Traditions Vortek Ultralight Rifle

Traditions Vortek Ultralight Rifle

I'm a traditional muzzleloader guy at heart, but this time I was glad the smokepole in the stand with me was as modern and cutting-edge as they come.

I was cold, hungry, and cramped from sitting as still as possible in a tree stand for several hours. There was wind, blowing sleet, and more wind. Did I mention wind? Gusts of 35 mph make your tree stand shake and sway until you doubt whether you could pull off an accurate shot even if presented with an opportunity. I'm a traditional muzzleloader guy at heart, but this time I was glad the smokepole in the stand with me was as modern and cutting-edge as they come.

The sun had set and darkness was creeping in from the horizon when a good buck cautiously poked his head from the saplings fringing the thicket below me. It was only 28 yards, and within seconds the Vortek Ultralight had done what it was born (okay, designed) to do.

As I gathered my gear I couldn't help reflecting that my beloved flintlock could have pulled off that shot with ease. However, it's a bit difficult to keep FFFFg priming powder dry in a gale of sleet and snow, and that makes it harder to keep one's focus on searching wood and dale for deer. The Vortek's weather-protected, shotgun-primer-activated ignition is less demanding.

On that bad-weather note, the Vortek Ultralight--introduced last year--is admirably engineered against the elements. The 28-inch, fluted barrel and LT-1 alloy frame shrug off corrosion courtesy of a CeraKote ceramic protective layer. The stock features Hogue Comfort-Grip overmolding, and while I've never dropped or lost control of my flintlock longrifle due to water or sleet, the rubbery synthetic material on the Vortek simply makes a rifle easier to hang onto in adverse conditions.

When I first unpacked the rifle, I worried that it might prove uncomfortable to shoot. At 6.25 pounds, there isn't much mass to resist that equal-and-opposite-reaction thing caused by 250 or 300 grains of lead accelerating down the bore to the tune of almost 1,800 fps. Fortunately, again virtue of a couple well-though-out features, such as muzzle porting and a good buttpad, recoil wasn't bad at all.

With a hunt looming, I mounted a clear Nikon 3-9X 40mm scope sporting the company's Ballistic Drop Compensating (BDC) reticle calibrated for muzzleloader trajectories and went to work sighting-in. Technical load testing would have to wait.

Note the easily removed breech plug, rebounding hammer, and the easy-open button beneath the trigger guard. Nikon's BDC-equipped scope is ideally suited to modern muzzleloaders.

Traditions offers a Hornady-built proprietary saboted muzzleloader bullet dubbed the "Smackdown." With a limited reserve of 250-grain versions, I attempted to initially sight-in the Vortek with some standard Hornady SST sabot bullets. That's the only time I ran into trouble with the rifle. The bullet stuck. I had to screw out the breech plug (easily done, thankfully), dump the powder from the bore, and pound the SST out from the breech. A later discussion with a Traditions representative revealed that the Vortek is built with tight bore tolerances, but that most "three-petal" sabots should work through it. Avoid two- and four-petal versions.

This whitetail was taken in blustery conditions--just the kind of weather the Vortek excels in. CeraKote on the metal and a rubberized stock make the rifle almost impervious to the elements.

After shaking off the frustration of the stuck bullet, I loaded the Vortek with 100 grains of Blackhorn 209 (, a fantastic blackpowder substitute that allows many shots between cleaning. This time, a Traditions Smackdown seated easily.

Accuracy was good--certainly good enough to shoot at extended distances--though I didn't get the 1-inch groups I'd heard touted from the Vortek. I sighted-in at 100 yards and shot at 150 and 200 to find and note impact points against the Nikon BDC reticle. Turns out I wouldn't need it, as demonstrated by the 28-yard shot I ended up taking, but the capability was there.

After the hunt, and when time allowed, I switched the camo Nikon scope out for a Bushnell 2.5-16X 42mm Elite 6500 for some serious accuracy testing. This time, I toted a pound of Goex FFg blackpowder to the range with me, along with an assorted variety of modern substitutes and saboted projectiles. The results of my endeavors may be seen in the accompanying chart.

During the extensive cleaning I did while accuracy testing, I came to appreciate the easily removed "Accelerator" breech plug and the drop-out trigger assembly. I never had any problems with function at all.

There are two points I found lacking: (1) Occasionally I'd drop a live primer into the guts of the open action when attempting to prime the rifle, especially with cold hands. This is a common issue with many muzzleloader designs, and not much can be done about it; it just happens. At least the primers always fell right out when I turned the gun over and gave it a shake. (2) Early on the fiber optic in the front sight became loose, and halfway through my hunt it fell out. As I was using a scope, it made no difference, but if I'd been hunting with irons, I'd have found it irritating.

The Vortek Ultralight's muzzle is 360-degree ported to reduce recoil and features

a relieved portion of the bore to assist in bullet alignment and easy loading.

Performance in the field was exemplary. Six and a quarter pounds is light for almost anything but a fine British side-by-side, and that factor alone makes the Vortek a joy to carry. It also handles well and comes to the shoulder and points n

aturally. Barring the use of some several-seasons-old pellets, I never had a hang- or misfire, so I'd call it 100-percent reliable. The trigger is reasonably good, making it easy to shoot the rifle accurately. There's little to dislike.

Has the Vortek Ultralight earned the place in my heart that my flintlock longrifle holds? No. Will it? It doesn't have several hundred years of heritage on its side, and I'm a guy who likes history. So, no.

Do I trust it?


WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data.
NOTES: Accuracy is the average of five, three-shot groups fired from a Sinclair benchrest. Velocity is the average of 10 rounds measured 12 feet from the gun's muzzle with a Shooting Chrony Chronograph.
* Two 50-grain Triple Seven Magnum pellets

Recommended for You


Review: SIG SAUER P320

Joseph Von Benedikt - September 13, 2018

Is SIG's P320 modular pistol the best polymer-framed high-capacity sidearm ever designed?


Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.


Burris Veracity RFP Riflescopes

Jake Edmondson - June 04, 2019

Burris has expanded its top-of-the-line Veracity hunting riflescope line with new 2-10X 42mm...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.


Revolver vs. Semiautomatic Pistol: A Ballistic Oddity

Allan Jones - May 15, 2019

How can a shorter-barreled revolver have higher velocities than a longer-barreled...


Accuracy: It's All Relative

Terry Wieland - May 09, 2019

Like situational ethics, standards of accuracy vary according to circumstances.

See More Stories

More Rifles


Review: Rock River Arms RRAGE 5.56mm NATO

Steve Gash - March 07, 2019

Instead of a heavy, bulky AR with lots of sharp edges and protruding parts, the Rock River...


Winchester Model 1873 .44-40 Rifle Review

Joesph von Benedikt - August 16, 2019

Reliable, ergonomic, and accurate, the Winchester Model 1873 was unquestionably the most...


The Marlin Model 336 Lever-Action Rifle is Alive and Well

Layne Simpson - March 22, 2019

The classic Marlin Model 336 lever-action rifle has had its ups and downs over the last 12.5...

See More Rifles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.