When examining muzzleloading firearms, it is important to determine what is a disadvantage and that is an advantage. In general, it is important to consider what each major benefit and drawback are when comparing muzzleloaders. The advantage is that, with muzzleloading guns, one does not have to wait in line for a bullet to break between chambers. Another advantage is that the cycling of cartridges eliminates the need for loading a new cartridge after each shot. These are two major advantages; however, there are some disadvantages as well.
First, it is important to note that black powder is much cheaper than powdered bullets or gunpowder. This is a significant advantage, especially if a participant wants to fire a couple shots, but it can also be a disadvantage if the participant plans on firing many shots per session. As mentioned earlier, there is no need to load a new cartridge after each shot. However, there may be a time when the participant must reload, especially if the round has gone very long without a refill.
Another disadvantage is that the splatters from the bullet will damage nearby surfaces. Because of this, the user of black powder must be certain to cover the entire area in which he or she is shooting the gun. Even if the splatter does not reach the target, the area surrounding the shooter will be badly damaged. Additionally, since the bullet is propelled at very high velocity, any nearby surface areas will be penetrated.
The final and most obvious disadvantage of black powder is that it will only work if the shooter has access to clean air. In other words, the ambient air in which the black powder was fired needs to be free of dust and debris. This could take several hours or even days depending on the conditions. Also, it is important to realize that clean air cannot be created, which limits the shooter’s options. Since black powder requires an open firing chamber, there are many restrictions on how much powder can be loaded per cartridge.
While all three disadvantages of black powder are significant, they can all be negated with proper preparation, safe storage, and inspection before each use. Because black powder is a dangerous substance when used in muzzle loading firearms, it is always best to double check to make sure that the gun is loaded and ready to fire before using it. Remember, these firearms were designed to be fired in an enclosed environment and the potential for harmful exposure should never be overlooked.