The inline muzzleloader I’ve hunted most with for the past few years weighs nine pounds, two ounces, scoped. That’s heavy when compared with the heft of the Spanish-built Vortek Ultralight LDR from Traditions. It has an advertised weight of 6.8 pounds, but the one I received actually weighed only 61/2 pounds on my postal scale. Most of those ounces are trimmed away by using a lightweight synthetic stock and machining the receiver from aircraft-grade aluminum rather than steel. Using a one-piece aluminum base and Weaver steel rings to mount a scope put the rifle’s field-ready heft at a couple of ounces shy of eight pounds.
Less Weight, More Barrel
But any way you look at those two rifles, a 20-ounce decrease in weight will increase actual recoil, but we all know that differences in stock shape, design and material can make a big difference in felt recoil—a shooter’s perception of how hard a rifle kicks. That’s the only way I know to explain why I found the new Traditions rifle to be more comfortable to shoot from the bench than my old one. It has to be due to the shape of the Hogue Comfort Grip synthetic stock, along with its Quick Relief recoil pad. Rubber panels at wrist and forearm offer a no-slip grip for slippery hands. Color options are black and camo. And, as any hunting rifle should, the stock has quick-detach sling-swivel posts.
As far as I know, the Ultralight LDR is the only inline muzzleloader presently available with a 30-inch barrel. That, along with its extremely thin lines, makes it one of the best-handling inlines I’ve ever carried. Of chrome-moly steel, the exterior of the barrel is protected by a Cerakote finish, but since the bore contains no protective coating, it must be thoroughly cleaned soon after the rifle is shot to prevent rusting. This is not always convenient to do during a hunt. While a stainless steel barrel also has to be cleaned, it doesn’t rust as quickly, and including that one improvement in the rifle would make it even more appealing to serious hunters.
The eight-groove rifling has a twist rate of 1:28—typical for today’s inlines. A bore diameter of .501 to .502 inch along with rifling groove depth of .009 inch puts groove diameter at .519/.520 inch. Recessing the rifling .300 inch at the muzzle prevents it from being dinged when the barrel is accidentally banged against a rock or metal tree stand in the field. Called the Speed Load System by Traditions, the counterbored muzzle also holds a saboted bullet in alignment with the rifling during the loading process. The barrel contains no sights but is drilled and tapped for scope mounting. Two hangers at the bottom of the barrel hold an aluminum ramrod in place.
Nuts and Bolts
Breech lockup is accomplished when a spring-loaded bar at the bottom of the standing breech moves forward to engage a V-shaped cutout in the rear of the barrel underlug. Depressing a lever located at the front of the triggerguard pushes the locking bar out of engagement with the lug, allowing the barrel to hinge downward. As is commonly seen in tip-up actions, the barrel hinges on a transverse steel pin at the front of the receiver. Removing the forearm by turning out its retention screw allows the barrel to be removed.
The LDR fire is lit by a 209 shotshell primer. Traditions offers a depriming tool, but I find using thumb and finger to pluck them from the receptacle of the Accelerator breech plug to be easy enough, plus I don’t have to keep up with another item in the field. Turning the rifle on its side while flipping out a spent primer prevents it from dropping into the receiver.
Sharp checkering on the surface of the exposed breech plug makes it easy to remove with the fingers, unless its threads are heavily caked with fouling from a number of firings. In that case, a supplied wrench is used to break it free for finger removal. Three full counterclockwise rotations and it is out of the barrel. The heavy-duty rubber O-ring proved to be quite effective at preventing gas blow-by; after almost 50 firings no sign of fouling appeared on the tube of the scope worn by the rifle. Prior to shooting the gun I applied Briley anti-seize choke tube lube to the threads of the breech plug and did not remove it a single time during my range testing. The wrench was needed for breaking it free, but after that, finger power alone was enough.
The action has several safety features, including a transverse button in the rear of the triggerguard that blocks trigger movement when engaged. The hammer can be cocked while the safety is engaged, although doing so is a bit quieter with the safety in its “off” position. Should the rifle be dropped hard enough to cause its cocked hammer to move forward, an internal safety mechanism is designed to prevent it from traveling far enough to contact the firing pin. It also prevents full travel of the cocked hammer should the trigger be accidentally bumped with the safety disengaged, as long as the trigger is not held all the way to the rear.
If the hammer is cocked in the field and the rifle not fired, it can be lowered by holding back on its spur with a thumb while pulling the trigger, then just as you feel the hammer break free from the sear, remove your finger from the trigger while continuing to ease the hammer forward. If during that process the hammer spur were to break free from a slippery thumb, the hammer will not be able to travel far enough forward to strike the firing pin, as long as the finger has been removed from the trigger. Another way to lower the hammer on the loaded gun is to first break down the barrel with the safety engaged. Then disengage the safety, lower the hammer and close the gun. Like I said, lots of nice safety features in this rifle. An ambidextrous extension screwed into the side of the hammer spur is easily switched for shooting the rifle from either side.
Breaking crisply at 48 ounces with a mere two ounces of variation between pulls, the Drop-Out trigger rates high in my book as muzzleloaders go. As its name implies, it is easily removed from the receiver for cleaning by simply turning out a single retention screw.
Prior to heading to the range with the rifle, I scrubbed its bore with hot, soapy water to remove any petroleum-based oil used at the factory during the reaming and rifling processes. Traditions’ recommended Triple 7 maximum is 120 grains, so I started with two 60-grain pellets behind the Swift .45-caliber, 300-grain A-Frame pistol bullet set in a Traditions EZ-Load sabot. Accuracy for five shots at 100 yards was 2½ inches. Dropping back to two 50-grain pellets decreased velocity by close to 200 fps, but group size shrank to just under two inches so I decided to stick with the slower load.
The muzzleloader I’d hunted with most during recent years has a 26¼-inch barrel, so I was anxious to shoot it on the same day as the LDR to see how velocities of the two barrel lengths compared. The two-pellet load averaged 1,651 fps in my old gun—darned close to the 1,642 fps listed for Triple Seven on Hodgdon’s website. I expected to see 30 to 50 fps higher velocity from the 30-inch barrel of the LDR, but much to my surprise, it averaged only 1,516 fps. My best guess is that bore and groove diameters in my old rifle are a tighter fit with the Swift bullet/sabot combination, resulting in an increase in pressure and velocity.
I came to appreciate the excellent qualities of the Ultralight LDR while zeroing it at the range. I like it even more after using it to take a fantastic whitetail. It is available alone or as a package gun with a Traditions 4-12X scope—already mounted and bore-sighted—and a folding bipod.