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Traditions; Buckskinner And Pioneer Rifles

Hank Strong,
President, Blackpowder Ballistics

"...,both rifles had grouped very well at 75 and 100 yards."

It was the first of August when Art stopped by to chat about Kentucky's early muzzle loading season in October. Like myself; he hunts solely with a muzzle loader throughout deer season. During the conversation he mentioned that he was looking for a new rifle. Ironically two carbines had just arrived from Traditions for testing. Art is a small framed person and was looking for something that would fit him in a .50 caliber rifle with a fast twist barrel.

When I showed him the Buckskinner, which has a 1-20" and the Pioneer with a 1-32" twist barrel, it was love at first sight. Both are percussion, side lock rifles with walnut stained beechwood stocks. The Buckskinner weighs 5 lbs. 15 ozs., the Pioneer is slightly heavier at 6 lbs. 14 ozs.. While he looked the rifles over, I suggested that he use one for the season. If he tagged a buck it would be great for the story. Plus he would be furnishing some additional information on the rifle. He agreed to the proposition.

During the following week, Simmons 44 Mag Scopes were mounted on both rifles with Quic-kee detachable mounts for the test and hunting. The following Saturday we met at the range to start shooting the rifles. After three hours we took a break to relax and clean the rifles before the afternoon session.

As we broke them down Art noticed that both had a hooked breech with a short tang. I told him that very few of the side locks manufactured now have a long tang. And there wasn't a need for more than one barrel tenon because they were carbines. As he rolled the Pioneer over he made the statement that both rifles had inlaid wedge plates in German silver and they gave the rifles a nice touch. It was then he told me that he wanted to use the Pioneer for the hunt. That came as a surprise! Because the Buckskinner has a 21" barrel and is 4 1/4" shorter than the Pioneer carbine with a 24" barrel. I though he would have chosen the Buckskinner because it is a smaller rifle!

During the morning shoot, both rifles had grouped very well at 75 and 100 yards, so I asked Art why he selected the Pioneer? Here was his explanation. Art noticed that the longer heavier sabot bullets seem to group better in the Buckskinner with it's 1-20" twist. While the Pioneer would digest the shorter, lighter sabots very accurately at 100 yards. He wanted to use a light bullet because the recoil from the heavier bullets irritated an old shoulder injury. Art intended to sharpen his shooting skills before opening day with plenty of target shooting. He had to be able to accurately place his shot at 100 yards. And the mild recoil would allow him to shoot and not suffer any discomfort. The carbine had turned in a group of just over 1" at 75 yards loaded with 90 grains of RS grade Pyrodex@ and a 260 grain .45 caliber sabot from Modern Muzzle loading. That load would deliver over a 900 foot pounds of energy at 100 yards! He believed that bullet and the Pioneer would be a good match for the hunt.

Art then explained his hunting situation by drawing a rough diagram of the area. The tree stand was on the north side of a wood line overlooking a small field. Bounded on the east and west side by thickets mixed with cedar. A 100 yards across the field in front of the stand was a heavily wooded section filled with a mix of oak and beechnut trees. He knew from the rubs that a nice size buck was in the area. Throughout the summer he had patterned the bucks' movement and found that it crossed the field in the morning. The location of his tree stand allowed him to cover the field, most of the thickets and front of the wood line to his front. He had paced off the area and the longest shot would be 100 yards.

As for handling, Art felt it was a toss up between the two rifles. Because the pull length on the Pioneer is 14 1/2" while the Buckskinner is 14 1/4" and the drop was the same. Both rifles received good marks in this department from four different shooters. However, the majority felt that the Buckskinner did handle slightly better than the Pioneer.

The triggers are spring loaded. They break clean and crisp at 2.5 lbs.. Both of the trigger guards allowed ample room for a gloved finger and they have a finger rest. Another nice touch is the unbreakable ram rods that come with both rifles.

That afternoon both rifles displayed their abilities at 100 yards by shooting 3" or smaller groups. The Buckskinner can be picky about the bullets it will digest at 100 yards. It has a 1-20" twist that requires longer bullets at this range. The difference is not enough to pick one over the other because of the variety of conicals and sabots available.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity to test any of Traditions sabots or conicals. They use bullets from Nosler in 240 and 250 grains. These bullets have a lead hollow point and should be very accurate in the 1-32" twist. Nosler also makes a fine .44 caliber 300 grain bullet that should perform very well in the 1-20" twist barrel. If you elect to use the 300 grain .44 caliber Nosler I would suggest that you use the sabots from Modern Muzzle loading. The long petals will help prevent canting during loading and the reinforced base will take the heavier hunting loads.

Both the Buckskinner and Pioneer have a V main spring in the lock. The lock for the Buckskinner has a lightly rolled flora engraving. While the Pioneer's lock plate is color case hardened. The lock configuration is identical on the inside for both rifles, neither have a bridle over the tumbler. The tumbler does come with an adjustment screw. The locks did stand up to the heavy shooting very well. However, I think Traditions should consider putting a bridle over the tumbler. This would reinforce the tumbler, sear and sear spring.

The major difference between the two rifles are features and barrel configuration. The Pioneer has a octagonal barrel that is 15/16's across the flats, versus the stepped barrel on the Buckskinner that goes from octagon to a round barrel.

An adjustable leather sling and swivels are standard on the Buckskinner, the Pioneer does not have either. The Pioneer has a schnabel on the end of the stock versus the non-glare nose cap on the Buckskinner. The other big difference is in the sight packages.

A buckhorn rear sight is standard on the Pioneer. Adjustments for windage are made by drifting and for elevation by moving the center slide forward or backward as needed. The front sight is a brass blade. While the Buckskinner is equipped with a click adjustable rear sight and a beaded front sight, which is a slightly better sight package.

At the second session on the range the nipples started to give us a problem, they were exchanged for Mountain State's Spitfire magnum nipple. The groups tightened up and hang-fires disappeared. Most hunters would not burn out the nipple that fast. We fire on the average 200-300 shots are fired through a rifle before an article is written, more than the average hunter shoots in a year. All of the shots are heavy hunting loads, even the fouling shot.

We tested six new bullets in these rifles. The first of the new bullets was C.V.A.'s 300 grain Deer-slayer conical, it turned in nice groups at 100 yards. Our best accuracy with this bullet was achieved by brushing the bore between shots. Lyman introduced a new conical mold and two new Pistol bullet molds in 1993. A .50 caliber Great plains conical mold #508656, 325 grain .44 caliber mold #429649 and 325 grain .45 caliber bullet from mold #452651. All were cast using pure lead. The pistol bullets were mated to the appropriate sabot from Modern Muzzle loading. Any of these would be devastating on whitetail! Two new bullets from Buffalo Bullet Company were tested in these rifles. A 252 grain and 302 grain .44 caliber sabot. Both are good bullets, my personal; favorite is the 302, it is a real buck stopper at 100 yards! The accompanying load chart illustrates the rifles' capabilities at 100 yards with a cross section of sabots and conicals.

As the test progressed I tried to persuade Art to switch to a 300 grain bullet in a Sabot. Modern Muzzle loading offers two .45 caliber sabots in 300 and 310 grains. Sierra's .429 300 grain soft nose is a very accurate bullet when mated to an appropriate Modern Muzzle loading sabot. My concern was the down range energy. If Art misjudged his shooting distance and it was a real monster, then he could be in trouble. Art smiled and said "What have you preached?", "Match the bullet and the barrel for the hunt." "One shot one kill", "Right?". "No thanks, I'll be ready with this load."

The fit and finish on the stocks are good. Both rifles have Monte Carlo style stocks with pistol grips. All the furniture is finished in a non-glare flat black. The bluing on the barrels has held up very well under some very harsh treatment at the range and in the field.

Late in September Art called and wanted to know if I was going to the range that weekend. After some small talk, we agreed on a time to meet Sunday. When I pulled in Art had already poured the coffee, so we talked for awhile about our favorite subject, deer hunting! The discussion soon turned to the latest sighting of the big buck he was tracking. You could see his eyes sparkle when he talked about the bucks' habits and how he found one of the bucks bedding spots in a thicket close to his stand.

As we went about setting up our shooting equipment, Art asked me to devise a shooting course that would test his skills. I was stumped. After a long pause I walked out to about 50 yards and started setting up soft drink cans at random out to 90 yards. Seven cans were set up, now for the challenge. I gave each can a number and told him to load his rifle. As he loaded his rifle I took out my watch. When the rifle was loaded, I had him face away from the targets. When I called out a number, he would turn, aim and fire. After each shot he would swabbed the barrel with a patch dampen with Black Off, than reload. Seven shots later, seven cans were neatly drilled! From the time I called out a number till he fired, took between 15-30 seconds. Art had achieved his goal!

October came and the buck didn't show. In November gun season opened and for ten days the buck was a "Ghost". Spikes, does and an occasional fork horn but the "Ghost" was not seen. His tracks were there from time to time but Art never saw him.

Art stopped by to discuss strategy on the big buck. I asked him if he was using a cover scent or an attractant? He had used a fox urine as a cover scent but had not tried anything else. I offered him my scent wafers from H & S.

They come in a three separate snap top containers that revitalize the wafers when they placed back in the container. One has fox urine, the other two are Buck in Rut and White Oak scents. I told him to place them on tree limbs at about shoulder height in a arch around the front of his tree stand about 30-40 yards away. Then I gave him H & S scent-a-way spray for his cloths and a bottle of their body soap. He scoffed at the products, "Look, you have tried it your way." "And that didn't work; you can't move the tree stand and the prevailing winds could be against you, plus you smoke." "Why not try eliminating odors that could spook that buck"?. "And another thing don't smoke till you are up in that stand" He agreed to try it my way in December.

December came in like a lion and Art was back in his stand 20 feet up in the air. It was snowing, just enough to turn the woods into a white wonderland. Now and then a crow squalled, breaking the morning calm. Art's fingers and toes were starting to go numb. He thought "I'll give him another 30 minutes". He stood up very slowly trying to work the stiffness from his bad shoulder. Then he caught the flicker of something moving in the oaks across the field, was that the "Ghost"?.

Setting his thermos cup in a fork of the tree. Art studied the gray brown patch that was moving toward him. Damn, if that's not him. Now his adrenaline started to pump, the numbness was gone, he slowly depressed the trigger to bring the hammer to full cock without the tell-tale click. Easing the rifle up into his shoulder!

A serenity had settled over the bottom as the buck moved forward. Art could hear the buck's hooves crushing the snow encrusted leaves as he walked along the edge of the thicket. Head and tail down the "Ghost" moved slowly along the well worn trail toward the stand. Then he stopped, head up looked around and rolled his upper lip up, flicked his tail side ways, and moved forward with his head down. As he took up the slack in the trigger Art remembered the cigarette in his other hand. The smoke was slowly drifting upward! He started to shake, the buck was 40 or 50 yards away and big as a barn door in the scope. Laying the cross hairs just forward of the buck's shoulder, he squeezed the trigger.

A thunderous crack erupted from the carbine and the buck disappeared into a cloud of smoke, shattering the morning calm. For a second, Art stood frozen, searching, had he missed the buck? Then he saw the "Ghost"; it was lying at the edge of the trail among some tall sage! The 260 grain sabot from Modern Muzzle loading had taken out part of the 9 pointer's heart destroyed the lungs than ricocheted and broke his spine dropping him in his tracks! As Art walked over to the monarch he paced off 70 yards. The buck field dressed at 175 lbs. The pre-season scouting and shooting practice had paid off!

Art's hunt raises a question, do scents really work? And illustrates that most of us have hard time judging distance in the field. As to the scent question, I think it depends on a number of factors. Art was hunting an area that had very little hunting pressure. We feel that probably the buck's guard was lowered by the scents allowing him to take the shot. Art also sprayed the metal tree stand and his cloths eliminating other odors we believe that helped.

Ultimately though, it was Arts ability with the rifle. The point here, is by selecting the right load, correctly zeroing the rifle and practicing he took the buck cleanly. A point we should all be aware of with the strong anti-hunting movement!

Figure #1

Carbines Specifications:

Bore Diameter: .504 Ramrod: Unbreakable Pvc
Grooves: 8 Depth Of Rifling: .008-.010
Sling &Amp; Swivels: Trigger Pull Length:
Pioneer No Pioneer 14.5"
Buckskinner Yes Buckskinner 14.25
Twist Caliber Available: .50 Only
Pioneer 1-32"
Buckskinner 1-20" Or 1-66"
Weight: Accessories: Cleaning Jag;
Pioneer 6 Lb 14 Oz
Buckskinner 5 Lb 15 Oz
Overall Length:
Pioneer 40 1/2"
Buckskinner 36 1/4"
Trigger Pull: 2.5 Lbs. Single, Adjustable
Side Lock "V" Main Spring
Pioneer Buckskinner
Percussion Yes Yes
Flint Lock No Yes
Beechwood Stained Walnut, Pistol Grip
Laminated Available For Buckskinner
Recoil Pad: No
Buckskinner 21"
Pioneer 24"
Drilled And Tapped
Buckskinner Yes
Pioneer No
Sights: Rear Front
Buckskinner Click Adjustable Bead
Pioneer Buckhorn Adjustable Blade
Right Or Left Hand:
Buckskinner Both
Pioneer No
Manufacturer: Traditions Inc. P.O. Box 235
500 Main Street Suite 8
Deep River, Ct. 06417-0235
Price: (Suggested Retail)
Buckskinner $290-$337
Pioneer $198

Figure #2

Chronograph: Pact 1 10 Feet From Muzzle Of Rifle
Temp: 58 - 90 Degrees Fahrenheit
Elevation: 450 Feet Above Sea Level
Humidity: 50-80%
Barometric Pressure: 28- 30.5
Bench Rest: Lohman Sight Vise
Group 3" Or Less
Deliver A Minimum Of 800 Ft. Lbs. At 100 Yards
Kinetic Energy: Developed By Using The W.R.Frenchu Computer Program. Version 4.12
Dropkick Ballistics
29 West 4Th St.
Williamsport, Pa.; 17701
Wind Flags: One Every 25 Yards Out To 100 Yards
Powder Measure: Mountain State Muzzle Loading
Caps: Cci@
Lubricant: Pyrodex Lube, White Muzzle Loading, Hornady
Cleaning: After Every Shot With Rusty Duck Black Off'S.

Figure #3

Ballistics Chart For The Pioneer

B.C. Dia Gr Bullet Chge Mv Traj




Ke Std
.230 .452 #320 Acry U 80Ff 1350 2.1 2.3 955 13.1
.210 .430 252 Buff 80Ff 1424 1.8 0.9 800 14.
.225 .430 302 Buff H 80E2F 1281 2.3 1.4 830 18.3
.171 .510 300 Cva 80S 1338 2.2 2.8 814 17.5
.146 .430 240 Hrndy 80Ff 1476 1.9 2.0 706 8.2
.184 .452 #300 Hrndy 80Rs 1330 2.2 1.5 824 14.0
.205 .511 410 Hrndy 80Rs 1241 2.5 1.8 1055 9.1
.225 .430 #325 Lym F 80E2F 1295 2.3 3.0 907 11.4
.274 .452 #340 Lym H 90S 1447 1.6 2.1 1195 10.1
.335 .452 #385 Lym Rd 90E2F 1267 2.3 2.8 1127 8.1
.246 .452 #310 M.M. S 80Ff 1339 2.1 1.7 929 11.1
.231 .452 #300 M.M. J 80Ff 1350 2.1 1.9 896 15.3
.214 .452 #260 M.M. J 90Rs 1521 1.5 1.8 930 16.8
.095 .513 *320 Real 80S 1246 3.0 2.3 660 20.4
.230 .429 #300 Sierr 80Ff 1367 2.0 1.4 913 17.6
.193 .503 460 White 80E2F 1126 3.1 3.0 1024 23.5

Ballistics Chart For The Buckskinner

B.C. Dia Gr Bullet Chge Mv Traj.




Ke Std
.230 .452 #320 Acry U 90Ff 1310 2.2 2.1 913 13.1
.225 .430 302 Buff H 90Ff 1334 2.1 1.9 880 13.8
.171 .510 300 Cva 80S 1238 2.6 2.4 736 16.0
.146 .430 240 Hrndy 70Ff 1383 2.2 2.6 646 17.1
.184 .452 #300 Hrndy 80Rs 1330 2.2 1.5 825 14.0
.225 .430 #325 Lym F 90S 1245 2.5 2.8 858 8.4
.274 .452 #340 Lym H 90S 1448 1.6 2.5 1196 10.1
.274 .452 #35O Lym Fn 90S 1456 1.8 1.4 1244 17.0
.150 .508 *395 Lym Gtpl 90Ff 1205 2.8 2.9 913 23.1
.231 .452 #300 M.M. J 80E2F 1238 2.5 1.3 790 22.8
.095 .513 *320 Real 90S 1420 2.4 2.6 751 8.2
.230 .429 #300 Sierr 90Ff 1467 1.6 1.7 1028 17.6

B.C.= Ballistic Coefficient Dia = Bullet Diameter
Gr = Bullet Weight In Grains Bullet = Name Of Bullet Used
Chge = Grains Of Powder Measured By Volume Mv = Muzzle Velocity
100Yd = Group At 100 Yards In Inches
Ke = Kinetic Energy Of Bullet At 100 Yards
Std = Standard Deviation Of The String Of Fire
Traj 50Yd = Bullets Rise At 50 Yards Above Line Of Sight
Traj 100Yd = Bullets Rise At 100 Yards Above Line Of Sight

Bullet Abbreviations
Acry U.= Accuracy Unlimited Bullet Co. Littleton, Co.
Buff.= Buffalo Bullet Co. Of Santa Fe Springs, Ca.
Cva.= Connecticut Valley Arms Inc, Norcross, Ga.
Hrndy.= Hornady Bullet
#.= Sabot Was From Modern Muzzle Loading
Lym F.= Bullet Cast From Lyman Mold 457122 Without The Pin
Lym H.= Bullet Cast From Lyman Mold 457122 With Pin In
Lym Gtpl.= Lyman Great Plains Mold #508656
325 Lym F.=Bullet Cast From Lyman Mold#429649
385 Lym Rd .= Bullet Cast From Lyman Mold #457124
M.M. S.= Modern Muzzle Loading Bullet Swaged From Lead
M.M. J.= Modern Muzzle Loading Bullet Jacketed Lead Bullet
Real= Rifling Engraved At Loading Cast Conical From Lee Mold
White = Conical From White Systems Of Roosevelt, Ut.
Sierr = Sierra Bullet, Sedalil, Mo.

Powder Abbreviations
Rs = Rs Grade Pyrodex@
S = Select Grade Pyrodex@
Ff = Ff Goex Black Powder
E2 = Ff Elephant Powder
* = Pyrodex lube used with this conical.