VOLUME 32-----------FEBRUARY 2005
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
Howdy, again from the Ranch. Here it is the beginning of February and we are having trouble believing our Spring like weather! The foot or more of snow we had a month ago is nearly gone! The only white spots left are those where the snow was piled by the snow blowers as I cleared the driveway.
We are now in the third or forth week of daytime temperatures in the mid forties to low fifties, and often staying well above freezing at night. I just finished watching the local news and the forecasters are calling for the same ol', same ol', at least through the first week of February.
Our local deer appear to be enjoying the weather. They are having 'easy pickin's' with no snow and cold to fight. We continue to see several small bucks that made it through hunting season, and even spotted a heavy antlered old feller the other day.
Of course the does and last year's fawns are still too numerous to count. I'm no wildlife biologist, but if we have a normal fawn crop this spring, a lot more antler-less permits should be in order for next season.
With all the warm weather my thoughts have been leaning toward cooking up some new loads for some of the rifles languishing in the gun safe. It's not healthy for guns to idle their time away without being shot occasionally, you know! I've been doing an informal inventory of components to try and determine where I want to start.
Several projects are possibilities. I may well need a deer load for the .25-06 Ruger No. 1. So far my shooting of the Ruger has been limited to varmint weight bullets, mostly the Hornady 75 grain V Max. Swift is coming out with a new Scirroco 25 caliber bonded bullet that should be a fine deer slayer, but the bullet hasn't hit the dealer's shelves yet. Another excellent possibility would be the 115 grain Barnes X, all copper bullet.
Another matter that needs looking into, is the inability of Little Heifer's 7MM-08 to group her current deer load into less than about four inches at 100 yards. If different loading components don't shrink those groups a little, some amateur gunsmithing, such as a glass bedding job, may be in order. (I really don't know why I would bother with this one though. Ann is still bragging about how her last buck just 'dropped on the spot' when she shot him with this rifle! I could begin to get vexed if I keep hearing this quote: "You shot your doe with a .300 Magnum, under the same plum tree, and it ran 50 yards into the brush before it fell down!")
Then again, perhaps trying the Ramshot Magnum powder in the .338 Remington Ultra Mag should take priority. I have been using Reloader 22 powder in this rifle with 210 grain bullets, but am thinking the slower burning Ramshot Magnum may perform better in those cigar sized cases.
I could name several other choices, but this is illustrative of the kind of dilemma that I have really learned to appreciate since retirement!
Having mentioned powder choices for the .338 Ultra Mag, I want to turn serious for a few minutes and discuss the many, and sometimes tricky powder choices available to handloaders today.
I could bore you with statistics about the number of powders available in the mid 1960's when I started reloading, contrasted with the number available now, but I won't. Suffice it to say, that there are a heckuvalot more choices today!
Now, that's a good thing! Never before have we had such myriad opportunities to find just the 'right stuff' for our custom ammo.
But, here's the bad thing! We have so many choices that it can become confusing, and confusing can be dangerous! When I say 'confusing', I'm referring to the propensity of the powder companies for giving some of their products similar names and numbers over the years.
The two calibers I began reloading for were the .280 Remington and 7X57MM Mauser. For these and other cartridges in this general class, two logical powder choices were Hodgdon's 4831 and Dupont's 4350. I'm looking at the Speer Reloading Manual Number 7, as I write this. The printing date is 1966. In the loading tables, these two powders are referred to as simply '4831' and '4350'; no designation as to maker. This made perfect sense in 1966. There were no other 4831's or 4350's!
As reloading ammunition became more and more popular, the marketing wars began! We soon had a Dupont IMR-4831 to compete with Hodgdon's 4831, and later, a Hodgdon's 4350 to compete with Dupont's IMR-4350.
My next Speer Manual is Number 9, printed in 1974. It is my first reference to use the IMR designation for Dupont powder and H for Hodgdon's. In the chapter on powders, it is explained that IMR4831 is faster burning than H4831, and charge weights equal to the Hodgdon's should not be used!
The first mention of Hodgdon's 4350 in my library, comes in Speer Manual Number 11, printed in 1987. One of my latest references, the 2003 Sierra Manual, lists no less than four powders, from three different companies, that use the designation, '4350' in some manner!
So, why does all this matter? Let me give you an example. I have a friend who purchased a several year's supply of the original 4831 in the early 1960's, and was loading for a pre '64 Winchester Model 70 in .300 Winchester Magnum. (The original 4831 was a surplus World War II machine gun powder. The entire leftover supply was purchased from the government by Bruce Hodgdon's Powder Company in Kansas City, Kansas. Hodgdon developed reloading data and repackaged the powder for sale to reloaders as a component.)
After 20 plus years, the 4831 finally ran out. My friend's purchase of 4831 powder after all those many years, was Dupont's IMR 4831. A new batch of reloads, using the old powder charge weight, turned out to be quite hot! Fortunately, nothing more serious than a sticky bolt and loose primer pockets resulted. No bodily harm or damage to the rifle occurred.
Another illustration of identification problems was reported in the February 2005 edition of GUNS MAGAZINE, in John Taffin's Campfire Tales. Two different reloaders had used Accurate Arms No. 7 powder instead of Alliant's Reloader 7 as called for in the loading manual's data! The loads were for a .45-70 Ruger No. 1, and a Lever Action in .444 Marlin. Alliant Reloader 7 is a perfectly good fit for both these straight walled rifle cartridges, but Accurate Arms No. 7 is a relatively fast burning pistol powder!
Again, fortunately, neither person was seriously hurt, but the .444 blew the barrel completely off the receiver of the Lever Action with the first shot. The Ruger did stay together, but it was sprung to the point of being scrap metal. The really sad and scary part of the .45-70 story, is the guy had previously blown apart a T/C Contender with the same load, and was quoted as saying he shot "several" rounds before the Ruger locked up!
Taffin reported that he ran the loads used in these situations through his 'Quick Load' computer program, which pegged the probable pressures at over 155,000 psi!! You know that .45-70 load had to have a ferocious blast and prodigious recoil!
I love the hobby of reloading ammunition and believe it to be a lot safer than driving your automobile to the grocery store. However, safety in reloading is about following long accepted rules. Those rules include using current data, and making sure you identify exactly, the components you are using! Another rule illustrated by the above .45-70 example: If something doesn't sound or feel right; STOP, until you figure out what's wrong!
Then there's that little rule about backing off and working up your load again if you change any component, even including different lot numbers of the same powder or a different brand of primer. This is especially critical if you are loading at or near the maximum powder charges listed in your reference data!
While I'm on this soapbox, I'll make one other point before I shut up. Remember that rule about having only one powder on the loading bench at a time? Here's a good reason.
H4350 and Varget
If you are loading with Varget data, and start topping off your powder measure with H4350, the consequences may not be too serious. Since the H4350 is somewhat slower burning than Varget, you'll probably just have loads with lower velocity than expected. Turn that around, however, and your loads may be a lot hotter than you wanted! (In a .243 size cartridge, the maximum H4350 load may be as much as 30% greater than the listed Varget maximum) The granules of these powders are almost identical, and the packaging is very similar, so you may not notice pouring in the wrong stuff. Keep only the powder container you're using on the bench!
This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from an ex Kansas City Cop, who always had a reliable source for genuine Georgia Moonshine:
"Take the lid off yer Mason Jar and sip out a couple of good snorts to leave some room. Then, drop in two or three dried apricots, and let 'er set for a week. That'll give 'er a nice 'bought whiskey' color, and take summa' the bite out of it."
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!