One shot, one kill! That’s always the goal, right? Only it wasn’t quite like that on my whitetail buck this past season. Actually it took one shot at 25 yards to get my day-old, brand-spanking-new Knight Mountaineer muzzleloader with the recently transferred Nikon BDC scope printing on target. It took a second shot at 50 yards to further center the also-new Knight Bloodline bullet on the target and a final two shots at 100 yards to make sure the combination of rifle, scope, powder and bullet was shooting dead center.
For some time I’d been getting comments and questions on whether or not Knight rifles, one of the country’s premier in-line muzzleloader manufacturers just a few years back, was, in fact, still in business. Happy to report, they are alive and not only well, but back in the running and producing quality muzzleloaders and accessories that are made in America.
Last spring I’d been advised by another muzzleloader aficionado to try the new and superb-shooting Lehigh solid-machined brass muzzleloader bullets. When I contacted Lehigh about getting some of these unique bullets to try, I was informed they had sold the marketing rights to Knight Rifles, now located in Ashton, TN.
A short time later I had a supply of the new Knight Bloodline bullets in 220-, 250-, 275- and 300-grain weights. On first look, I felt the shiny individually machined brass bullets were almost too pretty to shoot and would make a nice necklace for my wife. But being a hardcore shooter, I was soon sitting at the bench sending these bullets downrange. My favorite .50-caliber muzzleloader bullet weight is the 250-grain, and on the second three-shot group at 75 yards using three Hodgdon White Hot pellets, I got the smallest group I’d ever shot with a muzzleloader — literally a one-hole group only slightly larger than a single bullet hole. Guess I got overconfident and started trying too hard, because I couldn’t duplicate that feat again! However, all the Bloodline bullet weights grouped under 1 ½ inches, with many punching less than 1-inch groups.
The results in ballistic gel showed the Bloodline, with its open-nose construction, opened quickly, leaving a massive wound channel before shedding the segmented petals which would produce additional wound channels and tissue damage. The bullet base then penetrated 13 inches through the gel. That is impressive performance.
Later in the fall I got ahold of the folks at Knight and ordered one of the new Mountaineer rifles to whitetail hunt with. The new Mountaineer is the same high-quality made-in-the-USA rifle Knight is noted for, with a Green Mountain barrel, well-designed laminated stock and fully adjustable trigger. All new Knight Rifles are shipped with the bore of their quality barrels Dyna Tek coated with a nanotechnology super-slick ceramic coating to ease loading and cleaning and enhance potential accuracy. Time was tight when the rifle arrived, with only a few days of the late season left, so I switched a Nikon BDC muzzleloader scope off my Knight LR, knowing the scope base spacing would match, snugged the scope down tightly and immediately headed to the range.
The evening after sighting in the rifle scope combo I was sitting alongside a food plot when a high-tined 9-pointer stepped out of the timber at 90 yards. I ended my deer hunt and my bullet and rifle test with “one shot, one kill.” The Bloodline bullet performed perfectly, punching a good-sized entrance hole, blowing through both lungs and exiting on the far side with a quarter-sized exit hole that left an easily followed blood trail to the dead buck 60 yards up the slope from where he was initially hit. Knight is definitely back in business.
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Not to be outdone, CVA is introducing a sleek new rifle and new bullet this year. I got a firsthand look at this combination in whitetail camp this fall that left no doubt about the efficiency of this combo under adverse hunting conditions. The new Accura Mountain Rifle is a pivot or break-action breech rifle with non-interchangeable barrel. Many aspiring muzzleloader hunters want to buy their muzzleloader retail over the Internet or through the mail, and having a non-interchangeable barrel on the gun means it can be shipped direct to the buyer without the hassle of going through a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer.
One of the key features of the new mountain rifle is the QRBP (Quick Release Breech Plug). I always carry a socket wrench and several breech-plug-sized sockets to make removing a breech plug as easy as possible, and in my work shop and hunting camp I have heat guns for warming the barrel and action to loosen locked-up breech plugs. Don’t have to worry about this with CVA. I watched Chad Schearer, host of the “Shoot Straight” TV program, sight-in one of the rifles, firing a dozen shots with 150 grains of White Hot pellets and then simply remove the breech plug with his fingers. This is a great feature to be sure. The Accura MR has a 25-inch quality Bergara barrel that has a tough, non-reflective olive drab “Weatherguard” finish to eliminate rust and corrosion. This new rifle should hit the market this spring or early summer.
The new PowerBelt Aerolite 250-grain bullet is a far cry from the older PowerBelts, as it has a longer, more aerodynamic design with larger poly tip — which should make them shoot faster and flatter. I haven’t had a chance to take them to the range and really put them to the test for accuracy, penetration and performance in ballistic gel, but Chad’s wife Marsha shot a hefty 145-inch Iowa whitetail at 170 yards and the bullet put the buck down in short order. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Thompson/Center also hit the market with a similar rifle this year. The Pro Hunter FX is a non-interchangeable barrel muzzleloader with 26-inch barrel that is coated with their popular exceedingly tough weather shield finish. The FX also has a quick-release breech plug that can be removed without tools. According to a TC spokesman, this rifle was developed to appease the direct retail buyers and allow them to be shipped without the FFL hassle. I haven’t had a chance to fully test this rifle, but I look forward to getting one on the bench and wringing it out.
Bullets seemed to be a big segment of the new muzzleloader products this year. One good one is the new Traditions Full Bore bullet, a sabotless bullet in 300 grains. I shot a bunch of these bullets early in the fall and, as promoted, they held 1-inch groups at 100 yards and loaded fairly easily for successive shots. I am not a great fan of 300-grain .50-caliber bullets for medium-sized big-game critters, but these bullets shoot well out of several of my muzzleloaders and would be deadly game killers. The bullets will be well received in the Dark Age states that still don’t allow saboted bullets to be used on big game.
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The newest and most innovative muzzleloader bullet to hit the market this year is the DRT (Dynamic Research Technologies) bullet. I was testing the DRT .223 bullets last summer in my AR-15s, and in a phone conversation with Dustin Worrell, owner of DRT, I found they were working on a frangible muzzleloader bullet. Several conversations later I had some in hand and went to work testing them on the range.
This is a totally new concept for muzzleloader shooters, as the DRT bullets are designed primarily to penetrate and completely disintegrate within a human or other critter. DRT designed their regular bullet line — mainly .22 and .30 caliber — for use by the U.S. Secret Service, SWAT and SEAL teams to do a job and minimize or eliminate the chance for collateral damage to bystanders.
The DRT muzzleloader bullet that worked best for me was a 170-grain copper-jacketed hollowpoint. The interior of this unique bullet is compressed powdered copper. When this bullet penetrates soft tissue, the jacket disintegrates and the small shrapnel-like particles and chunks of compressed copper create tremendous hydrostatic shock and numerous devastating wound channels.
I shot three deer on the DRT farm early this fall with the DRT bullet from 100 to 220 yards. One doe went down in her tracks, while another doe shot with a light 100-grain propellant load went 20 yards. I hit a mature management buck low in the brisket with my first shot at 200 yards and a second time in almost the same place at 220 yards. These hits would likely have been non-fatal hits with any other muzzleloader bullet, but the shrapnel from the DRT bullet penetrated the lower lung and liver and the buck only went 100 yards. The interior damage caused by these bullets has to be seen to be believed. Accuracy with both 100- and 150-grain loads of Hodgdon White Hot pellets and 100 and 120 grains of Blackhorn 209 powders was excellent, with three-shot groups at 100 yards consistently around an inch
We took five more deer in Iowa using this bullet, and all were one-shot kills with the deer either piling up on the spot or going only a short distance before going down for the count. One aspect of this bullet that has to be taken under consideration is the DRT muzzleloader bullet is designed to disintegrate within the body cavity and expend all its energy in the animal. This means only an entrance hole in most cases and no exit wound and ensuing blood trail. Muzzleloaders shooting the DRT bullet need to have confidence in the results and be patient in finding their downed deer.
Alliant Powder has a new granular blackpowder substitute on the market this year that is supposed to be far more moisture resistant and cleaner burning than those currently available, and it’s also non-corrosive with improved ignition. Even though I’m a pelletized powder fan, I took this powder to the range early last fall and burned up a bunch of it. It’s a good powder, very similar to other loose powders with velocities and accuracy in the same range as equivalent loads of other granular powders. I haven’t found a powder or substitute yet that I trust to be completely non-corrosive, and I plan to do some serious testing on this factor alone later this year to see if one powder or substitute really stands out on the non-corrosive issue. There are so many variables in owning, loading, shooting and handling a muzzleloader from one section of the country to the next that all components should be thoroughly tested to find out which works best for you and your hunting and shooting techniques. Alliant’s new Black MZ certainly gives muzzleloaders another quality option to work within their muzzleloader hunting and shooting endeavors.
For More Information
Alliant Powder: www.alliantpowder.com; 800-276-9337
Knight Rifles: www.knightrifles.com; 866-518-4181
Dynamic Research Technologies: www.DRTammo.com; 660-564-2331
BPI Products, CVA: www.BPIguns.com; 800-320-8707
Traditions Firearms: www.traditionsfirearms.com; 860-388-4656
Thompson/Center Firearms: www.tcarms.com; 866-730-1614