Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Few More Questions to Cal

Dear Cal:
You have been kind enough to help me for reloading my .470 NE. I hope you don't mind if I ask you another question (I do enjoy reading your articles in the African Hunter.)

I have attached a picture of a .470 NE lead cast bullet with 4 wax gas checks.  Do you use bullets with gas checks in your doubles?  I am shooting a Chapius.  Will gas checks, and in particular several gas checks, result in excessive pressure?
Roger F.

It is always good to hear from you.
The gas checks your refer to are lube grooves. Correctly, you have filled them with wax to help the bullets pass through the bore and leaving as little lead as possible in the bore. They will not have any affect of pressure and I use them on all of my cast bullets.

A gas check is a metal cup that is pressed on the bullet’s base to keep the lead from melting with the hot burning gas from the gunpowder. This will cause lead deposits in the bore. You have a plain-base bullet for your .470 therefore a gas check can’t be fitted.
Good shooting,

Dear Cal:
What is an acceptable deviation between the regulated bullet weight and a different bullet weight of choice?
J.D. E.

There is no “set in stone” deviation for double rifle bullet weight and regulation. Some doubles will only shoot one weight to one velocity and that is that. Others will shoot a large variety of bullets styles, weights, and velocities and group fairly well. It does seem the larger the bore size the more forgiving the rifle is as to changes from the regulated load. Shooters are finding that many lighter bullets will regulate with the “75% rule.” This can be a bullet weight of 75% and a full charge of powder or a 75% powder charge and a full bullet weight. I’ve seen both shoot well and others not shoot accurately at all.

With the newfound popularity of double rifles, shooters are experimenting more and finding more things what will work.

Good shooting,

Dear Cal:
What is your opinion on the best caliber for elephant and buffalo in double
rifles?  It seems the .450 calibers with their 480- to 500-grain bullets are very
close in performance.  The .500 NE with its 570 grain bullets seems a step up, but
in performance but I don't know.  Your thoughts, please.
Tom V.

You are right--there is little to choose between any of the offerings between .450 and .476. If the British bureaucrats did not outlaw the .450 caliber in India and the Sudan in the early years of the last century the big-game hunting world would had been content with the three .450s: the .450 3 1/4, the .500-450, and the .450 no2.
The .500 is indeed a step up but only by approximately 10%--not that much.

As to my opinion as to the best is this: any caliber over .400 that the shooter can shoot well and not be afraid of the recoil. With the correct bullets, all will drop any elephant or buffalo, with correct placement, of course. Choice of rifles is also to be considered--bolt or double--and that may determine what cartridge one uses.

Good shooting,

Dear Cal:
I am starting the loading project with the Holland and Holland .500 3 1/4 BPE I showed you. I have read Graeme Wright's 3rd edition for insight,  and am about to slug the bore to assess for taper and check the neck dimension.  HDS is selling a Woodleigh 440-grain jacketed bullet of .510”, but I'm not sure this is intended for the Holland bore, since the original bullets were lead grooved and lubed, not paper patched.  I would assume that this is a thinly jacketed bullet that is intended to resist the problems with black powder fowling, however, if the H&H bore is .500 to .502”, I'm not sure I could use these due to limited chamber diameter at the neck and potentially pressure problems.  I'm inclined to start with a soft lubed bullet first, sized to the bore and see what it does.  If you have any insights, I would appreciate any help.
Dave P.

Good to hear from you. Why don’t you come up this weekend and reload and shoot a bit?

The Woodleighs may be too hard for an old black powder steel--especially so if that is all you shoot. Your rifle was made for lead, so I feel it is best to stick with lead. Also, the tapered bore of your rifle may be too small for a standard diameter bullet--most so at the small end of the taper.

The tapered bore you write of must have been a headache to produce. The fine rifling--only .001-.002” deep will, indeed, prevent not only much black powder residue but also lead deposits. First of all, I would use a soft lead bullet--much as muzzle loaders use--so the bullet will bump-up to fill the bore. Then, I would size the bullet to the largest diameter of the bore. Size and trim the brass and use a powder charge to approximate the original load--let’s say 130-135 grains of FFg GOEX. Place a wax wad between the powder and the bullet. I doubt you will need a spacer wad. The bullet should weigh in the neighborhood of 440 grains.

Good shooting and let me know how how the accuracy is!

Dear Cal:
I have question regarding the impact points for a double rifle; if a double rifle is regulated at 50 Yards, does this mean (assuming perfect conditions in all respects) that both barrels are shooting to exactly the same spot over 50 yards and then at 100 yards the two bullet holes (one from each barrel) should have a distance between them which is equal to the distance between the two barrels with another doubling at 150 yards and so on?

The question is prompted by my having fitted a telescope (Swarovski 1 - 1.5) to my Krieghoff .375 H&H mag. The gun is regulated at 50 yards for Norma 350gr ammo.

Chuck in SA

Good question, a bit complex for my knowledge, but I will give it a go.

A double shoots to a point of regulation due to convergence of the barrels. This convergence is combined with a constant velocity and bullet weight. Things can change and keep accuracy but it is best to keep with what the rifle was regulated for.

Because the right barrel moves up, back, and to the right upon ignition and the left barrel moves up, back, and to the left the bullets will print at the regulated velocity. Move the target farther out and the bullets may cross. They will also cross at the regulated distance if the velocity is increased. Move the distance closer than the regulated distance and the bullets may print apart. Remember, as he bullet is moving down the bore the barrel is moving to the (right or left).

When you change the characteristics of the rifle, including adding weight to the rifle such as a scope, the recoil characteristics will change as so will the bullet’s path. When I had a scope added to my .450-400 to aid my old eyes I had a gunsmith find a midpoint regulation for both scope and open sights--but regulating for either would have seen a tighter group. If I had to do it all over again, I would keep a fine regulation with open sights and sight in the scope for one barrel only (I fire the left barrel first) to pinpoint accuracy to 200 yards. I don’t think there is a mathematical formula for this. If there was, then fine doubles would be regulated by machine rather than by hand.

I hope this helps.
Good shooting,

Dear Cal:
I am waiting for Butch Searcy to give me a bit of feedback with regard
to the double rifle he agreed to make in trade for my Harley.
I elected to request the 470 NE, but must admit that since I received a
couple of sample bullets, that caliber may be over the top for me. I am
already having second thoughts that the 450-400-3" may have been a
better choice, since I am not likely to ever get to  Africa to hunt
dangerous game.

I am lacking a bit more information and think your expertise would help.

As I look at the myriad of double rifles that come up for sale, I am
unable to discern whether the rifles command greater prices when
accompanied by a custom case. Can you comment on this. (i.e. Do you
recognize a substantial benefit in value and desirability related to
resale when a custom case accompanies a DR.) I ask this because Mr.
Searcy offers a custom case for $1500. Believe me when I say that a case
in that price range exceeds the value of most other rifles I own, even
some of my pre-64 Winchesters, and as such I don't want to make a
foolish purchase. If a Searcy custom case will add somewhere in the
neighborhood of $1000 of after market value should I elect to sell the
rifle, I think I would make the investment.
Any thoughts?
Bob N.

As a Harley (one of my unrealized dreams) man you will understand my reply.

You will add all the accessories to a Harley to make it truly yours--chrome, saddle bags, etc. You will never get your money out of all the add-ons when you sell it.

The same is true with a double rifle case. They go with the rifle when it is sold. I have never seen a rifle priced to sell with a second price for the case. This is true for new doubles as well as vintage rifles and shotguns.

While the caliber may be a bit too much if you are not hunting elephant or buffalo the rifle will be worth more upon resale than a smaller caliber.

I don't know what a custom case is in this situation. A good English style oak and leather case has value. Huey makes them and will cost up to 4,000$ with accessories and tools added and fitted. If the custom case is a plastic or aluminum case and made to fit a wide spectrum of guns, I'd pass. But, no matter what you do, think of the Harley accessories thought above.


Cal :
What can you tell me about the 500 nitro? What kind of range does it have and can it be hand loaded? Im thinking of getting one to go to Africa to hunt with. Is it a good round for dangerous game?
Alex D. USA

Thanks for your email.
The .500 is an outstanding African cartridge--far less recoil than the .577 or .600 and more punch than the .450-class of cartridges. That being said, I do feel the .500 has been a bit overstated in literature.

The .500 is about 10% more in muzzle energy, recoil is 15-20% more, and rifles are much more expensive (for vintage English doubles) than in the .450-.470 class or cartridges.

Hand loading is no problem but you must keep to safe pressures and to also to obtain the correct regulation of the bullets. Brass and bullets are obtainable at Huntingtons and the dies and shell holders from both Huntingtons and CH Tool.

The range of most doubles is 100 yards (approximately) but many shoot accurately much farther than that. Dangerous game is usually shot at much less than 100 yards, however.

Are you looking at a modern production rifle or an older one? If you get  a single shot you can play with the velocity and bullet weight much more than with a double.

I hope this helps and good shooting.