By definition, a muzzleloader is any type of firearm that uses a projectile which is loaded through the barrel rather than more modern, breech-loaded firearms. However, muzzleloader can also be a term that is used to talk about the marksman who is in charge of shooting the gun. They can be cannons like what a pirate used to use when aboard his boat, or it can be another type of weapon that is handheld. This type of handheld gun was already perfected by the 1740s and many suggest that it was used as early as the 1300s.
Using Early Muzzleloaders
In the beginning, muzzleloaders were used by inserting a round ball and a premeasured powder charge. From there, the process was a little time consuming since a lot of steps were taken to make the gun ready to fire. It required the use of a powder charge, projectile, ramrod, and more. The powder charge was often carried in paper wrapping to protect it. When the rifleman wanted to fire a shot, they would tear off the end of the paper with his teeth and then pour the powder into the barrel. The ball was also wrapped in paper and it would be put into the rifle barrel. A ramrod was then used to ensure that the ball and powder were tight against the propellant charge. The priming powder was then poured into a priming pan and the lock was pushed down. The percussion cap was placed on the nipple and the hammer would then be cocked to finally make the weapon able to fire its shot.
Before the 15th century, guns were not very accurate at all, even with the potential influence of Leonardo de Vinci who may have inspired the wheellock. However, around the 1930s, the ball was replaced with a minie ball. It was able to aim more accurately than the round ball. It provided a consistent velocity as well as an improved seal, which both worked together to increase the accuracy. These guns were also safer as time progressed. Newer muzzleloaders are even more accurate over long distances. Some say they are better than many of the guns that are available today. This is great news for the people who love hunting as they did in the good ole days, only better.