Monday, February 27, 2012

Reloading Range Report

This weekend I started on load development for the P30, and it went great. I started out by researching all the load data that I could find in books and online and then picked a place to start. Considering I'm using VihtaVuori 3N37 powder, I checked out Lapua's loading data for 9mm, and their test barrel is 4", which is close to the P30's 3.85" barrel. Lapua got velocities higher than I did though.

I'm using once fired nickle plated CCI/Speer Gold Dot cases that came from factory Speer Gold Dot ammo, which is my carry load, and which were fired in my gun. I'm also using the exact same bullet -- Speer Gold Dot 124 grain, part number 3998, and I'm touching the powder column off with a CCI small pistol primer, the same one that Speer uses in their factory load. Even my overall length is the same as the factory ammo: 1.129". Exact same case, length, bullet, and primer; the only difference between my handloads and the factory Gold Dots that I have in my gun right now is the powder, for all I know; there's no way of telling what CCI stokes the Gold Dot line with.

Disclaimer: Do not try to duplicate my load data. If you want to do the same thing, you must must MUST start at a low powder charge and work your way up, and my firm advice is to consult with a loading manual first to know where to start. I did, and I measured the water weight capacity for the cases that I used that have been fired in the chamber in my gun and plugged that into Quick Load, which predicted the performance of these handloads and assured me that shooting them would be blissful.

I loaded the cases with VV 3N37 powder from 6 to 6.8 grains in .2 grain increments, five rounds of each charge. I was shooting off sandbags on a heavy bench at a range of 25 yards, and I started out by firing a group of the factory 124 grain Gold Dots through the chronograph so I know what velocities I need to be working with. Here are my targets:

As you can see, the factory Gold Dots hover at just under 2", which is typical of this load in this gun from my past groups. As for the handloads, I'm liking what I see from the 6.4 and 6.6 grain charges; If you take away the one high-left flyer, the 6.4 grain charge yeilded a 1.194" group. If you check out my workup sheet below, you'll notice that the average velocity from the factory loads matches the velocity from those two charges, which I don't think is a coincidence.

Here's the breakdown:

Factory average is 1,169 fps
6 grain 3N37 average is 1,113 fps
6.2 grain 3N37 average is 1,142 fps
6.4 grain 3N37 average is 1,168 fps
6.6 grain 3N37 average is 1,174 fps
6.8 grain 3N37 average is 1,221 fps

Notice from the increasing velocities that the 6.4 and 6.6 grain charges are very close and don't jump as rapidly as the rest. This is an indicator of an accuracy "node", and it matches the factory ammo results. Now I'm going to do another test from 6.4 to 6.7 grains in .1 grain increments, and then follow that up with a seating depth test. Once I settle on a load, I've made up my mind that I'm going to use it as my carry load instead of the factory ammo. I'm also playing with the idea of Optimal Barrel Time, and now that I have some data I'm interested to see if I can predict the smallest groups from the next tests.

Some people frown on using carrying handloads in their defensive arm for fear of an overenthusiastic lawyer playing the "killer ammo" card if they're ever involved in a shooting. Whether that has merit or not is irrelevant to me, as I'm not building ammo with any more punch than the factory stuff. I'm using the exact same components and matching the velocity to the factory stuff, which cops all over the world use in their service weapons, but I'm looking at making my handloads more consistent and with better quality control than factory. If you look at the extreme spreads from these handloads, some of them being only 10 fps, and compare them to the factory extreme spread of 43 fps, you can see that my ammo is more consistent. Add to that that I personally handle each and every component, and personally measure each powder charge to the hundredth of a grain, and you can see why my quality control is much higher than mass produced ammo from the factory. Also keep in mind that modern hollow point bullets are callibrated to perform withing a very specific velocity window, and driving them faster than they're designed will result in poor performance. Read up on the 10mm Auto and .357 Sig cartridges to see how they drove bullets faster than they were designed, and the performance was poor.

After I finished my test, I dragged out the Ruger 10/22 to see how the Wolf Match ammo did. I was impressed. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but I had one group that -- despite one called flyer -- shot the nine others into a hole the size of a pencil eracer at 50 yards. Sick! Here's my brother shooting it yesterday:

I'm going to have to take the 10/22 out again and do some more shooting with it. I'll be posting another P30 range report in the near future, hopefully.
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