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ODT Junkie!
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May 30, 2011
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Tacoma, WA
This is my review on the Traditions .50 caliber Kentucky Long Rifle kit. (pictured below)


DISCLAIMER: This was my first muzzle-loading rifle. I had never held one before, let alone repaired and/or fired one, so please forgive me if I have some of the terminology wrong.

This kit is advertised for $319.00 on the Traditions website, and $299.00 at Cabela's. I picked mine up at Cabela's for $120.00 because it was poorly assembled for display. When I say poorly assembled, I mean that the hammer would only halfcock and wouldn't lock fully to the rear, the ramrod retention spring was missing, and one of the three brass ramrod guides was also missing. But, it was cheap and I was confident that I could make it work.

Although this is a kit gun, and made from all modern materials (barrel is made in Spain), Traditions claims that the basic design is unchanged from the original Pennsylvania and Kentucky Long Rifles that tamed Appalachia nearly three hundred years ago.

First thing I did when I got it home was disassemble the weapon, inspect what parts were present, and begin sanding the stock. (see picture below)

Disassembly was simple. A flat-head screwdriver, cross-tip (Phillips head) screwdriver, and a small pair of pliers were all I needed, no special tools required.

Although all parts mounted without issue, significant sanding was required on the rear of the stock to ensure the seamless fit of the brass butt plate. Without sanding you would end up with about 1/16 inch extra wood sticking out around the butt plate. After sanding was complete, and I ensured all pieces fit to my liking, I applied four coats of Dark Oak wood stain. Most of the kit builds I have seen prefer a cherry wood stain, but I wanted something with a more "used antique" look to it. Once the stain was to my liking and dry I applied four coats of clear lacquer. (see picture below)


While the lacquer was drying I inspected the hammer mechanism to see why it would only lock in the halfcock position. There is a setscrew near the base of the hammer lever for minor adjustments to the lever position. I simply backed off of the screw about half of a turn and had no more issues with the lever.

Once I was happy that everything was in working order I reassembled the rifle. Now, because I had purchased an already assembled display piece I did not get the original package, or instructions. However, the instructions for any Traditions firearm can be easily downloaded from their website, free of charge.

As I stated in the disclaimer, I had no previous experience with muzzle loading firearms. Prior to taking this beauty out to the range I watched several YouTube videos pertaining to this particular firearm, as well as petitioned some of you good people for advice. I was not disappointed.
Below are some of the items I purchased:


The powder and percussion caps were recommended by Traditions. The flask has a 30 grain built-in funnel, but it was recommended to me that I use a separate, adjustable powder measure in addition to the flask, which I did (not pictured). Also not pictured are the pre-lubed patches I purchased.

The ramrod that comes with the rifle seems flimsy, but is actually functional. However, it is the exact length of the empty barrel, which makes packing the ball and charge tightly into the barrel difficult. I ended up purchasing an extra 12 gauge cleaning kit and using the cleaning rods as a ramrod in place of the actual ramrod.

Finally range day came! (I live near Seattle and the weather sucks)

Many of the forums I read said to fire a percussion cap through an empty barrel to clear out any debris before loading the first charge. I did this, partly to comply with the forum's advice, and partly to make sure the percussion cap would actually fire before I loaded a ball and charge in there and then not be able to get it out.

After the initial percussion cap firing was successful (hammer lever adjustment worked good) I measured a 30 grain charge, poured it into the barrel, then patched and rammed the .50 cal ball into the barrel, making sure to thoroughly seat the ball against the powder. (I started with a 30 grain charge, partly due to my inexperience, and partly to ensure that, if it did blow up in my face, the explosion would be relatively small) I then placed a percussion cap on the nipple, aimed, and pulled the trigger.

The hammer fell, the percussion cap sparked... and nothing.

I had read that sometimes a percussion cap would fail to fire, in which case simply to try another percussion cap, which I did. Hammer fell, percussion cap sparked... nothing.

Luckily one of the range safeties was a crusty old codger that knew a little something about muzzle loaders. He suggested that, when firing a muzzle loader like this for the first time, pouring a little bit of powder directly into the nipple. The Traditions Kentucky Long Rifle has a flat-head screw at the base of the nipple, which I unscrewed, poured a very small amount of powder into, and then made sure the screw was secured tightly.

I placed another percussion cap on, pulled the trigger, and... POW! It performed beautifully!

Excitedly I followed all of the same steps (omitting the nipple priming), and reloaded for another shot. Pulled the trigger, percussion cap sparked... and nothing. The range safety recommended that I run a piece of wire through the nipple after each shot to clear out the nipple opening. This was great advice. I didn't have any wire with me, but I was able to use a straightened staple to great effect.
(picture below is my Wife firing)


After three successive fires I upped the charge to 60 grains, which greatly improved range and accuracy, and only moderately increased recoil. In fact my Son remarked that, with a 60 grain charge, the Kentucky Long Rifle had less recoil than my .30-30. (video below) We ended up putting about 20 rounds downrange that day (lost count in all the fun). I recommend running a brush and cloth down the barrel after four to five rounds as the barrel can get very dirty real quick!
Accuracy is decent around 50 - 100 meters. Although I was hitting the target at 100 meters I wasn't nailing any bulls eyes, partly due to the delay between the percussion cap spark and actual powder ignition, partly due to the inherent inaccuracy of a ball projectile and a 60 grain charge at 100 meters.

The Traditions Kentucky Long Rifle kit is a relatively cheap way to experience history first hand. It is customizable to a limited degree and an absolute joy to shoot once you get the hang of it. It is also an excellent introduction into the world of muzzle loading firearms. Being a novice myself, I'm not sure how a seasoned muzzle loader would rate this firearm. I had low expectations due to it being a kit gun, and my own inexperience, but the Traditions Kentucky Long Rifle exceeded all of my expectations.
This is one my dad built in the last 1970s I still have it. It shoots like new taken many deer with it.


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I put together a 45 kit gun when I was @ 15yrs old. I have an original Hawkins kit gun, I believe, took my first deer with it. My Dad has my original one, I traded him a pistol for it. I still have the Hawken, had it @ 35yrs.
You got a great deal on yours. 50 cal is a great big game caliber. Shoot one of the newer bolt actions, you'll love it. Like a Remington 700ML, no longer made. But you can find one every once in a while.
I can tell you, you need at least 90gr of powder for a big game hunt. You'll have to check and see if yours will take such a load, but it should. It will kick with that bass butt plate. That's where a more modern one is nice to shoot. And it'll take a lot more powder for a better load. Also an elongated bullet will improve accuracy. Those round balls are no comparison. A sabot and a pistol bullet works very well. You get everything dialed in, you'll be surprised what it can do. I've taken deer consistently for years with a muzzle loader
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