Muzzleloading's 2009-2010 Blowback Awards

By Randy Wakeman


This is the sixth consecutive year that Guns and Shooting Online has listed the most interesting and influential products to appear in the muzzleloading marketplace with equal time given to some of the notably bad products as well. It is no secret that the current political climate has resulted in a spike in “tactical” rifles, handguns, and an unusual shortage of reloading components which has also made last minute muzzleloading purchases a bit more frustrating this year than usual.

Also noteworthy is the end of Knight Rifles muzzleloading manufacturing. Though many folks have their own theories as to “why,” the answer is simple: spending time and money on products that no one wants. Back in 2004, a review of the then-new Knight Revolution appeared here entitled “The Knight Revolution: Just another Revolting Development?” If you refer to that article, it becomes transparent that offering a level of poorly thought-out product such as this is highly unlikely to sustain a muzzleloading company, much less grow it. It sure didn’t, with all models of the Revolution now being recalled earlier this year as a final insult to the once-proud name of Knight Rifles. It is a shame. In any case, let’s take a look at what is noteworthy in 2009.

Rifles of Note

The Thompson Omega, introduced in 2002 and cited often in these awards, remains a simple, effective muzzleloader. In particular, the Omega Z-5 reviewed elsewhere on these site is a solid value for anyone and ideal for anyone’s first inline.

The Savage 10ML-II has an interesting background from the day the project began in 1990, as discussed in the article I wrote back in 2002-2003: “Instant Slamification: The Savage 10ML Story” that also appears here on Guns and Shooting Online. A few of the classic 10ML rifles shipped in late 2000. About four years ago, when Savage added the Accu-Trigger to the 10ML-II with the oversized, improved safety, the 10ML-II finally became the complete package.

It remains the only muzzleloading rifle built today that is built like a real gun, with Savage’s expertise in building the most accurate out-of-the-box production rifles ever made fully applied to an inline muzzleloader. That means “real rifle” build quality. It includes a dedicated recoil lug, one piece stock, silent safety, superior trigger and rifles that have a realistic chance to shoot MOA groups out of the box. It has the lowest cost of ownership of any muzzleloader ever offered, and despite being made in small batches at a time on the most modern machinery in the industry, all Savage 10ML-II’s feature hand-straightened barrels, individual precision mating of barrel to action and 100% proof-testing and function firing before shipment. Alhough a very costly rifle to make, it is still far less cash than many “premium” muzzleloaders, requires the least maintenance and offers the lowest cost per shot of any muzzleloader ever made.

The variety has increased, with Savage’s P.A.D. pad being offered on some models, a thumbhole version added, and for those looking for the “invisible barrel nut” and want Savage accuracy in a smokier platform, the Cabela’s version offers that. It is the best that has ever been, with the 1.6 ms fast locktime action giving you the ability to have your bullet through your trophy before the hammer so much as falls on exposed hammer models. Right now, it is the longest-running inline muzzleloader on the market from a major American manufacturer, soon to enter its 10th year of continuous production. It has redefined muzzleloading into a new, higher level of performance.

Propellant

Back in 2002, Hodgdon’s Triple Se7en advanced inline muzzleloading propellants a big notch in performance. Right now, Western Powders has done the same thing with Blackhorn 209 that ends highly corrosive, swab-between shot type blackpowder subs, and does it with consistency, performance, and long-shelf life never before available with the more hygroscopic blackpowder replacement attempts. It is to the point that if an inline muzzleloader can’t shoot Blackhorn 209 properly, people don’t want them. I can’t say I blame them.

Bullets

Hornady .452", 250 grain and 300 grain XTP’s show year after year that they are spectacularly good. Of the more streamlined bullets, we have the Hornady 350 grain FBP that has obsoleted Power Belts from those who want a bore-sized bullet that flies better than an ashtray.

The Barnes flat-base “ Spitfire T-EZ” 250 and 290 bullets solve the problems for tight barreled Thompsons nicely, with a bullet that retains the devastating terminal performance of the MZ-Expanders in a better flying profile. With a sabot switch to HPH-12 MMP sabots, they work beautifully with the more standard .501 - .502 in. bores and are good for everything you can hunt in the United States.

Barnes has also revitalized the .458 Barnes Original bullets, the Fred Barnes copper tube and pure lead bullets that Mr. Barnes launched as an answer to his own personal disgust at wimpy bullets that were not tough enough for larger, heavier game or higher velocities. With the orange MMP sabots, they are both superbly accurate and ballistically superior to most all other .45 caliber bullets, finding favor with Savage 10ML-II hunters across the nation.

Scopes, Rings and Bases

While there is an ongoing attempt to invent a “muzzleloading scope” for marketing purposes, there is of course no such thing. Inline muzzleloaders are simply large bore, single shot big game rifles that load from the muzzle. Though few people ask about scope choices for a .45-70 Government or a .450 Marlin, most sabot firing .50 caliber inlines are in the same general spectrum of exterior ballistics.

If you want a light (11.6 oz.) compact scope with a huge amount of internal adjustment (a whopping 120 inches) the Sightron SII 2.5-10 x 32 remains one of the most versatile scopes out there. The Bushnell Elite 3200 3-10 x 40mm is also an excellent value in a slightly larger platform.

Upping the scale with brighter, higher end optics my two favorite scopes are the Sightron Big Sky 3-12 x 42 (Sightron calls it the SII Big Sky, even though it has little in common with SII glass) and the Burris Signature Select 3-10 x 40. Detailed reviews of all of these scopes can be found on the Guns and Shooting Online Product Reviews page.

Ever since I went to Warne Maxima steel quick-release rings and Warne Maxima steel bases, my ring and bases problems have disappeared. That’s no coincidence, and the Made in USA Warne line continues to expand every year. They make great product and stand behind them.

Accessory of the Year: Ramrods and Jags

The Spinjag from Gunn Innovations has been the best ramrod jag on the market for some time now. Finally, you can also get a tough, extremely well-made ram-rod custom made for your rifle. Dubbed the giRAMROD, all I could say is that “it is about time.”




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Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.


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