The Best Muzzleloader Rifles

What are the best muzzleloaders available?

Muzzleloading rifles were once the dominant firearms of human civilization. They were the primary tools of countless wars and hunters’ most trusted tools, allowing them to reliably bring home food to their families.

These days, rifles are a lot easier to use and much more user-friendly. But there are some who still use modern muzzleloaders to reconnect with the earliest form of hunting and who enjoy the extra care and attention these rifles need to perform.

Today, let’s take a deep look at the best muzzleloaders on the market. You might just find a muzzleloader you want to try on your next hunting expedition.

Quick List: The Top Muzzleloaders for Traditional Hunters

  1. Best Overall: CVA Paramount
  2. Best for Beginners: Remington Model 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader
  3. Long Range Use: Traditions Vortex StrikerFire
  4. Budget Option: CVA Wolf
  5. Also Great: CVA Accura

Best Overall:

First up is the CVA Paramount, which is a classic weapon chambered for .45 caliber ammunition. But the weapon can be loaded with so-called “super magnum” powder to increase its stopping power and accuracy at a distance. Muzzle velocities upwards of 2200 ft./s are not uncommon, making it a perfect weapon for hunting game that you need to take down in a single shot.

The rest of the weapon is similarly well-built. A nitride treated and stainless steel barrel ensures that the weapon will last for a long time to come. The barrel is also free-floating to improve user accuracy: a big deal when it comes to muzzleloading rifles.

The rifle also comes with an internal aluminum chassis that keeps the overall weight relatively low while ensuring excellent durability over the long-term. Even better, the chassis can be adjusted for length of pull and comb height, so both larger and smaller hunters should both be able to enjoy this weapon to great extent. A self-deploying, compact ramrod rounds out the accessories included in the kit and provides excellent value.

Pros:

  • Made with phenomenal materials
  • Can be used with high-powered powder
  • Free-floated barrel increases accuracy
  • Comes with self-deploying compact ramrod

Cons:

  • A bit pricy for most
  • Availability

Best for Beginners:

The Remington Model 700 is one of the most iconic rifles of all time, so it’s no surprise that there’s a muzzleloader version already on the market.

This particular rifle is a bolt-action and in-line model that can use pre-primed cases to fire loads of up to 200 grains. In practical terms, you should be able to accurately hit your targets out to about 300 yards or so, so it’s a great long-range weapon even if it doesn’t come with a scope out of the box.

Its benefits don’t end there. If you’ve ever used a Remington 700, you’ll probably feel comfortable handling this muzzleloader rifle. The safety and adjustment controls are almost identical, so this is easily the best muzzleloader rifle for beginners who haven’t used one of these weapons before.

An adjustable trigger and a two-position safety are included, plus a hinged floorplate. This can hold extra cases if you want to reload the weapon more quickly. The rifle is chambered for .50 caliber by default, and every model comes with a stainless steel chassis and a satin finish.

It looks fantastic, and the only minor downside is that the barrel is 26 inches long: not quite as long as other muzzleloader rifles on the market or on this list. The black composite stock and sling studs make up for this quite a bit, however.

Pros:

  • Excellent for long-range use
  • Great aesthetic
  • Works similarly to regular Remington 700
  • Has fluted, stainless steel barrel

Cons:

  • Quite expensive
  • Barrel could be a little longer

Long Range Use:

This muzzleloading rifle comes with a scope, so there’s a little extra value included in the purchase right off the bat. It’s also chambered for .50 caliber ammunition, so it has plenty of stopping power when combined with a great magnum powder load. Big game at distances of 250 yards or more can be capably conquered with this rifle.

The rifle can be purchased at several different barrel lengths, ranging from 25 inches to 30 inches depending on your preferences and how far you want to shoot.  Regardless of barrel length, each rifle type comes with a fluted chrome barrel that has a corrosion-resistant nitrite finish for added durability and even better accuracy.

A special and comfortable grip, plus a Tac-2 trigger system, ensures that holding and using the rifle feels comfortable and beginning to end. It also makes it more difficult for the rifle to misfire.

Pros:

  • Multiple barrel length
  • Wear-resistant
  • Comfortable grip
  • Comes with scope

Cons:

  • The included scope could be a bit better

Budget option:

The CVA Wolf is a .50 caliber muzzleloader that we think will be a perfect fit for those who are smaller than the average hunter. Teenagers and women looking to get into the sport will find that this weapon is easy to handle and doesn’t kick them back as much thanks to its excellent design and similarly small size.

It’s a break-action, in-line muzzleloader that’s phenomenally easy to clean. You can open the barrel super quickly by pushing a button near the grip. It also features a 24-inch barrel – this does limit your accuracy a little bit, but the extra comfort for those with small frames is a worthy trade-off in our eyes.

It’s also made with blued steel that can resist inclement weather without it degrading over time. A quick-release breech plug makes exposing the breech fast and easy without the use of tools. We also like that a one-piece scope is included with the purchase for even more value.

Pros:

  • Comes with a scope
  • Perfect size for smaller shooters 
  • Breech opens quickly
  • Made of blued steel

Cons:

  • Barrel length is a little small for long-range work

Also Great:

The CVA Accura is a modern rifle chambered for .45 caliber ammunition, and it’s fairly affordable compared to a few of the others on this list. It comes with nitride or satin stainless steel finishes depending on your preference, but every rifle comes with a 30-inch barrel: a perfect length for long-distance hunting. 

A quick-release breech plug is included here as well, although you can remove it if you like for easier maintenance. More importantly, the rifle comes with a composite stock constructed with a special recoil pad. This design feature easily makes this rifle one of the most comfortable and easy to shoot muzzleloaders on the market.

We also really like the special sling holes and included one-piece scope mount. This makes adding any optic of your choice fast and easy. The solid aluminum ramrod is another nice inclusion, though the aluminum material is a little easier to bend and break than we’d like.

Pros:

  • Comes with recoil pad
  • Quick-release breech plug
  • Includes a ramrod
  • One-piece scope mounting system

Cons:

  • Ramrod could be more durable

What is a Muzzleloader and Why Use It?

A muzzleloader is a type of rifle most commonly used in either of two situations these days: niche hunting and historical reenactments in the United States and abroad.

As soon as breech-loaded rifles became ubiquitous, muzzleloading rifles fell by the wayside due to breech-loaded rifles enabling faster load times, more follow-up shots and improved accuracy. They’re practically superior weapons in many ways, but this doesn’t mean that muzzleloaders are without value. 

For starters, muzzleloaders are used in many of the aforementioned historical reenactments. Furthermore, many modern hunters prefer using muzzleloaders because they feel more connected to the art of hunting as sportsmen compared to using modern guns, which create unparalleled advantages for the hunter – be it accuracy boosting features, fiber optic sights, or the simplicity of cartridge-based ammunition.

Muzzleloaders require you to load powder and a shot into the barrel of a rifle after each shot. This requires more time, patience, and care. Hunters who use muzzleloaders enjoy the challenge, and a successful hunt with one of these rifles can make for one of the best hunting experiences.

They’re not for everyone, but they can be quite effective and really connect you with the history of the sport of hunting.

What to look for in a muzzleloader

No two muzzleloader rifles are alike, which means you should pay attention to a few key factors before making a final purchasing decision.

Ignition System

Your rifle’s ignition system basically dictates how the gun ignites the powder inside the barrel. Flintlock ignition systems are the oldest in the world, but they require the most finesse. Flint strikes a hinged cover on the rifle’s pan as soon as you pull the trigger, which makes sparks that ignite the powder inside the barrel.

Caplock or sidelock ignition systems have been around since the 1800s. They don’t require flint or priming powder, so they’re a little easier to use. Instead, they rely on using percussion caps inside the rifle’s nipple. Hammers strike those caps and cause sparks to travel to the main charge to ignite the bullet.

In-line ignition systems are even more reliable and are essentially variations of the caplock system. They’re also the most common types on the market these days.

Action

A muzzleloader’s action characterizes what happens when you pull the trigger.

Bolt-action muzzleloaders are pretty similar to modern hunting rifles. They’re stable and offer a smooth user experience. However, many of these muzzleloader rifles are pretty heavy in comparison. These actions are also pretty easy to clean.

Break action muzzleloader rifles are similar to break-action shotguns. Flick the lever to break open the barrel, where you can then reload as needed. This does mean that such actions are incredibly easy to clean – the barrels are easy to maintain as well.

Drop actions have a metal breechblock that rotates vertically into the breech to expose the gap where you can load cartridges and clean the interior of the weapon.

Caliber

Don’t forget to think about caliber – it’s just as important for muzzleloader rifles as it is for modern firearms. Larger calibers mean bigger bullets, which often means more stopping power. Higher calibers are best used to hunt larger game.

However, larger bullets require more powder and may produce more recoil. For muzzleloaders, this isn’t a factor you can ignore since they can really kick into your shoulder and produce quite a lot of smoke.

.45 and .50 caliber muzzleloader rifles are most common, though you can find others depending on where you look.

Keep regulations in mind

With calibers and all the specifics regarding muzzleloader rifles, research any state regulations that apply.

Your state might have certain limitations on the caliber of muzzleloader rifles you can use, how long the barrels can be, or whether you can even use muzzleloader rifles in the first place.

There may be limitations because muzzleloader rifles create a lot of smoke and oil, which can eventually cause issues at firing ranges or on certain closed hunting grounds. In most cases, traditional muzzleloaders are more restricted compared to in-line muzzleloaders, which is why you can most often find muzzleloaders of the latter ignition type.

Conclusion

Picking a winner in a rifle list like this one is always like picking between children for your favorite. The problem this time is that all of the children are well-performing and excellent in their role. But, keeping in mind that Col. Cooper prioritized lightness and handiness in his creation of the scout rifle as a concept, we have to go with the Steyr Scout.

When compared to the Steyr Scout, some of the rifles on this list, such as the Barrett, are probably more accurate. Others, like the M1A, are faster on follow up shots.

But the Steyr Scout sits at that sweet spot where it’s light enough to carry all day and accurate enough to make the shots that count while mounting the sling and long eye relief scope that the concept calls for.

Overall, any of these rifles would likely do you well, and we hope that you think about a few of them if you’re considering a scout rifle!

Sources:

  1. National Interest, Meet the M-14 Rifle: The Old Gun That Refused to Surrender, March 1, 2019

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MICHAEL CRITES is el jefe around here. He writes about guns and gear.

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