Tuesday, June 17, 2003

In Praise of Packratness and Other Reloading Confessions

You can never have too many reloading manuals. While most of the basic information is the same from one to the next, there are enough differences that i learn something from each one. Plus, given the variety of components, no single manual is going to have all the information necessary for even the casual reloader.

Sometimes even manuals don't have the answer for a particular question. For instance, I've been looking for a compromise load for the 45 Colt. Something a little stiffer than the typical commercial loads or standard loadings in the manuals. At the same time, i was not interested in the magnumized velocities found in the special sections for strong Ruger revolvers. Basically, i want to see how a 255 grain slug at around 1,000 fps would shoot and what kind of recoil it would generate.

And i wanted to do it with H4227 or 2400 since i have those powders on hand.

The Hornady manual does not list Ruger velocities below 1150 fps. I could estimate down, but i don't like to do that: powder behaves predictably only over a narrow range. At a point going up pressure becomes dangerous. At a point going down, the bullet can't clear the barrel and pressure becomes really dangerous on the next shot.

Reloading sissy confession #1: I have no desire to go where no reloader has gone before. I like to work in areas where more experienced men have trod.

The other problem with the Hornady data is that it was for jacketed bullets and i am using cast lead. The two do not perform the same with a given powder charge.

The solution turned up in an old copy of Handloader from 1975. Ken Waters was looking at the 45 Colt and its possibilities with newer powders and stronger guns. Right in the middle of it were several loads using 4227 and 2400. A couple of them were just what the doctor ordered: 250-255 lead bullets driven at 950-1050 fps. His results with jacketed bullets showed that his velocities with 2400 were consistent with the Hornady manual.

The 4227, OTOH, was inconsistent with current manuals. He got much lower velocities for a given powder charge than modern H 4227. That is the risk of old manuals and articles-- over time powder makers can "change the recipe" and old data doesn't apply. In the same way IMR 4227 is not identical to H(ogdon) 4227 and cannot be substituted for it grain for grain.

But in the end a reasonable load was found. I made up a few rounds and will try them out on the next trip to the range.

[Hard earned reloading advice-- only work up a half-dozen rounds the first time. No point having a box full of cartridges you don't like that have to be disassembled.]

The moral of this story is that it really does make sense to keep old magazines around as well as books like Waters's Pet Loads or Wolfe Publishing's Big Bore Rifles. If you reload much at all, you eventually will want a load that isn't covered in most manuals. The more resources you have, the more likely you are to find what you want.