Rob Bedingfield tinkers with loads...
Just when I thought that all my rifles had carefully worked up loads that could not be improved on, I started to think that maybe they could be optimized just a little further. This is possibly because of my impending retirement and the thought of having nothing to do except housework.
Choosing the optimum powder is simply a matter of consulting the published reloading data. I find that my Lee manual covers most of the information I require, with the preferred and/or best suited powders shown at the top of the lists for each cartridge. The problem is that not all of the powders are available in New Zealand, however many Hodgdon powders are made by ADI in Australia (now owned by Thales) and it is easy to pick their equivalents by looking through the manuals. I assume that all Kiwi reloaders have one of the ADI booklets.
The author’s most used hunting rifle is this .25-06 Kimber, fitted with a Leupold 4-12x scope.
It has been my experience that the powder that gives the greatest velocity usually gives the best accuracy. Lee lists the top powders for the .222 Remington using 50 grain jacketed projectiles as VEC SP7, ACCUR2230 and VN133. I have not seen any of these powders available locally, so unless a can falls into my lap I will stick with ADI2207 for my CZ .222, a powder that gives excellent results.
Rob’s CZ .222 is fitted with a Luger 3-9x40 scope, making for an excellent light varmint rig.
I cannot be bothered fiddling with many of the compressed loads. Although safe enough if you stick to the published data, it is not my idea of fun endlessly tapping the cases to make room for the projectiles. This is required if I’m using IMR4064 or ADI2208 (Hodgdon VARGET) in the .222. Also, the onset of Parkinson’s can have my hands out of control in no time, causing powder to spill all over the place like a mad woman’s knitting!
My most used rifle is my Kimber .25-06 and the top powder listed for either 85 or 90 grain projectiles is H4831 (like IMR 4350, every good home should have some). The nearest equivalent to H4831 is ADI 2213/SC (actually H4831 Short Cut) so no problems there.
To develop the best load using 2213/SC and the 85 grain Ballistic Tips I made up 15 rounds, three each containing 55.5 grains, 56.0, 56.5, 57.0 and 57.5 grains. The results using my 100 yard bench rest were 0.75”, 1.5”, 1.125”, 0.5”, and 1-inch groups. This is the pattern most of my load development follows, so needless to say I settled on 57 grains, giving the 0.5-inch group. A damn good group, or was I just holding my mouth right? None of the loads showed abnormal pressure.
During an idle moment it occurred to me that even my best .22-250 load could be refined further. The powder scale reads to 0.1 of a grain but could it measure that precisely? Theoretically the optimum load should be somewhere between 56.7 grains and 57.2 grains. So I make up three more loads each with 56.7, 56.8, 56.9, (57 already done) 57.1, and 57.2. Off to the range again.
Results: 0.5”, 1.0”, 1.0”, 0.75” and 1.0 inch groups. It was a calm, hot day and a lot of time was spent allowing the pencil thin barrel to cool between shots.
When your .270 hunting rifle shoots your own home loads into a three-shot group like this you don’t change anything. This is as good as it gets!
My chosen load is now the first listed above; 56.7 grains. What does this experiment show? It shows the limits of precision of the gear and my own shortcomings – it was a fun exercise. The other accuracy variable, and probably the most important, is how I feel at the time. Certainly, it is clear that my groups enlarge as the day goes on. However, in reality the Kimber is a hunting rifle and all of the above groups are quite acceptable.
BULLET WEIGHTS AND RIFLING TWISTS
My mate Jason spent some time working in Canada recently and kindly brought back some Barnes TSX projectiles for my .222. The only problem was that he arrived with 55 grain and stamped on the packet was the warning “RECOMMENDED TWIST 1 IN 12 OR FASTER.” Barnes are longer than standard projectiles and my CZ has a 1 in 14 twist.
Never mind, I decided to make up some loads for range testing. AR 2208 filled the case and for the reasons stated above was abandoned. Back to the old faithful 2207.
Four of Rob’s reloads: a .222 with a 50 grain Speer projectile, another .222 with a 55 grain Barnes, a 7mm Rem Mag with a 160 grain Accubond, and right, a .300 Win Mag with a 165 grain Accubond.
The results were interesting to say the least; 18 grains produced a 3.5-inch group,18.5 a 1.5-inch, 19.0 a 2.0-inch, 19.5 a 3.5-inch, and finally 20 grains produced another 2.0-inch group. I was now doubting the rifle but a group with my regular 50 grain load near enough to 0.5-inch sorted that out.
I reasoned that as pressures looked safe, if the speed of the spin was the problem why not up the load? The increased velocity could be the answer. Next trip to the range tipped that idea over. A load of 20.5 grains produced a whopping 5.0-inch group and 21 grains gave 2.5 inches. To use up the remaining 55 grain projectiles I loaded them with 18.5 grains of 2207. Provided the 1.5-inch group was not a fluke that load should still sit a goat on its backside.
HITTING THE SLOPES
Moving up in calibre, my friend Al owns a 7mm Rem Mag – custom built on a Howa action, which if the Swedish destruction tests are anything to go by is one of the strongest actions ever. The cases all chamber easily so they only need neck resizing.
Neck resizing is usually a good idea, but if for some reason your fired cases will not chamber you have no option but to go back and full length resize them. If done correctly this will not shorten case life, as pointed out by Nick Harvey, who should know.
The trick is to start the die about one eighth of an inch or so high and slowly lower it until the case will just chamber with a little resistance even if it’s rotated 180 degrees. No way do you want a stuck case while you’re looking at that trophy stag.
When the height is right tighten the set-screw. I have two rifles that need this treatment while the others are fine with neck resizing. I would guess that irregularities in their chambers must be the cause.
A recent tahr hunting trip with Al saw me chickening out from doing a stalk on a mob containing a reasonable bull. The steep slope made up of loose rock that moved underfoot, combined with my loss of balance, was more than I could handle. I stayed put and asked Al to do the honours. Despite my feelings of inadequacy I did have the satisfaction of watching Al successfully stalk and dispatch the bull with one of my handloads.
Al did the stalking and shooting, but it was Rob’s 7mm Rem Mag reload that dropped the bull tahr...
Using 160 grain Accubonds, the Lee manual showed Reloader 22 to give the best results in the 7mm Rem Mag. The max load listed is 65 grains so I made up batches of three ranging from 62 to 65 grains. The 63 grain load produced the best group of just over half an inch. With the 7mm Rem Mag’s 26-inch barrel velocity, should be near 3000fps.
.300 WIN MAG
Moving up a bit further, a pile of .300 Win Mag brass had me into the man cave again, this time with a can of Reloader 25, a very slow burner. With 165 grain Accubonds, Lee lists a maximum load of 84.5 grains at a velocity of 3231fps. The best group with these in my Parker Hale came in at three quarters of an inch with 82.5 grains of R25. No high pressure signs, but I think it is time for a chronograph. Knowing the actual velocity would be a big help.
Rob’s long range mountain rig – a Parker Hale with a Shilen barrel chambered in .300 Win Mag. The scope is a Leupold VX1 3-9x40.
I should point out that before starting one of these testing sessions on a calm, cool, overcast morning I pulled out my Tikka .270 complete with a Nikko Stirling Nighteater scope in original alloy rings. It produced a one-hole group three inches high at 100 yards. The group, less than one quarter inch to the right was due to a slightly canted target. The rig went back into the bag unaltered. It may seem like a lot of mucking around but I find reloading a satisfying hobby and it allows no excuses as a missed shot can only be due to me.
It is raining outside, my NRA magazines have arrived and I haven’t finished the latest NZG&H yet, so feet up by the fire. I’ll hunt another day!