Notes on Savage 10ML-II Load Development

By Randy Wakeman

Load development for the Savage 10ML-II is a topic that I've been reticent to write about for a number of reasons. Though for some, the concept of smokeless muzzleloading remains some sort of mystery, that stance is remarkably puzzling. The notion of shooting large caliber loads out of a firearm using projectiles surrounded by a plastic wad is hoary old news. Anyone who has ever fired a shotgun has done the same thing.

The classic Savage 10ML-II loads have been proven for some fourteen years now by Bill Ball, Henry Ball, and company. Not surprisingly, 28 gauge shotshell loadings were used as a starting point, and we have come a long, long way from that point. Del Ramsey's sabot blends have improved to the point where Savage loads are more effective and more forgiving than ever before, using just one bare MMP sabot.

An article entitled "The Folly of More Powder" by John Kronfeld graces the pages of the Accurate Smokeless Powders Reloading Guide, Number Two. It should be required reading for any reloader that hunts. As a hunting guide for over a decade, John mentions the "further folly" of more powder, mentioning that if an animal "can detect the difference between hit by a bullet loaded with published data or X+4 grains of powder, I'll eat my hat." To my knowledge, Mr. Kronfeld has yet to ingest any head apparel.

Anyone who looks at the ballistics of the relatively heavy .45 caliber projectiles we are using can see that there is only a minute difference between a 250 grain bullet at 2200 fps and that same bullet at 2300 fps inside 225 yards. No animal can live on the difference, and an unbiased look at what 100 or even 200 fps means at long range will have many muzzleloading hunters wondering what all the fuss has been about.

Nevertheless, there is a lot of room for growth in the fine-tuning of loads for the Savage 10ML-II. Some are in the "STP" hyperbole department (cooler, quieter, faster, longer), but some have more practical aspects that may prove more valuable in the long term to muzzleloading hunters, even if a look at these types of loads does not garner wild-eyed excitement.

One of the beautiful things about effective 10ML-II loads is the comfort level of the felt recoil. Most experienced shooters would prefer no more recoil than necessary, and for those with a touch of arthritis in their shoulders, young folks, sexy senior citizens, the fairer sex, or anybody that just does not care to be bothered by recoil, the Savage 10ML-II is a blessing.

100 grains volumetric of Goex black powder or Pyrodex RS gets a 300 grain bullet moving about 1500-1600 fps. That load might be thought of anemic by many, yet assuming (for ballistic calculation purposes) a 300 grain Barnes MZ Expander at 1600 fps, it remains a 153 yard six inch kill maximum point blank range load that retains nearly 1000 foot pound of terminal energy at 150 yards. Hardly just an "adequate" deer hunting load inside of 150 yards! Inside 100 yards, it is also excellent for boar, elk, or most anything with hooves. Anyone who refuses to understand that is ignoring the millions of clean kills accomplished with that genre of load.

The low recoil loads that have broad appeal in shotshell land have been overlooked in muzzleloading. The Savage 10ML-II is the ideal platform to welcome aboard recoil sensitive shooters to the world of muzzleloading. 34-36 grains of Accurate Arms 5744 or 48-50 grains of Accurate Arms 2015 provides moderate recoil with tack-driving accuracy. These loads have so little kick that if you've not tried them, you might find yourself laughing out loud after pulling the trigger. Best of all, if your shots are inside 100 yards, terminal performance is all you could ever hope for on whitetail or blacktail deer. Take a kid hunting!

Accurate Arms 5744 is such a well-established 10ML-II propellant that, with 44 grains of it pushing a 300 grain Hornady XTP already accounting for kills past 325 yards, there really isn't much to add except to echo that it is great stuff. It has the combinatorial qualities that make for a superb 10ML-II propellant: easy scoop loading with Lee Dippers, clean burning, position insensitivity, temperature insensitivity, and on and on. It is a wonderful field powder.

The double-based, short-cut grain extruded powder that is Accurate Arms 5744 leads to other powders that I've found to be extremely competent as well. The ADI powders are catching on. One readily available propellant that is superb with 300 grain and a bit heavier saboted projectiles (though not yet a Savage recommended powder) is Alliant RL-7.

Double-based, short-cut extruded and made by Nexplo of Sweden, according to Alliant it has a 7% nitro content, sufficient to create the desired plasticizing effect that helps lock out humidity from double-based powders. 65 grains of Reloder 7 nets you about 2200 fps with a 300 grain saboted bullet. This is still a pleasant load to shoot, and it offers the increased sectional density and ballistic coefficient automatically obtained by the jump from 250 to 300 grain projectiles. It's a beauty.

Other than that, I'll close this missive with a note of congratulations to Western Powders for undertaking the long, slow process of further 10ML-II laboratory work. I'm hopeful that, along the way, they have the opportunity to return AA 2015BR to its former glory.

Back to the Muzzleloader Information Page

Copyright 2005 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.