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  #1  
Old 06-22-2008, 09:24 AM
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Loading the 223 Remington - powder choices


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There seems to be a lot of banter on multiple forums related to the suitability of Varget powder for the 223. There are as many powder recommendations as there are posters and not a lot of common opinion.

Varget has been an accurate powder in my 223 using 55 grain Nolser Ballistic Tip bullets but I don't have a chrony so I don't know if I'm getting respectable velocity or not. I didn't have any success with Win 748 no matter what I did but some claim that is "THE" powder for the 223. BL-C(2) seems to get good accuracy reviews and, like Win 748, it is a ball powder. Others say H335 is the only powder choice for the 223. Looking at the burn rates published by Hodgdon they rank H335, H4895, Varget, and BL-C(2) in respective order fastest to slowest.

The misgivings about Varget is it is too slow and you have to use a heavily compressed load to get to the maximum published velocities. I have a pound of H4895 that I might try with the 223. Anyone ever use H4895 with a 223? How did it work?
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Old 06-22-2008, 10:55 AM
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I was just looking in my new Lee manual and it's listed for 40 thru 89 grain bullets in the 223. 4895 shows just a little slower than Varget does for 55 grainers.
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Old 06-22-2008, 12:35 PM
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Thanks Bob, that's what the Hodgdon manual shows too.

I loaded up 20 rounds with 4895 and took them to the range. I used Hornady 55 grain V-max and Nosler 55 grain Ballistic tips (10 each). I shot four 5-shot groups at 100 yards. The V-max grouped at about an inch. The Ballistic Tips had two groups of one ragged hole with the exception of one shot I pulled. I knew it was a bad hold when it went off, but it was only 3/4 inch up from the cluster.
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Old 06-22-2008, 12:43 PM
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None of those powders you mention is really a winner for the bullet weight you are working with. They are best with 65 grain bullets and up, IME. Varget is then OK, when it has that heavier inertial reaction force to build pressure against, but it does not seem to exhibit the temperature immunity in the .223 that it does in the .308 and .30-06, where it really can shine.

In .223, with bullets 55 grains and down, Reloader 10X or IMR4198 or H4198 do better. Compared to the powders you mentioned, which have trouble getting above 25% ballistic efficiency, RL10X and the 4198's will get you to Hatcher's ideal 30% with the case about 95% full. If you really want to shoot the ball powders in there, I have used AA 1680 with reasonable success with the 53 grain flat base SMK's. IMR 4198 still beats it on accuracy and loading density and velocity and ballistic efficiency, though. I think that is why Stoner designed the M16/AR action to work with 4198.

Deburring the flashholes of your cases seems to matter to the ball powders and cuts their group size, but the stick powders don't seem to care in the .223.
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  #5  
Old 06-22-2008, 02:24 PM
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I've kept pretty good records over the years shooting my Ruger M77 MkII V/T stainless with a 24" bbl.

Using WW-748, VVN132, H322, H335 and Varget, mag primers, standard and benchrest, various makes of brass and various brand of bullets from 45 gr to 60 gr, I've finally settled on a load of 27.0 gr Varget under a Speer flat base 52 gr HP, using a BR4 primer and W-W or Federal cases. Summer or winter, it chronos at approx 3300 fps. Easy on cases and bore, groups run from .280" to .690", depending on how I'm shooting that day.

Other powders not tried may produce better, but I'm satisfied with what I have.
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  #6  
Old 06-22-2008, 02:56 PM
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kdub:
I have found the same results as you with Varget powder.
I worked on a 22-250 for 14 months trying to get ultra tight grouping. Used every powder listing in the books. Tried Varget with 52 gr. Sierra HPBR. A small amount of adjustment, bullet seating depth etc. and came up with close to one hole groups in every attempt. Have used Varget in .223 and .243 with excellent to outstanding performance...I have been doing this for over 50 years and learn more every day!!
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  #7  
Old 06-22-2008, 03:27 PM
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Wink A Reloading Manual for YOUR Rifle

Quote:
Originally Posted by flashhole View Post
There seems to be a lot of banter on multiple forums related to the suitability of Varget powder for the 223. There are as many powder recommendations as there are posters and not a lot of common opinion.

Varget has been an accurate powder in my 223 using 55 grain Nolser Ballistic Tip bullets but I don't have a chrony so I don't know if I'm getting respectable velocity or not.
My vote is what works well for your rifle is, well, what works well for YOUR Rifle. None of the other reloaders use your weapon or let you pull the trigger over your "set up" -- sand bag, with your sights, etc. Get my drift?

The new Speer Reloading Manual #14 shows Varget pushing bullets out to 3200 fps and change. I'd suspect you are getting close to 3000 +/- within "respectable". Not sure the varmint will notice the variance.

It also shows the H4895 running just being the Varget for speed.

Anyway, my only point is if it works for you in your rifle, you establish the norm for your rifle and forget the variance noted by other posters.

There are so many variants on the .233 we should expect as many variations on loading results!

I wouldn't have it any other way, because if everyone actually agreed that one load with the same bullet and powder were the best in every rifle, that would change the world of re-loading as we know it -- every rifle is (like a woman) a bit different and no two like it the same way.
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  #8  
Old 06-22-2008, 03:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flashhole View Post
Thanks Bob, that's what the Hodgdon manual shows too.

I loaded up 20 rounds with 4895 and took them to the range. I used Hornady 55 grain V-max and Nosler 55 grain Ballistic tips (10 each). I shot four 5-shot groups at 100 yards. The V-max grouped at about an inch. The Ballistic Tips had two groups of one ragged hole with the exception of one shot I pulled. I knew it was a bad hold when it went off, but it was only 3/4 inch up from the cluster.
My varmint load for the Model 12 Savage is 25 grains of H4895 under a 55 Vmax. Always shoots under .500 groups @ 100 and minute of PD @ 400.
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  #9  
Old 06-22-2008, 05:17 PM
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It's been a number of years since I've fooled with a 223, been shooting the 22-250 and the 243 up til a couple of years ago. When I bought into the 204 I got some loads from the 204 forum using Alliant 10X and it has proven very accurate in the 204 but I'm pushing 32 and 40 grain bullets out of the 222 mag size case.

Flash I'm not going to show you the target, you keep kidding me about not being able to hit that buffalo on that nickel. If your getting good groups I'd stick with what your shooting.
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  #10  
Old 06-22-2008, 07:27 PM
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Ive shot 223 for years and only a feqw years ago started loading for it. My first powder was AA2230, which as the name implies, is designed for the 223. Then I switched to AA2460 and havent looked back for loading the smaller pills, 35 to 55gr. For the 75gr BTHP, Varget is the choice. I load 28.5gr of 2460 under a 40gr V-Max. This is over max and was worked up CAREFULLY! It seems the more powder i push, the better it shoots. My Savage Mdl 12 commonly shoots 3/8 to 1/2" as long as i do my part. Hope this helps, Joe
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  #11  
Old 06-23-2008, 05:22 AM
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A couple powders not yet mentioned are also excellent: Benchmark and Ramshot TAC. TAC is a spherical and benchrest is a very small extruded grain. Both measure very well, shoot very clean and are billed as temp insensitive.

I strongly agree that Varget is less than stellar in the 223 until bullet weight gets above 55 grains.
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Last edited by Rocky Raab; 06-23-2008 at 05:22 AM. Reason: typo
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  #12  
Old 06-23-2008, 06:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kdub View Post
I've kept pretty good records over the years shooting my Ruger M77 MkII V/T stainless with a 24" bbl. . .

. . .I've finally settled on a load of 27.0 gr Varget under a Speer flat base 52 gr HP, using a BR4 primer and W-W or Federal cases. Summer or winter, it chronos at approx 3300 fps. . .
Kdub,

Thanks for putting your barrel length in. I neglected to mention that my experience with Varget in .223 is in the 20" AR barrel, which is both shorter and has a gas port.

I put your load into QuickLOAD, and seated to an OAL of 2.25" (one caliber seating depth) it predicts 3,334 fps from a 24" barrel using a case with 30 grains of water capacity. Pretty close to your measured results, and the difference is likely going to be due to whatever water capacity your cases actually expand to in your particular chamber and what seating depth you actually use? I'd be interested to know that information? I show this is about a 5% compressed load, and the calculator says it produces about 54,500 psi (by CIP Piezo method, so probably more like 56,500 by SAAMI Piezo method).

I took that information and played around with some other powders in the calculator. First I compared it to my favorite, IMR4198, which I use with the 53 grain flat base Sierra MatchKing. With your bullet at 2.25" COL and 30 grain case water capacity, the calculator produced almost the exact same peak pressure (3 psi higher) and muzzle velocity (1 fps less) at a load of 22.45 grains. No compression, though. The case showed it was 95% full and ballistic efficiency increased from about 24.6% to 30.6%. The theoretical advantage to that BE increase is that with more of the powder burning in the barrel the muzzle pressure drops 840 psi from 7160 psi to 6320 psi. That reduces post-exit acceleration and the degree of bullet tipping caused by muzzle blast. My own load for the 200 yard line has been the Sierra bullet I mentioned and 22.4 grains of IMR4198, which hits an accuracy peak in my gun, and is remarkably close to that comparative load.

Having looked at the performance similarity between your load and mine, it occurred to me to look at some powders with in between burning rates to see if any advantage might be found? Interestingly, one powder I've never used in my AR stood out in the calculator: A 3.7% compressed load of IMR3031 at an in between weight of 25.4 grains produced the same muzzle velocity as the Varget and IMR4198 loads, but only 47,570 psi peak pressure. The ballistic efficiency is in between, at 27.3%, but because of the lower peak pressure, more of the powder is burning later in the bore, raising predicted muzzle pressure to 7333 psi. So, it has some plus and minus characteristics there. It should be even easier on the brass at that lower peak pressure, but the later burn may have more difficulty with consistency. Be interesting to try, though.

The other powder I looked at was the Benchmark Rocky mentioned. It isn't bad, but isn't doing what the IMR4198 does. With all other conditions the same, at 54,470 psi, 25.5 grains is 0.7% compressed but produces about 1% less velocity in the calculator (3306 fps). The ballistic efficiency shows 26.6% and the muzzle pressure is an in between 6880 psi. That makes it another promising candidate and it will probably work best in some guns.

Have you tried the 53 grain flat base Sierra MatchKings? I get lots of sub-1/2" 100 yard groups from the AR with those over 4198.

P.S. I just ran Ramshot TAC as an afterthought. At 27.2 grains it is 1.3% compressed, it hits the same peak pressure as the Varget and IMR4198 loads. At 25.5% BE it calculates to have the same slightly higher muzzle pressure as 3031, but does gain 30 fps from a 24" muzzle (predicted 3365 fps). Again, it will just depend on your gun as to whether this is best or not? I would not expect it to be a good choice at loads below maximum.
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Last edited by unclenick; 06-23-2008 at 06:44 AM. Reason: P.S. added
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  #13  
Old 06-23-2008, 09:43 AM
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Nick - the Speer 52 gr FBHP are seated for an OAL of 2.2055". Barrel length is actually 26" bolt face to muzzle on the Ruger V/T with a measured twist of 1:11.75" and a tight chamber.

Following bullets used in finding best loading:

Hornady
45 gr FBSP
50 gr FBSP
52 gr BTHP
53 gr FBHP
55 gr FBSP
55 gr V-Max

Nosler
55 gr BT

Speer
45 gr FBSP
52 gr BTHP
52 gr FBHP - best bullet
55 gr FMJ
70 gr FBSP

Sierra
53 gr FBHP
55 gr FMJ
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  #14  
Old 06-23-2008, 01:31 PM
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So .... I'm reading all of this and the question that comes to mind is - where is the accuracy part of the equation? How do you calculate/correlate velocity to barrel twist and bullet weight? I suspect the answer is - you don't. That's why you develop your load to your gun. This is not to make light of the posts, they are informative and interesting but there is a missing link (not my mother-in-law).

I much prefer a load traveling at 3000 fps that hits where I aim every time than one traveling at 3400 fps that patterns like a shotgun.
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Old 06-23-2008, 01:58 PM
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You've got it right, flashhole - with every firearm being a rule unto itself, you should study the results of others and manual recommendations to get basic info and then go out and develop your own individual best loadings. That's why I went through so many bullet types and powders to determine what the Ruger liked best. Was surprised at the Speer selection myself - thought sure either the Hornady or Nosler would top out.
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Old 06-23-2008, 06:00 PM
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I'm a shooter and reloader for two differnt .223's and they are different as night and day. One is an old 788 and the other is a new and well broken in already 700SPS. My powder of choice for both 40 grain (Vmax's)and 55 grain (Nosler ballistic tips) bullets is Benchmark. I read through and only found the one mention of Benchmark. I get great accuraccy with it in both rifles (both twisted at 1:12) with both bullet weights. Granted neither weapon likes the load other is shooting. I've used H335 (with excellant results until it gets above 90* out) IMR4198 again with excellant results. The only disadvantage was the long grains and metering throught the Lyman 55 measure. After my reloading mentor and I were discussing the merits of H335 he mentined Benchmark. This is the only powder Walt uses in all of his 22 cal. varmint rifles except his 22-250 and .243"s (They get Varget and H4350 respectively)

The Benchmark meters very well out of the old Lyman and gives cosistant velocites out of the 788 (I haven't had the opportunity to chrono the SPS yet) I'd have to go loook through my data to be sure of velocities and charge weights but the 40 grainers are running in the neightborhood of 3700-3800fps and and around 3400 for the 55's.

I also use Benchmark in my triple duece. But then again if you can't get a .222 to run on just about anything you aren't trying very had.

RJ
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  #17  
Old 06-23-2008, 06:21 PM
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I am new here guys, but have been loading the 223 with 4198 powder since about '87. I have a Sako action with a douglas air gauged barrel. My load is 21 1/2 grains of 4198 and a Speer 52 grain HP. I settled on this load and powder right off and have not deviated from the load. It chronographs at 3250 and is fast enough for me. I use target knobs on my scopes and just adjust for given distances.

On a good day for me, it will shoot 1/4" groups at 100 yards. There may be better powders, but 4198 is the one for me.

Thanks for reading.

Fred
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Old 06-23-2008, 08:31 PM
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Urban Varmints

I have done a good bit of load work with .223. I keep a book of each loaded batch and record what works and what doesn't with my rifles and others I have worked loads up for. I have used a number of different powder, bullet and primer combinations in the .223 for both a Ruger 77 and a highly modified AR Varmint rifle. My number one rule is that only an accurate rifle is fun and that guides my loading protocols.

I learned that my rifles shoot acceptably with Varget but that it works best in an Ackley improved case. Other powders also work with "minute of prairie dog" accuracy but I have settled upon a unique combination that makes these rifles accurate to the point of being boring. I purchased a quanity of A2230C bulk powder and used it to work up loads for shooting what we around my location term "Urban Varmints". Urban Varmints are 12 oz plastic soda bottles (the little short ones) filled with water. They are placed at 200, 250, 300 yards and the object is to aim for and hit the UPC code. When you hit the bottle with a 50 /53grn grn bullet it blows up with a huge splash of water. This is great fun but one must exercise care in loading to hit the UPC code at 250-300 yards.

Case prep....For my Ruger I always use fired brass necksized and trimmed. For the AR I use a small base die. I keep the brass for each partitioned to avoid confusion. I use a Sinclair outside neck turning tool the first firing to true up the case then forget it. I normalize the primer pockets to remove the punch tab.

Powder. For my rifle a full load of 25.8 grains of A2230C behind a Sierra #1390 is my best load. I seat this bullet using a Sinclair bullet Ogive guage and a chamber length tool to set the 1390 .001 off the lands and grooves. In my Ruger (each one is different to some extent)this measures 1.860 with the gauge rested on the ogive. I use a Lee factory crimp die to put a slight crimp on the case neck.

This combination gives me accuracy that is "unfair" and enough energy to really pop P'dogs or their urban counterparts. The powder is inexpensive in bulk and also may be used to load other calibers such as 308 and 30-30.

I don't get pressure signs at this load but beware that it is near the max load and you should sneak up on it...I would start at about 10% less and fiddle till you find the best combination for your rifle.

There is a drawback to this powder. I have to re-zero in the summer and fall as the load varies somewhat. I normally reduce this load slightly in hot summer months but the 1390 likes to go fast so I seldom go less than 25 grains. Your rifle will be different so be careful when loading near max.

Good shooting....
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Old 06-23-2008, 11:40 PM
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I've shot about 600 rounds out of my 223 since spring with various powders (Varget, H335, H322, Benchmark) and each one of them has been able to produce a fairly tight group.

Varget seems to work pretty good for the 55 to 75gr bullets and I haven't tried it for lighter ones yet. I just started to use benchmark with the 40gr v-max's and the results are very promising. I've done very little target work with benchmark but it did excellent on the small gophers last weekend in the 200-350 yrd range.
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Old 06-24-2008, 06:53 AM
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Kdub,

And I would have thought the Sierra MatchKing would be the one. Fascinating how individual guns are!


Flashhole:

The calculation information is mainly for comparative purposes as I did with the powders, or to help pick out a starting load. You can, for example, from bullet dimension and velocity and twist rate, determine bullet stability factor and compare that with what you are getting from other bullets in the mix. The powder data can also give you barrel time, which I did not include before. In general, if you have the barrel time of a known sweet spot load, if you use the calculator to create other loads with other components that hit the same barrel time, you'll have the best accuracy loads for those component combinations (powder, bullet, case volume) in that same gun. That's because the same point in the barrel vibration is being hit at the moment of bullet exit. The calculators aren't perfect, since they don't have the exact properties of the lot of powder you are using, but they can get you pretty darn close.


Kdub,

If you have Excel or the free Open Office Suite's program, Calc, on your computer, you can go to my file repository and download and run the case water capacity calculator file there (the file name tells you what it is). The repository is at:

http://www.drop.io/unclenick

Otherwise, if you measure the water capacity of one of your fireformed cases by using its instructions and doing the scale reading subtractions manually, I would be interested to know that number? The idea would be to check the barrel time and see where that would fall for the other bullets you tested? I'm just curious how well it tracks the best loads you got for them?

It would also be interesting to try to match the distance of the Speer ogive off your lands by fiddling the seating depth of the others. Seating depth tuning is a topic that interests me, too. I would need to know the length of the Speer bullet and how far up from the base the bearing surface stops and the ogive starts? I am thinking of picking some up to try, since they worked well for you? They would be less expensive to feed the AR with than the Sierras.

As and aside, the QuickLOAD database says the 52 grain Speer FBHP is 0.715" long (you can tell me if your's average that number or not?). It's database is taken largely from photos, so it isn't very precise. But just for fun, I put that bullet length and 52 grain weight into the Don Miller twist and stability calculator that is also in my file repository. Harold Vaughn thinks a stability factor of 1.4 is about ideal. Don Miller thinks 1.5 is. So, I always aim at 1.45. With your twist and the QuickLOAD bullet length, it came out 1.46. The Sierra 53 gr. FBHP MK comes out 1.56. Maybe its just a happy coincidence, but I thought it was worth mentioning that it hit so close to the middle of a theoretical ideal range?
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