This past weekend I had the chance to do some black powder shooting with a couple of friends. Here’s most of the firearms we shot:
From left to right: 15th century Handgonne (.75 cal), 16th century Japanese-style matchlock (.50 cal … I think), then a matched pair of smoothbore flintlocks from about 1760 (.69 cal). We also shot my 1815 Mortimer flintlock and a 1876 Hawken percussion cap rifle (.50 cal).
It was all kinds of fun. Here’s a short video of shooting the Handgonne:
Here’s a nice detail of the mechanism showing the match and pan on the matchlock:
This clip of shooting it shows the problems inherent in having a match (the burning cord) which was actually too small:
Then here’s a shot of loading the Hawken:
Examining it before shooting:
And then shooting:
And here’s a bit of video:
Some modern guns and short reviews of them to follow later this week.
I thought I would share a question I got in email today, and my generalized answer, since it is something which comes up surprisingly often.
I love this data! Would it be possible to fund the testing of additional cartridges? I’m looking for more .XYZ load tests.
Our baseline costs for testing a particular cartridge (out to 18″ barrel length) runs a couple hundred dollars for the barrel blank, then perhaps another hundred to get the smithing work done on it to fit the T/C platform. Then add in the actual cost of ammo, with a minimum of probably 100 rounds (3 shots at each inch of barrel, additional rounds for each ‘real world gun’, and then another box or two for repeats when something goes buggy with the data). So realistically, to actually fund a test sequence is a minimum of close to $500 for just one ammo load, and another $100+ for each additional ammo. Add in equipment and site hosting costs, and that’s how we’ve managed to spend something on the order of $50k so far for the data on the site. Which doesn’t include any labor costs, of course, since we only do this because we were curious about the data, not as any kind of testing business.
Which is to say that we’re always happy to accept donations and feedback on what sorts of things people would like to see, but as of yet no one has been willing to step up and finance an entire test sequence for something we’re curious enough to want to sink the time into. (Each test sequence takes 100 man-hours of labor or more … from our vacation/weekend/fun time.)
We don’t *currently* have any plans to retest the .XYZ anytime soon. Actually, we don’t have plans to do any specific tests at all in the near term. But we are looking at revisiting most or all of the cartridges tested to date at some point in the future, just to see how ammo quality/selection may have changed over a 5 or 10 year period.
A friend dropped me a note, after looking over my previous experiments with putting .460 Rowland load power into .45 ACP cases, and asked a fairly simple question: Do you think that the case walls are actually thicker in the .460 Rowland?
Now, I have read several articles over the years which mentioned that the .460 Rowland cases were “stronger” with others saying that the cases were “thicker”. In fact, in the blog post cited above, I myself said:
Even shooting them in a gun designed to handle .460 Rowland power was risky, since the .45 ACP cases do not have the same strength as the .460 Rowland cases.
But is that actually true?
Good question. My Lyman 49th Edition Reloading Handbook doesn’t give case wall thickness for the .45ACP, and doesn’t list .460 Rowland at all. A quick check online also didn’t turn up any case wall thickness specs for either cartridge. As noted above, there are some gun writers out there who claim that the .460 Rowland case has thicker walls “for strength” but this claim isn’t made on the 460Rowland.com site that I could find.
So, being the data-curious guy that I am, I decided to just take some measurements and see what I found.
The only .460 cases I have are all Starline brass (I ordered 500 from them, and supplemented with other brass from factory Buffalo Bore ammunition – again, all of it marked as Starline), and I went through and checked a bunch with my simple calipers. Now, those calipers aren’t the pincer type, just the standard parallel-jaws type, so I only trust the measurements to about halfway down the case. And they all fell into a range of wall thickness from 0.0012″ to 0.0014″.
Doing the same measurement with ten different ‘marked’ sets of .45 ACP brass I also have readily to hand, the results were almost identical, with the vast majority of cases being 0.0012″ or a thousandth of an inch on either side of that. It didn’t matter whether the cases were nickle-plated or marked “+P”. The ‘marked’ brass was as follows:
- Cor Bon +P
- Federal Brass
- Federal Nickle
- Speer Brass
- Speer Nickle
And when you stop to think about it, there would be no reason or way for the case walls to be significantly thicker in the .460 Rowland cartridge, and still allow you to use standard .45 ACP reloading components and dies. If the case walls were substantially thicker, then you’d have to have slightly smaller bullets, if nothing else, and would probably need a different resizing die and/or neck expanding die.
Also, when I was conducting those experiments last summer, I didn’t note any differences in how the .45 ACP cases looked or functioned (when being reloaded) after being shot with .460 Rowland power loads.
My conclusion? That the .460 Rowland cases are no thicker walled than .45 ACP cases. They may still be “stronger”, if there is some metallurgical difference, but I doubt it. The real difference is in whether or not the chamber of the gun in which the ammo is being used is strong enough to handle the much-greater pressure of the .460 Rowland loads. Because remember, the maximum pressure for standard .45 ACP is just 21,000 PSI, and 23,000 PSI for .45 ACP +P — while the .460 Rowland cartridge reaches pressures of 40,000 PSI.
Of course, there are additional factors to consider (like recoil and timing) with the .460 Rowland cartridge, so you can’t just make the chamber of the gun stronger and then start putting those kinds of loads into .45 ACP cases. And you really wouldn’t want to accidentally put such power into a ‘normal’ .45 ACP gun — that could lead to catastrophic failure of the gun, and result in serious injury or death. So it still makes ALL KINDS OF SENSE to only load the longer .460 Rowland cases with that much power.
Some weeks back I put up a post about my preliminary experiences with a .460 Rowland conversion for my Glock 21 Gen 4. In it I mentioned how much I like the resultant gun, but also how I was having some problems with magazine wear when shooting full-force .460 loads.
Well, after thinking a lot more about it, as well as discussing it with people online and with the other BBTI members when they were here for the recent tests (one of whom has been a Glock armorer for 15+ years) a couple different strategies emerged for me to test. Briefly, those were:
- See whether putting in a heavier mag spring would help
- See whether the problem was due to the case length of the .460 Rowland cartridges (they’re 1/16″ longer than .45 ACP).
- See whether the problem was due to the *power* of the cartridges rather than the length of the cases.
To test the first, it was a simple matter to get a more powerful mag spring and test it in one of the magazines. I picked up a Wolff magazine spring from Midway and did so.
To test whether it was the simple case length of the .460 Rowland cases, I made up some .460 Rowland rounds using .45 ACP reloading standards.
To test whether it was the *power* of the .460 loads but not the case length was another matter. Here’s where we get to the Don’t Try This At Home part of today’s blog post: I made up a number of .45 ACP rounds which were loaded to .460 Rowland specs.
Let me repeat that again: Don’t Try This At Home. These are wildcat rounds, and potentially dangerous. Shooting them in a gun not rated for .460 Rowland stresses could very well result in catastrophic failure of your gun, of the “KABOOM!” variety. Even shooting them in a gun designed to handle .460 Rowland power was risky, since the .45 ACP cases do not have the same strength as the .460 Rowland cases. I made up just 10 rounds of each of these loadings, and was careful to make sure I shot them all, so that they didn’t accidentally wind up in a .45 not strong enough to take the punishment.
Here are each of the loadings I made up, just for reference, along with their approximate chrono results:
- 185gr XTP bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1480fps
- 200gr RNFP bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1440fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1350fps
- 250gr LFN bullet, .45 ACP case, .460 Rowland power 1250fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .45 ACP case, .45 ACP power 920fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .45 ACP power 925fps
- 185gr XTP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1490fps
- 200gr RNFP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1420fps
- 230gr RNFP bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1355fps
- 250gr LFN bullet, .460 Rowland case, .460 Rowland power 1265fps
No, I’m not going to give the specific powder amounts for any of those. I used Hodgdon Longshot powder, and you can look up the specs if you want to know more.
In addition, I had these factory loads on hand for comparison, along with their approximate chrono results:
11. 185gr DPX .45 ACP +P 1110fps
12. 230gr GDHP .45 ACP 850fps
13. 230gr JHP .45 ACP +P1040fps
14. 230gr JHP .460 Rowland 1380fps
15. 255gr LFN .460 Rowland1260fps
OK, a couple of comments before I go further: those are “approximate” chrono readings because I wasn’t being anywhere near as careful as we are when we do formal BBTI testing. To wit: I was just using one chrono; I wasn’t worried about getting the exact same number of readings (so long as I got three or four, I wasn’t too worried about it); and I didn’t do anything to control for consistent lighting or suchlike. But they should all be in the right ballpark.
So, looking over all those, you will see what I see: that there was a remarkable consistency in power levels, whether you’re looking at my reloads or factory loads, and between those rounds which used either .45 ACP cases or .460 Rowland cases. That tells me that following the published data for .460 Rowland reloads, and making some intelligent decisions on how to adapt those to the .45 ACP cases for purposes of this experiment, was by and large successful. Meaning that I can use those loads to fairly evaluate what makes a difference on the basic problem I was investigating: what is causing the magazine damage and how to resolve it.
So, what conclusions did I draw from all this?
First, the more powerful magazine spring seemed to help with consistent loading. I will be swapping out all the Glock 21 mag springs I have. This makes intuitive sense, since the slide is moving faster when shooting the more powerful rounds.
That doing a little customizing on the magazines also seems to help a great deal. Here’s a pic showing an unaltered magazine and one I have taken a Dremel tool to:
Note that these are just the magazine ‘boxes’ — the guts (spring, follower, etc) have all been removed for clarity.
With the altered magazine and stronger spring, any problems I had with Failure To Feed was minimized.
And most important, it is the *power* of the round, not the case length, which seems to cause damage to the unaltered magazines. Shooting the .460 Rowland power loads in the .45 ACP cases demonstrated this. Conversely, shooting the .45 ACP power loads in the .460 Rowland cases didn’t cause any magazine damage at all.
Two additional notes I want to add: the first is that I had pretty consistent problems with the heavy Lead Flat Nose rounds in all configurations. They kept getting jammed up in transitioning from the magazine into the chamber. I’ll probably continue to experiment with this in the future, but I’m not too worried about it, since many guns run into some ammo specific problems.
The second is that once again I was really impressed at just how well this reconfigured Glock 21 did with .45 ACP loads. Seriously, with the .460 Rowland conversion in place, there was very minimal recoil (more than a .22, but not much) and it was VERY easy to control and shoot the gun well. I suspect that going forward the vast majority of the shooting I will do with this will be using standard .45 ACP reloads, saving the much more powerful .460 Rowland rounds for occasional practice. In this sense, I am thinking of the .45/.460 relationship the way I think about .38/.357 — it seems to be a perfectly appropriate analogy.
Now that I have all this sorted, I can go ahead and write up a formal review. But I thought I would share a little of the process of how I got to this point.
We’ve long known that many pistol calibers/cartridges are optimized for fairly short barrels — you see real benefits in increasing barrel length out to 6″ or 8″ or so, with diminishing returns beyond that. (The exception to this is the ‘magnum’ rounds: .44mag, .357mag, etc.) It’s not that you don’t see any benefit in a longer barrel, but the gain tends to flatten out. Take a look at the muzzle energy graph for the 9mm Luger (9×19) and this is quickly apparent:
Take a look at the left side of that graph. There’s some indication that the bullets are actually slowing down in the last couple of inches of an 18″ barrel. Whether or not this is just a glitch in our earlier test data, or an indication that friction is starting to win out over the remaining energy from the expanding gas of a fired cartridge is something I’ve always wondered about. Clearly, at some point a bullet will start to slow down, even stop; anyone who has ever fired a squib load and had to hammer the bullet out of a barrel knows that this can indeed happen. But at what point would this effect start to be clear?
Good question. And not one we really wanted to spend the money on to find out. See, the barrel blanks we’ve used all along came in an 18″ length standard for pistol calibers/cartridges. Longer barrels were available from different sources, but there was a big jump up in price for those, and it just didn’t make much sense to get into that.
When we started to set up to do the so-called “Glock Tests” we had to find a different source for our barrel blanks, since our other supplier couldn’t provide a polygonal barrel (the kind of barrel Glock uses, though they are not unique in this). We sourced the barrels from Lothar Walther. And as it turned out, their barrel blanks are longer than 18″. Specifically, we received a 26″ barrel with traditional land-and-groove rifling and a 24″ barrel with polygonal rifling. Here they are:
Well, we didn’t want to spend the time and money doing full chop tests from 26/24 inches down to 18″. But we did decide to just go ahead and get some benchmark data at the full length, just for shits and grins. And here is the data for those lengths, along with data from 18″, 17″, and 16″ lengths for comparison:
PNW Arms STD P 115gr SCHP
Trad: 1074 fps 1161 fps 1163 fps 1171 fps
Poly: 1064 fps 1131 fps 1131 fps 1135 fps
Federal STD P 115gr Hi-Shok
Trad: 1305 fps 1330 fps 1333 fps 1330 fps
Poly: 1323 fps 1331 fps 1336 fps 1135 fps
CorBon +P 115gr DPX
Trad: 1117 fps 1232 fps 1249 fps 1236 fps
Poly: 1057 fps 1186 fps 1195 fps 1208 fps
Black Hills +P 115gr JHP
Trad: 1494 fps 1508 fps 1512 fps 1498 fps
Poly: 1496 fps 1521 fps 1515 fps 1518 fps
Federal STD P 147gr JHP
Trad: 1036 fps 1061 fps 1084 fps 1085 fps
Poly: 1046 fps 1088 fps 1098 fps 1088 fps
So, there ya go: in each and every case, there is a noticeable decrease in velocity in going from an 18″ barrel to either the 24″ or 26″ barrel. And keep in mind that the protocols for this test were 10 shots of each ammo at each barrel length over two chrono units, rather than just 3 shots as we had done for previous chop tests.
Not too surprising, but nice to see actual data.
We hope to have the full data sets, with charts & graphs, up on the website soonish (maybe next week?). Watch here and on our FaceBook page for a posting when it is available.
I said it before and I’ll repeat it here: if you carry a .45, you should instead be carrying a .460 Rowland.
So, early this year I put in an order for a .460 Rowland conversion kit for a new Gen 4 Glock 21.
I’m planning on doing a full formal review of the kit and the resultant gun, but I thought I’d share some of my experience so far. Why “so far”? Well, because I haven’t worked out all the minor kinks yet.
OK, first thing: it didn’t just take the 3 weeks for delivery which was promised. It wasn’t even 3 months. It was almost six months. And a buddy of mine who ordered his before I ordered mine still hasn’t gotten his. So, there’s that.
Second, and part of the reason for the delay, I didn’t receive a new barrel which was marked .460 Rowland. Rather, I got what looked like a standard Wolff .45 barrel. But it had indeed been rechambered to handle the .460 Rowland cartridge. Before I received the kit I got an email advising me of this problem, and I figured I could just roll with it. This is what I got in the kit:
Going clockwise from the top: That’s the threaded barrel, a screw-on compensator, spring assembly adapter, small serving of red loc-tite, and the heavy spring assembly (which is actually the Gen 3 design, but with the adapter works just fine in my Gen 4).
As advertised by .460 Rowland, the conversion takes like 30 seconds. If you can field strip your Glock, you can do the conversion. I’ve opted for using blue loc-tite rather than red, since it still works well but allows me to remove the compensator easily if I need to.
How does it work? Well, I’ve taken it out to the range several times now, shooting both factory rounds as well as my own reloads. Doing some informal chrono tests, I have gotten exactly the kind of performance promised and expected. The Buffalo Bore 230gr JHP were right at 1300 fps. 200gr RNFP reloads were at 1380 fps, and 185gr XTP (JHP) reloads were at 1410 fps. And those reloads are actually fairly mild — just 12.5gr of Longshot powder — based on what data I’ve seen, I could probably push that to 13.5gr without any risk. (Don’t consider this an endorsement — do your own research, and work up your own loads using published data and standard safety practices.)
Shooting the .460 loads out of the Glock is like shooting a .44 magnum (which I have a fair amount of practice with), but having 13 rounds on tap. Seriously, it’s like flinging thunderbolts with each shot. And the recoil is surprisingly manageable, though I’m not someone who is very recoil shy.
So, why did I say I was still working out the kinks?
Well, there’s a problem with the magazines. Here’s what happened after the first outing:
Look closely on the left side of that magazine, and you’ll see that there’s a tab which has been torn a bit loose and pushed forward. That’s from the force of the .460 cartridges slamming forward. At about this point the magazine would no longer release or insert smoothly. That was after my first outing, with about 60 .460 Rowland shots fired. And actually, I damaged two magazines to that extent with those 60 rounds.
So after that first outing, I took a Dremel tool to the magazines and cut away about 1/8″ of material, and flattened the whole face back into position. Today I took those two magazines back out to the range, and ran about another 50 rounds through the gun using the two of them. Here’s one of them after today’s outing, next to a new unaltered magazine:
More problems. This time, the little metal tab snapped off, as well as distorting the face of magazine again. Clearly, I need to sort out how to fix this.
Two other things I want to mention. One, I tried shooting standard .45ACP cartridges out of the .460 Rowland conversion. They work wonderfully. Seriously, there’s almost no recoil, the gun cycles just fine (with my mild reloads as well as factory +P self defense ammo), and there’s no accuracy loss that I could determine casually shooting the gun. So, that’s a plus.
But the other thing? Heh — take a look at what happened with my front site today:
Yeah, it really shouldn’t be facing that way, nor sticking up quite so much. But I can fix that easily enough.
If you have thoughts on how I can correct the magazine problem, I’d love to hear ‘em.
The beginning of this month, I posted an entry about my initial experiment altering one of those heavy Buffalo Bore 340gr +P+ rounds for .44 magnum. I intended to revisit that experiment in short order, and then write up further thoughts on the matter.
But then my month got rather unexpectedly complicated, with my wife needing an emergency appendectomy, a lengthy hospital stay, and then a fair amount of additional care and treatment. She’s doing grand now, but most of the past month was a bit of a blur.
So I’m just now getting back to the experiment. Fortunately, someone over on Facebook made a suggestion which proved to be just about perfect: use a pencil sharpener. Specifically, one designed for the larger style of carpenter’s pencils.
The first one I found here at home didn’t work. But my wife remembered an older (and cheaper) one she had and dug it out for me. I gave it a try, and here’s the result:
The cartridge on the left is the one I initially altered using a rasp and then sandpaper. The one on the right is the one I used the pencil sharpener on. The sharpener itself is there — just one of those cheap plastic ones for schoolkids. If you look close you can see that the blades in it have a bit of rust on them. And the pile of shavings is what I took off the right cartridge.
It took just a little playing around to figure out the best way to shave off the shoulders on the bullet, and just how much I needed to take off, but soon I got the hang of it. Here’s a pic with that initial one, one unaltered cartridge, and three finished cartridges:
I’ve since done a full box of cartridges. When you get the hang of it, it only takes a couple minutes each. And the results are *very* satisfactory. They’re consistent. Smooth. Uniform. And I have carefully measured the shavings from each cartridge, and they all fall between 8 and 10 grains of lead removed. Most importantly, they all feed perfectly reliably in my Winchester 94 lever-action.
So if you’ve encountered this problem, you might want to give this a try. You may need to experiment with a couple different sharpeners, and it’s possible that a different design one would work better for you (either an electric one or one that grinds off material rather than cutting it directly). But it’s worth a shot.
So, the beginning of July I posted an entry about some informal .44 data I had collected. As I said at the time:
I was prompted to do so because I had picked up some new Buffalo Bore ammunition that I wanted to try.
Specifically, this ammo: Buffalo Bore 340gr .44mag
And I was VERY impressed with the performance of that ammunition, since it generated over 1653 fps/2063 ft-lbs out of my Winchester 94. However, there was a problem: it wouldn’t feed in my levergun. Oh, it shot and extracted just fine, but you couldn’t rack a new cartridge from the magazine into the chamber — they would invariably get stuck. Thus making the gun a single-shot, at least as far as that particular ammo was concerned.
So I started thinking about ways around this problem.
My first thought was that perhaps I could develop a similar cartridge using a .44special case. I knew the history of the development of the .44magnum, so i figured that it was probable that the .44special brass would withstand the pressures involved, and give me about 1/8th inch (the difference between the case length of the .44special and the .44magnum) to play with. I found a suitable bullet, and did a little research to see whether anyone had recently tried to develop such power out of a .44special case.
My research pointed to the possibility of developing full .44magnum power out of a .44special case (which was what was done historically, so no big surprise there). And over the course of the last month I worked up two different flights of test ammo experimenting with that idea.
What results did I get? Well, let’s just say that you can indeed get some very powerful rounds using .44special cases. Indeed, using 240 grain bullets (which are fairly standard for the .44) I had considerable success. The rest of the equation is left to the experienced reloader to determine for themselves.
With the 330 grain bullets, though, it was a different story. When approaching the upper end of the published data for .44magnum, I started to see indications of stress on the spent brass which made me … nervous. Enough so that I decided not to risk shooting the last couple of test rounds. Draw your own conclusions.
And the chronographed power results were only about half of what the Buffalo Bore ammunition I was trying to emulate demonstrated. Hmm.
Now, it is possible that with a different type of gunpowder, I might be able to come to a different result with my shorter .44special reloads. Maybe.
But we all know how hard it can be to find preferred types of gunpowder these days. So I decided to reconsider my strategy. After all, what I wanted was to have the power of the Buffalo Bore loads, but in a cartridge which would feed reliably in my levergun.
The result? I decided to try to change the shape of the bullet in the Buffalo Bore cartridge, so that the hard leading shoulder would be rounded off in such a way as to properly feed in my gun. After a bit of experimentation this afternoon, this is what I came up with:
Note the rounded cartridge on the left, next to an unaltered cartridge on the right. In the pan for my balance beam scale you can see the bulk of the lead removed from the bullet in the cartridge on the left. Now, that’s not all of the lead I removed — but it is probably the vast majority of it, since I did the removal over a sheet of paper using a rasp, and then weighed the shavings (which turned out to be 10.5 grains, btw).
That cartridge feeds fine in my levergun. No problems. So the trick will be to experiment with seeing how little lead I can remove while still getting reliable feeding, and getting good at doing so uniformly so as to not really screw up how the bullet behaves aerodynamically. That should be a manageable matter. (Edited to add: see my solution here.)
But I also think I’ll drop Buffalo Bore a note, and see if I can get them to tweak the design of the bullet just a tad to make it more friendly for us levergun owners. Thanks to BBTI, I should have enough cred that perhaps they’ll take note.
- .25 ACP
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- .32 ACP
- .32 H&R
- .327 Federal Magnum
- .357 Magnum
- .357 SIG
- .38 Special
- .380 ACP
- .40 S&W
- .41 Magnum
- .44 Magnum
- .44 Special
- .45 ACP
- .45 Colt
- .460 Rowland
- 9mm Luger (9×19)
- 9mm Mak
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- General Procedures
- Shotgun ballistics