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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Montana Gold's .40 Caliber, 165 Grain JHP Bullet

There are a lot of handgun bullets available to reloaders these days. Being an old 1911/wheelgun man, ‘pistol bullet’ to me has always meant ‘cast’. But I’ve had a Glock 23 around for about a year now and it’s well established that Glock warns that your warranty is voided if you use reloads. My answer is that under this restriction, my future patronage of Glock is ‘voided’ as well. Ammunition prices & availability got stupid after Obongo was elected and reloading components haven’t fared any better. Note to Obongo-voting  'gun owners'- I hope your favorite ‘component’ falls off in the shower.

So like a lot of other Glock owners, I am going to shoot reloads. The good news is that they’ll handle them fine as long as you exercise due caution in selecting components and building your ammunition. An aftermarket barrel might not be a bad idea if you’ve got an early Glock with less chamber support, or if you intend to shoot lead. The stock barrel will shoot lead just fine, but its poly-wog rifling can be a bear to get that lead out of. Plated and coated bullets bring their own set of restrictions. For many, the answer is to simply use jacketed bullets.

I’m a frugal sort and my quest for economical jacketed bullets led me to Montana Gold Bullet Inc. of Kalispell, MT. On Tuesday, I ordered 1000 of their 165 grain .40/10mm JHP for $131.00 shipped. In four days they were sitting at my Post Office in central MO, waiting to be picked up. That is good service by any standard and the bullets themselves are of excellent quality. The photo on the company’s website is entirely representative of what I received. A side benefit is that the jacket material is bright yellow, making your reloads easy to identify among other ammo of the same caliber. Now the only thing left to do was cook up a load.

To keep costs down, I use.40 S&W range pick-up brass exclusively. I assume all of it has been fired through Glocks and I do not load it ‘hot’- period. Hodgdon’s Data Center indicated that appropriate charges of the Winchester 231 powder I’d be using, would fall between 4.8 and 5.3 grains for 1001 fps on the top end with 32, 500 CUP of pressure. I had no intention of crowding the high end of that bracket. My goal was to build a junk critter/garden pest load, and a 850 fps or so bulk load with the 165 grain Montana Gold JHP bullet. I’d done some similar work with Missouri Bullet Company’s 170 grain SWC, so I wasn’t exactly flying blind. An overall cartridge length of 1.125” soon established itself for feed reliability and was used throughout load development with this bullet.

For the pest small/game load, I started with 4.o grains of W231; this produced an average of 696 fps with standard deviation in the low 20’s. It also proved itself on paper and anything the size of a squirrel at 25 yards would be toast, if divided by the front sight. Recoil was nil and even at 50 yards, this powder-puff dropped bullets on the front sight. Fired casings gathered in a pile not far from my right foot.

For the bulk load, I toyed with from 4.5 to 5.0 grains of W231. The 4.5 grain load shot OK but at 751 fps, it didn’t offer much over the 4.0 grain load.

4.8 grains of W231 produced better results. The Chrony Beta Master says this is the most consistent load, averaging 827 fps with and extreme spread of 40 and a standard deviation of 15. Recoil is inconsequential and fired cases land about five feet away. 50 yard offhand groups were 6" in diameter, nice and round and right above the front sight. Shooting from an improvised rest closed the group to 3 3/4".

At 5.0 grains, chronograph sessions over two warm days show an average of 861 fps. Recoil was about equal to commercial 165 grain FMJ loads. Rested groups from the stock G23,were 2” at 25 yards or 4” at 50 yards- discounting called fliers.

Finally, I loaded a few of these bullets over 8.0 grains of HS6; what Hodgdons currently says is the top charge for a 165 grain bullet. From the G23 they averaged 1022 fps. I fired one into a 30" column of water contained by two kitty litter jugs and a washer fluid jug. An old Brownell's catalog served as the bullet catcher and it was backed by a piece of waferboard. This arrangement  (the 'Jethro Bodine Ballistics Lab') has worked for .45/230/FMJ and .40/180/FMJ, so I figured it'd work for this.

The jacket shattered into shards in the first 12" of water and it made the first jug buck a little. The core, weighing 145 grains, continued in a straight line penetrating the full 30" and knocking a 1/4" dent in the catalog. The core had expanded a bit and measured about 0.440 x 0.465 inches.

The pieces of jacket material were sharp and substantial. Personally, I would not want them spinning off into my tender vittles at 900+ fps, presumably in the first 6-8 inches of the wound channel. The following is a poor cell phone pic, but you get the idea.

For my uses, I settled on 4.8 grains of W231 as my bulk load with this bullet. That load gave the most consistent chronograph results, best accuracy and it provided useful velocity. It’s worth mentioning that throughout the load spectrum (just under 700 fps to 1022 fps) there were no malfunctions of any kind with the Montana Gold 165 grain JHP bullet. Feeding and ejection was positive and fired casings showed no signs of stress or inordinate expansion at the feed ramp. This is mute testimony to both the reliability of the Glock 23 and the excellent feed profile of Montana Gold's bullet.

While this bullet won't group with Missouri Bullet Company's 170 grain SWC, it is plenty accurate for most Action Shooting games and the load wouldn’t embarrass you at the 50 yard line in a PPC match. I can certainly recommend it for high-volume shooters looking for a jacketed .40 caliber bullet, at a good price.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Are you nuts? A 94 Winchester at 330 Yards?

I like to shoot guns. I also like to talk about them, which gets me into silly little exercises on occasion. The inspiration for this exercise was a discussion I had with "Joe,"regarding the sight steps on my pre-64 Winchester Model 94. I have been working toward determining if the steps correlated to 100 yard increments.

After some experimentation I settled on a fine .300 bead for the front. I then set the elevator on the lowest notch, and filed the top of the rear sight until in was on the middle of a 7" paper picnic bowl at 100 yards. Last time I shot it, I put three shots through such a bowl at 100 yards; then moved back to 200 yards (actually about 210) and raised the elevator a notch and proceeded to put two more through the same bowl with one just off the edge. This was beginning to show some promise, so I decided to plink a little at 300.

Okay, it was 335 per Earth Google.

I was using the original iron rear sight and my reload of 34.0 grains of H4895 and a Sierra 150 grain flatpoint. After some experimentation I settled on a fine .300 bead for the front. I then set the elevator on the lowest notch, and filed the top of the rear sight until in was on the middle of a 7" paper picnic bowl at 100 yards. Last time I shot it, I put three shots through such a bowl at 100 yards; then moved back to 200 yards (actually about 210) and raised the elevator to the second notch and proceeded to put two more through the same bowl with one just off the edge. Given the combination of old eyes, old rifle etc. I am pretty dern happy with that.

This time, the 'target' was a 12" picnic plate taped to the front of two, 2 1/2 gallon detergent jugs filled with water and backed by an old Brownells catalog. Behind that, I stood a 16" by 48" piece of waferboard to record the location of 'strays'. From the old folding table I shoot from, the view looked like this. The waferboard is visible under the red dot.

I have a hard time seeing that too, so how 'bout some zoom? I left the dot there for reference and you can just see the picnic plate at the bottom of the waferboard.

Oddly enough, I had a little trouble hitting the plate. In eight shots I only hit the plate once, and the jugs twice. I did hit the waferboard seven times. You see, that old "It's too far!" gremlin got in my ear and I started this session on the 4th notch. Mistake; wasted some shots that went high. I was also shooting just far enough to the right, that my two hits on the jugs were both on the right edge. The first hit on them was high and left the jugs 3/4 full; the second was lower and emptied them out. Neither grazing hit 'exploded' the jugs at this distance. Since I never centered them, I'm discounting today's terminal ballistics result.

The ‘ballistic calculator’ indicates that bullet is still running about 1250 fps at 330 yards; roughly equal to a .357 mag from a 3-4 inch barrel. Both the hits showed signs of minor expansion and both had started to yaw before they hit the waferboard, 6 feet behind. I've got a set wheel ramps, suitable for a semi, made of of 3/16 rolled plate. I stood one of them behind the waferboard. I didn't think I'd shoot through them at this distance, particularly using softpoints, but the ol' 30-30 raised a good dent in them all the same. Pieces of bullet jacket are in the pic next to a nickel, for reference

Here's the waferboard backer, which I forgot to pick up; it got soaked for a day before this photo. That makes the bulletholes hard to see in the photo, so I highlighted them. The blue dots are hits, some sideways from passing through the edge of the jugs. The big white X represents the aiming point, where the plate was. Total group was 16 1/2 inches, but that also includes one sight adjustment.

Closing thoughts…

I'm going to tap that Winchester's rear sight over to the left a frog-hair and try to get in at least one more session before the range closes for hay season, etc. 

May be a few days. At least I now have the elevation all sorted out, so there will be no sight adjustments to muddle the group. My goal is to get five in a row on the plate. Once there however...
1. I'm sure I could make a killing shot at this distance, with the windage corrected and the sight on the 3rd step.

2. The 30-30 retains ample killing power at 335 yards.

3. There are better tools for blowing things up at this distance.

4. This was a lot of fun!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Some 50 Yard Plinking With A Couple of Glocks...

We’ve got a firearms qualification coming up so it seemed like an ideal time to check zero on the two main pistols I carry these days; my issue Glock 22 and personally-owned Glock 23, both in 40 S&W caliber. These guns are nothing special. The G22 (top) has the dreaded, 8 pound ‘New York’ trigger and the G23 (bottom) has the standard 5.5 pound unit. I did smooth the grip a tad on the G23 and I replaced its front sight with a Meprolight unit.

For targets, I used the Birchwood Casey’s depicted below. They are 12 ¼”x 12 ¼ and really nice for handguns because you can see your irons well against the light background. This would matter because I decided to shoot at 50 yards today; likely about the longest distance either pistol might be pressed into service.

We recently switched to Federal 165 grain HST as our .40 caliber duty load. So far I have killed one deer with it, which had reportedly been hit by a car and was down in the median. When I walked up on it however, it bolted off on three legs toward a busy highway so I only had a second to plant an HST into its shoulder. The deer went right down and was dead almost immediately; the HST penetrated about 14” deer, including the shoulders, and it was recovered nicely mushroomed under the skin on the far side. I don’t know what else you could ask of a 40 S&W hollowpoint.

On to the shooting… three shots groups, with the Federal 165 HST were the order of the day, standing unsupported at 50 yards. Two groups were fired from each Glock; one with the front sight touching the red center dot and one with a six o’clock hold, about four inches under it. I used a single target and each individual group mentioned, is highlighted in red.

The G22, center hold, 50 yards. I hit just a tad high-

The G22, six o’clock hold, 50 yards. That’s more like it!

Well, six o’clock worked for the G22; same hold with the G23 at 50 yards-

The G23, with a center hold at 50 yards, was much better-

Since the G23 is also my summer “farm & fishing gun” I let fly with three rounds of my 40 S&W small game/pest load which is a Missouri Bullet 170 grain lead SWC over 4.0 grains of W231 in range pickup brass, for about 840 fps. Recoil is nil and it makes short work of groundhogs and everything smaller. I held right under the dot for this group, highlighted in blue-

Some closing thoughts… I could just about always get a couple of shots in 2 ½” yet I still managed to throw one out. I need to shoot more. I’ve benched both guns and both are easily capable of 3 ½” or less at 50 yards, with good ammo. That is significant because it meets my personal definition of ‘combat accurate’- capable of making 100% head-shots at 50 yards. Ridiculous?

Watch the North Hollywood Bank Robbery videos sometime.