After tearing considerable portions of hair off my head due to the velocity differences between Quickload and my trusty Chrony chronograph, I thought I´d have a go at magnum primers. There was a difference of 72 mps (236 fps) between Quickload (volume tuned to my fired cases) and reality using my Blaser R8 in 8x57IS with a 52 cm (20,5") barrel. Therefor I loaded five cartridges of each primer (CCI 200, CCI 250 and Federal 215) with all other factors the same:
Brass: Norma Powder: 48,0 grains Norma 202 measursed with the wonderful RCBS Chargemaster Combo Bullet: Hornady RN 170 grains COAL: 72,0 mm / 2,835" Distance to barrel lands: 5,6 mm / 0,22" Chronograph: Chrony M1
I measured the weight of water that a fired case contains and using this information, Quickoad told me I´d get 782 mps / 2566 fps. The shots were fired Round Robin i.e. CCI 200, CCI 250, Fed 215, CCI 200, CCI 250, Fed 215, etc. in order to lessen the effect of barrel temperature and fouling. These were the results:
Velocity mps (fps)
So, what kind of conclusions could be drawn from this? Well, magnum primers give higher velocities than standard primers, but we already knew that - didn´t we? There is still some room up to the fantasy numbers of Quickload even when using Federal 215. Extreme spread and standard deviation seem quite ok with this limited amount of statistical foundation, and then there´s the tolerance and uncertainty of the chronograph also. But all in all a fairly interesting result, for what it´s worth.
Sometimes you struggle a lot to make a bullet print nice groups, and other times there is less effort. With the Nosler Custom Competition, it was too easy!
My "long range" rifle, the one I've used for a couple of Swedish field shooting competitions (where distances from 200 to 600 meters are common) is a plain old Tikka T3 Super Varmint in 308 Winchester. The only alterations I've made to the rifle is spray it with Duracoat Tactical Black, replace the bolt shroud with one made of metal, install a "tactical" bolt handle with is a bit nicer to use than the factory one, and also replace the aluminum recoil lug with a steel version. I used to have a McMillan A-TH stock for it, but actually sold that and went back to the factory stock as the McMillan was simply too bulky and heavy.
The 308 is certainly not the best choice for longer distances due to its inability to launch bullets of high ballistic coefficient (bc) at sufficient velocities, but for some reason I stick to it. Maybe that's because I like to do things the hard way, or maybe it's due to the fact that I mainly use it at my home shooting range where the maximum distance is 300 meters. I should have gotten the 6,5x55 version but I didn't. Previously I had worked up a handload with Hornady A-Max 168's as these are a fair trade-off between low recoil (due to relatively low weight) and decent but not superb bc. This load has been used for the field shooting competitions and the idea was that they are also suitable for hunting small to medium sized game. In Sweden, it basically means animals up to and including roe deer in size. This bullet would certainly be suitable also for dispatching the larger deer species, but I have not had any chance to hunt those.
When the time came to try the cheaper Nosler Custom Competition 168 grain bullets from the bulk pack of 1000 I had bought, I felt lazy and tried the same setting on the bullet seater as for the A-Max. I also used the same amount of Norma 203-B powder (equivalent to Reloader 15). I figured that the amount of powder would certainly be fine, and since the Nosler bullet has a tangent ogive, it should be fairly tolerable to seating depth. Boy, was that an understatement!
After a brief sighting in of the Vortex Viper PA 6,5-20x50 with mildot reticle, this 5 shot group was shot prone with a Versapod bipod at 100 meters:
This was followed by some photography and chugging a cup of coffee (I never visit the range without a big thermos of the black stuff!), and then I moved to the 300 meter line and set up the rifle. The excellent Shooter app told me to dial 5,6 MOA on the elevation so I set it to 5 and 3/4, as the Vortex scope has quarter MOA clicks. I then proceeded to shoot another 5 shot group. For some reason, the groups always look a bit large thru the scope at ranges beyond 100 meters than they really are, so I am never happy when shooting at this distance. I wasn't particularly impressed until I drove down to the target and saw this:
Too bad this bullet isn't suitable for longer ranges due to the so so bc, but for these ranges up to 300 meters, it is awesome. Of course, the Tikka T3 is also a big part of this equation. The T3 just keeps impressing the h--l out of me. And combined with the Nosler bullets... boy oh boy!
A chronograph is a fantastic tool and especially for anyone who's into hand loading. To hand load without one is a bit like driving a car without a speedometer. An old saying states that there are two kinds of chronograph owners; those who shot theirs up, and those who will. Not long after you buy one do you realize that this is absolutely true.
Since 2003 I have had a Chrony M1 which has endured everything from 22 Long Rifle to the 460 Weatherby Magnum, and it has always delivered speed information thru thick and thin. An acceptable exception was when a friend borrowed it and was offended by the fact that it wouldn't detect bullets in heavy snowfall. On some occasions, it has received strong sunlight directly on the sensors, and then it also protests. Or rather, completely ignoring the bullets passage to the shooter's very big frustration. But when these extremes are avoided, it keeps ticking, on a minimal diet of 9 Volt batteries.
On a few occasions it was close that I joined to the grieving crowd of chronograph owners. A friend and I (commonly known as "the Mold Gunsmith from Fjärås") shot alternately over the Chrony with my TRG-22 in 308 and his Remington 700 based rig chambered by himself in 260 Remington. When the shooting was over and the time had come to pack up the Chrony, the blood in my veins froze to ice. There was a nasty bulge on top of the Chrony and there was paint missing. An interesting detail is that there is no corresponding mark on the rear of the chronograph. The bullet must have hit and then changed course enough to not cause more damage. We were never been able to determine if the bump was caused by a bullet in 6.5 mm or 30 caliber, and would probably need some forensic expert to sort that one out.
A few years later another friend was shooting standing with his Ruger Mini-14 and managed to sway a bullet into one of the diffuser rods (I use the rods without diffusers as orientation help when using a scope set to its lowest magnification). The .224" bullet left a piece of its jacket on the rod and the recess now has a beautiful golden hue of copper, clearly apparent in the picture. Finally, if you inspect the display of the Chrony, you will see quite a number of small holes and cracks. These are likely traces of unburned powder that hit at high speed, and high gas pressure in those cases when the chronograph is placed too close to the muzzle. Reasonable suspects regarding these damages is a couple of my previous rifles in 300 Remington Ultra Magnum and a relatively short-barreled Remington 700 Police in 338 Lapua.
Lately I´ve been somewhat hungry for a Magneto-Speed chronograph, but I have not the heart to abandon my old friend. All these marks have given the Chrony a certain character, and it is now impossible to get rid of it. Not that anyone would want to pay for it, but now it´s worth more to me than when it was new.