by Hank Strong
Each year at the S.H.O.T. Show gun companies unveil their latest rifles. This year more new muzzleloading rifles were introduced to the public than there have been in years. Two of the rifles are capable of handling bone crushing magnum loads. These rifles represent, I believe to be the best muzzleloaders available to hunters this year.
Connecticut Valley Arms
PO Box 722, Norcross, GA.
C.V.A. has introduced two new rifles that could turn the tables on Knight and Remington in 1997, if enough hunters become aware of the AccuBolt ProHunter and FireBolt Series Bolt Action inline muzzleloaders. The ProHunter weighs seven pounds while the FireBolt weighs 1/2 pound more. Both rifles come with a 24" barrel drilled and tapped for a scope and the safety conveniently located behind the trigger guard. Fiber optic sights are available for both rifles, also thumbhole stocks, and unbreakable ramrods. The fiber optic sights are probably the most dramatic improvement in open sights since the adjustable peep sight. This is where the similarity ends between the two rifles. The AccuBolt ProHunter comes with a Bell and Carlson Stock with certain features customized to the customer's specifications. The Pro Series rifles has a hand lapped Badger Barrel in two different twist 1-26" or 1-22" and is available in .50, 45, and 40 caliber when special ordered. This doesn't sound like C.V.A. does it? It's the new C.V.A. that is offering an up scale rifle for the first time in the history of the company. Six writers and myself had the privilege of testing both rifles on the range, then hunting wild boar at Bostick Plantation in South Carolina last May. Paul Moore of Corydon, Kentucky took a boar, with one shot at 125 yards! Skeptics like myself, and Phil Potter of Evansville, Indiana left very impressed with the quality of the rifles and their accuracy. Another point for the AccuBolt and ProHunter is everybody that shoulders these rifles liked the balance and trigger pull length, especially the ladies. This is very unusual. The AccuBolt ProHunter retails for just under $600 a fair price for a custom rifle while the FireBolt has a suggested retail price of between $270 and $330.
Weston MO. 64098
If you have ever wanted to own a truly fine rifle that has the look, feel and style of a custom built gun then look no further than Austin & Halleck. Available in four different models, that range in style from a traditional side lock that would make Sam Hawken proud. To three inline models that are the epitome of the classic big game rifle. All the rifles are unsurpassed in quality. From the action to the fit, and finish the inlines are reminisce of a Weatherby Rifle. The stock is available in tiger stripe or curly maple and has a high luster finish. The forearm and pistol grip are decorated with 20 line per inch checkering. However, a synthetic stock is also available. Both stocks come with a 1" recoil pad. The rifles are not only beautiful but they are extremely accurate and capable of M.O.A accuracy at 100 yards. The 26" barrel has a 1-28" twist in the bore with 8 lands and groves .007 deep. It tapers from 1" to 3/4" at the muzzle to reduce weight and improve the handling. The barrel then is mated to a Timney Trigger. A weather shroud is available for the 440 stainless steel bolt that travels .199; probably the shortest hammer throw in the muzzleloading industry. The bolt action is silky smooth and extremely easy to remove and disassemble for cleaning. These rifles are modern classics that are extremely affordable and weigh 7 7/8 pound. Suggest retail price $600 to $750.
K & M Muzzleloaders Inc.
7785 Foundation Drive
Florence Ky 41042
The Markesbery rifle is the easiest inline muzzleloader to disassemble and assemble of all the inlines on the market. Remove the ramrod, two hex head allen screws and the rifle is disassembled and ready to be cleaned. While it has a 3/8" stainless steel removeable breach plug it's not necessary to remove it to clean the rifle. The 6 1/2 pound rifle handles like a carbine but has a 24" barrel. The .50 cal. barrel comes with a 1-26" twist with shallow rifling and is made from 4140 steel. The clean lines of the rifle are reminisce of the model 94 Winchester rifle. Mount a scope and it is capable of dropping a whitetail buck at 150 yards. With the right load it will deliever more energy at 100 yards than any 30-30 Winchester. Most hunters find the 14" trigger pull length very comfortable for hunting situations. Markesbery rifles have dual safeties and come with a nipple that will allow you to use magnum rifle primers. This was the first rifle to offer interchangeable barrels in .45, .50, and .54 cal. for the hunter. The rifle is available in three different stock designs; two piece thumbhole, one piece thumbhole, and two piece with pistol grip. The stocks come in Laminate, Black Composite, Realtree Advantage, Mossy Oak Treestand, and Crotch Walnut. Here is a rifle capable of M.O.A. accuracy at 100 yards that will handle magnum loads and is capable of taking anything in North America. Suggested retail price depends on model. Price range $475 to $675
Peifer Rifle Company
P.O. Box 192
Nokomis, IL 62075
This year several muzzleloading companies are advertising their rifles as magnum muzzleloader. The .50 caliber TS 93 Peifer rifle is one of the few muzzleloaders that is capable of handling a true magnum load. The seven pound rifle is 43 1/2 inches long. It has a 24" barrel with 8 lands and groves and shallow rifling. The barrel is stress relieved, tapered then free floated in the stock to improve the rifle's accuracy and handling in the field. The totally enclosed ignition system uses a 209 shotgun primer. It is available in blued or stainless steel with a synthetic or laminated stock. An unbreakable ramrod is furnished with the rifle. Hunters have a choice of either .45 or .50 caliber. The fit and finish are excellent and the barrel is drilled and tapped for a scope. A quick release peep sight is offered as an option. With 80 to 90 grains of powder and the right sabot bullet it is possible to get the magic minuet of angle accuracy at 100 yards. Take the charge up to the magnum level with 150 grains of powder and a 350 grain .45 caliber sabot bullet with a muzzle velocity of over 1700 f.p.s. for true magnum power. It still delivers a 2-3" group that is capable of taking anything in North American. Suggested Retail Price, $730-876.
PO Box 5002
Rochester, NH 03866
Thompson Center's new System 1 is ingenious. It is a complete muzzleloading hunting system that allows the slim graceful Fire Hawk to be transformed into multipurpose hunting rifle through the use of interchangeable barrels. Now you can purchase one rifle and by simply changing the barrel, hunt whitetail, varmints, or gobblers.
The System 1 allows a hunter to quickly switch from big game hunting to turkeys. By removing the .50, .54 or .58 caliber barrel that came with the rifle and installing the 12 gauge shotgun barrel. The 12 gauge barrel comes with a screw in full choke. Or you can drop in the .32 caliber barrel and go squirrel hunting.
Thompson Center pulled out all the stops on this rifle. They free floated the barrel in the stock to improve accuracy then balanced the rifle to improve handling and installed adjustable Timney Triggers. Still not satisfied, they redesigned the removeable breech plug. To prevent gases and fouling from collecting around the threads thus reducing the chance of the breech plug freezing in the barrel. Then installed their QLA system in the front of the barrel. This reduces the chance of the bullet being canted during loading and improves accuracy.
The 7 1/2 pound rifle comes blued with a beautiful walnut stock but is available in stainless steel with a black composite or Advantage Camo stock. Overall length is 44" for the rifle. The barrel is 26" long with a 1-38" twist in the bore. Since the receiver is drilled and tapped for Weaver style scope bases, barrels can be changed and the same scope used. The rifle comes with a synthetic ramrod and sling swivel studs. After using this gun on a wild boar and turkey hunt I was very impressed with its accuracy and handling in the field. Here is a rifle that combines American craftsmanship with state of the art engineering to produce an excellent multipurpose hunting firearm. Suggested Retail Price $370-400. Additional barrels list for around $160.