This branch of the target-shooting sports has been growing in popularity over the past few years. It involves using either original old guns, or replicas of modern manufacture. The sport is particularly attractive to those who have an interest in history – in our heritage.
A muzzle-loading gun is loaded – as the name implies – from the muzzle by pouring a measured amount of gunpowder down the barrel, then ramming a bullet on top of the gunpowder. This is then fired in one of a number of different ways, depending on the type of firearm; it might be a flint striking steel to make sparks into a small pan of gunpowder on the side of the gun, and the flash from this passes through a small hole into the barrel. This is known as a “flintlock.” There are a number of other methods of firing muzzle-loading guns, varying from a piece of smouldering string (known as a “matchlock”) to a percussion cap, which is not unlike the caps found in toy guns.
(Although not many people are aware of it, a number of our common expressions, such as “a flash in the pan,” “going off at half-cock,” and “Lock, stock and barrel” come from the use and operation of these guns.)
Muzzle-loading revolvers are also very popular with target shooters, with many different designs in production. Most of these are faithful reproductions of original, historic guns, and this represents an opportunity for anyone interested in the history of these guns to buy and use them without having to pay a great deal of money for original (and often very valuable) guns.
There are many different types of target competition for muzzle-loading guns, and as the Governing Body for muzzle loading within the UK the Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain (MLAGB) offers events for most muzzle loading firearms.
Muzzle-loading shotguns – (which fire a large number of small round pellets rather than a single bullet) are also used for some clay pigeon shooting and game shooting.