Reviewed: Traditions PA Pellet Ultralight Flintlock Rifle

Whether your state has a primitive firearms hunting season or not, this old-school rifle is no flash in the pan.

by
posted on December 19, 2023
Traditions Pa Flintlock

Deer hunting in Pennsylvania is a unique experience ...

As the suffix “Sylvania” translates to “woods” or “forest,” you can imagine you don’t have to stalk too far to find one. The state has many peculiar hunting traditions. Many believe that this is the reasoning behind the state’s radical break-up of hunting seasons, as it limits hunters' ability to take just any ole’ buck or doe. Things kick off with archery, which includes the use of a crossbow before allowing a brief period of muzzleloader to run concurrently. This season allows front stuffers of all varieties, and most take advantage of this by fielding the most advanced muzzleloader and ammunition of its kind. (These days, modern smokepoles rival cartridge-firing rifles, so it’s sort of like a cheat week.)

After muzzleloader goes out, it’s back to archery or the long wait for the regular firearms season, which allows the use of your favorite rifle, pistol or shotgun. This gives even the busiest (or lousiest) hunter a chance to put meat in the freezer, as these firearms can offer greater effective range over the others. Most people are finished hunting after this season, but something magical happens after Christmas dinner digests, and it’s something that only Pennsylvania hunters get to experience: Flintlock season.

As the last state in the Union to force hunters to use traditional firearms, this season connects us to the first frontiersmen to take game for not only their survival but the nation’s as well. Unlike muzzleloader season, which allows for all sorts of tech, Pennsylvania’s regulations around sparky guns are fairly simple:

“Flintlock ignition, single-barrel long gun, 44 calibers or larger, or 50 calibers or larger handgun, using single-projectile ammunition. It is unlawful to use telescopic sights. Peep sights are permitted.”

It is clear that the Game Commission wants this to be sporting, but at the same time, it allows for modern advancements in powder, projectiles and sight material. Like anything else in the shooting community, these regulations open the door for somebody to push equipment to the threshold of legal without taking a step through the door. In this instance, Traditions is the company, and its .50-caliber PA Pellet Ultralight is that fateful piece of equipment.

Let’s start by addressing one of the immediate issues I face with Flintlock firearms: I’m left-handed. When dealing with external ignition, the last thing you want is these parts in your face, as pressing the trigger will likely blind you. This is largely what drove me to Traditions, as they offer this gun in a lefthanded variant, opening up this season to the other 17% of us. Other trims include a synthetic or camo-stocked version, as well as a neat setup with a pair of set triggers. When my rifle arrived, I had a bit of research to do, as flintlock shooting was an entirely new skillset to me.

I started by rounding up supplies, which included flints to produce the required spark and fine FFFFG black powder to act as the primer. Genuine blackpowder is required for ignition, as it’s easier to light. However, the PA Pellet Ultralight is capable of using easier-to-find synthetic powders for the main charge. With that, I reached for Hodgdon Triple Seven, as it’s some of the most consistent and reliable propellant I have ever used in muzzleloaders. I also like that it’s made without sulphur, so it doesn’t give off that rotten egg smell when fired and is far less corrosive than traditional black powder.

Since there aren’t any limitations for projectiles, I opted for 250-grain Smackdown Carnivore pills instead of classic lead round balls. The PA Pellet features a rifled bore, so it only makes sense to take advantage of that accuracy benefit by using the appropriate projectiles. This product is essentially a rifle bullet fitted into a ribbed sabot. When fired, the plastic sabot grips the rifling and spins the bullet. After it leaves the barrel, the two separate, and the bullet continues a straight path, yielding what Traditions promises is 200-yard accuracy. That’s a bold claim, so I packed up my gear and headed to the range to test it.

I started the day by setting up a 100-yard bench-rested position and laying out the accouterment required to fire a flintlock rifle. Luckily, there isn’t a whole lot required, as the sabots replace lubrication and patches. This just left the ramrod (which is included with the rifle), the pan priming tool and the Traditions 5-in-1 tool, which handles measuring, bullet starting and more. I decided to start with 95 grains of powder for my main charge to see what it did for my accuracy.

After setting the lock to the half-cocked position, I poured this charge down the pipe, sat a bullet and cozied up to my shooting bench. Here, I got a better look at the sights, which were extraordinarily visible thanks to the fiber-optic inserts. Once settled, I put two squirts of FFFFg into the pan, closed the frizzen, cocked the hammer the rest of the way, and fired my first shot.

As expected, the hammer dropping created a magnificent flash in the pan, which turned into a thunderous boom a split second later. My point of impact was slightly high and right, so I made the appropriate adjustments via the rear sight and fired again. After a few more shots, my impacts were centered on my 6” Shoot-N-C target, so I decided to check the consistency. After the task of ripping off another three shots, I measured a center-to-center group of just 1.9 inches, which is plenty tight for the deer that would most likely be within this range.

You’ve likely heard that you have to clean a gun every time you shoot it; this is where that concept comes from. While it doesn’t necessarily apply to modern cartridge guns, you must clean blackpowder firearms as soon as you’re done for the day. The propellants involved are corrosive, and neglecting a little maintenance could cost you a beautiful firearm. Traditions makes this easy through the use of the accelerator breech plug. Essentially, it allows the barrel to be opened up on each end, letting you soak it in warm water and pass a brush completely through. With this improvement, cleaning your flintlock barely takes longer than loading it, getting you back to more important things faster than ever.

Overall, I loved what I saw in the Traditions PA Pellet Flintlock, and I was impressed with how easy it was to prep, load, fire and clean. Flintlock season in PA offers a chance to have a little more of the woods to yourself, as well as take a crack at deer just as they regain the confidence to venture out in the daylight. Now, I guess the only thing I need to do is find some warm clothes and a comfy place to sit as I enjoy my excuse for not taking down the Christmas decorations. MSRP $469-$587 depending upon model chosen; TraditionsFirearms.com.

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