Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

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Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby Coote » 11 Jul 2019 04

I thought I'd share a bit about what I've been doing. Some may find it interesting, and others may have some good observations, comments or warnings to contribute.

I had my first experience of reloading probably in the mid 1970's when my Uncle invited me to stay with him at what we call a bach (cabin) near Nelson Lakes National Park. He had cast some bullets for .303 British... a common rifle down here back then, and a family favourite. The Lee Enfield also had a bit of a revered mystique about it as my father, uncles and grandfather had all been involved with military service in the two big wars and Korea. Anyway... we loaded up some bullets into old military brass, and I remember using one of them to shoot a red deer with a frontal shot during a bush stalk. The deer dropped immediately. And that bullet style was possibly better than the old fully-jacketed mkvii military ammo that so many hunters used in the middle of last century.

I got my own dies about eight years ago when I felt the urge to have a suppressed centerfire. I bought two .308 rifles with suppressors, and devoted one of them to shooting lead. I loaded for both rifles. The novelty of these rifles wore off after a while. For a start, none of the bullets I was loading showed any degree of expansion. I'd shot a lot of game with .22lr subsonics, and the trajectory of the subsonic .308s was pretty much the same as the little rimfire (although the terminal energy was way different) so there wasn't much of a range advantage. Furthermore, these rifles didn't look and feel like the hunting rifles I grew up with, and I grew tired of lugging the big ugly things around ... always taking care to not knock the scope. So I sold both rifles.

Scopes are wonderful for certain jobs, but I grew up with open sights. I'm pretty much retired now, and instead of planning to go on a cruise, I just want to shoot well with open sights once again. I hasten to add I do have a .22LR and a .223 with scopes.

After I sold those .308s, I got the Rossi 92 .357 Magnum. It is a very nice little weapon. And that is what I currently reload for. (eventually I might reload some .303 British and try to get my old sporterized No 4 shooting well again).

I cast bullets for the Rossi. I have two Lee molds... the 358-125 RF and the 358-158-RF. My best groups have been shot with the 125 grain bullets.

A lot of my hunting is done relatively close to houses (within gunshot as they used to say), so I like to use lower-powered rifles. I can use a suppressed .22LR if necessary, but with the .357 loaded to shoot at subsonic speeds the noise isn't too bad. While I've shot a number of pigs and feral goats with a .22, it is nice to have a subsonic projectile that delivers at least three times the energy of a .22.... and which drills a much bigger hole.

When I first started loading my cast bullets, I used a home brew lube made from beeswax and a lanolin-rich mineral oil. This worked well as far as I can tell and I got no leading. I bought some swaged lead Speer bullets which come coated with a dry lube and I really like the convenience of these, so I thought I'd try some Lee Alox. The Alox certainly is quick to apply, but i don't like the way it makes the bullets sticky... and I can't help thinking that some of the most strategically-located lube might get pushed off when I'm forcing the bullets into a tight case.

I found Glen Fryxell's lube recipe (50/50 moly grease and beeswax) and so I've started to use that. It is smelly and messy, but I like to think it does a very good job. My chronograph results suggest that, in some cases, I may even gain maybe 50 fps using Fryxellube instead of my old stuff. But I haven't done repeated tests, so I can't be sure of those results.

I worry about powder coming in contact with the lube, so I am careful to not get any on the base of the bullets. I've just started loading unlubed bullets into the charged case just as far as the bottom of the grease groove. When I've charged all the cartridges this way, I then apply the lube... wipe off the excess as best I can... and then seat the bullets home. I use an artists plastic pallete knife to scrape off the excess lube before seating. I then clean up the loaded cartridges using a bit of cotton rag and methylated spirit. It takes a relatively long time compared to loading a jacketed or factory-lubed bullet, but I don't need to load a lot. I tried pan-lubing once and didn't enjoy it. Especially with the odor of the molybdenum sulphide or whatever the fragrant component in the grease is.

Being an engineer who has seen the benefits of ample lubrication, I've been filling the crimp groove with lube and then seating the bullets deeper to cover this top groove. Initially I was concerned that if I didn't crimp the bullets they might move, but they are a real tight fit and I haven't noticed any problems after many shots.

I was also concerned that seating deeper might cause a higher pressure than the makers of the reloading recipes would approve of. Indeed, I found that I was getting higher velocities in my 16 inch barrel than the velocities indicated in the ADI load book for a longer barrel. For one load using ADI AP70N powder (allegedly the same as Hodgdon Universal), I was getting the speed of the maximum load when I was using half a grain less than maximum. So I thought it was a good time to stop adding powder.... figuring that higher velocity could have only come from higher pressure as nothing else had changed that I was aware of. I could not find any other symptom of excessive pressure, but being fairly new at all this I was feeling cautious.

So today I loaded up some cartridges with bullets loaded to two different depths. I loaded some 125 grain cast with five grains of Trail Boss, and I loaded some 158 grain with 6 grains of AP70N (said to be the same as Universal). Some I loaded to the crimp groove, and some I loaded to cover the crimp groove. (is that a cannelure?).

For the 158 grain projectiles the seating difference was 0.050 inch. Fifty thou' as we say. The 125 bullets had a seating difference of 0.040 inch

The 158 grain with the 6 grains of AP70N seated to the cannelure had an average velocity (three shots) of 1265 fps. Seated 0.05" deeper, the average velocity was 1296 fps. So, yes, velocity increased by 31 fps.

The 125 grain with five grains of Trail Boss behind them gave different results. Seated to the cannelure the average velocity was 1126 fps. Seated 0.04" deeper the average velocity was 1106 fps.

This wasn't an extensive, scientific program of testing but it did reassure me a little.

interestingly... the 158 grain load (with 6 grains AP70N) is exactly the same load that gave me concern previously. At the earlier test I got an average velocity of 1334 fps. Dunno why the bullets seemed slower today. Perhaps my old Chrony sat at a different angle to the sun and gave me a different result. Perhaps it was some other factor. I am very careful when measuring loads on my mechanical scales, so I doubt that it was a charge weight variation. Nevertheless, I am still close to the top velocity shown in the recipe book so, even though I am tempted, I might be wiser to stop at six grains... much as I'd love to get 1350 fps or more as this gives me a pretty good 'point blank' aim at larger animals out to 90 yards or so.

When I was having accuracy problems with the Rossi, I ordered a single shot Henry in .357 magnum. I feel that it is wise to have two rifles chambered for the cartridge I reload anyway. Also the Henry seems to have a nice set of steel sights which is a fairly rare thing on a new centerfire rifle nowadays. Furthermore, it has a simple extractor which means my precious brass won't hit me in the face before disappearing into a pile of brambles somewhere. So I'm looking forward to getting that Henry. I was told it would take five weeks to arrive, but I think we must be in about the seventh week now with still no word of it. If I get sick of waiting I might cancel the order and get a single shot Bergara instead. The Bergara is probably threaded for a suppressor, and it may be a take-down model... so those would be useful features. No matter what I get, I look forward to seeing how my cast bullets work in it. I'm thinking seeing my Rossi seems to like the 125 grain bullets, I will make up a 158 grain load for hunting with the single shot. Those 158 grain bullets have a nice wide meplat.

Below is a photo showing my cartridges prior to applying lube. And below that is a photo of the group I shot today with 125 grain bullets at 25 yards. It is very pleasing. I can't get the 158 bullets to group under about 1.5" at that distance. Oh... almost forgot to mention that I cut the horns off my rear sight. I'm sure they are useful for some people, but after many decades of using flat-topped sights I feel a flat top is best for me. I wrapped the rifle in cling film and pushed it down over the sight to make the sight break through it. I then got out my grinder and cut off the horns with a 1mm disk. I should have done it weeks ago.

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Last edited by Coote on 11 Jul 2019 14, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby Ranch Dog » 11 Jul 2019 05

You covered a lot of ground! You can tell you enjoy the experience! It will be interesting to see how the Henry compares to the Rossi.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby Coote » 11 Jul 2019 15

When I woke this morning I realised I'd made a mistake naming the powder I've been using, so I rushed to my iPad to make the necessary corrections. This is proof that everyone should refer to manufacturers data when making reloading decisions.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby donhuff » 11 Jul 2019 15

Coote,

That Lee 358-125 RF and 5.3 grains of w231/HP38 is a very accurate load. Looks like your load is plenty accurate also, but the 231/hp38 powder would be a lot more economical than trail boss (if that matters to you).
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby Coote » 11 Jul 2019 17

Thanks for the comments... and thanks for the tip about w231. Where I live there aren't a lot of choices for readily available reloading components. Additionally only a few, specially licensed, people are allowed to use pistols and that is only at a supervised range. So pistol components aren't common. However... a good range of Australian made ADI powders can generally be obtained and I see that ADI AP50N is an equivalent of the w231 and HP38. In fact, I have an idea that the HP38 might be made as AP50N by ADI and re-branded.

Yep, I'm all for being as economical as possible with reloading... or anything. I already had some Trail Boss from my .308 subsonic quest. I hadn't considered AP50N for my 125 grain reloads simply because it wasn't listed as an option in the data I had. But since you mentioned it, I can see that it would work. My data shows a similar load with that powder for 135 grain cast. Do you reckon it would work OK with standard (not magnum) primers? My data shows magnum primers, even for Trail Boss. I use standard small rifle primers.

Another powder that I've been tempted to try is our ADI AP2205. I understand that this is a ball powder equivalent to H110 or Win296. Although it would give me some good velocity, I'm reluctant to use ball powder as I believe that ignition might not be good without using magnum primers... and because it seems that ball powders are the most likely ones to have a problem in less-than-full charges. I don't really want to stock another type of primer or leave behind a can of this tricky powder for my grandchildren to inherit.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby GasGuzzler » 12 Jul 2019 04

The reloading bullies will hate me for this but in my experience, magnum primers are required for nearly nothing. There may be a very small bench rest gain in one or two applications but I haven't found it.

The ADI AP2205 should work very well with the 158 if it is similar to H110 or W296...my second favorite .357 powders to A2400.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby Coote » 12 Jul 2019 05

I really appreciate your thoughts.

Being fairly inexperienced I am inclined to stick to the book, even though inside I feel it is OK to carefully experiment.

I sent an email to ADI asking a few questions. Their reloading data for .357 magnum pistol showed a magnum primer being used for every load. I'd also read a few internet items indicating that spherical powders could have ignition problems if anything but a magnum primer was used. I'd prefer to just stock standard small rifle primers. So I asked ADI if a magnum primer was necessary for cartridges loaded with AP2205 (equivalent of H110, W296). This is the reply:

"Magnum primers are not necessary for ignition of our powders. Winchester SPM
primers were what was used to develop the 357 Magnum rifle data. Magnum primers
do produce a higher energy output and are manufactured with a thicker, stronger cup
so may handle increased pressures. Small rifle primers will generate higher pressures
than pistol primers, therefore it is essential that you work up to your best safe load with
your components, in small increments watching for any signs of excessive pressures"

Another question related to using AP2205 behind a cast bullet to get higher speed. I figured that it probably takes less pressure to move a lead bullet than it does to move a jacketed bullet of the same weight... therefore I could use a recipe for loading a jacketed bullet as a guide to loading for a cast bullet of an identical weight.... so I asked if this was a good idea. The poor customer services guy is probably bound by strict rules, and he replied:

"When developing loads using lead projectiles you should always refer to the lead data.
Jacketed projectiles have different data, as they generate different pressures".

So I will think on it for a while, considering what other people say they've done. What I need is a good grasp on the percentage of case fill (with these ball powders) that is needed to ensure that I'm not one of those (mythical?) people that blows his gun up with too small a charge. Blowing up a rifle with too small a charge doesn't really fit with my sense of how things work, but it may well happen because one thing I do know is that I don't know everything.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby donhuff » 12 Jul 2019 07

I use standard primers for everything I load, regardless of the powder used. I have never had an ignition problem.

Using your 296/110 type powder will effeminately get you higher velocities, but do not go below the minimum listed load. Like you, I have a hard time believing that a low charge will blow the gun up. But I do know that you WILL have ignition problems if you go just a little below the listed charge, whether using standard or magnum primers. And the sound will make you think that the gun has blown up. The charge will lite off like normal, but seem very weak. Then the loose powder will seem to reignite in the barrel and sometime outside the muzzle, with a horrendous blast!

But when going to a magnum type of charge with your lead bullets, you will probably need to start using a gas check to get the most out of them, and still have good accuracy.

I use jacketed data for a lead bullets all the time. Oddly, the friction has much less to do with it than you might think. I have loaded and shot, unlubed lead, lubed lead, powder coated lead, powder coated AND lubed, and jacketed, all with the same powder charge and on the same day. The difference in velocity was very small. The jacketed was the slowest, but only by a small amount.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby Coote » 12 Jul 2019 16

Thanks Don, I resonate with your reasoning.

I've loaded and shot some loads using 358-125-RF bullets and 6.5 grains AP70N flake powder (Universal?) which travel at over 1400 fps out of the Rossi. I didn't seem to get any leading that I was aware of, although I don't really know what significant leading might look like. The barrel just seemed as clean as usual afterwards.

So I figure that 1400 fps is a good 'hunting' speed for a plain based bullet. I'm hoping to find an accurate powder load that will propel my 158 grain cast projectiles at around this same velocity. Using 6 grains of AP70N I have had results between maybe 1260 and 1320 fps. The official data states I can go up to 6.5 grains of powder, but I'm thinking that if I've already got to almost the maximum velocity shown in the data for that load, I might be at maximum pressure, so I'm looking for alternatives. I should probably just be content with what I have and not bother with the extra 100 fps. But I imagine I will always have the quest for the extra 100 fps at the back of my mind.

While it would be nice to shoot 158 grainers from my Rossi, I don't seem to get consistent accuracy... not yet anyway. So I'm hoping my next .357 rifle will work well with the heavier slugs. After another week of not hearing back from my local gun shop about the Henry I ordered, I tracked down the importer and spoke to him. It seems that while an enquiry was made about the rifle I wanted, the order was never placed and it will be another month or so before a shipment of these rifles gets into the country. So I phoned the gun store and cancelled that order... and requested a Bergara .357 instead. I'd previously talked to the distributor and he told me he had several in stock. So maybe next week I will have something that is accurate with 158 grain bullets.
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Re: Experiences of a a Novice Reloader

Postby GasGuzzler » 13 Jul 2019 06

Velocity doesn't lead...bullet fit and pressure do. Velocity and pressure aren't linear either so just because you're at the upper end of the book on velocity doesn't mean you're absolutely in pressure danger.

There could be many reasons you don't like the accuracy of the Rossi with 158's but trying the same load in another gun could reveal some issues.
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