The Remington 700 ML/MLS & Ruger 77/50 muzzle loaders have been out of production for years now. These rifles now vary in condition. Some have hardly been used. Others used, but well cared for. Some have been neglected. So their condition truly runs the full gambit. This is further complicated due to the original design and other 209 modifications sending fouling corrosive gasses throughout the bolt and the receiver. New owners can be further confused by the various kits that may have been fitted over the years. Our kits fix blow back issues, don't rely on most of the parts people tinker with, and base line the rifle to a solid known good state.
Many folks find their way to this blog from a simple internet search. Frequently because they are having trouble like misfires, failure-to-fire, are tired of blow back, etc. Some just want to use Blackhorn 209 powder (which will misfire or blooper if not sealed up). Other's have a friend that fixed his woes with our system, or saw a modified rifle at the range using our awesome 209 conversion for Remington 700 ML's and Ruger 77/50 rifles. Some just know that there has to be a better way, and there is: you found it in our kits. However you got here, and whatever shape your rifle is in, welcome to the best, last conversion you'll ever want on your rifle, and a great source for other hard to find Remington 700 ML parts.
If you are new to our conversions, you may want to skip this blog post and read some of the others, then come back to this one, as it assumes you already know our conversions are awesome and fix your troubles. However some folks are determined to do some even "heavier meddling" and make these rifles something different. I've looked at this and on a personal level, I'm not interested and won't be doing anything more on my rifles than using our kits to seal the breech, and shoot Blackhorn209 powder.
We do have products that will aid those who still want to do that barrel swap and burn smokeless, but I myself won't be going down that path. In this post I want to discuss this 'heavy meddling' and explain why I won't do it myself.
The number one question I get concerning meddling and trying to do 'more' is converting to 209's with our kit and shooting smokeless powder in the factory barrel: DON'T DO IT! It says it right on your rifle's barrel. No kit will change the fact that the barrel is not safe for smokeless. I don't care what you read on some forum, or what some guy on the range told you. DON'T DO IT! There are not any magical fairy smokeless powders for your rifle, and there isn't any need to take that risk!
The problem here is that muzzle loader safe propellants (like Black Powder, Pyrodex, Triple Se7en, and BlackHorn209) have different burning properties than the wide spectrum that makes up modern smokeless powder. And that difference is what saves folks from blowing up guns (so long as they follow the manufacture's rules, don't double charge, double load, etc). I cannot emphasize enough how using only a muzzle loader safe propellant (and using a witness mark on the ram rod to know the rifle is loaded and avoid a double charge) is the key to enjoying this sport safely.
That said, some rifles, with special barrels are made to use certain types of smokeless powder. However, your Remington nor Ruger is not one of them. Yes, some folks swap barrels to make a smokeless gun. They of course are 100% on their own, and liable for their own technical problems and safety issues. If it is possible to do a barrel swap, and may be legal in some states to hunt on some hunts with a smokeless muzzle loader... why do it? What really are you going to get and at what cost? Typically those pursuing smokeless want faster, flatter shooting, harder hitting rifles, and think that they need to go smokeless to get better performance. But how much increase in range or velocity will you get versus the $$$$$ spent? How much heavier or more awkward of a rifle will you make? Will it group any better than what you started with?
Doesn't the original leaky rifle, with black powder, already have what it takes to kill anything in North America?!?! Our kits seals up those breach leaks and makes it reliable. Many modern muzzle loading propellants already out perform black powder. These rifles with their factory barrels have a reputation of being very accurate. Do you really need more than that?
Looking at these rifles as they came from the factory, folks 'just know' that they could be so much better. I agree: our kits take them to their full potential.
I believe the factory rifle (with our 209 kit) is good enough: my rifles shoot reliably, accurately, and harvest deer (the largest game I can kill around here is Black Bear, but Black Bear isn't my thing... but I'm sure my rifles could easily handle Black Bear). I'm confident my rifles, with our kit and factory barrels, will kill any North American game to 200 yds. I'm convinced that anyone with a Remington 700 ML/MLS or Ruger 77/50 in good shape and wants to have a top performing muzzle loader, only needs to use our kit, standard 209 primers, Blackhorn209, sabots, and jacketed hand gun bullets or muzzle loader specific bullets.
But to continue the comparison: rifles re-barreled for smokeless almost always have much longer, heavier barrels. It must be emphasized that the longer barrel itself gives an increase in velocity... all things being the same: longer barrels increase velocity. Or in other-words, shooting the same powder charge and projectile combination in a longer barrel will generate more velocity. This is because the projectile is in the barrel longer, getting pushed by expanding gasses for longer, so more energy (AKA velocity) is transferred to the projectile.
But with BlackHorn209, and your factory barrel, you don't have to go smokeless to get more velocity. At heavier bullet weights, (like 275gr and up) I think you will find BlackHorn209 out performs all other muzzle loader safe propellants. And if you were to chronograph a safe smokeless load in a barrel made for smokeless, and of the same length as the factory barrel, against a BlackHorn 209 charge (both using the same 300gr projectile), the BlackHorn209 load wouldn't be too far behind the smokeless. By too far behind, I'm talking a couple/three hundred feet per second. And lets be honest, 200 to 300 FPS is not much of an increase in range or killing power.
In general barrel swaps cost around $1200.00... Frequently more, occasionally less if you do a lot of the work yourself. To consider what our kit does to a standard rifle vs doing a barrel swap, you have to consider the cost against the potential performance increases. And I don't think that $1200 is worth it. Especially because BlackHorn209 is readily available, and safe! You must realize that if you get something wrong with the smokeless gun, you are more probable to have a KABOOM!
Remember, a longer barrel is essentially what the newer Remington 700 Ultimate Muzzle Loader (UML) has over the older Remington 700 ML/MLS. The Ultimate is a longer, heavier rifle. It is not as handy, and costs so much more than a good used MLS. Plus I understand Remington no longer will warranty the rifle if its been shot with Blackhorn, so in that case, you are restricted in the powders you can use. I've had plenty of customers tell me they sold their Ultimate and got a used 700 MLS rifle and our kit because it does the job, is more handy, easier to carry, and actually saved them $ because its cheaper over all.
I have a Savage 10ML2, new in the box. I've never shot it! Why? Because its super long and super heavy: my Remington 700 ML's and Ruger 77/50's (with their original barrels) get the job done and are so much lighter and handier. And I don't go deer hunting from a bench... I'm walking out to the fields and woods, climbing trees, up ladder stands, etc. My Remington and Ruger rifles with their factory barrels win hands down overall when it comes to hunting.
So for me, I wouldn't entertain a barrel swap unless the barrel was not serviceable. And even then its probably cheaper (and definitely easier) to just buy another rifle with a factory barrel!... or find a take off barrel on Ebay from someone's smokeless build. I get nearly the same performance from my factory barreled rifles, and without all the cost, weight, awkward handling, and added trouble of doing the work to swap a barrel. Dollars & work in vs performance out: I'm tickled pink with our kit and my factory barrels.
If you are tired of the clean up of Black Powder substitutes, and wanting to get away from them for that reason, BlackHorn209 comes out ahead there too. Blackhorn209 cleans up great with standard gun cleaning solvents, just like a smokeless gun. You can read more about that by clicking here.
All that said: any muzzle loader safe propellant works great in the Remington and Ruger original barrels (with our kits installed on the bolt and sabot/projectile). It so much easier just to convert to our system and get great performance, I don't think I'll ever re-barrel a rifle and go smokeless.
But if you are absolutely set on swapping barrels, we offer "half kits." Smokeless conversions usually use a custom breech plug that sits deeper into the breech. So, folks putting a new barrel on a Remington will probably want a longer nose. Our long nose protrudes farther forward and will not work with our standard breech plug, nor the original barrel. The cost is the same for a half kit with a long nose or a standard nose (just tell us in the "note to seller" portion of check out what nose you want).
ONE LAST COMMENT ON BARREL SWAPS: IF YOU SWAP THE BARREL YOU OWE IT TO WHO EVER USES THE RIFLE AFTER YOU SELL IT (OR PASS IT ON TO) TO INSCRIBE ON IT SPECIFICATIONS:
#1: its caliber, ie ".45 CAL"
#2: what powder is safe in it: "Use ONLY BLACK POWDER/BLACK POWDER SUBSTITUTES" &/or "USE ONLY APPROVED SMOKELESS POWDERS AT APPROVED QUANTITIES" etc.
So there you have it. I got on my soap box, and told folks that I'll sell them what they want, but I won't necessarily agree with them that they 'need' it.
So if you contact me asking about smokeless mods, I'll try and figure out what your priorities are, see if they could be met with a cheaper option: our kit, the rifle's original barrel, BlackHorn209, and Sabots. Those are deadly combinations.
That's my advice, because that is what I use and resolved to myself.
Alas, the customer is always right!
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