Most people will know one thing about muzzleloaders, is that they are old, but with our modern times, they are not necessarily old, instead they can be just a bit delicate to work with. Or with the presence of modern inline muzzleloaders, they are not designed to be used as a high-power firearm. All of this leads to our topic today, muzzleloaders should not be used with modern gun powder. But what should you use? That’s for us today to discuss, and not only that we’ll go in-depth about all the categories, classifications, and alternative propellants for muzzleloaders. Stay tuned!

Why you shouldn’t use modern gunpowder on muzzleloaders?

The very first thing that you might think about is “Why can’t we use our modern gunpowder on muzzleloaders?” Well, there is a lot to explain about that. The gunpowder we use today on most ammunition cartridges is called smokeless powder. It burns faster and cleaner and is just an overall better propellant than black powder which is the preferred propellant for muzzleloaders. And the main reason why we shouldn’t use smokeless gunpowder is also the reason why it’s so successful, it’s powerful, and it is just too powerful for muzzleloaders that it turns muzzleloaders into pipe bombs and you can probably see a video or two of it being done somewhere on the internet.

But, theoretically, you might get away with a very tiny amount of smokeless powder on a muzzleloader designed for black powder, but still, please don’t try to do it.

The main reason why we shouldn’t use smokeless powders is just that muzzleloaders aren’t designed for it in the first place. However, there are a handful of muzzleloaders that are designed to accept smokeless. So if you’re stubborn to try smokeless powder on a muzzleloader, make sure you buy a gun that’s specifically designed for it. 

What powder should we use?

The most recommended powder or propellant for muzzleloaders is good ol’ black powder since it’s simply designed for it. Do you know that black powder is only known as gun powder before smokeless powder was invented? And let me tell you, black powder is a very old and easy recipe and you can even make some at home if you want. It’s basically a mix of potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur, but then research more on your own if you want to make some for fun. But going back on topic, you can get black powder for muzzleloaders in the forms of loose pellets and flakes, and they are most likely categorized into their granulation or sizes. Here are the classifications and their uses:

Fg: This is the coarsest granulation of black powder this is used on 10-gauge shotguns and higher, rifles larger than .75 caliber, and with its most common use; cannons. It also burns the slowest but burns the longest and allows to propel heavy or multiple projectiles.  

FFg: This has a medium grain, and it’s used on rifles and handguns between .50 – .75 caliber. And it’s also used on 12-20 gauge shotguns. This granulation is one of the most used ones since this is the granulation used on most muzzleloading rifles and pistols.

FFFg: Fine grain black powder is used on small rifles, pistols, and revolvers under .50 caliber, and it’s also used on shotguns smaller than .20 gauge. This granulation can also be used for priming flintlocks if FFFFg is not available, or It’s raining or humid since this is more moisture-resistant than extra-fine grains.

FFFFg: Smoothest and finest granulation size for black powder. The most recommended granulation for priming flintlocks since this ignites very easily. Also used in very small pistol and revolvers

Issues with black powder

Using black powder on your muzzleloader means that you’ll be using the gun at its intended performance. It also means that you’ll encounter problems that muzzleloaders had back in the day. Here are some of those issues.

The biggest issue that black powder has is that it’s extremely hygroscopic, which means it’ll absorb every bit of moisture that it can reach, it can even absorb water through sheer humidity causing the black powder to not fire or perform consistently.

Black powder also leaves salts on a gun’s barrel that forms after firing. These salts are also hygroscopic and since these salts stick to a gun’s barrel, they’ll most likely cause corrosion and damage over time. And swabbing your barrel frequently doesn’t help much either. The only cleaning solution is hot water which you can’t do often anyway since it also gets us back to black powder’s hygroscopic problem. 

The last problem for black powder is its foul sulfur smell, and finally, the most obvious problem being it’s hard to load. 

How are these problems solved? Let’s move on to black powder alternatives.

Are there any black powder alternatives?

Black powder is legal to own in America, it’s just because for some weird consideration that black powders are low explosives. But it can still be hard to obtain some black powder especially if you live in a state with black powder regulations, and even more so in most countries where any firearms including black powder firearms are illegal. This is why black powder alternatives can help if you’re in a situation where black powder is hard to obtain. 

Here are some black powder alternatives that solve the problems I listed above:

Pyrodex

This is one of the most famous black powder alternatives that countless shooters prefer over traditional black powder. It’s also available in granulations equivalent to FFg and FFFg. Here are some pros and cons with this black powder alternative.

Pros:

  1. Pyrodex is easier to find than black powder.
  2. It Burns cleaner and cleans easier.
  3. Can be bought in 30 or 50-grain pellets allowing shooters to reload faster and more accurately.
  4. Safer to store and ship.

Cons:

  1. Still leaves a corrosive residue.
  2. Still has the foul smell of sulfur.
  3. Does not have a great shelf life when opened, best used within three months after being opened.

Triple Seven

Triple Seven is the newer product made by Hodgdon (also the company that made Pyrodex). This delivers a different formulation than Pyrodex, and this is also available in the same granulations that Pyrodex is available in. Here are some pros and cons with using Triple Seven:

Pros:

  1. Doesn’t have sulfur solving the corrosive residue and foul smell problems
  2. Brings higher velocities than with the same amounts of Pyrodex or black powder.
  3. Can be bought as pellets allowing faster reloads.
  4. Longer shelf life than Pyrodex

Cons:

  1. Might leave a crusty ring inside the barrel affecting performance and accuracy. 

Other sulfur-free powders similar to Triple Seven includes American Pioneer and Goex powders. 

Conclusion

There you have it guys! These have been the basics about the powders you can use on muzzleloaders and what not to use. I hope you get the idea about using these different powders, but as with most things, it’s still best to get out and try different stuff until you get the one that works best for you. Until then, take care!

🤔 Why you shouldn’t use modern gunpowder on muzzleloaders?

Well, there is a lot to explain about that. The gunpowder we use today on most ammunition cartridges is...

🔍 What powder should we use?

Do you know that black powder is only known as gun powder before smokeless powder was invented? And let me tell ...