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Thread: Revolver Bullets: Soft vs. Hard

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    Revolver Bullets: Soft vs. Hard

    Revolver Bullets: Soft vs. Hard


    Introduction:
    I’ve done some experimenting on the topic of soft vs hard bullets and since I see the value of both for hunting and shooting, I have decided to write about what my observations have been. I have seen many “colorful” threads detailing the topic and with the ton of pissing matches going on, there really is good knowledge on both sides should a person have an open enough mind to listen. Too many individuals here are so darn hard headed that they become bloated with the inability to sit back and listen or simply be polite. If you are one of these people please feel free to read on but hold your tongue if you decide you have the need to bash the tread. I believe that what I have learned from members here and how it translated over for my own experimenting can help others in the long run so I feel it is worth mentioning.

    General statements vs soft and hard bullets:
    Those who have hunting purposes, a soft bullet is a good tool to use as there is expansion which will create a larger wound channel if that is what is desired. A hard bullet also has its place as it brings with it the ability to penetrate and take some of the largest, deadliest animals that walk the earth and in addition a hard bullet can also be used to hunt even those animals that are not man eaters.

    Target shooters, paper punchers, or pop can shooters etc. it comes down to what works best in your particular firearm. Shoot soft or hard bullets it makes not difference to me as long as you are happy and shooting your desired accuracy.

    Playing around with the two differences:
    Revolver: Ruger Super Redhawk 454 Casull 7 ” barrel open sights
    Barrel groove diameter: .452
    Barrel throat diameter(where the rifling starts in the barrel): .454
    Chamber cylinder throats: .455
    Bullet: LBT LFN 280 grain Plain Base bullet
    Powder: 12 grains of Herco
    Velocity: 1,150 fps

    I usually run a harder bullet from my magnum revolver (water quenched 18-20 BHN) which when sized came out to .455, but have read enough people who have made it work with softer bullets so I figured I would give it another whack since a bullet of 18-20 BHN hardness has hardly any expansion on an animal and I am not out to shoot a grizzly bear any time soon so don’t need the super penetration. With the harder bullet I had no problems with leading and was capable of consistent 1 to 2” 30yrd 6 shot groups from a rest which is really good for me with open sights as I am not the greatest in the land type of handgunner.

    So on to the soft side of things. I loaded up some 11.5 BHN wheel weight bullets, sized at .454 and headed to the range. Accuracy was decent 2 to 2 ” but I headed back and started cleaning the bore from the heavy leading which had accumulated at the start of the barrel (1 iches). Well heck I’m foiled again on the soft side of things or………………..am I???

    After reading a post by a member here who swears by soft bullets and I do believe him as I've read his numerous posts; he is very knowledgeable. He also has posted up his proof with pics; you know the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Anyway, he stated in a recent post that he has best accuracy with bullets that are sized .002 over his cylinder throats. He also stated he shoots 44 mags to 1200 fps with soft bullets…………………….so what gives here with what I am doing.

    This is where I start to think, .002 over throat diameter. I took one of those 11.5 bullets that I had so much leading with and made up a dummy round. I sized my brass, then flared the case and finally seated the bullet. Next I pulled the round and from the once .454 bullet I found it to be swaged down to .452. Remembering my revolvers specs, can you see the problem with the bullet and my barrel throat diameter (GAS BLOW BY)????

    So next I took my .454 lube/sizer die and honed it out to a point where I could seat the soft bullet and pull it leaving a bullet at .454. I took this same load to the range and like magic the bullet didn’t lead the barrel and I had equal accuracy as I did with the harder bullets. Now one can see by sizing over the cylinder throats that by the time the bullet is seated it really ends up being swaged down to the cylinder throats diameter or closely to them.

    Conclusion:
    NOTE: This is a consideration if your revolver is designed as it should be (throats are larger than the barrel’s groove diameter or possibly equal to).

    Sizing a softer bullet .001 to .002 over cylinder throats can result in a bullet that is at cylinder throat diameters once seated in the brass and can yield good results. This is easily determined by making a dummy round, pulling the bullet and then checking the bullet’s diameter.

    As for those who have tried soft bullets and it didn't work:
    Individuals may have sized their bullets initially to their cylinder throats diameter and ended up with a small bullet due to seating which allowed for gas blow by. Gas blow by can yield leading and reduced accuracy.

    And for the third option there is the possibility of using hard bullets that are sized to cylinder throats and upon seating the bullets don't swage down so there is good success there as well.

    It comes down to bullet fit which has been said about a million times on this forum, but what is not examined is bullet fit of soft or hard bullets once the bullet is seated. Bullet fit has been stated on here as I have said but I have not read it in this regard (I am not saying someone has not posted it, I am saying I have not read it yet). I hope this helps shed some light for all of you who cast and reload as this may help out with your shooting endeavors.

    Rob
    Last edited by RobS; 04-30-2010 at 09:24 AM. Reason: spelling clarifying

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    Boolit Master Mk42gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobS View Post
    Revolver Bullets: Soft vs. Hard


    ...

    It comes down to bullet fit which been said about a million times on this forum, but what is not examined is bullet fit of soft vs hard bullets once the bullet is seated. Bullet fit has been stated on here as I have said but I have not read it in this regard (I am not saying someone has not posted it, I am saying I have not read it yet). I hope this helps shed some light for all of you who cast and reload as this may help out with your shooting endeavors.

    Rob
    Makes sense to me, Rob.

    I do have one question though-- you stated that your water quenched bullets were sized to .455"; but your 11.5 BHN bullets were .454". Was this because of different alloys or hardnesses springing back differently, or was it a different sizing die?


    Thanks,

    Robert

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    i guess i kind of see that you did alot of unessisary fooling around to get no where. thats allways kind of been my point. I have no doubt a guy can get softer lead to shoot but it takes more work to do it. Now you have cut your die so that youve basicaly lost case tension if you want to use a harder bullet or if you run into a gun that likes them at 452 as i to be honest most of my 45s prefer 452 bullets and my FA 454 wont chamber anything bigger then 452. Ive got 6 45 colts a 454 and even more 44s and i just dont have the time to fool with sizing bullets specificaly for each of them. Its enough work weeding though the molds and keeping specific bullets for each gun in stock. Ive yet to find or at least keep a 45 that wouldnt shoot 452 bullets well or a 44 that wouldnt shoot 430s. I do have some other dies that ive fooled with when really bored but i rarely use them. I find its easier to dump a gun that needs something odd ball to make shoot well.
    Last edited by Lloyd Smale; 04-28-2010 at 06:22 AM.
    sixgun junky

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    Good work Rob. You've proven fit is King in cast. That concept is "hard" to get across for some reason. Well done.

    I've never been a proponent of the harder alloys for general use, not because they can't or don't work but because plain ol' WW material is far, far more readily available and will work up to the 2K range in many cases. I simply can't afford to discard a gun that just needs some fitting, nor can I afford to buy special alloys. So I save my small supply of linotype for truly special purposes, same with my tin. If I can't do it with WW, water quenching and good fit it just may not get done!

    If we could get the idea across to the beginners that simply alloys will do the job, and more, they'd be a lot better off than believing they needed "hard" alloys which many have no way to obtain. If we can get the concept of fit across instead of the "magic bean" of a particular Bhn they'd be a lot better off. If we can get the message across that harder is just different instead of better they'd be a lot better off.

  5. #5
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    Seems as if Rob has missed the hundreds of posts about fit and case tension. The hardness and also the powder you use has such a large bearing on what you can do and much has been posted here.
    But to ruin the die was the wrong way when all that is needed is a larger expander for the softer lead, then you can have two expanders and switch back and forth. Have enough of them and you can go down to pure lead if you choose and still have a good die.

    Now Bret says he doesn't like hard lead but likes water dropped WW's????
    Bret, that is what I consider HARD and tough and is my go to alloy for most shooting, funny that we have argued so much over it!
    Only special cases and revolvers will have me changing the alloy and I only make them a few points harder strictly for paper punching or for a heavy PB like in my .475. (Actually, I just make them tougher.) GC .475 boolits are still WW's of about 20 to 22 BHN.
    Now I have over the years, posted many, many group pictures and I can tell you that 95% were shot with plain old WD WW metal.
    The only time I found harder then my normal alloy works better is with fast powders in my .44 where 28 BHN cut group size a tremendous amount when using Unique and 231 but I will not waste this alloy for plinking. It was just a series of tests.
    I have to admit that I was surprised myself with the results and had to test many times to confirm what I was seeing.
    Now you might claim my harder alloy made larger boolits but measurements show .431" for both WW's and the harder alloy and they were shot from .4324" throats with no leading and almost one hole groups at 25 yards with the harder boolit, I showed the pictures.
    Yeah I know, since when do I shoot 25 yards? With a Keith type boolit and a plinking load that still cut groups in half at 50 yards when I used the hard lead.
    Funny we have bickered over this only to find both of us are shooting the same stuff.
    For certain applications, harder IS better though.

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    Many of my most accurate groups have been with dead soft lead and fast powders, think a swadged or hollowbase wadcutter and bullseye. It is so accurate that most PPC shooters would not consider using anything else. That is the problem I have with blanket statements such as " harder is better". Consider fit, application, and how fast you start it and we may end back up at 1442 x bhn = max velocity.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

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    44man, how do you figure that he ruined the die? What I get from the O.P. is that his seating die was sizing the boolits down from .455 to .452. This is the same problem that many on here have found from the carbide sizing ring on the Lee FCD. It doesn't matter what diameter you're getting out of the sizing die or if you make a new expander if the seating die is squeezing the boolit undersized. If excessive case neck tension had been the cause, honing the seating die out wouldn't have made any difference.
    Rick
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    Quote Originally Posted by 44man View Post
    "measurements show .431" for both WW's and the harder alloy and they were shot from .4324" throats "
    Jim, have you ever tried a boolit sized to .433"? In every book that I have read, that would be the proper size to produce a non-leading accurate round, regardless of hardness.

    EW

    PS: I think that is what Rob is explaining and he has consolidated a lot of information to try to help other people from having to do the same.
    Last edited by Edubya; 04-28-2010 at 09:19 AM. Reason: PS

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    Quote Originally Posted by 44man View Post

    Now Bret says he doesn't like hard lead but likes water dropped WW's????
    Bret, that is what I consider HARD and tough and is my go to alloy for most shooting, funny that we have argued so much over it!
    Once again your reading comprehension is lacking. Read what I wrote, not what you want it to say! I never, ever said I like or don't like hard lead or how often I WQ or how often I find it necessary. I realize you have no problems making claims that you have shot more, done more and can shoot better than anyone else here, but I will not have you putting words in my mouth. You have done more damage here than good with your insistence that "HARD" is better. You've undone a good deal of work we did getting people beyond that simple minded idea.

    Go read what I wrote- harder can and does work fine in many instances. But it's not the magic bean you make it out to be.

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    RobS said:
    "It comes down to bullet fit which been said about a million times on this forum, but what is not examined is bullet fit of soft vs hard bullets once the bullet is seated. Bullet fit has been stated on here as I have said but I have not read it in this regard..."

    Excellent point Rob. And as said "fit is king!"

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    Playing around with the two differences:
    Revolver: Ruger Super Redhawk 454 Casull 7 barrel open sights
    Barrel groove diameter: .452
    Barrel throat: .454
    Cylinder throats: .455
    Bullet: LBT LFN 280 grain Plain Base bullet
    Powder: 12 grains of Herco
    Velocity: 1,150 fps


    We need to discuss this because I am confused by the measurements. What is the barrel throat? Are you sure you did not mean the cylinder throats? What do you mean by cylinder throats, is that the chambers?
    DO YOU HAVE A TAPERED GROOVE TO GROOVE OF .454" TO .452" AT THE MUZZLE?
    No Ruger has a tapered bore and I can not picture .455" throats either. Something here does not jive.
    Bore should be .443", groove .452" and throats .453" or a tad over. ( The throats are the exit end of the cylinder.)
    Now for your velocity. It is perfect for a hard boolit for any game from deer up. You do NOT need expansion for deer and that boolit will do the job. Keep the penetration, under no circumstances lose that.
    If you decide to change to the faster velocity the .454 is capable of, then you will need some expansion---but not much, just a small mushroom. DO NOT RUIN PENETRATION!
    The .454 is a special problem with slow powders because of failed ignition with anything less then full max charges of H110 or 296 plus accuracy suffers. We found cut down .460 brass with a LP mag primer allows load workup and 1" groups or less at 50 yards.
    The SR primer in the .454 brass is not good. It will give you a headache. Why someone has not blown up a gun is beyond me. It is so easy to stick a boolit in the bore with failed ignition using a slow powder. STAY AWAY FROM STARTING LOADS OF SLOW POWDER unless you change to cut down .460 brass. The whole world is open to you with a brass change.
    Your first job is to give us proper dimensions of your gun, I can't make heads or tails from what you gave us.

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    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by HORNET View Post
    44man, how do you figure that he ruined the die? What I get from the O.P. is that his seating die was sizing the boolits down from .455 to .452. This is the same problem that many on here have found from the carbide sizing ring on the Lee FCD. It doesn't matter what diameter you're getting out of the sizing die or if you make a new expander if the seating die is squeezing the boolit undersized. If excessive case neck tension had been the cause, honing the seating die out wouldn't have made any difference.
    That is not what I read. I take it he has lapped the size die so he does not need the expander. He was not specific enough and if all he did was the seat die, he is OK.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edubya View Post
    Jim, have you ever tried a boolit sized to .433"? In every book that I have read, that would be the proper size to produce a non-leading accurate round, regardless of hardness.

    EW

    PS: I think that is what Rob is explaining and he has consolidated a lot of information to try to help other people from having to do the same.
    Yes, in fact I made molds to .434" yet get accuracy with no leading down to .430", I find no difference. My very best shooting boolit is the RD 265 gr at .432" but I attribute that to the boolit weight and design.
    I made a .431", 330 gr deer boolit that shoots great at any range.
    I find it extremely rare to find even a trace of leading with any of my revolvers. Maybe a touch on the first patch, loose stuff that shoots out with the next shot. Sometimes I don't clean a barrel for a year.
    Here are three drop test boolits from my .44 using my 330 gr boolit at 200 yards.
    Last edited by 44man; 07-11-2010 at 02:50 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bret4207 View Post
    Once again your reading comprehension is lacking. Read what I wrote, not what you want it to say! I never, ever said I like or don't like hard lead or how often I WQ or how often I find it necessary. I realize you have no problems making claims that you have shot more, done more and can shoot better than anyone else here, but I will not have you putting words in my mouth. You have done more damage here than good with your insistence that "HARD" is better. You've undone a good deal of work we did getting people beyond that simple minded idea.

    Go read what I wrote- harder can and does work fine in many instances. But it's not the magic bean you make it out to be.
    But that is exactly what you wrote! You find water dropped WW boolits are good for anything up to the 2K range.
    I feel you just look for something to dispute even after you say it yourself.
    I forgive you because I know we think exactly alike. Have a beer and chill out! Better yet, come over for a beer.

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    Boolit Master HORNET's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 44man View Post
    That is not what I read. I take it he has lapped the size die so he does not need the expander. He was not specific enough and if all he did was the seat die, he is OK.
    I'll agree that the terminology that was used was a little vague and could be made more specific as to what was changed in order to prevent errors due to differing interpretations. It would improve the O.P. substantially.
    Rick
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    Boolit Master

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    Spring back of the alloy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mk42gunner View Post
    Makes sense to me, Rob.

    I do have one question though-- you stated that your water quenched bullets were sized to .455"; but your 11.5 BHN bullets were .454". Was this because of different alloys or hardnesses springing back differently, or was it a different sizing die?


    Thanks,

    Robert

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    Rob,
    I, too, experienced seating dies reducing a boolit's diameter. A change in brand eliminated the problem. Also, as you did, I enlarged a seating die to accomodate a necessarily fat boolit.

    I'm still experimenting with soft versus hard so will leave that part of the discussion to others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MT Gianni View Post
    Many of my most accurate groups have been with dead soft lead and fast powders, think a swadged or hollowbase wadcutter and bullseye. It is so accurate that most PPC shooters would not consider using anything else. That is the problem I have with blanket statements such as " harder is better". Consider fit, application, and how fast you start it and we may end back up at 1442 x bhn = max velocity.
    You also miss what I said! CERTAIN APPLICATIONS seems to stick in my mind.
    But then when I was young and shot at the West Cleveland pistol club with the Cleveland police dept members, I was working on guns so I got the job of cleaning the lead from their guns. They shot Bullseye and dead soft wad cutters. There was as much lead on the outside of their guns as in the bores. Some took a week of work to clean. Yeah, .38 specials!
    Now just how far do PPC shooters shoot? What do they shoot at?
    Does a single one of them know what real accuracy from a revolver is?
    Will you show us your groups and distance?
    It seems as if you made the blanket statement.
    I make a revolver shoot like a rifle to 500 meters and I would love for you to come over and shoot a .44 or .475 with pure lead boolits and show me how it is done. I would also love to see your .38 groups at any distance.
    If I set you at the bench with any of my revolvers at 100 yards and put up 2" disks and you missed, it would be your fault, not the guns. I will let you clean my guns and if you find more then a tiny streak of lead on the first patch, you must be making lead.

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    Rob.. Thanks for posting your work and conclusions. They validate what many of us have been saying for years, that hard is not always better.

    I have proved to myself, beyond any doubt that a well fitting ACWW bullet is good to 1.2K or slightly above in a good sixgun. Faster than that I like to go to good old Lyman No 2. I have never found need for any hangun bullet harder than about 14 Bhn.

    This is nothing new as generations of shooters have known this. Somewhere along the road the wheels fell off the wagon and folks went to seed on "hard cast" bullets. When Keith and others talked about hard cast they were talking about a binary alloy of 1-16 (tin to lead) which is butter soft compared to ACWW. That little bit of information droped out and folks thought hard mean "granite hard".

    Kudos for the information on bullet fit and what reloading dies can do to bullet size. Most recent loading dies are made for those tight spec jacketed bullets and often those present problems to the cast bullet shooter. I am very careful about measuring the bullet seating portion of the die and the expander plug to see that I am getting what I think I am getting.

    Thanks again, and take the compaints with a grain of salt. Our local Yodas, have staked out their position and they will die on that hill rather than move one inch. Human nature being what it is, that is to be expected.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lloyd Smale View Post
    i guess i kind of see that you did alot of unessisary fooling around to get no where. Thanks for the support.........LOLthats allways kind of been my point. I have no doubt a guy can get softer lead to shoot but it takes more work to do it. Now you have cut your die so that youve basicaly lost case tension acutally case tension is still there as I honed out the lube/sizer die (creating larger sized bullets) and yes I will need a new lube/size die for harder alloy bullets to take into consideration of the spring back effect.if you want to use a harder bullet or if you run into a gun that likes them at 452 as i to be honest most of my 45s prefer 452 bullets and my FA 454 wont chamber anything bigger then 452. Ive got 6 45 colts a 454 and even more 44s and i just dont have the time to fool with sizing bullets specificaly for each of them. Its enough work weeding though the molds and keeping specific bullets for each gun in stock. Ive yet to find or at least keep a 45 that wouldnt shoot 452 bullets well or a 44 that wouldnt shoot 430s. I do have some other dies that ive fooled with when really bored but i rarely use them. I find its easier to dump a gun that needs something odd ball to make shoot well. I do not have the gun collection you have (but it would be nice though) nor the money it would cost me to trade guns until I find exactly what is "perfect" so my lube sizer die that cost $20 took a hit and I just picked up a used .454 die last night here on the forum for $17 to my door so I can size hard bullets still
    Quote Originally Posted by 44man View Post
    Seems as if Rob has missed the hundreds of posts about fit and case tension. No I have read them and enjoyed themThe hardness and also the powder you use has such a large bearing on what you can do and much has been posted here. Yep, I've read many of your post and what you do does work and I run your route too
    But to ruin the die was the wrong way when all that is needed is a larger expander for the softer lead, then you can have two expanders and switch back and forth. I didn't ruin the lube/size die I modified it to size larger bullets. Case tension is actually greater since I am not using an expander to enlarge the brass prior to seating the bullet.Have enough of them and you can go down to pure lead if you choose and still have a good die. I have found it hard to find expanders that will work without buying a whole die. RCBS does make cowboy dies that are expensive as all get out and Lyman does make their M-dies but do not commercially sell just the expander part anylonger (you have to buy the whole die). I do not have a lathe to cut my own so the route I took was the most cost effective while keeping good case tension on the bullet
    .........................
    For certain applications, harder IS better though.
    yes it is, most definately it is

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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