Range Report 2.0: .50 Renegade with sized Hornady Great Plains Bullets

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Took the Renegade out back for another shooting session this afternoon, and had some interesting results.

First round of 5 shots were Hornady Great Plains (HGP) sized to .501, pan lubed with SPG - Idaho (SPG-I: 8 oz SPG + 1 oz ALOX + 2.6 oz Stihl Ultra HD 2 cycle oil), over 60 grs (weighed - W) of T7 3F, all shot through a Caldwell Ballistics chronograph. Bullets loaded much more smoothly than bullets in previous sessions that were lubed with pure SPG. No lead flecks on between-shots patches. Wild fluctuations in velocity - low about 1172, high 1480. Poor accuracy, but no wild fliers. The load seemed to be burning very dirty, and leaving lots of debris and unburned powder on between-shots patches I was using an old bottle of T7 which was first opened in 2016. It had been stored in a ziplock inside of a good Army ammo can in dry climates. Earlier this year I shot groups of roughly 2 inches at 50 yards with this powder, so I'd thought it was fine. Decided to try T7 3F from a bottle purchased in December 2022 which had been stored in an Army ammo can, and had never been opened.

Second round of 5 shots with loads identical to the first. No flecks of lead on patches, velocity very consistent: High of 1381, low of 1370. Excellent accuracy - group size 1.5 inches. To test the lube, I decided to increase the powder charge to 70 grs W.

Third round of 5 shots were HGP sized to .501, pan lubed with SPG-I, over 70 grs W of new T7 3F, all shot through Caldwell Chrony. No flecks of lead on between-shots patches. Velocities varied between 1481 and 1577. Accuracy was poor (about 3 inch group), but by this time light was starting to fail, I was in something of a hurry because I had several things to do before a scheduled meeting, and I called the 2d and 5th shots as fliers. So.... I'm not going to pass judgement on the accuracy of this load, but I'm concerned about the fluctuations in velocity.

Thoughts and conclusions:

1. SPG-I is a big improvement in the lube. Up to velocities of close to 1600 fps, it appears to have solved the leading problem.

2. The Renegade is capable of fine accuracy - provided that it's fed the right load, and I do my part.

3. Using a smaller peep seems to have solved the horizontal stringing I observed in the last shooting session. In this session, the shot strings appear to be vertical. I suspect that this is due to the limits of my ability to tell whether the top of the post is really on the bottom of the 2 inch orange bullseyes that I'm using. Maybe a little larger bullseye would help?

4. The old powder used in the first 5 shots really does seem to be the culprit for wild velocity fluctuations observed in those 5 shots. Notes to self: 1) Continue storing powder in ziplocks inside good ammo cans with dessicant, but don't use T7 that's been open for more than a year; and 2) Use the chronograph whenever developing loads for hunting, plinking, etc.

5. Velocity fluctuations of + or - 50 fps in the third round of 5 shots is a bit puzzling. Absent wild fluctuations in accuracy caused by powder gasses blowing past damaged bullets, the velocity fluctuations have to be caused by inconsistent powder burns. Some possibilities I've thought of are:

a. Inconsistent ignition caused by fouling in the flash channel. These 5 shots were the 11th through the 15th without any flash channel cleaning. I should shoot 5 more of the 70 grs W loads starting with a clean rifle before passing judgement on this load.

b. Maybe 70 grs W of T7 - 3F is too much powder to be uniformly ignited by the CCI #11 caps I've been using. I have some RWS caps, and they make a significantly louder pop and throw a lot more sparks, when I pop them in the rifle to clear rust preventive oil out of the flash channel before a shooting session. Maybe I should try the RWS caps the next time out.

c. Maybe the fast, hot-burning nature of T7 - 3F creates inconsistent burning dynamics in big charges. I should compare results with T7 - 3F to results with similar loads of T7 - 2F.

d. Maybe the 70 grs W charges are deforming the hollow bases of the HGPs, and creating an inconsistent rear seal on the bullets. I should try using a wad under the bullets.

6. The 60 grs W loads of new T7 - 3F that produced a 1.5 inch group at 50 yards and 1380 fps will probably kill an elk just fine out to 100 yards, provided that I don't try to shoot through heavy muscles or bones to reach vitals. Nevertheless, I'd be more comfortable with a bit more velocity, and will therefore focus on getting improved accuracy with a 70 grs W or even a 75 grs W load.

So.... Whaddya think? All comments and experience are deeply appreciated!!!
 
A few thoughts. Yes, 777 is known to degrade once opened (so not surprising that you had major velocity variations with the old stuff). Yes - try a wad already. Lol. Seventy gr is not what I’d consider a heavy charge. Did you weigh any of your bullets? It’s been 25 years since I’ve use HGPs so I have no idea about them specifically but I can tell you there are other conicals in the market that vary a lot in weight. You didn’t specify your swabbing method this time around. You’re using reg CCI #11s or the CCI mags?

If I were working up a 100-150 yard elk load with conicals and 777, I think I’d probably start with larger charges (like 90-110 grV), use a wad and see if I was getting acceptable dispersion (accuracy).
 
Have you tried those bullets without sizing them? They might be too loose even though they may seem tight enough. And make the wad under the bullet a habit.

Just curious why you haven't tried some other bullets since there's a mess of them out there and likely more than a few will outperform a retail bullet. And I'd be working with a mess of bullet weights both above and below the weight of the Great Plains. And regarding bullet weight, even bullets coming from a reputable maker will vary in weight from one to another so weighing is imperative if you're real serious about closing a hole spread on paper.

I think I'd order up a half dozen different bullets and weights, those wads and start playing with them at about 80 grains of NEW ffg, then with the NEW fffg. I see you weigh your charges and with T7 that will help eliminate inconsistent charges so that's good. I see you size bullets, but I'd try as many unsized as I would sized at the various charge levels. I'd also be weighing the bullets and be keeping them in lots all within a couple grains of each other and I'd weigh after sizing and before lubing. Sometimes a single gun and a single bullet can be made to shoot lights out, but I think the vast majority of the times a gun has to be shot with various bullets, bullet weights and powder charges to extract the best the gun can deliver
 
Try 80gr of 2F powder. That was IdahoLewis favorite load.

Do you know whether Lewis referred to his T7 charges by weight or by volume?

I'm guessing you know this, Ed, but future readers of this thread might not: For black powder, 80 grs V is approxiately equal to 80 grs W, so it doesn't matter whether writers specifiy whether they measure and refer to their BP charges by weight or by volume. For T7, though, there is a big difference. My impression is that was done intentionally because T7 is more energetic per unit mass than than BP, and they wanted a volume measurement of T7 to have about the same oomph as a volume measurement of BP - partly, I'm guessing, to keep people from blowing themselves up.

So 60 grs W of T7-3F is about 80 grs V of T7-3F, and 70 grs W of T7-3F is about 90 grs V of T7-3F. For T7-2F, the difference between volume and weight measurements is even bigger. If Lewis was referring to his T7 charges by weight, then I need to try heavier charges of T7. If I'm remembering Lewis' YouTube videos correctly, his favorite charge of Swiss BP was 80 grains, and he weighed his charges before shooting, so maybe he is referring to his T7 charges by weight. But... 80 grs W of T7-2F is equivalent to about 114 grs of BP, and that's a pretty stout charge.
 
A few thoughts. Yes, 777 is known to degrade once opened (so not surprising that you had major velocity variations with the old stuff). Yes - try a wad already. Lol. Seventy gr is not what I’d consider a heavy charge. Did you weigh any of your bullets? It’s been 25 years since I’ve use HGPs so I have no idea about them specifically but I can tell you there are other conicals in the market that vary a lot in weight. You didn’t specify your swabbing method this time around. You’re using reg CCI #11s or the CCI mags?

If I were working up a 100-150 yard elk load with conicals and 777, I think I’d probably start with larger charges (like 90-110 grV), use a wad and see if I was getting acceptable dispersion (accuracy).

Thanks for some really good thoughts and suggestions, Diablo.

Per the discussion above, 70 grs W of T7 is about 90 grs V of T7, so I'm on the lower end of the charge range you suggest, and I should try something heavier. Fortunately, the SPG-I lube seems to have solved the leading problem I was seeing at even 60 grs W, and I didn't seel any leading at 70 grs W, so heavier charges seem feasible.

Good point about checking the weight uniformity of the HGPs. I just weighed 10 of them on my RCBS beam scale... even with the sloppy lube job that Hornady puts on them, all weighed 387 grs, to within a few tenths of a grain! Good to check, though.

For swabbing between shots, I'm running one patch with maybe 8 drops of Hornady One Shot up and down the bore until I can't feel any remaining fouling - particularly in the couple inches of the barrel just above the powder chamber, which seems to get pretty well fouled after each shot. (The dreaded T7 crud ring?) Then I follow the HOS patch with two dry patches, and run them up and down to remove as much of the HOS as possible. I chose HOS because it does dissolve the fouling, Hornady claims that it doesn't affect powder or primer performance, and it doesn't freeze. Last year the high temp for the day was minus 10 F on a couple of my Heritage ML hunts, so any water-based fouling solvents are out. I worry about the HOS degrading the powder, though, which is why I follow up with dry patches.

I'm using magnum CCI #11s. I've read good things about the Dynamit Nobel 1075 caps, I have about 200 of them, and they really do seem hotter, so I should try them.

My then-unfired-in-the-box Renegade arrived on the first day of Heritage ML season last year, so I had almost no time to experiment. After reading everything I could find, I went right to an unsized HGP over a .54 wool wad over 95 grs V of T7-3F, and found that it gave me 4 inch groups at 50 yards. So, I decided to limit my shots to 50 yards, and hunted for a few days with that. Lol..... I've done nearly all of my elk hunting with a recurve bow, so being able to shoot one at 50 yards almost seems like cheating. After the season I got in a couple more shooting sessions before our weather turned super ugly, but wasn't able to improve on my accuracy. Could have been old powder, lousy Hornady lube and leading, deformation of the unsized bullets caused by the severe whacks on a short starter that were needed to start them, rifle problems, the factory Renegade semi-Buckhorn sights and my 66 year-old eyes, or maybe the combination of wads and the hollow based bullets. Now that most of the above have been resolved, I will try wads again.

Thanks again.
 
Have you tried those bullets without sizing them? They might be too loose even though they may seem tight enough. And make the wad under the bullet a habit.

Just curious why you haven't tried some other bullets since there's a mess of them out there and likely more than a few will outperform a retail bullet. And I'd be working with a mess of bullet weights both above and below the weight of the Great Plains. And regarding bullet weight, even bullets coming from a reputable maker will vary in weight from one to another so weighing is imperative if you're real serious about closing a hole spread on paper.

I think I'd order up a half dozen different bullets and weights, those wads and start playing with them at about 80 grains of NEW ffg, then with the NEW fffg. I see you weigh your charges and with T7 that will help eliminate inconsistent charges so that's good. I see you size bullets, but I'd try as many unsized as I would sized at the various charge levels. I'd also be weighing the bullets and be keeping them in lots all within a couple grains of each other and I'd weigh after sizing and before lubing. Sometimes a single gun and a single bullet can be made to shoot lights out, but I think the vast majority of the times a gun has to be shot with various bullets, bullet weights and powder charges to extract the best the gun can deliver

Thanks for all the suggestions, Tom!

Per the reply to Diablo that I just posted, I did try the HGPs without sizing, but in my rifle it took such severe whacks with a short starter to get them started that I decided some sizing is essential for hunting. At the same time I was shooting the unsized HGPs, I was also using wads, but accuracy was still pretty poor - for a big variety of possible reasons. Now that most of the possible causes of those accuracy problems have been resolved, I will give wads another go.

I just weighed 10 HGPs, and all were within a few tenths of a grain of 387 grs, even with the sloppy Hornady lube jobs on them.

Time constraints have led me to focus on the HGPs, but I'm finally done moving from the State of Insanity (FKA the State of Washington) to Montana now (although it will still take another year or so to finish transitioning our rental real estate retirement business to MT), so there should be time to experiment with a wide array of bullet options during the coming year. Seems to me that for my 1-48 barrel, something that weighs about 350 grs in a 40:1 alloy, with a wide flat meplat, an outside diameter of around .496 from the flat base to the bottom of the 2d lube ring to facilitate straight starting, and then an OD of about .501 from the 2d lube ring to the start of the ogive to provide good alignment and enough rifling engagement and friction without being hard to load would be an ideal hunting bullet for my rifle. In other words, something very much like Lewis' 415 I bullet, but lighter in weight, and with a few changes to make it better for hunting. Some of the bullet designs that are in the Accurate Molds catalog look like great starting points..... and so it begins. :)
 
Do you know whether Lewis referred to his T7 charges by weight or by volume?

I'm guessing you know this, Ed, but future readers of this thread might not: For black powder, 80 grs V is approxiately equal to 80 grs W, so it doesn't matter whether writers specifiy whether they measure and refer to their BP charges by weight or by volume. For T7, though, there is a big difference. My impression is that was done intentionally because T7 is more energetic per unit mass than than BP, and they wanted a volume measurement of T7 to have about the same oomph as a volume measurement of BP - partly, I'm guessing, to keep people from blowing themselves up.

So 60 grs W of T7-3F is about 80 grs V of T7-3F, and 70 grs W of T7-3F is about 90 grs V of T7-3F. For T7-2F, the difference between volume and weight measurements is even bigger. If Lewis was referring to his T7 charges by weight, then I need to try heavier charges of T7. If I'm remembering Lewis' YouTube videos correctly, his favorite charge of Swiss BP was 80 grains, and he weighed his charges before shooting, so maybe he is referring to his T7 charges by weight. But... 80 grs W of T7-2F is equivalent to about 114 grs of BP, and that's a pretty stout charge.
I know Idaholewis always weighed his charges. His favorite load was 80gr of Swiss 2F.
 
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