September 23, 2010
Savage has redesigned its in-line muzzleloader, making it even more impervious to weather
Savage (Dept ST, 118 Mountain Rd., Suffield, CT 06078; 413-568-7001; www.savagearms.com) has improved its smokeless powder in-line. A change in model designation to 10ML-II reflects those improvements.
In the new Model 10ML-II propellant gas is now contained by a close fit between the hardened surface of the breechplug and the face of the bolt. Obturation of the primer battery cup during firing also plays a role in preventing propellant gas leakage, and it works in the same manner as when the brass case of a cartridge seals off the chamber of a centerfire rifle. This change results in a shorter flame travel from primer to the powder charge.
Savage's AccuTrigger is standard issue on the Model 10ML-II, and the review sample was adjusted to 3 1/2 pounds.
In the new rifle a 209 primer is placed into a slot in the boltface and carried into a pocket in the breechplug when the bolt is closed and locked. Misfires caused by rainy weather should disappear with the new rifle as the primer is all but totally sealed off from the elements when the bolt is closed.
Cam surfaces on the bolt and receiver provide primary extraction of a fired primer when the bolt is opened. Because the new design eliminates the need for locking lugs on the bolt, the Model 10ML-II is classified by the BATFE as a muzzleloading rifle. (The original Model 10ML had been classified as a modern rifle.)
SAVAGE MODEL 10ML-II
.50-CALIBER IN-LINE MUZZLELOADER
|Three position on receiver tang
|Brown laminated hardwood
|8 grooves, 1:24-inch twist
|Brushed stainless steel, satin wood; or blued steel, sythetic stock
Other changes are also quite evident. The breechplug in the Model 10ML-II can be easily replaced by simply screwing out the old and screwing in the new. Four slots on the face of the breechplug allow it to be easily removed with a (provided) wrench, even when the rifle is wearing a scope. The newly designed vent liner is also more easily replaced than the one on the original rifle. Loosening the rear action screw allows the bolt to be removed from the receiver for cleaning.
Some owners of in-line rifles prefer to unload them by removing the breechplug and pushing the powder charge and bullet from the barrel from its muzzle end. This is easily accomplished with the Model 10ML-II because the end of its ramrod is threaded for acceptance of the handle of the breechplug wrench. That lengthens the ramrod just enough to allow it to reach through the receiver and push a bullet from the barrel.
The AccuTrigger is now standard-issue on the Model 10ML-II, and when the sample rifle came to me its trigger was adjusted to 31/2 pounds with less than two ounces of variation from pull to pull. I plan to leave it that way for hunting.
The Savage Model 10ML-II also has a three-position safety on the tang of its receiver. With the safety in its extreme rear position, the rifle is on "Safe," and the bolt is locked from rotation. Sliding the safety to its middle position allows the bolt to be rotated for extracting the primer, but the rifle is still on "Safe." Pushing the safety all the way forward readies the rifle for firing.
The use of a plastic sub-base between the powder charge and saboted bullet often improves accuracy once velocity exceeds 2000 fps. As you can see in the accuracy chart, the 250-grain PowerBelt bullet averaged 1.60 inches with the sub-base and 4.80 inches without it.
Savage has incorporated several design improvements into the Model 10ML-II, the lastest addition to its series of in-line smokeless power muzzleloading rifles.
The accuracy difference is not always so drastic with all saboted bullets, but it is often enough to make the use of sub-bases worthwhile. They are available from Muzzleload Magnum Products, Dept. ST, 518 Buck Hollow Lane, Harrison, AR 72601; 870-741-5019; www.mmpsabots.com.
Something else I found to be quite interesting is the 250-grain Shock Wave bullet from Thompson/Center tied the PowerBelt bullet for first place in accuracy. That
bullet is made for T/C by Hornady, and because it and the Hornady SST of the same weight are supposed to be the same bullet with plastic points of different colors, one might assume their accuracy would be the same.
This did not prove to be true. The only difference I could see between the two was the sabot of the Shock Wave was a bit smaller in diameter, allowing it to fit the bore a bit more loosely during seating. (In contrast to my experiences with the Savage rifle, a Remington Model 700ML I shot recently averaged 1.50 inches with the Hornady bullet and 2.20 inches with the T/C bullet. Those are classic examples of different rifles having distinct preferences in bullets.)
The new rifle does have an idiosyncrasy or two that the old rifle does not have. If any primer other than the Winchester 209 is used, propellant fouling may build up on the face of the breechplug and bolt, and if this happens the bolt will become increasingly more difficult to rotate to its locked position.
But because the rifle has to be fired several times before this begins to take place, this is not a factor worth noting in the field where more than one shot is seldom fired at a deer or bear. It does become noticeable, however, when shooting the rifle a number of times at the range. Removing fouling from the face of the bolt every five rounds or so helps, as does placing a dab of lubricant behind the bolt handle where it bears on a shoulder in the receiver bridge.
|SHOOTING SAVAGE'S .50-CALIBER 10ML-II
|MUZZLE VELOCITY (fps)
|100-YARD ACCURACY (inches)
|barnes 300-gr. XHP*
|Hornady 250-gr. SST*
|Hornady 250-gr. XTPHO*
|PowerBelt 250-gr. HP*
|PowerBelt 250-gr. HP**
|Nosler 260-gr. PHG*
|Speer 300-gr. FSN*
|T/C 250-gr. Shock Wave*
|* MMP sub-base loaded between powder charge and saboted bullet
**MMP sub-base not used
|NOTES: Accuracy is the average of three-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest at 100 yards. Velocity is the average of nine rounds measured 12 feet from the gun's muzzle
Something else may happen if a 209 primer other than the Winchester is used; after several firings, a fired primer can become quite difficult to extract. When the rifle fires, the primer cup obturates hard against the wall of its pocket in the breechplug, and if the primer cup does not shrink back to its original diameter, it will continue to grip the wall of the primer pocket, especially if the wall is coated with propellant fouling.
Again, this is not a problem when one or two shots are fired in the field; it only happens when the rifle is fired a number of times during a lengthy practice session. The solution usually amounts to merely lifting the bolt handle just enough to cock the firing pin and then rotating it back to its locked position and squeezing the trigger. The blow from the firing pin on the spent primer will usually break its grip on the wall of the primer pocket. If that fails, rotate the bolt to its unlocked position and give its handle a few light taps with a small leather or plastic mallet.
Overall, I like the Model 10ML-II about as well as my Model 10ML. But the true test of the new design will be how it performs for hunters in the field.