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Ann's Corner

VOLUME 29-----------NOVEMBER 2004

SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'

WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY

November 1st.  Beautiful fall day at the Ranch.  Ann was out with her little digital camera the other day, taking pictures of the fall foliage, and I couldn't resist putting in this one of our little house in the big woods.

The Ol' Ranch House

The early deer season is behind us.  Opening day was successful for our friend Todd, who was invited out with his antlerless tag to help with our whitetail population control.  The day dawned wet and miserable, so not much deer movement was observed until just after lunch, when hunger for the fallen plums under the trees by the shop, overcame the deer's aversion to the rain.

For details on Todd’s hunt, check out his personal page in the Hunter Education section of our site.

After dressing and skinning, (the deer, not Todd) the doe was loaded and on the way to the cooler in town.  The truck was hardly out of sight when another doe ventured out to the plum trees for an afternoon snack.

The spindly trees in the foreground bear the plums the deer love so much

Thus, the opportunity to fill my antlerless tag appeared.  She quickly became our first game taken with the 180 grain Swift Scirocco bullet I had loaded for the .300 Win Mag.  This bullet clocks at an average of 2836 fps over my chronograph, from the 24 inch barrel on the Ruger bolt action.  (See the discussion in last month’s newsletter about development of this load.)  I had fully intended to try and take my doe with either the Ruger Vaquero in .45 Colt, or the Marlin Model 1894 in .44-40, but the .300 was the only one at hand when opportunity knocked.

At a range of only 50 yards, and into the rib cage, the bullet exited and was not recovered.  Jennifer let me borrow her metal detector, and I searched the ground downrange to see if it could be found and examined for expansion and retained weight.  So far, no luck, but I'll keep tryin'.  (Better get busy though, ‘cause the snow will be flyin’ soon!)

Speaking of flyin’, that dang ruffed grouse that I have been stalking since September, continues to elude me.  He just seems to know when I have a gun and when I don’t!  The grouse season runs until the end of December, so the little sucker aint home free yet!

As expected, we saw no big bucks here at the ranch during the early season.  The yearling with the funny looking little antlers, whose picture is in the September 2004 newsletter was around every two or three days.  His antlers look even more weird now that the velvet is gone.  Ann, Rick, and I all elected to pass on the little guy, and wait for the late buck season for mature bucks.  The late season in our area runs from November 8 through 19.  The hormones will be raging by mid November and the rut will be in full swing.  That's when we usually see the bigger bucks around the Ranch.

Actually, I had the little buck mentioned above, in the sights of the Ruger single action .45, at about 50 feet one evening behind the house.  I was all set to drop the hammer, but chickened out for two reasons.  One, my deer hunting would be over for the year, and I'd just have to watch Ann and Rick during the late season.  Two, the little buck is running with a yearling doe, I presume his sister from last year's fawn crop, and that combo is a guaranteed attraction for a mature buck.  When that little doe approaches her first estrous, the big bucks will be frantic to corral her and drive off the little brother.  Always fun to watch, and often an opportunity to shoot a really nice buck!

Ann’s .243 now has a new deer load.  I bought some, newly introduced Barnes XLC 95 grain bullets last fall, but only recently worked up a load for them.  The latest Barnes Reloading Manual has no data for this bullet, as it was introduced after the manual was printed.

I have searched for data via my membership in Load Data . com, as well as the major powder company web sites, and still haven't found data specific to this particular bullet.

Both the Barnes Manual and the Company Website, make it very clear that powder charge weights are not interchangeable for their coated bullets and the uncoated X bullets of the same weight.

Usually the coated bullets will accept slightly heavier powder charge weights, and give higher velocities, without excessive chamber pressure.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as indicated by Barnes’ declaration that they have not found a constant ratio that can be applied to powder charges for coated versus uncoated bullets!

An exchange of Emails with Ty Herring, customer service rep for Barnes, revealed that they have not yet developed specific data for this bullet in .243 Winchester, and suggested that I, "Use the data in the #3 manual. Start 2 grains under max for the non coated 95gr X, you should be able to to load 2-3 grains over the max for the non coated bullet with the XLC."

Just another one of those little quirks that make reloading ammunition so interesting and challenging!

Now, let's throw in another little quirk that exists with this particular rifle.  This is a Ruger 'Compact' M77 Mk II, sporting a barrel length of only 16½ inches.  My standard operating procedure when working up loads is to compare my chronographed velocities with those listed in various loading manuals for similar bullet weights and powder charges.

Experts in the field are pretty much in consensus that these velocity comparisons are the best way for the 'average handloader' to stay out of excessive pressure trouble with reloads.  The 'average handloader' meaning those of us who don't have access to the sophisticated laboratory equipment necessary to measure actual chamber pressure.

As I've stated in other forums, by the time the often expounded upon 'excess pressure signs' such as sticky bolt lift, flattened or cratered primers, and casehead expansion start showing up, you are more than likely already heavily overloaded!

The kicker here is, that you gotta' take into account any barrel length difference between your firearm, and the length of the barrel used to develop the data!  With a one to three inch difference in length, I'm comfortable with the old standard of 'around 50 fps per inch' for common hunting rifle rounds, plus for longer, minus for shorter.

Based upon my perusal of reloading manuals, this 50 fps per inch standard works OK for 'normal' barrel lengths in the 20 to 26 inch range.  Once outside these parameters, the equation may cease to be linear.  One of the best examples I've seen of this phenomenon, was reported in the January 2004 issue of Guns Magazine.

In their test, a rifle built on a Remington 700 action, was fitted with a 24 inch Lilja barrel, chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge.  The rifle was tested for accuracy and velocity with the 24 inch barrel, and the tests were repeated as the barrel was cut off and re-crowned  in 2 inch increments down to 16 inches in length.  Ammunition was Black Hills factory fodder with a 190 grain match bullet.  Velocity of the load was just over 3000 fps from the 24 inch barrel.

I think the results reported by Guns Magazine illustrate my point.  The first reduction to 22 inches, resulted in a loss of velocity of 77 fps.  Going to 20 inches, lost another 110 fps, with the reduction to 18 inches dropping another 118 fps.  So far the '50 fps per inch' aint that far off.  If my math is correct, the velocity loss of the first 6 inches chopped, averages just under 51 fps per inch!  The cut from 18 to 16 inches tells a different story, however.  This reduction resulted in a velocity loss of only 42 fps!

Sorry, this was a long winded, boring story to help describe my trepidation about figuring out how to extrapolate velocities from 24 inch test barrels to this 16½ inch shorty!

Perseverance pays off!  A search of .243 Win loads on Load Data . com, turned up a store of data developed by Hornady, in a 15 inch T/C Contender barrel.  Using Hornady's 95 grain bullet, they were getting 2600 fps with maximum loads of my chosen powder, Hodgdon's H4350.  So I'm now comfortable with having safe loads with my 95 grain Barnes coated bullets, in that velocity ballpark.

My 4 test loads ranged from 2400 to 2653 fps.  I chose the load that clocked an average of 2571 fps, and loaded 20 for whitetail deer medicine.  I think I could safely get 2700 to 2750 fps out of this coated bullet, but considering that a 150 yard shot would be a long one here at the Ranch, this load will do fine.  Also the load has very little recoil, prints to the same point of aim as the 100 grain Nosler Partitions Ann shoots in this rifle, groups in about  1½ inches, and should be deadly on deer.

At the risk of making this long story longer, I need to make one more point in relation to working up this .243 load.  The Barnes manual does not give either the SAAMI maximum cartridge overall length, or an overall length as loaded with Barnes bullets.  The latest Hornady manual, on the other hand, gives both the SAAMI specs and an overall cartridge length as tested with each of their different bullets in each caliber.

SAAMI specs for the .243 Winchester maximum overall cartridge length is 2.710 inches.  I initially seated the Barnes bullets to a depth that provided an overall length just under the SAAMI specs and determined that they would fit in the magazine and feed OK.  Chambering the loaded rounds at the range, however, revealed another problem.  The last little bit of bolt closure was just a little too stiff.

The most likely problem was the bullet contacting the rifling lands just before full bolt closure.  These were new, unfired cases that had been properly sized and trimmed, so a problem with the cases was unlikely.  Sure enough, a checkup with the Stoney Point Overall Case Length gauge confirmed this.  (The Stoney Point gauge is described in the May 2004 and August 2002 Newsletters if you'd like further details about the use of this neat little tool)  Adjusting the seating depth to provide 0.030" clearance between the bullet and the lands, resulted in a cartridge overall length of 2.648 inches, over 0.060" shorter that the SAAMI maximum.

It appears that this bullet's ogive tends to be fatter toward the tip, the leade in the Ruger's chamber is on the short side of standard, or both.  I have properly chastised myself about this issue and vowed to utilize those expensive toys like the Overall Length Gauge before the trek to the shooting bench next time!

The loaded rounds, with new brass and those bright blue coated bullets, do look kinda cool though; don't 'cha think?

.243 Win with Barnes coated 95 grain bullets

Todd, of the not dressed and skinned above, called Halloween morning to inquire if we were home, and said he wanted to come out a for a few minutes.  He showed up with a care package for Little Heifer and me.  He had gotten his wild game and fish back from the processor, and had a nice sampling for us.  The package included smoked turkey from the jake he shot here at the Ranch, pepperoni stick and jerky from his deer, and a bonus of a couple of smoked trout!  THANKS TODD!  It's all delicious!

On Saturday the 30th, our friend Courtney Johnson brought 17 year old daughter, Jakala out for a final shooting practice session before the late deer season.  After a minor elevation adjustment to the rear sight, the .30-30 Winchester '94 was putting its shots steadily into the kill zone.  With that rifle in Jakala's able hands, any deer within 100 to 150 yards is in serious danger!  That includes shots from kneeling, from an improvised rest against a tree, or offhand.

I think it's great to see younger folks enthusiastic about participating in hunting and the shooting sports with parents or mentors.  A lot of lessons about pride, self confidence, and humbleness can be learned from these activities; the pride and self confidence after powdering that difficult, left to right clay bird at the trap range, and the humbleness when the easy straightaway escapes without a scratch!

In Jakala's case, it doesn't hurt that she is already a nice, pleasant, and polite young lady!

This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from my Great Grandfather, Charlie:

"Horse manure is real good fertilizer for stuff like rhubarb and lettuce, but don't use it on your taters or they'll go all to tops!"

Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .

'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!

THE OL' HILLBILLY
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