George Block

Column George Block

George Block is a sports columnist who loves the outdoors.

Same load, rifles can produce different results

Same load, rifles can bring different results

February 22, 2014

As I age, I tend to stay close to home and since I like rifles, I spend a lot of time on the range. In simpler language, I like to shoot rifles a lot.

I admit to talking about long guns a lot if I can find someone to listen.

But before we enter the realm of rifles, I would like to ask one question. What American won both the Nobel Peace Prize and a Congressional Medal of Honor? The answer will be at the end of this column.

There is one thing I have learned about rifles. Each one is different.

A shooter could take two rifles from the same assembly line and they would shoot well with different loads. One will shoot well with a particular load, while the other will spray bullets all over with that load.

Much the same can be said about reloads.

I remember a period of time about 15 years ago when I had a new can of IMR 4350 that was almost 200 feet per second slower than the same powder I previously purchased. That’s why the numbers in the reloading manual are not etched in stone.

Only through the use of a chronograph can you be certain of the velocity.

I have seen the difference in speeds when reloading for the .270. I have more than one .270, and while shooting them over the sky screens of the chronograph, I have seen them spread over 200 fps difference shooting the same load.

This is with the same person doing the loading.

Another factor in this variation occurred with the use of one set of dies, one can of powder, one box of bullets and one box of primers. You can’t get more than the same than that.

Yet that lost 200 fps is accepted as a reality. What that variation tells me is you cannot trust those numbers in the reloading manual as gospel.

I was at the range with an Oeler chronograph set up when another shooter a couple of benches over asked if he could check the speed of his 7mm magnum. I just finished shooting a pre-64 .270 and has written down the final average with a 130-grain ballistic tip.

I don’t remember what powder he was using but I do recall he was using a 140-grain bullet. I shot three rounds over the sky screen and the speed was a disappointing 2,800 fps.

He suggested the chronograph was off a bit, Maybe, but I told him the 3,100 fps with a 130-grain bullet coming out of my .270 would then also be on the slow side.

He said he still preferred the magnum because he might go West to hunt elk. I didn’t say a word. Maybe his plan was to scare them with the larger case.

Sometimes it’s better not knowing.

Firearms users are like other people in that they just have to try a new product and are fascinated by new rounds.

There seems to be a fascination with the 6.5-caliber round currently. There are new rounds in that diameter seemingly every week. The advantage with this caliber is its excellent ballistic coefficiency.

But there is a new round that is based on a much smaller casing, and a friend told me it was smaller and faster than the 264 magnum.

If that is true, it had to be loaded to a higher working pressure. There is no magic.

If all else is equal, the larger case will produce more speed.

Gaining speed with a larger case might be a lesson in the law of diminishing returns but the bigger case will win the speed contest. Note that I didn’t say it was better.

We also seek reasonable accuracy and better barrel life.

The 6.5 Creedmore is fascinating but if we are looking for flat trajectory, I’ll still bet on the .264.

I write this and yet I am not a fan of the big magnums. A long time ago, a gunsmith summed up the magnums by saying they are hard on the shoulder, the case and the barrel. He was right, but there is no magic wand that will make them perform over bigger cases that utilize those same bullets with high bc.

The answer to my trivia question is Teddy Roosevelt. He won the Nobel Prize for mediating a cease fire in the war between Russia and Japan and the Medal of Honor posthumously for his charge up San Juan hill.

George H. Block writes a Sunday Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.



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