Mark Hendricks Explains What to Do When Your Muzzleloader Rifle Won’t Shoot 8

Question: Mark, when I go to sight-in my muzzleloader rifle at the rifle range, what do I need to do to make my rifle shoot, if it’s not shooting?

Hendricks: There may be a number of reasons why your rifle isn’t shooting. Before you load your rifle, pull-out your breech plug to make sure you don’t have a load still in there from last season. Even better, before you go to the range, take-out the breech plug, and make sure the barrel is clean and clear. Then, shoot two or three primer caps before loading live ammo inside the rifle. The primer caps will dry-out the breech and remove any condensation that may have formed and any oil or solvent left from the last time you cleaned it that may have settled-down into the breech-plug area. The caps also will get rid of any cobwebs or dust bunnies that may have settled between the cap and the barrel. This procedure generally will take care of most of the problems that are causing your rifle not to shoot.

However, if after you fire a few caps, and your gun still isn’t firing, pull your breech plug again, and push your load out the back of the barrel with your CVA Range and Cleaning Rod to clear the barrel. Take a good look at your breech plug, and make sure the little flash hole that goes through the breech plug to ignite the powder is clear. If it’s not clear, and you can’t see all the way through the hole, take a little piece of wire or a CVA nipple pick to clean-out that hole. I use old guitar strings, because I always seem to have an abundance of them at any given time. Any small wire you can push through that hole to clean it will work.

Question: What else can I do to make my gun shoot, if it’s not shooting?

Hendricks: If your percussion cap’s not going-off when you fire your rifle, you may have a problem in the firing mechanism or bad caps; although caps rarely go bad. Next, make sure your firing pin is working properly. Open the gun (break-open the barrel), pull the trigger back with your finger, and push the hammer forward with your thumb. You should see the firing pin sticking-out in front of the breech face about 1/16-inch. If your firing pin is corroded or jammed, take the barrel off the gun, unscrew the bushing that holds the firing pin in place, take-out the firing pin, and clean it. The bushing is clearly visible on the front of the breech face. Use a thin-bladed screwdriver that fits that slot to unscrew the bushing and the firing pin. The spring should come-out after the bushing is unscrewed. If the firing pin is corroded, you may need to use a little punch to push the firing pin out of the back. Once you get the firing pin and the spring out, use Q-tips with some solvent on them to clean the spring and some steel wool to clean the firing pin. If the firing pin and the spring are too corroded for you to clean, purchase a new firing pin and spring from CVA. But if you can clean the firing pin and the spring, you can put them back into the gun. They should continue to work properly, until you can get a replacement. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble, or you still can’t get the gun to fire, send the gun directly to CVA to have it serviced by our gun experts. If anyone needed  help with their CVA muzzleloader please download a repair form from the and send your rifle to the address on the repair form. As of right our repair turnaround time frame for most repairs is approximately 3 weeks. If you wait until a week before deer season starts or during deer season, CVA will need several weeks before we can return the gun to you. By starting early, we can help solve any problem you may have with your gun more quickly.

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8 thoughts on “Mark Hendricks Explains What to Do When Your Muzzleloader Rifle Won’t Shoot

  • Nathan Dierking

    I have a CVA optima .50 cal. I am shooting windchester primer and 150 grains of triple 7 powder and I am having a flash back on the primer. What is causing the flash back?

  • Alex Fournier

    I just purchased a brand new CVA Wolf. I can’t seem to stick a screwdriver to remove the firing pin as the pin seems to protrude. What does this mean? Should I force it back to get the screwdriver in?

  • Timothy Fitzgerald Young

    I’ve got a 50cal. Knight, and while I’ve already check everything you suggested, my caps fire, flash hole is clear, but not powder ignition? Could my powder be damp. My pellets are likely 5+ years old, but have been stored in their plastic tubes in a dry place?

  • cvamuzzleloaders Post author


    Thank you for taking the time to contact us. It sounds to me that it is the case. Powder can go bad after that long and I suggest testing it out each year to make sure it works. I replace mine before each season.

    CVA Digital Support

  • jerry fielder

    I have a cva wolf opitmum and cant get the firing pin out because the pin will not recess far enough to allow a flat screwdriver to access the slot. tried to force the pin in further but it wont go in anymore what can i do to get the screw out of the firing pin

  • cvamuzzleloaders Post author


    Thank you for taking the time to contact us. The best way to do it, and what we have done here, is to file a notch into a flathead screwdriver to make a pocket for the pin. After that, you should be able to unscrew that bushing. We hope you have a great day.

    CVA Digital Support