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.223 Rem. Heavyweights: Part Two

Rifle Pix 372By Tom Badham

Synopsis: Using AA 2230 in a 26 in. barreled with one in nine twist, long chambered 223 Remington Savage BVSS Model 10, I tested 55 gr. Hornady VMAX HPFB, 60 gr. Hornady HPFB, 68 gr. Starke HPFB, 70 gr. Berger VLD HPBT and 80 gr. Sierra HPBT bullets. All bullets are varmint/match quality. They were seated out so that the bases of the flat base bullets were even with the bottom of the cartridge necks. The boat tail bullets were seated so that just the boat tails protruded below the bases of the cartridge necks. Except for the 60 grain Hornady’s, the rest of the bullets had to be single loaded due to the cartridges being longer than the 2.260 in. magazine capacity. All targets were shot at a 100 yard distance.

After I had submitted my first article to WP’s blog, I managed to get my paws on some 75 gr. Berger VLD HPBT, 75 gr. Hornady HPBT and some 85 gr. Barnes HPBT bullets. These varmint/match bullets are about as good as they come. Now I had eight heavyweights to test in the Savage rifle.
When I looked at WP’s 80 grain 223 Remington loading data listed under the Custom Long Throat section, I noticed that pressures were pretty well at maximum. Since I was going to use commercial brass, not thicker military brass, I decided to ease back on the maximum load about half a grain. Also, my bullets were seated out just a tick less than what the manual showed.
Note that all the following loads listed in this article are safe in my firearm with these components and overall lengths used. If you haven’t used any of these loads before, reduce the powder amount by 10% and carefully work upwards. Be extremely aware of high pressure signs and follow all safety procedures.

Tom's Test Data shows the promise of .223 heavies.

Tom’s Test Data shows the promise of .223 heavies.

First up was the 75 grain Hornady HPBT. Right off the bat I made a mistake when I loaded twenty cartridges. Miss-reading the loading data, I only put 22.2 grains of AA 2230 into the cases instead of 22.7 grains. Since I didn’t want to break down the cartridges, I decided that testing the bullets with half a grain less powder wouldn’t be a bad thing. Comparing 22.2 grain load to the 22.7 grain load would be interesting. Would it be more or less accurate? How much would the velocity drop?
I was lucky that the weather held with bright sunny skies, light breezes and 80° F temperatures. I usually got to the range around 8:30 AM before the wind picked up and it got uncomfortably hot.
Designated Target (5), the 75 grain Hornady HPBT over the 22.2 gr. AA 2230 load used a Winchester Small Rifle (WSR) primer in Federal Brass with an Overall Length (OAL) of 2.435 in. The WP 5.0 Reloading Manual showed a chamber pressure of 54,379 PSI for the 22.7 grain load. So this load would have a bit less pressure. Interestingly the manual listed the velocity for the 22.7 grain load at 2,794 FPS, but my Shooting Chrony® showed an average muzzle velocity of 2,883 FPS. I’m hoping that the Savage just has a very good 26 inch barrel and that my little chronograph hasn’t gone off the deep end.deependfirst pic72

Target (6) was the same bullet (75 gr. Hornady HPBT), over 22.7 grains of AA 2230 with WSR primers and Federal brass also with an OAL of 2.435 in. Manual muzzle velocity was listed as 2,793 FPS while my chrony showed a five shot average of 2,926 FPS. Either the load or I shot just a bit better.bit better pic 272

Next up was the 75 gr. Berger VLD HPBT bullets. The same amount of powder, same primers and same brass as the 75 gr. Hornady load was used. The OAL averaged 2.451 in. and the average velocity changed to 2,974 FPS, about 50 FPS more. The grouping seemed a bit tighter. Maybe I was finally being able to handle the rifle better!rifle better 372

The last bullet tested was the most interesting of all. The 85 grain Barnes HPBT weight was not listed in the WP 5.0 manual, but 80 and 90 grain Sierra bullets were. So I took half the difference in the powder charges listed. That came to 22.5 grains of AA 2230. With the bullet seated out with just the boat tail below the base of the case neck, I finally did something intelligent. After a long squint at that long bullet I decided to make sure that the bolt would close on the cartridge.
Carefully putting the Savage’s safety to the middle position where it would just lock the trigger, I placed the cartridge in the chamber and gently tried to close the bolt. As I suspected the bullet ogive hit the leade (where the rifling starts) before the bolt closed. (I don’t like jamming the bullet ogive into the leade, pressures can get squirrelly. Besides while it looked like pressures would be within norms, I didn’t know for sure.) I then took a half turn on my Lee seating die stem and tried it again. Success. The bolt closed easily. The OAL averaged out to be 2.465 inches.

first shot 472At the range, I hit almost perfect conditions, partly cloudy, very light breeze about 82°F. My chronograph averaged 2,740 FPS for the load. Now on to seeing if the bullets would hit the paper. This was going to be interesting since the Savage has a one in nine inch rifling twist. Supposedly bullets heavier than 80 grains would be too long to stabilize in the barrel. I have seen too long bullets hit the paper sideways when one did manage to get in the neighborhood of the target.
That Burris Fullfield II scope was nice and sharp on the target and there was barely any mirage. Taking a gentle breath and trying to get my heart beat nice and slow, I gently pressed the trigger. I could see the first shot hit the target about an inch to the left of the aim point. The next three shots, as best I could tell, snuggled a little to the right of the first shot.

Hot Dog! Oh Boy! Look at that!! Of course there was no one else at the range I could holler at.
One more shot and I’d have a group worthy of some serious bragging. I was definitely “chuffed” as my late Canadian friend Arthur liked to say. All I had to do was control my excitement and not foul up. Doing my best to calm down, I took the final shot of the group and pushed it a little to the right. ARRRGGGHHH!! I was still flying high during group 2, but finally got things sorta under control in group 3.sorta group 3 pic 572

On the way home I pondered over what had occurred. One was I was getting used to the rifle. Another was that maybe this rifle liked its bullets just off the lands. Savage rifles did have a bit of a reputation for liking warm loads, too. One thing for sure, it certainly liked heavy bullets seated long. Looks like I’ll be tweaking a fair amount of load and bullet seating this summer. Yikes! That means I’m gonna have to get more bullets.
One last thing I needed to do: thank that fellow for seeing a new shiny toy that he wanted and turning loose of a fine rifle and scope that I was lucky enough to snatch up.