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Remington’s Ultimate Muzzleloader
On a basic level, all muzzleloaders are similar. Whether you are comparing the oldest, the cheapest modern-styles or those on the leading edge, they load from the front and need a ramrod. Looking at Remington’s new “Ultimate Muzzle Loader” it’s only the ramrod that gives it away.
Built on a real, two-front locking lug 700 action, Remington’s new rifle is every bit a conventional centerfire rifle, except for the breech plug and need to load from the front. Viewed side-on from a few feet away without its ramrod in place, it would be easy to mistake it for any of Remington’s fine heavy-barreled varmint rifles, until a glance into the bore gave it away. Attractive, with its grey laminate stock and stainless barreled action, the Ultimate Muzzleloader looks refined and reliably sturdy without the odd shapes and curves that plague some of the other inline muzzleloaders.
The rifle is built around an idea pioneered and patented by BP Express, using a conical breech plug mated to the flash hole of a common .473 magnum-primed case head. It’s a very good idea. The primer is essentially the last inch of a .308 Winchester or .30-06 case. Traditional rifle head spacing provides little chance for gas leakage between the primer and the flash channel, and back pressure from the ignition is contained as it would be in a centerfire cartridge. In the mathematics of gunmakers, two front locking lugs and a case head made for smokeless cartridges equals a muzzleloader that can operate at conventional smokeless rifle pressures. It is sound arithmetic; there is tremendous potential in this system.
All of the Blackhorn 209 loads we developed were made to match the performance of three pellets of Triple 7 propellant, not in pressure, but in velocity. With its slower pressure curve, Blackhorn 209 typically develops higher velocity at lower pressures than other black powder or black powder substitutes. None of the loads, which are typically between 80 and 120 grains by volume, produced more than 25,000 psi in our test barrels. All of the 120 grain loads produced velocity comparable to, or greater than three fifty-grain pellets using the same bullet. With the new Remington product, we have a rifle that, by design, is capable of much higher operational pressures. This rifle could be a game changer in the muzzleloading world.
A Look at the Rifle
There are a number of features that make the new Remington Ultimate a real pleasure in the field. Externally it is little different from any large bore 26-inch barreled bolt action rifle. Handling characteristics are like any other Remington you might have in your closet, quick to the shoulder with a well-proportioned stock. It’s the little out-of-the-box features that set the Ultimate away from other rifles in its class.
Most modern muzzleloaders are drilled and tapped for scopes but tend to offer only rudimentary iron sights if they come with any at all. A couple of generations ago, the shooting public seemed to forget about the usefulness of good aperture sights on sporting rifles. The people at Remington remembered. Simple and easily adjustable, our Williams sights came well regulated for windage but shot very low. A slotted screwdriver changed that in less time than it takes to write this sentence. When we do actual accuracy and velocity testing later this fall we will scope the big Remington, but it came ready to go hunting right out of the box.
The rifle prominently featured a BDL-type magazine latch which on first blush seems odd for a single shot rifle. Upon further examination, the latch opens to reveal a compartment for three primed cases, a nice use of space that otherwise would have been wasted. They are tightly retained, do not rattle and didn’t move under recoil. The compartment is another thoughtful touch on a rifle already replete with well-considered design features.
The first couple of steps for loading the 700 Ultimate are common enough to not deserve much ink. After checking to make sure the rifle is empty, powder is poured into muzzle and bullet is short started. Once seated into the bore, it is rammed into place over the charge.
The priming step is where the world gets interesting. The primed case is dropped into the action, exactly like a single-shot metallic rifle cartridge. The bolt is then run forward, pushing the primed case over the breech plug cone and locking up like a conventional rifle. It is a graceful system that would be a real godsend in the field with cold-numbed fingers. Extraction is done via a standard Remington 700 extractor which leaves it ready to be plucked out and dropped into a pocket for later reloading. There is no ejector – another good idea by makers.
Ignition was excellent with Blackhorn 209. Our experiences with both the BP Ultimate products as well as Cecil Epps’ Variflame system have convinced us that the use of magnum rifle primers is extremely efficient when combined with Blackhorn.
The stock is well fitted with a good recoil pad. Even with 120 grains by volume and Lehigh Defense 220 grain bullets, recoil was mild. Its presence on the shooting range at Western Powders resulted in a work stoppage as the technical staff waited to take their turn. Even the jaded guys in ballistics lab admitted it was a fun rifle to shoot.
The Gorilla in the Room
Remington is claiming 2400 fps with a 250 grain bullet and four Triple Seven pellets. There has been a lot of discussion in the industry if four pellets is a workable load in terms of combustion. It isn’t within the scope of this article to discuss the merits or failures of another company’s product. As far as Blackhorn 209 goes, our standard loads produce good velocity and accuracy. It also appears that higher pressure loads will work safely in this rifle.
Our current plans are to explore higher pressure loads developed specifically for the Remington Ultimate. When the testing is complete, our results will be published along with any new loading data. Right now we are extremely interested in the potential of this new rifle and are looking forward to working with Remington to produce specialized data. The downside is that the new data will not be ready for this year’s season. For now, shooters will need to content themselves with more than 2000 fps with a 250 grain bullet pushed by 120 grains of Blackhorn 209. I know it is a hard cross to bear, but those numbers would have boggled Davy Crockett.