Whether you are a hunting enthusiast, a target shooter or simply looking for a display item, muzzleloaders are a popular choice. The muzzloading flintlock and percussion rifles synonymous with black powder.
Whether you are an accomplished muzzleloader enthusiast or just starting out, there may be terminology you are unfamiliar with. Henry Krank have compiled a glossary of muzzleloading terms that introduces you to the words and phrases most commonly used when talking about muzzleloaders.
Glossary of muzzleloading terms
Ball - Round lead projectile used most commonly in the majority of muzzleloading rifles and nearly all black powder pistols and cap and ball revolvers.
Ball screw - Resembling a wood screw, this attachment threads into the end of the ramrod and is used for removing the ball from the bore. The threaded point of the ball screw digs into the soft lead of the ball and grips it firmly enough so that it can be pulled through the length of the barrel.
Black powder - A mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulphur. Combined, these ingredients form the standard propellant for muzzleloading guns.
Bore build-up - The build-up of black powder fouling in the barrel after shooting.
Breech - The rear end of a muzzleloader’s barrel.
Breech plug - The threaded plug that is screwed into the breech end of a muzzleloader’s barrel. This forms a gas-tight seal and is actually the rear or bottom of the chamber.
Cap box - Normally appears as a hinged compartment on the buttstock of a rifle or shotgun. The cap box is exactly as the name suggests, a place to carry caps.
Caplock - A term often used to describe a percussion lock.
Charger - A term used to describe anything—flask, horn, dipper, etc.—that measures out one exact charge of powder.
Damascus barrels - Early barrels formed by welding together strips of various steels.
Flash - The result of the ignition of the priming powder in the flash pan when a flintlock is fired.
Flashhole - The hole leading from the pan of a flintlock to the powder charge in the chamber.
Flash pan - Small pan that holds the priming charge and is located below the frizzen or striking arm on a flintlock.
Frizzen - The hardened steel surface that the flint strikes to ignite the primed flash pan of a flintlock.
Fulminate of mercury - An explosive priming charge used in the making of percussion caps.
Hangfire - A dangerous situation that occurs when what appears to be a misfire discharges after a short delay.
Jag - An accessory that fits into the end of the ramrod to aid in cleaning the barrel. Usually has serrated edges to grip a cleaning patch.
Loading block - A wooden block that has been drilled with holes for carrying pre-patched balls. To use, the hole in the block is aligned with the muzzle, and with a short starter the ball is seated into the muzzle.
Minie ball - An aerodynamically stable cylindrical conical slug with a hollow base. The same type bullet with a solid base is referred to as a maxi-ball.
Misfire - Situation that occurs when the round loaded in the chamber fails to fire, even when the cap or priming powder goes off.
Nipple - The small metal cone that the percussion cap is fitted to. Flame from the exploding cap is passed through the nipple to the main charge of powder loaded in the chamber.
Nipple wrench - a tool used for replacing or removing a nipple from percussion guns.
Patch box - An inlaid lidded box that is found on some of the muzzleloading rifles, originally intended for carrying greased patches.
Patching - Cloth, usually cotton or linen, used to form a gas tight seal around the round ball loaded into a muzzleloading rifle.
Percussion cap - A small metallic cup containing a minute charge of fulminate of mercury. When placed on a nipple, the striking of the hammer causes the fulminating charge to explode, which in turn ignites the powder in the chamber.
Powder flask - Carrying container for powder, commonly made of metal with characteristics of copper and brass. Occasionally made from stag horn or like materials.
Powder measure - A graduated measuring device that can be adjusted to measure out different grain loads.
Pricker or vent prick - A piece of fine wire used to clear the nipple or flashhole of fouling or obstructions.
Ramrod - Usually made of wood, although brass and fiberglass are not uncommon. Used to seat the ball over the powder charge in muzzleloading rifles. Ramrods are commonly carried under the barrel, held by ramrod thimbles.
Set trigger - A double trigger mechanism in which the rear trigger is first pulled to set up the front trigger so that it can be released with very slight pressure.
Shot pouch - A container, most often made of leather, used for carrying shot.
Short and long starter - A short, five- to six-inch rod with a round or flat palm-fitting handle. Used for starting patched balls down the muzzle of rifles.
Tang - Most often an extension from the breech plug that is the retainer that holds the breech portion of the barrel securely in place.
Vent - The small hole running from nipple to breech plug on caplocks, through which the priming flame travels to ignite the powder charge.
Worm - A corkscrew type of device used to remove a cleaning patch stuck in the bore of a muzzleloading rifle. It usually screws into the threaded tip of the ramrod.
Where can I buy a muzzleloading gun?
Henry Krank is the exclusive importer of Pedersoli muzzleloaders into the UK. We have created a guide containing all you need to know about Pedersoli muzzloaders over on our blog. For more information about our full range of muzzleloading guns,including flintlock and percussion rifles, details on what we have in stock, prices and availability can all be found on our website.
If you would like to purchase a muzzleloader from Henry Krank, we’ve produced a guide to purchasing guns that will walk you through the next steps you need to take.
Antique muzzleloaders for sale
Henry Krank have a large selection of antique guns for sale, including muzzleloaders. Check out our antiques page on our website, which is always being updated with our collection of antique items. We’ve also written a blog covering more information on how to buy an antique gun from Henry Krank (plus selling antiques too).
More information about muzzleloaders
Take a look at our beginner's guide to muzzleloading that covers how to load and clean your gun along with the equipment you will need including black powder.
If you have any questions relating to muzzleloading, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team.
Henry Krank would like to acknowledge the University of New Mexico's 'Basics of Muzzleloading' by James E. Knight, reprinted in 1997.