Best Hunting Rifles: 4 Muzzleloaders, Tested

How much accuracy can you really expect from your muzzleloader?

Shooting muzzleloaders can be frustrating, and I’m not talking about the extra steps and mess involved with loading and firing them. No, the frustration stems from the size of the groups most hunters get from their rifles, which rarely seem to match the performance they’ve read about on the internet or seen on television.

The editors of Outdoor Life feel your pain. So we shot four regular muzzleloaders with readily available pelletized powders and bullets—just like the vast majority of hunters who use this type of gear do—and recorded the results. The data here is a good representation of what you can expect from your own off-the-shelf hunting setup.

The test-fire lineup (from left): Traditions Vortek Strikerfire, Remington Ultimate Muzzleloader, CVA Accura V2, and T/C Strike.
The test-fire lineup (from left): Traditions Vortek Strikerfire, Remington Ultimate Muzzleloader, CVA Accura V2, and T/C Strike.Bill Buckley

THE TEST: Four staff editors each picked a muzzleloader and two types of bullets. We used 100-grain charges of pelletized powder and shot five 3-shot groups at 100 yards off sandbags with each bullet type. We calculated the average group size for both loads and noted the smallest groups as well. And we topped the rifles with hunting scopes, not target scopes.

Vortek Strikerfire
Traditions Vortek StrikerfireBill Buckley

TRADITIONS VORTEK STRIKERFIRE

In hindsight, it was an unlikely meeting between lead and meat. As the countdown clock ticked toward opening day of deer season, I accepted a gracious offer from the folks at Traditions to take a .50-­caliber Vortek Strikerfire for a test spin. I hadn't had nearly enough time to familiarize myself with the gun as I would have liked, and I couldn't clear that nagging thought while loading the gun the night before the opener. Somehow I shot a dandy buck with it the next day. Yeah, I violated a bunch of hunting precepts, but it all worked out.

I liked the gun the moment I first shouldered it. At 7.25 pounds with the scope, the Traditions felt well balanced and lighter than most of my other muzzleloaders. The hammerless, break-action design features a lock-release button in front of the trigger guard and an easy-to-remove breech plug. Once I aired it out at 100 yards, the Strikerfire further impressed me but showed a preference for Traditions' own 250-grain Smackdown bullets over the 300-grain Nosler Up Fronts.—Gerry Bethge

SPECS

Caliber: .50

Action: Break-action, manual cock, striker-fired

Overall Length: 44 in.

Trigger Pull: 2 lb. 8 oz.

Weight (scoped): 7 lb. 3 oz.

Price: $583

Scope: Traditions 3–9x40

Powder: Hodgdon Triple Seven

Primer: Winchester 209

ACCURACY

250-gr. Traditions Smackdown

Average: 1.818 in.

Smallest Group: 0.453 in.

300-gr. Nosler Up Front

Average: 2.844 in.

Smallest Group: 1.572 in.

Remington Ultimate Muzzleloader
Remington Ultimate MuzzleloaderBill Buckley

i’ve spent quite a bit of time shooting this muzzleloader, and I really like both the way it looks and the quality of its construction. Remington touts it as a 300-yard rifle, which is a heck of a claim for a muzzleloader. As much as I like this rifle, I’m not quite ready to hunt with it at those distances. Yes, I’ve gotten some groups from the rifle that make the grade, but not with enough consistency for my liking.

For this test, I shot Federal Bor Locks and Remington Accutips in front of 100 grains of Blue MZ pellets by Alliant Powder. The 240-grain Accutips shot very well, turning in sub-MOA 3-shot groups consistently.

For such a nice rifle, I wish the trigger on it were lighter. The bulk of this rifle—nearly 10 ½ pounds with the Leupold VX-6—helps keep it on target, however, which should offer some comfort to anyone tough enough to haul it up a mountain for elk. —John B. Snow

SPECS

Caliber: .50

Action: Bolt-action

Overall Length: 45 ½ in.

Trigger Pull: 5 lb. 5 oz.

Weight (scoped): 10 lb. 6 oz.

Price: $949

Contact: remington.com

Scope: Leupold VX-6 3–18x44

Powder: Alliant Blue MZ

Primer: Federal 210

ACCURACY

350-gr. Federal Bor Lock

Average: 2.19 in.

Smallest Group: 1.75 in.

250-gr. Barnes Spit-Fire T-EZ

Average: 1.75 in.

Smallest Group: 1.12 in.

CVA Accura V2
CVA Accura V2Bill Buckley

The Accura v2 has a Bergara barrel that's nitride-treated, which CVA guarantees makes it rustproof inside and out. The stock design did not fit me well, and I had to do some maneuvering to get a good cheek weld and a decent view through the scope, but that is nothing a good cheek pad wouldn't fix. The V2 is available with either a standard or a thumbhole stock design.

One really nice feature about the gun is that you can easily remove the breech plug with just your fingers even after firing the gun multiples times. This makes cleaning go a little quicker, and you don't have to worry about losing a breech plug wrench. Fit and finish was pretty standard for the muzzleloader world, nothing fancy. But this gun was designed for durability and utility, not runway-­model looks. —Alex Robinson

SPECS

Action: Break-action, manual cock, hammer-fired

Overall Length: 42 ¼ in.

Trigger Pull: 2 lb. 7 oz.

Weight (scoped): 8 lb. 10 oz.

Price: $574

Contact: cva.com

Scope: Bushnell Trophy Muzzleloader 3–9x40

Powder: Hodgdon Triple Seven

Primer: Remington 209 primers

ACCURACY

350-gr. Federal Bor Lock

Average: 2.19 in.

Smallest Group: 1.75 in.

250-gr. Barnes Spit-Fire T-EZ

Average: 1.75 in.

Smallest Group: 1.12 in.

T/C Strike
T/C StrikeBill Buckley

Hunting with the Strike is a fuss-free affair. I’ve used this muzzleloader on several hunts with good results. The rifle opens like a double-barrel shotgun with a top lever release. The ambidextrous cocking system is also similar to a shotgun’s tang safety: There’s no external hammer, and you don’t have to engage the trigger to decock it—instead, release the switch to return to safe.

Field cleaning is simple, but accessing the bore proved frustrating. Removing the breech plug cap is easy enough (if you didn’t forget the multitool), but the primer adapter requires a 5/16 wrench (not included). Even so, pliers and vigorous tapping with the ramrod were needed to loosen it after just a few shots.

Once clean, the breech system is easy to reassemble, but I foresee challenges afield in the event of wet powder or debris in the barrel. The trigger takeup was also slightly gritty. But these gripes don't impair its utility. In a hunting scenario, the Strike is easy to operate, consistent, and reliable.­ —Natalie Krebs

SPECS

Caliber: .50

Action: Break-action, manual cock, striker-fired

Overall Length: 40 ¾ in.

Trigger Pull: 4 lb. 2 oz.

Weight (scoped): 8 lb. 9 oz.

Price: $499

Scope: Weaver Grand Slam 2–8x36

Powder: Hodgdon Triple Seven

Primer: Winchester 209

Contact: tcarms.com

ACCURACY

250-gr. Hornady SST LNL Speed Sabot

Average: 2.340 in.

Smallest Group: 1.406

250-gr. Barnes Spit-Fire T-EZ

Average: 1.212 in.

Smallest Group: .924 in.

T/C Strike muzzleloader test
Krebs testing the T/C Strike.Kevin Howard
muzzleloader patches
A box of used patches from the T/C Strike test.Kevin Howard