The new Traditions Outfitter G2 break-action single-shot cartridge rifle is available in a unique lineup of calibers including .357 Mag., .44 Mag., .45-70 Govt., .450 Bushmaster, .243 Win., .35 Whelen and .35 Rem. Long a fan of moderate-power single-shot rifles for plinking and small game hunting, I put the .357 Mag. through the paces, and the testing process was among the most enjoyable ever.
Retailing for around $500 with a Traditions 3-9x40 scope, this rifle is all utility. A synthetic stock and all-weather Cerakote receiver and barrel finish add up to a gun that won't rust easily or cause heartache getting scratched up in the field. Originating in the 1830s with the pinfire Lefaucheux breech-loading shotguns, break-open actions have the advantage of simplicity and compactness. With careful design and good materials, they have sufficient strength for most hunting cartridges. The Outfitter G2 manages to fit a 22-inch barrel into a 37.5-inch overall length, with a 14.8-inch length of pull. It's an adult-sized rifle that weighs in at 5.8 pounds, with another pound added by the scope. Molded-in checkering makes for secure grip, and sling swivel studs come pre-installed.
The action release is the rectangular bar protruding in front of the trigger guard. While it sometimes catches glove material, it is adequate to the task. The hammer has an offset extension to get around the scope ocular bell. A push-through safety also keeps the hammer from cocking if engaged, though it can be applied with the hammer already back. Cocking the hammer blocks the action release bar, and the transfer bar arrangement makes de-cocking simple and safe. The action uses a spring-loaded extractor to push the spent casing out of the breech slightly—enough to grab with bare hands, but difficult to handle in gloves. This arrangement favors the ammunition reloader over the rapid shooter. The extracted casings became unexpectedly asymmetrically sooty after only a hundred rounds or so, making the extraction even less smooth. However, the entire shooting test involved over 300 rounds, and the rifle still functioned reliably, despite the powder residue.
The balance is excellent, and the rifle comes up to the shoulder just right to get an instant sight picture at 3X magnification for a quick snapshot. At 9X, it is equally comfortable for deliberate supported shooting positions. While the non-illuminated scope with a 1-inch tube is simple, it is sufficiently bright, even at dusk, once dialed back to the widest view. The simple duplex reticle can still be used for estimating drop; generally speaking, with a 50-yard zero, the 200-yard point of impact resides close to the top of the thick portion of the crosshair.
Felt recoil is almost absent. Between a well-padded buttpad and a properly shaped stock, this rifle has all the kick of a semi-auto .22 rifle, despite the impressive ballistics put out by some of the .357 Mag. loads when fired from the long barrel. For example, American Eagle 158-grain soft point reaches less than 1,200 fps from a 4-inch revolver and expands poorly. The same bullet zips out at 1,860 fps from the 22-inch tube, expanding to around 0.8-inch in gel. Georgia Deerstopper 158-grain +P is rated at 1,250 fps from handguns, but reaches stupendous 2,300 fps with 22 inches of barrel provided for the acceleration.
For comparison, a 7.62x39 AK cartridges with a similar weight bullet reaches no more than 2,200 fps with the same barrel length, and expands less. The revolver cartridge achieves this feat with no visible muzzle flash and far lower chamber pressure. Testing various loads with a MagnetoSpeed chronograph showed that there was little correlation between bullet weight and muzzle velocity. Typically, light bullets are faster than heavy bullets, but the variation between powder burn rates and perhaps the amount of friction between the bullet jacket and the rifling make more difference in the case of pistol caliber ammunition fired from a carbine. Most bullets in the 110- to 180-grain range showed velocities from 1,600 fps to 2,000 fps, and there was no clear pattern as to which loads would do what. For instance, Cor-Bon 110-grain JHP—more optimized for short barrels—reached 1,740 fps, while 125-grain JHP reached 2,180 fps.
Accuracy testing was slightly handicapped by the trigger, gritty and heavy at 6 3/4 pounds. Most loads produced groups between 2 and 3 MOA. Federal Hydra-Shok and HPR HyperClean—both 158-grain JHP loads—produced the best results at just under 2 MOA. I would consider the Outfitter G2 to be sufficiently accurate for deer out to 200 yards if the most energetic loads are used, and for small game out to 100. Shooting for groups revealed that two loads with the same bullet weight and fairly similar velocity produce impacts that are within an inch of each other for elevation, but four inches from group center to group center in windage.
Other test groups, for example, with Federal’s all-copper 140-grain HP, were removed from the 158-grainer's zero by five inches diagonally. For some reason, quite possibly torque of the bullet on the relatively light gun, this carbine produces very different points of impact, even at 100 yards. Off hand at 50 yards, the difference would be insignificant, while at 200, it would mean the difference between a hit and a wide miss on any likely game.
For best results with the Outfitter G2, get samples of all likely loads in the practice and hunting categories, and see which of them have closely coinciding zeros. That way, you could practice and plink with less expensive ball and hunt with higher performing expanding ammunition. In considering terminal effects, we also have to keep in mind that some bullets optimized for 1,200 fps to 1,600 fps range might not perform when pushed faster. Remington 158-grain SJHP breaks up with minimal penetration when fired at 1,800 fps up close, but would expand correctly if used on a deer from 80 yards where the velocity drops off. Conversely, less expensive soft-points perform best up close and expand less at longer ranges.
Overall, the Outfitter G2 falls into the same category as small sports cars—pure fun! The one I have gets passed around at ranges because everyone wants to shoot a few rounds with it. Like manual gearshift, the simple and direct action puts the user closer to the performance. And, thanks to the utter simplicity of the break-open rifle, anything from the heaviest .357 Mag. to the subsonic .38 Spc. can be stuffed in and fired to good effect. On top of that, this entertaining carbine won't break the bank.
• 22″Lothar Walther premium hammer-forged barrel
• Weight: 5.8 lbs (gun only)
• Transfer bar safety system
• Manual trigger block safety
• Steel frame
• 11 degree target clown
• Drilled & tapped
• MSRP: $527; traditionsfirearms.com