Are you looking for some good bullets to use in your smoke pole this hunting season? Well, here are 10 of the best muzzleloader bullets you need to try out.
As more and more hunters have started using muzzleloaders, the major ammunition manufacturers have devoted additional time, money, and energy towards developing good quality muzzleloader bullets. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a plain old round ball or an old school conical bullet, there are plenty of other choices available for hunters who want to hunt with the absolute best muzzleloader bullets possible. Though regulations vary from place to place, no matter what or where in North America you hunt, there is likely something that will work well for you on the list below of 10 of the best muzzleloader bullets currently available on the market.
Before we begin, you should be aware that depending on the rifling twist (which can vary from model to model), the exact bore size of your muzzleloader (which can vary slightly from rifle to rifle), and the amount and type of propellent you use, you’ll likely discover your muzzleloader prefers some bullets but not others.
With all that in mind, I highly advise buying a couple different types of muzzleloader bullets and testing them out at the range before hunting season to see how they perform in your specific muzzleloader. At least when you’re first getting started, try shooting some muzzleloader bullets made by the same company that manufactured your muzzleloader. For instance, Thompson Center bullets tend to shoot very accurately out of a Thompson Center muzzleloader. The same goes for PowerBelt bullets and CVA muzzleloaders, etc.
Produced by Barnes as the muzzleloader version of their legendary copper X-Bullet, the polymer tipped Barnes TMZ and TEZ are outstanding muzzleloader bullets. The TEZ is designed for easy loading in muzzleloaders with tight bores and has a slightly smaller sabot than the one on the TMZ to help achieve this. For what it’s worth, I had trouble with the TMZ in my CVA Wolf and Optima muzzleloaders, but the TEZ was easy to load and shot very accurately in both rifles. So, if you have difficulty with the TMZ in your muzzleloader, give the TEZ a shot before you give up on this lineup of muzzleloader bullets. Also, make sure you use the appropriate bullet aligning tool on your ramrod to avoid damaging these bullets when you load them.
Since the TMZ and TEZ are designed for rapid expansion, high weight retention, and deep penetration, these bullets are excellent choices for hunters after both medium and large sized game like deer, black bear, and elk. They are also both 100% copper, which makes the TMZ and TEZ legal for use in states like California that prohibit the use of lead bullets. All things considered, the Barnes TEZ is the best muzzleloader bullet I’ve found for my muzzleloaders. It’s easy to load, very accurate, and nothing I’ve shot with the TEZ has ran more than 50 yards afterwards.
The Hornady SST has a very well deserved reputation for accuracy and ease of loading in a wide variety of muzzleloaders. With a thin copper jacket and un-bonded lead core, the SST is also designed for rapid expansion, so it’s a great choice for hunting small to medium sized game like whitetailed deer. They are also one of the most reasonably priced muzzleloader bullets currently available on the market.
If you’re looking for a full bore bullet that’s still easy to load like a sabot, then the PowerBelt series of muzzleloader bullets is a really good place to start. Featuring a plastic gas check on the base that expands to create a tight seal in the barrel, PowerBelt bullets are easy to load and very accurate. In fact, the 250gr PowerBelt AeroLite is by far the most accurate muzzleloader bullet I’ve ever shot out of my CVA Wolf and CVA Optima.
This is a great choice for a “meat and potatoes” kind of hunter who wants a good quality bullet for whitetail deer hunting without having to spend a ton of time at the range doing load development. Buy a pack of these bullets, use a standard load of 100gr of powder, and it will probably work really well in a bunch of different muzzleloaders at typical hunting ranges.
While the Hornady FPB can be very difficult to load in some muzzleloaders, others absolutely love the FPB and shoot these bullets very accurately. The FPB is also highly regarded as a well constructed muzzleloader bullet ideal for use on larger tougher species of game and for leaving minimal residue in the barrel after firing. Make sure you test it out at the range before going hunting with it, but the Hornady FPB is a darn good muzzleloader bullet, especially for hunters who don’t like using (or are prohibited by law from using) sabots.
Individually manufactured on a CNC lathe, Knight promotes their Bloodline muzzleloader bullets as some of the most precisely made mass produced bullets currently on the market. These bullets are also designed to cause massive wound channels and leave a large, easy to follow blood trail. So, not only are these muzzleloader bullets very accurate, but they also have incredible terminal performance on thin-skinned game.
The Shockwave is a pretty conventional saboted muzzleloader bullet that’s great for deer hunters using a Thompson Center muzzleloader. It’s not the best muzzleloader bullet out there, but it’s reasonably priced and will work really well for deer hunters in most situations. Just like the PowerBelt AeroLite, the Thompson Center Shockwave is nice for hunters who want a good quality bullet, but don’t want to spend a lot of time doing load development. Thompson Center also produces a bonded version of the Shockwave intended for use on larger animals.
The unconventional Federal Premium Bullet Obturating Ramp (BOR) Lock muzzleloader bullet is the exact opposite of the PowerBelt or Shockwave. Instead of using a sabot or a plastic skirt on the base of the bullet, this bullet has an innovative design featuring a black polymer cup attached to its base that engages the rifling and seals the barrel. This design leaves less residue behind, which makes cleaning the barrel and loading subsequent shots much easier. These bullets are also capable of incredible accuracy and, since they are made from a copper alloy, create a large wound channel while retaining a large percentage of their original weight.
If you’re looking for a Barnes muzzleloader bullet that doesn’t have a sabot, then the Thor full bore conical bullet is exactly what the doctor ordered. These bullets are 100% copper and perform very similarly to the Barnes TMZ or TEZ, just without the sabot. This is also one of the very few muzzleloader bullets legal to use in both California and Colorado. This is the bullet I would use if I were planning on hunting moose (or any other really big critter) with my muzzleloader.
The only drawback to these bullets is that they are very sensitive to differences in bore size between various muzzleloaders. Before you purchase any Thor bullets, order a Thor bullet sizing pack to ensure you use the correct size bullets for your muzzleloader.
Jim Shockey is the biggest name in the muzzleloading business and you can bet that if he puts his name is on a product, it’s worthwhile. Just like with Nosler’s regular lineup of Ballistic Tip bullets, these muzzleloader bullets are built for reliable expansion and deep penetration at low impact velocities. As an added bonus, they are also one of the more reasonably priced types of muzzleloader bullets out there.
If you live in a state like Idaho that only allows 100% lead bullets during muzzleloader season, then you should really consider using the PowerBelt Pure Lead muzzleloader bullet. Not only is it a full bore, pure lead bullet that is permitted for use in these states, but it also reasonably priced and comes with all the other benefits of the PowerBelt series of bullets (accuracy, ease of loading, etc.).
What did you think about my choices for the best muzzleloader bullets for hunters? Did I miss any?