Tips for loading a black powder rifle

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Firearms have evolved significantly since gunpowder was discovered. Guns of today are easily loaded and are ready to shoot within seconds. Flintlock or “muzzle loading” rifles are a little more complicated to load and shoot. Black powder rifles are fun to shoot and make hunting more enjoyable. Hunting with a black powder rifle gives one the feeling that you are hunting in the traditional way. 

Flintlock and percussion type rifles use black powder to propel a bullet towards a target. A flintlock rifle requires a piece of flint to ignite the black powder held within the barrel. Percussion rifles need a percussion cap that, when struck by the rifle’s hammer, ignites the powder contained in the barrel.  

Loading a black powder rifle isn’t as hard as it may sound. 


There are many types of black powder, but you will only need 3F and 4F powder.  The 3F powder will go into the barrel of your flintlock rifle and the 4F powder will be used in the frizzen to ignite the charge.

Patches and Balls

You will need wax patches and round lead balls to load your flintlock.  There are many types of ammunition that are easier to use, but we will stick to the traditional way of loading a black powder rifle.

Flintlock Loading Kit

You will need a flintlock loading kit to properly load your rifle. This kit will include a powder measure, ball starter, powder horn and a small powder dispenser to load your frizzen.

Now that you have all the necessary equipment to load your rifle, it’s time to load your rifle. Take your powder horn full of 3F powder and pour 90 grains of powder into the measure. Once you have measured 90 grains of 3F powder, pour the powder into the muzzle of your flintlock. Next, put a wax patch over the muzzle of the rifle and seat a lead ball evenly on the patch. 

Use your ball starter to push the patch and ball combination into the muzzle. This can be accomplished by using the nipple on the ball starter to get the ball seated in the muzzle of the barrel. Use the long shaft of the ball starter to force the patch and ball combination further into the barrel. The ball and patch will only be  pushed six or seven inches into the barrel when using the ball starter. You still need to seat the ball and patch firmly against the 3F powder you placed in the barrel in the first step.

Pull your ramrod from under the barrel and force it into the barrel until the ball and patch is seated firmly against the powder charge in the barrel. Take 4F powder and place enough powder in the frizzen – enough powder to ignite the charge.  Close the lid to the frizzen and turn the rifle towards the touch hole on the barrel so that the powder in the frizzen is in contact with the touch hole.

Now you are ready to shoot your black powder rifle.  Pull back the hammer, with the flint already attached and pull the trigger once you are on target. 


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