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Blackpowder: the shooting industry's last frontier.

While the experts debate the future of the U.S. economy, manufacturers and wholesalers of black powder products are nearly unanimous in their reports that 1993 is starting out as a boom year for the sale of muzzleloading firearms and related supplies.

Several factors seem to be fueling the rise in muzzleloading sales. First, states around the country are expanding and liberalizing their black powder hunting seasons. Indeed, some states are now allowing hunters to take one deer with a modern firearm and another with a muzzleloader. A number of companies mention expanded muzzleloading hunting opportunities in Texas -- the state with more hunters than any other -- as being one cause for their expanded sales.

Another factor driving sales upward is increased interest in muzzleloading target shooting and re-enactments. A recent Civil War re-enactment in Tennessee drew some 6,000 participants and 12,000 spectators -- in bad weather.

The third factor driving muzzleloading sales is an extension of a trend common to all the shooting industry: More and more women are becoming involved in muzzleloading. These women are entering the sport for the first time and they need guns, powder, and accessories.

Different factors appear to be more important in some areas of the country than others, but whatever the reasons, a black powder boom is underway -- and with it comes increased sales opportunities for gun dealers from Florida to Alaska.

Following are some of the companies that dealers may want to take a close look at when evaluating their needs in this rapidly expanding segment of the firearms market. All will be happy to answer questions and provide catalogs.

Blount

Blount of Lewiston, Idaho, is a conglomerate of manufacturing companies that are well known to sportsmen around the nation.

For black powder shooters, there are a variety of lead balls available from CCI/Speer -- ranging from a 64-grain ball for some .36-caliber pistols and rifles to a .278-grain ball for the .58-caliber Harpers Ferry Pistol and Morse Navy.

In addition, Blount offers cleaning supplies from Outers/Weaver -- including cleaning kits, cleaning rods, a black powder solvent, a black powder ball puller, wool mops, brushes, and patches.

Of course, Weaver also is known for its broad line of scopes and mounts.

Butler Creek

Butler Creek Corp. of Belgrade, Mont., has been around for over 20 years and is probably best known for its Flip-Open Scope Covers.

The company manufactures a number of accessories for black powder shooters -- including pour spouts, nipple covers, poly-patches, maxi-patches, and the Nature's Blend brand of products for lubricating and protecting guns.

Assistant Sales and Marketing Director Vicki Johnson said new products for '93 include a Blow Tube that puts moisture down the muzzle-loader's barrel between shots, as well as a Nature's Blend BCC Bullet Lube Stick and a BCC Bullet and Patch Lube.

No one is more upbeat about the black powder business than Johnson. "Business has been real good," she said. "Crazy as a matter of fact. Just ridiculous."

B-Square

Located in Fort Worth, Texas, B-Square manufactures a wide variety of scope mounts, bipods, tools, and accessories -- some of which could prove of interest to the black powder shooter, especially the muzzleloader spud.

Advertising Manager Judy Norman said the spud almost disappeared from B-Square's product line but was saved by increased interest in muzzleloading.

Dixie Gun Works

You probably don't want to sit down with Dixie Gun Works' 1993 catalog unless you have a lot of time. That's because it's nearly 650 pages long and contains thousands of items.

Dixie Gun Works, located in Union City, Tenn., carries a full line of muzzleloading firearms and accouterments. Its own line of black powder guns is manufactured in Italy and Japan.

Asked what's new for '93, Dixie Director of Advertising George "Butch" Winter said, "A new three-band Sharps infantry rifle is the big thing we're working on." It will hit the market on June 1.

What's hot for this year? "Everything seems to be hot right now," Winters said.

Dynamit Nobel RWS

With it U.S. headquarters in Closter, N.J., Dynamit Nobel RWS may be better known to many people for its Rottweil trap and skeet guns.

For the black powder shooter, this German-based company offers high quality percussion and musket caps.

"We have a pretty good demand for them," said Frank Turner, president of Dynamit Nobel RWS. "This is the time of year we try to stock up before the hunting seasons get here."

Forster Products

Forster Products of Lanark, Ill., manufactures a full line of reloading and gunsmith tools, as well as black powder tools for loading.

Among the items of interest to black powder shooters are a ball starter, a maxiball starter, a solid walnut loading block, a patch cutter, a muzzleloading kit (.45, .50, and .54 calibers), and the Tap-O-Cap for making percussion caps.

Marketing Manager Bob Ruch said Forster's Maxi-Ball Starter appears to be the hot item for this year. Ruch described business as "quite good."

Hornady

Hornady Manufacturing Company of Grand Island, Neb., is nationally recognized for its bullets, ammunition, reloading equipment, and accessories.

For black powder shooters Hornady makes Great Plains bullets, round balls, and sabots with XTP bullets specially designed for hunters.

What's new this year? "Muzzleloading kits are available in .45, .50, and .54 caliber that contain a box of the Hornady brand conical bullets, a tin of Remington percussion caps, and a 4-ounce bottle of Hogdon Pyrodex that comes in a recyclable clam shell that dealers can hang on the wall," said Hornady Advertising Director Doug Engle.

Engle is upbeat about '93. "Business has been good, and a lot of dealers came to our booth at the SHOT Show in a pretty good mood," he said. "Texas just opened up their first statewide muzzleloading season, so we're looking for a solid influx of sales from down there."

KBI, Inc.

KBI Inc., based in Harrisburg, Pa., imports Kassnar brand black powder revolvers and Hawken left- and right-handed rifles from Italy.

What's hot? "We seem to be doing a bigger and bigger business with black powder pistols," said KBI Vice President Steven Cohen.

Lyman

Lyman of Middlefield, Conn., is known for the wide variety of black powder firearms it imports from Italy for the traditional and hunting markets. It also produces tools and accessories.

"New for muzzleloaders this year we have a left-handed version of Lyman's Great

Plains Rifle in both percussion and flintlock, .50 and .54 caliber," said Lyman's Ed Schmitt.

There also are new bullet moulds and Targ-Dots (stick-on targets). Schmitt described the business as, "booming."

Michaels of Oregon

In addition to its Uncle Mike's line of holsters, belts, cartridge carriers, gun cases, and hunting gear, Michaels of Oregon, based in Portland, also carries an extensive line of black powder hardware.

Their items range from a deluxe powder flask and stainless steel ramrods to an Oregon ball/bullet starter and a barrel flush kit.

New for '93 is a Cordura nylon possibles bag for black powder hunters and shooters who would rather wear camo clothing and boots than buckskins and moccasins. These are in Woodland and Trebark camouflage.

Michaels reports that sales have increased every year and that there seems to be a renewed interest in muzzleloading in '93 with flasks and powder measures leading the way.

Mountain State Muzzleloading

Mountain State Muzzleloading of Williamstown, W.V., is a leading manufacturer and distributor of muzzleloading firearms and supplies. "We have a new powder flask for this year and a new lube," said Mountain State's Fred Lambert. "It's all manufactured right here in good old U.S.A. of West Virginia."

Mountain state's guns are all manufactured in the U.S.A. of Indiana.

"Business is looking good," Lambert said. "We're getting a lot of new dealers into (black powder). We're up well over what normal inflation rates would indicate.

"A lot of the dealers have said that black powder carried them through last year. If it hadn't been for the muzzleloading side of their business, they would have been in the red instead of the black."

Navy Arms

Navy Arms Company of Ridgefield, N.J., was founded in 1958 by Val Forgett, who is considered the founder of the replica black powder industry.

Today the company produces a variety of muzzleloading firearms and accessories including flintlock and percussion pistols, Pennsylvania and Kentucky rifles, LeMatt revolvers, Civil War Pistols and rifles, guns of the Old West, target rifles, rolling block rifles, hunting rifles, and muzzleloading shotguns.

Parker-Hale rifles are produced for Navy Arms by Gibbs Rifle Company in Martinsburg, W.V.

Penguin Industries/Hoppe's

Penguin Industries/Hoppe's of Coatsville, Pa., manufactures a number of muzzleloading products -- including gun cleaning kits, ball pullers, a black powder solvent, and a lubricating oil Weathergaurd. New for '93 are Weathergaurd cloths.

Business continues strong at Penguin Industries. "We never really felt the recession," said Sales Office Manager Pat Lucas.

Sturm, Ruger & Co.

Sturm, Ruger & Co. of Southport, Conn., certainly is best known for its modern firearms, but the company also makes the Ruger Old Army .45-caliber cap-and-ball revolver (styled after the old Remington) in blue and stainless steel.

"They are not huge sellers, but they are very consistent sellers," said Marketing Manager Mike Bussard. "Every year we sell several thousand."

Thompson/Center Arms

Thompson/Center Arms of Rochester, N.H., sells its nationally known line of black powder firearms and accessories through distributors, who in turn sell through a network of dealers. T/C has introduced some new guns for muzzle-loaders this year.

The Thunder Hawk is a modern .50-caliber caplock rifle that combines the functional aspects of an old-time caplock with the looks and balance of a modern bolt-action rifle. Advertising Manager Eric Hooker described the Thunder Hawk as the "Hit of the SHOT Show this year."

Another new gun, the Grey Hawk, is a traditional .50-caliber caplock rifle with stainless steel components.

A third is a no-frills, weatherized version of the Scout Carbine.

The Contender Carbine and Contender Pistol are now available in stainless steel.

Among the new accessories for '93 is the Silent Ball Discharger, a unique tool which utilizes a C|O.sub.2~ cartridge to allow shooters to remove a "live" powder charge (including the projectile) without having to fire the rifle or "pull" the charge by way of a bullet puller.

"This is a device that's going to set the world on its ear," predicted Hooker.

T/C also is enjoying strong sales. "For the last three years sales have been extremely good and we expect them to get even better," Hooker said.

Venco Industries

Venco Industries of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, manufactures Shooter's Choice products. Of special interest to black powder shooters is its Black Powder Cleaning Gel for removing black powder and lead from muzzleloaders. Its Rust Prevent is engineered to preserve gun metal, barrels, and actions.

New for '93 is Shooter's Choice FP-10 Lubricant Elite, which is billed as reducing friction and wear, protecting against metal damage, and eliminating most malfunctions associated with inferior lubricants.

"The unique thing about this product is that due to its molecular structure, it actually penetrates the steel, so if you work your action and wipe it off, you still have superior lubricity than you do with the other ones," said Venco Sales Manager Gerry Doerr.

Doerr summarized the company's business as "excellent."
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Author:Schneider, Jim
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:1885
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