By: Joe Arterburn

Joe and Tracy Rumpke knew they were on to something important, something that would be a valuable tool in firearm safety, with the reaction received from the earliest version of Muzlstik.

In the fall of 2013, planning to hunt deer the next morning, Joe had placed his muzzleloading rifle in the glass-front gun cabinet with the first Muzlstik prototype placed in the barrel.

He had made the prototype out of wood and painted “Loaded” on it as a visual reminder. A little while later, their son Leland, then 10 years old, came upstairs and asked, “Hey, is that gun down there really loaded?”

“We both about fell over because the Muzlstik really worked,” Tracy said. “It made our son ask questions. It made him think twice before handling it or even think of handling it.”

Everyone knows the first rule of firearm safety is to treat every firearm as if it is loaded, but unfortunately, accidents still happen. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if everyone did that, would we?” she said.

“He knew exactly what the status of the gun was,” she said. “He didn’t have to assume the gun was loaded; it said it.”

Joe and Tracy improved and expanded the Muzlstik line. The original Muzlstik, a T-shaped device that fits in the muzzle of a barrel, evolved into a plastic version; then they added a clip-over-the-side model, great for use in gun safes, and a new chamber flag design, which blocks open firearm actions to prevent accidental firing while indicating whether the firearm is loaded or not.

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No longer hand-fashioned of wood, Muzlstiks are now made of durable ABS plastic, and clearly marked “Loaded” or “Unloaded” in highly visible lettering. The lettering is also raised so you can tell by feel, even in the dark, if a firearm is loaded or not.

Muzlstiks are for use in the home, at the range, in the field, in classrooms, or anywhere firearms are handled. And not just for hunters and avid shooters, but for everyone who owns a firearm.

They are a practical educational tool for demonstrating firearm safety to hunter education students, and they indicate that the firearms in the classroom are unloaded and safe. They have also proven popular with range safety officers who appreciate the highly visible nature of these simple and effective devices.

That’s something to think about the next time you go to the range. Wouldn’t it be reassuring if everyone at the range used Muzlstiks to indicate which firearms are loaded or unloaded?

“If a Muzlstik can save at least one life by preventing the accidental firing of a gun, we have accomplished a great feat,” Tracy said.

Muzlstiks are simple and intuitive. “In life, we do not realize how much we read every day,” she said. “From street signs to billboards, we visually see things and read them without even realizing it. Muzlstik is a great product because you do not even realize that you are reading ‘loaded’ or ‘unloaded.’”

Joe, a lifelong hunter, conceived the idea for his muzzleloading rifle, realizing he and many other muzzleloader hunters simply removed the percussion cap at the end of a day of hunting and left the powder and bullet ready in the barrel. He realized the importance of knowing there was a charge in the barrel and the danger it could present if he forgot or if someone else used the rifle. An accidental discharge could result, or he or someone else could load the rifle again, double loading it by packing more powder and a bullet on top of the original charge, a potentially dangerous situation. A highly visible reminder, he thought, could be a life-saving solution.

But don’t think Muzlstiks are just for muzzleloading firearms. Yes, they work great in muzzleloaders, but they are also for every firearm in your home—rifles, shotguns, handguns—whether they are stored in a gun safe, gun cabinet, or bedside table. One of the Muzlstik styles will provide a fast, visible, reassuring reminder of the status of each of your firearms during storage, transportation, or at the field or range.

Muzlstiks are another tool, a valuable tool, now available to make firearm storage and handling safer. “If there is just one more step to helping remind people and others that are around, that serves its purpose,” Tracy said. “Something so small as a little, inexpensive sign could just be the answer to saving lives.”

Muzlstik’s simple, effective, and easy-to-use design is patented and comes in a choice of colors. And, they’re made in the U.S.A.

For more information, visit

HUNTING214 Interactive