December 2, 2012

Allen Afield: Wet powder dampens shooter's odds


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Deer Season
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Early December offers muzzleloaders like this man long odds for success, and those odds only grow longer if the hunter doesn’t take precautions to keep the powder dry. Many hunters swear by a fresh reload each morning.

The Associated Press

Muzzle-loaders in conifer thickets seldom see deer over 50 yards, an easy shot for a 50-caliber sidelock with a Maxi-ball and open sights. Folks with an inline scope and sabot can reach far beyond that range.

Other than a single shot, black-powder rifles have little disadvantage in thickets, an easy comment to make until a deer walks by during rain or snow. Then, after aiming carefully and squeezing the trigger, the shooter hears a loud, metallic click without the "ka-boom."

When a muzzleloader hunter removes the percussion cap from the nipple, the firearm is legally unloaded despite the powder and projectile in the barrel.

In my humble opinion, the leading cause of a misfire begins and ends with taking a muzzleloader from frigid air outdoors and into a warm room, which allows condensation to form inside the barrel, wetting powder if the hunter has left it in the barrel.

When my muzzleloader has powder and ball in it between hunts in season, I store it in a gun case in a truck body or in an unheated room to avoid condensation. This plan has worked for me -- except once.

Eventually, each good muzzleloader figures out a system to keep powder dry to avoid misfires, and it goes without saying, veteran shooters swear that a fresh reloading every morning works best.

You be the judge of what works in your muzzleloader. Just remember that most misfires occur when a deer is in the sights. 

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:


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