Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Marlin 336CB Cowboy

The more time goes by, the more my eyes appreciate longer barrels. I'm holding out as long as I can before I scope my leverguns and I'm finding that means getting the front sight out a bit further than the carbine lengths. A range session with the 16" barreled 336SDT really strains my eyes. Conversely the sight picture on the 24" Cowboy is easy. Looks like before too long I'll either have to scope or sell the SDT to conform with my 'If I own it, I shoot it policy.'

Not that I'm admiting defeat but I've even sent one of the 336 Texan's in for the "Cowboy Conversion" - 24" octagon barrel and forend. I haven't heard back yet but I'm optimistic they'll be able to do the conversion - I'll write a full report when/if it happens.

A lot of us enjoy the quick handling and portability of a carbine. We spend more time carrying it than shooting so it really excells for field use. The downsides are muzzle blast, increased report, shorter iron sight radious and a small velocity penalty with some loads.

Now that I own both extremes the contrast is more evident, and the longer barrel is winning me over. Offhand the front sight just seems to hang on the target. The long sight radious doesn't require me to squint. The report, especially the subsonic loads, is greatly reduced. The chronograph has higher numbers and the gap in velocity is higher at the full power levels. Another bonus is the extra-cartridge or two that can ride onboard - "load on Sunday, shoot all week."

There is a small weight penalty and I've complained in the past about hunting thick stuff with longer barrels but my view on that is softening and I may take one of the Cowboys hunting this year.
A fun "Gallery Load" that shoots well at out to 25 yards and OK out to 50 is a '0' buckshot over 3 grains of Bullseye. It is very quiet and averages just over 1000 fps.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

45 Colt load for the Ruger New Vaquero

My favorite packin around gun is the Ruger New Vaquero in 45 Colt. Not only is it beautiful it is capable - from putting Grouse on the menu to the peace of mind that comes with the cartridge that made all men equal - thanks Sam Colt. I sleep well knowing that whatever pokes its nose in the tent better have an invitation.

"Nothing says go away like the muzzle end of a 45." - unknown

My keg of SR 4756 is now empty... A powder I just happened onto turned out to be a real winner in my 45 Colts. Thousands of rounds and many smiles later I'm contemplating purchasing another Keg (= over 4,000 carges / keg). It meters well in my Lee Perfect Powder Measure, it is fluffy so fills the case nicely and a double charge is easy to spot and it is one of the cleaner powders I've tried. Bullseye, W231, AA#5, SR 7625, and Unique... all worked at least OK but had at least one drawback or lacked good data in 45 Colt.

A friend recommends Hodgdon Tightgroup. It is supposed to meter well (but might not fill the case enough to make a double charge easy to spot), isn't temperature or position sensitive and it is economical (few grains / fps). The reason I haven't tried it is the most popular powders have been sold out since the Presidential elections - primers , bullets and brass too...

A powder that I still come across and have had success with is Red Dot. I still have some so I gave it a try. Under the 255 grain Lee bullet it has really excelled with single digit standard deviations, promising accuracy and clean burn. While it doesn't seem to meter well it does Scoop (Lee Powder Scoops) very consistently - I still weigh every charge. Red Dot is typically at the bottom of the price scale too... coupled with lower weight charges = inexpensive shooting.

At the range today it continued to impress. Under a 255 grain RNFP cast bullet I was able to find a load that shot Point of Aim = Point of impant while averaging 935 fps with single digit SD. This load is a bit north of the published data but there were NO signs of excessive pressure. The primers look normal and the cases fall easily from the cylinder. As a bonus the load burns cleaner than my favorite SR 4756 load. The results are good enough that I will continue testing and may consider changing my go-to 45 Colt powder to Red Dot.

On an off topic note; 22lr ammo has been non-existent for months. On occasion I come across some CCI Mini-Mags for about $8/100. YIKES!!! Using the prices I paid for components (not counting my time or the brass) I'm shooting 45 Colt for less - paying $0.25/ pound for lead = ~ $0.01 per bullet, Primers last cost me less than $30 / 1000 so <$0.03 each and a paying $20 / lb for powder costs me less than $0.02 per charge. Hard to believe that shooting 45 Colt is cheaper than 22lr... My current reality...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Marlin 1895 LTD III

Marlin's most perfect 1895 - the LTD III

The day it arrived I couldn't wait to get it to the range and took what ammo I had on hand, here is the first range report.

First up was some 405 grain Laser-Cast RNFP PB over a 25 gr charge of SR4759 (always double check your data ) a WLR in a Starline case. This is a (or used to be) fairly economical load so I shoot it a lot. Within a few shots I had it sighted in and was shooting open sight POA = POI @ 50 yards. Grouped consistently ~1-1/2" front rested with open sights.

A five shot string over the chronograph averaged 1388 with a standard deviation of 11.87

Next up I shot up what I had left of some 425gr bullets I cast last summer. The RANCH DOG TLC-460-425 RF has proven to be accurate in all of my 1895's (four of em) and proved to be in this rifle too. With the same charge of SR4759 as above in Starline cases (with 12 reloads on them) it chugged along a 1374 with a standard deviation of 7.68. These bullets were Gas Checked and Lubed with Lee Liquid Alox and sized to .460"

After those were gone I pulled out five leftover from last hunting season 425gr Beartooth Bullet "Pile driver Jr" over a 37gr charge of IMR 4198. These showed promising accuracy and averaged 1573 fps with and SD=38.47. This is about the limit of recoil I'd consider shooting off the bench without padding. It wasn't punishing but it was stout.

All of three of the loads above printed very nearly the same at 50 yards with this sight setting.

Lastly I shot some plinker loads using the 405 gr LC bullet over some 8 grains of Bullseye (Data on www.gmdr.com ) with WLR primers in WW cases. These loped along at 858 fps average with a SD of 6.08. Accuracy was the worst of the bunch spreading out over 2" and printing a full 6" higher at 50 yards with the same sight setting. Very mild recoil.

I think I'm going to like this rifle. It has the aesthetic quality of the Cowboy and the handiness of the Guide Gun with an extended mag tube. I have some Hornady 350's, some Remington 405s some more cast bullets yet to try including some 300 grainers. I'll let you know how that goes too.

Special Thanks to 2ndovc for answering all my questions and convincing me I needed one of these.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Marlin 336

These things keep following me home
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Range report re-posts

2 December 2007 - This was my first trip out with this rifle. The 170 grain Sierra and Oregon Trail Laser-Cast bullets look promising and the commercial Federal 170 grain ammo performed well too. I was disappointed in the 150 gr Remington bulk bullets.

-1976 vintage
-20” Microgoove barrel.
-Weather: Lightly snowing, 32*, wind quartering from right front and COLD.
-25 & 50 yard targets, 3-5 shot groups
-All reloads crimped with the Lee Factory Crimp

Not meant to be a reloading guide but if you use it, double check data and use at your own risk.

Bulk Remington 150 grain Core-Lokt JRN
-IMR 4895 (70’s vintage), 30.5 gr, (IMR data) = 2032 fps, 1” 25 yard, 2.25” 50 yard groups
-IMR3031, 30gr, (IMR data) = 2180 fps, 7/8” 25 yard group, 2” 50 yard groups
-Varget, 33gr (Hodgdon data) = 2120 fps, ¾” 25 yard group. 1-1/2” 50 yard groups.

I had hoped for better since these are relatively inexpensive and have a good reputation for hunting. I have enough to keep trying but unless there is a dramatic improvement in accuracy I'm probably not going to buy these again.

Sierra 170gr JFP
-IMR 3031 29.5gr (IMR data) = 2036 fps, 3/8” 25 yard, 13/16” 50 yard group.

This one is showing some promise. I'm down to my last batch of these but the new rifle shoots them better than my other two 30-30s so far.

Federal Power Shok 170gr JRN
-Factory Ammo = 2163 fps 7/8” 50 yard group

This is that sale ammo I bought early this fall. Shoots well in all the rifles I've tested it in including some that aren't my own... In my 336CB the average velocity = advertised velocity. Good ammo and the price after rebates was better than I could have reloaded it for.

Oregon Trail

Laser-Cast 170gr LRNFP, I lubed with Lee Liquid Alox and added a Hornady gas check
-IMR 4227 17gr (Lyman Data) =1637 fps, ¾” 25 yard group, 1-5/8” 50 yard group.
-IMR SR4756, (gmdr.com data) 6gr. No chrony data. ½” 25 yard group.
-IMR SR4756, (Lyman Data) 10.4gr, no chrony data, <1”>
Saturday, August 30, 2008
336 Texan

93 grain Lyman mold cast (wheel weights) bullet, sized .311"
3.3 grains of Red Dot (=.5cc Lee powder scoop)
Remington 9.5 primer
Winchester Brass
Loaded with a $20 Lee Loader

I was given a few hundred of these bullets and I've been toying around with them in the 30-30. The last time out I tried them with 5 grains of Red Dot and averaged 1178 fps with OK accuracy. This time I dropped the load to 3.3 grains and averaged 1007 fps. The accuracy was 2-1/2" at 50 yards with iron sights and it shoots about 2" lower than 170gr Remington Corelokt factory loads. At 25 yards It managed to keep them at 1" including the flier and shot point of aim. it would make a good close range Grouse load.

The surprise of the day:
.314" average ~48 grain Buckshot pressed into the case with thumb pressure
a 22lr case full of Bullseye powder
Remington 9.5 primer
S&B case (terrible brass, I won't reuse them again)

Out of curiosity I decided to try this load at 50 yards. I was VERY pleased to see that it shot point of aim and about 2" group size. Much better than I had anticipated at this range and better than the 93 grain load. The load averaged 1059 fps. At 25 yards this shoots under 1" and just slightly below the point of aim. Very economical. The most expensive component is the primer. The report is less than a 22lr

Next I ran some 170 grain factory Remington Core-lokt's through which currently a $5 per box rebate going on... Get it on sale and you'll end up paying less than $0.50 per round for it. This batch ran through the chronograph 2253 fps average which is a 100 fps quicker than previous batches I've purchased. The accuracy was good, just slightly over 1" at 50 yards with iron sights.

This rifle loves and is sighted in for a 170 grain Laser-Cast bullet over 5 grains of Red Dot. I shot a 3/4" fifty yard group as a baseline and it averages 1024 fps.

[B]The Cowboy[/B]
The last trip out the Cowboy showed a strong preference for the Ranch Dog TLC311-165 bullet with a Hornady Gas Check ( www.ranchdogmolds.com ) over 10.5 grains of SR4756 - which happens to be the charge my 45 colt Rugers like with a 255 grain cast bullet. Today that trend was tested and proved. The load averages 1420 fps and produced sub 1" groups once the barrel was fouled. I'll probably try this load for Cowboy Silhouette matches using this rifle. Mild shooting and low report.

Also shot my "big bore lite" Marlin 1894 in 45 colt. It really seems to like the 300 grain bullets better than the 255's. I've been shooting this rifle in the Pistol Caliber Cowboy Silhouette matches with the 255's jogging out there at 1150 fps. I'm thinking the 300's might add another 4 or 5 down. The 255's SLAM the targets. A low hit on a chicken will send it spinning into the air and over the berm. The 100 yard rams crash down with authority. The 1200 fps 300+ grain cast bullets might add to the drama.

Also shot the Ruger New Vaquero and my Single Sixes. The Winchester Bulk ammo seems to shoot VERY well in these producing the best groups of the day. The Federal Auto Match ammo did well too.

Marlin 336 CB and the Ranch Dog 165 grain bullet

I've had good luck with this bullet in all of my Marlin 336's, especially the Cowboy. I tested it with a variety of powders yesterday and all produced good groups - 1" or less at 50 yards with iron sights.

An easy shooting and very accurate load uses SR 4756 (NOT 4759). It rolls them out at a little over 1400 fps and on the fifth notch up from the bottom on the rear sight it pretty much zero's the 200 meter rams. The fourth notch is on for the 150 yard Turkeys and the third notch is essentially a 100 yard zero. Aiming at the foot of the 50 meter chickens rolls them over with a center body shot.

Another stand out load yesterday was the AA5744. Those that know my history know that I am not a big fan of this powder but yesterday it did produce some excellent groups. The downside is that this load prints 6" high with the rear sight elevator at the lowest point.

The worst of the day, but still pretty good was 2400. I have a bunch of this powder and I haven't found a good use for it since I sold my 44. I was hoping it would do a little better but the other powders did better.