The Legendary White 98 "Elite Hunter"
The White Elite 98 is a unique rifle in many respects. It is the only muzzleloader offered today with a barrel so precise that its bore dimensions are specified to three decimal points. White's plunger "pull-to-cock" action has a shorter travel than most, which results in a faster lock-time than many other actions, including some bolt actions I've tried. The Elite 98's "Bold" trigger is very good right out of the box: almost no creep and a clean 4 lb. break as measured on an Lyman electronic pull gauge.
The Elite Hunter has a "secondary safety" that I far prefer to the screw-type. No screw to rattle, no threads to fight with or back in slightly at exactly the wrong time. Left-handed shooters are certain to appreciate this safety, which can easily be used as the primary safety.
The Elite Hunter's laminated stock is very attractive, with a well-fitted recoil pad. The pull to cock action and stock design makes this an ambidextrous gun, more so than any bolt action on the market.
It is no secret that most bolt action and plunger action guns can externally sludge up with heavy firing. No problem with the White, a generous thumbscrew allows "fingers only" (no tools required) removal of the action for a quick wipe-down that only takes a few seconds after 50 consecutive rounds. It is this fingers only action removal that makes the White a delight at the range. And any 3/8" socket works fine for removing the breech plug.
Some of the White's appeal is not readily apparent. The hammer / one-piece hardened tool steel breech plug combination has been tested to 10,000 rounds of dry firing with no measurable wear.
The White 98 features two recoil lugs. One is at the end of the barreled action and gives stock to barreled action rigidity that single recoil lug barrels cannot approach. After several heavy shooting sessions, I unscrewed the bolt assembly (which also requires no special tools) expecting it to be caked with fouling, but the inside of the hammer / plunger action showed no sign of residue.
The White is well built, feels good, handles well, comes with a good trigger, and is easy to take down for service at the range. It is also a very attractive rifle.
The White 98 is best suited to #11 cap ignition. The CCI Magnum #11 caps that I used seal tightly to the nipple and give the White 98 a weatherproof action. There is some blowback, but it is relatively mild. The Thompson / Center Arms leather scope protector is the finest I've found, and has protected the Bushnell Elite 3200 3 x 9 x 40 I have mounted on the White with no problems. Some are happy with black electrical tape, but I find the Thompson scope protector to be a more elegant solution.
I have no problem recommending the White 98 as the best #11 capped inline ever made, and the finest currently available today. They are lifetime rifles.
April 2004 Update: Apparently, White Rifles, LLC, has fallen on hard times. They have demonstrated an inability to pay their bills. The Bo Clerke .451 barreled White 98 model is no longer available. There may or may not be substitute 410 SS barreled versions available sometime this year. It would be negligent of me not to point out that the rifle reviewed is no longer available.
Feb. 2005 update: White Rifles has lost their new barrel vendor, Criterion, by not being able to pay for barrels ordered, and is effectively out of the muzzleloading business (again) for 2005.
Note: A complete review of the White 98 Elite rifle can be found on the Product Review Page.
Copyright 2003, 2005 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.