Programming for Savage 10ML-II Success
Henry Ball made his first Savage 10ML about seven years ago; work was completed Memorial Day weekend of 1999, to be exact. Since that time, tens of thousands of Savage muzzleloaders have been sold, millions of shots have been fired, and countless game animals have been taken quickly and cleanly. Over these several years, and the decade that has preceded them, Henry has helped many folks get up to speed with smokeless muzzleloading. It was never designed to be difficult: in fact it couldn't be much easier. However, to get the most out of your new Savage 10ML-II it is often necessary to "de-program" yourself from the urban mythology of how muzzleloaders were once thought to be operated, and are currently rumored to be. Henry calls it de-programming first, so you can quickly get with the program of having fun with your 10ML-II without co-mingling operating procedures from other muzzleloaders (and centerfires) that can only hinder your quick progress.
NO NEED TO SWAB
Certainly, a spit patch between shots is standard operating procedure when using blackpowder, Pyrodex, or Triple Se7en. These are filthy, inefficient propellants that leave behind up to fifty percent of themselves in addition to being corrosive. Spit patching is mandatory to achieve consistent bore conditions with these propellants with sabots; in many cases just to load the next shot.
This is not the case with Savage 10ML-II recommended loads at all; no more than you would want to swab a modern shotgun bore between shots, whether a smooth or rifled barrel. The sabot in a rifled slug shotshell load acts as a wiper, as does the wad in a regular shotgun shell.
The sabot in the Savage serves the same function. After the first few shots, the barrel condition does not change dramatically from shot to shot as the residue from smokeless is remarkably light and clean compared to blackpowder and subs, consisting primarily of a small amount of ash. Smokeless generates extremely clean gas and its residue does not grab and hold moisture or try to rot your barrel like blackpowder and subs.
Cleaning is required only after every box of primers (100 shots) when you service your breechplug. Henry Ball cleans his 10ML-II's once a year, whether they need it or not. It is designed to be sighted in and confirmed before the hunt, then cleaned after the seasons are over at your leisure.
TIGHTEN BREECHPLUG FIRMLY
Inline muzzleloaders have gained a phobia of properly tightening a breechplug, and rightfully so. Triple Se7en leaves a nasty, crusty slag behind that can seize a breechplug in short order. You do need to apply Never-Seez to both the vent-liner (especially) and the breechplug before you fire your Savage 10ML-II. However, you do not want to back out your breechplug or fail to snug it down firmly, as poor accuracy may result. There is no need to worry about a frozen breechplug with Savage recommended smokeless powders. Smokeless will not corrode it, or leave behind a mass of crud that can set up like concrete. Henry Ball has long observed that tight breechplugs give the bughole accuracy the Savage is known for; erratically loosened breechplugs do not.
USE ONLY CURRENT FORMULATION MMP SABOTS
Current formulation MMP sabots give 100% reliable, year round performance. They are vastly improved from the sabots made just a few years ago. If you are not convinced that your sabots are current production, please follow the Reloader's Credo: when in doubt, throw it out. You are potentially saving yourself needless frustration that can be had with sabots of unknown origin. You'll always be glad you are using current MMP product.
PLEASE DON'T SLAP YOUR BOLT TO PIECES
The bolt of a Savage 10ML-II does not eject anything. For some reason, folks like to energetically whack it back like they need to eject a big piece of spent brass. No matter how hard you jack it back, you are doing nothing. What can happen with bolt abuse is inadvertently slamming the bolt into the bolt stop for no reason. Over time, you can raise a bur on the bolt that can make it hard to close. Henry Ball has touched up quite a few bolts all from folks using bolts like ball peen hammers. There is no reason for the excessive yanking back on the bolt at all as you are just pulling out a spent 209 primer, not a cartridge.
Operating your bolt without excessive slapping ensures a lifetime of trouble-free operation. As is, you never have to take it apart for cleaning as in other muzzleloaders-there is no need to jerk on it like a piece of rope at all as it feeds only small, light 209 primers, not brass cartridges.
PLEASE ALLOW YOUR BARREL TO COOL
You need to allow your barrel to cool between shots for best accuracy. If you don't bother to, just load and shoot load and shoot, your barrel will quickly get hot to the point of softening and weakening sabots. The Savage could not care less how hot you get it, but sabots clearly do.
Barrel cooling time varies with ambient temperature. For the absolute best accuracy, you should not feel heat coming off your barrel, allowing it to cool BEFORE you load your next powder charge and sabot. If you load the sabot and wait, you are just cooking it for no reason.
It's not a factor at all under hunting conditions, but you do need a cool barrel for the best accuracy at the range while sighting your rifle in. As good as current sabots are, they still are plastic and relatively soft, as they must be to allow easy loading from the muzzle. A softened sabot is nothing you can see or feel happen, but more often than not is the primary reason groups open up.
USE ONLY SAVAGE RECOMMENDED LOADS
The reason is simple: all the work has been done for you. Some 16 years of testing has honed in on readily available powders from three different vendors that give 100% reliable performance. Accurate Arms 5744, Vihtavuori N110, and SR4759 are all time-tested, audience-proven. It makes no more sense to wildcat with the Savage than it does with shotshell reloading data, as the function of a shotshell, 209 primer, and the wad or sabot combination is identical to the Savage 10ML-II application.
It really is identical. As a matter of fact, several popular muzzleloading projectiles are loaded in shotshell sabot slug loads. Would you just throw away shotshell reloading data and try to burn whatever is lying around in the basement? No intelligent reloader does that, and all muzzleloading by definition is reloading.
Here's an example. There are over fifty Savage 10ML-II's that have been in service for years in the area surrounding Henry Ball's personal hunting camp, all used by different individual hunters. To a man, every single deer hunter is using Accurate Arms 5744, the short black MMP sabot, and a .452 'non-magnum' Hornady XTP. All these guns, all these shooters, all using the same powder, primer (Winchester 209), bullet type, and sabot is no coincidence.
Lightning only strikes in the same place so many times, and you can believe that no one is shooting this combination because it is lacking in accuracy or game getting ability. It has accounted for well over 1000 head of deer. This is not the only load the Savage 10ML-II shoots well, nor may it be your preferred load (Savage Arms has function fired and accuracy tested with Vihtavuori N110 for years with great success). However, if you want to get up to speed with a minimum of hassle and fuss, Henry Ball's favorite combination is as good as any. It was developed by hunters for hunters, and as Henry likes to say, "Not much can live on the difference." That has proven to be quite true.
USE PROPER "SMOKELESS" SABOT LOADING METHODS
This may raise a few eyebrows, so let me explain a bit what I mean by "proper." Blackpowder and so-called substitutes has been proven to be impact sensitive, friction sensitive, and of course is extremely easy to ignite. "Hatcher's Notebook" documents the details. Smokeless powder is easier and safer to handle, lacks all the problematic impact and friction high-sensitivity, and is not as easy to ignite.
Muzzleloaders for years have been told to use caution when handling and using blackpowder, with good reason. Excess ramrod seating pressure has been warned against for a variety of reasons. Muzzleloaders have been reticent to seat sabots properly over a charge, as excess pressure causes problems. Not the least of these problems is the crushing of Pyrodex or Triple Se7en pellets. It is not all that hard to do, and crushed pellets do not burn properly or predictably.
These considerations are gone with smokeless powder. An example is when I'm reloading shotshells, as mentioned an identical function compared to Savage 10ML-II use. I use 40 to 50 pounds of wad pressure; that results in more consistent loads. When loading a Savage 10ML-II, you want the bolt open. The powder is poured down the muzzle, and the sabot should load smoothly down the bore with some noticeable resistance. After the sabot is seated, give it a finishing seating "shove" of about 30 lbs. of pressure. That will eliminate voids in your powder charge, forcing excess air out the breechplug. This results in a better, cleaner, more accurate burn with most powders. You need not worry about crushing pellets, and there is no mass of fouling crud to force your sabot through.
Whether you use 20, 30 or 50 pounds of ramrod pressure as you finish the seating process makes little difference. What really counts is that you use the same amount of pressure shot to shot; consistency in loading equates to consistent performance.
It takes very little practice with your rifle on a bathroom scale to acquire a feel for a certain ramrod pressure, as you need only be reasonably close. Conversely, extremely wide variances in seating pressure can not possibly help accuracy.
Accurate Arms 5744 has long been called a "position insensitive" propellant, and needs the least care in this area. Vihtavuori N110 and SR4759 (single based powders) can benefit a bit more from attention to detail in this area. Absolutely please do use a "witness mark" on your ramrod, and remove your ramrod after loading. A ramrod should never, ever, be left in a Savage 10ML-II. Use of a witness mark eliminates any loading errors.
There are a few optional items that can help you find the most consistency in loading. The "Spinjag" rotates with the bullet and inhibits canting of the bullet during the loading process as well as protecting the nose of the projectile. A good, tough after market ramrod is the "Power Rod" by XS Sights that has both a "T" handle and witness marks built in. Both of these have been reviewed on the Muzzleloader Page of Guns and Shooting Online. The current 10ML-II owner's manual is free for the download from Savage Arms and gives you more information on the best muzzleloader ever made. Enjoy!
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.