Thursday, June 12, 2014

Modern or Traditional Muzzleloader Hunting?

            When contemplating getting into muzzleloading for whitetails, too often an early decision that must be made is, whether to go the modern in-line ignition route or to follow the path of tradition, to hunt exactly as our forefathers hunted - with an old fashioned side-hammer percussion or flintlock muzzleloader.  I'm one of those guys who just tends to do it all, and to play on both sides of the muzzleloader fence.

            Over the years, I have been drawn into this division of muzzleloading, and the bickering over what is right...what is not - and what should be allowed during the muzzleloader seasons, and what shouldn't far too many times.  It has been this very rift which has prevented muzzleloader hunting from enjoying the same growth as bowhunting - which has embraced both traditional and modern archery tackle.   Still, there are today around 3-million muzzleloading hunters in the U.S. - and the No. 1 game hunted by today's  smokepolers is the whitetail.

            In a number of states, such as Michigan, Ohio and Virginia, as many as 200,000 hunters annually participate during the muzzleloader deer seasons held there.  Across the country, in the 49 states which do offer a recognized muzzleloader big game season, the number of participants would very likely average between 30,000 and 40,000.  Most require the purchase of a separate muzzleloader hunting license or permit, adding greatly to the operating funds for the wildlife agencies in those states.

            The one and only state which does not offer a muzzleloader season is Montana, where I now live.  Unfortunately, it has been the Montana Bowhunters Association which has staunchly stood in opposition to establishing a season or hunts for the muzzleloading hunter.  Fortunately, there is now a new push to get such a season established.
             The vast majority of muzzleloading hunters today tend to favor the better performing modern in-line ignition rifles - which currently account for right at 90-percent of all muzzleloaders manufactured and sold.  Another fact is, most of the muzzleloader seasons now held in this country were established after the popularity of those modern in-line rifles - due to their efficiency, accuracy and better range capability.  That kind of performance lured more people into muzzleloading, just as the compound bow brought more hunters into bowhunting.  Through the late 1980's and 1990's new muzzleloader hunting seasons popped up all over the country - with some states offering both an early and a late muzzleloader hunt.

            The "added range" of modern in-line rifles and loads has been one issue that has tended to irritate some extremely staunch traditional muzzleloader fanciers - who very often claim that old style muzzle-loaded rifles were not capable of delivering 200 yard accuracy and big game knockdown power at that range. 

            The fact is, long range muzzleloading was developed right here in the U.S. during the 1840's, with the introduction of rifles featuring a fast twist rate of rifling, which could properly stabilize a long and heavy conical bullet - also an American invention.  Many of those rifles tended to also feature one other shooting innovation, which was developed right here in this country - the telescopic rifle sight (a.k.a. riflescope).

            I could never fully choose between hunting exclusively with either a "modern" muzzleloader or a "traditional" muzzleloader.  However, I've always hunted with a rifle, projectile and powder charge that insured the accuracy and game taking energy needed to insure a clean harvest of the game - within the effective range of the rifle and load being used for the hunt.

            My favorite annual deer hunt takes me to north central Montana , to the Musselshell River, along the south side of the Missouri Breaks.  In 2012, I hunted there with a modern copy of a late 1840's .50 caliber percussion bullet rifle, which had been topped with a Hi-Lux Optics modern copy of a period correct 6x Malcolm riflescope. 

            The rifle has been dubbed the Missouri River Hawken, produced by the Davide Pedersoli & Co. gun making firm of Brescia, Italy - and offered here in the U.S. by Dixie Gun Works, of Union City, TN...and a few other importers.  The percussion half-stock features a hefty 1-inch diameter barrel measuring 30-inches in length, and rifled with a fast turn-in-24 inches rate of rifling twist.  My load consisted of a weighed 90-grain (98.5 gr. by volume) charge of Alliant Black MZ powder, behind one of the big 350-grain bore-sized Hornady FBP bullets  -  which is a modern rendition of the old Civil War hollow-based Minie' bullet.  The big difference is the copper plating and polymer-tipped spitzer nose of the much sleeker and flatter flying Hornady hollow-based FPB bullet.

            At the muzzle, the rifle and load are good for 1,734 f.p.s. - which generates 2,331 f.p.e. at the muzzle.  The long 350-grain bullet has a high .285 b.c., and at 200 yards the bullet retains right around 1,250 f.p.s. - and 1,200 f.p.e.  The scope had been sighted dead on at 100 yards, and when a nice 5x5 buck walked into the open along the edge of an open hayfield right in front of my blind, I guessed the range at 160 to 165 yards.  To allow for bullet drop, I held right at the top of the buck's back.  At the shot, the deer literally dropped on the spot.

            The big bullet had zipped right through, doing a lot of damage to internal organs.  The exit hole was several inches lower than I expected, so when I drove out to pick up the deer, I took a laser rangefinder reading on the blind - 174 yards.  The longest shot I've ever taken at a whitetail with a traditionally styled muzzleloading rifle.

       During the 2013 season, hunting the very same river-bottom hayfield, on the fifth day of the hunt, another good 5x5 whitetail buck offered a perfectly broadside shot at about 150 yards.  The rifle being hunted with was one of the modern break-open No. 209 primer ignition Traditions .50 caliber VORTEK Ultra Light LDR in-line models.  The 30-inch barreled muzzleloader had been stuffed with 110-grains (volume measured) of the latest in high performance muzzleloading propellants - Blackhorn 209.   The charge had then been topped with an equally modern saboted 300-grain spire-point bullet - the Scorpion PT Gold from Harvester Muzzleloading .  The instant the crosshairs of the modern Hi-Lux Optics TB-ML 3-9x40mm muzzleloader hunting scope settled just behind the front shoulder, the trigger eased back and the rifle barked.
            That buck went just 20 yards and piled up.  Leaving the muzzle at 2,009 f.p.s., the spire-pointed 300-grain bullet had developed 2,688 f.p.e.  Out at 200 yards, the load is still good for 1,451 f.p.s. and 1,401 f.p.e.  At the distance the buck was standing, the deer was anchored by about 1,600 foot-pounds of knockdown power.

            Traditional or Modern?...That choice is yours to make.    I thoroughly enjoyed preparing for and making each of these hunts.  For me, and a growing number of others, the enjoyment and satisfaction of hunting with either is the same.  -  Toby Bridges, Harvester Muzzleloading Hunter  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

300-Grain Scorpion PT Gold Takes Down An Iowa Giant At 301 Yards!

"Watching with the binocs, it seemed as though time stood still in the quiet valley. I wondered as he stood there “Was he hit and why did he stay out in the open?” After about 5 seconds he staggered sideways and fell down dead. I wondered, “Could it really be?” The feeling was unbelievable. After 30 minutes of seeing no movement I pursued the animal and thought about how until 2 years ago I was afraid to ethically black powder shoot past 125 yards. The information on the NAMLHUNT.COM website and the TB-ML scope have been game changers for me.

When I got to the deer, it was shot had centered the lungs. The Harvester Muzzleloading bullet had taken out ribs on both sides...and stood up to their 300 yard shot claim. I now have an awesome new hunting memory due to a proper fitted bullet, the great TB-ML scope, and an amazing blessing from the Lord. As I left the river valley that night an enormous meteorite skirted over the top of the timber. This is one I’m sure I will never forget."  

Mike Ross,
New Virginia, IA

To Read Mike's Article On His January 2014 Hunt Go To -

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New "Double Feature" Pages On The NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING Website Shares Why The Scorpion PT Gold Is A Favorite Hunting Bullet...

"Today, Harvester Muzzleloading offers three weights of the Scorpion PT Gold. Pictured at right, from left to right are the 240-grain...260-grain...and 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullets.

I do shoot and hunt mostly with the ballistically superior 300-grain bullet more than any other. However, I have taken game with all three...and to date the buck taken with the prototype batch of Blackhorn 209 is the only game I have shot twice. Since taking my first deer with the 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold in 2006, I've now used these bullets to take 48 deer...with 49 shots.

Of all those deer, only one has gone more than 35 yards...and I watched that buck drop after covering about 45 yards. So, if you wonder why I am so partial to the Scorpion PT you know."

To Read The Entire "My Favorite Hunting Bullet" Go To The Following Link And Scroll Down...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

So...How Well Does The Scorpion PT Gold Perform On Game?

     There are still many skeptics among modern muzzleloading hunters when it comes to accepting just how well Harvester Muzzleloading's polymer-tipped Scorpion PT Gold bullets will perform on deer and other big game.  That's due to the "different" manner in which this bullet gets its outer copper surface.  Instead of a formed lead core that's encapsulated in a separate copper jacket that's formed around the core, the Scorpion PT Gold, and its hollow-pointed predecessor the Scorpion bullet, features an electroplated copper surface.

     One advantage of that electroplated surface is that, upon impact, bullets produced in this manner are far less likely to experience separation of that copper skin from the lead core.  Another advantage is the elimination of possible air pockets between the copper jacket and lead core of a so-called "conventionally constructed" jacketed bullet.

     Still, many of those who have shot these bullets, and fully acknowledge that they are some of the most accurate saboted muzzleloader hunting bullets they've ever loaded and shot, have some reservation when it comes to perceived performance on larger game.  So, let's dispel those apprehensions.

     Above is the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold, shown here with the standard black Crush Rib Sabot for loading and shooting the bullet in a .50 caliber rifle with a nominal .500" to .501" bore - and also shown with the slightly over-sized red Crush Rib Sabot for rifles with a looser .502" to .504" land-to-land rifling measurement.  This bullet has easily become my favorite muzzle-loaded big game bullet - due to BOTH the great accuracy and exceptional game-taking performance I have enjoyed.

     Since first hunting with the earliest prototypes of the Scorpion PT Gold back in 2005, as of the end of the 2013 hunting seasons, I've now taken 48 deer with the various weight (240-, 260-, 300-grain) electroplated polymer spire-point bullets.  Only one of those deer was shot twice.

     Easily 3/4ths of those deer were taken with the 300-grain version of this bullet - including the buck shown at right.  This also happened to be the first whitetail buck taken in the U.S. by a new prototype powder in the Fall of 2007.  That powder later became known as Blackhorn 209 - introduced onto the market in April 2008.

     Prior to this hunt, I had burnt close to two pounds of the powder, and the bullet the .50 caliber Knight Long Range Hunter that I hunted with that year tended to prefer was the then just introduced 300-grain version of the Scorpion PT Gold.  The majority of 100-yard groups punched with a 110-grain charge and heavyweight electroplated bullet were consistently right at an inch across center-to-center...or tighter.  The buck shown here was shot at 186 yards - and is the ONLY deer I've shot twice with the saboted Scorpion PT Gold bullets.

     Shooting from a set of home-made hickory cross-sticks, out of a brush blind upon a slight ridge overlooking a wooded sand draw, I had placed the 200-yard reticle of the Hi-Lux TB-ML multi-reticle muzzleloader scope just a couple of inches below center of the chest cavity - and squeezed off the shot.  The bullet impacted with a resounding "Wallop", and the deer just humped up and stood there.  One of the things I was testing the Blackhorn 209 prototype powder for was to see how easily and quickly the muzzleloading hunter could reload, without wiping the bore, and maintain accuracy.  I immediately pulled a speed loader from my jacket pocket, flipped it open and poured in a 110-grain charge of the powder.  A saboted 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold was inserted into the muzzle...and rammed home with the rifle's aluminum rod even easier than loading a perfectly clean barrel.

     The spent CCI 209M primer was shaken from the ignition system, and a fresh one chambered as quickly as possible.  The loading had taken, maybe, 25 seconds.  The buck was still standing in exactly the same spot.  Using the cross-sticks, I settled the cross-bar 200-yard reticle on the same spot and eased back on the trigger.  The rifle fired and the deer dropped on the spot.  When I walked down to the buck, I found that both holes were within an inch of each other - both on entry and exit sides. Each bullet had passed squarely through the lungs...the deer did not have to be shot again.

     Close to half of the deer I've taken with the Scorpion PT Gold bullets have gone down within 10 yards of where they were standing when shot.  The farthest any of the deer have gone after being hit has been 35 yards.

     The buck at left was taken in December 2009, at about 160 yards as the deer quartered away.  The 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold hit exactly where I wanted it to go, nearly catching the last rib on the side facing me.  The bullet then plowed through more than 25 inches of the 250-pound whitetail, coming to rest under the skin of the off shoulder.

     The recovered slug had nearly doubled in diameter.  Passing through the buck, the bullet had taken out the liver...both lungs...and much of the plumbing for the heart - and went just 20 yards before hitting the ground.

     The exit hole shown at right is the hit on the deer at the very top of this post.  The buck was taken in Nebraska on the very last day of the 2013 December muzzleloading season.  The distance of the shot, using one of the new .50 Traditions VORTEK StrikerFire rifles, was about 125 yards. The deer was at a fast walk, offering a perfect broadside shot. To allow for a slight lead, I put the cross-hair squarely in the center of the facing shoulder - and the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold hit the deer maybe 4 inches behind the shoulder, centering both lungs and punching out the other side.

     This exit hole is easily three times the diameter of the entrance hole.  When skinning the deer, I was amazed at the amount of under the skin trauma caused by the impact of the 300-grain poly-tipped bullet.  At most, the buck went 25 yards after being hit.

     This is the kind of performance I have enjoyed with the Scorpion PT Gold bullets - which also just happen to be the most accurate muzzleloading bullets I've shot out of a wide range of modern .50 caliber in-line ignition muzzleloading rifles.  If you're not happy with the performance of the bullet you may be shooting now, then you might want to give the Scorpion PT Gold bullets a try in your rifle.  If you've shot these bullets, and really liked how well they group, give 'em a chance on game.  I feel that how well these bullets put game down will quickly make them a favorite of yours as well. - Toby Bridges

Friday, November 15, 2013


The Summer-Fall 2013 NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING Newsletter was published today - and two new rifles are spotlighted.  One is the Traditions .50 VORTEK StrikerFire (shown in the above photo with website host Toby Bridges) - the other is the .50 Redemption from LHR Sporting Arms. Both are test fired with loads built around the Harvester Muzzleloading "Scorpion PT Gold" bullet and Crush Rib Sabot.

Back near the end of October, traffic on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website topped 3,000,000 for the past 12 months.  The newsletter shares efforts to make the site more appealing, faster downloading and easier to navigate.  It also shares plans to expand the coverage of traditional muzzleloader hunting...without cutting back on modern muzzleloader hunting coverage.  Another link takes you to an article/report that takes a harsh look at how the muzzleloading industry is failing to insure future muzzleloader hunting opportunities...and what "OUR" industry needs to undertake.

To take a look at the newsletter go to the following link -


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Legislative Alert! Petition Filed With Nevada Board Of Wildlife Commissioners To Repeal Or Amend Ban On Blackhorn 209

                         The Scorpion PT Gold & Blackhorn 209 - A Great Hunting Combo!

The State of Nevada is the ONLY state to ban the use of this modern top-performing muzzleloader hunting propellant by name. Take a few minutes to send the Nevada Wildlife Commission a message - that muzzleloading hunters need to make those decisions...not a board made up of affluent residents who do not hunt with a muzzleloader...or who, very likely, have never even shot a muzzleloader. For more details and where to send your e-mail, go to the following link...


                 Get Involved...Send An E-Mail!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Are You Ready For The Fall Seasons?

My muzzleloading education has spanned 50 years, and fortunately, I'm still learning. One of the realities of muzzleloading today is that once your knowledge of muzzleloader hunting performance graduates you to the next level, it becomes increasingly harder to step back down to rifles and loads with far less efficiency, range, knockdown power or accuracy - except for maybe nostalgic reasons. 

Loaded with my overall favorite load for most .50 caliber No. 209 primer ignition in-line rifles, the Traditions .50 VORTEK Ultra Light LDR has proven to be one of the absolute finest performing No. 209 primer ignition in-line rifles I have ever shot or carried on a hunt.  That load consists of 110-grains of Blackhorn 209 behind Harvester Muzzleloading's saboted 300-grain .451" diameter Scorpion PT Gold bullet, using the Federal 209A primer for very spontaneous ignition.  At the muzzle of the rifle's 30-inch barrel, the load is good for 2,009 f.p.s., with 2,690 foot-pounds of energy.  At 200 yards, the load keeps the polymer-tipped spire-point bullet moving along at 1,451 f.p.s., and driving home with more than 1,400 foot-pounds of knockdown power.

While I do intend to do some hunting with several other rifles during the coming fall hunting seasons...the performance of the Ultra Light LDR has already insured that it will be my primary hunting rifle in 2013. Topped with one of the Hi-Lux 3-9x TB-ML multi-reticle scopes, using the proper long-range cross-bar for the range, the rifle and load shared earlier easily keeps ALL HITS in the kill zone at 200...225...250 yards - and with the knockdown power to insure the game will be laying very close to where it was standing when the shot was taken.  Typical accuracy with the rifle keeps most groups right at an inch at 100 yards...and around 2 1/2 inches at 200 yards.

It's easy to see why I have so much confidence in the rifle and load.  The combo for me, right now, is the culmination of five decades of shooting and hunting with a muzzle-loaded rifle...always striving for the best performing rig I could put together.

What are you hunting with this fall? 

As something of a Fall 2013 Muzzleloader Hunting Seasons Primer, here are a few articles or reports you might want to check out...if you haven't already.  -  Toby Bridges, HARVESTER MUZZLELOADING HUNTER

50 Shots Through The Same 1.2-Inch Hole At 100 Yards
Go To -

Blackhorn 209 Country - A Charge Weight Is Just A Number
Go To -

Do You Know The 200-Yard Drop Of The Polymer Tip Saboted Spire-Point You Hunt With?
Go To -

Don't Let No. 209 Primer Fouling Build Up Hamper The Performance Of Your Rifle!
Go To -

Hot Weather Shooting - How It Affects AccuracyGo To -