We are fielding a variety of calls in regard to the many choices of bullets and sabot combinations, so I would like to discuss options that are available from Barnes. I’ll also throw in an aftermarket combination that is proving to be successful for some folks. For the purposes of this article, we will be working with and referring to the 50 caliber inline muzzleloaders and saboted bullets.
Let’s begin by saying that all muzzleloaders are not created equal. Even within a given brand of firearm, there may be a variety of bore diameters. We have noticed a trend from older muzzleloaders (most all brands) with larger bore diameters, to many of the new muzzleloaders having very tight bore diameters. We have found that generally speaking, but certainly not always, muzzleloaders that are about 8 years or older typically range in bore diameter from .502 to .504”, while those that are newer typically range from .499” to .501”. I’ll refer to the .502” to .504” bore as the “large bore diameter”, and the .499” to .501” as the “small bore diameter” from this point forward to simplify. Because there are so many variations it can be very difficult for any one bullet and sabot combination to work well in all of the various rifles. To add fuel to the fire, there are numerous powder choices as well.
The Barnes 250gr and 300gr MZ Expanders that come paired with the MMP black HPH 12 sabots have a large hollow nose cavity and a flat base design. These bullets have been a great choice as packaged for those muzzleloaders with the larger bore diameters. For the small bore diameter, a simple sabot substitution can be made to aid in the ease of loading. I’d suggest MMP’s HPH 24 as the “best solution” we have found, but another good option is the MMP 3-petal EZ. Both are available from Muzzleload Magnum Products (MMP) in Harrison, AR, phone #870-741-5019, or online at www.mmpsabots.com.
Barnes Spit-Fire and Spit-Fire TMZ have a more streamlined nose and a boattail design. The TMZ has a polymer tip. This unique boattail requires the special yellow sabot these bullets are packaged with that is made exclusively for Barnes. This combination works well for the large diameter bore. For small bore diameters, Knight offers a blue sabot that is packaged with these same bullets in their Ultimate Slam Series. It is our experience that sabots commonly used with flat base bullets produce very poor accuracy when used in conjunction with these boattail designs. Therefore, we don’t recommend that combination.
The newest addition to the Barnes line of muzzleloader bullets is the EZ loading T-EZ. These polymer tipped flat base 250gr and 290gr bullets come packaged with a thin blue sabot (MMP’s HPH 24) that works very well in the smaller bore diameters. We’ve also received positive feedback about the T-EZ in the .502” bores as packaged. The T-EZ bullets will work in large bore diameter guns when used with the HPH 12 sabot from MMP. Note that the blue sabot from Knight used in their Ulitimate Slam Series is only for the boattail version and the Blue T-EZ sabot from Barnes is used only for the flat base bullets.
To re-cap bullet and sabot packaging, the Barnes MZ Expander line is packaged with the MMP black HPH 12. The T-EZ is packaged with a blue version of MMP’s HPH 24; however, the MMP HPH 24 sold to consumers is black. The MMP HPH 12’s and HPH 24’s sold to consumers are both black and can be easily confused. Connie at MMP says the secret to telling them apart is by the number located in the hollow stepped base of the sabot. It is a hand written number for the HPH 12 and the HPH 24 has a more squared or typed number in the base.
That concludes our standard muzzleloader lineup and appropriate sabots for the various barrel diameters. However, we are always getting calls from folks that want something “outside the box.” The one 50 caliber combination that has gained a really large following is the Barnes 45/70 .458” 300gr Barnes Original Spitzer (#457010) coupled with the orange MMP sabot. It seems to load well in a variety of rifles and we’ve had numerous reports attesting to its potency and lethality.
Over the many years I've worked for Barnes, I've had the pleasure to listen to several hunting stories. The most common comment about the Barnes muzzleloader bullets is in regard to the fantastic penetration capabilities of these fine bullets and I quote “they leave a trail of blood that a blind man can follow”.