Gun Review: T/C Triumph

When I was presented with the opportunity to field test the new Triumph .50 calibre magnum muzzleloader from Thompson/Center (T/C), I jumped at it.

Muzzleloaders and I go back a long way, well over 30 years in fact.  I have owned at least a half-dozen different makes and models from an old Hawkins to a modern in-line or two. I have also shot my best whitetail buck, a buck that topped 180 Boone and Crockett points, with a muzzleloader. The world of the modern muzzleloader hunter however has changed markedly over the past decade, as not only have their rifles undergone a major evolutionary change but so to has the powder and the bullets they use. I have barely been able to keep pace with the rate of expansion in the world of the modern in-line. So when I was presented with the opportunity to field test the new Triumph .50 calibre magnum muzzleloader from Thompson/Center, I jumped at it.

The Muzzleloader

My first impression, after spending but a few minutes handling this rifle, can be summed up in two words: ruggedly simple. The rifle operates with only two moving parts and there is no need to take it all apart when it comes time to clean it. It all centres around one of its most innovative concepts, the Speed Breech XT. This ingeniously designed breech plug can readily be removed by hand, by simply rotating it 90 degrees and pulling it free of the barrel. The breech on this muzzleloader does not seize up either due to its opposing locking lugs similar to those found on a Howitzer cannon. The three gas compression rings additionally seal the plug from fouling. It certainly demonstrated its worth during my field testing, as despite having fired many rounds, I was still able to readily remove the breech plug for easy cleaning. This feature also came in handy at the range when I had to remove a powder charge in order to push a stuck bullet from the barrel. I simply and quickly removed the plug, dumped the powder and with the rifle’s ramrod pushed the stuck bullet from the barrel. It didn’t take me long to discover one other unique design feature. The last .750 of an inch of the barrel is enlarged to a diameter of .515 inches, which allows for a much truer and easier bullet start, as well as protecting the lands at the muzzle during the loading process.

The receiver is an alloy, reducing overall weight and opens into a barrel tip-up position with a toggle lock action making it extremely easy to prime and allows for unencumbered access to the breech plug. The trigger is of a set trigger design with an automatic hammer block safety. The trigger is factory set at three to 3.5 pounds and it broke very crisply and consistently on my test rifle at 3.3 pounds. I certainly didn’t feel like it needed any additional adjustment.

The Triumph is also equipped with a Sims Limbsaver recoil pad, which certainly reduced felt recoil; a real plus, particularly on the range. My particular test model came with a composite stock in Realtree AP HD camouflage and with a Weather Shield Barrel that has an Advanced Metal Coating for corrosion protection and durability. This is one solidly built and simple rifle to use.

The Scope

The rifle comes equipped with open sights but as I wanted to get the most out of it, mounted an MDM BuckTracka 1.5-6x-44mm scope on it. This scope with its 30 mm tube and 44 mm objective lens was not only bright but with European-made multi-coated  lenses was very sharp as well. Additionally, with its quick focus I was able to readily adjust image sharpness for any range I was shooting at. While all these features made for a great match with this rifle, I fell in love with its reticle — an Illuminated Precision Point, which is essentially a post-type reticle with an independent triangular precision point on top that can be illuminated from black to varying degrees of red depending on light conditions. It certainly will make shooting under all but darkness an improved experience. This reticle also allows for two types of shooting techniques. First, the tip of the precision point can be used as a precise aim point or the entire precision point, a small triangle, can be used almost as a large dot for a quick shot on a moving target. Last, it has concealed elevated turrets for easy finger tip adjustments. Stay tuned as during my field test it also proved to be one tough scope, no wonder it comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Field Test

Prior to shooting this or any other muzzleloader, especially if you have not done so in the past, I would highly recommend that you carefully read the instruction manual and watch the DVD provided. It will certainly make the process of shooting and hunting with this muzzleloader a much more informed and easy process.

For this test I zeroed in on two powder choices, both being less corrosive black powder substitutes: Hodgdon Triple Seven pellets and MagKor Black Mag 3 loose powder. Both performed well but both have their advantages and disadvantages. Quickly, the Triple Seven pellets were simpler to use but required a more thorough cleaning. The MagKor Black Mag 3 was the cleanest burning black powder substitute I have ever used but as it is loose powder, each charge had to be measured out. (This can be an advantage when fine-tuning a load.) Both provided very uniform results with velocity spreads for three shot groups varying on average less than 20 feet per second. Quite remarkable performance actually when considering all the factors that could alter this uniformity in a muzzleloader.

In so far as bullets, I narrowed my choices down to four bullets types with sabots: Hornady Lock-N-Load  250 grain SST-ML; Barnes Expander-MZ 250 grain; TC Shock Wave 250 grain and Dyno-Core Premium 222 grain. However, when it came to primers I limited my choice to Winchester 209 shotgun primers. This decision in of itself proved to be a bit of a sticky problem, as the odd one, after being fired, began to stick in the breech plug and required considerable effort to extract. In fact, I actually had to resort to a pair of pliers to remove some of them and no amount of primer pocket cleaning seemed to help the situation either. So I contacted Roland Eldridge, the Thompson Center Technical Supervisor, for advice.  He suggested I switch to CCI  209 primers. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any readily available, so I stuck it out with the Winchester primers. While shooting on the range where I had a pair of pliers handy, these were acceptable but it certainly would not be satisfactory in the field.

While running my tests I found that the Hornady Lock-N-Load sabot bullets with Triple Seven pellets were the most user friendly, as the sabot had a thin plastic tail on which to add up to three 50-grain  pellets. I cut off the protruding remainder of the tail and was left with all but a self-contained cartridge ready to be rammed down the barrel. This brings me to my tail of woe. During the loading process of a particularly tight bullet, the rifle slipped from my hands and landed directly on the bell of the scope leaving a substantive dent. I was dismayed, believing that the scope would be minimally well off target if not broken beyond immediate use. To my pleasant surprise it was not broken and with a minor adjustment in elevation, I was right back on zero.

To ensure that I was getting the most out of the muzzleloader, powder and bullets I was shooting, I  ran a wet patch and then a dry patch down the barrel after each shot. The result was very uniform velocities and, as the table below will demonstrate, accuracy was equal to a lot of centrefire rifles. But if I had to pick but one bullet to take hunting in this muzzleloader, it would be the Hornady Lock-N-Load  250-grain SST-ML due to the ease of use when combined with its overall accuracy and velocity with Triple Seven pellets.

Bullet Type & Grain Weight Powder Type & Grain Weight Average Velocity Average Accuracy
Barnes Expander-MZ 250-grain Triple Se7en 100-grain 1830 fps 1.25 inches
Barnes Expander-MZ 250-grain MagKor Black Mag 3 100-grain 1785fps 1.4 inches
TC Shock Wave 250-grain Triple Se7en 100-grain 1790 fps 1.25 inches
MDM Dyno-Core Premium 222-grain MagKor Black Mag 3 1760 fps 3.1 inches
MDM Dyno-Core Premium 222-grain Triple Se7en 100-grain 1810 fps 2.75 inches
MDM Dyno-Core Premium 222-grain Triple se7en 150-grain 2180 fps 2.85 inches
Hornady Lock-N-Load 250-grain SST-MLTriple Se7en 100-grain 1820 fps 1.3 inches

*All groups were three shot groups fired at 100 yards and were chronographed with a Chrony Gamma Master Chronograph.

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