Happiness Comes Boxed

Cleaning Up the Workshop Can Yield Forgotten Bounty

Oh, look what Dave found while cleaning up a corner of his workshop.
Yes, you can misplace a carton of bullets

We all know someone like… well… us; people who stack things in the corner and forget them for weeks, perhaps months, and occasionally an embarrassing quite a bit longer.

Consider me guilty, as a recent effort to tidy up a corner of my workshop brought forth a wide-eyed gasp that sounded suspiciously like, “Whoa! Look what I just found!”

There before me on top of an old roller table/night stand were some boxes of bullets from the old Rainier Ballistics, which once turned out millions of plated bullets in Fife, Washington. One thing about being an old packrat is that occasionally, some days feel like Christmas.

I had used some of these 200-grain plated roundnose .45-caliber pills in the past because the box had been opened. However, I can’t really remember when. Rainier Ballistics closed about three years ago, and I’d taken delivery of these a couple of years before that. It’s a certainty I was distracted by something the day I closed the box and stuck it in the corner, forgetting about its very existence until my recent attempt to clean up a winter’s worth of stuff.

Can’t beat this for unexpected bounty! Rainier Ballistics, alas,
is no longer around, but Dave was able to stock up.

There was also an unopened box of 230-grainers, and some 210-grain round nose flat point pullets in .410-caliber for my .41 Magnum loads.

Occasionally, one should check their pulse to make sure you haven’t conked out and found yourself in Reloader Heaven.

So, what’s a guy to do? Let’s just say I happened to have a box of recently tumbled and polished .45 ACP empties of mixed pedigree, a carton of Winchester large pistol primers and a selection of propellants for a little experimenting. And I began experimenting, a process which will continue well into spring, since the season changes just a few days from now.

Plated Projectiles Perform!

Years ago, I discovered how well plated bullets perform when using some 230-grain TMJ (for Total Metal Jacket) bullets from Speer. They worked so well in my Springfield Government Model that I used them exclusively in action pistol matches at the local gun range. The bowling pin hasn’t been made that can take a solid hit from a .45-caliber bullet propelled by a charge of Hodgdon’s HP-38 at ten yards, and remain standing.

Don’t you love finding hundreds of nice, shiny bullets you’d forgotten about?
Dave’s reloading press is going to be busy this spring.

A now-gone pal of mine once observed there is nothing quite as impressive as a big, slow-moving bullet to stop a fight, and I’ve found no evidence over the ensuing years to contradict his reasoning. I’m not too keen on using handloads for self-defense, but in the back country against an angry bear, I doubt anybody would raise an eyebrow, and my home in the Pacific Northwest is in bear country, out in the Cascade foothills.

Plated bullets are a bit easier on a barrel than a military-issue 230-grain FMJ, and I used to load the Speer TMJs ahead of 5.7 grains of HP-38, for about 775 fps out of my Springfield; good enough to kill paper and cardboard, steel plates and bowling pins, but not so tough as to pound my pistol’s innards. It was a comfortable load, and I still have some of them.

I found the Rainier projectiles to be a very good option when I couldn’t find Speers, and over time it was obvious accuracy at match distances was barely discernible. Rainier’s Donny Shride told me to stick with the same powder charge published for each particular weight of bullet in any reliable loading manual, and good things would happen. He was right.

As Bob Nosler once explained to me during an interview, reloading is a “game of recipes.” So I decided to retire to the workshop one recent Sunday afternoon for a little bit of, er, “precision baking.”

Dave went purposely light in his measured loading experiment, as he was looking
for a target-level load that might also conk small game. He chose Winchester AutoComp…

Follow the Manual

I definitely learned a couple of things from that session. First, using the lighter recommended loads in any manual can produce good, great and occasionally disappointing results, but always follow the loading manual.

I’ve known people who got creative and it cost them some badly damaged firearms, and occasionally damage to their hands.

…And Hodgdon’s HS-6, both of which are reliable propellants with
consistent performance. He used Winchester Large Pistol primers.

I selected two propellants for a brief experiment—try this sometime, you’ll never be bothered by ringing telephones or other distractions—during which I carefully measured, one charge at a time on my Lyman electronic scale that is a remarkably accurate little device. Having looked over a couple of manuals plus Hodgdon’s Annual Manual, I settled on Winchester AutoComp and Hodgdon’s HS-6, both of which have given me reasonably reliable performance. (Your mileage may vary, as they say.)

Both loads were definitely accurate.

Targets don’t lie. From 10 yards off a sandbag rest, Dave perforated
these targets holding just under the orange center.

I deliberately went “light” on both charges, since I was interested in brewing up an accurate target load that just might put the hurt on a rabbit or coyote if the opportunity arises. I selected a charge of 6.5 grains of AutoComp, for what I anticipated would be a muzzle velocity in the neighborhood of 850 fps. The other load I tested was 8.5 grains of HS-6, which I also expected to deliver about the same velocity. Alas, neither load provided that oomph, but they did okay in the 725-775 fps range, though I will toss in one caveat.

On the morning I hit the range, the mercury dropped suddenly and fog rolled in. You could have literally hung beef down in the ravine where the range is located, and another shooter who was there had to bundle up as she felt a bit of hypothermia coming on. Whether this sudden change in temperature and light conditions altered my chronograph readings, I’ll not speculate.

I ran a few of my favorite HP-38 loads over the screens and they averaged a disappointing 735.6 fps—a good 40-50 fps slower than I’m used to. All I can say with any certainty is “Hmmm????”

Dave’s trusty Springfield .45 will see plenty of action this spring, along with a
couple of his other pistols. Evidently, the reloading gods want to keep him busy.

On the bright side, I’ve got plenty of powder, primers and bullets to keep me busy as the temperatures improve. This is the kind of thing I wish would have waited for my retirement. I’ll need a good excuse to avoid sweeping the floor and cleaning the bathtub. So, if the gods seem to smile upon you, keep in mind they may be looking to just amuse themselves.

‘Home Intruder Shot’

For those who like to spend hours cruising the Internet, go to your favorite search engine (I use Google) and type in these words: “Home Intruder Fatally Shot.”

I did recently and the results were stunning: 1,940,000 references, in less than a second. I didn’t bother with stories more than one year old, so I just concentrated on 2021 and so far in 2022. Long story short, there seems to be a lot of that going on, which leaves me puzzled about the intelligence of anybody determined to be a recidivist home invader.

The occupation probably doesn’t pay well, there is no insurance coverage and occasionally, the perp gets plugged permanently.

You’ll find fatal shootings in Pleasant Hill and Oceanside, Calif., Houston, Tex., Spanaway, Wash., West Palm Beach, Fla., and a whole lot of places in between.

This, say some people, is one of the impacts of “defund the police” efforts. More Americans seem to be their own first responders, and not by choice, but by necessity.

This is why armed citizens need to study up on the laws of self-defense in their states. Enroll in a good local course on firearms and personal protection. You can often find such courses through local gun shops and shooting ranges. Check with the National Rifle Association, as they have a network of thousands of certified firearms instructors who hold classes regularly.

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