Two Days on the Range and I’m Home Tonight!! – Really Long!!

This is a report of the two range sessions I had last week. I shot all Wednesday morning and all day Thursday.  I may well be adding things off and on as it is late in the day so editing WILL occur!!''

 

Chris has been pounding his head against the wall out in Sooner Land for a g0od 69 grain SMK load and a good plinking load with bulk Hornady FMJ 55's. I had a box , VERY OLD, of them in the cabinet so figured I'd give the 55's a very fast whirl using some powders I suggested for Chris for his plinker loads. . I wanted to shoot a test of the 69's as the 223 I have has been neglected severely when it comes to range time. I've shot one test load of 69's years ago through it that worked nicely. Really I could have stopped with that laod but I need more than that just in case we hit a component shortage again. My box of 69's was pretty thin so I went down and picked up a pair from my local BR shop at a very reasonable price.

 

I had suggested TAC and H322 for the 55 FMJ loads.  I could tell going in these bullets were going to be a challenge.  As blind as I am I could see variation in length and ogive placement. The mic showed variations of up to 0.030 on bullet length and a movement from the tip to the ogive of up to 0.020.  Not what I am use to for sure but then I've always relegated these to pure practice for 3Gun and training others to shoot along with a little rock&roller kept locked away..lol  My goal was a COL of 2.200 but in the end I had stuff running up to 2.251 in length. Bullets being bullets and chambers being chambers I knew that the nut behind the trigger was going to be challenged.  I loaded up the rounds using a decent level of charge weights and sat them aside a couple weeks ago.

 

Range day finally arrived with decent weather.  Switchy winds but temps in the upper 60's and low 70's. Hallelujah I was shooting in weather just like Chris!!  I was at a genuine gun club range for the first time in ages and with little delay I had my LabRadar set, my front and rear rests in place and a dozen targets down range on the board. I set up the BHW 24" bull barrel I build for 500 yard F-class and got down to work. As I said I used TAC and H322 for powders. I did four charge weights of each so I had eight five shot groups to make it or break it. The H322 was 'plinkable" but I don't like shooting groups that average around 1.8"  normally with a scope at 100 yards.  Speeds were good and as expected the primers looked well.  Certainly adequate for play and realistically even my 3GUn stuff is not any more demanding then this.

 

The TAC started out with a 1.665 but four in 0.778 boded well. followed it up with a 1.912 and 1.446.  The last batch only had three rounds  as I had run out of the partial box I had handy. I just took a break and had a cold drink at that point. I was not smiling a lot at the patterns down range but hey sometimes chicken and sometimes feathers.  Three  in the magazine and and two minutes later I sat back and was smiling a tad more.  The 1:8 twist could shoot  55's without any doubt and this one did..finally.

 

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I happen to have some Winchester FMJ's on the shelf and I am going to drag them out and see what happens.  As a prequel to this I had gone down to the range the day before and got this rifle on paper with Winchester White box 55's. Two at 25, and one more at 50 to get close and then three more at 50 for a verification.  The next three went literally in one hole so I know that the 55's Winchesters can be driven accurately. Now the challenge will be can I do it?  More in a week or so. I did note that the SD's were in the  30's with these and I am going to tighten up the bushing for the next outing and perhaps this will benefit the smaller, shorter pills. Long heavies like less tension as a rule so a bit of fine tuning is in order.

 

So time to take a break...I'll be back with the final segments of this in the AM.  Don't worry..It DOES get better!!

 

Well time has past and I have my morning coffee and my ADL's out of the way so moving on......

 

As you know being an old man I grew up in the shooting world that relied on the Sierra 69 grain Match King as the Gold Standard of target bullets in the 223. I never wanted to shoot them as I thought they were too expensive and in all honesty I never had any need for anything that heavy. I shot up to 63 SMP's but they are different cat entirely that I might talk about some day.  I built this upper to shoot PD's and long range matches. The 1:8 will handle up to 80 grains and that's all I would ask of it. I've shot some 77's and was happy with it so never thought much about it. Well with Chris getting into the game I had to go try some of the stuff he was shooting in parallel. If not the same loads then at least the same bullets.  On the 55's I did shoot same same loadings. On the 69's I just went with what my standard procedure of looking at three or four manuals and deciding what I liked on the powder choices. On this one I did ignore  RL10/RL15 but that will be cured soon. I also ignored Varget that many like but I have never been impressed with it in the small cases.  Just my opinions and many a match has been won with that powder but I personally have never taken any Gold with it.

 

I shot the 69's on the first day and due to range scheduling had to shoot the last 20 rounds on the following day.  Day 1 saw me turning loose with some H322, CFE and 8208XBR. The first one up was H322. This is a powder that has probably won more BR matches than all others combined over the decades.  Not all guns shoot it but most will shoot it well enough.Across the board accuracy was good with three of the four groups below and inch. I think I'll revist it but it was nice and consistent in speeds. Some guys would have ben happy but I'm not one of those. I did shoot up to 23.5 grains and that was getting on te edge of warm.

 

Next was 8208XBR. This powder has a broad spectrum of application and the 223 is certainly in its wheel house. It wanted to go vertical on two groups. First group out of the gate was a 1.321.  Not good but take in to account that this was the first group in powder transition and many guns need one or two to get the friction right as powder residue can and will make a difference. Go shoot a group with XXX today and followed by YYY.  Tomorrow shoot YYY first then XXX. You will find that the group size will probably reverse. If you can't clean between powders at the range a couple of foulers in the sighter target are in order if you want to do it right.  The second group settled in with a round look at 0.560 and I was happy. Bumped up again and we went back up to 1.065 up and down with four going in under 0.5. That leaker sucks!!  Bumped up to MAX  of 24.3 gave me a 0.993 effort at 3115 . BTW all these loads I am talking about on this thread were jumped 0.5 grains between groups. Not ideal as 0.3 is more in line for the Holy Grail search but I wanted raw data and went with it. I do like 8208 as a rule so it may get the full work up later. I would be looking hard at a retest if I were forced into a choice on this one.

 

Last test for the day was TAC. A good choice for varmint shooting and while not quite as velocity oriented in this instance it is a good one  that I would be happy to use on any given day. Historically it has handled the heat well for me on the hot AZ days also.  Four groups down the tube in 20 minutes an d a group average showed up at 0.693. For me and the way things were going this was mo betta'. I will be retesting this one on my next trip for verification .  Proof is in the pudding on this one and it was nice and rich.

 

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I suspect pilot error came into play a little on these but I wouldn't hesitate to use these at 500 any day even with me behind them. It might be worth tuning for length as these are at 2.295 and I do want a bit of a bump to see what will be. This really is a combination worth looking at with 0.3 between efforts.

 

As I said I shot the TAC last on Wednesday so on Thursday I got set up and went to work. I knew that a cold bore shot with any rifle may well be anywhere in the general area of the group and as I had not cleaned from the day before I was looking at the powder change over phenomena so what the heck. A swig of coffee to get my nerves up to normal wired and it's trigger whacking time!!  First shot out of the bag was a perfect one hole group! I got this, lol. Well four more down the pipe and I'm setting there looking at a droopy smiley face.  had to wait to get home to measure but I knew I was in the hunt with this one.  I finished off the other three groups. with a 1.023, four in 0.479, a 1.074 and a final raggedy 0.868. speeds were nice and primers were muy bueno I intend to reshoot this one below after a warm up but I'll take it for now.

 

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So that was all the 223 for my testing. 140 rounds down the barrel and I was pleased with the overall results. I shot 20 groups with the 69's. of that 20 biggest was 1.413. Smallest was 0.491. Six were over an MOA and thirteen were under one inch. The barrel is certainly up to the task and if a better trigger man had been at work with a bit less swirl on the wind they would have been even better.  I am happy for an initial evaluation.

 

Following the 223 I  moved on to the 6X6.8that I have been evaluating along with the Starline vs. Silver State brass issue. I'll write some more about it in the 6X6.8 evaluation thread later if I have time. This is a five poly 18" tube from Tactical Ordnance that shows a bit of promise.  I shot the 70 Speer TNT and the 87 Hornady HPBT Varmint bullets in this one.  I used the once fired Starline and SSA brass for the testing as I wanted to see how they compare on a second firing as the SL was abysmal in how the case heads were beat upon the first go around.

 

In the 70's I picked stuff that had worked well in some other loadings. AA 2015 and H322 are common for me in the 6X6.8. I had not shot any RL10 of CFE so they were a new mix.  The 70 TNT has carried the mail for years for me in my 243 Winchester and several 6X45 loadings so I knew it can shoot if the gun will.  All 70's were done with the OLD SSA brass. Across the board I experienced zero swipes and primers were nice. Most being rounded edges. None of these loads were quite MAX at the temperatures, 75-85, I was shooting in.

 

First up was AA2015. Not real outstanding as other than one set that was 0.800 with four in 0.259 and one that had four in 0.652.. I'll have to look at that little one again. The speed was up to 3233 and out of an 18" barrel that is outstanding. This is close to 243 range and one heck of a lot abusive  to the shooter.

 

Next up was H322. This powder, as I mentioned, is a perennial winner on the podium.  Several of us that shoot the 6X6.8 rage back and forth with each other. Two things we have found. Given H332 and 8208 your barrel will usually shoot one or the other markedly better than the other. I have one barrel that hates the 322 but shoots 8208 very well. My other two barrels like the 8208 but have not been subjected to the 322 challenge. This one likes the H322 in that it was consistent across a full two grain spread. I have not had one that shot this consistently in a long time. Big to little the groups only varied 0.035. I shot two groups at 28.5 grains with a speed of 3046 with an SD of 18 and had a 0.729 backed with a 0.729. I'd take these to the PD field if I just needed a load post haste and would handle anything out to 300 with aplomb and would be a coyote hammer deluxe. That 0.729 had a tall shot that I pulled and had four in 0.480.

 

Things were looking up for as I moved onto uncharted waters with the RL10. I love this powder in the 223 light stuff so maybe it would do something for me here. The first five at 27.5 grains gave me a nice looking group from the get go and I could have boxed it up with that one. At 3019 it looked good. The next load up was 28.0 and I picked up a bit of velocity moving up to 3060. Not a lot but a nice step up in progression. The first  five looked decent getting a bit tall at 0.778. with a back upshot by a crazy man at 1.184 but four in 0.520.  The final charge of 28.5 gave me a nice round group that was stretched out to 1.082 at 3099. I saw a nice progression from weight to weight and I like that. It showed I had a bit more room to go up on this one. The RL10 was certainly promising to me and one I want to look at more in other weights in the 6X6.8 now based on this quick run through.

 

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I mentioned this was a two day shoot. Day one showed me alone the entire morning. Day two though had shooters trading in and out. As you might guess I have to go BS with the others guys and play show me yours and I'll show you mine.  Letting the barrel cool is fine and I don't like to hurry if I can avoid it. A cool  drink and a couple pieces of candy to keep the blood sugars up are  my normal routine with a crowd around.  There were some nice fellows there shooting some good gear and some were actually my age!! While I was kibitzing a black truck drives up and a fellow in gray BDU's jumps out. I'll be darned, it's a Phoenix SWAT officer and right behind him comes another one!! Well I wandered off and just relaxed a bit as the new guys needed to set up some targets and I was in no hurry as I had another 80 rounds to shoot.

 

Fifteen minutes later and the range is HOT.  I watched through my scope and the boys in gray/blue were doing good. They were the PHX SWAT snipers, as I found out later, and were testing two ammunition lots against each other.  Not shabby at all but the gear they had sure looked good. Chassis bolt guns, AI's, that were a nice desert camo were doing the trick for them.

 

I spent a few minutes and then got my ammo out loaded with the CFE 223.   I have never used it in this one before but I had great expectations based on how things were going.The temp was still a nice balmy 76 so I wasn't fighting sweat in the eyes and I was feeling good having consumed a dozen Mike & Ikes I was fueled for the last of the 70's.  The first group was a bit vertical at 1.412 with four in 0.878.  I felt it was more technique on this one than the load and took another break to think about it..  Meanwhile off to the left the Ninja guys are relaxing and dang if  they aren't looking at my targets!  Now this is not good. I haven't had anyone at a range look at my targets as I built them since I retired.I could feel my pulse winding up but oddly enough I just had that "feeling" that the "zone" was there. Oh boy, showtime just like the old days with the Wardens betting money on five trigger pulls!!

 

I knew the last five looked decent except for the one leaker. First round out and I felt like everything was coming together. Second shot makes it bigger, third a bit bigger opened to the edge of one and two, four hits outside edge of three,.  Looking good for the Okie.  I figured that the BOP and the the ARMORY were there to represent as I looked over the conditions. Five in the pipe and I put it all in that squeeze. Five goes in with one and two. I glanced over and my audience is looking casual but they sure are looking hard through those binoculars. II did do that mental YES that we all suppress inside.  I haven't shot one that well in a bit but figured I'm on a roll. Five more to go and I put it down again.  Four in a ragged hole and number five just a tad high. I policed my brass and the boys are back on their guns. I was done with the 70's and knew I had me a winner.  The clock showed 3138 for the last load and that is right respectable. I think I have my PD load for this bullet at this point.

 

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I still had the 87's to shoot and these were loaded up in the Starline brass that took such a beating the first time. This time I can say that it was not near as bad with the markings with only a few showing mildly bent rims vs. the big turned up lips I had on the first firing. I did see some ejector marks a and swipes and some rim gnawing from the extractor but the primers stayed rounded on the edges except in the AA 2015 load. Obviously the brass is soft and the loads aren't all that hot.

 

I started with the 2015 and the first one was a bit ragged but not overly so. The second batch 26.5 was great up until shot five when I conveniently turned a four in 0.320 into a whopping 0.967!! That  load showed a light ejector mark but not excessive First shot at 27.0 was a smoking 2997. Great it except it was smoking round. I looked it over and lo and behold the primer fell out when I picked it up.  Not good even in my pushing the envelope. Needless to say I have four more of these to pull down. On a positive note I did hit the 3/4" dot.

 

H322 was number two on this one and I was looking HARD at the case heads on each shot. They looked OK at the start. AT 26.8 it was showing light marking and the 27.3 laod showed extractor damage. Not like last time but more than I find reasonable, which is none BTW. Groups were ho hum with a 0.909 at 2808 and a big one of 1.658 with four in 0.764 atthe top load of 27.3 at 2923. My established MAX on this one wil be 26.8 with this brass. The SSA would take the higher level without any issues IMHO.

 

I went after it with the RL 10 stuff next. Speeds were good maxed at 2972 and all three groups were sub-MOA. The faster it went the better it did with a final batch at 0.937 and 2972. These don't sound all that fast but they are equal to a 24" 6X45 loaded hot and at these velocities. I've shot this speed and bullet out of my 24" 6X6.8 at 500 yards in F-calss and to get it in 18" is a real eye opener. Not a bad powder alltold between this and the 70s.

 

Final shots for the two days came down to H4895 and this one  did fine considering the brass issue.  First five showed a nice group with my obligatory jerk at 0.654 and the second that was staring to show case head damage hung at 0.780. Neither of these groups are that outstanding but I was relatively happy with them.  Just a tad over what I want shoot past about 300 for match scoring but adequate. as the BC on this bullet is not all that bad. The last group opened up something fierce and the speed gain was only 5 FPS over the previous load of 28.6 ant 0.5 more. Not good news as this was a clear indication that it's done all it can do and can't do anymore. I want to retest this in the new raline and my old SSA at this level. Two of the last three shot.

 

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So I spent ten hours on the gun, right on 300 rounds down range and had a blast.  Follow up time of number crunching and target pasting was another 10 hours and this little missive of three hours.  I garnered a huge amount of information on both chamberings and am excited about running more tests with each. I got to spend about thirty minutes with the SWAT guys swapping tales about training and gear. Very professional young fellows and the one older fellow who was an LT. said he'd be glad to have me on a roof top with him any day.  Made this old man smile.

 

I know it was long but then when I get involved diarrhea of the fingers can and does happen.  Feel free to comment and I'll be back with more in the future.

 

Greg

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