How to Select the Right Sabot
Enough phone calls and e-mails have come through asking, "What is the Best Sabot?" to attempt to address it in a brief article. So very often, the conversation about a saboted bullet turns to "How does it load?"
Of course, the question is not really how the sabot loads at all, it is how your gun's barrel "loads." The sabots are far more forgiving than steel, and there are no universal muzzleloading barrel bore dimensions, so it is our job to select the right sabot for our individual gun's bore. Not all bullets on the market mic out at the exact stated diameter, either, which just adds more confusion.
Lighter bullets normally have less bearing surface at their sides, so automatically a 250 XTP will be a bit easier to load than its 300 grain XTP counterpart. MMP Sabots has been around for some twenty years now, and most of the sabots ever shot from a muzzleloader have been made by MMP, which stands for "Muzzleload Magnum Products." They have long been the best sabots on the market, and Del Ramsey constantly strives to make them better with every new formulation.
There is no such thing as a "Magnum" sabot, and no such thing as a "High Pressure Sabot." Gun makers and various other parties toss about these terms, but not by MMP. They are best forgotten, as those terms are meaningless. There are older, outdated formulations, of course, but none are "low-pressure sabots." There is only one way to be absolutely certain you are getting the best, current formulation sabots (with a few exceptions) and that is to call MMP at (870) 741-5019. You can also visit their WebSite at http://www.mmpsabots.com.
Getting sabots from MMP is easier, and cheaper than you think. They come in bags of 50 sabots per bag, there is no minimum order, no handling charge, no tax outside of Arkansas, and MMP is happy to pay your postage for you. Not only that, if you order 5 bags you get 10% off. If you order 10 bags, you get 20% off. Still, no tax, no handling fee, and MMP pays for the shipping.
There are two basic lines of MMP sabots: the "High Performance Standard Sabot Series" and the "HPH Series." The HP standard sabots are $7.25 per bag; the HPH series sabots are $10.25 per bag. The HPH sabots are designed for hotter charges, and have thicker or reinforced bases. However, they may not be necessary, as recoil has nothing directly to do with pressure inflicted on a sabot. All MMP sabots are made from the same stuff, MMP's latest and best formulation polymer blend. The lone exception to this is the HPH 50 / 40 Blue sabots that are a unique formulation all their own.
It comes up sooner or later, so I will mention it sooner: "Why do the HPH sabots cost that extra five or six cents each?" The answer is a combination of very expensive, custom, multi-cavity molds and a longer cycle time when producing them. It just takes more time to make an HPH than a standard sabot.
You generally want a sabot to be long enough to cover the bearing surface of the bullet. For the Hornady 250 grain and 300 grain .452 XTPs, the standard 50 / 452 Black sabot works famously, and that includes for use in the Savage 10ML-II. 42.0 grains of Vihtavouri N110 pushing a 250 grain XTP in a 50 / 452 Black sabot is one of the most accurate loads there is in the Savage 10ML-II. This sabot is one of MMP's oldest designs, and still works great due to many polymer formulation updates. It is also called the "MMP" sabot, or the MMP short black sabot.
If the 300 grain .452 XTP loads a bit tighter than you prefer, you might want to try the 250 grain .452 XTP. If you want a bullet that loads just a bit easier you can go with the Sierra "Sportsmaster" .4515 diameter (.45 cal), 300 grain JSP. The slightly smaller outside diameter makes a difference you can feel.
There are only three bullet makers that I know of that are using 100% MMP current formulation sabots at present: Barnes Bullets, Buffalo Bullets, and Mark Lynch's Hunterman Bullets. The rest use a mishmash of sabots of unspecified make, or may use outdated MMP sabots.
Barnes MZ-Expanders come automatically with MMP 50 / 452 Black HPH12 long-petaled sabots in 250 and 300 grain. Here again, while as supplied may load and shoot beautifully for you, if they load unbearably tight, all is not lost. Just substitute MMP 50 / 452 Black HPH-24 sabots. The HPH-24 Black sabots give you a smaller assembled OD of about .002 inches less than the HPH-12 sabots, and that is a whole heck of a lot to a sabot. The example MMP gives is with a .452" bullet: HPH-12 = .507 - .508" assembled OD, HPH-24 = .505 - .506" assembled outside diameter.
Though I'm not a fan of the Hornady SST muzzleloading bullet (Thompson "Shockwave"), if you are shooting the 250 SST or 300 SST, the HPH-12 is generally the choice. If it loads too tight the HPH-24 can solve your problems.
What actually comes in the box with the bullets is speculative. It could be MMP or not, it could be old polymer or not. Getting sabots from MMP is the only way I know to be sure of current product, unless getting fresh product from Barnes, Buffalo, or Hunterman.
There are no "HPH" sabots for .45 caliber muzzleloaders. Based on the sales numbers I'm aware of, the .45 caliber sabot-shooter is all but dead, so there will likely not be much future sabot development for these white elephants. As mentioned, though, all MMP sabots are the same latest formula excepting the unique 50 / 40 Blue.
To round out the HPH coverage, the 50 / 40 Blue has proved to be the best sabot of its type ever developed (a great shooter for the 200 SST in several Knight Rifles). The 50 / 430 Green HPH-12 has a thicker, stronger base than the standard high performance 50 / 430 Green, and I am delighted that MMP currently offers the 50 / 458 Orange HPH sabots. That has opened up a whole new world, specifically all the .45-70 rifle bullets that you couldn't use before with current polypropylene blended product. Specifically, I've had great luck with the Barnes Original Semi-Spitzer 300 grain and the Barnes "X" bullet 350 grain in these superb sabots.
That covers the basics. If you send Connie at MMP some chocolate, it will help to brighten her day. And if I got anything wrong here, Mr. Ramsey will likely slap me, or make me take his mom out fishing. In any case, I hope it makes it a bit easier to order the sabots you need to let your gun shoot its best.
Copyright 2005 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.