Savage 10MLBSS-II Accu-Trigger Rifle

By Randy Wakeman

2005 Savage 10MLBSS-II
Photo by Randy Wakeman

The tested gun is the very attractive Savage 10ML-II stainless steel / laminated stock .50 caliber inline. All current production Savage muzzleloaders come with their highly regarded Accu-Trigger.

The gun, as supplied, weighs 9 pounds 5 ounces including ramrod, and also including the pair of S46 Weaver Grand Slam steel two-piece scope bases which I installed, adding drops of blue Loctite (#242, or "service removable grade") to each base screw.

The Weaver part # is 48227 for the matte black bases. The gun handles like a lighter gun than it really is, though many of my other inlines weigh the same or a bit more.

The trigger, as supplied, breaks like a glass rod with no grit or creep at a repeatable 3 pounds, 10 ounces. The Accu-Trigger is user-adjustable with the supplied tool. It felt much lighter due to its crispness, and was easy to use with accuracy at the range, so I've left it as is.

Included this year is a brief video that can only be described as of no value to the new 10ML-II owner. Savage CEO Ron Coburn does an articulate job of narrating the escapades of perhaps the world's clumsiest muzzleloader, who takes a bubble bath with supposedly a "competitive muzzleloader," misstates the 10ML-II as having a muzzle velocity of 2700 fps (no way), claims other muzzleloaders get "plugged up" after four or five shots, and then feigns astonishment while hitting a metal gong. In the middle of it all, the "true power" of the 10ML-II is demonstrated by apparently shooting a pronghorn in the butt. It is a well-produced embarrassment that is clearly out of touch with inline muzzleloading performance levels, and how they operate. It is mentioned here only because it is so remarkably bad.

As long as I'm on the topic of unneeded items the included ball starter remains puzzlement and the very small sample of breechplug lube is simply poor product. A teaser tube of Birchwood-Casey choke tube lube would be far more helpful.

The owner's manual is improved a bit from last year, but still has a long way to go. One glaring example is the only maintenance of any consequence you will likely ever do on your 10ML-II: clean the carbon out of your breechplug after 100 shots or a pound of powder. The owner's manual would have you poking around all night with a loose drill bit in your hand. What you need to do is remove the ventliner, and bore through the crud with an electric drill from the primer side-only a minute's task. You go all the way through with a 5/32" drill bit, and there is scant danger of damaging ventliner threads. If there were, I sure would have done it by now. Everything I touch breaks--now, I'm afraid to go to the bathroom. Anyway, a power drill is "the way."

The ramrod included with this gun has no jag, meaning it is not possible to swab or clean your bore with it, or to properly hold a patch against the breechplug to clear it prior to loading the first shot from a well-lubed gun. I have no idea why or how the "trumpet end" ramrod became the current one, but it makes no sense.

The cut-checkered laminated stock on the Savage continues to impress. This gun's stock is a bit darker tone than previous 10ML-II models, more nutmeg than blonde, and is even more attractive to my eyes. It is a beautiful gun. It is built like a real gun, not a tinker toy. Like high end centerfire rifles, a generous recoil lug and two action screws through pillars maintain barreled action to stock integrity. Compare this to a few of the "one screw wonders" out there and, well, you will wonder.

I tested this concurrent with last year's 10ML-II, and I'm happy to report that Savage apparently has taken a closer look at their internal barrel finishes. The radial scratching near the muzzle, that did not affect accuracy in last year's model, was an eyesore nevertheless. This barrel is improved from past models, and Savage is to be congratulated for their increasing attention to detail.

The Savage breechplug still uses the ungainly "Savage fish-whacker tool" for removal and re-assembly. It seems obvious that the addition of a standard socket head to the breechplug would be a great improvement. Using common hand tools instead of proprietary implements makes a muzzleloader more user-friendly. Maybe Savage will step up to the plate on this one someday?

As far as Savage propellants, there are two clear favorites in my view: AA5744 and Vihtavouri N120. Accurate Arms 5744 has a list of combinatorial features that make it a great field powder. It can be easily measured with the inexpensive Lee plastic smokeless powder dippers, it is very easy to ignite (I've never had a misfire with 5744, even with sabots that were so undersized they literally dropped down the bore), and chances are your gun will group tightly with the 3.4cc dipper (about 44.7 grains, the way I dip), or the 3.1cc Lee dipper.

AA5744 is a consistent propellant, regardless of temperature. All you need to head to the range or the hunting field are one of these two Lee plastic dippers, a pound of Accurate Arms 5744, and a box of Winchester 209 primers. Accurate Arms 5744 works well with almost all saboted bullet weights from 240 to 300 grains, and versatility well describes what makes this powder a great choice for the 10ML-II.

A 44 grain charge of 5744 pushing a 300 grain .452 Hornady XTP (not "Mag) with the short MMP black sabot has accounted for over 1500 one-shot whitetail kills in one relatively small hunting area of North Carolina alone. The deer have been taken from three feet to 327 yards. In fact, my seventy-seven years young father popped a chubby doe at 225 yards last year in this same area with 5744 pushing an XTP. No follow-up shot required; it was instant "lights out" for the deer.

On my last several hunts, I've used 44-45 grains of 5744 pushing a Barnes 300MZ-Expander, which comes with the "right" sabot (MMP HPH-12). Since everything I've ever shot at with this combination has become so very quickly deceased and in the meat locker, it will be hard to change. For the record, 44 grains of 5744 gets a 300 grain Barnes MZ-Expander sabot out of the muzzle at about 2080 fps, according to my chronographs. That's a 192 yard MPBR, using a six inch kill zone, with about 1400 ft. lbs. of energy left at that range.

In the course of testing bullets and powders, I've stumbled across a bit different but no less dazzling combination: 60 grains of Vihtavouri N120 pushing the Barnes "Original" 300 grain Spitzer .45-70 bullet married to the orange .458 MMP sabot. This combination hustles out the muzzle at 2300 fps and, owing to the high BC of this bullet, is one of the flattest shooting combinations I've found. The maximum point blank range moves out to 220 yards. It also works beautifully with the Barnes 300 MZ-Expanders. For some reason, Vihtavouri N120 has been overlooked as a Savage 10ML-II propellant, but with 300 grain sabots it has no equal, at least that I have found to date.

The specific gun reviewed in the article, which was shot over many consecutive days in humid, eighty degree temperatures yielded sub 3/4 MOA 100 yard groups with both the 300 MZ and 300 grain Barnes Original bullets cited. This with the gun as supplied with no swabbing or cleaning of the bore from shot to shot, or even day to day.

This level of accuracy is unheard of in a muzzleloader, and even in most center-fire hunting rifles. I can't promise you identical results, all guns remain individuals, but if you are also able to achieve this accuracy level, well, I'm not surprised. No less than six different Savage 10ML-II's have given me sub MOA groups. If you have not guessed it by now, Savage Arms just isn't getting this one back, I'm buying it.

By now, in its sixth year of production, most people are aware that the Savage 10ML series of rifles have been torture tested to 129,000 PSI without damage. Each Savage 10ML-II is proof tested with a massive overload and function-fired before it leaves the factory. Yet, no Savage approved load gets within 25% of these torture-test pressure levels. There is just no dispute among the most knowledgeable industry professionals that the 10ML-II is the strongest, most overbuilt muzzleloader ever offered to the public with a designed-in 400% service factor. The Savage 10ML-II has publicly documented a display of strength and quality never before approached, much less surpassed, in muzzleloading history.

I've been a bit acidic, though honest, in picking apart a few of the minor details. I need to be equally honest in giving credit where credit is due. Over the years I have become increasingly aware that the Savage Customer Service Team has, day in and day out, offered a level of prompt and excellence service for which they deserve great praise. I've heard from Savage customers all over the country, again and again, that are no less than delighted with the efforts of the Savage customer support staff, and I heartily agree. They do a wonderful job.

I'd like to issue a few friendly challenges to Savage Arms, based on feedback received by phone, mail, and e-mail. Please give your customers more choices. Thumbhole laminated stocks and better quality synthetic stocks are being cried for. There is a lot of room to move between the current "Tupperware Editions" and the substantially more rigid Bell & Carlson stocks. While I'm whining, could you please supply a useable ramrod with a cleaning jag on it, and put a normal socket head on your breechplug?

Folks seem to want all the details, so I'll list them right here. I use #S46 Weaver Grand Slam steel two-piece bases for the 10ML-II. I use Warne steel Maxima Quick Release rings on all my muzzleloaders; they hold their zero, and are a snap to get out of the way for cleaning. Medium height Warne rings handle up to 44mm objective scopes on the Savage with no problems. Never-Seez "Blue Moly" is the best ventliner and breechplug lube I've found, but Birchwood-Casey Choke-Tube Lube gets packed in the travel bag when hunting out of state. These items are standard fare and in stock at Brownells.

Winchester 209 primers fit most breechplugs best, but I opt for the hotter Federal 209A's when possible. I use MMP current formulation sabots exclusively, except where I know current formulation MMP sabots are already supplied from the bullet maker, as in the case of the Barnes MZ-Expander.

The best replacement ramrod on the market is the XS Sights PowerRod. Scope choices are of course personal and subjective, but I'm hunting with Bushnell Elite 4200s or Sightron SII product for the most part.

The Sims pre-fit recoil pad #10601 fits my laminated 10ML-II's like a dream, and turns the already soft shooting Savage into a popgun. Be sure that the Sims template fits your gun before you order, though. The Sims pads fit their templates, but stocks do vary.

Normal barrel cleaning is via Hoppe's #9. I use Breakfree CLP to protect the bore.

Whether by choice or by statute, the Savage 10ML-II does extremely well with 110 grains by volume of Triple 7 FFg loose powder. In the case of T7 powered loads, I usually opt for the lighter bullet weights, 250 grain Barnes MZ-Expanders and 250 grain XTPs, though 348 and 405 grain Powerbelts have been accurate as well.

When using Triple 7, make sure to crack your breechplug 90 degrees after the first four shots at the range, and retighten. The 10ML-II breechplug throws out a lot of fire, and Triple 7 can set up like concrete in a hurry. The hard melted sugary residue is just that, sugar (gluconic acid). Break the bond line, retighten, and you will not have a stuck breech plug.

On a recent hog hunt, some sixteen guns from around the country gathered near Crossville, Tennessee to pile up the pork with frontloaders of quite varied brands. It was obvious that the fastest, cleanest, most humane kills were by Savage 10ML-II's, and it was the non-Savage shooters that said it. That describes, to me, what the Savage is all about.

If you don't have one, you are really missing something. It is not the most expensive muzzleloader you can buy, far from it. It is actually the most inexpensive to own and operate, and by far the easiest to maintain. It won't obscure your vision with smoke, and you don't have to use expensive, caustic propellants that can pit and destroy your weapon. The Savage 10ML-II Laminated is the finest muzzleloader on the market today.

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Copyright 2005 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.