RANGE ACCURATE & FIELD TESTED
In our June issue, Gun World writer Brad Fitzpatrick tested the Traditions’ new Vortek Ultralight LDR… here is his field review.
For the range test I topped my Ultralight LDR with a Traditions 4-12x40x scope mounted with rings and bases provided by the company. Scoped and loaded, the LDR weighs about seven and a half pounds. Recoil is very manageable thanks in part to the Quick Relief recoil pad (good riddance, brass butt plates) and the Hogue stock. The Monte Carlo cheekpiece made for easy eye alignment, and an extended hammer spur made it possible to cock the rifle easily despite the fact that the over-travel hammer rests right below the rear bell of the scope.
On the range and in the field, I loaded the LDR with 2 Hodgden Pyrodex pellets (100 grains total), which fired a 300-grain, .50 caliber Smackdown SST bullet at an average velocity of 1,885 fps over my chronograph, a bullet/load combo that proved to be convenient, accurate, and consistent. After initial bore sighting, I tested the LDR at 100 yards and was immediately on the paper, shooting low and right. After a couple rounds of scope adjustments I was close to center; the Smackdown bullets printed three-shot clusters two inches above the center of the target. Velocities were uniform, and my groups averaged just over one-and-a-half inches, with two of the groups measuring just over an inch. The overall average was hampered by a single group that printed over two inches, which may have been an issue with the way the rifle was loaded or shooter error. Either way, to be accurate, I included the poor group in the test. On average, though, the LDR printed groups of about 1.25 inches, which is very impressive, and even with a single bad group the average was still 1.58 inches. With a muzzle energy of just under 2,200 ft.-lbs., this load proved to be very accurate and plenty powerful for eastern whitetails.
Loading the LDR is similar to most other modern in-lines. It is important to tighten the Accelerator Breech Plug all the way down, as the O-ring can cause the plug to get tight and give the false impression that it is correctly in place. Even after multiple rounds the plug still produced a good burn, as tested by placing a cotton cleaning cloth on the end of the ramrod and firing a cap. The dual safety system is a nice touch, although I wouldn’t carry the rifle cocked and safetied. I fired the LDR from a seated position and standing over shooting sticks to simulate actual hunting, and the gun was comfortable and well-balanced. The fore-end is a bit narrow for my taste, and the shape is a bit odd (rather like an inverted toadstool) but with gloves on there were no issues.
Accompanying the rifle was Tradition’s EZ Clean Kit, which includes both lubricated and dry patches and a solvent wash tank for cleaning removable parts. Gone are the old days of soap buckets and long soaks with intermittent grime removal sessions. With the LDR’s Accelerator Breech Plug removed, I ran a series of solvent patches down the bore and followed those with a series of dry patches until the bore was clean. The breech plug was left to soak in the solvent jar, and after a wipe down of the external metal parts, I pulled the breech plug from the solvent, dried it, and blew air through the ignition hole. The entire process took about ten minutes, making the EZ Clean Kit a sensible and time-saving investment when purchasing a muzzleloader.
Range tests complete, it was time to head to the woods to test the LDR on Ohio whitetails. I had very limited time to hunt, so with a doe and buck tag in my pocket I climbed into the stand and began glassing with the LDR resting on the shooting rail of the stand. Just twenty minutes after my arrival the first buck appeared, a young deer with a single antler. The buck made his way across a cut bean field and into a narrow finger of woods where he disappeared and, after a few minutes, reappeared being followed by another, larger buck. The second buck was still young, and as I debated whether or not he was old enough to take, a very large doe stepped out at just over a hundred yards to my left. She had either scented me or seen me; either way my cover was blown, and with the sun setting it appeared that I would have to make a decision quickly. I decided on the doe and found her chest in the crosshairs of the scope, letting the rifle settle on the shooting rail. When the crosshairs came still just behind her right front shoulder I pressed the trigger, and even through the white cloud of sulfurous smoke I could see that the doe had dropped immediately, the 300 grain Smackdown SST having entered just behind the right leg and exiting eight inches aft of the left front leg, leaving an exit wound about the diameter of my thumb. Performance had been excellent from both the rifle and the bullet.
Traditions faces stiff competition in the in-line muzzleloader market, so the company has had to create innovative products that continue to challenge our notions of muzzleloader performance. Their new Vortek Ultralight LDR shows that Traditions isn’t aiming to simply be competitive in this market but rather to produce rifles that stretch the limits of conventional muzzleloader design. For the smokepole fan who embraces change, there is a great deal to like about Tradition’s long range rifle. It’s accurate, dependable, and one of the best bargains in the muzzleloading world.
Story and Pictures by Brad Fitzpatrick