By Kyle Jillson | June 17 2012 16:50
Joe Brown with Match Director Jonathan Leighton

Friendship, Indiana - After yesterday's NRA Black Powder Skeet Championship I was able to pull aside the winner, Joe Brown, and pick his brain to learn what he likes so much about muzzleloader matches and what he thinks of the NMLRA's Spring Shoot.

"I've been muzzleloading of some kind or over for 30 years," Joe told me, immediately establishing how much he likes the sport. "I started coming up here maybe 25 years ago, but I was a pistol shooter and moved to shotgun a few years later. I've always liked skeet and try to shoot modern skeet once a week at the local club. It took me a while to move to muzzleloader skeet, but I'm glad I did."

This was the first muzzleloading shotgun match I'd been to and, unlike other shotgun competitions I go to, it was a new experience seeing shooters walk off the field to reload their shotguns at the bench before the next set of clays.

This component of muzzleloading is something shooters don't experience with modern styles and creates a unique experience.

If you watch modern trap shooters, it sometimes looks like they get in a chance - shoot 5, move, shoot 5. Here, we shoot, walk somewhere, reload and people are saying 'well did you hear about this...'" Brown said. "There's a lot of talking because there's a lot of 'down' time and everyone is so friendly. Yesterday one guy loaded and forgot to put his shot in and you think 'how stupid can i be' but everybody's done it."

Joe Brown firing his muzzleloading shotgun at the NRA Black Powder Skeet match

I had immediately noticed how much fun everyone was having with each other - in the middle of a match - shortly after I arrived. Shooters were ribbing each other as they reloaded or talked about recent news.

"They definitely named this place right - friendship," Brown told me. "Most of these people you only see for two weeks in a year but it feels like a family reunion."

Because the Spring Shoot is so long, many competitors camp at the ranges. The shotgun range is seperated from the pistol and rifle ranges, meaning the shotgun shooters see a lot of one another and often share meals and hang out once the shooting is over. "At dinner time, all you have to do is walk around, look kind of pitiful, and someone's going to feed you," Brown chuckled.

The muzzleloading shotgun

"Muzzleloading is a lot harder than it looks," Brown told me. "A number of things can go wrong. You can missfire, have your hammer on half-cock, pull the wrong trigger, call on the wrong bird. There's so much more to keep track of."

So what's the appeal of muzzleloading when you can use a modern shotgun and not have to worry about those things? What draws people to the sport?

"A lot of people like being their own gunsmith," Brown said. "If you want to start muzzleloading, you need to be at least a tinkerer."

As someone who spent a good portion of his childhood playing with Erector Sets and LEGO, the appeal suddenly became clear.

Congratulations on your win, Joe. We'll be back to see if you can defend your title next year. 

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