Dietz Photo

Volunteers for the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association register a new member last year during the Gunmakers Fair at Dixon Muzzleloading Shop, Kempton.

KEMPTON — There are many and varied reasons for those interested in every and all aspects of historical muzzle loading firearms, their accouterments and the era known as “The Golden Age of Muzzle Loading” to visit the annual Gunmakers Fair the last weekend of July at Dixon Muzzleloading Shop located in the scenic farmland of Berks County between Kempton and Interstate-78.

Hunters, competitive shooters, plinkers, builders, collectors and those who participate in pre-1840 living history events wearing period attire are attracted to the fair. This year’s three-day event is Friday-Sunday, July 26-28, with complete information — including a schedule of the free seminars — available online at

In addition to the firearms and accessories entered for judging, there are hundreds of original historically correct replica rifles, dozens of antique firearms, shooting bags, powder horns, tomahawks and knives on display and in many case available to purchase. With so much to see in just three days, it is sometimes easy to overlook the presence of the organization that is on the battle-lines to support the rights of muzzleloaders in particular and all firearms owners in general much the same way the Colonials were on the frontlines at Yorktown and the frontiersmen were at New Orleans.

That organization is the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, which exists to promote, support, nurture, and preserve our nation’s rich historical heritage in the sport of muzzle loading through recreational, educational, historical and cultural venues. As such, the NMLRA is represented at the Gunmakers Fair, while also conducting match competitions, hunting, gun making, safety, historical re-enactments, exhibits, museums, libraries and other related programs.

“As an association founded upon our heritage of early American guns, we declare our support of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” NMLRA past president Jim Fulmer of Hamburg said. “We are dedicated to the understanding of, and the ability in, marksmanship with muzzle loading guns with match promotion for the purpose of advancing fine accuracy with these arms and the establishment of standard practices for competition.

“It is the recognition and support for the continuing and growing interest in the added challenge of hunting with a muzzle loading gun. We stand for greater safety with all guns — especially with muzzle loading rifles, pistols and shotguns.

“In addition, we support the collecting, preservation and recreation of antique guns and related accouterments, and the recognition of the value of living history re-enactments. It is the mission statement of the NMLRA to promote, support, nurture and preserve our nation’s rich historical heritage in the sport of muzzle loading through recreational, educational, historical, and cultural venues.”

As the NMLRA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, memberships and other donations are tax deductible. NMLRA members receive “Muzzle Blasts,” the premier monthly magazine devoted to all aspects of the muzzleloading sport, including informative articles on target shooting, hunting, collecting, history, gun building, other how-to projects, primitive camping and scouting and much more.

NMLRA members receive a discount to attend any of the National Rendezvous and Living History Foundation national rendezvous throughout the United States NRLHF rendezvous support these rendezvous through advertising and other promotion in “Muzzle Blasts.”

Each year NMLRA members are eligible to participate in two national championship matches in Friendship, Indiana. These two events bring thousands of like-minded people together to enjoy shooting, shopping and camaraderie.

Members are eligible to participate in 30 NMLRA-sponsored territorial matches throughout the United States, such as the one concluding today at Blue Mountain Muzzleloadeer Club in Shartlesville. All major muzzle loading disciplines are included, consisting of shotgun, pistol, rifle, and primitive.

An added bonus of MNLRA membershp is that those with a valid Indiana hunting license have in-season black powder hunting opportunities on 500 acres of prime southeastern Indiana land owned by the NMLRA. A permit is required for hunting on NMLRA land, which can be requested one in the main office during business hours.

In reality, those who enjoy any aspect of muzzle loading owe it to themselves and their sport to support the NMLRA. For information and membership, visit the NMLRA booth July 26-28 at the Gunmakers Fair.

(Dietz is parliamentarian of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association)

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