Muzzleloading season is, to my mind, the most rewarding deer season mainly because there are fewer hunters in the woods, especially in December. Until the economy tanked, there were several muzzleloaders on the market, but nowadays there are only a handful hunters can count on to outfit themselves for it. LHR Sporting Arms now offers one. Launched in 2012 by four former employees of Thompson/Center Arms, LHR boasts decades of experience in the firearm industry. Its initial offering is the Redemption, a break-action, in-line, .50-caliber muzzleloader.
Its receiver is machined from 7070 aluminum bar stock, and hard-coat anodized. Weight is about 7 pounds; length is 41 inches with a 24-inch barrel. Length of pull is a nice, short 13.5 inches.
The rifle looks like an over/under combination 12-gauge/.22 LR, and breaks open like a shotgun. Push the tang lever to the right and the barrel drops, exposing the breech. It snaps shut smartly to protect primer and powder from the elements. The two-piece stock features a low comb and a deep pistol grip that provides excellent control. Some Americans may not cotton to its European styling, but everyone should be glad to learn the rifle is American-made and assembled in Rochester, N.H.
You'll find no hammer on this rifle. It's striker-fired; LHR calls it the Stealth Striker system. On the tang, the Cocking Slide, as LHR calls it, functions like slides I've used on Blaser rifles. Push it forward with your thumb to cock the gun and set it to "fire."
Disengage the system by depressing the now-exposed button atop the slide to move it to the rear. Drop the gun when it's cocked and the slide automatically de-cocks. Lefties will notice the ambidextrous design; everyone will notice there are no scope-clearance issues since there is no exposed hammer. Operation is simple quiet. Lock time is seemingly instantaneous, as opposed to side-hammer designs that seem to take forever to fire.
An externally threaded breech is a first for a muzzleloader. A threadless primer adapter is used in lieu of a breech plug. A retaining collar keeps it snug, and the tight seal virtually eliminates blowback from No. 209 primers and powder (no seizures here). Ignition is consistent. LHR calls it the Adapt breech system. Unscrew the collar with finger pressure then pull out the adapter—that's it to empty or clean the barrel. Shoot standard or magnum loads of loose or pelletized powder with the universal adapter. (Users may order an adapter expressly designed for loose powder from the company website.)The FT2 Match trigger is single-stage and factory-set to break at 3-3.5 pounds (mine averaged 3.5) with little take-up and no over-travel. It is not adjustable. The trigger blade is wide for good purchase. The oversized, mashed oval-shaped guard creates room for gloved fingers without disturbing the gun's aesthetics.
A 20- or 24-inch, 4140 chrome-moly steel Cloverleaf barrel is made by Green Mountain. It's button-rifled to the muzzle with a 1:28-inch twist good for bore-sized or saboted bullets. Its Armornite coating reduces friction, so loading a sabot is not terribly difficult.
Armornite is LHR's name for a salt-bath process that besides reduced friction also yields a black finish, and improved wear, heat and corrosion resistance. Other metalwork also is coated. The finish is infused beneath the metal's surface at high temperature and creates no surface area when applied. It does not change the bore size, it does not affect accuracy and it's guaranteed not to rust. To my knowledge, LHR is one of only two companies to coat its muzzleloader barrels inside and out with such a treatment. It should extend barrel life, even for hunters who neglect to clean the gun the same day they shoot it.
Three models are available; the only difference is the stock (black or camouflage synthetic, or walnut) and the barrel (20 or 24 inches long). Included with every gun is a wrench/palm saver/range-rod handle multi-tool. Also included is LHR's Lifetime Promise, a lifetime, transferrable warranty. A Weaver-style scope base is factory-mounted. All I had to do to hit the range was mount a Leupold VX-1 2X-7X-33mm Shotgun scope with the company's Heavy Duplex reticle. I wasn't disappointed with my session; see the accompanying results.
The LHR Redemption is a sleek hunting tool that comes to shoulder easy, shoots accurately, and unloads and cleans up with little fuss. It also displays some innovative operational features. The guys who created it worked on famous projects at T/C like the Pro Hunter switch-barrel firearm and Icon bolt-action centerfire rifle. One of them holds several patents, created in the service of T/C. That creativity endures; in fact I've been told a centerfire rifle from LHR is on the drawing board. I can't wait to see what's next.