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 primerfired 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. Gun Tests Magazine compared premium fifty-caliber hunting tools to see how they stack up in bang for the buck. The test included the Savage 10ML-II Stainless Steel-Laminate Model 10MLBSSII, $792.
Here’s what they said:
The Savage 10ML-II is distinguished by its being developed from the familiar Savage Arms short-action bolt-action rifle. Also, the Savage 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.
The Savage 10ML-II is a dedicated muzzeloader, and need no 4473, according to the BATFE. Blackpowder is seldom shot in todays inlines. Modern synthetic compounds such as Triple Se7en, Blackhorn 209, and others are more commonly used, including pellets that arent “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 Hornadys new FPB bore-sized space-age version of the Minie Ball. So, thats what we did.
This is Savages laminated-stock stainless-steel version of its well-known “worlds first” factory smokeless or Pyrodex or blackpowder muzzleloaderin production for some seven years or so. The Savage weighed in at 8.8 pounds, about a half pound heavier than Savages own synthetic stocked models. Though laminated stocks add weight, being formed by strips of wood glued with high pressure and heatwe appreciate that they are stronger than most hollow or semi-hollow plastic stocks, quieter, and more rigid.
On the 10ML-II, we loved the looks of the stock, the warmth of it, and the cut checkering. The Savage buttstock is finished off with just a hard rubber plate; no attempt at a recoil pad at all. We cant say it needs it, particularly. With the “Savage 10ML” smokeless loads, felt recoil was minimal. No surprise, as propellant weight is a component of free recoil and the 10ML-II with its loads uses less than half the propellant by actual weight to net similar velocities. Nevertheless, as the Savage can burn Blackhorn 209 superbly as well as other muzzleloading propellants, we think that Savage would be serving their customers best interests by supplying a Kick-Eez or Limbsaver pad.
The Savage 10ML-II Accu-Trigger simply put other rifles to shame. From the factory, it broke at a crisp and clean 2.8 pounds, so we didnt bother adjusting it.
The Savage uses a proprietary two-prong-ended tool to remove the breechplug. We consider this a glaring error by Savage, when a common hex-head on the breech plug would be so much handier. You shouldnt have to hunt for a peculiar long tube and matching “wrench” just to take out the breechplug on a muzzleloader.
The patented Savage breechplug itself, however, is very clever. All flash holes open up with shooting; most muzzleloading hunters never notice. The 10ML-II has a replaceable flash hole dubbed a “vent-liner” that is designed to be replaced every box of primers (one hundred shots) giving you a new breechplug without having to buy the whole thing.
The familiar Savage rifle three-position safety is ambidextrous, and silent in the quiet hunting woods. We believe you can have your trophy in the dirt with the 10ML-II before you can pull back the hammer on hammer guns; much less wait for it to fall. The super-fast locktime, noticeable in the 10ML-II, makes it an easy rifle to shoot accurately.
As far as iron sights, the Savage uses Williams Fire-Sights, which are adequate. The Savage ramrod was adequate, secured by a metal ferrule. The Savage has an adequate field rod, particularly when used with the “Spinjag” as we used for all our testing.
The 10ML-II uses the same bases that all Savage round-receiver short-action Accu-Trigger rifles use. Weaver-type two-piece bases were installed by Savage on this rifle; we used Warne Maxima medium-height quick-release rings to mount a fresh Sightron SII Big Sky 3-12×42 scope on this rifle.
The Savage, using W209 primers and Blackhorn 209, cut several sub-MOA groups with the new 350-grain Hornady FPB bore-sized bulletsastoundingly good. We found it important to be careful aligning the bullet before seating it. Assuming no canting or cocking of the bullet, the Hornady FPBs loaded smoothly and properly. The Savage alone gave great performance with the FPBs. We attribute part of this to Savages 1:24 rate of twist and good barrel quality. However, the Barnes TMZ 250s also cut holes with the 10ML-II. When it comes to projectiles, regardless of hyperbole, it seems there is no substitute for geometry.
Savage is an innovative company, and we would like them to get with it with a hexhead on the breechplug, and pull a bit of weight from the stock by paneling out superfluous wood. Where the KP1 breech area filled full of gunk, the Savage 10ML-II was clean. After a hundred rounds, it was difficult to tell that the gun had ever been fired.
Gun Tests Said: With unequaled accuracy, trigger and overall build quality, the Savage 10ML-11 wins our test. A bonus is the Savage’s unique ability to use the cleanest, lowest-cost-per-shot-propellantsthat being the Savage Arms-recommended smokeless-powder loads that few other rifles can handle.