The Real Tragedy Behind the Demise of the Savage 10ML-II

By Dr. Jim Clary

Savage 10ML-II
10ML-II illustration courtesy of Savage Arms

It was a sad day for all shooters when Savage announced that they will cease production of the Savage 10ML at the end of 2010. At that time, those shooters who wish to use smokeless powder in a muzzleloader will have only a few options. Those being custom rifle builders like Bad Bull and Swing Lock, for example. Their custom muzzleloaders are superb firearms, but in today�s economy, they are priced out of the reach of most hunters.

The real tragedy of the demise of the 10ML is that the finest muzzleloader rifle ever built for the �average� hunter is gone. A combination of market factors and misinformation concerning smokeless muzzleloaders resulted in a demand for the gun that was insufficient to justify continued production. Regardless of whether you shot smokeless powder or black powder substitutes, the Savage 10ML was the industry standard for muzzleloaders. This isn�t the first time a superb firearm succumbed to market forces, the Winchester M21 double shotgun being another example.

Savage has been making fine firearms, priced for the average consumer, for over a hundred years. My best and most accurate squirrel rifle is a Stevens M15 single-shot 22LR that was given to me by my sister over 60 years ago. From the early 1960�s to the late 1980�s, Savage was a company in turmoil. Several companies purchased, then sold Savage Arms and it went into re-organization bankruptcy in 1988. Emerging from that, Ron Coburn was appointed CEO and president. He redefined the future of the business, assembling a team of superb engineers and marketing specialists. His engineers developed new products, including the AccuTrigger and AccuStock, while his marketing team, lead by Brian Herrick, tackled the market with an expertise unmatched in the industry.

Before readers start thinking, �we know who�s paying Dr. Jim,� you should be aware that my regular hunting rifles are Ruger No. 1�s (I have 3) and my bride uses Ruger Model 77's (she has 4). I like single shot hunting rifles and my bride picked up her M77's at a local gun shop at bargain prices. For no good reasons, we have never even fired a Savage centerfire hunting rifle. However, neither have we ever heard anything but good reports on them, especially now that they are equipped with the AccuTrigger. As such, I hope to add a Savage Model 111 FHNS to my arsenal in 2011. Of course, that means that I will have to buy two. Such is the benefit of having a wife who loves to hunt.

I took a Savage 10ML-II muzzleloader, that I had no prior experience with, and went on a $4,000 guided hunt. I gambled that I could harvest a nice once-in-a-lifetime animal with the 10ML-II. My hunt for a Persian Ibex was successful, taking the animal down at 187 yards. As such, I will admit to a strong bias in favor of the Savage 10ML-II.

However, my experience with Savage Arms is insignificant compared to the success of their target rifles. The Savage F-Class rifle beats most custom target rifles (which cost four to five times more) �hands down,� as evidenced by the Savage F-TR team winning the 2009 World Championship in Bisley, England and the U.S. F-TR National Championship in 2010. If the standard Savage F-Class rifles can compete and win in world-class 600 to 1,000 yard competitions, just imagine what their standard hunting rifles can do--does MOA sound good?

My suggestion to readers is when you have an opportunity to buy a superb firearm, DON�T put it off. Get it while you can, as market forces, government regulations (always absurd) and/or corporate decisions may make it unavailable by the time you are otherwise �ready to buy.� That said, start searching the gun shows, classified ads and internet auction sites and buy any version of the Savage 10ML-II that you can get your hands on (new or used). You will not regret it and neither will your children or grandchildren, who will be able to enjoy many years of safe muzzleloader shooting with the Savage.

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Copyright 2010 by Dr. Jim Clary. All rights reserved.