Muzzleloading's 2008 Blowback Awards
Muzzleloading, like most shooting sports subset industries, is heavily new-product driven. We all want to hear what’s new. Few products achieve lasting success and distinction, but that doesn’t keep us from hoping that good stuff appears. Here are some impressions of what cut the mustard in 2008 and swipes at a few failboats at the same time.
BEST VALUE MUZZLELOADER
We all have our own ideas about value, of course. While sometimes we shop a gun to death, we don’t mind paying $90 a pound for pellets; cost of ownership gets lost along the way. Nevertheless, in evaluating current product and those considered “value” muzzleloaders, there is a clear winner. Considered revolutionary in 2002 when it was introduced, right now it offers the best bang for the dollar in blued / synthetic stock configuration of anything on the market. The winner is the Thompson Center Omega Z5 Blue/Black .50 caliber inline. It’s current street price is hovering around $300 and there is a $50 rebate from T/C until the end of 2008. It is a screaming bargain in 2008. As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason to take a chance on imported junker-loaders when you can have a rifle this good, this cheap, made right here in the USA. It wins this award by no small margin.
SCOPE OF THE YEAR
The Sightron SII Big Sky 3-12x42mm scope with Sightron’s HHR reticle is the first non-AO scope that has crystal-clear four power zoom range, tracks beautifully, holds its zero and has image quality that embarrasses more than a few $1000 scopes in a trim sub-14 ounce package. It is a wonderful scope and my favorite hunting scope for anything that has rifling in its barrel, including inline muzzleloaders.
BULLET OF THE YEAR
Tighter than normal bores have been sources of frustration for years in muzzleloading. The attempted solutions have all too often been some of the worst exterior ballistic bullets ever offered coupled with horribly bad terminal performance: either “explodes on impact” syndrome, or failure to penetrate. The Barnes Spitfire T-EZ 290 grain saboted bullet is one of the best bullets ever offered to muzzleloaders. Nothing penetrates better by grain weight and few muzzleloading bullets are more accurate or retain more downrange velocity. It won’t be perfect for all muzzleloaders, nothing is, but as long as this bullet has the requisite .003 - .004 interference fit in a decent 1:28 rate of twist barrel, it is hard to beat.
POWDER OF THE YEAR
The new propellant of the year is the best smoky, non-corrosive, volumetrically measured blackpowder substitute of all time. This is Blackhorn 209 from Western Powders. It is about time!
ACCESSORY OF THE YEAR
The “Spin-jag,” along with the Spin-jag loader and the Spin-jag bullet starter loads most any muzzleloading projectile on the market: smoothly, accurately and without damage.
GOLDEN FLEECE AWARD
This one is easy: muzzleloading 209 primers are the newest class of rip-off product. No one seems to know exactly what breechplugs they were designed for, what projectiles, or even what powders. Yet, they must do something to justify their double or triple pricing. They don’t. All too often, the nasty Triple Se7en crud ring remains and the only thing “new” is misfires with old pellets.
EDITOR'S MUZZLELOADING WRITER LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
This award wasn't on Randy's list and he will be surprised when he reads it (We didn't warn him in advance. -Ed.), but Randy Wakeman deserves recognition for his contributions to muzzleloading and muzzleloading safety over the years. Randy is Guns and Shooting Online's Senior Editor and he has done more than anyone else to make Guns and Shooting Online the Internet's "gold standard" when it comes to timely and accurate information about modern muzzleloader shooting and hunting. Congratulations, Randy, for a job well done! (Contributed by Guns and Shooting Online Owner and Managing Editor Chuck Hawks.)
STUFF TO WATCH FOR IN 2009
The promising, yet somewhat confused Knight KP-1 needs action attention, breechplug attention and trigger attention to fulfill its potential. Let’s hope Knight can get it right. What we can hope for from Knight, we can also hope for Thompson/Center, now a division of SWHC. If the Encore is to be nose-bleed priced, we should expect triggers that T/C is as proud of as they must be their guns.
Let’s hope that less defective CVA rifles injure fewer of their owners. Muzzleloading has no place for companies that place profits above consumer safety.
What would improve the muzzleloading scene is standards. We need barrel standards and we need published industry standards (easily found in most all sporting rifle, shotgun and handgun applications) that would help remove muzzleloaders from the dark ages of ignorance and ad-copy hyperbole. We also need powder companies to publish pressures.
Expect to see a new powder pellet from Hodgdon, more projectile options from Hornady and Barnes and a new rifle or two from Knight. 2009 will be here soon.
Copyright 2008 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.