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Straight Shooters Cast Bullets
Rifle Magazine
June - July 2005
Volume 40, Number 3
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 235
On the cover...
A Daly-Sauer drilling in 12 gauge over .30-30. Photo by John Barsness. Colt Peacemaker Centennial Frontier Six Shooter with bison bone grips. Photo by Mike Venturino.
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Back in the 1960s, Norma rifle powders began to make their way to our shores. At that time, the canister line consisted of Norma 201, 203 and 205. A decade later, 1977 or so, Norma discontinued 203 amid claims of lot-to-lot inconsistencies. It was replaced with Norma 202, a slightly faster burning but more consistent powder. Currently the Norma lineup consists of seven powders. From fastest to slowest, they are Norma 200, 201, 202, 203-B, 204, MRP and MRP-2. All are double-based. Norma 202 appears to be the same powder as 201 but with a heavier surface coating to retard the burning rate. Its nitrocellulose content is 88 percent with 4.5 percent nitroglycerin. Length of the individual granules is given as 1.1mm, diameter as .72mm and a single perforation as having a diameter of .12mm. This leaves a wall thickness of .30mm. In our non-metric measurements, these numbers translate, with some rounding,  to .043, .028, .005 and .019 inch, respectively.

Other characteristics include an energy level of 3,852 J/g and a bulk density of 880 g/l. All Norma powders tend to meter quite well. From a burning rate standpoint, Norma 202 is difficult to quantify because so few charts list Norma propellants. However, some do and it would appear that among the powders that are slightly faster are IMR-4064, Accurate 2495 and the discontinued Alliant Reloder 12. On the slower side are Hodgdon BL-C(2), Reloder 15 and Accurate 2520. All this tends to point out the importance of working with published data. Fortunately, this has become much easier with the recent publication of the Norma Reloading Manual, Edition 1.

As I perused the manual, I found about 20 cartridges paired with Norma 202, almost all with multiple bullet weights. Being a rather fast-burning powder, most were small case, smallbore cartridges or high expansion ratio big bores. However, there are some rather surprising exceptions.

We begin with the .222 and .223 Remingtons that are listed only with the heavyweight bullets of 60 grains and up: 60 and 62 grains in the former and 60 and 69 grains in the latter. I worked with the .223 Remington and the 60-grain Sierra hollowpoint (HP). This is about as heavy as we can go without going to a fast twist barrel of one in 7 to one in 10 inches. The typical one-in-12-inch twist of most .223s won’t properly stabilize the heavier bullets. The Norma manual maximum for Norma 202 and the 60-grain bullet is 24.6 grains at 3,176 fps. In a 22-inch barrel, I got good results with 24.5 grains at 3,134 fps and varmint-taking groups of less than one inch at 100 yards.

I’ve mentioned before that the Norma manual calls for the use of Large Magnum Rifle primers regardless of powder or case capacity, except in the .222 and .223 Remington cartridges where a Small Rifle primer is used. Also that, repeatedly, I’ve had better accuracy with standard force primers whenever the case capacity was less than that of the .30-06 and the powder was faster than MRP. Consequently, in the following cartridges, using Norma 202, I restricted my use to standard Large Rifle primers, usually Winchester WLR.

The .22-250 Remington and .220 Swift match up with Norma 202 with bullet weights ranging from 40 to 60 grains. I limited my use to the .22-250 and stayed with  50-grain bullets as Norma 202’s advantage over other powders was most pronounced with 50- and 52-grain bullets, and my supply of the latter wouldn’t allow for sufficient testing. With Norma 203-B (Handloader No. 230) I found an excellent load of 35.1 grains at 3,749 fps. With Norma 202, 34.5 grains clocked 3,765 fps with the same accuracy level as before.

One of the cartridges for which I hoped to find Norma 202 data was the .30-30 Winchester. In the past I had developed a favorite load of 32.5 grains of Norma 201 with a 150-grain bullet, and back then Norma 203 was frequently used as well with this bullet weight, albeit at slightly slower velocities. Unfortunately, the Norma manual doesn’t list Norma 202, instead limiting the cartridge to Norma 200 and 201. Still, I was able to load 34.0 grains under a 150-grain Speer flatnose (FN) in a Winchester Model 94 with a 20-inch barrel. Velocity was only about 2,200 fps, but accuracy was quite good. Even more accurate was 33.0 grains, but velocity was poor; although it would be good enough for deer at close range.

Norma 202 is perhaps at its most versatile in the .308 Winchester. Here the powder is paired with bullets of 150 to 200 grains. I prefer 150s in this cartridge and found Norma 202 to give a very good account of itself. In the manual, with a 24-inch barrel, this powder bested Norma 200 and 201 handily. In real life, with a 22-inch barrel, velocities topped 2,750 fps and accuracy was very good.

In the .30-06 we begin to cross the line with Norma 202 only suited for lightweight bullets of 110 to 130 grains. I still had some old 130-grain Speer hollowpoints and found 55.5 grains to record 3,204 fps from a 22-inch Remington Model 700 with acceptable accuracy.

The .303 British seems to be another place where bullets of 150 and 174 grains match up ex­ceedingly well with this powder, topping the other powders mentioned by at least a bit.

When testing Norma 203-B, I found the powder to be ideally suited for 195/196-grain bullets in the 8mm Mauser, so I was not completely surprised to find Norma 202 to be equally at home with 150- and 170-grain bullets in this cartridge. This time I was able to take full advantage of this old-timer in a new Remington Model 700 Classic. Fifty grains of Norma 202 was able to edge 2,900 fps in a 24-inch barrel with 150-grain Hornadys. Forty-eight grains clocked in at 2,700 fps with 170-grain Hornadys. Accuracy was very good with both bullet weights. These loads exceed typical American SAAMI pressures for the cartridge and should be restricted to rifles in excellent condition.

From here we get into the larger expansion ratio cartridges with the .338-06, the 9.3mm family at 57, 62 and 74mm lengths and even the .375 H&H, .375 Weatherby, .416 Rigby and .458 Winchester. All are suitable for use with Norma 202.

A final cartridge for which I hoped to find Norma 202 data was the .45-70. Such was not to be. However, Norma 201 is an excellent choice, and I suspected Norma 202 couldn’t be all that far behind, especially since I wanted to pair it with 300-grain bullets about 1,900 fps, duplicating the Winchester High Velocity load of years past. I was using a 26-inch barreled 1895 Marlin Cowboy. Pressure would be at the 28,000 psi level, about right for the gun. The Norma manual lists data at 29,000 and 43,500 psi. I stayed with the former, beginning with Norma 201 data and carefully worked up. Two loads performed well: 54.0 grains at 1,868 fps and 55.0 grains at 1,896 fps. Either will suffice, but the heavier charge produced slightly smaller groups. Here, in cold weather, I’d retest with magnum primers.

For a relatively limited-use powder, I’d have to give Norma 202 high marks. It’s packaged in one-pound containers, although availability is frequently suspect. That may change for the better, but regardless, it’s worth a look.

Rifle Reloading Guide
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