Seven Steps to Savage Muzzleloading Success

By Randy Wakeman

Savage 10MLBSS-II
Illustration courtesy of Savage Arms

If you are new to the Savage 10ML-II, here are a few points that should help eliminate any frustration long before it becomes a frustration. That's the best time to do it.

I. Drill Out Your Breechplug

Yes, even with a brand new gun. That means using a 5/32th drill bit and an electric drill. It is the Savage's patented breech plug that keeps the 209 primer residue out of your action, won't bake your scope, and out of your barrel as well. Some folks wonder why this is a good idea on a brand new gun? The answer is that Savage makes all of their rifles to the same no-compromising standards. Your brand new Savage has already been fired several times before it ever leaves the plant. That's 100% proof-testing followed by function testing.

If you happen to inspect the inside of a yellow 20 gauge shotshell you'll see how much residue remains from just one 209 primer, it's not from the powder. So, you can imagine the 209 crud injection inline muzzleloaders may get. Rather than having the crud spew all over the place, it stays in the Savage breechplug and away from the action. It is the only basic maintenance a Savage needs. So, for best ignition and top accuracy, the ventliner is removed. You go in from the primer side with your drill bit, drilling all the way through the breechplug until the drill bit comes out the other side. You can't damage the ventliner threads, as your drill bit is self-aligning by going in from the primer pocket side. It takes only a few moments, but it is the best thing you can do to ensure new gun accuracy for a lifetime: decarbon that breechplug.

Yes, I know-- some folks claim to have been shooting their Savages for years with no problems and have totally ignored their breechplugs. This is the "ounce of prevention" approach. If you want the most out of your Savage 10ML-II, drill out that breechplug and replace the ventliner every 100 shots or every box of primers.

II. Use Savage Recommended Loads

You've heard, "When all else fails, read the instructions?" Sometimes, we just can't be bothered to. Your buddy's sabots are likely no good, and you can't just randomly load what you have lying around in the garage or what you used in another muzzleloader and expect to get good results. This isn't grandpa's muzzleloader, and if you want the best results, you need to use the right stuff. Forget bullet ad-copy and hyperbole. Savage doesn't sell sabots, bullets, powder, or primers. The recommended loads exist for one reason: they work. Here are a few of the best. Please note that all smokeless loads are by ACTUAL WEIGHT.


MMP short black sabot, Hornady .452 XTP Start load: 40 gr. Accurate Arms 5744.
Do not exceed load 45 gr.

MMP short black sabot, Hornady .452 XTP Start load: 37 gr. Vihtavuori N110.
Do not exceed load 44 gr.

Want more? Well, Hodgdon / IMR SR4759 (as mentioned in your manual) does extremely well with 250 grain sabots in place of the N110 loads cited above.


MMP 50 x .458 Orange Sabot, Barnes Original .458 Semi-Spitzer Soft Point. Start load 40 gr. Accurate Arms 5744.
Do not exceed 45 grains 5744.

Barnes MZ-Expander 300 grain, supplied sabot, Start load 40 gr. Accurate Arms 5744.
Do not exceed 45 grains 5744.

MMP short black sabot, Hornady .452 XTP, Start load 40 gr. Accurate Arms 5744.
Do not exceed 45 grains 5744.

MMP 50 x .458 Orange Sabot, Hornady .458 Hollow Point #4500. Start load 40 gr. Accurate Arms 5744.
Do not exceed 45 grains 5744.

For 300 grain bullets, I personally like Accurate Arms 5744. If you want more velocity (yes, and a bit more recoil) you can use one of the originally recommended Savage 10ML powders, Alliant Reloder 7, start load is 60 grains, max. load 65 grains.

Your sabot needs to load firmly but smoothly with a .003 - .004 inch interference fit. Fresh sabots are available from Old sabots are generally no good, nor are branded sabot/bullets for Knight or T/C muzzleloaders. This rifle is no old inline, it is a Savage-- so use the right stuff for your rifle, not an old muzzleloader with a different rate of twist.

Smokeless loads are for 250 - 300 grain saboted projectiles only. Savage has made no exceptions to this.

Want to shoot conicals, Powerbelts, or heavier bullets? You can, if you wish-- but not with smokeless. Use Western Powders' Blackhorn 209. Blackhorn 209 also works extremely well with all the above saboted projectiles. 110 grains by volume from a blackpowder powder measure is ideal, though anything from 90 grains on up is more than adequate. See for their loading data.

What about primers? Well, Winchester W209 shotshell primers, CCI 209M, and Federal 209A primers all work well. My preference is the Federal 209A.

What do the pros use at Savage Arms? 42 grains of N110 or SR4759, Winchester W209 primer, short black MMP sabot, 250 grain .452 Hornady XTP. Henry Ball, originator of the ventliner, and his team use 44 grains of Accurate Arms 5744, W209 Winchester primer, same short black MMP sabot, and the 300 grain standard (not the 'magnum') .452 Hornady XTP. Use a proven load like these first, and if you are compelled to fiddle later on, fine. These are best-established, most reliable loads.

III. What About Cleaning?

Well, for starters, don't be so foolish as to keep your muzzleloader loaded overnight. Powder does not improve after it comes out of the original bottle, and it hardly needs to breathe like that old bottle of Cabernet. Shoot it out at the end of every hunting day, and start with a fresh load the next morning if you want reliability and performance. No need to clean your barrel, as like most rifles your Savage shoots its best with a fouled barrel.

When you do eventually clean it, a couple of patches of Hoppe's No. 9 melts the light smokeless residue, and Breakfree CLP works well before putting the rifle in storage. Use automotive anti-seize for your breechplug and ventliner, available from any auto parts store.

IV. What About Bases and Rings?

The current Savage 10ML-II Accu-Trigger is based on the renowned Savage short action that has a round receiver front and rear, one of the most popular centerfire actions ever devised. I use Warne Maxima two piece steel bases and Warne Maxima steel rings, but there are many choices as Savage product is so wildly popular.

V. What About Scopes?

Personal preference, of course, your selection process is just like you'd put on any big game hunting rifle for example a Marlin .444, the .45-70 Government, or the 450 Marlin. The "theory" of a muzzleloading scope is a bit silly. The Savage 10ML-II is a precision-made, extremely high quality big game rifle that can handle anything from groundhog to grizzly. A good scope is just an investment in furthering your hunting success. The Savage short-action is a strong, robust action. The super-short, mini scopes rarely fit properly. Maker sure you have a main tube that is long enough-about 5.4 to 6 inches for easy scope mounting, and look for a good internal adjustment range. A Sightron SII 3-9 x 42 (95 inches internal adjustment, 5.47 in. main tube) or a Bushnell Elite 3200 3-9 x 40 (50 in. adjustment, 6 inch main tube) are two basic choices. For a better grade of scope, consider the Sightron SIIB "Big Sky" 3-9 x 42 or 3-12 x 42 (70 in. adjustment, 5.47 inches maintube) or the Burris Signature Select 3-10 x 40 (50 in. adjustment, 6.5 inch maintube) have better image quality. Both the Sightrons and the Burris Signature Select have more generous eye relief than the 3.3 inches of the Bushnell. There are a lot of good choices out there, but these four scopes have worked beautifully for me personally.

VI. What about Ramrods and Jags?

If your bullet does not sit straight in its sabot, accuracy invariably suffers. The "Spinjag" from Gunn Innovations solves that problem, regardless of muzzleloader.

VII. What about carrying premeasured powder charges?

The brief article, "Powder Vials for Savage" on gives you a fine source for high quality, economical vials that work great.

Closing Comments

By using proven loads and getting familiar with your 10ML-II, you'll soon understand why not only is it the most reliable, highest quality, most accurate, and best performing muzzleloader ever made. It is also the cheapest to shoot, cheapest to own and has less recoil than any conventional muzzleloader to boot by using less mass of better gas-generating, non-corrosive propellants. You can also see where you are shooting-- making game recovery faster and easier as well, and won't be blowing caustic residue over your rifle and scope. Just like a centerfire, you won't be shooting propellants that rot your barrel.

About 100 years ago, skeet shooters ("Clock-Shooters") discovered that blackpowder was really the long way around the skeet field and the US Military recognized that smokeless powder was safer to handle, use and store. It is about time that muzzleloading came out the dark ages-- and the folks at Savage Arms have made it a reality with unparalleled quality, safety, reliability, and accuracy. We owe it to the game animals we pursue to be quick, clean, effective and the Savage is the most advanced and effective muzzleloader on the planet, allowing for precise shot placement and ethical hunting practices like no other muzzleloader. With no smoke in our eyes we can finally see what we were missing and more importantly, not miss due to slow-locktime poor equipment.

Whether whitetails in South Carolina, feral hogs in deep south Texas, caribou in Canada, kudu and warthog in South Africa, black bear in Minnesota, or pronghorn in Wyoming, the Savage 10ML rifles have always delivered, and have never let me down. Follow the recommendations of Savage Arms and give this rifle the respect it deserves it will do the same for you, and more.

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Copyright 2009 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.