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 - 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New LHR Sporting Arms .50 Caliber Redemption Rifle And 300-Grain Scorpion PT Gold Prove To Be One Hot Combination

The most reliable load I've ever shot out of a modern No. 209 primer ignition rifle has easily been 110-grains of Blackhorn 209 behind the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullet and Crush Rib Sabot.  This is my "go to" load when I hear from anyone having accuracy problems with their rifle.  It always seems to do the trick.  Those I do hear back from are generally tickled with the accuracy...and when they get the opportunity for a shot on a deer, pronghorn or elk, they're usually pretty ecstatic about the knockdown power as well.

So, it shouldn't come as any surprise that any time I receive a new .50 caliber No. 209 primer rifle model for testing, this is the load I "go to" as well.

That was exactly the case when one of the new break open Redemption rifles arrived from LHR Sporting Arms, of Rochester, NH.  I quickly mounted one of the great 1-6x42mm Hi-Lux Optics 30mm tube Professional model scopes on the rifle, using the base that comes already mounted on the frontloader.  With just four shots, I had this rifle pretty much sighted in at 100 yards.  The first 3-shot 100-yard group punched with the rifle...load...and scope measured right at an inch across center-to-center.

Here's a look at this new rifle from a new company - a rifle that is likely to be with us for quite some time.

Toby Bridges
Harvester Muzzleloading


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tony Knight - The Father Of Modern In-Line Muzzleloading - Passes Away

                                     December 21, 1945 - March 18, 2013

William "Tony" Knight passed away on March 18, 2013. The world of muzzleloading has lost one of its greatest contributors, and he will be sadly missed by all who truly knew him. He was one of the greatest people I've known in my lifetime, and at one time my dearest and closest friend. My hope is that in spirit he's up there still running the hills and hollers of northern Missouri, chasing those big whitetails and long bearded gobblers...with his favorite dog Ginger at his side. Let us never forget him. - Toby Bridges, NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING

NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING has published a tribute to Tony Knight...

                 Go To

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Harvester Muzzleloading's "Crush Rib Sabot" Opens The Door To Loading & Shooting A Great Variety Of Bullets

The three bullets shown above easily cover 90-percent of my "hunting bullet" needs.  They are, left to right, the 260-grain .451" diameter Scorpion PT Gold...the 300-grain .451" diameter Scorpion PT Gold...and the 400-grain .451" diameter Hard Cast.  All come from Harvester Muzzleloading matched with the company's black .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot.  Out of most one turn in 28 inches rifling twist .50 caliber in-line rifle barrels, matched with an optimum powder charge, any of these saboted bullets are fully capable of keeping 100-yard groups inside of the 1 1/2 inch spread more and more of today's muzzleloading hunters are now demanding.

(When a .50 caliber bore is .002" to .003" over sized, more often than not accuracy problems can be cured by simply switching to the tighter fitting red .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot.)

Twenty or more years ago, a majority of those who hunted with an in-line muzzle-loaded rifle tended to be satisfied with 2- to 2 1/2-inch hundred yard groups.  Well, not any more! Today's muzzleloading hunters are now more accuracy and ballistics conscious than any muzzleloading shooters and hunters of the past.  They demand a lot from the rifles and loads they shoot - and which they rely on for the quick, clean harvest of the game being hunted.  When readily available pre-packaged sabot and bullet combinations just don't deliver the degree of accuracy, or the massive knockdown power needed for some game, these shooters are very ready and willing to begin experimenting with sabot and bullet combinations that simply do not come already matched.

Harvester Muzzleloading's .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot (shown at right with the 260 grain Scorpion PT Gold) definitely opens the door to putting together a tremendous range of combinations.

A couple of years ago, I felt the need to shoot something just a bit heavier than 300-grains for elk, and experimented with loading Hornady's 325-grain .458" diameter soft polymer-tipped FTX bullet (designed for use in .45-70 lever action cartridge rifles).  I found the flexible, nearly microscopic narrow ribs running the length of the black Crush Rib Sabot to allow me to load the .458" diameter bullet with relative ease in most of the .50 caliber in-line rifle models I use for testing.  And with 110- and 120-grain charges of Blackhorn 209, accuracy was great.  Shooting the loads out of several Traditions VORTEK models and a couple of Knight in-line models, 1- to 1 1/2-inch hundred yard groups were the norm, with a substantial number of groups clustering sub 1-inch.

The one rifle that gave me a bit of trouble was the .50 caliber Thompson/Center Triumph I have.  The bore of this rifle has always loaded tight, which seems to be typical of T/C barrels.  Using a solid stainless steel loading rod at the range, I was able to wrestle the saboted .458" FTX down the bore, and two of the first five groups shot with the rifle, 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209, and Crush Rib Sabot were one wallowed out hole on the target.  However, the combo just loaded way too tight for loading in the field with the rifle's ramrod.  The same .458" bullet and sabot loaded just fine into the VORTEK and Knight bores.  (Hornady .458" 325-grain FTX bullet shown at below left with black .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot.)

Success with Hornady's 325-grain .458" FTX encouraged me to do some shooting with the Barnes 300-grain polymer-tipped all-copper .458" SOCOM spire point (using a new yellow Crush Rib Sabot for boat-tailed .45 bullets).  It too shot great, producing a high percentage of sub 1-inch 100 yard groups.  Now, I have the desire to play around even more with other promising .458" bullets.

During the early 2000's, I hunted some with a custom built .50 caliber primer ignition in-line rifle, built on a SAKO bolt-action, utilizing a heavy duty steel primer carrier.  One of the best shooting bullets at that time proved to be the .458" diameter 300-grain Barnes "Original".  This is something of a semi-spitzer lead tipped copper jacketed bullet, which has a .291 b.c. - which is much higher than the .181 b.c. of the "other" saboted bullet I was shooting at that time...the 300-grain Hornady .452" XTP jacketed hollow point.  That difference could be readily seen in the trajectories of the two bullets.  Pushed out of the 24-inch .502" 1-in-28 inches bore at close to 2,100 f.p.s., the blunt fronted hollow point dropped a full 18 inches from 100 to 200 yards, while the more aerodynamic semi-spitzer 300-grain bullet dropped only about 9 inches.

Thanks to newer powders like Blackhorn 209, top end muzzleloader velocities are now more easily achieved - with a lower peak pressure.  This is especially true when shooting heavier 325- to 400-grain bullets. 

At lower velocities (i.e. 1,700 to 1,800 f.p.s.), the 1-in-28 inches bores are now being taxed by some of the heavier bullets, that are in turn longer in length.  For most 1-in-28 bores, 300-grain bullets that exceed 1.1 inches in length may not begin to shoot with any degree of accuracy until velocity tops 1,900 f.p.s.  Simply put, when one of the longer and heavier bullets travels 200 or so more feet in a single second, it means the bullet has spun more r.p.m.'s in the added distance it travelled during that second.  While the rifling twist is the key factor in stabilizing longer bullets, velocity does indeed play a role as well.

The big 400-grain Hard Cast .451" lead bullet shown at the top of this post measures .995" in length, and has been remarkably accurate with 110- and 120-grain charges of Blackhorn 209.   With the heftier charge, I can get the big bullet on its way out of the 28-inch barreled standard model VORTEK rifle at 1,923 f.p.s. - which translates into 3,280 f.p.e.  Move over Knight .52!  Here is one serious elk load.  At 100 yards, groups with the bullet stay very close to 1-inch. (Typical group shown at right)  Now, if this bullet has one down side, it would be its ballistic coefficient, which I feel is around .220.  At 200 yards, my feeling is the load would print, maybe, around 10 to 11 inches down.  (This spring I'll do some 200 yards shooting to establish the drop, and to more closely assess the b.c. of this bullet.)

I enjoyed shooting and hunting with the .941" long 300-grain Barnes .458 "Original" semi-spitzer so much about 10 years ago, I now have a desire to play around with the longer (1.160") 400-grain "Original" of the same design to see if I can tap the downrange retention of velocity and energy with the .389 b.c. that Barnes has given the bullet.  If I can get the bullet out of the bore at around the same velocity as the Harvester Muzzleloading 400-grain Hard Cast, it is possible that the bullet will stabilize.  And if it does, think of the performance it could deliver out at 250 and 300 yards.

At the muzzle, velocity would be in the same ball park as the 400 grain Hard Cast bullet, generting the same level of energy.  Thanks to a .389 b.c., the bullet would still be flying along at around 1,600 f.p.s. at 200 yards, and literally plow home with 2,250 f.p.e.  In fact, at 300 yards, the bullet would still be speeding along at close to 1,450 f.p.s. - and retain in the neighborhood of 1,825 foot-pounds of game taking knockdown power.  This would be significantly better downrange performance than possible with Knight's .52 caliber rifles and loads - again thanks to the extremely high b.c. of the 400-grain Barnes "Original" semi-spitzer .458" diameter bullet.

The buck shown at left was taken at 177 yards with the 300-grain Barnes .458" "Original".

There are quite a few other bullets just waiting to be matched up with a sabot and shot from one of today's advanced in-line rifles - a lot of them of .458" diameter.

Coming up with one's own combination of sabot and bullet is not all about stretching out the maximum effective range of a rifle and load...sometimes it's just to find a more accurately shooting sabot and bullet combination.  How many of you own and still hunt with one of the older in-line rifles with the 1-in-32 twist bores used for a number of years by both Traditions and CVA...or one of the even slower 1-in-38 inches twist T/C bores of the early 1990s?  There aren't a lot of sabot-bullet combinations offered for these rifles...but there are a number of combos that should shoot well.  The shooter just has to put them together themselves. 

One that should shoot extremely well would be the short 250-grain .452" diameter Horandy poly-tipped FTX.  Loaded with the black .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot, this .210 b.c. bullet would be a huge step up from the short 240- and 250-grain jacketed hollow-point bullets that most of those rifle owners were forced to shoot...since the bores did such a poor job of stabilizing longer and heavier bullets.

There's a real satisfaction in matching your own sabot and bullet in order to achieve better accuracy or greater retained knockdown power at extended range.  Harvester Muzzleloading's excellent Crush Rib Sabot tends to give far more flexibility with bullets ranging from .451" to .458" in diameter than any other sabot on the market. - Toby Bridges

Harvester Muzzleloading Hunter is an affiliate blog of the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website at

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hunting Accuracy & Knockdown Power With The 260-Grain Scorpion PT Gold And The Traditions VORTEK .50 Pistol

Here's a first look at getting the acuracy and knockdown power needed to take deer-sized game with the Traditions .50 caliber VORTEK Pistol.

The .970" center-to-center 50-yard group shown here was shot with a 60-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 and the 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold, from a sandbag rest, and generates and retains enough energy to just over 90 yards for taking a deer or wild hog. Learn what the maximum feasible charge of Blackhorn 209 is for this very serious hunting handgun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Not A Lot Of New Muzzleloader Hunting Products At The 2013 SHOT Show

     Seems muzzleloading has taken a back seat to a lot of things these days.  One thing is for certain, when it comes to INNOVATIVE... HOT...NEW things for the muzzleloading hunter - the 2013 SHOT Show, held in Las Vegas, NV January 15 thru 18, was a real bust!

     The one truly bright shining star is a new rifle model from Traditions Performance Firearms - the VORTEK StrikerFire.

     In a sense, this new .50 caliber VORTEK model has gone hammerless.  At least, there's no swinging hammer sticking up out of the receiver.  Instead, there's what the company refers to as the "StrkerFire System Button".  By pushing this forward with either the right or left thumb (the rifle is truly ambidextrous), the shooter cocks the internal striker (a.k.a. firing pin) system.  Once the rifle is cocked, the cross-block manual trigger safety can be engaged, allowing the rifle to be carried safely.  To add an additional level of safety, the internal mechanism can be un-cocked by pushing the small silver release on top of the StrikerFires System Button.  The trigger safety can also be switched from right to left handed.  Operation of this new system is effortless.

     Traditions president Tom Hall is shown here proudly holding the new hamerless VORTEK StrikerFire model

     The new model will be available this spring.  I should be test shooting the rifle in May, and will publish an indepth report on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website. 

     Easily some of the best shooting sabots and bullets out of the three VORTEK break-open hammer rifles that have become my primary test rifles have been the 240-, 260- and 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold polymer-tipped spire points and the black .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabots - from Harvester Muzzleloading.  Shooting my favorite 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209, the rifles have delivered exceptional accuracy - with a fair share of the 100-yard clusters staying inside of 1-inch across center-to-center.  And that is the load I plan to start my testing with once the snows of Western Montana begin to diminish.

     To stay updated on the availability of the VORTEK StrikerFire, check occasionally at this link -

     Watch for this report before the end of May.  The new 28-inch barreled .50 caliber Traditions VORTEK StrikerFire was easily the most exciting new muzzleloader hunting product at the 2013 SHOT Show.  - Toby Bridges, HARVESTER MUZZLELOADING HUNTER

NOTE:  Hopefully, this spring we'll also be able to do some test shooting with another new break-open .50 caliber rifle model known as the Redemption.  Ths rifle is now being produced by a new in-line rifle making operation known as LHR Sporting Arms.  When Smith & Wesson became the parent company of Thompson/Center Arms, and moved the gun making operation to Springfield, MA...they left behind some fine rifle makers.  A handful of those who worked so hard to make T/C successful and the company's muzzleloaders popular have launched this new effort to give their old alma mater some competition in the muzzleloading big game rifle market.

The company did not display at this year's SHOT Show, but says they may try to exhibit at the 2014 SHOT Show.  For a look at the Redemption, go to the following link -

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Do You Shoot & Hunt With Blackhorn 209?


My favored load for hunting just about anything "big" in North America has become 110-grains of Blackhorn 209 behind the saboted 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullet offered by Harvester Muzzleloading.  Simply put, this load has shot very well out of just about every .50 caliber No. 209 primer ignition in-line rifle I've loaded it into.

Most 28-inch barreled rifle models feature a 26 to 26 1/2 inch "working bore".  The load tends to get out of the muzzle at right around 1,970 f.p.s. - with around 2,580 f.p.e.  The 30-inch barreled Traditions .50 caliber VORTEK Ultra Light LDR I shoot and hunt with mostly these days has a 28-inch working bore, and the load leaves the muzzle at 2,009 f.p.s., with right at 2,690 f.p.e.  Out at 200 yards, this rifle and load is still good for 1,460 f.p.s. and about 1,420 f.p.e. - and that's good enough to take any North American big game animal.

If you are now hunting with Blackhorn 209, in the comment section of this blog post, share with others the rifle and the load you shoot - and how well it performs for you.  Or you can send it to us in an e-mail at .

Through 2013, the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website will be publishing a series of pages that will thoroughly cover every apsect and quality of Blackhorn 209.  The first of those pages can be found at the following link -

On these pages we will try to cover every aspect and quality of this powder. In February, we will even ask the question, "Is Blackhorn 209 Too Good?"

Toby Bridges
Harvester Muzzleloading