Safer and faster loading, consistency for improved accuracy, impervious to weather, quick unloading, and lightning fast to clean, the all-new NitroFire system redefines the modern muzzleloader.
by the Shoot-On Staff
We had heard a rumor or two that Traditions Firearms, manufacturer of premium muzzleloaders and accessories, planned to introduce a ground-breaking rifle at this year’s SHOT Show. Well, the rumors were true. We just didn’t realize how revolutionary this new product introduction would be. As it turned out, this innovative new muzzleloader system represents a convergence of three Titans in the firearms industry coming together to deliver a muzzleloader that solves several issues that have plagued muzzleloader hunters since, well…the introduction of the muzzleloader itself.
If you think inline muzzleloaders are the pinnacle of frontstuffer rifle technology, you’re about to get an education.
While it’s true that the modern inline muzzleloader has seriously advanced muzzleloader hunting through its use of the removable breech plug, shotgun primer ignition, and compatibility with modern sabot bullets (not to mention advanced barrel construction and the ability to use optics), these firearms still challenge the hunter when it comes to load management, cleaning, and overall operations under certain circumstances. The new NitroFire, using equally fresh technology from ammunition giant Federal and powder king Hodgdon, addresses nearly all this issues.
To better understand where we’re going with this, let’s start with an examination of conventional inline muzzleloader operation.
As with classical muzzleloaders, inline muzzleloaders are charged by pouring measured powder or dropping pelletized powder down the muzzle. This is followed by running the bullet (almost always sabots nowadays) down the bore and seating it onto the powder. Next, the shooter breaks open the action and inserts a shotgun primer into the primer pocket at the back of the removable breech plug. A hammer or striker-fired ignition system can then strike the primer, igniting the powder charge and sending the bullet downrange.
Pretty simple stuff, right? If you’re a muzzleloader hunter and have used a conventional inline model, this is all familiar territory. Compared to the closed-breech system of traditional sidelock muzzleloaders, you may wonder how in the world could it be easier? To be honest, we’ve never even given it further thought ourselves. Now that we’ve seen what Traditions Firearms and their partners, Federal Premium and Hodgdon, have cooked up, we’re shaking our heads and saying, “But of course!”
The NitroFire muzzleloader system begins with what we consider to be a typical inline muzzleloader platform with a conventional break-breech action. The immediate difference is that there is no breech plug to seal the back of the barrel. This is where Federal Premium’s new FireStick enters the picture.
The FireStick is a polymer-encapsulated powder charge that slips into the breech of the muzzleloader much like you would load a shotgun shell. Inside, the charge is pre-loaded with Hodgdon’s new Triple 8 powder in 100- or 120–grain volume. The FireStick design is such that the powder is completely sealed and thus impervious to moisture or water intrusion. At the back of the FireStick is the primer pocket, which, acting like a conventional breech plug, accepts a 209 shotgun primer. Essentially, the FireStick contains the powder, serves as the breech face, and holds the primer.
Such a radical, new powder charge system obviously demands a rethink of the muzzleloader barrel’s back end. Since there is no breech plug and the bullet, therefore, cannot seat onto the powder, Traditions designed a shelf just forward of the “powder chamber” to give the bullet a place to seat. This means, of course, that the bullet will always seat at exactly the same spot every time, and that translates to consistency, which, in turn, contributes to accuracy.
As you’ve probably already guessed, there is another big advantage to this system, and that is unloading. At the end of an unsuccessful hunting day, simply break open the NitroFire action and remove the FireStick and primer to make the firearm safe. No powder is lost, and no live-fire discharge is required. This also means that the firearm can be made safe in a matter of seconds, such as when navigating technical terrain, crossing a fence, getting into a vehicle, or climbing a tree stand. That is an advantage we’ve never had and, in our book, it’s a big one.
Other advantages to this system are products of the barrel design, FireStick powder charge, and the Hodgdon Triple 8 powder.
First, this new powder from Hodgdon was developed to burn more efficiently and reduce leftover particulates in the barrel. That, by itself, makes cleanup easier, although this powder does require solvent to clean up instead of soap and hot water.
Second, since the powder is contained within the encapsulating polymer and doesn’t contact the barrel during ignition, the old powder ring nemesis is no more. Recharging the NitroFire during repeated firings does not get progressively more difficult due to powder ring residue, and the risk of corrosion is significantly reduced.
Third, inconsistencies in powder charges are eliminated. Federal loads its FireSticks with the same attention to precision as it does all its ammunition, ensuring that each charge contains precisely measured powder—an essential ingredient of accuracy.
Most of you reading this have already grasped the implications the NitroFire system brings to bear. Once you get past the novelty and start examining the benefits, the advantages become quite clear. As we’ve mention, the NitroFire offers a cleaner, safer, more accurate, and quicker system than anything that’s come before in the muzzleloader realm. Heck…even the old “keep your powder dry” thing is a thing of the past because the powder charge is sealed and won’t be degraded by rain or moisture absorption.
Finally, this system is also a major time saver because it simplifies the cleaning process or eliminates the need to clean, in some cases.
So far, our discussion has revolved around the NitroFire’s firing system technology, but the muzzleloader platform itself also warrants some examination.
The NitroFire is being introduced as a 26-inch-barrel .50 caliber. Weight reduction comes from the steel fluting and tapered profile of the chromoly barrel. A 1:28 twist is used to stabilize the required sabot bullets.
Another technology debuting on the NitroFire is Traditions’ new Elite XT trigger system. This includes a rebounding hammer design that locks the hammer back away from the firing pin after the shot for added safety. The Elite XT trigger system also incorporates a manual cross-bolt safety and a captive half-cock. The nice thing about this system is that it allows the action to be opened so you can remove the FireStick with the cross-bolt safety engaged. Again, its all part of a broader approach to making muzzleloaders safer and more simple to operate.
The NitroFire comes pre-drilled and tapped for optic mounting. Expect good hunting accuracy out to 200 yards when coupled with Traditions’ Smackdown series of sabot bullets. Camo options include Realtree Edge, Mossy Oak Break-Up Country, Go Wild Rockstar, and black. Scoped and non-scoped models are also available.
To learn more about the NitroFire, visit Traditions Firearms.