Author: Jennifer L.S. Pearsall
Thompson Center's Omega muzzleloader makes a blackpowder believer out of a confirmed centerfire lover.
I've never had a huge interest in hunting with a blackpowder rifle. Sure, I have a solid appreciation for the beauty of, say, a Kentucky long rifle, but too many friends relating tales of horrors-dead primers and powder charges in damp weather, ramrods breaking, etc. - hadn't done much to encourage a devoted centerfire hunter to pick one up. Pair that attitude with the smell and the mess, and I just never warmed up to the idea of muzzleloading. At least not until the folks at Thompson/Center paired me up with one of the New England company's Omegas, and sent me packing after a big buck in Kansas last fall.
I had just a month to play with the Omega before my hunt, but it was enough to change my mind about muzzleloading for good. This gun is easy. So easy, in fact, that if the only thing you know about muzzleloaders is that they load from the business end of things, you still almost can't help but go right with the Omega.
Let's take loading as an example. I opted for the ease of Hodgdon's pellets, starting with two 50-grain charges (the 50-caliber Omega takes up to a 150-grain charge) and a T/C sabot. Drop in the pellets, push down the sabot, flip the trigger assembly guard forward-which opens the Omega's unique swinging breech, and thumb a 209 shotshell primer into the now exposed primer pocket at the rear of the barrel. Pull the trigger guard back into position, which, naturally, closes the breechblock over the primer, find a target, cock the hammer, and BANG! I dare anyone to take more than 30 seconds to complete the entire loading process.
Loading ease is second only to the Omega's mechanical simplicity. Overall there are three parts: stock, barrel and trigger/hammer assembly. The last, which drops out for a complete cleaning-which I have found to be virtually unnecessary because it stays so clean-has just four moving parts. Too simple? Look at it this way, fewer moving parts means less to go wrong.
Of the four moving parts in the trigger/hammer assembly, perhaps the most intriguing is the hammer block safety. That's right, hammer block safety. Pull the hammer part way back and the block notches into a groove in the bottom of the hammer, preventing it from coming into contact with the firing pin. In fact, the hammer can't meet up with the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled all the way to the rear, and that leads to several other safety features. First, one can't pull the trigger to the rear when the trigger guard is open (and the hammer and breech back). Second, the hammer can't it be cocked until the trigger guard is locked back into its original position; i.e., after you load, charge, and close the "action" on an Omega, you still must manually cock the hammer to fire. Taken together, hunters have one safe gun in the Omega.
Mechanical simplicity, of course, doesn't mean a thing if a gun can't deliver once the trigger's pulled. I started at the 50-yard mark, getting used to the iron sights I'd have to use in Kansas. I stuffed and fired, stuffed and fired and cleaned, stuffed and fired, stuffed and fired and cleaned again. On to the 100-yard mark, that quick, just a couple small adjustments to the Omega's hefty rear sight and a few thanks thrown in for the fiber-optic front post (2002 was the first season they were allowed in Kansas). Several days of practice and I was shooting a group I could easily cover with my hand, both from a standard bench rest and from my favorite sitting position, appropriate for the tree stand I knew I'd probably inhabit.
And indeed I did, and on just my second morning, I squirmed in my seat debating whether to sneak down for an off-hand shot at the tall, baskety, white-tined 8-pointer behind me that refused to give me a shot from the stand no matter how much I torqued myself around when a bachelor group of four 2- and 3-year-olds ambled out of the dry creek bed my stand overlooked. Then number five trailed in, giving me as much of a head-long look as was possible with the weak, tree-filtered, 7:00 a.m. light. It was enough.
I counted eight and saw the spread of his beams outside his ears. I didn't think twice about waiting for a bigger buck. Hunting trips are short enough and this wasn't my home turf. I had to wait more than a half hour for him to show himself again after wandering behind an enormously thick-trunked oak tree where he stayed. When he finally stepped out I let the Omega do the job it was intended for.
Smoke billowed and every deer in that corner of Kansas crashed through the trees to my left. The sunlight, hitting the Pyrodex aftermath, created an air-hung curtain I couldn't see through, so I wondered briefly about an unseemly miss, but then I heard the crashing of a single deer breaking off from the rest.
Thirty minutes, one cell phone call to my guide, Rick Thompson, and 20 yards later a short tracking job produced a trail of tiny drops that turned abruptly into a puddle of crimson. Another 15 yards to the edge of the tree line, and antler tips were spotted, barely discernible as they bobbed to the beat of labored breathing. A different rhythm than the milo heads jostling in the breeze around him. As close to death as he was, he sensed Rick and I and stood. An off-hand shot at 100 yards put a second sabot to the buck's neck, and down he went for good, a 13-pointer, as it turned out. A mainframe 10 with three stickers. Very nice. Very nice, indeed.
Field Test Update
By Mark Mazour
I had the opportunity to field test the new Seclusion 3D all camo version of the TC Omega on a December Missouri Whitetail hunt. Missouri allows scopes during its muzzleloader season, and I hunted out of tower stands designed for centerfire rifle hunters, so I chose a 2.5-10 Bushnell Elite 4200 with Cabela's Outfitter rings and headed to the range.
I knew that the Omega had a reputation as a good shooter, but it wasn't until that day at the range that I saw how earned that reputation was. I brought along several different sabots, powders and pellets, planning to spend a day at the bench. However, my first load of 100 grains of Pyrodex topped off with Hornady's 250-grain SST sabot produced a three-shot group under an inch!
I shot a few more groups to prove it, tried a few other sabots, but the 2-pellet load with the SST sabot tore ragged 3/4" groups every single time. I was amazed at how well this riffle shot for a muzzleloader - I have a favorite pre-64 model 70 that doesn't even shoot that well! After several more shooting sessions, I knew I was very comfortable to take a well-placed shot out to 150 yards.
My Omega was ready, but upon my arrival in Missouri, the deer weren't. Four days in the stand produced only small bucks and does around the stands. Finally, on the last night, I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye that looked larger than the small does we had feeding below us. The sun had already set, but through the fading light I could make out a decent buck tending a scrape at the end of the field. I counted four points on a side and knew he was a shooter. The shot presentation wasn't perfect, quartering towards me, but I was confident in the Omega's accuracy, and I was running out of time. Holding just behind the shoulder, I eased the hammer back, let out a breath and squeezed the trigger.
The Omega roared, and through the smoke, I saw the buck kick and head slowly into the timber. After waiting ample time, following a short blood trail produced a nice buck that was larger than I had seen in the low light. A symmetrical 10-point, this buck was a nice surprise - my largest with a muzzleloader. And as expected, the TC Omega was on target; the entrance hole was exactly where I had held.
The Omega is easy to use, easy to clean, but most of all it's a shooter!
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