Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 460 Smith & Wesson

The 460 with a Leupold scope makes a great hunting combo
                 .460  Smith & Wesson

 A few years ago, Smith & Wesson decided to make the most powerful revolvers in general production. The .500 was introduced at the SHOT show in 2004 while the .460 came out a year later.  With the .500 S & W they succeeded quite well as it has more muzzle energy then any other revolver with energies going up to 2800 foot LBS or so. They went on to produce the fastest production revolver. Again they succeeded by introducing the .460 with a 200 grain bullet rated at 2300 FPS , producing 2350 FT LBS. of energy.  Through necessity, these are massive revolvers weighing at 5 Lbs. plus empty. With this much power recoil is a major factor and the revolver’s weight will mitigate it to an extent.  The muzzle breaks also help but these guns are not for the faint at heart. When you shoot these guns, the muzzle blast will feel like someone is shoving you. They are specialized guns meant for serious big game hunting. At that, they excel regardless of what you are hunting.   The gun is attractive being made from Stainless steel and isn’t blued.
For something different black powder was tried. Aimpoint sight also works well

 The question that begs to be answered  is why would you buy such a powerful and specialized revolver?  Some people want the most powerful and fastest regardless if it is a car that can do 250 MPH or a super powered revolver. The .500 can generate as much muzzle energy as a 30-06 with a top load.  I know a guy that had one with a 4” barrel and no muzzle break. At his request I made some heavy loads utilizing a 400 grain bullet.   He offered to let me try it, an invitation I declined. Anyway he shot it twice and sold it.  I shot a 10” with a break and scope and while it is manageable, it is quite a handful. The redeeming feature was we were shooting 275 grain bullets which helped to reduce recoil. Accuracy at 100 yards was quite impressive. For the recoil junkie Hornady offers a 500 grain bullet and load. If that isn’t enough one company offers a 700 grain bullet rated at 1250 FPS.  No way no how I would shoot that load, except in a rifle. Self inflicted pain has no fascination for me. The reader might notice that recoil is frequently mentioned and that is for a reason. I fail to see the logic in buying a firearm that can’t be handled by the owner. 
Muzzle break really needed cleaning after shooting black powder

  Of the two, the .460 is more versatile. Besides the .460 ammo, you can shoot the .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, and the .454 Casull. Also there is a wider selection of 45 caliber bullets then the larger 50’s.  With the two smaller cases you can use conventional jacketed or cast bullets at the velocities that they produce.  Do not use thin jacketed bullets with the .454 or .460 cases.  Doing that can strip the jacket off and leave it in the bore which may cause a problem with the next round.  Several companies make the proper bullets for the .460 and I would suggest you use them. Companies such as Hornady and Barnes makes jacketed or solid copper slugs while LBT makes cast bullets up to 395 grains. They are cast hard with a gas check and are well suited to the pressures involved. Keep in mind the .460 is set up to operate at 60,000 PSI, which is in the range of magnum rifles. Those specs require that the guns are made out of the best steel available in order to stand up to that abuse. Tolerances must be kept tight also to enhance the longevity and safety of this revolver.  The S & W is up to the task as we have fired it quite a lot with no malfunctions due to the gun.  The 460 requires a large rifle primer because of the pressures and large amounts of magnum handgun powder involved. A magnum rifle primer isn’t generally necessary though in real cold weather I would consider one.
Shot load at target 3 yrads

 The gun is a double action type though the single is a lot more practical. The trigger is great breaking at 2 & 3/4  lbs. single action. The double action trigger is ok though I don’t see much use for it.  With a scope and ammo the gun can weigh close to 6 Lbs. which makes it difficult to hold offhand for most shooters including myself. There is a bipod available as well as a sling. They would make sense if a rest isn’t available. Out in the field a bipod would enable you to take advantage of the 200 yard potential that this gun offers.    Hornady advertises their 200 grain load as being point on at 200 yards. With the velocity obtainable and the pointed bullet, that claim is creditable. I have tested Hornady ammo in quite a few calibers and it performs as billed in virtually all instances.   

 The gun that we tested has an 8 & 3/8” barrel though other lengths are available. Shooting from a rest with the 200 grain Hornady wasn’t too bad as recoil goes straight back but the muzzle blast can be only described as intense.  Even standing behind a shooter you can feel the blast. This gun definitely isn’t for the faint at heart.   There are two muzzle breaks one for lead while the other covers jacketed slugs. There is a hunting holster and speed loaders offered for the .460. That way you can carry it on a hiking trip and be ready for anything.
Couple of nice heavy hunting bullets 300 grain  cast & Sierra

 The proof is in the pudding as to how powerful the loads really are. We have a verity of factory loads plus some handloads we chronographed and tested for accuracy. We also fired ammo with shorter cases including the .45 Schofield, .45 Colt, and the .454 Casull. That is what I mean by versatility. Anyway, here are some chronograph results. During the testing, I had my Freedom Arms 454 with a 10” barrel and chronographed many of the loads in both. The Casull was anywhere from a little over 100 FPS to 250 FPS faster then the Smith. It may have been partly due to the longer barrel and lack of porting or the tighter tolerances of the Freedom Arms Revolver. Anyway it was an interesting test.  Recoil was on the brutal side with the heavy loads in both guns.  When you shoot a certain amount of the heavy, loads your hand tends to start hurting which is a good time to stop. If you don’t mind carrying around the weight the 460 is pretty versatile.

LOAD                                   BULLET                             VELOCITY                COMMENT

5.3  gr Tite Group            250 grain cast                   768                           .45 Schofield

5.7  gr 231                       230 gr Ranier                      637                         .45 Schofield  


8 gr 231                         250 gr Hornady XTP HP    906                           .45 Colt load

7 gr Tite Group             250 gr cast                         905                            .45 Colt Load

7 gr Tite Group               250 gr Hornady XTP     868                             .45 Colt Load

11 gr HS-6                      225 gr Hornady FTX       918                             .45 Colt Load

11 gr HS-6                     250 gr cast                        940                             .45 Colt load     

Federal                             225 SWC HP                      897                          .45 Colt load

Federal                            225 Gr FTX                         851                          .45 Colt load

Buffalo Bore                  325 gr LBT                        1369                         .45 Colt Load

Buffalo Bore                  300 gr LBT                       1352                         .45 Colt load

Buffalo Bore                 260 gr JHP                          1489                        .45 Colt load

Buffalo Bore               325 gr                                  1531                         .454 load

25 gr 2400                    300 grain cast                    1352                        . 454 load

Double Tap                 400 Gr WEN-GC                 1280                         .454 load

Double Tap                250 Gr Barnes HP               1621                        .454 load

Hornady                     300 Gr XTP                          1588                         .454 load

Federal                        300 Gr Swift A Frame       1551                         .454 load

33 gr  2400                  225 gr Hornady FTX           1469                         .454 load

Buffalo Bore             325 gr LBT                           1531                         .454 load

Buffalo Bore             360 gr LBT                           1450                         .454 load


Federal                       300 Gr Swift A Frame       1582                        .460 load

49 gr of  H-110                225 Gr FTX                    1958                       .460 load

Hornady                     200 Gr FTX                          2158                     .460 load

Hornady                    200 gr FTX                           2106                       .460 load

43 gr Lil gun               240 gr Hornady XTP          1666                     .460 load

50 gr FFFG BP            250 grain cast                     869.6                     .460 load

44 gr AA-5744           240 grain Hornady XTP     1716                     .460 load

Buffalo Bore            275 gr Barnes XPB              1772                   .460 load

Buffalo Bore            300 gr JFN                            1581                    .460 load

Buffalo Bore            360 gr                                   1471                  .   460 load

50 gr AA 1680          240 gr Hornady XTP           1439                     .460 load


Due to large case size shot loads are a viable option


  Buffalo Bore generously sent some loads in .45 Colt, .454 Casull, and the 460 S & W. The .45 Colt and .454 Casull loads shot great giving the advertised velocity and were consistent. The 460 loads however didn’t do as well. They were way under advertised speeds with high SD’s. Also the cases stuck in the chambers indicating high pressures.  My guess is they used a powder that while suitable in the shorter cases is too fast for the .460 especially with heavy bullets. At a later date, I plan on working with the heavy LBT bullets and see if I can improve upon those loads. That is one test I am in no hurry to conduct.  It isn’t on my top 100 to do list of important projects. We shot some .45 Schofield with cast bullets of 200 and 250 and mild loads. For some reason they keyholed, perhaps  due to the long travel in the cylinder.   We tried some Ranier bullets and they shot ok so that theory went down the hole. Maybe it just didn’t like those lead bullets.  Keep in mind that plated bullets at full power loads won’t work in the .454 or 460. The boxes generally specify max velocity consistent with accuracy and I suggest that you follow the advice. I have shot them over the specs and they are not accurate at all. Plated bullets however make nice .45 Colt loads.  That is why we try different bullets to see what does and doesn’t work in a specific gun.  Just for kicks and info purposes, we tried some black powder loads in the .460. As is usually the case with black powder, velocities are consistent though after a dozen or so rounds it started to gum up and stopped functioning. Of course the gun needed to be vigorously cleaned after shooting the black powder and before we went back to the more conventional ammo.  The .460 was inconsistent with some of the loads, as with such a large case any light loads with magnum powders didn’t fare so well. With the big case it is better to use full throttle loads and use the shorter cases for the reduced stuff.  Just for fun we made some shot loads using 460 cases. The load was 12 grains of 231 and 250 grains of shot with a gas check on top. I cut a wad out of cardboard to put between the powder and shot.  They proved effective up to 7 yards, which would dispatch a snake. If you do this, be sure to remove the compensator to avoid a lot of shot coming backwards.  
This young lady shot 460 & surprisingly she did fine

 We obtained some bulletproof glass that is an inch thick and of course, we wanted to see what shot through it and what didn’t. We tried two .460 loads a 225 grain Hornady XTP and a 300 grain Barnes. Both shot through with no problems though when we put a second piece behind the first both loads were stopped. We shot a .44 mag load which was a 240 grain soft point and it didn’t go through but did dimple the back of it. We had some .45 Colt and 9 mm but neither came near to going through but did make nice marks on the glass. My guess is if we had armor piercing bullets in the .460, it probably would have gone through both plates.  
Thick glass is no match for the 460


  Another interesting thing came to light, The .460 recoiled backwards while the .454 went up. That was due to the S & W having a muzzle break where upon the .454 lacks that feature.     Trigger pull double action is 14 & ½ lbs. while the single checks in at 2 & 2/4 lbs.  and breaks cleanly. I don’t imagine that very many shooters can control the .460 shooting double action. I, for one can’t.  If you want a high quality revolver that is capable of killing anything on two or four feet, this might just be the gun for you. I would imagine that it would do well shooting silhouettes out to two or 300 meters. If you can handle the recoil and muzzle blast then you should have a winner. A scope definitely gets the potential out of this massive revolver.  Be sure that it is
a quality optic meant for intense recoil or you will be replacing your scope frequently.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reloading by Feel


Factory defect needs to be put in scrap


                                                                    Reloading by Feel

 There are many techniques discussed when talking about reloading ammo but I don’t see many articles suggesting that feel is very important to successful ammo making. When you are performing various tasks, you can’t see what is going on inside the die so you have to depend on feel to determine how your ammo will come out. They don’t make transparent dies yet so feeling your way around the processes in vital.  Once you learn how to feel your way around reloading ammo will be easier and more enjoyable.

Bullet caught edge of case should be felt during bullet seating

 Normally after you inspect and clean your brass sizing and decapping is your first operation. Sizing brings the case neck to the correct size to hold a bullet while the body is squeezed down a bit to enable chambering. Most dies decap the case also meaning the old primer is removed. The operation involves some resistance which depends on the size and brand of the case and the type of lubricant used. You can buy tungsten dies for most handgun rounds and I would suggest that you spring for the few extra bucks to buy them. They usually eliminate the need for lube which saves time and the die last longer. There is also a small amount of pressure required to remove the old primer as well.

Different bullets may have different feel

 When you get set up you will notice the resistance involved and it should be the same for all of the cases. If it is too easy, you might have a split case or slipped in the wrong one. If you have a difficult time sizing the case perhaps you forgot to lube it in the instance of a rifle or handgun without using a tungsten die. If you get an unlubed rifle case stuck in a die, you have a serious situation. You will need a stuck case remover and some effort to remove it. Rifle cases need to be lubed around the body in order to size them easily. Don’t put lube around the shoulder area as that won’t help out plus will produce hydraulic dents on the shoulders. If you have military cases, especially foreign made make sure that the primers are of the boxer type. Make sure that there isn’t any foreign substances in the case. Range brass might have a smaller case inside or have some dirt in the brass. That is one reason why you should inspect the brass prior to sizing.   Trying to decap a Berdan type primer with a conventional set up will result in the assembly getting bent and breaking the decapping pin. That is an aggravation we can do without.   That is where feel comes in handy to avoid those headaches.  Some brands of cases are more difficult to size then others due to the construction some being thicker then others. Therefore, if you are mixing brands during sizing that might account for some of the feeling difference.       

Crimp die set too far down. operator should be able to feel this problem
 After sizing, priming is usually the next step. Seating a primer generates a little resistance which is ordinary. If the primer is too easy to seat the pocket might be expanded which usually results from shooting loads that are too hot. Once the pocket is expanded, too much the case is not good for anything other then a display round. If the primer is too hard to seat there may be a couple of reasons.  One is the pocket might have some residue which can easily be cleaned out. Military cases frequently have a crimp in the pocket which needs to be removed. I use a reamer for that task as I do a lot of military cases for various projects. There is a primer pocket expander available but I don’t care for it but it might be worth trying. I have run across some brands of foreign cases that have pockets that are too small or shallow to easily seat a primer. I either avoid them or slightly ream out the pocket. If you use too much force to seat a primer some of the compound might come out which will adversely affect the performance of the ammo.   
Cleaning cases makes it easier to inspect and size

 Seating the bullet is done by feel also. I always chamfer the inside of the case mouth which makes seating easier and more consistent.  You will have some feel, which is normal. If the bullet seats too easily you might have a split neck. Another possibility is the brass is too thin. I have used one brand of brass in the 8 X 57 caliber which has necks that are too thin and the bullets aren’t tight enough. That will cause inconsistent ammo among other problems including bullets dropping down in the cases. I size those necks in a .318 die, which helps, but normally I will buy another brand of brass to avoid that headache. Another cause might be bullets that are a tiny bit too small which is not common but can happen. Occasionally an expander plug might be too large causing loose fitting of the bullet. If they are too difficult, it might be thick brass at the neck. That could be especially true if you necked down the case from a larger caliber such as making 243’s from 308 cases. You would have to either turn down the case necks or ream them out. Thick necks will cause difficult chambering and possibly dangerous high pressures. Like every other operation when seating bullets, they should all feel the same. Remember you are dealing with dimensions that are in the .001 inch and that can make a difference.

Primer on left was too tight and operator should be able to feel the difference

 If you are crimping the bullets, there is also a feel there. Once you get use to using the feel method the crimping can be felt and if there is a problem you will realize it. The cases have to be the same length in order to have a consistent crimp.    If the feel is consistent chances are the ammo will perform better as it will be more consistent.

 Learning the feel method will help you out a great deal when loading ammo. Making good ammo has its challenges so anything that you do to give you an edge is always good. Like most things in life you get out of it what you put into it.

Chamfering makes it easier to seat a bullet

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weatherby Vanguard Gen ll in 22-250

                                  Vanguard in 22-250

 Over 40 years ago Weatherby realized that there was a market for a lower price rifle then their famed Mark V series.  So the Vanguard was introduced in 1970. While the original Weatherby rifles were chambered for their cartridges, the Vanguard is available in standard chamberings from the 204 to the 338 Win mag. I have fired various Vanguards in 30-06 and 22-250 though I didn’t get much of a chance to work with the 22 caliber due to a fire. The Vanguard is also available in some Weatherby calibers such as the 257 , which I have also fired.  For more info of Weatherby products you can go to    http://www.weatherby.com/   The rifle I have is a Gen ll which has a couple of improvements over the first model. I had an older 22-250 which shot well but was too heavy and the trigger wasn’t as good as the newer model. A 30-06 I tested also was heavy though It did shoot quite well. Since the Vanguard is available in the 338 Win Mag , which would require some weight, all of their models and calibers reflected that. A lightweight gun is important to me, as my wheels are not what they used to be.  These are some loads that I have used in both Vanguards. Super is short for Hodgdon Superperformance powder which is one of the better powders for the 22-250.

View of weatherby 22-250 with Alpen Scope. A great combo

LOAD                      BULLET                         VELOCITY                COMMENT

5 X Red Dot          40 grain Speer                 1483                           lite load

10 X Unique        40 grain Speer                 2328                            nice load

12 X Unique        40 grain Speer                 2603                            Hornet Load

14 X Unique        40 grain Speer                 2858                            accurate

20 X Blue Dot      52 grain Sierra                 3132                           good load

39.3 X H 380       52 grain Sierra                3612                            ok

35 X IMR 4064    52 grain Sierra  BT          3646                            very accurate

20 X Blue Dot      50 grain Speer                 3164                            222 load

36 X IMR 4895        50 grain Speer                 3711                            good load

37 X IMR 4895          50 grain Speer                 3766                            favorite load

Remington                55 grain factory             3460                            high es

12 X Unique             55 grain Speer fmj          2261                            accurate

35 X WC 844           55 grain FMJ                    3546                          good load

44 X Super              55 grain milt                   3763                           consistent

44 X Super              55 grain Sierra HP BT    3933                           great load

44 X Super              55 grain Sierra SP BT     3813                           good load

35 X IMR 4895       55 grain Sierra                 3685                           accurate

41.5 X 760              55 grain Sierra                 3598                            accurate

41.5 X 760              55 grain Sierra                 3601                            mag primer

33 X RL#11               55 grain Sierra                 3555                            ok 

8 X 231                    58 grain cast                     1844                           accurate

7 X 231                   58 grain cast                     1629                           ok 

16 X Blue Dot        63 grain Sierra                  2530                           small game 

42.5 X Super        63 grain Sierra                   3777                           ok


Due to light recoil and good trigger a youngster has no problem shooting it


 At my request, Weatherby sent me a second  Vanguard in 22-250, which is my all-time favorite 22 caliber centerfire caliber. It was originally a wildcat for many years before Remington adopted it in 1965.   This caliber has everything going for it with no drawbacks. It has the accuracy and flexibility to meet any need that a 22 can fill. I have even loaded it down to 22 Hornet velocities with good results.  It may not win bench rest matches but ½” groups are very obtainable which makes it an excellent long range varmint caliber. Weatherby came out with their own 22 centerfire known as the 224 Weatherby. While a competent cartridge, it has a major drawback. The case is belted and not based on anything else so it is expensive and hard to get. If someone obtains a large amount of cases, it is reloadable which will mitigate the problem to an extent. In any event the 22-250 is a superior choice in every respect.  These are a few loads I used but each rifle will have its preferences so this is just a guideline.  These are some further loads that were used in the Gen ll rifle.  I do recommend this rifle as it performed well and the price is reasonable.


LOAD                         BULLET                            VELOCITY                  COMMENT

37 X H 4895             50 grain Rem                 3678                          high es

34.5 X WC 844         50 grain Rem                 3583                         slow

36 X H 4895             55 grain V Max               3694                          nice

36 X H 4895             55 grain FMJ                   3695                         consistent

39 X H 414               55 grain V max                3551                        ok

39 X h 414               55 grain FMJ                    3465                         slow

36 X 748                  55 grain FMJ                     3559                        fair

As usual Hornady bullets shot well

My sample has a two tone composite stock being gray and black. The 24” barrel is a matt blue. The bolt has two large locking lugs and a typical extractor and ejector. The extractor is a small claw type which the cases are ejected with a plunger type found on many rifles. I have shot quite a bit of ammo in various Vanguards and never had any problems with any of them. There are holes in the bolt body, which should deflect gas away from the shooters face in the unlikely event of a case rupture. You can feel safe shooting this firearm.    The trigger as it came from the factory is nice and light and breaks cleanly which is a major aid in accurate shooting. It is a two stage match type and can be adjusted down to 2 & ½ Lbs.  The magazine drops down with a button in the trigger guard and is easy to use. The three position safety also works well. Is my gun pretty? No, in fact it leans toward ugly but practical. If you get caught in the rain or snow no big deal with this model. I have examined Vanguards with wood stocks and nicely blued metal but they are more expensive and no more practical. There are many models and options to choose from so there is something for everyone.   The Vanguard series 2 has a MSRP starting at $599 and has an accuracy guarantee of 1” or less, using specified ammo. I have found on previous models that the guarantee was always met or exceeded. This specimen is capable of ½” groups with ammo that it likes. Weight is listed as 7 & ¼ Lbs., which seems lighter then the other 22-250 I had.  For me lightweight is important as my wheels are not that good any more.  Since the rifle has no sights I would like to see it with a scope base installed. A set of Weaver type bases would only add a couple of dollars to the cost and make it more convenient.  After all of this rifle  I would recommend the Vanguard for anyone looking for a good value.
Trigger from Vanguard

 I picked up my first 22-250 around 1970.  My uncle had it and I had a chance to take it out hunting groundhogs. It was love at first sight. When I saw how well it works on woodchucks I offered to buy and purchased his Remington 700 ADL.  I used it for some years for groundhog hunting. It was very accurate and any chuck that was unlucky to be in range was quickly dispatched. On a calm day any chuck that was within 300 yards was in serious jeopardy. Shots past 300 yards was also quite reasonable as long as I did my part.  The only weakness of a 22 at long range is the wind. Unlike drop wind isn’t as easy to figure out due to the variations.- While during this period I also used everything from a 22 Hornet to a 220 Swift my love affair with the 22-250 remained steadfast. While all of those 22 centerfires have a place I just thought that the 22-250 was the best all around 22 and I haven’t seen anything to change my mind.  Since I am a handloader adjusting it power from a 22 rimfire up to full power loads isn’t a major challenge. I have been told that the 223 is better because a 1 in 7” twist is readily available which puts it in the deer hunting category. While that would be true I am not a big fan of deer hunting with any 22 though I would acknowledge that with the proper bullet and shot placement it can be done. Also who is to say that a 1 in 7” twist can’t be ordered in a 22-250 or any other 22 centerfire for that matter. The 22-250 would have the ability to push a heavy bullet about 400 FPS faster then the smaller 223 which would make a big difference in down range performance.
Gen 1 shot well but was heavy

 While I tried a lot of different types of bullets my go to was a 50 grain Speer loaded to 37 to 3800 FPS. While not the most accurate bullet it was close and since I did a lot of hunting on flat ground ricochets were a consideration. This bullet simply came apart after hitting just about any object so there was virtually no chance of a ricochet.  In addition, it anchored the woodchucks very nicely. They are tough animals and if you don’t hit them right with a good explosive bullet they will get into their hole and be lost. Like any other animal hunted they deserve a quick and humane death.    

Bolt showing extractor and ejector. Strong system

 Alpen sent me a 3 X 9 X 40 scope mount on this rifle. As with previous experience with their products, this scope performed to perfection. Optics are crystal clear and this model is a great fit for the caliber. Clear optics will help get the accuracy potential out of a rifle. For my purposes a 9 X scope is plenty.  It’s not overly large so you can carry it if desired. I used another Alpen scope on a bear hunt last year and the light gathering properties were amazing.  If someone wants a great hunting scope on their rifle I would recommend you take a serious look at their products.   For more info you can go to http://www.alpenoptics.com/RifleScopes.html  as they also have binoculars and spotting scopes.