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Hi fellow cast bullet enthusiasts.

Like many of you, I have used thousands of these copper alloy bullet base protectors over the years. In the past few years or so, I got to wondering about their history, when they were first introduced and by whom, testing that was done prior to they're introduction, and so on.

I dug around my library and found one of the answers I was looking for in Lyman's Centennial Journal 1878 - 1978. On page 31 it mentions that the gas check was first shown in Ideal Handbook No. 17 published in 1906. The illustration shows a "gas check cup" which appears to have some internal ribs running lengthwise in it. The official patent date is March 12, 1907.

I had read somewhere that the 308284 bullet designed for the .30 U.S. Govt. (.30-40) was the first bullet specifically designed to use the then new gas check. The next was the 308291 for the .30-30 & .303 Savage, then the 319295 for the .32-40 followed by 375295 for the .38-55.

But what event lead up to the research and development of this new cast bullet device? A hint of that was noted in Ideal's 1904 manual. Dr. Walter G. Hudson, who was a World Champion Rifle shooter and held many records in his day was working on the problem of trying to achieve 1,500 f.p.s. in the .30-40 with 200+ grain bullets for "fine work at 500 yards". The problem he encountered in trying to achieve that goal was fusion, or gas cutting as we know it today.

He tried experimenting with antimonial alloys for stronger bullets but fusion persisted. He worked with J.H. Barlow of Ideal on bullet design and diameters, even to the point of using a front "gas check" band (front driving band) diameter of .325"(!) but to no avail.

It appears that between the years of 1904 and 1905, Dr. Hudson and Mr. Barlow of Ideal Manufacturing Co. hit upon the idea that a copper alloy spacer to insulate the bullet from the hot powder gases might work. At first they tried copper discs which seemed to do well with plain based bullets. Further development lead to the cup profile and the Ideal bullet #308284.

Since the gas checked 308284 worked very well, Mr. Barlow set to work to develop additional gas checked bullets very quickly. Samples of cartridges loaded to factory velocities with the new bullet designs were sent to the Marlin Firearms Co. and Savage Arms Company for their evaluation. Marlin reported “We have the pleasure of reporting to you that these appear to be in every way equal to factory loaded ammunition with metal jacketed bullets.“ Savage wrote back that they tested them in the .30-30 and .303 Savage and they compared favorably in accuracy with their jacketed bullets.

A few years later, in 1909, the Ideal Handbook No. 19 illustrated a total of 15 different gas checked bullets in calibers ranging from the .25-20 up to .38-55.

It is known that these first gas checks were designed to fall from the base of the bullet shortly after leaving the muzzle. Some 60 or so years later, Hornady Manufacturing came along with a new crimp on engineered gas check designed to stay with the bullet in flight.

If any one has anything to add or to modify any of this information, please post it so that we may know the complete story of the Gas Check

John

aka Jack Christian SASS 11993 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
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John: I enjoyed that little bit of history. There's an instance of guys identifying a problem and coming up with a solution and the concept really hasn't been improved on yet. But if jacketed bullets hadn't become so prevalent in useage who knows what might have come next? besto
 

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John,

Many thanks for the historical background on gas checks! I never cease to be amazed at your depth of background and knowledge on cast bullet lore. We are all the richer for your posts, and I thank you so much for taking the time to share with us all you do!

God Bless,

Marshall
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Marshall,

Thank you for the kind words. Interestingly, history was my absolute worst subject in school, but I find the historic roots of cast bullet shooting to be very nostalgic. Since I am lucky enough to have some of the early IDEAL Handbooks, there is a treasure trove of information in them.

Ideal also offered separate molds to cast lead tips in them which could then be inserted in the regular bullet mold. (And we thought this was a recent development.) The earliest illustrations of this appeared with the early gas checked bullets.

In a letter dated February 7, 1906 regarding the 308291 gas checked bullet in the .30-30, it said "They are perfection for my .30-30 Winchester at all ranges I have tried up to 400 yards. The accuracy is fine, fully as good as with the metal jacketed bullet, sights set at the same elevation; charge of powder used was 22 grs. of Laflin & Rand Lightning. I found no fusion. My barrel cleaned easily."

This is getting more nostalgic! I have some "Lightning" powder which was given to me by the head ballastician at Hercules powder company several years ago. I'll have to load 22 grs. and see what happens. (Lightning is a disc powder which is similar in burning rate to 4198. It was introduced in 1898 and discontinued in the 40s')

I understand that when the next Handloaders Digest comes out later this year, that there will be a story by friend Jim Foral going into great detail about the development of .30-40 cast bullet loads for armory ranges around the turn of the last century and the experiments that eventually lead up to the development of Ideal's 311284 gas check bullet. It should make for some very interesting reading.

Sincerely,
John

aka Jack Christian SASS 11993 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
aka w30wcf
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thought I would bring this up again for those who have wondered about the birth of the gas check.
 

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I am wondering if anyone has experimented with the straight checks verses the crimp-on. You can buy dies to make your own from aluminum cans.

The only other development I am aware of was the late Roger Johnston's development of the poly-wad along with Merrill Martin, IIRC. These originally were just cut from a sheet of 0.0625 LDPE using a sharpened case mouth. Other plastics have been tried and seem to work, too. NECO sells them and inserting tools. They claim the rounded leading edge of the cut is best against the bullet as the sharper edge makes a tighter seal. The main thing is having the plastic pad to protect the bullet from gas and from heat by melting and absorbing the heat that way. Leading is essentially zero with the HDPE ones that I made. It seems to leave a thin layer melted onto the bore that serves the same purpose as a bullet lube. I've fired a number of them with no bullet lube, and that seemed to work, too, but I don't recall the velocities I was getting to. I was close to 20 years ago.

The current fad of powder coating bullets with plastic-based powders and fusing the coating on is claimed by everyone to accomplish the same thing at pistol velocities. Zero lube needed and zero leading. But I don't know about rifle velocities.
 

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I would wonder unclenick, if that thin melted layer is anything like the plastic wad fouling reported by folks with high round count shotguns? No matter really. Is easier to deal with than lead fouling.

I would hear of the straight checks coming off now and then. That might just be technique though? The crimp-ons might distort the bullet more. Maybe get more fliers?
Just pondering.

Cheezywan
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
William,
Thank you for posting the patent. :) I had not seen that before.
In amongst my stuff are some gas checks with the lengthwise teeth as described in the patent.
Now I know that they were of the first type.

Thank you,

John
 

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unclenick,
A few years back I used the .062 low density polyethylene discs under some 125 gr cast bullets in the .30-30.
The powder charge was 30/4895 for 2,000+ f.p.s. They shot well. No leading and no plastic fouling that I could see.

John
 

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William,
Thank you for posting the patent. :) I had not seen that before.
In amongst my stuff are some gas checks with the lengthwise teeth as described in the patent.
Now I know that they were of the first type.

Thank you,

John
Your welcome. I enjoy peeking into the corners too.

A word of caution if you go to the U.S. Patent web site. Use a STRONG firewall. I am attacked EVERY time I go on the Patent web sight.
 

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[/QUOTE] I would hear of the straight checks coming off now and then. That might just be technique though? The crimp-ons might distort the bullet more. Maybe get more fliers?
Just pondering.

Cheezywan[/QUOTE]

When I was shooting in CBA sanctioned matches in the 1980's, I played around with both Lyman straight and Hornady crimp on checks in two 308 Win. rifles. I, too, had heard the Lyman checks were "designed" (intended) to fall off after exiting the muzzle.
With my alloy mix (50/50 WW/Lino) and my molds, Some of the time the Lyman would even remain in the lub/sizer die after sizing. I used Lyman, RCBS and SAECO swag type sizer dies from .308 up to .311 (some in .0005" increments). The crimp on Hornady always stayed on the bullets, of course.
My experience lead me to believe that the Lyman did [sometimes] fall off after exiting, but not always. The Hornady seemed to shoot more consistent groups, because of which I often blamed the slightly larger Lyman groups and occasional unexplained flyer with Lyman due to the variation in bullet weight going downrange. My feeling was the few grains of gas check weight being, or not being with the bullet as it flies kind of negated all of the anal activities of bullet weighing and indexing the bullet through the sizing, loading and chambering activities. Shot lots of small groups with both styles, but when I would have an Oh S*#t moment with a Lyman group, I always thought the check was to blame...right or wrong. If my confidence wasn't there, I couldn't not use the Hornady checks in the matches.
For hunting loads, I don't think it makes a Hoot, but when the groups need to be regularly sub-half MOA, I think it matters.
BTW, I still have several thousand 1960's produced Lyman gas checks in both 22 and 30 cal.!
 

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The current fad of powder coating bullets with plastic-based powders and fusing the coating on is claimed by everyone to accomplish the same thing at pistol velocities. Zero lube needed and zero leading. But I don't know about rifle velocities.
unclenick,I've experimented with powder coated rifle bullets an they do as well as the coated pistol bullets. In my test which has been limited due to life getting in the way I've been able to push the coated rifle bullet up to 2300 fps. with no issues granted they are gas check loads as well the coating is only used for lubrication purposes.

I have to do more testing and tweaking over the next couple of months to prefect a good load as I have found that in high velocity rifle loads the accuracy is not quiet there for me compared to my standard tumble lubed bullets. I believe the issue is that the coating is so slick that it doesn't quiet grip the rifling as well at higher velocity, however I haven't had any leading issue regardless the accuracy just isn't as good.
 

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I would hear of the straight checks coming off now and then. That might just be technique though? The crimp-ons might distort the bullet more. Maybe get more fliers?
Just pondering.

Cheezywan[/QUOTE]

When I was shooting in CBA sanctioned matches in the 1980's, I played around with both Lyman straight and Hornady crimp on checks in two 308 Win. rifles. I, too, had heard the Lyman checks were "designed" (intended) to fall off after exiting the muzzle.
With my alloy mix (50/50 WW/Lino) and my molds, Some of the time the Lyman would even remain in the lub/sizer die after sizing. I used Lyman, RCBS and SAECO swag type sizer dies from .308 up to .311 (some in .0005" increments). The crimp on Hornady always stayed on the bullets, of course.
My experience lead me to believe that the Lyman did [sometimes] fall off after exiting, but not always. The Hornady seemed to shoot more consistent groups, because of which I often blamed the slightly larger Lyman groups and occasional unexplained flyer with Lyman due to the variation in bullet weight going downrange. My feeling was the few grains of gas check weight being, or not being with the bullet as it flies kind of negated all of the anal activities of bullet weighing and indexing the bullet through the sizing, loading and chambering activities. Shot lots of small groups with both styles, but when I would have an Oh S*#t moment with a Lyman group, I always thought the check was to blame...right or wrong. If my confidence wasn't there, I couldn't not use the Hornady checks in the matches.
For hunting loads, I don't think it makes a Hoot, but when the groups need to be regularly sub-half MOA, I think it matters.
BTW, I still have several thousand 1960's produced Lyman gas checks in both 22 and 30 cal.![/QUOTE]


I have seen the difference with the Lyman checks and the Hornady checks how the bullet dose. Yes some of the Lyman dose stay on the boolit but it depend sometimes how far the bullet will go. But I have found also that I get better with the Hornady checks and I also use now the Gator checks also ,they are like Hornady checks. I still have some Lyman checks left.I think you can still get them also.
 

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Why not just stick an adhesive paper dot on the base. It should protect from heat as well as a copper gas check or so the shooters of paper patch bullets report.
 

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I've been reading a reprint of F.W. Mann's work, The Bullet's Flight from Powder to Target. Somehow I'd missed out on it in the past. One of the things apparent from it is that gas checks of various kinds were pretty widely popular before the metal ones were patented. Mann uses an "oleo" wad, which I presume was an oleo margarine impregnated card wad or felt wad. (Oleomargarine has been around since the 1880's. I remember my grandmother (born in early 1890's) telling me it used to come in two parts; the colorless flavorless base and the coloring and flavoring (which had the salt) that you mixed in, so I expect he only used the base material). I either missed the description details or he just expected it was common knowledge, which is why I don't know what the base material was. The bullets he uses them with are sized to full bore diameter, so it's not a variant on the grease patch. And this is late 1800's and up to 1903 as far as I am in the book.

Any phase change material (something that melts at firing temperatures) will tend to protect the bullet base from heat and seal the bore against gas leaks. The polywads are made from polyolefins which are fat-like molecules. A hard wax like jewelers use would work, too.
 

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The current fad of powder coating bullets with plastic-based powders and fusing the coating on is claimed by everyone to accomplish the same thing at pistol velocities. Zero lube needed and zero leading. But I don't know about rifle velocities.
unclenick I powder coat both pistol and rifle bullets using both the spray on as well as the tumble lube process,some of the powders just coat better sprayed on with an ES gun.

I've had results as good accuracy wise with the coated pistol bullet as with tradition lube or Alox based tumble lubes. Most of the coated pistol bullets I PC are ones I shoot in bulk as there less messy storing,handling and reloading. I think one thing people miss or really don't consider is that the powder coating is basically a type of lube an serves the same purpose as those dry lubes you fine on the Hornady or Speer swadged lead bullet. You can also compare it to a type of jacket material thats mandible and flows with the lead but tough and stays bonded to it.

As to rifle bullet I can't say personally how fast you can push them accurately as I've pretty much kept mine in the same velocity ranges I normally shoot other type lube bullets at. I'm of the impression that PC'ed rifle bullet are on the same level as a paper patched bullet to a degree as the plastic coating is basically a type of jacket between the lead and the bore an it's serves as a lube as well. The only way I know to prove the idea is to shoot some in my rifles which I plan to do this fall as time allows.

I think individuals have this idea that some new fangled coating comes along and you can take a cast lead bullet used in a rifle of any type coat it with powder and now you can shoot it at the same velocity an accuracy as you previously did with a jacketed bullet,is that possible probably so provided all your ducks are in a row either by research and testing or just plain dumb luck.

This has been my experience over the years with several of my rifle all 30 cal. that I have been shooting cast lead bullets in an it's going to cover my Mosin rifles both which have 1:10 twist rifling which is a key point. It's no problem at all to take a 150 gr. jacketed bullet an push it at 2700+ fps. with good accuracy at HV as long as the bullet is of the correct dia. and weight for the 1:10 twist bore it can withstand the internal forces imparted on the bullet by the rotational forces/RPM of the bore as well as the pressures exerted to it base.

Take that same rifle and start out with your traditional grease groove gas check cast lead bullet. My favorite bullet in my Mosins currently is the Lee .312" 185 gr. RN cast from water quenched WW's + 2% Tin sized to .314" lube with Lar's 2500+ and gas checked. Due to the different density of cast lead as compared to a J bullet addition weight also translates to bullet length which is important to stability with a give bullet dia. vs. twist rate. With all my ducks in a row about the best I can do velocity/accuracy wise is in the 1900+ fps range.

There is a relationship between velocity/accuracy and bullet defects. With commercial made quality J bullet it not so much with cast lead bullets in rifles all those defects are basically accentuated or increases the likely hood of poor accuracy especially as velocity increases. With a rifle like the Mosin with it's 1:10 twist bore there is a RPM threshold associated with the 1:10 twist and the faster you push that cast bullet the hight the RPM goes. In normal circumstances you will find with a particular bullet weight /length usable accuracy/velocity falls between 1600 &1900 fps. push that cast bullet faster increases the RPM which increase the influence of those defects on the bullet such as yaw,wobble and pitch. Fast powders are also a problem as that quick push also contributes to rapid unwanted obturation or crushing of the bullet.

To get a cast bullet to it's highest velocity with best accuracy with a given twist rate barrel a med to slow burning powder that give the bullet a slow push works best. I just recently picked up a lb. of H4895 to work up my cast loads in the Mosin as I can use the 60% starting load and work up till I find what gives me the best results. If my Mosin had came with a 1:12 or 1:14 twist bore I could push the velocity up much higher with the cast lead bullet because the RPM imparted by the twist of the bore would be lower so the bullets defect wouldn't be as detrimental to the bullets stability and flight path but the Russian or Finns had no idea I would be shooting cast lead bullets out of there rifles 80+ years later.

So can you shoot powder coated cast lead rifle bullets at high velocity and still get good accuracy. Personally I don't know exactly where that threshold is,I did a little experiment back in the spring using some cast WW bullets I had PC'ed that I normally shoot in my Mosins using 16.0 grs. of 2400 which shoot all holes touching at 50 yds all day long. I have to admit I didn't put much time or effort into the experiment as I probably should have used a harder alloy and used a different powder. I loaded up about 5 rds. each of the PC'ed 160 gr. bullets 5 had copper checks and 5 had aluminum check.

I used the same powder charge of 43.5 grs. of Reloader #15 with each load with an estimated MV of around 2400 +/- fps. and fired them off a bench at 50 yds. the copper checked bullet hit the paper but were all over the place the aluminum checked bullet never hit the target. I'm pretty sure the aluminum check came off the bullets right after they exited the bore helping to contribute to there instability,they may even have just blow up becoming so unstable. In future test I'm going to treat the coated bullet similar to paper patched bullets which fall somewhere between standard lube cast bullet an J bullets depending on the caliber and load. I'm also going to use my heavier bullet an slower powder as well and see where it takes me. The powder coat being a lube as well as basically a jacket like paper which has a higher tinsel strength than the actual lead itself should allow me to push the RPM threshold up slightly how much I don't know but we will see,it will be fun finding out anyways.

As one of my friends on another forum said and I quote
I've found that most regular heavy for caliber cast bullets shot out of regular rifles shoot best in the 125-140,000 RPM range with medium to slow powders. One merely must know the twist of the rifle to figure what the velocity range for best accuracy will be.
 

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Res45,

I probably should not have used the word "fad", as, on a re-read, it sounds dismissive or suggests powder coating might go away. That's not my meaning. I just remembered how popular moly coating of jacketed bullets was for a time and seemed to be a fad in the sense of initial and enthusiastic adoption by a great many people, but then interest in it died way down in many shooting circles, despite it being quite effective at some things it did. There is now a permanent shooter subset of moly users (I'm one, in some guns and cartridges) but because it didn't cure all problems or automatically steer bullets to the x-ring, many were disappointed and don't want to bother with the added effort involved in using it. So I consider that it has passed the "fad" stage, where everyone was trying to do it, to a more matured selective phase, where some of us use it in some situations, but don't do it where it doesn't seem to have much benefit.

I'm thinking something analogous may happen with powder coating. There are folks who cast and shoot plain, unlubricated bullets and still have good, no-leading results. This depends on the gun and its bore condition being good and on the alloy and pressures at work. But in a rough bore, for example, that won't fly. That's where lubes help and powder coating seems to do even better. Moly was like that, too. It cut copper fouling a lot. But so did lapping and polishing the bore. So a sort of choice between working on the bullets or working on the gun evolved, and I can see how that may happen for powder coating. After all, if I can cast a plain, unsized, unlubricated bullet, that doesn't lead my 1911 bore, then I've saved a lot of time and effort. But where that doesn't work out, powder coating, like moly coating, will probably keep a permanent following for situations where it can offer benefit, and after the phase where everyone is trying it out comes to a close.

The rotation issue has two components. One is eccentric spin in flight (wobble) and drift due to angular velocity of mass asymmetries that inject drift away from the mean trajectory as they exit the muzzle, opening up a group. Even jacketed bullets exhibit this is spun fast enough. One reason benchrest shooters use short, small ogive radius bullets for the closer range competitions is that lets them stabilize the bullets with a slower twist that minimizes both wobble and radial drift.

The other issue is bullet damage due to excessive angular (rotational) acceleration. Spin any bullet up fast enough and damage will result. Lead bullets will strip. With jacketed bullets core stripping, where the core slips inside the jacket, can occur. The problem in both instances comes about at the peak pressure of the load, as when the pressure is greatest the acceleration is greatest. So is upset and bore friction, which is why metal fouling is normally greatest where the bullet is located in the bore at the time of the pressure peak, as I've described elsewhere.

One solution to the above that looked promising was the gain twist barrel. They've been around since the 19th century, but have yet to gain great popularity. But if you figure the peak pressure is, say, five times greater than the muzzle pressure, then having the twist start five times slower at the throat than at the muzzle would give you less extreme angular acceleration. You could even program a CNC rifling machine to rifle a barrel to increase twist in proportion to a typical bullet position vs. pressure curve down a barrel, if you wanted to get fancy, but most of them were linear rates of twist change with length, AFAIK. A couple of companies made them in 3:1 and 4:1 twists in the 1990's, but didn't stay in business. They never got popular probably because nobody ever won a major match with one that I know of. Obviously the engraving angle would change on the bullet as it went down the tube, and perhaps that causes a problem with such a large twist ratio. Or perhaps it is just that nobody tried enough of these barrels to get a best result. I just don't know.

I see Bartlein is doing some roughly 2:1 gain twists for jacketed bullets now, as is Colerain for BP barrels. When I spoke to Bartlein about doing one that was an inverse pressure function a few years ago, they said they were only doing small gain ratios (I don't recall the numbers, but my memory says like 1.1:1.0; a small change to choke the gas seal). But now it seems they've been talked into doing more. It's another thing I'd like to try for increasing cast bullet rifle velocity. Perhaps between that and powder coating a star would be born?
 

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I've been reading a reprint of F.W. Mann's work, The Bullet's Flight from Powder to Target
An interesting read and very meticulous work. I am continually surprised by the number of people who have not read it. Some of the experiments he ran, such as the effects of muzzle damage, are as relevant today as then, yet are still misunderstood.

As to gas checks, I have found that .016 and .020 6064 -O aluminum checks give me the same performance as traditional copper checks in the applications I've tried, primarily with 30 caliber bullets at moderate velocities, around 1700 FPS for target work.

When it comes to pushing the velocity envelope with cast bullets, linotype bullets with copper checks, lubed with LLS carnuba red lube has given me the best results. At one time, a friend and I were working on re-creating the original Ideal #1 alloy, which has a high copper content. The hope was to obtain 2500 FPS with the Lyman 311284 (Ideal 308284) with an alloy that would not fragment on impact to use for hunting. Unfortunately, that has work fallen by the wayside.
 
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