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GUNS Magazine August 2011 Digital Edition - Page 22

• J O h N B A r S N E S S • ThE .270 WIThOUT h4831 Is it possible? he combination of Hodgdon H4831 and the .270 T winchester is as common as french fries and ketchup, and works so well many handloaders never bother to experiment with any other powder. To tell the truth, they aren’t exactly wrong. My loading notes indicate I’ve handloaded for 14 .270s over nearly 40 years, and almost every rifle shot 130- to 150-grain bullets at high velocity with good-to-excellent accuracy when loaded with H4831. So why change? Well, in a way we already have. The original H4831 was a World War II military-surplus powder for 20mm cannons. After the war, a young salesman named Bruce Hodgdon started marketing mil-surp powders, at first the IMR4895 developed by DuPont in the 1930s for the .3006’s new 152-grain military load. Hodgdon packaged both 4895 and the slower-burning H4841 in everything from paper bags to small kegs at really affordable prices, helping to make handloading the popular pastime it is today. The supply of mil-surp H4831, however, ran out in 1973, and Hodgdon Most .270s work very well with h4831, but this Fn Mauser didn’t like it much. This Wyoming mule deer was taken with a 130-grain nosler Partition and Alliant Reloder 19. 22 started selling newly-manufactured H4831 made in Scotland. In 1974, I found two dust-covered cans of the old powder in a hardware store in Culberson, Mont., priced at $2.25 apiece. This was the middle of the first American “oil crisis” and the price of most smokeless powder had gone up to near $4 a pound. I’d just started handloading for the .270 and thought I’d lucked onto a lifetime supply of cheap powder—of course burning it all up within a year and having to buy new H4831 at $3.95 a can. Over the next couple of decades, H4831 changed yet again. One of the problems with the original powder (including its replacement) was the granules were so large that running them through a powder measure was like chopping kindling. Eventually Australian Defense Industries not only produced a “short-cut” version called H4831SC that measured pretty well, but turned H4831 into a much more temperature-resistant powder, one of Hodgdon’s “Extreme” line. So even if we use H4831SC in our .270, it isn’t the same H4831 that our father and grandfather used. In the meantime, other new and improved powders will do just as well, if not better. Some .270s just don’t “like” H4831 the way they should. Sometime ago I acquired one of the “J.C. Higgins” FN Mausers made for Sears Roebuck from my stepfatherin-law who, after his 80th birthday, decided to give up hunting. This rifle turned out to be one of those rare .270s that just didn’t perk very well with H4831, so I decided to try a eileen Clarke took this spike elk with a load combining Ramshot hunter and a 140-grain Barnes Triple-Shock X-Bullet, both new on the market at the time. Obviously it worked great! bunch of newer powders and see what happened. The winner, with 130-grain bullets, turned out to be Alliant Reloder 19, while the top powder with 150s was Ramshot Magnum. Several other powders also did well, including Reloder 22, H1000 and IMR7828. That was a dozen years ago, when Ramshot didn’t have a powder in the H4831 burning-rate slot. Magnum works pretty well in the .270 even though it’s noticeably slower than H4831, but in some factory rifles you just can’t get enough in the case to reach normal velocities, even with 150-grain bullets. (This is probably due to the occasional slightly oversize bore, which does turn up now and then—and doesn’t necessarily harm accuracy.) The next slowest Ramshot powder was Big Game, noticeably faster than IMR4350, leaving a performance gap in the line. ramshot hunter The Ramshot rifle powders soon became more popular among reloaders, because unlike many traditional ball powders they burn cleanly and are pretty temperature resistant. Customers started demanding something between Big Game and Magnum, and the slot was WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • AUGUST 2011

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