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          A HISTORY OF MUZZLELOADING

        The Reverend Alexander Forsyth, looking far less imposing as he squatted in his seaside blind than he 

did when preaching from his pulpit, was a frustrated man. Not that he didn’t understand the need for the 

Good Lord to wet down the lands roundabout with a good stiff rain. Still, it didn’t seem fair that what 

caused other men’s fortunes to prosper could cause such mayhem with his duck hunting. After all, he 

had paid a goodly sum for the fine London made flintlock fowling piece now resting uselessly in his 

hands, it’s priming wet and gummy. The Black Powder he was using was the best, but the best still 

didn’t shed rain. In fact, it attracted it.

        The good Reverend gave up his duck hunt in disgust. But he didn’t give up thinking about the 

problem of wet priming and spoiled hunts. He was an experimenter, an independent thinker interested 

in keeping up with the latest scientific knowledge. He loved to tinker in the small shop in back of his 

home.


..............He patented the device and the percussion principle in England on 4 July, 1807, the 

most significant development in the history of shooting other than the invention of gunpowder...


        He was aware that Samuel Pepys had noted the explosive properties of certain metallic salts in the 

1600's. Others had experimented with mixing the salts, (fulminates), with gunpowder, but the 

combination was deadly and blew up guns right and left. It had been successful only when mixed with 

fine black powder and used for flintlock priming.

 

Forsythe’s Scent-Bottle percussion lock. Rotating the 

device deposited a pinch of fulminate under the peg hit by the hammer.

 

        The usefulness of the fulminate-black powder priming mix stimulated his thinking. He knew that he 

could explode the fulminates. He had tried it with hammer and anvil. He also knew it wouldn’t ignite with 

the sparks from his flintlock, he’d tried that, too. The solution was to modify the hammer, replacing the 

flint with a blunt device that fitted the contours of the pan closely.

    He was delighted to find that the resulting explosion would ignite the main charge. But he also realized

 that he had not solved the whole problem. Fulminates were every bit as hygroscopic as gunpowder and 

would not explode when wet. He had to seek further for a more complete solution.

    He found it in the "scent bottle" lock, a rotating device that resembled the common perfume bottle. It 

deposited a bit of fulminate under an enclosed blunt peg which would explode when the hammer struck 

the peg a sharp blow. He patented the device and the percussion principle in England on 4 July, 1807, 

the most significant development in the history of shooting other than the invention of gunpowder.

 

SMALL ARMS

        Nobody knows quite when or how, but black powder showed up in Europe sometimes before the 

13th century. It was said to have come from China. The inventive Europeans immediately adapted it to 

the incessant warfare of the times with the invention of the cannon. These cannon were originally 

large-bored, wheel-less, rock-throwing monsters that used huge quantities of the crudely mixed meal 

powder then available.

 

Bronze German "hand cannon" of the 1500's, meant to be 

fired with a ‘match’ at very close range. A 'tiller' was held under the arm for stability in aiming.

 

        By the 15th century, smaller shoulder-fired arms had been developed. Bores were relatively large 

and most always smooth. Accuracy, as we understand it, was nil, but was good enough to be extremely 

effective on the battlefield as they were powerful enough to pierce the common plate armor worn by the 

knights.

LOCKS

        The first "handgonnes" were fired with a match applied to a touchhole. This "match" was a piece of

rope or cord soaked in saltpeter, which the shooter carried lit at both ends. The oldest known handgun, 

excavated from a German castle destroyed in the early 1300's, was fired in this fashion. The clumsiness

 of this arrangement soon led to a lock with ‘match’ clamped in iron jaws actuated by a trigger. The 

shooter could actually aim the piece while he pulled the trigger. But any matchlock was dangerous, 

witness Miles Standish, who blew off his breeches with a lighted match and a pocketful of a loose

 powder.


...However, by the 15th century, smaller shoulder fired arms had been developed. Bores were...

large and...always smooth. Accuracy, as we understand it, was nil...


        The risk, plus the stink and easily visible firelight at night, stimulated the development of the 

wheellock by 1525, perhaps influenced by Leonardo da Vinci. The wheellock was relatively large,

 difficult and expensive to make but almost always worked.

 

This matchlock has all parts of a modern firearm, 

making aimed fire possible. It revolutionized the European battlefield and guaranteed the 

demise of the heavily armored knight

 

        The functional excellence of the wheellock resulted in the invention of the traditional shooting sports 

as we know them today, as well as initiating the tradition of high art in sporting arms that persists even 

now. There remained a need for a small, light, and inexpensive lock for the common shooter. By 1600 a

variety of locks had been developed in many countries, all of which featured a cocking piece with jaws 

grasping a chunk of easily available flint. The flint would strike what we now call a "frizzen", causing a 

shower of sparks to fall into priming held in a conveniently located pan. The conflagrating powder would 

then flash through the touchhole and fire the main charge.

 

A fine quality modern ‘French’ flintlock. A truly good one will 

cost as much as the barrel of a fine rifle and rain sparks in fiery splendor on the priming in the 

pan, with near instant ignition. You can call your shots with a good one.

 

        There were Spanish miquillets, Danish locks, English dog-locks, Mediterranean snap-haunces and 

others. By 1625, the classic flintlock, an amalgamation of the others, was developed by Marin be 

Bougeois, then gunmaker to the French king. This is the flintlock that we are all familiar with now.

PERCUSSION

        The flintlock became the pre-dominant sporting and military arm for over 200 years, persisting until 

the middle 1800's, when the percussion system became commercially successful.  Remember Pepys,

who noted the percussive qualities of metallic fulminates. No one put this knowledge to good use until 

Forsyth used fulminates for percussion rather than mixing it with the main or priming charge of a flintlock.


...By 1625, the classic flintlock, an amalgamation of all the others, was developed by 

Marin de Borgeois, then gun maker to the French king...


        Within just a few years, many inventors had improved on Forsyth’s percussion lock. Gunmakers of the 

early 1800's vied arduously with one another, and new locks and percussion systems abounded.

 

# 11 percussion caps by CCI and a White hardened 

1/4 X 28 hexagonal nipple.

 

        However, it remained for a British-American, Joshua Shaw, to invent the nipple and the copper caps 

made to fit it. Their enthusiastic use was a reality by 1816. They didn’t change much at all for a century 

and a half until 1991, when I developed the hardened combination nipple-breechplug used first in the 

White Super 91. Even then, the shape of the cap-holding portion of the nipple was the same.

 

IN-LINES

        A plethora of designs for use with the new percussion principle appeared in the early 1800's. The 

Swiss genius Pauley invented the paper cap, then invented a percussion muzzleloader in 1808 and 

breech-loader in 1812. His 1808 patent was the first to design and patent a muzzleloading in-line action 

in which the cock of the sidelock was replaced by a cylindrical hammer driven by a coil spring.

        His in-line invention was capitalized on by Dreyse, who worked for Pauly between 1808-14 and 

who used it as the basis for his 1838 turnbolt design which became the Prussian Needlegun of 1848. 

Paul Mauser later used the Dreyse needlegun design as a basis for his tumbolt cartridge rifle of 1868, 

first patented in the U.S., but adopted by the German military in 1871.

 

The Dreyse needle gun of 1848. It was so advanced that 

any soldier who lost one paid with his life for his carelessness

 

        White later used the Mauser inspired Springfield ‘03 as a basis for the White Super 91 of 1991, 

once again a muzzlelader, making the cycle one grand round.


[Pauley]...was the first to design and patent an...inline action in which the cock of the sidelock 

was replaced by a cylindrical hammer driven by a coil spring... (1808)

 

BLACK POWDER


Black powder had improved drastically in the meantime. In the thirteenth century, black powder was a 

rough hand-grind of about 50% saltpeter, with 25% each of charcoal and sulfur. The gunner of the day 

had to thoroughly mix each batch just before he loaded. Weather affected the performance of the 

powder tremendously as it was intensely hygroscopic. It just loved water.

 

Modern Black Powders from Elephant, imported from Brasil, 

and Goex, same as the old Dupont, made since the 1800's in America.

 

        The 'corning' of black powder, which reduces its affinity for water, was developed in the 16th century. 

This process compacts the black powder into grains, lubricants and partially weatherproofs each grain 

with a coating of graphite. This feature allowed manufacturers to market gunpowder in several grain 

sizes, which allowed the shooter to control burning rate, pressure and velocity, and to more easily 

customize loads.

        Proportions and quality of the ingredients changed as shooters demanded better grades of powder 

and improved grinding machinery became available. This resulted in far less corrosion and residue, 

cleaner shooting and smaller, yet more powerful charges, developing higher and more uniform pressures 

and velocities.

        The peak of black powder development was reached in the 1860's , just before the invention of 

smokeless powder eclipsed the worldwide use of black powder.

 

A can of modern Pyrodex.

 

PYRODEX

        Black powder didn’t change much for a century after that until Dan Powlac developed Pyrodex in the 

1970's. Pyrodex is Black Powder with flame retardants, scrubbers, additional oxidizers and a unique 

grain form. (And maybe a few other features that Hodgden, it’s current manufacturer, isn’t commenting 

on.) The result is a smoothly pouring grayish powder that ignites at temperatures about twice as high as 

Black Powder, conflagrates (burns) at about the same temperatures and pressures as Black Powder on 

a volumetric basis, but leaves far less residue in the barrel. Best, it can be shipped as a class C 

Propellant instead of a class A explosive, which makes it far easier for a shooter to find than Black 

Powder.


The peak of black powder development was reached in the 1860's, just before the invention 

of smokeless powder eclipsed [its] worldwide use...

 

NEWER BLACK POWDER SUBSTITUTES

        The current vigorous muzzleloading market has spawned a number of substitutes for Black Powder 

other than Pyrodex. The earliest efforts to market Black Powder substitutes occurred as early as the 

time of our Civil War, when chlorates were first added to Black Powder. This effort was not successful 

simply because of the easy availability of excellent grades of cheap Black Powder at the time.

        The 1970's saw the development of substitutes based on ascorbic acid, which is Vitamin C, the 

ascorbic acid serving as fuel rather than carbon. The earliest was Golden Powder, which proved to 

suck up water like a sponge. Shelf life was awful. It went nowhere commercially. Later developments by 

different companies included Arco, Black Canyon and CleanShot., of which only CleanShot has survived.

        Arco was a yellowish sandy appearing granulated powder. It ignited at temperatures just slightly 

higher than Black Powder, the residues were somewhat more hygroscopic but left very little fouling in 

the barrel. Of all the substitutes, this one was superior in that it best duplicated Black Powder velocities 

and performance, but it never came to market in quantity and is not available.

        Black Canyon originally appeared as a black round granule which was quite large, almost BB size. 

It was difficult to measure and required a thorough thumping with the ramrod to insure ignition. It was not 

commercially successful in that form.

        CleanShot subsequently appeared. It is a greyish granulated powder, looking a lot like Black Powder.

It measures easily, seems to ignite at near Black Powder temperatures, leaves little residue in the barrel, 

but is much more expensive than Black Powder because of its rather costly ascorbic acid fuel.

 

SUGAR BASED POWDER

The 1990's brought Clearshot into the picture. This powder is currently produced by GOEX, who also 

makes the only available American Black Powder. The fuel for Clearshot is a complex sugar, which has 

the advantage of being very inexpensive, literally a fraction of the cost of ascorbic acid. It is produced in 

several grades, all of which look like a blackish ball powder. It ignites at low temperatures, leaves little 

residue in the barrel, and leaves the barrel exceptionally cool after firing compared to the other 

substitutes. It has been widely available.

        All of the Black Powder substitutes enjoy the advantage of shipping as Class C propellants rather 

than as Class A explosives under current federal law. This makes them more available to the shooter 

as storage and transportation requirements are much less onerous. However, most of them contain 

chlorates, which makes them somewhat more corrosive than Black Powder and all residues are quite 

hygroscopic, even more so than Black Powder. This means that prompt and thorough cleaning after a 

shooting session is still required.

 

777

        777 is a recent product introduced by Hodgden. It has become decidedly populer even though its 

cost is substantially higher than either Black Powder or Pyrodex. 777 is a blackish grained powder, 

available in  3fg and 2 fg grades, the grains size and color roughly approximating that of Black Powder.

It ignites at temperatures slightly lower than Pyrodex and conflagrates with less barrel residue and 

smoke. On a volumetric basis, it is about 10% more potent than Pyrodex. The pressure curve is a bit 

more spikey than Pyrodex but with good volume under the curve so velocities are enhanced over those

of the other BP substitutes. On the downside, fired residues left in the breech can become quite hard 

with time if the gun is left uncleaned, making the breechplug very difficult to remove.  Prompt cleaning 

and the use of a molybdenum sulfide containing anti-seize breech plug grease helps this problem.

 

SMOKELESS POWDER

        Smokeless powders have been used for years in muzzleloaders and cartridge black powder arms 

by knowledgeable and experienced shooters to enhance ignition and cleanliness, usually employing tiny 

amounts of fast burning smokeless in large charges of Black Powder. The Pennsylvania-Kentucky 

Rifle by Kauffman, published in the 1930's, contains a wide-ranging discussion of its limited use.

        The use of smokeless powder was never advocated for the main charge until Marlin brought out a 

new bolt action muzzleloader at the turn of this century, (2000). The problem here is the potential for 

confusion in the minds of neophyte muzzleloading shooters, not all modern muzzleloading rifles being 

manufactured to the same standards as the Marlin. Accidental doubled charges of Black Powder are 

relatively safe if mistakenly fired while doubled loads of smokeless can be intensely destructive. Most 

important, it remains to be seen whether state game departments will allow the use of smokeless for 

muzzleloading hunting. Many already prohibit it.

 

STEEL

        The production of industrial quality steels also had a lot to do with improvements in shooting. Early 

shooters were forced to use iron barrels hand-forged out of skelps welded around a mandrel. These 

barrels were weak and had to be heavy to withstand the pressures of firing. The development of 

Damascus barrels was an attempt to use the superior manufacturing techniques of sword making to

improve barrel steel quality.

        Some geographical areas produced barrels of higher quality than usual. Spanish barrels, made of 

a naturally occurring steel, were in high demand in Europe before the invention of steel manufacture in 

the 1800's. Truly modern steel production techniques were not with us until Bessemer developed his 

famous furnace, but good quality steels were always in high demand for gun barrels and critical parts, 

especially after the percussion system stimulated the development of lighter, harder hitting, and higher 

velocity arms.

 

BULLETS

        Over the centuries, bullets have been made in many marvelous and varied forms. Carefully crafted 

round stone balls were used in the early bombards of the European wars, but lead was eventually found 

to make the best bullet. It had the advantage of being easily molded to almost any form and was heavy 

for it’s size, flying through resisting air without losing as much velocity as lighter materials.

        Most early bullets were spheres, loaded singly and naked, or with various combinations of wadding 

or patching. The discovery of rifling was closely correlated with the development of the patch, a piece of 

tough cloth, rarely leather, that held the ball tightly enough to cause it to accurately follow the rifling, yet 

load relatively easily if well greased.

 

Modern day ‘Minie’ balls. (Left) Lymans heavy skirted 

#577611, meant for high velocity. (Middle) Lee’s 58 caliber Minie. (Right) A modern English 

Pritchett.

 

        Most smoothbores threw their balls naked, although patches could be used for better results. Early 

rifles were almost always fired with a patch, although some few required their balls be driven down the 

rifling with a mallet. Either procedure was slow, which made a second shot almost impossible. Modern 

shooters have shown that even the fastest can get off only one aimed shot per minute with a rifled gun 

using a patched ball. Military smoothbores were much faster with practiced soldiery firing 4 shots per 

minute.

        The advent of the percussion system, combined with incessant European wars, stimulated the 

development of superior bullets. The most successful were the hollow based bullets developed by Minie 

of France, Burton of America and Pritchett of England in the early 19th century. All used a bullet 

approximately 1½ times as long as it was wide, somewhat pointed and with a hollow base. This was the 

bullet used in our American Civil War. Compared to the ordinary smoothbore musket it was deadly, with 

troops on both sides occasionally suffering 50-60% casualties in the stand-up tactics inherited from 

Napoleon.

        The advent of true elongated bullets came about because the English military asked Sir Joseph 

Whitworth, an acknowledged genius in his own day, to optimize the Minie Ball’s performance, He 

brought out his famous rifle and new elongated octagonal bullet in 1853. Whitworth’s bullet was 3½ 

times as long as it was wide in .451 caliber, weighing the 520 plus grains of the old English Minie ball. 

It’s sectional density and ballistic coefficient were fantastic.

 

The muzzle of a 451 caliber Whitworth style sporting target rifle, showing the 

hexagonal shape of the bore.

 

        At an official trial held the next year, the ordinary Enfield rifled musket with Minie ball shot an eight 

foot group at 800 yards, while the Whitworth rifle shot into 23 inches at the same range.

        Whitworth’s bullet was hexagonal. Fitted bullets were required in his 1-20 twist barrels and proved 

to be difficult to load through the residues of the previous shot. Despite this, ‘small bore’ (.451) rifles 

proved to be a hit and long range target shooting grew up around them. Our American Creedmore 

matches were an outgrowth of this popularity.

        Rigby, Metford, Henry, and others later modified the Whitworth bullet by rounding the cross section. 

Their rifles used bullets of similar ballistic properties, often employing paper patches, and were even 

more accurate than the original Whitworth. Their terminal energy and penetration on game at long range 

was phenomenal when measured by roundball or Minie ball standards.

 

PRESENT DAY MUZZLELOADING

 

        Unfortunately, muzzleloading fell into abject disarray after the advent of successful metallic 

cartridges in the 1860's. It remained a dead issue until the 1930's, when the National Muzzledloading 

Rifle Association was born near Shelbyville, Indiana. A group of local muzzledoading shooters started 

punching paper targets with their antique guns and had the courage to call their new organization the 

National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association. (NMLRA)

 

NMLRA shoot at Friendship, IN, in the 70's. The ‘Nationals’ 

still look the same, with old time accutrements ‘de riguer.’

 

        The muzzleloading movement grew slowly in the pre-WWII years. But at war’s end, membership 

grew rapidly as advocates from all over the country joined the ranks and participated in their ‘National’ 

association’s activities.

        In the decades immediately following WWII, most of the activities of the NMLRA centered around 

target shooting. At that time there were no special seasons for muzzleloading hunting, as there are now. 

Indeed, there were only antique guns to shoot and only old parts to fix the old guns with.

        Soon, small suppliers of parts and accessories appeared to service the new and burgeoning sport 

of muzzleloading. Some of these companies have grown until some rather substantial catalogues of 

antique and new parts are available. Dixie Gun Works was a leader here. Its 1950's catalogue was only 

a small brochure. It’s 2001 catalogue is an inch thick and contains photos and descriptions of thousands

of muzzledoading guns, parts, and accessories as well as homely advice from Turner Kirkland.

 

Doc White with .69 caliber percussion Hawken by GRRW, 

dressed as English adventurer for  the occasion. [1974]

 

        The 1970's saw muzzleloading swing from predominantly target shooting towards rendezvousing, 

recreating the guns, dress and times of the 1822-1840 western fur trade. The succeeding 20 years saw

the inauguration of large national rendezvous, with hundreds of tepees and primitive camps, and with 

thousands of buckskin and calico-dressed participants all carrying authentic looking reproductions of 

antique rifles. Where the Pennsylvania-Kentucky rifle had been the favored piece in the early post-WWII 

years, the larger Hawken of the western fur trade gradually took it’s place.

 

HUNTING

        Hunting with muzzleloaders became popular during this time. State game departments, beginning 

with Pennsylvania, extended special muzzleloading seasons to those willing to put up with rainbow-like 

trajectories and slow second shots. By 1992, all but two states gave the muzzleloading hunter some 

sort of special season for big or small game.

        By the last quarter of the century, most game departments were feeling the pinch of habitat loss 

and growing hunter populations. Muzzle-loading seasons had become effective tools with which game 

managers could manage the game, hunters and habitat under their control. Muzzleloading hunting 

became progressively popular during this time, with thousands of new hunters tired of crowded hunting 

conditions and modern precision taking to the field every year. The older target shooting and rendezvous 

groups were forced into the market’s back seat as hunting came to dominate the market place. Not that 

there were any fewer opportunities for target and rendezvous activities. There were more than ever

before. It is just that so many more participants were purely hunters, interested only in pursuing game to 

the exclusion of authentic clothes, primitive camping or target techniques.

 


The 1970's saw the muzzleloading game swing it’s direction from target shooting towards 

rendezvousing, re-creating the guns, dress and times of the 1822-1840 western fur trade.

 

MARKET FORCES

The conversion of the muzzleloading market to a hunting oriented, performance based market gave a 

substantial opportunity to a number of enterprising entrepreneurs, who started importing or manufacturing 

brand new barrels and rifles. Navy arms, CVA and Thompson-Center led in this movement, beginning in 

the early 1960's.

        Navy arms originally specialized in authentic-appearing reproductions of military rifles and revolvers.

CVA imported reproductions of American sporting rifles. Thompson-Center manufactured a line of good 

quality, machine-made, inexpensive rifles named for but not looking like the St. Louis Hawken rifles of the

western fur trade.

 

"Hawken" by Thompsen-Center. 

It doesn’t look at all like the real thing but sold well into an enthusiastic market

 

        Custom and semi-custom shops produced high quality, authentic repro-ductions of antique rifles. 

Green river Rifle Works of Roosevelt, Utah, was one of the leaders.

 

Fancy fullstock Hwken with patchbox, 

spurred trigger guard and tack decoration. Most Hawkens were much plainer than this one.

 

BARRELS

Not very oddly, the earliest U.S. made muzzleloading production barrels, like those by Douglas and 

Green River, featured bores and rifling adapted to round balls, with twists in the 1-48 to 1-66 range.

        Rifling was adapted for short elongated bullets by Thompson-Center in the 70's, following the lead 

of the Minie ball shooting rifles and musket reproductions imported by their competitors.

 


...Muzzleloading hunting became progressively popular [in the last quarter of the 21st century]

with thousands of new hunters... taking to the field...


        By 1992, Hornaday’s Great Plains, T/C’s Maxi-Ball and Maxi-Hunter, Buffalo Bullet’s many varieties, 

CVA’s Hunter, White’s BuckBuster bullets and many other brands were all readily available for muzzle-

loaders with the slower 1-48 twists originally designed for round ball shooting.

         The late 1980's saw a new adaption of the old time sabot in modern plastic. Del Ramsey had 

brought his Muzzleloading Magnum sabots to market by 1990, designing them to shoot modern jacketed 

or lead pistol bullets in larger bore muzzleloaders. They have been very successful in the marketplace.

 

THE WHITE MUZZLELOADING SYSTEM

After waiting for 30 years for some smart manufacturer to get the idea, but never seeing it happen, I 

formalized the White Muzzleloading System in 1990, improving on the superb, late 1860's muzzle-

loading long bullet technology originated by Whitworth. My SuperSlugs, as the original high ballistic 

coefficient slip-fit bullets were known, became available for use in fast 1-20 to 1-28 twist muzzleloading 

barrels at that time. White’s patented SHOOTINGSTAR saboted bullets appeared in 1994.

 

White designed slip-fitbullets, from (L) the

 .330 caliber 280 gr. (330/280) to the .540 caliber 750 gr. (540/750).

 

        Despite the financial failure of the original White company in 1995, the product was too good to 

stay off the market. WhiteRifles LLC of Linden, Utah, is currently marketing White products. The White 

M97 Whitetail Hunter, M98 Elite Hunter, PowerPunch and PowerStar bullets are improved analogs of 

the old White Whitetail, Super-91, SuperSlug and ShootingStar bullets, respectively.

 

RIFLE DESIGNS

        Reinventing the truly long bullet is not the only development of modern times. Many innovative new 

rifles were produced in the 1970's by the early modern manufacturers. Few of them met the strict 

standard of the traditionally minded, as their designs were adapted to the demands of Geiger cup-

cutter carvers, automated sanding machines and CNC milling machines, with a generous portion of 

investment wax castings thrown in.

 


After waiting for 30 years for some smart manufacturer to get the idea, I formalized the White 

Muzzleloading System in 1990, improving on the superb, late 1860's muzzleloading long 

bullet technology originated by Whitworth..

 


        The 1970's were dominated by reproduction sidelocks, but there were hints of change in the wind. 

Alex Hamilton, of 10-Ring Precision in San Antonio, Texas, introduced his pullcock in-line action in 

1969. His in-line, like all others to follow, was an offshoot of the original by Jean Samuel Pauley in 1808, 

but featured all the salient features that others would improve on later, including a safety on the pull-cock 

shaft, coil spring, modern Timney style trigger, and wide cutout for access to the nipple. This action was 

often seen on the NMLRA slug gun, pistol and offhand ranges at Friendship, Indiana, between 1969 

and 1984. It was seldom seen on the tradition dominated primitive ranges because of it’s very modern 

stock.

 

1969 pull-cock in-line action by Alex Hamilton of Ten-Ring

Precision

        Ten years later, in 1979, Dan Kurkowski of Troy, Michigan, introduced the "Wolverine", marketing it 

through Michigan arms. It sported several innovative concepts, including a hammer with annular cutout 

for the trigger sear (first time this was used on a muzzleloader although common in modern arms), and 

a firing chamber to accelerate combustion much like that in current large naval guns.

 


..Alex Hamilton, of 10-Ring Precision in San Antonio, Texas, introduced his pullcock, inline 

action in 1969...

 


        He also developed an alternate action which featured the use of a self ejecting shotgun primer. 

Once again, like the 10-Ring, the stock was modern with most of the features found on modern bolt 

action rifles.

        Tony Knight, of Modern Muzzle-loading, designed the Knight MK-85 in 1985. This rifle shared the 

annular ringed hammer of the Wolverine and the pullock of the 10-Ring action. Tony added an innovative

scroll-type secondary safety, as well as using a trigger safety. Knight’s success was mimicked by other 

manufacturers and importers, including Cabella’s, CVA, Traditions, and T/C.

 

1979 ‘Wolverine’ in-line action by Dan Kurkowski of 

Michigan Arms, the first to use an annular sear and firing chamber

 

        Until 1996, only White produced a muzzleloading in-line that does not use at least some of the 

many features of prior in-lines. White’s Super 91 is a piece for piece analog of the Mauser bolt rifles of 

1878 - ‘98, except for the rotating bolt and magazine, and the addition of a Springfield ‘03 type pull-cock. 

(White’s turn-bolt ThunderBolt rifle  appeared in ‘2002)

 

1985 action by Tony Knight. His was the first to use a 

double safety system

        Remington joined White in ‘96, marketing a Mauser analog muzzleloader with their M700ML. 

Interestingly enough, Paul Mauser got his idea for a turnbolt gun from Dreyse, who got his idea for a 

firing pin and bolt from Pauly, who started it all with the first inline in 1808 in the first place.

 

1991 in-line by Doc White, originally conceptualized 

in 1968 but not brought to market until 1991 as the White Systems Super-91.

 

FULL CIRCLE

So we’ve come full circle, copying and mimicking the inventions of the past, only improving on them with

modern, precise CNC machinery, better steels in investment cast, forged, machined, extruded and 

scintered forms, improved and more precise rifling, more uniform powders and caps, durable coil rather 

than fragile leaf springs, fitted bullets and plastic sabots, all making good use of modern manufacturing 

techniques.

    You know, muzzleloading isn’t all that much different from what it used to be. But it is relatively less 

expensive than in the old days and many can enjoy it rather than just a wealthy few. It’s safer because of 

better steels. Performance has improved because of better bullets, barrels and sabots. Black Powder 

substitutes are readily available. The advantages of improving technology, speed of manufacture and 

consequent lowered costs are decidedly apparent. In the heyday of the muzzleloader, firearms were not 

only expensive but were also difficult to find. Only the wealthy or the very determined could afford one. 

Now, almost anyone can. Being part of the completion of the cycle is rewarding. There aren’t many 

superlatives that describe how much we can enjoy it

Good Hunting

‘Doc’ White

 

Doc White with Brown Bear, an Alaskan coastal grizzly, 

in 1994. The rifle is the very first Super-91 ever made in .504 caliber. Load was 140 grains of 

Ffg Black Powder and 600 grain SuperSlug. It punched all the way through end to end.