|Thompson Center Triumph Muzzleloader Experiences
by Bill Fisher (aka ParkerBill on some forums)
|Introduction||Background||Initial Impression||Components Tried|
|Load Data & Results||Blackhorn 209||Ramrod Suggestion||Difficult Loading|
|Tips & Tricks|
IntroductionI need to establish up front with anyone who happens to read this treatise that I am in no way nor even close to being an "expert" on muzzleloaders. While what I am saying below is a factual record of my experiences with the Thompson Center Triumph .50 caliber in-line muzzleloader your knowledge may and most likely will be much greater than mine and your experiences with the Triumph may be totally different than mine. After all, no two rifles are alike even if they are the same model.
Initially this page will have other muzzleloader related items, such as a muzzleloader hunt story or two, photos, etc. As soon as I get a few more things I will create a separate muzzleloader index page and link to specific muzzleloader related items.
Background InformationWell, I did it; bought a brand new Thompson Center Triumph in-line .50 cal muzzleloader a few months ago. Got a great buy on it at Dick's Sporting Goods in Jacksonville, FL. It is the all camo one; stock, barrel, everything and looks great. Since purchasing it I have bought a new Nikon 3x9x40mm Omega BDC camo scope and mounted it with camo QD rings and a blued base (could not find a camo one anywhere at the time).
Regarding the scope--all I have ever used on my center fire rifles have been Leupold scopes and I have to admit I had some trepidation when I purchased the new Nikon, but I got a good deal on Ebay so I bought it. I have been pleasantly surprised so far. It seems to be a very good scope. While I have not used the BDC part yet, it seems simple enough to use and reports I have read have been pretty good. Since I really have no plans to take 200 or 200+ yard shots with any muzzleloader (heck, I don't even like to take them with my accurized .30-06 or my .338 mag either), I would have just as soon as had the non-BDC reticle, but could not find a deal on one anywhere near what I got for the BDC one.
Some more background and why I bought the T/C Triumph
Why did I buy the T/C Triumph? A few years ago one of my sons bought me a Cabelas Hawken-style .50 cal muzzleloader so I would feel obligated ( :-)))) to use it during the muzzleloader special season in Colorado which is in the middle of bow season. He is also an avid bow hunter, center fire rifle hunter and now is into big bore air rifle hunting.
Well, I did use it one season before my wife and I had to move to Florida to help take care of her elderly parents, especially her father, who has advanced Alzheimer's. I hunted two weekends with it and it was fun carrying a single-shot muzzleloader in the field. I had never done it before. The last weekend we hunted I had loaded it on Friday evening (except for the cap) because we were getting up a 4:00 AM to drive to where we were hunting.
I put in the charge of 80 grains by volume of FFFg Triple-7 powder and topped it off with a Hornady Great Plains 385 bullet. My rifle likes this charge a lot. As luck would have it, I did not see any mule deer that I wanted to shoot at a range I felt comfortable with using iron sights and my 58 year-old eyes at the time. Late Sunday afternoon as we were leaving my son asked if he could shoot the load out and of course he could. Not!!! He fired two or three caps without the charge going off. I then stuck a 11M cap on it and it fired.
Now in all fairness I learned later that it's best to use a 11M cap if you are loading with Triple-7, but at the time I did not know that. It has never failed to go off since then when I've used the 11M caps. But, I did hunt all weekend and possibly two weekends with a gun that might not have fired had I wanted to shoot a deer. It did fire the Sunday evening of the first weekend when we were leaving, though.
I digressed, but wanted to explain how I got started in muzzleloading after over 50 years of hunting with rim fires, center fires and shotguns.
I started seeing the commercials for the T/C Triumph on the Outdoor Channel and researched it somewhat on the internet. Everything I found seemed to paint a good picture of the new rifle.
I am a hunter who strongly believes one of the primary ethics a hunter should have is to the game animal he or she is hunting--we strongly owe the animal the quickest, cleanest and most humane death we can give it. I decided that if I was going to hunt with a muzzleloader I wanted a modern one that I could count on to go off every time I pull the trigger that will shoot sabots and that I could mount a modern scope on to assist my eyes. All these combine to help me meet my primary ethic to the animal.
My Initial Impressions of the T/C TriumphFirst, let me say that I really like this rifle. It's light weight, well balanced (to me anyway, but I've read some reviews that do not agree) and very reliable. It goes off every time the trigger is pulled. The 209 ignition system is great! It seems to go off instantaneously, with no pfffft---bang, like a sidelock.
The first day I took it to the range I only fired at 50 yards because I did not have the scope on it yet. After somewhere around 20 shots it started becoming a bit erratic at igniting the charge, but I believe this is because I was being somewhat overzealous with the wet patches between each shot. The breech plug was really gunky and the tiny flash hole was completely plugged; so plugged I could not clear it with my nipple pick.
In two other range sessions since that first one, I just licked a patch, ran it down and up the bore a few inches at a time until I reach the breech plug. Then I turned the patch over and repeated, then followed by a swabbing with a dry patch. I fired the rifle in excess of 40 times in each of these range sessions and it bever failed to ignite properly each time.
Before I get into powders and bullets, let me say the absolute first thing I noticed about loading this rifle and the most frustrating thing so far with it is how friggin' hard it is to get a sabot down the barrel!! More on this below, but this problem is definitely having an affect on how much I like the gun (or more appropriately, low little I am liking it).
Components: Powder & Pellets I have tried so farThe only powder I have used to date (3/30/08) is Triple-7 FFFg. Yeah, I know, all the loading tables, ballistic tables, web sites I have researched, etc., only mention FFg. So why am I using FFFg? Well, that's because when I first went to a store to purchase all the items I needed to shoot the Hawken .50 I had extensive conversations with a couple of old-time muzzleloaders (customers) at this store. They pretty much advised me to use Triple-7 FFFg. While I do not remember exactly why they said this I think I recall it being something like it would burn cleaner, be a bit "hotter" and leave less mess inside.
I've read a lot of stuff since on Randy Wakeman's web site, North American Muzzleloader Hunting and others about how Triple-7 likes to suck up moisture, becoming erratic, and to be honest, I'm still finishing up a bottle of Triple-7 that I bought three years ago. I will say, that I did notice some clumping in the dispenser that I left powder in, but I just shook it and broke up the clods and it seemed to work fine. I did not notice any clumping at all inside the tightly closed bottle.
I also read about the "crud ring" that Triple-7 causes and that it is somewhat decreased by using the special "Triple-7 209 primers" instead of normal shotgun primers, so I have only used the special primers so far with Triple-7.
I have also tried the Triple-7 50 grain pellets and their Triple-7 Magnum pellets, both with good and poor results as far as accuracy is concerned. Of course this depends on the bullet and sabot combinations used and since every gun is different, different guns will tend to shoot some combinations very good and some not so good, just like center fire rifles.
Although the Triumph is rated as a 150 grain (by volume) "Magnum" muzzleloader to date I have only used two 50 grain or two magnum pellets and so far have not experimented with true 150 grain loads. I will try the 150 grain loads one of these days most likely, but am in no hurry since: 1) most of the load charts I've seen really do not show all that much velocity increase for the extra amount of powder, 2) I've read that most rifles are normally more accurate with 120 grain or less loads, and 3) I've read that most muzzleloaders do not burn all the extra powder anyway, so it is wasted and actually adds to the weight of the mass being pushed down the barrel and thus, increases recoil.
While the Triumph is listed as having a 28" barrel, Randy Wakeman reports on his web site that when he actually measured the "usable barrel length" it was around 26" because T/C apparently includes the speed-breach plug and the last approximately 3/4" of the barrel is part of T/C's quick load feature and not rifled, so in effect I guess the true barrel length is 25 1/2" to 26".
Bullets & Sabots I have tried so far
To date I have experimented with the following bullets:
To date I have experimented with the following sabots:
My Goals are to:
Researching the internet I found Randy Wakeman's web site (link given above) and found a most useful article he wrote called My Sabot is Hard to Load. In it he mentions a company called MMP Sabots and how they make sabots that are thinner than normal and that using these will usually make a sabot easier to load. By the way, MMP does not charge extra for shipping!
Another thing Randy and several other web sites mention is the lack of "standards" in the muzzleloading manufacture like those that exist for center fire guns. .50 caliber bores may vary from below .495 up to .506 or greater. They also all mention that Thompson Center barrels tend to have some of the consistently tighter bores at very close to a true .500.
Adding to the problem is that manufacturers do not just use the bore cutting and rifling tools to do just one barrel; they all work within tolerances and the tools do wear down when used, so some barrels are tighter than others. This makes it very difficult for bullet and sabot makers, of course. Perhaps I purchased a Triumph with one of the "extra tight" bores; at least it sure seems that way to me.
Experimental Load Results to DateBelow I have listed the different load combinations I have tried so far and my results, with some target pictures included. All targets shot at 100 yards (except where noted) from a bench rest.
Unfortunately, the black magic marker circles around individual groups do not show and I was adjusting the scope after some of the groups. The left target was with 300 grain Barnes MZ Expanders. The right target was with 250 grain T/C Shockwaves.
New Blackpowder Substitute: Blackhorn 209I am also eagerly looking forward to seeing a new powder announced during the 2008 SHOT show and to be on the shelves sometime during April 2008. It is a new blackpowder substitute put out by Western Powder Co., a long time and much trusted company. The name of the powder is "Blackhorn 209". According to two different reviews (links below) and someone from Western Powder that I emailed with, it is much cleaner burning, so clean in fact that swabbing the barrel between shots is unnecessary. It is supposed to not attract and absorb moisture like Triple-7 and some of the other substitutes. Read the reviews for yourself, but if they are correct, this new powder may just obsolete Triple-7, Pyrodex and many of the others!
Randy Wakeman's Review
Toby Bridges (NA Muzzleloading)Review
7/14/2008: Midway USA is now carrying Blackhorn 209, but there is a $20 HAZMAT fee added to the order; not too bad if one wants to order three or four 10 oz bottles, but more than I want to pay for one bottle so I can try the new powder. Also, the price was $29.99 when I last checked today--pricie stuff, but worth it I guess if it's as good as I've read. I have also checked with my closest Gander Mountain store in St. Augustine and they still have not heard of it. He said in any case they probably would not get any new powders in until late this summer, closer to hunting season.
Ramrod Frustrations & The Fix for ItYou know, something else that kind of bugs me and I have no idea whether it's just with T/C muzzleloaders or all of them, but while the Triumph comes with a very stout solid aluminum ramrod (they call it a "Rugged Rod" I believe), when you try to use it you really need to screw a proper bullet seating jag on it. I sure can't see how this attributes to rapid reloads in the field for possible follow-up shots, can you? I guess though, it's always best to make that first shot count!
While I'm on the subject of ramrods, I would strongly suggest replacing the ramrod that comes with the Triumph with the T/C Power Rod. It is also solid aluminum, but with a fold-out T-handle on one end. I bought one and take it from me, it sure makes pushing down those difficult to load sabots much easier and without having to carry and use a "palm saver" over the end of the ramrod. :-)
Follow Up with T/C Arms on Difficult LoadingCaution--Rant
I emailed Thompson Center Arms a few months ago about my "problem" of extremely difficult loading of even the Shockwave bullet/sabot combination marketed by TC, but to date have received no response of any kind from them. I am extremely disappointed in their seemingly lack of interest. Perhaps my next communication with them will be to Greg Ritz, the President and CEO of TC Arms, or to their parent company, Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation. Not that I think it will do much good, but I would like to express my dissatisfaction with their customer service. I firmly believe you can judge the "trueness" of a company by the customer service they deliver and the lack of response of any kind from TC Arms makes it highly doubtful I would ever purchase another of their firearms or that I would ever recommend them to anyone. Okay, rant off. :-)
For years I have read some very good things about Barnes bullets, but had never tried them in any of my center fires since I have pretty much always been a "Nosler Fan". Since my primary hunting ethic, as stated above, is to put an animal down as quckly and cleanly as possible, I decided to try Barnes Bullets because of several good reports I read on Randy Wakeman's and other web sites. Also because my son swears by Barnes bullets. In the course of purchasing bullets from them a few times I carried on a brief email-type conversation with Dave of the customer service about the difficulty in loading sabots.
Now here was good customer service at work. Dave was extremly helpful and since he is also a muzzleloader shooter (with a TC Omega) he offered some good advice. He related that he has to use both hands and even wets the sabots with saliva just before loading them down the barrel. He also related that it should not take more than 30 pounds of pressure to drive the sabot down the barrel. 30 pounds is not all that much and it's an amount I can easily achieve with one hand. Now Barnes knows how to give excellent customer service and I've started purchasing their bullets and experimenting with them in my Triumph. More later on results.
4/1/2008: Sent another email to T/C about the difficult loading problem.
4/2/2008: Received a very nice reply from T/C with instructions to ship the Triumph to their repair department for warranty repair. The person (Diane) apologized for them not responding to my first email and she was very helpful in answering a couple of questions I had about shipping. This is the kind of positive/let-us-help-you service response I would expect from T/C. Since my son is flying down from Colorado and we have a wild pig hunt scheduled for Monday, 4/7/2008, that I want to use the Triumph for, I will ship the gun to T/C next week.
4/19/2008: I made a special box with padding to go around the T/C box the Triumph came in a few days ago and today I removed the scope base, typed up a letter to T/C explaining the problem again, put it with the rifle, packed the rifle and shipped it to the repair department at Thompson Center via Fed-X. It is supposed to arrive at T/C by Thursday, 4/24/08. I asked them to try to resolve my problem as quickly as possible and get the gun back to me.
5/15/2008: I received my rifle back today from Thompson-Center. I was not real happy with the way it was packed; not nearly as good as I packed it when I sent it to them, but it did not appear to suffer any damage in shipping.
There was one work order inside the box, basically saying they had lapped the barrel and test loaded and fired it with a 250 gr T/C Shockwave and a couple of Pyrodex pellets. It also said that after the barrel was lapped the gun loaded normally. I did notice that while the barrel was cleaned, it appeared they had not cleaned the breach plug very well, if at all.
I experimented by test-loading every bullet/sabot combination I have on hand and I will say it now loads easier than it did with everything I tried and that included combinations I could not get down the barrel without EXTREME effort. I did not use any powder of course; just pushed the bullets/sabots down the barrel. I was in all cases able to push them down with one hand, so I believe they resolved my problem with loading.
Now I just need to put the scope base back on, put the scope on and get back to the range to see if it still shoots as good as it did. Hopefully it will. I will post my results here after I get some range results.
More on this later and what the results are.
Tips & Tricks I have discovered (sometimes the hard way)