Monday, December 27, 2010

Big Range Day Win

Yesterday Chimera came out to casa de Geek for Christmas dinner and a little shooty goodness. He got a new Magpul stock and CMMG .22LR conversion that needed to be tried out. I also changed out the charging handle catch for an extended version to make things easier with his optics.
I took out misbeHavens AR, my 10/22 and my STI with a Ceiner .22 conversion on it.

Starting at 25 yds to make sure things were on target. We don't have a shooting bench on our range so we used a a rolled up blanket on the hood of the truck as a rest. We then rolled back to 100yds to see how the rifles were doing. The reason I took the AR out was way back when I took it out and shot a variety of ammo through it over a chrono at 100yd targets to check which ammo worked best in her gun. I tested 2 factory loads, 4 mil surp loads and four different powder loads under 55Gr JSP handloads. The best of all the ammo groups was a 1.013" group with 25.6Gr of VV N-135 under the 55Gr JSP. What I didn't try was the 69Gr Moly coated Sierra Match Kings I hand load for my varmint rifle. I wanted to correct that. For my last tests I had a range with a bench and multiple sandbags to take me out of the equation and only look at ammo performance.
Well, I shot four, five shot groups at 100yds using the blanket rest. The groups were 1.98", 0.980", 0.956" and the smallest at 0.703". This was off a blanket on the hood. Not sandbags on a bench. I am rather impressed by the performance of these hand loads.
Just for fun, I took aim an IPSC target with my .22LR Conversion. I managed to put the rounds on the target. Not pretty but at least they were on the cardboard. Back up at 25yds resting on the blanket shot a 3" or so group with the pistol and free hand standing I was able to hold everything in the 6" head of the IPSC target. Actually the first string of 15 was in nominally half of the head. The next string of 15 filled the other half of the head so the gun will hold pretty tight for a conversion.

Overall has to be the best range day for me in a long time.


  1. Speaking of handloads, have you had any experience with Benchrest using 55 grainers?

    The reason I ask is that I relatively recently built up an AR and started working up handloads using Hodgdon Varget. The AR is a 16" mid-length heavy barrel, with standard everything else, except for a free-floating handguard and M4-type collapsing stock/buffer. I went with Varget because my books have somewhat of a consensus that this is an accurate powder with 55grain and heavier bullets. Unfortunately, I've now realized that all of these tests were through 24" barrels and I get the feeling that it's not all burning before the bullet exits the barrel, accounting for the inconsistency.

    At first I thought this was because of my unfamiliarity with the AR sights (and I was shooting black targets with a black front post), but I tried out some of the commercial WWB Q3131A1 5.56 rounds through it and saw an significant improvement in grouping. My Varget rounds aren't nearly as inconsistent as the PPU .223 stuff, but nonetheless, I expect more from a handload that I've worked up.

    So, my next logical step is to try out a faster-burning powder, and I've heard Benchrest is a good powder for shorter barrels, and specifically precision shooting for smaller calibers. Any thoughts on this?

    I've stayed away from the Vihtavuori powders mostly because they aren't as easy to find locally and there doesn't seem to be as much load data for them as with the Hodgdon/IMR/Winchester powders (and it's more expensive), but I might give it a try if my local shop has what I'm looking for.

  2. John, I started using VV powders for IPSC because they support the sport and I wanted to vote with my pocket book.

    As for variability in your loads, are you using a chrono to look at muzzle velocity? IF the velocities are varying then you may have a powder mismatch causing your inconsistency. However, there are so many other things that can be the cause of accuracy issues in hand loads that powder choice may be the least of your worries.

    Concentrating on powder to start, getting a powder that will generate enough pressure to completely burn with light bullets in a short barrel and has a low enough density that you can fill the case is the trick. By filling the case, you get a more uniform burn through the powder. light loads leave the powder at inconsistent levels in each case so the burn rate through the powder can change slightly each round. As for burning it all before the bullet leaves the barrel, that is partially powder speed but more impact is due to pressure peak during the burn. If the charge isn't high enough or the bullet is too light, the peak is not high enough to give a good clean burn of the powder. Cowboy Action shooters had a problem with their extremely light loads with cast lead bullets before powder manufacturers came out with specialty powders just for them.

    I have heard (YMMV) that Varget is not good for light bullets in .223. I've not used it so can't say from personal experience. The word would be that it is good for bullets in the heavy end of .223 and for some larger calibers but not light loads. By the same crowd, I hear Benchmark is the powder for the 55/60Gr weight bullet in .223. That may be a powder to look into.

    As for variability. As you get a fuller case load the StdDev of velocity usually comes down In my N-13 tests, I had 26fps SDEV at 24Gr load and 11fps SDEV for 26Gr loads. There was a trend down with each increase in powder charge. This matches other loads in other calibers that I have loaded. That goes back to consistent burn of the powder and the peak pressure reached during firing. Your load has to get into a sweet spot in the pressure curve to give really good consistent complete burns.

    Hope this helps.

  3. I'm about to embark upon .223 loads, using Ramshot TAC... mostly because it will meter well in my progressive press. But I have heard a lot of positives about TAC.

    That said, one thing that keeps coming up is a lot of people saying Ramshot X-terminator is better (than TAC) for lighter .223 bullets, like 55 grainers, and TAC for the heavier bullets (even for .308 bullet weights). But still, even Ramshot lists TAC with 55 grain bullets, so we'll see how it goes. It's the "best metering" powder I have on hand, so I'll use it.

    I tried using Varget in the past, and while I grant how the world worships it, it just wasn't working for me when I tried it. I am NOT giving up on that powder by any means (I figure whenever I get to loading .308 Win that Varget will be a strong contender), but well... since I want something that meters better in my progressive press, I'm going to use TAC for now.

    I have been VERY curious about that IMR 8202 XBR.

    Anyways Mr. Geek... it sounds like you had a good day at the range!

  4. Greetings from Texas,
    Nothing beats a home range.

    Personally, I always had a problem with Cowboy Action Shooters loading ultra lite loads. It was so bad we had folks from other clubs with handgun and shotgun loads that would not knock down the pepper poppers.

    I mean, I want to win as much as anyone, but why bother with a load so lite it wouldn't kill a gopher?

  5. TXGunGeek: Thanks for the response. I worked up an entire range of loads, spanning almost entirely from starting to just below max. I did run them through a chronograph, but don't have the numbers in front of me at the moment. I'll look at them in a bit.

    Unfortunately, I only worked up strings of 3 for each charge. This would have been find if I had employed a lead sled, but there was enough variation due to just me that I was really guessing at which load looked best. The one with the tight horizontal grouping (and about the same vertical variation as the others) may have been just chance, as subsequent batches don't bear out the accuracy I thought I had.

    Also, Varget ends up as a compressed charge (only a bit, in the case of my 55-grain load), and I don't fully understand what that does to the load.

    Regarding Varget and bullet weight in .223, I do find that my 70-grain Speer semi-spitzer loads are better than the 55-grainers for grouping. I'm still not satisfied with the performance of that load, but it should be acceptable for hunting hog or deer inside 100y. I'm going to see how Benchmark does with that bullet as well.

    Hsoi: I've heard good things about the TAC powder. I considered it as a candidate for my 70 grain hunting load, I just don't know where I'd buy it. Cabela's claims to carry it, but my experience with them is spotty when it comes to out-of-the-ordinary powders. My local shop might carry it and I simply never noticed it. I'll have to check when I go to pick up the Benchmark. That 8208 XBR stuff looks interesting. I'll have to give it a look-see.

  6. I pulled my chrony data for my load workup for the 55grn loads. I went from 25.2 grains up to 27.0 grains, in increments or 0.2 grains.

    I worked up my current load from what looked to be the best grouping from my test loads. I fired them from a bench but with no rest, so my own inaccuracy with a relatively new-to-me rifle played a factor here. I'll be getting a lead sled here in the near future to eliminate this problem. I'm also going to work up in groups of 5 or more to get better data and idea of accuracy The load I decided on was 26.0 grains.

    Anyhow, here's the data:

    Federal .223 once-fired brass
    CCI #400 SRP
    Winchester 55 grain FMJ-BT
    Hodgdon Varget powder
    OAL 2.220"

    25.2 grains
    #1 2651.69
    #2 2665.70
    #3 2681.05

    AVG 2666.14
    ES 29.36
    SD 15.00

    25.4 grains
    #1 2752.38
    #2 2801.43
    #3 2794.31

    AVG 2782.70
    ES 84.23
    SD 42.14

    25.6 grains
    #1 2752.38
    #2 2801.43
    #3 2794.31

    AVG 2782.70
    ES 49.05
    SD 26.49

    25.8 grains
    #1 2802.07
    #2 2816.42
    #3 2830.91

    AVG 2816.46
    ES 28.84
    SD 14.00

    26.0 grains
    #1 2846.22
    #2 2794.31
    #3 2863.72

    AVG 2834.75
    ES 69.41
    SD 35.94

    26.2 grains
    #1 2852.93
    #2 2804.67
    #3 2899.39

    AVG 2852.33
    ES 94.72
    SD 47.49

    26.4 grains
    #1 2873.24
    #2 2829.58
    #3 2885.57

    AVG 2862.79
    ES 55.99
    SD 29.47

    26.6 grains
    #1 2885.57
    #2 2937.38
    #3 2878.02

    AVG 2900.32
    ES 59.36
    SD 32.23

    26.8 grains
    #1 2944.53
    #2 2920.38
    #3 2876.65

    AVG 2913.85
    ES 67.88
    SD 34.48

    27.0 grains
    #1 2948.83
    #2 2933.82
    #3 2964.00

    AVG 2948.88
    ES 30.18
    SD 15.49

    I understand the basics of what all of this means, but it may tell you a lot more than it does me. Looking at my notes, the higher end of the spectrum was the most accurate, though there wasn't significant control of variables or a large enough sample set to be certain. Also, the last 4 groups impacted progressively higher as the charge increased.

    In addition to the lead sled, I've got a red dot on order, which should simplify sighting as well. Those two things should take me out of the equation and give me better accuracy data for future workups.

  7. Hey, I figured I'd give you (and hsoi) an update on what I've come up with so far.

    I've tried out several other powders to see what I could produce:

    Hodgdon Benchmark
    IMR 3031
    Ramshot TAC
    IMR 8208 XBR

    Unfortunately, Benchmark didn't give me any particularly spectacular results.

    IMR 3031 really wasn't made for the .223 Remington cartridge. It doesn't really seem to be able to produce decent velocities, especially with heavy bullets. That said, it did produce my best-grouping load using a compressed 24.8 grains with a 55gr FMJ-BT bullet, pushing around 3100fps. I may keep it around as a regular plinking powder for that specific compressed load, but it doesn't seem to be very versatile. Velocities with the 70 grain Speers were dismal.

    Results with Ramshot TAC were quite good. I've nearly finished developing my hunting load with it, getting 2800fps and a 1" group at 50m out of my rifle using a 5.56 pressure load of 24.9 grains. I had ran out of bullets, so didn't get to go any heavier on my workup, but the 5.56 data goes up quite a bit more. I've worked up a new workup batch to see how it goes above 24.9.

    Also, I agree with hsoi - TAC meters VERY nicely.

    I've only done some preliminary workups, but the 8208 XBR is looking good so far. It has given me good results with both 55gr FMJ-BT bullets and Sierra 69gr HPBT Matchkings. I got some more of the 70-grainers, so the 8208 XBR is in the running as a possible hunting load. I made a workup for that bullet last night. This may be a good all-around one-for-everything powder.

    I did get some VV-135 with a recent bulk order, so I'm looking forward to using it. I've done a 55gr FMJ-BT workup with it, so we'll see how it runs.

  8. Sounds like you are making some good progress. I think you will like the 135. I've had good results with it myself.
    HS.OI should be doing some more rifle loading soon so he should have some more data.
    I on the other hand, have been slacking off and doing work and farm stuff. I have dug out all my 300Whisper stuff and am looking to start up on that again. I really liked that when I first got it and just hadn't had time recently