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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Muzzle-loaded pistol shooting

Go old school with these lock, stock and barrel pistols from back in the day.

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What to expect

Muzzle-loaded pistol shooting is target shooting with a pistol that’s loaded from the forward, open end of the gun barrel, or ‘muzzle’, rather than from the rear. There’s often a focus on historical re-enactment and while some original pistols can still be seen on ranges, there’s a whole range of reproductions made today too. Pistol shooting is generally carried out at 25 metre ranges and there are lots of different types of pistol, from matchlocks and flintlocks to percussion single shot and revolvers.

What you’ll learn

Shooting muzzle-loaded pistols is a great chance to try something new and as with most target shooting activities, consistency is key. It can be a challenge to hit the target but with this activity, you’ve also got to think about loading the pistol correctly too. You’ll have to persevere more, stay focused and keep giving it a go until you achieve your aim.

Fun facts

  • Everything from pistols to cannons can be muzzle-loaded, but today it mostly refers to black powder small arms.
  • Duelling was a sport at the 1906 and 1908 Olympics and used single shot flintlock duelling pistols. It was a popular sport in France in the early 20th century, using wax bullets and no powder charge.

Handy hints

  • Enjoy yourself! Don’t worry if it seems complicated. Trying out muzzle-loading for the first time is more about the experience than getting it right.
  • Take care of your hair. People with long hair will probably need to tie it back. Take a few extra hair ties, just in case anyone forgets.
  • Protect your ears. Some people don’t like loud noises. Be sure to have a chat beforehand and see how you can help. Think about taking some ear defenders with you, in case they’re needed.


You must always:
Be safe outdoors:
  • Check the weather forecast
  • Shooting is defined in POR 9.11.5
  • Shooting at targets representing humans or animals is not permitted.
  • Consider local feelings on shooting prior to planning your activity, provide parents with detailed information about the activity and parental permission is required for members under 18 taking part.
  • Transportation, storage and use of shooting equipment is detailed in POR 9.11.5
This activity can be led by you or someone else in Scouts:
  • Acceptable instructor qualifications
    • Range conducting officer - as outlined in FS120004 Shooting
You can go to a centre or use an activity leader who is not part of Scouting:
You must find a suitable provider who meets the following requirements:
  • The centre/instructor should hold one of these:
    • Range conducting officer - as outlined in FS120004 Shooting
  • The provider must have public liability insurance.




For anyone who’s tried other shooting activities before, this out-of-the-ordinary adventure can be a good chance to try something new. You’ve got lots more to think about than just keeping the sights on target. Keep at it to get the hang of this different way of reloading the pistol, and have a few goes to get used to the weight and shape of the pistol in your hand. It’s probably a bit different to any air pistols you’ve used.

Did anyone manage to hit the target on their first try? If they’ve tried other shooting activities, how do muzzle-loaded pistols compare? People might find it frustrating taking more time to load or learning to shoot in a different way. It might take more time but remember, this activity is a chance for everyone to learn about what using firearms was like in the past too, not just about hitting the target every time.

There are lots of types of muzzle-loaded pistols to try, from matchlock and flintlock pistols to single shot percussion. The range is usually set up at 25 metres, but you could extend it to 50 metres for an added challenge.

  • Muzzle-loaded pistol shooting can often be adapted so more people can give it a go. Many centres have facilities that cater for people with additional needs and experienced instructors to help everyone achieve their goals. Get in touch with your local provider to chat through the needs of people in your group. Make sure you give them plenty of notice.
  • Check out some information on accessible shooting activities from British Shooting.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Anyone who’s enjoyed this activity could find a local club to join on the Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain’s website.

If anyone has done this before, encourage them to share their knowledge beforehand with everyone.