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Volume 14, Issue 7 August
  The Ranging Shot Email Todd:
  With ( Comments or questions? )
Todd Spotti

     You might remember that in last month’s column I did a review of a Freedom Arms prototype silhouette style gun case. I explained that the folks in Freedom Wyoming were thinking about offering a lower priced gun case that retained almost all of the features of their regular Expedition model. I then asked you, the membership, to e-mail me with your comments both pro and con as to whether you thought Freedom should produce the case or not. Well the results are in and are as follows.

  • Number of people in favor of the new case   0
  • Number of people against the new case   1

     So, I guess you could say that 100% of the respondents were against the new case. As promised, the results have been forwarded to Freedom Arms.

Three Fast Balls - During the course of reloading for a fair number of different cartridges, I’ve noticed that three of the powders that I use fairly regularly for the 357 mag seemed to be very, very similar to each other. They are Accurate’s #9, Accurate’s 4100, and Hodgdon’s H108. All are ball types suitable for magnum pistol applications. All are extremely fine grained which makes them remarkably easy to meter, and all have a somewhat faster burning rate than H110 or WW296. Even the color of all three is very similar. I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps all three might be really the same powder under different labels. I seriously doubted it, but ... It then suddenly occurred to me that that I had never done a direct comparison of these powders with each other. So, being curious, I thought "Why not now?"

     I also had on hand a small supply of Leadhead’s 180 grain 357 bullets which would be perfect for the experiment. As you know, I’m a big fan of Leadhead products. If you like shooting cast lead but don’t have the time or the equipment to do the casting, Leadhead products are the best on the market. There is none better.

     One of the key elements for the accuracy and on target performance of Leadhead products is the fact that the secret alloy they use is very tough but not so hard that it won’t compress and fill the bore when they’re fired. The result is no gas blow-by and no leading. There’s also the high level of attention to detail that goes into their manufacture. Most other commercially cast bullets that I’ve seen were enviably made with lead that wasn’t properly fluxed and which were improperly cast at incorrect temperatures. The result is a dirty looking bullet with plenty of easily seen defects. If they look that way on the outside, I can imagine that it’s very likely that their internal structure contains plenty of destabilizing and accuracy robbing voids as well.

     The Leadhead 180 grain bullet is the RCBS design which is one of the best on the market. Up to now, I haven't had a chance to really check out Leadhead’s version of this bullet, so this would be a perfect opportunity. Leadheads Bullets

     I decided to use a moderate load i.e. 14.6 grains of each in Starline  Since these three powders are relatively fast burning for their class, brass. Ignition would be provided by CCI small pistol magnum primers. The idea would be to chronograph velocities and check the accuracy of each at 50 yards. I would be using my Freedom Arms 357 equipped with a Leupold 2X8 scope and rings as the test bed.

"All three powders had identical volume to weight ratios."

     First I set my Redding BR powder measure to drop 14.6 grains of #9 and filled ten cases. I then replaced with powder with 4100 and threw a test drop and weighted it. 14.6 grains right on the nose. The volume to weight ratio was exactly the same as the #9. That was weird. So I filled up ten more cases. Now the same procedure for the H108. Again it dropped 14.6 grains exactly. This was now down right spooky. The volume to weight ratio for all three powders was the same! Now I really, really began to wonder if they were all actually the same powder with different labels. Well only the range results will tell the real story.

     There’s another little twist to this story. As an experiment, I decided to use a taper crimp rather than a traditional roll crimp on the brass to see what effect it would have. There’s plenty of silhouette shooters using the Ken Light load with a 200 grain spire point with a taper crimp but I don’t know of many cast bullet shooters using taper crimps, so I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s the results. All groups were shot at 50 yards.


     I thought the results from all three powders were outstanding. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the differences in the groups as they probably reflect just how well I was able to hold at that particular time. The results are for all practical purposes identical. #9 did show a definite velocity advantage but all the loads delivered good performance that wouldn’t have any problem taking down the 200 meter targets.



14.6 gr. AA #9

CCI MAG 1493 fps 7 fps .75"

14.6 gr. AA4100

CCI MAG 1425 fps 3 fps .50"

14.6 gr. H108

CCI MAG 1448 fps 7 fps .88"

     So are these three powders actually the same product? I still don’t think so, but with 14.6 grains in the case, they’re very, very similar and that’s actually a good thing. Having choices is always good.

LBT Returns - Veral Smith’s Lead Bullet Technology company has quietly returned on the scene and is once again producing high quality bullet molds and other products. I don’t know of anyone that has used one of his molds or shot the bullets that they produce that haven't sung their praises. LBT Blue and LBT Blue Soft bullet lube have also received high marks from cast bullet shooters as well. They also produce the only lead hardness tester available to amateur casters that gives direct readings in Brinell numbers. Other testers give readings that then have to be converted into Brinell numbers. Contact them at ( and request a copy of their very informative catalog. It’s full of great information and just about all aspects of cast bullet making.

50 Smith & Wesson - This gun has certainly made a big impression around the country after its spectacular introduction at this year’s Shot Show. The nuts who run the city of Los Angeles wasted no time banning sales of the big revolver even though police officials publicly stated that because of its size, that the gun was almost impossible to carried in a concealed manner.

     However, all the controversy made me kind of curious about what a typical hand load for the big fifty might be, so I started calling around to my industry friends to see what they knew. I finally dug up the following unofficial info and thought you might be interested.

Bullet 465 grain LeadHead cast
Powder 40.2 grains of Hodgdon Lil Gun
Primer CCI 350
Velocity 1648 fps (ouch!)
Pressure 44,300 psi

     The most interesting part of the load info was the fact that Starline was making the brass. This load penetrated a block of grade 3 ballistic gelatin to a depth of over 21 inches. I guess it’ll take rams, but I’d hate to shoot forty of them.

More on the Redding Competition Seating Die - As you know I recently wrote a two part series on the reloading techniques used by Rick Kelter of the Los Angeles Silhouette Club to produce very high quality cast bullet loads. During my reloading trials, I varied his technique of rotating the case during the bullet seating operation by using a Redding Competition Seating Die instead.

     After reading my articles, Rick was somewhat curious about whether the Redding die could beat his tried and true bullet seating method. By checking bullet run out with a dial gauge, he knew that with his method, run-out fell between .001 and .004" with the preponderance of the readings running around .003" inches. With the Redding die, the bulk of the bullet run-out readings are now in the 1 - .002 inch range - a real improvement.

     Surprisingly, he also found that the Redding die also reduced bullet seating depth variation by .004 of an inch. As Rick pointed out, that can have a direct impact on pressures, velocity, and bullet drop. That’s something that neither he nor I expected. The bottom line is that the Redding Competition Seating Die really does a measurably superior job of bullet seating. So if you’re serious about your silhouette shooting, you need to consider acquiring one at the first opportunity. See "Redding Reloading" complete line on the web.

"Iosso produces a wide array of gun
and case cleaning products that have established a solid reputation for performance."

Iosso Gun Cleaning System -  If there’s one thing that my friends have heard me say more often than anything else it’s "A clean barrel is a more accurate barrel." Heck, they’ll probably put it on my gravestone. However, it’s true.

     I know there’s tons of shooters out there that clean their guns maybe once a year at the end of the season, if that much, and they all say "My gun shoots just fine without all that messing around." But does it really? They’re the same guys that when they miss that shoot-off target will have all kinds of excuses for the miss like "My socks were too tight" etc.

     Then there was the time I was looking at an XP that was for sale at the Internationals. A quick look down the barrel showed a bore from hell. It was nothing but caked fouling, pitting, and corrosion from one end to the other. Jokingly, I asked "How often do you clean this thing?" Thinking I was serious, the seller replied "Cleaning just wears out the barrel, so I never bother with it." Mmmmm. "That’s a new one" I thought. I then asked "What kind of scores does it shoot?" "Oh, well I’m not really that good of a shot." This is an extreme case of course, but having a dirty, fouled barrel will have subtle, negative effects on the accuracy of any barrel, and its longevity as well.

     One of the best combination of products available for doing a absolutely thorough job of cleaning your barrels is the Iosso gun cleaning system. The system is composed of Isso bore brushes, bore cleaning paste, and Iosso Gun Oil. (I’ve been using the paste for around 10 years now.) All the components of the system are sold separately so you’re not locked in to using them all together if you don’t want to. But if you do want the most thorough cleaning possible, using each component in conjunction with the others is the best approach. Let’s take a quick look at each part of the system.

Iosso Bore Brushes - A new product, these are plastic bristled, which means that they can be used with ammonia based cleaners without fear that they’re going to be eaten up like bronze brushes after only a few cleanings. The problem with regular plastic brushes is that the bristles are too flexible, so when they’re pushed through the bore, they’re laid way back and so don’t attack the fouling and leading as aggressively as they should for the best cleaning.

     The bristles on Iosso brushes are stiffer, and therefore more aggressive on the fouling. Also because they’re plastic, there’s never any danger of scratching or damage to the lands like you’d find with stainless brushes. So basically the Iosso brushes gives you the performance and resistance to ammonia of stainless, but without the worry of damage.

Iosso Bore Paste - This very effective cleaning paste comes in
a tube rather than in a bottle. Tony Boyer, the world’s best benchrest shooter of all time, was recently quoted as saying he uses Iosso Bore Paste on his guns. There is no stink and there is no danger of spills, or as I did once, dropping a big bottle of bore cleaner on the garage floor. What a mess that was! Just smear some on a couple of patches and run them through. Follow up with a couple of clean patches and that’s it. You’ll be surprised how well this stuff works.

Iosso Gun Oil - For the very best cleaning job of all, first use a patch soaked with the oil and run it down the barrel. This will loosen up the fouling, especially caked up moly which has a tendency to accumulate at the throat.

     Then follow with the bore paste or best of all bore paste on Iosso brushes then and clean patches. Lastly, treat with the gun oil again for corrosion protection, especially if you live in a high humidity environment. Lastly swab out any excess oil with a couple of dry patches. Naturally, the oil can be used for general lubricating purposes as well.

     As noted before, each of these products can stand on their own, but when used in combination, you’re going to have a very well cleaned and protected bore that will be able to deliver all the accuracy it’s capable of delivering. Iosso products are sold by Sinclair International and other major gun product dealers.

Stoney Point All-in-One Bore Guide - In last month’s column I covered the importance of bore guides and discussed those products made for the TC Contender and Encore. Using a bore guide for our bolt action silhouette guns is just as important. The traditional problem with bore guides for bolt guns is that they’re all different. So if you want one for your XP-100, you have to buy one just for that gun. If you want a bore guide for one of your rifles, you have to buy one specially made for it etc. That can add up to a lot of different bore guides kicking around on your reloading/cleaning bench.

"Extra tapered tips are provided to fit almost all bore sizes."

     Well Stoney Point has solved that situation with its "All-in-One" bore guide. I guess you could easily call it a universal bore guide that can fit just about any bolt gun no matter if it’s a short, medium, or long action.

     The guide is an black anodized hardened aluminum tube with a tapered plastic nose at one end and a plastic solvent port at the other. In between the two is a sliding collar that can be moved forward or backwards. A brass knurled handle about an inch and a half long screws into the side of the collar and acts as a bolt handle.

"The Stoney Point All-in-One bore guide will fit almost any center fire bolt action receiver including the XP-100."

     To install the guide, first remove the bolt from your unloaded gun. Then insert the guide, tapered nose first, through the action so that the nose is now pressed firmly into the throat of the barrel. Three different sized plastic noses are provided to accommodate every caliber form 17 Remington up to 416 Rigby. Now slide the collar with its brass handle over to where the regular bolt handle would be located in the action. Move the brass pin down into the bolt lock position and turn it in to snug the collar in place so it won’t move. The bore guide is now firmly in place. Just insert your cleaning rod into the bore guide and clean away. Use the solvent port to saturate your brush or patches with liquid cleaner if that’s what you prefer.

     There’s two big advantages to the All-in-One guide. First is it's flexibility. This single guide fits just about every bolt action made. The other is that when the tapered nose piece is pushed into a barrel’s throat, it helps keep dirty solvent from running into the action’s locking lug recesses as well as back down into the trigger group. If you want to protect your expensive barrel from unnecessary wear when cleaning, a bore guide is a must, and the Stoney Point is the one you should consider first.

     Stoney Point on the web

Good luck and good shooting. Todd

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Warning: All technical data mentioned, especially handloading and bullet casting, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article or on this web site and over which IHMSA, The Los Angeles Silhouette Club (LASC), this web site or the author has no control. The above has no control over the condition of your firearms or your methods, components, tools, techniques or circumstances and disclaims all and any responsibility for any person using any data mentioned. Always consult recognized reloading manuals.