July 2008

50-Caliber Inline Muzzleloading Shoot-out: Buy The Savage

The stainless/laminate Savage 10MLBSS was the clear winner in this quartet of guns, shooting faster and more accurately than two Thompson Center offerings and one Knight ri?e.

Modern inline muzzleloading hunting has been one of the fastest-growing hunting and shooting sports of the last twenty years. It is easy to understand why; the current crop of high-performance 209 shotshell primer–fired inline muzzleloaders from reputable manufacturers offer big-game getting accuracy like never before, with improvements in ignition system, propellant, and projectiles completing the picture. It is easy to understand the appeal, for the better muzzleloaders may provide accuracy, shooting comfort, and low cost per shot as compared to many slug shotgun attempts. Here we compare four premium fifty-caliber hunting tools to see how they stack up in bang for the buck. The candidates are the Knight KP1 Magnum P1M-209-50/SN 50 Caliber, $640; the Savage 10ML-II Stainless Steel/Laminate Model 10MLBSS–II, $792; Thompson Encore Pro Hunter Stainless Steel/Black Composite No. 3976, $992; and the Thompson Triumph Carbon Steel "Weather Shield"/Camo No. 8512 50 caliber, $586.

Three of these rifles are hammer guns: designated "break-action" or variants; the Savage 10ML-II is distinguished by its being developed from the familiar Savage Arms short-action bolt-action rifle. Also, the Savage alone can use specifically designated moderate relative burn-rate smokeless powders such as Accurate Arms 5744, Hodgdon/IMR SR 4759, and Vihtavuori N110 as prescribed by Savage Arms. Neither Knight nor Thompson allow these propellants in their rifles. Knight inscribes "Black Powder Only" on the KP1, and Thompson marks its barrels "Black Powder or Pyrodex Only." Both the Knight KP1 and the Thompson Encore offer centerfire barrels for the frames, and are classed as "Form 4473" arms for this reason.

The Savage 10ML-II and the Thompson Triumph are dedicated muzzeloaders, and need no 4473, according to the BATFE. Neither Thompson nor Knight really mean what they say, of course. Blackpowder is seldom shot in today’s inlines. Modern synthetic compounds such as Triple Se7en, Blackhorn 209, and others are more commonly used, including pellets that aren’t "powder" at all, but solid cylinders.

We wanted to be as even-handed in our comparison as possible, so we elected to use Western Powders’ Blackhorn 209 blackpowder replica propellant along with both Barnes saboted bullets and Hornady’s new FPB bore-sized space-age version of the Minie Ball. So, that’s what we did.

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