I shoot or have shot all of the current brands and can tell you that the American made barrels are superior to the off-shore barrels. And a muzzleloader is mostly a barrel with a few gadgets attached to it.
Action designs basically are of two styles, the in-line and the sidehammer. Lots of variation in the designs of the newer in-line actions, some are very complicated and therefore should be avoided. With all the residue and crud associated with igniting the propellant the simpler actions are much easier to clean and more reliable.
The Spanish/Italian rifles shoot OK, but their barrels typically have tight and loose spots in them. Don't get that with Knight and T/C.
Best shooting ML. That rifle your buddy shoots is very difficult to beat. T/C OMEGA is the hottest selling in-line, for a very good reason as it is simple and extremely accurate. Knight Wolverine or Disc Elite are very accurate rifles, more complex but have Green Mtn barrels which are excellent.
Not saying that Traditions/CVA rifles don't shoot well and function reliably, they are just a notch down from the U.S. made rifles, and their price reflects that.
Our long range bullet tests were with Encores. The bullet is indeed the new Hornady mentioned, will be called Shockwave when sold by T/C.
Let's see if I understand this. 3 x pellets for a 150 gr charge in a 50 cal. ML, and you're wondering what range? What load was/is used on the .50-140-3 1/4? Hint hint, look at middle number. Look up Billy Dixon/Sharps/dead indian/1 mile+/-. Or perhaps "Whitworth Rifle".
There is little difference in performance potential between ML or any BP cartridge gun given equivalent charge and BC. HEAVY bullets are your friend for long range, forget the sabots and giz-widgets. Any half decent profile bullet at 450+ grains, .40+ caliber is capable of kills beyond 1000 yards IF you and the rifle are up to it. This is JMO but for ML's, paper patch is a good way to go. That and a good vernier sight. and use BLACK powder not yuppie substitutes. And swab between shots. And really know your trajectory numbers, and drift, and, and, and, and, [img]images/icons/grin.gif[/img]
I am not into blackpowder cartridge guns but my impression of them is that they are far more accurate at longer range than front-stuffers. There are a hell of a bunch of variables involved in front-stuffing, whether the rifle is a sidehammer, underhammer or in-line. Granted some guys can eliminate a lot of them but most guys just want it simple.
Some of the stuff you mention was the reason that muzzleloading seasons were introduced, but I believe that those days are fast fading and the blister-packed in-line rules the scene now. I remember casting balls, cutting patches, making my own shortstarters and ball holders, "baby-****" for lube, fringed possible bag etc. and hoping that I could get a real close shot because my rifle was only accurate to 50 yards. That made for a lot of really good fun. Now I am shooting in-lines with 24x scopes. What the hell, it is all hunting and gets a person out there.
I did a survey of where several top industry folks think muzzleloader hunting is going. Every guy expressed real concern about how long blackpowder will be available because of obvious reasons. Bottom line is we better enjoy all this while we can.
Quite a while back I watched a TV program on benchrest muzzleloading competition. The guy was shooting a HUGE stainless gun on a bench rest.The big .50 hardly moved when the gun went off. The guy was talking about his bore diameter and his bullet diameter and the combined diameter of his bullet and patch before and after firing.
The big stainless barrel and all the technical stuff seemed awfully similar to the things I have seen around the 1000 yd b.r. matches.
I still think that gun and some long slender bullets would make a great long range hunter for black powder season.
Unfortunately I have no idea who the guy was or where he is now.
Ian, I pass no judgement on "blister pack" life styles other than it won't get you to long range success. Regardless of one's passion or methodology for the sport, there is no easy path. You are no doubt correct that cartridge guns are easier to work with in this venue but that does not obviate the capability or potential for ML's to reach out a long ways with success. This was demonstrated a multitude of times in the past, both in the field and in competition. It matters not whether a Sharps or a ML launches the projectile, the BC's of suitable projectiles are too similar to differentiate and the muzzle velocities are likely within 25-50 fps of each other, advantage not necessarily to the cartridge gun. There was a time when "production" ML's were works of art and highly sophisticated; set trigger, vernier sights, false muzzles, and in some paper patch was routine. They shot extremely well. I recall a few years back when Coors was doing the Schutzenfest thing in Golden, Co. that this style of gun would group in the sub 2" range at 200 yards OFFHAND and not necessarily win the competition. These were cartridge guns as I recall, but many Schutzen guns of old were ML's. We like to think we're more sophisticated these days...I wonder about that now and then.
A cartridge case is nothing more than a convenient gasket.