How to Sight-in Your Muzzleloading Rifle

By Dr. Jim and Mary Clary

For those of us who shoot target rifles for fun or in competition, the validity of the ballistic coefficient of match grade bullets is essential. They are necessary for using every ballistics program on the market. As such, when a target shooter decides to hunt with a muzzleloader, we naturally look up the ballistic coefficient to plug into our program.

After doing so, we get all of the same data we used for target shooting and assume that we are good to go hunting. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Randy Wakeman has pointed out on numerous occasions, the B.C. of muzzleloader bullets is, at best, incorrect and at worst outright fabrications. (See "Ballistic Coefficients Do Not Exist" on the Muzzleloader page.) Use the advertised ballistic coefficients for muzzleloader bullets from any manufacturer and you are in a world of hurt if you use the subsequent data for hunting. With the foregoing in mind, we would like to suggest an easier way for the occasional muzzleloader to prepare for a hunt.

First, decide on the propellant you plan to use with your bullet/sabot combination. Then, go to the range and shoot it for accuracy at 100 yards. DO NOT worry about chronographing the load; leave your chronograph at home. It is not needed. Shoot your smoke pole as many times as necessary, tweaking the load and trying various bullets, until you get the most accurate combination for your individual rifle.

A properly placed shot is far more important than worrying about whether your bullet is traveling at 1,600 fps or 1,800 fps. We are concerned with velocity in long-range F-Class target shooting to insure that the bullet does not go transonic downrange. However, at muzzleloader ranges, this is not a problem. Besides, with a 250 or 300 grain bullet, the kinetic energy will put down pretty much anything you are likely to hunt in North America.

Second, sight in your rifle so that it prints 2� high at 100 yards. Then, shoot the gun at 50 and 150 yards, without adjusting the sights, to determine where it prints at those distances. It will probably be within approximately three inches of the point of aim at all ranges from the muzzle to 150 yards. 150 yards is thus your Maximum Point Blank Range (+/- 3").

This method worked perfectly with our Savage 10ML-II and the 300 grain Scorpion bullet. The gun shot 3� high at 50 yards, 2� high at 100 yards and 3� low at 150 yards. Jim simply holds on the center of the chest for all distances within 150 yards and fires. The bullet will hit inside a 6� circle, well within the kill zone of any big game animal. You don�t need to buy an expensive mil-dot or muzzleloader scope; any low to medium power hunting scope will work fine.

The foregoing is not rocket science, but sighting-in for your muzzleloader's MPBR makes more sense than spending weeks at the range attempting to determine the precise trajectory of loads using bullets with erroneous ballistic coefficients. You will save a lot of money on powder and bullets, not to mention your shoulder!

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Copyright 2010 by Dr. Jim and Mary Clary and/or All rights reserved.