Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

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Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

Postby pitted bore » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:51 am

Long multi-part post follows, with more verbiage per shot than usual. Sorry.

This is a report of a joint undertaking between Siringo and myself. He asked me to try some cast bullets in the bolt gun. I agreed to do so, and in early June he sent me 24 bullets of three types with loading instructions. I completed the shooting in mid-June, and I'm finally getting the results posted. I've broken the story up into what I hope are bite-sized chunks.

Part 1: Loading
Siringo sent the following cast gas-checked lubed bullets, with load information:
  • 300-grain Wide Flat Nose (WFN), 4 each, for 30.5 grains of Lil'Gun
  • 335-grain Wide Flat Nose (WFN), 10 each, for 30.0 grains of Lil'Gun
  • 405-grain Flat Nose (FN), 10 each, for 27.0 grains of Lil'Gun
It appeared that all of these were made by Cast Performance. All were .452 diameter. Siringo will chime in on their source and why he picked those particular bullets.

To these I added a fourth type, my own Cast Performance gas-checked, lubed 300-grain Long Flat Nose (LFN) bullets. I purchased these last year when I read of the results that BD1 and Siringo were reporting on this forum, but I had not gotten around to trying them.

For the trials I used cases that had been fired 3-5 times previously, but were in good condition. (The bolt gun is pretty kind to cases after firing; it doesn't toss them into the dirt or bounce them onto concrete range pads!) I used the Hornady die set, starting with full-length sizing. Case lengths after sizing varied from 1.685 to 1.699 inches. Case mouths were expanded to 0.4765 inches with the expander die, which was about as small as possible without shaving lead from the bullets.

Primers were Winchester small rifle primers. I weighed out the individual charges of Lil'Gun powder to about +/- 0.04 grain, checking my balance with metric check weights (to 5 milligrams). Bullets were seated to the bottom edge of the crimp groove, and taper crimped to an outside case mouth diameter of 0.4758 to 0.4760 inches. Siringo advised against a side crimp to avoid another complicating variable.

For an initial trial, I loaded 5 of my 300-grain LFN bullets similarly, using the 30.5 grains of powder. As noted below, for a second trial, I increased this to 33.0 grains of powder for five cartridges.

Here's a photo showing the four different bullet types, and how they looked loaded.
(You probably already know this, but if you're running Windows and right-click on the image, you can select an option to open an attached image in a separate screen, without the scroll bars.)
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Postby pitted bore » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:55 am

Part 2: Initial Trials
I fired only 15 rounds on the first trip to the range. I wanted to sight-in for the cast bullets, get a preliminary estimate of accuracy and velocities, and try to recover some of the bullets. I also wanted to try out my own 300-grain bullets before firing the four 300-grainers that Siringo had furnished.

The rifle was the M1903 bolt gun described elsewhere on this site. The barrel had been cleaned to get rid of copper fouling. Sights consisted of the peep with standard Williams insert, and a pretty fuzzy eyeball. I set up the chronograph at 10 feet from the muzzle. The target at 100 yards was a standard 100-yard NRA A-15 small-bore target, which fits the bead front sight well. Temperatures were about 70-degrees F.

Chrono results:
300-grain LFN - 30.5 gr LG: 1729, 1867, 1754, 1645, 1737 fps.
335-grain WFN - 30.0 gr LG: 1840, 1742, 1837, 1849 fps.
405-grain FN - 27.0 gr LG: 1624, 1569, 1568, 1635 fps.

One shot each with a 335- and 405-grain bullet was fired into my "bullet recovery box". These two shots were not chronographed.

I was adjusting the sights through the first 10 shots, trying to get the bullets on to the target. Eventually I found a 6x6-foot square of cardboard that somebody had left at the range, and installed this as a backer after about the first eight shots. The last four shots were at least on the cardboard, in an encouraging group.

* 300-grain bullet: There was sooting at least half-way down the case from the 300-grain loads. The variability in velocity was great, and the shot that produced the low velocity of 1645 was a slight hang-fire. I concluded that the load was likely too light,

* 335-grain bullet: The cases were sooted for about the front quarter. Except for the one reading of 1742, the velocities were pretty consistent.

* 405-grain bullets: There was no sooting, The 2-high and 2-low velocity readings were curious. Maybe powder at different ends of the case?

As far as I could tell, barrel leading was minimal. There were none of the usual signs of pressure that I've observed in some other tests.
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Postby pitted bore » Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:58 am

Part 3: Bullet recovery
To attempt to recover one 335-grain bullet and one 405-grain bullet, I fired the shots into my "bullet box" from a distance of 12 feet. This box consists of a standard corrugated carton in which dry newspapers are tightly stacked. The bullets are fired into the flat pages. Water-soaked newspapers are used a lot in evaluating bullets, but dry is a much tougher test, usually requiring less than 12 inches to stop most any bullet. Use of dry newspaper is described by writer John Barsness in Handloader magazine No.245 in 2007, and in the book Rifle Bullets for Hunters; the papers can really wreck bullets, stressing them like heavy bone.

Both the 335- and 405-grain bullets penetrated about 10 inches into the stack. When I dug out the bullets, I found the 335-grain bullet had lost its gas check which was also found. The 405 retained its gas check. I did not see any evidence of gas cutting, although I'm not expert in recognizing it. I've attached a couple of photos of the recovered bullets.
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Postby pitted bore » Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:07 pm

Part 4: Accuracy Tests and More Velocity Results
I'll start this section on accuracy results by stating that this is not a definitive accuracy test. The problems are several, compared with the typical AR. The rifle has a .451 groove diameter, the twist is 1:16", the sights are not telescopic, and the eyes peering through the sight are old. I can usually obtain 2-inch 3-shot groups with the excellent factory ammo at 100 yards from a bench. Many AR-platform rifles will produce much smaller groups - and eighth or a tenth of what I can produce.

For these tests I loaded some of my 300-grain LFN bullets with a powder charge increased to 33 grains of Lil'Gun.

The range temperature was about 70-degrees F. The target was again the A-15, backed by a 4x4-foot piece of heavy brown wrapping an attempt to catch all the shots on paper to find group size. The chorno was set so the center between screens was 10 feet from the muzzle. I fired sufficiently slowly that the barrel only became warm to the touch, and never hot.

I've attached photos of the groups. Some of the groups overlapped on the backing paper, but I kept track of the individual shots on the target. The photos below have been edited to show only the holes for each group, with the holes from other groups hidden. I did some adjusting of the sight between groups, to make sure all the shots hit the backing paper.

Shot #1: 300-grain LFN, 30.5 grains - 1853 fps. Not shown on target

Shots #2-6 with my 300-grain LFN, 33.0 grains - Chrono readings of 1754, 1716, 1953, 1984, 1887 fps. A really variable load, and I'm not sure what produced the velocity variation.

The five bullets went into a 5-1/2 in goup.

Shots #7-10 with the four 300-grain WFN bullets sent by Siringo. Chrono readings of 1963, 1958, 1966, 1953 fps, with nice low variation of velocities. The four bullets went into a 4-1/2 inch group.

Shots #11-15 with the five 335-grain WFN bullets. Chrono readings were 1816, 1742, 1738, 1737, and 1858 fps. Again, high variability of velocities. Group size was 7 inches.

Shots #16-20, with five 405-grain FN bullets. Chrono readings were 1599, 1560, 1587, 1633, and 1636 fps. Group size was about 5 inches.

I'm going to stop here. I'm sure I've omitted some needed details, and Siringo may want to correct some of this.

Group with 300-grain LFN bullet
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Group with 300-grain WFN bullet
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Group with 335-grain WFN bullet
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Group with 405-grain FN buller
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Re: Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

Postby BD1 » Tue Jul 06, 2010 3:49 pm


I'm feeling bad now as I have a tray of cast boolits turning gray on my loading bench that I had promised to send you over a month,(two months?) ago. Things have got busy at work and free time has gotten scarce. I'll try and get them in the mail this week.

I think you are way light on the 300 grain load, a little right on the 335 grain load and just about right on the 400 grain load.

I'm also thinking that with iron sights 50 yards might make a more meaningful accuracy trial.

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Re: Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

Postby Siringo » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:21 pm

Thanks for the tests. Now I have more questions than ever before!!!!

The purpose of this test was to see if these loads fired in a barrel without a gas port would group better (not have fliers). I would have expected better groups -- a little larger than factory loads, but much better than those achieved. PB told me that with his rifle, other variables would be introduced (smaller bore size, faster twist, ect), but I did not expect such a wide dispersion. I believe the twist rate is the same as used in the 460 S&W and 454 Casual. However, from what I read -- the 460 S&W has gain twist rifling the minimize the stresses on the bullet and prevent skidding as it enters the rifling.

The 300's and 335's were from Cast Performance. The 400's are just some hard cast that I found in .458 diameter. They were sized to .452. In my own tests, the recovered 300's had noted major slumping -- odd for such a hard bullet. Accuracy was not good and I attributed this to the slumping (or slugging) into the free bore of the BM.

My best groups were with the 400's. Although, in every group, there were unattributed fliers. It very well maybe that LG is not the powder to use.

BD hopefully can chime in with the larger gas checks he is getting -- I think.
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Re: Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

Postby pitted bore » Sun Jul 18, 2010 9:52 am

Here is some follow-up on the cast bullet trials above.

As BD1 noted, the 30.5-grain load of Lil'Gun seemed too light for the 300-grain bullets; there was a lot of sooting and the hang-fire I noted. That's why I went with the 33-grain load for the accuracy trial; accuracy was not very good, as shown above.

Since increased load showed improved results at least reducing case sooting somewhat, I thought it might help accuracy to increase the load further. I ran a series with the LFN gas-checked Cast Performance 300-grain bullets that I used in the trials above. I'll not give details of the loads or powders because they were probably unwise.

Briefly, I learned not to try to make cast bullets run faster . Most cast bullet shooters know this, but I'm a novice with them and had come by knowledge the hard way.

Velocities over the chronograph at 10-feet from the muzzle went from about 1950 to above 2250 fps. Accuracy was non-existent. Taking BD1's advice, I moved the target to 50 yards, but accuracy was non-existent. I aimed 5-shots at each of two bulls on the same piece of paper. (Targets taken from a cut-up 50-yard NRA small-bore target sheet.) It didn't seem to make much difference at which bull I aimed. Only 6 of 10 shots made it onto the paper.

My guess is that the bullets were simply stripping from the rifling, and were flying worse than if shot from a smoothbore.

Here's the target as an attached image:
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Re: Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

Postby pitted bore » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:16 am

After the failure at increased velocities, I decided to go the other way. I found my copy of an older Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook, and based on their recommendations with the 45-70 and similar cases, I decided to try Unique powder with a Dacron/polyester wad to hold the powder against the head of the case. I selected 12.5 grains, and loaded 10 rounds with the 300-grain bullets I used above.

The accuracy was much better, as shown by the attached images of the targets. These were shot just before a big thunderstorm hit the range, and I was hustling to get the shots away before the chrono screens got soaked. The first, left-hand group was shot too hastily and went into 2 inches. I was a little more careful with the right-hand target, and the first four shots went into 3/4", but just as I fired the fifth shot a loud lightning bolt hit nearby, and it went out of the group.

Recorded velocities at 10 feet averaged 1267 fps, with a high of 1309 and a low of 1245. The chrono showed errors for three shots because it was getting pretty dark and/or the wind was shaking the screens badly.

So, I was happy to learn that the lack of accuracy in the several trials described above was not due completely to my ability to point the rifle at the target, but was probably the particular loads being used.

edited to repair italics
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Last edited by pitted bore on Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

Postby oldmanjeffers » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:44 am

Good Info Guys!

Quick Question, Has anyone with any success got a Unique load to cycle their action safely?

I use the Unique powder for some "squib" loads for the 45-70, And would Reilly like to give it a try with the 450BM but don't want a detention of my rifle.

Last I read was someone at 16grs of unique? with good accuracy, But did not cycle the action.

Has or can someone run the data on their Quick load Program to see if it is safe?

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Re: Some Cast Bullet Trials - A Joint Project

Postby Siringo » Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:05 am

BD -- you are most likely correct from the beginning -- your 1/16 twist is just to fast and your chamber is different (no freebore - correct). Also, since the bore is .451, does this barrel have shallow rifling similar to the 45 ACP? That would account for the stripping -- but if stripping was really the culprit, your throat area would really be leaded up. I never had any barrel leading.

Did the bullet holes look square to the target face? I can't tell from the photos.

Also, the 460 S&W seems to handle the heavy cast bullets from Cast Performance just fine at 1800 fps. However, the S&W revolver has gain twist rifling -- helps prevent the stripping.

What I really wanted to find out with these tests was the impact of the gas port. What really needs to happen is the tests need to be done in a Bushmaster barrel PRIOR to the drilling of the gas port. Unlikely to be achieved.
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