North American Muzzleloader Hunting

Article by Toby Bridges from Montana USA

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MUZZLE EXTREME Muzzleloading Bullets...

Built For African Game ... Ideal For North American Big Game!

Okay...I know this is NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING.  So, what are we doing writing about muzzleloader bullets that are being produced in South Africa...and which are not even available in the United States?  Not yet anyway... 

Let's just say..."In order to take a look at how muzzleloading hunters on the "Dark Continent" differ a bit from hunters here in North America ... especially when it comes to shooting just the right bullet for the game being hunted ... and to re-examine the 'full energy transfer' vs. 'complete pass through' debate when it comes to bullet performance."

This past November, we brought you our first look at the novel MUZZLE EXTREME "Solid" bullet - a 340-grain solid soft lead bullet that's shot fully encased inside a capped polymer sleeve.  This bullet concept shot surprisingly well for us, shooting our usual 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 out of our .50 CVA Acura V2 LR rifle.  

To revisit that shooting, go to this link - http://namlhunt.com/mlbullets.html

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MUZZLE EXTREME actually offers right at a dozen variations of this concept, a couple of which really intrigued me - especially one version known as the "Exploder" and another dubbed "Damage".  The so-called "Exploder" comes in two variations - one that's segmented to separate into four long pieces upon impacting game ... and another that segments into three pieces.

The other MUZZLE EXTREME variation that caught my attention has been the combination of a 306-grain lead hollow point ... with a steel ball bearing riding on top of the hollow-pointed nose - shown in the photo above.  A good friend who visited South Africa to hunt just before the first of the year brought me back a couple of packages of each ... plus a package of the 294-grain polymer encased "Impact" hollow-points, and shipped them to me .

My shooting with these bullet was put off for several weeks due to cold...windy...and snowy weather ... which blanketed the ground with 16 to 17 inches of snow ... making it impossible to even get to our range...let alone get in some shooting under good shooting conditions.  Fortunately, Western Montana gets into a slow warming trend come February - and after a couple of days with the temperatures up to about freezing, and bright sunshine, the snow was crusted hard enough to walk on - and I started making the near half-mile walk into the range to get in some "Behind Schedule" shooting sessions.

 For these "First Shots" with these three variations of the MUZZLE EXTREME bullets, NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER  HUNTING relied on  the same rifle used to shoot the MUZZLE EXTREME "Solid" back in November - our .50 caliber CVA Accura V2 LR...topped with one of the excellent 2-10x42mm PentaLux TAC-V scopes from Hi-Lux Optics.  This rifle and scope combo has shot very well with just about anything we have stuffed down its 30-inch Bergara barrel.  During our first visit to the range, shooting on top and more than a foot of hard crusted snow, I quickly discovered that I had to lay down a piece of plywood for the bench and chair.  Without it, the first time I sat down, the legs of the chair broke right through the crusted surface...and I found myself practically sitting on the ground ... or rather, the surface of the snow.

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Even before I touched off the first shot, I knew it was going to be a good day for shooting.  After weeks of temperatures plunging to well below "0" at night ... and warming only into the low teens ... the 30-degree sunny and calm weather felt almost like summer.  The very last shot fired from the Accura V2 LR had been with one of the 340-grain MUZZLE EXTREME "Solid" bullets, powered by 110-grains of Blackhorn 209. So, after snapping two primers on the rifle to insure a cleared ignition system, a volume-measured 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 was poured through the muzzle, and one of the 333-grain "Exploder" (four segmented payload) rounds firmly seated over the powder charge.
 
In my mind, it did not seem likely that the four long "bullet segments" would shoot anywhere nearly as well as a one-piece bullet.  I will admit that when I touched off shot No. 1 ... I was totally astonished when that "payload" impacted the target right at the top of the "X" - and was equally amazed when all three shots cut each other on the target - shown above left.  The group measures just .723" center-to-center.
 
Back when I was shooting the "Solid" version of these bullets, this past November, I never did find any of the polymer casings which surrounds these bullets.  There was no snow on at that time, and I just wrote it off as the casing must have totally disintegrated upon impact, and the small pieces were lost in the short second growth of the hayfield where I shoot.  However, when shooting the "Exploder" round over snow, I was intrigued by the dispersement of the bullet segments in the unbroken snow cover on the slope 25-feet behind my target board. The segments of all three shots, at that distance behind the target, had all hit within a 4'x4' patch of the crusted surface.  As I examined that freshly broken snow cover, I spotted one of the polymer casings ... another 10 feet up the bank.  When looking for the spent casings during my earlier shooting with the MUZZLE EXTREME "Solid" bullet ... I simply had not looked far enough behind the target board.
 
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During that earlier shooting, I had also kind of suspected that the relatively soft polymer encasement of these bullets would "peel off" or "split away" upon impact with the plywood target board.  Nope!  I discovered, by finding those polymer bullet cups a good 35 or 40 feet behind the 1/2-inch thick plywood target board, that it was very clear the encasement and bullet had "punched through" somewhat together...most likely separating as the earlier "Solid" bullet began to expand ... and apparently when the segments of the "Exploder" began to, well, "segment" ... each taking a different path.  When walking around the target board to examine where those segments had impacted the snow...I had not even looked at the piece or cardboard I had stabled to  the backside of the target board...but when I turned to walk back - I COULD NOT MISS SEEING THE HUGE HOLE THOSE SEGMENTS HAD BLOWN OUT THE BACKSIDE! 

We'll definitely do some more shooting with the MUZZLE EXTREME "Exploder" this coming summer ... into wet pack to get an idea of just how far those "segments" will penetrate.  MUZZLE EXTREME promotes the "Exploder" as a "medium-sized game" bullet, using a "behind the shoulder" chest cavity shot placement.  In their testing on African game the size of whitetails, such as blesbok, they've found this "bullet" to literally turn internal organs into pure mush.  Looking at that hole in the backside of the target board (above right)...that's easy to believe.​

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Three Shots With The 306-Grain "Damage" Bullet - .754" Center-to-Center Three Shots With The 294-Grain "Impact" Bullet - .714" Center-to-Center

Above are the groups we punched that same day with the 306-grain "Damage" hollow-point and steel ball payload (above left) and the 294-grain "Impact" soft lead hollow-point (above right) from MUZZLE EXTREME.  These were also shot with the CVA Accura V2 LR, and a 110-grain charge of Blackhorn 209.

I'll confess...I DID NOT shoot these groups at 100 yards.  That was our intention, but when I hiked in to the range, across that near half-mile of frozen snow, I found that the neighbours about 3/4 mile away ... just over the ridge side behind our 100 yard target board ... were snowmobiling.  While I was sure the high backstop would keep any "stray bullet" from flying that way ... I chose to use my portable target board and stand (from our Caldwell "Magnum Rifle Gong") to set our target a bit more than 90-degrees in a different direction.  With that target placement, we could only shoot 90 yards...and still shoot somewhat on a level plane.  Somehow, I don't think that extra "ten yards" would have made all that much difference.​

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Above - Shooting with a CVA .50 Accura V2 LR - Topped with a Hi-Lux Optics 2-10x TAC-V scope.

Once all the snow begins to melt, the valley where our range is located...and the dirt field road leading into it...will become a muddy mess. Through the last half of March and the entire month of April, will require walking close to 3/4-mile across muddy ground to get in some shooting ... which we will do about once a week.  Come mid May, things begin to dry up enough to drive in ... and that's when we'll wring out these bullets a bit more.  I want to do some shooting out to 150-yards to see what kind of bullet drop the loads have...and compare that drop to a modern Harvester Muzzleloading saboted 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold ... and the 300-grain bore-sized PowerBelt AERO-LITE bullet. Then, as the temperatures warm a bit more...and I don't mind getting a bit wet, we'll do some serious "wet pack" shooting to check out bullet expansion...and the angle of dispersement of those "Exploder" bullet segments

As this article/report is being written, I'm awaiting the arrival of a Pedersoli .50 caliber No. 209 primer ignition Rolling Block Muzzleloader ... with a 1-in-24 twist.  We'll definitely be doing some shooting with these bullets out of that rifle.  Tentatively, provided the weather allows us to get in more shooting, we're looking at having a "First Look" and details of shooting with the rifle published around March 1st. - Toby Bridges, NORTH AMERICAN

MUZZLELOADER HUNTING

NOTE:  There is a U.S. based company looking at offering the MUZZLE EXTREME bullets ... We'll Keep You Informed!

Published February 14, 2017

Inside The "Exploder" Capsule...

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The more I looked at the photo of the damage done to the backside of that 1/2-inch plywood target board by the segments of the 333-grain "Exploder" round ... the more impressed I've become.  Also, the more I realized I should have included a photo of the segmented bullet in the report above ... so I'm adding it here.

Each one of those four segments of lead weighs in at a tenth or two of a grain shy of 78 grains ... and the polymer capsule and cap combined weigh right at 21 grains.

Likewise, that soft lead hollow point and steel ball inside the "Damage" capsule, combined, weigh in at 285 grains.  The soft-lead hollow-point projectile found inside the 294-grain "Impact" is the same hollow point used to make up the "Damage" round - and weighs just a few tenths of a grain shy of 273 grains.

By - Toby Bridges