Pellets versus Loose Powder..the straight goods

This question is asked by at least one out of every three to four phone calls that I get. It seems the advertising and the numerous hunting articles where pellets have been regaled as "the best thing since sliced breadĒ have got everyone asking themselves what they are missing. Or not.

I approach my muzzleloaders as if they were my varmint rifles. My goal is to wring as much accuracy out of them as possible. To this end, I will try every powder with every possible SAFE powder charge. My standard process is to start at 90 grains and go up in 10 grain increments to the maximum allowed for the particular rifle that I am using (generally 150 grains). With loose powder, I can adjust in 5 grain increments if a particular gun requires it without any problem.

Using pellets, I can get 90 grains with 3 - 30s, 100 grains with 2 - 50s, 110 grains with 1 -50 and 2 -30s, 120 with 4 - 30s, 130 with 2 - 50s and 1 - 30, 140 with 1 - 50 and 3 - 30s, and finally I can get 150 with 3 - 50s. And someone tried to tell me that pellets were simpler!


By my calculations 50 grain Pyrodex pellets are twice as expensive as loose Pyrodex. It gets worse because the 30 grain pellets cost as much as the 50 grain pellets. That means that in order to get a charge of 120 grains using pellets, I am actually paying for 400 grains of loose powder.


Iím a show me kind of guy so rather than believe what I see in print, I believe what I see on my chronograph screens. After extensive shooting with Pyrodex RS loose powder and Pyrodex pellets, I would suggest that velocity gains will run from zero feet per second on the low side to about 60 feet per second on the high. My shooting, however, demonstrated a higher shot to shot variance with pellets than with loose RS. This trend follows my accuracy results; I have never been able to duplicate the accuracy with pellets that I can with loose powder.


The hype with the pellets is convenience. Drop and load. Thatís true. Just make sure that you have two dispensers; 1 for 50s and another for 30s. And make sure that you drop the black side down so the blackpowder starter strip starts the pellet burning.

I pre-measure several charges and dump each one in an empty 35mm film holder (Free from any place that processes photographs). Whether in total darkness before the hunting day begins or when frantically trying to load a second shot without taking my eyes off my target, I can simply flip the top and dump in the powder; NO DIFFERENT SIZES, NO TOP OR BOTTOM, NO NEED TO LOOK.

I guess by now you have figured out that I really donít see any purpose to the pellets. They cost more, donít shoot better, donít shoot any faster and are way more complicated to use. Other than the saving to the beginner from not having to buy a powder measure, (the cost of which one will quickly recover with the savings of the loose powder) I have no clue why they even exist. I guess itís like fishing lures and fishermen.

I do welcome your comments on the subject and will be happy to add them to this question.

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