New Jersey Hunter Safety Course


Loading and Firing a Muzzleloading Firearm

Loading and firing a muzzleloading firearm can be a pretty impressive sight if you've never seen it done before. Make sure you have an experienced muzzleloader shooter around to show you and answer any questions you might have.


Safety checklist

  1. Always read the owner's manual for any firearm.
  2. Always ensure the firearm is pointed upward and away from your face and body for loading.
  3. Use a stable rest for your firearm so it doesn't tip over.
  4. Check to see if the muzzleloader is loaded by:
    1. Remove the ramrod and insert it into the barrel
    2. Mark the rod at the end of the muzzle
    3. Place the rod along the outside of the barrel on the same side as the action and to the same depth as indicated by your mark
    4. If the ramrod tip reaches the flash hole in a flintlock, or within 1/4 inch of the breech plug (nipple) in a caplock or inline, the gun is unloaded.
    5. If the ramrod tip does not reach the breech plug, it is loaded. If it is loaded, take it to an experienced, reputable black powder gunsmith to unload.
  5. Check to be sure your muzzleloader is clean and dry by:
    1. Placing the firearm on half cock (safety) and running patches down the barrel until they return clean and dry.
    2. Cap the nipple, or prime a flintlock, point the muzzle downrange and fire it to complete the drying process. Do this at least two times, the second time pointing the muzzle toward the ground. The muzzle should be 6 inches from the ground. When you snap the cap, look for air movement on the ground. If you see air movement, this means you have a clear airway into the barrel.
  6. Now that you know the gun is unloaded, clean and dry you can begin the steps to load the firearm consistent with the manufacturer's instructions