12 July 2024

101 Days to go for Deer Season 2024 - Gun Goals

October 21 is the opening day for the deer rifle season here in Gregoria. I've been going over what build I want to try out this year. Last year was the Marlin 1894 CST in 357 Magnum which went great but I only got one doe with it. Part of the limiting factors for last year were surgery and other IVF related things. This year will be different. We will have a baby to take care of. I still have builds and ammunition choices I want to test out but I'm not sure if I will have time so I'm trying to sort out where to start.

Last year, I got three setups finished and zeroed in preparation of the baby girl getting here and not having the money to spend on the projects. First was the updated load selection for the Remington 700 .300 Blackout build. In 2022, I made a successful hunt using the Hornady 190 grain SUB-X loads. I changed to a custom ordered solid copper, hollow point subsonic load from Discreet Ballistics. I want to know if they will be effective on the whitetail here in GA. Sadly, they are running just a little too fast to be truly subsonic from my setup. I can still test the effectiveness of those wild, Machined Expander hollow points. I had actually made some changes to the stock by replacing it with an AR pistol buffer tube and adapter for my niece so she should go out with the rifle. She's a little small for the JMAC Customs stock but the buffer tube with a foam cheek rest let her get behind the scope with the rifle mounted in a tripod. She didn't get anything so I put the stock back on.

I like the idea of confirming if these bullets work well or not so that puts the Remington 700 in .300 BLK as our first option.

Next is the WWSD Hunter .300 Blackout build with the SIG 120 grain copper hollow points. The WWSD was originally chambered for .350 Legend but I ran into several issues at the same time and chose to rebarrel for .300 Blackout. The replacement SIG Romeo5 red dot and the Juliet 3X magnifier would more or less, make the WWSD AR-15 build a General Purpose rifle than a hunting rifle. However, given the lightweight construction and materials used in the WWSD concept, having a rifle this light can be very handy.

After finishing the build, I zeroed the rifle for 50 yards and confirmed velocities around 2400 fps. That should put the bullet around three inches down at 200 yards. That said, I don't know for sure what the minimum velocity is for those bullets to expand is and the lowest number I had been able to locate was around 2000 fps. The chart shows that I should expect around 150 yards to hit that 2000 fps mark. If all of that is accurate, the WWSD Hunter 300 Blackout should be a 150 yard hunting rifle. 

That said, should is a big word and the only way to know for sure is to get out there a bag deer. Seeing as I have already taken deer with the Remington 700, I'm inclined to take out the AR-15 this time to get in-field time with the rifle.

With the silencer attached, the WWSD AR-15 is under 9 lbs

Finally, the Taurus 66 with the Burris Fastfire 3 and the Hornady Custom XTP 158 grain loads. Last year, I was able to get the Fastfire to mount up with a cheap mount I found on the internet. I zeroed it for around 25 yards and should still be good for around 75 yards based on metrics gathered from various sources on the internet from gel testing. The game plan for the Model 66 is to carry it around with me during the deer season while I'm doing chores. If a deer shows up then I will take the opportunity to bag it.

The 66 is my first foray into the world of handgun hunting. It was originally meant for bear defense while hiking trails around Appalachia. I don't hike anymore being on the South side of Atlanta since there just aren't that many good trails. None of the trails are likely to have bear down this far. Getting North of Atlanta takes at least an hour on it's own to get around I-285 so it's just not worth the headache to drive the 2 hours to Dahlonega and further. I sure do miss the mountains. 

Anyway, with the Model 66 setup and zeroed. It's no extra effort to carry the revolver in place of my P365XL. Because of it being easy to carry, I guarantee it will be out with me on the farm from 21 OCT to 14 JAN 2025.

Originally, the 66 had an adjustable rear sight which should have been fine but I wanted to see if anyone made a red dot mount. Just for fun, I ordered one and it showed up. It took some doing but I was able to beat the mount and pins into submission and test fit the 8 MOA Burris FastFire 3 I had on my turkey Remington 870. Seeing as how I am rather familiar with red dots, I figured it would make getting into handgun hunting much easier. I have a very limited supply of .357 Magnum and practicing to make 75 yard shots with iron sights takes time and ammo. This helps mitigate training needs for now. I will likely switch the dot back to the 870 and put the irons back on. That 8 MOA dot is just huge for what I'm trying to do.

Ignore the butcher job I did on the holster to make the red dot fit. I'll clean it up some day.

Finally, I could continue on with the Marlin 1894 CST in .357 Magnum. I have come to enjoy that rifle and I like the idea behind continuing to prove that my setup and selection process do actually work. 

For the bonus option, if I feel like it, the Winchester 94 is back in action and ready for work. Mostly. I was able to get the rifle out to the range and zeroed with 170 grain JSPs. The open sights are good to go with the Turnbull Restoration red dot mount ready if I want to go that route. The only red dot I have available is on the Henry 22 for the moment but at 50 yards. The iron sights should be fine. That could be a fun option especially if I get to go out on an invited hunt with someone this year.

There you have it. The many options for hunting that I can choose. Depending on how aggressive I am this year and what opportunities present themselves, I can take all of these out over the season. 

11 July 2024

45 Colt Handloads - A Rolling Update

 In my quest to look for a .45 Colt handload that I can use for target shooting with my Pietta 1873 SA with a 4 3/4 inch barrel, I would like to keep track of what I come up with. All of the loads are trying to stay within or close to the 14,000 PSI standard given that this revolver is a SAA clone and is not expected to survive loads that one would put through a Ruger Blackhawk or Winchester 92. A Ruger Blackhawk or a Rossi R92 are not in my possession so if you are wondering why I don't use that, that's why. The Pietta is what I have for now so that's what we're starting with. 

The project starts with gauging the chamber throats of the Pietta for uniformity. A lack of uniformity will negatively impact accuracy as each chamber being different may widen the group. I've heard of some guns shooting 5 inch groups being reduced to 1 inch groups with corrections to the chamber throats.  I ordered three pin gauges starting at 0.451 to 0.453 inch to test the Pietta's chamber throats. We're looking for 0.4525 inch for cast bullets meaning the 0.452 pin should pass but the 0.453 pin should not. That's exactly what ended up being the case. A pleasant surprise from an inexpensive revolver. Now that the gun checks out, let's look at the loads.

The Pietta 1873 SA in .45 Colt, AKA the Cabela's Special.

As usual, if you try to duplicate these loads, that's on you and I am NOT responsible for your actions. 

I am using data found here.


I'm starting with GT Bullet's 225 grain cast lead semi wad cutters sized to .452 inch but I will also try to tinker with the Laser Cast 200 gr .452 RNFP I have for target. They have a 15 BHN which is too hard for use in hunting at these velocities. I will only use them for target shooting. I've ordered 200 of the bullets are waiting for them to be cast, shipped and delivered. There is currently a 21 week backorder so it will be a while before I can get started.

Unlike the .357 Magnum post, I will be focusing on powder selection instead of trying a bunch of different bullets. I'll be starting with HS-6 because I have close to 2 lbs of it at this time but if I can't get a satisfactory load from it, then I will move on to other powders. I am very interested in CFE Pistol as the Hodgdon reloading data shows the highest velocities. I have some alternative powders I would like to look at in the future depending on local availability such as Universal, 2400 or Unique. Universal actually has the highest velocity data according to the Hodgdon website but I can't get it easily without online ordering. I don't want to pay HAZMAT fees if I don't have to.

Update Feb 2024: The below data is specific to keeping the chamber pressures below 14,000 PSI. However, there is speculation that the newer SAA clones can handle as much as 23,000 PSI. I'm not trying to Elmer Keith my gun but there's only one way to know. Well, two or more actually, but I don't have QuickLoad. That's $155 software package that gives you probable pressure curves. There are other calculators but PMAX doesn't have HS-6.

Update 2 Feb 2024: Looking at the math, the 225 grain bullets I ordered are likely to show up around June. I ordered a bullet mold from MP Molds. It's a 4 cavity hollow point version of the H&G #68 mold from a long time ago. Apparently, that mold was great for target loads which fits right in line with what I'm trying to do here. It's also a hollow point mold so I can use it for other things latter on. These are 185 grain bullets according to the site but we'll need to see what weight they actually cast at. I'm seeing some data that says the bullets will drop out closer to 195 grain. I'll start adding this bullet to the list when I have loading data. Apparently, Hodgdon only has 1 load for 185 grain bullets for .45 Colt and that's using Accurate Number 5. I can get #5 from Bas Pro if needed. I'll have to check my Lyman book for more but what I am able to find in forums has that this bullet will do nicely for what I have in mind. That bullet should also work for my .45 ACP guns as needed. Seems like a good choice. Looking further, Hodgdon does have a load for a 180 grain bullet using CFE Pistol which just reinforces the notion I should get a bottle. I pulled several points of data for the 180 grain bullet and each are noted as such.

Update 3 FEB 2024: I loaded up some 200 grain cast using both HS-6 and Triple Seven. I wanted to see if 777 was usable in this instance. It turns out to have done pretty well with the 200 grain. I also now have a 185 grain mold from MP Molds to make hollow points. During the testing, the Pietta show very low. I don't know that I could file enough front sight to fix how low the drop is at 25 yards. I need to do more testing but I didn't hit the paper target once when shooting over the chronograph and aiming directly at the paper IDPA target. A different firearm is likely needed.

Update 4 JUL 2024: The GT Bullets 225 grain hollow points are in. I also have a bottle of WinClean 244. Instead of Titegroup (for now) I will be testing with the Winchester 244.

Triple Seven (777)

Triple Seven is a black powder substitute and needs to be treated like BP. Be extra careful. 

200 grain RNFP from Oregon Trail (Target Only) - I have a bunch of these from before

Staring data: 35 grains by volume

Ending Data: 40 grains by volume (this is not a full case load and has mild compression)


35 grain - 946 FPS Avg - ES 34 FPS

40 grain - 999 FPR Avg - ES 21 FPS (There was one reading that was much lower than the rest so I tossed it)

Shot Groups: No group data at this time as I didn't have enough loads to test velocity and accuracy. The Pietta's point of impact is very low and very left even from a rested position. 

Notes: The Triple Seven loads with these bullets were fun. They were very smoky and the plume as entertaining. The 40 grain by volume load was very close to the 1000 FPS I'm looking for and I would bet that a 185 grain bullet would hit that. I don't know how these would do for hunting but I know how to find out.

WinClean 244

While I was looking for alternatives for Unique for bunnyfart/light loads, the burn chart had Universal and Winchester or WinClean 244. I didn't see Universal around but did find 244 at Bass Pro. I got a bottle on the way back from our 4th of July vacation. It was originally intended for the 105 grain 38 Special subsonic rounds for my Marlin CST but there are all the common pistol calibers including magnums. I figured I would try it out in .45 Colt to see if the SAA would fair any better. 

225 grain LSWC

Staring data: 5.2 grains (738 fps)

Ending Data: 7.2 grains (972 fps)


Shot Groups:

185 grain Cast from an MP Molds #10112 (Data is for a 180 grain)

Staring data: 6.8 grains (914 fps)

Ending Data: 9.1 grains (9.1 fps)


Shot Groups:


200 grain RNFP from Oregon Trail (Target Only) - I have a bunch of these from before

I bypassed the lowest starting level and went straight to 12.0 grains and making 5 rounds each level for testing. I increased grain weight by .2 grains for each group.

Staring Data: 11.7 grains 

Ending Data: 13.0 grains


12.0 gr - 905 FPS Avg - ES 30 FPS

12.2 gr - 927 FPS Avg - ES 142 FPS

12.4 gr - 942 FPS Avg - ES 61 FPS

12.6 gr - 952 FPS Avg - ES 57 FPS

12.8 gr - 1002 FPS Avg - ES 43 FPS

13.0 gr - 1007 FPS Avg - ES 80 FPS

Shot Groups: No group data at this time as I didn't have enough loads to test velocity and accuracy.

Notes: Some of extreme spreads where okay and others not so great. I have heard that HS-6 prefers a near max load and that 12.8 did pretty okay. I may stick with that one. I'd like to see how the 185 grain cast loads do. 

225 grain LSWC

Staring data: 7.0 grains (684 fps)

Ending Data: 9.3 grains (919 fps)

Velocities: (When I have it, I'll update)

Shot Groups: 

185 grain Cast from an MP Molds #10112

All the data I have for this is from forums and most everyone is using Unique. I'm having to extrapolate data from my Lyman book and from Hodgdon's website. The Lyman book's data for a 200 grain bullet is 11.2 grains of HS-6. The book tends to step down in powder charge dropping to 10.5 grains for max charge with a 250 grain bullet. I suspect that operating in the same charge range with the lighter bullet than the 200 grain load will work. I will start with the Lyman Cast Handbook data for a 200 grain bullet and end with the Hodgdon data. I suspect that those 13 grain charges are going to be pretty fast moving. I'm currently looking for 1000 fps from the 4 5/8 inch barrel.

Staring data: 11.2 grains 

Ending Data: 13.0 grains


Shot Groups:

CFE Pistol

CFE Pistol is highly interesting as the Hodgdon website shows the highest velocities for .45 Colt with a 225 grain. Not that we are using it. I also found load data for .38 Special and 105 gr bullets meaning I can load subsonic plinking loads for the Marlin 1894 but I think this would specialize for 45 Colt.

225 grain LSWC

Staring data: 6.4 grains 

Ending Data: 8.0 grains 


Shot Groups:

185 grain Cast from an MP Molds #10112 (Data is for a 180 grain)

Staring data: 8.5 grains 

Ending Data: 10.2 grains


Shot Groups:


225 grain LSWC

Staring data: 4.4 grains 

Ending Data: 6.0 grains 


Shot Groups:

185 grain Cast from an MP Molds #10112 (Data is for a 180 grain)

Staring data: 6.0 grains 

Ending Data: 6.9 grains


Shot Groups:


225 grain LSWC

Starting Data: 5.1 grains 

Ending Data: 6.9 grains 


Shot Groups:

185 grain Cast from an MP Molds #10112 (Data is for a 180 grain)

Staring data: 6.0 grains 

Ending Data: 8.2 grains


Shot Groups:

07 July 2024

357 Magnum and 38 Special Handloads - Including Subsonic

 I've been tinkering with what little powder and primers I have but I have been able to pick up different cast bullets. The only two powders I have are HS-6 and Trail Boss. While neither seem to be especially suited to 38 Special and 357 Magnum, they can be used. The only small primers I have are Remington 5 1/2 "magnum" small pistol primers. They work just fine for what I'm doing with my revolvers and lever action 357 rifle. That said, if I find a good opportunity to buy up some Alliant Unique or similar powder, I will. I'm not sure I'll buy up more primer anytime soon since I just took supply of a new box. On a side note, if you attempt to replicate any of these, you are responsible for your own actions. I am not responsible for your actions since reloading can be risky if you don't know (or even if you do know) what you are doing.

Also, this post will be a rolling update as I find stuff. 

New Section: Updates Index
Given that there are semi-regular updates to this post, I figure a better way to track would be good. I will start adding lines to indicate what changes have been added.

July 2024 Updates: 105 grain bullet section powder choice to include WinClean 244 investigation.

200 Grain

My first 357 Mag / 38 Special hand loads were using Trail Boss with a 200 gr hard cast flat nosed bullet with a gas check from Cast Performance. They're a bit expensive but for fun, heavy weight loads for suppressed shooting, I figured they'd work great. Turns out that maybe Trail Boss was not the best choice since they were very inaccurate and also seemed to be tumbling out of my Marlin 1894 CST but I did find that 5.5 grains of HS-6 using a 38 Special case makes for a GREAT plinking round. See the below video of that rifle getting hits on a 6 inch gong at 50 yards. That charge of HS-6 from my 16 barrel Marlin 1894 is chronographing at 1035 FPS. I believe that is impressive though Buffalo Bore can push a 180 gr bullet at 1800 FPS from the same gun so maybe not. That said, for a thumping good time, that load is fairly quiet and fun to shoot. 

As you can see, the HS-6 load is a pretty capable load for shorter ranges with some hold over at distance. I haven't tried it for dispatching varmint critters such as armadillos yet but give me time. Sadly, I used up the last of my 200 gr cast rounds on that visit. I do have a Lee 2-cavity mold that I can try to make my own but that's for a later date. 

Update Feb 2024: I had ordered 200 more in 2023 but have shot most of them with just over half a box left. The availability of the 200 grain Cast Performance bullets is sporadic so I will start looking at casting with the Lee 200 grain mold. 

Lee Precision C358-200 2 Cavity Mold

This is the first mold I ever bought. I figured at the time that I could use .357 Magnum like .300 Blackout by using a very heavy bullet with a small charge. Well, I proved that with the Cast Performance 200 grain bullets so now it's time to start making my own. 

The mold is not the same as the CP bullet. The Lee mold has a large lube grove with two very thick driving bands. It does have a gas check but I don't think I'll be using that feature. I may just have someone mill that out so it's a plain base. 

The idea is the same. Maybe do a hard cast, 15+ BHN, and load with 5.5 gr of HS-6.

160 Grain

I had ordered a box of 160 grain hollow points that have a very wide cavity from GT Bullets here in Georgia. I tried loading up with varying amounts of HS-6 starting at 6.2 grains and running up to 9.7 grains per the Lyman Cast Bullet book. I forgot to take my chronograph out on the first visit and from my Taurus 66, none seemed to be particularly accurate. I did have to seat them deep and may have damaged the driving bands. I will need to test again. I'm thinking a few test loads for subsonic loading might be a good choice that I need to tinker with since these are MUCH cheaper than those 200 grain pills. 

Update: After tinkering with the 160 grain bullets over various amounts of HS-6, the 9 grain range really gets them moving but are very smoky. I had clocked the 9.7 gr loads from a Taurus 66 with 4 inch barrel pushing into the 1300 fps range. I believe that would put these bullets into territory that will cause good expansion of the hollow point design but I haven't tested that yet. 

I did find that a lighter load of 6 grains will push these bullets from a 16 inch rifle barrel to around 1200 fps and might could be a good choice for hunting. I don't have ballistic gel blocks but I might try the redneck science way of shooting old milk jugs full of water. It's not ideal but it does something. 

Update 2: I tested subsonic versions of the 160 gr cast hollow points from my Marlin 16 inch rifle since the 200 gr cast are expensive. Both the 4.0 grain and 4.5 grain loads of HS-6 were quiet enough. I have not yet run them over a chronograph to see how fast they move. I'll update that later.

Update 3: I ran out of bullets. They were fun. I will need to order more.

Triple Seven Update

Update APR 2024: I found eight of the 160 grain bullets in a box. I have two sitting in dummy loads for testing and opted to make five rounds of Triple Seven in .38 Special. I wanted to test these from the 16 inch Marlin to see how much velocity I get from around 23 grains by volume with the 160 grain. This is the FFFg version of the powder.

The velocities only worked out to 1245 FPS with and ES of 148. I would like to retest these as I was using a volumetric measure. I think next time, I would like to see what one 23 grains by volume actually weighs and load up some using a powder scale to confirm uniformity. I suspect I didn't do a good job of measuring my charges. That said, I have heard one should use FFg instead of FFFg for rifles.  At this time, I don't have enough of the 160 grain bullets left so I'll make a point to start ordering or casting my own.

Lyman 358439 HP

Here in Spring of 2023, I think it's time for me to start casting my own bullets. I have a single cavity bullet mold for a 155 grain hollow point from Lyman I bought as part of a self-sufficiency project I was working on. It's the 358439 HP mold. Essentially, it's a lighter-weight "Keith" style bullet with big lube grooves and big drive bands. It looks like it will do well in 38 Special cases given the size of the first drive band being thick. What I want from this pursuit is to have a deer load for my Marlin 1894 or a single shot pistol like a T/C Contender that I can make on the homestead without having to buy commercial products. On a side note, the 358439 may end up being 160 grain so we'll see how that plays out.

Looking over the Lyman Cast Bullet book, we're looking at around 9 to 10 grains of HS-6 for magnum loads but I started doing research for rifle specific data. That's led me to Hodgdon's H110. I knew that Alliant's 2400 powder has been used successfully for 357 for decades and that many people have also used Unique. I'd also seen where people have loaded other cartridges with those powders like .300 Blackout making me think that having a bottle or two of either would be a good universal powder. Continuing down that research hole, I found that people have also used H110 for powerful 357 loads but are also successful in using it for .300 Blackout. You can also make cast bullets for .300 Blackout and might be useful for something like my bolt-action Remington 700 in 300 Blackout. I don't expect it would be optimal but it might be worth having around. 

Given that I can order H110 from the same LGS I got the HS-6 from, I think I should put in an order some time this year and start the casting crusade. 

Taking a closer look. I believe the mold I have is the same or nearly the same as the GT Bullets 160 grain. If that's the case that would give me a mold to make those bullets. I suspect that the GT Bullets' option is capable at taking a whitetail deer. That is something that I have been wanting to consider. 

125 Grain

Berry's Bullets makes a flat nose jacketed bullet that are somewhat inexpensive at around 22 cents per round after shipping, which is steep. That said, Hodgdon has load data for a cast 125 bullet for Trail Boss starting at 3.5 grains moving up to 5.3 grains and staying subsonic. That information is likely for a revolver but somewhere in there could be a good subsonic rifle load to use up some of the Trail Boss I have. What I've read is that the high levels of powder should use the 357 Mag cases. I found around 4.5 grains in 38 Special cases puts the powder into compression or near compression. I stopped loading at 4.7 grains for the 38 Special cases but then did a 5.6 gr load for 357 Mag cases. 

After getting out to shoot, it looks like the 3.5 grains in 38 Special cases is just fine and don't seem to tumble. At around 4.3 grains, they got a little louder than what I want and the 4.7 grains seemed to be supersonic from the 16 inch barrel. I realized that I don't need the maximum charge possible. All I need is an inexpensive load I can whip up for when I want to take someone new to the range with while being quiet. I still need to run them over a chronograph and shoot groups but I think the 3.5 to 4.0 grain load with Trail Boss is a real winner for shortrange subsonic plinking. 

When I took those 3.5 and 4.0 grain Trail Boss loads out, I was able to run both over my chronograph. The 3.5 gr load was pushing around 641 FPS with an extreme spread of 66 FPS and the 4.0 grain load around 801 FPS with an ES of 38 FPS. I didn't find much difference in the auditory experience between the two so I think I'll stick with the 3.5 grain version with the 125 grain Berry's Bullet for when I take someone to the range. Trail Boss is fairly inexpensive at around $30 for a 9 oz bottle and the bullets at $0.22 per bullet. If you use your own brass and you get the powder local like from Bass Pro but have primers shipped in like I did, these will cost around $0.35 per round. That's pretty good for these days but I think I can do this cheaper. Maybe around $0.25 per round. 

I do have a possible recipe for HS-6 and the Berry's Bullets 125 gr JFN that could make for fun revolver loads but I'm looking for cheap, subsonic plinking loads for now. 

105 Cast Subsonic Plinking Loads

Update November 2023: I found a company called Slippery Bullets that makes a 105 gr cast and powder coated truncated flat point for cowboy action shooting. I still have some Trail Boss powder so I figured I'd load up a few. The bullets were 9¢ per round with shipping. Not too bad. They aren't meant for anything serious, just cheap plinking with the suppressed lever action and my revolvers. 

The suggested loads I've found are starting at 3 grains of TB with a 38 Special case for Cowboy Action and similar. I started loading at 3 grains and ended at 4.0 grains of Trail Boss by Hodgdon. The velocities I got are below using my Caldwell chronograph. It was 70 degrees out. Georgia is weird. It should be cold in November. I made 11 rounds of each except for the 4.0 grains load. For whatever reason, I had a total of 54 primers left in the 100 count box of Remington 5 1/2 Small Pistol Magnum.

3.0 Grains - 844 FPS Average

3.3 Grains - 905 FPS Average

3.5 Grains - 949 FPS Average 

3.7 Grains - 997 FPS Average

4.0 Grains - 1057 FPS Average

After running the loads over the chronograph, I attempted groups at 25 yards to see if any were better. The 3.3 grain loads grouped the best but the 4.0 grain loads started to look good. I didn't have enough after chronographing as I used 8 rounds of the 10. 

Running them through the suppressed Marlin 1894 is fun. They hit steel nicely and make a satisfying noise. The point of impact isn't majorly different at short range so these fit nicely into the Ambassador roll the ArgentVaquero project was built for. A 9 oz bottle of Trail Boss will produce around 1,100 rounds of those 3.3 grain loads. That said, the 4.0 grain loads looked like they may have grouped pretty nicely had I not ran out. I may make a few more of the 4.0 grain loads to check accuracy. At 4 grains, a bottle only makes around 980 loads. Reducing that to 3.9 grains should get to around 1,000 rounds. I need to see how these loads do in my revolvers. Currently, this load works out to 19 cents per reload with the CCI primers I now have plus the TB and these cast bullets. I think this is the cheapest subsonic range load I have for any of my centerfire guns. 

A 2 lbs bottle at 3.3 grains produces around 4,200 rounds. I have enough for a while but given that a 2 lbs. bottle is $90 I think I'll keep my eye out for a resupply. That would bring the cost per round down to 18 cents. That said, if it continues that I can't get Trail Boss like it has for a while now, HS-6 can be substituted according to Hodgdon's website. A charge of 6.2 to 6.6 grains can push to under 950 fps. That's from a 7.7 inch barrel and will require some experimentation to get keep the load slow.

Update NOV 2023: Trail Boss is not being made at this time per the manufacturer's website. I will need to find a substitute for the TB based 105 gr loads.

Update FEB 2024: I've started loading and will test soon, an HS-6 based load for subsonic use in .38 Special Cases. It starts at 6.2 grains and ends at 6.6 grain so no much testing to do with the 105 grain cast bullets. I did also find a load of Titegroup with I think is going to be a winner if they are quiet. If they are, Titegroup can be had locally for under $30.00 for a 1 pound bottle. If the minimum charge of 4.8 grains works, that's 1458 rounds per 1 lbs bottle. That works out to $0.02 per shot. Given that Trail Boss is dead for now, that would likely be the cheapest I can put together something for the Marlin to spit out at $0.18 per round. In retrospect, I suspect that these will be supersonic as the 200 grain load is 5.5 grains and it's very close to supersonic. Thankfully, I only made 15 rounds total. I also have some loads for the 4.5 grain range.

Update MAR 2024: I got to test some of the HS-6 loads with the 105 grain bullets but my chronograph didn't work due to overcast skies. I didn't get velocity data but I was able to confirm subsonic levels by ear. The loads work but the amount of unburnt powder is incredible. I fired 10 rounds and the barrel looked like I had been shooting black powder. I have heard that HS-6 is better for hotter loads and heavier bullets. These are neither. I only fired 5x of 4.5 grain loads and 5x of the 6.2 grain loads. The 4.5 grain loads sounded great but there was powder coming out of the case on extraction. The 6.2 grain loads were mixed in terms of breaking the sound barrier. 2 of the 5 rounds didn't break the sound barrier on the 39 degree day.

I'm thinking I will whip up some 6.0 and 5.8 grain versions to try but I think the 105 grain bullet with undercharged HS-6 isn't what I want due to how dirty it is. The current best subsonic, cheap plinking round I can put together is the Trail Boss load of 3.3 grains with the Slippery Bullets 105 grain cast bullet. I checked to see how much TB I have left and it should be more than enough to use up the last of my 105 grain bullets. 

I'm currently thinking the best approach for long term is using HS-6 and to collecting as much wheel weight lead as I can get and start casting either the 200 grain Lee or the 160 grain Lyman. We shall see. 

Update MAR: The 105 grain with HS-6 aren't great. I ran another batch with 6.0 grains of HS-6 and they averaged 1136 FPS. All of them broke the sound barrier. The amount of unburnt powder in the barrel is wild. It's just not what I want. I'm going to abandon the HS-6 with light bullets idea for now and start focusing on casting the 200 grain loads. I found I should have enough left over Trail Boss that I can use all the 105 grain cast bullets to make light plinking .38 Special loads.

Update: JUN 2024: I was doing some keyboard level research on powders as I had Aliant's Unique on my mind. I wanted to know if there are any other powders with a similar burn rate available. The burn rate chart has Unique at 32. Hodgdon has their Universal which is listed at 33 but Winchester has a powder at 31 called 244. I found data for the 105 gr .38 Special for 244 and I can be sourced from a local place. I had wanted to look at Titegroup for my next purchase but the 244 could be a better buy for the .38 Special loads and other light plinking loads. It also works for .45 Colt. I also found that you could try loading a 000 buck pellet as they are .360 inch diameter. With the right powder they could possibly very cheap if cast.

Update JUL 2024: I started asking around to see if WinClean 244 would actually be able to replace Unique but so far I haven't gotten any solid answers. I tried to grab a bottle of Titgroup from Academy but they were out so on the way back from the 4th of July vacation, I stopped at Bass Pro a found a bottle of WinClean 244. Hodgdon's Reloading Data Center shows data for 244 and 105 grain bullets. The starting load is 4.1 grains with a velocity of 622 fps and a max load of 4.4 grains at 789 fps. If the minimum charge of 4.1 grains works well for the subsonic 105 grain loads, that gives around 1700 rounds per bottle. That puts us around 2 cents per charge. What will be the determining factor is how clean the load burns as some of the powders I've tried look like someone poured dirt down an oily barrel. They just aren't clean at the low charges. I now have access to a proper gun range so I will be doing testing there. I hope the WinClean 244 is the answer to my cheap subsonic plinking load. Interestingly, there is also data for heavy 357 Magnum using 180 grain bullets and 244 on the Hodgdon RLDC. I'm wondering if I can translate that over to the 200 grain pill.

If everything works out, were 2 cents for powder, 7 cents per bullet and 8 cents per primer. That should put us around 17 cents per subsonic, .38 Special load. Even if I do the 9 cents per bullet for the 500 that's still 19 cents per round for cheap plinking. I think that's about as good as I can get it for now. That is until I start casting my own bullets. Stay tuned for the results of the 244 tests.

Current Winners

The 2023 Cheap Plinking Load is the 105 cast bullets from Slippery Bullets. A 500 count box for $35 but are $9.50 to ship. This puts us at 9 cents per round. The 4000 count box is the same in shipping for some reason which puts us at a nice 7 cents per round. If I can find a good source of 2 pounds of Trail Boss and primers for the price I got recently around $7 for 100, we're looking at somewhere around 17 cents per round. That's the cheapest load I can currently make up that does what I want for a subsonic round for suppressor use. 

.22 LR is still cheaper plus, sadly, Trail Boss doesn't seem to be made anymore so we'll keep looking.

The Cast Performance 200 grain gas checked bullet with 5.5 grains of HS-6 is my pet plinking load. They have lots of thump and are subsonic. The only downside is I can't get a reliable supply of the bullets and are regularly out of stock. They are also somewhat expensive at $32 a box of 100 when they are in stock. Sadly, I only have a half a box left. The plus side is that I have the Lee 200 grain 2 cavity mold. I don't know that these bullets are the same as that mold is but it would be great if they were. 

It seems that my 2 winners here are hindered by availability problems so I will endeavor to find loads that work. 

Other Bullet Options 

I also remembered that there's a company called Oregon Trail with their Laser-Cast bullets. I use their 200 gr lead for my 45 Colt rounds. They have a cast 125 gr that's $38 for a box of 500 but it's $20 for shipping so make sure you get a bunch. It is WAY cheaper than the Berry's. I'll be looking at buying a box of those real soon since I'm just about out of the Berry's. I think I can get this down to closer to $0.22 per round if I play my cards right.

Bayou Bullets seems to also have cheap options for cast, powder coated bullets. They have a 95 grain round nose that's $78 for a 1000. 3 grains of Trail Boss could make them potentially subsonic. That's also a tiny amount of powder making that load a very cheap option.  

Powder and Primer Considerations

Getting powder is tricky business these days. To ship both, there is an automatic $25 HAZMAT fee on top of the normal shipping and handling. It's best to find a local shop that can get powders and primers delivered to them and you go pick it up. The cost of both plus the extra fees is what is driving up the cost of reloading. 

In an update, I was able to pick up from HS-6 from an LGS without HAZMAT fee which is great! 

I'll keep updating this post as I tinker around with loads but so far, I'm becoming more and more happy with the original load of 5.5 grains of HS-6 under the 200 grain gas checked cast bullet for generic range use. I caved and ordered 200 more bullets for the 200 gr loads and I want to load up a few more to confirm accuracy and point of impact shift compared to my Remington HTP 158 gr 357 Mag factory loads.

Update NOV 2023: H110 has been sourced from a location I didn't know had powders. I expect to use the H110 for full power 357 Mag loads with a likely focus on Hornady XTP bullets. I also found out that the reason we can't get Trail Boss is because it's made in Australia and apparently Thales stopped producing pending some research project. The ADI website hasn't had an update since DEC 2021 saying the same thing about Trail Boss. Looks like I will need to start working out that HS-6 load for the 105 grain sub sonic


The below links have provided huge amounts of information but are not the only things I've used. I read old articles written by folks such as Elmer Keith and Skeeter Skelton themselves to piece information together. 


Paco Kelly on the .357 Magnum 


I found a powder comparison chart from ADI World Class' website.

02 July 2024

45 Colt Is Back on the Menu Boys - Smith and Wesson 1854

 Smith and Wesson has announced that the 1894 level action is now available in .45 Colt. In my .45 Colt project, I had considered the Rossi R92 or a Marlin 1894 if they ever bring one out in the old .45. The Rossi wouldn't have the threaded barrel I was looking for but didn't mind not having. Well the S&W offering does have the threaded barrel. At 7 lbs, the 1854 isn't as light as the Rossi would be. 

On a side note, S&W is now offering a regular, non-fancy version with wood stocks and blued steel for an MSRP of $1399. Both Rossi and Henry have black on black (see Murdered Out) versions of their PCCs so nothing new. It's just nice to have the traditional colors.

Personally, the 1894 is the closest to the blued steel, wood stock suppressor host I've been ho-humming over for years now. While not in .30-30, either the .45 Colt or .44 Magnum version would fit in nicely for that project. Maybe I should consider the .45 Colt version to fill both rolls of a Reduced Logistics rifle and .45 Colt project rifle while I wait for Marlin to drop exactly what I want.

That picatinny rail would have to go immediately though. 

21 May 2024

Taylor and Company TC73 - US Made Winchester 1873 in 9mm. The Perfect Plinker

 It appears that Taylor and Company will soon be offering high quality, US made versions of the iconic Winchester 1873. The catch is that they are chambered in 9mm and feature a 5/8x24 threaded barrel. I love everything about this idea. Wood stock, blue steel and a threaded barrel? It's case hardened and chambered in the most common centerfire pistol caliber in the US? The only way this could get any better is if there was a provision for a red dot that actually looked good and made sense. Irons will do just fine. Did a mention that it's threaded? I did? Good. It needs an AB Suppressors F4. Why the F4? Back when Percy Maxim was starting to sell silencers, his designs used what looks like crimping in the tube to hold the baffles in place. AB has a similar look. If one could blue the silencer's body, it could complete the aesthetic. 

I want one of these for every reason. In fact, I would purchase this rifle to replace the Kocher family's original 1873 in .38-40. I want this rifle and a pair of the new Taylor and Co TC9 Single Action Army style revolvers to match. The ones with the birdshead grip versions with the 3ish inch barrels.