Capitalize On Love Of Tradition In The Muzzleloading Market.
Black-powder aficionados have long been an interesting segment of the firearms market, giving their enthusiasm for muzzleloader shooting and hunting a definite footprint in every region of the country and in many independent dealers’ stores. Muzzleloaders also have a growing following among younger firearm enthusiasts, and this is always welcome news.
While many Americans may own antique flintlock muskets passed down to them by their forebears, others become avid collectors/shooters of both traditional and modern muzzleloaders of their own volition. The fascination with frontier lore may be only slightly exceeded by the love of seeing newer black-powder technologies form modern hybrids with the older firearms.
To that end, modern muzzleloaders have seen some significant upgrades in recent years, prodding many enthusiasts to continue trading up their well-used black-powder guns.
“Most people only own one black-powder gun at a time, but they also buy a new one every three to five years. They may keep their deer rifle their entire life, but with black powder, new technologies, new guns come out every few years,” said Robert Rosenberger, owner of Shenandoah Sporting Goods in Brook, Va., which maintains a solid muzzleloader clientele.
CVA’s Muzzleloading Outfit is compatible with any inline muzzleloading rifle.
Its contents include Powerbelt bullets, breech plug grease, three speedloaders,
cleaning patches and an instructional video.
Hornady combined its Super Shock Tip (SST) premium polymer tipped bullet with
a sabot for improved accuracy in inline muzzleloaders. The raised InterLock
ring is embedded in the bullet’s core to ensure the core and jacket are
locked in one piece during expansion to retain mass and energy.
The value of the black-powder market to dealers is evident in its highly engaged hunting and competitive shooting populations.
HuntingNet.com’s black-powder forum currently has 1,015 full pages of discussion about every aspect of black-powder shooting imaginable, for example.
There’s also lots of crossover between the archery and black-powder markets. Primitive hunters love to draw out the hunting season by getting an early start with their bows and muzzleloaders, carrying both to the field, where practical and allowable. They enjoy the thrill of getting closer to a prized buck for that one, good shot. And if a hunter misses with his bow, he can sometimes still get a kill with his muzzleloader.
“I was up in a tree two years ago and only had my bow. A nice, eight-point buck came by, out of bow range. The next year, I made sure I also had my black-powder gun with me,” said William Harrison, a longtime Virginia hunter hailing from Lynchburg.
Harrison says he started out black-powder hunting years ago with an older CVA Mountain Hawken, using a No. 11 percussion cap.
“I use a modern in-line rifle today — a Thompson/Center Omega with a 30-inch barrel. I can reload within 30 to 40 seconds, and get a second shot, if needed. Deer will sometimes run a few yards and stop, or run 30 or 40 yards and stop,” he noted.
The Vortek StrikerFire LDR from Traditions is equipped with the StrikerFire
system and a 30-inch Chromoly barrel. It’s chambered in .50-caliber and
features Realtree Xtra Camo and a 3-9×40 rangefinding scope.
With a 28-inch barrel, the Thompson/Center Triumph Bone Collector is available
in .50-caliber and comes in a variety of finishes. The model pictured above
has a silver weather-shield finish and Realtree AP camo stock.
Dealers Have The Edge In Muzzleloading
Shenandoah Sporting Goods is but one example of a well-stocked store for black-powder enthusiasts. Virginia has a long tradition of black-powder hunting and shooting, as well as a committed community of Civil War buffs and re-enactors. Other states can make similar boasts.
“We sell muzzleloaders year-round. We’re the most competitive of any dealer anywhere with our muzzleloaders,” Rosenberger maintains.
A March-April 2015 survey from Southwick Associates, “Summary of Hunter and Shooter Trends” (Media Report), indicates nearly all purchases of black-powder supplies come from local dealers and outdoor specialty shops. The muzzleloader market is somewhat unique, but as with other segments of the firearms market, consumers may do some of their homework online while choosing to get their real questions answered in your store.
The leading brands in muzzleloaders continue to be Thompson/Center, Traditions, Knight and CVA, and everyone has his or her favorite. Dealers doing a good muzzleloader business also stock an array of powders/propellants and bullets. Pyrodex, Hodgden, Goex, Hornady, Barnes and Knight are all leading brands. Primers, patches and cleaning supplies round out the chief accessories for the muzzleloading market. Diehard moderns or folks with visual impairments also mount optics on their rifles, unless prohibited by state hunting laws.
“Hunting has become a brand promotion thing so much now,” Rosenberger said.
Hodgdon’s Pyrodex Select RS muzzleloading propellant powder can be used in
all calibers of percussion muzzleloading rifles, burning cleaner with less
fouling than standard black powder.
Know The Basics
While the latest Southwick survey shows more black-powder gun owners had purchased standard (sidehammer) muzzleloader models, many hunters these days prefer the in-line models (a modern rifle configuration in a muzzleloading package). Experienced hunters and shooters say there’s little or no difference in reliability or accuracy between the two models. It’s a matter of personal preference, so dealers would do well to offer both kinds of muzzleloaders.
Most modern in-line muzzleloaders are in the .50-caliber category because of the desired firepower and flexibility it offers. They’re designed to shoot plastic-encased, saboted bullets or larger soft-lead projectiles. There is a good array of projectile types available for black-powder shooters, however, including expanding bullets that help ensure a quick kill.
Dealers can look to manufacturers’ educational tools to help train sales staff. As an example, CVA’s website features “Muzzleloading Basics,” a 10-chapter video series on how to load, shoot and clean a muzzleloader, and more. Visit www.cva.com/blackpowder-basics.php.
Traditions Performance Firearms provides both consumers and dealers a handy reference page on its website to explain muzzleloading terms. Visit www.traditionsfirearms.com/technology.
Learn what muzzleloader enthusiasts are discussing, and how to meet their needs, on Knight’s Muzzleloader Forum. Visit forums.knightrifles.com.
Unless you’re in a state where primitive hunting is more restricted, there’s no reason for a dealer to shy away from the muzzleloader market today.
Surging Youth Market
The growing interest in muzzleloader shooting and hunting in the youth market is good news for all dealers. Most young hunters focus on bagging a trophy buck with their muzzleloaders, but 16-year-old Clayton (Clay) Monarch has been going on safari with his family since he was 10 and needed his grandfather to shorten his rifle stock.
Safari Club International and Cabela’s recently named Monarch their 2015 Young Hunter of the Year. He takes many of his game trophies with a Knight muzzleloader.
“My muzzleloader means more to me than just a well-placed shot. It is a style of hunting that speaks of sportsmanship. It requires me to pull closer to the animals I’m hunting, to more carefully consider my shots, and to depend upon a firearm and bullet I know will take them down in one shot. I credit my grandparents with teaching me to be an ethical hunter, and I credit the accuracy of my muzzleloader and bullets with putting a challenge into this sport that reinforces that lesson,” said Monarch in an article on Knight’s website.
Monarch hits on a key point with many black-powder hunters: the desire for a clean and ethical killing shot. This is one way, as Monarch suggests, in which the traditions and values of bygone eras are becoming new again. While many youths are indiscriminately “killing” figures in some of the more violent video games on the market today, young men and women like Clayton are enjoying the outdoors responsibly and ethically, and advancing America’s longtime hunting heritage.
By Greg Staunton