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Thread: Hardness Matters

  1. #1
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    Hardness Matters

    Tested various hardness boolits in the 454 Casull today. Shot 5-shot groups with boolits at 10.1, 11.0, 12.5, 14.3 and 15.4 Brinell. All loads were 300 grain Lee flat point GC boolit atop 25.0 grains of IMR-4227. Load was previously chronographed at approximately 1230 feet-per-second. All groups were 2 to 3 inches at 25 yards except the 12.5 Bhn that can be seen below . If it isnít there then I havenít figured out the picture posting portion of this forum yet. It printed all 5 in the same hole. Swabbed the bore between sets with no apparent leading.

    A bit miffed about Leeís Min/Max pressure table though. I would expect this load generates around 36,000 PSI which Leeís table would require a hardness of 26.0 to 28.5.



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  2. #2
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    That load looks like a keeper if it is repeateble.
    Another consideration could be if Leeīs pressure table is refering to plain base boolits. Also a slower burn rate powder can push a soft boolit faster without causing base destruction.
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  3. #3
    Great test.

    I've done a very similar set of tests with 357 magnum, multiple hardness, with multiple diameters and multiple moulds and multiple powders.

    Looks like the bigger 454 likes a bit harder bullet than a 357, but still much softer than many folks believe.

    The min/max pressure chart that Lee produced for rifles doesn't apply to handguns. It just flat doesn't work. If you change the BHN and try to adjust the load to the "correct pressure" the results are disappointing.

    What does hold true (in a 357) is the best performing BHN is always the best. No matter what bullet design or powder and charge. The best performing diameter is always the best no matter what else changes. The best powder charge is always the best for a given bullet powder combination (changing BHN or size doesn't change the best performing charge).

    The most interesting thing is OAL. Bullets that don't respond to optimizing OAL dilute the effectiveness of all other "tuning" factors. Bullets designs that perform best with a slightly long OAL outperform designs that don't. That's in a 357 and I can state it as fact, not speculation. I don't know if that holds true for large bore handguns like yours.

    Now that you are addicted, I thought it may interest you to hear about the way it works in a 357. It may provide some thoughts on what to test next.
    Last edited by 357shooter; 03-05-2011 at 07:33 AM.
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  4. #4
    FYI, you might be interested to see some test results that debunks alloy/pressure matching in a 357.

    I "speculate" that alloy/pressure matching doesn't apply to 99.9% of handguns.

    http://357shooter.blogspot.com/2010/...and-alloy.html
    Last edited by 357shooter; 03-05-2011 at 07:36 AM.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by .458 View Post
    A bit miffed about Leeís Min/Max pressure table though. I would expect this load generates around 36,000 PSI which Leeís table would require a hardness of 26.0 to 28.5.[/COLOR][/CENTER]


    Lee's chart is one dimensional. The chart is based upon pressure. There is a second component to hardness and that's establishing and holding bore center. If a bore has too long of a jump or too short of rifling, it will need harder lead even at 38 Spec pressures.

    Hardness is like everything else, it only matters if it does.
    Evaluate everything you read for safety and use common sense.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Bass Ackward View Post
    Lee's chart is one dimensional. The chart is based upon pressure. There is a second component to hardness and that's establishing and holding bore center. If a bore has too long of a jump or too short of rifling, it will need harder lead even at 38 Spec pressures.

    Hardness is like everything else, it only matters if it does.
    Quick question (sorry to hijack) when you say short rifling. Are you meaning the length of the rifling in barrel or the depth of the groove? I suspect depth of the groove but wanted to check. I've seen that strip the lead off the bullet, and wanted to make sure I understood your post.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 357shooter View Post
    Quick question (sorry to hijack) when you say short rifling. Are you meaning the length of the rifling in barrel or the depth of the groove? I suspect depth of the groove but wanted to check. I've seen that strip the lead off the bullet, and wanted to make sure I understood your post.

    Rifling height (and width) is the issue cause if you strip or start up off center, then you have no way of getting a good launch. The issue is really lead displacement, So if you have narrow rifling they need to be taller than a wider form.

    Once you foul, your rifling height is even shorter. If the fouling is next to the rifling, then you have reduced the "bite" (angle).

    Also tied into this is bullet design as the strength of the design works together to get a good launch.
    Evaluate everything you read for safety and use common sense.

  8. #8
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    I believe Bass was speaking of rifling depth.

    I have grown to appreciate the simplicity of Bass and his answers. It only matters when it does is a gem. Now if he could only give us the info to know when it will! Sadly, we have to get that from our gun thru loading and shooting and seeing what works in that gin.

    I would be interested to know how the other loads grouped. I also would like to see if this test is repeatable. Was it offhand or benched?

    Not trying to be a jerk but I have been burned a bit in the past when I shot a nice group thru the stars being aligned properly or something and though I had a good load only to find later that it was a fluke and the load sort of sucked.

    Brad

  9. #9
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    I test alloy hardness with known accuracy loads I have worked up for each boolit.
    The first indication of GC boolits too soft will be fliers. 2 or 3 in one hole, then a few fliers.
    PB too soft will just have large groups. As boolits get harder, groups will tighten.
    When fliers go away, the lead is right and there is no need to go harder but even harder has never opened my groups.
    Fast powders in the .44 do not reach maximum accuracy for the boolit until I get to 25 to 28 BHN. For slow powders, 22 BHN is enough and those are just WD WW boolits.
    Watch your WW's, a friend sent me WW boolits, air cooled and I get wide fliers in my .44 revolver. I checked them as low as 10 and as high as 14 BHN. I oven hardened them and they did not harden at all. A few actually measured 7 BHN. After a week they are exactly the same as the air cooled so it means the WW's were depleted of antimony and arsenic by recycling with too many stick on weights.
    Sadly, we have no idea what is in scrap lead and softer can work if the alloy is tough enough but only shooting with fliers will tell you it is still wrong. BHN is a poor rating for toughness but it is all we have.
    Yes fellas, when you get a few touching and then some out of the group, your alloy is not tough enough. Changing the load will have little effect.
    My testing is done at 50 yards only, that is where things show up fast.

  10. #10
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    Threads like this bring out the cynic in me. Not because I don't believe what anyone is saying, but because other people will take whats written and try and make it a "rule" or use it to justify their position which my be incorrect for a number of reasons. Worse yet, they'll use this as ammo to spread disinformation and harm the incredible gains we've made here over the past 15 years or so. I think Bass put it best- hardness matters only when it does. If the the OP author can reproduce those groups on demand over a wide range of conditions, THEN my friend you have a clear winner.

    357- That's an interesting theory. My first question would be- how many guns have you observed this in and how many alloys have you used? If it's just one gun/alloy then it only holds true for THAT gun/alloy, no offense intended. If it's 2-3 guns/alloys then you have a working theory. When you can get 20-40 other guys to reproduce your observations across a wide variation on guns/alloys/designs/powders/etc. then you get into the "fact" area. I mean absolutely no disrespect or offense, but I have been guilty of stating a few "facts" in rather strong terms myself only to end up realizing I wasn't as right about things as I thought. I hope you ARE right, finding some rules to this game beyond "fit is king" would be very helpful.

    I would tend to agree over all, in a general way, that "hardness matters", but in a limited way (is that non-comital or what?!) . That is, hardness ( talk about ambiguous terms, 15.4 Bhn is almost dead soft to some people!!!) is part of the boolits dynamic fit. Fit remains King and comes first. That's the one true fact in the game as far as I can tell.

    BTW- I tried to get an agreement on definitions for "hardness" a while back. I thought it would be helpful to clear the air of just what people mean when they say soft, medium, hard, really hard, etc. There was practically no interest in defining terms. The one thing we did discover is that those who responded felt "hard" ran from about 15 Bhn to well over 30 Bhn. That's a pretty wide range to use and have people understand what you mean.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Bass Ackward View Post
    Rifling height (and width) is the issue cause if you strip or start up off center, then you have no way of getting a good launch. The issue is really lead displacement, So if you have narrow rifling they need to be taller than a wider form.

    Once you foul, your rifling height is even shorter. If the fouling is next to the rifling, then you have reduced the "bite" (angle).

    Also tied into this is bullet design as the strength of the design works together to get a good launch.
    That's what I thought you meant, thanks for verifying.
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  12. #12
    Bret4207: I've tested and had it work in 4 guns, all 357 magnum. I haven't tested in Ruger single action, Freedom Arms, Thompson single shots and plenty of others.

    I don't believe the softness of the lead, or the other things I mention that work well in a 357 work in bigger calibers, so please don't think I'm claiming that.

    I have run into some range guns (specifically a GP100) that just won't shoot lead accurately no matter what.

    So nothing works 100%, but somethings work 80-90%. In consider that to make a great "guideline".

    Bullets that didn't react well to OAL tweaks were all over the place in how they responded. Which is why I mentioned it as being an important factor.
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  13. #13
    On the question of hardness matters: that can be very true related to leading, working with the rifling etc.

    However the topic is alloy and pressure matching (I assume for accuracy from the context): in that context doesn't according to the chart. It does affect accuracy though. At least in a 357.

    Looks like it's true here too, which is why this interested me so much.
    Last edited by 357shooter; 03-05-2011 at 10:42 AM.
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  14. #14
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    A projectile has to enter the barrel straight on for the gun/load to be accurate. Anything that promotes that is mandatory. Two wide lands barrels shoot softer boolits well, right? Going one step further, a camera tripod is just that having three narrow lands. So a barrel improvement would have three lands, but with lands taking up instead more space than the grooves. The idea is to force the boolit to orient itself straight on into the bore before any acelleration that counts. If the boolit jumps too fast (fast powder), then it is imperative the lands have to be wider to give more orientation power to the boolit. ... felix
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bret4207 View Post
    Threads like this bring out the cynic in me. Not because I don't believe what anyone is saying, but because other people will take whats written and try and make it a "rule" or use it to justify their position which my be incorrect for a number of reasons. Worse yet, they'll use this as ammo to spread disinformation and harm the incredible gains we've made here over the past 15 years or so. I think Bass put it best- hardness matters only when it does. If the the OP author can reproduce those groups on demand over a wide range of conditions, THEN my friend you have a clear winner.

    357- That's an interesting theory. My first question would be- how many guns have you observed this in and how many alloys have you used? If it's just one gun/alloy then it only holds true for THAT gun/alloy, no offense intended. If it's 2-3 guns/alloys then you have a working theory. When you can get 20-40 other guys to reproduce your observations across a wide variation on guns/alloys/designs/powders/etc. then you get into the "fact" area. I mean absolutely no disrespect or offense, but I have been guilty of stating a few "facts" in rather strong terms myself only to end up realizing I wasn't as right about things as I thought. I hope you ARE right, finding some rules to this game beyond "fit is king" would be very helpful.

    I would tend to agree over all, in a general way, that "hardness matters", but in a limited way (is that non-comital or what?!) . That is, hardness ( talk about ambiguous terms, 15.4 Bhn is almost dead soft to some people!!!) is part of the boolits dynamic fit. Fit remains King and comes first. That's the one true fact in the game as far as I can tell.

    BTW- I tried to get an agreement on definitions for "hardness" a while back. I thought it would be helpful to clear the air of just what people mean when they say soft, medium, hard, really hard, etc. There was practically no interest in defining terms. The one thing we did discover is that those who responded felt "hard" ran from about 15 Bhn to well over 30 Bhn. That's a pretty wide range to use and have people understand what you mean.
    That is the problem, there is no rule for hardness. One alloy at 14 BHN will shoot lights out yet another at 14 will give fliers all the time. That means the alloy needs changed.
    It always comes back to the same problem, none of us has the same lead.
    How I wish I could compile it for everyone but I can't even do it for myself.
    I do know for a fact that the wrong alloy will cause fliers.
    The charts for alloys are just like twist rate charts, none will work.
    Bass is correct too. Alloy does matter when it does.
    Bear with me Bret, it can not be solved except by the shooter. If he gets a lot of fliers, leave the boolit alone and work with the alloy.
    We both agree that fit is first.
    Some use the same alloy for every caliber and velocity and I will say that is the route to failure in most guns.

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    The more the gun approaches BR specs, the softer the lead can be for the same accuracy. There is NO doubt about that. ... felix
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    A belated welcome to the forum .458!!

    A very nice group!!!

    "Hardness matters when it does"

    I'll agree with that!

    I do see a general thought amounst beginers that HARDNESS IS KING ............ and it's NOT.

    It's quite seductive to fall into that trap and come up disappointed later on.

    But hardness does just matter "when it does"!

    As other's have pointed out, the OP is using a 4227 powder and it's dwell time is longer than others and that matters as well.

    And though the OP is using the .454 Cas .......... Running one at 1200+ fps is not straining things .......... and that's good particularily for lead.

    And most of us don't have .454's ...........

    I shoot a lot of .44 mags ........ and as .44man aludes to ... top loads in that caliber can and will stretch the envelope with lead but most of don't load all of our ammo to that pressure.

    Some mention of variations alloy came up .......... certainly if your alloy is jumping around, you've got a problem ........ I like BIG lead pots for breaking things down.

    The law of averages is your friend.

    After I get things into ingots, I run them again in the big pot and re-clean ........... more averaging.

    Now that big pile of ingots are pretty average.

    If and when I need something unaverage for an alloy, I blend for that need and take a letter stamp and mark those ingots to what that alloy has been blended up to.

    I work by one golden rule: If isn't broke don't fix it!

    And I am with Bret ........... it you've got a problem ........ get your fitament right first!

    Everything you do thereafter will work much better!

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  18. #18
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    An interesting thread, and even more interesting opinions and comments.

    Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that regarding fit, bigger is better, and smaller is leading. And for me that seems to work. So in that regard agree with Bret on that point.

    As to hardness, it seems to me that in shooting anything we cast, it is going to be softer than jacketed material (please someone correct me if I am wrong on that point). Don't mind shooting plinking loads that run in the 1000-1200 fps range with lower end BH numbers (12-15), but when vols go up, I want harder and slightly oversized for bore blts. Most everything that I shoot in rifles at vols between 1600-2300 fps, are at or above Lino hardness. That is true for the 22's, thru 375's.

    And of course there are issues of punching paper, or punching game, and what constitutes accuracy at what range, etc.etc.etc. Any how, still an interesting thread.
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  19. #19
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    Well, if you have ever moved something heavy, then you know it is more difficult than something light. Bullet mass will can be more difficult to turn over.

    If you have .004 tall rifling as a standard, which bore diameter do you think will be more flexible with lead? A .224 bullet, or a .458? Which one is likely to need harder lead at the same velocity?

    As a result, which bore diameter will have the highest, accurate, velocity potential? So as bore diameter increases with standard height rifling, what happens to the velocity range of the accuracy zone?

    So two men are walking down the street, one shoots a .357 at moderate velocities while the other shoots a 500 anything. Will these guys tend to have the same opinion on hardness?

    Lets stay within the same bore diameter. Take a 44 with 250 grain bullet and one with a 350 grainer. Which might have to be harder than the other?

    This is the view from the top of the hill. Now you throw diameter on top of this and it gets complicated unless it isn't. If you just load and shoot what a gun wants, life is good. It's when we get determined to throw what we want that bad things happen. It only matter if it does.
    Last edited by Bass Ackward; 03-05-2011 at 01:29 PM.
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  20. #20
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    .458

    Welcome to this forum, you'll enjoy it here.

    A couple things about your test; it is well thought out and executed, just to small of a sample to draw a reliable conclusion from is all. As mentioned the results need to be repeatable. I do agree with you and others, however, that Lee's min/max psi table is not correct as to the absolute conclusion drawn and many times that table/chart is misleading to many new cast bullet shooters. Among the other things mentioned in other posts here is how well a particular alloy does with regards to accuracy is directly related to the rate of accelleration. With a given max peak psi a fast burning powder accellerates a bullet faster than a slower burning powder. Nothing new there. What is misunderstood about it though is how uneven obturation, slump, set back, etc. or as Bass puts it; "not establishing and holding bore center" can adversely affect the balance of the bullet and it's accuracy during flight. Given equal psi a faster burning powder can cause more unbalance to the bullet than a slower burning powder and thus not be as accurate, even at a lower velocity. I beleive this is what 357shooter demonstrated with his test.

    With regards to "hardness" what does "Hardness is like everything else, it only matters if it does." mean? While to those who understand about hardness it might point in the right direction. To those who don't understand it means as much to me as "where ever you go, there you are." Not trying to be critical of Bass here at all, just pointing out that it is somewhat misleading to those who don't understand "hardness" in cast bullets as is Lee's table.

    Given the parameters of Lee's test, specifically what powder(s) were used and the specific alloy used, the min/max psi chart for alloy BHN is probably correct. The problem is as 44man says; " It always comes back to the same problem, none of us has the same lead." So what do I mean by that? Going to what Bret4027 mentions about trying to get an agreement on definitions for "hardness" . Not having a concenses on that definition (and many other terms we use) causes us confusion many times and specifically this time. Most want to give the BHN as the measure of "hardness". That is only half of it though. The malleability of the alloy must be taken into consideration as at least half of the equation/definition, perhaps more than half. I do know that a malleable alloy with a lower BHN (50/50 WW/lead & linotype/lead at 70/30 for example) can almost always be driven to higher velcoity (that means higher psi) with better accuracy using the same powder than a brittle bullet (straight linotype for example). So we see here that BHN alone does not tell the story but only part of it.

    How do we measure mallebility of an alloy accurately? I don't know. I use a hammer and anvil. Not very scientific but it's worked for me. I place a cast bullet (aged properly) on the anvil base down and hit it hard with a large hammer. I do this with 10 such bullets of a given alloy. If they squish with no shattering then the alloy is good for upwards of 2600+ fps. An alloy that does this will not chip or unevenly set back in the bore during the push into the lands or during accelleration. Thus it will be a more balanced bullet and less adversely effected by such during flight. Ergo more accurate. I've also found this test to be relavent to accurate cast bullets in the .357, .41 and .44 magnums at 1400+ fps velocities. Caveat here; the use of GC'd or PB'd bullet also adds another factor to consider as someone mentioned.

    Malleability of the alloy, BHN, the accelleration, the "fit", "enter(ing) the barrel straight on, whether GC'd or not, etc. are all important factors for accuracy. Unfortuneately Lee's table leads many to believe that just BHN is important when considering the "hardness" of a cast bullet and as you've discovered, that isn't correct.

    Larry Gibson
    Last edited by Larry Gibson; 03-05-2011 at 06:56 PM.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check