The Michigan Not So Ultimate BP Xpress Rifle

Opinion by Randy Wakeman

The problems with the old “Michigan Ultimate” are many, not the least of which it is just a parts gun. Three Triple Se7en pellets out of an inexpensive T/C Omega hits 2250 fps with a 250 grain SST; actually 50 fps faster than the “four Pyrodex pellets” touted for several years out of the Michigan Ultimate.

The so-called “match grade” barrels are anything but. Lothar Walther is an OEM maker of button-rifled barrels: In fact Tony Knight used them prior to going with Green Mountain due to delivery problems with Lothar Walther. They are a very, very long ways from a Lilja or Kreiger barrel, to say the least.

Of course there are unhappy Michigan Ultimate users. Several of them, stung by $2500 - $4000 over the years. Bob Parker has three examples of them: the breech plug is on the Michigan Ultimate is from comparatively soft, 300 series stainless. Duane Dunham, unhappy with the accuracy of his “Michigan Ultimate,” had no luck in getting them to stand behind their product. Duane was forced to send his rifle to Gunwerks in order to get it to shoot.

Cecil Epp of Precision Rifle had this to say about the Michigan Ultimate Muzzleloader with the then-recommended 4 or 5 Pyrodex pellets:

The sample gun they sent me fell about 350 fps short of the claims. The 4 or 5th pellet almost set my entire bush on fire. Someone should really take that guy to the cleaners. To date, I have not talked to one owner whose chrono read the same as Johnston's. Personally, I have chronoed 4 pellets SLOWER than 3. Oh well.

Cecil Epp, Precision Rifle

Not only does the breechplug erode, but the breech plug may strip when you try to remove it. Bob Parker tried removing the breechplug on one of his Michigan Ultimates. It immediately rounded off, and Bob gave up in disgust. The Michigan Ultimates use pistol brass for large rifle primers, an obvious problem never fixed by “Michigan Ultimate,” but now fixed by Remington. The soft breech plug steel used in the Michigan Ultimate, eroding quickly with Triple Se7en pellets in Remington testing, was ignored for many years and never addressed in the “Michigan Ultimate,” but now was quickly fixed by Remington.

Remington's ad-brag of a “300 yard muzzleloader” is quite modest compared to the Michigan Ultimate's easy 500 yard and “put them in a pile at a quarter-mile” hoo-hah.

If $2500 for a basic BP Xpress wasn't already enough punishment, you can go “Carbon Stealth” for $4450 on up. The Leupold scope they try to up-sell folks on is a whopping $1450 from the Michigan Ultimate folks. Yet, most whitetail hunters inclusive of center-fire rifles take their animals inside 100 yards, year after year. Knob turning is fine if you don't know how to use a Mil-Dot or another ballistic reticle, but it won't help you dope wind.

The Michigan Ultimate is nose-bleed, insultingly, and embarrassingly over-priced. Remington will sell more Model 700 Ultimates in the next few months than the grand total of Michigan Ultimate sales in the last decade. And well they should, for it is clearly a better-engineered rifle, made from better materials, at a fraction of the price.

The Remington Model 700 Ultimate laminate retails for $949: that's less than an Encore Pro Hunter XT stainless with a black tupperware stock. Not only that, the Remington is an overall better gun: better breechplug, more appropriate rifle brass, 100% magnafluxed barrels. All clear, obvious advantages. The Remington is affordable, the old Michigan Ultimate never was and it looks even more sadly over-priced today . . . only because it is.

Remington does indeed recommend Blackhorn 209. As a matter of fact, Western Powders has had a Remington 700 Ultimate for several weeks and are working on “Rem. 700 Ultimate Only” loads. The proprietary sabots were developed by MMP and Remington: 25-30% higher tensile than any other sabot. The supplied Remington Premier Accutips are 250's, not 290s. Remington of course does not need to “work something out” with Barnes . . . they own them, they are part of Remington Outdoors.

The bombastic, laughable velocity and accuracy claims of the “BPXpress” were extinguished long ago, from the unlikely pages of Outdoor Life. . Despite the P.T. Barnum claims of “detonating” Pyrodex pellets, the highest muzzle velocities came from the rifle with the longest barrel, not the BPXpress. Accuracy among the three rifle test was deemed a “statistical tie.”
The poorly done BPXpress breechplug has been desperately shopped and re-shopped over the years, Everybody passed, including Thompson / Center. Too much re-engineering to make it work properly was involved.

Some years back, Ultimate Firearms wanted me to review a BP Xpress. I said, no problem, ship it to my FFL, and you'll get a fair review, just like everyone else. Just like hundreds of prior reviews, what it does . . . it what it does. Weirdly, that wasn't good enough for Ultimate Firearms. They wanted me to drive to Okemos, Michigan, to do the “review” at their local range . . . under their supervison. With a constant backlog of product to review, the last thing I'd agree to was a contrived, cherry-picked, ringer type of arrangement like that. Really odd.

Oh, then came a VHS videotape from Ultimate Firearms, showing impossible velocities with four Pyrodex pellets and “300 grain” saboted bullets. Randy Johnson called up and asked me what I thought. Well, I told him . . . it was fraudulent, and no one with any basic muzzleloading experience would buy into those fairy-tale velocities with 300 grain bullets. A long pause, then . . . words to the effect of, “Ugh, well, we ran out of 300 grain bullets . . . so we had to use 185 grain bullets.” Mmm-hmm. A little something they failed to mention on their bogus videotape. I did tell Randy Johnson that if velocity worship is what they were after, they would get higher velocities with Triple Se7en pellets than the Pyrodex pellets they were still struggling with. The reply then was, "T7 pellets won't work in our rifle."

The BP Xpress was used, like a lot of products are, in target matches, to try to lure and misguide consumers into thinking that winning a paper match has anything to do with hunting: it doesn't, of course, and it is all about the shooter, not brand names, otherwise it wouldn't be a sport. Naturally, if it was just the gun, well . . . Ken Johnston and Randy Johnson would have been winning everything in sight, shooting it themselves for over the last decade. They have won nothing, ever, that I've ever heard of. Is anyone really surprised?

Randy Johnson, as usual, was spamming e-mails about a Friendship, Indiana “win” in the Manufacturer's Championship. Problem was, Ultimate Firearms didn't win that year . . . they got beat by a muzzleloading company that was out of business: White Rifles. Another of the wacky claims of the “BPXpress” is that it is a low-recoil gun, and after that nonsense they try to up-sell you a muzzle break for $375 to destroy your hearing, if you aren't deaf already. One look and it is thanks, but no thanks: . For years, the BP Xpress was touted as having an integrated high tech recoil absorption system. For the uninitiated, it is called a “recoil pad.” Good grief.

For whatever reason, Ken Johnston has loudly, ridiculously claimed to invent all kinds of things, including the electronic ignition for the failed CVA Electra. The patent office says differently: . BPI picked it up in 2007, it failed miserably, and now the patent has lapsed.

Some years ago, Ken Johnston went on the warpath again, telling anyone that would listen to his horse manure that the Savage 10ML muzzleloaders were "blowing up all the time." Naturally, who would want a BP Xpress when you could get better velocities, longer range, bettwer visibility, use non-corrosive propellants, have far lower recoil, and far lower cost per shot with a Savage 10ML for a fraction of the price? Not many. There were so many complaints about "Ultimate Firearms" that I relayed the details to multiple patent-holder, engineer, and Savage Arms CEO Ron Coburn.

Ron Coburn did not tolerate slander or libel against his company. So, Ron Coburn called up Ultimate Firearms and asked about their rifle as compared to the Savage. Ultimate Firearms launched into their blowhard, anti-Savage tirade. Well, Ron Coburn said words to the effect, "I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Ron Coburn, CEO of Savage Arms. If you continue to try to slander, libel, or otherwise damage the good name of Savage Arms . . . you are going to court to answer for it . . . and you won't have a company." Ken Johnston, naturally, folded like a cheap suit. Ron Coburn does not bluff and he doesn't joke when folks attack and wrongfully try to damage him or Savage Arms.

Along the way, the “BS-Xpress” folks claim they make their own bullets in the basement or some such nonsense. Yet, what they claim is “their” Fury bullet is a Parker 275 grain Ballistic Extreme. The Michigan Ultimate jokers have nothing to do with making or designing them. The BS Xpress has been the Pet Rock of the muzzleloading industry for many years, no secret about that at all. It has been 12 years unmarred by progress from someone who could only be a pathological liar, technically incompetent, or both.

You decide that one for yourself. To this day, though they have apparently lost the 5 pellet nonsense, the claim is “The rifle will fire a 300 grain bullet at speeds approaching 2400 feet per second (fps).” Of course it won't, not with a 300 grain bullet, but they are apparently still allergic to the truth. And also confused, for the ballistics they currently publish are at 2300 fps, and a 300 grain “White Tail Medicine,” just a rebagged Hornady SST. 100 fps that was never there in the first place has mysteriously vanished, and yet . . . they still don't have it right. Even with their imaginary ballistics, the “easy 500 yard muzzleloader” claim is false on its face. At 500 yards, even with a 200 yard zero, their own ballistics show 114.1 inches of drop at 500 yards, a snubnose revolver type of impact velocity of 1043 fps, and wind drift with just a 10 mph cross-wind of 63 inches. Which way to the side-show?

It defines the gun as the“Ultimate Rip-Off” more than anything else. All you have to do is check it out. No Pyrodex pellets are detonating; the only thing detonating from Okemos, Michigan, is your wallet with a sickening thud. Sooner or later, people appreciate hearing the truth.



Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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