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Reloading saved a rifle today

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by gspn, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. gspn

    gspn Well-Known Member

    Last year I bought a .45-70 Handi Rifle from a friend of a friend. It had a nice Nikon scope on it and I was told it was in good condition. He was asking $250 so I figured I couldn't lose...especially with the nice Nikon glass.

    Well I got the gun and it shot like garbage. It constantly threw 8 inch groups with every type of factory ammo I tried. Nothing was loose on the gun or scope...it appears as though I had bought a turd.

    I was at the point of keeping the scope and throwing the gun away...I had just put around $120 worth of factory ammo through it and it was so inaccurate there was no way I could hunt with it.

    I bought a set of dies for it earlier this week and I figured I'd give it another chance with some reloads to see if I could find a load it liked.

    I prepped 20 shells and used the same bullet and seating depth for all of them. The only variable was the powder charge. I loaded three variants.

    All rounds were loaded with Reloader 7...I used 44, 46, and 48 grains under a Hornady 325 grain bullet.

    The 44 grain loads shot around a 6.5 inch group. Ouch...looks like I wasted about 100 bucks on reloading these.

    As I was cursing the gun under my breath I remembered that a buddy had given me 4 shells that he swore worked magic in his gun...they were 250 grain bullets and I had brought them with me. After the disappointing results with my first load I switched to the 250 grainers my buddy supplied.

    Boom, boom, boom, boom...and i had a group that measured about 5 inches. Ugh. No hope in sight.

    I wanted to quit and throw the gun in the lake so it couldn't live to frustrate anyone ever again...but then I remembered that someone in Lord of the Rings threw that ring in the water and years later someone found it and it caused a lot of problems and I didn't want that to happen so I got back to work. I decided I needed to shoot the other two loads I created just to be thorough.

    The next load was the 46 grains of RL7. My first shot was the benchmark...the second through fourth shots would define my "group". On the second shot I saw what I believed to be the worlds biggest coincidence. The second shot hit the same hole as the first. "Weird" I thought "I must have screwed something up."

    My third shot went down range and after the gun recoiled up and over I searched to get the target back in view. Whoa...the third shot hit the same hole as my second shot. "No way this is happening."

    Fourth shot...boom...touching the same hole as the first shot. At this point I sat back to analyze what I was seeing.

    I had put maybe 70 rounds through this gun using a variety of ammo and achieved average groups of a horrendous 7 inches at 100 yards...but now this same gun was tearing a ragged one-inch hole in the target in front of me. A few minutes earlier I would have sworn this rifle was incapable of such an achievement.

    I've never seen such drastic change in my life. This gun is like a spoiled brat...if it doesn't get exactly what it wants it pitches a fit. Good news is that I found exactly what it wants. I'm writing the recipe down and that's all I envision loading for this gun the rest of the time I own it...which will likely be til death.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2013
  2. blarby

    blarby Well-Known Member

    And there ya go.

    The beauty of tailoring a load to the weapon to extract maximum performance.

    Congratulations !
  3. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Well-Known Member

    GSPN -
    Please send in your photo. You are going to be the 2013 'poster child' for reloading.


  4. c.latrans

    c.latrans Well-Known Member

    Good story, man they can be fussy at times cant't they? Glad you cracked the code!
  5. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

    This is one of the primary reasons I ever started reloading. I just never seemed to get groups good enough to trust for extended distances on game using factory ammunition. But when I loaded my first batch I instantly saw groups that redefined accuracy for an off the shelf production rifle.

    Good job on saving a rifle!
  6. ljnowell

    ljnowell Well-Known Member

    I have been there and it feels good. Congrats friend!!
  7. kbbailey

    kbbailey Well-Known Member

    I wonder how many rifles out there could be 'saved' with custom loads?
  8. Kachok

    Kachok Well-Known Member

    Now that is a picky rifle, I have one just as bad, shoots 4"-8" patterns with every factory load I tried, but after four trips to the range and a little tweeking I have that Browning singing a pretty song. Since I started handloading I have yet to find a rifle I could not squeeze respectable accuracy out of but that one had me doubting myself for a bit.
  9. 788Ham

    788Ham Well-Known Member

    Glad you've found "the brat" what it likes to eat! This is why I reload, I can find a bullet I want to use, then start tweaking the powder charge, when I find the "honey-hole", game over! Glad you didn't have to swim !!! LOL
  10. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Well-Known Member

    You got very lucky finding that load. I have never heard of a rifle shooting 8" groups than then shooting a one hole group with such a small change in powder charge and no other changes. Very lucky indeed!
  11. gspn

    gspn Well-Known Member

    I agree...if it had taken more than the three I worked up I might have assumed it was a lost cause and written the rifle off. Glad I found it quickly.
  12. jerkface11

    jerkface11 Well-Known Member

    Few rifles are pickier to load for than a Handi.
  13. kbbailey

    kbbailey Well-Known Member

    Actually, I have always preferred my reloads to factory, even in my shotgun (clay target) loads. I guess most reloaders feel that way.
  14. Ifishsum

    Ifishsum Well-Known Member

    Might be a good idea to inscribe that load details on the barrel or stock with an electric pen :D

    Nice job finding the right recipe!
  15. Wylie1

    Wylie1 Well-Known Member

    Seen that movie! It was the Russian version staring the infamous 91/30 Mosin Nagant though. Cartridges from literally all over the world and the cleaning that goes along with them being they were all corrosive surplus. Bulgarian light ball sniper rounds were about the best, Hungarians stank out loud as well as Wolf, Winchester...

    If it wasn't for the first round I had ever put through this rifle I would have never gone through the effort, it snacked the center out of a clay from about 100 yards.

    Full length bedding didn't do it, improvements showed from floating the barrel, pillar bedding and bedding the reciever. Recrowning after cutting off the counter bore brought it further along. It's now scaring the heck out of M.O.A. with those Bulgarian light balls other than fliers associated with the surplus stuff. Some more work should bring it inside M.O.A. with some good hand loads as long as my scopes hold out. Me and scopes, that's a whole other story!
    I forgot to mention this is why every firearm I own has it's own folder in a 3 ring binder I keep my targets in.
  16. MSgtEgress

    MSgtEgress Well-Known Member

    Wow 100 bucks for 20 rounds??? What are you loading sliver bullets?

    I can reload 20 338 Winmag for less than 15 bucks
  17. Wylie1

    Wylie1 Well-Known Member


    I posted surplus and commercial shots above. Meant to post reloads so here ya go.
  18. gspn

    gspn Well-Known Member

    No...that's counting the dies, primers, powder etc. I added the 45-70 dies to my collection for the express purpose of trying to get this gun to shoot right.

    $40 for the dies, $20 for powder, $40 for the bullets (50 count of Hornady 325 grain FTX). I also picked up a flash hole uniforming tool just to go the extra step.
  19. Hondo 60

    Hondo 60 Well-Known Member

    I have a 9mm handgun that's just as bad.

    With 115 gr ammo it's a jam-o-matic.
    With 124 gr (any style) it's shoots like a dream.
  20. GooseGestapo

    GooseGestapo Well-Known Member

    I'm not so sure that just raising the powder charge 2.0gr made that much difference. From your post, it seems that you shot the last load on another day.
    If so, did you clean the gun in the "off period"...????

    I believe that what you did was "break in" the gun/barrel.
    I've seen this a number of times, one even including a "Handi-Rifle" in .243.

    It shot "patterns" of 5-6" or worse, also. I even sent it back to NEA for "refitting". They put a new reciever pin in it and tweaked the trigger from about 9lbs to ~5.5lbs.
    It still shot terrible until I got frustrated and tried an "old trick" I read about in an old gun rag.
    I shot it with some 80gr Rem. soft-points I'd loaded up to hopefully shoot crows with. I shot ~30rds as fast as I could load it, and until the barrel was so hot I couldn't touch it.
    I then took it home and cleaned the heck out of it to get all the copper out.
    Next trip to the range, it shot 100gr Sierra's and Hornady's into neat little 1.2" groups; just like magic. Formerly, they occasionaly would key-hole at 100yds. Something was "messing" with those bullets....

    You like me, probably shot a picece of metal "flashing" or a "burr" out of the throat or barrel of the rifle, effectively "breaking it in".

    Go back and try some of the other loads and see if it was really the "magic load" syndrome.

    I had a custom .257Roberts built in 1983 with an E.R.Shaw barrel. It was very "mediocre" for accuracy until around 200rds had been fired though it. Then, all of a sudden, it started shooting around 1/2moa with many of the different loads I'd gotten indifferent accuracy from. First time I'd ever seen the "break in" syndrome....
    Now, 30yrs later, that rifle is still moa 5-shots even after picking up some mid-bore pitting from being stored over the summer while my family and I took an extended vacation. But it MUST be kept clean.... every 20rds or so....

    I had a Handi-rifle in .45/70. It too was quite accurate with "mild to mid-level" loads. Warm loads (~28,000cup+)
    I sold it and bought a Marlin 1895 GuideGun. It's a "keeper". Mild to Wild, it will approach MOA at 100yds with a scope attached with "good" bullets. However, I prefer to hunt/shoot it with a reciever sight... Very handi and well balanced....
    I've never shot a round of jacketed bullets through it... It's a "dedicated cast-bullet" gun. Don't shoot/hunt with it much, though.
    Even though I've never had too track a deer shot with it.... All bang-flops.... 300-405gr cast bullets....

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