So...What in the heck are "Specialty Sabots"?
First, let's take a look at what most of us today consider "Standard Sabots". See that black Harvester Muzzleloading .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot above left? That sabot, and Harvester Muzzleloading's other .50x.45 sabots, including the red .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot sabot shown above right, and similar sabots produced by Muzzleload Magnum Products, are easily the most widely used sabots today. The majority of the bullets being shot today out of fast-twist .50 caliber in-line rifles are of .451" or .452" diameter, and the variety of different 50x.45 sabots available allow today's performance minded muzzleloading hunters to load and shoot a tremendous number of those ".45" caliber bullets - including the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold .451" diameter bullet shown here. (The red Crush Rib Sabot is just a tad larger in diameter, for those rifles with slightly larger .502" to .504" bores - or when a tighter sabot-bullet fit is needed to insure more spontaneous ignition.)
At one time, the .50x.44 sabots (typically green in color) were also considered "Standard Sabots" ...but tended to fall from grace due to the sleeves being so heavy that they were slow to open up and pull the sabot away from the bullet. Accuracy tended to suffer. The real problem was that we simply did not have the powders to give the velocity needed to force those sleeves, or petals, to open up quickly. WE DO TODAY! Hot charges of Blackhorn 209 or FFFg Triple Seven can easily get a .50x.44 sabot, like the HML Crush Rib Sabot shown here, and a sleek .429-430" diameter bullet, like the 250-grain Cutting Edge Bullets all-copper MAXIMUS bullet also shown here, out of the muzzle at more than 2,000 f.p.s. - with great accuracy. There's now a very good chance that the .50x.44 saboted bullets just could become a new "Standard" for .50 caliber in-line rifle shooters.
For More On Shooting Saboted .44 MAXIMUS Bullets ... Go To -
It's kind of a stretch of the imagination to address a "Standard Sabot" for the .45 caliber in-line rifles, since so few modern minded muzzleloading hunters shoot and hunt with them. Back in 1987, I had just three modern in-line ignition rifles - all Knight MK-85 rifles. Two of them were in .50 caliber, the other was one of just three .45 models that Tony Knight had put together - just to see if they could produce the accuracy and game-taking punch needed for hunting game as large as deer. The rifle I had was built with a 1-in-24 twist Lothar-Walther barrel. At that time, there was just one sabot available for the .45 rifles - a .45x.357" sabot - for loading and shooting .357-.358" diameter .38/.357 Magnum handgun bullets. Both I and my son took deer with that rifle, shooting 90 grains of Pyrodex "P" behind a saboted .357" diameter 158-grain Speer JHP bullet. Velocity out of the 24-inch barrel was just a bit shy of 1,800 f.p.s., with around 1,269 f,p,e, at the muzzle. That bullet has a .158 b.c., meaning the load was down in the 1,250 f.p.s. range at 100 yards, where it would retain only about 550 f.p.e.
Today, the standard for .45 rifles tends to be shooting .400" diameter bullets, of 180 to 200 grains - using a .45x.40 sabot, like the light blue Harvester Muzzleloading sabot shown above left. This bullet is the 240-grain .400" diameter all-copper MAXIMUS bullet from Cutting Edge Bullets ... which has a much more impressive .287 b.c. This is the bullet which just might accomplish putting the "Super" into the loads (and accuracy) for the "Super .45" rifles. Watch for more on shooting this bullet on the NORTH AMERICAN MUZZLELOADER HUNTING website...as soon as close to 20 inches of snow disappears from our range.
Other Less Common "Specialty" Sabots
One sabot that is seldom written about, but which does seem to have tremendous potential with the .50 caliber rifles, is the light blue .50x.475 Harvester Muzzleloading sabot shown at right. This is a "non-ribbed" sabot, with relatively thin sleeves/petals, which do readily fold back and away from the bullet. As uncommon as bullets of .475" diameter may seem, there's actually a fairly good selection of such bullets. The one shown in this photo is the big 375-grain .475" diameter all-copper bullet Knight Rifles developed (with Barnes Bullets) specifically for their .52 caliber rifle models back during the 2000's,
I have gotten this bullet out of a .52 Knight DISC Extreme (using their purple .52x.475 sabot) at 1,919 f.p.s. with a 120-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 (using the standard DISC Extreme breech plug). At that velocity, the big 375-grain spitzer hollow-point generates 3,064 f.p.e. - and at 200 yards plows home with around 1,750 foot-pounds of wallop ... thanks to a lengthy bullet with a b.c. of around .330 (give or take .010). But, it is exactly that length which makes the bullet incompatible with the vast majority of .50 caliber in-line rifles now on the market. You see, the widely used 1-in-28 rifling twist just is not snappy enough to stabilize this 1.210" long all-copper bullet.
Knight's .52 rifles features a 1-in-26 twist...and it would take that same twist, or a 1-in-24 twist, for a .50 caliber rifle to shoot a bullet of this length. The only commercially built .50 caliber in-line I know of that's now available with a 1-in-24 twist bore is the .50 caliber Rolling Block model offered by Davide Pedersoli & Co. - available through the Italian Firearms Group, of Amarillo, TX. (Use the link at the bottom of this post to visit their website.)
That darker blue sabot in the photo at left, shown next to the 240-grain .40 caliber MAXIMUS bullet and the Harvester Muzzleloading .45x40 Crush Rib Sabot, is the same company's .50x.40 Crush Rib Sabot. In fact, the sabot is shown here with the very same high b.c. 240-grain MAXIMUS bullet. And it is the the ability to shoot a smaller diameter (high b.c.) bullet which has made this ,59 caliber sabot a bit more popular than the .50x.475 sabot.
The Cutting Edge Bullets packaging for this bullet recommends shooting this 1.117" long all-copper .400" diameter bullet out of a bore with a "1:24 TWIST RATE OR FASTER". One of the test sessions we have planned for this spring, or in late winter if the snow cover thins, is to see if we can get this bullet, using hefty charges of Blackhorn 209 and FFFg Triple Seven for more velocity, to shoot with accuracy out of the 1-in-28 twist .50 caliber bores found in our T/C Strike ... Traditions VORTEK StrikerFire LDR ... CVA Accura V2 LR ... and Cooper Model 22 ML test rifles. All have shot great with the shorter and lighter saboted 165-grain .400" MAXIMUS bullet ... which we have gotten out of the longer barrels at close to 2,200 f.,p.s.!
One problem a few shooters have experienced with the heavy-sleeved .50x.40 sabot is getting those sleeves to open fast enough to not affect the down range flight of a .40 caliber bullet. Again, velocity is the key. The thickness of the sleeves will continue to be a problem as long as we continue to turn to ever smaller bullet diameters. This is especially true with the .50 caliber rifles.
Is it time for a .48 caliber???
There have been attempts to produce other "Specialty Sabots", even a .58x.45 sabot ... but again, the thicker the sabot sleeves ... the less likelihood of achieving acceptable accuracy. If the rifle makers were willing to build rifles with a more appropriate bore size ... more appropriate rate of rifling twist ... and sabot makers were willing to produce sabots for NEW longer and higher b.c. bullets ... in your mind, what would be the ideal combination of bore size ... rifling twist ... and bullet diameter, length and weight? Don't be afraid to think outside of the box ... the same "Standard" box that now confines modern in-line rifle performance. - Toby Bridges
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Above Featured Rifle - Cooper .50 Model 22 ML
HARVESTER MUZZLELOADING Hunter
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