Robertson online

Touching off your muzzleloader always involves a huge cloud of billowing, white smoke that obscures your target and additionally has a sharp, pungent odor easily recognized that some say is a little smelly. Here the author fires a long shot at 200 yards, which to his immense satisfaction hit within two inches of the target's center.

The sun was shining, the leaves rapidly falling. Brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red had splashed the hillsides just a week ago turning the once monotonous shades of green into a masterpiece of bright fall beauty. Our early heavy frosts this year really made the leaves spectacular, but it was rapidly disappearing.

The scenery was also a reminder it was time to prepare for muzzleloader season.

Jim Zirkle, Terry Claypool and myself were gathered at Jim’s shooting bench hauling out equipment, digging through boxes and scratching our heads.

I hadn’t hunted with my inline for some time and the plastic toolbox I kept the multitude of muzzleloader accessories in was chock full. Tilting back the lid I eyed patches, lubricant, bullets, sabots, percussion caps, shotgun primers, .50 caliber jags, wire brushes, powder solvents, bullet seaters, starting tools for the sabots, needles for touchholes, and wrenches to remove the breech plug or nipple. Well, I’d forgotten the box held accessories for both my Hawken percussion cap rifle and my inline. Most interesting, now to remember which did what!

I also had Buckhorn black powder substitute, Jim Shockey Gold powder and Triple-7 pellets. Hmm, can’t say I wasn’t prepared, no doubt of that.

I quickly set the Triple-7 aside; I don’t care for it one bit. All black powder substitutes and black powder itself leaves a ring where the bullet and powder meet upon firing. Triple-7’s ring is exceedingly hard and builds up quickly requiring frequent cleaning and excessive shoving. In my experience it’s not shooter friendly.

I’ve used Pyrodex, Triple-7, 3F black powder, Jim Shockey Gold and Blackhorn powders. All have their advantages and disadvantages and I wasn’t particularly pleased with any of them for various cleaning, fouling or accuracy issues. I was looking for a powder that wouldn’t quickly rust my bore, didn’t foul badly after just one or two shots, came in pellet form, was accurate and fast shooting. After many discussions with fellow shooters and a lot of reading and research I decided to try IMR White Hot.

White Hot is the only white-colored pellet on the market. Those who tried this powder reported good velocity, excellent accuracy and that this powder left a much softer ring when fired allowing a quick reload without any type of cleaning. Sounded great, so I purchased a box and was ready to try them out.

My muzzleloader was a break action — you push a lever and the barrel drops away from you on a hinge exposing the rear of the barrel and the breech plug which holds the primer.

I placed a primer, snapped the breech shut and fired. The primer explodes through the tiny hole leading to the chamber, cleaning it of any dirt, oil or build up. I did it twice and could tell from the sound and the small blast from the muzzle everything was clear.

I dropped two pellets down the barrel and placed a 200-grain Shock-Wave sabot in the muzzle and then, using the ramrod, pushed the sabot down until it contacted the pellets. I then marked the ramrod to make sure further bullets would be as far down the barrel as they should be. A space between the pellets and sabot could dangerously increase the pressure when fired.

It’s been my experience that the first shot out of a very clean, well-lubricated barrel always flies high out of my inline. So, I wasn’t surprised the first shot did just that. I ran a clean patch down the barrel twice and reloaded. The second shot was just about 2-inches high at 100 yards. Perfect.

Another dry patch down the barrel with little resistance or fouling. Very nice, the White-Hot was working very well indeed. The third shot was taken at 150 yards and the bullet struck very close to center. Man, no problems, everything is going great.

Another dry patch, a little stiffer going down the bore, but no problem whatsoever. Then a shot at 200 yards still holding the crosshair on the targets center. The bullet hit 17” low, just as advertised. Holding the rifle steady I adjusted the scope’s power until the top of the post appeared to be on the bullet hole. The scope’s magnification ring showed about 6.5 power. Reloading, I held the top of the post on the center of the target and fired.

The 200-grain bullet hit just two inches high and a little left. Setting the scope to 7 power would put it dead on. Being able to shoot a deer at 200 yards with my in-line is fantastic. I wouldn’t care to shoot further, the bullet is dropping so fast and losing so much energy I wouldn’t be comfortable firing past that distance.

A clean patch still made it down the barrel without undue pressure even after four shots. I could feel a ring just starting to build up where the bullet sat on the pellets. Excellent, the powder was working perfectly.

Well, I finally had a powder I was truly happy with. It didn’t build up a hard residue quickly, was easy to load in pellet form and shot very accurately. A relief to have what I wanted.

With the inline season opening today and a muzzleloader hunt in Ohio in early January, I was now confident in my equipment and even ready ahead of time. Fantastic.