See that little rifle above? Here in the Missoula area where I am still located, it has actually seen a limited amount of use. There aren't enough cottontails in the area to actually go out and "hunt rabbits" ... and by the time the high country snowshoe hares are all nice and white ... it's impossible to get into the high country ... unless you own a snowmobile. Which I don't. And it's kind of hard to justify buying one ... just to shoot a few big bunnies.
We reported on this rifle, and authentically styled non-lensed tube sight back in August of last year (2016). A good friend had built the rifle around a relatively fast 1-in-32 twist Remington produced .31 caliber barrel that had been salvaged from a circa 1830-1840 rifle. I found the barrel to shoot exceptionally well with a patched piece of No. 1 buckshot (.300" diameter) from Ballistic Products Inc., of Corcoran, MN. I had worked up a load for hunting fall turkeys (in Montana), shooting 15 grains of FFFg Olde Eynsford (GOEX) black powder. The load was getting the ball out of the muzzle at 1,325 f.p.s. - with 155 f.p.e. - which is great for turkey, but a little hot for cottontails. For more on this .31 caliber small-game rifle and this shooting, go to -
Using a small plastic powder dipper, which gives just a tenth of a grain shy of 12-grains of P-Grade Pyrodex when leveled, this little home-shop brewed small-bore rifle is a tack driver - getting one of the 40-grain spheres of lead out of the muzzle at a whopping 1,225 f.p.s. - with 133 f.p.e. That's pretty much the velocity and energy produced by a "Standard Velocity" .22 Long Rifle cartridge shot from a 20-or-so inch rifle barrel - making this small-bore muzzleloader ideal for hunting cottontails.
This rifle was the very last rifle built by that dear old friend, who passed away about a year ago, and he wanted me to have it - since he had gotten that old Remington barrel from me. The turkeys just weren't where I usually hunt last fall ... and I never got around to going after cottontails. There are plenty of rabbits along the edges of several large hay fields, and I've taken a number with a little Traditions .32 Crockett Rifle (above right). So, come October and November, the tube-sighted .31 will definitely go with me when headed to deer camp.
Shooting the hotter "turkey load" ... the rifle prints about a half-inch high at 50 yards. With the lighter "rabbit load", the rifle puts the small .300" diameter piece of No. 1 buckshot "dead on" at about 25 yards ... and that's ideal for potting a few sunning cottontails. Likewise, by early October, I will be relocated from Missoula to Eastern Montana where there are a lot of cottontails - and this little rifle will accompany me on my morning walks with the dogs ... and especially when I just want to sneak away all by myself. There just could be a lot of bunny busting in my future.
Do you hunt rabbits and other small game with a small bore muzzleloading rifle? Use the comment section of this post to share the details about your rifle ... and load. If you don't already own a small-bore small-game muzzleloading rifle, check out the Dixie Gun Works .32 caliber Deluxe Cub Rifle, available in either flint or percussion ignition. The Davide Pedersoli company also offers several different .32 models, including their brass-mounted Kentucky rifle, which is also offered in choice of flint or percussion ignition. Once you have the rifle, shooting these small bore muzzleloaders is extremely inexpensive ... and a great way to slowly stalk through the snow and bring home a few rabbits for the dinner table. - Toby Bridges
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Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting
This blog is made possible by Davide Pedersoli & Co., Dixie Gun Works, Traditions Firearms, Green Mountain Rifle Barrel Co., October Country, and Hodgdon/GOEX powders. The topics presented here will be devoted entirely to shooting and hunting with muzzleloading guns of pre- 1860's design.