SHOT Show 2015 Muzzleloaders: The Best Bang for Your Buck

Ernie French with the reintroduced Thompson Center Arms Pro Hunter FX

Ernie French with the reintroduced Thompson Center Arms Pro Hunter FX

There’s a stiff breeze in my face, and the flighty 8-pointer is standing broadside 125 yards away. Did I select the right charge combination to get the job done?

If you’re like me, you’ve ruminated over muzzleloader charges, tinkering time and time again to come up with the right configuration There’s no better place to chew the fat about black powder charges than the 2015 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, where vendors unleash the latest muzzleloaders and primitive weapon accessories.

By Darren Warner

At the Thompson/Center Arms booth (, I asked T/C charge guru Ernie French what’s the best charge combo to stuff down the barrel of a 50-caliber muzzleloader.

“It really depends on how far you’re going to shoot, but most hunters kill deer that are standing 75-100 yards away, so I’d go with a 250-grain bullet and 75 to 85 grains of powder,” French said. “A lot of hunters use the maximum amount of powder [120 grains], which is really overkill unless you’re shooting 125 yards or farther.”

The 250-grain T/C Shock Wave Controlled Expansion bullet fits the bill for most deer hunters. Pair it with a 209 primer to set the powder quickly and reliably. It’ll also give you plenty of speed (about 2,250 fps), knockdown power and expansion.

“I advise all hunters to get to know their firearm and to try out numerous charge combinations at the practice range before going hunting,” French added. “Every muzzleloader reacts differently to different combinations, so field test different ones until you get tight groupings for the distance you expect to shoot when hunting.”

Finally, always thoroughly clean your muzzleloader after every shooting session. Skipping proper maintenance will cost you accuracy and reliability down the road.

Ernie French with Thompson  Center shows how the rifle's action works. (DDH Photo: Darren Warner)

Ernie French with Thompson Center shows how the rifle’s action works. (DDH Photo: Darren Warner)

Thompson/Center Arms Pro Hunter FX

  • Fixed Weather Shield break-open action
  • Fluted 26-inch barrel
  • QLAM Muzzle System for easy loading
  • New Speed Breech 3 hand-removable breech plug