Bullets, Powder and Bucks: Making Smoke in Cold Weather

Muzzleloader hunters need propellant that ignites reliably and burns consistently even in extreme weather conditions. The Blue MZ muzzleloading powder from Alliant Powder delivers on this tall order. (Photo: JJ Reich)

Alliant Powder puts its new Blue MZ muzzleloading powder pellets through a bitter-cold, bitter-sweet field test.

A muzzleloading rifle is often considered the most grueling and challenging of deer-hunting tools. The antique mechanics of the firearm and on-the-go assembly of ammunition components adds to the complexity and contest of the sport.

But it’s the elements of nature that can be the most challenging aspects of them all: Bitter-cold winds, melting snow and extreme temperature changes throughout winter’s short days all play a role on how taxing a late-season deer hunt with a smokepole can be.

For Alliant Powder, a late December 2016 hunt in northern South Dakota — where temps lingered just above and below zero degrees — was the perfect time and place to test a new muzzleloader powder: new pellets designed to defeat the harsh elements to deliver reliable performance, accuracy and ease of use — the all-new Blue MZ.

This past winter, Communications Manager for Alliant Powder, J.J. Reich, was sent out to do just that — put Blue MZ first-production samples through an extreme trial run.

A Winter-Weather Test Drive

“It was just days before Christmas when we received the first production samples of the pellets,” Reich said. “We knew they were coming, but they showed up later than planned. Plus, only four tubes were in the box. That gave me only a half of a pack to sight-in with a new powder and also harvest a deer. I was definitely nervous about that.”

Reich choose the Rosebud Indian Reservation in northwest South Dakota as his field-test site. He knew it was a target-rich environment with the potential for a big bucks. Plus, the harsh winter weather would give Blue MZ a great trial run.

“I’ve seen photos of bucks in the 150-class range, and a lot larger, taken during the late season, so I was excited to hunt there. I also knew the laws of allowing optics on the Rosebud would help my chances for success with this new product,” Reich said. “Although big bucks are always on my mind, my goal was to take a buck — any buck — with BLUE MZ, so I could report results back to the engineers.”

“We were seeing a lot of deer, but access to the property due to snowy conditions was so poor, and the extreme cold temperatures didn’t make for long, yet safe, hikes,” Reich said. “Although the deer were there, an opportunity for a shot was simply not presenting itself.”

Blue MZ 50-grain equivalent pellets produce higher velocities than competing pellets at safe pressures, and ignite reliably with 209 shotshell primers. (Photo: JJ Reich)

Designed For The Performance

Drawing on more than a century of gunpowder expertise, Alliant Powder designed the promising new muzzleloader propellant to deliver explosive performance — including surefire ignition and seamless burns — no matter what Mother Nature dishes out.

“On the ignition front, Blue MZ is a perfect match for 209 shotshell primers, and yields unflinching accuracy with a wide array of popular bullets, including Federal Premium’s new B.O.R. Lock MZ System,” Reich explained. “Blue MZ’s 50-grain equivalent pellets also raise the bar in firepower, producing higher velocities at safe pressures than competitive products can dispense.”

To accomplish such a feat of physics, Alliant engineers painstakingly optimized Blue MZ pellets’ chemistry and geometry to deliver devastating energy in a progressive manner that keeps even heavyweight projectiles rocketing downrange long after other loads falter.

Ballistics back up such impressive claims. For example, Federal Premium’s hard-hitting .50 caliber, 270-grain Trophy Copper B.O.R. Lock MZ bullet delivers 1,699 fps with a two-pellet charge, and puts the hammer down at 2,029 fps when fueled by three pellets.

For those who want to wield a true hammer blow when gunning for the planet’s toughest big-game species, Blue MZ propels Federal Premium B.O.R. Lock MZ 350-grain lead projectiles at a respectable 1,470 and 1,739 fps using two- and three-pellet charges, respectively.

Successful Results

It was a tough hunt. A snowstorm blew through the day before Reich arrived. Trucks got stuck, roads were closed and deep snow was brutal — nearly impossible — to walk through. But Reich and his party kept at it. All things considered, the icy-cold, wintery conditions provided an ideal test for the Blue MZ.

Powder pellets are easier to load and provide solid ignition even in harsh conditions, resulting in greater accuracy and performance. (Photo: JJ Reich)

“I filled my tag during a long deer drive on day three of the hunt,” Reich said. “My party slowly pushed a group of whitetails through a steep creek-bottom, where I waited atop a very steep ridge. Luckily a buck stepped out just 45 yards from where I was perched.”

However, the steep angle of the shot was difficult and Reich missed his mark.

“My heart sank the moment the smoke cleared and I realized I missed the boiler room,” Reich said. “The off-the-mark hit was all me. As I later learned, both the bullet and the powder performed as designed on that first shot.”

Reich’s first shot critically injured the buck and he saw him go down about 150 yards away in the snow-covered wooded flat near a turn in the creek. The thick snow made it pretty easy to follow the thick blood trail and buck tracks.

“I slowly followed the trail while at-the-ready,” Reich said. At 20 yards away, the buck stood up as I approached. My second shot was a heart shot and quickly ended the hunt.”

The beautiful South Dakota whitetail sported a thick winter hide and a unique rack.

“I will truly treasure this buck as it hangs on a wall in my man cave,” Reich said. “We tested, tested and tested the formula and design of the pellets extensively inside and outside the lab before its release, but it’s always great to experience a product we are providing to our customers succeed, firsthand and in the field.

This is what is known by some hunters as a ‘beautiful upset,’ a perfectly expanded bullet that has released its energy into the deer to put it on the ground. Blue MZ provides outstanding accuracy with a wide range of popular bullets, including the Federal Premium B.O.R. Lock MZ System.. (Photo: JJ Reich)

Buy Them, Try Them

“New Blue MZ also takes the misery out of muzzleloader maintenance,” Reich said. “Marathon cleaning sessions spent slaving away with bore brushes, rags and harsh chemicals are a thing of the past, thanks to a clean-burning formulation that is free from both sulfur and charcoal. In fact, Blue MZ allows fast and easy cleaning with water-based solvents.”

Adding to its user-friendliness, Blue MZ is available in handy clam-style packs that contain 48 of the super-charged little pellets tucked tightly into a series of small plastic tubes. Pellets are packed six to a tube, allowing easy transport afield while producing two to three shots per tube, depending on the shooter’s choice of charge.

Beautiful Upsets

Federal Premium’s exclusive B.O.R. Lock MZ System provides outstanding accuracy in a non-sabot design that’s easy to load. The system’s foundation is a polymer cup that’s permanently attached to the bullet base. The force of ignition pushes the cup forward onto raised bands along the bullet shank, expanding its diameter. This engages the rifling and seals the bore, optimizing velocity and accuracy.

“The feature I like most about the new copper-alloy bullets is that they have a polymer tip, with a deep, hollow cavity and skiving that allows for consistent, devastating expansion,” said Reich. “I recovered a beautiful upset from a South Dakota late-season buck that proved its excellent expansion capability. And the fact that its cup stays attached during impact showcases its all-in-one, hard-hitting design.”

Learn about all of the features and benefits of both the 270-grain copper and 350-grain lead versions of B.O.R. Lock MZ bullets at www.FederalPremium.com.