Reloaders' Guide for Hercules Smokeless Powders.
There is so much publishing going on in the sporting arms field that even those of us who are smack in the middle of it sometimes get behind. I've spent a few evenings trying to catch up on noteworthy items, and I'll spend this month's column trying to give a few condensed reviews of them.
Just recently, a big, heavy hard cover entitled The Winchester Lever Legacy has appeared, and to a major degree its title is misleading. Whereas one is led to believe the book is about Winchester lever actions, it quickly turns into a discussion of the cartridges of yore and how to reload them today for continued fun with the old lever guns. Mention of the guns themselves is minimal.
That is not a rap against the book, however, as it serves a different purpose, one that will interest Winchester collectors and enthusiasts who would like to keep the guns popping but haven't had any recent information on the subject. For example, when's the last time you saw a reloading manual with advice about handloading the .38-56 WCF or the .40-82 WCF?
And not only does the book cover many of the ancient, obsolete Winchester cartridges, but it also handles the various wildcats which were designed for improved ballistics from some of these guns. For instance, there's the .348 Ackley Improved, which is the .348 WCF fireformed in an enlarged chamber to provide more powder capacity; and the .450x348, which is the .348 WCF necked up to .45 caliber and fireformed also in an enlarged chamber. Both these wildcats have sharper shoulder angles than the original .348 and increased downrange energies.
There is some information about bringing the .405 WCF back into action by using 9.3x74mmR cases, something that can also be done to activate the .35 Winchester. And there's a discussion of the .219 Zipper and its smaller buddy, the .218 Bee.
Information abounds for the use of lead (cast) bullets, plus cartridge dimensions, conversion concepts, and some chronograph readings for handloads.
Compiled by Clyde "Snooky" Williams and published by the Buffalo Press (Dept. SI, 3145 Church St., Zachary, Louisiana, 70791), The Winchester Lever Legacy is recommended for dealers and shooters wherever there's an interest in handloading for the old classic lever guns.
Sierra bullets has also updated their reloading manual with a 3rd edition set of two loose-leaf offerings. One covers rifles, while the other focuses on handguns. The initial appearance of each folder is magnetic. Using a grey background, Sierra has gone the patriotic route by superimposing bullets and the title on a ruffled American flag. Very attractive. And on the back of the folder we find the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
This 3rd edition of the Sierra manual announces the retirement of Martin J. "Jim" Hull, who for years has been chief ballistician at Sierra, and we wish him a long and happy retirement. Jim has been a factor at Sierra since 1953, which is about when I reloaded my first metallic stuff for the .30-30 with an old Lyman 310 "nutcracker" tool. Seems like yesterday, doesn't it, Jim?
Anyway, the Sierra handgun folder covers the normal nuts and bolts of procedure, plus some articles by writers of note in the metallic field like Bob Milek and Rick Jamison and J.D. Jones. The rear of the book is again heavy with exterior ballistics tables (drop values, retained energies, etc.).
But between the extremes, we find lots of coverage for the many various cartridges that have been sneaking into the handgun field. Some of these are rather new, such as the .445 Super Mag., the .41 Action Express, and the .270 REN (note REN, not REM), which is a variant of the .22 Hornet opened to .27 caliber. And there are the TCU, IHMSA, and Herrett lines along with the popular Remington BR round in 6mm. The golden oldies fill in, with some of the old-timers regaining a sense of dignity, one being the .32-20 Win., which has been recuperated for the Hunter's pistol and Field Pistol events staged by the NRA and IHMSA, respectively. In one breath, the Sierra handgun manual comes highly recommended for all handgunners, but especially those with tournament aspirations.
The Sierra rifle manual is massive at 856 pages as opposed to 704 for the handgun tome (which is already substantial). It follows the same format with gun editors contributing some early chapters. Rick Jamison covers chronographs, Bob Milek treats on hunting bullet selection, and Jim Hull takes care of reloading for accuracy. Skip Gordon does a nice job on the background and evolution of competitive benchrest shooting. They're all good reading. Part III of the rifle manual is given to the specific tasks for which the various Sierra bullets are designed as hunting projectiles. Written by Bob Milek, it explains the correct choices and proves that all bullets aren't alike. It's an important topic, one that beginners should be encouraged to research.
After the basic how-to-do-it stuff, the manual Launches into the data for many, many cartridges, beginning with the .22 Hornet and ending with the .458 Winchester Magnum. Included are the 9mm Luger and .45 ACP rounds because of Marlin's launching of these chamberings in semi-auto carbines.
My only problems with the Sierra rifle manual is that it hasn't applied any of the newer powders and that it tends to utilize the 26-inch Universal test barrel which is so much longer than hunting-length barrels and turns up ballistics which are higher than those most handloading hunters get. If I were Sierra, I'd chop those test barrels back to conventional hunting lengths for each respective cartridge. It is quite possible that Sierra undertook its testing before powders like Scot's Brigadier line came along. However, IMR-7828 was around earlier, and it is absent from cartridges in which it is quite suitable. And there is nothing on Hodgdon's H-4350, although it too has been around for more than a couple years. I also felt that rounds like the .257 Roberts and some of the 6.5mms were shorted by being listed mainly with fast or moderate-rate powders, while some of the slower-rate fuels can enhance their performances, especially that of the .257 Roberts' "+P" version.
Aside from the absented powders, however, the manual gives adequate data to get most reloaders cooking. The rear of the book is again filled with downrange data concerning trajectory and energies carried to 500 yards. It is well worth the reading, and dealers would do well to point out both manuals to their customers. In fact, the catchy covers might attract buyers by themselves.
Out of Wilmington, Delaware, comes another 3rd edition reloading manual, this one from Doc Watson of the Scot Powder Company. Listed at a low $2.00, this 48-page booklet, The Shotshell, Handgun and Rifle Reloading Manual, is jammed with pressure/velocity data for that firm's line of nitrocotton-based powders: Solo 1000 [R], Solo 1250 [R], Solo 1500 [R]; Royal Scot [R] and Pearl-Scot [R]; and the rifle fuels "Brigadier [R]" 4197, 3032, 4065, and 4351.
One of the first questions that reloaders ask when introduced to Scot powders is, "Which powder bushing should I use?" It's a legitimate query, of course. And pages 6-7 of the Scot manual number 3 are taken up by listings of appropriate powder bushings for MEC, Hornady Models 336 and 155 and Ponsness-Warren [R] presses along with those bushings for the Lee [R] Auto Disk. For example, the #30 MEC [R] bushing is listed to drop 18.2 grains of Solo 1000, which is a good starting point for trap and skeet shooters using the powder for the first time.
The Scot manual covers basic rifle and handgun reloads, the shotshell powders also serving in the metallics for pistol use.
One point that should be made is that Solo 1500 is an excellent slow-rate shotshell powder, but the Scot people recommend different wad seating pressures for each respective reload. These recommended wad seating pressures are given in the manual, which is one reason to have the booklet at hand. Another reason is because it supplies data for a host of extra-light 12-gauge target loads (1-1/8 ounce) with low recoil factors at velocities around 1,125 f.p.s.
Another point about the Scot Manual is that it has extensive data for the line of Claybuster wads now entering the replacement wad business. The manufacturers of Claybuster wads haven't printed any pressure data (something which has always made me hesitant to pick up on a wad), but Scot Powder Co. has run data vis-a-vis other wads so that we can get a line at how the Claybusters perform with Scot fuels. I don't know of any other outfit that has done this with Claybuster wads, including Claybuster chaps!
Indeed, for the short time Doc Watson has been in the powder business, he has surely put it all together for a neat publishing effort.
One final 1990 publication that needs mention is Hercules Powder Co.'s annual Reloaders' Guide for Hercules Smokeless Powders, which is offered free through dealers. This year's booklet of 52 pages includes considerable data regarding Hercules' newest rifle powders: Reloder [R] 15, 19, and 22. Be careful about how you read these data, as some are listed in p.s.i. values and some in c.u.p. values -- and there is a difference, as is explained on page 52 of the booklet.
Hercules, too, has listed some "Lite" load concepts for the 12 gauge with 1-1/8 ounce shot charges. I note that they use 1,090 f.p.s. for their published velocity (3-foot instrumental, coil), which tends to mean that the actual muzzle velocity is still above 1,100 f.p.s. from a full-choked trap gun of 30" or more, perhaps around 1,125 f.p.s. or thereabouts. These are tremendously efficient target reloads, in the Remington "Premier" hull, requiring no more than 16 grains of Red Dot [R] in some instances. You customers who are always trying to economize will enjoy looking at the Hercules Guide, which is priced just right for public consumption.