of this is using Pyrodex RS on a clean barrel with a Knight Wolverine. The first shot out of a clean barrel can be as much as 6" out of the group at 100 yards. With that first fouling shot on the barrel, 1" groups are very common but on a clean barrel, that first shot can be anywhere in that 12" circle.
3. Always seat your bullet using a bullet starter that will not deform the end of the bullet. Deformed bullets may shoot fine at 50 yards but cannot fly the same over extended ranges due to variance in ballistic coefficiency.
4. DON'T ever weigh powder charges. All blackpowder and blackpowder substitutes are designed to be measured not weighed. One of my customers thought that he would improve his accuracy by weighing his charges on his RCBS powder scale. The 150 weighed charges that he was shooting were actually equivalent to about 203 grains of powder by volume. The good news was his gun was unaffected by the 200+ charge of powder. The bad news was that his scope packed it in after about half a dozen shots.Thanks to our many, many customers for that question and I hope that I have answered it to your satisfaction."
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