Materials and Methods
Any proof must begin with some
givens. Lots of shooting taught me that Alliant Power Pistol and Remingtons
185-grain .45 wadcutter (WC) bullet gave wonderful accuracy in target loads. So it was
logical to wonder if the same might be true with full-charge loads using Remingtons
230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ).
All ammunition was loaded on an RCBS
Pro 2000 with standard RCBS carbide .45 ACP dies. The extra station of the press let me
use a Redding taper crimp die that was adjusted for a firm crimp. Seating depth was set to
duplicate most factory ball ammunition, which measures about 1.260 inches. Care was taken
to be sure all components were from the same lot and, with the exception of brass, that
was done. I have a fairly good supply of once-fired brass saved from other tests but no
track of the lots. The new Federal brass was some Ive had for years left over from a
project long forgotten. New Winchester and Remington brass was purchased from MidwayUSA as
were the bulk bullets.
All test shooting was done from a
Ransom Rest at a range of 25 yards divided into five, 10-shot groups. Each round was
chronographed so the velocity figures represent the average of all shots. Everything was
shot in my Rock River Arms basic pistol, which has proven itself time and again to be
among the most accurate pistols I own. You cant believe how it bugs me when somebody
says accuracy was poor but doesnt furnish any information about the
guns qualifications. Poor in my book would be the 5- to 6-inch groups we
used to get from GI guns. Good isnt any better without something to use
for reference. There is no magical good = this or poor = that.
Accuracy just is.
We simply must have a good gun to be
able to even see small differences.
Some preliminary work suggested that
the combination would work, so I set up a truly worst-case scenario for the test. I
happened to find a small bag of primed .45 ACP brass at a gun show. It was clean and
included a total of eight different headstamps: four each of commercial and GI origin.
Ive no idea at all what primers were there. You can hardly get worse than that. For
comparison I prepared 50 brand-new Federal cases.
The load was 6.8 grains of Alliant
Power Pistol with CCI primers and 230-grain Remington FMJ bulk packed bullets. In the
Ransom Rest it was obvious my experiment wasnt going to turn out the way I wanted it
to. The load using new brass averaged 1.08 inches for five, 10-shot groups. The mixed
brass averaged 1.38 inches with a standard deviation almost twice as large. Interestingly
there was only 2 fps difference in velocity. The
results are listed in Table I.
In practical terms either of those
accuracy measurements would have met the needs of all but the pickiest shooter and would
have even been the envy of more than a couple factories, but the fact is the load using
new brass is significantly more accurate.
Given the rather surprising outcome
of the first effort, I fired a couple other loads. The first load was a bit hot compared
to factory ball ammunition, so the charge was reduced to 6.6 grains. Then 50 rounds were
loaded in once-fired Federal brass and another 50 in mixed once-fired cases from
Remington, Winchester and Federal divided as equally as possible. This time some factory
ammunition was included for reference. And, as an afterthought, 50 rounds were loaded in
once-fired Federal brass using CCI, Remington, Winchester and Federal primers. Once more
the mixed brass groups were a little larger at 1.81 inches compared to 1.54 inches for the
group with Federal brass.
The next phase used once-fired
Federal cases with the primer as the only variable. There was really no difference in
velocity and only a little in accuracy with 6.6 grains of Power Pistol and a 230-grain
Statistically the load with
Remington primers was not as accurate, but there wasnt 2 cents worth of difference
in the rest.
The real shocker though was the
results with the factory loads, which are summarized in the table below. Again, all are
230-grain FMJ factory loads, and the results made me retest both the Remington and Federal
There are some conclusions here, and
all of them run counter to what I would have expected: (1) There did appear to be a
difference between segregated and mixed brass, (2) primers made no difference in velocity
and only a little in accuracy, and (3) all the handloads shot better than or equal to the
factory ammunition. Had I been a gambling man, Id have lost my shirt.
The tests so far had been done over
two days, and it was clear there was more to learn. I wanted to know if the apparent
differences between new and once-fired brass would repeat. So the plan for phase three
became to load 50 rounds in new and once-fired cases from Federal, Remington and
Winchester. While CCI primers had been most common in the earlier tests, an additional 50
would be loaded with either Winchester or Remington primers. All the results are
summarized in Table II.
Most of these differences are not
significant but some are. Its a good thing science doesnt always have to
explain why as long as the data is properly gathered and reported.
Lets talk a minute about
Government Model pistols. I wish there were some objective way to rate them. Wine experts
use a scale - often from 70 to 100 points. Anything below 70 is not worth mention, or
maybe if it is made from grapes and has a little alcohol it gets 70 points. When we buy
wine we also look for the name of the winery or chateau, Silver Oak or Chateau Lafitte.
Not unlike wine, just because you pay a bunch for a gun doesnt mean it will shoot
better than anything on the planet. Ive tested accurized pistols with $4,000 price
tags and found some that cost 75 percent less that shot a lot better.
My choice of the Rock
River pistol for this project wasnt based on cost. In fact you could pay as much or
more for a semi-custom pistol from one of the factories. My choice was based on knowledge
of this particular gun and a lengthy record of outstanding accuracy.