Crushed Rib Sabots and Scorpion PT Gold Bullets
The average muzzleloader doesn’t pay much attention to the sabot that comes with their bullets. They buy a pack of bullets at their local sporting goods store, stuff them down the pipe and shoot. Because the bullets come with sabots, they assume that they are the best for the bullets they are shooting. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hardcore smokepole shooters know that the sabot/bullet combination must be properly matched to the barrel of their gun.
Because there are no industry standards for bore diameter in muzzle loading rifles, there are 50 calibers out there that will measure .499” to .505”. You will have to measure the bore diameter of your particular rifle to determine the appropriate sabot and then test it on the range. Most of the companies that produced muzzleloaders at the extreme ends of the range have gone away. However, even newer models of the name brands will vary from .500” by .001” to .003” due to wear and tear of their factory tooling equipment. That much potential variation means that it is absolutely essential that you match the proper sabot to your barrel if you expect to obtain any degree of accuracy.
I’ve been shooting the Savage 10MLSS equipped with a Nikon 4-12x Monarch scope for a couple of months in preparation for my Persian Ibex hunt in February. I have tried a variety of bullets from Barnes, Hornady and T/C (made by Hornady), each with its own factory-supplied sabot. Some slide down the barrel as though they were coated with silicone (T/C Shockwave), while others needed a power ram (Barnes) to seat. As one would expect, there was a lack of consistency with respect to accuracy. Regardless of the inline that you shoot, you will probably experience similar problems with your rifle, albeit with a different mix of bullets and sabots.
Given these problems, I began to search for the ideal sabot/bullet combination. Chris Hodgdon suggested that I try the Crushed Rib sabots from Harvester Muzzleloading. He achieved superb accuracy using them in his muzzleloader. When someone like Chris tells me that a product is good, I take note. Although my results are based on my Savage 10ML muzzleloader; they should be of value regardless of the brand rifle you may be shooting, because Harvester makes several different sizes of Crush Rib sabots to accommodate every inline on the market.
I made arrangements with the folks at Harvester to try their black CRS (H15045BR) and red CRS (H25045SRR) sabots, the latter being designed for smokeless powder. I also decided to try their 260 grain (H14026) and 300 grain (H14030) Scorpion PT Gold bullets. Although I had obtained reasonably good accuracy with other brands at 100 yards, they were not consistent out at 200 yards. I was looking for something that would approach 1 to 1.5 MOA at 200 yards, a tall order for any muzzleloader and bullet combination, but necessary for my Ibex hunt.
I used both Blackhorn 209 loose powder and IMR White Hot pellets as propellants. According to field reports from Randy Wakeman, Blackhorn 209 loose powder produces the most accurate results; however, pellets have the advantage of being quicker and easier to load in rough mountainous terrain. I decided to test both in my Savage 10MLSS.
When my sabots and bullets arrived, I was immediately impressed by the Crushed Rib. The “Rib” (corrugated) design allows for easier loading than the typical smooth sabot. Upon inspection of several of fired sabots, it was apparent that the design “grips” the lands and grooves of the barrel. That is presumably why so many shooters have reported incredible accuracy with Crushed Rib sabots.
My first series of tests were conducted with three IMR White Hots and involved more than 50 rounds each with 260 grain and 300 grain Scorpions PT Gold bullets. I shot half of the rounds with the black sabots and half with the red sabots, chronographing each to determine if there was any difference in velocity. To my amazement, there was an average of only 25 fps difference in muzzle velocity between the two sabots (regardless of bullet weight). Both sabots produced consistent ignition and superb accuracy. I was able to obtain consistent ¾” center-to-center groups at 100 yards and 2-½” groups at 200 yards with both the 260 grain and 300 grain Scorpions.
Although not the kind of accuracy that I am used to with my daughter’s Savage F-Class rifle, it is superb for a muzzleloader. The 300 grain Scorpion was flatter shooting at 200 yards due to its’ higher ballistic coefficient.
The black CRS were a dream to load, even after firing eight consecutive shots without running a patch down the barrel. The tighter fitting red sabots were almost impossible to load after three rounds. The slight crud buildup from the White Hots was too much for the red sabots. However, not many inline shooters have to fire more than three rounds to get one animal. If they did, they should consider selling their gun and buying something like an AK-47.
My next series of tests were with Blackhorn 209 powder. With the black sabots, I got the occasional fizzled ignition, sending the bullet and sabot downrange about 20 yards. Yep, I said 20 yards and verified this several times. The black sabot did not “seal” the barrel tight enough for proper Blackhorn ignition. Although not that common, the fact that it can happen, is all the information I need to choose the red sabots for hunting when using loose powder. Just imagine, you are lined up on the trophy whitetail that you have been searching for all your life, you take careful aim, squeeze the trigger and “poof,” the bullet literally rolls out of the end of the barrel and your trophy bounds off into the brush, laughing as he goes.
The tighter fit of the red CRS, which is .005” larger in diameter than the black CRS, insured proper compression and ignition of the loose Blackhorn powder, with nary a fizzle or misfire. However, after three rounds, you will need to swab the barrel to clean out the residue.
Initially, I had an additional problem with the Blackhorn powder. Not being an experienced muzzleloader, I was not consistently compressing the powder with the same pressure. As a result, my accuracy suffered greatly. So, in an attempt to get reasonable data with the Blackhorn, I literally “leaned” on the ramrod to compress the powder. Although not very scientific, it worked. In all of my tests, I used Gunn Innovations’ SpinJag loader to start the bullet and their SpinJag on the ramrod to seat it down the barrel. These tools made the job of loading my inline significantly easier and insured that Scorpions were centered in the bore while preventing deformation of the polymer tip. If you don’t have these two “gadgets,” reviewed by Randy Wakeman on the Muzzleloader page, buy them! You won’t regret it.
I loaded 100 grains by volume of Blackhorn 209 with the 260 grain Scorpions and 110 grains with the 300 grain Scorpions. I was determined to give the Scorpions and red CRS a fair test with Blackhorn. Once again, I fired 50 shots with each Scorpion. I cleaned the bore after every third shot to facilitate loading. My groups at 100 yards were under 1” for both Scorpions. Again, I was able to hold groups of less than 3” at 200 yards. No hunter can complain about that kind of accuracy.
My conclusion is that the red CRS is ideal for loose powder, such as Blackhorn 209, or smokeless if your inline is a Savage 10ML-II. The black CRS is perfect for pellets like IMR White Hots. I am confident that in many inlines, the black CRS will work just fine with both Blackhorn and pellets. You will need to test both CRS’s to determine which is optimal for your inline, or measure your bore and call the folks at Harvester for their recommendation.
What about the Scorpion PT gold bullets? Well, they produced superb and consistent accuracy with both IMR White Hots pellets and Blackhorn 209. I really liked them. Anyone who shoots an inline would be remiss if they don’t give the Crushed Rib sabots and Scorpion PT bullets a try. If you try them, I’m sure that you’ll like them. As for me, I will keep practicing and hope that it pays off with a trophy-class Persian Ibex on my once-in-a-lifetime hunt.
Copyright 2010 by Jim Clary. All rights reserved.