Today’s in-line muzzleloaders come close to matching the lethality of centerfire rifles. But in terms of their ease of operation and care, in-lines just can’t compete. That problem, however, is diminishing with a new trend in closed-breech frontloaders.
The latest models employ either a break-open action or a pivoting design similar to the classic rolling-block rifle. On both types, closing the action encloses the breech completely, unlike with bolts or plunger-style designs. The primer is thus fully encased and protected from the elements. What’s more, these actions have fewer and more accessible parts, making disassembly and cleaning much easier. Their shorter receivers also allow for longer barrels (on guns of the same overall length), which can improve both accuracy and downrange energy. Here’s a closer look at both actions:
NOTE: All the models below accept 150 grains of powder and 209 shotgun primers, include adjustable sights, and are optics-ready.
Here, a simple lever opens a hinged breech, like any break-open shotgun. This exposes the breech plug, putting it at your fingertips (as opposed to being hidden within the receiver of a bolt action) and making it a cinch to prime the gun for hunting and to remove the breech plug for cleaning.
If you’re looking for a no-frills muzzleloader that’s no trouble to clean but won’t clean you out, this type is for you.
Caliber: .50 ¿¿¿ Barrel Length: 26 inches ¿¿¿ Weight: 7 pounds 12 ounces ¿¿¿ Price: $390
Comments: One of a very few hammerless break-open designs, Knight’s new Visions features a cross-bolt safety and a fully camouflaged finish that prevents rust. It’s guaranteed to shoot a 21/2-inch group at 100 yards.
MDM QuicShooter Magnum
Caliber: .50 ¿¿¿ Barrel Length: 26 inches ¿¿¿ Weight: 7 pounds 8 ounces ¿¿¿ Price: $200¿¿¿$400
Comments: The QuicShooter features an X-Range M2K competition barrel and a Monte Carlo stock that’s perfect for use with a scope. It’s also available in a lighter version with a 22-inch-barrel that is designed for big-woods hunters.
New England Firearms Heritage
(available only through Cabela’s; 800-237-4444; cabelas.com)
Caliber: .50 ¿¿¿ Barrel Length: 26 inches ¿¿¿ Weight: 7 pounds 4 ounces ¿¿¿ Price: $260
Comments: At a very attractive price, the Heritage comes standard with a synthetic stock in Mossy Oak Break-Up and a stainless-steel barrel. NEF donates $20 to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation for each one sold.
In this case, the trigger guard doubles as a lever that drops a breech enclosure out of the way, exposing the breech plug for easy-access priming or disassembly and cleaning.
The primary advantage of these muzzleloaders over the break-open models is a fixed, rather than hinged, barrel, which can significantly improve accuracy. Moreover, these frontloaders are more likely to have high-quality barrels and additional features, such as thumbhole stocks and quick-release trigger assemblies.
CVA Kodiak Pro 209 Magnum
Caliber: .45 and .50 ¿¿¿ Barrel Length: 29 inches ¿¿¿ Weight: 7 pounds 5 ounces ¿¿¿ Price: $300¿¿¿$440
Comments: Built around the same pivot-block action as the original and popular Kodiak model, this upgrade has a longer fluted barrel and is available in a full-camo model. A Quake Claw Sling is included. It’s an excellent value.
Caliber: .50 ¿¿¿ Barrel Length: 27 inches ¿¿¿ Weight: 7 pounds 14 ounces ¿¿¿ Price: $430¿¿¿$605
Comments: The only pivot-action model with a hammerless design and cross-bolt safety, the Revolution features a top-quality Green Mountain barrel, and the trigger assembly drops out for instant cleaning.
Caliber: .45 and .50 ¿¿¿ Barrel Length: 28 inches ¿¿¿ Weight: 7 pounds 4 ounces ¿¿¿ Price: $417¿¿¿$634
Comments: With a built-in safety mechanism that prevents the gun from firing unless the trigger is pulled all the way to the rear, the Omega is available with a thumbhole stock and carries T/C’s reputation for quality and accuracy.