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Thread: Long Range Accuracy For Revolvers

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Good Cheer's Avatar
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    Long Range Accuracy For Revolvers

    Keith had years of puzzling out the revolvers he used.
    He came up with his means of squeezing out the best accuracy.
    And others have made careers following in his wake with the equipment they had.
    Well, Richard Hoch machined this bore rider mold in 1981 that was made for the not-stainless Ruger Security Six.
    And it's amazing.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    So when you're buying a mold for a revolver...
    Are you trying this and that or are you getting it made to order based upon what works?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I never had any luck beyond 50 yards with a meplat larger than 0.7 of bullet diameter.

    I get excellent results with Accurate 43-230EB in .44 Magnum and .44-40 and 45-259EB in the .45 Colt in both rifles and revolvers to 200 yards. With black powder in the .44-40, 7 grains of Bullseye in either .44 Magnum or .45 Colt. In Rugers having a cylinder length which can handle a longer nose 45-290H is wonderful at long range.

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    Last edited by Outpost75; 06-07-2018 at 09:35 PM.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    My experience parallels that of Outpost: 50 yards = ok, 75 yards = much wider group, 100+ yards = shotgun patterns. In my experience, the best long range performer in the 357 was the 358-156.
    _________________________________________________It's not that I can't spell: it is that I can't type.

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    This is an article I archived that is no longer on the net.
    "Thoughts On Improving Revolver Loads
    by M.L. McPherson
    Synopsis: After decades of groping in relative darkness, this author has gained some understanding of a few general principles for improving revolver loads. As most serious revolver shooters know, it is quite difficult to get good ballistic consistency with many such loads – particularly those of the "midrange" variety. Often, the problem lies with the recipes offered in standard loading manuals. In other instances, the handloader causes problems by failing to pay attention to details, by failing to follow directions, by assuming that any suggested load will just naturally be a good load or by assuming that loading dies are made correctly!
    I began loading for a revolver when I was 14. That involved a 1956-produced Ruger 44 Magnum Blackhawk, 240-grain half-jacketed bullets (Speer, I believe) and a powder known as H-240 (I have always suspected that said powder was simply the original surplus forerunner to H110/W296). The recipe was easy to follow: Seat bullet on heaviest charge possible while still getting a good crimp. To me at that time (and young age), recoil was simply ferocious with those 1600-fps+ loads fired from an aluminum-grip-framed gun. I clearly remember awaking one Sunday morning when my first lucid thought was to wonder why I had laid my hand on the pavement and allowed someone to drive a truck over it! That throbbing ache was the result of firing my first 50 of those rounds the previous afternoon.
    Such loads, with compressed charges, tend to be among the most accurate revolver loads
    I have ever found. For decades, my favorite load for the Ruger 44 Magnum combined the Hornady 240 JHP (long obsolete) in front of 26 grains of W296 sparked by the CCI-350. In my early-production Super Blackhawk that load always managed a bit more than 1500 fps and I fired thousands – enough to cut the rear of the barrel through at the forcing cone in three places. And was it ever accurate! In my prime, I managed several impressive shooting feats with that combination. Not to bore, but I have waited a quarter-century to recount one such episode to those who might appreciate it.
    A Regression
    One calm day in 1975, I was out with my friends, Roger, Duane and their father, Wayne Erkman. We were visiting a long-abandoned Quaker Oats farm in the Grand Valley of Western Colorado, where we had set up an improvised range. We positioned a heavy table at a measured 600 yards from our target, for a bit of rifle shooting – just for fun and to see if Duane's 7mm Rem Mag hunting load from his Parker Hale would outshoot my 270 Winchester combination – it was a near toss-up but, as I recall, Duane's group was smaller.
    Naturally, I had my Ruger Super Blackhawk along. I noticed a five-gallon can on the hillside behind our target (in those days, such sloppy trash disposal was quite common). I had been doing a bit of long-range revolver work and was tempted to try a shot at that handy and inviting target. When I mentioned my desire, Duane's younger brother, Roger (14), became wide eyed. "You think you might be able to hit that can?" he exclaimed.
    That was sufficient provocation! I carefully rested the gun over the sandbag and took deliberate aim. I was reasonably sure of the required windage and elevation corrections and a high mountain in the background provided a plethora of proxy aiming points, which is always easier than using the Keith method (elevating the front sight in the rear notch).
    I touched off the first round, that bullet hit low and right by several feet. I aimed at a different bright spot on the far mountain, which looked to be in the correct, corrected spot. That shot either hit the can or bounced into the can and rolled it a bit. I missed the next shot and then made three consecutive hits – four out of six shots into a five-gallon can located at least 660 yards away. In those days, the two misses bothered me but my young observer was simply overwhelmed by the four hits. That event was all he could talk about in the ensuing weeks.
    At that time, the Erkmans were members of the Orchard Mesa Gun Club, east of Grand Junction, Colorado – I believe Duane still is. One particular "old timer" hung out at that range then. I have forgotten his name and would not mention it anyway but I can assure you, he was a very well known gun writer of the 50s and 60s and many older readers would recognize his name.
    When Roger next saw this old man, whom he had revered, he was anxious to tell the story of how his friend had hit a five-gallon can four out of six shots at 660 yards using a Ruger 44 Magnum. The old man never even let Roger finish the story before loudly, flatly and profanely declaring that it could not have happened, that it was impossible and that Roger was a fool for even trying to tell such a farfetched tale.
    Revolver Accuracy Potential
    Notable points from that story are many but the most pertinent here is that with proper care in loads and handling, a good revolver can shoot to near MOA accuracy levels, certainly far better than many ignorant shooters would ever believe. However, the devil is in the details.
    Looking beyond human frailties, the biggest related devil, which I struggled with for decades, was finding any mid-range load combination that came close to matching the accuracy of that full-power monster load. After a lifetime of looking, I now have some useful suggestions.
    For Midrange Revolver Loads Only
    Deep Seating
    First, seat bullets deeper and roll a gentle crimp over the ogive or driving band instead of into the crimping groove. You will need to reduce powder charge accordingly. Several years ago, I did a piece on this for Handloader's Digest, wherein I developed a table including corrections for every bore size and charge level. Quite boring. For most readers here I can simply suggest the basis of that table and let them do their own figuring.
    Measure the percentage change in usable case capacity between load with deep-seated bullet and load with regularly seated bullet, then reduce charge precisely 3/4 of that percentage – e.g., if deep seating the bullet reduces usable capacity (volume under seated bullet) from 10 grains of water to 8 grains of water, percentage reduction is 20%. If, in standard load, correct charge is 5 grains of powder, correct charge in deep-seated load will be about 4.2 grains (20% x = 15%, 15% of 5 is 0.75, 5 – 0.75 = 4.25). This correction will be very close to ideal.
    For those with a chronograph, to match pressure in both loads, look for a percentage velocity difference equal to 1/5 the percentage difference in usable capacity (with both cast and swaged bullets, peak pressure is basis of accuracy). Again, consider our example, if the full-length load launches bullet at 1000 fps, shorter version will generate same peak pressure when it launches bullet at about 960 fps (1/5 x 20% = 4%, 4% of 1000 = 40, 1000 – 40 = 960). Unless volume difference becomes unusually large, perhaps >33%, these corrections will hold with sufficient accuracy for the purpose.
    Advantages of deep seating are legion. First, this approach provides for significantly greater bullet pull, which retards initial bullet movement and improves shot-to-shot ignition consistency. Second, more of charge will burn before bullet base clears case mouth and subsequently barrel-cylinder gap, which makes for a cleaner load. Third, with less unused boiler room, primer will do a better job of igniting charge, which improves consistency. Fourth, charge will more nearly fill boiler room, which can significantly reduce powder position effect – see below. Finally, bullet will move further before clearing cylinder, so that more energy will have been imparted into bullet before venting begins – for various reasons, this improves ballistic uniformity.
    Powder Position Effect
    The next issue is the effect of powder position. In these types of loads, if you cannot find a clean burning powder that nearly fills usable boiler room, while generating normal pressure and velocity, do not be surprised. This is a standard problem when dealing with cartridges that were, or could have been, designed for blackpowder. Smokeless loads that work for midrange applications usually fill only about one-half of usable capacity – what the world needs is a really good smokeless powder with a bulk density of about 0.25 (RedDot is about 0.45).
    If you do not think powder position matters, you need to do a bit of testing. Instead of quoting results from among hundreds of my tests, I will provide information on two tests by friends of mine. First, Ken Oehler (Oehler research, the chronograph folks) reports the following.
    After I had mentioned discovering that typical 38-40 factory loads often produced >150 fps more velocity when powder was shifted to rear of case, compared to when it was level in case, Oehler was sufficiently intrigued to do a bit of experimenting. Hence, with a 70% case-filling charge of Unique in a 38 Special load using a 110-grain Speer JHP, Oehler recorded a 95% increase in pressure when powder was shifted toward primer! pressure almost doubled.
    Similarly consider what my friend, Randolph Constantine, a serious NRA Highpower competitor, discovered. After years of trying to persuade Constantine of the importance of powder position, he discovered it for himself. While testing a 6mm-08 load, where charge filled 90% of useable case capacity, he was getting significant vertical stringing. Then, on a lark, he alternately shifted powder to front, or rear, of case while shooting another ten rounds. In doing so, he produced a pair of distinct 5-shot, 100-yard groups! Separation of group centers was 1 inches and each group was under inch.
    (To do such a test, tip the barrel up, or down, and gently tap side of gun several times then carefully lower, or raise, the muzzle to shooting position – this positions powder at primer, or bullet, respectively.)
    Having tested hundreds of loads, I have concluded that vagaries in powder position account for the single biggest cause of excessive extreme spread in high-quality midrange revolver loads. This is also a significant consideration for many pistol loads and for any rifle load with significant unused powder space. Consistent gun handling is simplest solution but deep bullet seating (see above) represents a significant mitigation. Use of shorter cases, although tempting and feasible, is a poor solution because, with those, the bullet is pummeled as it first swells into front of chamber (between end of case and beginning of throat) and then swages back to throat diameter – such abuse cannot contribute to good bullet balance.
    In special purpose loads, I have used very deep seating with no crimp. An example is a 38 Special target load using a 125-grain Bear Creek Supply TC bullet (209-874-4322). My friend, Roger Hazlewood, has an old Hollywood press set up to produce 38 Special wadcutter loads. With the only charge bar he has, that unit drops 2.7 grains of Bullseye. To get this bullet to work with that powder charge, I used QuickLOAD to estimate OAL where peak chamber pressure would be about 10,000 psi (which works well for this bullet, which has a Brinell hardness of about 6, see below).
    Hazlewood has now fired thousands of these rounds without cleaning the gun and he now has several other competitors using the same load in their revolvers. This suggests that pressure must be rather close to ideal. Since his team leads our local indoor league, quality of this load seems almost undeniable. This load is a bit odd to look at, with only about one-half of bullet nose protruding from case mouth, and it would not be appropriate for self-defense applications – these rounds do not feed smoothly into cylinder – but it works great for formal target shooting.
    Bullet Seating
    Concerning bullet seating, a bit of detail: Case neck will always draw back a bit smaller than expander diameter; amount of spring-back depends upon brass hardness. A particularly hard (reloaded many times) case neck might spring back about two thousandths inch; a particularly soft (just annealed) case neck might spring back only about one-half thousandth. We do not want to damage bullet during seating but we do want case to hold bullet as long and possible after primer ignites; therefore, we must tailor neck tension to bullet hardness – the harder the bullet, the harder and tighter the usable neck.
    For standard loads (not benchrest type), the basic rule is quite simple – always use the most neck tension feasible without significantly damaging bullet during seating (swaging it smaller or significantly upsetting nose). I pull many bullets for examination and have a good selection of expanders. This might seem unnecessary but you should have an expander matched to each case and bullet combination. You could end up owning and using three or four expanders in each basic size.
    When shooting particularly soft bullets (swaged), use essentially no crimp and either use an expander that matches bullet diameter (or is up to about one thousandth larger) or anneal case mouth as soft as feasible and use an expander that is one thousandth smaller than bullet diameter. As a soft bullet is forced from case, a hard case neck with a heavy crimp will swage exiting bullet significantly undersize. Similarly, a hard case can swage soft bullets during seating. As case body swell or as bullet clears case mouth, acceleration forces will swell bullet to fill chamber. Such deformations are apt to increase leading and cannot contribute to accuracy.
    For various reasons, most die manufacturers make the expanding portion of the bellmouth expander about one thousandth smaller than bullet diameter. This represents one of those one-size-fits-nothing situations! Those shooting unusually soft cast bullets from standard cases need an expander that is perhaps one-half thousandth larger than bullet diameter – so case does not excessively deform the bullet during seating. Those shooting harder bullets, most cast and jacketed types need an expander that is about four thousandths smaller than bullet – to create maximum feasible bullet pull. Expanders supplied with most die sets produce mediocre results with most combinations of bullet and case.
    To analyze this situation and to determine what will work best, seat a sample bullet in an as-fired case and apply a heavy crimp. Use an inertial puller to remove this bullet. Then examine bullet with a loupe and measure shank. If a reduction in diameter (swaging) has occurred, case mouth is too hard for that bullet. In that situation, either forgo use of a significant crimp or anneal case mouth.
    If no swaging is noted in above test, seat a bullet into a fully prepared but unprimed and uncharged case. Use an inertial puller, as before. Examine bullet for deformations and swaging. If swaging is noted, use a 0.0005-inch larger expander and repeat this test with a new bullet. Continue testing with larger expanders until no swaging is noted.
    If no swaging is noted, when using standard expander and crimp, repeat test using a 0.001-inch smaller expander. Repeat test until you find smallest expander that will not result in bullet damage or until expander is about four thousandths smaller than bullet diameter.
    Initially, this can be a lot of work but you will soon develop a feel for it and will find that you can usually guess correct expander diameter very quickly. If accuracy is your goal, it is worth this effort. Soon enough you will have a collection of expander stems in various diameters so that you can match bullet and case, every time.
    Component Selection
    Bullets
    With conventional cast or swaged bullets, you must match peak chamber pressure to bullet hardness. If you have a Saeco or other hardness tester, take readings on nose and base of several examples – discard any unusually low readings (these indicate porosity, which is common on sprue end has nothing to do with hardness), then average the remainder. If you have some way of estimating peak chamber pressure (if you understand a few variables, QuickLOAD, 800-451-3550, works splendidly) look for a load generating at least 1500 times the Brinell hardness reading (Saeco supplies a conversion chart) – e.g., a Brinell 10 bullet requires about 15,000 psi to properly obturate, significantly less peak chamber pressure can result in gas cutting; significantly more peak chamber pressure can result in pressure leading.
    Having tested dozens of bullets rated by commercial manufacturers as "Saeco 10", I have learned to distrust their claims. Almost universally, those run closer to Saeco 7! Even this is too hard for some milder loads. The problem is this, when the manufacturer lies about bullet hardness it is difficult to guess needed pressure!
    Modern wheel weight metal alloy is softer than in days gone by. Therefore, our modern wheel weight derived bullets tend to be significantly softer than our older wheel weight derived bullets. In addition, modern commercial-cast bullets tend to be harder than any wheel weight castings (unless those are heat-treated). Furthermore, note that cast bullets tend to harden or soften with age – depends upon alloy and initial cooling characteristics.
    For what it is worth, more revolver barrel leading results from use of too mild loads than from use of too hot loads – particularly when using commercial cast bullets. Swaged bullets are another matter entirely, those require very mild loads and the powder charge range – from too mild to too hot – is often only a few tenths of a grain.
    Powders
    As to midrange load powders, I have several favorites. While there is nothing wrong with Bullseye or Unique, I prefer cleaner powders. Perhaps the cleanest and best for this type of load are Red Dot (particularly the new version), 700-X, Clays and Solo-1000. Because it is a single-base powder and therefore leaves less smoky residue when burned at lower pressures, I have personally gravitated toward Solo-1000 (a flake powder from Accurate) for all midrange revolver loads.
    Primers
    With these powders, I prefer Remington's 1 (small) or 2 (large) primer. This is among the least brissant (explosive force) but hottest (amount of heat generated) of readily available primers. Such combinations of primer, powder, bullet seating depth, neck tension setting and crimp, can produce spectacularly clean and consistent loads."
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  5. #5
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    Part 2 as it was too long to post
    "A few notes of caution
    IMR does not test any of their nominally shotshell intended powders at pressures greater than those found in shotshell proof loads (about 20,000 psi). Therefore, despite the fact that many loading manuals have listed various IMR powders for use in pistol and revolver loads, it is patently unsafe to use any such powder in any load where peak pressure might significantly exceed about 15,000 psi – this includes most pistol loads and all magnum revolver loads. I fear the same is true with Accurate shotshell powders but at least their single-base shotshell powders will tend to be better behaved (more apt to demonstrate lot-to-lot uniformity) when used at higher pressures. I do not know about Hodgdon shotshell powders. For safety sake, if the load you are using significantly exceeds nominal shotshell pressure and you prefer to use a shotshell-designed powder, keep in mind that (as far as I know) the only brand readily available in the US that is always tested for lot-to-lot uniformity at typical rifle, pistol and revolver pressures is Alliant – Red Dot, Green Dot, Bullseye, Unique, Blue Dot and 2400.
    Equally, note that primer substitutions have been proven to sometimes radically alter pressure – this is not unique, ballisticians tell horror stories of customers who haphazardly substituted primers and ran into king-sized problems – for example, combining a milder than suggested primer with Accurate #2 in a 9mm load and doubling pressure! Moreover, neither you nor anyone else can reliably predict results of any primer substitution! Use of a "hotter" primer can result in lower pressure and use of a "milder" primer can result in higher pressure – any result is possible and all have been observed. It is a unadulterated and unequivocal fact that anyone who professes to believe they can predict even the general trend resulting from such a substitution will have already demonstrated sufficient ignorance of reality as to make the results of any handloading decision based upon their further proclamations fraught with peril. Often such predictions hold, just as often those do not.
    In Conclusion
    As an example of just how good loads adopting these principles can be, with a commercial-cast 240-grain Keith SWC loaded in the 44 Magnum and seated for a slight roll crimp over the driving band, 6.9 grains of S-1000 ignited by the R-P 2 primer produces just under 1000 fps from my wife's Hawes. Standard deviation is in the single digits (comparable conventional loads typically generate three times the average shot-to-shot velocity variation). Accuracy is better than I can measure with my waning skills and powder position effects are quite modest. However, perhaps the most startling characteristic of this load is that it is so clean that it is quite difficult to tell that the gun or case has been fired, either by feel or by appearance – after firing 100 of these rounds the revolver is still clean!
    I could ramble on further but I hope I have covered the basics here. If accuracy and dependability are your goals, consider the above areas."
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Archived. Thx.
    The ENEMY is listening.
    HE wants to know what YOU know.
    Keep it to yourself.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    MT Gianni,

    Thanks Very Much!, for sharing that article!
    2nd Amend./U.S. Const. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    "A man ought ta do what he thinks is best" - "Hondo" Lane.(John Wayne)

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    Enforce the Immigration laws & deport the illegal immigrants. Quit fooling around.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Thanks for sharing.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master am44mag's Avatar
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    Thank you sir, that's going straight into my library.
    ______________________________________________
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    Boolit Master
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    WOW! Interesting article! Thank you! I marvel at those who have done the research, and can actually make understandable the fine points of it all!
    Of course, those of us who are just looking for a good, safe mid-range .38-.357 reload that will help us to keep the majority of our boolits in an 8" bullseye at 25 yards, (Never said I could shoot good, just that I enjoy it!) will still probably refer to a good reloading manual or three, pick something out of the old favorite "TLAR" category, (That Looks About Right), make the best reloads we can, and keep on keeping on!

  11. #11
    Boolit Mold
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    Thank You, MT Gianni

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Good Cheer's Avatar
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    Did a sketch to scale it up based upon a Ruger .44 Special's chamber and cylinder length. I suspect that it would have to be longer to perform as well as in the .357 but I don't plan on hot rodding the Special. Maybe someday in the .41.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  13. #13
    Boolit Master Good Cheer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rintinglen View Post
    My experience parallels that of Outpost: 50 yards = ok, 75 yards = much wider group, 100+ yards = shotgun patterns. In my experience, the best long range performer in the 357 was the 358-156.
    #358156 and RCBS 38-162 both worked great in my revolvers and an 1892.
    The RCBS was awesome for jack rabbbits in the rifle with .38's. Lots of holdover a pasture away but easy to hit with because of so little vertical dispersion. I think those were put together with AL-5.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    The rcbs 180 sil boolits works out to 200 yards in my win 94 .only ever shot my revolvers up to 50 yards in completion. 158 gr swc worked fine in my 686 .

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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