Traditions Kentucky Rifle Kit

A few years ago, my brother purchased a 50 caliber Traditions Kentucky Rifle Kit which he assembled but had never fired.

For the most part, the Traditions Kentucky rifle is very much like its CVA brand counterpart in weight, dimensions and general appearance.

image of assembled Traditions Kentucky Rifle Kit.

The barrel however has a relatively slow twist of one turn in 66 inches rather than the compromise twist of one turn in 48 inches used in most CVA sidelock rifles.

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Traditions Kentucky Rifle   CVA Kentucky Rifle
Overall Length 48.0 inches 48.0 inches
Weight (lbs) 7.0 7.0
Caliber 0.50 0.50
Barrel Length 33.5 inches 33.5 inches
Barrel Twist 1 turn in 66 inches 1 turn in 48 inches

The lock closely matches the one used in CVA rifles in design, dimensions and construction but it also incorporates an added feature, a screw assembly which allows the trigger pull to be reduce by turning the slotted screw clockwise.

image of the traditions percussion lock showing trigger pull adjustment.

I thought that it would be interesting to compare it with the CVA Kentucky Rifle that I own, so I borrowed the gun to do some firing tests. When I first examined the rifle, I noticed that the trigger guard had been fractured at the middle screw hole.

Upon seeing the cracked trigger guards, I have to confess that I may initialy have been unfairly critical of my brothers assembly effort. After doing some research on the internet, I found that a number of purchasers of this Kentucky Rifle Kit have reported the same problem due to malformed trigger guards.(See foot note at the bottom of the page)

I found also that the rear sight was somewhat loose in the dovetail so I replaced it with a CVA brand Adjustable sight that I had on hand.

After running a few dry patches to remove any oil from the barrel and firing a cap to clear the nipple, I was ready to load. The rifle never having been fired, I thought that it would be prudent to sight it in first with some cheap patched round ball loads before expending any conicals.

The Nipple Fragments on the First Shot

image of the percussion cap nipple provided with a traditions kentucky rifle kit which fragmented on first shot.

To start I put in modest powder charge of 65 grains of pyrodex rs and a patched 0.490 inch round ball. Upon firing the ball struck high. When I pulled back the hammer to remove the cap, I could see that the nipple that came in the kit had fractured where the cap had been seated. A piece of the nipple had blown off and what remained had a vertical crack in it. In all my years of black powder shooting, that has never happened to me before.

Fortunately I had a extra stainless steel nipple in my blackpowder kit. After replacing the nipple, I resumed firing. It took about a dozen patched ball loads to sight in the rifle.

Powder Fouling and Misfires

Considering that 58 caliber muskets of the civil war era had barrel twists of 1 turn in 6 feet or more, I had wanted to test the conventional wisdom that heavy conical projectiles do not shoot well in slow twist muzzle loader barrels such as this rifle which has a twist of 1 in 5 1/2 feet.

Although I had swabbed the barrel every three or four shots and had used a nipple pick after every shot, about the 14th or 15th shot, I was having real difficultly with misfires so I decided to leave my tests for another day.

Peering down the barrel after it had been cleaned that night, I could see that the pathway for the primer spark was a rough one indeed. There were some very visible machining marks in the 90 degree turn from the boster to the powder charge. Very likely powder fouling was accumulating on this rough spot. In time perhaps these machining marks will be smoothed out through use, but for now they are just another obstacle to reliable ignition of the powder charge.

Firing Conical Projectiles in a Slow Twist Barrel

The next week I fired both 368 grain minie balls cast from a Lee mold and 320 grain Lee REAL maxiballs with 85 grain charges of Pyrodex RS. Both of these projectiles worked well in my CVA rifles which have a 1 turn in 48 inch twist. In the Traditions Kentucky rifle with the slow twist barrel, both types of projectiles produced groups which measured in excess of 16 inches at 75 yards. I guess the conventional wisdom is right in this case.

Reviews that have been posted on the Bass Proshop and Cabelas websites over the past few years would seem to indicate that the breakage of the trigger guard in this kit is not an unknown occurrence.

On the Bass Pro Shop website, someone calling themselves Neorebel wrote, "The brass trigger guard was so far off I had to get another one ....a five week wait!". Another reviewer with the screen name, Truthteller said "The trigger guard however broke right at the screw hole when I tried to install it following Traditions supplied instructions ...The customer service rep also told me that I should have used a torch to get the guard to fit"

I am not aware of anything in the rifle assembly instructions regarding using a propane torch to shape or form any part.

On the bassproshop website Momedic wrote, "...Trigger guard broke when trying to install, it was flat, gun was curved, bought one from another supplier, that looks great..."

"Bass Pro Shops - Traditions™ Kentucky Rifle .50 Caliber Muzzleloader Kit customer reviews" <> Accessed (Nov. 19, 2012)
"Cabela's - Traditions™ Kentucky Percussion Rifle Kit customer reviews" < > Accessed (Nov. 19, 2012)

The author of this page can be contacted at loreofguns at