Dear Labby Explains Standard Deviation

The Statistician’s Friend: The Bell Shaped Curve.

Will you please explain what Standard Deviation is and why I should care?  It just seems like another useless bit of information.  What is its role in predicting accuracy?

I think the importance of Standard Deviation is probably overestimated as a predictor of accuracy, especially at normal hunting ranges.  It is simply the application of statistics to analyze values within a relatively narrow range by using multiple data points.  For shooters using Standard Deviation as a measuring stick, this means comparing a number of shots that were all supposed to be the same velocity.

Perhaps a shooter making loads for 600 yard competition plans to shoot three groups consisting of three shots apiece to test a load in the final stages of accuracy testing.  By chronographing those nine shots, our shooter can also measure Standard Deviation to examine the quality of their loads.  Nine shots is a pretty narrow predictor statistically, but it is a realistic one in real world practice.  The mathematics aren’t something you would care to do in your head while testing loads, but luckily most chronographs offer the analysis at the end of each shot string.  It is the ready availability of this data, I think, that makes it seem so important to shooters.

At the end of a string of shots, the computer will probably offer up information that looks something like this:  Ave=2700 fps, SD= 10″.  But what is really being said?

Understanding your chronograph’s output takes a little intellectual leg work.  It is providing data that references the statistician’s friend, the Bell Shaped Curve and a statistical model called the 68-95-99.7 Rule.

In this model, the first Standard Deviation represents 68% of the samples taken, or in our case, 68% of shots fired.  In a shot-string with an SD of 10 fps, 68% of shots fired will fall within 10 fps of the average velocity.  This first grouping, in a velocity range between 2690 fps and 2710 fps represents the first Standard Deviation.

Two Standard Deviations statistically encompasses 95% percent of the shots fired in the sample by picking up the less commonly occurring outlying velocities.  In a bell curve these shots would begin to represent the flaring bottom end of the bell and become much less common as they move further from the average velocity.  The velocity range would be from 2680 fps on the low side and 2720 fps on the high side.

Three Standard Deviations represent 99.7 percent of the shots fired, suggesting that all but .3 percent of shots fired should show a velocity variation less than 30 fps faster or slower than the average velocity.  Beyond that, over many, many samples, outlying velocities less than 2,670 and greater than 2,730 fps might be encountered but only from .3% of shots fired.

Is this Information Useful?
Let’s summarize this conclusion in the language of Tarzan: Unk, Bo-mon-gony.  Big number bad.  Little number good.”

If your benchrest ammunition, has a Standard Deviation of 120 fps, perhaps it is time to take up golf.  The last batch of Hornady factory ammunition I shot with a sample size of 20 shots came in with an SD of a bit more than 12 fps.  This is very good, especially for factory ammunition.  Bragging rights among the benchrest crowd begins at anything less than 10 fps and reaches a low end SD running around 5 fps.

So yes, Standard Deviation does provide an important reference regarding the consistency of ammunition.  As ranges increase even small variations in the bullet’s launch velocity will impact group size.  Ammunition with a low Standard Deviation offers a promising indication that those launch velocities will be consistent.

Remember what Tarzan taught you.  Big number bad.  Small number (especially under 10 fps) good.

Dear Labby: Questions For Our Ballistics Lab


Our ballistics lab fields many questions a day from our customers. Here are some of the questions from last week:

Kaizen Handloading

Dear Labby,
What do you think is the most common piece of equipment that causes dangerous problems in handloading? My friend and I have a bet. He picked primer pickup tubes and I said it was the powder thrower, well, because it throws powder. I know a guy who got confused about what powder was in their thrower and blew a gun. Who do you think is right?  Brian M. Wolf Point, MT

Well, I guess between these two options, I’m on your side. Primer pickup tubes will detonate and fly off like rockets. There was a hole in the ceiling from one at the first gun manufacturer I worked for. A primer had gone off in a Rock Chucker and sent the primer pickup tube through the false ceiling. Nobody was hurt, though.

Always check to insure that your powder hopper is empty. Small amounts of powder left over from the last reloading session can lead to catastrophic failures.

At that same company a couple of years later, a .17 Mach IV came in with its lugs sheared off and the bolt partially open. Only debris from the lugs in the raceways kept the bolt in the rifle. That was caused by not emptying the powder thrower completely. It had fast pistol powder left over in the bottom of the hopper that he hadn’t noticed. Even though he put the right powder in the hopper, the first powder throw was the pistol powder from the bottom of the hopper. So, given what you asked, mistakes with powder are consistently more dangerous than mistakes with primers.

The RCBS Auto Priming Tool is well designed, tipping the primer tube away from the case while it is primed.

Now, if I could pick one common tool on the loaders bench that I would remove to make handloading safer, I would get rid of loading trays. The loading trays themselves aren’t a bad thing, in fact they are pretty useful. Where people run afoul of them is by using bad loading techniques.

It is common practice to carefully load each case with power, and then carefully place each charged case back into the load tray. Once all of the cases have been charged, they are carefully picked up again, making sure not to disturb the other cases, and a bullet is then inserted into the cartridge. I’m emphasizing carefully here, because the loader is trying not to spill powder in either the case being manipulated or from the other, already filled, cases. I have accidently jostled my loading trays many times and spilled powder out of cases. The result is that they all need to be dumped and the process begun again. Once, in a feat of clumsiness, I managed to dump drop a complete tray of .45 ACP charged cases. A lot of careful manipulation had to be repeated after that mistake to make up for the lost work.

Manipulating an entire loading tray to charge cases is a clumsy and potentially dangerous chore.

Where people really get into trouble is by trying to charge cases in the trays by moving the whole tray under the thrower. It is awkward (and again prone to being spilled or dropped) but more importantly it has the potential for unfilled or double filled cases. Careful inspection of each case is imperative if this operation is used.

A better system is to charge each case individually, then inspect the charge to see that it looks correct, and then to seat the bullet. The bullet can then be set into the loading tray for later inspection and storage. I usually have box of prepped and primed brass on the left side of my press, my powder thrower preset and a box of bullets within reach. Each case is manipulated once, from the start of the charging process until the finished cartridge is set aside. Think of it as Kaizen handloading. All of the awkward extra steps, the potential for a double charged case and concern for spilled powder has been removed. The process is now: charge, inspect, seat the bullet, inspect, and set aside for storage. Try it, the motions will become rote and you will make safer loads more quickly.

Instead of charging all the cases and then moving on to seating bullets as a separate step, walk each case individually through the entire loading process. Charge the case.


Seat the bullet.

Measuring the Chamber Vs. Measuring the Magazine Length

I’ve just finished measuring the O.A.L. of several different bullets in my Remington Model 700 300 Win.Mag. with a stainless barrel using the Hornady O.A.L. gauge. All of the cartridges measured quite a bit over the 3.340″ that is the maximum length for this cartridge. They measured from a low of 3.484″(Sierra 2160 180gr) to a high of 3.655″ (Nosler Partition 180gr) a total of 8 different bullets and 4 different weights. I’ve never loaded anything over 3.340″ . Are all 300 Win. Mag”s this much larger in the chamber and throat section of the gun. With the short neck section of the case I would not feel safe loading anything over 3.340″. I know when I measured my 30-06 none of the same bullets measured over the maximum length of the 30-06 which is also 3.340″. The Win.Mag. is fairly new and has about 300-400 rounds through it. I have had some good groups at the range with purchased ammo & reloaded ammo and can hit a 7″ metal swinging target at 300 yards. I think my questions would be, is it safe to exceed the 3.340″ max length and is the difference in the measurements because the 300 Win.Mag. is a belted case? I hope I have given you enough information. Thanks Al !!!!

I think this is an excellent question and it highlights one of the common ways that maximum cartridge lengths are set. The .300 Winchester Magnum was the last of four belted magnum cartridges introduced by Winchester that were designed to fit in a standard length action. It is no coincidence that the maximum cartridge length for a .30-06 and .300 Winchester Magnum are the same, because they were designed to share the same length action and magazine length. When you are using your Hornady O.A.L. gauge, you are measuring the point where the bullet actually engages the rifling rather than its overall length. This length is dependent on bullet shape and the point on the bullet where it actually engages the rifling, rather than the measure from the base of the case head to the tip of the bullet. That is why your measurements are longer. The 3.340” length set for the standard magazine length. It is likely that bullets loaded to the longer overall length will be too long for the magazine and need to be loaded singly.

Is it safe to load beyond SAAMI maximum case length? Yes it is, but there are a couple of points to consider. A bullet seated directly into the rifling will operate at higher pressure than one that has more freebore because it is not free to move before encountering resistance caused by entering the bore. Loads that are near to, or engage the rifling, are typically reduced somewhat to prevent higher than anticipated pressures. Shooters seeking higher accuracy often adjust their bullet engagement before experimenting with different charge weights. Once they have found a good engagement, they begin to work up their charges looking for accurate loads.
The Lab

Ramshot Data for the .44 Special

Here is some data for a great old cartridge that still has a lot of life left. Here’s to the .44 Special. 44 Special vs RS

Christmas Time Data for some old Favorites and Odd Ducks: 7.5 Swiss, 300 Savage, 35 Whelen and 8mm Nambu

The week before Christmas brought us a mixed bag of data requests from old reliables like the .300 Savage to some oddballs like the 8mm Nambu. Here is data to get them all shooting. 35 Whelen vs Accurate 7.5 Swiss using TAC 300 Savage Ramshot 8mm Nambu
Have a Merry Christmas from Labby and the guys in the Lab.

Data for 338 Marlin

Do you have any load data for AA2520 in .338 Marlin Express using the Hornady 200 FTX bullet?
Or any other load data for the .338 Marlin Express?
Thanks, Darron

Here you go, Darron. 338 Marlin Express vs AP and 338 Marlin Express vs RS

Reamer for .270 REN

There are just a few specialty pistols in 270REN in South Africa. I have a fair bit of gunsmithing experience and am a small time commercial bullet caster. Right now I’m casting a batch of 90 grain bullets from a Mountain Mold for those guys. But it strikes me as a handy little cartridge for a nice target rifle for use on short ranges like my own local range. I like to both cast and load my own so I don’t much like rimfire. The 270REN should work well in a Hornet action but also a 223 action if it is a single shot where a slightly oversize bolt face should be OK. But where do I find a SAAMI cartridge and chamber drawing and who makes chamber reamers?
Dick B.

Dave Kiff at Pacific Tool and Gauge should be able to help you. Here is a link:
The Lab

.350 Remington Magnum Data

Have you any info for a 350 Remington magnum?

Here you go. 350 Remington Magnum vs RS and 350 Rem Mag using Accurate

.340 Weatherby Data

Do you have any load data for 340 Weatherby & Ramshot Hunter powder? Bullets I have: (A) Hornady 200, 225 & 250 grain SP; 185 grain GMX; 200 grain SST, & 225 grain InterBonds. (B) Sierra 225 grain Pro-hunters and 250 grain Game Kings. (C) Speer 200 grain SP & 225 grains BTSP. But I can’t find any data using RS Hunter. Thank you

Here is some extrapolated data to get you going. 340 Weatherby magnum using Ramshot

An Expert Answers on Wound Ballistics

Which is a better predictor of penetration, momentum or kinetic energy? Assuming similar bullet performance. Thanks
P. McMullen

Labby had to defer on this one. But Luckily, Charles Schwartz, the author of Quantitative Ammunition Selection was available to field the question.

Momentum is what determines penetration. From page 7 of Quantitative Ammunition Selection:

”While a projectile in motion possesses both momentum and kinetic energy, the penetration of a transient projectile through a homogenous fluid or hydrocolloidal medium constitutes an inelastic collision mandating that it be treated as a momentum transaction. Therefore, a momentum-based analysis of projectile motion is the most equitable approach in constructing a terminal ballistic performance model.”

Newton’s second law of motion, F = ma, is what applies in the case of bullet penetration of gelatin or soft tissue.

Here is a brief, but good, explanation: Impact depth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:. Newton_Penetration_Approximation

8mmX56R Hungarian Data

Dear Labby
I got a couple 8x56R Hungarians when they were running for less than a hundred bucks, part of the reason was apparently the small selection of ammo available. So what do you have in both cast and jacketed loads?
Cheap Joe

You are in good company, Joe. Here is some extrapolated data: 8mmx56R Hungarian M31
Cheap Labby

Reduced 221 Fireball Data

I have two .221 fireball rifles and 1680 is my favorite powder for full power loads, but I would also like to load them to .22 hornet velocities. What is the best power and what are the starting loads? I use 5744 powder for reduced loads in the .17 hornet. Also, do you have any plans to test the .221 fireball with LT-30 power? Thank you,Barry

Here you go, Barry. I enclosed an unusual heavy load, too, but you need a rapid twist. We do plan to test LT-30 in the .221 Fireball. 221 Fireball Reduced loads
The Lab

Reduced Loads for .243 Win, And where is our .22 TCM Data?

Mornin’ Labby
Got any suggestions for a .243 Winchester reduced load, bullets 85 grains and under (mostly under), and did you make any progress in coming up with some .22 TCM load data for rifles? I’d feel a lot better going about loading for it seeing data in print as opposed to doing it by the SWAG method. Too risky! Thanks! Tom L

We are gearing up to test the .22 TCM and anticipate bringing out a powder that will mimic the propellant used for the factory rounds. I can tell you that the data for pistol and rifle will share the same propellants, pressure and charge mass. I’ve enclosed some extrapolated data for your reduced .243 Winchester loads.243 Winchester cast bullet loads with 5744 and 243 Win vs AP

The Lab

.32-20 Data Please

Do you have any data I could use in a .32-20 WCF

Here you go, Sir. 32-20 WCF vs RS 32-20 WCF vs AP

450/400 Nitro Express Data?

I purchased a 450/400 Nitro Express when I dropped by Cabela’s for A-5744…Any data for this behemoth? I didn’t even see it listed in the load manual. Jason C.

We have some extrapolated 450/400 2 3/8th information along with 450/400 3 1/4-inch Nitro Express data. I hope it helps. 450 2 3_8 Purdey 450 NE 3.25
The Lab

Too Much Gun

Dear Labby, what is this company talking about? Is there any way that it has this much muzzle energy?
Roy H. Boise, ID
I had to look twice at that number myself. I found an article about this rifle from the people at “The Truth About Guns” who are a very useful resource.

They can be found at:

They tested the Big Horn Armory Model 89 and got some very impressive ballistics from an equally impressively well-built rifle. The most powerful round they tested was the Double Tap 400-grain load at a chronographed 2,240 fps which developed 4,457 ft/lbs of energy. By way of comparison, Hornady’s 750-grain AMAX .50 BMG load generates 2,820 fps for 13,241 ft/lbs.

What I think we have here is a disconnect between the marketing department and the people who work with guns. I suspect they accidently added a zero. For the fun of it, I looked at what would be needed to get up to the published 36,800 ft/lbs of energy. The numbers are pretty big.

The formula for muzzle energy is pretty easy as long as you have a calculator that has a lot of zeros.

ME=Velocity*Velocity*Bullet Weight/450240.

Drum roll please: The Model 89 would need to increase the Double Tap 400-grain load to 6,438 fps to make 36,800 ft/lbs. has a neat little Recoil calculator that was able to estimate the recoil this 7 lb 10 ounce rifle would generate with this fictional load. It suggested that 364 ft/lbs of free recoil would be the result. The same weight .458 Win. Magnum topped out at 81 ft/lbs.

To answer their question: Is 36,800 ft-lbs Enough Gun? Given these numbers the Model 89 would be Too Much Gun. It is an awesome gun at 3,680 ft/lbs, though.

9mm Largo Loads

Anything for the 9 Largo?
I for one do not ascribe to the “use 38 super they are the same thing”. I have in the past had to use 38 super brass in the absence of 9 largo but loaded with 9 largo data. Got anything that will make the old Spanish Steel shine? (Used mainly in Star Supers and P&R Medusas) Joe M.

They are not the same thing. I couldn’t agree with you more. Here is some extrapolated data to get your Largos shooting. 9mm Largo vs AP
The Lab

8X57 Cast Lead Loads

Hi, I shoot an 8×57 JS Mauser with 170 gr. cast (wheelweights) gas checked bullet. Can you help me out with some load recommendations? If I decide to shoot them plain based, can you also suggest a load?
Thanks! Reed

Here you go, Reed. 8mmx57JS Mauser vs AP

7.62X25 Tok Data

I remember some time back having load data for aa#7 but cannot find any now in 7.62×25 . I am looking for some data for this cartridge. If you could help that would be awesome. FYI It will be fired from a very good condition CZ-52.

Here you go, Matt. 7.62×25 Tokarev vs AP

We Need New .38-55 and .22 PPC Data

Hi do you have any newer reloading data for the 22 PPC USA? The newest data I’ve got is in the Accurate reloading manual from 2003. This was with 50 and 55 gr bullets and the powders 2015, 2230, 2460, 2495 and 2520. Seems weird as the 20 PPC wildcat (along with a load of other 20 wildcats) is in there, as is the 6 mm PPC, but not the 22 PPC?
I was also after data for the 38-55 WCF for both a Marlin 336 CB and Pedersoli Sharps (both proofed to standard CIP level for the 38-55, 2,400 bar/34,800 PSI). I can’t find any Ramshot data and the Accurate data harks back 2000 reloading manual.
So, in general, I guess I was wondering is there was any load data for current Ramshot and Accurate powders for each cartridge?
Neil G

We don’t have any new data for the .22 PPC nor for the .38-55 but the later has been added to the testing list. Here is extrapolated data for both. 22 PPC and 38-55 data
The Lab

Why No 9.3 cal. Data?

I saw in a reloading magazine an author recommend TAC for 9.3×62. Never thought of TAC for this round before! I also see that you don’t list 9.3×62 in your reloading data online.
What gives Labby?
Wendell R.

If we were a company based in Africa, I would prioritize testing of 9.3 caliber cartridges. Right now, we just don’t have the resources to shoot lab data for every cartridge out there, but if we do elect to test a 9.3, the 9.3X62 will be the first on the list.  It is a great cartridge. I’ve included extrapolated data to get you going.  9.3×62 Data  To ease the sting of us ignoring the 9.3 caliber for now, I will send you a hat if you will send me your mailing address.

Why No Max Load for Subsonic .300 Blackhout


No, it isn’t a misprint. The data is limited by the speed of sound.
The Lab

.458 Winchester Magnum Gopher Loads

I’m going to use my .458 Win Mag for gopher hunting. Do you have reduced loads? Thanks for your help in advance, Uncle Stumpy.

Here you go, you lunatic:: 458 Win Mag vs AP

.357 Pistol bullets for .358 Win. Plinking Loads

I would like to load 158 gr. Semi-wadcutters in my .358 Winchester for plinking loads. Do you have any data I can use? Tom T.

Sure, Tom. Click here to download the data: 358 Win 158 Semi-wadcutter

.32-20 Rifle Data

I have a Marlin 1889 Lever Action Rifle, in .32-20, that I shoot in “Cowboy Action”. It has a long barrel, with the 10 round magazine. I am looking for smokeless loading data, using a 100-115 gr. lead bullet. I have found lots of revolver data, {witch is fine}, but little for rifle. Do you have any suggestions for your line of powders? Thank you for your time. Larry Aljets PS The rifle could use a relining of the barrel; could you suggest someone? I live in the Tulsa, OK area Thanks again, Larry A.

This is data that will be out in our new, full-size handloading guide. You are getting a sneak peek. 32-20 Rifle The Lab

What is a Piezo Transducer?

Dear Labby,
Can you give a little detail to the piezo transducer and it’s operation? How does it function? Where would you screw it into on the M1 Garand. The AR-15? The 1911?
Bill M.


The bottom of the piezo is cut to match a case's body. The threaded end is connected to the pressure gauge.

The bottom of the piezo is cut to match a case’s body. The threaded end is connected to the pressure gauge.

The first image is of a piezo transducer in action as part of regular testing. In the American system, the transducer’s base is radiused to match the case body. When the cartridge is fired, the case expands crushing the piezo which creates a spark, the intensity of which can be directly translated into PSI. In the Garand, the lab used a modified gas plug to get the port pressure readings. For AR 15 military testing, a transducer is mounted at the case mouth and another at the point where the gas block would sit on the barrel. garandplug72The 1911 , a delayed blowback, doesn’t have a gas system. Testing for that type of pistol would rely on cartridge pressure testing from a test barrel.
The Lab

50 AE Data

Hello, do you have any load data for .50 Action Express? I enjoy using your powders but this is the only caliber I have that I can’t reload with any of your powders 🙁   Hugo

Here you go, Hugo 🙂  50 AE vs AP

Keeping the 40-82 Winchester Shooting

Do you have load data for 40-82 Winchester using accurate 5744?  TK

We do:  40-82 Winchester

7.5X55 Swiss Data

I have just bought a Swiss K31 and would like more loading data for it. I have 150, 165 and 180 grain jacketed bullets and 160 grain cast. I have on hand ACC2520, ACC4350 and ACC5744 that I think should be suitable for the 7.5×55 Swiss but no data. Can you help me? Thanks, G. B.

Here is some extrapolated data to get you going.  7.5×55 Swiss AP

.45 Winchester Magnum Data

Could I get some data for the .45 Winchester Magnum? Tom H.

Here is some to get you started, Tom. 45 Win Mag
The Lab

Magpro in the 9mm Parabellum

I’ve found no data in your charts for loading 115GR FMJ 9MM with Magpro. Store I purchased from assures me that it can in fact be done. Any help?
Thanks, Dan T.

It just will not work, Dan. Magpro is currently the slowest powder available from the Accurate Powders line. You could compress the powder until you swelled the case and still not guarantee enough velocity to get the bullet out of the barrel. It is important to have an idea what powder you are looking for before you purchase. There is information on the back of each canister that will give some useful hints regarding the powder’s most common uses. If you are still unsure or want to know if there is data for your specific cartridge choice, we are just a phone call away during normal business hours 8-5 Monday through Friday with an hour break for lunch from 12 to 1. You can call 406-234-0422 and ask for customer service.
The Lab

Loads for .577-450

I am a big fan and consumer of your 5744 Powder. Do you have any load data suggestions for using 5744 in the 577-450 Martini-Henry British Army rifle? Or for that matter any smokeless powder load for the 577-450. It appears that when looking on the Internet that there are a large number of reloaders who use 5744 wanting to use it in the 577-450 cartridge, I am one of them. I relealize that the large case volume presents a challenge for other than black powder as the original loading.
Thanks, Tom P.

Here is some data to get you started. 577 450 Martini Henry 5744

Pressure Vs. Velocity

Does Higher Pressure Equal Higher Velocity? Tom H.

No, sometimes it is just higher pressure. If you fill up a 9mm Luger to the gills with a very fast powder, the pressure curve rises more steeply than the velocity increase, they do not rise in lockstep. Usually a slower powder at a lower peak pressure will beat over-pressure fast powder charges for producing velocity.
The Lab

Data for the .45 Schofield

Do you have some data on the .45 Schofield?  Louis S.

We don’t have any shot data, but here is some extrapolated data to get you started.  45 Schofield Data

LT-32 and the .22-250

Need load data for lt-32 in 22-250. Steve M.

LT-32 is too fast to be a good performer in the .22-250. I’m sorry, we have no data to offer you.
The Lab

Reduced Loads for 7.62X54R and 7.65X53 Argentine

I have a Mosin-Nagant Model 1891, 7.62X54R, and a Argentine Mouser Model 1891, 7.65X53. I would like to shoot these two rifles using 5744 powder with a lead RNGC 200 gr bullet. Keeping it at or below 1800 fps.
What is a good starting load? Can this 5744 powder be used in shotguns and pistols?
Art T.

A5744 is an excellent powder for reduced rifle loads and can be used in some large capacity pistol cartridges. It is too slow to be useful in shotgun shells. Here is your data: 7.62 x 54 Russian Reduced7.65 x 53 Arg Mauser Reduced

Accurate #2 vs. #2 Improved

What is the difference in load when using No 2 Improved v. No 2???
Is there a conversion factor?

The original Accurate Arms Company changed the bulk density of #2 ostensibly to give better case fills for low pressure loadings like .45 Colt and the .38 Special. The load data is the same as Accurate #2.
The Lab

Data for the .303 Savage

I’m looking for .303 Savage data — Can you help?
T. Poss

We don’t have much but here it is 303 Savage data

Loading Information for Data Powder 68

What data should I use for Data Powder 68?

Data powders were batches of military pull-down or short runs of powder that would not typically be available as canister products. Some like A2200 were popular enough that they were later added to our line. You can find the data by going to the Accurate website and clicking on “Load Data.” Click here to get the Data Powder 68 information: DP68

.30 Carbine loads with 100 gr. bullets and A4100

I need load data for 30 Carbine rifle using 4100 powder and 100 grain jacketed JHP. Any help you can render is greatly appreciated!
Eric T.

Here is some extrapolated data to get you going. 30Carb_A4100

Best Twist for 9mm Autopistol Barrel

What do you think is the best twist for the 9mm Luger using 115 grain bullets?
Stacy R. San Francisco CA

Ideal twists are a bit out of our wheelhouse. Schuman Barrels offers a pretty insightful pdf on how they settled on their production twists. Click here for the pdf: Webfile_Barrel Twist Rate
The Lab

Action Speed and Powder Speed Linked?

As with other locked breach semi-autos, the action of a Luger is operated by the movement of one part against another under recoil.
As you know, the 9×19 cartridge was developed in 1902, One of the arguments for the Luger’s supposed problems with modern ammunition is that the recoil of the original cartridges (circa 1908) gave “a longer, slower push” than modern cartridges. Obviously, propellants have changed since 1908, so maybe that argument is — kind of plausible.
However, it seems to me that bullets of the same weight and achieving the same muzzle velocity from a given barrel are necessarily undergoing the same acceleration and should produce nearly identical recoil forces, both in terms of total force AND the curve of the way that force distributed during the about ½ millisecond the projectile is in the barrel.
That is, if bullet weight and the resulting MV were the same, the recoil forces “felt” by the gun (and the speed with which the moving parts move) would be the same whether the propellant were a “slow” shotgun powder or detonation of an appropriately sized drop of nitroglycerin.
True or false for the recoil forces? (I suppose the nitroglycerin charge might have other effects).
Arthur B.

Within a very short time-frame, I believe your statement is correct. Pressure is pressure and Newton’s Third is alive and well. The differences I see in terms of reliability of slower powders in autopistol cartridges, especially the 9mm Para relates to the relative amount of gas that is created by the powder supply. It takes more slow powder to bring a cartridge to pressure. The increase in powder translates into more gas driving both the bullet and action, typically with lower peak pressures. Given a choice, I would always use the slowest powder that was practical for a given pistol cartridge.
The Lab

Why Use Different COL’s for the Same Weight Bullets?

In the Western Powders loading data, for the same cartridge, powder and bullet weight, you will list different COL. For example, the 223 Remington and X-Terminator powder with 55 grain Hornday bullets:
55 HDY BT-FMJ 2.200
55 HDY SPSX 2.195
55 HDY V-MAX 2.260
Why do you use different COL when the cartridge and powder are the same?
Daniel W

Depending on their style, bullets of the same weight can have very different shapes that effect internal ballistics.  Most manufacturers have suggested overall lengths for their bullets, which we usually try to approximate in our testing.  Some of our tests use different parameters that call for a shorter or longer COL.  Magazine length can also effect COL selection, as is often the case with the .223 Remington.
The Lab

7.5X55 Swiss

I’ve been using your powders for almost twenty years and have always been pleased with the quality and performance they provide. The PDF reloading guide is a pleasure to use!  Now if you could get a 7.5X55 test barrel and work up some loads for my old Swiss rifle I’d be elated. sincerely. J. P.
Here are some loads to get you started with your Swiss rifle.  7.5×55 Swiss
The Lab 

Fast Powder Fails to Cycle

I have a Taurus PT908 pistol in 9 mm that has a pretty rugged recoil spring
I’d like to get a lighter one but they are not available.
Many factory loads will not run this gun at all reliably
My handloads have to be well up into +P to function
Right now I’m using up a ton of 125 grain round nose lead with a stiff charge of Bullseye.
A friend who absolutely swears by Accurate Arms has suggested I ask your recommendations. He thinks that the recoil impulse of Bullseye may be too fast
Thank you for your consideration, TR

I did the same thing with the first pin gun I had built more than 20 years ago.  It just didn’t want to run until I was at very high pressure with Bullseye and even then it wasn’t terribly reliable.  I think the cure here may well be a slower powder running at higher velocity with similar or lower pressures to the ones you are getting with you fast powder choice.  I think I would try #7 first and then #5 or True Blue to see if you can make your pistol run smoother and more reliably.

The Lab 


Loads for a Pedersoli Sharps .45-70 Gov.

Dear Labby
I have a Pedersoli Sharps 45/70
I mold a 520gr .459 1:20 lead Money Bullet
AA5744 is my powder of choice for cast bullets in all my calibers I load for. Load data for Lead bullets ends at 500 gr. in the 28000 range.
Can you provide a starting point in grains for the 520 gr bullet using 5744 powder please?

Here is data for both 18,000 psi Trapdoor Springfield loads along with higher pressure loads for modern rifles. 4570_5744_LowPressure and 45-70_5744_28KPSI
The Lab

.32 H&R Magnum Data

I don’t see any 32 H & R Mag Reloading data in the Reloading guide, Is there anyr load you can recommend.
Rex R.

Here is some extrapolated data for your very useful little cartridge.
32 H&R Magnum Data
The Lab

Wadcutter Weirdness

In the load data book Page 26 for 38 Special +P with Accurate #5 and Berrys 148P DEWC it shows a COL of 1.140 inches. The trim to length for this casing is 1.145 inches.. How can the COL be shorter than the trim to length? This is the only data that I have found for these DEWC and I do not have a lot of experience reloading, so if I am missing something please let me know. Thank you very much in advance.
David M.

.38 Special Wadcutter

.38 Special Wadcutter

Wadcutters were all the rage for bullseye competition not so long ago, but they are less common of late. The bullet is set slightly below the case mouth, which is then crimped over the bullet. They look strange but shoot quite well.
The Lab



.32 Winchester Special Data

I’m trying to find load data for .32 Winchester Special. I realise that this is an obsolete cartridge, however I still have one, and the loading dies and components are still available. Thank You.
John O.

We don’t have pressure tested data, but here is extrapolated data to get you shooting. Click here to download the pdf: 32Specialdata

More 7X57 Mauser Data

You only listed two series of loads for the 7×57 in your latest reloading data. However, I sent off a question about best loads for the cartridge and I received a reply that Big Game was an excellent choice. I used it this past fall with a Barnes 120 grain bullet and achieved spectacular humane kills at 200 yards. Why haven’t you guys listed Big Game or Hunter Powders for this superb old cartridge?
Peter D.

The data you got by request was extrapolated information developed by pressure modeling rather than test data from a pressure barrel. I have the 7X57 scheduled for another round of testing this year. Ramshot powders will be tested and included in our published guide data. We’re pleased the data worked well for you. 7X57_ramshotdata
The Lab

Why Do Shotguns Use Fast Powder

Why do shotgun shells use the fastest burning powders?
Daniel W.

Smokeless powders require pressure to burn properly within a cartridge. In rifled firearms the bullet acts a pressure plug that seals the bore; allowing pressure to peak and then decrease as the bore volume expands with the bullet’s travel down the barrel. Shotguns achieve pressure primarily by the powder charge acting against the weight of their shot column. The fastest powders work against the payload weight in a sudden push that gets things moving because there is little resistance once the payload leaves the chamber and moves into the smooth bore.
The Lab

.375 H&H Using A4064

I am loading for the 375 H&H using 270gr and 300gr bullets. I have an 8 lb keg of AA4064. I cannot find any data with this powder in the 375. Do you have any recommendations?
Respectfully yours,
William S.
Here is some data that might help. .375H&HA4064
The Lab

Data for 9mm Makarov and 7.62X25 Tokarev

I reload for 7.62×25 Tok and 9mm Makarov. Wish you would show some data for these two calibers. Data is skimpy for these two.
Thanks N.S.

We hope to have data from our pressure barrels for both of these great cartridges in the future. In the meantime, we have included extrapolated data that will keep your shooters shooting. Download this PDF to access data for the 9mm Makarov and 7.62X25 Tokarev.9X18Mak_7.62Tok

Shelf Life and Packaging Dates

Does powder ever get to old to use and what identifing marks does your company put on the canister for when it is made, You have helped me out a while ago when I asked about keeping my cowboy shooting under 950 fps and it works great less stress on the hand and the recoil is very minimum.
thank for you time..
Mr R.B.

Date and Lot codes are in the upper right-hand box.

Date and Lot codes are in the upper right-hand box.

his code indicates the powder was poured on January 27th, 2015 from lot 465

This code indicates the powder was poured on January 27th, 2015 from lot 465

On one pound bottles, the number is on the corner in a silver box. If the powder was poured today, it would read 012815 followed by a lot number. The whole number would look something like 012815749. Eight pound bottles have a sticker on the bottom with an obvious date code. The lot number appears above the date.
Powder can have a very long shelf life. You need to watch for changes in smell and color. A reddish tinge, almost like rust on the powder, is a bad sign, as is a foul odor, not to be confused with a normal chemical smell. Either of these signs indicate it is time to dispose of your powder by means other than shooting.
The Lab

7mm TCU Data

Do you have any data for loading the 7mm TCU?

We don’t have tested data, but guys in the lab were able to extrapolate some loads for you.
The Lab

Proper Powder Storage

I live in southern Arizona where it is very hot. I am told powders will become unstable if stored in an area not air conditioned. My wife says no powder or primers in the house. Can powder be stored in a refrigerator? What about using a fireproof safe? I would appreciate your ideas. Thanks

SAAMI guidelines are pretty clear on issues of storage. They recommend storing smokeless powder in containers that will not allow pressure to build if the powder is ignited; ruling out gun safes and refrigerators.

In their original containers smokeless powder’s lifespan is quite long, even in your hot, arid climate, typically longer than the average handloader would need to store them. Stored safely in a garage or outbuilding, your powder should last years.

If you see the powder developing a reddish tint, or giving off a foul odor, it is time to discard it.

Click here to read SAAMI’s guidelines for powder storage.
The Lab

Understanding Bullet Trajectory

Why does a bullet raise up? When you plug in your bullet into a computer it’s always high for a while and then low. My friend says that its spin makes it roll up above where you aim in the first fifty yards and then it drops back down. Is that right?

Trajectory tables provide very useful data for the shooter, but they do it in a way that is misleading. The data is based on where the bullet will be in relationship to your sights, but it doesn’t explain why it is there. The idea of “Bullet Rise” comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of how bullets fly and how sights interact with the bullet’s arcing trajectory.

The common bullet drop tables look something like this for a rifle zeroed at 200 yards:

Muzzle: -1.5 inches
100 Yards: +2.4 inches
200 Yards: 0
300 Yards: -10.9

These numbers are very accurate from the shooters perspective which is called the Line of Sight. Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see that the bullet is describing an arc, starting 1.5 inches below the Line of Sight, which is the distance between the center of the bore and the center of the sight plane. The convergence of the Line of Sight and the bullet’s trajectory takes place at 200 yards. In other words, the bullet goes where your sights indicate it will strike. Using the Line of Sight as a reference, and as long as we are shooting on Earth, all firearms will strike to the point of aim at two places in the bullet’s trajectory.

Imagine a very powerful laser projecting out of your firearm’s muzzle. This straight line is called the Line of Departure and represents the starting point for your bullet. Relative to this line, your bullet is always dropping away from the bore subject to the effects of gravity. It does not rise above this plane.

Parallel Line of Sight and Line of Departure Planes.

Parallel Line of Sight and Line of Departure Planes.

The confusion comes from the idea that the Line of Sight and Line of Departure are parallel and that the bullet rises up to the Line of Sight and then drops back down. If this were the case, it would be impossible to zero a firearm. In reality, the Line of Sight is always angled downwards so it will intersect the bullet’s path. It may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, but the further out a rifle is zeroed the more sharply the Line of Sight is angled toward the Line of Departure.

trajectory72A bullet fired on Earth is subject to a number of forces that will retard its motion and eventually cause it to strike the ground. Because of these forces, a bullet passes back through the Line of Sight as gravity pulls it back toward Earth. This second point of convergence is usually where a firearm is considered zeroed.

So, if you set the zero for a (fill in the blank here – let’s say a 6.5 Snorkelwacker Magnum) at 25 yards, that distance becomes the first point of convergence for the Line of Sight and the bullet’s trajectory. The bullet will pass back through the line of sight again somewhere around 200 yards. The bullet is always falling away from the Line of Departure (your bore), but because the Line of Sight is looking at an angle downward into the bullet’s arc, its trajectory seems to rise and fall.
The Lab

Are Compressed Loads Safe?

I was wondering about the 300 BLK loads listed from your site. It says I can load 19.9 grains of 5744, but when I do it comes up near the top of the brass. I heard people mention something called a compressed load, but can you help me be clear so I don’t create any risks? Thank you!

Compressed loads always deserve careful consideration when used by handloaders. Compressed powders can exhibit unique characteristics which varies between cartridges and bullet weights. The data presented in our guide has been tested in our ballistics lab, using ammunition fired through specialized pressure barrels, and found to be within SAAMI pressure tolerances. Even though this data produced acceptable pressures in our lab, it is still necessary for all handloaders using this data to begin with the starting load and carefully work up to the maximum loads while watching for overt signs of pressure.
The Lab

Unpublished Load is Causing Problems

I am loading 42 grn ramshot magnum in a 45/70 case. the problem is after each shot there is unburned powder in the barrel. ! J.C.

The real problem is that you are using a powder that is ill-suited for the application. There are usually sound reasons why data isn’t provided for certain cartridge/powder combinations. This is one of those. Ramshot Magnum is too slow for the .45-70 Gov’t. Unburned powder is a sign of incomplete ignition caused by very low pressure. The slowest powder we have published data for is Ramshot X-Terminator, which is substantially faster than Ramshot Magnum. Sticking to published loads will prevent many problems, including the one that you are experiencing.
The Lab

Magnum Primers in the .45 ACP

I want to load some .45Auto but I only have CCI magnum large pistol primers. Can I still load using your guide? Should I lower the charges?
Primerless in Laramie

Yes, you can use magnum pistol primers when standard primers aren’t available. They should work fine, but it is anybody’s guess whether they will create more or less pressure than the published loads. The best method when any component is changed is to reduce the charge, load a few, test them over a chronograph and compare the velocity to our printed pressure/velocity guidelines. If your loads produce similar velocity to our tested loads (given similar barrel lengths) the pressures are also similar. If you are faster, or show obvious pressure signs, then reduce the load until it approximates the published load. If slower, increase the charge weight until the desired velocity it obtained.
The Lab

A Girlfriend or My Guns

My new girlfriend is good looking, but she is liberal, hates dogs and guns. What should I do, Dear Labby?

Labby was confronted by a situation similar to this while he was in the third year of his freshman year of college. She was a liberal beauty with a figure that wouldn’t quit. During our romance I purchased a new Browning Hi-Power with great bluing, clean lines and good checkering. A recent look at Facebook reveals that her figure has quit, but the Browning still looks great. Guns keep their looks if they are well cared for, and a dog will love you forever. It’s more hit and miss with women.
Labby Himself

.22 Long Rifle Data Request

To: The Lab
From: Me
Why don’t you finally publish data for .22 LR? I mean, what is the hold-up? If we could reload our own .22’s, then the market glut would end like right now! (I’ve been saving the brass for decades, and boy! do I have a ton of it!) Of course, I suspect the reloading dies would be expensive–just how do they get those primers to stretch and form around the bullet like that without setting them off!?
Yours Truly,
Awaiting .22’s
P.S. Yes, I’m teasing.

We are still behind on our 5mm Rimfire data, but once that is done we can get started.
The Lab

Minimum Dimension Barrels in 9mm Para.

Years before Western bought Accurate Powder Co. and while Johan Loubser was Accurate’s ballistician, he furnished me with .45 ACP +P data. It was great because the 185 & 230 gr. Golden Sabers were listed for charges using AA#5 & #7. The thing is, the data also included the same weight XTPs where the same charges produced pressure as much as 2000 PSI higher for the XTP with velocities running higher as well by at least 50 FPS over the Golden Sabers. This holds up in my experience where an equal charge of True Blue or Silhouette will yield lower velocity using Golden Sabers in comparison to XTPs. Your current data states exactly the opposite with Golden Sabers getting higher velocities with lower charges. I realize that some of your .45 ACP data is newer and includes the Golden Sabers where XTP loads haven’t really changed. The Golden Saber is, of course, brass jacketed and has much less bearing surface than the copper jacketed XTP. This has raised a couple of questions for me and I’ll get right to the next.

In 9 x19mm it’s the exact opposite in your data where the 124 gr. Golden Saber, in particular, gets higher charges than other JHPs of the same weight. The Golden Saber data is also newer than for some of the other JHPs of the same weight. I’ve also seen a downrating of your 9 x 19mm data in recent years. I witnessed the same occurence years back with Vihta Vouri powders when they started using minimum dimension test barrels to keep their American data closer in line with SAAMI than CIP. So, are your pressure ratings for 9 x 19mm and .45 ACP now being gathered in minimum dimension chambers that raise pressure higer than typical pistols? Your 9 x 19mm +P and .45 ACP +P data also appears to be rather weak which further raises my suspicions that Western has gone to using minimum dimension test barrels.

Hi Kevin,
I was somewhat confused reading your questions, since some of your statements seam to contradict each other. So I will try and generalize what I believe you are asking. First off, I cannot speak for anything that was done by the Accurate Arms Company prior to Western Powders acquiring the Accurate Powder line from them. I can tell you that we have slowly been weeding out their data and that the 45 ACP data you speak of was corrected in the Accurate #2 revised edition.

Customers are always claiming that we de-rate our load data to avoid lawsuits—THIS IS JUST NOT TRUE. SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufactures Institute, INC.) sets the voluntary standards of the US gun industry. They provide specifications and tolerances for all of the SAAMI approved cartridges. There specifications cover maximum pressure ratings, dimensions, and tolerances for a given cartridge. You can easily access the cartridge drawings on their website, as well as the European CIP standards on their site. In reviewing the drawings for the 45 ACP and 9mm Luger, there is very little deviation, and if there was any, the CIP dimensions seemed to be tighter. To me, this disproves your theory of Vihtavuori reducing their load data to meet SAAMI specifications by using minimum spec SAAMI chambers.

Almost all reloading data will have a disclaimer stating to always use the most recent load data or that the new supersedes all prior data published. There are two main reasons for this:

1) If you never make a mistake—chances are you are not doing anything. Mistakes can and do occasionally happen, and when they do they need to be corrected and learned from.
2) The second and most important one: as we grow in our experience; testing equipment and procedures become greatly improved.

At Western, we use Piezo transducers to measure all of our chamber pressures. This is a more accurate and precise form of measurement compared to the old Copper Crusher style testing. There are many claims at a conversion factor from CUP (Copper Units of Pressure) to PSI, but it is not possible. As SAAMI moved from CUP to PSI, cartridges either gained or lost ground in regards to pressure and velocity standards. However, what ever specification they set—that becomes the new standard for us to abide by.

The best way to perform the most accurate comparison of bullet performance; is to use the same cases, primers, powder, firearm and to shoot them one after the other on the same day. There are just too many variables that effect performance in a loaded round. Every component of a cartridge varies from one lot to the other and can still be within their tolerance. Temperature, humidity, altitude and barometric pressure can all change how ammunition performs. We try and to control as many variables as we can when testing in the lab, but this is not an option when shooting in real world situations. You are correct in the fact that some of the JHP data is not as new as the Remington Golden Sabre data, which makes for a rough comparison. Here are some truths and observations I can share when comparing the Hornady XTP bullets to the Remington Golden Sabre bullets:

1) The GS bullets do have a shorter bearing surface reducing friction and lowering pressure. While the XTP bullets appear to have a thicker jacket as well as a much longer bearing surface.
2) The GS bullets use a longer COL than the XTP bullets; this opens up usable case capacity and also lowers pressure.
3) Since pressure is the limiting factor in reloading ammunition, the bullet that produces the lowest pressure (GS) will have a maximum charge weight that exceeds the maximum charge weight of the higher pressure bullet (XTP).
4) Powder burn rate, and velocity to pressure ratio tend to remain fairly constant. Thus the bullet running at a lower pressure will be able to achieve a higher velocity at the maximum powder charge weight.

Some of the variation between the 45 ACP and 9mm Luger XTP/GS load data is created by the difference in COL. In the 45 ACP there is a COL difference of .015”, while in the 9mm the length difference is .085” in a much smaller case running at a much higher pressure. In our conclusion, the Golden Sabre bullets should achieve more velocity at a higher charge weight for any given pressure than the Hornady XTP.
The Lab

Accuracy Poor with Lighter Bullets

I loaded up some 6.5 Swede as follows, 40 grains of Accurate 4350 with a 140 grain boattail spritzer bullet and achieved 1.5 inch groups at 100 yards with mild recoil. Next I seated 100 grain boattails spritzers on the same charge of powder. I expected increased accuracy due to higher velocity. I was surprised that I could not get better than 6 inch groups. All things being equal, doesn’t more velocity yield flatter more accurate bullet tracjectories? Rifle is a modified sporterized 6.5 Swedish Mauser with a 16 inch barrel.

When you decreased the bullet weight, you also decreased the pressure developed in your load. Your velocity increase may have been pretty minimal. More velocity does make for a flatter trajectory (although that advantage may fade quickly depending on the ballistic co-efficients of the bullets you are comparing) but that does not make a round more accurate. Your Swede, if it is still using its original barrel, was twisted to favor heavy bullets and it still seems to be showing its affinity with the first load. I think you should accept what it is telling you and stick to longer, heavier bullets.
The Lab

Help Us Choose Cartridges to Test

We are looking for your input to help schedule testing over the next year. The top three cartridges will be added to our testing schedule. From now until October 1st, we are asking you to send us your suggestions. Just type them in and submit them through the Dear Labby Q and A section on the left side of your screen. We will announce the top three finishers in early October.
The Lab

Mining Gunpowder in Montana

Do you mine the powder right there in Miles City? Is that why you are located in Montana? Is it possible to add another shift or something to increase production?

We passed this one around a bit wondering if you were teasing us. You probably are, but it is a reasonable question. No, we don’t mine for gunpowder here in Montana, although the thought of a rich vein of Accurate #2 does tend to make us wish the idea was true. Our powders are all man-made using some very complex chemical interactions and production tools. If your question is really about powder availability, we are doing everything we can to bring as much powder to the market as possible. We hadn’t thought of mining for powder, but if it did work we would be doing it three shifts a day.
The Lab

Developing Loads for Different Seasons

I have a question about reloading in the context of seasons. I live in Las Vegas, where in the summertime it’s common to have highs around 110 F. Winter by contrast can have overnight lows around 28 F with daytime highs anywhere from 40’s to 60’s depending on the year. I read recently that changes in temperature can affect pressure. I’m currently in the early stages of developing loads for service rifle. I have some SMK 69 gr, 80 gr, and Hornady 75 gr bullets and a variety of powders. I’m going to be using Lapua .223 brass, and am currently at the bottom end of the powder weights for my loads. What should I be doing to ensure my pressures don’t go too high because of temperatures. Should I only develop loads in summer? I’m thinking a winter developed load that is safe could become unsafe if fired in summer in this climate.

All powders are affected some by temperature, but the amount of difference varies by cartridge and components used. In the .223, you shouldn’t see a dramatic change in pressure and velocity with any of our powders suitable for the cartridge. For any given cartridge, your best shot at year around accuracy would be to develop loads during your average hunting temperature. So in your case, I would recommend developing and testing loads around 69 deg. F.
The Lab

A2230 Data matches Ramshot X-Terminator

I’ve noticed on the updated data for the 7.62×39 (5.0.1) that the powder charges for Ramshot X-Terminator and Accurate 2230 are exactly the same, all entries are exactly the same. Is this correct data for these two powders?

In this case, it is correct. Ramshot X-Terminator and Accurate 2230 are the same powder used by both powder lines.
The Lab

CUP to PSI: Is there a Formula?

How do you convert CUP to PSI?

There isn’t a good mathematical conversion between Copper Units of Pressure (CUP) and PSI measurements. CUP was based on measurements taken from small cylinders of specially formulated copper after they were subjected to crushing pressures. Conversion tables were supplied with each lot of crushers to index them to the CUP scale of pressure. The system doesn’t directly correlate to measurements in Pounds/Square Inch. Any formula which purports to link the two systems should be treated with skepticism.
The Lab

Finding Maximum Cartridge Length in a Chamber

How can I find the Cartridge Overall Length for my rifle?

There are a couple of great tools made by Sinclair and Hornady (just to name a couple) that make the job quick and easy. I’ve included a quick how-to using another method it in a separate article because it is long on pictures. Look down the page to find the story.
The Lab

.357 Remington Magnum Mistake

When I was younger we always called the .357 Mag., .357 Remington Mag. After reading older books from around the time the cartridge was developed it was said to have been developed by Winchester. I see you refer to it as Remington too. Did Remington finish the development or some other reason or were the books wrong?

We did refer to the .357 Magnum as the .357 Remington Magnum in a previous “Dear Labby” answer. After researching your question, the simple answer seems to be that we were wrong to attribute this cartridge to Remington. Your suggestion that Winchester was part of the development team along with Smith and Wesson is spot on. The .357 Registered Magnum was announced by Smith and Wesson in 1935. Perhaps it is the “Reg.” abbreviation’s closeness to the “Rem.” that led to this mistake, or Remington’s later association with the .357 Maximum, 41 and 44 Magnums that bring its name rolling off the tongue. No matter the reason, Remington’s name doesn’t seem to belong with this cartridge. Its proper nomenclature is .357 Smith and Wesson Magnum or the simpler .357 Magnum which is how the cartridge is identified by SAAMI.
The Lab

Academics and Lab Staff

I had two questions; what type of schooling does a person need to be qualified for becoming a ballistics tech? Second, for the powder burn in a handgun, does it have a complete burn before the bullet even leaves the crimp? How does it show up on the timeline; the powder burn time in relationship to the bullet travel?

While there isn’t a college program dedicated to the sporting arms and ammunition field, there are a few degrees that will make life easier. A degree in Forensic Science, mechanical engineering, physics, chemistry, and or aerospace are all helpful in the ballistic world. A keen attention to detail, as well as familiarity with lab equipment, word processing, Microsoft excel; and a machining background all makes for good skill-sets in a ballistic lab.

Powder burn can vary by component selection and caliber. Generally for handgun calibers, peak pressure is reached before the bullet leaves the case, but complete powder burn may never be achieved; depending on barrel length and powder burn rate.
The Lab

What is “Muzzle Energy”

What is “Muzzle energy” and what does it mean?

Calculating muzzle energy provides a quick tool for comparing energy between various loads or firearms. It is a simple formula that uses the velocity of bullet (V) and the weight of bullet (W) divided by a constant to produce a measure of energy (taken at the muzzle) in foot/pounds. The formula is V*V*W/450240. What it means is a more difficult question. Muzzle energy is not a good predictor of terminal performance on game animals because it does not consider bullet design and performance. It simply tells you how much energy is present at the muzzle based on the weight and velocity of a projectile.
The Lab

Changes in 9mm Luger Data

I have been reloading 9mm shells using the data in the Reloading guide 5.0.
I have been using Ramshot Zip for my loads, with Frontier 115 gr CMJ bullets (I called your company when I bought the powder and bullets and was told to use the same data as the Sierra FMJ) with my Lee Pro Auto-Disk Powder Measure dispensing at an average rate of 4.0 gr of the powder (3.9 – 4-1). Everything seems to be going fine, and I have had no FTEs or FTFs.
Now, I see via the 1/24/14 update that the loads should be considerably higher (4.4 – 4.7).
Is there a problem with what I am doing?

There isn’t any problem at all. The data you are using is for standard 9mm Luger loads at an average pressure of 35,000 psi or less. The new data you saw is for +P loads which operate at about 38,000 psi as a maximum. Your loads are fine, the others just offer higher pressure and velocity for firearms rated to that level of performance.
The Lab

Same Case, Different Manufacturer, Same Pressure?

All the reloading data that I have will call for certain brands of components. I understand that primers and powder will make a difference in pressure. But how about the brass that is used, does it make a difference in pressure? Can you use Winchester brass when it calls for Remington?

Brass can make quite a lot of difference in pressure, mainly because of variations in case capacity. Our lab tests pressures using cases produced within the same lot to keep this variation to a minimum. Between manufacturers, especially on cases produced outside the United States, there are differences in capacity. You can handload with Remington brass using data that calls for Winchester, but you should always begin with the suggested starting load. If they produce reasonable velocity, you can work your way up carefully watching for obvious pressure signs.
The Lab

.223 Remington vs. 5.56 NATO

Dear Labby,
What are the differences between the 5.56mm NATO and .223 Remington cartridges?

There is a lot of confusion on this topic, and a lot of bad information being exchanged. Externally, the case dimensions between the SAAMI recognized .223 Remington and the military designated 5.56mm NATO are exactly the same. The two main differences are maximum pressure standards and the chamber dimensions.

Mil-Spec pressure measurements are taken just ahead of the case mouth and work out to a bit more than 62,000 psi using standard SAAMI pressure testing guidelines, which are measured further back on the case body. For comparison, SAAMI’s maximum pressure recommendations for the .223 Remington are about 12% lower at 55,000 psi.

Much more significantly, the leade/throat dimensions in the 5.56mm NATO are considerably longer than the .223 Remington, allowing it to safely chamber a number of different bullet designs. The mismatch between 5.56 NATO cartridges fired in the shorter throated .223 Remington chamber can produce unexpected pressures because the bullet is jammed into the rifling. Conversely, .223 Remington cartridges fired in a 5.56mm NATO chamber may produce lower-than-expected pressures and velocity because of the longer leade.
The Lab

Silhouette Lead Bullet Data for the 45 ACP

There is no listed 230gr., LRN, 45ACP loading data for Silhouette. Reading some of the forums, Silhouette is highly recommended for 45 ACP. Do you have any reloading data that you can share for this load?
Thanks in advance for your consideration. BTW, I am overwhelmed by what a good powder True Blue is, just amazing!

Sihouette would be a great powder in the 45 ACP using 230 grain lead RN bullets. It just wasn’t tested. The lab has scheduled testing using several different manufacturer’s lead bullets to fill this gap. In the meantime, the starting loads for 230 gr. plated RN bullet data can be safely used for lead round nose as well.
The Lab

Tac in the AR-10

Any TAC RAMSHOT load data on the .308 Win for use in an AR-10. Currently using it for .223 in all of my long range competition rounds. Like to use it in my .308 for the same purpose. GREAT POWDER

Ramshot Tac has a very good burn rate for both the AR-10 and M1A/M14 rifles. Any load provided in our guide that is suitable by twist rate and COL is appropriate for either rifle system.
The Lab

Changes in Older Load Data

I am new to reloading and am currently loading for a 270WSM. I am loading up 110gr Barnes TTSX using Accurate 4350. I loaded 3 rounds each of 68gr, 67.5gr, and 67gr. I am basing these loads off your 1/27/2014 updates, using the same grains as the 110gr Hornady V-Max. My question is why was there an increase in the start load and max load grains for bullets such as the 100gr Hornady from the older data?

The newer data for the 100 grain Hornady Spire Point was developed from this latest round of testing. The older data proved to be under pressure when tested in our lab and was adjusted to provide higher pressures and better velocity.
The Lab

Pressure Differences Between Plated and Jacketed Bullets

The Rem 95gr FMJ is working very well with the high end load of 3.7gr.
Less then that was jamming. I asked below on the Berry 100gr bullet RN, but these are also copper plated or what appears to be as a FMJ not bare lead. Since it is not the bare lead RN, should I still use the 3.7 gr for the 100gr bullet? I’m thinking the 3.2 will be too light and jam.
I’m using an auto loading disk system to dispense the powder so I don’t have much room to play. Basically would the 3.7gr of powder be ok with the 100gr rn FMJ?
Please let me know your thoughts…
Your help is greatly appreciated.

All other things being equal, plated bullets develop pressure faster than copper jackets. Because their plating is relatively thin, they can tend toward lead bullet pressures. In this case, the Berry’s 100 grain bullet would have been over pressure in our test barrel using a 3.7 gr. charge.
The Lab

175 gr .308 Winchester Loads Using LT-32

Concerning the .308 Winchester, I noticed that the load data stopped at the 168 SMK for the LT-32 powder. Is there further data for the 175 gr. SMK or the 178 AMAX?

We just tested the 175 gr. Berger BTTLR bullet using LT-32 in the.308 Winchester. This information should give you a starting point with the other match bullets. Here is the data:

Accurate LT-32         Starting       FPS       Max     FPS   PSI        COL      Percent Fill
175gr  BERGER         34.6           2,278     38.4    2,505  61,609   2.810    94.20%

Magnum Small Pistol Primers in Non-Magnums

I have small magnum pistol primers. Can these primers be used with pistol loads calling for the non-magnum type by reducing the powder weight by a certain or trial percentage?

The short answer is yes, you can use magnum priming in non-magnum pistol cartridges, but there is no simple equation that defines powder reduction for the primer’s extra brisance. Substituting any component in a known handload requires going back to the starting load and working up carefully while watching for pressure signs. It is possible, especially in some very high pressure, small capacity cases (9mm Parabellum leaps to mind) that pressure signs may occur even with the starting loads and magnum priming. In all instances, velocity will provide the best indicator of pressure. If the velocity of your test load is greater than the published maximum, compensating for barrel length differences, then the load is probably above SAAMI guidelines for pressure and should be reduced.

The Lab

Handloading the 5.7X28

I need some honest load recommendations for a 5.7 FN: primers, powders and bullets. Seems cases are limited in brands. Any help will be appreciated.

The 5.7X28 is an extremely finicky cartridge, especially when reloading fired cases. The case only has about 10 grains of useable case capacity and is designed to work at pressures up to about 50,000 psi. Changes of a few tenths of a grain can produce unexpected pressures.

Reloading fired cases adds two new issues. The case head and web are small and tend to allow the primer pockets to swell prematurely. When reloading, discard any cases that exhibit little primer tension. The amount of pressure required to resize 5.7 cases is very great compared to most cartridges. Make sure enough lube is used; a stuck 5.7 case is a bad experience.

We have handloading data available in our new 5.0 Reloading Guide. All of our data is based off of FN cases. The Hornady bullets in 35 and 40 grains were great perfomers. When working up loads, work up in .1 grain increments. This is a very tricky little cartridge.

The Lab

7mm Weatherby Data

I do not find any info in your gude for the 7mm Weatherby round. Any plans of adding it?

We do have the 7mm Weatherby scheduled for testing. It should be completed later this year. Once complete, it will be posted on our downloadable “Latest Updates” section located on the upper left hand side of the screen. Clicking there will show all of the data our lab has released since our 5.0 Reloading Guide was published in October, 2013.

The Lab

Can’t find .223 Remington Data

Why can’t I find load data for the .223?

We have quite a lot of loading data for the .223 Remington, as well as for the .223 Winchester Super Short Magnum. Both can be found in the downloadable version of our 5.0 Guide.

The Lab

Finding Powder

Where can I get some AA7?

When handloaders can’t find powder locally, I recommend . This site monitors store inventories and updates frequently. It is a good bet.

The Lab

Loading with an Older Powder

I have Accurate Arms powder that is a few years old. It is MR 223. Is that the same as Accurate 2230?

It is definitely an older powder, but if it has been stored well, you can load with it using Accurate 2230 data.

The Lab

Charge Volume

When I fill a volume measuring tube with 120 grains of Blackhorn 209, I can tap the tube and compact the powder and create space for an additional 5-10 grains. Should I stop at the original measure or compact the load and maximize the powder in the loader.

Loading by volume instead of weighed grains can be a bit confusing. Black powder and black powder substitutes are traditionally measured by volume, simply filling up measuring device of a known size. It should be measured loosely. Unlike smokeless powder, small charge variations make almost no difference in pressure and velocity. With Blackhorn, more precise measurements can be made by weighing the powder on a scale. The conversion from volumetric to weighed grains for Blackhorn is .7, so 100 grains by volume equals 70 grains weighed on a scale.

The Lab

LT32 in a 6mm BRDX

I am wanting to try LT-32 in a 6mm BRDX with 100 grain flat base match bullets. Do you have any suggestions for starting loads?

I think LT-32 is going to be too fast for good performance in your 6mm BRDX. A slower powder like A2495 would be a better choice.

The Lab

What is +P

In your newest reloading data, you have listed “45 Auto (ACP) +P, What is +P?

Some cartridges have a standard pressure range and a second, higher pressure range that is also recognized to be safe in pistols rated to those pressures.  Both ranges are set by SAAMI.   +P is most commonly associated with the 9mm Parabellum and .38 Special cartridges. 

Cartridge       Standard SAAMI Pressure Max         +P SAAMI Pressure Max

.38 Special       17,000 PSI                                            20,000 PSI

9mm Para        35,000 PSI                                            38,500 PSI

.45 ACP           21,000 PSI                                            23,000   PSI


Extrapolating Load Data

Is there an EASY way to make equivalent loads from my Bullseye Specs to using No. 2?

With a chronograph and our Accurate #2 load data, it isn’t hard to make comparable loads if you intend to make cartridges that have similar external ballistics.  There isn’t a way to convert grains of Bullesye to grains of Accurate #2 in a cartridge.  There are too many internal ballistic variables for a conversion to work safely and reliably. 

Finding Powder

It is very hard to find Reloader 15

I’m surprised how often we get questions about Alliant products.  Accurate and Alliant’s “A” probably makes for some confusion.  No matter the manufacturer, powder demand is simply higher than the industry’s ability to supply.  There is no secret government mandate or oppression that is keeping us from supplying canister powders.  We sold more powder last year than we have in the history of our company and this year is on track to eclipse last year’s record.  We are doing our best to get powder out to the public.

Older IMR Powder data

Accurate 4475, can it be used in .223?

IMR 4475 was an original military propellant for the .223 Remington, but we are not aware of an Accurate 4475 canister product.  There certainly hasn’t been one since the Western Powders acquired Accurate in 2004.  We do have A5744, but data cannot safely be interchanged between it and the IMR product.  Data for the .223 Remington using A5744 can be found in our new 5.0 guide, which is available for downloading on this site.

A8700 Data

 Where can I find load data for AA8700?

A8700 was a very slow powder offered by the original Accurate Arms Company.  It is most at home in the .50 BMG.  The best source for loading data is the Accurate Smokeless Powders Loading Guide, Number 2.  Although it is out of print, it is still may be found online at reasonable prices.

Older Posts

Tumbling Loaded Ammunition

Dear Sir,  In reloading ammunition at my home, is it a safe practice to use a tumbler / Vibrator with reloaded ammunition with Accurate powder after the rounds have been loaded?

 It isn’t a recommended practice.  The geometry of each grain of powder plays an important role in the overall burn rate.  As the individual grains rub against each other, they can wear away deterrents or change geometry which may cause higher than expected pressures.

Wild Boar In .243 Win.

Can you confirm that Ramshot Wild Boar is not usable with the caliber .243 W. because the table reloading takes the majority of the class except the .243.

First, Ramshot Wild Boar is not available in the United States, although it shares load data with Accurate 2520.  By class, I believe that our questioner is referring to cartridges using the same parent case.  In this case, the class of cartridges would include the .22 CHeetah, .243 Win., .260 Rem., 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .338 Federal and the .358 Win.  They are all based on the .308 Winchester case.

It makes sense that a good powder in the parent case should work well across the board considering the main difference is a change in the neck diameter, but this is not the case.  As a general rule, necking down the parent case requires a slower powder and necking it up requires a faster one. So, the.243 Win. requires slower powder than the .358 Win.

Where is Accurate 2520

I haven’t seen A2520 for over a year. When will there be some?

I like A2520, too.  I just don’t know when you will see it again in your area.  The best advice I have is to watch which is a site that keeps track of handloading supplies for sale through a number of retailers. It is a very good resource for finding powder.

Bulk Powder Vs. Canister Products

Is it true that True Blue is the same as PCL 504?
We get this type of question quite a lot, especially since canister powders have become harder to find.  No, they are not the same powder and the data may not safely be interchanged.  There is a tremendous difference between bulk powders used by OEM’s and canister grade products.  Simply having a drum of powder with an identifiable bulk designation does not mean it meets canister pressure and velocity requirements.  Until it has been tested and certified as canister grade, no bulk powder should be trusted as safe to use with published data.    

Data Powder 2200

Is the Accurate 2200 the same as the “Data 2200” that was for sale about 10 or 12 years ago?

Yes it is. The current Accurate 2200 is a direct copy of the military surplus Accurate Data Powder 2200.

Hornady FTX in the .357 S&W Magnum

Would the same loading data for .357 mag 140 grain bullet with Accurate #5 apply for Hornady 140 gr. Flex tip bullet.  Thank you

While we haven’t tested the FTX bullets in all the calibers, we have learned a few things.  The first is that you must follow Hornady’s recommended brass trim length which for the .357 Rem. Mag is 1.240″.  This allows use of the cannelure and keeps the over-all length from causing issues.  The FTX bullets tend to generate more pressure because of the engraving force created by its long bearing surface.  The long FTX bullet is generally seated deeper using up more case capacity, which also increases pressure.  While hard to make general statement, we suggest starting at least 1.0 grain below the XTP start load and working up from there. 

Question: Using Scoops to Measure Powder

When you were helping me the other day we decided the 3.6 gr Accurate #2.  My guestion is on the scoops i bought it shows what scoop to use for the 3.6gr with the Accurate #2 .load wich is the first scoop or the smallest. My question is, when I measure it out on the elctric scale, one scoop is less then 3.6gr.  It’s about 2.9 to 3.0.  Is that going to be ok  or should i start with the small scoop and then add to it until i get to 3.6?

The scoops are based on the VMD of the powder, which can vary from lot to lot.  Personally I do not like to use scoops for this reason.  Powder droppers are more money, but most have an adjustable thimble so you can change the volume accordingly to the powder density.  If you are going to use the scoops, find the one that drops the closest to 3.6 grains and manually adjust from there–Always check your scoops with a scale.  I am not sure if we talked before, but you can load anywhere in between the start load and max load as long as it will perform in your firearm. That being said, if a scoop drops 3.5 grains and the load works well, then by all means run with it.

The Lab


Older Powder Question

I have some Accurate 2 powder that has never been opened (was stored in a cool dry place in a sealed plastic container) that I think may be the 1st generation Accurate 2 powder, can I still use this? How do I adjust the loads? I honestly can’t afford to replace it with the new stuff (if I could find it). Any recommendations?

As long as the powder has the common ether smell and is black with no rust colored tinting, then it should be fine to use.  The Accurate #2 improved was a name change when the Accurate Arms Company had the powder produced by a different manufacturer.  As for the burn rate, Accurate #2 powder is all the same, and I recommend using our current data with your powder and start at the start loads.

The Lab

The “Same” bullet in different cartridges?

I do not understand the reason for the reduced loads in the 270 Win verse the 30-06 Win. The 270 is simply a reduced neck 30-06. The 270 neck reductions reduces useful case capacity from 4.38cc to 4.24cc or 96.8% of 30-06 capacity, but in the load data the 270 is not loaded any where near the 30-06 when using the same bullet.

This does not make since to me. The 270 should be loaded to about 96% of the same as the 30-06. For example your load data has the 150 grain SPBT using ACC 2700 powder for 30-06 at 53.1gr ~ 59.0gr with max velocity of 2932. The 270 is at 46gr ~ 51gr with max velocity of only 2840 fps. 270 powder load is 86.7% & 86.4% of the 30-06 load. Both loads are for a 1-10 twist 24” barrel.

Why is the 270 Win load not close to 96% of the 30-06 Win loads. Why would it be unsafe to use loads more in line with 96% of the 30-06 suggested loads, Am I correct that loads of Acc2700 in the 51gr~56.6gr should be safe in my 270 Winchester?

Changing the neck dimension does more than simply change the case capacity from that of the parent case.  A quick look at the pressures should begin to tell the tale.  The .30-06 Springfield case loaded with 60.5 grains of 2700 and a 150 grain Sierra SPT generates 3076 fps and 59247 psi.  This is within the SAAMI pressure limit for the .30-06 which is 60000.

 The .270 Winchester load with a 150 grain bullet loaded with 51 grains of 2700 and a 150 gr Sierra SBT generates 2840 fps and 63500 psi, which is once again within the pressure range set by SAAMI of 65000.

 It is important to understand that they are not the same bullet.  They are only the same weight.  The .308 bullet is 1.100″ in length.  The .277 caliber bullet, because it is of equal weight, must be longer.  In this case it is 1.237″.  Because of this, its bearing surface (the portion that actually engages the bore) is longer, creating more friction which in turn increases pressure. 

Bore volume plays a very significant role in the .270’s increased pressure versus the same weight .308 caliber bullet.  This is easy to understand if you consider how much easier it is to suck up water through a larger straw than a smaller one.  The smaller one takes more force to get the same amount of water.  The increased suction is an increase in pressure.  In this case, the .277 caliber bore is about 10 percent smaller than the .308 caliber bore.  Because of this, the .277 caliber bore generates more pressure than a .308 bore given the same bullet weight and velocity.

Your suggested load of 59.0 grains of 2700 will generate a bit more than 90,000 psi based on our models.  It is not a good load.

The Lab


Sometimes Magnums don’t use Magnum powders?

I bought 8 pounds of Magnum for my .458 Win.  Why can’t I find load data for this powder and cartridge?

The .458 Winchester Magnum needs faster powders to perform well.  I know this can be confusing, but magnums don’t always use slow-burning “magnum” powders.  Cartridges will give you a hint about what powder will work best simply by comparing the case mouth diameter to the cartridge diameter and length.  Imagine filling the .458 case up with fine sand and pouring it out.  It would poor out rather quickly because the case mouth is very close to the same diameter as the cartridge.  If you compare this to the .264 Winchester, which is made from the same case as the .458, the sand will pour out much more slowly.  This idea hints that the .264, an over-bore magnum, needs slower powder powders than the .458 to work up to its potential.

The Lab


Clumps in my powder?

I ordered some of your 1680 back about in December.  I just now opened it today to use it and it is full of clumps. My knowledge tells me that means moisture, am I wrong ? I just now broke the seal and it has been stored in a ammo can with desiccant packs around it and a dehumidifier running 14-16 hours a day. I can’t imagine this being my fault, if this does indicate moisture. I do absolutely everything to keep moisture away from this type of stuff as I am paranoid about it and I bought 8 lbs of it. Does this stuff just sit around in a warehouse or something. I don’t know if the pick part on the label is suppose to be red or not, but it is definitely pink, so if it was red I am wondering if I was shipped an old container.  I hope that this isn’t bad and I am stuck with it. Is this powder hydroscopic that bad ?

All powder contains a certain amount of moisture.  When the powder is stored or during shipping, it can go thru temperature cycles.  During the cycling, the moisture can be pulled to the surface and cause clumping.   Clumping can also be caused by static electricity if too dry or the powder has limited graphite content. You can break up the clumps before metering and they shouldn’t be a problem.  This will not affect the powder performance, so your product is fine.  Accurate 1680 labels are designed in Pink.  As a side note, specification for testing powder is at 70 degrees and 60% humidity.

The Lab


Do you have a question for our ballistics lab? If you have a question, please contact us.

To submit a question about Ramshot Reloading Powders, click here

To submit a question about Accurate Powders, click here

To submit a question about Montana X-Treme gun care products, click here

To submit a question about Blackhorn 209, click here





Dear Labby, What is a Piezo Transducer?

What is a Piezo Transducer?

Dear Labby,
Can you give a little detail to the piezo transducer and it’s operation? How does it function? Where would you screw it into on the M1 Garand. The AR-15? The 1911?
Bill M.


Black arrow indicates transducer location during testing.

Black arrow indicates transducer location during testing.


The bottom of the piezo is cut to match a case's body. The threaded end is connected to the pressure gauge.

The bottom of the piezo is cut to match a case’s body. The threaded end is connected to the pressure gauge.

The first image is of a piezo transducer in action as part of regular testing. In the American system, the transducer’s base is radiused to match the case body. When the cartridge is fired, the case expands crushing the piezo which creates a spark, the intensity of which can be directly translated into PSI. In the Garand, the lab used a modified gas plug to get the port pressure readings. Chamber pressure testing was done in a standard pressure barrel.  For AR 15 military testing, a transducer is mounted at the case mouth and another at the point where the gas block would sit on the barrel. garandplug72The 1911 , a delayed blowback, doesn’t have a gas system. Testing for that type of pistol would rely on cartridge pressure testing from a test barrel.
The Lab

Labby Explains Trajectory

DearLabbyUnderstanding Bullet Trajectory
Why does a bullet raise up? When you plug in your bullet into a computer it’s always high for a while and then low. My friend says that its spin makes it roll up above where you aim in the first fifty yards and then it drops back down. Is that right?

Toby T.  from California

Trajectory tables provide very useful data for the shooter, but they do it in a way that is misleading. The data is based on where the bullet will be in relationship to your sights, but it doesn’t explain why it is there. The idea of “Bullet Rise” comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of how bullets fly and how sights interact with the bullet’s arcing trajectory.

The common bullet drop tables look something like this for a rifle zeroed at 200 yards:

Muzzle: -1.5 inches
100 Yards: +2.4 inches
200 Yards: 0
300 Yards: -10.9

These numbers are very accurate from the shooters perspective which is called the Line of Sight. Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see that the bullet is describing an arc, starting 1.5 inches below the Line of Sight, which is the distance between the center of the bore and the center of the sight plane. The convergence of the Line of Sight and the bullet’s trajectory takes place at 200 yards. In other words, the bullet goes where your sights indicate it will strike. Using the Line of Sight as a reference, and as long as we are shooting on Earth, all firearms will strike to the point of aim at two places in the bullet’s trajectory.

Imagine a very powerful laser projecting out of your firearm’s muzzle. This straight line is called the Line of Departure and represents the starting point for your bullet. Relative to this line, your bullet is always dropping away from the bore subject to the effects of gravity. It does not rise above this plane.

Parallel Line of Sight and Line of Departure Planes.

Parallel Line of Sight and Line of Departure Planes.

The confusion comes from the idea that the Line of Sight and Line of Departure are parallel and that the bullet rises up to the Line of Sight and then drops back down. If this were the case, it would be impossible to zero a firearm. In reality, the Line of Sight is always angled downwards so it will intersect the bullet’s path. It may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, but the further out a rifle is zeroed the more sharply the Line of Sight is angled toward the Line of Departure.

trajectory72A bullet fired on Earth is subject to a number of forces that will retard its motion and eventually cause it to strike the ground. Because of these forces, a bullet passes back through the Line of Sight as gravity pulls it back toward Earth. This second point of convergence is usually where a firearm is considered zeroed.

So, if you set the zero for a (fill in the blank here – let’s say a 6.5 Snorkelwacker Magnum) at 25 yards, that distance becomes the first point of convergence for the Line of Sight and the bullet’s trajectory. The bullet will pass back through the line of sight again somewhere around 200 yards. The bullet is always falling away from the Line of Departure (your bore), but because the Line of Sight is looking at an angle downward into the bullet’s arc, its trajectory seems to rise and fall.

The Lab

Hawaiian Gunwriter’s Note to “Dear Labby”

Rock Island Armory 10 mm Pro Match Ultra

Rock Island Armory 10 mm Pro Match Ultra

Dear Labby,

I am a long-time Accurate user who just started loading for 10mm. I am writing to you because I thought my experiences might be helpful to your readers.

For what it’s worth, I’m a writer with a column on shooting called On Target Hawaii. I’m an active “re-loader” and on occasion, write about this topic.

So let’s begin, if I may, by recounting my “AA” history. I started loading about ten years ago, which I first began amassing a collection of mostly S&W revolvers.  One of my mentors at the time, let’s call him Gary, had a huge collection of firearms and was big on reloading.  He bought and sold a lot of guns and also operated a kind of firearms parts/reloading paraphernalia flea market in his garage.  It was a great place to pick up bullets and the like at fair prices.  I told him that I was started to reload for a new (used) gun that I had just picked up, the S&W Model 27, a classic, nickel plated.357 with a 5” barrel. This is a much desired collector’s item. Mine was more of a “shooter” but I was very pleased to have it and of course wanted to shoot it.

The beautiful Smith and Wesson Model 27.

The beautiful Smith and Wesson Model 27.

I had no idea what powder to use for this item and consulted with my guru Gary, who steered me towards a half used bottle of AA#5.  I was a bit hesitant about buying something that had been opened but he assured me it was his personal stash and it would be fine to use for the M27. (Please don’t hold this against me, Labby).

I took his word that the powder was what it said it would be on the bottle label and that it would be the right solution for my M27, which I was loading with 158 gr jacketed bullets. Fortunately, he was right on both counts. I worked up a load, 8.8 gr and it worked like a charm.  After getting it sighted it in, I headed over to the Silhouette range and was whacking 12” diameter gongs at 100 yards plus with that nickel plated .357. It was as if I had found the Holy Grail. This was a load I could live with forever. Of course the powder metered to perfection on my Dillon 550 system.  I was sold on Western Powders after that.

Bc72So bringing the story closer to the present, lately I’ve become enamored with the 10 mm round. I’ve acquired a Rock Island Armory 10 mm Pro Match Ultra, which I’m putting through the ringer presently. I’ve acquired a quantity of Western powder (#5, #7 and #9) as well as 180 and 160 gr bullets) that I’m hoping will provide me with the equally satisfying experience I had with the M27.

Getting tips on what would be the best loads has not been easy. The caliber is not that popular with the general public, hence getting load data means scouring the forums which may or may not be reliable.

I gave up on that and consulted Western’s load data and started experimenting.

bullets72My goal with this gun is to be able to shoot an 8” gong at 100+ yards.

To date I’ve hit upon a great load with a 180 gr Rainier Ballistics (plated) hollow point bullet at 25 yards.  That would be 12.5 gr of #9.  At 50 yards I hit pay dirt with 13.5 gr of #9 over a 180 gr JHP from Montana Gold.  No 9 is clearly a winner.  Both were extremely accurate and worked well with #9. Rainier bullets are less expensive (they cost less to manufacture) but the Montana Gold product (which is a real jacketed bullet) are reasonably priced.

180-grain Montana Gold JHP using 13.5 grains of Accurate #9. 50-yard group off-hand.

180-grain Montana Gold JHP using 13.5 grains of Accurate #9. 50-yard group offhand.

The search for a decent 165 gr load continues.  I’m going to experiment with #5, #7 and #9 and, will keep you and your lab rats up to speed. (Please no animal cruelty at the shop).

With warm aloha

Rob Kay

To read a review of Rob’s most recent book click here:


Berry's plated 180-grain using 12.5 grains of Accurate #9, 25-yards offhand.

Berry’s plated 180-grain using 12.5 grains of Accurate #9, 25-yards offhand.

Letters to the Editor

Our Readers are encouraged to share their input and opinions regarding stories that appear in this magazine. Since we like our readers to also be writers, sometimes their views and ideas may differ from ours here at Western Powders. We encourage freedom of thought here. Please read, consider and respond.

Our Readers Write:

Allen-Giles Arms

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of cleaning patches turn from black to white and was proud that my firearms were clean. Not till recently did I know how wrong I was until after bore-scoping one of my most accurate of firearms.

I’ve tried all kinds of different cleaning products, chemicals and methods, none of which perform to my standards, so I was on a warpath to make my firearms clean, and in my findings, no company has surpassed what Montana X-Treme has had to offer.

Their cleaning products remove all carbon and copper fouling quickly, but is still soft on the bore. I’m proud to have found something as impressive as Montana X-Treme, and can now go from ½ MOA back to ¼ MOA.

As Director of Customer Service and Lead Gunsmith, I recommended Montana X-Treme be exclusively used by Allen-Giles Arms…because I not only want the best for my personal firearms, but expect the same for our customers, and because Allen-Giles Arms is ‘Devoted to Firearms Excellence,’ we now exclusively use Montana X-Treme.

Davis Charles – Director of Customer Service & Lead Gunsmith of Allen-Giles Arms

Readers Love the Guru

Just wanted to thank you for the level of professionalism noted in your recent article by Michael Whitlock ( Guru ). Excellent article. Hope to see more of the same in the future.
New follower
Adrian Land

Hello Gentlemen,
I want to thank you for the addition of GURU Michael Whitlock to your pages as a contributor. Long has the world needed his expertise and insight as well as straight forward candor in the shooting, gunsmithing and reloading world.
As an avid card carrying NRA member and lifelong pistol lover (I prefer the 1911 over any other as a Jarhead) I have enjoyed and used his knowledge for numerous years to troubleshoot, guide and correct issues most have failed to address.
I’m thankful he is a brother and an Honorary Marine and I know he has my six and yours too.
Semper Fi to you, your staff and my brother Pvt. Whitlock!!!! OORAH!

Kind Words Regarding our New Handloading Book

It looks like I just follow up on Jim Waddell’s comments, but this time I just have to say that Jim has hit it right on the nose.

When I first starting to reload, I bought almost all of the available reloading manuals and studied them hard. I did end up with one that was my favorite, and it still sits on the shelf of my office. One thing was missing in all of them was the feeling that the author was having a real hoot putting all of the data together, then adding pictures, and comments that I would loved to have had to “lead me by the hand”. I’ve know the author, Rob Behr for a long time, starting when he was the backbone of the Cooper gang that interfaced with the Cooper folks that had questions, complaints and problems with their rifles. He was great at it, just as he has been when dealing with the many folks that have been sending in tidbits to the Western Powders blog. I really like this manual (with the exception that is so full of good stuff that it will only fit in one of the tall shelves in my office). I have one of the first to be sent out and have recommended it to several of the newbies that have asked me questions in person and via emails.

In case I haven’t made it clear, I really like Rob’s manual and think anyone interested in reloading should have one in his library.

Techs Deserve an Atta-Boy


Walt Wants to Keep the Magazine Format Guides

So, now we need to pay $28 (SALE PRICE!, $35 otherwise) for what used to be free? Wow, what a deal – for you. I guess Edition 6.0 will be the last for me. Note to your marketing: NOT EVERYONE NEEDS INSTRUCTIONS ON BASIC RELOADING or HOW TO NOT BLOW UP A RIFLE! Please go back to the free .pdf format and forgo the redundant “stuff”. Walt

We are going to continue to publish our magazine format guides. Guide 7.0 will be published late this year. It will be available in the same format and for the same cost as the previous guides.

What a Gift for the Kids

I want to thank the guys at Montana Extreme for their support of our Youth Shooting Camp. Each year, a group of us Cal Hunter Ed Instructors and Members of the Santa Clarita Chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife federation hold a week-long youth shooting camp. Last year I called to ask some questions about using Blackhorn 209 in our Black Powder portion of the camp. Montana Extreme sent us a huge jug of powder and a case of 209 solvent. We were dumbstruck. What a gift for the kids. Thank you guys and gals of Montana Extreme. Your help is greatly appreciated.

BTW, using Bh209 makes it possible to shoot all day without having to clean the guns. When you are shooting 100 rounds an hour with muzzle loaders and using black powder or 777 or Pyrodex, that’s a lot of cleaning. With 777 or Pyrodex, you had better wet the bore before going to lunch or you will stick a cleaning rod when you get back. The fouling just gets awful. With BH209 we don’t have to clean all day. About every 10th shot I run a dry patch down the bore and we are all set. Bullet lube isn’t critical either. I can use SPG, Crisco, Ballistol (Moose Snot) or with sabot rounds; none at all. I even use BH209 in my Ruger Old Army. I put 5 grains of 4f under 25 grains of BH209 and it lights each time using a CCI Magnum cap.
Reece Talley

Hunter Powder is A Winner in Colorado
Just a note to say how happy I am at 78 years to be able to show you the pix of a nice 4 point Mule Deer I was able to get earlier this month in Colorado.  In my Ruger#1 .280 Remington, used your Hunter powder, a Barnes 140 grain TSX bullet, Hornady brass, and a Winchester Large rifle primer.  The distance was 110 yards, the season was about 2 hours old when I spotted this buck.  I had spotted him and ranged originally at 356 yards, it was quite windy, so I decided to try to work a little closer.  Thanks to the ease of reloading[spherical powders do go through a measure so uniformly], accuracy,and power] the Hunter powder was a very easy selection.  Thanks again for a great product, responsive information, and service. Naturally, after getting this nice buck I saw many more fine animals.  This was the best deer hunting I have seen. Thank you again for great service, great product, and information.  Happy Thanksgiving, I`ll be having some terrific stew for the holidays, Mike May.

A Varminter Speaks
Thanks for a great lineup of products, especially the AA line of propellants. I was one of the first to do extensive testing of AA2230 and AA2520 in the the newly released 204Ruger. You all asked for my data way back in 2004 and I sent it in. There are no better performing powders in my opinion in the 204 than those two. AA2230 is an amazing product in the “little guys” varmint rounds. Thanks for all you all do!! Sincerely, Charlie

A 20 Practical Shooter Comments:
I also shoot a .20 Practical and have found it to be essentially identical to the .204 R in the field. At times I have used TAC powder and always have used the 40 grain Hornady VMax bullet. My rifle, not a low budget one, has a 1-11 twist McGowen barrel and is a Ruger M77 MK II type. I always use commercial brass and have times realized a good deal on RWS once fired brass. New American Eagle 5.56X45 brass is also used..

When sizing once fired .223 brass I use a Redding .223 small base body die as the very first step. This is important as some once fired .223 brass is oversized and sticks in my nice precision chamber upon extraction..

Next, I use a Redding 223 Type B full length bushing die with a .226 bushing that is adjusted to allow a small amount of movement that will help to bushing to center. No expander button is used.

After sizing and checking out the head-space situation I run the cases into a .223 RCBS die having a .204 size expander button. The brass is then neck turned enough to clean up then trimmed to .223 specs. I use a Lee .223 case trimmer that has been ground down to fit inside the now .20 Practical cases. Cases are chucked into a Lee shell holder and spun with my cordless drill.

Subsequent loading is accomplished using the Redding FL bushing die but with a .223 expander plug that has been ground down so it has no contact with the .20 necks but acts to hold the decap pin. As expected, load production is rapid after the initial .223 to .20 Practical reforming.

I have been shooting my .20 Practical for 3 years now at mostly prairie dogs and gophers (ground squirrels) and even a rock chuck or two. If I had to shoot a yote with it I would go for a tougher bullet than the VMax.

I have found the 40 VMax with its boat tail & 8 grains more weight to be better at ranges over 250 yards. Looking at various computer generated ballistic data shows the 40 grain bullet to pass the 32 grain velocity at ranges over 250 yards. On a real calm day I have hit small rodents over 400 yards. During my last rodent engagement I hit one at 330 yards; the wind was at 10:00 at 5-7 mph. The hold was 3 inches left. I use a Leupold 6.5-20 VX3 but often wish to have a max power of 24X

Having vast amounts of .223 brass diminishes some component anxiety.
Name Withheld by Request

A Customer for Life
Thank You Buckhorn 209 Gun(s): TC Impact Bullet or Bullet Sabot Combination: 250 gr TC ShockWave with Magnum (black) Sabot Primer: Federal 209A Being a creature of habit I have been using the pellets from your competitor for the last several years. Most shots in the Eastern PA. woods are under 60 yards so the set-up worked fine. However, in anticipation of an early season muzzleloading hunt in Kansas this year I upgraded my scope and experimented with various bullet/and sabot combinations with both my 777 pellets and for the first time the Blackhorn 209 powder. After three days of shooting I had decided that: 1) The 777 pellets are a good choice if you can’t get Blackhorn 209. 2) The TC 250 gr ShockWave with the TC Magnum sabot works best in my rifle. 3) 100 gr (by volume) of Blackhorn 209 using the TC ShockWave is a deadly choice for distance shooting. Long story short, on the last day of my hunt with about 7 min. of legal light left a very nice 9 point stepped out into the open. Both my guide and I ranged him at 230 yards. Since I had already adjusted my shooting sticks for a sitting position I place the rifle in the “V” shouldered it, adjusted for distance and squeezed the trigger. What happened next was amazing. The buck jumped straight up into the air with its nose pointing straight up. It appeared that its hind legs where at least 3 feet off the ground. Then gravity took over and he came down in a heap. Bottom line… a pass through shot that took out the heart in the process. In my way of thinking, a pass through shot at 230 yards says a lot about the powder. And the fact that you really don’t need to clean the barrel every shot or two makes going to the range to shot a pleasure. You now have a customer for life.

Accurate 5744 Worked For Me
A Civil War standard for the Berdan Sharp Shooters was a 5 inch “string” at 200 yards. Three shots would be fired and measured from the center of the target. A string would be used to measure the three shots and if the total measurement was in the 5″ requirement, that shooter was “qualified” as a Berdan Sharp Shooter. I took my 1874 Cabela’s replica Sharps to the range today. At 50 yards I had a 4.79 “string”. Was using 28 grains of Accuracy 5744 and 350 grain Cabela’s laser, silver plated, Accurate bullets. Will continue to adjust powder one grain at a time to try to cut the group in half. Hats off to the shooters of times past and their shooting skills. Thank you to the Accuracy company and its employees for a great and reliable product.
Dan H Ringenberg

Thanks to Don W. and Western Powders
Western Powders / Accurate / Ramshot and Don W.,
FYI – I just received your printed 6.0 reloading manual today.
Many thanks for the fast, responsive service. I use many Western rifle and pistol powders and really enjoy your reloading manuals, primarily because of the wide range of bullet types for any particular powder.
And briefly glancing through the opening articles (e.g., Reloading Basics and Tips, Tricks , and Signs of Trouble), well, I find the pictures and succinct yet clearly written segments among some of the best available. Yes, I use your competitors’ powders, too, but I truly believe your products and information set the example for all.
Once again, thank you for everything. Sincerely,Dave Perl,Colorado Springs, CO

Thanks for you Support
Dear Rob,
I would like to thank you and Montana Extreme for supporting The 2016 South West Regional Schuetzenfest. With your support our event was a success! Please see the following link to match results;
Thank You,
Scott Elliott

Great Customer Service
You guys not only have a awesome product in Blackhorn 209 but your customer service is outstanding. I asked a question in less than 2 hours you sent me pictures and all the info I needed. Put that in your Testimonials!
Best Product on the market for muzzleloaders.
Plymouth Michigan.

Data for 1903 Sniper Rifle

1903-A4 Sniper Rifle

1903-A4 Sniper Rifle

Hi Rob,
Thank you for all of the information. At 66, and an old varmint hunter, I’ve been handloading for a long time, but life issues caused a 25 year hiatus that is just now coming to an end. I have to laugh when I see load data in some of the mountain of reloading manuals I have that is showing bullets that are no longer in production and powders that are gone. I guess it’s time to update my information sources. What prompted me to seek more current loading information is that I’ve recently bought a James River Arms reproduction of the venerable 1903-A4 Sniper Rifle and I don’t have much information on loading with the more recent crop of powders, and my manuals are useless in this regard. This is going to be a new experience for me: loading for the 30-06. I’ve never bought a rifle chambered for anything over .25 caliber. I have a 30-06 Winchester M1 Garand from the Rock Island Arsenal that I bought from the old DCM more than 25 years ago, and can you believe it: I’ve never shot it! I did however refinish the stock with an nice linseed oil finish. I’m astonished what M1’s in the condition mine is in are selling for. I paid the princely sum of 165.00, and more than half of that was for shipping and administrative costs. I’ve included a photo. And a photo of the 1903-A4 from the JRA site. Mine looks just like this one. I can finally pick it up next Saturday. I live this the People’s Republic of California and so I must jump through all sorts of hoops. The California Department of Justice and the governor (the hated Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown) are doing all they can to erect as many hoops as possible in the hope that we will stop buying firearms. This very well may be my last firearms purchase.

Anyway it’s been nice bending your ear for a bit. And thanks again for the information.
Ron P.
Los Angeles

Reloading the .30-06 is a pretty straight-forward affair compared to some cartridges.  It isn’t finicky and is accurate across a wide range of powders.  Your James River Arms reproduction is beautiful.  Would you consider writing a story about it to share with our online magazine readers?  I’m a pretty good editor, so don’t worry too much about syntax, spelling or photos, I can help with all of those.  I think a lot of our readers would love to hear about the ’03 Sniper.

Great Help
For three years I have been looking to improve the accuracy on my muzzle loader. By improving the accuracy I mean getting consistent shots inside of a pie plate at 100 yards. What I learned is that everyone has something to sell and to a novice they seem to be knowledgeable in the sport of muzzle loading. In my quest for accuracy I have on repeated occasions spoken with the gun manufacturer, projectile manufacturers, various powder manufacturers and on line forums. Three years later all I have to show for my time and expense is a grouping that is still as wild as the wild west. Enter Black Horn 209. Never in my 35 years of hunting have I found such friendly and knowledgeable people who really have a passion for what they do. They analyzed my cleaning or lack of. They analyzed my ammunition my propellant to include loading methods. What I was most impressed with was at times they even recommended competitors products. As a result my groupings have drastically improved not to mention my knowledge of muzzle loading in general. Yes the people and the products at Black Horn 209 are the real deal. The products are as good as the people actually even better. Their products perform just as they say. No gimmicks, no slick marketing. just performance.

Al Poteat
Lincoln, Nebraska

New Favorite Load

I bought my first 2011 last week!!! I got the newly released STI DVC and was hoping to make a super light load for 3-Gun for it. The Accurate #7 I normally use was VERY accurate and had fairly light recoil. But then I loaded up that 1 pound of Competition that you sent me last year to try out. THIS LOAD IS INSANE!!!!! Just over 3 grains of Competition behind a 124 grain Nosler Custom Competition and a 7 pound spring in the gun. It’s literally like shooting a freakin 22!! Obviously I’m a huge fan and love being sponsored by you guys and showing off your stuff, but this load is going to sell itself. I showed if off today while teaching a local police department firearms range day and everyone wanted to keep shooting it and couldn’t believe it was so soft. Anyways, I was excited and needed to tell someone about my successful day! Have a great week brother!

-Ryan Fraker / Team 144

Beau Does Know

Dear Editor,

I just have to write a rebuttal to Mr. Sand who happens to think one needs something akin to a 105mm Howitzer to down the big game animals in America.

Mr. Sand. Are you serious that any capable hunter who is armed with say a .243 Winchester with the appropriate hunting bullet will just cripple an animal? With the mild recoil, this hunter has a far bigger chance of scoring a clean kill than YOU with your cannon of choice that shoots a 350 grain missile at 2.5 times the speed of sound.

If perhaps you are skilled or “lucky” enough to score a hit, you will more than likely tear a huge chunk off that poor animal, leaving him to drag half of his body away to die a slow, painful death. If you do score a kill, you had better hope youre a trophy hunter and will proudly mount this fork horn because there won’t be any salvageable flesh to give to your oh so proud mate waiting for her mighty Rambo when he returns to the lodge.

There was a saying I learned long ago, “better to keep quiet and let people think you’re dumb than to open your yap and prove them right.” In this case it also applies to the written word. Go back and watch another sci fi war movie.

J. Waddell
Oakdale, CA

Beau Doesn’t Know

Your guest writer Beau Shea is the worst type of hunter that uses calibers that are too small and tend to just wound game. I find it hard to believe you published his story. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
T. Sand Billings MT

We are often ashamed of ourselves, but we work in the firearms industry so that may be appropriate. Beau seems like a pretty colorful guy, but I thought he had valid points that were worth considering. I agree with his central premise that more gun does not make up for less skill. There is a space waiting for you to write a story on why he is wrong. Freedom of Speech as well as the Second Amendment are practiced here.

Please Bring out an SR4759 Replacement

For what reason I do not know, Hodgdon has given up on production of SR 4759. In searching the internet for any remnants at retailers, I’m seeing many blogs among reloaders lamenting the loss of this very useful and desirable propellant.
It occurs to me that Hodgdon’s reason for discontinuing 4759 may not be lack of demand, but something else.
This may be an opportunity for Accurate to not only grab additional market share but curry favor within the reloading community.
Please consider an effort to produce and market a duplicate of or at least equivalent to SR 4759.

Good Job

Great article on the 32-20 and great work by dear Labby. Good job. Well done.

Adjusting Loyalties

Still wating on RAMSHOT ! If you’re not going to sell RAMSHOT to hand loaders while selling amo manufacturers all you can make you need to release a statement on your website. That way the ones of us who want to can adjust our loyalty accordingly. D.C.

If we ever elect to do this, we will release a statement like the one you’ve requested. Until then, we will continue to do our best to get Ramshot and Accurate powders out to the shooting public.

We need more American Powder Production

Dear Sirs,
I read your letter to us. (The reloading public). What you say I see somewhat, as I sell your products for a living. Hoarding is part of the problem. But what I see as a greater problem is something you mentioned, that being logistics from foreign countries. Why is it that our country consumes more powder than any 3 nations in the world, and yet we produce so little of it here? Most brands I found are produced in Australia, Canada, Belgium, and Sweden. It seems an impractical business model. Logistics and red tape being a problem.
Leaving ones livelihood and the shooting public at the mercy of the state dept. and all other sundry bureaucrats along the trail. Does leave one to think. If anyone on executive board ever wonders aloud at conspiracy theories and powder supplies, tell them to go look in the mirror for us, please.
Truly, M.L.S.

Snubbing the Swift

I am saddened to see that you folks don’t recognize the highly accurate caliber known as 220 Swift. I can’t find it anywhere in your write-ups. SHAME ON YOU FOLKS. I have one in a Ruger km77VT. Built about 1986 or so and shoots 5 shots in a little over one hole at 100 yds. and ground squirrels at 300-400 yds., with a Leupold V X 3 6-20X40 scope. I think you folks need to consider adding this excellent piece of hardware.
Clovis CA.
I think you are right. The Swift is great and it needs more data

Gunpowder Mine Investor

Hi Rob,
The two latest posts on the blog are really good. I’m going to try the o-ring thing on the barrels. Also, if you’re looking for investors, I’m all for investing in a gunpowder mine. I don’t care if its in Montana or the Isle of Wight. Just as long as it produces 1680 and Norma 200.

Shooting Sports Last Sunset

A while back I would have believed your view causing the reloading powder shortages. However, no more!! The manufacturers are holding back on their huge stock pile of powders. Then they are shipping horrendous amounts to ammunition manufactures to compel shooters to purchase factory ammunition. In turn the excessive costs of packaging & shipping 1, 4 & 8 pound canisters are eliminated and their profits have never been better. This same exact practice occurs with oil companies. How you ask? They have horrendous amounts of oil but to avoid a market glut, they ship it all to overseas buyers and this maintains the demand here keeping prices high. After being a shooting enthusiast for over 50 years I can hardly believe what these corporate folks are doing to us who built them. Of course, these same companies are also huge contributors to our “protective” group, the NRA! The shooting sports are on their last sunset,,,,,,,,,,,,,,watch and see,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Ray J.

Part of the Solution

Like several others have said, this powder shortage is, in all probability, not going to be a “short term” affair. From the questions I answer on several forums for persons new to reloading, and in other places regarding new shooters, I believe that long term demand is going to be at or above this level for years to come. We have a lot of new shooters and reloaders. Demand will NOT drop off even if “shooter friendly” politicians are elected, and in fact may go up even higher in that event. This IS the “new normal” and the powder manufacturers should be investing in new plant production capacity because this is not going away. We are woefully short of production capacity everywhere in the world, and have only one active plant in the United States. The old saw about “supply and demand” applies both ways… Demand, in a capitalist system, is supposed to drive up supply too, but it has not. As shooters and reloaders, we see NO plans to build new or increased plant capacity which is the only way this shortage is going to be addressed. We will remember, as customers, just who cared to do what was necessary and increased supply by building more production facilities to meet our long term increased demand.

I hope you are part of the solution.
H. Rowder

How Long Will We Be Denied?

I am sure you field a lot of question powder production. From other post’s I can see that the answer is that powder is going to ammunition manufacturers. However it still seems to not add up! Even though ammunition is starting to trickle back in the market place there still is shortages on popular calibers. Where is the product really going? The military is being scaled down, other components are improving on availability , but powder is NOT AVAILABLE! Seeing a 1lb can is not a sign that powder is back in the supply line for the people who hand load center fire ammunition! How much longer are we going to be denied the availability of these products?
Harland G.

Our powder goes both to the OEM market and to canister products for handloaders. No one is denying access to the product unless it is other handloaders. I don’t know when demand will begin to relax, but I strongly suspect that it will not happen until a change in administrations assures the American shooting public that their rights are secure.

Rob Behr

The New Normal

I understand the belief that demand will decrease eventually, but what if it doesn’t? I see many more young people, men and women at the shooting range now. This new found appreciation for the 2nd Amendment may just last a while! If powder manufacturers would have increased production capacity at the outset of this increased demand wouldn’t they have recovered the investment by now? Instead of expecting a drop off in the interest in shooting, consider that this may be the “new normal”.

Why Release a Manual when there is no Powder?

I really like True Blue and I found it to be very versatile. That is when I could find it at all..
I used to buy it at my local Big R Store but for nearly two years now it has been unavailable.
I realize there was a run on powder, primers and brass winter before last but that has run its course. Guns of all types are back in the stores and at prices lower than 2012, primers and brass are back, even; 223 ammo is back in bulk.
Still I can’t find Western Powders or .22 Rimfire ammunition.
I think your new blog is cool and I have your new load data manual but what good is that if I can’t get your powder?
I would appreciate someone giving me an honest answer as to where all your production is going.
Dave W.

Our production goes to canister products or to OEMs that manufacture ammunition. There is no secret government edict preventing us from obtaining or selling powder. If there was, we would tell you because selling powder is our business. Before the events in Sandy Hook and the Obama Administrations moves against the Second Amendment, powder production was already at 100% of capacity. There was no surplus of production waiting in the wings to be rolled out in the event of a huge spike in demand. As a result, the modest increases in powder production that have been managed have not begun to offset demand. We are frustrated, too.

The 5.0 guide was released to provide our customers with the most up-to-date data available, and we hoped, give them the best options for handloading with products at hand. Eventually supply and demand will even out, but it is going to be awhile.

Rob Behr


Today, out of blue I got your news letter for First time I’ve seen it. I’m sure I signed up at some point when requesting some load data info. Outstanding is all I can say!!!!

Were actually moving from the Midwest to AZ and a higher elevation. The subject on trap/clays at the higher elevation was like wow that will go in my toolbox for later use. My wife started shooting trap with a way for us to do more together. Me getting hurt (LEO disabled now) put an end to the other things we did that she enjoyed like rock climbing. It’s taken me several years to handle the constant recoil from a round of trap or skeet along with the weight of the gun. It just aggravated the hell out of my spinal injury. But reloading really light loads has helped with the recoil. We haven’t found a house yet and my wife already knows where the local trap n skeet clubs are. I can’t wait to see how her scores improve opening her Beretta up to skeet. At our club I know there are just some shots that would be damn impossible for her without a skeet choke. The birds get out there fast and it’s always windy. I’m sure she’ll be excited hearing when we move she can use her skeet choke.

I’m a vet of two branches and was 13 years as an LEO and special weapon’s officer before I got hurt. I was explaining to a buddy who knows very little about an AR but wanted to buy all sorts of different caliber uppers that one mistake mixing and the boom wouldn’t be pretty. He had said he read on a forum it was an urban myth. I showed him chamber sizes and the light bulb clicked. It’s great to see someone is showing how these accidents really happen. At same time I told him about all the chamber issues that were happening approx. 15 years ago because certain barrel makers or at home makers didn’t realize certain issues between 223 and 5.56 that it got so bad one chief who ran some of top AR course the first thing they did was check chambers because it was so common for them to have guns blow up during the course because of 223 chambers and a hot 5.56., but I told my buddy with as many people jumped into the AR craze during the panic, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t start seeing more barrels/guns blow up. Since then I’ve seen pictures of 3 on the net and they always blame solely the ammo but no one is checking chambers/head spacing. It seems like it wasn’t too long ago when it happened that was first thing people asked was check chamber and head spacing. With most that I’m aware of proven to play a part in what went wrong. If that old issue has really arisen again it would be nice to see a reminder. I was shocked when I was told there was never an issue like that. The guy was actually hostile and it seemed on at least forums where the members are all newer most aren’t aware. I’ve always said at some point those guns and barrels are going to hit the used market again. The numbers may be low enough where it doesn’t really matter anyways. But I’m one of those if I can avoid a mistake from knowledge I want to know about it.

The reloading tips are sweet too. I took a long break from reloading. That whole unlimited ammo thing spoiled me. But know it’s all about reloading again to save money. It drives me nuts all I’ve forgotten and the refreshers about common mistakes was something that helped me.
Thank you,
Mark D

A Crackshot Fan

Just reading Gene Haynes short article, I’m a few years older than Gene, but a Stevens Crackshot was also my first rifle, and I still have the Winchester 77 .22 from my younger days, I bought the Stevens Crackshot from a neighbor for $2.00 because the bore was in very sad condition from years of Black powder .22 ammo and not proper cleaning. On paper, the bullet would key hole, but it was still accurate enough to hit a rabbit at 50 yards. But needing transportation, I traded it off for a bicycle. Sometimes wish I’d have kept that old Stevens, in spite of the bores condition!

221 Fireball: Blazing Away with LT-30

JimwaddellBy Jim Waddell

I noticed recently an inquiry made to Dear Labby regarding data for the .221 Remington Fireball, using Accurate’s new LT-30 powder.  Barry, I hope you read this as I’ve had very good results with this combination.

lt3072I’ve been shooting this caliber for about 6-7 years now after purchasing a Remington 700 Classic, new in the box.  When I first started working up loads for this rifle, I hadn’t had much experience with Accurate powders.  I used Lil Gun from Hodgdon and I tried IMR’s 4227 and 4198.

Right from the beginning I found where the barrel of this rifle evidently had some tool marks or otherwise a rougher than ideal finish as it would foul pretty badly after just a few shots.  This was after going through a break-in regimen suggested by one of the major custom barrel makers.  Whether a rough bore was my problem or the rifle just didn’t do well with the powders listed, I didn’t have very good results with accuracy.

After getting an advanced lesson in getting carbon and copper fouling out of a barrel, I persisted in developing loads for the Fireball.  That made a big difference in accuracy.  I bought a can of 1680 and without getting into boring details I ended up with an accuracy load of 19.0 grains with a 40 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip.

Last year, I got a can of LT-30 after I found it had a burn rate that should work well in the .221 Fireball.  Always the experimenter, I just had to try it in this caliber and also, the .222 Remington.

.224 Nosler Ballistic Tip 40-grain.

.224 Nosler Ballistic Tip 40-grain.

I should mention that early in my testing with the Fireball, I quickly learned it did not like 50 grain bullets which was fine with me as I preferred 40’s in this caliber.  The ballistics of the 40 grainers fit more of what my shooting preferences are.  All of my load testing and shooting has been with 40 grain plastic tips from Sierra, Hornady and Nosler.

I contacted the lab at Western Powders and was told they did intend to test LT-30 in the .221, sometime in the near future.  In the meantime it was suggested I start with 16.5 grains and work up slowly from there.

221 group B 72Starting at 16.5 grains of LT-30 I loaded many groups of 5, increasing the powder charge a half grain until I reached 18.0.  At this load, I started seeing slight signs of pressure in the primers.   There weren’t any other symptoms of excessive pressure but caution told me to stop there.  I tested this powder in this manner, using Nosler Ballistic Tips, Nosler Varmageddon tipped, flat base, (they also make a boat-tail hollowpoint), and Sierra’s Blitzking.  Again, all of these bullets were 40 grains.

The first tests were with Remington cases as I had several hundred saved up.  Remington was the only U.S. component supplier to make brass in this caliber and very difficult to get.  I haven’t confirmed this but I recently heard Remington is going to discontinue making fireball brass.  I used Remington 7 ½ benchrest primers throughout.

221 groups 72Test results were better than expected.  I had no unacceptable groups, meaning all shot close to MOA, some groups well under MOA.  This was with all bullets tested.  Again, my rifle isn’t anything close to being a benchrest or target model.  It’s light weight with a fluted, sporter-weight barrel, 22 inches long.

The best groups attained were those around 17 to 17.5 grains.  The few I loaded to 18 grains started spreading out.  I selected as my best load that shot consistently at around .75 or less, 17.5 grains under the tipped Varmageddon.  I used this load earlier this spring on a ground squirrel hunt in southern Oregon and got fantastic results consistently out to 250 yards and beyond.

The difference in accuracy between 1680 and LT-30 in my rifle is minute.  LT-30 gets the nod but only slightly and I was told by Rob at Western, LT-30 should produce higher velocity than 1680.  I didn’t take the time to chronograph any of these loads.  I do like 1680 better in my Redding powder measure as it meters more reliably than the extruded LT-30 but for my varmint loads, I take the extra time to weigh them anyway so that point is moot.

Just in case the rumor is true about Remington discontinuing .221 brass, I tightened my belt and dug deep into my piggy bank and ordered a couple hundred new cases from Lapua.  Some of the benchrest shooters at our local gun club swear by Lapua brass.  They tell me the extra cost of the brass is offset in spades by its lifespan as they can get twice as many loadings and even more, than the stuff made here.

The Original .221 Fireball, Remington's XP-100

The Original .221 Fireball, Remington’s XP-100

In testing the Lapua cases, I am making the switch.  I really appreciate the bullet pull or case-neck tension being consistent throughout.  The flash holes are drilled rather than punched which means more consistent ignition for finer accuracy.  It did make a difference in accuracy over my Remington brass.  It might be expensive but it’s available.

So in answering Barry’s question to Dear Labby, yes, LT-30 works great in the .221 Fireball.  I have no experience in reduced loads in this caliber.  When I want a load that shoots less, I stick the .221 in the rack and grab the .22 Hornet.



Important Steps to 9 x 19mm +P Defense Load Success

9mmhp72 By Kevin L. Newberry

The first step has to be a conscious decision concerning the possible ramifications of using your own handloads for defense. Arguments both pro and con are numerous. This is NOT a recommendation by the author, or Western Powder Company that you make and carry your own defense loads and by doing so; you personally accept all responsibility and liability. Some respected experts and trainers advise against this practice while the incidents of prosecution after a defense shooting because handloads were used are as rare as hen’s teeth. That does not mean that it can’t happen to you! You must know the legal ramifications in your own state as well as the local political climate. Here in Texas, when a self defense shooting is deemed justifiable you are protected against being sued in civil court. That may not be the case in your state and I am certainly not familiar with the statutes of each and every state. This article is simply a “how to” to make sure that the handloader is correctly following the necessary steps in developing their own loads. And for those that carry 9 x 19mm pistols in the field for small game hunting, you may find this article enlightening as well. That is my aim in writing it.

There will not be any shortcuts taken here and let me just say this up front: if you find some of these steps too complicated or extraneous for your particular skill level as a handloader, I recommend that you stick with good factory loaded defense ammo for now. I am now in my 29th year of handloading and part of the reason why I’m writing this comes from having handloaded 9 x 19mm ammunition according to the pressure standard that existed before 9 x 19mm +P.

9mmgroup72Now, I know that there are some great defense loads available today. As good as we’ve ever seen and largely contributable to advances in jacketed hollowpoint design. There are, however, those who believe that they can do better. I feel that you should find it incumbent upon yourself to verify any of the techniques I will provide. Not on an internet gun forum, but in your handloading manuals.9mm Para+P  9mm Parabellum data

My participation on gun forums is very limited today. Largely do to some issues I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraph and it grieves me to no end at how many supposed “experts” will offer advice where you’d be far better off consulting your manuals. In many cases those “experts” should do the same. Discouraging newer handloaders against taking the time to develop technical competency is particularly high on my list of grievances. Like a number of other writers here, there was no internet when I started handloading. I am completely self taught through the writings of true experts and I am glad for it. My background in design and related engineering disciplines was a great benefit to me, but none more so than the handloaders who preceded me whom made invaluable contributions in writing from their own experience. None of the techniques I will offer are particularly difficult. If you are reasonably proficient with arithmetic and using your precision measuring tools with a comfortable level of dexterity, you won’t have any problem using these techniques. If you have any questions about anything stated, consult your manuals. I also encourage your feedback.

As we examine some historical aspects of the cartridge it would be difficult not to consider some of the debate regarding defense load effectiveness or the elusive subject of “stopping power.” In my opinion, in just the past few years we have seen some significant achievements. In particular, some excellent research by Charles Schwartz whom I believe brings some invaluable data to the discussion with empirical evidence for those doing their own testing in regard to expansion, penetration and predicting the performance of jacketed hollowpoints in 10% ordnance gel, the perceived grail for testing defense load effectiveness these days. His book entitled Quantitative Ammunition Selection can be found at retail outlets such as Barnes & Noble or at Amazon.

Considering methods used by handloaders to test JHP effectiveness in the past, myself most definitely included, can be humorous to say the least. Some, “LOL” funny! Stuffing strips of paper into 1 gallon water jugs has been used by some fellas I know. I have fired into wet newsprint placed before the water jugs as well as after them. And of course, there are those whom you can find on YouTube who use the real thing, 10% ordnance gel calibrated to the FBI standard. In shooting thousands, if not tens of thousands of rounds to conclude his theorem of modified fluid dynamics rated 94%, “To 700 points of manufacturer and laboratory test data, the quantitative model allows the use of water to generate terminal ballistic test results equivalent to those obtained in calibrated ten percent ordnance gelatin.”Ordnace gel testing72

The Schwartz method is without a doubt more exacting than my method where he places a chronograph just before a series of water baggies. Using the velocity and the diameter of the recovered bullet, his formula predicts performance in ordnance gelatin. Accuracy at 94% of 700 data points was enough to convert me from being a skeptic into a believer.

jugs of water72This is one instance where I do use a simplified method of my own. I just line up 1 gallon water jugs touching back-to-back and fire my defense handloads into them from twelve feet after finding the average velocity of 10 rounds with their Standard Deviation firing from the bench with my chrono twelve feet from the muzzle before water testing. From my experience of testing in comparison to factory defense loads, penetration through 2 jugs into the third indicates adequate performance. Penetration through 3 jugs and into the 4th is excellent and the goal for my own loads. What I really like to see is a JHP just barely or not penetrating into the 4th jug. In some cases these JHPs will impact the last wall of the 3rd jug without escaping it while bursting a hole in the 4th jug. Penetration completely through 4 jugs is excessive and a lack of expansion will be the culprit. So, I rarely line up more than 5 jugs and sometimes just the 4. I have yet to see a JHP penetrate all 4 jugs and look like anything I would want to use in a defense load. Some bullet-makers seem to be unaware of how ineffective their JHP designs really are. That is the methodology for all of the handgun defense calibers I use personally: 9 x 19mm, .357 Magnum and .45 ACP.splash72

Also, examine the expanded core; you don’t want to automatically assume that a bullet needs higher velocity, but when the expanded core still has a prominent dimple in its center, it can be made to perform better with additional velocity. For me, this is more of an issue with JHPs that have high mass in relation to caliber; particularly if they find their way into the 4th jug. A recent example would be a .45 ACP load I’ve been developing with the Hornady 230 grain XTP over Ramshot Silhouette. I like the XTPs a great deal and I believe that they are very much underrated as bullets for defense. They share a common feature with Hornady’s Interlock rifle bullets with both having an internal interlocking ring that binds the core to the jacket. In short, they hold together very well. Most of the complaints come from them not expanding as large in diameter as some of the “new tech” JHP bullets. But, when safe pressure allows you to increase the powder charge for higher velocity, things change for the better. Regarding my 230 grain .45 ACP load, at 863 FPS it was barely contained by the 4th one gallon water jug. The dimple in the center of the core was fairly prominent so I wanted to achieve two goals: decrease penetration and increase expansion which I have done to my satisfaction at around 900 FPS from my 4.5” Ruger SR45. Recovered diameter is ¾” or better while the possibility of over-penetration is significantly reduced. A 230 grain JHP with a muzzle energy of 418 Ft/lbs coming to an abrupt stop will definitely get someone’s attention. But let’s look at another aspect that I see mentioned all too rarely, momentum in its true physical form rather than expressing it by power factor. The formula is not difficult and after a shortcut it will be even easier.

M = W / (7000 x 32.174) = W / 225218

Where M is the bullet mass and W is bullet weight in grains. The factor 7000 converts grains to pounds and 32.174 Ft/second/second is the acceleration due to gravity.

Momentum = M x V where the result is expressed in lb-seconds. To simplify, I get the same result by multiplying Bullet weight multiplied by velocity then divided by 225218. Nothing so hard about that, right? In the case of my .45 ACP XTP load that’s 230 x 900 / 225218 = .919 lb-seconds. Also, if you calculate momentum in lb-seconds there is a shortcut to convert it to kinetic energy at the muzzle.

Momentum x (velocity / 2) = Muzzle Energy

By comparison, loads that are becoming too common these days, IMO, are the subsonic 147 grain JHP loads. By no means is this any .45 vs. 9mm debate. I shoot and love both but I don’t use any subsonic defense load in 9mm. I simply wanted to show the numbers for a defense bullet that has a large amount of momentum with energy above 400 ft/lbs. So when your internet gun guru states that kinetic energy is insignificant because of “new tech magic bullets,” ask them what “new tech” JHP performance parameters are most controlled by. From physics we now that energy is defined as the ability to do work. And even for the newest wonder-bullet, their performance parameters are based on necessary energy levels. My particular problem with this is the high degree of dependency on performance in ordnance gelatin and we’ll get to more of that later. I live in the real-world, the physical world with physical solutions. Regarding a subsonic 9mm 147 gr. JHP, I’ll be fair with an average velocity of 975 FPS: 147 x 975 / 225218 = .636 lb-seconds, approximately 2/3 the momentum of the 230 grain .45 ACP load. Since we now have the momentum for the 9mm 147 gr. JHP, lets use it with the shortcut I mentioned: .636 x (975 / 2) =  310 Ft/lbs. combined with .636 lb-seconds of momentum. No thank you, very much.

The momentum isn’t terrible, but with energy so low I’m just not going to count on ballistic gel performance being conclusive enough for the real world. Another example for added perspective would be a 9mm 115 grain +P+ load at 1350 FPS. Energy is 466 ft/lbs with momentum at .689 lb-seconds and higher than the 147 grain JHP load. Power factor is 155. I believe that recoil plays a major role in all of this. Some shooters just don’t want to have to deal with it whether it be for physical or fiscal reasons where you need to shoot as often as your schedule allows; not necessarily what your wallet allows. Sure, you’re wallet is a deciding factor, but low cost cast lead and particularly poly-coated lead bullets will stretch your shooting budget. Not to beat a dying horse but it’s one of the reasons we handload: so that we can shoot more frequently. The velocity limitations of poly-coated bullets are still higher than you’ll be loading with practical defense weights, 115 grains and heavier in 9mm. My personal preference is 124 grains and heavier. Load them fast enough that they can mimic the recoil of your carry load. This is not about making light paper punching loads; it’s about realistic training and learning how to deal with recoil.

Regarding my own shooting history, revolvers were seen at the range much more frequently when I started out. I was shooting .357 & .41 Magnums before I fired my first round of 9mm. I’m not a big fan of 115 grain JHPs and 124 grain JHPs are the norm for me. I feel more comfortable when momentum is above .650 /lb-seconds. 1250 FPS is safely achievable with 124 grain JHPs with proper loading techniques and I can not stress highly enough the importance of using only a few select powders for the application. This is defined somewhat similarly to the case of adequate bullets for big game by Sectional Density which we will also cover.

I recently saw the question of handgun cartridge energy come up and it was addressed succinctly by an experienced hand who simply stated ( to those who believe handgun rounds do not have enough kinetic energy to make any difference in terminal performance ) “shoot the same weight/same velocity FMJ ( or any non-expanding bullet ) and JHP into water jugs and see if you notice any difference.

As I was coming up in handloading and listening to the same old worn out debates on 9mm vs. .45 ACP I would see energy disparaged because of velocity being squared in the formula appearing to give the advantage to the faster bullet. Einstein didn’t think so with his equation of E = MC2. Not that we mind so much in our .3ZX magnum rifle load. By the same token, in the calculation of momentum, mass is the dominant factor. The heavier the bullet, the greater the momentum at a given velocity. Where does the answer lie? IMO, somewhere in the middle. I want as much of both as can be practically achieved. A little later in the article will discuss a 9mm load I’ve developed in the past and revisited recently with a different, and old favorite powder, a 9mm 147 gr. XTP that chronographs around 1125 FPS from my 4.14” Ruger SR9. For pistols with barrels of 4.5” or longer you may see an increase to 1150 FPS from your service pistol. That’s 432 ft/lbs of KE at the muzzle, and higher than that of the 230 grain .451 XTP, while its momentum of .751 lb-seconds is an appreciable increase in momentum over the subsonic load. For comparison, my 124 gr. JHP loads at 1250 FPS produce 430 ft/lbs of KE at the muzzle with .688 lb/seconds of momentum. Again, sectional density comes into play here. This is not about increasing velocity for velocities sake, or just to increase energy. In times past before bullets like the Hyda-Shok, Golden Saber and the Black Talon, some conventional cup-and-core JHPs could experience clogging of the cavity due to things like clothing and other barriers. In most cases these loads were underpowered. If we increase velocity and energy at the muzzle we also increase impact momentum, lessening the effect of potential clogging.147 9 xtp72

Another consideration? My 230 grain XTP load in .45 ACP has a power factor of 207 where the subsonic 147 grain JHP load in 9mm is significantly lower at 143. The 124 grain handload ( 1250 FPS ) is at 155 while the 147 grain handload ( 1150 FPS ) is at 169 PF. The shooting world believes that the FBI protocols for ammunition performance are the latest gospel. Many are not aware that the Texas Department of Public Safety preceded them by about 10 years with the same barrier tests when they ultimately adopted the SIGARMS P226 & P229 in .357 SIG. The newer “wonder bullets” were not out as yet and no load in .40 S&W or .45 ACP passed all of their tests required for selection. Only one other load did, a 9mm 147 grain JHP load rated +P+ that the DPS passed on it because of the negative connotations that might be associated with the +P+ label by an uniformed press. Concluding the tests, the Texas DPS found that the acceptable level of recoil for new cadets from small females to large males, expressed in power factor, is 160.

So, let’s take a look at some essential tools you’ll need, particularly if you decide to load up toward and into 9 x 19mm +P pressure levels.

  1. A chronograph is an absolute necessity.
  1. The caliper that you probably already own. There is one measurement we’ll be making where a micrometer can be used, where with the greater number of graduations for those mics that are accurate to and read to 1/10,000”, that’s one Ten-Thousandth, you can read changes to a more finite scale although not a necessity.
  1. A fine line felt tip marker.

One of the most important considerations in making high velocity 9 x 19mm handloads is Overall Cartridge Length, whatever abbreviation you use. The one I type and write is OACL and several more are in common usage as we know. What many do not understand is that OACL recommendations given by the data provider are strictly starting points where you’ll often see it stated that the load should not be shorter. The data providers have no way of knowing what pistols the loads will be used with, and as far as pistol chambers go, you won’t see as much variation among different makes and models as you will in 9mm Luger, Parabellum or 9 x 19mm pistols. For those of you who have not started loading for rifles as yet, you may see slightly exaggerated statements regarding the difference between loading for handguns and loading for rifles. In truth, there are a good number of similarities, particularly where exacting results are the expectation. I love to save a buck wherever I can but it is not what attracted me to handloading. The ability to make better ammunition than you can buy was my particular attraction, with the cost savings being a bonus. For benchrest rifle shooters, there are additional steps often taken that are not common to loading for hunting rifles and handguns. There are, however, a number of procedures that I find common to making my hunting loads for rifles as well as my magnum revolver hunting and defensive handgun loads. Production rate is not one of them. My defense loads are crafted as carefully as my hunting loads while I’m the quality control department; usually loading single-stage or single-station with a LEE Classic Turret press. Getting back to OACL, there is a statement in my SPEER #11 printed in 1986 that when the 9 x 19mm’s pressure maximum according to SAAMI was 35,700 CUP. Don’t worry, we’ll get into that as well. The point being that with their 9mm loads (that are not quite as short as many recommendations for OACL that you see today) they state that a load rated 28,000 CUP went to 62,000 CUP when the bullet was seated .030” deeper into the case. You just don’t want to load shorter than what is given by the data provider, and in many cases, it’s just not necessary to load as short. One unique example unto itself being the Remington Golden Sabers (if you can find any) and that we’ll discuss as well as a possible solution for pistol barrels/chambers with short throats.

There are some fine measuring tools for finding the proper OACL for a load in a bolt-action rifle or an auto-loading pistol. This is one of those “crossovers” I mentioned between loading for rifle and pistol. I don’t use the tools personally because I use an older and proven technique. No pistol caliber in my experience is easier to gauge than the 9 x 19mm. It should be done for every weight/style bullet for the pistol it will be fired from! I can’t think of many precise measurements that are easier to do with jacketed bullets of nominal diameter, .355” in this case.

First you’ll need a FIRED 9 x 19mm case with the spent primer still in place as a safety precaution. I use Winchester cases by habit but others will work as well. If not, find a fired WIN case because almost anyone who picks up their brass at the range is going to end up picking up spent cases from someone who fired White-Box ammo and left their cases on the ground. Do NOT resize the case! Remove the slide from your pistol, the one you’ll be carrying the load in, and remove the barrel from the slide. Take the defense bullet you plan to use and just barely start it into the FIRED case. You want it to be longer than the SAAMI max. spec. for OACL which is 1.169”. This I’ll refer to as the “dummy” cartridge. With the muzzle of the barrel pointed down for all following procedures, drop the “dummy” into the barrel chamber. The case-rim will extend above the barrel hood, which most barrels have, which is at the top of the chamber where barrel length is measured from. Now, gently push on the case-rim until it stops forward travel. This is the point where the case-MOUTH has come into contact with the shoulder inside the chamber where the throat/leade is in the barrel, and where the rifling/lands begin. Once the case-mouth has stopped at the chambers shoulder, the rifling/lands of the barrel have seated the bullet to its “Max. Possible OACL.”

Some rifle loaders set OACL to crowd the lands as close as possible. The old rule-of-thumb is to allow .010” of freebore for the bullet to “jump” to the rifling/lands. In other words, your handloads will need to be .010” shorter than the “Max. Possible OACL” that you find from measuring the “dummy’s” OACL with your caliper. Make up 5 “dummies” or use the same one 5 times and repeat this test, what you want to see is that in each test event you’re getting the same “Max. Possible OACL.” Regardless of which autoloading handgun cartridge you load, the bottom of the case should NOT extend beyond the barrel hood. That can cause an out-of-battery condition. You may see diagrams of this at various websites or in your manuals. Ideally, the cartridge base should be flush with the barrel hood or about 1mm below it and no more.

SR972Part of the decision on how long your handloads can be is a function of the OACL variations from your press and seating die. Do not try to seat and crimp in one operation. It will contribute to greater variations in OACL. Since different presses and dies have different tolerances I recommend that you shorten your defense loads by .010” shorter than the “dummy.” Just as in the case of your best hunting rifle load, the bullet of your handload should NOT be touching anything in the throat/leade upon cartridge ignition. This can cause an unsafe pressure condition. Also be aware that some 9mm pistols like the Ruger SR9 will allow for a longer OACL than what will function in its magazines. Obviously your handloads have to be short enough to have some travel clearance in the magazine. For pistol barrels we’re not quite dealing with the same precision of a rifle load/chamber; neither are we dealing with near the same amount of pressure in most cases. The principles are similar but you can allow for more bullet “jump” without an appreciable degradation in accuracy. To make things even simpler, you can just shorten your handloads to the next lower .5mm. Just so we’re square on that I’ll list those various lengths that I use in both SI and Standard units. The longest I load to is 29.5mm/1.161”, then 29mm/1/142”, 28.5mm/1.122” and only when you’re forced to load as short, 28mm/ 1.102”. Here is one example where maybe we can cover everything and this particular OACL will be coming up later in the article. Okay, you just barely start your JHP into the fired case and drop it into the chamber. To avoid confusion at this point we’re talking about a longer 147 grain JHP. You gently push on the case-rim until it stops, then you remove it from the chamber. With your caliper, say you measure the “Max. Possible OACL” @ 1.175”. Repeat the test 4 more times to make sure the “dummy” consistently measures 1.175” each time. This is over the SAAMI spec. for Max. OACL and may not work in your magazines. A good many brands of pistols have magazines that will not allow you to crowd the Max. spec. of 1.169”. Shortening by .010” for your loaded rounds will get you under that @ 1.165” but here I would drop down to 29.5mm/1.161” and even then, some magazines will not work with loads as long. You could shorten to 29mm/1.142” or seat the bullet shorter in finer increments until the loads will function in the magazine.

One thing I want to stress here is part of my testing procedure at the range. When I’m function testing, particularly if I have the range to myself, I’m going to rip through a few fully loaded magazines firing the pistol as fast as I can while being able to control the pistol: maybe even faster than what some might consider “Spray-and-Pray.” Something I would very much advise against save for the cause of function testing your new load in the magazines they’ll be carried in. If you have a man-sized silhouette target, firing the rounds as fast as you can keep them in the mid torso of the silhouette will suffice. Remember, your range rules may not allow you to do this. Find a place where you can. Your handloads must function with at least 100% reliability! Accept no substitute!

chrono72Okay, call me OCD at this point because I’ve heard that many times, as well as hearing that the powder charge does not have to be exactly the same in each cartridge. Maybe I’m OCD on that as well because I prefer to use dense spherical powders, ball or flattened ball in my handloads. One side benefit that can be useful is that they almost invariably give lower and less offensive muzzle-flash, which at night can rob you of your visual acuity after the first round is fired. Then there are commercial powders available such as Ramshot Silhouette that have a flash inhibitor as part of the powders chemistry. Why obsess with minimum OACL variations and exact powder charges? Well, in my case I put 10 rounds over the chrono but only fire a few in the water jug test. The more closely that each round in the magazine performs exactly the same, the more consistent you can expect the result to be at a time when you really have to put it to the test. Another misnomer, in case you don’t own a chronograph at the moment is that the only data you need is average velocity and extreme spread. Pay the $10 more for a unit that calculates and provides Standard Deviation when you want it! I want it at the time of testing and I’m too impatient to wait until I get back home to download the 10 round strings into a spreadsheet program or SD calculator. Extreme spread is simply the difference between the highest and lowest velocity round fired. That I can do in my head. My mathematical expertise is in engineering, I am NOT a statistician. If you ask a statistician about SD, Standard Deviation, you’re going to get a rather lengthy answer covering things like confidence limits, population size, etc. Just a few chronographs have an accuracy rated better than +/- 1% and that’s good enough for handgun ballistics. Chronographing 10 rounds in a string works fine for me. Some guys use 20 round strings and some as few as 5 rounds. I think you’ll find that the majority use 10 shot strings. My quick and dirty description of Standard Deviation is that it will tell you how far your velocities are spread about the norm calculated by the chronograph. The lower you can get the SD of a load the better chance you have of all 10 rounds in the string (or how ever many you fire in your strings) the more similarly those loads are likely to perform on target. You don’t have to obsess, particularly not with high pressure pistol cartridges. You’ll be running near or above the standard Maximum Average Pressure, or MAP, where with a good powder getting an SD of near 10 is not difficult. An SD below 10 is very good and if your load performs like you want it to with SD dropping down close to 5, call it good and go on to the next project. While I’m on this subject, let me touch on poly-coated bullets for a moment. Our esteemed & fearless editor knows that I’m a True Blue fanatic and if you check back a few pages here on the e-mag you’ll see that I wrote an article about it. I have found absolutely nothing that would suggest that poly-coating takes anything away from accuracy. I have a tack-driving 9mm load that I am glad to share. The only problem is that Blue Bullet’s discontinued this particular bullet style that I describe as a 125 grain RN-SWC. The nose is round, but like a SWC the shank above the shoulder/driving band is smaller in diameter. SNS Casting still sells this poly-coated style last time I checked. Do the test for OACL/chamber length for your bullet. You might be able to use my OACL in pistols that would not allow the use of a JHP as long. With the Blue Bullet’s 125 grain RN-SWC over 6.2 grains of True Blue loaded to an OACL of 29mm/1.142” with a CCI-500 primer it’s a tack-driver from my 4.14” SR9. Average velocity is 1122 FPS, extreme spread is 12 FPS with an Standard Deviation of 3!

Truth be told there aren’t many defensive cartridges I load where I can’t get standard deviation below 10 using True Blue, even with .357 Magnum loads for my 2 ¾” Ruger Speed-Six. It’s also a very undiscovered powder for .45 ACP, IMO. For carry loads with 124 gr. JHPs in 9mm I tend to use Silhouette because of its very low flash through chemical treating. Powders like True Blue, AA#5 and #7 are low flashing by a combination of their very high bulk densities and small physical size. We’ll explore this later as well. With my 124 grain 9mm loads at 1250 FPS using Silhouette the standard deviations have ran as low as 6. With 230 gr. XTPs in .45 ACP with warm charges of Silhouette I can get SD down below 10. Just keep in mind that in .45 ACP and its much lower operating pressure your Silhouette loads will run better close to or at Max. Charges.

As we get into pressure lets start by clearing up another misconception. In my Lyman 46th edition there is a chapter titled A Limited Comparison of the Crusher and Piezo systems. Some handloaders will tell you that case expansion, or the measure of, it will not contribute any meaningful data. Near the end of that chapter the authors state, “For peak chamber pressures between 15,000 and 40,000 PSI, Figure 3-8 suggests that there is an approximately linear relationship between pressure and case expansion.” In case you don’t have this article, Figure 3-8 is a graph showing the amount of case expansion by thousandths of an inch correlating to pressures from 15,000 to 60,000 CUP. While we’re on this subject, let me state that these authors conclude that:

“The key advantage of the piezoelectric transducer is the ability to generate the complete pressure-versus-time history of the internal ballistic process, whereas the copper crusher gage is capable of measuring on the peak magnitude of the pressure pulse.”

Some will tell you that the piezoelectric transducer system (PSI) is superior to the copper crusher (CUP) method as far as consistency of the peak pressure measurements. Yet, there are those like Lyman and Hodgdon that continue to test pressure in CUP to make sure their data does not exceed established limits. Lyman’s 9 x 19mm data uses the CUP system for both Start and Maximum charges as is the case for much of their handgun data. There is no empirical evidence that the piezoelectric system measures peak pressure any more accurately than by the CUP method. Since both tests can be conducted simultaneously, some choose to do so. We’ll get into this some more when we dig into 9 x 19mm pressure. Now I’ve mentioned Lyman data several times already and I will tell you this: in my 29 years of handloading I have never had a single problem using Lyman data. In fact, in my time at various reloading sections on the various gun forums I have encouraged those who do not have a Lyman manual to get one. The reason being is to help handloaders better understand the pressure characteristics of different powders used to load the same bullet in the same caliber; especially when the pressure is listed. Unfortunately, some of the excellent articles in the 46th have not been included in later editions. One reason I’ve never updated mine. To stay abreast of handgun powders that have come along since then, and newer pistol calibers as well, I have the Lyman Pistol & Revolver 3rd edition. It has also helped me to gain a better understanding of the 3 most common pressure rating system we’ll encounter, SAAMI PSI, SAAMI CUP and CIP PSI. We’ll be discussing all 3 as we progress. There is another that I’m familiar with from hydraulics, but BARS is typically used only by Europeans as well as measurements in Mega-Paschals.

cratered primer72During some of my research in past years I had some conversations with another researcher whose main interest was the .357 SIG, but he made a lot of head-to-head comparisons to the 9 x 19mm including the +P version. He was a fervent practitioner of measuring case-head expansion as he worked toward maximum loads from data, and as he exceeded it. Trying to determine pressure or overpressure from the condition of the primer post firing is not as conclusive as some believe. Craterring is definitely one condition that is an indication of overpressure and there are others like pierced primers. Flattening of the primer is not always conclusive with handgun loads as compared to higher pressure rifle loads. As an example, if an ammo-maker loaded one of my 124 grain JHP loads at 1250 FPS you can be guaranteed that they’re gonna slap a +P label on it. Depending on the powder used, I rarely see anything close to flattened primers with those loads. I can not make the following statement definitively without empirical evidence because I honestly don’t spend a lot of time concerning myself with it. But, it may well be a function of the burn rate of the powder selected in relation to the cartridges operating pressure.

I don’t mean to bemoan the practices of my host, but not so long ago Western Powders provided 9mm +P data for every powder they sell that has application in handgun handloads including Nitro 100 and Competition. In my opinion, such data is misguided. In the Western #5 load guide we see that the data for the powders used for 9mm loads are listed by burn rate. The +P data did the same. It seemed to me as something of an exercise in futility and I strongly recommend that you do not attempt to make any 9mm +P load with a powder that has an inappropriate burn rate, i.e. fast or very fast burning powders that in some cases might even be double-charged. Make sure to examine the powder charge level in every case when developing any handload and particularly high velocity or +P loads. So from the powders listed, disregard those that are faster burning than Silhouette. Accurate #5 is a fine handgun powder, but I would not use it either. Silhouette, True Blue and Accurate #7 have the demonstrated pressure stability that is essential. This is not some exercise to get to 38,500 PSI; its about getting as much velocity as possible with acceptable pressure.

The correct location for measuring expansion of the case-head on the 9mm’s case is .200” above the rim. As an example from the Lyman graph I mentioned, there was an increase of .001” when raising pressure from 30,000 CUP to 35,000 CUP and another .001” of expansion when going from 35,000 CUP to 40,000 CUP. I don’t have the pressure testing equipment I’d like to, but from the 35,700 CUP data I’ve been using for many years none of the loads we’ll be discussing should even reach 35,000 CUP. What I do is to mark as fine of a line as possible at that location and then make a measurement before and after firing the round. I’m mainly concerned with increases of .001” so I use my Mitutoyo dial caliper. I can estimate half of that, or .0005” for test purposes. Now I’ll explain my earlier remarks about using a micrometer for this. Rather than the sharp blades on the caliper a micrometer, unless you have the blade type, will have flat probes. No big deal except that the 9 x 19mm has a tapered case. So when you measure the fine line you marked at .200” above the rim, only the bottom leading edge of the probes should be on that line with the mic. body above it. The advantage of using a mic that measures in 1/10,000th” graduations is that you can more closely examine case expansion with each increase in powder charge. Using the dial caliper, you can wait until you near Max. charges from the data before you began taking measurements of the case-head. When you believe that your handloads are near the SAAMI standard pressure limit of 35,000 PSI (or 33,000 CUP), start measuring case-heads before and after firing to see what is normal. You may see some variation because barrel chambers are not all exactly alike. Case expansion from standard pressure loads near or at the top end will tell you what your particular chamber allows case expansion to be. If you increase powder charges from there and into the +P range, ideally, case-head expansion should not go above .001” and less is better. Rob Behr and I had a good discussion some time back about the case-head strength of the 9 x 19mm cartridge. Pound for pound, very few pistol cartridges have greater case-head strength and some of those that do were derived from the 9 x 19mm, i.e. cartridges like the 9 x 23mm Winchester.

40 180 72I was one of those who jumped on the .40 S&W bandwagon very early on. I never had one single problem and the opinion I shared with others was never use a flake powder faster burning than Unique, or a spherical faster than N330 for standard pressure loads. In the case of new handloaders and loading for any handgun cartridge I’ve always advised that they use a powder that will fill at least 50% of the case. Double charges should never happen, yet we know that they do. Using a powder that gives greater than 50% case-fill is obviously going to spill over in the event of a double charge. In Lyman’s .40 S&W data you’ll notice 2 things. 1, they rated pressure in CUP, and 2, they did not exceed 24,000 CUP. This is because of pistols that may not adequately support the case-head. While they use powders faster burning than what I’d recommend for standard pressure loads, the data is perfectly safe if you’re looking to make target rounds with a faster burning powder.

Now we get to 9 x 19mm pressure levels. As I stated, when I started out in the mid-eighties, the 9 x 19mm had a SAAMI pressure limit of 35,700 CUP. There is a good bit of confusion regarding various pressure ratings for different designations. In my opinion, it started with the inception of 9mm +P. If you Google overpressure ammunition you can learn a few things on the subject. One article at Wikipedia isn’t bad but it has a few errors in regard to the 9mm. They, like some handloaders will tell you is that +P ammunition is approximately 10% over standard pressure and how the +P limit of 38,500 PSI was reached. SAAMI was testing in PSI by piezoelectric transducer by that time. This is one of those cases where the cart came before the horse because there was no PSI value to raise by 10%. In the early part of the article they mention that +P ratings were derived, in some cases, from the cartridges previous rating before being lowered. So, only having the pre-existing value of 35,700 CUP to work with it appears much more likely that when they tested in PSI it came out very close to 38,500 PSI. After reducing standard pressure to 35,000 PSI some data providers began listing pressure in both standards, 35,000 PSI and 33,000 CUP. It has been my opinion for many years that 9mm +P at 38,500 PSI is little more than those previously rated 35,700 CUP. We are not greatly affected in this country by the CIP system which is tested differently than SAAMI PSI. When Vihta Vouri powders first started appearing in the US, their data for the 9 x 19mm went up to 36,300 PSI. CIP has since lowered that to just above 34,000 PSI.

Unlike the SAAMI CUP and PSI systems where a mechanical or electronic device is pressed or crushed by the cartridge case at a location about mid-chamber, the CIP system requires a hole to be drilled in the case where the piezoelectric transducer is directly affected by the burning and expanding gasses. I was recently enlightened on the CIP method by Rob Behr. Western’s former ballistician, Johan Loubser who was with Accurate Powder Company when they were acquired by Western, once told me that the CIP system was the most accurate of the 3 and expected SAAMI to adopt it in the future. That hasn’t happened yet but there is one cartridge familiar to us that is affected by the CIP, or Commission International Permanente, and that is the 9mm NATO round. Its pressure rating was established by CIP and it is set at 36,500 PSI. In my way of thinking, everything could be made much easier if everyone used one common standard. Since most of the European pistols we buy are used by one country or another’s military, we know that many of those countries are members of the NATO alliance and it just wouldn’t make sense for them to not make their pistols robust enough for the NATO standard and then some. In years past, Ruger stated in their 9mm pistol instruction manuals that their pistols were made to be used with any ammunition loaded to industry standards, including +P and +P+. We know the pressure rating for +P, but +P+ is a bit of a pink elephant in my opinion. While no set limit exists, there is the suggestion that it not exceed 40,000 PSI. Maybe one of these days someone will show me any commercial 9mm load that would pressure test above 38,500 PSI. I’m not an engineer for an ammunition manufacturer but I would certainly hope that those who are know the dynamics well enough to select a proper powder for their defense loads. Don’t be confused when the +P designation is used as a marketing ploy. Back when Ruger introduced their first poly frame pistol, the P-95, they talked about the test pistol they used to fire 20,000 rounds of Federal +P+. That load used the same bullet as the standard pressure 9BP, but with velocity at 1250 FPS, I’d hardly call that +P+. Look at your data sources and you may find that even a +P designation was unnecessary.

Today Ruger states that “no 9mm Parabellum ammunition manufactured in accordance with NATO, U.S., SAAMI, or CIP standards is known to be beyond the design limits or known not to function in these pistols.” I point this out because of the paranoia you may have seen about 9mm +P ammunition causing accelerated wear. Well, not with the pistols designed to handle it! Keep that in mind when you select your next 9 x 19mm pistol. I’d like someone to be able to explain to me how a slightly higher pressure, or the original pressure for me, is going to wear out a quality made pistol prematurely. Using power factor as a means to look at slide velocity in recoil, it doesn’t take long to figure out that the same pistols made for .40 S&W and .357 SIG, where other than bore diameter, the greatest difference is slide mass. I mention this not only as criticism but to make a recommendation from what I’ve done with my SR9 which weighs 26.5 oz. The SR40 weighs in at 27.25 oz. The frames are identical so the weight difference is purely in slide mass. The SR9 comes with an 18# captured recoil spring while weight used in the SR40 is 20#. Earlier in this article I mentioned the velocity of my 147 grain being 1125 FPS from my SR9. That’s a power factor of 165.4 which is technically 9mm Major in power factor while I do not believe its pressure would be above 33,000 CUP/35,000 PSI. Knowing that the 147 grain supersonic load would yield higher slide velocity than say my 124 grain loads. I bought a stainless steel guide rod and 20# recoil spring from Galloway precision. Spring weight alone does not equal the playing field as was learned in the early days of the .40 S&W when some manufacturers simply put a .40 caliber barrel in their existing 9mm and increased spring weight accordingly. There were those like SIG/Sauer that spent a bit more time in development of their .40 S&W pistols and learned that increased slide mass was also required. But in this case we’re only talking about a difference in slide mass of around 3% in favor of the SR40. As far as power factor for the loads, one of the more powerful rounds commonly found in .40 S&W are the 165 grain versions at 1150 FPS. Power factor is about 190 where we see around a 13% gain over the 147 gr. 9mm.

Myself, I could live with a single pressure standard such as the NATO designation. I began using the Vihta Vouri powders when they first became available and have worked up to Max loads rated 36,300 PSI/CIP. In fact, the first time I worked up to supersonic velocity levels with the Hornady 147 grain XTP it was with 3N37 using Vihta Vouri data. Later when 3N38 was introduced I was corresponding with another handloader who was interested in my 147 grain supersonic loads and he wanted to try 3N38 because by that time they had reduced their 9mm data to around 33,000 PSI but still managed to launch the 147 grain XTP above 1200 FPS from their 4” test barrel. They had also started another practice; that of using a CIP minimum dimension barrels for testing. When my correspondent got up to the Maximum Charge of 3N38 and tried to seat the bullet to the recommended 29mm/1.142” OACL, the nose of the XTP was deformed from the powder compression. He wasn’t exactly in awe of the accuracy he got either using a Glock 34 for testing. He had a very good idea and tried using Accurate #7. I can’t remember what his powder charges were now but he found velocity comparable if not better than using 3N38. He had a definite improvement in accuracy.

Glock 34

Glock 34

In the “Dear Labby” section here I asked sometime back if Western used a minimum dimension barrel for their latest 9 x 19mm data. Either the ballistician at that time didn’t understand my questions, or I failed to get them across concisely enough. My questions also involved Golden Saber bullets where I know that we miscommunicated. In the response I was told that it appeared that some of my statements contradicted each other so I want to cover this in regard to the statement I made earlier about pistols with short chambers. When I owned a CZ P-01 I was mostly using the standard Remington 124 grain JHP at that time because of its accuracy, and that it could be bought in bulk quantities. When I checked for the Max. Possible OACL it turned out to be 1.127”. I made my rounds with a REDDING Boss single stage press and my Titanium Carbide die set. I could hold OACL tolerances to +/- .001” or better so I dropped down to the next .5mm at 28.5mm/1.122” which allowed for .005” of freebore. I loved that pistol but ended up selling it to my brother who needed a better carry pistol than the one he was carrying at the time. A few years ago I started using the 124 grain Golden Saber again and started load development with 3N37 and Silhouette. CZ 75 series pistols are known for their short chambers as was the case for my P-01, but the thought occurred to me that the 124 grain Golden Saber might be a solution. I’ve always loaded them as Remington does which is one thing I agree with in the Western #5 data for 9 x 19mm, their OACL of 1.145” for the 124 grain Golden Saber. The reason for that is seating the bullet to where the top of its driving band is flush with the case-mouth. Because of its driving band design, the shank above the driving band up to the ogive is smaller in diameter (approx. .347”). One simple way to find out would be with the “plunk” test by dropping a bullet into the chamber with the muzzle point downward 90 degrees. If the bullet does not touch the lands you should hear an audible “plunk” and the case should spin freely in the chamber. The things is, I have gotten away from owning any short chambered 9 x 19mm pistol and I don’t plan to buy another for 1 single defense bullet only. Another point here, when I loaded the 124 grain Golden Saber to Remington’s spec for their +P load at 1180 FPS the jacket and core separated. I thought I could prevent this with higher velocity and did using Silhouette at around 1222 FPS. Concerning my questions to “Dear Labby,” I’ve loaded enough thousands of the Golden Sabers to tell you that you’re dreaming if you expect to get the velocities in the data. Some of the data is good for other bullets and developed by a different ballistician. Even at similar OACL I have never seen a Golden Saber that didn’t require a higher powder charge compared to a JHP with a copper jacket. 9 x 19mm or .45 ACP. Before the .45 ACP Golden Saber data was developed I used the data for the 185 grain XTP: 1152 FPS with 9.9 grains of Silhouette. Working up all the way to the Max. Charge but using the 185 grain Golden Saber, the fastest velocity I was able to achieve was 1087 FPS. So if you use a Western Powder to load the 124 grain Golden Saber to a velocity at which it works great at, you won’t need to start much below what is shown as the Max. Charge and follow the steps we’ve discussed. The other part that I found rather dubious was the statement that, “our test barrels are SAAMI spec.” That’s all fine and dandy, but SAAMI allows a variation from minimum to maximum where all are technically, “in spec.” The problem with minimum dimension barrels for testing is that the rated pressures are too high for the corresponding velocity. Just sayin’! If the folks in management read this I hope they’ll consider some of my points. I also know where they could find a very good ballistician without much effort!

Okay, I know this article is rather lengthy so let’s start putting things together, except for a few things we’ll discuss in a companion article to this one. Once you’ve confirmed what OACL you need to use for your bullet and carry pistol, work up to the Max. Charge at which time you should start measuring case-head diameter before and after firing. Work up gradually and no more than increases of .2 grains. As far as Western Powder’s are concerned, for 124 gr. JHPs I would use Silhouette or Accurate #7. Obviously your velocity expectations can’t be as high as I’ve quoted for my 4.14” SR9 if your pistol has a shorter barrel. And if it does I would stick with Silhouette or True Blue. Whenever a handloader can not find data for a particular JHP I’ve always recommended the data for the SIERRA 125 grain JHP. There 2 reasons for that. Both SIERRA and Lyman load it short at 1.075” which you now know can be loaded significantly longer once you’ve found the requirements of your own barrel’s chamber as we’ve discussed. Secondly, it has the longest shank/bearing surface of any 124/125 gr. JHP that I’m aware of. The longer the bearing surface is, the more friction the bullet will have in the bore which equates to higher pressure as well. Sierra’s data runs a bit warmer than Lyman’s does.

Corbon72Let’s talk about Sectional Density now and hopefully they’re given in your load manual. This is why I don’t use 115 grain JHPs except for one possible situation where I might if necessary. I’ll be quoting those for Hornady XTPs but there should be little or no difference regardless of bullet manufacturer. The 115 grain XTP has a sectional density of .130 and sectional density has a great effect on penetration. The 124 grain XTP has a sectional density of .141 which I feel more comfortable with. The 147 grain XTP has a sectional density of .167 which is higher than that of a 180 grain .40 or a 230 grain .45 by just a bit. Penetration has never been a problem for 9mm 147grain JHPs except in the early days of the bullet and subsonic velocity when because of the slow velocities there were a number of over-penetration incidents that could have easily been solved with higher velocity/greater expansion, but only one man at the time had the solution: Peter Pi of CorBon.

Scene of the Miami Shootout.

Scene of the Miami Shootout.

papershootoutmiami72When it comes to the ballistic “authorities” remember to listen to all sides of the story and never just one. I have found that just about everyone’s pet theory has some merit. But as some of us know, one single event impacted 9mm ammunition like no other: the 1986 “Miami Shootout.” Several FBI agents were killed in a gun battle following a robbery because the latest “new tech” bullet underperformed with one perpetrator shooting several agents while a Winchester 115 grain Silvertip was lodged within 1” of his heart. The round originally struck him in the upper arm/shoulder and with its soft aluminum gilding metal in the jacket, it gave impressive expansion, but it was that rapid expansion that prevented it from penetrating deep enough to stop the perpetrator. The FBI then began using subsonic 147 grain JHP loads. At around 975 FPS the reverse occurred: too much penetration and not enough expansion. In a number of cases the subsonic 147 grain JHPs had penetrated completely through the villain without great effect then went on to strike innocent bystanders. Fackler and the FBI’s next attempt to find the best service cartridge was the 10mm “Lite.” A 180 grain .40 bullet reduced in velocity from previous loads to around 980 FPS. It did not distinguish itself as a combat round and there were flaws found with the S&W pistols chambered for it. The final solution were Glock pistols chambered in .40 S&W with varying degrees of success depending on the particular load used at the time. It appears now that the FBI is looking back towards the 9 x 19mm.115 silvertip72

This is my own take but the only caliber I will use at subsonic velocity is the .45 ACP with a good 230 gr. JHP like the XTP. I sometimes load 185 and 200 gr. JHPs but at higher velocity, particularly in the case of the 185 grain Golden Sabers as mentioned earlier. Since I have to give an opinion on a data source I’m going to recommend one of the current Lyman manuals. Before Johan Loubser’s talents were acquired along with the purchase of Accurate Powder Company he listed the Max. Charge of Accurate #7 for the 147 grain SPEER TMJ at 7.2 grains with a Federal primer while using an OACL of 1.095” giving 1047 FPS. You’ll find that same load in the Lyman 49th edition or the Pistol and Revolver III except that they loaded longer at 1.115” and used a CCI-500 primer to get a velocity of 1014 FPS. Considering the longer OACL I find that very consistent with the Accurate data as well as the results I get. And just as I mentioned pressure increasing with shorter OACLs, it works the same in reverse. Pressure will decrease by loading longer. The Lyman manual lists pressure for their 147 grain TMJ load at 29,000 CUP. That leaves an additional 4000 CUP to work with before the load is technically +P. Remember, these are specific cases and I’m only going to recommend Accurate #7 here because it has few peers when it comes to loading the 147 grain JHPs. My initial loads had an OACL of 29.5mm/1.161” up until I got to 7.5 grains of #7 for 1112 FPS from my 4.14” barrel. At that point, rather than increase the powder charge further and for the benefit of readers who might not be able to load as long as 29.5mm/1.161”, I shortened the OACL to 29mm/1.142” to get the additional velocity. I do use a formula of my own to find the approximate powder charge needed to maintain the same pressure when OACL is lengthened. Over the years in developing these loads I have come to very much believe that the longer burn column allows velocity to increase without a significant pressure increase by lengthening the OACL and adjusting the powder charge accordingly. As you increase OACL with the 9 x 19mm, keep in mind that the brass above the web is thinning as you get closer to the case-mouth, so case capacity increases to a slightly greater degree. For those who may not know, Accurate #7 was originally designed as a propellant for heavier 9mm bullets to be fired from submachine guns. It is ideal for this application. Be sure to chronograph and you’ll only need to line up four 1 gallon water jugs at 1125 to 1150 FPS. The 147 grain XTP expands to what looks like maybe its maximum potential. Remember when I mentioned the 230 grain .45 bullets having dimples or craters? Well the 9mm 147 grain XTP core will flatten at the top with just a tiny dimple sticking up in the center. If it goes into the 4th jug it won’t be by much. A real world load you can make and evaluate yourself without having to depend on a “new tech” bullet, many of which are not available to handloaders.230 xtp72

If you feel like you’d prefer the 147 grain SPEER Gold Dot, the TMJ data will work. In a SPEER manual the data should be the same for both bullets. One more reason I like the XTP is because so far as I can tell it has the shortest shank/bearing surface of any 147 grain JHP.

As I close here, let me recommend that you read the companion article as the editor and I decided things like case-neck tension and taper crimp are worthy of their own article rather than add them to one that has already become quite long. And there will be things relevant to other autoloading cartridges as well.

Kevin Newberry

Kevin Newberry

Kevin Newberry is the author of Kilroy: Kilroy Was Here, an adventure novel available from

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