Savage Muzzleloader KABOOM

UPDATE: There is more to this story than meet the eye.

There have been a lot of recently publicized KBs. I was emailed these photos of a Savage Model 10ML II “Smokeless” Muzzleloader. The accident happened last October.

The Model 10ML II is designed so that it can be used with smokeless powder, which generates much higher pressure than blackpowder.

The shooters hand, which was holding the fore end of the stock, suffered a lot of damage. I decided not to publish photos of his hand because they are far too graphic, but can be seen here (YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!).

The North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association published the shooters account of the incident ..

“On October 24th, 2009, I went to Broad Valley, Manitoba where I had purchased a hunting cabin with a couple of friends, to do some work on the cabin. And we thought we would get in a hunt that afternoon and the next morning. I had not sighted my muzzleloader this year, so went to a pit south of town to do so. I loaded the gun with 42.5 grains of IMR 4759 powder, using a 250 grain Barnes bullet. One of my buddies suggested I shoot over the hood of his truck, but I did not have ear protection, so decided to shoot off of a canvas duffle bag full of clothes. First shot was my last shot – as there was a large explosion…with my hand under the barrel on the forestock. The barrel and forestock blew apart (per pictures), and some part of the gun blew off and dented the door of the truck. My buddies took me to Hodgson General Hospital 20 minutes away. From there, I was transported by ambulance to Winnipeg Health Science Center 2 hours away, where I underwent 6 hours of surgery. Doctors expect 2-3 more surgeries, and I will be off work for 6 months to a year.

[ Many thanks to Frank for emailing me the photo. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Bora

    Either the poor fellow had bad insurance, which only allowed him so much care or he’s in for a lawsuit with the E.R that took care of him as well. That’s sloppy surgery right there.

  • Carl

    Intentionally shooting without ear protection doesn’t exactly give me the impression of a responsible shooter. Not that that is any proof that the kaboom was caused by the shooter, of course.

    Muzzleloading, like handloading, but perhaps even more so, seems like a somewhat dangerous pastime. As well as difficult to determine after an accident who is to blame, of course. I think I’ll stick with name brand factory made ammo, complete in shell casings, myself, for the time being…

  • Woodrow

    D’oh, I should have read the first paragraph more closely. A smokeless muzzleloader, huh. You can deny my first comment and save me some embarrassment, Steve.

    Anyway, something about the idea of a smokeless muzzleloader kinda bothers me. Higher pressures and a less controlled loading.

  • Doogie Howser

    You warned about the hand pictures, but I clicked the link anyway. Now I’m cleaning vomit off my keyboard. FAIL

    • Doogie, yep, I knew y’all would click anyway 😉 I tried my best!

  • Trent

    Pardon my ignorance, but why does this muzzleloading gun have a bolt action at the rear?

  • Al T.

    He’s in Canada. No insurance involved.

    FWIW, I suspect he didn’t seat his bullet – no clue about smokeless powder front loaders, but it’s a pretty classic obstructed bore rupture, IMHO.

  • curtis

    forgive me for being uninformed but why dose it have a bolt handle if it’s a muzzle loader?

    • curtis, the primer still has to be loaded from the back.

  • Tim

    Wow. That guy’s hand is straight out of Frankenstein now.

  • Bandito762

    The pictures of that guy’s hand actually made me reconsider my shooting techniques and practices.

  • ryan

    I have seen alot of the same type of claims with CVA products. Have to wonder if the gun was properly loaded? Most muzzle loader or black powder firearms come with a warnings that the projectile must be fully seated on top of the charge. Any air pockets between black powder(&substitues), and the charge can cuase this exact problem. It appears this is a possibility considering the area of explodage:( Get well soon dude!

  • Jack Webb

    That’s nationalized health care right there.

  • Matt Groom

    It’s Canada. Even their PM goes to the US when he wants good healthcare. It’s a real shame what happened, but I’ve seen worse. I saw a guy step on an unexploded bomblet from a 155mm DPICM round. That was not pretty.

  • i really hope we see a follow up to this… too often with a Kb we get pictures, armchair guesses and then nothing.

    it would be nice to get a definitive conclusion from someone in the know.

  • Kyle Huff

    It’s Canada. Government supplied health care.

  • jdun1911

    That’s how it look like after surgery. It’s normal. Trust me. Once the swelling are gone and the healing started it should look a lot better. Not sure if he will have full function of his hand tho.

    I don’t have muzzle loader firearms experience, so I’m going to stay out of this one.

  • RedMinotaur

    I would like to point everyone to this article:

    The account from the North American Muzzleloader Hunting Association is to the site, which is operated by Toby Bridges, an ex-employee of Savage who has attempted to extort money by using pictures of a Savage 10-ML II that he appears to have purposefully blown up. I wouldn’t trust anything connected to this man.

    • RedMinotaur, thanks. I have added a link to the top of the page.

  • Woodrow, please feel free the source for any info, it is encouraged! Welcome to the blog!

  • Kyle Huff

    .45-70 is not a high pressure load. You should not use that for comparison to a modern smokeless powder rifle load.

  • Curtis, they designed it to be able to work with smokeless powder, and part of the design includes the bolt closing over the percussion cap to make the breech stronger, as I recall.

  • Wade

    Out of curiosity, I looked up the owner’s manual for the rifle on the Savage Arms website. The .pdf file manual says that the 43.5 grain load of IMR4759 was within the recommended range of loads for a 250 grain bullet. From the look of the rifle, it looks like the barrel was obstructed with something.

    I would have guessed that an error in powder measurement or bullet selection would have led to a very loud report and recoil with the bolt leaving the rifle, rather than the barrel bursting.

    For those of you who are worried about reloading or shooting muzzleloaders, please bear in mind that almost all competitive shooters reload thousands of rounds a year without incident and that literally millions of hunters use muzzleloaders in the US every year without any explosions. Like anything dealing with firearms, these activities can be dangerous if handled in a cavalier or careless fashion.

  • Bora

    Now that says a lot about socialized healthcare. :/

  • Adam

    That is socialized heathcare. Instead of getting patched up and having to file for bankruptcy, (like my father) he will just get patched up.
    Either way, I’m not a doctor so I won’t comment on what it looks like. He did blow part of his hand off though. What do you expect?

  • JS

    I saw this awhile back & I thought the conclusion was that he fired it with the ram rod still in the barrel?

  • Pancho

    Careful when you cite or quote Randy Wakeman. Randy has a financial stake in the bashing of CVA. He is a paid witness for a law firm that has sued CVA for product liability relating to the old bankrupt CVA and the recalled rifles from 95/96. In at least one of the lawsuits he was not allowed to testify because the judge didn’t think he testify as to what had happened. I do not believe he has any formal engineering training, as in a degree from any type of university.

    Before becoming some kind of arm chair expert on muzzleloaders he was and is an expert in illusion and deception and I will admit he spins a good yarn.

    I find it ironic that Randy is so quick to claim that one manufactures is making a substandard product and then dismiss a similar fault when it happens to be a product he likes. Speculation is worthless. the lesson to learned is to be vigilant and careful.

  • Wuulf

    Through my rather limited abilities at googlefu, I have discovered only ONE other separate kaboom from a savage barrel ending in a lawsuit in recent history (past 10 years). And that kaboom was using a metallic cartridge rifle, and has questions of user error. Now, I’ve read Mr. Wakeman’s article, I’ve read all the theories, all the other information on this site and others, and I can’t decide if this is genuine or staged. However, the fact remains that upon my initial search for any other failures of this level, I got bombarded by other sites talking about this story, and only one separate incident, leads me to believe that IF the manufacturer is to blame, this is an isolated fluke, and I have a hard time understanding why it went to lawsuit. Usually, in a kaboom, if the firearm is sent to the manufacturer, they examine it, and if fault lies with them, they are more than happy to make amends to avoid negative press. The fact that there was no mention of Savage Arms being allowed to examine the rifle before a lawsuit was filed makes me question this man’s priorities, character, and motives.

  • Wuulf

    Addeumen: If someone can pull up other kabooms concerning this rifle, by all means enlighten me. I’m not going to say that this was the only one, just the only one that I found.

    (sorry for the double post, I posted, then realized that I should have added this in. you can put it in the first one if you so desire.)

  • f-stop

    Blackpowder in a muzzleloader is generally measured by volume. Maybe this smokeless charge was not weighed? Would that result in an overcharge?

  • This just goes to show that you NEVER put smokeless powder in a black powder gun. Even if the manufacture thinks it is ok. When loading a muzzle loader, you always push the bullet or patched ball down on the powder. It is to my understanding that some rifle loads that are in cased in a regular bullet configuration, require some kind of open space with in the powder chamber of the bullet. With loading a muzzle loader, you simply do not have this ramming the bullet against the powder.

    • chuck

      Slight correction in your comment about rifle cartridges needing a void in the casing for the powder to be loose…. Rifle loads work extremely well with either partial fills of powder or what’s called a compressed load. A compressed load has the powder loaded to someplace up into the neck so when the bullet is seated the powder gets compressed slightly.

  • bob

    i have a savage,and u can leave a load in all season, so maybe he shot a double load!!!

    • allmon

      Ihave been shooting muzzleloaders for 30 years and ultimatly last summer made the ultimate mistake,i left my muzzleloader loaded from the previous season,and then reloaded it again,DOUBLE load,the load=47gr imr-4227-250gr hornady sst.Both bullets hit within 10″ of each other,on target@100yds.recoil pushed me off the bench&scope cut,but NO damage to muzzleloader,strongest muzzleloader in the world,thanks savage…..

  • Muzzel loader lover

    The guy who shot his hand off was sighting hi rifle in for the up coming deer season. that should put the red flags up right there. 7/10 muzzle loader blow ups occur at exactly this time due to improper storage (i.e. leaving a charge in the gun during the off season). Anyone worth their salt in the world of muzzle loading do 3 things. 1 ensure any charge left in the gun has been fired off or removed before long term storage. 2 always have a ramrod with a witness mark. 3 Do a pre season break down of the entire gun including the breech plug not only to ensure the gun is in proper working order but also to safe guard against this kind of disaster.
    It is unfortunate that the owner of that hand sent the damaged gun to Toby Bridges. As stated above he has a vendetta against savage after he was shooting the ML2 with loads and charges that were not within the tolerable limits of the gun and had his R&D contract with Saved was severed. It is interesting to note that the only other blown up ML2 was done by Toby Bridges to which he tried to use in a frivolous law suit against Savage Arms. After the gun was tested by an independent lab it was found that the metallurgy of the damaged gun barrel was pristine and that it took over 320,000 psi of pressure to blow up the barrel. This number can be duplicated by …. ya you guessed it double loading the gun. Toby never made dollar one off his suit. Toby has also burned bridges with Knight rifles in the past as well.
    Even if the guy with the damaged hand did not trust savage to be on the up and up with the forensics of his blown up rifle then why did he not go to a lawyer and get the gun tested himself? If the gun was indeed defective this would have been a far better way to go than give the gun to a guy who has it in for an ex employer (Savage).
    As for the comments about the surgery quality I doubt you guys have the letters MD at the end of your name. Those are post trauma picture and probably not even close to the end product. This guy has a lot of surgeries ahead of him.
    Even though the Canadian health care system is flawed I thank GOD I do not have to worry about an insurance company denying me coverage for medical expenses or driving my family into bankruptcy to pay for costly medical care!! That being said USA is still the best place in the world to live…. if you have money!

  • What on earth is the point of having a smokeless load muzzle-loading gun? Is this just yet another way to participate in a so called “muzzleloader season” without having to use a traditional muzzleloader? This is just not right.

  • Heather

    Better to have socialized healthcare than none at all. My brother was just injured in a hunting accident, using a Savage Arms gun.

    He may have to have his leg amputated as a result, because he doesn’t have insurance and the state of Virginia is unwilling to help. He’s 25, a student, and very athletic. This is a real tragedy, and our family sure wishes we had even the most basic socialized healthcare. We feel totally helpless. Whether it’s less better or not, at least Canada takes care of its citizens in the most basic way…

    • chuck

      I’m sorry that he CHOSE not to go to the expense of buying any health insurance. I’ve bought insurance for 45 years and not whined that no one else is bothering to pay for my hospital/doctor costs.
      I could have gone w/o insurance and bought a new car instead but I chose to do the responsible thing and be responsible for myself, my kids and wife instead.

    • G3Ken

      Sorry for the accident to your brother. My heart goes out to him, for no normal human being would wish ill on another.

      That said, health insurance is NOT a RIGHT, it’s merely a privilige. He had the option to a: purchase insurance himself or B: Accept a position with a company taht offered it as part of the benefits package. (P.S.- That’s why they’re called “benefits”). Socialized medicine forces one individual, me in this case, to fund your brother’s “choice” to not do so. You could go on and on about cost, affordability etc, but lowere-cost plans exist for “catastrophic” injuries, so the deductible may be high, but it covers his overall expenses above that, surely saving his limb.

      America is DIFFERENT becasue we are the first experiment in true freedom, where a man is (or at least should have been) free to make his own choices in life towards his own destiny. If he can afford the time off, the firearm and requisite gear, he could afford insurance. I’m sure he’s not driving a $600 Pontiac Sunbird like my daughter is.

      Let me give you a personal example. Last year I earned in excess if $110K, my wife in excess of $95K, yet our two cars are a 2002 Dodge Caravan with over 170K miles and LOTS of dents (NOT grand Caravan mind you, just a simple base model with roll-up windows and it doesn’t even have a CD player). Our other car is a 2008 Honda Civic with o=ver 90,000 miles on it. With our income, we could be driving a Mercedes or BMW, perhaps both. We CHOSE to be frugal and spend our money elsewhere.

      I apologize for being blunt, but I owe your brother nothing by my good wishes,which are hereby offered. May God Bless him.

    • Disobey

      Sounds as if your slave mind has rendered you powerless and you are enjoying your victim status. You don’t have enough money for a simple amputation? Really?
      Or more to the honest point, you don’t want to pay for it if you can get the criminal , corrupt commonwealth of Virginia to pay for it with OTHER PEOPLES MONEY.
      Buy Winchester next time. I have a Model 70 XTR in .30-06. Quality would have helped that leg , I bet.
      Maybe your brother can hook up with a girl named Peggy. What do you call a man in a pond without legs? Bob!! hahahahahaahaha
      Have a crappy day! Loser progressive slave.

  • SavageOwner

    Ignorance is such an ugly thing. I have a Savage MLII and have had it for 6+ years. Yes it uses smokeless powder instead blackpowder (do you think the pioneers would have not used smokeless powder if they had it back then?) and that is the main reason I bought it. Blackpowder is corrosive and inherently more dangerous than smokeless powder. Pour out 2 grains of each type and light a match to each. Which one lit? Most (not all) smokeless powders take pressure to light. It is the safest muzzleloading rifle ever made and it is the cleanest. The only way it would blow like this – user error. There had to be a double load or obstruction. I feel for the guy, but to blame the manufacture/gun for a user mistake, is just wrong. I hope Savage starts making them again and does a better job of marketing it. They stopped production because of lack of sales – not the gun blowing up.

  • Saskdude

    I have a Savage 110 ML and love it, weigh each charge, and have a check line on my ramrod. This has DOUBLE CHARGE written all over it. I am a canadian and feel sorry for the damage he suffered but if you look at the gun, this is not from a measured single load.

  • Tar12

    Some 9,000-10,000 smokeless shots later I still have all of my appendages.This has user error written all over it. I have taken these guns to extremes with approved and non approved powders. The amount of safety built in to these guns is incedible. They are by far the safest muzzeloaders on the market bar non! I feel the man but stupid is as stupid does…PAY ATTENTION PERIOd!

    • Icorps1970

      We have to also consider the material the barrel is made from.
      If the barrels are 416 or 416R stainless it is a brittle steel.
      A few years ago SAKO had a rash of blow ups of stainless rifles in various calibers, here and in Europe with FACTORY ammo. They instituted a recall, bad lot of steel, they said.
      There have been other unexplained blowups of various stainless rifles and there was a significant failure rate in some 1911 45ACP barrels a few years ago. Note that due to design the 1911 blows the case at the feed ramp rather than the barrel from overpressure.
      As a result of these, and a warning on the Krieger barrels site, I am not too quick to blame the shooter when a stainless firearm in involved.
      I do not believe that 416, a free machining (brittle) stainless is a good choice for firearms barrels. Some research on the WWW will give more info.

      But with a ML there is little recourse to the injured since every load in a handload.

  • TOM