I prefer loose powder because I want to shoot as accurately as I possibly can. A blackpowder substitute pellet will group fine for most hunting shots. However, I am a fanatic on accuracy and I always want to make sure that my gun shoots as accurately as it possibly can. One thing you must remember when trying to get your muzzleloader to shoot as good as it can… “consistency” is accuracy when dealing with a muzzleloader. I know that loose powder delivers better accuracy than pellets because when you pour the loose powder down the barrel, it fills-up the entire powder column or lower 2 inches of the barrel that lays next to the breech plug and leaves no open air voids or variables which equals a “consistent” load every time. When you load with pellets there is air space between the inside of the barrel and the outside of the pellets and there is no way to make the pellets line-up the same way every time, i.e. a uncontrollable variable each time you drop them down the barrel. This type load will give you a good hunting style group at 100 yards, but it is not as consistent as loose powder thus not giving you the types groups that your gun could be capable of. I normally can get an inch or better 3 shot group at 100 yards with loose powder and the 300 grain PowerBelt AeroLite bullets.
Some hunters may say, “It takes more time to reload my speed loaders when I have to pour loose powder and measure it accurately before I put it in my speed loader.” Well, I agree to a point. This process does take an extra 30 seconds to reload with a loose black powder substitute rather than pellets. However, when you’re in the field and have to load quickly.. the same amount of time is required to pour loose powder down the barrel as it is to drop pellets down the barrel. I would rather spend those extra 30 seconds to measure my powder while in camp if it increases my accuracy…especially since us muzzleloader guys have only one shot and it needs to be as accurate as it possibly can be.
Before I close, I want to remind you to swab the bore of your muzzleloader with 1 damp patch and one dry patch after every shot while on the bench. Doing this can be a pain in the rear I know, but it keeps your barrel fowling to a minimum and very consistent shot after shot. While in the field if you are in need of a follow up shot, this swabbing procedure is not necessary unless you plan on shooting multiple times and lets hope that will never be the case.
by Tony Smotherman, CVA Pro Staffer and Host of “Travelin’ Hunter”