Mike Waddell says Thompson Center's new .50 Cal. Triumph Bone Collector is, "the baddest muzzleloader in the land!" I've gotta say, when I hear claims like this, I have to see for myself what all the fuss is about. So I picked one up and headed to the range.
It's no secret, New Hampshire-based Thompson/Center Arms has taken the firearms market by storm in recent years. Born in 1965, T/C has been around for over four decades and, many believe they now make some of the finest firearms in the world today.
Thompson Center Triumph Bone Collector Muzzleloader
Reputation aside, whenever I field-test a firearm, I make a concerted effort to be objective. We all know no single product is perfect; there are usually positives and negatives. But following a thorough "going over," I'm stumped. I don't have much to say in the way of negatives on this one.
As a regular attendee at the annual SHOT Show, I get to fondle most of the latest and greatest guns and I'll say this, even before shooting this muzzleloader, the new Bone Collector looks and feels great. But the obvious question persists … can it shoot? And if so, is it truly, "the baddest muzzleloader in the land," as Waddell claims?
While lots of hunters prefer to shoot their blackpowder rifles with open sights, I chose to mount a Bushnell 4200 series 2-10x50 on mine. My rationale - this allows me to test accuracy by eliminating as much human error as possible.
Whenever I check out a new gun, I consider first impressions and visual appeal, how it feels in hand, how it handles at the range or in the field, features that make it unique from comparable firearms, downrange accuracy, how easy it is to clean, and the price point. Read on and I'll share my impressions of the Bone Collector.
First Impressions and Visual Appeal
Unique in style, T/C is arguably at the forefront of firearms design. At first glance, this gun is indeed a one-of-a-kind. The newest member of the Triumph series, it has distinct appeal. In two words, it can best be described as "simple" and "weatherproof." I'll expand on this shortly when I address its unique features.
How it Handles
In the world of muzzleloaders, by comparison, the Triumph Bone Collector is relatively lightweight. Designed with an alloy receiver, this muzzleloader is much lighter than its cousin, the Encore Pro Hunter. Some guns just feel good in hand. The forend grip is comfortable; not too wide and not too narrow. The Flex Tech stock is about an inch shorter than those on other Triumphs and, I like a shorter stock, so this is a real bonus. It has a SIMS Limbsaver recoil pad and this is nothing short of awesome when you're shooting 150 grains of powder.
Consistent with most muzzleloaders, I found the Bone Collector to be easy to load as long as the barrel is clean. Set up for a 209 primer, this gun is simple to ready. With the tip-up barrel and toggle lock action, it's a simple matter of breaking the barrel, dropping in a primer, closing it, and locking the toggle in place. It doesn't get much simpler than that. But beware, depending on the powder you use, if you don't clean between shots, you'll have difficulty seating the sabot.
As far as the shooting goes, this muzzleloader has a factory set trigger with an automatic hammer block safety, making it easy and safe to handle. According to the specifications, all Triumph Bone Collector triggers are set at the factory for between 3 and 3.5 pounds of pull. In my experience at the range, this is a comfortable setting with this muzzleloader.
I found the Bone Collector's unique features appealing. From the 28" fluted barrel, to the easily removable speed breech XT plug, recoil pad, fiber optics sight, reversible hammer extension, Power Rod with "T" end, Weather Shield barrel and receiver, and the fact that the stock was available in both Realtree AP or black composite - my initial reaction - what could they possibly come up with next? But the three most impressive features were the easily removable breech plug, the weatherproof characteristics of this firearm, and the inherent recoil technology.
Speed Breech XT - T/C has engineered and patented this modern style closed breech plug that is easy to remove, by hand. In my opinion, this is one of the two most appealing features on this muzzleloader. If you've been shooting in-line muzzleloaders for more than 10 years, then you're familiar with the amount of effort required in the early years to disassemble and clean blackpowder rifles. The Triumph series and in particular this new Bone Collector has been successfully designed to eliminate traditional cleaning hassles. You still have to be diligent in cleaning, but it's a simple matter of turning the breech plug with a 90 degree twist, pulling it out and going through the motions of using bore cleaner, drying, and then lubing before storage.
T/C's Weather Shield Protective Coating - Touted as a better alternative to stainless barrels, T/C's Weather Shield technology offers a completely weatherproof metal coating option. In turn, the coating is a matte black finish that is said to provide greater durability and excellent protection from corrosion.
As far as recoil is concerned, T/C's unique Flex Tech technology that uses SIMS Limbsaver makes shooting this muzzleloader a real treat. SIMS Limbsaver is well known in the world of hunting and T/C has joined forces with them to marry their technologies to make this remarkable recoil dampening stock.
The rifled tubes on today's muzzleloaders are precisely machined. This combined with the accuracy in powder measurements (i.e., in my case 150 grains of Pyrodex) along with the acute ballistic qualities of high performance sabots, creates a recipe for amazing accuracy. That said each component has to perform flawlessly to create downrange accuracy. Here's what happened the first time I took my Bone Collector to the range.
When I had the scope mounted, it was bore sighted. We all know it's only ballpark accuracy with bore sighting. Long story short, I shot 250 grain Barnes Expander Spit-Fire TMZ sabots out of this gun. At 100 yards I took two shots and wasn't hitting the paper with the gun. I immediately switched to a 25 yard target. The first five shots were in the same hole with an outside error of 1" so I easily zeroed the scope and then switched back to the 100 yard target. At 100 yards, with a vice, I was easily able to zero the scope and shoot a consistent 3" group with the next 15 rounds. Regardless of the vice, there is always some degree of human error and, frankly few could argue with this kind of performance. As far as downrange accuracy is concerned, I was suitably impressed. That said it's important to note that I cleaned the barrel thoroughly between each round.
Upon inspection, I also noticed that the firing pin depression was consistently centered on the head of the primer. No misfires or hang fires were experienced during my shooting session.
Again the Speed Breech XT plug is easily removed by breaking the barrel. With a simple 90 degree twist and pull, it is removed and you're off to the races. The Power Ramrod with "T" end and accessorized cleaning jag simplify cleaning. The muzzleloader comes with a complementary breech plug wrench even though the plug can be easily removed without it. This is a welcome evolution from the old labor-intensive breech plug assemblies of the early in-line muzzleloaders.
Last but not least is cost. What will it cost you to get into a Bone Collector? That may vary somewhat between retailers, but they are competitively priced. From my research, the Triumph Bone Collector typically retails for between $500 and $600 U.S.D. depending on whether you get a black or camo stock.
To sum it up, the T/C Triumph Bone Collector is a performance muzzleloader. The hunting world is well acquainted with T/C's Encore Pro Hunter line and I'm intimately familiar with this model as well, in fact I own one. For sake of comparison, I found the Bone Collector to be significantly lighter and, incidentally trickier to stabilize for downrange accuracy. In turn, a rest, bipod, or shooting sticks are recommended when shooting this muzzleloader. Combine all of these unique features and it's almost impossible to dismiss this muzzleloader as a favorite.
Is it the "baddest in the land?" That will be up to you to decide. I still favor the Encore Pro Hunter, but the Bone Collector definitely comes in a close second!
Kevin Wilson is a freelance outdoors writer and professional big game & waterfowl
guide/outfitter from Alberta, Canada. Confessing an obsession for big whitetails
and bighorn sheep, he has hunted most North American big game species with either
bow, muzzleloader, rifle or shotgun. Specializing in archery, freshwater fishing,
waterfowl and big game hunting, his articles can be found in several well known
outdoor publications across the U.S. and Canada. For more information on his
outfitting services, visit www.venturenorthoutfitting.com .
Member of OWAA & OWC.