Hodgdon’s Triple Seven FireStar Pellets Boost Muzzleloader Performance

It may just be the next best thing to magic when it comes to downing game

Hunter with binoculars and rifle sitting on a cliff
FireStar blackpowder pellets may just be the next best thing to magic when it comes to downing game.Wayne Van Zwoll

After emigrating from Bulgaria, the Popovs bought a cold, wild block of forest 210 miles above Saskatoon. Val and his wife, Vi, moved cabins across lake ice and built a lodge “where the hunting was good.” Val cut a 2-mile track to a gravel road connecting points beyond Big River.

North of Tower Lodge, a bog all but gulped our ATV. Val freshened the bear bait with granola, M&Ms, and anise. Then he banged the barrel with a stick: “Dinner bell.” Not long after he left, a ghost appeared from the alders. A PowerBelt bullet driven by FireStar pellets flew from my CVA muzzleloader.

That bear was the first game I’d taken with FireStar, introduced by Hodgdon early in 2018. “It’s like Triple Seven, but better,” said Chris Hodgdon. “Bores stay cleaner, so loading stays easy.”

Checking zero, I had found that claim to be true. Accuracy? The bullets were on rails! Sandbagged at 50 yards, my CVA rifle delivered its first PowerBelt an inch high. Perfect. Tamping a second onto three FireStar pellets, I dropped the hammer on another 209. The paper showed no change. I reloaded and fired again. Still no change. Uh-oh. But a close look revealed all three bullets had indeed cut one hole.

Bear camp had no chronograph. Hodgdon assured me that bullets pushed by FireStar left 1:28 rifling a bit faster than when driven by Pyrodex or Triple Seven. “You should talk with Ron.”

Ron Reiber’s 41 years in the shooting industry include 27 at Hodgdon. He welcomed my call. “Think of FireStar as reshaped Triple Seven,” he said. “Each FireStar pellet is a thick-walled tube with longitudinal grooves, a six-pointed star in cross-section. Those grooves help each pellet burn more uniformly and completely.”

Like Triple Seven pellets, FireStars have no igniter surface, so they can be oriented either-end-down in a barrel. A FireStar pellet is lighter than a Triple Seven pellet of the same length, but charge weights don’t apply to blackpowder substitutes. “Think volume,” said Reiber. “In granular and pelleted form, substitutes have more oomph per grain than black. So they’re listed in grain-equivalents.”

He didn’t suggest I put pelleted blackpowder substitutes on a scale. But I did, to prove his point.

Triple Seven FireStar Pellets
Triple Seven FireStar PelletsWayne Van Zwoll

Pyrodex pellets (50-grain-equivalent) averaged 38.8 grains each. Triple Seven pellets (50-grain-equivalent) averaged 30.9 grains each.

A FireStar pellet is roughly the same length as a Triple Seven but has less material, so less thrust. It’s not a 50-grain-equivalent pellet. Hodgdon advises a three-pellet FireStar charge to match a two-pellet Triple Seven charge in a 100-grain-equivalent load. According to Reiber, five FireStars yield the bullet arc and energy you can expect from three-pellet charges of Pyrodex or Triple Seven.

On my scale, five FireStar pellets average 24.8 grains each. No, 3x24.8 doesn’t equal 2x30.9 for a 100-grain-equivalent charge. “Forget weight,” Reiber repeated. “It’ll just confuse you.” FireStar pellets have sent 175-grain Dead Center bullets at 2410 fps, 240-grain XTPs at nearly 2350, and 260-grain Scorpion PT Golds at over 2140. Hornady 300-grain SSTs have clocked 2105 fps.

FireStar pellets, currently in .50-caliber only, come in blister packs of 10, field-ready plastic tubes, each with six pellets. The pack lists 100-grain-equivalent charges as a practical maximum, but Hodgdon approves four- and five-pellet loads, too.

Reiber pointed out that FireStar pellets stack taller than an equivalent charge of Triple Seven. “So the burn occurs over a longer section of barrel. Fouling is less concentrated. Reduced total fouling means you get more shots before loading becomes a real chore.”

You shouldn’t have to load often on a big-game hunt. But a fouled bore can slow a follow-up shot just enough that you forfeit it. Ever careful not to oversell, Reiber conceded FireStar pellets don’t work magic.

I’ll have to correct him there.

On grassy steppes above Idaho’s Salmon River, long coulees crowded by plum thickets hem dark conifers. Near dusk I threaded a north-slope trail. A cow elk emerged from a tangle, then looked back. A shadow moved a branch. I thumbed the hammer of the CVA. The bear showed its shoulder at 22 steps. Smoke and recoil hid the impact. As I dropped in another charge of FireStars, the thicket became still. (hodgdon.com)