Thankfully, there has always been room for improving anything pertaining to life here in our earthly “village”. For many, earthly existence is a matter of survival with a hoped for improvement of personal conditions. For others, at the other end of the stick, life is satisfying with little desire for change. Perhaps the middle ground is where most live: Life is challenging with room for betterment. Of course, we are here entering sociological – philosophical – psychological and theological fields of discussion with too many opinions for anyone to make much sense of it all, like trying to separate the eggs from the batter after they’ve been blended into a cake mix that’s been baked for an hour!
< In the summer of 2017, my wife and I did our 60th wedding anniversary celebration in a trip down east to Campobello Island, New Brunswick, where I was born and we both grew from infancy to college age. In our return trip we stopped by Pierre and Rolande’s place just north of Montreal. I had married them while their pastor in a French language church in Montreal. I also trained Pierre to become pastor after I became Director of the mission in Canada. They are now retired after thirty-five years as pastor of that congregation. Pierre is 10 years younger than I and we still keep in touch in the French language. Recently he gave me a telephone call.
But this is where I thrive! My psychological apparatus works best when and where there is room for improvement or a sense of its need. In my “calling” as a minister of God’s truth to various peoples, I have always functioned best where a new church was needed or an “old” church was dying and in need of a resurrection or relocation. Never have I functioned very well where members were satisfied and wanted to maintain the status quo… I’m not your typical maintenance man!
All that and “Advanced Handloading”? Yes! To help in understanding my psyche in whatever the field or challenge — I “must” improve or change the thinking/behaviour of some for the betterment of the whole!
It has been aptly stated that “better is the enemy of best”! Though, incremental betterment is good as long as it doesn’t stagnate in its progress toward “best” – sadly, that often happens in a Christian’s maturing process as well as in many occupations such as becoming a mechanic! One of my life’s biblical statements from the undaunted apostle Paul is: “This one thing I do, forgetting what is past, I press on towards the goal for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Paul’s Epistle to the Church at Philippi – ch 3: 12 – 14). And what’s “best” in life is to truly know God in a personal way, and His Son, our Saviour if we trust him!
Then life takes on a new flavor – “La joie de vivre”! Every day, every thing is fresh! Even handloading…. God knows more about handloading or being a mechanic than anyone else! And he knows me better than I know myself! And you too!
I published loads for Marlins and the Ruger #1 in .45-70 that were never published previously. A decade later, Hodgdon began publishing loads for the Marlin that came close to mine. Later still, Bryan Pearce did a very extensive piece in HANDLOADER that was based on Ken Waters’ concepts of three levels of pressure depending on the age and type of firearm in .45-70. But Pearce’s piece went well beyond Water’s results. And so on… Actually, Elmer Keith, in the 1951 Gun Digest, despite limited smokeless powders, recommended 1800 – 1900 fps from 405s for new 1886 Winchesters. So the modern era smokeless loadings of .45-70s goes at least back to Elmer’s time.
<The article by Keith appeared in a 1951 Gun Digest. It’s the one on the right hand page.
The basic idea is to select powders that appear to give best results at +/- 100% load density. Then work from there. If accuracy is the primary goal with 50 to 100 fps indifference, then, of course, we play with cases, primers and COL in addition to select powders, etc. In 40+ years of handloading experience with many common cartridges, including magnums, I’ve generally found that compressed loads of some powders that might be considered a mite too slow works best. I don’t like relatively slow powders for certain cartridges that are less than 100% load density and “rattle” in the case with the bullet seated. If for some reason you don’t like that idea then choose a slightly faster powder that reaches MAP earlier and will also produce less psi at the muzzle. This will, however, generate reduced MV and recoil.
For example: the “old” but excellent (circa 1905) 9.3 x 62 Mauser can greatly profit (in a new rifle) from powders that historically have been considered too slow in burn rate. I tried the typical numbers, like RL-15 and H414, but always came up “short” of what I thought the cartridge should be capable of in a mint rifle. And, much like the .30-06 that’s limited by SAAMI to 60,000 psi (50,000 cup), while there’s no reason in the whole-wide-world that it should NOT be loaded to the same PSI as its decendant, the .270 Win, so also the SAAMI equivalent of CIP for the 9.3 x 62 is about 58,000 psi, which is a relatively mild load by today’s standards — particularly in a newly manufactured rifle such as a Ruger, CZ or Tikka. I’ve already expounded on how I load my Tikka, but for those who have yet to become aware of that I’ll do it one more time for their benefit – I’m hopeful!
But the two powders mentioned (RL-15 and H414) looked promising but missed expectations based on considerable experience with a .35 Whelen and a .350 Rem Mag. So I “suffered in silence” until a friend suggested a powder new to the scene that was being used with great success in some non-magnum traditional cartridges such as the .30-06. He got my attention and I was able to find a 1 lb can of this new and unfamiliar powder that was not yet mentioned in any common handloader’s manual. That power was RL-17, which was claimed by the producers to have a burn rate similar to IMR4350, BUT producing higher velocity, clean burning AND better temperature stability! AND also higher energy due to being a double-base powder, though still of a “log” type which meant compression was doable if wanted or needed to obtain optimum performance without fearing a spike of excessive pressure.
All of that appeared to be just what I was looking for, maybe… Yet when I tried my first “batch” of 286gr Hornadys, starting at 65 grains of RL-17 and ending at 67 grains, I was a bit more than disappointed because 67 grains matched 60 grains of RL-15 in both MV and accuracy but with greater recoil! 60 grains of Rl-15 behind the 286gr Hornady gave three in .80″ at +1.25″ @ 100 yards. MV was 2460 fps, and that was absolute max on Dec. 13, 2011 with temps at 0* C. (During warmer climes that load “fell apart”!) So back to the drawing board! I informed my friend of the disappointing results from what I then considered a “max” load from RL-17. He urged me to go on with more RL-17.
I did with these results on March 12, 2012:
Rifle: Tikka T3 Lite/22.44″ barrel
Bullet: 286gr Nosler Partition
MVs instrumental @ 15′
64 grs = 2432 fps
65 grs = 2473 fps
66 grs = 2506 fps
67 grs = 2527 fps (average of 2)
68 grs = 2581 fps (average of 2)
*For correction to muzzle add 9 fps.
While there was a dramatic increase in recoil from the “lite” rifle, compared to MVs in the 2400’s using RL-15, never were there ANY signs of excessive pressure! That became my “bear load” for 2012, though I never shot a bear that year.
In the spring of 2013, I increased RL-17 to 70 grains, after having tried 69 and 69.5, and that became “the sweet spot” with an average MV of about 2620 fps @ around 12*C/52*F. As ambient conditions grew warmer over the summer to 20*C+/70*F+, MV increased by around 10 – 12 fps at 2631 fps average (corrected to MV). Since June/2013 that has been my main hunting load until last fall (November, 2020) when it was reduced again to 68 grains at about 2585 fps. That was to reduce recoil as well as knowing I’d not be going to “the Far North” for moose again. I have other loads for the rifle but all use RL-17 except the lightest, a 232 Oryx at about 2450 fps that uses a relatively light dose of RL-15 (62 grains). The others are 286gr Hornadys (68 grains RL-17 @ about 2600 fps), the 250gr AccuBond (70 grains RL-17 @ 2700 fps+), and the 320gr Woodleigh (64 to 66 grains RL-17 @ 2420 to 2460 fps). All are safe and accurate.
The Tikka T3 Lite is somewhat “light” for the recoil of those loads (except the 232gr) so I add extra ammo in a cartridge holder on the stock which increases overall weight to just over 8 lbs. Recoil is still in the 40+ range, which isn’t bad for offhand shooting but at a bench it isn’t pleasant either! I may yet have some weight added to the stock.
The above is an example of how I progressed from a “book load” to an “advanced load” not even yet published in typical handloading manuals. In fact, I’ve yet to see RL-17 listed as a suitable powder for the 9.3 x 62! And to answer the main question of many who have adopted a 9.3 x 62 in recent times: Yes, those loads are ALL sub-MOA when I do my part. The 250 AccuBond is the “star” of that challenge at 0.44″ for three @ 100 yards on a few occasions when I was having a good day! However, I believe the best overall choice as a BG hunting load is the 286 Partition at 2631 fps/4395 ft-lbs at the muzzle that is still making about 2100 ft-lbs at 500 yards. That was my intended load for the “Far North” should I ever decide to go for a bull moose again. If Nosler’s BC (.482) for that bullet is about correct it should still be hitting at over 1800 fps at 500 yards. That should be plenty for expansion and penetration. It has the same SD (.305) as a 300gr/.375-caliber Partition but a much better BC, meaning it will hit at 500 yards at around the same velocity as the 300gr/.375 Partition will hit at 400 yards when started at the same MV.
< The weight of the Tikka T3 Lite with scope and four cartridges is 7 lbs and 11 ounces (7.7 lbs.)
< This is a typical instrumental velocity for the 286gr Nosler Partition. Add 9 fps for correction to MV.
So, let’s dissect the above procedure that finally produced a very acceptable ADVANCED HANDLOAD for my 9.3 x 62.
Step 1: a newly manufactured rifle never previously used.
This process is NOT recommended for 9.3 x 62 Mausers manufactured sometime in the early 1900’s. While those were excellent in design and quality, yet there is no certainty as to their previous use and their current strength. While the CIP standard MAP is about 58,000 psi that dates from 1905, I don’t know the rationale for that. Likely it was the brass cases of the era, but could other matters such as metallurgy have been a factor as well?
Whatever the case, newly manufactured bolt rifles by CZ, Ruger and Sako (Tikka), plus some others, are as strong as any modern bolt-action repeater, including the Ruger #1 in the same chambering. In such a situation, it is today’s brass cases that determine ultimate safe, maximum psi. In addition we look for case brands that can withstand 60,000 to 65,000 psi wiithout failure within five to ten firings. Brass for the 9.3 x 62 has traditionally been made by several European companies in different countries, so, if possible tests should be performed for the safety of each if PSI is to exceed 60,000. In my situation, only new Hornady cases have been used with complete satisfaction, whatever their source might be. From certain correspondents, I’ve learned that not all brands will: a) handle the pressure I use or, b) hold the amount of RL-17 that I use without undue compression. Still, I can’t speak as to their methods and procedures. In new Hornady cases, once fired, load density for 70 grains of RL-17 at a max COL of 3.37″ (max for reliable function from the clip magazine) is 108% – 109% which is certainly acceptable for today’s safe handloads in using a powder that is deemed by some to be on the “too-slow” side of matters.
Step 2: Thinking outside the box:
In practice that means looking for additional information that’s not found in typical reloading manuals. But, also, it means comparing manual with manual – several of them. There will be differences, and at times somewhat extreme! As you analyse this, ask yourself “why?” The answers to “why?” can often be obvious: different rifles, different barrel lengths, different barrels made to certain specs by several companies for testing purposes. And lots of powder! Ambient conditions; who did the tests? What were the standards? For some powder companies, they will test bullets from various sources; for bullet manufacturers they test their own in saying “don’t use these loads for other companies bullets”! And so on.
The point is simple: think, think, think for yourself! Then do some tests of your own! I’ve found some of Nosler’s tests spot on for certain cartridges firing their bullets, whereas for others it’s like they were on another planet! Or maybe I was!
Step 3: Work up loads at the top end in 1/2 grain increments for magnums and some other big-game rifles.
And DON’T push certain relatively “fast burning” propellants in larger cases beyond a certain point!
In comparing AA1680 with H4198 in the Barnes #4, for their 400gr Original FT for a Ruger #1 in .45-70, it appeared they were nearly identical in results. I have a lot of experience with H4198 (NOT IMR 4198 – they are not the same!) in both .45-70s and .458 Win Mags, but in looking for the BEST suitable powder for the 300gr TSX in my Ruger #1 in .458, I though “Just maybe AA1680 might be a better choice than H4198 — that is more “bulky” being a stick powder while 1680 is a ball powder — H4198 is just a tad too slow for the 300 TSX without heavy compression, so a similar ball powder could be used without compression…. was my thinking. So I started relatively “low” on June 11/2019 with 83 grains of 1680 under the 300gr TSX. Only one load of the 300 TSX over 1680 was made and fired. It recorded 2836 fps at 15′ from the muzzle. One load can tell you more than you might think! On the same day I also fired three 500gr Speers, a 450gr AF, a 480 DGX, a 450 TSX, a 405 Rem and a 400 X-Bullet. These were all distinct loads, and so was the 300 TSX load. I’d only owned that rifle for a month and wanted to “get a feel” for it.
On July 2, 2019, I loaded and fired three 300gr TSX’s over 84 grains of AA1680. All else was the same including a COL of 3.327″ crimped into the bottom cannelure. They made an average of 2846 + 20 for correction to MV. On that same day I also fired two 300 TSX’s over 84.5 grains of 1680 and two more over 85 grains of 1680 with the following results:
84.5 = 2906 fps corrected to MV
85.0 = 2926 fps corrected to MV.
Those loads were NOT compressed and showed no evidence of being excessive in pressure.
Two weeks later I shot three more of the 84.5 grain load with “normal” results. Then one each of 85.5 grains and 86 grains which had not previously been tried:
85.5 grains = 2954 fps corrected to MV. (1/2 grain more gave a normal increase of 18 fps over the 85 grain load)
86.0 grains = 3100 fps corrected to MV. That was a jump of 146 fps using 1/2 grain more of AA1680 ! And that load was making 6400 ft-lbs at the muzzle!
I’ve not used AA1680 in my Ruger #1 in .458 since! But I have returned to H4198 and either 75 grains or 82.5 grains give the results I want with the 300gr TSX: 2775 fps and 2980 fps corrected to MV. Both loads shoot sub-MOA without any hints of excursions into the stratus sphere!
The amazing thing about that 3100 fps load is that there were NO hints of excessive pressure on the brass! But ANY load that “jumps” nearly 150 fps from an increase of 1/2 grain is absolutely NOT to be trusted, and so by implication that powder is suspect in that application.
The best powders will give a relatively consistent increase in MV and psi with 1/2 to 1 grain increase in load development.
< I switched back to H4198 for the 300gr TSX, and 82.5 grains gave 2958, 2961 and 2959. Add 20 fps for correction to MV with Chrony at 15′ from muzzle. BC of that bullet is .234, so average corrected MV = 2979 fps/5911 ft-lbs. Recoil from the Ruger #1 with ports @ 10.3 lbs = 45 ft-lbs
I measure the case heads of every new load after the initial firing. This was recommended in Speer’s manuals for a long time. But a micrometer in 1/10000’s” is essential, not a caliper. From the same load for the 350gr Speer and 350gr Hornady in my .458 Win Mag, at the same approximate MV, the Speer shows somewhat less stress on the brass than the Hornady. So, the manuals are correct: we can’t just assume, that if all else is the same, a change in bullet type or brand, though being of the same weight, will result in equal PSI even though MV says pressure must be equal! You know the basic formula: BW x PSI = MV… NOT necessarily so! There are too many variables, and the handloader being the main variable!
I’ve given results from a couple of my rifles, but NEVER assume that your results will be the same. We must ALWAYS work up loads in 1/2 to 1 grain increments of propellant while keeping all else uniform. Then, without any hint of hesitantcy, I strongly recommend: WATCH FOR and LISTEN TO THE MESSAGES the BRASS and RIFLE are clearly sending us about the safeness of the load — whether that be 50,000 or 70,000 PSI !
And if ‘accuracy” is the watch word, then you can always load a .300 magnum “down to” a .30-30 if that’s the “main thing”! But if I wanted .30-30 ballistics, I’d buy a .30-30 and not a .300 magnum!
And I have to disclaim responsibility for your actions! Of course, you already know that…
Til the next…