Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I’ve started reloading .223 Remington.
Part of it is the expense of ammo today; part of it is the inability to find a reliable source of heavy rounds.  I’ve given up on 55gr FMJ.  

Oh, that weight is fine for tactical gun games and training.  You know, open the door, engage the three cardboard targets at 25 yards and move to the next activity.  When I shoot the Camp Perry pop-up fun matches, my bullets tend to drift a bit at the 300 yard targets.  A bit?  More like touring the neighborhood complete with road blocks and chuck holes.  I suspect that heavier bullets would make a difference.  I treat those matches as a training experience, so I want to do well. 

I can still find green-tipped SS109 with a steel insert.  My gun shoots them well, but so many ranges don’t want you shooting at steel with SS109 at any distance. And that‘s not unreasonable for both safety and target conservation.  It would be unacceptable to me to wipe off the green tip even if I knew the steel was up to the impact.  It should be to you too!

And I want smaller groups.  Even a shooter whose only interest is to put two rounds into an area the size of a sheet of typing paper would like to choose which side of the paper to hit.  If you have ever thought of your performance in “real life” situations, you know that we seldom exceed our expectations, but come to the lowest denominator of our training.   I’ve taught too much CPR to tolerate any argument about that.
If I can constantly put my rounds into a 4x4 spot during practice, I’m confident I can hit a 10x10 spot under real stress.

My experience with much of the commercially available ammo manufactured overseas has been poor.  This ammo shows a high level of variation.  This leaves reloaded ammo and high performance rounds which can cost as little much as 75 cents a round or more.  

Since I don’t want to shoot reloaded ammo in a self-defense situation, I’ll save the factory Black Hills and Corbon for those rare and improbable days of the zombie apocalypse.  (As an aside, I suspect if I’m shooting my AR in self-defense, I and the rest of society will have bigger problems than reloaded .223 Rem.)

Here’s the reload.

I’m reloading Hornady’s 68 grain BTHP with 22.7 gr of Hodgdon’s H338.  I wouldn’t waste your time talking about case headstamp, or brand of small rifle primer.  In a gas gun it doesn’t matter.  In case you’re wondering, I want a reloaded cartridge OAL of 2.245 inches, but I’ll live with 2.25 inches.

I picked the powder weight by reloading different weights and seeing what shot the smallest 5 shot group at 100 yards off a sand bang while seated.  I started with the lowest recommended load from Hornady’s 

I had zeroed the rifle for the top ammo at 100 yards.  Looks like I'll be adjusting my windage for a new load.  Look at the spread from PMC!
 Handbook 8th edition and ramped it up by 0.7 gr per group.  Here are the results.
                Custom reload, same bullet, longer OAL                                 3.25 inches
                21.3 gr                                                                                   3.38 inches
                22.0 gr                                                                                   1.75 inches
                22.7 gr                                                                                   1.75 inches
And for comparisons
                PMC                                                                                      3 inches

At 200 yards my groups opened up to around 5 inches and the targets weren’t big enough to contain all the rounds so I’m missing that data. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m shooting a 16-inch barrel with a one-in-nine twist.

WOW!  That's lot of numbers.  It is and I still don’t have velocities to plug into the ballistic programs.  Freedom from the numbers is one of the advantages of pistol shooting.  At most distances the bullet drop isn’t significant.  Yes, for bullseye pistol shooting it’s important enough to know where your point of impact is at three distances: outdoor at 50 and 25 yards and indoor at 50 feet.  But that’s it.

But rifle shooting covers longer distances and gravity has more time to do its work.  It’s never any fun to miss.  Hittin’ is the fun part no matter what the target: paper, steel plates or balloons.

So what’s next?  I want to chronograph my rounds and find my muzzle velocity and how much variation I have.

I never thought I’d be a rifle shooter.  I certainly can improve my pistol craft, but right now, rifle is a ball.   The only constant in life is change.

Tactical content?

Okay.  Use your equipment enough to have confidence in it.  I don’t have confidence in 55gr bullets at 300 yards, so my mind is on the impact and not on doing everything right at my end.  I don’t have confidence on group size with some ammo, so I’m planning on shooting mostly my reloads.  Again, less thought about group size and bullet performance and more thought on a smooth trigger pull and breathing control.

Accept the fact that under stress performance will degrade.  Strive to shoot a tighter and more accurate group in practice, knowing that if things get wild and woolly your performance will degrade.

Shooting a rifle isn’t quite like shooting a handgun.    Not knowing how your point of aim differs from point of impact will give you a poor score and perhaps cost you your life.

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