TC Encore Pro Hunter - First Time Out With My New Muzzleloader


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail and 1x20 Nikon Scope

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter with EGW Rail, one inch medium height Weaver 4 screw tactical bases and 1x20 Nikon scope.


Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 100 yard group

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 100 yard group with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 250 Gr SST bullets and two Triple Se7en pellets.


200 yard shots with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 250 Gr SST bullets and two Triple Se7en pellets

Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 200 yard shots with a 1x20 Nikon Scope, Hornady 250 Gr SST bullets and two Triple Se7en pellets.


I always loved the muzzleloader season in Utah back in the day when you could hunt in November. Since they moved the season to the end of September I haven't been as fond of it.

This year I didn't draw my first choice of hunting with a rifle for mule deer here in Utah. So hunting with a muzzleloader was my second option. Knowing how hard I work to get into areas to hunt I decided it was time to step up from my CVA muzzleloader to something better. After mulling over all the different muzzleloaders on the market I finally decided the Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter was what I felt would best fit my needs, within the price range I could come up with the funds for.

Sportsman's Warehouse had both a camo and black stainless version in the rack and I walked out with the black one for $680.

Trying to decide on what powder, the charge, and bullets has been a challenge. There are a lot of options... To start with I tried going with two Triple Seven pellets of powder behind a 250 Gr Hornady SST sabot bullet. This had pretty decent accuracy considering I am restricted to a one power scope in Utah.

Deciding optics has been a interesting challenge. There are very few options in the one power range, especially when it comes to a turret that you can dial in the shot. Yes, I would like to range the deer at 185 yards, dial in the scope and take the shot.

I ultimately chose the Nikon 1x20 scope but the other two options were a Vortex 1x scope and a Night Force 1x scope that is custom built for Gun Werks. The Night Force would be the best but not for $1700. Not a chance for me to get.

I went back and forth between the Vortex and Nikon. Ultimately I went with the Nikon because I already had one from my old CVA and I felt the optics were a little clearer. Neither scope is exactly what I would like. I feel that both scopes have way to heavy of cross hairs. The cross hairs cover up a six inch circle at 100 yards. I wish they would make the cross hairs ultra fine with an illumination option for low light conditions like on the Vortex Viper PST scopes.

After getting an EGW rail and Weaver four screw tactical rings for my X-Bolt last year and loving them I decided to get some from for my new muzzleloader.

After doing some more research I am going to try Triple Seven FFG loose powder with these bullets. I think I will start with this powder in a 100 grain charge on my next trip to the range.

Rifle Golf with a 270 WSM at Spirit Ridge

270 WSM Berger VLD Hunting Bullet

My very accurate hand loaded 270 WSM Berger VLD Hunting Bullet.


Model 1885 in 270 WSM at Spirit Ridge

My Winchester Model 1885 in 270 WSM sporting a Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 scope with the 1000 yard club cap I received for hitting the 1000 yard target.


The DIY Hunter with my 270 WSM Winchester Model 1885.

Me with one of my favorite rifles, a Model 1885 chambered in 270 WSM at Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf course.


In July of 2014 I was back out to Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf course. I have learned a few things from shooting the course in 2013 and was ready to have fun and learn some more.

As I did in 2013 with a 243 WSSM Model 1885, I shot the Masters course which has most targets in the 500 to 1000 yard range.

This time out I shot my Winchester Model 1885 in 270 WSM. I had recently worked up a very accurate load with 150 Gr Berger VLD Hunting bullets and was ready to shoot the Master's Course.

The highlight of the day was when I hit the small plate at 1000 yards. This was pretty cool. I just missed the target on my first shot and was able to catch the point of impact in my scope so I then held for the slight adjustment and smacked the steel on my next shot at 1000 yards. Way fun!

Shooting the course was fun as usual. I was shooting a little high all day long and after some investigation into the reason I found it to be the barometric pressure. I learned a very important lesson from this trip. Using a default barometric pressure in my Strelok ballistics app will not give me accurate results on the amount of adjustment I needed to dial in the shot with my Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 rifle scope.

I had no idea the barometric pressure made such a difference and I found that it really does when you start shooting out past 500 yards.

I'll be better prepared for next time.


270 WSM - Shooting 150 Gr. Berger VLD Ladder Test at 300 Yards

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder


Winchester Model 1885 in 270 WSM wiht Vortex Viper HSLR scope

Winchester Model 1885 in 270 WSM with Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 scope.


270 WSM Berger 150 Gr. VLD Ladder at 300 yards

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder and my hand drawn copy.

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder.

The total vertical distance of all eight shots is only four inches with shots 1, 2, 3, and 4 only 7/8 inch apart vertically.


My friend Rick has been showing and telling me about how he works up loads for his rifles. He is a master at long range shooting and is always sharing tidbits of information that I love to learn about. One thing that has really intrigued me lately is how he shoots a ladder test of different powder charges to help chose the best powder charge to get the best accuracy.

I decided to try doing a ladder test myself with working up a hand load for the 150 Berger VLD in my Model 1885 270 WSM. I just recently picked up some H1000 powder to use in a 105 Gr A-Max load for my 243 WSSM and looking over the data on this powder I figured it would work well for this 150 VLD load.

H1000 powder is a slower burning powder than my favorite MagPro powder. With its slow burn rate H1000 excels in over bored cartridges with heavy for cartridge bullets and the 150 Gr is about the max that .277 bullets come in. Although there is a heavier 160 Gr. Partition but anyhow the 150 Gr. bullet is a heavy for cartridge bullet as is the 105 Gr. in the 243 WSSM in which I got the powder for.

For this ladder test I took the max charge of 67.5 grains according to Berger, then set charges in 0.2 grain increments. So for even numbers I went with 67.4 instead of 67.5. My first load was 66.0 then 66.2 and so on until the eighth load was 67.4 grains of Hodgdon H1000 powder. All seating depths are exactly the same with the only thing changed being the powder charge.

When shooting a ladder test the greater the distance the better, of course within reason. For me 300 yards works great and that is the distance I shot this ladder at.

One cool thing about setting the seating depth on my single shot Model 1885 is that I take a bullet and seat it really long and then slide it into the chamber then see how far it goes in before it stops. I then seat the bullet a little deeper and try it and so on until I have the cartridge fitting fully in the chamber. I'm sure I could get equipment to measure the depth and so forth to get just the exact distance off the lands but for now this method works great for me.

As I shoot the ladder I take a scratch piece of paper to draw the target with and after every shot I examine the target with a spotting scope and mark it on my drawing. After I am finished shooting I can transpose the information onto the real target.

So what am I looking for in the ladder test? As I understand it, I am looking for the least vertical variation in three or more points of impact. I then want a charge that fits in the middle of that. Looking over my ladder shots 1, 2, 3, and 4 are only 7/8 inch in vertical distance apart. Holy crap! Shots 1, 2, and 3 are actually a 1 inch group at 300 yards. I think I am going to like the 150 VLDs! It also made sense that shot 4 went to the right as the wind really picked up at that time. However for the purposes of the ladder I'm not looking at horizontal shot placement only vertical.

If you are looking for more information on Ladder Testing to develop long range loads this article on goes into much greater technical depth on the process.

It looks like number 3 is my ticket at 66.4 grains of H1000 powder. I'll shoot this load and see how it goes on my next trip to the range and post the load here on my blog.

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 100 yard group

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 100 yard group.

Back at the range in June the 66.4 grains of Hodgdon H1000 powder shot this near half inch group at 100 yards off sand bags.

View is 270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD load.



Additional information