Re: Long range with black powder
Google "Doug's Savage Board" (once you get there you usually need to click on the link for the NEW board as the old one typically is what is linked to) and you will have a wealth of information by guys who are more innovative than Savage themselves. It's a great group of knowledgeable, very helpful guys.
The factory Savage ML-II, the only mass-produced smokeless muzzleloader, uses a special bolt head so that it can use 209 primers for ignition, just like most inlines. However, just like those of us who learned that regular inlines can be ignited more cleanly and consistently using 25ACP carrier conversion plugs, a number of people now make custom plugs that will fit a Savage that allow you to use 45ACP, 308 or 243 cases as primer carriers so you can ignite with magnum rifle primers. You headspace so that the webbing is tight between the plug nose and bolt face when you cam the bolt down, sealing the breech.
My short-action Model 11 started life as a 243Win sporter, and I'll keep that 243 barrel until I burn it out and replace with a 26" 243AI varmint taper. As such it has the correct bolt head to use 243 or 308 cases as a primer carrier with a custom plug. The custom plug is the last piece of the puzzle that I am waiting on delivery to get out and shoot, so unfortunately I have no pictures that I can supply for you.
The modular and home-tinkerable design of the Savage is what makes this so easy. A barrel nut wrench, a go-gauge for the 243 barrel, and a home-made barrel vise were all I needed to make this a switch barrel gun which takes all of 10 minutes. Even if you have the wrong bolt face it's a $20 part easily changeable on a Savage. I love Remington guns but being able to do this all myself, and switch back and forth, sold me on the Savage this time around.
All that is necessary to change a Savage short action with a 308 bolt face into a smokeless ML are the barrel and breech plug, period!! Pac-Nor now stocks aftermarket drop-in barrels to do this in a variety of twists. Mine is 1-22", the most popular, but I believe you can get them down to 1-14 or 1-16 though I'm not aware of any commercially available bullets or bullet/sabot combination that are long enough to make use of that twist rate. Although at least one individual machines his own PVC sabots so he can shoot .338 250gr Accubonds!! But I need .357 bullets and a .45 barrel to be legal here.
By mid-summer I hope to start on the road of sabotless shooting, where I would size a .451" or .452" bullet down a few thousandths, then knurl back up with two rough files so it grips the bore perfectly.
The specs on the gun in the picture are:
-Base gun Savage Model 11 package gun as sold in Gander Mtn in 243Win
-Rifle Basix adjustable trigger (now the best trigger in my safe; factory one had terrible creep)
-Pac-Nor 26" SuperMatch 1-22" twist .45cal barrel, bead blasted
-Warne Tactical 20MOA base
-Leupold QR rings (you need to get the optics off to swap barrels)
-Bushnell 6500 2.5-16X Tactical scope
-Custom breech plug to prime with 243/308 shortened cases
-HS Precision varmint stock with extra stud
All together this set me back about $2000. Could have saved some by scrounging for a used Savage or a Stevens action but I wanted the 243 and did not want to compromise quality anywhere in the build. Feel free to PM me if you have additional questions, I'm still in the learning phase here. It's been documented for people to hit 3000 fps with the 200SW bullet out of a 23" barrel.