29 May 2023

Hodgdon's H110 - My Next Powder

 Most of the reloading I do is for casual plinking on steel targets with subsonic, heavy weight pistol loads from rifles with silencers. I'm still tinkering with 9mm and getting the 160 grain bullet with HS-6 working but the 38 Special load with a 200 grain cast solid is a real charmer. I had originally picked up HS-6 with .45 Colt and 45 ACP in mind, not that I do much with those these days.

When my wife's 410 single shot shotgun showed up, I started looking at buying ammo for it and using it for small game around the Farm. I've found that while 410 is somewhat available, it's been a little tricky to get without spending a ton. I immediately starting looking up how to reload for 410 given it's cost. I've found it's very possible to reload 410 and pretty easy to do. 

Looking over the data, H110 is apparently a pretty good choice for 410. I'm also finding there is load data for 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum. I'm even finding data for 300 Blackout both supersonic and subsonic. What I've stumbled onto is that H110 will make for a decent universal powder I can use for the Farm Guns and other stuff, including 45 Colt loads for the more stout guns like Ruger's. While it may not be the best choice, I should be able to pick up a pound or two and be able to load everything we use on the Farm with the exception of 9mm and 30-30. The 9mm load isn't an issue since all the reloading I do tend to be for fun and HS-6 covers that just fine.

All in all, I'm thinking H110 being available and having multiple rolls will make a good addition for inventory and reloading in the future. 

28 May 2023

Deer Hunting 2023 - Only 146 Days To Go!

 The Georgia DNR finalized the 2023 to 2024 deer season's regs on 25 MAY. For me, opening day for Firearms Season is 21 OCT and the season will end on 14 JAN 2024. I don't yet hunt with a bow or muzzleloader, so I won't be taking advantage of the earlier dates associated with those seasons. After looking over the seasons of other states, I've come to love the Georgia deer season. 

This year my goals are fairly simple. Now that I have several of my rifle projects completed, it's time to put them into the field and go hunt some deer. The closer we get, the more excited I am. 

I stripped the Marlin 1894 CST in 357 Magnum of the Leupold 2.5x and reinstalled the Midwest Industries T1 Mount and iron sights putting the rifle back into the ProjectVaquero setup. I found that I very much like this layout but I don't know how I will like it in for deer hunting on the Farm. It should be good for 100 yards with the current setup. I had to re-zero but I wasn't setup for 100 yards so I zeroed at a shorter range that should match. Around 22 yards should be the first zero putting the second zero around 100 yards. It should be no more than 1.1 inches with the peak of the arc around 62 yards. The calculator puts my bullet down around 3 inches low at 133 yards. The calculated velocity of those Remington 158 grain semi-jacketed hollow points around 1300 fps at that point. That should be enough to achieve expansion.

The Marlin is my favorite Farm gun. It rides shotgun often.

 Speaking of expansion, every resource I have seen where people tested those Remington HTP rounds found that they expand to at least .50 caliber whether it's from a rifle or pistol. YouTube has various videos where someone tested those rounds from rifles and pistols in gel. Lucky Gunner did some testing as well. I have full confidence that those bullets will perform and penetrate deep enough. I picked up several boxes to keep in stock and plan to buy more. Much more. 

Lucky Gunner posted this picture from their test. You can find it on their website in the Labs section. I can't thank those folks enough for their contribution to the firearms world. If you ever had questions about ammo selection, you should start there. 

There doesn't appear to be a hard and fast rule on how far a bullet should penetrate ballistic gelatin for said load to be suitable for deer hunting but I've seen anecdotal data pointing to a preference of around 20 inches. Those HTPs appear to come close to that. 

On the accuracy front, I've never really sat down to see what sort of groups I could get the Marlin 357 to do. Back in 2022, I zeroed the rifle with the setup I have now and was getting around 4 inch groups or so at 100 yards. I'm not much of a marksman and having no magnification won't help my case so I attribute that grouping to myself more than the gun. While I'd like to sit down and test again, I don't want to use the ammo up. I don't have sponsors to send me ammo when I need it. 

If Remington ammunition wants to sponsor me, I will be happy to switch my other Farm Gun, the .300 Blackout, to their Core-Lokt line up and see how it goes in leu of the SIG Elite I currently use. I know the 30-30 Core-Lokt will kill deer since that's what I used until I had the Federal Fusion 170. I've still not gotten to use those Federal rounds to take a deer. On a side note, I'm not so sure these days that Marlin will release a threaded barrel version of the 336 and wood stocks that I can use as a dedicated hunting rifle. We'll see if the 336 project turns out. I have alternative plans if Marlin doesn't release a TB version of the 336.  

Getting back to the topic of being majorly excited for deer season, once I get at least one deer, I'll start looking at taking the WWSD 300 Blackout build I put together and see it those SIG Elite all copper bullets work as advertised. That will depend on how the situation goes with the Marlin. I'm not as confident with just the red dot at shorter ranges as I am with a little magnification and I think I should try to get over that. 

In conclusion, deer season cannot get here soon enough. I want to get out into the woods and find a good deer. Maybe this year will be my first buck.

04 May 2023

9mm Handloading - I've Finally Started

 I was able to pick up some carbine dies for 9mm. I've been saving up spent cases and have some cast bullets that just got delivered. In the same way I'm doing a rolling 357 Mag load post, I'll update this as I go. As usual, if you duplicate my efforts, you are doing so on your own and are responsible for your own actions. By continuing to read below, you acknowledge that you will not hold me or anyone accountable for your actions. 

160 Grain

I'm starting with 160 grain cast bullets from Bayou Bullets since I know that I want to shoot subsonic. These are powder coated. I have a 9mm pistol that will not feed anything other than round nose and shooting it suppressed would be nice without burning through my expensive 158 gr PPU. Again, I currently only have HS-6 with magnum primers. The Hodgdon website has a starting load of 3 grains going up to 3.7 grains for around 800 fps for whatever barrel they tested with. Those look like good starting points. I don't know how they will do out of a 16 inch barrel rifle like the Henry Homesteader but this will be fun.

30 April 2023

360 Buckhammer - Can I Load It Like a 357 version of 38-55?

I've been on a slow quest to learn about loading 357 Magnum and 38 Special. My next steps are to start learning about casting my own lead bullets. One of the ideas I've had is how can you get those cast bullets to perform with black powder and black powder substitutes for the purpose of hunting. 357 Mag cases can run black powder but the performance is fairly low.

38-55 Winchester is an old cartridge from way back in the 1880's but it uses a larger .37 caliber bullet instead of the .358 inch bullets used by the 38 In-Name-Only 38 Special and .357 Magnum. What specs I have found show that 360 Buckhammer is using a .358 bullet. I've also seen .359 inch. Note that between 38-55 and 360 BKHM, the old Winchester case is much longer at 53mm where the 360 is 46mm.

My thought is, depending on the diameter of the barrels and the diameter of the bullets as they drop from a mold, a person could load those cast bullets into a 360 BKHM case. If you adjust the alloy to make harder and softer bullets, you can download the cases with smokeless (like Trailboss) or use black powder or a substitute like Triple Seven or Blackhorn 209. What little data I have found on old 38-55 loads uses a 255 grain bullet with black pushing it around 1200 to 1300 fps. A softer alloy can easily get cast bullets to expand at those velocities. 

I have two molds. One is a 200 grain flat nose from Lee (358-200-RF) and a Lyman 155 gr Keith hollow point. I expect that the lighter weight 155 gr bullets might be moving too fast given that we're 100 grains lighter. That said, a harder lead alloy and sufficient lube should help keep barrel leading down while giving you good expansion. That could make for a great deer slayer. 

It could be the barrels would need a .359 diameter bullet instead of a cast .358 but I don't know just yet since the cartridge is so new. I don't want to spend a bunch of money on another lever action so I'd wait to see if someone came out with a single shot.

The question boils down to why. Why would this matter? Well, really it's just a function of using the molds I already have to make bullets that work in several guns. It also means I can load those bullets into a cartridge gun for hunting using various powders. It would also help in situations where smokeless powder isn't available for logistical reasons but BP substitute or just BP is available. 

29 April 2023

Ballistic Gelatin Testing - Incredibly Useful and Totally Under Utilized

 If you spend enough time in the gun world, you learn about ballistic gelatin. The TL:DR version of what it is, it's a replicable medium that can be used to test bullets for terminal performance such as depth of penetration and expansion of expanding bullets. While gelatin isn't flesh such as deer or human, it behaves in such a way that you can extrapolate data to give you an idea of what a bullet will do down range. It's meant to be used in a controlled way to allow for repeatable results. 

I spent a lot of time researching the efforts of numerous people who have attempted to test numerous bullets from pistols and rifles when I was trying to find the correct carry ammunition. The data I've gathered from YouTube channels such as TheChoppingBlock,  ShootingTheBull410Tools&Targets, Mason Leather, WHO TEE WHOTNOutdoors9, Social Regressive and even Paul Harrell along with Lucky Gunner Labs and others have all contributed to ammunition choices I've considered to be appropriate for self defense and hunting. It's how I ended up choosing Remington's 158 gr SJHP load in the 357 Mag for use in both rifles and revolvers and how I chose Federal's 170 gr Fusion in 30-30 for hunting deer. 

Most of these folks follow some sort of protocol in varying levels. One of the more overlooked uses for ballistic gelatin is for testing hunting ammunition. Several of the above sources have put effort into testing popular hunting ammo but not everyone is testing the same way. Mr. Mason seems to be putting great effort into testing at common distances. Most of the loads tested have been at 100 yards which, according to many people, is typically around where most folks are actually shooting deer and similar animals. All the deer I've ever shot (not that it's a lot) have been under 100 yards. Most of the time I either close the distance or wait for them to get in closer. I've had deer come in close enough I could have spit on the doe. Deer are stupid, that's not much of an achievement. 

One thing I would love to see is, what is the MAXIMUM distance various bullets are capable of achieving and still being effective. Many people have said that 30-30, the old hunting cartridge, is only really good out to 150 yards. Why? Is that because your rifle isn't that accurate? Are your old eyes unable to shoot beyond that? Do your bullets just suck? I want to know. 

Setting blocks of gel out at various distances can be tricky and landing hits possibly hard to do. I got to thinking about it and one of the best ways I could come up with to test this is put these hunting loads into a pistol such as a Thompson Center Encore and shoot at shorter distances. Alternatively, if you can get the bullets and handload reduced power loads. That's probably more economical. 

Depending on the load, 200 yards for 30-30 ends up around 1800 fps. You should be able to achieve that with a barrel length around 10 inches. If you adjust the distance to the block, you can start to reduce the velocity at the target. 

By knowing the lowest velocity your bullets expand, you can find out how far you can actually shoot and still be effective. That is useful. Achieving the goal, though, is tedious. 

19 April 2023

Gun Idea - Hush Puppy Rifle

 I've had the Henry Homesteader less than a week but I've gotten to shoot a little bit with a suppressor and various rounds. For the most part, my Dead Air Wolfman in short configuration does well enough to keep the whole event of shooting down to hearing safe levels but I did note that the port pop from the rifle's action did end up being a little uncomfortable so I've taken to putting in an ear plug into my right ear to mitigate that. That applies to both subs and supersonic loads. The levels are low enough that at the distances on the GA homestead, the neighbors won't be bothered with subs but they'll still know what I'm up to. 

I got to thinking about it and tried holding the bolt closed with my left thumb. I can keep the action closed and can manually cycle as desired. It does take some effort but doable. The effect is that there is no more port pop since the action isn't opening. The muzzle end is still a little loud even with 147 grain FMJs. I think I can come up with a handload that is better for sound. Maybe a 160 grain cast bullet with HS-6. 

The amount of effort needed to keep the bolt closed detracts from the shooting experience but it got me thinking about could you lock the bolt? A long time ago, there was a pistol known as the Hush Puppy. The MK22 was a suppressed Smith and Wesson with a lock that prevented the slide from opening. 

My idea is, what if you put a locking mechanism to prevent the bolt from opening on a semi-auto 9mm rifle like the Homesteader or a Ruger PC Carbine? The simple solution would be to replace one of the pins with a lever that rotates into place. Alternatively, what if you made an AR-9 but used a straight pull mechanism? 

Anyway, I like the idea of having a 9mm rifle that is quiet and still uses Glock magazines but the semi-auto mechanism is still pretty loud. We'll see if Bond Arms' Lever Action Rifle does actually come in 9mm. I won't bother with the Tombstone rifle. It's just too expensive. In the end, none of these are quieter than a .22 rifle will ever be. 

16 April 2023

Weaver 63B and Other Mounts - How to Stop Ruining Your Lever Guns with Picatinny Rails

 Blocks on blocks. I've coined this term, I think, to refer to how people will put a picatinny rail on top of a rifle to attach a red dot using a generic mount. In the video below, you have a prime example of the phrase.

There are better ways than slapping a picatinny rail onto of a rifle and ruining the aesthetic. For example, in the above video, the red dot is probably about 2 inches over the bore. If we assume that the dot in question uses an RMR footprint, then instead of spending the money on a generic rail, use a dedicated mount like from EGW.

By using a dedicated mount, you remove the extra and unnecessary layer of material saving height and weight. There are mounts for RMRs, Fastfires and even Aimpoint's Micro. Here's a great example of a low profile, dedicated mount from Phoenix Weaponry.

Phoenix Weaponry's mount. They have others for Henry and Marlin PCCs.

Depending on the mount, you can use various mounts for different guns. I used the Burris Fastfire 3 mount for the 336 and 1895 on my Marlin 1894 for a while until Midwest Industries came out with their T1 mount. I swapped the T1 mount for an Ashley Performance mount for a while but harvested the FX-II for the Henry Homesteader. ArgentGranjero went back to being the ArgentVaquero. In the three pictures below, you can see the first, second and third iteration of my Marlin 1894.

This is the initial version of the 1894 CST with the Burris 336 mount

This is the ProjectVaquero version of the 1894 CST with a MI T1 mount

Finally, this is the ProjectGranjero version which didn't last long as the scope went to the Homesteader

In the above pictures, none of the mounts used are picatinny. The Burris mount is for the 336 and 1895 rifles for Marlin but because it only uses two of the holes, you're able to use the mount on either the front or the back. Since the distance between either pair of holes is the same (half inch), you can use the 2-hole mounts for the 336 and 1894 on the 1894 and Henry guns. The Weaver 63B mount pattern is what 336 and 1895 use so many of those mounts are compatible with the larger Henry receivers like the Homesteader and the 45-70, 30-30 and 410 versions of their guns. The smaller guns like the Big Boy rifles use a different layout but the rear holes are still half inch. 

The Homesteader as stated above is capable of hosting the same 2-hole mounts as the Marlin 336 and 1895. In my case, the Burris 336 mount hosted the Fast Fire 3. It was very low profile and I think looks pretty good. It's clean and simple. 

The Ashley Performance 1895 / 336 mount also fit nicely. I harvested the FX-II that was on ProjectGranjero for what I think will be a permanent installment on the Homesteader. I do suffer from a case of Can't Leave Things Alone so it's possible the Homesteader can change. 

I had briefly considered using Farrow Tech's Red Dot Mounting Plate on the Homesteader and harvesting the SIG Romeo5 from the T1 mount. See the picture below where FT has their mount on Marlin. I'd be willing to bet, that mount would work for the 1894 since it only uses the front two holes.

Farrow Tech's Low Profile Mount

The Henry Big Boy rifles use a three hole mount but looking at the rear pair of holes, they are around half inch apart which is the same as the 336 and similar. You should be able to use a 2-hole mount for a 336 (like that Burris mount) on a Big Boy. 

In summary, you don't need to use picatinny rails on everything. Use pic rails where it makes sense or at least looks good. If you look around, you can find mounts that you can use for your scopes and red dots to keep things low profile and clean.