Best Muzzleloader Shotguns: A Buyers Guide

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Since the sixteenth century, way before breech-loader rifles, muzzle-loading muskets or shotguns comprised the military and hunters arms. Due to advancements in materials, machining improvements, propellants, and projectiles, muzzle-loading guns have become more accurate and reliable.

Muzzleloader shotguns have an ambiance that’s perfect for hunting quail, a slow-paced and exact fowling experience. You can build shot loads while strolling through woods or huddled within a turkey blind, precisely like a fastidious tobacco pipe smoker.

Randy on Shotgun Patterning x
Randy on Shotgun Patterning

Why Shoot a Muzzleloader Instead of Conventional Breechloaders?

The best muzzleloader shotguns nowadays are products of technological innovations and materials improvements over the years. A decent budget will have you packing a firepower punch equal to any firearm, and with more accuracy.

Mostly perfect for the big game, muzzle-loading shotguns also provide capabilities for downing small games. There may be a few challenges when coming close to the approach for some game. The muzzleloader shotgun is just as reliable as its center fire cousin.

It’s great fun also to break from using rifles to experiment with the old fashioned recreations of the best muzzle-loading shotgun.

Analysts have noted that hunting has become less popular with many people. However, for those that have stuck to their guns chose muzzleloaders over center fire rifles. However, this phenomenon concentrated on specific regions where waterfowl hunting, upland bird, and turkey hunting is prevalent.

For special hunting seasons, such as during the rut, the muzzleloader, in this case, provides authenticity to the hunt. In regions where drawing tags for game like bull elks is next to impossible,  a muzzleloader mule deer tag lets you experience the best of nature’s harvest before centerfire season.

Whether you’ve considered a muzzleloader due to the woods being less crowded or simply for the challenge, you can be assured of making a clean kill with a single cold bore shot.

Best for Hand-loaded Shots: 

Cabela’s Davide Pedersoli Black-Powder Double-Barrel 12-Gauge Shotgun 

The Pedersoli double-barreled muzzleloader captures the hunting romance and classic designs of yesteryears. Featuring a chrome-lined steel shot barrel, this 12 –gauge Cabela’s shotgun is a black powder gun that utilizes screw-in chokes in modified, cylinder, and extra-full capacities.

With a barrel length of 28 and a half inches, the David Pedersoli exclusive for Cabela’s switches from partridge to turkey with a quick choke and charge change. 

A slick muzzleloader, the double-barreled Pedersoli muzzleloader features a checkered American walnut stock and engraved bluing on its locks. The black powdered shotgun is available in 10 and 12-gauge versions, both weighing in at 7 pounds. 

Pros

  • Steel shot compatible chrome lined barrel 
  • Screw-in choke tubes for flexible shooting
  • Fixed improved cylinder 
  • Engraved locks
  • Checkered American walnut stock

Cons 

  • Long barrel and overall lengthy at over 43 inches 
  • Weighty at over 7.5 pounds fully loaded

Product Summary 

The Pedersoli Cabela’s muzzle-loading shotgun comes with a starter kit that includes over powder cards, overshot, and multi-metal shot caps. Included too are a powered flask, in-line capper, and volumetric powder measure mean all you need to purchase separately are shot powder and caps.

Best for During the Hunting Rut: 

Pedersoli Side by Side Classic 20-Gauge Muzzleloader Shotgun

Take this muzzleloader out for a spin on a mountain partridge hunt, and experience the majestic boom embellished by the Pedersoli Side by Side Classic 20 Gauge shotgun. 

All you need to carry with this muzzleloader is No. 7 shot, loads of black powder, and felt wads or pads. The Pedersoli Side by Side Classic 20 Gauge is the waterfowl hunter that completed your itinerary. 

You only need a few seconds to pour powder down this shotguns muzzle, press in a wad with pellets, and cardboard it shut. Weighing only 6.6 pounds, this Pedersoli is well balanced and easy to carry with or without a sling.

This muzzleloader’s recoil is delicate and soft, and you can reload way before the dog retrieves the downed game.

Pros

  • Suitable for small-frame to medium build hunters
  • Short side by side dual-lock 
  • Exposed breech doesn’t require extra tools.
  • Reliable, stable and durable
  • Powder burn efficiency
  • Perfect for all weather conditions
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Case hardened wedges, trigger plate, locks, and tang.
  • American walnut stock

Cons

  • Not suited to large-bodied hunters
  • The ramrod material is vulnerable to bending and breaking.
  • Pricey at over 1,000 dollars

Product Summary 

This is a recreation of the baker cavalry 20-gauge side by side by Pedersoli, featuring a muzzleloader that replicates civil war enlistee arms. The double-barreled versatility of this shotgun is that you can use mixed loads of round balls, buckshot interchanged between the barrels.

A short-barreled muzzleloader, the Pedersoli 20-gauge percussion, uses one trigger that fires left and then right barrel consecutively.

Best for One Shot: 

The Knight TK2000

This muzzleloader is for hunters that want to maintain range capabilities while reaching kill-worthy shot densities. The Knight TK2000 is a canon, an ultimate turkey hunter that will give black powder power, especially triple 7, 110, or 120 grain.  

With a barrel jug choke, the TK2000 is designed for 40 yards, allowing 85% of shot density for a 30-inch pattern. Unequaled pattern concentration is possible with the muzzleloader shotgun, whose design expands shot within the chamber before controlling it through the choke tube.

I love that the gun requires no FFL, and you can buy one straight from a dealer, and the muzzleloader comes with the exclusive Knight extra full-choke. The TK200 can also be effective at 60 yards, acting as the ultimate small game hunting machine.

I would recommend a mixed load at 70 yards for a more accurate and fun to shoot experience. All muzzleloaders by Knight come with with a Green Mountain barrel, solid brass extendable jag, and carbon core ramrod.

The shotgun has a metallic fiber optics sight and a fully adjustable trigger.

Pros

  • Light with a 26-inch barrel
  • Williams fully adjustable optics 
  • Fully adjustable trigger 
  • Inherent recoil technology
  • Moisture protection
  • Easy to handle with stability
  • Ease of cleaning
  • Powder burn efficiency
  • Enhanced accurate shooting
  • Mixed pine barrel finish 

Cons 

  • Heavy, weighing at 7.7 pounds
  • Price 

Product Summary 

The Knight TK2000 Muzzleloader Shotgun ignites with a 209 primer designed for Western No. 11 or Full Plastic Jacket musket cap nipple. This 12-gauge offering comes in straight stock or thumb-hole models, with a Realtree Xtra Greenstick finish. 

An overall length of 25 inches with a barrel length of 26 inches makes the Knight TK2000 a portable and fun to shoot muzzleloader.

Choosing the Best Muzzleloader Shotgun for Your Game Hunt

When selecting a muzzleloader, throw away the specifics used to select rifles. To avoid confusion, use the following tips to pick the right muzzle-loading shotgun.

Ignition System

How your shotgun ignites black powder is one of the selecting categorizations for muzzleloaders, also termed its ignition system. These types of muzzle-loading firearms can be distinguished as either modern or traditional shotguns.

Modern muzzleloaders having in-line ignition systems. Traditional guns, on the other hand, come with either caplock or flintlock ignition systems. 

The differentiating characteristics of in-line, flintlock and caplock systems include;

  • More reliable as the nipple is next to the powder charge, allowing more firepower access
  • Flintlocks are older, having been available since the 1600s
  • Sidelock or caplock ignition systems have been around since the 1800s
  • In-line ignition around since the 1800s but reapplied on modern muzzleloaders.
  • Flintlocks ignite a small charge, which then ignites a more significant charge through vent-hole.
  • Hammer strikes a cap on the caplock system to cause ignition.

In-Line System Action 

The action of a muzzleloader can be categorized as break, bolt, plunger, or drop action. Bolt action is a term synonymous with rifle use and features faster lock times than in-line plunger systems. A stable and easy-to-use system bolts actions close tighter to provide nipple protection from moisture.

The major downside for bolt action muzzleloaders is the weight, mainly due to 24-inches and longer barrels.

Break Action Muzzleloaders

When you flick a break action shotgun, your barrel drops to expose the breech. This allows for more effortless loading and reloading access. To prime the exposed breech, you have to break the barrel, though projectile and powder still enter through the barrel’s muzzle.

While offering improved durability and easier cleaning, bolt action muzzleloaders can be cumbersome and deliver substantial recoil. 

Drop Action Muzzleloaders

The failing or sliding block system is also known as a drop action. It features a breechblock that slides then rotates into the breech as the action mechanism. Drop action breeches are exposed, making load priming and cleaning effortless. 

The shorter barrel lengths of drop-action shoguns make it faster to use and well-balanced and lighter in weight.

Plunger Action Muzzleloaders

The simplest of in-line action mechanisms, plunger action muzzleloaders feature percussion cap on the nipple, which sits inside the breech. Spring mechanisms are controlled by the trigger, on which the plunger rides on. 

Pulling the trigger pulls forward the plunger, which strikes forward on the percussion cap to fire as the action mechanism. A stable and accurate muzzleloader, plunger in-lines are relatively difficult to clean. It requires special tools for the removal of individual parts. 

The Muzzleloader Caliber

The diameter of the bullet used on a gun is its caliber, and for many muzzleloaders, this usually is .50. Caliber will, however, range on older shotguns from .32 to .58 with alternating ammunition sizes.

Some states have illegal calibers that you should check before procuring your muzzleloader shotgun.

Powder

Black powder has been in existence for many generations of muzzleloaders and still used though commonly frowned upon. This is because it leaves a messy residue often considered an unacceptable footprint for every shot.

The fouling or residue-leaving of black powder can degrade barrel qualities. You have to clean it after each shot for speed and accuracy. High caliber muzzleloaders use the coarsest black powders, ranked from fine to coarse.

Alternative powders have replaced much black powder use nowadays, consisting of Pyrodex or black powder substitutes. Using these alternatives sees less fouling and corrosion, mitigating the necessity of cleaning to barrel after every shot.

They are also infamous for attracting moisture if you let them sit within your barrel for too long.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a breech plug on a muzzleloader?

The breech plug is a threaded screw located at the breech side of a muzzleloaders’ barrel and forms the rear part of the gun’s chamber. When fixed, the breech plug makes a gas-tight seal, increasing powder burn capacity.

What is the purpose of the nipple part of a muzzle-loading shotguns ignition system?

The nipple is a small metallic cone that fits a percussion cap; the nipple directs flame from the exploding cap to the main powder charge within the gun’s chamber.

In muzzle-loading firearms, what is a ramrod and how is it used?

The ramrod is mostly wooden, though fiberglass or brass versions are not uncommon. A ramrod positions the ball over a powder charge in muzzleloaders. Commonly positioned under the guns’ barrel, the ramrod is held in place with ramrod thimbles.

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