View Full Version : Some bullet data

Doc Hoy
September 19, 2010, 04:00 PM
Today I did a comparison of bullet data using the Chronograph. I compared Hornady .457 round balls and Hornady. 454 round ball with several home cast round balls. I have demonstrated to myself that I can get good size consistency casting at home...Better than buying bullets from Bass Proshop. Today I wanted to see how that translated to bullet perfromance.

I was shocked at what I learned.

I shot six shot strings. I carefully measured powder charge. I used no wad but lube over the ball. I shot from an ROA, an 1858 Remington in .44 and a Colt 1851 pattern in .44.

Of course I was only able to shoot the .457s in the ROA. The .454s were used only in the Remington. The Colt doesn't really figure in the data since I shot .451s in that and I do not have any .451. Hornadys, only home cast bullets.

Standard deviation is, to me, the most telling information since it is a measure of MV consistency. With the ROA I got a 1st SD of 114 fps using the Hornadys and ony 22 fps using my cast balls. In the Remington, 1st SD was 109 fps with Hornadys and 28 fps with my bullets. Average bullet speed was little different from the store bullets to the home cast bullets, with the Hornadys being just about 20 fps faster on average.

Highest speed was with the Remington shooting Hornadys with 30 grains of fffg GOEX at 938 fps. That is impressive, only 50 feet off of the Walker from last week.

September 19, 2010, 06:38 PM
Interesting, but I don't see the relevance of velocity standard deviation. I would think the ultimate discriminant on what projectile to use would be group size. Consistent muzzle velocity may be one factor which determines group size but it's only one of many, and a minor one in my opinion.

In addition, many people rely too much on the instrumentation without understanding it's role in the measurement process. How much of the standard deviation is due solely to the instrument - are you truly measuring variations in muzzle velocity or are the numbers simply reporting errors within the machine?

Chronograph data is given far too much credence, in my opinion. Where the ball hits should be the thing that tells us how the gun, powder and projectile are working together.

Doc Hoy
September 19, 2010, 08:55 PM
I agree that the ultmate measure of performance is accuracy. And as a point of fact, my accuracy today was terrible.

My point has less to do with absolute performance of a pistol, or a powder or a projectile or a shooter, and more to do with relative performance between the bullets I bought and the bullets I cast.

It goes back to the day when I started micing the balls I took out of one of my Lyman molds. It was not marked with a bullet diameter but only with the number of the mold. So I needed to be sure what I was making. I got diameter variation which I thought was excessive. They were anywhere between .450 and .453. I thought about it and realized that something I was doing during the casting process was likely causing the wide variation. Then, for a comparison, I meaured bullets from an old box of Hornady .451s. The variations in diameter were no better than my cast bullets.

I was fairly certain about the lead I was using and at any rate I didn't believe problems in the lead would create the variation because there was every reason to think that the various bullet sizes came from the same pot of lead perhaps being cast one right after the other. I thought also about the rythm with which I was casting the balls. At the same time I realized that it was likely that I was applying different pressure to the molds (squeezing harder on some bullets than on others) This is when I made a set or spring loaded handles for Lyman molds and I got the variation in diameter down significantly..Easily better than the Hornadys.

So what I was trying to do today was to develop comparative data which supported a causal effect between bullet size and muzzle velocity. I see the comparison in the data but for several reasons I can't call it causal. While I used the term bullet performance in my OP, I am not saying that cast bullets perform better, only that I observed less variation in muzzle velocity which is the only thing I was looking at today.

September 19, 2010, 10:03 PM
I would think that commercially cast round lead balls are not all from the same mold, they mix and mingle together before they are boxed, and maybe they knock around a bit on the line, etc ... and then there is shipping and knocking around in the shipping box.

I would think that the much, much smaller SD with the home cast bullets is due to the fact that they are all cast with the same lead in the same die and they are handled with TLC.

The best marksmen in the world load their own, or have them custom loaded. I'm really looking forward to getting out in the cooler marshes of the Cajun homeland to do some serious ball and load testing with my Pietta, blue steel, target Remmie.

I can't say enough good about posts like this! Thank you for this information.

I've fired off a couple of cylinders worth of caps in my new, blue target and they always fire, had a jam with only one cap as I'm using up a tin of Remington No. 10 caps, (the NEW Hotter, 40% more flame volume), from Cabelas coming in the green blister pack and white, round tin, ($5.89 with tax for 100).

I use a soft-wood dowel to get them on super-tight, (they are tight when put on only with the finger, but it makes my fingertip ache later), and I experimented with a little hammer and the dowel to see if I could set a cap off with the dowel. I CANNOT ignite a cap on the nipple even when hitting the dowel back-end with a hammer. I just use the dowel in my hand to get them on tight and they bulge a tiny, tiny bit where the cap meets the nipple edges.

These caps fit PERFECTLY on the 2010, Pietta blue steel target model and I'm VERY happy with this Remmie I finally obtained after personally visiting two different cabelas and examining all Remmies on the premises.

I really think Pietta quality is good for 2010 or better than some recent years. Of the two Cabelas that I visited I found only 2 or 3 out of more than 15 Remmies that I would consider to be nearly a lemon, but no real lemons. I was shocked. And of course my standards are very, very high but by no means expert.

I also worked up a spreadsheet that I run on my PDA and that then calculates a quality number for the guns I review at the counter and the glass display case out on the floor. The guys behind the counter were in some cases quite rude and a little freaked out that I was doing a Q/C on my PDA with a custom spreadsheet. I had to tell one of them to tone down, that we were standing over a counter full of guns and quit freaking out. ****** me off.

But once I was finished and had that 9.3 rating blued steel target in my hand one of the "tough guys" of course wanted to know which was the best Remmie left on the shelf. I told him it would be $10 cash to get that information. I did tell the gunsmith in the back who was genuinely interested in my methods which one I thought was best and he put it in the back for himself. He gets 30% off any purchase!

The gunsmith who was coming out from the back to help during busy times at the counter in Gonzales was very, very helpful and very courteous.

Thanks again for your post which is very informative and gives me some additional information on casting one's own booleets and the confidence to purchase my own molds at some point.

Doc Hoy
September 20, 2010, 06:01 AM
Thanks for the wink back.

We are in sync on the Remington number 10s. I used them all day yesterday without a single problem. This had not been my experience last year. I had all but given up on Remingtons, (Too many misfires) opting for the only other cap I could buy over the counter. (CCIs which gave me good reliability in all of my pistols.) All of the three pistols I shot yesterday take Rem 10s with a nice and tight fit. Even the Colt did not swallow any cap remains.

I got a couple packs of the Remingtons at Bass Proshop because they did not have the CCIs. I was miffed but bought them anyway. I was gratified when they performed as well as they did.

I wish I shot enough to make bulk purchase make sense. Indeed I probably could since caps essentially don't go bad over time.

You might think about working up a set of handles with a spring that holds them shut. I used the spring from a hand clamp. The handles don't look like much but they apply essentially identical pressure on every casting. I think this specific addition is what made my castings more uniform.

I keep the bullets in covered containers that I have marked .451, .454, and .457. I measure each ball and depending upon its diameter, it goes either into one of the three cups or back into the pot. I do still make some scrap but once I get the mold up to temperature and get into rythm, I can cast to some pretty tight specifications.

As you say....I am not an expert either. I am not smart enough about it to know for sure if consistent bullet diameter (which I might add, relates to weight) contributes to accuracy.

With a nod to Mykeal's comment, it is only part and maybe an insignificant part of the whole picture. I sure am having fun with it though.

September 20, 2010, 09:14 AM
Bill Carver ran 50 yd test back in the 70's comparing sweged balls vs cast.
The cast balls did produce a somewhat tighter group. These were 10 shot
groups with .451 dia. I think. I will say also, that the current 50 yd record
which was shot about 10 years ago was shot with Hornady sweged balls.

September 20, 2010, 11:07 AM
Standard deviation is, to me, the most telling information since it is a measure of MV consistency. With the ROA I got a 1st SD of 114 fps using the Hornadys and ony 22 fps using my cast balls. In the Remington, 1st SD was 109 fps with Hornadys and 28 fps with my bullets. Average bullet speed was little different from the store bullets to the home cast bullets, with the Hornadys being just about 20 fps faster on average.

It seems like that little bit of lower velocity with the cast balls is the result of some "extra" pressure escaping past the cast balls, thereby producing the more consistent standard deviation.
That's an interesting finding but shouldn't be too shocking.

That's similar to what's reported when only lightly compressing Pyrodex in rifles with PRB's instead of using heavy compression, the velocity produced is lower but it's more consistent. It may or may not be for the same reason but the result is similar.

The actual diameters of the cast balls verses the Hornady's isn't mentioned, and neither are their actual comparative weights.
Generally the "problem" with cast balls are unseen air pockets or voids within the balls that need to be individually weighed to be detected, but isn't an issue with swaged balls.
A really in depth study could be done depending on how deep someone wanted to investigate all of the details and variables of the projectiles, which could then be expanded to include different powders to see if the results are always repeatable or not.
Thanks for opening up such a large can of worms Doc! :D

Doc Hoy
September 20, 2010, 12:18 PM
Part of the picture but not part of the post is that I get more consistent diameters in the cast balls but I did not say that in the post nor did I measure each ball. Of course when I weigh the castings, I get a correlation between diameter and weight.

I don't find it surprising that KWHI commented that the record at fifty yards is held by a manufactured ball because of what you said about voids and impurities. I have no clue whatever about what is going on inside of my bullets.

I am relatively certain about the purity of the lead I am using because the bulk of the lead in my store is pure, being ballast from ships. I only recently added wheel weights which may have some other things that may effect the homogeneity of the alloy.

September 20, 2010, 01:37 PM
Doc, the 457s will fit in the other guns as well. You just have to push a little harder while you cut a little thicker ring.