All along, we’ve said that if someone wanted to take the time, trouble, and expense to do some additional research along the lines of our protocols, that we’d be happy to include their data on our site. This is particularly true if it helped expand the selection of “real world guns” associated with the data for a given caliber/cartridge. Well, for the first time someone has expressed an interest in doing just that, prompting us to come up with an outline of what standards we feel are required for making sure it relates to our previous tests.
The biggest problem is that ammo manufacturers may, and do, change the performance of their products from time to time. This is why we have on occasion revisited certain cartridges, doing full formal chop tests in order to check how specific lines of ammo have changed. That gives us a benchmark to compare other ammo after a period of several years have passed, and shows how new tests relate to the old data.
But without going to such an extent, how can we be reasonably sure that new data collected by others using their own firearms is useful in comparison to our published data?
After some discussion, we feel that so long as any new testing includes three or more of the specific types of ammo (same manufacturer, same bullet weight & design) we had tested previously, then that will give enough of a benchmark for fair comparison. (Obviously, in instances where we didn’t test that many different types of ammo in a given cartridge, adjustments would need to be made). With that in mind, here are the protocols we would require in order to include new data on our site (with full credit to the persons conducting the tests, of course):
- Full description and images of the test platform (firearm) used in the tests. This must specify the make, model number, barrel length, and condition of the firearm. Ideally, it will also include the age of the firearm.
- That a good commercial chronograph be used. Brand isn’t critical — there seems to be sufficient consistency between different models that this isn’t a concern. However, the brand and model should be noted.
- Chronographs must be positioned approximately 15 feet in front of the muzzle of the firearm used to test the ammo. This is what we started with in our tests, and have maintained as our standard through all the tests.
- That five or six data points be collected for each type of ammo tested. This can be done the way we did it, shooting three shots through two different chronographs, or by shooting six shots through one chronograph.
- All data must be documented with images of the raw data sheets. Feel free to use the same template we used in our tests, or come up with your own.
- Images of each actual box of ammo used in the test must be provided, which show the brand, caliber/cartridge, and bullet weight. Also including manufacturer’s lot number would be preferred, but isn’t always possible.
- A note about weather conditions at the time of the test and approximate elevation of the test site above sea level should be included.
We hope that this will allow others to help contribute to our published data, while still maintaining confidence in the *value* of that data. Please, if you are interested in conducting your own tests, contact us in advance just so we can go over any questions.
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.
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.
Six months ago we launched Ballistics By The Inch. And since then we’ve had over 770,000 hits, one major magazine article, and coverage & discussion of the site in countless gun forums & blogs around the globe. When I have checked the stats for the site, I have never failed to be impressed with just how widely it has become known.
Well, tonight we posted a major upgrade to the whole site. This includes three additional caliber ‘chop tests’, but it also includes data collected from testing over 40 additional “real world” guns – including a baker’s dozen carbine-length guns. This data has been separated out into a new series of graphs for easy comparison. All together, there are now over 150 graphs showing ballistic performance – along with all the charts giving numerical averages for each 1″ increment in barrel length for 16 different calibers. And for the true data junkies, there are downloadable files (in two formats) for the entire sequence of initial tests, and another set for the second round of testing done in April 2009.
Like the initial project, this major upgrade and revision has been a huge job – and one only made possible by a lot of work from several individuals. Yes, there were the three of us testers from the original project. But there was also the addition of a fourth tester this time around who helped us gather & operate all those ‘real world’ guns, and I would like to welcome Keith to our team. But I would especially like to thank my good lady wife for all the html coding & design for our website – both the last time and with this major revision. Quite literally, none of this would have been available without her hard work.
There will probably be minor tweaks and additions to the site in the coming months and years. We still have some ideas of data which might be of interest to the gun community. But for now we hope that you will enjoy and make use of the data provided, and help to spread the word to others who may be interested.
(Cross posted to my personal blog.)
OK, this is going to be a bit of a catch-all entry, where I (and I hope Jim K and Steve) will post some little comments and observations about doing the project. A lot of this stuff you would probably find if you poke around deep enough in either the Emails or the flickr images, but it’s nice to get an individual story as well.
* * *
See the title on the site? The tag line: “Three guys, two chronographs, and 7,000 rounds of ammo . . . ” really oughtta be “Three guys, FOUR chronographs, and 7,000 rounds of ammo . . . ”
Yeah, we killed two chronographs. Put a bullet (a .45 colt, if memory serves) right through the forehead of the first one, which went through the one behind it. Happened during the first day of testing in the second flight of tests. I blogged about it that night; here’s an excerpt:
What happened was this: one of us (who shall for now remain nameless, until I can spend more time to write up the saga appropriately) was in the middle of shooting the second most powerful of the calibers we’re testing, and didn’t manage to control the gun completely when he fired the round. And it went right through both chronographs. Perfectly.
We use two chronographs, lined up one in front of the other, to be sure we’re getting good data. He hit the first one right dead center, a little high from the middle. Like a perfect shot in a movie, hitting the bad guy right between the eyes. The large bullet punched through the display, destroyed the electronics, and shattered the back of the chrono – then entered the front sensor of the second chrono, exiting out the bottom rear sensor as well.
It was spectacular. A perfect shot. I have pix I’ll be posting later.
Ah, good times, good times. We put an armour plate (a railway tie plate) in front of the next set of chronographs from then on. Good thing, too, that saved us probably another five or six sets of chronographs. Live and learn.
- .25 ACP
- .30 carbine
- .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
- .45 Super
- .450 SMC
- .460 Rowland
- 6.5 Swedish
- 9mm Luger (9×19)
- 9mm Mak
- 9mm Ultra
- black powder
- Boberg Arms
- General Procedures
- Shotgun ballistics