The Most Accurate Inline Muzzleloaders

By Randy Wakeman


Invariably, when frontloaders chit and chat, the subject of accuracy arises--or rears its ugly head, as the case may be. It may manifest itself to the only muzzleloader an individual happens to own, which often sinks into the hoary, tortured old "Ford vs. Chevy" debate.

Nevertheless, there are some clear trends that have appeared during the testing of the last forty rifles or so, and my results have been validated by those of fellow testers, owners, and hunters. Col. Townsend Whelen found only a certain type of rifle interesting, and I believe he would have found all of the following rifles quite intriguing. It is relevant to today's muzzleloading hunter, as precise shot placement reigns supreme, and an accurate rifle makes that a far easier task. There is nothing that can make up for a poorly placed shot, and nothing is better than an initial, well-placed shot.

Once you have a muzzleloader that throws them all into the same hole, very little can displace the confidence that is gained. No one needs to settle for less than a 1 MOA muzzleloader unless they want to. The rifle manufacturers deserve credit, but so do the propellant, sabot, and bullet manufacturers.

I've divided these "sub-MOA" guns into two categories. The first includes the consistently sub-MOA guns "out of the box." The second includes the guns that are easily tweaked to get there.

OUT OF THE BOX MOA MUZZLELOADERS

Knight Disc Elite .50 caliber
When I first tested the Knight Disc Elite, it shot so well that I hesitated to talk about it. Three shot groups were consistently in the sub .75 MOA area, and after a little load adjustment it just got better, with consistent .5 MOA groups, and the occasional .25 MOA group.

Again and again, I heard from others that were getting consistent sub 1" groups at 100 yards with hunting scopes, and most hitting the 3/4" or better mark. The Knight barrel quality has always been excellent, their triggers as well, and the forked recoil lug added to this model is the missing link that made a solid inline into a great one.

The only thing that continues to befuddle me is why Knight has done such a lackluster job promoting this rifle. Clinging to their 2-1/2 inch accuracy guarantee seems a little silly when I've yet to hear of a Knight Elite not capable of this--at 200 yards! This gun is an overlooked gem. It tends to gobble up 200 grain SST bullets in blue MMP sabots, and likes 220 grain Dead Centers as well.

A sad footnote is that the Knight Disc Elite is being discontinued for 2005. This is a shame as it remains a superb muzzleloader as well as the most accurate out-of-the-box frontloader, with a wide variety of projectiles, that I've ever tested.

Austin & Halleck 420 .50 caliber
It has been some five consecutive Austin & Halleck 420s that have broken the 1 MOA barrier for me, day in and day out. The beefy, one inch, half octagonal barrel apparently functions as a second recoil lug. As soft-shooting as it is with a very good Bold trigger, it is difficult to shoot poorly. 100 grains of Triple Seven FFg and a 348 or 405 grain Powerbelt bullet gets it sub MOA, and a 375 grain Buffalo SSB or 340 grain Dead Center shrinks it below that.

Thompson Encore .50 caliber
This T/C is another MOA shooter out of the box. A center-fire rifle first and a muzzleloader second, it is a great shooter not because it is a break action but in spite of it. Ian McMurchy called it "superbly accurate" when he reported average group sizes of 1" and .90" with loads exceeding 2000 fps. It likes 200 grain SST bullets with blue MMP sabots, 250 grain Shockwaves with HPH12 MMP sabots, and 220 grain Dead Centers. It also doesn't hiccup when fed 295 grain Powerbelts. Two piece stocks and break actions seldom mean screaming groups, but the action is so overbuilt in this rifle that it is the exception that proves the rule.

TWEAKABLE SUB-MOA FRONTLOADERS

Thompson Omega .50 caliber Laminate
Perhaps the world's most popular muzzleloader of any consequence, the Omega knocks at the door of 1 MOA as normally supplied, sometimes eclipsing it. To make it a true sub-MOA firearm sometimes takes a little work on the laminated stock, and insuring that the barrel is properly floated, and there it is.

Savage 10ML-II .50 caliber
Savage's superb barrel quality and their award winning Accu-Trigger should make this a lead pipe cinch, but their injection molded plastic stocks inhibit this fine rifle's accuracy to a degree. When selected in laminated wood (Model 10MLBSS-II) and properly bedded, the generally 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inch 10ML-II can quickly bash though the MOA mark. Excellent results come from MMP blue sabots and 260 grain DC's or MMP HPH12 sabots with 300 grain Hornady SST bullets, and a factory-recommended charge of #5744 powder.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

The lack of .45 caliber representatives is no accident. I've found no .45 caliber rifles that can consistently shoot with the above models. This includes .45 cal. versions of the Encore, Omega, and Disc Elite that use the same actions, stocks, and barrel profiles, just with smaller holes.

Whatever the promises of the .45's are, they just don't seem to be able to deliver. Even the best .45's (Knight Disc Elite, again) are regularly outgunned by their larger bore brothers. Smaller diameter bores, correspondingly smaller bore volumes, and subsequently higher internal barrel pressures, inflicted on a saboted bullet of a similar weight, are clearly a consideration.

While I certainly have no delusions that an "MOA" gun is requisite to harvest deer-category game at fifty yards, new options have appeared in the accuracy department for consumers who are not easily satisfied, or have regular opportunities to experience longer range hunting scenarios. I'm quite pleased about that.




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Copyright 2004 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.



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