Twenty-four years ago I published my very first handloading journal on the .45-70. With time and more experience this was the title of that manual: SUPREME HANDLOADS for the .45-70 Ruger No.1, 1895 Marlins, New England Firearms and the Ruger No.1 IMP (Improved) — for the Advanced Handloader
The writing of that manual evolved over time and a lot of experience. Not only did the writing and editing involve a period of three to four years, but I “hand made” those manuals. So production was limited to those who wanted it, and finally, I couldn’t keep up with requests so ceased publishing it. But one ballistician (who will not be named) commented: “Don’t they all think they’re “advanced”? That being ALL who purchase one of their manuals or others. My answer is still “NO!” to that comment. Reloading or handloading manuals are written for two classes of handloaders: beginners and “regular”. By that is meant that most handloaders just want data from manuals that they can try and use right away.
All manuals discourage any tinkering with “their loads” above and beyond “max loads”, but with this caveat: “Don’t exceed listed maximum loads. If high pressure is experienced decrease loads by at least two grains”. Of course, this strongly implies that while they “say” it’s not possible to discern “too high PSI” from mere “signs”, yet we are told that if we detect PSI that’s “too high” from their suggested “loads”, we should then reduce them by 2 grains! Confusing?
I wrote my .47-70 manual for “advanced handloaders” because they exist and want more details and information than could ever be published in “generic manuals”. That’s why Internet forums exist that potentially answer questions from raw beginners to those with forty or more years experience. It SHOULD be obvious that the one with 40 or more years experience is “advanced” over the one just starting out!
I never wrote my manuals on the .45-70 and .458 Win Mag for those “just starting out”! There were several editions on the .45-70 and at least three on the .458 Winchester Magnum, with progressively “advanced” material in each edition.
To become an advanced handloader involves time plus experience with multiple cartridges and rifles. But I would discourage owning a dozen or more rifles, all in distinct cartridges, while hoping to learn more than the basics for all of them in a relatively short time — like five or six years. It has taken me over twenty years to learn more than the basics in handloading several distinct .45-70s. And all of it involved “advanced handloading” techniques, plus serious dedication to such an undertaking. While the .458 Winchester Magnum has had a “slower” beginning, yet the same attitude and procedures have been applied — and I’m still learning from that experience – as well as what was learned from the .45-70s being relevant to the great .458 Win Mag.
< Testing some handloads at the range for my CZ 550 in .458 Winchester Magnum.
But those are not the only two that have been successfully employed in hunting activities using handloads advanced beyond what many would consider as “normal” or “regular”. For example: Where would you find a factory load, or loads, that exceed 4200 ft-lbs muzzle KE from a 9.3 x 62 Mauser? Or 4000 ft-lbs KE at the muzzle of a 24″, .300 Win Mag? Or over 4000 ft-lbs from a 250gr in a 22″, .350 Rem Mag? Etc. You don’t learn that in a day, week or month! And all were safe, reliable, accurate loads. How about 6018 ft-lbs from a 350gr TSX at the muzzle of a 24″, .458 Win Mag?
NOW, let’s talk about Advanced Handloading of Your Own Ammo.
The point of the above is NOT to only emphasise the potential for better ballistics than what’s considered “normal”, but to show potential for experimentation and creativity. “Regular” manuals would keep us bound to their contents, and any excursions beyond that is anathema and considered NOT advanced but “extreme”!
If somebody’s venture into handloading their own is limited to a couple of rifles over two or three years, then they might also think this piece is extreme. Yet, I’m still on a learning curve for the .458 Win Mag that started for my first twenty-eight years ago in 1993. Now, I’m learning the benefits of cast bullets at around 1427 fps/2102 ft-lbs KE! Sooo… I may yet reduce that load down to around 1300 fps – we’ll see, as I’ve yet to test the current load for accuracy. (That was to reveal some of the necessary attitude in becoming an “advanced” handloader – we never have all of the answers but we are always on a learning curve.)
Some “experienced” handloaders may never become “advanced”! Why? Because they’ve become content with “average” or “normal”, whatever those adjectives imply. “Advanced”, on the other hand, implies “outside the box”, experimentation, trials for what’s not just “better”, but BEST! “Best for what?”, you might ask. Did you know you don’t NEED a .458 Lott for something “better” on Asian buffalo in Aussie Land? A correspondent successfully used his .458 Win Mag on over 100 culls of Australian buffalo. Then he wanted to return for a second try, but this time he had his .458 Win “rechambered to a .458 Lott thinking it to be better! What he didn’t know (though he’s evidently a very accomplished hunter) is that rechambering to the Lott doesn’t necessarily improve anything. In fact, it might hinder favourable results depending on how both the WIN and the LOTT are handloaded. He was unaware that ADVANCED handloads for the great .458 Winchester Magnum could potentially better the Lott by several hundred ft-lbs at the muzzle.
By that I’m NOT suggesting that “better” ballistics than the Lott is needed for anything, but some, like the “correspondent” (who was unaware of what he had in his M70 when a .458 Winchester Magnum, even though already a handloader) believe that improvement is available, based on professional promotions of a “new and better” cartridge than the “old”, when in truth it’s mostly for increased business for the promoters and manufactures! So, what has been created in recent years that’s really an improvement over what we had available a lifetime ago?
In handloads, the .300 Win Mag is still “better than” — whatever that may mean to some — the .300 WSM when each is handloaded to the same PSI in equal length barrels. OH, but… you save 1/4″ in action length!?
And the 6.5 Creedmoor? How much “better” than the famed 6.5 x 55 Swede when each is loaded to the same PSI in equal length barrels? I’ve owned two 6.5 x 55 Swedes and made handloads for each, and will not own a 6.5 Creedmoor just because it’s “hot” right now!
However, there are improvements in bullets and powders over the past few years that potentially increase the performance of ALL cartridges, old and new! And, it’s true, the “new” are factory loaded with better components than the “old”, BUT the “old” can be HANDLOADED with those same new and better components, improving results over what they were in days gone by, assuming they are loaded to the same PSI as the “new”!
And that’s a huge assumption when most “new” cartridges are already loaded “hot” from the factories to “prove” their superiority over the “old”. The .458 Win Mag vs the Lott is a prime example of that. The .458 Win is held to 60,000 psi whereas the Lott is 62,500 psi! That’s not logical as you could have your .458 Win rechambered to the Lott (as a WIN it’s limited by SAAMI to 60,000, but as soon as the same rifle is rechambered to a LOTT, voila, a miracle happens… it can now be loaded to SAAMI 62,500 psi?). But that’s for promotion and sales of the Lott over the .458 Win. In truth, the LOTT has no advantage over the WIN when each is handloaded to 62, 500 psi! In actual fact, the WIN wins!
< In this comparison of the .458 Win Mag on the right and the Lott on the left, there is virtually no distinction between the two, as each has a 3.6″ COL leaving the same volume in each for propellant. But the .458 still has a longer “freebore” or leade, reducing psi similar to Weatherby concepts.
An apt illustration of how old laws impede progress, and are being flaunted in our time, is Ontario’s speed laws! Most super highways, like the 401 (16 lanes in places) that passes through Toronto going east or west, has a posted limit of 100 Km/h (62 mph), when all officials know that at certain times and conditions, 100 Km/h is impossible… at others it’s ludicrous! When I leave our major two-lane highways (80 Km/h limit) and merge with the 401, I have to pick up speed to at least 120 Km/h or I’ll be slowing traffic behind me! A few days ago I had a doctor’s appointment in the GTA and had to take the 401 if I wanted to make it on time. Often traffic in the center and passing lanes were hitting 130 to 140 Km/h! A main 4-lane highway that merges with the 401 is posted at 90 Km/h, and during “rush hour” in the a.m. I was doing 120 in the “fast lane” of two. I was “caught” in a “train” of about 25 cars and trucks when we passed by a parked police cruiser – and he never ventured! With today’s super highways in excellent condition, and the number of new vehicles that can easily exceed 200 Km/h, 120 to 140 seems the “new normal” while 100 Km/h is still being posted!
… and that simply to remind us that some “old rules” from SAAMI need adjustment to current realities!
Newly manufactured bolt-action repeating rifles can easily handle more than 70,000 psi… but even then it’s the brass cases that show signs of being over-stressed! The same is true for some single-shot rifles, such as a Ruger No.1.
The ADVANCED handloader knows that already and, like myself, will choose the .458 Win Mag over the Lott when either is available in the same rifle, as in my CZ550. It was through handloading that rifle that I learned the truth about the .458 WIN vs the .458 Lott! I could seat the 450gr Barnes X-Bullet to 3.78″ in the CZ550 chambered in .458 WIN, whereas in the same rifle chambered for the .458 Lott, I’d be limited to 3.6″. At 3.78″ I had more room for powder plus more “freebore” allowing greater MV at the same PSI or lower PSI at the same MV. (Go to 24hr campfire on “The great .458 Winchester Magnum” for more details where Dr Ron Berry, “Riflecrank”, takes us on a long journey down a trail of truth in favor of the .458 WIn vs the .458 Lott. Not only that but there are detailed photos with descriptions, plus information and loads you’ll NEVER find in any other publication!) The SAAMI throat of the .458 WIN is much longer than the Lott (SAAMI) and for the handloader allows seating of longer/heavier bullets that can easily equal the Lott or surpass it in long magnum-type actions or the single-shot Ruger.
< These four are all loaded with the same bullet – the 450gr Barnes X-Bullet. The one on the far left was loaded at 3.78″ COL for my .458 Winchester Magnum in the CZ 550 (the same is now loaded for my current Ruger #1 in .458 WIN with the 450gr TSX). Next to it on its right is the .458 Lott at 3.6″ COL, followed by another .458 Win loaded to 3.6″ (same as the Lott) and, finally, a .458 Win load at “normal” handloading specs for shorter bolt actions.
The above is simply to demonstrate what “advanced handloaders” already know.
So, if one wants to become an “advanced handloader”, start with one rifle and handload it. That is, explore all possibilities, but NOT in dedicated varmint cartridges. There is only so much to learn and do with one. Choose a big-game rifle and explore its full potential. Did you know that a new .30-06 can simulate some 300 magnum factory loads if best bullets and powders are used from a 26″ barrel at 64,000 psi – the usual PSI (SAAMI) recommended for .300 mags? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about – like the “correspondent” that didn’t know how to get the best from his .458, so he, unnecessarily, had it rechambered!
< Here is the long action of the CZ 550 loaded with the 450gr X-Bullet at 3.78″. The same rifle was available at the same shop in .458 Lott… I chose the .458 WIN.
If you are an advanced handloader, you already know that the brass will tell the truth (the brass cases are the weakest link – NOT the rifle!) Or that 63,000 psi isn’t too “hot” for a Ruger No.1 in .45-70 (according to a ballistics engineer)? Or that 58,000 psi isn’t the only “safe” max for the 9.3 x 62 Mauser? I’ve set a limit to 64,000 psi (based on Quick Load) for my 9.3 x 62, as the exact same rifle has been chambered in .338 Win Mag by TIKKA, and the brass is just as strong as .338 brass!
New .45-70 cases have been lab tested to 70,000 psi without failure! I used the same nickle-plated Remington brass in my Ruger No.1 in .45-70 LT until the necks became “case hardened” and tiny cracks started to appear at the mouth of the cases. Often, those cases were used 10 times with never a hint of head expansion… at what psi? Well, 2200 fps from Hornady 500s were common from the 22″ barrel!
And so on…. An advanced handloader knows stuff that some ballisticians don’t yet know, or won’t confess knowing, or NOT to a “regular guy”! They must stick to company policy (even if it’s outdated), and company policy that’s mandated — not necessarily on “advanced” learning, but FEAR of litigation! And perhaps…. that makes some “business sense” as far too many are looking for an opportunity to sue somebody!
BUT! If you’re lucky, you may get a chance to talk with a “real” ballistics engineer who knows “stuff” that he’ll not share with a “regular guy”, but will with somebody who shows evidence that he’s a true advanced handloader! In truth, some advanced handloaders get jobs as “ballistic engineers”.
Til the next….