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.
When we did the .44 Special and .44 Magnum tests, I didn’t yet own my 6″ Colt Anaconda. And since my Winchester Model 94AE has a 24″ barrel, we decided to not include it in the tests (which only go up to 18″).
But this afternoon I decided to take my solo chronograph and go out and do a bit of informal testing. I was prompted to do so because I had picked up some new Buffalo Bore ammunition that I wanted to try. But since I was going out anyway, I decided to grab whatever factory ammo I had and just do a little informal testing. What follows are the results … using just one chrono, and usually just shooting just two or three rounds and averaging them. Below the velocity is calculated Muzzle Energy.
Ammo Anaconda Winchester 94
Ultramax 200gr .44sp 739 fps/242 ft-lbs 965 fps/414 ft-lbs
Remington 246gr .44sp 717 fps/281 ft-lbs 911 fps/453 ft-lbs
Federal Hydra-Shok 240gr .44mag 1277 fps/869 ft-lbs 1705 fps/1550 ft-lbs
Hornady 240gr .44mag 1376 fps/1009 ft-lbs 1859 fps/1842 ft-lbs
Remington 240gr .44mag 1340 fps/957 ft-lbs 1754 fps/1640 ft-lbs
Buffalo Bore 340gr .44mag 1310 fps/1296 ft-lbs 1653 fps/2063 ft-lbs
Of course, raw power isn’t everything. Actual terminal ballistics makes a big difference, depending on what you want: expansion, or deep penetration? Recoil is also more problematic (particularly out of a handgun) the more power there is. And the Buffalo Bore ammo isn’t suitable for all guns — some just aren’t built strong enough for that kind of power, and others will have problems loading. My Winchester 94 levergun would not cycle the Buffalo Bore, meaning that I could not rack a new round into the chamber after shooting one (though it shot them just fine and would extract them without a problem). One look will tell you why:
Some other pics to share:
And a graphic demonstration in the power difference between the performance of bullets shot out of the revolver and the rifle: using the same reload (a 245gr LRN with 8.5gr of Titegroup), shot from about 25 yards. The can hit with the Anaconda on the left, the rifle on the right.
I got the following question, and it was on a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while. I thought I’d share the question and my response.
I want to upgrade my chronograph. Any recommendations?
Actually, that’s a good question. What I have to say is just my personal opinion, and does not constitute any kind of formal endorsement/review by BBTI.
We’ve used about a dozen different chronos over the series of tests. I’ve been pretty impressed with how consistent the different brands are one to another when compared head-to-head or in checking calibration with my Python and ball ammo from one lot over the years. So in that sense, most of the modestly-priced units seem to be of comparable quality.
Where you start to see some differences is in actually getting data – whether or not lighting is a problem, how much space they need, etc. For most people just using them casually, this wouldn’t be a big deal. When you’re doing 6,000+ shots checking for the cylinder gap effect, it can drive you nuts. Of the moderately priced units (actually, on the high end), this is one we’ve had good luck with: http://www.midwayusa.com/product/773378/ced-millennium-2-chronograph-system
Personally, I have a Chrony Gamma I like ( http://www.midwayusa.com/product/331656/shooting-chrony-gamma-master-chronograph-with-ballistic-chrony-printer ) for most of my casual use checking reloads and whatnot. But that was one of the ones we had problems with now and again (and why it’s now my personal unit).
A couple weeks ago we did the .22WMR series of tests, and had a lot of chrono problems. We thought this might be the case, since the .22mag is one of the smallest bullets going the fastest – presenting the biggest challenge for the optical sensors used on a chronograph. Particularly since as you chop the barrel you are always changing the ‘sight picture’ (even though there aren’t actually sights…) and introducing changes to the barrel crown and suchlike. Meaning that you can’t trust that you’ll get the bullet over the sweet spot for the optical sensors.
So as a backup Jim K had a new high-end Oehler unit: http://www.oehler-research.com/model35.html Very nice, more complicated than it needs to be, and about 3x the price of most other units on the market.
We even had problems with that.
Bottom line, I think most of the moderate priced units ($100 – $200) are about the same in terms of quality. I never use the printer on mine, and we don’t bother to set up a printer when we do our tests – it’s just one more thing to go wrong. But some people love ‘em. If you can, take a look at some of the units, see what features appeal to you, what reviews say, whether the unit seems well constructed. Then make your best bet.
Oh — THAT — ammo shortage.
Yeah, the beginning of January I wrote that we were finally moving forward with the testing of polygonal vs. traditional rifling; the so-called “Glock Tests“, and outlined how we were planning on conducting a bit of an experiment in asking for suggested ammo loads to include in the tests, and then seeing what kind of support there was for a slate of different choices by allowing pledges to help purchase ammo.
But, as someone who wrote me put it: where did we think we were going to *find* any such ammo?
Initially, I thought that the shortage we were seeing would be a fairly temporary problem, and that by the time spring rolled around we’d be able to locate sufficient quantities for our testing (we need about 350 rounds of each type).
Yeah, so much for that idea. Now you know why I don’t play the stock market or bet on races.
The ammo shortage has just continued to deepen. It’s to the point where people are having a hard time finding enough of any kind of ammo just to keep in practice with a trip to the range once or twice a month. I’m damned glad I reload my practice ammo, and have a decent store of most components.
But that doesn’t do a damned thing for our testing. The whole idea is to test factory ammo, not some cobbled-together handload version of factory ammo.
So we’re putting off the “Glock Tests” again, until the situation gets better. Keep an eye here and elsewhere for news about when this will change.
One good bit of news, however: we already had a decent selection and sufficient quantity of each ammo type to do the .22WMR (.22Magnum) tests. So we’re going to go ahead and do that sequence of tests here this spring — sometime soon!
Sorry for the bad news, everyone — really. These tests have been delayed several times for one (good) reason or another, and we’re just as frustrated by that as everyone else. But when ammo supplies start to become more available, we’ll be sure to try and get them done as soon as we can.
As mentioned previously, for some time we’ve been planning on doing a series of inch-by-inch chop tests on the Glock-style polygonal barrels (Glock was unable to supply 18″ barrels, so we’ll be using 6 grove poly and 6 land traditional barrels from Lothar Walther). We’ve run into a number of unexpected delays, but now have the barrels we need, and are planning on doing the series of tests sometime later this year, hopefully in spring/early summer. For testing purposes, we’ll be conducting traditional ‘land & groove’ barrels in the same calibers at the same time, so that we have direct head-to-head comparisons. Because we’re expecting a fairly subtle difference in performance, we’re going to do 10 (ten) shots for each inch of barrel for both style barrels. And to keep the scope of the project manageable, we’re only going to test two cartridges/calibers: 9mm (9×19) and .45 ACP.
In order to do the tests this way, we’ll need a minimum of 340 rounds of each ammo to test. Add in “real world guns” and allowing for errors/glitches which mean extra shots, we’re planning on getting 400 rounds of each ammo to be tested. Figure an average of about $1 per round for premium self-defense ammunition, and we’re looking at about $400 for each ammo selected for testing. There are some specific ammunition types/loads we’ve tested previously that we want to revisit for comparison purposes, but our selection is hardly comprehensive — time and money are limited.
So we’d like to try an experiment: do Kickstarter-style crowdfunding to see what ammunition types/loads people want to have us test. This will allow two things:
- To let people help support the project by offsetting our costs.
- To help us find new ammunition types/loads.
Now, Kickstarter itself isn’t firearm-friendly. And that’s OK — we can do this on our own, just using our own site. What we’ll do is put up a list of different ammo types/loads, and solicit donations targeted for each during a specific time frame. When pledges are made, we’ll keep a running tally total for each ammo, and once it crosses a certain threshold, then that specific type/load will be added to our testing list.
But first we need to create our list of ammo. So, for the next two weeks, either add a comment to this blog post or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with one specific 9mm ammunition type/load you would like to see us test. Please, just one type/load per comment or email, and just five or six such entries per person. I’m going to have to collate these myself, so help make it a little easier on me. Just sending in a selected ammo doesn’t obligate you to support that ammo with $ in the second phase of this test, but it’s probably a good idea to only recommend ammo you would be willing to actually support, and ones you think you can get others to support. And remember, keep your recommendations limited to factory mass-produced ammo; handloads or artisanal ammo which the average person doesn’t have access to will not be selected for inclusion in the tests. Also: we’re only accepting recommendations and donations from individuals, not ammo manufacturers.
You can see all the 9mm ammo we’ve tested previously here: 9mm Luger Results.
As I said, this is an experiment. If it works for selecting 9mm ammo to test, we may extend it to the .45 ACP tests, and then see about using a similar approach for other testing. We hope that this will be a way we can expand our research and make it more responsive to what data the firearms-enthusiast community wants to see. You can help by sending in your suggestions, but in also spreading the word on the different forums/blogs where our data may be used.
Thanks, everyone, for your ongoing interest and support!
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