Since 1985, when Tony Knight developed the first modern in-line muzzleloader, more than two million have been sold in the United States. In-lines have come a long way, but it was still surprising that there was not a single misfire during this test. Clean or dirty, when their triggers were pulled they went off. But here’s the real shocker: Even though prices of models in this test vary from $188 to $1,695, accuracy was a statistical tie.
If a muzzleloader can group three shots tightly without being cleaned between each shot, it’s a good gun. When you need a second shot, you need it quickly and you need it to hit where you aim. This is why we cleaned the rifles only after they had fired a three-shot group.
Each rifle was fitted with a proven 3-9X scope–a Nikon Monarch on the Ultimate, a Bushnell Elite on the Kodiak and a Sightron SII on the Huntsman. All use standard bases and were set up with Warne rings.
The bullets used in this test were the 260-grain Winchester Partition Gold, the 295-grain unsaboted Power Belt and the 375-grain Buffalo SSB. Each in-line was used to shoot two three-shot groups, one with the various bullets loaded with a 100-grain charge of Pyrodex 777 pellets and a second with the bullets loaded with a 150-grain charge. As expected, the rifles showed preferences for particular loads and bullets, but each rifle adequately grouped all six bullets. Had I counted only the first two shots in each group, the averages would have been dramatically smaller. Because the bores were fouled, the third shots opened up the groups.
OUTDOORLIFE EDITOR’S CHOICE 2004
CVA KODIAK 209 MAGNUM
The .50-caliber Kodiak 209 Magnum has a drop-block action with a blued, 26-inch, 1:28-twist barrel housed in a black composite stock. Ignition is via a 209-shotgun primer inserted directly into its nipple. After firing 20 rounds, only a slight trace of residue appeared on the scope body.
The ramrod supplied with the rifle won’t fully reach the breech face unless you unscrew and extend its tip. This doesn’t slow reloading with a full charge because the load shortens the length, but it does slow down cleaning.
The nonadjustable trigger broke crisply at about 3 1/2 pounds. The molded checkering on the gun’s grip is very well done. The Kodiak 209 Magnum shot all three bullet types well and delivered the highest velocities of the three guns in the test, no doubt because its barrel was several inches longer than the others’. (770-449-4687; www.bpiguns.com)
OUTDOORLIFE GREAT BUY 2004
The surprise of this test was the Huntsman from New England Firearms. This .50-caliber muzzleloader didn’t have the barrel length to fully utilize the 150-grain charge, but with the 100-grain charge the Huntsman turned in some of the tightest groups in the test.
Press a button and the action pops open. Drop a customized 209-shotgun primer in and a portion of the primer case’s bright orange tab sticks out through a slot, showing that the firearm is loaded. Its factory trigger was set at 3 1/2 pounds, and I found that it didn’t have any creep.
During the test a small amount of fouling escaped through a slot cut for the primer carrier, but it went to the side rather than toward the shooter. The Huntsman had one serious handicap. It was impossible to reload quickly because its short ramrod must be screwed together before it can be used. (978-632-9393; www.hr1871.com)
ULTIMATE FIREARMS 40 BPXPRESS
The .50-caliber 40 BPXpress from Ultimate Firearms has the legendary Remington 40X action and trigger, a 1:26-twist Lothar Walther barrel and a Boyd’s laminate stock. Ignition is via a patented breech-plug nipple that uses large-Magnum rifle primers inserted in a .45 Win. Mag. casing. After loading (up to four Pyrodex pellets), you slip a pre-primed case into the breech and close the bolt. This way the output of the large-Magnum rifle primer is located directly in front of the nipple.
This is an elegant rifle. No expense was spared on components, fit or finish. I found the lock time to be instantaneous. The trigger broke crisply at 3 pounds, and fouling was totally contained. The dual locking lugs on the bolt gave it centerfire strength and the precise bedding of the recoil lugs made it consistently accurate. The 40 BPXpress showed a clear preference for heavier bullets. (517-552-7831 or 517-349-2976; www.ultimatefirearms.com)
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
|EDITOR’S CHOICE CVA Kodiak 209 Magnum||GREAT BUY New England Firearms Huntsman||Ultimate Firearms 40 BPXpress|
|Muzzle Velocity (fps)||260 WW 100-GRAIN TRIPLE SEVEN||1,853||1,732||1,790|
|Group Size 2100 yd.||1.6 in.||1.4 in.||2.1 in.|
|Muzzle Velocity (fps)||260 WW 150-GRAIN TRIPLE SEVEN||2,235||2,117||2,190|
|Group Size 2100 yd.||2.5 in.||2.2 in.||2.6 in.|
|Muzzle Velocity (fps)||295 PB 100-GRAIN TRIPLE SEVEN||1,654||1,591||1,618|
|Group Size 2100 yd.||1.2 in.||1.3 in.||1.2 in.|
|Muzzle Velocity (fps)||295 PB 150-GRAIN TRIPLE SEVEN||1,982||1,930||1,941|
|Group Size 2100 yd.||1.7 in.||1.9 in.||1.4 in.|
|Muzzle Velocity (fps)||375 SSB 100-GRAIN TRIPLE SEVEN||1,502||1,485||1,593|
|Group Size 2100 yd.||2.2 in.||1.6 in.||0.9 in.|
|Muzzle Velocity (fps)||375 SSB 150-GRAIN TRIPLE SEVEN||1,838||1,804||1,816|
|Group Size 2100 yd.||1.9 in.||2.6 in.||1.3 in.|
|Overall Length||43 in.||39 in.||46 in.|
|Weight w/o Scope||9 lb.||8 lb.||11 lb.|
|Barrel Length||26 in.||23 in.||24 in.|
|Ignition Source||209 primer||209 primer||Pistol primer|
|Retail Price||From $259.95||$188||$1,695|
|Comments||The Kodiak 209 Magnum had a crisp trigger, shot accurately, achieved high velocities and was easy to clean.||This in-line was very accurate and functional. Its only fault was that its ramrod had to be screwed together to be used.||Ultimate Firearms says this in-line is made to shoot 200 grains of Pyrodex. We found it to be a delight to shoot.|
What the scores mean Fair: 60-69 points Good: 70-79 points Very Good: 80-89 points Excellent: 90-100 points
The big surprise: Â Despite price differences, accuracy was a statistical tie among the in-lines tested. Ultimate Firearms//.50//40 BPXpress The 40 BPXpress has proved that there is room for a high-end category in today’s in-line market. CVA//.50//Kodiak 209 Magnum Our Editor’s Choice was accurate, affordable and easy to handle and had little blowback…basically, it impressed us. NEF//.50//Huntsman This budget-priced muzzleloader shot tight groups. Though not exciting cosmetically, it was functional in every way.