Competitive Muzzle Loading
One of the great attractions of muzzle loading is the diversity of firearms available for the enthusiastic target shooter to compete with. For the novice however the apparent bewildering array of competitions can be a source of confusion. This brief overview of some of the basics will help ease the path a little.
The MLAGB has developed a comprehensive program of events that cater for a huge variety of black powder firearms. Please just look at the calendar on the home page and you will see! The Association also selects teams to represent Great Britain in international competition and International events are held under the auspices of the Muzzle Loaders Associations International Committee (MLAIC) who again have a large number of competitions.
Although at first glance, the MLAIC may not be regarding as particularly relevant to 'domestic' shooting events, an overview of their competitions is essential for anyone who wishes to take part in muzzle loading matches.
MLAIC short range competitions are held at 25m for pistol, 50m for musket and 50m & 100m for rifle. In addition there are Down The Line (DTL) clay pigeon shooting events. Competitions are held in two classes, one for original arms and a second for reproduction arms; 'O' and 'R' respectively.
The standard course of fire for pistol, musket and rifle is thirteen shots fired in thirty minutes, with the best ten shots to count for score. No sighting shots are permitted, although a fouling shot can be fired into the backstop during the thirty minute detail if desired. The fouling shot must be announced to the range officer or scorer before firing so that it does not get mistaken for a match shot. All loading must take place during the allotted time period. DTL competition is a total of 50 clay targets shot in two separate rounds of 25 clay targets.
Pistol shooting events are fired one handed, unsupported, at 25m. Musket and rifle events are for the most part fired either offhand or prone. Rifle slings, where permitted, must be original or a reproduction of a contemporary type. Modern adjustable target type slings, including single-point slings, are not permitted. International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) style shooting jackets, gloves and boots are permitted, however the specialised shooting trousers are banned.
Targets used for the pistol and rifle events are the standard ISSF 50m free pistol target. This is designated MLAIC C50 within the MLAIC rules. The target has a 50mm diameter 10 ring, with remaining scoring rings (down to 1) at a 25mm spacing. The aiming mark is 200mm diameter and includes the 7-ring. Smooth bore musket events are fired at 50m on the French Military 200 metre target (MLAIC C200). The 10 ring measures 80 mm diameter, with the black aiming mark out to the 6 ring measuring 400 mm diameter. The MLAGB carries stocks of both targets and they are available from the Association ranges at Wedgnock.
All MLAIC events are named, and it is these names that are used for many MLAGB competitions. The following links contain a summary of the MLAIC events commonly held within the UK. It should be noted that this list is not exhaustive and a full list, together with a brief note of the derivation of the event name, can be found on the MLAIC web site (here).
The MLAIC long range rifle matches are fired at 300, 500, 600, 900 and 1000 yards. Targets used are the standard NRA centre-fire rifle targets. Course of fire is three convertible sighters and ten match shots at distances of 300, 500 and 600 yards. For the 900 and 100 yard ranges, course of fire is five convertible sighters and 15 match shots. When firing out to 600 yards, shooting must be from the prone position and a sling may be used to support the rifle. At ranges greater than 600 yards the back position may be used, or a wrist rest may be used for support when shooting prone. The rifle cannot be placed on the rest, but should sit in the hand, the back of which is supported by the rest.
Having mastered the MLAIC disciplines, the names of some of the MLAGB events may still be a source for confusion. Many of the national championship matches are named after the person who donated the trophy, or in memory of someone now passed on. Despite the event names, for the most part MLAGB competitions are in accordance with MLAIC rules although open shoots do not in general distinguish between original and reproduction firearms. Entry forms should clarify the permitted firearms per event, (listed here before each event is due to take place) and if in doubt as to the course of fire please email the respective discipline secretaries in Contacts who will be able to clarify your questions.
For the military rifle enthusiast there are events fired at distances of 50m, 100m and out to 600 yards. It should be noted that many of these MLAGB events are for Enfield rifles only, although Lancaster oval bore rifles of Government gauge are permitted. The Minie (military rifle) short range competitions fired to MLAIC rules permit other arms providing the bore diameter is in excess of 13.5 mm (0.5315"). In a similar vein there are more MLAGB events for specific long arms such as flint lock muskets.
Pistol shooting also has some variants from the MLAIC program, such as the Crimea Cup for English revolvers which has a slow fire/deliberate stage and a rapid fire stage. Although the MLAIC matches are for original firearms or reproductions in the spirit of the original, the MLAGB pistol competitions do allow for modern variants, such as the Ruger 'Old Army' or revolvers fitted with target sights…..these fall into the free pistol events. Course of fire is the usual best ten of thirteen shots.
DTL shotgun national championships are held by the MLAGB for both flint and percussion action guns. There are also a number of regional sporting events.
Regional and Postal Events
Many muzzle loading competitions are held at the National Shooting Centre, Bisley, the MLAGB's ranges at Wedgnock, Warwick and MLAGB DTL events are held at Northampton Gun Club, Sywell Ranges near Northampton.
There are also a number of regional open competitions held throughout the country. Check the calendar on the home page for more details or print of the year calendar in the Downloads section.
For those who prefer the comfort of their own range, the MLAGB runs a series of postal leagues throughout the year for pistol and revolver. In addition there are annual re-entry postal competitions for pistol, musket and rifle. Course of fire for these is the standard best 10 of 13 shots. Click here for more information.
A Note on Scoring
Muzzle loading firearms eligible to compete in the same event are often available in a variety of calibres. For this reason and in short range competition (up to 100m), when scoring the centre point of shot holes must be at least 50% over the line to count for the higher score. This eliminates any advantage that might be gained by shooting a large diameter bore rifle against a smaller one and if shots only had to break a scoring ring to gain the higher score.
In the event of a tie the winner is the one who has the highest number of shots in each scoring ring in descending order. If these are the same for each ten scoring shots, then the loser is the one with a scoring shot furthest from the centre. If the tie is still unresolved the next nearest scoring shots are used, and so on.
The NRA targets used for mid (200 - 600 yards) and long (over 600 yards) range shooting have a bulls-eye scoring 5 and other scoring rings down to 1 for a hit on target. An additional 'scoring' ring within the bulls-eye, the V-bull, is used for tie-breaking. In the event of a tie, and if the winner cannot be decided on V-bull count, then count back from the last shot fired is used.
Competitive Muzzle Loading
This whirlwind tour of muzzle loading competition hopefully demystifies what can appear to the newcomer to be somewhat daunting. Muzzle loading competition offer a diverse and challenging sport. Competitions are friendly and for the novice offer opportunity to 'compare notes' with more experienced muzzle loaders and above all, take part in a most rewarding sport.
When you join the MLAGB reports from these competitions are published quarterly in Black Powder Magazine and are of course published on this website.