In Ohio, our muzzleloader season comes late in the year. Actually, it comes early in the new year—generally the first or second week of January. Since the season doesn’t technically come until next year, I tend to procrastinate about muzzleloader prep, and all it entails. Luckily, we always seem to have a few days in December with unseasonably warm weather. This year provided us with a generous supply of 50-plus-degree days.
Princess Gunslinger is sponsored by Trijicon
For the first time ever, I won’t be hunting with a hand-me-down gun. Instead, I have the new Strike muzzleloader from Thompson Center (T/C). Keeping with modern handgun technology, this striker-fired muzzleloader is super easy to use and easy to clean, and its trigger feels great. T/C packages the Strike in a small box, broken down and requiring assembly. This is a good thing; it trains the owner for disassembly from the start.
I outfitted my Strike with a 3–9×40 Trijicon AccuPower scope [MSRP: $699.00]. The Trijicon scope’s 3–9X power gives me all the range I need for Ohio deer hunting. The accuracy of modern muzzleloaders makes it hard for me to settle for standard iron sights. Heck, the T/C Strike doesn’t even come with the iron sights mounted; instead, they come in separate packaging within the box, for those who don’t have a scope yet.
The trouble with muzzleloaders is that they tend to be gear- and labor-intensive. Just heading out to zero my new gun takes tons of equipment. Forget about targets, stands and rifle rests—I’m talking about powder, bullets, primers, bullet starters…and I haven’t even included the cleaning supplies.
Even with modern pelletized powders, muzzleloaders are dirty guns. By dirty, I mean you have to clean them every 3 or 4 shots. The black powder and the plastic fouling in the barrel make each shot harder to load and seat. Imagine how that can affect your accuracy from shot to shot. Yes, you have to clean your muzzleloader—and it takes time.
Luckily the T/C Strike is an inline-style muzzleloader, which are easier to clean. The company’s innovative Adapt breech system and Armornite barrel coating make the gun easy to brush, patch and mop out. It just takes a little time to go through the process. You have to soak patches to wet the bore, then brush out the fouling, and finally wipe the bore with a patch until it’s not only clean, but dry.
I had great weather on the day I sighted in, and the help of my husband on the range made everything go smoothly and quickly. Chris was also zeroing his gun for the season, so we worked as a team. The T/C Strike shot like a laser beam. To start I wanted a high zero at 50 yards, and the gun shot a cloverleaf group: the product of great optics, a great trigger and a capable gun.
Shots in Ohio on deer range from 30 feet to 200 yards, so I backed off to 100 yards to get a solid zero. The Strike shot so straight I couldn’t believe my eyes, giving me a fantastic 2-inch group. (Yes, with a muzzleloader!) If we had more distance at the range, I would have taken it back farther, although it’s highly unlikely that I’ll shoot past 50 yards where I hunt.
When cleaning your muzzleloader at home, it’s important to be more thorough than when you do it in the field. Here’s how.
We had a great day at the range, but shooting a muzzleloader requires a lot of work—especially cleaning the barrel between shots and thoroughly cleaning the gun when we finished. Yes, it takes a certain type of person to put in all this work to spend a few days in the woods hoping a deer passes through. I’m up for the challenge.
Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, is the managing and social media editor at The WON. Michelle is the president of Cerino Consulting and Training Group, LLC, a firearms training company she built with her husband Chris in 2011. Her path in the firearms and outdoors industries is ever progressing. She is writing, hunting, competing and doing contract work for major manufacturers. View all posts by Michelle Cerino