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Traditions Express O/U Muzzleloading Rifle
The Traditions Express O/U is a break-open action, .50 caliber, muzzleloading rifle. It has 24” barrels with a modern 1:28” twist, a projectile alignment system and a high grade walnut stock. It is rated safe for 150 grain powder charges. The Express boasts a steel frame and four locking lugs, features that are absolutely necessary at heavy powder charge levels.
In the deer woods a double barrel rifle provides some extra insurance that a buck can be kept down for good. .50 caliber is a good choice because of the wide variety of projectiles on the market. For me, a second round is especially important to put down tough or dangerous game. I’ve been in several situations where I was glad I had that second immediate shot.
I was very interested when Traditions Performance Firearms of Old Saybrook, Connecticut announced plans to market an over/under muzzleloader for less than $2,000. I was intrigued by the gun, so I contacted Traditions and arranged for the consignment of the rifle that is the subject of this article.
Be aware that a .50 caliber muzzleloader has limitations for use on dangerous CXP4 class game (Bovines, elephant, rhino). However, a muzzle velocity of around 1,400 fps with heavy bullets makes a .50 capable of taking anything on the North American continent. Such loads push recommended loadings for the Traditions Express, so develop loads carefully.
The Traditions Express is based on a pre-existing over/under shotgun platform. The top tang mounted safety is quick, dependable and easily accessed in even the most challenging circumstances. A durable aluminum ramrod is provided. Ignition is by 209 shotgun primers and because the Express is a break-open action the 209 primers are well protected from the weather. Fired primers clear the breech easily. The Express is compatible with the use of pellet propellants due to its 209 primer ignition system. Pellets make reloading faster and also make it easier to meet airline and transport regulations. New Easy Load sabots also significantly decrease loading time. The projectile alignment system enhances the loading phase. I can’t stress enough the importance of a quick reloading system and ignition dependability in a gun that might be used for hunting dangerous game.
A high quality recoil pad and tight grain walnut stock help insure that heavy 150 grain powder charges will be manageable. Recoil management is enhanced by the Express double’s 12.5 pound weight. I consider this to be a good weight for a .50 caliber double. The gun is not unduly bulky yet it is heavy enough to limit recoil.
I have read other reviews of the Express rifle and the main complaint seems to be its heavy trigger pull. The test rifle's triggers were comparable to most shotgun triggers and more than adequate for hundred yard big game hunting. The trigger pull is as good as most new rifles equipped with “lawyer proof” triggers.
This gun is not and never will be a target rifle. Traditions clearly states that the Express is intended for hunting ranges out to a hundred yards. It is designed for quick handling and fast shooting, not top accuracy, just like every other double rifle on earth.
The Express has an adjustable top barrel that tunes with an Allen wrench to line up with the bottom barrel’s point of impact. A “barrel jack” has four adjustable screws that encircle the end of the top barrel, allowing it to be adjusted in relation to the bottom barrel. This is done more or less by dead reckoning through repeated shots. The first step is to sight in the bottom barrel, which corresponds to the front trigger. I sighted the barrel to hit 2 inches high at fifty yards. The top barrel was not as difficult to sight in as I imagined it would be. To get the barrel to shoot higher and to the left, I reduced the tension on the top two screws and increased the tension on the bottom two, a half turn at a time with an extra quarter turn on my 8 0’clock screw. Three shots later I had barrel impacts within an inch of each other. You generally want to pick a load and stay with it, but the beauty of this double is that you can make a deer rifle into a big game rifle by sighting in new loads.
The Traditions Express is primarily intended for normal deer or feral hog loads. Most hunters want a double for those reasons. If this were my gun I’d probably sight it in using at least a 400 grain projectile and a charge of 100 grains of Triple Seven for maximum knock down power on North American game. For a conical bullet, the powder charge would be from 100 to 120 grains of Pyrodex and no more than 100 grains of Pyrodex Triple Seven Magnum pellets.
Each of us has a different reason for using such a gun, but I would set the Express up for North American heavy feral hogs and bear. If I want a long range precision muzzle-loading rifle, I’ll use my Pursuit Pro. To my mind the whole point of a double barrel muzzleloader is short-range knock-down power using high momentum projectiles.
Traditions probably has the best production double barrel muzzleloader on the market for the price. You can spend a lot more money for a custom double that won’t do any better and certainly won’t be as flexible. Mainly, it is important to understand what can and should be done with such a rifle. Accept its limitations and you will profit from its advantages.
Note: A complete review of the Traditions Express rifle can be found on the Product Review Page.
Copyright 2007 by Randy D. Smith. All rights reserved.