Muzzleloaders were a huge technological advancement in their day. They allowed people to take game at longer ranges than they ever dreamed with a bow and arrow. Muzzleloaders changed the way wars were fought. That was a long time ago, so why would we want to step back into the past? There are many reasons.
1. It's our heritage Muzzleloaders are a way to get in touch with our roots as shooters and hunters. Traditional muzzleloaders come from a time when craftsmanship ruled and each gun was a one-off piece of artwork; they are some of the most amazing pieces in many museums. The first matchlocks were invented in 1410, and the first rifled barrels were invented in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1470. The Revolutionary War was won with muzzleloaders. When you lift a muzzleloader to your shoulder, you're following a tradition that goes back six hundred years!
2. They instill discipline Odds are that when you first started learning about hunting, your mentor (be it your dad, mom, grandpa or older sibling) told you that the first shot is the most important, and that you’ve got to make every shot count. Muzzleloaders can take a couple of minutes to reload, which is an awful long time for a follow-up shot, so the first shot is absolutely critical. The only way to get quicker at reloading is to practice. Getting familiar with muzzleloader hunting will make you a better, more ethical hunter with any firearm you may choose to use.
3. They offer total control A long time ago, a gentleman by the name of Townsend Whelen said, “The only interesting rifle is an accurate one,” and by that measure, muzzleloaders can be plenty interesting! With a muzzleloader, every load is essentially a handload. Muzzleloaders require the shooter to do everything the same every time to achieve the same results, from measuring the powder to loading and seating the bullet. But if you want different results, you can change it up. These are all things that can easily be taken for granted when it comes to modern centerfire ammunition. If a shooter really gets into muzzleloading, they can even cast their own bullets. Having total control over accuracy is a pretty cool thing.
4. They expand your hunting opportunities Many states offer special seasons, longer seasons and sometimes even seasons in special areas that are only available to people hunting with muzzleloaders. Frequently, depending on the area, muzzleloader hunters are able to hunt during archery seasons, which often take place when the rut first gets started...and that's when deer are at their least careful.
5. This ain't your grandpa's muzzleloader Using a muzzleloader doesn’t mean you necessarily have to go back to the Renaissance. Modern muzzleloaders are routinely used to take game like deer at ranges out to 200 yards. So what’s new? The heart of any gun is the barrel; it’s no different with muzzleloaders. Back when guys who looked like the Duck Commanders were stalking game in buckskins and shooting patched balls out of beautiful old flintlock Kentucky rifles, the barrels on those rifles used a very slow twist rate. Twist rate is the distance that it takes for the barrel to impart one full turn on the bullet—twist rates of 1-60 inches to 1-70 inches were not uncommon in patch & ball rifles. (That means the bullet would only make about half a revolution in a 36-inch barrel.) There are two reasons for this: First, the slower the twist, the less fouling would build up. Second, round lead balls did not require a lot of rotation to make them stable. Modern muzzleloaders that shoot cool saboted bullets like the SST-ML and Spit-Fire MZ need a faster twist, like 1-28 inches, to spin these long, streamlined bullets enough to make them stable in flight. The best way to compare the two would be throwing a baseball vice throwing a football. A baseball doesn’t need much spin to go nice and straight. If you’re throwing a football and you don’t get a nice, tight “spiral” on it, its flight will be unpredictable. It’s exactly the same when it comes to bullets. Long, sleek bullets need a good, tight “spiral”—just like a football—so they can fly straight, and the barrels used on modern muzzleoaders are designed to do just that.