September 12th, 2015

Handloading Safety Tip — Bullet Bearing Surface and Pressure

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This week’s “Handloading Hump Day” post covers an important safety issue — why you should never assume that a stated “book” load for a particular bullet will be safe with an equal-weight bullet of different shape/design. The shape and bearing surface of the bullet will affect the pressure generated inside the barrel. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.

Beginning Handloading, Part 13:
Extrapolating Beyond Your Data, or … “I Don’t Know, What I Don’t Know!”

Last week, we addressed several key facets of Service Rifle reloading. Today, we continue our Handloading Safety theme, focusing on not inadvertently exceeding the boundaries of known, safe data. Bullet manufacturers’ loading manuals often display three, four, or more similar-weight bullets grouped together with one set of load recipes. The manufacturer has tested these bullets and developed safe data for that group. However, seeing data in this format can tempt loaders — especially new ones — to think that ALL bullets of a given weight and caliber can interchangeably use the same load data. Actually, not so much.

The researchers ensure their data is safe with the bullet yielding the highest pressure. Thus, all others in that group should produce equal or less pressure, and they are safe using this data.

However, bullet designs include many variables such as different bearing surface lengths, hardness, and even slight variations in diameter. These can occasionally range up to 0.001” by design. Thus, choosing untested bullets of the same weight and caliber, and using them with data not developed for them can yield excess pressures.

This is only one of the countless reasons not to begin at or very near the highest pressure loads during load development. Always begin at the starting load and look for pressure signs as one increases powder charges.

Bullet bearing surface length (BSL) is often overlooked when considering maximum safe powder charges and pressures. In photo 1 (below), note the differences in the bullets’ appearance. All three are 7mm, and their maximum weight difference is just five grains. Yet, the traditional round nose, flat base design on the left appears to have much more BSL than the sleeker match bullets. All things being equal, based on appearance, the RN/FB bullet seems likely to reach maximum pressure with significantly less powder than the other two designs.

Photo 1: Three Near-Equal-Weight 7mm Bullets with Different Shapes
USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparision Safety Reloading

Due to time constraints, the writer used an approximate, direct measurement approach to assess the bullets’ different BSLs. While fairly repeatable, the results were far from ballistics engineer-grade. Still, they are adequate for this example.

Bullet 1 (L-R), the RN/FB, has a very slight taper and only reaches its full diameter (0.284”) very near the cannelure. This taper is often seen on similar bullets — it helps reduce pressures with good accuracy. The calculated BSL of Bullet 1 was ~0.324”. The BSL of Bullet 2, in the center, was ~0.430”, and Bullet 3’s was ~ 0.463”. Obviously, bullets can be visually deceiving as to BSL!

Some might be tempted to use a bullet ogive comparator (or two) to measure bullets’ true BSL for comparison’s sake. Unfortunately, comparators don’t typically measure maximum bullet diameter and this approach can be deceiving.

Photo 2: The Perils of Measuring Bearing Surface Length with Comparators
USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparision Safety Reloading

In Photo 2, two 7mm comparators have been installed on a dial caliper in an attempt to measure BSL. Using this approach, the BSLs differed sharply from the original [measurements]. The comparator-measured Bullet 1 BSL was 0.694” vs. 0.324” (original), Bullet 2 was 0.601” (comparator) vs. 0.430” (original), and Bullet 3 (shown in Photo 2) was 0.602” (comparator) vs. 0.463” (original). [Editor’s comment — Note the very large difference for Bullet 1, masking the fact that the true full diameter on this bullet starts very far back.]

Please join us again next week as we examine other lesser-discussed variables that affect pressure and velocity during handload development. In the meantime, stay safe, and favor center!

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September 12th, 2015

Coefficient Conundrum: G1 vs. G7, Which BC Should You Use

The better, up-to-date ballistics programs let you select either G1 or G7 Ballistic Coefficient (BC) values when calculating a trajectory. The ballistic coefficient (BC) of a body is a measure of its ability to overcome air resistance in flight. You’ve probably seen that G7 values are numerically lower than G1 values for the same bullet (typically). But that doesn’t mean you should select a G1 value simply because it is higher.

Some readers are not quite sure about the difference between G1 and G7 models. One forum member wrote us: “I went on the JBM Ballistics website to use the web-based Trajectory Calculator and when I got to the part that gives you a choice to choose between G1 and G7 BC, I was stumped. What determines how, or which one to use?”

The simple answer to that is the G1 value normally works better for shorter flat-based bullets, while the G7 value should work better for longer, boat-tailed bullets.

G1 vs. G7 Ballistic Coefficients — Which Is Right for You?
G1 and G7 refer both refer to aerodynamic drag models based on particular “standard projectile” shapes. The G1 shape looks like a flat-based bullet. The G7 shape is quite different, and better approximates the geometry of a modern long-range bullet. So, when choosing your drag model, G1 is preferrable for flat-based bullets, while G7 is ordinarily a “better fit” for longer, boat-tailed bullets.

G1 G7 Ballistic coefficients

Drag Models — G7 is better than G1 for Long-Range Bullets
Many ballistics programs still offer only the default G1 drag model. Bryan Litz, author of Applied Ballistics for Long Range Shooting, believes the G7 standard is preferrable for long-range, low-drag bullets: “Part of the reason there is so much ‘slop’ in advertised BCs is because they’re referenced to the G1 standard which is very speed sensitive. The G7 standard is more appropriate for long range bullets. Here’s the results of my testing on two low-drag, long-range boat-tail bullets, so you can see how the G1 and G7 Ballistic coefficients compare:

G1 BCs, averaged between 1500 fps and 3000 fps:
Berger 180 VLD: 0.659 lb/in²
JLK 180: 0.645 lb/in²

The reason the BC for the JLK is less is mostly because the meplat was significantly larger on the particular lot that I tested (0.075″ vs 0.059″; see attached drawings).

For bullets like these, it’s much better to use the G7 standard. The following BCs are referenced to the G7 standard, and are constant for all speeds.

G7 BCs:
Berger 180 VLD: 0.337 lb/in²
JLK 180: 0.330 lb/in²

Many modern ballistics programs, including the free online JBM Ballistics Program, are able to use BCs referenced to G7 standards. When available, these BCs are more appropriate for long range bullets, according to Bryan.

[Editor’s NOTE: BCs are normally reported simply as an 0.XXX number. The lb/in² tag applies to all BCs, but is commonly left off for simplicity.]

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo 3 Comments »
September 12th, 2015

Nice Suhl 150-1 Rimfire BR Rig with Home-Built Stock

Suhl 150 IR 50/50 cedar stock

Forum member Evan K. (aka “Katokoch”) has crafted a nice rimfire benchrest rig using a Suhl action fitted into a handsome home-built cedar and carbon fiber stock. This shows what a skilled hobbyist wood-worker can create in his garage. Evan tells us: “Here is my Suhl 150-1 with a factory 1:19″ twist barrel, Leupold 36X scope, Harrell tuner, and my handmade cedar/carbon fiber stock. I started working on the laminate blank a couple years ago and finally finished it earlier this year. I’ve been using it in my IR 50/50 matches this summer. I haven’t shot a 250 with it yet but I know the rifle is very capable — as usual, I am the weak link!”

Suhl 150 IR 50/50 cedar stock

We think Evan did a great job on his stock, though he has limited stock-building experience. Evan explained: “The stock is my first attempt at making a very lightweight laminate and also gluing both vertical and horizontal seams in a blank. The wood is Spanish and Red Cedar and I made the trigger guard and buttplate with carbon fiber too (great use for small scrap pieces). The finish is hand-rubbed spar urethane and the action is semi-glued-in with Devcon 10110 and stainless pillars.”

Suhl 150 IR 50/50 cedar stock

USRA-IR50/50 is a popular .22 rimfire benchrest discipline with three (3) classes: 13.5 lb., 10.5 lb., and 7.5 lb. (Sporter). The matches are shot at 50 yards and 50 meters.

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