I started this little project, as part of another article; it quickly out grew the other article, and has become an article unto it’s self. I am marking this load 3030XXXX. In the beginning I set out to come up with a close quarter brush load for my 94 Ranger that I have equipped with a Williams peep sight. I really had my work cut out for me with this load. My brush round had to meet a four part criteria. First- I wanted more mass than a 170 grain load, but not go to cast bullets. Second - I didn’t want to have a single shot rifle in the brush. I wanted to be able to load the magazine tube on the 94 with extra rounds, and I wanted the rounds to cycle normally in the action. Third - I had to have as much velocity as possible to make sure the bullet hit, and functioned properly with as much weight retention as possible. Fourth – Accuracy would have to be dead on as close to tack driving as possible with the rifle. This all meant that the bullet would have to be seated just right, have a flat or rounded nose to make it safe from primer contact in the magazine, and be backed by exactly the right powder. The largest jacketed bullet weight I could find for a .30-30 was 170 grain. This meant I would have to look at bullets usually used for the .308 or the .30-06. This also made correctly judging the starting charge dangerous because there really is no reloading data for a 180 grain jacketed load for the .30-30 cartridge, so I would have to be very careful in deciding on a starting charge to make sure that the pressure was within reason for the first tests. I decided to find out as much as I could about the bullets I had to choose from. I read through every catalog I could find, visited every web site I could, and then one bullet just stuck with me. It was Hornady's 180 grain round nose Interlock bullet with a sectional density of 0.271 compared to the 170 grain flat point bullets sectional density of 0.256 I think this type bullet is just what I was looking for in a bullet. A little more mass, a round nose that would make it safe in the 94's magazine tube, and well constructed. I still had questions to answer such as what would be the functional threshold of this bullet? Then I would have to make a calculated guess. Would I be able to push it fast enough to allow it to expand as needed to do the job at hand? Could I get this bullet flying fast enough in a .30-30 load to be functional? I really didn't know. I have heard of this size bullet being used, but as I said earlier I couldn’t find any data.
I decided to contact Hornady first to see if they could be any help, this proved to be a wasted call. The guy on the phone could only read from a book about the bullets performance when used for in a .30-06. Remember I could find no real data for a load of this size. I am guessing that to even be in the ballpark I would have achieve a muzzle velocity of over 1800 fps. I intended this round to not expand as easily, and as much as say a Winchester Power Point. I wanted to achieve a great deal of weight retention through brush at close range, but I didn't want to just make a whole. I wanted expansion, and a deadly wound channel. I figured after looking over the information I could find on the bullet that I needed to break the 1900fps mark. This would make an impact at say 50 to 75 yards at about the 1650 fps possible. That should do the job.
Knowing what I had to achieve as far as the bullet went I turned my attention to powder choice. I was going to try every powder I could to get the absolute best velocity because I needed the right speed for the mass. That is the key to this bullet functioning properly, but then I looked at my shelf and saw an old favorite that H- Varget. It had always given good performance in the past with my .30-30 loads. I looked up some sample loads in the Lee Second Edition. It could very well give me the velocity I was after, so I decided to take the minimum charge of a H-Varget load using a 170 grain bullet, and use it as my starting charge weight. I also decided to use a Lee Dipper to start. The reason?? The dippers sometimes hold a little less than the minimum charge. I double-checked this, and in this case it did so I had a starting charge I felt was safe. I have a bunch of Winchester cases so that is the choice of cases. Sometimes it comes down to what you have on hand in good supply. Now the spark I needed the right primer for my first tests - Magnum or standard that would be the question. I needed magnum, but I started with standard. This would help with safety until I had an idea of what the pressure levels would be in this load. I would also have to go slow with seating the bullet.
I began by seating the bullet out to the chamber length, and went from that point checking primers for signs of pressure. I finally stopped at an overall length of 2.497" this was a deep seat for the bullet, but with Varget I always seem to get better results in the .30-30 when I seat the bullet deep. The shorter rounds would work just fine in the action of the gun, and I was still OK on pressure signs. Next I decided to move to a magnum primer, and started to work on the crimp. This was a bit of a problem, but I trimmed the cases a little extra, this made it possible to get a good firm crimp using a Lee Factory Crimp Die. I had a good start. I still had room to work according to the primers, so I set to increase the powder charge. This eventually led me to the charge of 30.1 grains. I could go higher in powder weight, but the accuracy is really good at this charge. So I decided to test the velocity of the round. This version achieved 1938 fps, 1502 ft. lbs. energy, Thornily Stopping Power Scale 79, Momentum at 49, TKO of 15, Power Factor of 348.84, and accuracy in the 3/4" group range at 65 yards, 1" groups at 100 yards. Yes I could add a little more powder, but would it be enough to really matter. It wouldn't be worth the loss of accuracy. I did decide to try one more thing with the load. I think the only other thing to try is to use another brand of magnum primer - Winchester. I have used these in the past, and I think they are a better primer. I don't think this will make much of a difference in power, but I think the Winchester will give better ignition. After testing with the new primer one thing was clear. Choice of primer made more of a difference than I thought it would. The velocity is at 2061.5 fps. which is a nice little jump in speed. The power factor went to 371.07, TKO hit 16 on the scale, I achieved 1698 ft. lbs. of energy, and the Thornily scale is at 84. Getting the results I am getting. I think this is the right combination of components, and performance for close quarters Deer hunting in brush. A quick check of performance down range shows that at 50 yards I still have 1907 fps. in velocity, and 1760 at 100 yards. This is the maximum distance I will be using this round. I have my gun zeroed at 60-65 yards which gives me a point of impact of - 0.9 at 100 yards still getting groups within the inch to an inch and half at 100 yards. To me this information tells me that I have a viable accurate brush load, and that I can possibly push it further. Most would have gone another way using a large cast bullet maybe using a bullet like the Nosler Partition in 170 grain bullet, but this weight bullet just screamed to me that it was the way to go in a brush bullet. I think it will give enough weight retention, but still expand to do the job.
I am glad I stuck with this particular weight bullet, and I am going to take this project further. I am going to see how other powders perform under this weight bullet. I did some research on looking through load manuals, and I decided to try Reloader 15 in this load. From the information in the books it seemed to produce more velocity at about the same pressure range as H- Varget. I 0.did as before with the loading I found a load using Reloader 15 under a 170 grain bullet that gave a minimum charge of 31.1 grains using a 2.2 Lee Dipper. In this case the dipper holds just that amount so I reduced the minimum charge more by going with a 1.9 Lee Dipper which held 26.9 grains, and used this as a starting charge. Seeing as I was in the same pressure ranges and had reduced the minimum charge even further I felt safe in using the same overall length as I have been using 2.497” the only thing I changed was the powder. This proved to be a very close to max. charge. I still had room to increase the charge so I went for the original minimum charge that was listed for a 170-grain bullet. The next charge was 31.1 grains in a Lee 2.2 dipper.
This was max. it created a velocity of 2045fps. slightly less than the original H- Varget version. I still believed that I might be able to get more velocity with the Reloader 15 so I thought about moving the bullet out just a little to a C.O.A.L. of 2.527” I did this because every time I have used Reloader 15 it performs a little better when given some room. I then changed to Remington brass. In past situations dealing with a max. charge in the .30-30, I have been able to go a little further using this brand; it just seems to hold up better to the maximum pressures of the .30-30 cartridge. I figured it was worth a try. The results were a close call; the load in a Remington case shows signs of near max. pressure, but I was able to get a better crimp using these cases. I was pretty sure that the case would hold up to more pressure I went with my instinct, and went higher in charge weight. Using an educated guess I decided to make an increase of 1.5 grains in powder. I did this by using one scoop from a 1.6 Lee dipper, which holds 22.7 grains, and one scoop from a 0.7 Lee dipper that holds 9.9 grains of powder to come to an ending powder charge of 32.6 grains of Reloader 15. The first test was impressive the cases showed a maximum charge, and the load showed better accuracy. Looking at the primers, and doing a little measuring I decided to load up a test batch of six rounds using a little fuller scoop of powder in the dippers. I did this by pushing the dipper into the powder, and letting the powder fall into the dipper, and eventually pile up a little on the dipper. I do not recommend others do this because the company says not to do this, but I have many times without problems. I decided to take the Chrony with me to the range to see what it had to say about the load. This version was the best yet, achieving a velocity of 2176.2 fps at muzzle, 2016fps. at 50yds, and 1864 at 100yds.. This is big jump in speed for the load, and I was hoping to find my new load in this range of velocity. The rest of the numbers showed better results as well 1893ft.lbs. of energy, power factor of 391.716 that I rounded off to 392, this load comes in at 88 on the Thornily Stopping Power Scale, and a TKO of 17. This is a good round I didn’t think I could improve much on this round. I did however decide I needed to get an average charge weight on the overflowing dipper scoops so to give others an idea of where to work to load this round. I measured 25 scoops from each dipper, and the resulting average charge was 32.584 grains. I am going to give all the numbers for those that wish to understand the reason that the Lee dippers are perfectly safe.
They are not precise, in fact they are far from it, but they are perfectly safe for load development even when used as I have against manufacturers recommendations. Now some say that this proves the exact opposite on the issue of safety. You have to remember these numbers show the results of me using the dippers against manufacturers recommendations. If used as the manufacturer recommends them to be used the charge usually falls below the charge stated making them very safe as long as you follow the load recipe, and the manufacturers recommendations. Even with the over capacity scoops I used the charge will stay within a safe charge range. Once you get to the higher pressure levels of a load then switch to a good digital scale to be precise on the charge weight because when you get the point of flattened primers you need more precision. The dippers are safe and save time when working up a load as long as you use some common sense.
Lee Dipper 0.7/ Lee Dipper 1.6
9.6 9.7 22.7 23.7
9.5 9.6 23.8 23.3
9.9 9.8 23.3 23.5
9.7 10.0 23.4 23.3
9.9 9.7 22.8 23.4
9.6 10.0 22.8 23.5
9.9 9.7 23.0 23.3
9.6 10.0 22.9 23.3
9.7 10.0 23.3 23.6
9.9 10.0 22.9 23.2
9.8 10.0 22.6 23.1
9.9 9.7 23.1 22.6
Average for 0.7 = 9.412 grains/ Average for 1.6 = 23.172 grains.
Average Total = 32.584 grains.
Lee Second Edition specs. 32.6 grains.
The results show the charge weights of 25 rounds I loaded and test fired using an extra full scoop of powder, all were fine as far as pressure signs. I could see no real difference in the cases. I have decided to use the two highest charges achieved using these dippers as my finished charge weight. 10.0 + 23.8 = 33.8 grains of Reloader 15 this will be my hunting load. I will use a digital scale to load rounds I am going to hunt with, and use this charge weight. I did not go any further with this load I felt it was as hot as I could go at the time. I may revisit it in the future if I can use a way of testing pressure. I next turned my attention to other tests using the finished load. One of the things I wanted to know was how other bullets would work in this load, and the next one I tried was Sierra’s 180 grain round nose Pro- Hunter bullet. The sectional density of the bullet is the same as the Hornady’s 0.271 and at the time I decided it should work as well as the Hornady bullet. I loaded five test rounds with the dippers, and tested the performance of the bullet. I like the expansion of this bullet better than the Hornady bullet, and I think it flies a little better as well. The numbers came out at about the same as the rest of the test rounds I did with the other bullet. Velocity averaged at 2156.25fps. a little lower than the average for the Hornady load, energy averaged 1858ft.lbs. again less energy than the Hornady load, TKO of 17 which was the same for the Hornady topped load, Thornily scale hit 87 one point less than the Hornady topped load, and a power factor of 388.125 which was also less than the Hornady load. Now this is the average of the loads as tested using the dippers, and the imprecise measurement of the dippers that produced some less than maximum charge weights lowering the average. I had several in later tests using scale-measured charges that went well past the performance of the Hornady bullet load hitting in the 2177fps. range. So I have decided to use this bullet in my final hunting version. Both bullets, and powders performed well you can’t get to hung up on all the numbers, but I like the final version the best, and it performs as I need for deer. You can move the bullet out on the H- Varget version to a C.O.A.L. of 2.527” and increase the charge to get a little hotter load, and get performance as good as Reloader 15 so it is up to you as to which you would prefer. I like both powders, and think they will perform consistently. During the development of this load I had only one real problem, and that was with one Remington case that split in half after being reloaded several times. I have decided to change to the nickel Remington cases in the hunting loads I am going to be using; this should allow for a little better performance in the cases. The final version is listed as follows.
Bullet – Sierra 180 grain Pro – Hunter round nose
Case – Remington Nickel Cases
Primer – Winchester Large Rifle Magnum Primer
Powder – Reloader 15
Charge Weight – 33.8 grains
C.O.A.L. – 2.527”
I tested this load in all of my Winchester model 94s; they vary in year of manufacture from 1970 to my two Rangers made in the mid 90s. I feel this round is fine for any 94, but I do recommend as always that you start with a reduced load, and move up slowly in your gun to make sure you are safe. I would say a 10% reduction as all reloading manuals usually recommend is a proper starting charge. This would bring you to a starting charge of 30.42 grains of Reloader 15, and the maximum is up to you, but I stopped at the 33.8 grains.
I usually zero my Ranger with peep at 55 yards, but this round needed a different zero. After some calculations on several web sites I decided to go with a zero distance of 75 yards. This gives me a flatter path of flight. I have included a graph that shows the path of the bullet when zeroed at 75 yards. Now in the past I have been criticized by some for only using a graph that has a maximum range distance of 300 yards. I want to point out that the path of the bullets flight that I wish to direct you to is not affected by the maximum range distance shortened except to show the path of flight out to the 150 yard range clearer. This is not a round for anything over 150 yards. This graph shows the path of the bullet best. I have how ever included a graph with a maximum distance of 800 yards the numbers don’t change. Notice the flight of the bullet from 25 yards out to 150 yards. This is the range that this load will most likely be used the most, and it is flat enough that I really don’t have to judge the shot. I can just point then fire, and that is the way a gun like the Winchester 94 was meant to be used in the field quick and sure.
Accuracy on this round is good groups are under the one inch range at 100 yards with a very steady rest as you can see on the target the first three are under an inch. These results are with a good rest. The other shots are from a standing position as you can see the group opens some. Still good groups considering my bad back makes for very unsteady shooting. The largest group I recorded was 2” at 100 yards in very windy conditions. This is good for a Winchester 94 manufactured after 1964. I have noticed that the Winchesters seem to shoot better with the bigger bullets. This is another reason I wanted a little more mass for my Winchester 94.
The peep sight on the gun really makes a big difference as well with these rifles. I have a peep on all but two of my 94’s. I have found since starting this article one place that has loading information using a 180-grain bullet, but it doesn’t hit the same velocity. This load 3030XXXX is producing more velocity. I think that you will be surprised by this load, and the velocity it creates using a 180 grain bullet. The velocities I have listed are not the highest velocities I have recorded with this load. The powder measure is max, and I have crimped the bullet firmly. I have gone as far as possible with this load in a 94. I think in a Marlin this load may be pushed even further, but I have not tested in a Marlin so I cannot say for sure. I am planning to use this load for Deer season this year. I like the load so much I am going to put off another project to try this load in the field hunting. If anyone tries this load out I would like to hear about it so E-mail me with any comments or questions at email@example.com .