All of the basics of safe firearm handling that apply to modern guns apply to muzzleloading firearms as well. However, in addition there are a few special considerations:
- Use only black powder or Pyrodex. Never use any type of modern, smokeless powder. The "black" in black powder refers to more than color. Black powder has a totally different chemical formula than smokeless.
- Always seat the projectile directly onto the powder charge, never leave a bullet part-way down the bore. If you fire many shots without cleaning the bore in between, you may reach a point where the bore is so heavily fouled that you can't seat the next round. If a bullet should become stuck party-way down the bore, don't try to shoot it out as it could burst, or at least bulge, the barrel. If necessary, drive the bullet down with a heavy rod and a hammer, then fire it. Failing this, pour several tablespoons of solvent down the bore. In a few minutes the solvent will dissolve the fouling holding the bullet, allowing it to be removed with a bullet puller attached to your ramrod.
- Many shooters have experienced the situation in which the percussion cap will fire, but the gun will not go off. In nearly every case this is a direct result of improper or incomplete maintenance. When this occurs, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction for at least one minute, in case a delayed ignition or "cook off" should occur. Often times a second or third cap will fire the piece.
- Questions often arise about transporting or storing a
muzzleloading rifle with a charge in it. Check the law in your
own state, but in Ohio it is legal to carry a muzzleloading
firearm in an automobile this way, as long as it is not primed.
While this is legal, it is NOT safe, nor is it recommended. Many
hunters want to leave a rifle loaded overnight if they expect to
hunt the next morning. If a rifle is left loaded and then plans
change, it is quite possible to forget the rifle is loaded,
creating a potentially deadly situation days or even months
later. We know of one hunter who unknowingly left a
muzzleloading rifle loaded from one season to the next. When
preparing for the next season, he snapped a cap and shot a hole
in his gun room wall. He was lucky.
We strongly recommend emptying the rifle by firing, pulling the bullet and dumping the powder, or discharging the load with a CO2 ball discharger. While this may cost a little time, labor and material, it is the safe way to transport or store the firearm. There have been cases reported in which a rifle was discharged when there was no cap in place. Apparently a trace of priming material stuck to the nipple when the cap was removed, and this ignited the next time the hammer was dropped. If you choose to leave a rifle loaded overnight, de-prime it, lock it in a safe place, and mark it as loaded with a sign. Don't take a loaded rifle from a cold outside environment into a warm and humid building, as condensation will likely cause a misfire the next morning.
- Black powder and Pyrodex are stable products that can be
handled and stored safely. Store in the original container and
protect them from fire and humidity. Neither one is sensitive
to shock under normal conditions. Two high-risk situations
involving powder are:
- Smoking while using powder.
- Unauthorized use by a non-shooter (i.e. amateur use in fireworks).
Black powder and Pyrodex must be respected and used properly, but both can be used safely with a little common sense.
Don't Smoke while Using a Blackpowder Firearm!!!
Don't Use Drugs or Alcohol while Shooting a Blackpowder or Any Other Firearm!!!
Never Use Smokeless Powder in a Muzzleloading or Blackpowder Firearm!!!