We’ll long remember 2020 as perhaps the craziest of our lives, but the year was also host to one of the most major advancements to hit the muzzleloading market. When the world’s largest ammunition manufacturer joins forces with a rifle builder, the result is the Federal FireStick and Traditions NitroFire. What exactly is this? Is it legal? Guns.com answers some questions. 

Q: What are the NitroFire and FireStick? 
A: This partnership between Traditions and Federal gifts us with a rifle and load combination that must be used together to be functional. The Traditions NitroFire is a .50-caliber muzzleloading rifle designed specifically to be loaded with the Federal FireStick, an encapsulated powder charge.

Q: Can I reload the FireStick? 
A: No. Federal FireSticks are single-use encapsulated powder charges that protect the powder from moisture. Federal Premium FireSticks are shipped in 10-round packs and are available in either 100-grain or 120-grain options with an MSRP of $26.95.

Q: Can I use my own bullets? 
A: Yes. While the combo has been designed for – and tested with – Federal and Traditions brand projectiles, the rifle will work with most any .50-caliber muzzleloading bullet. We found the rifle to work well with not only Federal Premium and Traditions Carnivore Smackdown bullets, but also Hornady FPB. We fired a mix of projectile weights from 270 to 350 grains, and the NitroFire stabilized them all. 

Federal’s FireStick ignition system encapsulates the propellant – Hodgdon Triple Eight granular powder – inside a polymer “shell” that loads into the breech. FireSticks come in packs of 10 with either 100- or 120-grain options. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

Q: What kind of primer? Is it included in the FireStick?
A: The system uses a standard 209 shotgun or muzzleloading primer. The primer is not included as part of the FireStick. Rather, end users may use their preferred primer, which is simply inserted into the back of the FireStick. Traditions does recommend using the Federal Premium 209 Muzzleloading primer, though we did test it successfully with several other primers. This also allows FireSticks to ship from Federal to dealers as powder rather than loaded ammunition. 

Q: What kind of powder is in the FireSticks?
A: Federal’s FireSticks come pre-loaded with Hodgdon Triple Eight granular powder, intended specifically for this platform. The sticks can be had with either 100- or 120-grain charges at this time. Additional powder and load options may be added later. 

Q: Is the Traditions NitroFire legal for black powder seasons? 
A: We wish this answer were simpler. Because the NitroFire does not have a breech plug, and also accepts its powder charge from the breech via the FireStick, it is not legal for use during muzzleloader seasons in all states. Hunters interested in the NitroFire should consult the map, which shows 15 states giving it the green light, another 19 reviewing the technology, and 16 specifically ruling it out. Those interested in hunting with the NitroFire during black powder seasons are advised to contact their state for clarification. 

This legality map from the Federal Premium FireStick page. Green states represent FireStick as legal; Yellow states are reviewing regulations; and White states do not currently allow its use, though the website suggests contacting those states for clarification. (Federal Premium Map)

Q: How is the trigger? 
A: Traditions uses the Elite XT trigger system on the NitroFire, with a rebounding hammer and manual cross-block safety. The trigger on our test rifle, the standard black synthetic model, broke with regularity at just a few ounces under three pounds, as measured on a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge. That’s surprisingly nice for a black powder rifle. Further, Elite XT allows the action to be opened with the trigger safety still engaged. 

Q: Is it accurate? 
A: We used 100-grain FireSticks to launch a mix of Federal Premium Trophy Copper - 270 grain, Federal Premium Lead - 350 grain, Traditions Smackdown Carnivore saboted - 275 and 305 grain, and Hornady FPB 350-grain projectiles. We regularly put out MOA to 1.85-inch groups at 100 yards. Our best three-shot group came when using Federal Premium Trophy Copper, Federal Fusion primers, and the 100-grain powder charge. Groups opened up at 200 yards but were still within a 4-inch vital-sized ring with most of the projectiles. We’d like to see how things change with the 120-grain charges, which were not yet available at the time of testing. 

Q: Is it possible for the NitroFire rifle to accidentally fire a traditional centerfire cartridge or shotshell? 
A: No. The FireStick’s polymer charge dimensions were designed to prevent this from occurring. Further, these rifles feature a recessed firing pin designed to only strike a FireStick. 

Q: Why do they say it’s easier to clean? 
A: There’s no breech plug to soak, pick, and polish. The barrel is readily accessible for cleaning by simply breaking open the rifle. The NitroFire is easily unloaded of the FireStick. Further, that powder charge is encapsulated instead of sitting inside the barrel. With all metal surfaces being Cerakoted, there’s additional corrosion resistance. But make no mistake, the NitroFire still needs to be cleaned well and regularly – the process is just considerably simpler. 

While Federal FireSticks load from the breech, projectiles still load from the muzzle, shown here. Iron sights are not included, but our rig did come with a scope. (Photo: Kristin Alberts/Guns.com)

Q: Is a background check needed to buy the NitroFire?
A: Yes, buyers must complete a Form 4473 at their chosen FFL dealer. 

Q: What finishes are available? 
A: Metalwork on the NitroFire rifles is done in various colors of Cerakote. The basic rifle comes with black synthetic stocks and silver Cerakote. Camouflage coverage can be had in Realtree Edge, Mossy Oak Break Up Country, or Go Wild Rockstar with various Cerakote tones. 

Q: What do the NitroFire rifles cost? 
A: The good news here is that Traditions launched not one or two rifles, but rather an entire family of options. A bare rifle with a simple black synthetic stock retails for $549. Combo rigs with a basic riflescope MSRP from $635. Hunters seeking a camo setup topped with a quality optic like a Leupold VX Freedom or Sig Sauer BDX along with a sling and case will find MSRP from $909 to $1220.