|June - July 2002
Volume 37, Number
Stan Trzoniec used a custom Ruger Model 77 MKII .284 Winchester topped with a Burris 3-9x scope to develop handloads with the Barnes X-Bullet in Winchester Brass and Redding dies. Photo by Stan Trzoniec.
In the summer of 2001, a member of
Hornady Manufacturing’s research and development team asked me to do a “blind
test” of some experimental .45 Colt factory ammunition. For example, I was sent
several hundred rounds that were marked Sample A, B, C, etc. Each load was to be evaluated
based on accuracy, fouling, smoke, leading around the cylinder gap, ease of cleanup and
The samples contained different
powders and charges and were loaded with various 255-grain swaged lead bullets. Before
beginning the tests, I pulled a bullet on each of the loads, weighed powder charges and
examined the different bullets. I noticed the bullet lube on one of the loads containing a
Hornady 255-grain swaged lead flatnose (FN) cowboy bullet was distinctly different than
the other samples. Rather than the heavy wax that had been present for years, this lube
was very thin and featured an almost white appearance. Frankly, I was a bit skeptical, as
swaged lead bullets are soft when compared to a hard cast bullet and, due to their lack of
deep grease grooves, often don’t contain enough lube to prevent barrel leading. Even
if velocities are kept between 700 and 900 fps, leading can occur.
Boy, was I in for a pleasant
surprise, as the above sample load performed distinctly better than all other loads. The
ammunition was tested in two rifles and three handguns including a Marlin 1894 Cowboy, a
Winchester 1894 Trails End, a Ruger Blackhawk, a Colt Single Action Army and a custom
built Ruger Bisley with a Douglas barrel. In every instance, the bullet containing this
new lube showed virtually no lead fouling, and the bores literally shined after hundreds
of rounds. Due to the reduction in fouling and the great consistency of the lube, there
was a distinct accuracy edge with each of the five guns it was tested in. There was less
fouling or buildup in the barrel/cylinder gap area of the revolvers, which cleaned very
easily, and there was practically no lube left in the actions of the rifles. (Loads
containing the older style bullet lubes left lube in the actions of the leverguns - from
cycling rounds - and there was a residue buildup around the barrel/cylinder gap of the
At a later date, I had the
opportunity to test the Hornady 255-grain swaged lead FN bullet in handloads containing
the new lube, and again performance was excellent. The initial load consisted of 6.0
grains of Alliant Red Dot for around 850 fps from a Colt SAA with a 4 3/4-inch barrel,
which basically duplicated the old, original 250/255-grain factory loads from Remington
Recently I had another opportunity to work
with Hornady swaged lead bullets containing the new lubricant in .38 caliber. Two designs
were evaluated, including the 148-grain hollowbase wadcutter (HBWC) and the 158-grain
semiwadcutter hollowpoint (SWC-HP). Being very curious if they would perform as well as
the .45 Colt bullets had, I proceeded to test them with several powder charges that
produced velocities ranging from 750 to 810 fps for the HBWC and 830 to 920 fps for the
The first .38 Special load tested
contained 4.3 grains of Winchester W-231 behind the 158-grain SWC-HP for 830 fps. The bore
of the Smith & Wesson Model 14 (K-38 with a 6-inch barrel) was already slightly fouled
with lead from firing many +P 158-grain swaged lead bullets previously. I chose to leave
the bore fouled, just to see if the swaged Hornady bullet was hard enough and lubed well
enough to remove the lead fouling from the first 1/2 inch of the breech end of the barrel.
It took 30 or 40 shots, but the bore was soon shining with no signs of leading in front of
the forcing cone. This load (along with others, including a +P load) was then tested for
accuracy, which was excellent. The 148-grain HBWC proved very accurate with powder charges
consisting of 2.7 grains of Alliant Bullseye for just over 750 fps and 3.0 grains of IMR’s
HI-SKOR 700-X for just over 800 fps.
The new lube is now applied to all
Hornady swaged lead bullets, which are used in certain factory loads and on all bulk
packed bullets available to handloaders. It is water based, non-toxic and completely
natural. Finished bullets are lightly dusted with mica, to prevent possible sticking, as
they are bulk packed. In loading several hundred rounds, buildup within the
seating/crimping die was minimal, which is often a problem with swaged bullets that
contain excess lube. The Hornady swaged lead pistol bullets are comprised of 95 percent lead and 5 percent antimony, which makes
them one of the harder commercial swaged bullets available. Currently, 18 bullets are
available ranging from .32 to .45 caliber.
More on Bears and Handguns
In Handloader No. 213, I wrote an
article titled “Handguns for Bear Protection.” After seeing the article, a
reader forwarded a most interesting story about a lady who recently stopped a grizzly
charge at just a few feet with a .44 Magnum revolver.
We will refer to her as ”Ms. M.”
It seems her line of work takes her to remote areas of Alaska, so she took a defensive
bear safety course from Joe Nava, who has taught this class for over 40 years. Many of his
6,000 students have included state and federal employees. Apparently the class combines
common sense things to do to prevent attacks, but in the event an attack occurs, students
receive firearms (handgun and shotgun) training so they have a chance to survive.
Ms. M had purchased a .44 Magnum
revolver and carried it in a hip holster on her right side. She practiced drawing and
firing it as fast as she could and even “point and shoot in the event she did not
have time to aim the gun precisely.” Practice sessions were extensive with the gun
loaded and empty.
While working in a rather brushy
area, with a notebook in hand, a large grizzly made a charge from the nearby brush. Ms. M
dropped her notebook and began backing up as she drew her .44 Magnum and quickly fired.
There was only time for one shot, and the bear fell dead between the dropped notebook and
her feet. The bullet had passed through the skull of the bear.
After skinning the bear and turning
the hide over to the Fish & Game Department (which is the law), Ms. M stated she
believed the bear safety course saved her life. I may add that her mindset (she didn’t
panic) and long practice sessions with her .44 Magnum are what really paid off.