In most US gun laws, black powders muzzleloaders are considered antique firearms. This means that most black powders are treated according to their firearms under the antique laws.
Gun Powders in the US.
Recently we have seen a resurgence in the popularity of black-powder weapons. However, black powder weapons have been used for quite a while in hunting. There are a lot of areas that have specific seasons for muzzleloaders. A lot of times, that is usually before or after the general gun season. This is just to kind of create a special niche and allow hunters an additional opportunity for hunting. In some states, the specific seasons make it harder for hunters; this limits the number of hunters in an area. There are states that will only allow people who own black powder weapons to hunt.
Some places call these specific seasons the primitive weapon season. However, this is far from what it is today because so many black-powder weapons are no longer primitive. You can now mount rails, scopes, etc. on muzzleloaders. But essentially, they still function in the same way as older black-powder weapons. This is by pouring powder, using a percussion cap, and firing either a ball or more commonly a shaped bullet.
States Black Powder Laws
Increasingly, we are seeing the popularity of black-powder revolvers and more people shooting them at ranges.
Some people may think this is some hipster steampunk trendy thing, but in some states like Texas, it is actually a legal issue.
The majority of states in the US allow open carry, and Texas is one of only six states that does not allow open carry of modern handguns. You can walk down the street with your conventional hunting rifle. But if you carry a little 9 millimeter Sig on your hip the state considers you a criminal unless it is concealed. So essentially one layer of fabric is the difference between a free gun owner and a criminal now.
Because of this modern gun law, black powder weapons are not considered a firearm in Texas and states with similar gun laws.
The Texas Penal Code section of 4601 defines a firearm in the state of Texas as any weapon that is pre-1899, uses cap-and-ball, and does not use centerfire or rimfire. Ammunition is not considered a firearm, it is exempted from all the laws that regulate firearms.
ATF Directive Concerning Black Powder Storage
In June 2016, ATF released an explosives newsletter that caused everybody to freak out about black powders. While the internet was buzzing with information that ATF had just banned ammunition, the newsletter actually stated that ATF had only been asked a question about nitrocellulose under the federal explosives laws and regulations.
The newsletter did not reference any kind of ban, but people misconstrued it. What ATF stated was that gun powders of 12.6% or greater nitrogen content were a high explosive under the laws. And they must be stored in either a type 1 or type 2 magazine. Magazines here refer to any actual physical area to store an explosives material in a safe manner.
The newsletter went on to state that the Department of Transportation may assign explosives classification to nitrocellulose that has been wetted with either water or alcohol. ATF explains that because when black powder is wet it diminishes the likelihood of an explosion in a transportation accident.
However, because the explosive characteristics remain when the water or alcohol is removed, the wet compound remains explosive. SO it is still subject to the licensing safety and storage requirements of the safe explosives Act and its regulations.
So what does this have to do with ammunition? The smokeless black gun powder contains nitrocellulose. In fact, there are primarily two kinds you are going to find on the open market and a third kind that is generally reserved for large caliber ammunition like naval warships and artillery guns.
There are single-based smokeless powders that just contain nitrocellulose. There are double-based ones that contain nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin. And then there is the third kind which contains nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin and guanidine.
Since the last ones are primarily used in large-caliber ammunition, you will likely never see them unless you reload these calibers. If ATF were to classify all nitrocellulose as an explosive, that would create all kinds of issues for gun owners under the SCA.
Explosives are required to be stored in magazines as defined by the ATF. It is also unlawful for any person who is not a licensee or a permit holder to transport or receive any kind of gunpowder or explosive materials.
Because people read that nitrocellulose was now more heavily regulated and since it is a primary component in smokeless gunpowder, they believed that ATF had banned black gun powders.
However, ATF released an addendum to this newsletter in their August edition. This stated that the industry had brought issues to ATF's attention that it had not considered banning gun powders.
ATF denied this and said that they were also going to continue to conduct further outreach concerning the issue with the industry. So what all this actually means is that ATF never banned ammunition and gunpowder.
Black powder needs to be stored in a cool dry environment, away from sparks, heat. You can keep them in a wooden box, not a metal box or a steel box. You can also make use of a non-ferrous metal box, but make sure that it is at least forty feet away from impact always.
Choosing Black Powders for Muzzleloaders
Black powder is designated by the size of the particles using an F scale. 1F basically means it's just screen size. 2F is going to be larger granules. 3F a little bit smaller, while 4F will be fine like salt.
1F also known as reenactor powder or cannon powder is the large granulations for your big bore 58 calibers and above. So if you have a musket of 69 calibers you are going to use 1F.
2F is for 45 to 58 calibers. 3 F is going to be for pistol caliber and small rifle caliber that are 45 and below. Most of your traditional pistol calibers, colts, and Remington's fall into this 3F category.
What are Muzzleloaders?
Muzzleloaders are firearms where the propellant is poured down the barrel. They have a sort of ignition flint system, so they are also called flintlock rifles. They create a spark that ignites the black powder just like bullets do. Except it is a single shot down the barrel. Modern muzzleloading rifles have synthetic stock and they look like normal rifles.
Configuring a MuzzleLoader to Remain an Antique Firearm
Many people look to configure their muzzleloaders and antique firearms in such a way that will enable their functionalities. One of the most additional features used for this is a flash suppressor, which is illegal in most states.
A flash suppressor means any device attached to the end of a barrel that is designed with intention or functions to precipitately reduce or redirect muzzle flash from the shooter's field of vision.
A hybrid device that has either flash suppressing properties or functionally has flash suppressing properties would be deemed a flash suppressor.
A device labeled or identified by its manufacturer as a flash hider would be deemed a flash suppressor.
Muzzle brakes or compensators do not fall under what a flash suppressor is because they do not hide the flash or redirect the flash out of the shooter's field of view. Also, standalone muzzle brakes and compensators are not advertised as being flash suppressors or that redirect flash.
In fact, a lot of the time you have a lot more flash and you get big fireballs out of your muzzle devices. So, the muzzle devices that you should put on your muzzleloader should be standalone compensators or muzzle brakes.
There are some products out there that are a muzzle brake compensator and flash hider. You cannot put them on your muzzleloader too. This is because according to the gun law, they would fall under a hybrid device.
So, those hybrid devices that you may think just because it says compensator in it, it should be good to go are illegal. They are the ones you should completely avoid.
For example, if you put a muzzle brake compensator and flash hider on your rifle, it automatically makes that rifle an assault weapon. And the possession of an assault weapon in this offense can be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor in most states.
Typical flash hiders, standalone flash hiders, or flash suppressors that you would buy on any gun website are also illegal. This is because they would fall under that definition of being a flash suppressor.
If a flash suppressor is something you must configure on your rifle or muzzleloader at all cost, the only way to go about it is if you have a fixed magazine build, instead of a detachable magazine build.