Del Ramsey's MMP Sabots

By Randy Wakeman

MMP Sabots
Illustration courtesy of Muzzleload Magnum Products.

For some twenty years a gentleman by the name of Del Ramsey, who hails from Harrison Arkansas, has been quietly advancing the Art and Science of muzzleloading. Through his tireless, seldom heralded efforts, modern muzzleloaders are more accurate than otherwise possible, and are able to harvest big game animals faster and more humanely than ever before. In the last eight years alone, Del's polyethylene blends have gone through at least four major formulation upgrades, with most of his sophisticated sabots having been updated within the last six months alone.

It would be difficult to discern from a moment's glance at the Muzzleload Magnum Products site that the scope of the MMP sabot line is far, far bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Del Ramsey currently offers no less than 15 distinct sabots for .45 caliber projectiles, for use in .50 caliber muzzleloaders. That's just for starters. .40 caliber, .44 (.429) caliber, and .458" diameter bullets are well covered for .50 caliber use, along with even more sabots for .45 and .54 caliber muzzleloaders addressing a variety of bullet diameters, lengths, styles, and materials.

The vast majority of muzzleloading enthusiasts today, in the area of 90%, are using MMP sabots, whether they actually know it or not. Hornady, Winchester-Olin, Barnes Bullets, Thompson-Center Arms, Knight Rifles, Buffalo Bullets, and Precision Rifle bullets have all used MMP sabots extensively in times past, and continue to do so. I don't believe this is a coincidence!

Along the way, Del has designed several innovative products. It was Del Ramsey who designed in the conical polyethylene gas check for what is now commonly known as the "Powerbelt" bullet, manufactured by Big Bore Express. The "Ballistic Bridge Sub-base," also know as the "Magnum Sub Base," is yet another idea that Del has brought to fruition. There are many, many more Ramsey revolutions-some proprietary, some not, but few single men have done more to improve muzzleloading performance in history than Del Ramsey.

The lack of muzzleloading standards in bore dimensions has made this a formidable task. Many have loudly lamented that, "their bullets are too hard to load." Well, that is rarely the fault of the bullet and sabot combination. Most of us have scant idea what the land-to-land dimensions of our specific barrels really are, and the respective manufacturers are reticent to say. It can hardly be the fault of a shoe that fits too tightly (or loosely) on the foot, if we ourselves have no idea what our actual shoe size is to begin with! That is often the case, with so-called ".50 caliber" barrels ranging from .497 in. to .505 in. land-to-land bore dimension. In the case of some manufacturers, the allowable bore tolerance envelope is as much as .005" in the very same barrel, making the task of proper projectile to barrel fit all that more daunting--and potentially frustrating.

The benefits of the current production MMP sabot are many. It eliminates the need for lubrication of the bullets. Where bore-sized, pure lead, lubed conicals are restricted to muzzle velocities of approximately 1425 fps or so before leading appears and accuracy disappears, that restriction is now eliminated. The soft bullet bases are protected from flame cutting and their bearing surfaces from stripping in the rifling.

MMP sabots, properly employed, not only take up windage in our bores like a pillow-ticking patch does for a round ball; it is a very close to perfect gas seal. Naturally, that means that the gas generated from our primary powder charge does what it is meant to do, move our projectiles forward more efficiently without the potential performance robbing complications of gas blow-by.

MMP sabots automatically employ ballistically superior projectiles, while maintaining the full ".50 caliber" barrel volume and lower powder charge column height to give us the requisite room to combust our relatively inefficient deflagrating black powder or Pyrodex charges. For a specific bullet style, the smaller caliber bullet of the same grain weight is automatically longer and more ballistically efficient, offering a flatter trajectory. Trajectory, including resistance to wind drift, is most certainly a form of accuracy. Less velocity erosion due to a smaller caliber projectile of the same grain weight means more terminal energy available to harvest game, seldom a bad thing.

The MMP sabot is also a bore-wiper. While nothing changes the residue from our initial fouling shots followed by a spit patch, the shot-to-shot condition of our barrels following a discharge of an MMP ensconced bullet followed by a spit patch retains consistent barrel condition, and consistency is the definition of accuracy. Those who shoot black powder cartridge guns know that black powder fouling builds up continually; and during subsequent firings the crud can eventually swage soft lead bullets down to the point where proper bullet contact with the bore is no longer possible. It varies widely by caliber and cartridge; it may take 15 shots or be good for 45 repeated shots or so. When accuracy goes, however, it seems instant. No such condition exists with MMP sabots, when swabbing between shots.

Soft lead projectiles shorten and belly out upon firing. So far, so what? With a close tolerance barrel, there is no particular issue. However, lead does not have elastomeric "memory" qualities, as current MMP sabots do. A barrel incapable of great accuracy with bore-sized lead conicals can have superior accuracy with MMP sabots, as the sabots can compensate for variations in bore diameter and rifling depth up to around .004 in. or so, where lead cannot. In fact, several manufacturers have exploited this benefit of MMP sabots, cutting production costs by loosening allowable tolerances up to the point where MMP sabots still shoot extremely well in their barrels.

Where it was once accepted that thicker sabots were "bad for accuracy," Del Ramsey's sabot formulations have improved so that this is no longer automatically the case. The only .25 inch groups I've ever fired were with .40 caliber bullets in a thicker .50 caliber sabot. Knight Rifles won the World's Manufacturers Championship with an MMP manufactured saboted bullet of the same genre--specifically, a PR Bullet developed "QT."

An often-asked question is, "what do you use for plastic fouling?" Barrels vary widely in quality, but the better barrels I have tested with the latest formulation MMP sabots have shown no signs of plastic fouling after hundreds and hundreds of shots.

Some folks obsess a bit over their sabot's condition after they are fired. While not exploring the validity of all possible scenarios, MMP sabots are not designed to be reused. When the groups are tight, and the bullets consistently are placed where you want them, there is no compelling reason to go on a sabot hunting expedition, but that's anyone's choice. Some sabots are designed to shear petals, and some are not. Whether they do can be temperature related, and not indicative of anything, presuming you have already obtained the accuracy you seek.

One complication presents itself at the retail end. Prepackaged bullets and sabots have no finite shelf life; contingent on how a distributor or retailer rotates their inventory, product presumed to be the "latest and greatest" may actually be comprised of outdated formulations. There is great benefit, for those who desire the latest formulations, to call MMP directly.

Del Ramsey is obviously continuing his sabot perfection as a labor of love. In talking with Del, you can tell he has passion for his products, speaking of them and the machines that produce them as one would speak of their beloved pets. Del Ramsey is a man of diverse interests, with far bigger fish frying then just the sabots he creates. Yet, that has not dissuaded him from constantly striving to improve the breed. Though more shotshell wads are used in a few days than an entire year of MMP production, that also has not deterred Del from his incremental, steady improvements. A two to three percent increase in durability, with no further difficulty in loading or loss of accuracy is a step Mr. Ramsey finds to be a "trend of value."

Short on brags, but high on innovation, it is not difficult to see why Del Ramsey is one of the few prolific contributors to modern muzzleloading that no one has harsh words for. There is far more to Del's symphony of sabotry than most would believe.

As it now stands, no one can use a saboted projectile in a modern muzzleloader without owing a debt of gratitude to Mr. Del Ramsey for his many contributions, with yet more to come. Del Ramsey is one of the best we have ever had, and muzzleloading is a far better, richer place for his presence.

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Copyright 2004 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.