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Old November 17, 2013, 05:32 PM   #1
mmb713
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Sierra 240gr JHC and 296/H110

I've managed to get my hands on a box of Sierra 45 caliber 240gr JHCs and want to load them for my 45 Colt Blackhawk with 296. I have the most recent data from Hodgdon and Sierra and they are in conflict. Sierra starts at 21.1gr and maxes at 25.0gr. Hodgdon starts at 27.2gr and maxes at 28.0gr. Both are seating to 1.600" OAL in Wichester cases. Hodgdon's data uses WLP and Sierra's CCI350. I have CCI350s on hand and will be using new Starline brass. Whose data should I use, the powder seller's or the bullet maker's?
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Old November 17, 2013, 07:04 PM   #2
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Use the Sierra data to match components and also the gun (since Sierra used a Blackhawk specifically). However, there's a caveat. Hodgdon has a warning that this powder can squib out when loaded as low as Sierra does. If that happens it will stick a bullet in the barrel, creating a great hazard, as the next shot can then blow up the gun. So I'm very surprised to see Sierra recommend such low loading of this powder. It could make use of the magnum primer critically important to success with all the extra empty space in the case.

In your shoes, I would prefer to use a powder without that squib-out recommendation. 2400 or something similar. But if you are locked in, I would start with the Sierra loads, and work up slowly toward 26 grains to get to about 90% case fill, where Hodgdon's minimum loads in some magnum cartridges are, about 0.3 grains at a time. If at any point above Sierra's maximum load the extraction of the cases became sticky, I would take 5% off that amount and stop there.

Note on sticky extraction: this is a classic revolver pressure sign caused by the cylinder steel expanding beyond the elastic limits of the brass, which steel can do, then snapping back over top of it, creating a squeeze. It means you are flexing the steel more than you want to on a regular basis. Reducing the charge 5% takes pressure down around 15% in most revolver loads. However, there is a false sticky extraction symptom you can get loading fine spherical propellants at low pressures, and that is where the pressure is too low to expand the case well, and unburned powder blows back into the space left between the cylinder an brass, causing friction not due excessive expansion. You want to watch out for that, too, as it suggests poor ignition and that you are not getting to the expected pressures.

In this instance, QuickLOAD predicts Hodgdon's measured pressure of 30,000 psi for the maximum load of 28 grains pretty accurately. At 21.1 grains it's way down at 14,000 psi, the normal .45 Colt SAAMI MAP for all guns in that chambering. At 25 grains it gives almost 22,000 psi. Don't be surprised if it performs pretty poorly at the Sierra starting load and leaves a lot of unburned powder around. I've even had unburned powder jam up a gun and force me to do a detail stripping and cleaning.
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Old November 17, 2013, 07:17 PM   #3
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I have used that bullet with W296 and CCI350 primers in my 45 Colt Blackhawk on several occassions.

The conflict in the Sierra vs Hodgdon data could be due to different primers. I'm pretty sure the CCI350 is a hotter primer.

I started at 23.0grs and worked up to 27.5grs. H110/W296 seems to burn cleaner and even shoot better at higher pressures, at least in my experience (having used it for 20 years in several different cartridges).

As mentioned, you may find poor performance at the Sierra starting loads. When 296 was sold by Winchester (before Hodgdon acquired them) they even advised against reduced or starting loads with 296. Winchester typically listed a maximum load in their data and advised the reloader to use that load without any reduction or working up.

While I don't personally think there's anything dangerous with a slight reduction and work up with 296, I think it may get erratic with much more than a slight reduction.

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Old November 18, 2013, 11:31 AM   #4
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Papershells,

That warning applies to 296 and to H110 (they are both cannister grade OBP296 powder manufactured at GD's St. Marks, Fl. Plant). Hodgdon actually introduced it to the reloading market first. Winchester, though, had fixed loads for it originally in their pamphlet data, then allowed a small spread in charge weight in later data. Today you can see the warning when you go to the Hodgdon load data page and read down through the disclaimer and warning before pressing Enter. It says:
"Reduce H110 and Winchester 296 loads 3% and work up from there. H110 and Winchester 296 if reduced too much will cause inconsistent ignition. In some cases it will lodge a bullet in the barrel, causing a hazardous situation (Barrel Obstruction). This may cause severe personal injury or death to users or bystanders. DO NOT REDUCE H110 LOADS BY MORE THAN 3%."
Well, obviously the Sierra data is way below that. The Hodgdon data uses the Winchester WLP primer. CCI magnum primers had their formulations altered in 1989 to optimize them for the St. Marks spherical propellants, so they probably do a better job. I've never seen a primer make a difference greater than the equivalent of about 5% charge weight, and the difference in the Sierra loads is a lot greater than that, so the primer alone won't account for it, but I can believe the 350 primer may be a better choice for a low charge density. Anyway, I would not be trying to use that lowest load on a regular basis out of concern I'd eventually get a stuck bullet. This powder is clearly not happy to be running at low pressures.
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Old November 18, 2013, 11:52 AM   #5
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IMO the conflict between Hodgdon Data and Sierra data is the way the data was gathered.

Hodgdon uses Pressure Barrels and Pressure testing equipment. Sierra has no such equipment or barrels. They test their loads in regular firearms and read brass and primers like you and I do, guessing on what is safe and what is not safe. That's not to say that Real Pressure tested data will automatically be safe in your/my firearm, it just says Sierra data is nothing more than a WAG in any firearm, even their own.

Knowing that Sierra data is not actually pressure tested, I always side with data that has been pressure tested. YMMV.
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Old November 18, 2013, 01:49 PM   #6
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I agree on bolt rifles, but when a pressure barrel with no barrel/cylinder gap is substituted for an actual revolver, it doesn't seem quite so clear cut; especially not with a powder that's known to squib out as the bullet base clears the barrel/cylinder gap. It's more like they are testing different aspects of the loading practice.

I'd be a lot happier if someone were doing both. I'd also like to see one of them do a long term study of the lower pressure loads to quantify just how likely the whole squib-out thing really is. I don't know how the 3% numbers were arrived at when the old and new data don't always overlap.
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Old November 18, 2013, 02:13 PM   #7
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I do lots and lots of 296/110 loads in different calibers. Hogdon's data has always been very much in line with my other sources, .45 LC included. That Sierra load just doesn't seem to fit in line with my other sources.


I don't know, and am just throwing this out there, but maybe the explanation for the variation in data is the .45 LC caliber itself. We know the Ruger loads are way beyond .45 LC standards. Is there an "industry standard" for acceptable pressures for a .45 LC for Ruger, of is this just a commonly known handloader's practice?
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Old November 18, 2013, 03:59 PM   #8
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split it

Start, with that bullet, of 22.0g.


You can always work up.......
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Old November 18, 2013, 05:51 PM   #9
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Tim,

None that I'm aware of. Several sources of load data list loads just a few particular firearms, though. It happens when a very old cartridge that was developed for black powder guns or when guns had less reliable metallurgy than modern guns have. .38 Special has an official +P standard, but unofficial +P+ just for 'some' guns. .44 Special, .45 Colt, and especially .45-70 have multiple load data for different guns, but not official. The .45-70 is now so old that even the standard isn't suitable for the oldest guns. .45-70 loads are generally recommended to be down around 20-22 kpsi for the trapdoor Springfield, 28 kpsi is the SAAMI spec for commercial loads, loads 35-40 kpsi are shown for Marlin 1895 and similarly strong lever gun designs, and upwards of 50 kpsi is listed for the Ruger #1 and #3 rifles and some other specific guns in this chambering. So you've got to know your gun for a number of these old survivors.
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Old November 18, 2013, 08:57 PM   #10
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All valid information Gentlemen,

I'd like to add this to the discussion, as far as "standards" for higher pressure 45 Colt loads. As I understand it, while there is no industry standard, most such loads for stock (6 shot) Ruger revolvers are developed to 30,000 P.S.I., or thereabouts. The custom 5 shot guns are an entirely different matter and some data for them goes up to 50,000 P.S.I. or so.

I base these statements on load data I have gathered over the years, as well as articles I have read in many magazines, including those by Brian Pierce and Ross Seyfried. I believe Seyfried had a lot to do with the early development of higher pressure 45 Colt loads.

If I am wrong, please enlighten me, but this is my understanding of the matter after about 20 years of using heavy loads in Ruger Blackhawk 45 Colts.

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Old November 26, 2013, 06:33 PM   #11
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Update: range report

Thanks for all of the responses. I bought a couple hundred WLP and another box of those Sierra 240gr JHCs (last one at the LGS.) I decided to use Hodgdon's data with the WLP and my new Starline cases.

I used to chrono all my loads first and look for the best velocities with the lowest SDs but have found that that method doesn't always result in best accuracy. Now I'll load for accuracy and chrono later just to see where it's at. My range testing today was only shot for accuracy, I have no chrono results. It's too hard at a public range to chrono and shoot for group at the same time, you'd be there all day waiting for the range to have a cease fire so you could change your target after every string. I will load in increments of ten rounds and shoot all ten rounds into a single group. A ten shot group should pretty well tell you if a load is good or not.

I only loaded two strings with 296 since start and max are so close together, only 0.8gr. I loaded one string at Hodgdon's start of 27.2 gr and another at 27.5gr. I also loaded three ten shot strings using AA#9 which I also had on hand. I used Sierra's data for 45 Colt (Rifle.) since they don't have data for AA#9 in their Ruger-only section. Years ago one of their techs told me that the Ruger Blackhawk is more than capable of handling those loads when I asked about using their data with N110, another powder listed in the rifle section but not the Ruger-only section. I loaded AA#9 to 20.0gr, 20.5gr and 21.0gr.

I shot the 296 loads first. Recoil was pretty heavy and accuracy was pretty mediocre. Not terrible but I know my pistol is capable of better. I would not recommend these loads to be shot in a Blackhawk with OEM stocks. Battered fingers take the fun right out of shooting. I've gone over to the dark side and put Hogue monogrips on both of my Blackhawks. I know it's sacrilege on an SA revolver but they make the revolver so much more shoot-able with the heavy stuff. I was glad I brought shooting gloves too. Extraction was uneventful, most cases fell right out and the rest came out easy enough with a tap from the ejector. Switching over to the AA#9 loads and accuracy improved with the first string and just kept getting better. The 21.0gr load was the best of the bunch. Throwing out a couple of flyers and they all went into one ragged hole. Recoil was still stout with the AA#9 but not punishing like the 296 loads.

I've done similar testing using Hornady 250gr XTPs (when you could actually find them) and found that AA#9 gave me better accuracy than 296 with those bullets too. I think if powders ever become readily available again an 8# bottle of AA#9 will need to find its way to my bench as my go to powder for heavy 45 Colt. It may not give the absolute top velocity but all that speed doesn't matter if you miss.
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Old November 26, 2013, 06:54 PM   #12
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AA#9 is a very good powder, but before you commit to 8# you might want to try AA 4100 or Ramshot Enforcer. Same powder with 2 different labels. Just a bit slower burning than #9 but still faster than W296/H110. Enforcer/4100 will give higher velocity while still being able to load down if need be. There's is very good 30,000 PSI .45 Colt data at www.ramshot.com and it's pressure tested. While you're there you can download the new #5 load guide that covers both Accurate and Ramshot powders as well as request a printed version which inludes some good reloading tips.
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Old November 26, 2013, 09:15 PM   #13
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I almost bought a pound of Enforcer today, my LGS actually had some in stock. Until jacketed bullets become readily available I didn't really see the point in experimenting with it. Data for that powder is still pretty slim though. Even Western Powders' data is pretty sparse. Every bullet maker that has data for 357 Magnum and Ruger-only 45 Colt (what I'd use it for) has data for AA#9. No point in getting 8lbs of anything, even if you could, until bullets are available though. Until then I'll keep dreaming...
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Old November 26, 2013, 09:36 PM   #14
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I've used 22 grains of H110 with a 300 grain Sierra JSP with good results in my Ruger Blackhawk. This is a Ruger only load from Hodgdon. This was with a Winchester primer in Starline brass. You should be fine with the Hodgdon data.
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Old November 26, 2013, 09:42 PM   #15
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With H110/W296 in 45 Colt with 250 gr JHP I have experimented:

24 gr in my Iver Johnson Uberti Cattleman with .046" thick chamber walls, barrel + cylinder = 6.5", and 1220 fps, have been shooting this for years.

23 gr shoots ok
22 gr shoots ok
21 gr shoots ok
21 gr without roll crimp squib load fires and jams the revolver
20 gr is wimpy

My Ruger Blackhawk with .059" chamber walls, I fired one round with 24 gr 10 years ago. The hammer cut into the web of my right hand and I have not shot it since. Someday I will take it apart and break that sharp edge.

For 454 Casull, Hodgdon recommends 36 gr.
So one can reduce more than 3%.
How much one can reduce greatly depends on that roll crimp.
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