you're right, there is a bit of an "art" to using a ramrod. However, in more than 50 years of traditional muzzleloading the only wood rod I've ever broken was one I dropped and stepped on. And I favor very tight loads, like a .451" ball and .018" patch in a .45 or .490" ball and up to .032" thick patch in a .50 caliber. Those are loads many would consider "impossibly tight". What's more, I've often used cheap dowels from the hardware store as ramrods and, although I do prefer straight grain hickory, I've never had a problem with the dowels.
Now as I think about it, I did once own an H&R and remember thinking that silly little telescoping ramrod was a poor joke, but the main reason I got rid of it was the plastic primer holder which burned out in 8 or 10 shots and replacements were available only from H&R.
The thing is that in Colorado we can't use sabots and I know from past experience that the full bore size projectiles like the Great Plains bullets or T/C Maxi balls can be pretty hard to ram down a fouled bore, for that I would never trust anything so flimsy as the rod of that H&R. You just really can't beat a straight grain hickory rod of at least 3/8" diameter, they're not only rigid but much easier to grasp than a slippery metal rod.
It's tricky enough to find a good accurate load with an effective bullet without have to also make allowances for a flimsy ramrod.