The Savage 10ML-II Accu-Trigger Muzzleloading Rifle
The test gun was the new for 2004 model, Savage Arms 10-ML-II with Savage's innovative Accu-Trigger. I outfitted this example with a pair of Warne steel bases, part # M902, and standard height Warne Maxima steel quick release rings. This was topped off with a Sightron SII 3 x 12 x 42 Mil-Dot, with the parallax set by Sightron to 200 yards. The Sightron scope fits the Savage beautifully, allowing the retention of the factory rear Williams fiber-optic ramp.
This was the stainless steel, laminated stock version. The Savage's laminated stock is the finest I've used on a muzzleloader-not only attractive and checkered, but this stock's checkering really works. It affords a sure grip, in stark contrast to many of the slippery plywood stocks offered, with the few that do feature checkering offering it for decorative purposes only.
Compared with the last 10ML-II tested, there are a few improvements worth mentioning, so I believe I will. The tang safety on last year's 10-ML-II was thin, small and stiff. Almost flush with the tang, it was difficult to get off with bare skin, a very difficult chore with gloved or frozen hands. From a personal perspective, this was the biggest single negative on the previous model-enough, in my view, to hit the tundra with a different gun. Thankfully, Savage has greatly enlarged the safety button; it now sits well above the tang, and is extremely easy and intuitive to get off.
Last year's model had a flat rear receiver, the receiver on the new ML-10 II is round-so takes a different rear base. The previous 10-ML was plagued by a poor trigger out of the box. Any competent gunsmith can lighten the old trigger to 3-3/4 pounds or so, but most folks that want a quality trigger have replaced the standard Savage Trigger with an approximately $60 "Sharpshooter" aftermarket trigger, or even a Jewell trigger. The previous trigger, as supplied, was heavy enough to handicap my shooting at the range.
The Accu-Trigger is nothing short of spectacular. This one breaks at 1.9 lbs. out of the box, with no grit and little take-up. A delight at the range, but I'd actually prefer a bit heavier setting for hunting use. The choice is yours, as the Accu-Trigger is user-adjustable from a 1.5 to 6 pound break
No other muzzleloading manufacturer offers a trigger designed to be user-adjustable. The only other manufacturer, that I am aware of, that will adjust your trigger to your specifications is Knight Rifles, and they offer this as a free service. They can do so, without voiding any warranties, as the Knight family of companies makes their own triggers, having bought out a Timney plant. For the rest, it is either see your local gunsmith, or go aftermarket. In the case of most rifle companies, this will void any factory warranty, for the obvious liability reasons. Savage has hit a home run with their Accu-Trigger, and it is a true delight, just as in the Savage .308 and .223 bolt guns I've fired.
I purposely tried to defeat the additional safety afforded by the Accu-Trigger, pulling on the bottom tip of the trigger rather than the normal pull method, which automatically requires pulling the center section flush, not unlike the Glock system. The bolt would partially move, then automatically block itself, just as designed. The Savage Trigger is a wonderful, groundbreaking achievement.
The ramrod has been upgraded to fiberglass from the previous plastic, though it still fits far too loosely in its lone ferrule. Some black electrician's tape is the fix for this, until Savage decides to give ramrod retention a closer look. The "Savage Tool" is still required for breechplug removal. Not great thinking as there is no reason I can see that a standard SAE socket head cannot be added to the current breechplug.
The breechplug retains the "vent-liner" on the powder side, which is a hollow 1/8" Allen head screw with a .030" orifice to focus the 209 shotshell primer's flame. Savage still recommends replacement of the vent-liner ever 100 shots with smokeless powder, every 50 shots or with Pyrodex, although I was personally able to get a couple of hundred shots off with Pyrodex pellets in previous testing, with no apparent loss in performance. Personally, I'd like to see a more erosion free vent-liner of ceramic or other materials. This stands out vividly, as the rest of the gun is so maintenance free.
While the Savage 10ML, designed by Henry Ball, is a revolutionary muzzleloader, its owner's manual is not. I find it skimpy, and it badly needs amplification. All non-Form 4473 arms deserve exemplary manuals, the Savage manual is minimalist compared to the manuals supplied by Thompson/Center, for example.
With the strongest barreled action of any muzzleloader, you are free to use 150 grains of loose blackpowder or Triple Seven and as heavy a projectile as you care to punish yourself with. For smokeless powder use, only saboted projectiles are recommended, as the sabot serves as an auxiliary pressure gasket.
The list of the Savage's features is breathtaking, not just the Accu-Trigger, but it remains the only truly sealed bolt action muzzleloader made, is factory pillar bedded, accuracy-tested, and test fired. The 100 yard test target supplied with the gun was a .575" group, using 42 grains of Vihtavouri N110 pushing a 250 grain saboted bullet.
For those who enjoy customizing loads to suit their own needs, the Savage is a dream come true. Savage lists three basic powders with 250 and 300 grain projectiles that are "time-tested, audience proven" loads. Yet, muzzleloading enthusiasts will quickly realize that the listed combinations barely scratch the surface.
The consummate Savage 10-ML aficionado is muzzleloading expert Toby Bridges, who has fired more rounds through his battery of 10-ML's than any man alive. Toby's continuing research is regularly reported on his website: www.hpmuzzleloading.com, and is a fabulous resource for any muzzleloader looking to get the most out his gun. For most, getting superlative performance out of the Savage is no more difficult than taking advantage of all the hard work Toby Bridges has done for you.
Naturally, I wanted to try something different in my never-ending quest to discover things that don't work well. Although thorough load development is a long-term project (if you choose it to be, and I do) I decided to test Vihtavouri N120 (a tad slower than Toby's favorite, N110) and Accurate Arms XMP-5744 powders, for starters, in conjunction with the Precision Rifle 340 grain Dead Center sabots. You can use the Lee powder dippers alone for smokeless, if you wish. Contingent on the granulation of the powder, you can easily get within two-tenths of a grain charge weight. I began testing with 43.8 grains of N120, which is the Lee 3.4cc Dipper equivalent.
I like to begin with a casual scoop from the dipper into the platen of my RCBS electronic scale, and then dial it in with my Redding Model 5 powder trickler, pouring it into a small plastic vial for range use. The first shot from the 10-ML was 6" directly left of the bull at 25 yards, so a little knob spinning and the second shot was on the paper at 100 yards. It doesn't always work out quite that easily, but it is nice when it does.
It was a breezy day, but the groups averaged about 1-1/4 inches at 100 yards. Astonished at the lack of recoil, I didn't find out until my next range session why. That charge moves the 340 grain Dead Center at only about 1410 fps through my chronos. Surprisingly, there was only 25 fps or so of velocity deviation, but it will take quite a bit more N120 to get respectable velocities. No misfires or hang-fires were experienced.
On a subsequent and even windier day, featuring a delightful 30 mph gusty crosswind, I used 41.3 grains of Accurate Arms XMP-5744, the Lee 3.1cc Dipper equivalent. This propelled the 340 grain Dead Center at about 1925 feet per second, with light recoil compared to what you would have to burn with Pyrodex to approach that velocity. The groups blew about 6" to the left of the bull, but group it did, averaging between 1 and 1-1/4 inch groups at 120 yards. The best group of the day measured .850 inch, center to center. Though hardly the fastest load obtainable with the Savage, it remains a 202 yard maximum point blank range load (assuming a 7 inch kill zone) with over 1800 foot pounds of kinetic energy on target at that range. The fun is just beginning!
The 2004 Savage 10ML-10 II Stainless Steel / Laminated Accu-Trigger Smokeless muzzleloader is simply the most impressive muzzleloader I've ever tested. There must be a reason not to buy one, but right now I just can't think of one.
Copyright 2003 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.