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Traditions Buckstalker

Black Powder Hunting Rifle Review


Showing posts with label Gear Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gear Reviews. Show all posts

Mar 17, 2014

Traditions Buckstalker Review - Muzzleloader Hunting Rifle

Target Shooting the Traditions Buckstalker
Target Shooting the Traditions Buckstalker
The Traditions Buckstalker is an excellent black-powder rifle for hunting medium to large game. Accuracy, knockdown power, and an extended hunting season are all benefits this firearm offers for the budget minded hunter, especially in areas where high-powered rifles are restricted. With a MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) of $218, it’s a hard deal to beat. Just add a scope and you have a rifle that can easily take white-tailed deer within the 150 yard range. So, let’s get started right off the bat with some pros versus cons and then I'll give you some tips & tricks on my system of hunting with the Traditions Buckstalker.

Crack open design for cleaning, breech plug removal and inserting primers.
Crack open design for cleaning, breech plug removal and inserting primers.
1. Practical - The Buckstalker uses a proven breach crack-open design similar to the majority of other muzzleloaders on the market. It has a threaded breach plug that screws in/out for cleaning. This allows for a pretty standard mode of operation. The breech plug is made of stainless steel and accepts shotgun primers. The rifle comes tapped for mounting a scope from the factory, no gunsmith required. All you need to do is purchase the correct scope mounts (approx. $9).

2. Simple & Reliable - The barrel is thick and has a nice blued finish. The barrel rifling is visually outstanding (brand new from the factory) and can be easily inspected by simply removing the breech plug. As long as the firearm is kept clean and coated with appropriate products (I use bore butter.), it should function and last quite well. You will get plenty of practice cleaning the Buckstalker as frequent barrel cleanings are recommended :)

3. Accurate - On its clean shots, the Buckstalker is capable of considerable accuracy. I’ve experienced three shot groupings of two inches at 100 yards (2" MOA). This was with a thorough cleaning between each shot and quality bullets. The trigger weight is ready to shoot right out of the box. The pull was light enough that alterations for better accuracy weren’t really necessary. Again, no gunsmith required. It also has a standard push-button type safety.

4. Knock Down Power - I’d go as far to say that my Buckstalker will more reliably knockdown deer than any of my 7.62mm rifles. Yeah, that’s right! Nothing compares to the raw knockdown power of a .50-Caliber bullet, similar to that of a 12 gauge slug. That is pretty good considering the Buckstalker is more accurate and pleasant to shoot than any 12 gauge I’ve ever gotten my hands on. I’ve shot several deer with a Traditions Buckstalker and have never had one run more than a few yards. I cannot say the same for any of my other modern rifles. For this reason alone, the Buckstalker deserves at least an 8/10 on the "boom-stick" scale.

Shooting Traditions Buckstalker at Multiple Ranges
Shooting Traditions Buckstalker at Multiple Ranges
1. The factory iron sights are plastic so the rear sight can get jammed or wedged frontwards/rearwards even if it’s tightened. Admittedly both stay well aligned regardless of how many times they’ve been whacked in either direction. After dragging the barrel over tall grass and foliage, the front fiber optic bead cracked off the site post, which can be expected. Although the front fiber optic bead cracked, I can still use the front post with accuracy.

Traditions Buck Stalker .50 Caliber Muzzleloader Rifle - A Budget Hunters Dream!
Steel iron sites would’ve been better. Better yet, if they offered a rear peep site, In either case I may not have put a scope on my rifle to begin with. This is undoubtedly Traditions’ method of keeping costs down. Because I use the scope almost exclusively, even at close ranges, this is not a deal-breaker. I have yet to miss the front fiber optic piece that cracked off nor have I replaced it. Recently, I removed the sights altogether and installed a lower profile scope mount. (Just a scope for aiming now!) It gives the firearm a lower profile and prevents the barrel from catching on foliage while walking around in the woods.

Dirty Cleaning Patches - Fouling From 1 Shot
2. Fouling The firearm suffers from significant fouling every shot. I debated whether or not it was fair to mention fouling in a review on a muzzleloader since fouling is an inherent problem for all firearms using black powder. For this reason, I do not fault the Traditions Buckstalker but it is still worth mentioning for individuals considering purchasing or using the Traditions Buckstalker or any muzzleloader for the first time.

Factoid!  During the Civil War black powder muskets and rifles were made with atypical larger bore diameters in order to address the issue of barrel fouling on the battle field. For this reason, accuracy suffered. Today’s modern muzzleloading firearms are still prone to the same issue. In modern muzzleloaders, the bores are appropriately sized for accuracy versus repeated fire. As soon as the barrel is fouled (usually one shot!) accuracy begins to decline.

Muzzleloading Accessories
Muzzleloading Accessories
Tips & Tricks:
Bore Butter & Thompson Center Cleaner
Bore Butter & Thompson Center Cleaner
Cleaning - Even after one shot, most of the breech area, barrel, plug threads and firing pin plate will contain significant fouling. As far as the barrel is concerned, you can usually expect one excellent shot from a thoroughly clean rifle. The following rounds will begin to incrementally suffer in accuracy if the barrel is not thoroughly cleaned after each round. With the Buckstalker, you may still accomplish decent accuracy into the third round by swabbing the barrel with a wet patch between re-loading. When doing this, the second and third rounds should shoot accurate enough to make fatal hits on a white-tailed deer center mass out to 100 yards. Unfortunately, after three rounds, the barrel will need to be thoroughly cleaned with the breech plug removed.

To prevent gaseous expanding particles from jamming the threads during firing, the breech plug threads need to be coated with some sort of grease. Also, the breech plug will need to be removed, thoroughly cleaned, and lubed every three to five rounds without exception. Otherwise, removing the breech plug may be very difficult. I used to use a special purpose grease for lubing the breech plug but have since switched to using bore butter with moderate success. Bore butter is cheaper too!

Gorilla Grease for Breach Plug Threads
Gorilla Grease for Breech Plug Threads
Loads - With the Buckstalker, I use 100 grains of Pyrodex in the granular form. I like it better than the nuggets (personal preference). You can precisely adjust the amount of black powder you are using to optimize recoil and accuracy. One hundred grain loads seems to be my Buckstalker’s sweet spot. I store the Pyrodex in plastic, air tight beakers as shown in Figure A. They keep the powder dry and I can carry several pre-measured loads with me along with bullets, primers, and cleaning patches while hunting.

Let’s be honest though. Reloading in any decent amount of time requires American Civil War era practice. I could probably perform a single reload in a two minutes including running a wet patch after my first shot. So, when hunting, you will need to be thinking along the lines of . . . one shot, one deer!

Black Powder 100 gr. loads stored in air tight beakers.
Figure A. 100 grain loads of black powder stored in air tight beakers.
Using 265 grain Powerbelt slugs is a given. The rifle is designed to take a sabot, Powerbelt, or other hybrid type bullet. The Buckstalker barrel rifling has a 1:28 rate of twist. 

Therefore, it’s worth mentioning that you can actually load a .50 caliber patch and ball into the firearm but this is a bad idea. Although it can be done, it takes an ape to push it down. You will more than likely bend or break your loading rod (We had to try!). More importantly, the lead balls will fly sporadically because the patch will not catch the rifling as the rate of twist is too aggressive for a patch and ball. You need the plastic lip or sabot jacket offered by a more modern round to achieve desirable and safe shooting results.

Shooting - Relying on the gun’s first shot accuracy, I typically aim for the neck. The bullets themselves are large, heavy and at close ranges you can expect the bullet to fly clean through meat and other tissue. You will not likely achieve the high velocities of a modern high-powered rifle but you should have no problem killing a deer. Remember, high-powered rifles rely on wounding channel, proper penetration, expansion and fragmentation of the bullet to accomplish fatal tissue damage. With the .50-Caliber round of the Traditions Buckstalker, you are relying mostly on the wide wounding channel the bullet produces as it passes through.

.50 Caliber Muzzleloading Bullets
.50 Caliber Muzzleloading Bullets
When hit with your bullet, the target is going to have a half inch hole punched in it. Over-penetration becomes a non-issue because the bullet itself is already large enough to create a fatal wounding channel without expansion or fragmentation. But it's also worth mentioning that with the higher velocities of a this modern muzzleloader, the bullet usually fragments or expands anyways. Because of this, performance at modest ranges is outstanding!

Things to consider!
Stainless Steel - With all the fouling and required cleaning, some amount of corrosion is almost guaranteed. The stainless steel version should help prevent much of that and is still moderately priced.

Scoped - You can find deals with 3x9 scopes already installed on these rifles. Although I’d venture to say that I prefer a low zoom scope (like 1x5) on this type of firearm because it's not typically purchased for long range shooting. A 3x9 scope should still work quite well.

Final Thoughts:
Traditions Buckstalker .50 Caliber Blackpowder Rifle
Traditions Buckstalker & Barska Shotgun Scope
I’ve shot three white-tailed deer directly in the neck and spine with my Traditions Buckstalker. The bullets passed right through and completely shattered the vertebrae as well as leaving massive exit wounding channels (tennis ball sized) through the neck. The deer literally fell dead in their tracks! This is an excellent advantage when hunting in areas that don't allow the use of high-powered rifles. In Wisconsin, due to line of site, heavy trees and brush, the Traditions Buckstalker proves to be tactically sound. This puts it at the top of the list in terms of effective shooting during drives, in a tree-stand, or even waiting point at the edge of a field with some yardage to cover. Overall, I would highly recommend the Traditions Buckstalker .50 Caliber Muzzleloader Rifle!

What are your questions, comments, or experiences with the Buckstalker? Please share or comment in the comments box below.
Traditions Buckstalker On Display At Retail Store
Traditions Buckstalker On Display At Retail Store