Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The TC New Englander

The New Englander seems to have been Thompson Center's response to the demand for a lower price point, high quality, single-trigger gun for deer hunters and came out at a time when the in-line had yet to make the big splash and wasn't even legal in some states. These guns came in .50, .54 and 12 gauge. I had thought they made a .45 but I can't find a reference supporting that. Individual barrels were available so that one could switch it up for different game. Of course the 12 ga. was a dandy and cost effective shotgun. The stock is plain walnut with a good straight grain and the fittings are plain cast steel as TCA does most all parts. Rifling is shallow compared to some muzzleloaders but has presented few problems. Twist rate is 1-48", an ideal compromise for round ball and conical in this caliber but totally unsuitable to the sabots commonly used today. The issue ramrod was an impregnated wood which I replaced with a special TC made rod. The replacement rod is stiffer AND more durable.

I got my New Englander from MidSouth Shooters' Supply for a whopping $154! In .54 caliber the gun is well balanced for carry, the balance point is at the barrel wedge. Same for shooting as it has just the right amount of "hang" to hold steady in off-hand after panting up a hill. The add-on TCA Hunter's Peep really helps improve sighting accuracy. The matching front sight is great but I painted the face of the "bead" in white for better visibility. This makes the sight combo usable in bright sun or dark forest.

Accouterments are necessary for every muzzleloader but the minimum can be used for this big bore rifle. I use the following accouterments:
  • Speed Loaders - I use both the Dixie type and the TC Quickshot. The Dixie type is merely a plastic tube with an internal diameter suitable to the caliber of ball/patched ball for which used with a cap that fits the other end of the tube to hold the powder twixt bullet/ball and cap. Works well but requires the capper. The TC Quickshot has an integral cap with provision for holding a cap or priming charge as well. The powder capacity of both speedloaders is approximately the same.
  • Capper - Made by Ted Cash, my straight line capper has come to be the prefered capper for this rifle.
  • Short Starter - This is a TC product but any other suitable for the caliber would work. It certainly helps to get the tight fitting conicals started in the bore as it gives something substantial to push against (the ball) to get the concicals going.
  • Nipple Wrench/Wedge Puller combo tool - This is a TC product made for all their traditional sidelock style muzzleloaders. Works a treat.
  • Shooting Bag - From October Country, this bag is for the belt and I only carry speedloaders, capper and short starter in it.

Does the .54 work, well, yeah! Even the antiquated round ball over the Virginia minimum charge of 60 grains of blackpowder or substitute will kill deer dead. The 12 ga. could be used with single ball just like a musket or trade gun for deer hunting and can also use shot.

I once tried to use a musket nipple to use musket caps to improve ignition. Not that anything was wrong, but I wanted "better". The musket nipple was a no go and the supposedly hotter musket caps actually provided hang fires. I've gone back to #11 caps and have perfect satisfaction. I heard that the musket nipples were brought out because some folks were having ignition problems with their #11 nipples. I have to say that I think they simply had a bad nipple. One that is too short will allow the primer flame to dwell too long at the bottom of the drum and not be hot enough to ignite a blackpowder substitute.

Over the past couple of decades we've had a trend away from traditional muzzleloaders to the point that manufacturers such as Thompson Center have discontinued the majority of traditional side-locks and might have several designs of in-lines. Still, the New Englander is a reliable companion in the field.

No comments: