Quick Path to Savage 10ML-II Deer Hunting Loads

By Randy Wakeman

Savage 10MLBSS-II
Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms

The Savage 10ML-II is one of the easiest muzzleloaders for which I've ever worked up loads. If your choice is non-corrosive smokeless powder as allowed by this rifle, Accurate Arms 5744 is really the only powder you need to work with, although there are certainly other options.

Accurate Arms 5744 distinguishes it self as it is the easiest powder to ignite regardless of sabot fit. Not only forgiving in the ignition sense, it is very easy to volumetrically measure with the yellow Lee 3.4cc smokeless powder dipper. This dipper yields right at 44.5 grains, at least using my dipping technique.

AA 5744 powder

Photo by Randy Wakeman

There may well be "exceptions that prove the rule," but every Savage 10ML-II that I have tried has given acceptable accuracy with AA 5744. There is no reason for a 10ML-II not to shoot well with this propellant. If a full-power deer hunting load is the goal, this powder gives you all the steam you need to cleanly harvest any deer. It really is about that simple.

There is has been enough data assembled over the years to narrow the possibilities as to what your individual gun might like; there really isn't much mystery left. Del Ramsey's current formulation MMP sabots are the accepted choice, regardless of bullet.

The list of popular bullet combinations showing both suitable accuracy and good performance on game include the standard (non "Mag") .452", 250 grain Hornady XTP, the .452" 300 grain Hornady XTP, the .451" / 50, 250 grain Barnes MZ-Expander, the .451" / 50 300 grain Barnes MZ-Expander and, in many guns, the .40" / 50 260 grain "Dead Center," particularly when the supplied sabot is discarded in favor of the blue MMP .40 / 50 caliber sabot.


Photo by Randy Wakeman

The Hornady XTP's are readily available in bulk and combined with the short, black MMP sabot have done particularly well. The Barnes MZ-Expanders come automatically with current formulation "HPH12" MMP high performance series sabots, so no separate sabot purchasing or sabot switching is required.

Due to the 1:24 rate of twist of the Savage 10ML-II, it does well with longer, 300 grain bullets than many muzzleloaders, and there is scant reason not to use them. The 300 grain bullets offer better sectional density and higher ballistic coefficients than their lighter counterparts, with a comparatively low velocity penalty when employed with Accurate Arms 5744.

Directly put, if a saboted bullet combination will not group with 44 grains of Accurate Arms 5744, I don't want it. Rather than obsessing over powder charge weights or switching propellants, switching bullets has proven to be the most productive course for me.

Mark Lynch, of Hunterman Boolets, offers swaged lead bullets in any weight you want. I've found the 287 grain .451" spire point rebated boat tail bullets in the MMP short black sabot to be quite accurate. These custom bullets are available only on a direct basis from Mark at [email protected].

Regarding primers, I've not been able to detect any appreciable accuracy difference between Winchester 209 shotshell primers and Federal 209a primers. The Federals are a bit hotter, and offer a small but real velocity increase. The choice of primers is determined by what primer fits your breech plug the best. I use Federals when I can, but if they fit too tightly (sticking primers, or hard to close bolt) the Winchesters get the call.

I've found "reading sabots for accuracy" to be a singularly fabulous time-waster. Whether a sabot shears one petal, twists then, or looses them all is completely unimportant to me, for after a sabot exits the muzzle it has done its job. I've had sabots that are torn to bits upon exit, yet they have thrown the bullets into the same hole day after day, range session after range session. Conversely, I've experimented with loads where the fired sabots look picture perfect; engraved beautifully with the petals symmetrically flowered out, but these loads have never produced anything near what I could call a "group."

The only thing that matters to me is group size, and whatever combination produces the best repeatable groups wins, whether a disposable piece of plastic wins beauty contests after use is off-topic, and has nothing to do with the goal of finding a reliably accurate hunting load.

Triple7 pellet box

Illustration courtesy of Hodgdon Powder Company

If the propellant used is Hodgdon's Triple 7, whether by personal preference or due to regulation, the starting load is always 100 grains of T7 FFg. The same bullet combinations apply. If it does not group well with 100 grains by volume of Triple Seven then I have no use for that combination. The only caveat is that I opt for lighter bullets weighing around 250 grains due to the velocity penalty that comes with Triple Seven and related synthetic propellants.

This little commentary is not meant to be limiting; there are certainly other combinations that work, and work well. However, if you want a no hassle approach to a suitable deer load for your Savage 10ML-II that will fill your meat locker without fail, then this is it. Those that enjoy tinkering will, of course, find the time--but finding an effective load for your 10ML-II requires a minimal amount of it.

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Copyright 2005 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.