Getting started in muzzleloading can be daunting. Here I’ll try to help you out with some of the terms used in this wicked-awesome sport.  This feature is currently under construction.

#11 cap – This is the standard percussion cap found on most muzzleloading rifles. It has been in use since the early 1800’s.

209 Shotshell Primer – Mainly used for modern shotshells; but some recent muzzleloaders have incorporated their use for in-line ignition systems. They are hotter and have more spark than either musket caps or standard percussion caps. This translates to a more positive ignition in wetter climates and when using magnum powder charges.

Ballistic Coefficient (BC) – A measurement of a bullet’s ability to overcome air resistance during flight. It is a function of mass, diameter, and drag coefficient. The higher the number the better. Click here for more info on Ballistic Coefficients. 

Ballistic Tip – The tip of many modern muzzleloader bullets contain a polymer ballistic tip. The polymer fills the hollow tip of the bullet and forms a point that increases the ballistic performance of the bullet. On impact the tip is shed and the bullet expands.

Black Powder – The traditional muzzleloader propellant. It is graded in coarseness and is rated from FFFFg (super fine) to Fg (extremely coarse) FFFFg is used as flash powder in the pans of flintlock rifles and Fg is used as cannon powder. FFg and FFFg are commonly used in rifles and pistols. All traditional black powder is extremely corrosive and must be thoroughly cleaned out of any firearm after use.

 Break Action – 

Breech Plug – The breech plug screws into the breech end on the barrel. On a traditional rifle (percussion or flint) it is fixed, while on an in-line it is removable and allows easy straight through cleaning.

Bullet Puller – A screw like adapter that attaches on the end of the ramrod to remove either a ball that was loaded without powder, or to unload a loaded gun that has misfired.

Bullet Starter – A short version or a ramrod. Usually six to nine inches long, the short starter is usually affixed to a round handle and is used to start the bullet down the bore.

Conical Bullet – A term used for elongated lead muzzleloader bullets that are the diameter of the bore. A few examples are; Buffalo Bullets, T/C Maxi-Hunter and the Hornady Great Plains.

Drag Coefficient (DC) – A dimensionless quantity used to quantify the resistance of an object in a fluid environment. The lower the number the better.

Drop Action – 

Foot Pounds of Energy (FPE) – 

Muzzle Velocity – 

Sabot – Pronounced “Sabow” (derived from the French word for shoe), is a plastic cup or “shoe” that allows a smaller bullet to be loaded into a given caliber. Sabots have many advantages, such as, lighter bullets for increased velocity, longer bullets for the same weight for better sectional density and ballistic coefficient and the ability to use bullets made of materials other than soft, pure lead.

Pyrodex® – a black powder substitute that produces similar results to black powder but without as much barrel residue and smoke. It still is corrosive, and like black powder, needs to be cleaned from equipment thoroughly after use.

Pyrodex® Pellets – Same basic component as Pyrodex but pressed into pre-formed pellets. They are available in several caliber and grain denominations.

Triple-Seven – A clean burning, black powder substitute that produces less smoke and is less corrosive than other offerings. Available in powder form, or in pressed pellets.

Round Ball – Spherical in shape, these bullets are cast from pure lead and are undersized for the given bore as they are designed to be used with a cloth patch.

Patch – Primarily made from pure cotton, patches are placed between the Round Ball and the barrel to provide a tight seal and to engage the rifling. Patches vary in thickness to match different diameter balls and so shooters can fine-tune a given load.

Patch Puller – A wire adapter that fits on the end of the ramrod to retrieve a patch from the bore of a rifle.

Twist Rate – Twist rate refers to the rifling inside the barrel-specifically how many inches of barrel it takes for the bullet to make a complete rotation. It is expressed in a ratio, such as 1:48 (one turn for 48 inches of barrel). The longer the bullet, the “quicker” the twist needs to be to stabilize it for optimum accuracy. For example round balls work best with 1:66 while longer sabots and maxi bullets work best with quicker rates like 1:28.

Fiber Optic Sights – Used for many applications such as archery sights, modern rifles, pistols, shotguns and muzzleloaders. They incorporate colored fiber optic rods, which gather light for a better sight picture in low light.

Ramrod – A rod comprised of steel, brass, wood, fiberglass or plastic that is used for cleaning and loading a muzzleloader. It has a threaded end that allows the use of attachments such as bullet and patch puller and cleaning jag and a coned end that is used to seat the bullet.

Nipple – The part that the percussion of musket caps is placed on. In the center of the nipple there is a small flash hole that allows the spark from the cap to transfer to the main charge.

Musket Cap – A form of percussion cap that dates back to the civil war era. It is characterized by large flanges and an overall greater size that the standard #11 percussion cap. It has a greater volume of spark as well as a higher burn rate, making it a favorite among hunters.

Exposed Nipple – A legal definition referring to the status of the nipple to the elements. Some rifles can be changed from exposed to non-exposed with a plastic insert, thereby allowing it to conform to specific state regulations.

QLA – Thompson Centers Quick Load Accurizor utilizes an oversized, non-rifled muzzle (1 inch in depth) to facilitate in the starting of bullets. Not only does this system make the process easier, but also it increases accuracy, as well as there is little chance of canting the bullet upon loading. Traditions and CVA also have similar muzzles that go by other acronyms.

Powder Measure – A volumetric measuring device (usually adjustable) for measuring charges of black powder (or black powder substitute).

Possibles Bag – A traditional bag meant for storing anything that might “possibly” be needed while black-powder hunting: bullets, patches, jags, caps, tools, spare nipples (or flints) powder, measurer, cleaning solvent, bullet lube and nipple pick.


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