November 10th, 2018

The Moly Saga — Why Moly-Coating Has Fallen from Favor

Glen Zediker Molybdenum Moly bullets moly-coated Top Grade Ammo book Handloading Competition

Moly — yay or nay? Moly bullet-coating was all the rage in 1998 yet is all but dead in 2018. Glen Zediker, who has considerable experience with moly, provides some reasons why moly coating has fallen from favor.

The Pros and Cons of Moly Coating for Bullets

by Glen Zediker
In a way, I guess nothing really happened to molybdenum-disulfide-coated bullets (“moly-coated”). They’re still for sale, as are means to make up your own. What I mean is why didn’t they attain the sustained popularity they started with about 20 years ago, back when many forecasted they would virtually replace bare bullets? Here’s my take, from my experience, on “what happened.”

I don’t know any shooter who tried them and wasn’t excited about results. I sure was!

Performance-wise, moly has a lot of benefits. A lot. The first and most: take two bullets, one coated and one bare, put the same load behind them, then shoot and chronograph. The coated bullet goes slower. How is that a help? The reason it goes slower is because moly drops chamber pressure (into and through the bore easier). And! That velocity loss (at least 50 fps, usually more) is not, proportionately, nearly as much as the accompanying drop in pressure (usually ballpark 4000+ psi). (These figures vary with the cartridge, but all show similar universal influence.) So. The moly-load can be increased beyond previous “maximum” velocity: the idea is to take the coated load up to normal chamber pressure. It works! It’s common to need at the least 1+ grain more propellant to level the coated load with the original bare-bullet load.

Other advantages: Most see improved velocity consistency, evidently resulting from the coating alone. The coated bullets seem to have no limit to the number of rounds that can be fired with no change in accuracy or impact location. Of course there is a limit, but I knew many going beyond 500 rounds between cleanings. And when I say “many,” I’m talking about serious competitive shooters. Another benefit is increased barrel life (less rapid throat erosion), and this is, I think, due to a faster-accelerating bullet getting into and through the throat more quickly (less intense flame). Moly bullets also release easier from the case neck (additional “tension” is recommended).

I “switched.” (The motivation to write this came from a weekend shop-cleaning where I restacked many boxes of coated bullets, and wondered if I’d ever shoot them…)

I got more bullet speed and zero loss of zero — big benefits to an NRA High Power Service Rifle shooter. 88 rounds per day, and 80gr bullets through a 20-inch barrel trying their best to get to 600 yards in close proximity of one another.

Glen Zediker Molybdenum Moly bullets moly-coated Top Grade Ammo book Handloading Competition
Here was my solution to cleaning up after moly: Kroil penetrating oil and abrasive-type bore paste. This combination worked, and my zero didn’t change in the process.

Cleaning Barrels Used for Moly-Coated Bullets
What is bad, then, about moly-coated bullets? Moly itself! It coats the bore with a layer of residue. This layer traps moisture and will, not can, corrode the steel underneath it. More: molybdenum disulfide outgases (outgas is the release of an occluded gas vapor that was part of the compound; a state change, pretty much) at lower than firing temperatures. That creates a chemical that, when mixed with water (including post-firing condensation), becomes, pretty much, sulfuric acid. That meant that the whole “zillion rounds between cleanings” didn’t really work. I know many who “lost” barrels, expensive barrels.

If the barrel is cleaned (correctly) after each use, no problems. But then another advantage is lost because starting with a clean barrel it takes quite a few rounds to return to zero. The layer has to be recreated.

The residue is difficult to remove from the bore. It doesn’t respond to routine means for bore maintenance, mostly meaning brush-and-solvent. The only way I found to get it gone was using micro-penetrating oil in conjunction with an abrasive paste-type cleaner, such as USP Bore Paste or JB Bore Compound.

boron nitride moly coating
Hexagonal Boron Nitride (HBN) bullet coating is an alternative that functions, in my experience, well but with fewer drawbacks. First, BN is “clear”, not as messy. Bullet on the left is HBN coated. Still, though, I think that shooting coated bullets is an “all or nothing” proposition. Good groups are not likely to come “mixing” bare and coated bullets through the same barrel.

Using Coated Bullets Requires Commitment
I no longer use coated bullets. There are other coatings that have fewer disadvantages, such as Hexagonal Boron Nitride (doesn’t outgas). Some of the proprietary baked-on coatings a few major makers (such as Barnes and Winchester) use don’t exhibit the post-firing issues that “conventional” moly-coating creates (which usually was moly powder, followed by wax, which added to the tenacity of the residue).

However, another issue is that accuracy tends to suffer running bare bullets though a residue-coated bore (which results after only a few coated rounds, that are coated with anything). All that means, in short, is that running coated bullets is something that really has to be bought into. It’s a commitment, as I see it, and, as with many such things, pushing the limits on performance requires more attention to detail, more effort. It’s a matter of value.

Glen Zediker Molybdenum Moly bullets moly-coated Top Grade Ammo book Handloading Competition

Here’s an easy way to get bullets coated: Lyman’s Super Moly Kit. Just add a tumbler. The two bowls contain the media, moly, and bullets and then go into a vibratory-type tumbler. The 6 ounces worth of moly powder will coat thousands of bullets. It works well.

Deciding Whether to Use Coated Bullets
Weigh the pros and cons. I honestly cannot, and will not, tell anyone not to use coated bullets. Coating can provide a serious performance increase. I don’t use moly-coating anymore, but that’s because my shooting needs are not so “serious” as they once were. I, yes, have gotten a tad amount lazy. I want to go to the range and enjoy my rifles and not lose sleep over the possibility of creeping corrosion if I didn’t clean up. I also want to be able to shoot different loads, including factory ammo, and maintain accuracy.

CONCLUSION: IF you choose moly, take steps to protect the barrel bore against the potential for damage. At the least, run some petroleum-based oil through the bore after shooting if you can’t clean it soon.

See what Midsouth offers HERE.

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

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Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 5 Comments »
September 26th, 2018

Safety Tip for Loading With Coated Bullets

Moly Danzac Bullet Coating Anti-friction HBN

Coating bullets with a friction-reducing compound such as Molybdenum Disulfide (Moly) offers potential benefits, including reduced barrel heat, and being able to shoot longer strings of fire between bore cleanings. One of the effects of reduced friction can be the lessening of internal barrel pressures. This, in turn, means that coated bullets may run slower than naked bullets (with charges held equal). To restore velocities, shooters running coated bullets are inclined to “bump up” the load — but you need to be cautious.

Be Careful When Increasing Loads for Coated Bullets
We caution shooters that when your start out with coated bullets in a “fresh barrel” you should NOT immediately raise the charge weight. It may take a couple dozen coated rounds before the anti-friction coating is distributed through the bore, and you really start to see the reduced pressures. Some guys will automatically add a grain or so to recommended “naked” bullet charge weights when they shoot coated bullets. That’s a risky undertaking.

We recommend that you use “naked” bullet loads for the first dozen coated rounds through a new barrel. Use a chronograph and monitor velocities. It may take up to 30 rounds before you see a reduction in velocity of 30-50 fps that indicates that your anti-friction coating is fully effective.

We have a friend who was recently testing moly-coated 6mm bullets in a 6-6.5×47. Moly had not been used in the barrel before. Our friend had added a grain to his “naked” bullet load, thinking that would compensate for the predicted lower pressures. What he found instead was that his loads were WAY too hot initially. It took 30+ moly-coated rounds through the bore before he saw his velocities drop — a sign that the pressure had lowered due to the moly. For the rounds fired before that point his pressures were too high, and he ended up tossing some expensive Lapua brass into the trash because the primer pockets had expanded excessively.

LESSON: Start low, even with coated bullets. Don’t increase your charge weights (over naked bullet loads) until you have clear evidence of lower pressure and reduced velocity.

Procedure After Barrel Cleaning
If you shoot Moly, and clean the barrel aggressively after a match, you may want to shoot a dozen coated “foulers” before starting your record string. Robert Whitley, who has used Moly in some of his rifles, tells us he liked to have 10-15 coated rounds through the bore before commencing record fire. In a “squeaky-clean” bore, you won’t get the full “benefits” of moly immediately.

To learn more about the properties of dry lubricants for bullets, read our Guide to Coating Bullets. This covers the three most popular bullet coatings: Molybdenum Disulfide (Moly), Tungsten Disulfide (WS2 or ‘Danzac’), and Hexagonal Boron Nitride (HBN). The article discusses the pros and cons of the different bullet coatings and offers step-by-step, illustrated instructions on how to coat your bullets using a tumbler.

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
June 11th, 2016

How Long Will Your Barrel Last? Dan Lilja Offers Some Guidelines

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Barrel-maker Dan Lilja’s website has an excellent FAQ page that contains a wealth of useful information. On the Lilja FAQ Page as you’ll find informed answers to many commonly-asked questions. For example, Dan’s FAQ addresses the question of barrel life. Dan looks at factors that affect barrel longevity, and provides some predictions for barrel life, based on caliber, chambering, and intended use.

Dan cautions that “Predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject — there is not a simple answer. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.” Dan also notes that barrels can wear prematurely from heat: “Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.”

Q. What Barrel Life, in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?

A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers. But again there is not a simple answer. In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life. Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question. But there is also absolute barrel life too. That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild. The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question. To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything. But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important. And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog-size animals, the difference between a .25 MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5 MOA may not be noticeable in the field.

The big enemy to barrel life is heat. A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel. Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too. The throat erosion is accelerated by heat. Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups. A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too. For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.

And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels. This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.

Barrel Life Guidelines by Caliber and Cartridge Type
As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3000-4000 rounds. And varmint-type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.

For medium-size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester, 7×57 and even the 25-06, 2000-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.

Hot .224 caliber-type cartridges will not do as well, and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.

Bigger magnum hunting-type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds. But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won’t do as well, being closer to the 1500-round figure.

These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels. For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.

The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I’m pressed to predict a figure.

The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle (.22 LR) barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.

Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject. You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Benchrest Barrel Life — You May Be Surprised
I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional Aggregates that I’ve fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had thousands of rounds through them. I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.

I fired my smallest 100-yard 5-shot Aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho. It was a .1558″ aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class. And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200-yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time. I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper-foul quite a bit. But accuracy was still good.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

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