A muzzle-loaded rifle is defined as; a shoulder fired firearm of which there are spiral grooves cut into the bore called rifling which consists of lands and grooves, of which is loaded with gunpowder and bullet from the muzzle end of the firearms barrel or muzzle-loaded.
It was at the time of the side lock, flintlock ignition system that rifling inside the barrel of shoulder fired muzzle-loaded guns was now seen thus ending the era of muskets and musketeers. Rifled muzzle-loaded guns (rifles) were used to expel one projectile at a time of which the most common projectile was the lead round-ball bullet, rifling enhanced accuracy to a greater distance due to the spin imparted to the projectile, in addition to rifling rifles are now fitted with two piece sights, soon, the elongated bullet arrived, which greatly extended the accurate distance of a muzzle-loaded rifle.
Muzzle-Loaded Rifle Classification:
Muzzle-loaded rifles can be classed as traditional and or modern.
1. Traditional Side-Lock: The traditional muzzle-loaded rifle will be of a Longrifle or Hawken design that uses a side lock; which is a type of gun action that is attached to metal plates fitted into the side of the action body, with either a flint type ignition system or a percussion cap ignition system and will be loaded from the muzzle end of the barrel with the use of black powder for a reliable propellant charge.
2. Modern In-Line: The modern Inline muzzle-loaded rifle will be of a In-line design which allows the use of multiple action types such as Bolt Action, Break Action or Drop Action that may use a percussion cap or modern 209 primer for ignition and will be loaded from the muzzle end of the barrel with the use of black powder or a black powder substitute for a reliable propellant charge such as Hodgdons Triple Seven, Pyrodex or Western Powders Blackhorn 209 powder.
Muzzle-Loaded Rifle Ignition Systems:
1. Flint Ignition; Where flint strikes a piece of steel making sparks to ignite a powder charge in the frizzen pan which then ignites a powder charge in the barrel.
2. Percussion Cap Ignition; Where a percussion cap is placed over a nipple and a hammer or firing pin must strike the rim of the cap to ignite a powder charge in the barrel.
3. Centerfire Primer Ignition; Where a modern day centerfire primer is placed into a breech plug and a hammer or firing pin must strike the center of the primer to ignite a powder charge in the barrel.
Muzzle-Loaded Rifles, Rifling Twist Rates:
The rate of twist in a Muzzle-loaded rifle's barrel determines the optimum projectile length and speed of the projectile by applying the proper spin on the projectile to prevent it from yawing and pitching. Expressed in terms of the number of revolutions per inch of barrel length, this ratio is commonly expressed by designations such as 1:28, 1/28 or 1 in 28 twist, the 1 represents 1 twist, the 28 represents inches of barrel length.
A good rule of thumb is that the heavier and longer a projectile is, the faster the twist rate needs to be and therefore a lighter shorter projectile needs a slower twist rate to give proper spin for correct flight.
Usually rifle barrels with a;
1 turn in 66" twist rifling will do best with lighter lead round-ball projectiles that have very low ballistic profiles.
1 turn in 48" twist rifling will do best with lead round-ball, ball-ets, short conical bullet and saboted pistol bullet projectiles.
1 turn in 28" twist rifling will do best with heavier lead conical bullets and saboted bullets with high ballistic profiles.
Traditional Muzzle-Loaded Rifles, Calibers:
The United States of America was settled and occupied traveling from east to west and south to north, as this expansion took place the animals settlers and trailblazers encountered grew in size from common white-tailed deer of the east to very large bears of the west and north, as these animals were encountered bore sizes in Muzzle-loaded rifles grew from the very economical .45 caliber kentucky rifle which worked well for deer and the occasional black bear to .54 caliber which worked well for buffalo and large bears. These rifles featured slow twist rifling that allowed accurate use of lead round-ball bullets.
(.36" caliber diameter.) Thirty six caliber and smaller bore diameter Muzzle-loaded rifles are a good choice for small game like Rabbits and Squirrels and varminting.
(.45" caliber diameter) Forty five caliber bore diameter Muzzle-loaded rifles are a good choice for Antelope, Black Bear, Black-Tailed Deer, Hogs, Javelina, Mule Deer & White-Tailed Deer.
(.50" caliber diameter) Fifty caliber bore diameter Muzzle-loaded rifles are a good choice for medium to large game such as Elk, Caribou & Sheep.
(.54" caliber diameter) Fifty four caliber and larger bore diameter Muzzle-loaded rifles are a good choice for big game like Bison, Moose and large Bears.
Modern Muzzle-Loaded Rifles, Calibers:
Once the elongated bullet was introduced and faster twist rifling was put into muzzle-loaded rifles during the short lived Hawken era, power levels went up in muzzleloaders. Now the smaller .45" caliber nearly equals the larger .54" caliber's power for hunting bigger game animals.
(.45" caliber diameter) Forty five caliber bore diameter Muzzle-loaded rifles:
(.50" caliber diameter) Fifty caliber bore diameter Muzzle-loaded rifles:
Are a good choice for Antelope, Black Bear, Black-Tailed Deer, Hogs, Javelina, Mule Deer, White-Tailed Deer, Elk, Caribou, Sheep, Bison, Moose and large Bears.