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Review: Traditions PA Pellet Flintlock Muzzleloading Rifle

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

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Photo of Traditions PA Pellet flintlock muzzleloading rifle with camo stock and Cerakote finish.

Traditions PA Pellet flintlock muzzleloading rifle, with camo stock and Cerakote finish.

Photo courtesy of Traditions Performance Firearms
The Bottom Line

Traditions' PA Pellet flintlock muzzleloading rifle was the first flintlock I ever messed with. It was an interesting experience and I'm glad I did it, but if I had to hunt with a flintlock I'm not sure this would be my first choice. Design is where it lacks the most, mechanically speaking. Quality varies from very good to tolerable, with one particular "What were they thinking?" feature (see next paragraph).

All in all, I like this gun okay, but the slot in the tenon is too long for the wedge, and allows the barrel to move forward when it ought to stay put. If it weren't for that, I would be giving it a stronger recommendation.

Pros

  • Fairly easy to clean (Accelerator breech plug is easily removed and allows cleaning similar to in-line muzzleloaders).
  • Shoots loose powder or pellets (I successfully used Pyrodex pellets, Triple 7 pellets, and White Hots).
  • Solid aluminum ramrod is very sturdy.
  • Has metal Williams fiber optic sights - and the stock drop is perfect for them.
  • Can use up to three pellets or 150 grains of powder.
Cons

  • Barrel on my gun can slip forward on the wedge pin (tenon slot must be too long).
  • Trigger and guard are cast "pot metal," and the tang screw is threaded into the trigger guard.
  • Flint not included.
  • Flints require leather, which was not included with the rifle nor with the flints.
  • Sling swivels are included on the gun, but they are not QD (quick detachable).
Photo of Traditions PA Pellet flintlock muzzleloading rifle; gap at rear.

Traditions PA Pellet flintlock muzzleloading rifle. See the gap between the breech plug and the tang? That gap should not exist.

Photo © Russ Chastain
Description

  • .50 caliber flintlock muzzleloading rifle capable of shooting loose powder or pellets.
  • Available in a variety of finishes; this one has a Mossy Oak Treestand camo stock with Premium Cerakote on the barrel.
  • Breech plug is easily removable without tools - so you can clean it like an in-line.
  • Hammer and lock are case colored.
  • Flints are sold separately, and don't come with the leather you need.
  • Specs claim the barrel is 26", but you only get 24" of actual barrel (including chamber area).
  • Weighs 7.26 pounds, unloaded and with flint installed.
  • Overall length: 42.5" from muzzle to toe of stock.
  • Sight radius: 19 inches.
  • 1:48" rifling twist.
Guide Review - Traditions PA Pellet Flintlock Muzzleloading Rifle

First Impressions

Upon receiving this rifle for testing and evaluation, my first impression was one of mixed emotions. It's a nice-looking rifle, but some things jump out as lame. The permanently-attached sling swivels, for example. Why not just use QD sling studs like almost everyone else these days? Like many hunters, I often use the same sling on multiple rifles, and these swivels don't allow that to be done easily. You'd have to somehow mangle/remove the existing swivels and then drill through the studs.

Another bummer is that the ramrod thimble, trigger guard, and trigger are all made of cheap cast metal, and painted black. Usually, the first thing that happens to parts made of "pot metal" is that the finish begins to come off (the first time I removed the trigger guard, a hunk of black paint came off it and was left sticking to the stock). The second thing that happens to cheap alloy parts is that they break - but happily, none of them broke while I had possession of this gun.

The camo-coated synthetic stock looks nice, and has a "soft touch" finish that allows a nice grip that feels good. The drop of the stock is also perfect for me when using the included metal Williams fiber optic sights. This gun is not drilled & tapped for scope mounting.

The barrel has a kind of matte pewter finish, which Traditions calls Premium Cerakote. The hammer and lock plate are both case colored, and look nice.

The black butt plate is made of hard plastic.

Markings

All of the markings on this rifle are found on the barrel. On the left side is this lengthy warning:
READ AND UNDERSTAND INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE USE
BLACK POWDER OR PYRODEX ONLY. DO NOT USE SMOKELESS POWDER.

The sight side of the barrel is marked with the serial number above MADE IN SPAIN. To the right of that we find TRADITIONS above Old Saybrook, CT.USA, and PA ACCELERATOR above .50 CAL. 1 / 48".

Below that and partially obscured by the stock are a couple of proof marks, followed by "D-3."

Sights

The metal Williams fiber optic sights are quite nice. The rear sight features a green insert and the front sight is orange, so you have good contrast, along with the brightness of fiber optics. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation. I didn't have to adjust the sights on this gun, as it put most shots into the black at 50 yards.

Pre-Cleaning

I gave this gun a good cleaning before I toted it to the range. I used the T-handle and cleaning jag included in Traditions' Load it/Shoot it/Clean it kit, which screwed onto the rifle's black-finished aluminum ramrod.

I used some cotton cleaning patches and Traditions EZ Clean Spray Solvent. I cleaned the rifle from the breech end, and the ramrod became scratched very quickly. It now has multiple shiny spots on it, where the finish was scratched off. It's not really damaged, but it looks like hell.

Cleaning this gun is even easier than cleaning an in-line rifle, because you can clean all the way through the barrel while the barrel is not attached to the gun. Most inlines have a receiver of some kind permanently attached to the barrel.

When I assembled the breech plug and touch hole liner, I used the Anti-Seize Stick from the Load it/Shoot it/Clean it kit, and it worked very well. It works like ChapStick® and I really like being able to apply anti-seize right where I need it without wasting it and getting it all over my fingers.

Installing the Flint

The flints for the review gun were sent to me separately. The package contained a pair of flints, and says "5/8" - HAND KNAPPED." They're made in England, which seems fitting somehow - and is much more comforting than China would be.

The flint must be wrapped in something before it's clamped into the hammer, and leather is the recommended material. The bummer is that neither the gun nor the flints included any leather. This wasn't a big problem for me, as I had some old leather scraps lying around - but not everyone is a packrat, and I think a small piece or two of leather should be included with the flints.

While we're on the subject, I think a couple flints (along with leather) should be included with the gun itself, rather than being sold separately.

Installing the flint was a bit tricky, as the manual contains very few illustrations (lame!) and absolutely none showing a flint being installed. The result is that I may well have the flint installed upside-down in this gun - the instructional text was pretty vague. I did get enough spark to fire a number of rounds, so I reckon it was good enough for my purposes.

Photo of Traditions PA Pellet flintlock muzzleloading rifle; gap at rear.

Traditions PA Pellet flintlock muzzleloading rifle. The barrel has moved forward, so there's a gap at the rear - and the flash hole isn't properly aligned with the pan.

Photo © Russ Chastain
Homemade Pan Primer

I already had some FFFFg (a.k.a. four-F) black powder to use for priming the pan. The manual talks about filling a pan primer, and putting some powder into the breech plug via the touch hole using it. I don't own a pan primer and don't expect to need one anytime soon, so I found an eye dropper with an angled tip, and used that. I could put the tip down into my FFFFg powder, squeeze the bulb a few times to draw in some powder, and then gently squeeze the bulb to expel the powder into the pan.

Powder & Pellets

I contacted Chris Hodgdon of Hodgdon Powder and he was happy to send some Pyrodex and Triple 7 pellets to try in the rifle, along with some IMR White Hots. White Hots are pre-formed pellets that are white in color, provide good velocity, and are clean burning. Traditions didn't recommend them, but we figured they'd be worth a try.

Heading to the Range

With all that done, I finally headed off to the range. I began by shooting two Pyrodex pellets with one of the Smackdown SST bullets included in Traditions' Load it/Shoot it/Clean it kit. These bullets have EZ Load sabots, and they were definitely easy to load. The conical, copper-jacketed hollow-point bullets feature Hornady SST polymer tips.

After each shot, I patched out the rifle bore with one pre-treated patch from the Load it/Shoot it/Clean it kit, followed by a dry patch from the same kit.

Each time I loaded the rifle, I used my eye dropper/pan primer to put some priming powder into the touch hole, then filled the pan about halfway with powder.

See How to Load a Traditional Muzzleloading Black Powder Rifle

Hang Fires

I fired three shots with two Pyrodex pellets, four with two Triple Seven pellets, three with two White Hots, and three with 100 grains of FFFg black powder. In all cases, I used the Smackdown SST bullets, which I believe weighed 250 grains (the package doesn't say, and I neglected to weigh one before I shot them all).

Accuracy was pretty good, no matter what propellant I used. I experienced "hang fires," or delays between spark and ignition, on every shot. Black powder provided the shortest delay (and I did put some priming powder into the touch hole as I did with pellets - because my first attempt to fire black powder in this rifle resulted in a mere flash in the pan).

Of the pellets, White Hots provided the shortest delay - and given the choices, I prefer White Hots to Pyrodex or Triple Seven pellets. I like the packaging better (they come in tubes rather than large boxes), they burn nice and clean, they supposedly provide higher velocity, and they clean up with water alone.

Accuracy

Accuracy at 50 yards was plenty good, keeping the bullets within three inches or so using two pellets or 100 grains of powder. On a subsequent trip to the range, I loaded three White Hot pellets with each of my last three Smackdown SST bullets, and shot a three-shot group at 50 yards that measured 1.75 inch - and two of the shots were touching. Not bad, considering that the last shot was a very noticeable hang fire, and it is the one that went a little bit high.

Durability

The Cerakote began rubbing off the crown of the gun almost immediately, and after a thorough hot-water cleaning as recommended by Traditions, it was also wearing off around the outer edge of the muzzle. I'm not particularly impressed with the durability of Cerakote.

I was also disappointed to find that, upon bringing the gun home from its second trip to the range, there was a large gap between the breech plug and the tang! This rifle's design doesn't allow the breech plug to hook into the tang, so it's entirely dependent upon the wedge pin to keep the barrel in place - but the tenon (the thing which the wedge pin goes through on the bottom of the barrel) has a slot that's too wide, and thus allows the barrel to move forward.

This can lead to a number of problems, not the least of which would be problematic ignition. When the barrel is moved forward, the touch hole fails to line up with the pan, and the frizzen is farther away from the hammer (cock) than it ought to be, so getting a gun to fire when the barrel's moved forward will be difficult at best.

After taking some photos (two of which are included in this review; click them to view larger versions), I found that I could move the barrel back and forth by hand - not very easily, but it wasn't all that difficult, either. Not good.

This is a serious design flaw, and should be addressed by Traditions ASAP.

Conclusion

The Traditions PA Pellet muzzleloading rifle for 2011 has been redesigned with a stronger flintlock system and a larger specially-treated frizzen face, and tool-free removal of the breech plug (an allen wrench is included in case you need a tool, but I didn't need it).

If you keep an eye on the barrel to make sure it stays in place in the tang (perhaps by shimming the wedge pin in the tenon hole somehow), then this gun can provide reliable and accurate shooting, with Pyrodex and Triple Seven powder or pellets, White Hot pellets, or good old black powder. My personal favorite of the pellets are White Hots, and a loading of three White Hots gave fine accuracy with a Smackdown SST bullet.

In all, I was impressed by the PA Pellet - but unfortunately, not all of the impressions were positive. It's a good-looking gun with some nice features, but it's certainly overpriced for a low-grade Spanish import, and it needs some redesign work before I can heartily recommend it to my readers.

- Russ Chastain

Disclosure: A review sample was loaned to the author by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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