Muzzleloading's 2006 Blowback Awards
Again, it is the time to single out muzzleloading offerings that are the most influential, the most surprisingly good (or bad) in performance, or are remarkable in other areas. It is certainly a matter of opinion, and your results may vary depending on how and where you drive.
Once again, these comments are not formed strictly from my own experiences (though many certainly are). They are also supplemented by feedback from hunters and shooters around the country.
MOST INFLUENTIAL RIFLE OF THE YEAR
Last year's winner, the Savage 10ML-II Accu-Trigger, is as good as ever. This year was particularly well-populated in new rifle offerings, but one rifle clearly offers more innovation and improvement than anything else for 2006. The winner is Thompson-Center's Pro-Hunter 209 x50 muzzleloader. Thompson started with their popular, reliable Encore platform and gave everyone what they said they wanted, not the least of which is an interrupted thread breechplug (removable with a 90 degree turn) they have dubbed their "Speed Breech."
SCOPE OF THE YEAR
Affordable, durable, offering more glass than you need for most any big game muzzleloading situation, the Burris Fullfield II 2-7 x 35mm Ballistic Plex gives you all the tube you'll likely ever need, with a range finding reticle and a bargain range price for quad-ring sealed, finger steel-on-steel adjustable, fully multicoated optics.
MOST IMPROVED MUZZLELOADING COMPANY
No real winner this year, in fact it seems that a few companies that have offered muzzleloaders have taken a turn in a decidedly wrong direction, the initials of one are "REMINGTON." It is all in the great "CVA-Traditions" of muzzleloaders that look like they are made from pot-metal.
ACCURACY FOR THE DOLLAR
At a street price of under $250, the New England Firearms "NEF / H&R Sidekick" 26 inch barrel stainless / synthetic is the value to beat.
SABOT OF THE YEAR
MMP's 3-Petal EZ sabot has already given many Thompson owners (and other muzzleloaders with barrels on the tight side) something to finally cheer about. What it is named is what it does. I should know, as I named it-yet another of my dubious contributions to the tapestry of life. If you still are among the few that believe that power bullets that fly like tin cans are what you need to shoot because you are afraid to load a sabot, MMP has solved that problem for you right now.
BULLET OF THE YEAR
Well, its not even marketed as a muzzleloading bullet-but 100% weight retention, easy loading, good flight characteristics, and a large bearing surface due to its flat base makes the Barnes XPB 275 grain .451 bullet as close to a perfect muzzleloading bullet as I've ever used when coupled with an MMP HPH-12 sabot. Less recoil than 300 grain offerings, better obtainable velocities in a bullet that expands to 140% or more of its original diameter at 1400 fps, and a bullet that has been shown to not just out-penetrate 300 grain bullets, but most 340 to 375 grain class projectiles as well. From muskrat to moose, from groundhog to grizzly, the Barnes #45105 275 grain XPB is the best all-around high-performance muzzleloading projectile you can put into a big game animal; it has no known velocity limitation, either. At 10 yards or at 200 yards, you are good to go with the right powder charge.
ACCESSORY OF THE YEAR
Olin-Winchester's "Triple Se7en" 209 muzzleloading primer wins easily. Finally, a very reliable, cleaner 209 primer designed just for muzzleloading, painstaking developed and thoroughly tested. Bravo Winchester!
GOLDEN FLEECE AWARD
This was pathetically easy to pick: it is from the shameless shysters at MDM Muzzleloaders. Called "The New Revolution in Muzzleloading Technology" (no blood trail required, nitro-detonation tip, non-discarding pressure shield, with 'Lightning Lube,' etc.), billed as the "Ultimate Muzzleloading Bullet" is their "Dyno-Core Magnum." Well, it might be a revolution if you have never heard of a Maxi-Ball. Looks to me like nothing more than a revolutionary rip-off, and a garishly designed one at that. A quick look should tell you that it's time to call Dr. Phil and "get real" on this one. If you'd like to hurl, you can read all about it online.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR IN 2007
Well, all the stuff to "look for" in 2006 pretty much bombed out. For example, Simmons' "Master Series" has been a flop, with their parent company (Meade) in dire straits due in part to this fiasco, laying off employees, and in danger of being de-listed from NASDAQ. What a mess.
There is a rumor of a new, terrific, and otherwise fabulous muzzleloading propellant for 2007, however, so that may be the next big thing on the horizon.
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.