Savage 10ML-II FAQ

Questions with answers by Randy Wakeman

Q. Are there any cons to using smokeless?

A. None in the Savage 10ML-II, as it was designed to use smokeless powder from its inception over 12 years ago. Quite to the contrary, it offers dramatically lower cost per shot than Pyrodex, no corrosive residue, no heavy fouling, and less recoil for a similar velocity load. Smokeless powder is the most successful black powder substitute ever devised, the safest, and the most efficient. The only "con" is that no other production muzzleloader is designed to use it: ONLY the Savage 10ML-II. Game recovery is easier, as your vision is not obscured after the shot.

Q. Is the Savage 10ML-II safe?

A. Not only is it "safe," it is the safest, strongest muzzleloader ever made. Its very design was inspired by the failure of a conventional muzzleloader that resulted in injury. Smokeless powder is the safest blackpowder substitute yet devised. It is less flammable, more impact resistant, and safer to handle and store. The Savage 10ML-II has been tested to 129,000 PSI-no other muzzleloader can make that claim. That is well over 250% of any recommended load. The Savage 10ML-II is the only muzzleloader made that can pass SAMMI centerfire standards.

Q. It has been said "the heart of any rifle" is its barrel. What about the Savage 10ML-II's barrel?

A. Unlike most muzzleloading manufacturers, Savage Arms makes all their own barrels, from American, certified Gun Barrel Quality steel, the same as their high-powered center-fire barrels. The bore is .501 in. land-to-land, held to +/- .001 in. The rifling depth of the Savage 10-ML II is held to the closest tolerances in the muzzleloading world: .004 in., + .0000 in. / - .0005 in. It is the only muzzleloading barrel you can buy that is 100% proof-tested.

Q. Is it just me, or does this gun seem to cross the line into a different genre?

A. No, it's not just you. Naturally, those who find the Savage 10ML-II as a threat to their sales and profits do, and will continue to attempt to discredit the notion of safer, cleaner, more economical muzzleloading for that very reason. It remains puzzling to me, as what do people really think .22 rimfires and 12 ga. shotguns are powered by?

As far as "genre," the BATF has long held that some muzzleloaders in popular use do indeed fall into a different class, such as the Thompson Encore and the NEF / H & R Huntsman. The Savage is a Form 4473 exempt firearm, just like any other dedicated muzzleloading rifle.

The rediscovery and modernization of "inline" muzzleloading has helped make muzzleloading one of the fastest growing shooting sports extant over the last decade. Inline muzzleloaders, themselves, are viewed as a different "genre" of muzzleloader by some. Those longing for the dirty smoke, corrosiveness, and increased maintenance associated with black powder and expensive Pyrodex are free to burn it in their Savage 10ML-II if they choose to, as well-just like any other muzzleloading rifle.

As a sidebar, Savage Arms in no way suggests the use of smokeless powder in any hunting.season that does not allow its use.

Q. What the heck is a "Vent-Liner," anyway?

Well, I didn't name it. It is simply a hollow hex screw at the powder end of the breech plug. I'd call it a "Flame Jet Screw." They begin with a .030" orifice, and erode with time. When they reach .040" or so, they begin to affect ignition, and require replacement to insure "new gun" level accuracy. For most hunters, it is merely annual replacement. It is employed so breech plug replacement is not required, only the Flame Jet Screw (Vent-Liner).

For those that shoot often, the specific amount of life of the Vent-Liner is contingent on the specific propellant, propellant charge, and projectile. One example is using a pound of Accurate Arms 5744 powder. That will net you in the area of 180 shots with full-powered loads. When you burn up that pound, it is the time to remove and service your breech plug, and replace the vent liner.

My opinion is that is smart to back down 10% from the hottest loads. That naturally gives you 10% more shots per pound of powder, but cuts your muzzle velocities an average of less than 5%. It also will increase your Vent-Liner life by an average of 20% - 30%, or even more. Some combinations have given 400 shots plus without any vent-liner related accuracy loss. This certainly gets into personal preferences with no "right or wrong," but my preference is for a more economical 2000 fps load rather than a 2300 fps hot rod load. It is easier on the wallet, shoulder, and vent-liner. It gives you less barrel-heating as well. The slightly reduced muzzle velocity is can be more than compensated for in terms of terminal performance by using a higher ballistic coefficient bullet.

Q. How effective can the Savage 10ML-II actually be downrange?

One of my favorite loads is a 2160 fps arena 300 gr. Barnes MZ-Expander, pushed by 46 grains of Accurate Arms 5744. That is a 200 yard 6" kill MPBR range load, retaining nearly 1500 fps and 1500 fpe on target at that 200 yards.

We can get more out of our Savage by using 60 grains by weight of Vihtavuori N120, pushing a higher BC Barnes "Original" .458 45-70 bullet, with an orange MMP .458 sabot. That is about a 2300 fps load, has a 220 yard maximum point blank range, and retains 1743 fps and 2023 fpe at that 220 yards.

By comparison with the better long range center fire cartridge loads, such as the .300 Win. Mag., this load is not even close. A .300 Magnum can be had with much higher ballistic coefficient factory loads, can place another 800 foot pounds of energy on your target at 200 yards, and can easily be loaded to a muzzle velocity of over 3000 fps, achieving a MPBR of in excess of 325 yards and over 400 yards for larger game animals. The tortured thinking that the Savage 10ML-II is even remotely comparable to high-powered center-fire firearms is delusional.

However, the Savage compares very well with the finest high-end muzzleloaders ever made, and gets the enthusiast superb muzzleloading hunting performance in a very safe, very effective, very humane format that does not try to erode your barrel, or your wallet.

Q. What about the breech plug maintenance?

A. If using the Savage with Pyrodex or other filthy and corrosive propellants, you need to both well-lubricate your breech plug with an automotive anti-seize compound, or choke-tube lube-just like any other muzzleloader. You'll also need to completely clean your Savage after every shooting session, to get the hygroscopic and corrosive residue out of your barrel-just like any other inline muzzleloader.

When using smokeless powder as your blackpowder substitute, you still need to thoroughly lubricate your breechplug with anti-seize, such as Never-Seize (NSBT-16) that I use. I asked Henry Ball, inventor of the ML-10, how often he takes out his Savage breechplug for cleaning and re-lubrication. Henry replied, "Once a year, whether it needs it or not." A proven tip when shooting smokeless (or Triple Seven / Pyrodex) all day at the range is to crack the breech plug loose after eight or nine shots or so, then retighten before merrily shooting for the rest of the day. The first few shots can form a breechplug to barrel bond from residue, especially in the case of Triple Seven as a propellant. Like any bond-line, once broken, it cannot reform as strongly. This will help ensure that your breechplug is easy to remove.

Q. Do you have to use 28 gauge sub-bases if you want high velocity?

A. Savage does NOT allow their use. However, a mild load of powder such as 41.3 grains of Accurate Arms XMP-5744 (Lee 3.1 c.c. dipper) will net you better than 1900 fps muzzle velocities with the majority of 300 grain saboted projectiles. By contrast, you will need a bone-jarring, expensive load of three 50 grain Pyrodex pellets (in muzzleloaders rated for their use) to approach this level of performance.

For the record: wool or felt wads, "bore buttons," "wonder wads," and various cork and plastic over-powder wads have all been used for ages in an attempt to protect the bases of muzzleloading bullets--such as heavy conicals. In the Savage, it is specifically not allowed. As far as I'm concerned, it is hardly worth the bother. What IS worth the bother is finding the exact brand and weight of sabot YOUR gun likes you to feed it-- just like all other muzzleloaders. That may change rather quickly, though, as sabot systems are being developed by MMP that address both smokeless and hot "Triple Seven" powder charge applications.

Q. Given the much higher energy of smokeless powder, do you need to weigh each load carefully to ensure consistent velocity?

A. The more correct statement is that ALL powder charges must be measured carefully for consistent velocities; that holds true whether the propellant is smokeless or other blackpowder substitutes such as Pyrodex. Lee powder dippers are inherently safe, with a fixed capacity that is non-adjustable, and non-variable. Lee has sold millions of powder dippers over the last 44 years. Yet, Lee has had NOT ONE reported incident of an overcharge related accident in all this time. Lee powder dippers can be used to measure powder within 1/10th of a grain. See Modern Reloading, Second Edition by Richard Lee, pages 87-91, for a thorough discussion of this topic, with the facts to back it up.

Q. Do you have to fire out your hot load after an unsuccessful cold morning hunt and load up a milder load after the temp climbs before the afternoon hunt?

A. NO! Just about as often as you would with any other smokeless powered firearm, like your shotgun or .22 rimfire, or perhaps your .357 wheelgun. That means never. If you are a muzzleloader, you are a reloader as well. It is your job to find the specific projectile and powder combination that suits both you and your application the best. For many, it will be no more difficult than using the basic Savage 10ML-II's suggested loads of Accurate Arms 5744 or Vihtavouri N110, and you are done. Any muzzleloader knows that all rifles are individuals to a certain degree, and many a muzzleloader has lamented the lack of choices in the propellant department. The Savage 10ML-II offers you more proven, safe, effective, economical propellant choices than any muzzleloader ever made.

In several muzzleloaders I've tested, I've found that hot Triple Seven propelled loads that shoot well in winter have to have their charges reduced a bit on hot summer days to restore accuracy. All powder burns a bit slower in colder weather. The issue of barrel heating has never been a "hunting issue" with the Savage. It is at the range, when shooting for tight groups-the barrel needs a few minutes to cool with hot loads between shots for the best groups. Consistent barrel temperature helps repeatable accuracy in any rifle, and the 10ML-II is no exception in that regard.

Q. Does the inevitable variations in bullet seating pressure cause more problems with the highly energetic smokeless?

A. In a word, no. Muzzleloaders of all persuasions over the years know that "consistency means accuracy," and seat their bullets over the powder charge with about 30-35 lbs. of seating pressure to wring out the most accuracy. Those in search of "bench-rest quality" groups use the "Kadooty" or other pressure regulators to try to wring out that last few bits of accuracy. Using the Savage with smokeless powder as its black powder substitute is no different at all, and the same 35 lb. area seating pressure is preferred, just as it is with Pyrodex. I find it actually easier to seat a sabot with the same pressure in a Savage, as there is dramatically less fouling to push your saboted projectile through, so little that I never swab between shots.

Q. Can smokeless powder be hard to ignite?

A. Of course, and that is what has made smokeless powder the far safer alternative to both black powder, and other black powder substitutes-along with its lesser sensitivity to impact. From the beginning, Henry Ball designed his smokeless muzzleloader with 209 shotshell primers for sure-fire, worry free ignition. After all, today's shotshell primers are designed TO ignite smokeless powder, NOT Pyrodex.

Q. Do you have to take ice to the range when shooting in warm weather?

A. Ice is a handy thing to have, especially if you want to keep your sandwiches fresh, and cans of soda cold. As far as shooting the Savage, yes-the barrel gets hot, like any other gun. Fire ten quick rounds through your .300 Win Mag, and see how long you can hold your hand on the barrel! On extremely hot days, it is a good idea to let your barrel cool 5 minutes or so between shots. With the Savage 10ML-II, you don't have to mess around with a pile of spit patches and heavy swabbing between shots-so, it is naturally easier to get a lot more shooting in. Also, since you not only can shoot more, but also need not apply drool to your barrel between shots to be able get your next sabot down-the heat is not spit-dissipated in the Savage, and is a bit more pronounced. Skipping the spit, and giving the barrel a few minutes to cool down naturally is the best course.

Moderate charges of 41.3 grains of Accurate Arms XMP-5744, as already mentioned, generate less heat-as you are burning less powder. It is those moderate charges that I prefer, instead focusing on the more accurate, higher ballistic-coefficient bullets. It gives you all the down-range performance you could hope for, and gives you more shots per pound. Easier on the wallet and shoulder, generating less barrel heat, that is my preference in enjoying the Savage-rather than "run against the wind" with unnecessarily fast loads that automatically lower any bullet's BC at the muzzle. It's only what is actually left on target that counts, according to me, anyway.

Q. Do I have to swab the barrel?

A. If you use Hodgdon "Pyrodex," Goex "ClearShot", or other propellants that are horribly inefficient and leave behind about half of their mass as fouling, or course you do-just like any other muzzleloader using saboted projectiles. With the far cleaner smokeless, no solvents or spittle are required. The sabot is a wiper, giving you consistent bore conditions shot to shot. I've never found swabbing necessary at all.

Q. What makes the Savage 10-ML "better" than other muzzleloaders?

A. Better is always subjective, but a summary of the 10ML-II's features and benefits is that it is the only truly sealed action muzzleloader on the market, has the strongest action of any muzzleloader on the market (chamber tested to 129,000 PSI), features the best trigger ever put on a factory muzzleloader (Accu-Trigger), is the only muzzleloader factory pillar bedded with a floated barrel, one of the very few with 416 SS certified Gun Barrel Quality barrels (Savage makes their own barrels), it cannot possibly stick a 209 shotshell primer due to its patented bolt face, and the Savage 10ML-II is the only production muzzleloader that is 100% function fired before shipment. It also comes with the finest laminated stock I've ever seen on a muzzleloader, with checkering that really works.

No other muzzleloader offers all these features, regardless of price. It makes the Savage a well-made, attractive combination, regardless of your personal propellant choice. I hope this clears the air. Shooting the Savage 10ML-II certainly does.

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Copyright 2003, 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.