Educational Zone #190 – You Can’t Get Past Bad Bullets

I took the lovely wife to the range this morning to do a little experiment with some bullets that were given to me. My friend had gotten a bunch of .45-70, 405 grain bullets really cheap, and gave me a bunch of them.

“Free bullets”! What could be better?

I loaded some up and we headed to the range this morning to see how well they shot.

I brought my Shiloh Sharps Long Range Express to try them out. It is both a beautiful rifle and a tack driver, if I do my part.


The Sharps is a lever action, single shot rifle, very much like the one Quigley Down Under used, except mine is .45-70, and his was .45-110. As much as this one kicks, I can’t imagine that the 110 would be much fun to shoot all day.


Also notice the rear vernier peep sight. It is adjustable for very long ranges and is expensive. I’ve had this rifle for many years, and the rear sight cost around $500 way back then. But you can adjust the sight with precision repeatability.

Mine has some beautiful case hardening on the action.


Here I am on the rifle. Notice how I have learned to keep my right thumb along side the stock and not behind the rear sight. Getting rapped on the thumb a few times by that sight will help you remember to keep your thumb out of the way.


I was shooting at 50 yards today. You can see the dirt exploding behind the target. 500 grain bullets tend to do that.


Mrs. Young Painless caught me in recoil.


I was shooting these two bullets today. The nickel case has the 405 grain free bullets and the brass case has my hand cast 515 grain round nose, with gas check. The primers and powder were comparable. I shot groups of 5 shots.


To shoot this rifle, you first cock the hammer.


Then you lower the lever to lower the gate, and insert a cartridge. Then raise the lever and you are ready to go.


It has a rear trigger that is a “set trigger”. You pull this one first, and it “sets” the front trigger to a very light trigger pull.


(If you remember the movie, Quigley used his set trigger just before shooting and hitting the bucket.)

The front sight has a “spirit level” which helps to keep the shooter from canting the rifle when sighting.


Then you just touch the front trigger and it will fire.


Lowering the lever will eject the empty brass and give a nice plume of smoke.


Well, to make a long story short, here are a couple of representative targets.


Notice the “free bullets” on the left, and 5 shots of my cast bullets on the right.

The bottom line is simple: The most important part of any handload is the bullet. No matter how carefully you load your ammo, if the bullets are “bad”, the round will shoot poorly.

You just can’t get past bad bullets.

3 Comments on Educational Zone #190 – You Can’t Get Past Bad Bullets

  1. Lots of variables here: lead hardness, bullet sizing, lube, etc. Your handcast loads are clearly working for you, but that 405gr bobo might shoot better with further development [load testing, lube change, ???] One thing I’ve read is that for whatever reason, BP tends to be more forgiving of charge variation, but other factors play a bigger part. One of the more interesting books I’ve read wrt to handloading was in developing loads for the old .45-70 Springfield U.S.G. “Trapdoor” rifle: they’re capable of quite extraordinary accuracy _with the right load_ [mimicking the original Frankford Arsenal-developed govt. loads], but pattern like a shotgun with most “BP safe” loads published in modern load books. Lovely pix of your classic “boom-stick!”

  2. Unrelated, but kinda on topic… yes, you are correct! The 110 does kick more than the 70! A while back now i (demo) shot a 45-70 revolver i’d been drooling over at ellwood epps for months and a 45-110 pistol conversion … both kicked but the 110 bruised (noticed next morning) the palm of my hand below my thumb, i had shot both (weak) right handed to allow the clerk to video it, then on his dare i 1handed the 110 with my (strong) left once… in the morning it was modestly bruised.

  3. “Bad Bullets” could be thousands of different thangs. Explain?

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