Barnes 275 Grain XPB and the Savage 10ML-II
Most of the recent big game animals I've taken with a muzzleloader have been with the 300 grain Barnes MZ-Expander as supplied, or the .458 Barnes Original Spitzer Soft Point used with the MMP Orange .458 x 50 sabot. Both have been have given both excellent accuracy and terminal performance.
One of the ways to find a reliable, year round load with the Savage 10ML-II is what its original patent holder, Henry Ball, likes to call the "torture test." Essentially, it is load testing under less than favorable conditions and doing what you aren't really supposed to do for the best paper punching. This means shooting in warm weather, with zero barrel cooling time between shoots. Henry believes this tends to separate the more forgiving, repeatable field loads from the rest of the pack. This leads us into testing on humid, mid 80 degree days with an 8 to 18 mph gusty crosswind allowing no cooling time. The bullet is the Barnes XPB 275 grain all-copper bullet coupled with the MMP "HPH-12" sabot.
Using the plastic Lee 3.4 cc dipper, I loaded "scoop loads" of Accurate Arms 5744 right of the factory powder bottle and followed it with the 275 grain Barnes XPB. Firing as fast as I could, with no swabbing, it easily grouped right at 1 MOA at 102 yards. Muzzle velocity, measured at ten feet, was 2000 fps; a very soft-shooting load in the Savage.
Though that will take care of most muzzle loading applications right there, a not yet officially recommended Savage propellant is Vihtavuori N120, one of the few powders that really shines with 275 - 300 grain bullets. I'm convinced it is perhaps the best 10ML-II propellant, ranking a notch slower in relative burn rate behind the popular Vihtavuori N110, a Savage recommended powder that works beautifully with 250 grain class saboted bullets.
Using 56.5 grains of N120 gets the velocity up to a formidable 2250 fps and change, still 1 MOA @ 102 yards with shooting pre-measured charges as fast as I could go with no swabbing and zero barrel cooling time. Better range conditions and cooling time has shrunk the groups considerably; this is of course more big game field accuracy than you can use just as is. Ballistic aficionados will appreciate that this is a better than 200 yard MPBR six inch kill zone load, retaining around three quarters of a ton of energy at that range.
Not all of the XPB's fired into the berm were recovered; some (I suspect) are still burrowing their way to China. If I could devote the time, I could plant crops with this load!
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.