Traditions Firearms’ Smackdown series of muzzleloader bullets lets you choose the ideal projectile for your hunting needs.
The introduction of modern .50 caliber sabot bullets totally changed the muzzleloader game. The convenience of the sabot to provide the necessary gas seal combined with streamlined jacketed bullets with good ballistic coefficients and the kind of terminal performance that old-school lead projectiles only dreamed of has had a significant impact on the modern-day muzzleloader movement. Not only did point-of-impact consistency get a bump, that consistency has allowed hunters to stretch out their effective range by an impressive margin. With a refined powder load and a quality optic and primer, today’s inline muzzleloader fan can confidently put the drop on game out to 200 yards or more.
The challenge for hunters is finding the bullet profile and weight best suited for their style of hunting and the game they intend to pursue. With so many variations, first-time muzzleloader hunters are especially uncertain where to start.
Recently, Traditions Firearms—manufacturer of multiple muzzleloaders ranging from DIY sidelock kits and historical recreations to the most advanced and innovative inline rifles on the market today—refined their Smackdown series of muzzleloader bullets and took the guesswork out of bullet selection. In addition to the original Smackdown sabot bullets featuring lead cores with copper jackets and spire point polymer tips, the company now offers the Bleed, Carnivore, and XR Smackdown bullets—each with their own mission.
Advances in muzzleloader rifle designs have given us platforms with serious long-range potential and accuracy. Traditions certainly has its share of rifle models capable of such feats, such as their 30-inch barreled Vortek StrikeFire LDR rifles. A rifle’s long-range performance, though, is dependent on a bullet that can match the rifle’s potential. That’s what the Smackdown XR bullets are all about.
Offered in .50 caliber (.45-inch diameter), the Smackdown XR is based on a solid lead core wrapped in a copper jacket. The tapered profile ends in a hard-pointed polymer tip. This tip, as expected, serves to enhance the bullet’s aerodynamics as well as to promote good terminal performance by encouraging expansion on impact. With a ballistic coefficient of 0.262, this bullet is intended to deliver on the accuracy expectations of long-range inline muzzleloaders.
Seating for the bullet comes courtesy of Tradition’s Ridgeback Sabot. It looks like any other three- or four-petal sabot (these have four petals), but the petals have circumferential rims molded into them. The stated purpose of these ridges is to provide an additional measure of gas sealing, thereby imparting as much energy as possible from the powder charge to the bullet.
Smackdown XR bullets come 15 to a pack, are available in 200, 230, and 250 grains, and are suited for whitetails and other mid-size game animals.
If your muzzleloader hunting adventures put you in the field with game ranging from whitetails up to the likes of bear and elk, you may want to consider Traditions’ Smackdown Carnivore. These .50-caliber bullets (.45-inch diameter) feature the same basic construction as the Smackdown XRs, including the solid lead core/copper jacket combo (with what looks like a black oxide finish) and the sleek polymer tip. Also similar is the Ridgeback Sabot.
The Smackdown Carnivore holds the same long-distance accuracy credentials as the XR and even has an ever-so-slight ballistic coefficient advantage on the XR at 0.262. The real separator between the two bullets is the weight range. Whereas the heaviest XR is 250 grains, the Carnivore starts at 250 and is offered in 275 and 305 grains. So, if your notion of big game hunting is that it requires a big hammer to put them down, the Smackdown Carnivore is a good choice.
On the opposite end of the Carnivore is the Smackdown Bleed. At 170 grains (the only weight available), they’re the lightweights of the Smackdown series, but that’s OK. What these bullets lack in downrange inertia they make up for with terminal performance.
The Bleed is a lead-free bullet, which features a core of compressed metal powder wrapped in a copper jacket. The compressed metal powder core has a hollowed point to maximize expansion and to deliver wide and deep wound channeling.
Aside from providing a lead-free alternative, Bleed bullets offer a lighter recoil compared to the XR and Carnivore bullets due to their reduced weight. This makes a more pleasing experience for youth hunters just being introduced to the world of muzzleloaders.
Smackdown Bleeds would not be our first choice for taking big game critters at stretched-out distances, but for your typical whitetails inside of 100 yards (where most shots are taken), the terminal performance and low recoil make this bullet an easy call.
For more info on Tradition Firearms’ full line of muzzleloader projectiles, check out their website.