I just watched the countdown timer cross the 8-week mark. It’s now exactly 2 months to the start of Kentucky’s Modern Weapons Season. I stayed home from the farm overnight. It was going to be hot and muggy and thunderstorms have been moving through since sundown Friday.
I’ve been busy down in the shamanic reloading cave all week, replenishing the larder.
25-06: 117 gr Hornady SPBT over H4831sc
30-06: Lots of 150 and 165 grainers over H4895.
30-30: 170-grain cast lead over H4895 — more green powder coated stuff
308 Win: 165 Grain Hornady SPBT over H4895
357 Mag: 125-grain cast lead over Universal. This has become my standard carry load at the farm.
Generally speaking, I load up a year or two’s worth as needed. This year I had more time to take on a few extra projects.
Grafs was selling 100 grain Prvi Partisan bullets on the cheap, and I picked up a batch. O.T. had told me his Mauser shot 100’s and 120’s about the same. I tried the 100-grain bullets and O.T.’s Mauser just didn’t like them at all. I switched back to the 117’s. This is the third year I have had my buddy’s old deer rifle out. Poor O.T. died over last winter. Whenever I have that rifle in my hands I miss the old coot.
A lot of folks wonder why I use H4895 in all my 30-06 loads. H4350 is the traditional favorite for 165-grain loads. 150 grain is the preferable deer bullet. To tell you the truth, I was scratching my head on that one over the summer. It’s been 16 years since I started reloading and this 165 grain/’4895 load was the first rifle load I ever cooked up. The only real change over the years is that I swapped H4895 for IMR4895 about 5 years in and never changed back.
You can call it inertia. You can say I’m stuck in a rut. The other way of looking at it is why muck with something that works? Back then, I wanted a load that would work well in my M1 Garand, a Remington 742 and a Model 70. I was being conservative, and when my starting load gave me the best accuracy out of my rifles that I ever had, I stopped right there and left it at that. The bonus was that using an off-MAX load of H4895 reduced recoil significantly.
In those days, I had never taken a shot at a deer past 50 yards. I was usually hunting out of the same stands that I used for bow hunting. Today, I’ve stretched that out to about 175 yards, but the point is deer are not that hard to kill and it makes no sense to punish my shoulder unnecessarily. I have never needed a premium bullet, and I have never seen this combination fail to drop a deer quickly.
I used ‘4895 originally so that it would be gentle on the op-rod of my new M1 Garand. My M1 Garand did duty for several years as #2 son’s designated Yute Rifle. I brought the M1 Garand out this summer to re-evaluate it as a deer rifle. The answer is that it does a great job, but I have no great burning desire to schlep a 10 lb rifle around. The en-blocs are a relative pain as well. I keep 5-rounders around for hunting, but unloading still means loose rounds flying about. As a reloader, I have come to favor rifles that do not throw brass. If you really want to know, the Ruger Hawkeye has spoiled me.
I keep trying to push my lead casting projects forward. This was my first 30-cal project. I tried a powder-coated Lee 309-170-FN GC with both H4895 as a potential deer load and Universal for plinking. Both work. The deer loads show reasonable 100 yards accuracy that I would consider carrying this load afield this year. However, I’m currently deviled with uneven coatings of the powder coat paint. In my other loads, an uneven spread of paint on the bullet does nothing. It all evens out in the sizing process. However, the Marlin 336 has a tighter chamber and geometry of the Lee bullet is such that I have a situation where half the rounds either engage the rifling and engrave the bullet or I can’t close the lever at all. I may just ditch the cast-lead-for-deer project and use the 170-grain bullets in the cat-sneeze loads. They are wickedly fun.
Nothing new here. The 165 grain Hornady SPBT’s from my 30-06 loads were the most accurate. I had trouble finding Varget a few years ago and went to H4895 as a backup. I’ve found Varget again, but I’m letting it ride for another year. My Savage 99 will still be with me in the stand on The Opener.
With all the trouble we have had with coyotes the past few years, I have decreed that folks should always be armed when leaving the curtilage. I’m not worried that anyone is going to get eaten by the ‘Yotes, but they are getting increasingly brazen. Angus went out for a hike at sundown a couple of years ago and got stalked. A neighbor got clipped coming across his yard.
Pursuant to all this, I loaded up another batch of 357 Magnum using the Lee 358-125-FN tumble-lubed and mounted over a light load of Universal. It fits all of our Conceal Carry pistols, the Marlin 1894 lever, and the Ruger Blackhawk I carry on my hip. If it came down to it, I’d honestly prefer my stout hiking staff. Yotes are not pack hunters, but the feral dogs are. However, this is not a defensive measure. The point is that anytime we have the opportunity to pick off one of these pests, I want folks to be prepared.
For deer, I have successfully tested the Marlin 1894 with a powder-coated Lee 309-158-FN gas checked bullet over a load of H110. This is as stout a 357 Mag load as I care to carry. I tried it once with the Ruger Blackhawk, and the pistol nearly came out of my hand. Out of the lever, I will not say it comes close to a 30-30, but inside 50 yards, I can see it taking a deer.
I was not happy with the accuracy of the rifle with the standard factory sights, so I added a Williams peep sight. It took changing out the front sight as well, and I had to contact Williams to find the right one. However, the 1894 is able to print this load through the same hole offhand at 25 yards. I’m not going out of my way to hunt with it, but . . ."Eight weeks and Counting",