Rounds in the last month

This month I only loaded a 180 .223 rounds. Part of that was because I spend a long weekend visiting Xenia in Kentucky and part is because I finished up most of my new .223 brass and started in on my used brass. The used brass needs more prep and with my hand powered tools it took a lot of time. The new electrically powered tool helped a bunch and I have been been prepping brass and, essentially, not reloading as I go through the backlog of used brass to clean and prep.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 3,318 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 1,591 rounds.
40 S&W: 80,258 rounds.
45 ACP: 2,007 rounds.
9 mm: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 109,571 rounds.

Rifle brass prep

I decided to use up a bunch of the rifle reloading components I have laying around and quickly found I was spending way more time than I wanted. Using hand powered tools trimming the brass to length and cleaning the primer pockets was taking, on average, about a full minute for each round. Also, my hands ached after about 100 rounds and I would have let them recover for an hour or more before continuing. With many thousands of rounds in my immediate future I decided I needed another solution.

I purchased the Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Case Trim and Prep System (see video at the link):

This cut the one minute down to about 15 seconds. I can still get an ache in my hands if I’m not careful to mostly press the brass when trimming rather than trying to grip it tightly. But if I pay a little bit of attention it hasn’t been a major problem.

I have processed over 1000 rounds with it now now I am very pleased.

Rounds in the last month

The only caliber I reloaded this month was .223. I reloaded 418 rounds.

It was slow going with a lot of case prep on the used brass. I also loaded up a few test rounds of some new bullets. These were Berger 75 and 80 grain VLDs, and the Berger 82 grain Long Range BT. With my target AR I get good results with factory ammo with 77 grain Sierra Match Kings but the Berger’s have higher ballistic coefficients and if I get as good as accuracy from them as the factory ammo and the expected velocities then I will have more wind resistant ammo than the factory loadings. The problem with the two heavier bullets is they take up so much space that if you load them to max over all length you can’t get as much powder in the case as you can if you load them to significantly over the max overall length. But if you load them over length then you have to feed them into the chamber one at a time by hand because they won’t fit in the magazine.

I decided to load my test round to spec with reduced charges and see what I end up with. I’m expecting it will be disappointing. I’m more excited about the 75 grain VLDs. They have a G1 BC of .421 compared to the 77 grain Sierra Match King’s .362. That’s significant. And with a slightly lighter bullet I might be able to get a little higher velocity as well.

I haven’t fired any of them yet. I’m going to wait until I go to Idaho again so I can do some accuracy testing at the same time as the chronograph tests at about 200 yards.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 3,138 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 1,591 rounds.
40 S&W: 80,258 rounds.
45 ACP: 2,007 rounds.
9 mm: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 109,391 rounds.

Shooter report

Paul and Louise visited us from Canada this weekend. Paul was in the U.K. military and had a fair amount of experience with rifles but very little experience with handguns. Recently they purchased handguns and took some classes. Then Paul decided he would like to get into reloading. I showed them my reloading set up and talked quite a bit about it with them. Why I reload, some tips on reloading he probably won’t find in the YouTube videos, and why I have some of the equipment.

Barb and I took them to the range and Paul had his first experience shooting an AR and Louise shot a rifle for the first time. Among other firsts were shooting a gun with a suppressor.


I did a little coaching with Louise but Paul was doing very well without much input from me. We probably went through about 400 rounds total of .22LR and .40 S&W. It was a good day and you can see the indicator of that with the new shooter smile on Louise’s face.

Detonating Boomerite with a pistol

We have long known that Boomerite detonates at lower velocities if the bullet has a flatter tip. But we have never had reliable detonation with a pistol. As I reported a few days ago I made up some 145 grain loads for my .40 S&W gun. I bought the bullets 10 to 15 years ago just for this but I it wasn’t until now that I finally got around to loading them for Boomerite testing. With a near maximum load I get just over 1400 fps at the muzzle. The truncated cone bullets have a pretty wide flat area:


I visited Boomershoot last weekend and among other things I mixed up a batch of Boomerite and tested the hot 145 grain loads. With the weather being a little cold, 34 F, I expected I would have to be pretty close to get detonation. And maybe I wouldn’t be able to get detonation at any safe distance. I put on my flak jacket, eye protection, ear protection, and got back 15 yards. This should be a target velocity of about 1330 fps. I squeezed off a shot—BOOM! Okay, that worked.

How about 25 yards? That would result in about 1280 fps at the target. Another squeeze yielded another earth shaking boom from a seven inch target. Okay then. It’s good enough.

This means I can use my handgun for Boomershoot cleanup if I want to.

Rounds in the last month & yearly report

This month I finished reloading all the .45 ACP bullets I had—1507 of them.

In .40 S&W I reloaded 502 rounds of 180 grain TCFM (I presume this means Truncated Cone Full Metal jacket) Zero Bullets. These are a little cheaper than the Montana Gold bullets I usually use and I decided to try them. They seem accurate enough and reloaded just fine, but until I had one in my hand I forgot one of the reasons I was using the JHP Montana Gold bullets. The JHP’s do not have exposed lead in the base which means there is less lead put into the air when I’m shooting.

Also in .40 S&W, I reloaded 270 rounds of truncated cone, 145 grain, Master Blaster (the company went out of business years ago but I still have the sample I purchased from probably 10 or 15 years ago) polymer coated lead bullets. These are hot loads with a muzzle velocity of nearly 1390 fps. The intent is to be able to detonate Boomershoot targets from my handgun. I’ll have to be close, perhaps as close as 15 yards, but I think they might work.

I reloaded 296 rounds of .223 Remington. These were all SS109 bullets. Last year, among other things I did in preparation for a Clinton presidency, I purchased a large number of these bullets. They are taking up space on my shelf of bullets and I had many pounds of powder for them on another shelf. It’s time to reduce my inventory of components. I expect the next month few months will be spent reloading .223.

Combined that is 2575 rounds I reloaded in the last month.

2017 was a very good year in terms of reloading. I reloaded over 23,000 rounds. Nearly 21,000 rounds were in .40 S&W.

My life history of hand reloading ammunition by caliber, month, and year:

223 Remington Rounds Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1998 160 0 0 0 0 0 0 140 20 0 0 0 0
1999 1777 0 0 181 578 25 0 0 0 0 140 653 200
2000 43 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 43 0 0 0
2001 47 0 0 0 47 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016 397 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 140 257 0 0
2017 296 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 296
Total 2720
30.06 Rounds Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1997 180 0 0 40 20 79 41 0 0 0 0 0 0
1998 150 0 0 0 80 0 0 0 0 0 40 0 30
1999 90 20 70 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2003 47 0 0 0 18 0 0 0 0 0 0 29 0
2016 76 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 76 0 0 0
2017 213 0 0 0 0 0 0 65 148 0 0 0 0
Total 756
300WIN Rounds Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1999 250 0 0 0 0 0 151 60 0 0 39 0 0
2000 460 50 120 142 0 57 0 0 0 0 20 60 11
2001 382 25 0 0 185 15 20 0 73 0 0 0 64
2013 499 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 100 399
Total 1591
40SW Rounds Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1997 31 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 31
1998 11537 570 258 718 1850 1812 1710 402 0 0 1200 900 2117
1999 2795 0 894 0 299 693 506 0 0 0 0 0 403
2000 3187 795 0 0 0 0 1095 400 396 0 501 0 0
2001 2295 0 300 497 300 0 0 1198 0 0 0 0 0
2002 898 0 0 0 0 0 0 198 0 200 300 0 200
2003 602 0 300 302 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2004 1345 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 300 600 445 0
2005 1059 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 659 400 0 0
2006 1000 0 0 0 0 400 0 0 0 0 200 400 0
2007 1136 0 0 0 0 0 0 118 518 300 200 0 0
2008 2398 0 300 0 0 0 0 900 399 0 200 0 599
2009 1702 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 102 300 900 400
2010 1400 0 0 0 0 100 200 700 0 200 0 200 0
2011 2300 300 0 400 100 0 500 500 200 0 0 0 300
2012 399 0 200 0 199 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2014 530 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 530
2015 7012 1699 1630 1137 0 0 0 547 200 400 100 200 1099
2016 17792 2197 700 1462 837 1899 1999 1000 1500 1000 1700 1500 1998
2017 20840 3300 975 525 200 1899 3700 2048 2644 2063 1015 1699 772
Total 80258
45ACP Rounds Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2017 2007 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 500 1507
Total 2007
9MM Rounds Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1996 11274 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10944 141 189
1997 7374 300 0 0 1190 640 65 0 100 1088 804 1060 2127
2015 2993 0 1066 1927 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 21641
Yearly and
Monthly Totals
Year Rounds Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1996 11274 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10944 141 189
1997 7585 300 0 40 1210 719 106 0 100 1088 804 1060 2158
1998 11847 570 258 718 1930 1812 1710 542 20 0 1240 900 2147
1999 4912 20 964 181 877 718 657 60 0 0 179 653 603
2000 3690 845 120 142 0 57 1095 400 396 43 521 60 11
2001 2724 25 300 497 532 15 20 1198 73 0 0 0 64
2002 898 0 0 0 0 0 0 198 0 200 300 0 200
2003 649 0 300 302 18 0 0 0 0 0 0 29 0
2004 1345 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 300 600 445 0
2005 1059 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 659 400 0 0
2006 1000 0 0 0 0 400 0 0 0 0 200 400 0
2007 1136 0 0 0 0 0 0 118 518 300 200 0 0
2008 2398 0 300 0 0 0 0 900 399 0 200 0 599
2009 1702 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 102 300 900 400
2010 1400 0 0 0 0 100 200 700 0 200 0 200 0
2011 2300 300 0 400 100 0 500 500 200 0 0 0 300
2012 399 0 200 0 199 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013 499 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 100 399
2014 530 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 530
2015 10005 1699 2696 3064 0 0 0 547 200 400 100 200 1099
2016 18265 2197 700 1462 837 1899 1999 1000 1500 1216 1957 1500 1998
2017 23356 3300 975 525 200 1899 3700 2113 2792 2063 1015 2199 2575
Grand Totals 108973 9256 6813 7331 5903 7619 9987 8276 6198 6571 18960 8787 13272

Because the case preparation required to reload for rifles takes more time than pistol I doubt I will produce nearly as many rounds in 2018 as I did in 2017. But still, it should be enough to give the anti-gun people severe stomach cramps and/or high blood pressure.

Rounds in the last month

This month I reloaded some .45 ACP for the first time. I bought the dies and supplies years ago after I got the Para Ordinance Gun Blog 45 pistol. I ended up not shooting it very much and finally stored it as a “Safe Queen”. I still had all the equipment and supplies for the ammo so, mostly to clear out space, I decided to go ahead and assemble the ammo. I reloaded 500 rounds and ran a few rounds over the chronograph to verify the expected velocity and functionality.

I also reloaded 1699 rounds of .40 S&W this month. 1400 rounds were 180 grain Montana Gold JHP for practice at indoor ranges and 299 were 180 grain Black Bullets International bullets for USPSA matches. This finished off all the bullets I have in these types.

Year to date I have loaded 20,781 rounds.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 2,424 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 1591 rounds.
40 S&W: 79,486 rounds.
45 ACP: 500 rounds.
9 mm: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 106,378 rounds.

Low velocity 9mm self-defense loads

A while back I made up some .40 S&W loads with “Gold Dot® Short Barrel®” bullets (it appears they have been discontinued) and then did velocity and milk jug penetration tests. I was very pleased with them.

A couple days ago I received an email from Drew Rinella. Here is part of it:

I met you very briefly a couple/few years ago at a Boomer shoot, so it was cool to find your site while researching low velocity results for speer gold dots. I saw that people were giving you shit in the comments about your low velocity 40 s&w gold dot SB loadings. I want to let you know that my terminal performance testing results have so far been great with loading the standard 147 gr 9mm gold dot at a low velocity.

I like the properties of the 147 grain 9mm gold dot bullet but I have always been frustrated by the challenging recoil impulse and inconsistent accuracy with their factory loading at nearly 1000 fps muzzle velocity, so I’ve been experimenting with loading at lower velocities. Despite the fact that they do not yet market a SB version of this bullet, I received an email back from that factory recommending a minimum of 850 fps for consistent expansion.

4.3 grains of Silhouette gave me 885 fps from a Glock 17. This was the most accurate and softest shooting load I tested which gave me the min recommended velocity. With this velocity I get consistent penetration of 4 water filled milk jugs, with the bullet puncturing a small hole into and bouncing off of the 5th jug. Assuming a 1.8x ratio of water to ballistic gel this slightly exceeds the FBI standard of 12″ ballistic gel.

Test #1: 2 layers denim

Penetrated 4 full milk jugs; bullet fully intact with signs of stress on the petals Expansion 0.525″

Weight 147.5 grains

Test #2: 4 layers denim

Penetrated 4 full milk jugs; one petal ripped off and stayed in first milk jug; signs of stress on remaining petals Expansion 0.563″

Weight 143.8 grains

As soon as the kids can drink more milk I’ll be testing with more materials including quilted denim, metal, wood, wallboard, and glass. I hypothesize less expansion and deeper penetration through these barriers based on observations of online video testing of factory loadings with this bullet, which I don’t necessarily consider to be a bad thing.

Silhouette was one of the few powders my thrower was able to throw consistently at these low charge  volumes, and gave me a small red fireball with some yellow sparks in low light shooting. CFE Pistol (my favorite powder for nearly everything else) wouldn’t throw consistently. Titegroup accuracy was very poor. AA#2 & 5 were consistent but wouldn’t give me the velocity I wanted without going into +P or +P+ territory.

Hornady XTP 147 grain at low velocity wouldn’t open up and looked like I could reload it and shoot it again. I definitely think Gold Dot is the way to go when downloading self defense rounds.

I figured there had to be other powders which would give the desired velocity so I went looking through all the sources on my book shelf. Here is a complete list of the powders for 9mm, 147 grain bullets, which yield velocities in the range of 850 feet per second.

Powder weight is in grains. Expected velocities are in feet per second. Some of the data is quite old and you should verify it with your own loading manuals or online to make sure the data is current and I have not made a catastrophic typo.

Powder C.O.L. Minimum Load Velocity Maximum Load Velocity
HS-6 1.100 4.3 773 5.0 885
Universal 1.100 3.0 803 3.3 869
Titegroup 1.100 3.2 855 3.6 929
SR 4756 1.100 3.2 800 3.8 950
WSF 1.100 3.3 800 4.2 950
AA #5 1.100 3.8 800 4.6 950
Solo 1500 1.100 3.8 800 4.6 950
HS-6 1.100 4.4 850 5.1 975
Blue Dot 1.100 4.2 800 5.5 1000
HS-7 1.100 4.4 800 5.6 950
AA #7 1.100 5.1 800 6.6 1000
Power Pistol 1.130 4.5 872 5.0 975
3N37 1.130 4.4 886 4.9 969
AA #7 1.130 6.1 867 6.8 961
SR 4756 1.130 4.2 841 4.6 957
HS-6 1.130 5.0 845 5.6 956
Unique 1.130 3.8 852 4.3 954
HS-7 1.130 6.1 866 6.8 953
WSF 1.130 3.6 840 4.1 931
AA #5 1.130 4.5 821 5.1 931

Rounds in the last month

I was out of town (and out of the country most of the time) for almost three weeks last month. That drastically reduced my reloading opportunities. I still managed to load 1015 rounds of .40 S&W. It was all Montana Gold JHPs over 3.9 grains of Bullseye. These are for new shooters at indoor ranges. They are accurate bullets with a minimum powder charge.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 2,424 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 1591 rounds.
40 S&W: 77,787 rounds.
9 mm: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 104,199 rounds.

Year to date I have loaded 18,582 rounds. I’m still on course to reload about 20,000 rounds this year for a lifetime total of over 105,000 rounds.

Rounds in the last month

In September I only loaded .40 S&W. It was 1875 rounds of Black Bullets for USPSA matches, 93 rounds of Acme Bullet Company’s 180 grain “Lipstick Bullets” (I’m probably going to replace The Blue Bullets with these for steel matches), and 95 rounds of Montana Gold bullets over 3.0 grains of Clays for some “powder puff” loads for new shooters. This is a total of 2063 rounds this month.

I had a revision of some numbers on 300 Win Mag ammo. A few years ago I made some ammo for a friend and didn’t count the rounds. I put them in zip lock bags and gave them to him. In my log I just entered estimates of 300 and 100 rounds for the two different reloading sessions.

Then… earlier this month I was visiting him and found out he still hadn’t shot them. I counted them and found I had reloaded a total of 299 rounds. Whoops. That changes things a little bit. I corrected my log file so that shows up in the numbers below.

The corrected and updated lifetime reloaded ammunition totals are:

223: 2,424 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 1591 rounds.
40 S&W: 76,772 rounds.
9 mm: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 103,184 rounds.

Year to date I have loaded 17,567 rounds. I’m still on course to reload about 20,000 rounds this year for a lifetime total of over 105,000 rounds.

Black Bullet anomalies

I’ve mentioned Black Bullet International before (and here, here, here, here, and here) and that I use them for outdoor USPSA matches. They give excellent accuracy, consistent velocity, and are a good price. I have reloaded 7563 rounds of ammunition using these bullets and have about another 875 on hand.

Earlier this month I ran into this:


One of these is not like the others. Instead of the 180 grain 0.40” diameter bullet it is a 124.9 grain 0.359” bullet. Of course, there is no danger of reloading it in a .40 S&W casing and causing a problem. But if it had been a 200 grain bullet while reloading for 180 or a 180 grain while reloading 165 grain bullets there would have been a serious concern.

I thought it was funny and set it aside.

This afternoon I opened a new box of Black Bullets which had been shipped many months after the last batch of bullets from them. I decided to weigh them to make sure they were essentially the same weight as the previous batch (important for making Power Factor for USPSA matches). I weighed 19 bullets and they were essentially the same as the previous batch:

  • Mean: 180.7
  • Standard Deviation: 0.612
  • Max: 182.2
  • Min: 179.7
  • Extreme Spread: 2.5.

When I weighed the 20th bullet I was shocked. It was 177.5 grains. This is over three grains below the mean of the other 19. This is significant enough to endanger “making major” at a match. Hmm…

I weighed another 10 and found a 178.5. Hmm…

I measured their diameter and length compared to typical bullets. The diameter was the same but the length was 0.005 less:



All the typical bullets were within 0.001” in length of one another. Then there were the two out of thirty which were 0.005” shorter.


Then I compared the stats of the Black Bullets to what I find typical of Montana Gold bullets:

  • Mean: 180.22
  • Standard Deviation: 0.159
  • Min: 179.9
  • Max: 180.5
  • Extreme spread: 0.6.

Remember when Barb and I toured the Montana Gold factory Norm told us they keep the weight of their bullets to about +/- 0.3 grains? Yup, that matches my measurements of their bullets.

Now, I did once find a partial jacket in one of the Montana Gold boxes, but I have reloaded nearly 40,000 of their bullets. That is over five times as many as the Black Bullets.

I have to conclude that the Black Bullets International company is not as quality conscious as the Montana Gold Bullets company with 180 grain .40 caliber bullets.

Primer removal failure

This is twice in about 500 rounds that I have seen this happen:


Instead of popping out whole, the primer fractured and only part of it came out of the primer pocket. I thought the first instance was just a very odd fluke. But this is twice in a very small set of used brass and I don’t recall this ever happening before in the over 100K times I have removed primers.

Update: I had this happen with three more cases out of about 150. All with R-P headstamps. I bought this brass used. It would be interesting to know the history of these cases.

Rounds in the last month

In August I loaded 148 rounds of 30.06 for daughter Kim and 2644 rounds of .40 S&W. This used up all my 30.06 brass and before I do any more 30.06 she is going to have to do some shooting. The .40 S&W was 722 rounds of Black Bullets for USPSA matches and 1922 rounds of Montana Gold bullets yielding Major Power Factor for practice at indoor ranges.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 2,424 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 1692 rounds.
40 S&W: 74,709 rounds.
9 mm.log: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 101,222 rounds.

Year to date I have loaded 15,504 rounds. I’m on course to reload about 20,000 rounds this year for a lifetime total of over 105,000 rounds.

Montana Gold Bullet factory tour

Kalispell, Montana was on the way home from Glacier National Park so Barb and I decided to see if we could get a tour of the Montana Gold Bullet factory. I have reloaded nearly 39,000 (38,684) of their bullets and have another 4,500+ in stock and ready for the Dillon 550.

I called the number on their website and set up a time for yesterday that worked for Norm and us.

We arrived a few minutes early at the unmarked warehouse like building. I took a picture of Barb out front and Norm greeted us a minute or so later.


I asked if we could take pictures and Norm told us, “No pictures allowed.” As we went inside and started the tour Norm told us production goes down during the summer and there wasn’t as much going on as there sometimes is. I asked if the election had also affected sales. He said it had made a big difference not just for Montana Gold Bullets but across the entire industry. He had looked at demand over the years and it has gone through several cycles. The first peak occurred after Bill Clinton’s election and the last peak being just before the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

Before we moved on I asked why they used brass jackets rather than copper like almost all other bullet manufactures. Was there a technical reason or was it the just the appeal of the gold color and the neat name made possible by that color?

Norm explained their company wasn’t the first to use brass. Remington, with their Golden Saber bullets, was the first and marketed them extensively. There are other companies who also use brass in some of their bullets. There are some technical reason why brass is better in certain circumstances but that isn’t the reason why his company uses brass. And it wasn’t the appeal of color and the cool name of “Montana Gold”. Also, he didn’t come up with the name “Montana Gold”!

He said he probably shouldn’t tell the story, then proceeded to tell us how the name came about. I’ll refrain from telling the story here but I’ll drop the hint that it was a San Francisco pathologist who came up with the name “Montana Gold” for the bullets produced by Norm’s company. Norm thought it was a cool name and adopted it.

The reason they use brass is because it was forced upon them, indirectly, by the U.S. government. Many years ago the U.S. Mint began producing small dollar coins that were a copper sandwich. The demands of the U.S. Mint for the particular grade of copper the bullet company was using made it impossible for Norm’s company to get the jacket material they needed. It was either go out of business, shutdown until they could get supplies, or change jacket material. They changed jacket material.

Another story he told was of a commercial reloader who bid on a contract for law enforcement ammo specifying, and supplying samples using, Montana Gold bullets. When he won the contract and started delivering the finished product the end customer noticed the bullets were actually plated bullets which are much cheaper to make and generally considered of lower quality. They complained to Norm, who reported he hadn’t supplied those bullets. Norm now refuses to do business with that reloader and, furthermore, does not allow reloaders to mention “Montana Gold” even if they are using “the real deal” in their product.

We saw the 70 pound lead-antimony ingots they use for bullet core material. As there are no more primary lead smelters in the U.S.they get their lead from Canada. They used to get their lead from mines in Idaho not too many miles away. At one time they even considered moving to Idaho to be close to their lead source as well as some economic incentives.

Barb was particularly impressed with the extruding equipment that squeezes the lead through an orifice like so much toothpaste making a lead wire of the appropriate diameter.

I was surprised by learning that because the metals alloyed with lead (to get the desired hardness) are of a different density the ingots may not be of sufficient uniformity to meet their final bullet weight tolerances. Depending upon how quickly the liquid lead alloy is cooled to a solid after being stirred they may cut off a section of the lead wire as scrap because can cause the bullet to be too light.

The thickness of the jacket material and the consistency of hollow point formation also have an effect upon the final bullet weight. Tolerances stack up. They keep the weight of their bullets to about +/- 0.3 grains and sell bullets that are out of tolerance as “seconds” to people who take delivery at the factory who Norm is confident will be using them directly rather than reselling them.

After being shown a bin of with tens of thousands (or maybe 100’s of thousands) of jackets I told Norm about finding one in a box of completed bullets. This seemed to bother him some. He told us there were at least three different places in the process it should have been been found.

They have several machines which are dedicated to certain bullet caliber and style and a few they reconfigure as needed. We saw large multistage presses which put the lead core into the brass cup then form the cup around the lead and size it to make a completed bullet. I was surprised that the machine only produced about one finished bullet per second. That one machine takes about 40 minutes to produce one case of bullets the postman delivers to my door (actually–the sidewalk near the street, then he rings the doorbell).

I told Norm I had used their .401 diameter, 180 grain, complete metal jacket bullet until fellow shooter Don W. reported he got better accuracy with the jacketed hollow point bullets. As the price was only a fraction of penny more I tried those bullets and found Don was correct. I too got slightly better accuracy compared to the CMJs.

Norm said the decreased accuracy with the CMJs probably was because my crimping die was just a little to tight. If crimped too much it will end up as an undersized bullet. Because of the construction of the base on a FMJ, and even a JHP, as a slightly undersized bullet is fired it will expand back out and be just fine. But the base of a CMJ with the brass (or copper) disk doesn’t expand like the FMJ and JHP and “rattles” as it traverses the barrel resulting in a decrease in accuracy. By backing off the crimping die a little bit you should get the same accuracy.

Near the end of the tour Norm pointed at two work stations with women flicking bullets, one by one, off a conveyor belt. “That”, he said, “Is the most difficult job here. It takes a special kind of person to do that and when we find someone who can do it we take special care of them.” These women do the visual inspection of every bullet. They don’t work full days and yet Norm told us you can see from their faces they are drained and tired at the end of their shifts. They considered going to some sort of sensors and computer sorting but the visual computer in the human brain can’t be beat yet.

Barb and I spent nearly an hour with Norm and the stories and discussion continued until both Barb and I were in pain from standing. We had hiked over 33 miles in the previous four days and felt we could hike some more but not stand. My knees were “talking to me” in an angry tone so we thanked Norm and left with new appreciation and attachment to Montana Gold bullets.

100K rounds

Barb and I mostly stayed home this weekend because of the heat and extraordinarily smoky air from the forest fires. Otherwise we probably would have gone on a hike. So… I reloaded ammo and puttered around my “library” (includes computers, guns, ammo, reloading bench, reloading components, and gun cleaning bench). I reloaded 600 rounds of 40 S&W yesterday and 600 rounds today using up almost all of the Fiocchi primers.

Combined with the stuff I had reloaded in the previous few days this month I topped the lifetime total rounds reloaded mark of 100,000 rounds. My logs show I have reloaded 100,027 rounds. 73,514 of those are .40 S&W.

Rounds in the last month

In July I loaded 65 rounds of 30.06 for daughter Kim and 2048 rounds of .40 S&W. Nearly all of the .40 S&W was Montana Gold JHP for practice at the local indoor range. There were also a few other bullet types when I was testing the Fiocchi primers.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 2,424 rounds.
30.06: 608 rounds.
300 WIN: 1692 rounds.
40 S&W: 72,065 rounds.
9 mm.log: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 98,430 rounds.

Year to date I have loaded 12,712 rounds.

August is going to be a very busy month with things other than reloading keeping me occupied. I also plan to make a bunch more 30.06 rounds, which are much slower than pistol ammo, or I would make the prediction that I would break 100,000 lifetime total rounds loaded sometime in August. Instead, I expect to reach that milestone in September.

Fiocchi Small Pistol, No Lead, primers

I do a lot of indoor shooting and the possibility of lead poisoning is something that concerns me. I get a blood test for lead every year and it stays within the “normal” range but when I wasn’t doing much shooting for a couple years it went to almost undetectable levels. Hence, I know I have a lead source in my environment and it’s probably either the indoor range and/or the reloading.

When I saw Powder Valley had no lead, small pistol, primers available I ordered some to test. I didn’t know they were even available to the reloading community. These primers would probably reduce the lead exposure at both the range and when handling the reused brass during reloading.

They are a bit more expensive than the Winchester primers (WSP) I normally use. Before shipping the Winchester WSP primers are $28/1000 (2.8 cents each). The Fiocchi no lead primers are $57/1500 (3.8 cents each). A penny per round difference… hmm. Okay, I would pay that if it significantly reduced the lead I’m getting into my system.

Due to a mixup by Powder Valley I ended up (after a couple of weeks) getting 1500 Fiocchi standard primers as well as 1500 of the no lead primers. They came in a brick of 10 trays of 150 primers per tray:


They are, ironically, a lead grey color:



I made up my indoor loads and ran them over my chronograph:

PF SDev ES Min Max
Montana Gold JHP, CFE Pistol, WSP
180.22 5.4 921.50 165.87 11.5 38.0 905 943
Montana Gold JHP, CFE Pistol, Fiocchi No Lead
180.22 5.4 916.67 165.00 16.6 56.0 897 953
Montana Gold JHP, CFE Pistol, Fiocchi standard
180.22 5.4 879.00 158.22 44.3 139.0 803 942

Hmmm.. The standard deviation and especially the extreme spread are worse with the no lead primers. And the Fiocchi standard primers are terrible! The velocity is lower and the standard deviation and extreme spread is through the roof. I loaded up some more rounds and tested them and got essentially the same results.

With the polymer coated bullets I use outdoors and CFE Pistol powder the results were even worse. The standard deviation went from about 10 fps with WSP to about 18 fps with the Fiocchi no lead primers (I haven’t tested the Fiocchi standard primers with these bullets).

I really don’t want to keep two types of primers around. I want to minimize the number of components types rather than expand them. And if I increase the standard deviation on the match ammo I would need to increase the mean velocity to insure I continue reliably making major PF. Increasing the velocity also means increasing the reloading cost above that of the increased primer cost, and increasing the recoil to solve a “problem” I don’t really have.

I think I’m going to continue using the WSP primers.

** Yes, I know these aren’t reliably making Major Power Factor, I’m increasing the powder charge some based upon this data. This load is just for practice anyway. I have never used them at a match. For USPSA matches I have been using Black Bullets, WSP primers, and ETR7 which has been repeatedly tested to give me a PF of a little over 170 with a SDev of about 9 fps.

Rounds in the last month

In June I reloaded 1947 rounds of 180 grain Black Bullets and 1753 rounds of 180 grain JHP Montana Gold bullets in .40 S&W. This, 3700 rounds, is most I have reloaded in a single month with the exception of when I first started reloading and loaded 10,944 rounds of 9mm in the month of October 1996.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 2,424 rounds.
30.06: 543 rounds.
300 WIN: 1692 rounds.
40 S&W: 70,017 rounds.
9 mm.log: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 96,317 rounds.

So far this year I have reloaded 10,599 rounds. By this time last year I had reloaded 9,094 and ended up the year with a total of 18,265. I only need to reload another 3,683 rounds to reach my goal for this year of 100,000 rounds. I might even reach this goal this month.