Safer, more consistent, more accurate and easier to use, the new Traditions NitroFire and Federal Premium FireStick bring muzzleloader techology to its apex
by Brad Fenson
Traditions Performance Firearms has been around since 1984, offering a wide selection of muzzleloaders, from old-style flintlocks to modern inline ignition. For Traditions, staying true to its roots, the focus has always been on designing and producing muzzleloading firearms to make hunters more successful. Traditions’ research and development have not only kept up but have led the industry to make the modern muzzleloader easier to use and maintain, more accurate, and more consistent.
The company strives to bring new technologies and designs to hunters and shooters who enjoy pouring powder and stuffing bullets down the barrel—that is, until now. Recently, Traditions and Federal Premium have joined forces to develop an entirely new process for loading smokepoles. It’s called the NitroFire.
The NitroFire still loads a bullet down the barrel; however, the powder is inserted through the breech and is contained within a polymer case. The powder charge has been in development by Federal Premium for several years and was introduced this year as the FireStick. The encapsulated propellant is easy to load, resistant to the elements, and can be inserted or retracted from the breech end of a break-action muzzleloader within seconds.
The advancements of the entire system are mindboggling, as the FireStick uses a new Hodgdon black powder substitute known as Triple Eight. The new powder is extruded and cut to capitalize on the surface area for quick ignition and a more consistent burn. Triple Eight burns so clean that it is difficult to call a rifle that shoots it a smokepole. The FireStick replaces the need for a breech plug and looks like a .410 shotshell. It is designed to allow the user to insert a 209 primer for ignition before loading it into the rifle.
The alignment of the projectile and powder charge is essential. The bullet is still loaded down the barrel. It is seated on a ledge at the exact spot where the FireStick can be loaded to sit directly under the projectile. The fact that you must still load the projectile down the barrel makes it a muzzleloader, which should not be confused with a black powder cartridge.
The NitroFire is a modern looking, break-action, black powder rifle with sleek lines and an appealing appearance. The straight lines of the stock and receiver allow the shooter to manage recoil exceptionally well, considering the weight of the rifle.
The NitroFire has a 26-inch ultralight barrel made of Chromoly steel that is well recognized in the firearm industry as the best barrel material for strength and accuracy. With a fluted barrel, weight is reduced, making it easier to handle and to quickly acquire a target. The rifle is not “muzzle heavy” like traditional muzzleloaders. Like most inline rifles, the NitroFire has a 1:28-inch twist rifling to maximize bullet stability. The barrel and components are made in Spain. When inspected with a bore scope, it shows excellent machining and finish, explaining the consistent and accurate results.
When it comes to hitting your target, the accuracy of the NitroFire and FireStick combination is nothing short of impressive. Three groups of three shots at 100 yards were used to measure the accuracy with a Traditions Smackdown Carnivore 250-grain bullet and sabot. The smallest group was a mere .375 inches and the average was 1.167 inches. The consistency of the powder and bullet are outstanding. The variance between all shots was 44 fps, well ahead of the industry tolerance.
There are many advantages to the new system, but at the top of the list must be safety. The NitroFire can be charged and uncharged in seconds by merely breaking the action and inserting or extracting the FireStick. Crossing fences, changing hunting locations, getting into a treestand, or finishing the hunt at the end of the day means you can remove the charge from the rifle with ease.
Traditions uses a dual safety system, making the NitroFire one of the safest muzzleloaders on the market. Traditions’ new Elite XT trigger system has a rebounding hammer and a manual cross-block trigger safety. The trigger design allows the action of the rifle to be broken open with the cross-bolt safety engaged. There is no way to double charge or overcharge the rifle, as the propellant is factory-measured and sealed in the FireStick. The NitroFire action can be opened, allowing the user to look down the barrel and see if a bullet is seated on the shelf. Being able to visually check for a bullet will prevent the user from loading two projectiles. Traditions offers an accessory that attaches to the ramrod, allowing it to push the bullet back up and out of the barrel from the breech end.
BEAT THE ELEMENTS
A considerable advantage is that the FireStick is impervious to moisture, meaning your powder is always dry. It will generate consistent energy and velocity with every shot. A FireStick was placed in a meltwater puddle and allowed to sit for 30 seconds. It was then loaded into the NitroFire and used to send a bullet downrange. The water did not affect ignition, energy, or accuracy.
There is little doubt that other manufacturers will try to utilize FireStick technology in the future. For now, though, Traditions has already embraced the advantage to bring new options to hunters and shooters.
Currently, Traditions is working with individual state authorities to establish acceptance of the NitroFire technology for use during muzzleloader seasons. A map is provided for states where the NitroFire is legal for use in muzzleloader seasons, and provides the status of states pending acceptance. As always, check with your state for the most up-to-date status.
Traditions Performance Firearms NitroFire Specifications
- Type: muzzleloader
- Caliber: .50 caliber
- Barrel: 26-inch ultralight Chromoly steel fluted and tapered barrel, 1:28 inch twist rifling
- Trigger: Elite XT trigger system designed with a rebounding hammer
- Sights: No sights
- Safety: Trigger Block Safety
- Stock: composite; available in Black, Realtree Edge camo, Mossy Oak Breakup Country camo, and Go Wild Rockstar camo; length of pull – 14 ¼ inches
- Metal Finish: premium CeraKote finish in stainless steel or burnt bronze
- Overall Length: 42 inches
- Weight: 6.6 lbs.
- Accessories: some options come with a scope only or scope, sling, and case.
- MSRP: $549-$1,220
Federal Premium FireStick Specifications
- Charge: 100- and 120-grain polymer charge filled with clean-burning Hodgdon Triple Eight powder
- Base: accepts 209 shotshell primer
- MSRP: $26.95 sold in 10-count packs