This post reports the performance of some handloads using Hodgdon LEVERevolution and Superformance powders in the .300 Savage.
But before that, let’s have a nature report. This year the fall color is about as good as it ever gets at ATOTT Headquarters. Looks like one intrepid pontoon owner still wants to spend a little time on the water. He won’t have long as things are beginning to happen quickly, with lots of leaves coming down daily and cold rain in the forecast. Lucky for me the shooting reported here was completed over the last few weeks.
The story begins with Hornady’s LEVERevolution line of factory ammo, cartridges using spitzer bullets that offer enhanced velocities and are safe to use in the tubular magazines of lever action rifles. The .30-30 Winchester is the best example, but there are several others, including the .308 Marlin Express. It didn’t take the Hodgdon company long to offer LEVERevolution powder for reloaders to use in duplicating the factory ballistics.
Then we also have Hornady’s Superformance line of factory ammo, a second, very extensive line of cartridges that also claims higher velocities when compared with conventional ammunition. The Superformance line includes a load for the .300 Savage that uses a 150-grain, boattail bullet. I have chronographed this load in two rifles, a Remington Model 722 and a Remington Model 81, and can vouch for the fact that the claims of higher velocity are true. The load gave an amazing 2752 fps in the Remington 722 (24-inch barrel). That is about 100fps above the velocity of a conventional load.
Again, Hodgdon’s made a Superformance powder available to handloaders fairly quickly. One might be tempted to assume that a reloader could duplicate the performance of the Hornady Superformance .300 Savage load by using the Hodgdon Superformance powder. That is NOT the case, as will be explained in the following discussion.
The LEVERevolution (LE) and Superformance (SPF) powders for reloaders are billed as very efficient, progressive powders that give higher velocities when used as Hodgdon and Hornady direct. The two powders have a similar appearance, but the SPF has slightly larger grain size. Oddly, in spite of the grain size difference, they appear to have identical densities. I found the average weight of hand-dipped 2.5-cc charges was 38.9 grains for both powders. Hodgdon and Hornady provide loading data for LE and SPF powders, but not all common cartridges are included, and the reloader is cautioned against using either powder for cartridges that they have not provided data for.
Hornady claims the fine performance of its .308 Marlin Express is due to the excellent characteristics of LE powder. Indeed, this cartridge pushes a 160-grain, boat-tailed, spitzer bullet at over 2600 feet per second. That velocity, together with a decent ballistic coefficient for the bullet, gives the .308 ME real punch at long range.
I note that the .300 Savage is very similar in case capacity and shape to the .308 Marlin Express. Hornady freely provides loading data for LE powder for the Express, but not for the .300 Savage. In addition, Hodgdon’s magazine-style annual loading manual has no entry at all for the .300 Savage. Seems a little strange, in view of the bundles of Savage Model 99s out in the big world in this caliber.
Hornady’s Handbook of Cartridge Reloading (8th Edn) lists a maximum load for the .308 Marlin Express of 42.6 grains of LE powder pushing the 160-gr FTS bullet at 2600 fps from a 22-in barrel. I pulled a bullet from a Hornady factory load for the .308 MX and found 44.0 grains of powder with appearance identical to that f LE powder. I also pulled a bullet from a Hornady SPF cartridge for the .300 Savage and I found 43.8 grains of powder that also had a grain size and appearance that seemed identical to that of LE powder. It would thus appear that Hornady uses LEVERevolution powder in its Superformance loads for the .300 Savage.
CAUTION: Results are reported here for loads which are not recommended in any factory information. I make no recommendation for the use of these loads. Shooters who wish to try using LEVERevolution and Superformance powders should start with lower charges and work up while observing the usual precautions.
To focus on this matter, I wanted to prepare loads for the .300 Savage using the two kinds of powder. From studying the above, it seemed that 41.0 grains would be a good place to start. In the following list of results, the Hornady FTX bullet is #30396, the same bullet used in the .308 Marlin Express factory loads. My Remington Model 722 with 24-inch barrel was used for the velocity measurements with a Pro Chono unit.
l. 41.0 gr LE Powder with Winchester 150-gr Power Point: Ave 2586 fps Extreme Spread 99 fps Standard Deviation 32 fps
2. 41.0 gr LE Powder with Hornady 160-gr FTX Ave 2542 fps Extreme Spread 109 fps Standard Deviation 29 fps
3. 41.0 gr SPF Powder with Winchester 150-gr Power Point Ave 2088 fps Extreme Spread 46 fps Standard Deviation 10 fps
4. 41.0 gr SPF Powder with Hornady 160-gr FTX Ave 2074 fps Extreme Spread 59 fps Standard Deviation 14 fps
Here the LE powder gave quite respectable performance with both the 150- and 160-grain bullets. The SPF powder is obviously a much slower burner and the velocity results show it is not appropriate for loading the 150- and 160-grain bullets. Again, I emphasize that neither Hornady nor Hodgdon recommends any loads for the .300 Savage with these powders.
Increasing the charge of LE powder eventually gave the following results:
5. 43.1 gr LE Powder with Sierra 150-gr Round Nose Ave 2646 fps Extreme Spread 90 fps Standard Deviation 25 fps
6. 43.5 gr LE powder with Sierra 150-gr Spitzer (Pro-Hunter) Ave 2764 fps Extreme Spread 91 fps Standard Deviation 23 fps
7. 42.7 gr LE Powder with Hornady 160-gr FTX Ave 2697 fps Extreme Spread 71 fps Standard Deviation 21 fps
Here we see that the .300 Savage really turned in some fine performance with these higher charges of LE powder. These loads showed no signs of dangerous pressure when fired in my rifle, with primers having normal appearance and there being no difficulty with extraction of fired cases. Micrometer measurements showed that case heads of new cases with load 7 expanded slightly less upon firing than did case heads of the factory Hornady Superformance load. Note that, using the 160-grain FTX bullet, load number 7 is the equivalent of the factory .308 Marlin Express.
The accuracy of the best loads was extremely good. Four shot groups were fired at 50 yards during the chronographing of the loads. I have floated the barrel of my Remington Model 722, but it has had no special action bedding or trigger work.
Load No. 6, with the Sierra 150-gr ProHunter bullet, averaged 0.53” (1.06 Minute-of-Angle) for five, consecutive 4-shot groups. The smallest group measured 0.30.”
Load No. 7, with the Hornady 160-gr FTX bullet, averaged 0.43” (0.86 MOA) for four, consecutive 4-shot groups. The smallest group measured 0.22.”
On the same day, factory Hornady Superformance cartridges, which use a Hornady 150-gr SST bullet, gave four, consecutive groups that averaged 0.56” (1.12 MOA).
This outstanding performance attests to the quality of the powder/bullet combinations and to the level of accuracy shown by my Model 722. I could not be happier with the results.
I believe that the Hornady .300 Savage Load, while marketed as a “Superformance “ load, actually uses LEVERevolution powder. At least, factory ballistics can be duplicated by handloaders by using Hodgdon’s LEVERevolution powder. Good loads can be produced using either 150-grain or 160-grain bullets. Superformance powder, on the other hand, is a much slower powder and is not appropriate with 150-grain bullets. I expect it might be quite useful in launching 180-grain bullets from the Savage case, but I did not try that.
The extensive line of Hornady Superformance cartridges includes most calibers currently used for hunting varmints and big game, so it is obvious that the SPF cartridge line does not use a single powder, even though there is only one powder of that name available to reloaders. It appears that LEVERevoution powder is not unique in the Hodgdon lineup, but is a powder located toward the faster end of the spectrum of burning rates used to power this wide range of cartridges.