Decades ago, at a time when I was building presentation-grade muzzleloaders and competing with them across the Rocky Mountain states, I developed an aversion to Traditions guns. Back then, I watched a buddy have no end of trouble attempting to whip a Traditions Kentucky Rifle kit into shootable shape. The quality of the parts and the wood-to-metal "fit" of the precut stock pretty well soured me on Traditions muzzleloaders.
But events over the past several years have resoundingly changed my mind.
I still favor traditional custom long rifles, but I sometimes have occasion to use a more modern muzzleloader, and the Traditions Vortek line has impressed me since its introduction several years ago. Particularly impressive is the fact that the company is constantly pushing to improve its guns. The new Vortek StrikerFire LDR is an excellent example because it eliminates the exposed hammer in favor of an internal striker and a European-type safety that serves as a cocking/decocking mechanism.
Ergonomic and Safe
In other aspects the StrikerFire is similar to other Vortek models. The action is a break-open design, featuring a lock/release button on the front of the trigger guard and a one-piece Accelerator breechplug. Although the rifle comes with a small, purpose-built wrench, the plug can usually be removed and installed with fingers alone, unless the rifle is very dirty from extensive shooting. And a primer sitting in the rear of the breechplug is well shielded from the elements when the action is closed.
Long by today's standards, the barrel of the Vortek StrikerFire LDR measures 30 inches. Fluted from the fore-end to a couple inches shy of the muzzle, it's made of chrome-moly steel and — like the rest of the rifle — is dipped in Realtree Xtra Camo. There are no sights, and it is not drilled and tapped to accept them, but scope bases (camo-dipped to match) come with the rifle. In fact, the rifle comes with a Traditions 3-9X 40mm scope mounted and bore sighted.
Two robust ramrod thimbles are screwed to the bottom of the barrel. Like several other small parts (trigger, action release button, safety), they are finished in a satin black. The two-piece stock is well designed and has a slightly rubbery nonslip finish. Black grip panels with a bit of texture grace the areas that on a wood stock would be checkered. Nice and slender but with a flattish bottom, the fore-end is both easy in the hand and stable on sandbags.
An open pistol grip gives the rifle a lively feel, and a Monte Carlo-type cheekpiece enhances cheekweld, although the buttstock was designed for use with iron sights, and shooting with a scope installed caused me to use something of a "jaw-weld" for consistency. The stock is streamlined, sleek, and long enough to help shooters avoid getting bonked in the eyebrow by their scope.
A Stow-N-Go buttpad is easily removed by pressing in a pair of buttons on the stock's sides, exposing a recess convenient for storage. The recess is actually large enough that you could stow cleaning patches, jag, oil and a handful of field loaders complete with powder and projectile ready to go.
These features are all tried-and-true, proven elements of Traditions's Vortek line. Where the Vortek StrikerFire stands out is in the firing mechanism. As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Traditions does away with the exposed hammer, which requires a hammerspur that is difficult for some folks to lower safely or that the scope be mounted high. As with the cocking/decocking firing pin mechanisms currently so popular in Europe, the shooter merely slides the safety forward to cock, which compresses the firing pin spring. Pressing the decocking button located on the safety slide and allowing the safety slide to move rearward decompresses the firing pin spring, leaving it perfectly safe. It's impossible to accidentally fire the rifle while decocking it.
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Another side benefit is the reduction of action exposure to the weather. Without an exposed hammer — and the necessary slot it rides in — a direct doorway to the guts of the rifle is eliminated. In all, it's a superior, ergonomic, safe design that looks good, feels good and is very easy for beginning-level shooters to master.
Finally, the rifle is fitted with a TAC2 trigger system. It's a two-stage design with a light, smooth pull. It's a little spongy and has plentiful overtravel, but it's a pretty good trigger. Specced at 2 pounds, the trigger on my sample rifle measured 2 pounds, 5 ounces according to my Lyman digital trigger scale with only 3 ounces of variation over a series of five measurements.
Accurate and Comfortable
At the range, I ran three different loads through the rifle, randomly pairing three different 250-grain saboted bullets with Blackhorn 209 and Black MZ (both loose-grain powders) and Hodgdon Triple Seven Magnum pellets. I used Federal standard 209 shotgun primers. In order to get the most consistent results out of my test shooting, I removed the Traditions scope and replaced it with my tried-and-true Swarovski 3-9X 40mm Z3 scope with ML (MuzzleLoader) ballistic reticle.
All loads produced accuracy perfectly acceptable for use at muzzleloader hunting ranges, with the nod for best accuracy going to the load using 100 grains of Alliant Black MZ powder and T/C 250-grain TC Mag saboted bullets.
Throughout the shooting session, the rifle worked smoothly and perfectly. It was easy to load, comfortable to handle, and shouldered nicely. As modern muzzleloaders go, the Vortek StrikerFire LDR offers very good quality.
As with other Vortek
rifles, the StrikerFire
features a knurled, finger-removable breechplug.
The standout feature of the new Vortek StrikerFire LDR from Traditions
is its internal striker-fire mechanism. When moved forward, an oversize safety slide compresses the firing pin spring and decompresses, or decocks, it when moved rearward.
An easily removable buttpad reveals a large storage compartment.
Three loads were tested through the Vortek Striker-Fire. From left: Traditions Smackdown SST with Blackhorn 209
Mag with Black MZ
powder, and Traditions APB over two 50-grain Triple Seven Magnum