Bullet ideas and a Land Deal

by Tom Kelley

As a Henry shooter, I have always wanted a longer bullet for my Henry work at 100 yards. Although I am satisfied with my 50-yard load, that load does not hold up in the Shenandoah wind at the longer distance. I had looked into getting a couple of different molds, however, I have not been casting much lately and what I really wanted was a big, long range Henry bullet that I could procure rather than produce.

Oregon Trail Bullets has come to my rescue with a hard cast 300-grain .452 bullet. The bullet is designed with plenty of purchase for the grooves and lands of the Henry barrel. And, it has a bevel base for easy loading in the 45 Colt case. The extra length, compared to a 250-grain round Nose Flat Point, is what I was seeking for more accuracy farther from the line, and this bullet has delivered in the early testing. With that much surface grabbing the grooves, I get a lot more accuracy. The longer bullet means I don't have to worry about filler, too. As a matter of fact, it is all I can do to get 28 grains of FFF under the 300-grain behemoth and catch the top crimp groove in the 45 Colt case. Please note that the top crimp groove must be used in loading for the Henry due to overall length restrictions caused by the Henry's design.

That load -- 28 grains of FFF, a WonderWad (tm) and the 300-grain Oregon Trail .452 bullet - has really improved my offhand work at 100 yards. I went from not being able to get 10 rounds on the target with the 250 grain load to catching a nice 7-inch group centered in the 7 ring at about 8 o'clock. Now, that doesn't seem like much, and it might not be a medal wining group, but, it is about a 200% improvement in score, and I'm hitting the paper now on a regular basis. And, this is offhand work. I am sure that as my confidence level improves in this load, I'll stop chasing misses and tighten that up a little more.

I think the 300-grain bullet is just the ticket for 100 yard work with a Henry. If you shoot 45 Colt in your Henry, and you're looking for an improvement at 100 yards, you might want to try a box of these bullets. The 300-grain bullet comes in both .452 and .454 sizes. Contact Oregon Trail Bullet Company, P.O. Box 529, Baker City, OR 97814-0529. Orders can be placed at 1-800-811-0548 or click here.

Another bullet idea I've been developing this Spring is a longer bullet for the .44 revolver. I have never been really satisfied with the small amount of purchase that a round ball gets on the lands and grooves of a Remington or Rogers and Spencer. One problem, though, has been that most .452 bullets for 45 Auto and 45 Colt are too tall to load with the small cutaway in both pistols. Here again, I thought that a longer bullet would engage the barrel rifling more and result in more consistent accuracy - and, hopefully, smaller groups.

I knew that I wanted to keep my load for the 44's at about 18 grains, so I started out looking for a bullet in the 180 grain neighborhood, figuring I would start with the 1:10 rule and see what developed from there. It just so happens that a .490 round ball is 177 grains, so my next step was to see if I could resize the .490 down to .452 or so. And, I was able to accomplish the resizing in one step using a Lee .452-resizing Die in my single stage reloading press. I roll the ball around on a cloth lubricate with Ballistol(tm) and then run it through the resizing die. It takes a little effort for such a big change in one operation, but the lube helps the die do its job.

The result, as shown in the picture, is a revolver bullet that only weighs 33 grains more than a round ball, yet provides more than 5 times the surface area to interact with the bore. The bullets are fairly easy to load as well. I load my cylinders outside of the frame of the revolver in a loading stand, but I did try the bullet in a regular revolver stand with the cylinder in the frame and was able to accomplish loading the pistol that way as well.

My load was 18 grains of FFF Goex under a grease cookie about 1/8" thick, then .5 cc of Cream of Wheat and the bullet loaded flat surface UP. A grease cookie is a piece of lube that has been cut from a sheet of hardened lube and fits in the cylinder. I make mine out of 50% paraffin and 50% Len's Lube, and cut them out of the sheet with a 45 Colt case with the primer drilled out and an 8-penny nail in the hole for a plunger. Using the grease cookie eliminated the need for sloppy lubing on top the load that blows all over the place on ignition.

Using the round portion of the projectile for the loading end helps to center the bullet in the cylinder and facilitates quicker loading. My test found no appreciable difference in loading one end first over the other, but I was easier to load the round end first. The Remington did much better with this load than any round ball load I ever tried. Offhand, it printed a 10 shot group about 7 inches wide and 3 inches high. The bullet was a very good fit in the Remington, with a fine ring of lead shaved off during the bullet seating. Oddly enough, velocity was quite similar to with the 144 grain round ball in the Model 1858 revolver, averaging about 600 fps.

I was not as impressed with the Rogers and Spencer trial, however, a recent reevaluation shows that perhaps a .454 bullet would work better in the R&S. I noticed no shaving during the loading and seating process, which causes me to think that the bullet may not quite fit the lands and grooves as tightly as in the Remington, particularly since I always used .457 balls in the R&S. I will procure a .454 sizer and test this theory soon, however, I am impressed enough with the Remington results to make that my number one revolver for now anyway. Rogers and Spencer owners can try the bullet that they best fits their bore.

I received word of another land deal at Fort Shenandoah as we went to press this month. There is a property available behind the Artillery backstop, and the Commander has notified all the units that he thinks our getting our hands on it is the proper step to take at this time. There will be some talk about perhaps placing covenants on the property and then selling it to members for development, but the process seems to be beginning with notice to all the units, and I admire the openness demonstrated by this first step. Talk to your unit Commanders and let your desires be known.

I notice that the 140th series of reenactments is upon us this year starting with First Bull Run in August. As the Skirmishing season blossoms like apple trees in the Shenandoah Valley, shoot safe, have fun and promote responsible gun ownership.

2001 by Tom Kelley

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