Thursday, June 12, 2014

Changes in Elevation...Changes in Point of Impact!

My personal shooting range is located on what was once the bottom of an ancient lake that was in some places 2,000-feet deep.  Of course, that was more than a million years ago, and the bottom of that huge glacier created lake is now the Missoula Valley of Western Montana.  The elevation where I annually shoot 3,000+ muzzle-loaded rounds is right at 3,000 feet.

Missoula, a city of 70,000 people, is the largest such city in the U.S. that is completely surrounded on all sides by mountains...with some of the peaks reaching 9,000 feet.  There is easy access to a lot of high country where, when it begins to heat up too much in the valley bottoms to do a lot of shooting with saboted bullets, that I can load up and drive to a reasonably remote mountain valley or ridge and get in a morning of shooting with temperatures in the 40's - even in July and August.

On my valley range, I generally sight rifles to place point of bullet impact approximately 2 inches high, to preserve my point of aim.  When we take the dogs and spend a few days in the mountains to get away from city noises, I always take along a muzzleloader or two - and try to get is some high elevation shooting.  I have noticed that at 5,000 to 6,000 feet, point of impact often moves up another inch or two - depending on the load and bullet.

One test I hope to complete by the end of summer is to see if I can actually discern an approximate change in that point of impact at 4,000...5,000...6,000...and maybe 7,000 feet.  The rifle I'll be using for this test is the new 30-inch barreled Traditions .50 VORTEK StrikerFire LDR - shown in the photo above.  This shot was taken at one of my favorite high country shooting spots, at about 6,000 feet.  The snow capped mountains in the background are the Mission Mountains of Western Montana...with several peaks up around 9,000+ feet.

If you have the opportunity to shoot at such radical changes of elevation...have you noticed any significant changes in point of impact?

This will be posted as the July "Question of the Month" on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website - at

Toby Bridges

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Missouri Breaks Buck With The VORTEK Ultra Light LDR

                                                        Click On Photo To Enlarge

You don't have to cruise through the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website very far to realize that the .50 caliber Traditions VORTEK Ultra Light LDR is at the top of my muzzleloading rifle preference list.  Rounding out that "Favorite Combo" would be the Hi-Lux Optics TB-ML multi-reticle muzzleloader hunting rifle scope...a 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209...and the saboted 300-grain polymer tipped Scorpion PT Gold spire-point bullet from Harvester Muzzleloading.  This combination has rewarded me with quite a few sub 1-inch hundred yard groups over the past year and a half.

Thanks to the 30-inch barrel (28 1/2-inch working bore) of this rifle, the load is good for 2,009 f.p.s. at the muzzle, generating right at 2,690 f.p.e. at the muzzle.  The above buck was taken just a few days before this past Thanksgiving, with a single well placed shot at 140-yards.  At that distance, the load was still good for around 1,650 f.p.s. - meaning this buck was hit with more than 1,800 foot-pounds of retained energy.  The buck went less than 25 yards after the 300-grain bullet passed squarely through the chest cavity.

By the time I had pulled the trigger late the afternoon of the 5th day of hunting, I had already passed on 14 or 15 smaller 3x3 and 4x4 whitetail bucks, plus had seen five other whitetail bucks of this same class...or slightly larger.  During one long morning walk along the rolling ridges that overlook Montana's Musselshell River, I had also tried to catch up with a giant 30-inch class 5x5 mule deer buck, but could just never get ahead of the deer...or to get within 300 yards of the buck.  That same morning, I did have the crosshairs on a nice 20-inch spread 4x4 mule deer buck, but passed.  Then, I decided to concentrate on river-bottom whitetails.

That's the beauty of hunting the Missouri Breaks of north-central Montana, there are good numbers of both whitetails and mule deer.

Watch for the feature article on this hunt on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website in early to mid January 2014.  It's one of many great articles slated for the website this coming year.

Toby Bridges,
Traditions Muzzleloader

Be sure to visit the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website at - 

Friday, November 15, 2013


The Summer-Fall 2013 NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING Newsletter was published today - and one of the new rifles spotlighted is the Traditions .50 VORTEK StrikerFire shown in the above photo with website host Toby Bridges.

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

                       New VORTEK StrikerFire & Blackhorn 209 - A Great 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!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Muzzleloader Hunting Is A Never Ending Life Long Learning Experience

I was going through some old photos today, kind of looking for a topic for this blog. I've been so busy working on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website, I just haven't had the time to devote to the several blogs I also host. I apologize for that...and will do my best to get at least one new post on this blog every month...more when time permits.

Getting back to this photo. It sure does bring back some memories. I do have to confess, I can better remember this old cabin my hunting partner and I came across while looking for wild hogs in the Cumberland Mountains of east-central Tennessee than the hunt itself. From the dates on some old newspapers that had been slapped on the inside walls, using what looked like good ol' flour and water paste, tended to indicate that the last tennants vacated shortly after 1927. From what I could see from the terrain, and where this cabin was situated, my guess was that there was likely never a road for motor vehicles within four or five miles of this backwoods home site. Chances were very good that whoever hewed out those logs also hunted with a muzzleloading rifle. The cabin could have very easily been built in the late 1800's.

What made this photo really significant to me was that it is one of the earliest photos of me hunting with a muzzleloader. The shot was taken in November of 1972 - just ten years after I had ever shot a muzzle-loaded rifle, at the age of 13 years old. I loved it so much, two years later I purchased my first frontloader - a .45 caliber percussion Kentucky rifle. That fall, the rifle accounted for two eight-point bucks - and I was hooked on muzzleloader
hunting for life.

I'll confess that when the above photo was taken, I thought I pretty much knew everything there was to know about loading, shooting and hunting with a muzzleloader. After all, during that ten years since shooting a friend's original .36 caliber Billinghurst under-hammer rifle for the first time, I had definitely gotten in quite a bit of experience. During that period I had taken a half-dozen whitetails, a couple of mule deer, a pronghorn, a black bear, a half-dozen wild hogs, and a truck load of small game, upland birds and waterfowl with a variety of muzzle-loaded guns. Heck, I had even written and had published three or four magazine articles on hunting with a muzzleloader, plus my first book, of which I wrote about 75-percent - titled BLACK POWDER GUN DIGEST. (During that time, I had  served as a Marine Corps journalist as well.)

Man, was I ever wrong! 

Muzzleloading was a much simpler shooting sport in those days. The vast majority of guns were built for shooting the patched round ball...and if a rifle had a quality barrel, working up a hunting load pretty much meant slowly upping the powder charge until you reached a point where the rifle no longer shot with accuracy - then you took the charge the other way until it was grouping again. Most considered 100 yards as the maximum effective range of those few hunters ever bothered scoping a muzzleloader.

That rifle slung over my shoulder in the photo at the top of this post was the Thompson/Center Arms "Hawken"model, one of the first somewhat modern muzzle-loaded big game rifles. And for the 10 years following this hunt, I hunted with these half-stock rifles, or custom versions of them, more than with any other rifle model. And that was due to the T/C rifle's ability to shoot a heavier, harder-hitting conical bullet with reasonable accuracy. With a scope on one of these rifles, I found I could often group five shots inside of 4 inches at a hundred yards - and was tickled to do so.

In late 1985, I became acquainted with Tony Knight, and in February 1986 I began shooting and hunting with a Knight MK-85 in-line rifle - and my real muzzleloading education began. Muzzleloading as we know it today has evolved from that day forward...and since the mid 1980s, the only thing in this sport that has remained constant has been change. The photo shown here is of the very first whitetail buck I took with an in-line ignition rifle and saboted bullet.

On the morning that my old high school buddy Earl Barr and I found that rustic old cabin, if someone would have walked up to me and predicted that 40 years down the road I would be shooting a scoped Traditions break-open in-line rifle that utilized hot No. 209 primer ignition...and when loaded with a modern nitro-cellulose based black powder substitute and a plastic saboted polymer-tipped spire-point bullet, the rifle and load would be fully capable of consistently printing sub 1-inch 100 yard groups, I would have laughed. Then I would have gotten away from them as quickly as I could.

The load I shoot today (110 grains of Blackhorn 209) is fully capable of getting a saboted 300-grain bullet (Harvester Muzzleloading "Scorpion PT Gold") out of the muzzle of the .50 caliber VORTEK Ultra Light LDR that I shoot and hunt with most at 2,009 f.p.s., with right at 2,700 foot-pounds of energy. And thanks to the 3-9x scope (Leatherwood/Hi-Lux TB-ML model) on the rifle, it will indeed, with amazing regularity, group inside of an inch at 100 yards. And out at 200 yards, as often as not, I have found that I can keep groups at around 2 1/2 inches, and at that distance the bullet still hits with 1,500 f.p.e.

When I fully got into this game back in 1964, at age 15, with the purchase of my first rifle, a percussion .45 caliber Kentucky reproduction, the load I first shot and hunted with was good for about 1,900 f.p.s. - but the light 128-grain ball was generating just 1,025 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. And that load was actually dropping below the 800 f.p.e. considered to be minimum for deer at just 30 to 35 yards. Muzzleloader energies is something I did not really begin to comprehend until the early 1970s. The first whitetail I ever shot with the rifle, at 60 to 70 yards, went more than 200 yards before going down. The second buck I shot with the rifle, at about 45 yards, went more than a half-mile...and was nearly lost.

The .50 T/C "Hawken" in the above photo, stoked with 100-grains of FFFg black powder, would get a 370-grain soft lead "Maxi-Ball"bullet out of the 28-inch barrel at around 1,500 f.p.s., with 1,850 f.p.e. The bullet has a low b.c., and by the time it gets to 100 yards, it has slowed to just over 1,050 f.p.s., and hits with just over 900 f.p.e. At 150 yards, velocity drops to 920 f.p.s., with 690 f.p.e. The load drops below the needed 800 f.p.e. for deer sized game at about 115 to 120 yards.

My first .50 caliber sabot-shooting Knight MK-85, loaded with a 110-grain charge of Pyrodex "P", would launch a saboted 250-grain HornadyXTP JHP at 1,625 f.p.s., and generate close to 1,525 f.p.e. That bullet has a .147 b.c., and at 100 yards was still good for 1,250 f.p.s. and almost 870 f.p.e. At 150 yards, velocity is down to 1,075 f.p.s. and energy is down to around 640 f.p.e. The load drops below 800 f.p.e. at about 110 to 115 yards.

My muzzleloading education has spanned 46 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.  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 and hunted with.  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.

(To see how the VORTEK Ultra Light LDR fared in a 50 Consecutive Shot Test, go to )

Over on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website, I maintain between 125 and 150 articles, reports, and pages of data that shares what I've learned along the way. Likewise, in addition to this blog, I also host the North American Muzzleloader Hunting blog, the Harvester Muzzleloading Hunter blog, and the Blackhorn 209 Hunter blog - with lots of info there.

If you have travelled the same long road I've taken to get here, or have some great muzzleloader performance information that others can benefit from...please jump in on the comment sections of these blogs and share.

Toby Bridges

For A Look At Traditions's New "Hammerless" VORTEK StrikerFire Rifle Go To -

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tony Knight - The Father Of Modern In-Line Muzzleloading - Dies

                                         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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hot New Loads for The .50 VORTEK Rifle

Okay, I'll admit it...this winter is getting to me.  Now, please don't think I'm crazy when I's been too warm.  Through January and most all of this month, afternoon temperatures have been in the upper 30's and low 40's...with a couple of really freaky days pushing 50 degrees.  While such balmy weather is great for my daily walks with my dogs, it has also kept me from getting in to my range...which entails traversing several hills and valleys...on a two-track dirt field road.  And while I might be able to get in during the first hour of daylight...with the mud frozen by the 20 to 25 degree nights, an hour or two after daylight that muck turns into a greasy surface that means getting out is impossible.

Fortunately, I have a good friend with some property about 35 miles south of where I live in Missoula, MT, and he has a nice and solid gravel lane going into his home in the Sapphire Mountains, with a nice high bank backstop that still allows me to shoot 100 yards...with my old Suburban parked on the lane...and a portable shooting bench set up right behind it.  And that's where I head at least once a week this time of the year...and often my hunting buddy will pull out his .50 Traditions Pursuit and join me.  He says he loves shooting someone else's powder and bullets.  I figure it's pretty cheap rent.

Since Montana's general deer and elk seasons closed the weekend after Thanksgiving, I've been spending some time trying to get a wolf within muzzleloader range.  While several times this winter I've gotten wolves to come within 325 to 350 yards of where I've been calling, nothing has crossed the 200 yard line - the maximum range I'll take a shot.

Several mornings, I've hunted within five or six miles of where I shoot off my buddy's lane, and after a half-day of hard hunting, I've dropped by to get in a few hours of shooting as well.  I like the cool temperatures in the 30's for shooting, since the barrel cools quickly.  When I can get out to shoot, this is the time of the year I generally do a lot of experimenting.

The rifle I've hunted with all fall and winter is one of the .50 VORTEK Ultra Light LDR models offered by Traditions.  Personally, I like the 30-inch barrel (28 1/2 inch working bore), and especially the way this rifle shoots.  For all of my earlier hunts, I stuck with a 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 and the saboted .451" diameter 300-grain polymer-tipped Scorpion PT Gold from Harvester Muzzleloading.  The rifle is topped with one of the 3-9x40mm TB-ML scopes from Hi-Lux Optics, and this combination punched dozens of sub 1-inch hundred yard groups during last summer and fall shooting sessions - plus the rifle accounted for several deer for the freezer last fall.  (Shown in the photo above left is the Scorpion PT Gold bullet, from left to right, 240-, 260- and 300-grain.)

The load gets out of the muzzle at 2,009 f.p.s., with 2,688 f.p.e.  At 200 yards, the load is still good for 1,451 f.p.s. and 1,401 foot pounds of energy - and is still more than plenty for taking one of the huge Northern Rockies wolves, which can top 140 pounds.

One morning, I had a good supply of the lighter 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullets in my shooting box, and just felt like seeing how fast I could push them with charges of Blackhorn 209.  With a 110-grain charge, I had already gotten an average of 2,054 f.p.s. with the 260-grain polymer-tipped spire points, which equates to 2,431 f.p.e.  At 200 yards, the load is good for 1,336 f.p.s. and 1,027 f.p.e.

With a 120-grain charge, velocity jumped to 2,147 f.p.s., generating 2,665 f.p.e.  The hundred yard group punched with the load went 1.228" center-to-center - and was right there with the average group size shot with the 10-grain lighter charge of Blackhorn 209.  So....I moved up another 10 grains, to 130-grains of Blackhorn 209, which pushed the 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold out of the muzzle at an average of 2,188 f.p.s. (3 shot avg.), developing 2,764 f.p.e. at the muzzle.  Downrange at 200 yards, the load would still be flying at just over 1,500 f.p.s. and hit with 1,300 f.p.e.

Recoil was very tolerable with the 130-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 behind the light 260-grain bullet - and accuracy was exceptional.  Before heading for home, I took my time and punched two 100-yard groups.  The first is the .853" center-to-center group shown here.  The other went 1.174" center-to-center. 

The rifle printed the load in practically the same spot as it did the 110-grain charge behind the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold.  Using the CLD-3 Bog Pod collapsible tripod rest I use when hunting, I managed to put 5 hits with 5 shots on a 6-inch steel swinging target, at 200 yards, my friend has set up in a valley that runs down to his back yard.  (That rest can be seen in the photo at the top of this post - available from Bog Gear - go to for more information.)

As this is written, there are just eight more days of wolf season, so I've decided to finish out the season with the 130-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 and the 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold. In early March, I'll post a report on how my wolf hunting season went over on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website at .  -  Toby Bridges


For a look at more Blackhorn 209 loads for the 28-inch barreled Traditions VORTEK and 30-inch barreled VORTEK Ultra Light LDR...go to the following link -