Reduced Loads for Rifles, Part Two
Last time we looked at some of the reasons you might want to reduce the loads in your rifle. This time we’ll take a look at several methods for creating these reduced loads. First, however, the usual warnings and disclaimers: USE CAUTION!! I will NOT be giving specific load data here! I have no control over your experience or reloading skills/procedures. I take NO RESPONSIBILITY or LIABILITY for damage to yourself or your firearm! This is meant for informational/entertainment purposes. Period.
Now that we have that out of the way, there are two general ways to reduce recoil and/or velocity in rifle loads. The first is pretty obvious - reduce the powder charge. Sounds simple, right? Even a history teacher can do it. Well….. It ain’t that easy, folks. Some powders can, and do, spike pressures when reduced below a certain point. That spike can cause really bad things to happen. To reduce the charge safely, you must use a powder that will work well in reduced loads. Fortunately, there are a minimum of three that seem to work well AND have plenty of reliable data available in both manuals and on manufacturer's websites.
One of the oldest and most used for turning your elephant rifle into a mouse gun is H4895, from Hodgdon. I’m not going into detail, since you can find Hodgdon’s excellent directions for using this powder for reduced loads (called “youth loads”) here. Another old favorite is Unique, today made by Alliant Corp. This is my “go to” powder for .30-30 cast bullet loads. Two excellent sources of data for this powder are Lyman’s Reloading Manual 50th Edition (49th is also good) and the Alliant Reloading Data site, located here. The third choice is a newer powder called Trial Boss, made by IMR/Hodgdon. This is a fast burning pistol powder that is “fluffy.”
It takes up more space than most powders and has special properties that allow it to be used in most rifle cartridges. An excellent source of information and beginner data can be found here. There are many other powders that can be used successfully and safely, but this will get you started.
The second method of reducing loads, usually used in tandem with reduced powder charges, is to reduce the bullet weight. Cast bullets really shine here, since they are less expensive than jacketed, create less wear on your barrel, and work very well on all kinds of game. Pushing a 125 grain .310 cast bullet through a .30-06 at .30-30 velocities will obviously create less recoil AND burn less powder than the 165 grain at .-06 velocities. Burning less powder means more shots per dollar spent. In my .223, my favorite 55 grain bullet likes 24.5 grains of my favorite rifle powder. The Lee .225 Bator cast bullets also weigh .55 grains, but work best with just 7 grains of my favorite pistol powder, while still producing .22 WMR velocities. You figure the savings in powder alone!
One final word of caution. Reloading/handloading can be fun IF done safely. NEVER use data from anything but a reliable manual OR a manufacturer's website. NEVER substitue one one powder for something “close.” Under no circumstances exceed Maximum load data listed in the manuals. Play safe and have fun.