Savage 10ML-II, the Recoil-less Muzzleloader

By Randy Wakeman

Savage 10MLBSS-II
Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms

What is rarely discussed is that the Savage 10ML-II is easily the softest shooting muzzleloader on the market today. There are several loads, easily found, that offer 90% of the range, 100% of the lethality, yet only 50% of the recoil of "full power" hunting loads. Several Savage loads offer better performance than blackpowder, Pyrodex, or Triple Se7en loads with far less recoil.

There are several basic reasons for this beyond the classic stock design of the Savage 10ML-II that itself is a relatively low-recoiling stock. Powder weight is a component of recoil. Where you would need 100, 120, or more grains of actual blackpowder by weight, the use of higher-energy content propellants such as Accurate Arms 5744 give you the same (or better) performance using 60-70% less powder.

The basic physics of free recoil apply. Adding weight to a rifle decreases recoil at about a 1:1 ratio. Add 10% weight to a muzzleloader, the recoil is reduced by about 10%.

However, if you reduce muzzle velocity, the recoil is about a 2:1 ratio. Dropping muzzle velocity by 10% nets you a 20% reduction in recoil. The same is true for our payload. If we reduce projectile weight (sabot, bullet) by 10%, we also reduce recoil by 20%.

Keeping the same velocity, all else being equal-going from a 300 grain bullet to a 250 grain bullet means about a 16.5% decrease in payload which translates to a roughly 1/3 less recoil.

One proven effective combination (a pet load of Jon Gillen) is using the .45 x .50 short, black MMP sabot with the Barnes XPB 225 grain .451 pistol bullet-Barnes #45120. The bullet is essentially a 225 grain MZ-Expander. Here, the excellent penetration of the Barnes all-copper bullet and 100% weight retention potential is well exploited, the 25% weight reduction gives you a 50% reduction in free recoil vs. a 300 grain bullet.

But, there is more. Using 44 grains of Accurate Arms 5744 with this bullet-sabot combination nets you a muzzle velocity in the 2150 fps range. Quite substantial, but a load that has over 10% less free recoil than using N110 powder, a higher velocity powder.

This combination nets you a better than 55% reduction in free recoil from a "full-powered" 300 grain load. Yet, this is a 185 yard 6 in. kill zone "Point Blank Range" load. It retains one half ton of energy at 160 yards, and is more than sufficient for all hooved North American game at that range.

Use of a 250 grain Hornady .452 XTP (standard, not 'Mag') bullet and the same MMP short black sabot is also a well-proven load. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that just 35 grains of Accurate Arms 5744 was considered a "preferred load," and took a goodly number of whitetails. As you can imagine, this is an extremely soft-shooting load as well. As testimony to the effectiveness of 35 grains of Accurate Arms 5744, muzzleloading legend Gary B. 'Doc" White hunted South Africa with his own customized, smokeless muzzleloader and 35 grains of 5744 is what he used, with great success.

Whether 44 gr. 5744 with a 225 gr. Barnes XPB, a 250 gr. Hornady XTP (my 78 year old father took a doe at 225 yards with this XTP load out of a Savage 10ML-II; both a pass-thru and a clean one shot kill), or lower charges of 5744 such as the 35 grain load cited above; you have supremely effective yet very soft-shooting loads that make muzzleloading more fun for most everyone, saving wear and tear on scopes and shoulders alike. They are ideal for those who would rather just go hunting, rather than hunting for a load.

Accurate Arms 5744 is the ideal powder for managed recoil loads, as it is the most easily ignitable powder under harsh conditions for the Savage, with good availability. 5744 does well with the lighter bullets, such as the 225 gr. Barnes XPB, where other powders are not quite as flexible. In any case, these are excellent loads that have produced MOA accuracy. They are ideal for the ladies, young men, or anyone who would rather get their kicks from enjoying the outdoors and not from their rifles.

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Copyright 2006 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.