Savage 10ML-IIXP Accu-Trigger with Scope
The tested gun is the Savage Arms 10ML-II chrome-moly steel blued .50 caliber inline, with synthetic stock, no iron sights, and a Simmons 3-9x40mm scope preinstalled and ready for the range. Savage designates this as their Model 10MLII-XP with scope, and it weighs in right at nine pounds with the supplied scope, bases, and rings. The same basic set-up with a stainless steel barreled action and a silver finish scope is the Model 10MLSS-IIXP (see photo above).
By now in its sixth consecutive year of production, most folks are aware that the 10ML-II is the strongest muzzleloader ever made, proven to withstand some 129,000 PSI in all configurations. In fact, the Savage 10ML-II is stronger than many .300 Win. Mag. centerfire rifles currently on the market. It is the "Abrams Tank" of muzzleloading design and workmanship. The only muzzleloader you can buy that exceeds all applicable SAAMI / ANSI standards, and every one is 100% proof-tested before it leaves the plant.
As supplied, the Accu-Trigger broke at 3 lbs. 1 oz. on my Lyman electronic trigger gauge, with no creep, grit or drag. It was so good from the factory that I didn't need to touch it. Like all Accu-Triggers, it is user adjustable if necessary, with no trip to the gunsmith required. It is the best trigger ever put on a factory muzzleloader.
Savage has a proprietary media finishing process that they have been using on most of their centerfires, and that has now been applied to the 10ML-II blued versions. It is a beautiful finish, with no tooling marks anywhere on the barreled action. That and the clean lines afforded by the smooth "no-iron sight" barrel makes this one great looking barreled action. Savage products seem to be getting prettier every year, with their American Classic centerfire rifle (reviewed elsewhere on this site) being particularly stunning.
The 10ML-II synthetic stock is entirely adequate, in the same league as the partially hollow Thompson Encore and Thompson Omega "Tupperware" plastic stocks (see the Encore review on this site), excepting that the Savage dual pillar plus recoil lug arrangement is a naturally superior method of bedding the barreled action in the stock. The plastic stock leaves the 10ML-II a bit nose-heavy compared to the laminate model, though not as bad as some inline muzzleloaders.
The Savage 10ML synthetic stock has a plastic trigger guard, which is totally out of place as far as I'm concerned. It is the only major oversight, cosmetically, that really bothered me about the test rifle. Personally, I much prefer the laminated stock, but some disagree. Isn't that why we call them choices?
On to the most important part of any hunting tool, the shooting. After a quick cleaning of the barrel with Hoppe's #9, and lubing the breechplug and ventliner with Bostik Never-Seez "Blue Moly" #NBBT-8 (any Mil-Spec 907E 'Anti-Seez" from your local auto parts store works fine), it was off to the range. I decided to test the Savage exactly as supplied, with no adjustments or "tweaks" applied. As usual, I used my trusty Caldwell "The Rock" cradle and rest to stabilize the rifle.
It had been a while since I've shot 10ML-II's with Triple Se7en, so I thought it was time to give it a go. Dropping down a pair of Triple Se7en 50 gr. equivalent pellets followed by a 300 gr. Barnes MZ-Expander with supplied sabot, I was able to group consistently in the 1-1/2 inch area at 100 yards, with a best group right at 1.20 inches.
Two Triple Se7en pellets gets a 300 gr. bullet out of the muzzle at 1700 fps and change, and at (approximately) 2-1/2 inches high at 100 yards. You can just hold center on the chest of a deer from zero to 155 yards with no issues, smacking him with about a half-ton of energy. Nothing beats a Barnes MZ-Expander for weight retention and penetration, and I've been reminded that regardless of ad-brags, muzzleloading deer hunting remains a fairly close range sport, with far more deer taken inside 100 yards than beyond 150 yards.
Barnes bullets has been testing another Savage 10ML-II of late, and Barnes's own Ty Herring mentioned to me that, "You weren't kidding, those Savage's really shoot." First time out, Ty used 105 grains by volume of Triple Se7en FFg (85 gr. by weight) and popped a 2 inch group @ 100 yards using the excellent Savage iron sights and 250 gr. Barnes MZ-Expanders.
Hodgdon's Ben Barrett mentioned to me that they had found the long and strong Savage 10ML-II breechplug to leave less T7 fouling than some other approaches, yet another impetus for my new Triple Se7en testing. After a fouling shot to dry an oily barrel, I lick one cotton patch (spit patch), going down the bore with short stutter strokes, remove the patch, flip it over, and go down then up once again. Repeated from shot-to shot, you have consistent bore conditions.
After the first group it is wise to crack the breechplug ninety degrees then retighten. That breaks any bond line that may have formed, and you can shoot away without fear of ever sticking a breechplug. After a long range day, a slobbering patch down and up the bore of Breakfree CLP renders Triple Se7en inert. You can then take your breechplug out with your fingers for the normal T7 cleaning. I like Birchwood-Casey Blackpowder solvent, it works as well as anything out there for T7 or Pyrodex.
The Savage has a huge design advantage over most inlines, as the patented primer carrier holds the 209 primer both against and into the breechplug. Not only is it weatherproof, it allows no propellant blowback onto or into the bolt. No primer can possibly stick in a breechplug. No corrosive T7 or Pyrodex residue can enter the bolt, and the bolt never needs disassembly. Contrast with the stuff that enters an Encore action, or leaks out forming a residue line on the bottom of the barrel of an Omega, and what I'm referring to will be obvious.
The purpose of muzzleloading is to enjoy it, and if making smoke is part of your enjoyment, the 10ML-II is supremely competent at that task. As a matter of fact, Savage Arms is fielding a "World's Manufacturer's Cup" NMLRA team at Friendship this year, as testimony to how competently versatile this rifle really is.
The next range day used a Lee 3.1 cc Dipper, scooping Accurate Arms 5744 double-based smokeless powder right out of the bottle. The bullet was the Barnes XPB 275 grain "460 S&W" bullet, with HPH-12 sabots supplied direct from MMP.
A fabulously soft shooting load, this combination is the easiest to load sabot combination I've been able shoot with accuracy. 100 yards groups were averaging in the 1.25 inch range, and the best group of the day was .87 in. Maybe I have flinched correctly at long last? No cleaning, no swabbing, no joke, no smoke. It makes muzzleloading more fun, at least for me.
The supplied scope did better than I expected, obviously holding its zero. No way can I call it the "brightest scope in the barn," by any means. It is a "multi-coated" Chinese scope, but it performed better than I expected as did the aluminum bases and rings, which is to say it all worked. Maybe that's why Savage sells so many of them with their rifles? I don't know.
The scope is no Burris Signature Select, to be sure (few are), but it was certainly more than adequate considering the economical price paid. It would also make good sense to use this scope as a backup, ringed up and sighted in with Warne QD Maxima rings.
The Savage 10ML-II continues to impress with its out of the box accuracy, Accu-Trigger, and the always improving metal finishing techniques that Savage has developed. It is the strongest and most accurate muzzleloader on the market. It has the fastest lock time of any muzzleloader. Its 1:24 rate of twist barrel allows it to shoot longer, more ballistically efficient bullets at moderate velocities than a 1:28 barrel. The icing on the cake is the "over and above the call" after the sale customer service provided by Joe DeGrande and the Savage Team.
The Savage design is simple, and very easy to work with. Henry Ball recently joked, "We didn't design it to be tough." That's good, because I'm a simple guy. It is very tough, though, in the sense of being robust and over-engineered. The 10ML-II I have with nearly 5000 rounds through it has convinced me of that.
The Savage 10ML-II remains the finest production muzzleloader you can buy. It is ahead of the rest in design by ten years or so. Maybe that's why once you try one, you'll likely never settle for anything less. The 10ML-II is a rifle that, as a system, exceeds the sum of its parts: a distinctly American system for an American sport.
Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.