What is a Safe Way to Unload a Muzzleloader?

What is a Safe Way to Unload a Muzzleloader

The term muzzleloader applies to any handgun in which the projectile and propellant charge are loaded via the muzzle. The distinction is different from modern guns, but muzzleloader applies to both rifled and smoothbore muzzleloaders.

Muzzleloader can also be used to describe the person shooting this type of firearm. This type of weapon is commonly used in historical re-enactments and is popular with hunters and target shooters too.

Muzzleloading season happens once a year and is a favorite of many hunters. One of the reasons so many hunters get into muzzleloaders is because the black powder weapon is powerful and fun to shoot.

However, muzzleloaders are much different than rifles or firearms. For instance, the weapons are harder to load, fire, and clean. It takes appropriate care and maintenance to care for a muzzleloader, but the time and effort is worth it when you get to fire it.

Why It’s Important to Unload a Muzzleloader​?

Muzzleloaders need to clean every time they are shot. It’s impossible and extremely dangerous even to consider cleaning a loaded muzzleloader. The weapon uses black powder, which is a corrosive material. If the black powder is allowed to set in a muzzleloader overnight, it can damage the weapon through fouling.

Black powder causes pitting (known as fouling), which will eventually lead to reduced accuracy. Fouling in a muzzleloader can also make it very hard to load.

Different muzzleloader manufacturers recommend different cleaning schedules. It is important to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning before using the firearm in the field. If taking part in a competition or shooting event, the association putting on the event may have requirements for cleaning. If you do not follow cleaning requirements or recommendations in an event, you could be disqualified or risk damaging your firearm.

To avoid fouling, shooters should swab the barrel with a moist patch each time it is shot. To be appropriate, the patch should be made of cotton or other synthetic materials. It’s best to choose a cleaning kit made specifically for muzzleloaders. From time to time, shooters should clean the gun’s lock. For most models, the lock is held together with a bolt or two. Remove the bolts, scrub both sides, and let it dry and oil it before replacing.

What is a Safe Way to Unload a Muzzleloader?

Discharging into a Backstop

One of the easiest ways to unload a muzzleloader is to fire into a backstop. Some people may recommend shooting a muzzleloader into the air or at the ground, but this is incredibly dangerous. When someone shoots into the air, there is no guarantee as to what could happen. If a muzzleloader is shot into the ground ricochet could occur and hit unattended targets or cause physical damage.

By aiming and firing at an appropriate backstop, you can safely unload a muzzleloader. The backstop absorbs the ammo and decreases the risk of damage or injury.​

Use CO2 to Clear Barrel

Another method commonly used to unload a muzzleloader is C02. How C02 is used to clear the barrel of a muzzleloader model? Here, we will cover three different muzzleloader types:

  • Percussion
  • Flintlock
  • Modern (in-line)

If you aren’t sure what type of muzzleloader you have, it’s important to find out before using this method of unloading. You must know what type of muzzleloader you have because it can alter the way you unload it. Using C02 improperly could cause damage to the weapon.

To unload a Percussion Lock Muzzleloader with CO2, you need to slip the discharger over the nipple. With a Flintlock muzzleloader, you place the discharger against the touchhole. Finally, with a modern in-line muzzleloader, you remove the breech plug and simply push the projectile and powder out the rear of the barrel.

​Modern muzzleloaders such as those introduced in the 1980s are created with an in-line design. The unique design is similar to those used in modern breech centerfire designs. With this type of muzzleloader, you may be able to use smokeless powder. If your muzzleloader operates with smoke-free powder, you will be able to reduce the amount of cleaning that is necessary.

How to Store a Muzzleloader After Unloading?

After you’ve unloaded your muzzleloader, you need to carry out a few more steps to make sure it will be ready to shoot next time you need it. First, place your ramrod in the barrel. If you don’t have a ramrod, but do have a loading rod, you can use this instead.

After you’ve completed this step, lean it against the firearm against a good rest. Completing this step is the only way to ensure debris won’t build up in the barrel and block the touchhole.

What to Do if Muzzleloader Won’t Fire?

muzzleloader hunting weapon

If you are having a hard time with your muzzleloader, it’s important not to panic. Failing to fire is commonly referred to as “hang fire.” It happens and can easily be fixed, but it’s important to know how to handle the situation if it occurs. If it takes more than 30 seconds to fire, you need to reprime the pan.

After doing that try again. Repeat for another 30 seconds. If the muzzleloader still doesn’t fire, you should try cleaning it via the C02 method mentioned above. If the muzzleloader fails to fire after being cleaned with C02, you need to immediately contact the manufacturer for troubleshooting advice.​

You must be very careful with a muzzleloader that won’t fire. The way this weapon is designed, it could fire for some time after the flint created its initial spark. To avoid an accidental firing, it’s important to:​

  • Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction down range
  • Do not transport the weapon or take it anywhere an injury could occur
  • Contact an experienced shooter to help you with a ball discharge


Whether you are self-taught, enjoyed a luxury shooting experience as one of your Jackson Hole Activities or are a former military operator, here are basic instructions on how to unload a muzzleloader safely and why it is important to do so. It’s important to remember if you have any questions about how to do this or run into any problems during the unloading, cleaning, or maintenance issues, it’s important to contact the muzzleloader manufacturer right away.​

My name is David Ferraro. I have a thirst for amazing escapades, and I made this site as a proof of my commitment for an adventurous life.

David Ferraro
Writer/Free Lancer
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    Brandon Cox

    I'm Brandon, and with a passion and love for all things hunting, I have invested much time and money bringing myself up to speed with the latest and best hunting Intel. Through my hunting website, I want to share and excite all on the intricacies of hunting whether you be an amateur or a professional.

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