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Rifle Magazine
August - September 2004
Volume 39, Number 4
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 230
On the cover...
The Turnbull Cowboy Classic features color case frame and carbona blue on the barrel, cylinder and grip frame. Ivory stocks are by Jim Alaimo (www.nutmegsports.com) and engraving is by Adams and & Adams, PO Box 66 Vershire, VT 05079. Photo by Gerald Hudson.
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Product Tests

Fillers used in metallic reloading have enjoyed a somewhat spotty history. Initially made of paper, felt, fiber and cork also have been used, especially in conjunction with black powder and cast bullets. All of them served to protect the bullet base and hold the powder against the primer flash hole. More recently, fillers in granulated form have hit the market and have seen use in smokeless and black-powder loads and even with jacketed bullets.

One of the latest of this latter group is Puff-Lon, marketed by Puff-Lon of Groesbeck, Texas. According to the company, the filler is made of a “natural cellulose” impregnated with synthetic lubricants, molybdnum disulfide and an “anti build-up” agent to prevent particles from bonding together.  It is my understanding that Teflon is one of the synthetic lubricants. The product is compressible and is sort of beige with a pinkish   tint. The company makes several claims for its product including improvements in consistency, accuracy, velocity and reliability (in gas-operated autoloaders) - also, reductions in cleaning, heat transfer, fouling and gas cutting (of cast bullets), among others.

In the Puff-Lon literature is a caution statement that says, in part, “There will be a slight increase in pressure and velocity with all bullets and a slight loss in accuracy with boattail bullets. All starting loads should be at least 20% below SAAMI maximum recommendations. No load should ever exceed 95% of SAAMI maximum recommendations. Crimp all straight wall cases. Wash hands before handling smoking products.” A point not made is that Puff-Lon is very light, and a sneeze in the wrong direction can make a mess you’ll never forget.

I’ve been using Puff-Lon for some months now and think my experiences may be of interest. I used the filler in four cartridges with both cast and jacketed bullets but restricted my use to smokeless powders and flatbase bullets.

First, the only handgun cartridge was the .45 Colt. A typical load for me is the Lyman 454190 cast bullet over 8.5 grains of Unique. Since this is not a maximum load in most manuals, I followed instructions and, after dropping the powder charge, used a scoop to fill the case to overflowing with Puff-Lon. A quick swipe with a small ruler leveled off the filler. This was done with a saucer under the case to catch the excess. Company literature says a powder measure can be used. This would probably be a good approach for volume loading, if one has an extra measure lying around. After the filler was placed in the case, the bullet was seated. This is preferable to charging all cases with the filler then seating all bullets due to the lightness of the product. Crimping, as always, was done separately.

At the range, Puff-Lon’s claims held up well with projected increases in velocity and a tightening of group size. As with each test, I loaded a series of cases both with and without the filler and, in addition, had copious notes from previous firings for comparison. In this case, for a load that typically produced 2 1/2- to 3-inch groups at 25 yards in a Colt SAA, Puff-Lon-assisted groups now ran 2 to 2 1/2 inches. Not bad. Standard loads clock about 868 fps. The Puff-Lon loads upped speeds to shade the 900-fps mark. Duplicating the tests with 250-grain Hornady XTPs produced lower velocity, but group sizes still favored the Puff-Lon loads.

The first of the rifles used was a Winchester Model 94 .30-30. The cast bullet load was 20.0 grains of SR-4759 under a 175-grain flatnose, gas-checked bullet from a Magma mould. The Puff-Lon load won here as well, producing smaller groups, higher velocity (1,943 to 1,923 fps) and smaller extreme spreads. The jacketed bullet load, a 150-grain Speer over 32.5 grains of Norma N-201, oddly, produced equal velocities (2,243 to 2,242) with and without the addition of the filler, but again, the Puff-Lon load was slightly more consistent and had slightly tighter groups.

In a Remington Model 700 .30-06, I began with a variation of the famous Whelen small game load by using the same cast bullet used in the .30-30 tests rather than the traditional 150-grain Lyman 311466. Powder was 18.0 grains of SR-4759. Here the velocity and extreme spread edge went to the Puff-Lon load but, interestingly, the smaller groups were fired without the filler. A very small difference, I must admit, but smaller, nonetheless. A jacketed 150-grain Hornady seated over 49.0 grains of Vihtavuori N540 also defied expectations with both velocity and extreme-spread laurels going to the load without the filler but top accuracy still falling to the Puff-Lon load.

Finally, to what I suspect the makers had in mind all along, large black-powder cartridges, in this case, the .45-70. Here I worked with two cast and two jacketed bullets. The rifle was a Marlin 1895 Cowboy with a 26-inch barrel. For the jacketed bullet loads, I chose 300- and 405-grain Remingtons. In both cases I used IMR-3031, and in both cases velocity, extreme spread and accuracy edges went to the Puff-Lon loads.

It was the cast bullet loads that impressed me most though. H-4198 was the propellant. Bullets were 350-grain flatnose True Shots from Oregon Trail and 405-grain flatnoses from Meister Bullets. Accuracy advantages always went to the Puff-Lon loads, often by a large margin, as did the velocity crown. Both were aided, no doubt, by the significant increases in consistency enjoyed by the Puff-Lon loads.

One interesting characteristic of these tests was that, from a clean barrel, the first Puff-Lon shot always recorded the lowest velocity. After firing the Puff-Lon loads, and scrubbing the barrel again, the first non-Puff-Lon shot always recorded the highest velocity in its group. This speaks to the lubricating qualities of Puff-Lon, it seems, and that once a barrel has been conditioned with Puff-Lon, no first shot abnormalities should be expected assuming continued Puff-Lon use. The company recommends cleaning with oily and dry patches for continued use, but I cleaned my barrels thoroughly, especially after using jacketed bullets and still found evidence of the lubricating agents in the barrel as noted above.

Another claim made by the company is that cases used in Puff-Lon loads emerge from the chamber cleaner, particularly in the neck area, than those that did not employ the product. The company even sent me pictures to prove it. I was not, however, able to substantiate the claim. Even starting with very clean brass, if there was a difference, it was too small to draw a conclusion.

Still, with 10 comparative tests, I found the Puff-Lon loads to record higher velocities in 8, accuracy edges in 9 and greater consistency (smaller extreme spreads) in 9. That’s impressive. While I probably would not use Puff-Lon were I assembling 500 handgun rounds for plinking at tin cans or slaying the odd jack rabbit, were I loading “for serious” for hunting or competition at long range, and fillers were legal, I’d have to seriously consider it. Tony Turner of Arizona did and won the senior event at the 2003 Quigley Match using Puff-Lon and placed in the top 2 percent of all competitors.

Puff-Lon is available in 500 and 100cc containers. For more information contact the company at 344 LCR 759, Groesbeck TX 76642.

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