Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How Does Barrel Length Affect Blackhorn 209 Performance?

            Have you ever wondered why the relatively small-caliber so-called "Kentucky" and "Pennsylvania" rifles of the 1700's were built with barrels that were commonly more than 40-inches in length?

            It all kind of boils down to the availability of black powder and lead in those days.  In the wilds of what later became "New England", gun powder and lead for casting into round balls were both in very short supply.  Yet, wilderness settlers had to keep meat on the table, and to protect a family from ever present dangers, such as bears, wolves...and earlier native settlers.  Common bore sizes of that time were .40 to .45 caliber, and a typical powder charge of FFg or FFFg black powder was 50 to 70 grains.

            The longer barrels better tapped every bit of velocity and energy these rifles could produce.  So, what kind of muzzle velocity did these old rifles produce...and was a 40+ inch barrel really necessary?

            Back in the 1960's, Dixie Gun Works took a .40 caliber percussion test rifle (mostly just a barrel, lock and trigger), and conducted a series of chronograph tests...beginning with a 40 inch barrel - and slowly shortening it down to 20 inches.  Shooting 47-grains of FFFg (DuPont) black powder behind a cloth patched 93-grain .395" round ball, the 40-inch barrel gave them 1,770 f.p.s. (646 f.p.e.).  With the barrel at 30 inches in length, velocity was down to 1,642 f.p.s. (556 f.p.e.), and with the barrel shortened to 20 inches velocity was down to 1,509 f.p.s. (470 f.p.e.).

            Even with today's hotter burning black powder substitutes, barrel length still plays a critical role in the ballistics produced.  When shooting a 100-grain charge of some  earlier blackpowder substitutes out of the 22- to 24-inch barreled .50 caliber in-line big game rifles of the early 1990's, muzzleloading hunters did good to get a saboted 240- or 250-grain .44 or .45 handgun bullet out of the muzzle in the neighborhood of 1,650 f.p.s.  Muzzle energy levels produced by those loads were generally in the 1,450 to 1,500 f.p.e. range, and 100 to 125 yards was considered the maximum effective range.

            Blackhorn 209 is currently the black powder substitute, or as the label proclaims "High Performance Muzzleloading Propellant", that tends to produce the fastest velocities - when loaded in the same volume amount as any other modern black powder substitute.  To fully tap the performance of this and other black powder substitutes, today's modern in-line No. 209 primer ignition rifle makers are once again beginning to stretch barrel lengths.

            One of the rifles I first loaded and shot with Blackhorn 209 was a .50 caliber Knight DISC Extreme - with a 26-inch barrel.  Relying on a 100-grain volume measured charge, I was able to get a saboted 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold (Harvester Muzzleloading) bullet out of the muzzle at 1,947 f.p.s. (2,189 f.p.e.).  Out of an inch longer Knight .50 Long Range Hunter model, velocity moved up to just 1,971 f.p.s. (2,238 f.p.e.).  However, loading this same load in the 30-inch barreled Traditions .50 VORTEK Ultra Light LDR, the added three inches of bore allowed a more complete burn of the powder charge - and velocity jumped to 2,018 f.p.s. (2,350 f.p.e.).

            My favorite hunting load for the 30-inch barreled VORTEK Ultra Light LDR is a 110-grain volume measured charge of Blackhorn 209 and the 300-grain version of the Scorpion PT Gold bullet.  I like both the added weight for greater knockdown and higher b.c. of the bullet for better retained down range velocity and energy.  The load gets out of the longer barrel at 2,009 f.p.s. (2,686 f.p.e.).  It is a super accurate combination for this rifle, and has been deadly on longer range whitetails.

            The shortest .50 caliber No. 209 primer ignition muzzleloading rifle I've shot with Blackhorn 209 has been the LHR Sporting Arms break-open Redemption Carbine.  This rifle has been designed for going into heavy brush, to make game move, and hopefully offer a shot.  It's my opinion that the 20-inch barrel of the carbine is simply not long enough to fully utilize a 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 - but just to check, I chronographed the load at 1,823 f.p.s. (2,211 f.p.e.).  That's a far cry from the velocity, with the same load, out of the 10-inch longer VORTEK Ultra Light LDR barrel.

            I normally load, shoot and hunt with the 24-inch barreled Redemption Rifle with a 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 behind the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold.  The four-inch longer rifle barrel gives a more complete burn of  the powder than the 20-inch carbine barrel.  Velocity is 1,946 f.p.s. (2,520 f.p.e.).  When hunting with the Redemption Carbine, my load is 100-grains of Blackhorn 209 and the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold.  Keep in mind, this carbine length rifle was not intended for 200+ yard shots.  At the muzzle of the short barrel, velocity is 1,795  f.p.s. (2,144 f.p.e.).  A buck that would give me a shot at 50 yards in heavy cover would be hammered to the ground by close to 1,900 foot-pounds of knockdown.

            For most hunting situations, with shots from 25 to 150 yards, any of the rifles and Blackhorn 209 loads spotlighted here would still do the job.  However, if longer range shooting at 200...225...and 250 yards are likely where you hunt, you might want to concentrate on the longer 28 to 30 inch barreled .50 caliber models.  -  Toby Bridges

Friday, November 15, 2013


The NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website has grown...a lot...since last year. In fact, as this is written, this year the site has already added 61 new pages...and intends to add 4 more to the 2013 Article-Report menu before the end of the year. Between now and the first of the year, efforts are also being made to upscale the look of the site a bit as well. To help the nearly 150 or so pages currently found at to download quicker, the navigation of the site is being made less cluttered by publishing a series of navigation pages, eliminating the huge drop down link menu that often took 20 or 30 seconds to download. Here's a look at how the 2013 Article-Report menu page has been simplified -


This issue of the newsletter spotlights the shooting with two new rifles...what's happening with our muzzleloading industry...added coverage of muzzleloading on the website...and more - including a call for more muzzleloading hunters to send a comment to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners in support of legalizing Blackhorn 209.

For more info and more links, go to - NAMLHUNT Newsletter - Summer-Fall 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Legislative Alert! Petition Filed With Nevada Board Of Wildlife Commissioners To Repeal Or Amend A Ban On Blackhorn 209!

The State of Nevada is the ONLY state to ban the use of this modern top-performing muzzleloader hunting propellant by name. Take a few minutes to send the Nevada Wildlife Commission a message - that muzzleloading hunters need to make those decisions...not a board made up of affluent residents who do not hunt with a muzzleloader...or who, very likely, have never even shot a muzzleloader. For more details and where to send your e-mail, go to the following link...


                                Get Involved...Send An E-Mail!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Blackhorn 209 Performs Extremely Well Out Of The New Redemption .50 Caliber Rifle

The most reliable load I've ever shot out of a modern No. 209 primer ignition rifle has easily been 110-grains of Blackhorn 209 behind the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullet and Crush Rib Sabot. This is my "go to" load when I hear from anyone having accuracy problems with their rifle. It always seems to do the trick. Those I do hear back from are generally tickled with the accuracy...and when they get the opportunity for a shot on a deer, pronghorn or elk, they're usually pretty ecstatic about the knockdown power as well.

So, it shouldn't come as any surprise that any time I receive a new .50 caliber No. 209 primer ignition rifle model for testing, this is the load I "go to" as well.

That was exactly the case when one of the new break open Redemption rifles arrived from LHR Sporting Arms, of Rochester, NH. I quickly mounted one of the great 1-6x42mm Hi-Lux Optics 30mm tube Professional model scopes on the rifle, using the base that comes already mounted on the frontloader. With just four shots, I had this rifle pretty much sighted in at 100 yards. The first 3-shot 100-yard group punched with the rifle...load...and scope measured right at an inch across center-to-center.

Here's a look at this new rifle from a new company - a rifle that is likely to be with us for quite some time.

Toby Bridges
Blackhorn 209

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Muzzleloading Continues To Evolve!

Have any of you NOT yet shot and hunted with Blackhorn 209?

While a few other so-called "black powder substitutes" have claimed to be the powder that revolutionizes muzzleloading - this is the only black powder substitute that truly lives up to the claim. This report takes a look back at the accelerated evolution of muzzleloading from the late 1830's and on into the 1860's - then shares how this modern formulated powder has done more today for modern in-line ignition rifles than any other product during the past 25 years of in-line muzzleloading.

The article/report published at this link takes a look at the 25 to 30 year period prior to the Civil War...and how muzzleloading went through a very stepped up evolution as rifle makers and shooters refined the elongated conical twist bore bullet rifles...and telescopic rifle sights (a.k.a. "rifle scopes"). Muzzleloading has gone through a similar stage of evolution during the past 25 to 30 years - with the popularity of the modern in-line ignition rifles...introduction of the saboted muzzleloader bullets...and the development of several black powder substitutes.

This article/report features the exceptionally accurate Dixie Gun Works reproduction of the hexagonal bore Whitworth long range rifle...the well made Leatherwood/Hi-Lux Optics copy of a circa 1855 Wm. Malcolm rifle scope...the superb accuracy of the .50 caliber Traditions VORTEK Ultra Light LDR in-line ignition rifle...and of course Blackhorn 209. Check out all of the qualities and benefits this powder brings to today's muzzleloading hunter.

If any of you are attending the NRA Show in Houston, TX this coming weekend, be sure to drop by the Leatherwood/Hi-Lux Optics booth and say hello. I'll be working the show with them. Also, the good folks from Blackhorn 209 will be at the show as well...look them up if you have any questions about the powder.

Toby Bridges

America's No. 1 Source For Muzzleloader Hunting Information!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tony Knight - The Pioneer Of Modern In-Line Muzzleloading Dies

                                        December 21, 1945 - March 18, 2013

William "Tony" Knight passed away on March 18, 2013. The world of muzzleloading has lost one of its greatest contributors, and he will be sadly missed by all who truly knew him. He was one of the greatest people I've known in my lifetime, and at one time my dearest and closest friend. My hope is that in spirit he's up there still running the hills and hollers of northern Missouri, chasing those big whitetails and long bearded gobblers...with his favorite dog Ginger at his side. Let us never forget him. - Toby Bridges, NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING

NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING has published a tribute to Tony Knight...

Go To

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Versatile Harvester Muzzleloading Crush Rib Sabot Can Tap The Performance Of A Wide Range Of Bullets

Harvester Muzzleloading's excellent Crush Rib Sabot, shown here with the company's 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullet, turns many .451" to .458" diameter bullets into great muzzleloader hunting bullets.  This post on the Harvester Muzzleloading Hunter blog shares some great sabot-bullet combinations, shot with hefty charges of Blackhorn 209.  Discussed is one sabot-bullet-Blackhorn 209 load, shooting a 400-grain .458" semi-spitzer bullet that has the ability to surpass the performacne of Knight's .52 caliber rifles and loads.

Blackhorn 209 Hunter is an affiliate blog of the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website at