Are you looking for some good bullets to use in your smoke pole this hunting season? Well, here are 15 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 15 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), the amount and type of propellent, and the specific muzzleloader primer 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.
Before we begin, I have three disclaimers.
First: some of the links below are affiliate links. This means I will earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to create free content that’s useful to hunters like yourself. Thanks for your support.
Second, the information contained in this post is subject to change. Make sure you are familiar with the hunting regulations in your state and use these muzzleloader bullets at your own risk.
Third, it’s easy to damage polymer tipped muzzleloader bullets during loading if you’re not careful. To avoid this, ensure you use an appropriate bullet loading tip on your bullet starter and ramrod.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get started.
Designed by PowerBelt specifically for use with the brand new CVA Paramount muzzleloader, the .45 caliber 285gr PowerBelt ELR bullet is one of the most aerodynamic muzzleloader bullets ever produced. CVA was trying to build a muzzleloader that could top the already impressive performance of the Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader and they needed a bullet with a very high ballistic coefficient that could handle up to a 150 grain powder charge of Blackhorn 209.
Initial reviews of the CVA Paramount and the PowerBelt ELR have been very positive with the bullet getting very high marks for its impressive trajectory and incredible accuracy. That said, these bullets aren’t limited to use in the CVA Paramount though. Indeed, I’ve heard great reports from hunters with other .45 caliber muzzleloaders who have gotten outstanding results with the PowerBelt ELR.
So, regardless of whether you have a CVA Paramount or a different .45 caliber muzzleloader (like the new CVA Accura V2 LR), the PowerBelt ELR is a GREAT choice if you want to use a very aerodynamic bullet that’s capable of excellent accuracy.
Hornady recently introduced the Hornady Bore Driver ELD-X to provide an option for hunters who want an extremely aerodynamic muzzleloader bullet. Like the ELD-X projectiles Hornady sells for centerfire rifles, the Bore Driver ELD-X has a Heat Shield tip and has a shockingly high doppler radar verified G1 BC of .315, which is right up there with the various PowerBelt ELR projectiles.
Like the PowerBelt ELR, the Bore Driver ELD-X is a full bore muzzleloader bullet with a plastic skirt to seal the bore of the rifle.
The Bore Driver ELD-X also incorporates Hornady’s InterLock ring to help with weight retention and improve penetration. Additionally, these bullets are also generally very accurate and are very easy to load in most muzzleloaders. The Hornady Bore Driver ELD-X is a .50 caliber 340 grain muzzleloader bullet.
These are hands down the most popular muzzleloader bullets used by hunters in the United States. So, these bullets are a great choice for a “meat and potatoes” kind of hunter who doesn’t want to spend a ton of time at the range doing load development, but needs a good quality bullet for whitetail deer hunting at short to medium range.
All things considered, it’s tough to go wrong with PowerBelt Aerolite muzzleloader bullets. 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 are 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. These bullets also offer absolutely devastating terminal performance on deer sized game.
Truth be told, this is one of the best muzzleloader bullets for deer sized game within 200 yards. So, if that sounds like the sort of hunting you do, 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.
For those of you that use a .45 caliber muzzleloader, PowerBelt manufactures a line of 250 grain AeroLite .45 caliber muzzleloader bullets.
The .45 caliber PowerBelt AeroLite bullets are legal muzzleloader bullets in Colorado for hunting all species of big game except elk and moose (like black bear, deer, pronghorn, etc.). The .50 caliber PowerBelt AeroLite bullets are legal for hunting elk, moose, and all other species of big game in Colorado.
The PowerBelt AeroLite muzzleloader bullets made the cut for my holiday gift recommendations. To see what other stuff is on the list, check out the following article:
If you’re looking for Barnes muzzleloader bullets without 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 (or perhaps even a little better than) the Barnes TMZ or TEZ, just without the sabot. They are currently available in 250 grain and 300 grain configurations with a plastic ballistic tip. The 250 grain version is perfect for deer sized game while the 300 grain version is ideal for bigger creatures like elk and moose.
In fact, I would use a 300 grain Thor Hammer if I were planning on hunting moose (or any other really big critter) with my muzzleloader.
These are absolutely outstanding bullets, plus they’re also California and Colorado legal muzzleloader bullets. Additionally, Thor makes 247 grain and 297 grain hollow point bullets without a plastic tip. These are one of the most popular Oregon legal muzzleloader bullets.
For a long time, the main drawback to using these muzzleloading bullets was their sensitivity to differences in bore size between various muzzleloaders. Hunters needed to purchase a Thor bullet sizing pack first to ensure they were using the correct size bullets for their specific muzzleloader.
Fortunately, the company now produces the Thor Lightning One Size Fits All line of bullets (details below) that are designed for use in muzzleloaders with a .500-503″ bore diameter for hunters who don’t want to mess around with a bullet sizing pack.
These bullets are virtually identical to the Thor Hammer bullets just listed. There’s one critical difference though: Thor Lightning bullets are designed to be self-sizing to your bore, so there’s no need to purchase a Thor bullet sizing pack and measure your bore size beforehand. It’s possible you might get a slight increase in accuracy by using Thor Hammer bullets perfectly matched to your bore diameter, but these are still excellent muzzleloader bullets and the potential accuracy difference is likely not going to be big enough to make a difference for the vast majority of hunters.
Thor Lightning bullets are available in 247 grain, 250 grain, 297 grain, and 300 grain versions. All four bullets are 100% copper and are California and Colorado legal muzzleloader bullets. The 247 grain and 297 grain bullets use a hollow point instead of a polymer tip, so those bullets are also Oregon legal muzzleloader bullets.
Just like with the Thor Hammer bullets, the 247 grain and 250 grain versions are perfect for deer sized game while the 297 grain and 300 grain versions are ideal for bigger creatures like elk and moose.
Though they are similar in many respects to the PowerBelt AeroLite line of bullets, PowerBelt Platinum muzzleloading bullets are more solidly constructed, heavier, and have a higher ballistic coefficient. Additionally, the Platinum bullets are designed for use with a “magnum” (110-150gr load) of powder. In fact, I’ve found that the Platinum bullets shot more accurately with a magnum load of powder than with a standard (100 grain) load of powder. For those reasons, the PowerBelt Platinum muzzleloading bullets are best suited for taking longer range shots (past 200 yards) and/or for hunting larger species of game.
Specifically, when used in conjunction with a magnum load of powder, the 270gr Platinums are really good muzzleloader bullets for elk sized game inside of 200 yards. By the same token, the 300 grain Platinums are nice muzzleloader bullets for elk out past 200 yards.
The .50 caliber PowerBelt Platinum bullets are legal for hunting elk, moose, and all other species of big game in Colorado.
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 initially 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 yellow sabot TMZ bullets in your muzzleloader, give the blue sabot TEZ bullets 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. Generally speaking, the 250gr Barnes muzzleloader bullets are ideal for deer sized game (though they will certainly work on bigger animals as well). The 290gr Barnes TMZ and TEZ are excellent muzzleloader bullets for elk sized game.
Both bullets are 100% copper, which means the TMZ and TEZ are California legal muzzleloader bullets.
All things considered, the 250 grain Barnes TEZ is my favorite muzzleloader bullet for my CVA Wolf and Optima muzzleloaders. It’s easy to load, very accurate, and nothing I’ve shot with the TEZ has ran more than 50 yards afterwards.
The Traditions Smackdown XR is currently one of the most popular bullets among deer hunters who use Traditions muzzleloaders. Using the Traditions Ridgeback Sabot and engineered with a relatively high BC (for a muzzleloader bullet), the Smackdown XR is a very aerodynamic muzzleloader bullet specifically designed for use on deer-sized game. These bullets provide a great balance of short and extended range performance with a relatively flat trajectory and hard hitting terminal effects.
If you’re a mule or whitetail deer hunter who wants a muzzleloader bullet that gives you the best performance at longer range, then you should definitely go with the Traditions Smackdown XR. This is especially true if you use a Traditions Muzzleloader.
Hornady recently introduced the Hornady Bore Driver FTX to provide an option for hunters who don’t want or are not allowed to hunt with muzzleloader bullets that use a sabot. Instead of a sabot, the Bore Driver FTX bullets have a plastic gas seal at the base of the bullet.
Unlike the SST, the FTX incorporates Hornady’s InterLock ring to help with weight retention and improve penetration. Additionally, these bullets are also generally very accurate and are very easy to load in most muzzleloaders. The Hornady Bore Driver FTX is a 290 grain muzzleloader bullet.
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. It’s currently available in 250 grain and 300 grain configurations.
I’ve had really good results with these bullets on whitetail deer and the 250 grain the Hornady SST is the most accurate bullet I’ve used in my CVA Optima Northwest at the range. As an added bonus, the Hornady SST is one of the most reasonably priced muzzleloader bullets currently available on the market.
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.
The Federal BOR is a California and Colorado legal muzzleloader bullet.
Weighing at just 170 grains, the Traditions Smackdown Bleed bullet is designed to deliver high velocities, flat trajectories, lower recoil, and devastating wound channels upon impact. Fired using Traditions’ Ridgeback sabot, the Smackdown Bleed is intended for use on small to moderate sized, thin-skinned animals like whitetail deer and will likely result in massive exit wounds with an easy to follow blood trail. Not surprisingly, these are one of the favorite bullets of Mark Drury, Terry Drury, and the rest of the Drury Outdoors team.
This is a lead free and therefore a California legal muzzleloader bullet.
While the lighter weight Traditions Smackdown Bleed is designed and marketed for use on deer sized game, the heavier 250gr or 305gr Traditions Smackdown Carnivore bullet is built to deliver better weight retention and penetration when used on larger game like elk, bear, and moose (though it can be used on deer as well). Like the Smackdown Bleed, the Smackdown Carnivore also uses Traditions’ Ridgeback sabot.
Speaking of the Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzleloader, the 100% copper Premier AccuTip bullet is produced by Barnes specifically for use in the Remington 700 UML. Remington was trying to build a muzzleloader with a 300 yard lethal range, so they also needed a bullet that could handle up to a 200 grain powder charge. By and large, they were very successful in that regard and hunters have given it rave reviews as a long range muzzleloader bullet: it’s accurate, expands rapidly, and retains nearly 100% of its weight.
This is a California legal muzzleloader bullet.
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’s 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.).
Yes, as confirmed by the Idaho Fish & Game Department, the PowerBelt Pure Lead is an Idaho legal muzzleloading bullet.
Just like the name states, the Traditions Plinker is designed for use at the range. These are the cheapest muzzleloader bullets around, but they still work very well for sighting in your scope and practicing your marksmanship.
Constructed from pure lead, these 240 grain hollow point bullets use a basic plastic sabot. With that in mind, their trajectory is very close to more expensive bullets of similar weight. You should still fine tune your scope with the actual bullets you plan on using for hunting, but these bullets will get you most of the way there without breaking the bank.
In areas where lead bullets are legal to use, there’s also no reason why you can’t hunt with the Traditions Plinker either. They’re remarkably accurate, very easy to load, and have excellent terminal performance on thin skinned game like deer.
The Shockwave is a pretty conventional saboted muzzleloader bullet that’s great for deer hunters like Jim Shockey that use 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.
The Thompson Center Shockwave bullet is available in 200 grain, 250 grain, and 300 grain bullet weights.
Since many flintlock and sidelock muzzleloaders have a really slow rifling twist (around 1:66 or so) that won’t properly stabilize a conical bullet, hunters using those rifles are typically restricted to using round balls. Though round balls haven’t changed much since the days of Daniel Boone, they will still work with good shot placement. No animal will go very far after taking a round ball through the lungs.
Hornady makes a line of quality muzzleloader round balls. Not only are they some of the least expensive muzzleloader bullets out there, but they are also available in a wide variety of sizes, which makes them a great choice for hunters looking for .32, .36, .44, .45, .50, and/or .54 caliber muzzleloading bullets.
The Hornady muzzleloader round balls are also Idaho legal muzzleloading bullets.
While the 300 grain 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.
Hornady has discontinued the FPB, but Muzzle-Loaders.com purchased virtually the entire remaining stock of those muzzleloader bullets. So, if you have a pet load that used the FPB, click on the link below to buy a few. That company is basically the only remaining source of those bullets at this point and when they’re gone, they’re gone!
What did you think about my choices for the best muzzleloader bullets for hunters? Did I miss any?
While this post covers choosing the right muzzleloader bullet, that’s only part of the equation when hunting with a muzzleloader. For more detailed information on choosing the gear for hunting with a muzzleloader, check out these other articles:
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John McAdams is a proficient blogger, experienced shooter, and long time hunter who has pursued big game in 8 different countries on 3 separate continents. John graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is a veteran of combat tours with the US Army in Iraq & Afghanistan. In addition to founding and writing for The Big Game Hunting Blog, John has written for outdoor publications like Bear Hunting Magazine, The Texas State Rifle Association newsletter, Texas Wildlife Magazine, & Wide Open Spaces. Learn more about John here, read some of John’s most popular articles, and be sure to subscribe to his show: the Big Game Hunting Podcast.