What are REAL BALLISTICS vs published ballistics or hearsay ballistics – are there any differences that matter? To sum it up, it amounts to the ACTUAL bullet velocity at the rifle’s muzzle till termination at impact, whatever the distance between MV and IV – and this has reference to external ballistics only.
Recorded at 15′ from the muzzle of my former Ruger No.1 in .45-70 LT. The bullet was a 350gr TSX – not a max load. Corrected to MV = 2480 fps.
Then the weight (mass) of the projectile at impact determines energy and momentum. Additionally, the true ballistic coefficient (BC) of the bullet – it’s shape and construction are involved in its ultimate effect. And all that’s assuming “the nut behind the butt” does his/her job in aiming, as Phil Shoemaker put a fine point to it.
Real ballistics – NOT fanciful or supposted ballistics – determines the outcome, assuming proper aiming and the right bullet for the job.
To illustrate, let’s do a comparison of “book” or “hearsay ballistics” with ACTUAL ballistics using my .458 Winchester Magnum as a platform to show that there may indeed be a difference that matters. There are still sources of information readily available on the Internet and popular rifle and shooting magazines that reference outdated material, as well as recently published handloads for the .458 Win Mag in Nosler’s #9 that comes short of 2100 fps as a top load for their 500gr soft and solid which leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Then there are hunter/writers like the late Jack Lott (who changed his story several times) who was tossed by a Cape buff, and laid blame on the .458 Cartridge as a justification for his “creation” of the .458 Lott. Also, once again (despite much better ballistics being available), I read a recent article published by a well-known writer-hunter, that the .458 Lott was a better choice for African DG because of much superior ballistics than the .458 Win Mag. He then proceeded to amplify that distiction by saying the Lott has an advantage of 300 fps over the Winchester in shooting 500gr bullets, granting 2300 fps to the Lott and 2000 fps to the .458 Winchester.
So BAD information is still out there, and a shooter/hunter who only reads one source of information might report it as pure gospel on the Internet or to an inquiring mind.
< Recorded by a 500gr Hornady RN in May 2019 at our range. Corrected to MV = 2317 fps/ 5960 ft-lbs. Load: 81 grains of H4895, WLRM primer and Winchester brass. COL = 3.56″. Rifle: Ruger No.1H in .458 Winchester Magnum – 24″ Mag-Na-Ported barrel. (Pic on the header)
In this blog I’ll present my results in sharp contrast, and there are credible others who have experienced the same or moreso.
.458 Winchester Magnum
Bullet: 500gr Hornady DGX – bonded; .458-Caliber
SD = .341
BC = .295
MV= 2000 fps/ 4440 ft-lbs
50 = 1878 fps/ 3915 ft-lbs/ +2.7″
100= 1761 fps/ 3443 ft-lbs/ +3.5″
150= 1650 ft-lbs/ 3023 ft-lbs/ +2.9″
200= 1545 ft-lbs/ 2650 ft-lbs/ -2.8″
250= 1447 fps/ -11.1″
300= 1355 fps/ 2039 ft-lbs/ -23.7″ (126 TE) – not a poor result as it trumps even a .375 H&H at that range shooting a 300gr NP at 2600 fps. At 300 yds = 2004 fps/ 2675 ft-lbs = (82 TE).
REAL BALLISTICS from my Ruger N0.1H
MV= 2300 fps/ 5872 ft-lbs
50 = 2167 fps/ 5215 ft-lbs/ +1.3″ (293 TE)
100= 2040 fps/ 4618 ft-lbs/ +2.4″
150= 1917 fps/ 4071 ft-lbs/ +1.4″
200= 1798 fps/ 3589 ft-lbs/ – 2″
250= 1685 fps/ 3153 ft-lbs/ -8″
300= 1578 fps/ 2765 ft-lbs/ -17.2″ (147 TE)
This is a comparative analysis with any other cartridge at 300 yards. For example: a .300 Wby firing a 200gr NP at 3000 fps MV would have an approximate 2482 fps at 300 yds = 2734 ft-lbs and a 63 TE. While KE is not far behind the .458 at 300 yds, yet the great difference in Terminal Effect is due to a much greater momentum over the 200gr/.308-cal by 59% and 2.23 times more in cross-section-area of the bullet. Surface area of the bullet is a major factor in terminal ballistics, not only in bullet expansion at the front end.
Hornady 500gr DGX bonded factory load:
MV = 2140 fps/5084 ft-lbs (Actual results as tested by Dr Ron Berry that equals Hornady’s promotions)
300 = 1448 fps/ 2377 ft-lbs (135 TE)
- In actual field results, it has been demonstrated too many times that kenetic energy numbers (KE) alone do not correlate across the board in terminal effect with every other cartridge that may produce equal KE at impact. Assuming equal construction in each, and placement, the larger bore bullet will have greater weight and momentum if producing equal KE -or even less in many cases – thus producing a greater TE (Terminal Effect). Entirely apart from other aficionados, I’ve proven that to myself. But that is NOT a significant result from a minor increase in bullet diameter, but a real distinction in the class of cartridges from MEDIUM bores to LARGE bores, or even stepping up from SUB-MEDIUMS to MEDIUMS, all else equal as in bullet construction and placement.
- < From this rifle (Ruger #1 in .45-70 LT), the 500gr Hornady and 450gr AF were making +5000 ft-lbs at the muzzle.
- Some are VERY potifical about such matters and declare that “S.D. has NOTHING to do with terminal results!”. For them the “proof” is that a particular bullet (with a flat tip) of lesser weight can out-penetrate a heavier one of the same caliber that may be producing more momentum and KE at termination. Of course, in such a scenario, they are comparing “apples and oranges” without admitting it! A lighter solid that doesn’t deform at impact may very well “out-penetrate” another from the same rifle that expands and loses some of it’s weigh (or not). Expansion is like “putting on the brakes”, but in the meantime doing a lot more damage than the “solid” that sails on through without creating as large a permanent wound cavity! In my media tests, I’ve seen all that. For example: a 330gr Barnes Banded solid in .458 completely passed through 15.5 inches of very tough media leaving a bullet diameter hole at exit. It may still be going! Compared to a 350gr TSX expanding bullet that was arrested at 15.5 inches at the last panel of box 2 having retained 100% of original weight, total destruction in its path was more than twice that of the 330gr solid with a flat tip that didn’t deform while giving greater penetration. The 330gr solid had slightly less SD at .224 vs .238 of the 350gr TSX and gave greater penetration with far less damage. But it only matters IF we compare apples to apples as in :
A 150gr/.308″/NAB at 3420 fps MV/ 3895 ft-lbs (BC = .435/ SD = .226) from a .300 Win Mag that “correctly impacts” a 1250 lb bull moose at 2160 fps/ 1554 ft-lbs at 500 yds compared to a 200gr/ .308″/ NAB at 2960 fps MV/ 3922 ft-lbs (BC = .588/SD = .301) that “correctly impacts” the same 1250 lb bull moose at 2221 fps/ 2190 ft-lbs at 500 yds.
So…. what just happened there? They started out with nearly the same KE but ended up with the 200gr having gained 61 fps more velocity than the 150gr while starting 429 fps SLOWER, making 636 ft-lbs more energy at 500 yds in the process!
IF SD doesn’t matter, it CANNOT BE EXPLAINED because SD determines BC if bullet profiles have the same form factor. There’s simply no way possible to make a 150gr/ .308 caliber to have an SD of .301 and a BC of .588! But even a 200gr Nosler Partition RN will still have an SD of .301 but a BC of “only” about .351 due to its “form factor” – it’s more “blunt”.
In shooting that 200gr AB from a couple of 24″ Savages in .300 Win Mag – mine and a young friend’s – using 1/2 gr more of RL-22 – they about duplicated Nosler’s results from a 24″ test barrel, so that’s close enough to claim REAL results. Having not fired the 150gr AB, I can only assume that results from my Savage would have been close to those of the Nosler test barrel. But we just can’t pick a load from any manual and assume our results will be the same. We must do the test, and there will be variances based on powder lot and the rifle itself. Some have “tight” bores which create higher pressures/ velocities, and some “loose” barrels that cause less barrel friction, and so reduced psi and MV.
The subject of adding more powder to compensate for “a loose barrel” is another subject for another day. We need to keep in mind these two factors: 1> The professionals setup cannot be duplicated by ours, and 2> Our factory rifles are subject to manufacturing tolerances that may, or may not – mostly “not” – correspond to professional test barrels that usually are on the “tight” side of matters. That could create another obvious problem for the average “Joe”, who may use several manuals that disagree in results (as well as barrel lengths in tests). Then some bullet companies choose to use longer barrels than normal for some data when a “normal” length for most hunting rifles would fall between 22″ – 24″. For example: According to the NOSLER Reloading Guide 9, they used a 26″ Pac-Nor barrel for their .375 RUGER tests. They can do what they want, for whatever their reasons, but there are NO Ruger factory rifles for the .375 Ruger cartridge with a 26″ barrel – they are either 20″ or 23″! So their results from a 26″ Pac-Nor barrel are practically useless! For whom were those results done? Less than a few who would order a custom built .375 Ruger with a 26″ barrel? This point is made only to say “buyer beware” of “fake news”! Production models of a 20″ Ruger .375 will not come close to 2941 fps from handloads of their several 260gr as published in manual 9! Neither 2715 fps from their 300 grainers! Expectations should be in the neighbourhood of a loss of 150 to 180 fps from those published.
The point of all this is that we can only get the best REAL handloaded ballistics from our rifles if we know:
- Their potential from research and experience – lots of data out there that needs intelligent and careful analysis by making comparisons between sources.
- The barrel length. There are expected differences if the barrel is 20″, 22″, 24″ or 26″. Claimed results vary depending on several factors such as: the barrel itself – some are “tight” and others are “loose”. A tight barrel bore will create more friction on the bullet, hence higher pressure resulting in greater velocity, and so on.
- The powder: some new powders and bullets are game changers – we need to keep up!
For a couple examples: a 180gr from a 22″ barrel in .30-06 is capable of 2800 fps using some of today’s powders. According to Nosler, a 24″ H-S Precision barrel gave 2819 fps for any of their 180’s using 62 grains of RL-22 – their most accurate and fastest load. RL-22 has always been the best powder in my .300 magnums – giving highest velocity and best accuracy. There may even be a newer powder that improves on that.
From my .35 Whelen, I’m getting 2850 fps/ 4057 ft-lbs for the 225 Nosler AB using CFE 223, and into sub-moa. That’s from a 22″ Traditions G3 barrel. Remington factory ammo for their 200gr is still advertised at 2675 fps/ 3177 ft-lbs, and 2400 fps from their 250gr from a 24″ barrel, while it’s possible with some “knowhow” – from some powders – to extract 3000 fps from 200s and 2700 from 250s. Even in early June, 2010, my Chrony recorded 2984 and 2982 fps (avg. 2983) for the 200gr Hornady SP from my H&R .35 Whelen with a 22″ barrel at 10 ft from the Chrony. Corrected to MV = 3017 fps/ 4042 ft-lbs – and that from H4895, which has been around for a long time…. with all “signs” indicating safe pressure. Yup, REAL ballistics – nothing phony about that!
So, do you think that an additional 342 fps/ 865 ft-lbs from a 200gr in the Whelen might be a game changer for some game under extraordinary conditions?
<The H&R .35 Whelen… note the stout 22″ barrel.
And so on…
Till the next…