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Article: Hand-loading For All-purpose Use of Big Game Rifles (Written in 2000)

Hand-loading For All-purpose Use of Big Game Rifles (Written in 2000)


Discussion: the usual condition of starting well below the following Big Game and Dangerous Game loads should be observed; some of them are a mite hot.

My approach is to make my rifles into tools that feed me and protect me, wherever I roam. I use three parameters to do this: Small Game loads, Big Game loads, and Dangerous Game loads. Since I’m usually carrying a largish pack, I try to set up my Big Game loads to reach out, as I’m
reluctant to leave the pack and stalk- I might not be able to readily find it later. Besides, I can use it for prone shooting and actually wind up shooting better this way than from closer but without the stability of the pack! To minimize range estimation error I sight in pretty high at one-hundred yards. I’ve found it much easier to estimate accurately at the shorter ranges and hold low, than to estimate the longer ranges and hold high.
    Therefore, my Big Game loads, depending on the cartridge, range from four-inches to six-inches high at one-hundred yards, and drop out four-inches to fifteen-inches at 400 yards, except the 7-30 Waters which is only a 300 yard gun at best. The .300 Weatherby (sighted four high at one-hundred with a 165 partition) prints only twelve inches low at 500 yards; not that I would knowingly ever take a shot like that, but I suppose this margin for error is one reason I admire this fine cartridge so.
    The Small Game and Dangerous Game loads key off the Big Game load, and I never move the scope setting. The objective is to find your best Big Game load, then experiment on the Small Game and Dangerous Game loads until they print well at appropriate ranges for this purpose. This means, usually, a bit of experimentation to find the right bullet that prints usefully and accurately in relation to the Big Game loads’ setting.
    All Small Game loads print within one-inch of dead on at twenty-five yards, high or low. Horizontal prints are rejected. I like them to be very close to dead on at 150 yards, and I know where they print at fifty, seventy-five, one-hundred, and 125 yards, as well. Small Game velocities range between about 1500 and 1700 FPS. The intent is to initiate bullet upset, so that supper is anchored, yet the exit wound is a bit less than that occasioned by most .22 hollow points. Big grouse are tough acts. I’ve learned to shoot about 1/3 way up, where the vitals are, otherwise a
goodly number of these tough customers will manage to get airborne, even though mortally hit, and you’ll lose them. If you want to reliably anchor a large grouse with a center of mass hit, then increase the small game powder charge by three or four grains and accept some largish holes in the carcass.
    You’ll shoot far more Small Game loads than your Big Game or
Dangerous Game loads if you do as Thomas Jefferson suggests, and “make your gun your constant companion on all your walks.” You’ll also get really good with your rifle. The basis of this concept should be apparent- a slower moving, relatively inexpensive frangible bullet with just enough velocity to initiate upset that arrives on target close enough to dead on at small game ranges, in relation to Big Game and Dangerous Game loads which are primary, to be deadly at collecting meat for the pot. Small Game loads should use slow pistol powders and a magnum primer. H-110 and W-296 work quite well, but I’ve had such great results with IMR-4227 that I stick with it, and buy it in bulk. I’ve learned to use regular jacketed bullets, not cast or full jackets, which often whistle through the target and allow it to reach its hole or otherwise get far enough away before expiring to avoid your bag, no matter the velocity. Lastly, shoot for the thorax, not chancy head shots- remember you need that meat because you aren’t going home to fried chicken- you are at home. That’s the way to play this scenario.
    Dangerous Game loads are insurance. You should always be able to protect yourself, in other words. Three or four of these in your cartridge pouch give you peace of mind. Sometimes I ramble with a little custom 7-30 Waters (sixteen-inch custom Thompson Center as point of departure). Or perhaps a four-pound, four-ounce (with two-by-seven Leupold mini scope) milled and lathed model 600 Remington in six-millimeter Remington. I do it because they are wonderful pack rifles: light and compact. If I get mixed up with a bear or lion while rambling around, I’d sure rather have either of these than just my Swiss army knife or throwing rocks. So you’ll find Dangerous game loads for even “pip-squeak” rifles below- they are the best the caliber can deliver and if it’s all you have whilst out there, I’d sure take a few in the pouch. Just don’t think I mean you should start out to hunt bear with them!

Calibur   Small Game   Big Game   Dangerous Game
.243 Rem.   12 1/2 gr. IMR 4227   43 gr. H414   42 gr. R22
    85 gr. Nosler SB   75 gr. Barnes X   100 gr. Barnes X
    250 CCI   WLR   215 Fed.
.6mm Rem   15.2 gr. IMR 4227   45 gr. R15   47 gr. R22
    100 gr. Sierra   75 gr. Barnes X   100 gr. Barnes X
    215 Fed.   215 Fed.   215 Fed.
6.5 Rem.   16 1/2 IMR 4227   62 gr. R22   57 gr. R22
Magnum   100 gr. Hornady SP   125 gr. Nos. Part.   140 gr. Nos. Part
7-30 Waters   15 1/2 gr. IMR 4227   37 gr. W748   35 1/2 gr. W748
    120 gr. Nosler SB   120 gr. Nosler SB   140 gr. Barnes X
    215 Fed.   WLR   WLR
7/08   16 1/2 gr. IMR 4227   48 gr. W748   45 gr. R15
    120 gr. Nosler SB   120 gr. Barnes XBT   150 gr. Nos. Part.
    250 CCI   WLR   210 Fed.
.308 Win.   19 gr. IMR 4227   46 gr. R15   41 gr. R15
    150 gr. Hornady SP   165 gr. Nos. part.   220 gr. Nos. Part.
    250 CCI   210 Fed.   9 1/2 Rem.
300 Win.   24 gr. IMR 4227   69 1/2 gr. R15   68 gr. R22
Magnum   150 gr. Hornady SP   150 gr. Barnes X   220 gr. Nos. Part.
.300 Weatherby   18 1/2 gr. IMR 4227   85 1/2 gr. IMR 7828   76 gr. IMR 7828
    125 gr. Sierra   165 gr. Nos. Part.   220 gr. Nos Part.
    250 CCI   215 Fed.   215 Fed.
.338 Win.   27 gr. IMR 4227   71 gr. W748   75 gr. R22
    200 gr. Hornady SP   175 gr. Barnes X   250 gr. Barnes X
    250 CCI   215 Fed.   215 Fed.
350 Rem.   25 gr. IMR 4227   66 gr. W748   54 1/2 AA2520
Magnum   150 gr. Rem. Core L.   180 gr. Barnes X   250 gr. Barnes X
    250 CCI   215 Fed.   210 Fed.
.375 H&H   28 gr. IMR 4227   80 1/2 gr. R15   70 gr. R15
    300 gr. Sierra   210 gr. Barnes X   300 gr. Barnes X
    250 CCI   250 CCI   250 CCI

  Note that the Dangerous Game loads will function just fine as Big Game loads, they just won’t have the range. Of course, you’ll often use them from the start on moose, elk, etc.
    Similar size cases and expansion ratios are just about interchangeable, regardless of the “official” caliber designation. Therefore, a 35 Whelan can be extrapolated from the .350 Rem. Mag. data above, of course with the proviso of starting lower and so on, as always. Converting from 6.5 Rem. Mag. to .270 Win. will usually allow a bit more powder to get the same speeds due to the .270’s higher expansion ratio. And so forth. Intelligent extrapolation can be made, in other words.
    I’ve never owned a 30-06 (always used a shorter, lighter .308) so there’s a big hole right there in my data. Same thing with the venerable.270–I went with the 6.5 Remington Magnum. For small game loads on these two calibers try these:
—.270–100gr. inexpensive bullet; 19gr. IMR 4227; Magnum primer
—30-06— try the same load as I’ve given above for the .308 but increase the powder charge to 21.5 gr. of IMR 4227
I’ll leave you to your own devices on the Big Game and Dangerous Game loads for these calibers. 
Always use a Magnum primer on small game loads. It promotes good ignition regardless of the angle of the rifle, i.e. a downhill shot wherin the light powder charge is down at the case neck and the primer spark has to travel a ways just to get to the powder. The old method was to fill the case with corn meal or kapok or some sort of synthetic fluff after the powder charge went in to keep the powder back against the primer. Since switching to Magnum primers I’ve never had any problems and the loading process is far faster.

Good Hunting,
Patrick Smith
Kifaru International

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