Factory Ammunition

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jchiggins posted this 3 weeks ago

I have learned a lot about bullet casting from the many contributors to this forum.  For this I am grateful, for on occasion what I have learned shows up on the target.  One thing raises my curiosity though,and that is the attention to detail and obsession over each and every aspect of casting and loading so many of you display in your commentary.  I am the same way in many aspects of my various interests, which is why I enjoy this forum so much.

One goal is to create cast bullet ammunition that is equal to or more accurate than factory jacketed. Sometimes I wonder if the self-established high level of detail and standards set for creating perfect cast bullet ammunition isn't higher than what is employed at the "factory".

My question is, what are factory quality standards for components and loading procedures?  How stringent are processes considering many millions of rounds are cranked out annually.  Noticed Federal has set up a custom  shop for ammo.

Thanks again for all I am learning!!

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M3 Mitch posted this 3 weeks ago

Well it depends on the caliber you are loading.  Most handguns, you can make up a full-power cast round that is the equal of factory jacketed ammo.  Note that Ed has been shooting some vintage handgun ammo and in general it turns out more accurate and sometimes more powerful than current production.  So apparently the factories are not trying as hard, maybe they figure the serious handgun shooters are all loading their own ammo and the guys that buy their product "can't tell the difference" anyway.

In rifles, up to about 30-30 levels of performance, you can go full power and equal factory jacketed bullet ammo for accuracy.  Almost any straight side cartridge, 45-70, etc, you can go full power and match factory accuracy. Old rounds like the 32-20, 38-40, I don't think the factories work real hard to make these very accurate, they just want to turn out ammo that works in old guns and does not blow them up. I don't like or use that approach, but maybe this is the only way they can offer ammo for these old guns at a price people will pay and still make any money.

Now for example if you take .308 match ammo, if you can reach that level of accuracy with a cast bullet, you would likely mop up at most any CBA match you cared to attend.  I don't think anybody is there yet. Although, look at the group sizes in the match reports of the Fouling Shot.  There are some good groups being shot anymore.

So I think it all depends on which caliber, and if that is a caliber the factories are truly doing their best in terms of accuracy potential, or if it's a less popular caliber that they figure no one will care about finest accuracy.

The factories work to different standards for different calibers, they also sometimes offer a "premium" line, like Norma's "Safari" offerings.  I have read in Gun Digest Magazine that this "Safari" ammo is actually loaded by hand, apparently using equipment like we have in our own loading rooms. While match ammo may not be loaded by hand, the components are selected and then assembled with more care than regular run of the mill ammo.

Personally, I like to shoot offhand.  I can make cast ammo that is accurate enough that it makes good offhand practice ammo that is economical, easy on barrel wear, etc.

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John Alexander posted this 3 weeks ago

jchiggins asked:  "Sometimes I wonder if the self-established high level of detail and standards set for creating perfect cast bullet ammunition isn't higher than what is employed at the "factory".

===============

You asked an astute question. The short answer is yes, it often is. 

Most serious cast bullet shooters think they need to tend to a lot of fine details to a level beyond even the best factory match ammunition.  Some or maybe most of these can be shown to be a waste of time that doesn't improve accuracy. All it takes is a simple comparison tests between ammunition with one of these refinements (bullets or cases sorted to same weight, indexed bullets or cases, etc.) and a batch of otherwise similar ammunition without the refinement.

My first realization of this was when our Army Rifle coach (holding distinguished in both rifle and pistol) got the team together in the indoor range to impress on us what fine equipment we had. I suppose this was to keep us from blaming the equipment for our own shortcomings.  Our new match grade M-1s would practically shoot into the same hole he claimed. And our new supply of match ammo (FA56) had the powder charges weighed to the last powder grain instead of the measured powder charges in the crude ball ammo we had used to qualify in basic. We had our own reloading equipment and to demonstrate the loading precision he pulled the bullets on a half dozen rounds -- and quickly found that the powder charged  varied by a couple of grains (not powder grains.)  It was pretty embarrassing, but he could still outshoot all of us. This may have started me on a life of being skeptical of high precision in the wrong places in reloading.

Sixty three years later I stumbled on another data point to support the position that CB shooters waste too much time on picky details.  Not long ago I noticed a partial box of Berger 65 grain 6mm match bullets the kind that JB benchresters routinely use to shoot .25" aggs.  Wondering how precisely Berger controlled the weight variation of these little gems, I weighed them.  They varied by .3 gr. or nearly 0.5 %.  CB competitors often sort their 200 grain bullets into .2 grain batches or about 0.1% variation -- a fifth the weight variation of the Bergers. This was only one batch. I will weigh more Bergers and other match grade jacketed bullets to find their variation.

John

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Brodie posted this 2 weeks ago

John, I found out a long time ago just how little difference minor variance in propellant weight made.  The only thing that I could really prove was uniformity in cases.  I had a bunch of 06 cases GI, Win, Federal, and Remington.  One day after reading and article in a shooting mag. I started weighing cases and grouping them into like weights, which pretty much just grouped them by head stamp.  Off to the range and groups did improve well enough that if I had been in competition I would have kept them all separated.  Since I wasn't and was using them mostly for hunting and off hand practice, I said to heck with it and just grouped them all together.  This was with jacketed bullets back then.  Now I tend to keep only one make of cases for a particular caliber.

I assume that it was the variation in internal volume and thus pressure's that caused the increased group size from mixed brass, and the smaller groups from segregated weighed brass.

B.E.Brickey

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 2 weeks ago

yep, depends mostly on the bar the factories think they have to meet ...

my  rem. 722 pencil barrel 222 shot factory ( rem and winchester ) as well as my handloads ( under 1 moa ) ... 

but military 308 in my tikka 308 barely can hit a bean can at 50 yards; i still have a bucket of these that i only shoot to get the LC brass ...

but then, winchester wildcat cheap  ( then $10 a brick ) 22 ammo shot under 1 moa when it first came out ... i guess before they turned the cycle rate up to max ... or tooling wore a bit ... ( unlike thunderbolts etc., these cheap wildcats had very consistent ignition .. maybe the secret ?  i have nearly a case of cheap russian 22 that strings vertically about a foot at 50 yards and ignition is variable .. or non ...    ...

good question.  somebody could do a "simple" test with a decent rifle to see how much powder variance does it take before it really makes a * statistically significant * difference.   i am guessing it would take a hundred shots of each sample to see a 1/2 grain intentional powder difference in a 223 ...   and would any difference in results be from trajectory difference or from barrel vibration variance ?   ( being that barrel tuners do work and a powder Increase could make your group go low left )  ) ? ....

no wonder we still only have 1 rule for cast ...( g ) ...

ken

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jchiggins posted this 2 weeks ago

Thank You everyone for the feedback.  Hadn't thought about factory load quality varying according to caliber or type, but it makes sense for several reasons, but mostly makes business sense.  Very good information!

John, you got me curious, so I weighed five different bullets from 3 manufacturers plus myself; noted the individual weight for ten sample bullets of each group, averaged the total weight and recorded the extreme spread in weight within each group of ten.  I'm not listing the weight of each bullet... too much typing! 

Used a Dillon electronic scale which displays to only a tenth, but figured that was good enough for my quick and dirty test.  Besides, at my house, that's real world tolerance.

Berger VLD 25 cal. 115g:  average weight of ten: 114.97gr  extreme spread, high - low : .3gr

Hornady ELD Match 7mm 162gr:  average weight of ten:  161.87gr  extreme spread, .3gr

Hornady SST 30 cal  180gr:  average weight of ten:  180.17gr  extreme spread  .4gr

Sierra Matchking 7mm  168gr HPBT  average weight of ten:  168.05gr  extreme spread  .5gr

 

My homecast Lee 312-185  (only quality control was to visually check to see if they were "OK" after casting; not weighed, measured or anything else.  Bullets were 2x powder coated, gc'd and tumbled lubed with LLA. Hardness tested 18BHN.  These are what I think most people would consider "sub-par".  Who knows which process contributed the most to the  weight variation).

Lee 312-185 30 cal 178gr  average weight of ten:  178.28gr  extreme spread .7gr

It probably wouldn't take much effort to improve the quality of bullets.  Real scrutiny of the castings and eliminating the powder coating would make the biggest difference.

Of course, more practice would make the biggest difference.  Improve at the range, then at the reloading bench and then at the casting session might be the path to more success.

 

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Ross Smith posted this 2 weeks ago

I'd like to know the weight "spread" of the as cast bullets before you introduced all the other variables.

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John Alexander posted this 2 weeks ago

jchiggins,

Good Work. I looked for some larger caliber JBs to see what the weight variation was but they haven't surfaced since our move.  Viola! -- you have already weighed several types.  I am glad that you picked out mostly high grade match bullets.  I think it is safe to assume that in the right rifles they all would be unfair competition in a cast bullet match.

Compare the variation you found to CB practice.  I mentioned earlier it is almost SOP to sort 200 grain CBs to .2 grain and not unusual to sort to .1 grain for a range in weight of either 0.1 or  0.05 percent. The range in weight for your 25 to 30 caliber jacketed match bullets ranged from 0.2 to 0.3 percent or from two to six times as much variation as we shoot for in cast bullets. 

As to the question of the weight variation in cast bullets before sorting, I just weighed several lots of the NOE 22780SP and the similar Mos 85 grain i shoot a lot of .  Each time the max variation was either .3 or .4 grains or 0.36 or 4.7 percent, somewhat more than the variation of your larger caliber match JBs but substantially less than the 0.6 percent of the Berger 6 mm bullets noted in my last post.

It seems to me that these numbers should give a curious shooter something to think about.

John

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M3 Mitch posted this 2 weeks ago

I think one of the main points here is to realize which details, if obsessed on, actually improve accuracy, like for example uniform brass.  I think a very good place to start with ammo you want to shoot in a benchrest match is with some Norma or similar very high precision brass, and then you might think about at least checking neck concentricity, etc. Bullet fit and appropriate alloy hardness (and thus strength) are important.

Then there are things like minor variations in bullet weight and in charge weight, which if less than say 1% (a guess, not a data point, OK?) don't really contribute to accuracy.

Weighing some good jacketed match bullets certainly gives you an idea about what level of weight variation is acceptable, at least for jacketed bullets.  Cast bullet weight variation may be more important, it may mean an off-center void in your casting - or it may not.

I have mentioned that some of my hunting buds will weigh individual powder charges for their (usually .300 Win or .338 Win) hunting ammo.  Frequently they are using a long-grain IMR powder that in truth does not meter very well.  I think from a practical point of view they are wasting their time, time that could more usefully be spent weighing cases, selecting either the heaviest or closest to average, then drop charges with an old B&M or similar measure.  But I take this good chance to just shut up, if weighing each charge gives them more confidence, let them have confidence then, and in any case their ammo easily shoots "minute of deer" out to further than they can hold from a field position, certainly further out than I can or would try it.

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John Alexander posted this 2 weeks ago

A few days ago Ken suggested: "somebody could do a "simple" test with a decent rifle to see how much powder variance does it take before it really makes a * statistically significant * difference.   i am guessing it would take a hundred shots of each sample to see a 1/2 grain intentional powder difference in a 223 ... "

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This is the $64,000 question -- or at least one of them.  We have had organized CBA competition for forty years and Schuetzen shooting for 140+ and all this time we have weight sorted bullets without knowing how much uniformity is enough.  No --  more isn't always better. The law of diminishing returns applies to almost everything. There is almost certainly a point at which it is waste of effort to get more uniformity -- and we may be way past it.  We have no evidence to prove we aren't.

What if unsorted cast bullets by an experienced caster are plenty uniform enough to shoot quarter inch aggregates if we knew how to do everything else.  We don't know they aren't. (After all those Bergers I weighed will do it and their variation is more than my unsorted bullets.) We don't know because we have been sorting bullets instead of shooting tests to find out. Millions of man hours hunched over our scales all maybe a waste of time, and time we could have been using to do some actual testing and maybe learn something.

jchiggins had the brilliant idea to take a look at the standards of precision for factory ammunition to give us a clue whether the nit picking standards we hold to in CB shooting are maybe precision in the wrong places.  Maybe this will inspire us to start doing  the type of testing Ken suggests.  Does anybody know why in the hell we haven't been doing it all along?

John

 

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joeb33050 posted this 2 weeks ago

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joeb33050 posted this 2 weeks ago

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joeb33050 posted this 2 weeks ago

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joeb33050 posted this 2 weeks ago

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Paul Pollard posted this 2 weeks ago

So..... If the factory manufacturers of bullets do not worry about the their weights, and our bullets are weighed to tighter control than factory made bullets, what SHOULD we look at? Weight is a convenient, measurable thing. Alloy, lube, powder and primers are a little harder to measure.

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John Alexander posted this 2 weeks ago

Joe,

I love to see the results of actual shooting tests. In my opinion, we don't nearly have enough of  then in comparison to the generous supply of unsupported opinions.  You have offered lots of shooting results representing many hours of work.  Thanks. 

I can easily see that you have a lot of data on jacketed bullets shooting less accurately and/or tipping at low velocity.  Not sure what else is there that I should be seeing.

How about a little narrative to go along with the tables and graphs.

John

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John Alexander posted this 2 weeks ago

 Good question Paul.  What aspect of casting, bullet prep, loading, and shooting do we think is the most likely to yield improvement.  I will start another thread based on your question.  I would think that serious CB shooters should have something to say and maybe we can gain some guidance.

John

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joeb33050 posted this 1 weeks ago

Joe,

I love to see the results of actual shooting tests. In my opinion, we don't nearly have enough of  then in comparison to the generous supply of unsupported opinions.  You have offered lots of shooting results representing many hours of work.  Thanks. 

I can easily see that you have a lot of data on jacketed bullets shooting less accurately and/or tipping at low velocity.  Not sure what else is there that I should be seeing.

How about a little narrative to go along with the tables and graphs.

John

Sure, John;

This test took several years, tested 3 bullets-40, 53 and 68 gr. in 223 and 22-250, at CB charges/velocities, Titegroup powder, with 3 barrels in each caliber.

2 calibers X 3 barrels X 3 bullets X ?6 charges = 108 flavors.

Learned?

It is remarkably easy to reliably shoot medium-cost jacketed bullets at CB velocities into 5-shot < 1" 100 yard groups.

The reason CBA match results have not improved in 20 years is the bullets.

Pseudo-scientifically dicking around with cases, primers, powder, indexing anything within reach, throat angle reaming etc. has made us unable to improve CB accuracy since Nixon.

It's the bullets.

All the data is available, free.

 

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joeb33050 posted this 1 weeks ago

My question is, what are factory quality standards for components and loading procedures?  How stringent are processes considering many millions of rounds are cranked out annually.  Noticed Federal has set up a custom  shop for ammo.

Thanks again for all I am learning!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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joeb33050 posted this 1 weeks ago

 

https://www.shootingtimes.com/editorial/accuracy-and-the-22-long-rifle/326553

 

 

 

 

 

Accuracy and the .22 Long Rifle

 

Layne Simpson - October 23, 2018

 

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joeb33050 posted this 1 weeks ago

 

2017 IBS GROUP NATIONALS

 

HOLTON GUN AND BOW CLUB, TWIN LAKE MI

 

8/14/17-8/19/17

 

5 SHOT, 5 GROUP AGG., 100 YARDS

 

SPORTER, 75 SHOOTERS, LARGEST AGG., .4706

 

LIGHT VARMINT, 75 SHOOTERS, LARGEST AGG., .4590

 

HEAVY VARMINT, 72 SHOOTERS, LARGEST AGG., .3844

 

 

 

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