By Jeff Johnston
There are purists, there are dickheads and there are those who just like to hunt.
Purists insist on a hand-hewn tiger maple flintlock for the muzzleloader season. Most of the time this historic contraption doesn’t go off, but that isn’t the point for these people. Dickheads don’t like any muzzleloaders because they aren’t modern rifles. The folks who just like to hunt tend to use the best legal technology they can afford because the tool is just a means to an end.
Right now Federal’s FireStick product is that technology.
It’s a preloaded charge of powder contained in a substantial case of plastic that must be manually primed then breech-loaded into a muzzleloader. With the bullet necessarily loaded via the muzzle, the rifle remains legal in most states for primitive arms seasons.
The FireStick lends several big advantages over traditional loose powder or even pellets.
- Ease of use. Load the bullet into the muzzle and keep it there all season. When the hunt is over each morning, each day or anytime you wish to make the gun safe, simply remove the FireStick from the breech just like you would a shell from a break-open shotgun. Sure, the bullet is still in the gun, but the gun is incapable of firing. Secondly, FireSticks come in 80- 100-and 120-gr. (50 caliber) charges that eliminate fiddle-fucking with powder measures if you choose loose powder or even pellets. I don’t know how many times during loading I’ve said to myself, have I loaded just one pellet, or was that two? Three? Who the hell knows?
- Accurate. Measuring loose powder is often for me like me trying to pour whiskey in a decanter without a funnel in a dark and windy alley. Some goes in, some goes out and much fun is lost. FireStick guarantees there’s the perfect amount of powder in the gun for consistent shot-to-shot pressure which amounts to higher accuracy potential.
- Waterproof. There’s a reason Indians attacked early settlers in the rain. But can you imagine those first tomahawk-wielding wild asses who charged not knowing the cowboys had just upgraded their Kentucky Long rifles for Civil War leftover Henrys? I feel sure more than a few of them yelled the native equivalent of “WTF??!” as they met their god du jour in the downpour. It’s the same for the FireStick: Once the flash hole is plugged by a modern, sealed 209 shotgun primer, that baby is like a brass cartridge, and I proved it after hunting all day in the rain with a Traditions NitroFire rifle and successfully firing it, wet and dripping, at dark.
In any hunting group there are a number of guys who draw a thin line where they believe technology should end when hunting animals for sport. For these folks, primitive arms should be primitive. I get it. But there are others who just like to hunt by the most effective means legally available, as did our more primitive ancestors. And then there are the dickheads who won’t try anything too new or too old. But I reckon we’ve always had these people and we always will, so there’s no use arguing about it. $35 for 10
Pros: accurate, easy, safe, water resistant
Cons: currently only available for Traditions’ brand FireStick-compatible muzzleloader models.