March 10, 2014
By David Hart
There was a time when we were grateful our muzzleloaders went "boom" when we pulled the trigger. Moisture and excessive fouling were poison to first generation in-line muzzleloaders. We were even more thankful if we hit our target at distances beyond 75 or 80 yards. A 100-yard shot was as much a matter of luck as skill.
Times have certainly changed. Not only are in-line muzzleloaders more reliable than ever, they stand up to the worst weather conditions and even some neglect, thanks to advances in corrosion-resistant technology. The newest crop of muzzleloaders is lighter, too, and they are more accurate than they've ever been. At least one manufacturer offers a 200-yard accuracy guarantee. Another builds a custom rifle that shoots tight groups at 500 yards.
Check out all the best muzzleloaders for 2014 — you'll be glad you did.
Ashland Gun Innovations
Is it cheating? Depends on who you ask, of course, but Ashland Gun Innovations' in-line muzzleloader
doesn't use blackpower or a black powder substitute. It uses IMR 4189 smokeless powder, the same thing that's packed in many centerfire rifle cartridges. The bullet doesn't use a sabot, either. Instead, a .45 caliber bullet is seated straight down the barrel.
The primer? Well, that's different, too. Put all those together on a Remington action and you've got a muzzleloader that's accurate out to 500 yards. That's right, 500. Because Ashland Gun Innovations is a custom gun maker, they can build to a variety of specs on virtually any type of stock. It will cost you, though.
gallery=138,650 (Basic build)
CVA Accura V2
Rust — it's the Achilles' heel of muzzleloaders everywhere. Shoot it once and forget to clean it for a day or two and your barrel turns into a clogged pipe. Add a little rain or snow and you've got serious trouble. CVA's new Accura
uses Nitride rust-proofing on the barrel, preventing serious corrosion problems for hunters who can't clean their guns right away.
The custom-quality Bergara barrel is also available in an untreated stainless steel, and both versions come with CVA's 'most accurate muzzleloader you've ever shot — or your money back ' guarantee. Available in several finishes and camo patterns, the Accura is fully ambidextrous and comes with a twist-out breech plug. It is also available in a northwest model, legal in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
was resurrected in 2011 after shutting its doors two years earlier. The company is picking up right where the original in-line manufacturer left off. Their latest rifle is the Mountaineer
, an American-made rifle that shoots as nice as it looks.
It comes with a guaranteed 4-inch group at 200 yards, and comes with a 27-inch stainless steel Green Mountain barrel with a DynaTek bore coating, an Easton Carbon Core ramrod and a fully-adjustable trigger. The laminated stock comes in brown, forest green and shadow grey, and is available in a straight or thumb-hold stock configuration. There is also a left-hand stock available. Choose from .45, .50 or .52 caliber and from a scoped or unscoped rifle.
is part of the newest trend among in-line muzzleloader manufacturers with their Ultra-Lite
, one of the lightest in-line rifles available. It weighs just 6 pounds, thanks in part to a Kevlar stock and a 24-inch Green Mountain barrel. Knight shaved ounces wherever it could, but the company sacrificed neither quality nor accuracy.
The Ultra-Lite carries a 200-yard accuracy guarantee, thanks in part to aluminum bedding and an adjustable trigger. The bore is coated with DynaTek bore coating, which offers superior corrosion protection. All Knight rifles come with an Easton carbon core ram rod. Available models include black, olive green or a tan stock, and a scoped version in each stock color. The Ultra-Lite is also available with an exposed nipple ignition system for three western states.
LHR Sporting Arms Redemption
is arguably the most unique muzzleloader on the market. Aside from the available walnut stock, it uses a break-open lever similar to a breech-loading shotgun. It looks a lot like a single-shot shotgun. The American-made rifle uses a breech plug with external threads, making cleaning a cinch.
It also comes with an optional loose powder primer adapter for improved ignition. The barrel includes LHR's patented Amornite corrosion protectant, the hammerless cocking device is simple to use, and the FT2 match trigger ensures uniform, accurate shots. Along with a wood stock, the Redemption is available in a black composite and a Next G2 camo pattern stock.
Lyman Mustang Breakaway 209 Magnum
Lyman is best-known for their high-quality historic reproduction sidelock muzzleloaders. Not one to be left behind in the in-line craze that now dominates the autumn woods, Lyman's .50-caliber Mustang Breakaway 209 Magnum
will give the competition a run for the money. The hammerless, break-open gun is designed for hunting.
It is drilled and tapped for Weaver-style scope bases and comes with a Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad. The shotgun-style, tang-mounted safety makes this a true ambidextrous rifle. It's a looker, too. Made with a high-grade walnut stock, the gun stands out among the crowded composite-stock gun market.
Thompson/Center Pro Hunter FX
It's a tie: The Pro Hunter FX
is as handsome as it is functional. Thanks to a unique two-tone synthetic stock design, fluted barrel and engraved receiver, T/C's .50 caliber Pro Hunter may be one of the coolest looking in-lines available.
A number of features make it one of the most user-friendly rifles, too. It comes with a reversible, low-profile swing hammer that allows left or right-handed shooters easy access to the hammer under a scope. The Speed Breech 3 makes breech plug removal a snap for easy cleaning anywhere, and the FlexTech recoil system takes the bite out of the heaviest loads. T/C's Weather Shield coating helps prevent corrosion, too. It's also available in Realtree AP camo.
Muzzleloaders have gotten a lot less complicated over the years. T/C's Triumph
may be one of the simplest rifles on the market. The breech plug comes out with just a simple quarter-turn, which can easily be done without tools. The American-made .50 caliber rifle comes with a lifetime warranty and is coated with Weather Shield, making it virtually impervious to harsh weather.
It's available in four combinations of a blued or Weather Shield barrel, and a black composite or Realtree AP stock. The barrel is 28 inches and the gun weighs 6.5 pounds.
456 (blued/black composite)
Traditions Pursuit Ultralight
Not only are muzzleloaders getting better, they are getting lighter. Those 8- and 9-pound anvils that we had to lug through the woods are being replaced by straight-shooting rifles that weigh about the same as a typical centerfire rifle. Or in the case of Traditions' .50-caliber Ultralight
, less than a centerfire rifle.
It weighs just a hair over 5 pounds, making it the lightest muzzleloader on the market. Not only that, it comes with Traditions' proven Accelerator breech plug, which removes by hand with just three quick rotations. The Ultralight is available in a variety of configurations including three camo patterns, black or Cerakote barrels and sighted, sightless and scoped models.
Traditions Vortek StrikerFire LDR
It was just a matter of time before someone came up with a high-quality hammerless in-line muzzleloader. Traditions' new Vortek StrikerFire
isn't just hammerless, it's packed with features. Cocking the gun is as simple as sliding the striker button forward until it locks. No more squeezing thumb under the scope to pull the hammer back. De-cocking is as simple as opening the gun or pushing a quiet de-cocking button.
The 30-inch Chromoly barrel allows for a longer powder burn for increased velocity and better downrange energy. The two-stage, competition-style trigger is set at 2 pounds. The Striker Fire LDR also comes with a removable butt pad and a hollow butt stock storage compartment. It's available with a black or Realtree Xtra stock.