More on the .30-30 Ackley Improved

This post describes a Thompson Center G2 Contender with a custom rifle barrel chambered for the .30-30 Ackley Improved.  Shooting results are included.

A Gun For the .30-30 AI

Normally, when I am evaluating ammo for the .30-30 Winchester I will choose a good bolt action that I have accurized.  I have always had excellent results with a Remington  Model 788. This post will follow up and expand upon the earlier post : “Power for the .30-30: Ackley Improved and Hornady LeverEvolution.”  (Nov 22, 2014)  Shooting results with an Ackley Improved barrel will be presented.

IT is possible to chamber any .30-30 for the AI by using a chamber reamer ground to the proper dimensions, but my 788 is so good with standard ammo that I did not want to touch it. I previously had a barrel in .32 S&W long made by Match Grade Machine of Hildale, Utah for my T/C G2 Contender.  It is an excellent barrel and I knew they also chambered for the .30-30 AI, so I ordered a 24-inch example with scope base installed. Like any Contender barrel, it easily fit the receiver and with a rifle butt and forend I now had a rifle in .30-30 AI.

The T/C G2 Contender

T/C G2 Contender with composite stock

The Thompson Center Contender, with a break-open action, is a very simple answer to the one frame/many cartridges question. Barrels, and calibers, may be switched simply by removing a non threaded hinge pin and putting a new barrel on. The sights are mounted to the barrels so very little sighting in is required when barrels are changed. The visible hammer is adjustable for rimfire or centerfire cartridges. Thompson Center, or third party suppliers offers barrels of various lengths in .22 rf through .44 magnum. They are also offered for rifle rounds, such as .223 and .30-30, but the strong Encore frame must be used for higher pressure cartridges.  Pistol grips and rifle butts and forends are available in wood or plastic.

T/C G2 Contender with a ction open

My favorite source of G2 Contender barrels is Match Grade Machine (MGM) of Hildale, Utah.  They offer match grade barrels in a bewildering variety of chamberings.  You can get a classic oldie like the .219 Donaldson Wasp or .32 Wcf, or many newer wildcats including some I never heard of, like the 6 mm Hagar.  Just a little behind the times, I guess.

I had MGM make me a 24-inch barrel chambered for the .30-30 Ackley Improved.  A barrel like this has a twist of 1-10” which is a little faster than usual for a .30-30. I did not  see a problem here.   “Over stabilization” is something I do not believe in at appropriate rifle velocities. Also, super sleek target bullets should be adequately stabilized, if I ever got around to trying them.  The barrel was delivered in about four weeks.  It has a nice, blue finish and is marked with the MGM logo and the chambering.

Loading the .30-30 Ackley Improved

The cartridge brass for the .30-30 Ackley Improved is formed by firing factory .30-30 shells in a rifle with a chamber reamed for the AI. Alternatively, you can use light handloads in regular .30-30 brass to form the AI cases. Either way, you must have a rifle chambered for the AI.  The design of the chamber reamer was the contribution of P. O. Ackley and it can be used with any .30-30 Winchester rifle. You usually do not need to buy a reamer.  A lot of gunsmiths have .3030AI reamers and will use one to chamber your gun.  True also, is that some custom barrel makers will supply a barrel chambered for this round.  That is what I did in getting the MGM barrel described above.  

Dimensions of .30=30 AI case


The New Case

Left: Stock .30-30 case. Right: Fire formed .30-30 AI case

What you end up with is a case that is longer and straighter in the powder area, has a sharp shoulder, but still has a relatively long neck;  at 0.350” it is longer than the diameter of the bullet.  It looks more modern but it still has the old timey 0.506” rim.  I like the rim and the long neck.  If your rifle has correct headspace the rim will be firmly held upon firing and the case and shoulder has no choice but to expand and fill the chamber perfectly.  Then, if you always fire the cases in the same gun and if you neck size only upon reloading you will have a great fit in the chamber and will be well on your way to the best accuracy your rimmed cartridge can give.

Split Cases?

Whenever you expand a case shoulder as much as you need to turn a regular .3030 into an AI, you run the risk of splitting the case.  I have used factory ammo for this and have had no problems. However, if you use old (brittle) brass for making fireforming hand loads, you will probably end up with split shoulders.  That brings up the  question of cost.  I have used factory ammo bought in the days when it was inexpensive.  In these trying times you may not find any of this ammo to buy, and if you do, it will cost $2.00 or more per round.  If you need, say, 50 or 100 cases you may not want to have the expense.  If true, then you do not want to play this game.  Better to use the .30-30 Hornady LeverEvolution in your standard .3030.

Making Some Loads

NOTE:  What follows is a description of results for my activities. I make no recommendations for your activities because an element of danger might be introduced with different hardware or loading components.

For handloading the AI you may use the same powders as for regular .3030s.  For me that would be IMR 3031 (extruded) and Winchester 748 (ball).  There are many more, say RL-12 and Varget, to name a couple.  And then some newer ones.   If I find a powder that works well I hate to spend the time trying to tweak out the last mm of accuracy by trying different powders. Life is too short.  Especially mine.

For the AI, however, I thought a couple of the newer powders had promise. One is Hodgdon’s CFE# 223..  The CFE stands for Copper Fouling Eraser and it is a ball powder that has given good velocity in the 30-caliber loads I have seen.  The other is Hodgdon/Hornady LeverEvolution, the powder used in Hornady’s very successful LeverEvolution .3030 ammo.  If you are looking for high velocity from your .3030 AI, why not use the powder that pushes hardest in regular .3030 ammo?

One of the reasons the .30-30 Ackley Improved was not more successful involves the bullets used.  Most of the rifles used for AI chambers were tube fed, lever action guns.  The same old flat nosed bullets were needed for safety in the tube magazines and these were inefficient retainers of velocity.  Thus, a good part of the AI velocity increase was lost as a bullet traveled downfield. The killing power of the AI at range was not much improved.  Today, a good candidate for an AI bullet would be Hornady’s 160-grain FTX that they use

Left: Standard flat nosed .3030 150 gr bullet. Center: Hornady 160 gtr FTX bullet. Right: .30 cal pointed boattail

in their .30-30 LeverEvolution ammo. This one has a ten grain advantage over the many 150-grain bullets that might be used in the .3030 and it has a pointed flexible tip that is safe to use in tubular magazine guns.  The pointed tip design results in a ballistic coefficient (BC) of 0.33, meaning that the bullet resists velocity loss through the atmosphere better than flat or round nosed bullets.  Remember that the higher a bullet’s BC value, the better it resists velocity loss.  With a single shot or bolt action rifle you can choose any .308 bullet, including the ultra sleek target types with a BC around 0.5.

So, how about the velocity increase?  What expectations might we have? Ackley of course, made a whole series of improved cartridges in addition to the .30-30 AI.  Reported velocities were sometimes increased as much as 300 fps for a given bullet weight.  Other workers often had trouble repeating these claims and some even declared that Ackley was a fraud.  Not true, of course, but we have to agree today that +300 fps is usually too optimistic.

My own experience would suggest that +200 fps is possible for some bullets.  Of course that is due to the increased powder capacity.  I measured the capacity for LeverEvolution powder in a normal and AI case using Hornady cases filled to the base of the neck.  The normal case held 36.82 grains of LE while the AI case held 42.18 grains.  We see the increase of 5.36 grains is very close to 15%. I also checked capacity with IMR 3031 and Varget with the same result.  The capacity increase is 15%.  If there is anything that is clear from many years of experimental shooting by many workers is that there is not a linear relationship between powder capacity and velocity.  Another way of saying this is that an increase of 15% in powder will not get you a 15% increase in velocity, but something less.  That something less might be less than 10%.  You just have to do the loading and chronographing.  It must also be kept in mind that an increase in velocity will come at the expense of an increase in pressure.  My opinion is that useful increases obtained by AI chambering will not produce unsafe pressures, especially in bolt action rifles and single shots like the T/C Contender.  Nevertheless, your best approach as always would be to start low and work up in powder weight, keeping watch for signs of pressure.

Shooting the .30-30 AI 

 The routine for shooting the T/C G2 Contender Ackley Improved is:  l) Break open the action by pulling back on the trigger guard spur; 2) load a round and close the action; 3) Cock the hammer set for center fire;  4) Take aim;  5) Fire. Nothing surprising here, right?  The gun operated smoothly and the trigger was good because I had opted for the T/C trigger job when I bought the receiver.  One thing I noted is that the gun is fairly light and recoil is stout, even with standard.30-30 factory shells. I was notified of this by a good bonk of the scope rim above my right eyebrow.  It would be possible to open a gash in your forehead, as it is with any stout recoiling scoped centerfire rifle,  so I became very careful about eye relief after that. 

Note: My assumption is that I can safely shoot any of the currently available factory .30-30 loads in my equipment.

My first task was to fire some factory rounds in order to fireform .3030AI cases, For this I used three brands of ammo, Hornady American Whitetail, 150 grains, Hornady LeverEvolution, 160 grains, and Federal Fusion, 150 grains.  These rounds were chronograph and the 24-inch MGM custom barrel gave the following results.

Hornady American Whitetail (150 gr)    Average velocity 2268 fps,  Extreme spread 50 fps

Hornady LeverEvolution (160 gr)    Ave  2256 fps,  ES 31 (Std deviation only 9 fps)

Federal Fusion (150 gr)    Ave  2348 fps,  ES 75 fps

I was a bit surprised that both types of Hornady ammo seemed a bit slow for a 24-inch barrel, but the Federal was about as expected.  These data establish a baseline for the custom barrel results to compare with the Ackley Improved loads.

Groups at 50 yards from Hornady LeverEvolution factory .30-30

One thing that also surprised me was the level of accuracy obtained when fire forming the factory ammo.  I fired groups at fifty yards while doing this.  Most of the groups measure less than 0.5” which would correspond to less than one minute-of-angle.  A picture here will  show these results.  One thing for sure is that the MGM barrel is a very good barrel and the 1-10 twist works.  On the other hand, I have always been led to believe that excellent accuracy requires a very good fit of case to chamber, especially in the shoulder area.  That has been my experience, and some very smart rifle men have found the same.  Yet, here we are with a bunch of space between the shoulder of a factory .30-30 and the shoulder area of an Ackley Improved chamber.  My opinion is that it has to do with the rimmed case.  Such a case headspaces  on the rim, and if headspace is good, the shoulder of a .30-30 shell is held in the same place in  the AI chamber for every shot.  On firing, every case expands in exactly the same way into the AI shoulder area.  This uniformity means it is possible to get good accuracy when firing factory ammo in an AI chamber.  I hasten to say I do not know how good this explanation is, but it is all I got for ya’ at this time.

Results of Some .30-30 Ackley Improved Loads

CAUTION:  There is no factory or loading manual information on using CFE 223 or LeverEvolution powder in the .30-30 Ackley Improved.   There is only limited information in the shooting literature on the use of older powders.  I make no recommendations for powders or weights in this application.

A few velocity results will show the trends.  The powder weights were quite reasonable, in some cases perhaps a bit more than a loading manual maximum for the .30-30.

IMR 3031 + Sierra FBST 150 gr,   Average velocity, 2497 fps,  ES 64 fps,   SD 20 

CFE 223 + Sierra FBST 150 gr,     Average velocity, 2430 fps,  ES 30 fps,  SD 9.4 

Hodgdon/Horn LeverEvolution + Hornady FTX 160 gr,   Average velocity, 2517 fps,                                                                                                              ES 62 fps,  SD 26 fps

Looking at the figures for the factory loads given earlier we see that the average velocity is 2291 fps.  The average velocity for the Ackley Improved loads is 2481 fps, or, an increase of 190 fps.  The two sets are comparable because each has two 150-grain bullets and one 160-grain bullet.  The increase is both significant and useful, and could be even larger because one could use heavier loads than I have.  There were no signs of high pressure in any of my loads.

The most powerful of the AI loads above uses LeverEvolution powder to push the 160-gr FTX bullet downrange at an initial 2517 fps.  To predict the down range performance of the load we need a ballistic table and a good one is found in The Speer Reloading Manual, No. 12, Blount, Inc. Sporting Equipment Division, 1994, p. 587.  The entries in this table are listed according to ballistic coefficient.  For a given initial velocity the table gives velocities down range to 500 yards,  foot pounds of kinetic energy per grain of bullet weight, and trajectory data.  The table has an entry for a ballistic coefficient of 0.32 that is very close to the FTX 160-gr value of 0.33.  Close enough.  If the bullet starts out at 2500 fps,the remaining velocity is 2233 fps at 100 yds and 1982 fps at 200 yds.  If the gun is sighted in at 200 yd, the shot will be 2.8 inches high at 100 yds.  The kinetic energy at 200 yards would be 8.72 foot pounds per grain, amounting to 1395 ft-lbs at 200 yards for the 160-gr FTX bullet.  This would take care of any deer and would be enough to down an elk with a good hit in the vitals.

Group using CFE223 powder and 150 gr bullet

The accuracy of the AI loads was generally good but not outstanding.   Four shot groups would be less than 2 inches at 100 yards.  A couple group pictures are shown to illustrate.  The most promise for good accuracy seems to be shown using the CFE 223 powder and a 150-gr bullet.  However,  the best  power combination uses LE powder with the 160-gr bullet and it is accurate enough for hunting.  If going afield for game, that is what we would use.

Group using LeverEvolution powder and Hornady 160 FTX bullet

Using LeverEvolution powder with the  160-gr FTX is pushing the .30-30  AI about as far as it will go.  I believe further handloading work would push the 160 bullet over 2600 fps.  Don’t really need it, however, and it would be more fun to work on accuracy than velocity.

I am not finished with this project. The custom barrel should give more accurate results with the AI loads as it did with the factory .30-30 ammo.  This will require some attention to finding the best way to support the rifle in the bench . You gotta realize that support makes a difference, especially with rifles whose butt stock and forend are two different  pieces.  I have more work to do.

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New Post, New Interests, Old Guns

You might think that a white pelican is a goofy looking bird, but in the air they are sheer perfection. With an incredible wingspan and matchless flying and diving ability, there is no bird I would rather see in the air. We have them at ATOTT headquarters in the fall and perhaps more in the spring.  It’s a good day when they show up.

A White Pelican

It has been a very long time since I have posted an article and there are various excuses involving family and health situations, difficulties in getting to the range, and the like, for which I am sorry.  The details would not make very good reading, so let me just say “here I am today with a post!

Just sitting in a chair does not end your interest in guns.  Now, Mine runs perhaps more to collecting than shooting, just a little, but it is as strong as ever. As time has passed, certain guns have caught my eye and demanded study, as always.  I would like to briefly share some of these with you and you can be sure you will see more on these in future posts.

A Very Plain Rifle

Readers know of my regard for plain rifles and I have written about a number of them.  This one, not written about before, is the Stevens Model 325 .30-30.  One notices immediately its similarity to the Savage 340, about which I have written before.  Stevens was a first rate company in the 19th and early 20th centuries, specializing  in single shot rifles from simple boys rifles to sophisticated target guns. Their star was setting when Savage acquired the company  in 1920.  Savage has used Stevens as a venue for economical rifles and shotguns down to the present day. 

A Stevens 325

The Stevens 325 appeared in 1947, two years after the end of World War II. The people of America, most of them in the armed services or involved in the war effort in some other way, were ready for more enjoyable pursuits, including hunting.  Few people had a lot of money so a low-cost bolt action was the ticket. The Stevens 325 kept cost down by using stamped parts for the bottom  metal, magazine, extractor and trigger housing.  The butter knife bolt handle probably does not make Mannlicher rifle fans jealous, but it is a strong, identifying feature of the 325.  This model was also the first Savage/Stevens to use the knurled nut to attach the barrel to the action and to set headspace, a practice that continues in Savage rifles to this day. The stock was wood, of course, sometimes walnut.

The Stevens 325 worked well enough to bring down deer at .30-30 ranges and was a successful product.  When minor improvements were made in 1950, the gun became the Savage 340.

An Obsolete Cartridge?

In terms of availability and usage, the .25-20 Winchester  (aka .25 wcf) has been dead for years. It first appeared in 1895 as a chambering for the Winchester 92 lever action. It was made by necking down  the .32-20, a cartridge that had been around in the 1870s as a chambering for the Colt SAA and Winchester 73. Thus, the case has a shoulder and a long neck and takes a .257” bullet.  Over time it has been available in three loadings, using bullets of 60, 75, and 86 grains. The usual applications are small game and varmints. Deer were also taken, probably with the heavy bullet, but it could never be considered an effective deer round.  Confined as it was to small game and varmints, it lost out to the higher velocity .22 cartridges that appeared in the 1930s. 

There is no doubt the Winchester 92 is an iconic rifle that would provide a lot of hunting fun in .25-20. However, a different rifle, a bolt action, caught my eye not long ago. This was a Savage Model 1923, and yes, that is the year of the design, now pushing the century mark. This rifle was part of the vanguard of bolt action, sporting rifles that appeared after World War I.  It was chambered eventually for .22 lr, .25-20 Wni, .32-20 Win and .22 Hornet, designated 23a through 23d, respectively.  The picture that follows shows a 23b, or .25-20 Win chambering.

A Stevens 23b in .25-20 Win

Note that this is the dawn of sporting bolt action rifles.  The materials are walnut and steel, and the impression is one of very good quality manufacturing. The gun is fed by a removable magazine(clip). I think the most important  identifying feature is that a separate barrel is not attached to the action.  Rather the action is machined in an extension of the barrel, as one piece with it.  This feature was used on a number of different, early savage models and I believe they are the only company that ever used this method.

 I find the 1923b works very well. I fired a box of Remington 86-grain loads and accuracy was good using just the simple open sights the gun came with.  I must say, however, that if you are a collector/shooter you should not get one of these without realizing the serious difficulty you will have in getting ammo and brass.  Remington and Winchester still list one load each, but they are seasonal manufacture and usually unavailable. If you do manage to find some it will cost you over $100 for a box of 50.  If you like the gun, it will be much easier to enjoy a 1923a, chambered in .22 long rifle.

For my own part, I have managed to scrounge about 100 pieces of brass and a couple hundred bullets of different weights. When warmer weather comes I will be able to give the 1923b a better evaluation.

A Very Small Bore Shotgun

You know that I like .410 shotguns and I have written about them.  Matter of fact, I just bought an Iver Johnson Champion single-barrel .410 in good condition and, my, it works well. I admit unashamedly that this love goes back to my boyhood.

The .410 has been much criticized in the past, especially as a beginner’s gun because of its small shot charge and poor patterning ability. There can be argument here. I generally think the .410 is underrated. But I would rather point out that the .410 has always been popular. The Guns International website has an entry in its index for .410 shotguns.  Click on that and tell me what you find. You wil see many .410 doubles in the $5,000 – 100,000 range? Granted, the most expensive usually have British workmanship (Holland & Holland, etc.) but it does not seem that a loser would have availability at this level.

Indeed, I understand there is currently a resurgence of .410 popularity.   Advertising shows any number of pumps, semiautos, over/unders, and side by sides, often for attractive prices.  One company even advertises a new single barrel .410 as a turkey gun!  Speaking of dreams of grandeur, YouTube has a number of posts about using a .410 for pheasants, ducks, geese, and even deer using the tiny .410 slug.  Come on, guys!

Clearly, if I am going to write new stuff, I have to find another small shotgun. That happened recently when I saw advertised a Stevens Model 101, an old, unusual small shotgun.  The Model 101 shotgun was based on the earlier Model 26 “Marksman,” a rimfire rifle.  Unlike most Stevens long guns, it has a lever actuated break open action, and not a lever falling block. 

Steens 101 .44Stevens 101 with action open One source says it was made 1914- 1920, so any example is a centenarian.  The gun has a plain, straight wood stock and forend, a visible hammer, and a 26-inch barrel. Loosening a large screw at the forend next to the action allows the barrel to be removed. Commensurate with its age, this gun has little metal finish remaining and has wear in the wood. I would still say the condition is very good and it has a nice appearance.

A Stevens 101 in .44 shot

The interesting part is that it has a .44 caliber, smooth bore barrel and is chambered for the .44-40 Winchester brass cartridge.  Factory ammo was available for this type of gun.  It simply was loaded with a shot capsule instead of a bullet. Thus we have a small shotgun that will throw about ⅜ oz. of shot.  It could be effective as a garden gun and surely would roll rats, chipmunks and starlings at close range. But you are not going to buy readymade ammo for it.  I hope to investigate home cooked ammo for mine for a later report.

Old box of .44 XL shot cartridges for the 01

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Disassembling A Savage Super Sporter Model 40 Bolt

This post describes a procedure for disassembling the bolt of a Savage Super Sporter Model 40 or 45 centerfire rifle.

But first, a little nature study. The summer of 2018 at ATOTT headquarters was very, very dry. Weather people called it a severe drought. Then in September it began to rain. Lots and lots! The moisture really woke up the fungus and scenes like the one in the picture popped up all over in lawns, meadows and open woods. This fairy ring had the largest mushroom bodies I had ever seen in such an arrangement. They looked like some kind of Amanita (Death Angel), so we did not have a meal of mushrooms and eggs. But they were fun to see and in a few days all were gone. They sleep in the ground and we don’t know when they will be back.


The Savage Super Sporter
I have written a couple of reviews of Savage Super Sporters, one a .30-06 Springfield and the other a .30-30 Winchester. They are sturdy, plain rifles from the beginning of the bolt action sporting era (ca. 1930) and they shoot well. Not many were sold, however, due to being a nonessential product offered during the Great Depression in America. The picture shows a Super Sporter in .30-06 Springfield. Lacking checkering and a rear mounted aperture sight it is identified as a Model 40 but that is not indicated on the gun.

Though scarce, there are enough of these old bangers around that some folks might benefit from information on the bolt. Especially since it is not a Mauser pattern bolt. Paul, a reader in southern California, found a good one on the used shelf and wrote me with a question about the procedure for disassembly of the bolt. I had to admit that, surprisingly, I had never taken an SS bolt apart but would do what I could to provide some guidance. It turned out to be a bit of a trial so I am posting some info on the procedure.

There are several reasons that one might want to disassemble a bolt.
• The firing pin is not operating freely due to corrosion or damage.
• The firing pin is broken.
• The main spring is weak or broken.

The Super Sporter bolt has two locking lugs at the rear and opposed extractor lugs at the front. The picture shows there are two pins that hold it together, one through the bolt sleeve retaining collar and one through the bolt sleeve cocking cam. It seemed that

removal of these two pins would free all of the pieces enough to drop a couple small ones on the floor and lose them. I chose to remove the pin in the retaining collar first (using a pin punch) and it sure ‘nuf loosened the retaining collar, bolt sleeve, and cocking piece.

The parts stayed together, however, so it was clear something else had to be done. Removing the middle pin through the bolt handle sleeve was the obvious answer and when I finally grabbed it with needle nose pliers it came right out and all the parts were freed. Everything seemed to be in good shape except maybe the main spring was a little short. Take a look at the parts picture. There are the two pins, of course, and then can you identify the bolt body, bolt sleeve with handle, bolt sleeve retaining collar, cocking piece, main spring, and firing pin? Good job.

Long as I had the bolt apart, I decided to order a mainspring to replace the original. It was a used one, of course, but it was a quarter inch longer than the original. Assembly is a bit more tense than disassembly but you can do it. Might need a shot of liquid tranquilizer, but no more than one. On second thought, forget that.

The pin in the bolt sleeve retaining collar goes in first. I used a pin punch to align the holes and a bit of jockeying gets the pin all the way through.

The second pin is the bugger because one must align the cocking piece, bolt body, and bolt sleeve cam slot to get it in. All against the pressure of the main spring. The pin should go into the cocking cam slot in the bolt sleeve in the fired position. Help is needed if you don’t have three hands. I used an adjustable clamp to hold the pieces with the spring in

place and then minor adjustment with a thin knife blade for final alignment that is just good enough. It works just fine, but if you can get the second pin inserted in ten minutes or less without profanity then you are a better gun tinkerer than I am.

Here is a picture of the reassembled SS bolt compared with the bolt of an Argentine Mauser.

Now, where’s that tranquilizer?

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More On the Savage Super Sporter .30-30

This post describes accuracy modifications and shooting results for a Savage Model 40 Super Sporter in .30-30 Winchester.

The Savage Super Sporter Model 40 that I described in my post of June 15, 2016 was a plain rifle (circa 1935) that I liked a lot because of certain features.  It had a long, stiff tubular action and a bolt with locking lugs at the rear.  It operated smoothly and fed

Savage Model 40 in .30-30 Winchester

cartridges without a hitch.  Accuracy was OK, considering the open iron sights, averaging about 2 MOA with factory loads.  Now, that’s not bad for an 85 year old plain rifle.  Part of that performance would be due to the action being comfortable in the stock.

A picture of the action channel shows contact of the tubular receiver just behind the recoil lug and in the tang area being smooth and shiny. That results from a good fit of the action and being held tightly by the action screws for fifty years or more.

Stock channelof the Model 40

A Little Tweaking

The nature of the action and my work with another Savage rifle of this type suggested that this .30-30 might shoot better groups than I first observed. A couple of obvious changes were needed.

The sights are the most important accuracy component on a rifle. The standard blade and bead sights usually found on old, plain rifles are inadequate for precision shooting, especially for members of the very mature population (such as me).  Being products of the 1930s, these Savage rifles are not drilled and tapped for scope bases, but they are tapped for receiver sights.  I wanted a good aperture sight.

Lyman Model 40 aperture sight

No new ones available, of course, but the Lyman Model 40 was made to fit the Super Sporter long ago.  I found one on eBay, the best place to look for old gun parts, for about $50.  Not bad because rarer sights for rarer rifles may run to $200 or more.  It pays to keep your eye on their offerings, because they turn over fairly rapidly and will be offered for different prices.

The Lyman 40 is made of steel and it fit and operated perfectly after I relieved the wood in the upper wrist to make room for the vertical rail.

The bedding of the action and barrel in the wood was the next thing to be considered. As noted earlier, the action seemed well supported.  The best thing for improvement seemed to be to float the barrel, which made contact with the barrel channel in a couple of places.  The picture shows the barrel channel with a tool that is very handy for the floating job.

Barrel channel with barrel bedding tool

This is called the “Gunline Barrel Bedding” tool and you can get it at Brownells or Midway USA. It is not inexpensive but it is worth it for gun nuts.  You can guide it with two hands and it cuts smoothly and quickly.  The picture also shows a semicircular scraper blade that is often useful for bedding jobs.  I like to remove enough wood that a folded dollar bill will pass in the barrel channel from the end of the stock to a point about one inch in front of the recoil lug.

Floated barrel in place

Shooting the Modified Rifle

So we have two simple improvements: A floated barrel and an aperture sight.  I headed for the range with some factory ammo on a cool fall day.  The range is operated by the Missouri Conservation Dept and has very solid concrete benches (cold on your butt so bring a folded towel or pillow on a cool day) at 25, 50, and 100 yards.  I usually choose to shoot at 50 yds.  It is most efficient for reasons I have discussed in other posts.  The range does not have continuous supervision.  This I prefer because I don’t like a range so busy that you must shoot in relays and follow the orders of a range officer.  The people that use this one are good folks and we cooperate well in maintaining safe conditions.

I rest the rifle on a bench rest front support and a bunny ear bag for the stock at the rear. Of course, I try to be uniform in hold and trigger operation from shot to shot and do not allow the barrel to become hot.

The three targets with 7 groups shown here use the thick circle to center the front bead, with this image centered in the rear aperture. This sight picture gives good precision and repeatability.

Top to bottom, the groups were fired with Hornady 150 grain American Whitetail, Remington 150 grain CorLokt SP, and Federal 150 grain SP.  The seven groups averaged 0.78 inches (1.58 MOA).  The smallest group measured 0.38 inch (0.76 MOA) while the largest hit 1.32 inch (2.64 MOA).  Clearly, the best performance in this limited trial was given by the Hornady American Whitetail, even though it had a dandy flier in one of the groups.


Compared with the tests of the original rifle in the earlier post, this SS gave smaller groups and was easier to shoot with precision. I conclude that the time spent on improving the rifle was worth expending. Zeroed at point of aim any of the ammo would be satisfactory for hunting.  Lesson learned:  If you find an old, plain rifle, finding and mounting an aperture sight will be possible and will give a real payoff.









The future: Handloads? Epoxy bedding?  Maybe.



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A Winchester Model 54 in .30 WCF


The year was 1925 and Calvin Coolidge was the President of the United States.  He was a man of few words; “Silent Cal” they called him, but he made a very famous statement that has been often quoted since his day.  Cal said “The chief business of the American people is business,” and America agreed. Good, growing business is the American way. Thus it was that Walter P. Chrysler established the Chrysler Motor Company in 1925.  Thus it was that Sears Roebuck, long in the mail order business, opened their first retail store in Chicago in that year.

And thus it was that Winchester Repeating Arms introduced their first bolt action rifle for sporting use in 1925.  This rifle, called the Model 54, was among the first factory bolt action rifles whose sole, intended use was the hunting of game animals.  I say among the first because the Model 54 was predated slightly by the Savage Model 1920, a much less well-known rifle of bolt action design, and by the Remington Model 30, essentially a sporterized version of the Enfield Pattern 1917 military rifle.

Bolt action rifles for military use had taken over the European scene in the late 1800s.  The Mauser brothers and their company led the way with a steady succession of improved models, and reached their zenith with the Mauser Model of 1898.  War was a popular activity in the 19th century and many countries decided they needed Mausers, and used them, not only in Europe, but in Asia and South America as well.

The U. S. Army was a bit late to the military bolt action game.  It had adopted the Krag-Jorgensen, a .30-caliber bolt action rifle in 1892, but it proved to be quite good at every rifle application except infantry use, or so the brass thought.  They junked the Krag in favor of the 1903 Springfield, a bolt action rifle based on the 1898 Mauser. The Springfield and its famous .30-06 cartridge was a great success. It was used in both world wars, rather lightly in World War II because it was replaced by the M1 Garand.

Military actions were strong, efficient, and reliable, exactly the bones you also want in a rifle for hunting big game.  The first bolt actions for hunting were therefore military rifles, either originals or sporterized versions. One can still find used examples of sporterized Mausers, Krags, 1903 Springfields and 1917 Enfields in the used gun venues.  With many returning veterans interested in outdoor sports it was sure that the bolt action rifle would attract the attention of sporting arms producers.

My Winchester Model 54

It is not surprising that the first actions of bolt sporting rifles were adaptations of military precursors.  The military rifles were strong, reliable designs that could be produced in high quality. Thus the Winchester Model 54 design is rooted in the design of the Springfield Model of 1903, that, in turn, is rooted in the design of the Mauser Model of 1898.  The Mauser/Springfield action is very strong and its salient feature is the bolt design. There are two opposed locking lugs at the front and a long, non-rotating extractor with a large claw that captured the cartridge as it came up from the magazine. This prevented a jam if the bolt were withdrawn before the cartridge was fully seated.  This became known as “controlled round feeding” and soon was considered a necessity for the safe hunting of dangerous game.

My Winchester Model 54 came to me as the result of a successful internet transaction.  A fairly early iteration of the model, it was made in 1929.

Winchester Model 54 30-30

In the pictures you can see the extractor lying along the side of the bolt, and, overall, the rifle has a slender configuration reminiscent of the slightly earlier Savage Model of 1920.  The stock is straight-grain walnut with nice bordered checkering, a steel butt plate with no logo, and no grip cap. The barrel is 24 inches and is chambered for the .30 WCF.  The Model 54 was offered in a wide variety of chamberings.  the .30-06 Springield is the most common.  The 54 was also the first rifle chambered for the .270 Winchester and that is common.  The .30-30 is a much less common item. The bore of my example is excellent.  The front sight is a bead on a blade that is pinned in a boss on the barrel. The rear sight is a deep “V”, adjustable for elevation, mounted to the receiver. The sturdy, stamped bottom metal has the trigger guard and the box magazine cover in a single unit.  Removing the action shows that the inletting of the stock wood, and therefore the fit of metal to wood, is of very high quality. A large flat area on the bottom of the action has good contact with the wood just behind the recoil lug. This no doubt contributes to the 54’s reputation for high accuracy.

The Mauser style bolt is shown in the next pic.  It is flanked by a bolt from a Remington 788 .30-30 on the left and from a Savage Super Sporter .30-30 on the right.  Three different ways to control the rimmed .30-30 round in a bolt action rifle.  The robust extractor and groove for the ejector is evident in the Model 54 bolt and it is the only one that operates with controlled round feeding.

Three .30-30 bolts: Remington 788, Winchester 54, Savage 40

The action is shown in the following picture. A sturdy recoil lug is at the front and it is held by the front action screw.  Thick rails extend to the rear of the bridge and have openings for the magazine and loading/ejection port. There is a second action screw behind the magazine and a third in the tang.  The trigger seems to be a military type.

Winchester Model 54 action

Note there is a boss in the barrel that held the original blade rear sight.  This boss is held by a screw though the forearm. Thus, with screws through the bottom metal at each end

Model 54 barrel boss

and in the middle behind the magazine box, there are four screws that hold the metal to the stock.  The metal finish on this rifle is in very good condition. The wood has most of its original finish with a few minor marks.

There were several grades of the 54 offered and mine is the standard grade.  It is an earlier model that had a Schnabel tip. This was later changed and the rifle was given a thicker forearm, similar to the Model 70 that followed in 1936.  Something over 50,000 rifles were produced over the 54’s lifetime.

My 54 had a couple other idiosyncracies as it came to me..  The barrel boss had the rear sight removed and replaced with a narrow, dovetail scope base.  This is because the 54 was not drilled and tapped for a scope base in the receiver bridge. Remember, this was the early days of bolt action sporters.  To have two bases, the rear base is attached to the receiver ring using the taps that were supplied with the rifle. This must have been unsatisfactory but was necessary for the bolt to clear the scope on opening.  I have no clue what the previous owner must have used for a scope.  I removed this base as I planned for installation of a receiver sight.

The other anomaly was the tacky-looking leather cover on the end of the forearm.  Removal showed that the tip had a longitudinal crack and the original Schnabel tip had been crudely sanded off.  I repaired the crack with brown epoxy, smoothed the tip, and finished it to match the stock. Best I could do, but not good for the collector value of the piece.  However, there appear to be no other alterations of the rifle, making it a good example of the type. It is an honest gun with pleasing appearance.

Prep for Shooting

Sights are the major concern when anticipating accurate shooting with a rifle such as this. It was not set up for easy scope mounting so I replaced the V-rear with a used Lyman aperture made for the Win 54.

Lyman aperture sight on Model 54

The bedding of the barrel in the stock is also of prime importance, especially when the barrel has a boss that is held to the foreend by a screw.  Accuracy and point of impact can be affected by the fit of the boss and the tension of the screw. Inspection showed that the

Stock interior with lead shims

barrel contacted the stock channel in several places so I decided to shim the action with half inch lead tape just behind the recoil lug and on either side of the barrel boss. This allowed me to raise the action a bit without removing any wood or disturbing the fit of the action in the stock.  That could come later, if needed. Previous experience suggested that the barrel screw should be snug, but not tight,so that is where I set it.

Ready for Shooting

I shot three shot groups from a solid rest at fifty yards using a variety of factory ammo.  I used a ring target, as shown in the pictures below. With a diameter of 5.5 to 6.0 inches the ring is an excellent field for centering a round bead used with a rear aperture.  It is precise and repeatable so precision shooting is possible. Groups measured in the range of 0.4 – 0.9” or 0.8 – 1.8 Minute of angle.  Two groups each for Hornady American Whitetail 150 gr and Winchester Deer Season 150 gr are shown.  The Winchester 54 is thus capable of very accurate shooting and I expected nothing less based on my experience with other bolt action 30-30s, and it is an indication of the general capability of Winchester Model 54 rifles, regardless of caliber.  If you needed a bolt action rifle and bought a Model 54 in the 1920s, you bought a good one. If you find one on the used rack today it will probably be a good one but will likely be a .30-06. They were built to last.



However, the 54 was marketed for only 12 years because it paved the way for the Winchester Model 70 that appeared in 1937.  The Model 70 could be considered to be an improved Model 54 and it had a longer run, but that is another story.


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The Savage Model 1920 Bolt Action Rifle in .300 Savage

This post describes the design, function, and performance of a Savage Model 1920, the first bolt action, sporting rifle offered by a major arms company.

I got me a Savage Nineteen-Twenty

‘Cause old bolt actions I want a-plenty,

I love to see how they work and shoot,

And this one didn’t take much loot,

Collector value was diminished

By a Bubba scope base and wood refinished,

And this one had a further knock,


Right side of butt stock

And, it’s really not bad. Unfortunately, the seller, a gunshop in Pennsylvania, could provide no information on the gun, leaving me to imagine a provenance.  I think it is a family gun and the person it passed to said “Wow! Grandpa’s rifle.  I know he hunted elk with it. I’m gonna  FIX ‘ER UP!”  Yes, elk have long been hunted in Pennsylvania and the state still issues 125 tags per year.  Many are filled.  Eventually the elk rifle passed to someone who did not know Grandpa, and then it was traded on a Glock or an AR16.  Lucky for me, and the rifle, because I know and appreciate what it is.  It will be cared for.

The Savage Model 1920

was the first bolt action sporting rifle to be offered to the hunting public by a major arms company. Yup, the first!  The end of World War I had occurred just a couple of years earlier.  WWI was fought by infantrymen armed with bolt action rifles, mainly 1903 Springfields and 1917 Enfields for the allies and 1898 and other Mausers for the opposition.  Following the war, many sportsmen and makers of sporting equipment  felt that demand for bolt action rifles for sporting use would increase.  Thus, a good bolt action could compete with traditional lever action rifles of the Winchester pattern for use in the hunting fields.  They were right.

At the time, surplus military bolt action rifles were already being used for hunting. Indeed, Krag-Jorgensen (.30-40) rifles had been sold to the public and often “sporterized” for hunting since the early 1900s.  Springfield Model 1903 rifles and Mauser 1898 rifles were also available and enterprising gunsmiths could turn them into more appropriate hunting rifles by shortening barrels, decreasing weight, putting on nicer wood, and perhaps rebarreling to another caliber.  Naturally, sporting arms manufacturers saw that it would be profitable to offer a bolt action that could come out of the box and head straight for the woods.  Savage Arms was the first company to accomplish this in 1920.  It was offered for two forward looking Savage cartridges, the .250 Savage (aka .250-3000) and .300 Savage, a new cartridge design that Savage hoped would compete with 150-gr loads in the .30-06 Springfield.

A Photo of the Savage 1920

reveals a very slender rifle. The thin, 24-inch barrel is cradled in a slim forearm that quickly tapers to a Schnabel tip.  The walnut stock is checkered (average) in the usual

Savage Model 1920 Bolt Action Rifle

places and carries a grip cap and butt plate with white line spacers.  The spacers are not original and neither is the butt plate which is a plastic replacement of the steel original.  Also not original is the unfortunate Bubba scope base, a one-piece Weaver type held by two screws in the receiver ring and one in the receiver bridge.

Action open showing bolt head and nonspecific scope base

A closeup of the receiver shows this scope base and also the standard rear sight. This elevated rear notch with the blade front was the only sight system supplied with the 1920 and the receiver was not drilled or tapped for scope bases.  A later improvement (1926) of the model provided an aperture sight at the rear.  Further examination of this pic shows that the bolt handle rests in a notch in the receiver bridge.  Also in evidence is an inexpert attempt by a previous owner to engine turn the bolt, and some grinding on the bolt handle to get scope clearance.  This could have been avoided simply by using high scope rings.  A lot of amateur rifle tinkerers simply don’t know how to avoid the dumb things they end up doing.

So, why am I wasting your time, you ask? Well, things are going to get better when we take a look at the action in the next picture. It shows that the design is grounded in Mauser practice, but not entirely.  The bolt has the dual, opposed front locking lugs and

Savage Model 1920 action

Bolt from Savage Model 1920

nonrotating claw extractor so loved by us Mauser mousies, but things are different at the rear.  The receiver bridge, which is short to begin with, is notched to hold the bolt handle and has a channel to allow the bolt to be drawn back on opening.  The bolt notch is good because it acts as a safety stop.  Unlike late Mausers, the Savage bolt has no safety lug. In the bridge in front of the bolt is a notch to allow for stripper clip loading.  The part of the bridge that actually spans the action is therefore narrow and the action overall, very short.  The receiver ring is short, the bridge is short, the bolt is short, all together, very short.  It’s funny that the very first bolt action sporter is of a length so popular with modern shooters that they even want their magnums to be shorties.  But it makes sense, thinking that prior to 1920 most rifles in the deer woods were Winchester, Marlin, and Savage lever actions, all noted for being light, quick handlers.  Hunters love to compare rifles so a light, quick bolt action rifle would be best able to make inroads in the market.  The common military actions were heavy by comparison.

Note also the little round cutout in the rear of the receiver ring at the edge of the ejection port. This gives a little more room for the ejection of the empty, in this case a .300 Savage hull, already one of the shortest thirty caliber rifle cases.  This action is positively not a hair longer than necessary to handle this short cartridge.

Continuing, we see another difference with the Mauser is the recoil lug that is sandwiched between barrel and action. It is equipped to take the front guard screw to anchor the action to the wood at that point.  The receiver does not ride on rails but is perfectly round.  A sheet metal box holds the steel cartridge follower that is conventionally moved by a W-spring.  The trigger is a two-stage military type and the tang has a thumb operated sliding safety, a good feature.  Under the tang ahead of the safety is a vertical stud that supports the safety spring and guides the bar that blocks the sear and locks the bolt when the safety is on.  It all works well.

The safety guide stud is threaded for an action screw. The action needs to be anchored by a screw at the rear, but the safety mechanism prevents that.  The stud, however, points at a place in the trigger guard where a screw cannot be placed.  What did they do?  The screw goes through stock wood above the guard and holds the stud and action down at the rear of the stock.  A bit unusual but it works.  Two additional screws go through the guard plate, a steel stamping, into escutcheons in the stock.  There is also a wood screw behind the trigger loop and an action screw at the front that connects to the recoil lug.

Let’s see, have I covered all of the screws? NO, by golly, there is another small one through the middle of the forearm that connects to a screw socket dovetailed into the bottom of the barrel.  Somewhat like Winchester Model 54s as far as position goes.  This midbarrel connection is found in a number of old rifles and it always raises a question about its effect on accuracy if changing weather should cause a change in the wood.  And its use precludes floating the barrel.  No matter, I am keeping it because that is the way it was made in 1920.  Well-seasoned wood that has the barrel channel sealed does not change much, anyway, and I never will take it out in the rain.

Shooting the Savage Model 1920

Some folks might question the safety of firing an ancient rifle with modern, factory ammunition and especially with robust handloads. I point out that the rifle was made for smokeless powder and has the Mauser bolt design, always praised for its strength.  All makers of .300 Savage ammo follow SAAMI guidelines that specify 46,000 Copper Units of Pressure (CUP).  Note that SAAMI specifies 52,000 CUP for the .308 Winchester.  At the lower pressure the Remington CorLokt .300 Sav150-gr bullet still gets spit out at 2630 fps advertised velocity.  Of course, you must determine prior to shooting that your old rifle is in a condition that allows firing it safely.

Otherwise, the little beauty is light and easy to carry. It comes up quickly to shoulder and cheek with your eye smack on the sight axis.  The later Savage Model 40 Super Sporter and still later Savage 340 feel awkward in comparison (yes, I have compared them).  The 1920 would be very good for woods carry and snap shooting.

Adding a scope, however, disturbs this happy situation. It adds weight and the stock comb, being good for the open sights, is too low for scope use.  Obviously, in 1920, it was not made to use a scope.  Nevertheless, since Bubba put a scope base on and it seemed pretty solid, I attached a scope and shot from a bench rest so that a good accuracy evaluation could be had.  I used high Weaver rings to hold an old Simmons ProHunter 3-9X that was not doing other work at the time.  For initial evaluation I fired three-shot groups at 50 yards with three different factory 150-gr loads.

Velocity     Average (Ave), Extreme Spread (ES), Standard Deviation (SD),

Remington 150 grain Core Lokt:   Ave 2545 fps;  ES 118 fps;  SD 31 fps

Federal Power Shok 150 grain:   Ave 2575 fps;  ES 45 fps;  SD 14 fps

Hornady Superformance 150 grain SP: Ave 2676 fps;  ES92 fps; SD 26 fps

The velocity results are about as expected considering an advertised velocity of 2630 fps for the standard loads. The Hornady Superformance .300 Savage is unheralded in the shooting press.  I tested this ammo and wrote about it some time ago ( and others may also have written something about it but I have never seen anything.  So many more exciting cartridges to write about, no? I am just happy that Hornady offers this load for the caliber, because it delivers on its claim of offering increased velocity, as do the other rounds in Hornady’s Superformance and LeverEvolution lines.  Let’s keep in mind that the Savage does this in a case only 1.87 inches long at a maximum pressure of 46,000 CUP.  No, I am not disappointed in the velocities that Mr. Elk Butt achieves.


I was also not disappointed in the accuracy displayed by this old kicker. In truth, based on my thorough preshooting examination, I expected it to shoot pretty well.  Everything worked, the bedding was fine, and the bore condition very good.  Some groups fired with the factory loads (3 shots at 50 yds) are:

Remington 150-grain: 0.63”, 0.70”, 0.62”

Federal 150-grain: 1.32”, 0.66”

Hornady Superformance 150 gr: 0.48”, 0.55”, 0.49”, 0.41”

The Remington results were very good, but the Hornady Superformance took high honors with four groups, fired consecutively on the same day, that averaged less than 1 MOA. I have to show you the picture.  I had no right to expect these results but there they are.

Four groups using Hornady Superformance .300 Savage 150 grain. Group at top left from fouling shots

Sure, they are only three-shot groups, but twelve shots with no sign of a flier.  I’ll take it, and I will look forward to trying some handloads soon.

Final Thoughts

So, I got me a Savage nineteen-twenty. Too bad it has been molested but the action is original and good enough to illustrate what it was like to handle and shoot the first sporting bolt action.  That is what I am interested in, design, function, and performance.  In those terms it seems that the first bolt action sporting rifle was a nearly perfect carry rifle for medium game.

And, I have grown very fond of Mr. Elk-Butt.

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Deer Ammo for the .30-30 Winchester

Need ammo for your 30-30? If you check Midway USA’s current web page you will find 38 different products listed.  Not bad for a cartridge that is more than 120 years old. And I think you could take a deer with almost every one of them.

So who needs help choosing deer ammo for their double thirty? I am not sure but we will find out because we have entered the age of dedicated marketing.  The box you formerly chose for deer might simply have said “150 grain Round Nose.”   Now, from several makers, the box will tell you plainly that you should use the load for deer.  We will describe the products and give some results of shooting each of them.

The Ammunition

Offerings of this type come from Hornady, Winchester, and Federal. Hornady calls theirs “American Whitetail.”  Winchester’s offering is “Deer Season XP,” and Federal’s is “Non-typical Whitetail.”  Take a look.

Left to right: Winchester. Hornady, and Federal deer ammo

In box design the Hornady is perhaps the winner.  It is certainly the most patriotic with “American” in the name on a background of Old Glory. The Winchester is more conventional with the usual Winchester logo and a fat, 10-point buck in the picture.  The Federal has a surreal flavor with a very nontypical skull rack but Federal also gets the American flag on a corner of the box..  All three are quite eye-catching and attractive.

Left to right: Winchester Deer Season; Hornady American Whitetail; Federal NonTypical

The loading is conventional, all three with 150-gr bullets loaded to the nominal .30-30 velocity of 2390 fps for a 24-in barrel.  The bullet designs make the talking points.  Hornady uses a round nose version of their famous interlock bullet and the resulting ammo “combines generations of ballistic know-how with modern components……”.  The Federal uses a familiar flat point design which they say “uses an optimized soft point bullet with a concentric jacket to provide tag punching accuracy and consistent, lethal wound channels.”  The Winchester bullet seems most notable with a “large diameter polymer tip (that) accelerates expansion resulting in rapid impact trauma.”  It is combined with a tapered jacket and alloyed lead core.  The tip is indeed quite large and round, almost enough to make a circus clown jealous.

I can’t tell you which of these bullets would be the best killer of deer. My prediction is that not much difference will be found, but you will have to try out one or more of them, and when you drop your deer please send me an email to describe your results.

Apparently, Remington has not entered this marketing game. There are no deer-specific boxes for the .30-30 or any other caliber in their online catalog.  Remington fans need not stay home, however, because the staid, old Inter-Lock loads are available in 150- and 170-gr versions.

The Guns

The rifles used for ammo testing are tried and true sporters that I have used in other projects. I trust them to give me reliable information. The Henry Model H009 steel lever action is an attractive, well-made performer that regularly groups 1.5 MOA, but I have shot many groups smaller than this.  It fills the bill for folks who want to see how a lever action rifle does with these loads.

Henry H009 Lever Action .30-30

My Remington 788 bolt action is my go-to gun when I want to see just how accurate a certain .30-30 load is. I have epoxy bedded the gun and it is a one MOA rifle on any day at the shooting bench.

Remington Model 788 .30-30

At the Range


Bullet speeds were measured with a ProChrono chronograph set up 10 feet from the muzzle. The day was sunny at about 80 deg.  The data given are based on strings of at least 10 shots for each entry and are averages for the strings as calculated by the chronograph.

For the Henry Lever Action .30-30 (20-inch barrel)

  •      Hornady American Whitetail:  2322 fps, Standard Deviation (SD) 31 fps
  •      Winchester Deer Season:  2244 fps, SD 21 fps
  •      Federal NonTypical:  2286 fps, SD 10 fps

For the Remington Model 788 .30-30 (22-inch barrel)

  •      Hornady American Whitetail:  2281 fps, SD 19 fps
  •      Winchester Deer Season:  2271 fps,  SD 10 fps
  •       Federal NonTypical:  2370 fps, SD 24 fps

I did not expect any big surprises to show up in the velocities and none did. All met the modest expectations for .30-30 standard loads.  Worth noting is the strong speed shown by the Federal ammo in the Model 788’s 22-inch barrel.  Also eyecatching is the Hornady American Whitetail giving a higher velocity in the 20-inch Henry than in the 22-inch Remington.

All examples will provide deer killing energy at the usual .modest 30-30 ranges.


I used a bench rest to fire three shot groups at 50 yards. I like four shot groups better for accuracy evaluation, but, hey, this is ammo for hunting and it is expensive.  Three shots it is!  I fired a total of 28 groups for the three kinds of ammo in the two rifles.  Here is a table of results.

Hornady American Whitetail

  •       Henry Lever               0.90”     1.8 MOA
  •      Remington 788          0.34”     0.68 MOA

Winchester Deer Season XP

  •      Henry Lever               0.78”      1.56 MOA
  •      Remington 788         0.87”       1.74 MOA

Federal NonTypical Whitetail

  •       Henry Lever              1.06”       2.12 MOA
  •       Remington 788          0.72”     1.44 MOA

Yes, I think we have very good results here for accuracy of factory ammo. The largest groups averaging 2.12 minutes-of-angle were given by the Federal in the Henry, but 2 MOA has always been considered good performance for deer hunting at .30-30 ranges, and the Henry did better than that with the other two loads.

Groups from Winchester Deer Season with the Henry

The Hornady American Whitetail was spectacular in the Remington with three consecutive groups averaging 0.68 MOA (with one group of 0.5 MOA). The picture is convincing, but I still want to verify and add to these results on another trip to the range.  Within these two extremes the other groups fell in the 1.4 – 1.8 range.

Three consecutive groups, Hornady American Whitetail with the Remington 788

The Federal NonTypical gave the second best group average when fired from the Remington 788.

Five groups, Federal NonTypical fired from the Remington 788

So, if you have a favorite ammo company

among the three tested here, you can stick with it. The deer hunting market is large and the makers have to be competitive.  America is a great country.

What about other cartridges in the dedicated deer lineup, say .308 or .30-06? Sorry, no time, no data.  And, the .30-30 is one of my favorites.

P.S. I bet they all are good.


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No. 4 Shot in the .410 Shotgun

This post describes a few results of doing something no shotgun expert would recommend for hunting, namely, using No. 4 shot in the .410 shotgun.

Dad with his old .410

The picture shows my father, at advanced age, holding the .410 that he used as a youngster.  It is a “Hercules” from Montgomery Ward.  His comment that day was “Man, I wonder how many miles I carried this thing when I was running my trap lines.”

My father was in the last generation that could make a living on 160 acres, even when sharing half the grain with the landlord, who always got every ear of corn coming to him.  Dad had a formidable aptitude for hard work.  We had plenty to eat, good clothes, and an occasional new car or tractor.  My sister and I went to good colleges.  Smart pig raising contributed to this, but those days are gone forever.

Dad has also been gone a while now but he is not absent from the hearts and minds of folks in my family, most of all, me.  He told me many things and gave me much advice, as a good parent usually does for education of the offspring.  This has been of great value to me.  One of the lighter things he told me was the following:

“If you are going after rabbits or squirrels with a .410 you should use No. 4 shot!”

This, like most of dad’s advice, was based on experience, in this case I believe a lucky shot on a rabbit at range, maybe 30-35 yards when a single No. 4 pellet in the head dropped the luckless bunny.  It may have happened more than once but I’ll bet not many times.

Dad’s lethal .410: Hercules

Dad showed me how to shoot a shotgun with this family .410 single barrel.  As I grew, became more interested in guns and began to read a lot, I found that no shotgun writer would agree with my pop.  To most hunting journalists the .410 was little more than a toy, albeit a dangerous one.  The shot charge was too small and the long shot column in the small bore caused damage to a lot of pellets which then went astray.  The .410’s shot pattern was therefore small, ragged and thin, even at close range.  Shooting skeet with a .410 worked with tiny No. 9 shot, but if one absolutely had to go forth after game in the field with a .410 then shot no larger than No. 7-1/2 should be used.  Only a nincompoop would go forth with a load of No.4s.  This expert advice applied to both of the available .410 loads, the ½-oz and the ¾-oz.  This made sense to me because there are only 67 No. 4 shot in a ½-oz. load.  There are 173 No. 7-1/2 shot in the same weight and of course that would give a pattern of greater density.

But I chose not to argue with dad.  If a guy who can butcher a hog or overhaul a Farmall in his spare time tells you something, it just might be good.  So, we always had a box of No. 4 loads around the farmstead.  I slayed a few skunks, possums, and even ground squirrels with them and I saw dad drop a few fox squirrels out of trees during our regular fall trips to the hardwoods.  Why worry?  Then there was the warm summer night when dad, holding a flashlight under the barrel, took five small racoons out of the mulberry tree.  Close range, yes, but No.4 shot had something to do with it, too.

Now, many years later with me enjoying a flexible schedule, I wanted to return to some .410 shooting.  If anything, the .410 shotgun has regained popularity in recent times and one can find loads with No. 4 shot on many store shelves. The interest in the .410 as an arm for self defense has helped to motivate this.  Among specialty defense arms we have pump shotguns and the Taurus Judge, a chunk of a revolver that digests .45 Colt and .410 shells for defense.  Thus, .410 shells are now readily available with larger shot sizes, even buck shot.

Left: No.4 shot; Right: No. 8 shot

For this project I bought a couple boxes of Remington 2-1/2 inch shells loaded with ½-oz of No. 4 shot and headed for the range with cardboard and paper.  The picture shows the shot charge removed from a ½ oz load of No. 4s compared with the shot from a ½ oz load of No. 8s.  Lots more of the No. 8s, of course, but I am going to test the No. 4s.


I really enjoy patterning shotgun shells.  Patterns show you how you might do with bird or bunny.  Recognizing the limits of the .410 I started by blasting a big piece of cardboard at 16 yards.   The circle drawn around the pattern is 10” in diameter and it shows that just about all of the pellets fell within it.  There are 72 hits and that is a few more pellets than there should be in a half oz. of 4s.  I guess the Remington shells have a few more thrown in for good measure.  The pattern centered a bit higher than my hand drawn aiming point but there are still 24 hits in the aiming circle.  This pattern would be deadly on a game animal or bird, say, a pheasant, which would be destroyed. So we can say that 16 yards is too close, even for a light .410 load with large shot.

Pattern of half ounce of No.4 shot at 16 yards

We could also say that a bad guy who caught this load would be severely wounded, at least.  That bears on the use of the .410 for self defense.  This, however, is not a recommendation of the .410 shotgun for self defense.  No expert on self defense, I will leave recommendations to the specialists.

The next picture shows the result of a shot at a squirrel target at 16 yards.  The squirrel in the target is actually a bit smaller than a real squirrel would be and I still did not get the pattern centered on him.  Nevertheless, there are at least 12 shot pellets that would do damage and four of them are in the head.  I don’t think dad would have been happy with this many hits in his stew candidate.

Squirrel catching a half-ounce of No. 4s

However, as one moves back from the target the pattern of No. 4s quickly thins out and develops bare spots.  At 21 yards the 10” circle had only about half the hits that it did at 16 yards and there were several 2 to 3 inch holes, that is, areas with no hits at all.  But again, a squirrel target had seven hits, all in the body.  That squirrel would have been dead.

At 26 yards the load produced something that really did not look like a pattern, being very thin and patchy.  I was, however, again confounded by the fact that a squirrel target in the pattern had five hits at this distance, three of them very solid, that would have done him in.  Twenty-six yards is 78 feet and that would be the top of a tall hardwood here in the Midwest.  With this pattern Dad could drop a squirrel high in a tree, assuming a good part of nutsy’s body was accessible.  That is not always the case.

Of course, possessed of family loyalty, I like to think that dad had a point.  He had his experience and I have my patterns with dead squirrels on paper.  That amounts to some objective evidence.

The experts, however, are not wrong.  The patterns of light .410 loads become thin very quickly.  I think my patterns show that the .410 pattern has a lethal span of about 10 yards.  You can certainly give your chances a boost by using the .410 ¾ oz. load (actually, 11/16 oz. from most makers) with shot in the No. 6 or No. 7-1/2 sizes.  This is especially important for birds as they can cover the 10 yard span of lethality very quickly.

And, get plenty of practice because it is going to be a real challenge regardless of load!

Hercules .410 receiver





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A 7.65 Argentine Sporter

This post describes a bolt action, sporting rifle based on the Mauser Model 1891, generally known as the Argentine Mauser.


Is accompanied by the ubiquitous flower we know as Queen Anne’s Lace. Anne became Queen of England in 1702 and ruled until her death in 1714.  I suppose she liked lace but my brief studies revealed no details on that topic.  For me the importance of this lovely flower is that its appearance means that springtime is definitely finished and the year is starting to mature.  So, I had better be making some progress toward the year’s goals.  Time to admire the wildflowers of summer, however, and to wonder how that very tiny, black blossom always gets right in the center of the bloom.

The 7.65 Argentine Mauser

This Mauser brothers issue has an action that first appeared in the Mauser Model 1889, a landmark in Mauser development because it was the first “small” caliber Mauser for smokeless powder and it introduced a bolt with dual, opposed locking lugs that became standard practice and is still with us today. The bolt took its cartridges from a single stack, vertical magazine that could be charged from a stripper clip.  A few changes were made when Argentina placed a large order for military rifles.  The gun they got was the Mauser

Model 1891, often called the “7.65 Argentine” because it fired the 7.65 x 53 Mauser cartridge.  What it looks like is shown in the picture.  It is a typical military configuration for the time, a long stock with two bands, a ladder sight, and a straight bolt handle.  The long magazine is an identifying feature.

An Argentine Sporter

Good bolt action sporting rifles were often made by converting surplus military rifles. I have always liked the looks of sporters based on the Model 1891.  They are compact, have good lines, and look handy and effective.  Some folks may not like the long magazine, but I do.  It blends with the trigger guard and is an identifying feature, not to mention that it holds five rounds of powerful 7.65 ammo.  Then, when you see one up close, the level of craftsmanship is really impressive.

Sporter based on Model 1891 Mauser, the Argentine Mauser

The largest number of Argentines did not hit the shores of the USA until the waves of surplus militaries showed up in the 1950s and 1960s.   These waves included other Mauser models, including the Model 1898 German and the Model 1909 Argentine.  These were the most advanced Mausers and the ones considered to be safest and best for conversion to a hunting rifle.

Receiver of 1891 Mauser

Nonetheless, the 1891 was popular for sporterization because it was an easy conversion. No rebarreling was necessary because the 7.65 x 53 cartridge was an excellent hunting cartridge that got the job done.  Surplus military and factory rounds were both available.  The action was not strong enough for conversion to .30-06 or .270.  Just cut and recrown the barrel, install a new front sight, shorten and reshape the stock and you were good to go after deer, bear, elk, whatever.  A talented gun tinkerer could do the job (working patiently and carefully, of course).  Gunsmith services for a scope base and trigger work would up the ante.

But none of this was really necessary in the heyday of surplus Argentines.  Folks like Sears and Roebuck did the work and sold the product at a low price.  I believe other merchandisers, say J. C. Penney and Woolworth’s did also.  The gun in this article had that kind of origin.

My 1891 Argentine Sporter

OK, so you are not yet convinced. Stay with the program a while longer and take another

Front sight ramp

look at the sporter in the pic above.  The barrel, keeping its chambering for the 7.62 x 53, has been shortened to 24 inches.  The rear ladder sight was retained while a new front sight ramp was installed.  The original, military stock has been shortened appropriately and carries the military butt plate.  The bolt has been bent down a bit.  Receiver marking says it was made by Deutsche Waffen und Munitions Fabriken (DWM) in Berlin.  The Argentine crest has been ground off the receiver ring and a tiny inscription “7.65 X 53” has been stamped on the top.

Receiver text. Note handshake icon on receiver ring and Phrygian cap icon on bolt release

The excellent condition makes me wonder whether the rifle was ever issued. Except for a few splotches of corrosion due to storage, the metal finish is very good.  The wood, except for a few handling scratches, seems new.  The handguard finish does not match the stock and is the only component that is not original to the rifle.  A number of icons stamped in the wood, including a serial number, never saw a piece of sandpaper.  The action shows no sign of any wear.  Function is quite smooth.

Serial numbers of all parts, including the stock, are matching. They indicate manufacture in the year 1900.  Earlier examples of the Argentine Mauser were made by Ludwig Loewe of Berlin.  Loewe was merged with an ammo company in 1896 and the combo became known as Deutsch Waffen und Munitions Fabrik.  Argentines made after that time are marked with this ID,   but some examples of the later 1909 Argy were manufactured in Argentina and are so marked.  When your piece says Loewe or DWM, you know you have the German quality.  That applies to all 1891s.

There are several small icons that are stamped in the wood and metal of an Argentine Mauser. One is an image of hands clasped in a handshake.  This is a symbol of unity and represents the unification of the provinces of Argentina.  Another small icon is best described as looking like the hat that the Smurfs wore.  Remember them?  It is called a Phrygian cap and its use goes back to antiquity.  During the French Revolution the wearing of a red Phygian cap was a sign of the quest for liberty. Argentina cherished its freedom as it was sometimes threatened by Chile and Brazil.  I think these icons give the Argentine a sense of national identity.

Points of Interest in Design

The picture of the action removed from the stock illustrates functional simplicity, with some features that will still be found on sporting rifles. One such is a recoil lug made as part of the action frame beneath the receiver ring.  This lug has a threaded collar that engages the front receiver screw after it has passed through the front of the trigger guard.  The receiver ring and bridge are relatively short and the rails are thick, giving an action that is stiff and

strong.  The rear receiver screw passes through the rear of the trigger guard and threads into the tang behind the receiver bridge.  The magazine construction is quite robust.  The magazine can be removed but is not meant to be removed in operation.  Cartridges are pushed through the spring steel lips of the mag from the top.  This works very well.  The receiver bridge has a slot behind the mag to guide a stripper clip for battle use.

The one piece bolt features dual l locking lugs and a short hook extractor. Overall, the bolt resembles some much more modern bolts. The face is recessed for the cartridge rim and there is a slot for ejector travel in the left locking lug.  There is a cutout at the bottom of the face but it is not large enough to admit the case head.  The action therefore operates as a push feed.  At the end there is a bolt shroud with a three-position safety wing.  The main spring of the striker is very strong, but there is a long travel and subsequent long lock time.

Argentine Mauser bolt

If you haven’t thought much of old military rifles you should find a nice Mauser and look inside the tree. Well, you don’t have to do that because I will give you a good look in the next picture.

Inletting of the walnut stock

The inletting of the wood and the fit of action to the wood is superb. Every feature of the action is supported.  Note that there is a small metal wedge in the wood at the front of the recoil lug.  This bears on the action screw socket and keeps the recoil lug snug against the wood at its rear face.  Other features are revealed by comparing the action photo with the inlet photo.  Note that there is metal-to-metal contact between the recoil lug and the front screw guide of the bottom metal when the front screw is drawn tight to secure the metal to the stock .  Note also that there is a metal tube that guides the rear action screw and gives positive spacing between the rear tang and the bottom metal.  The effect of these features is that the Argentine Mauser is pillar bedded as it comes to you.  Seeing this, I know that, despite being an addicted bedding freak, I will not touch the wood to metal arrangement until after I have done a lot of shooting with the piece. It should shoot quite well as is..

Ammo for the 7.65 x 53

Cartridge comparison, L to R: .300 Savage; .308 Winchester; 7.65 Argentine; >30-06 Springfirld

There are four factory loads available. Two are made by Prvi Partizan Uzice (PPU) in Serbia.  They have a full metal jacket, 174-grain load and a 180-grain soft point that would be suitable for hunting. Both are available in the USA and are the least expensive factory loads for the Argentine.  Norma loads a 174-grain soft point and it is expensive.  Most interesting to me is a 150-grain load sold by Graf & Sons and boxed under their name.  The box says that the ammo is made under contract with Hornady.  The brass has a PPU headstamp but I suppose the bullet is a Hornady number.  This is the only 150-grain load available.

7.65 ammo from Graf & Sons (Hornady) and PPU

The 7.65 Argentine Sporter with Factory Ammo

To make the rifle a bit friendlier for my old eyes I enlarged the V-notch of the rear sight with a triangular file. This makes it a little easier to float the front bead in the rear notch and to center the bead in the circular target that I like to use.  It also helped to use an aperture on my glasses to increase depth of field in the axis of sight alignment.  I fired three-shot groups at fifty yards.  Feeding, extraction, and ejection were perfect.

Velocities given by the three factory loads I tried were PPU 174 gr,  2462 fps;  PPU 180 gr,  2413 fps;  Graf/Hornady 150 gr, 2723 fps.  The thing to note here is the zippiness of the Hornady 150-gr load.  I feel that Hornady must be using a Hodgdon Superformance powder to get that kind of velocity at 7.65 Mauser pressure.  No question that this load is in the same league as a .308 and would knock a deer into next week.

Group size was uniform and fell in the range of 1.0 – 1.5 inches. One group of 0.6 in  was obtained with the Graf 150 gr load.  That brought a smile to my face and a motivation to continue working with this gun.  Bench testing worked OK but the steel butt plate gives the shoulder a real thump – painful if the butt is not well placed.

Measurement with a Stony Point headspace gauge showed that firing moved the case shoulder forward a distance of 0.006 inch, so headspace seems OK.

Possibilities for Handloading the 7.65 x 53

Loading dies for the 7.65 x 53 are available from the usual makers of loading equipment. I bought a set from Lyman and the dies have worked fine.  Loading technique is the same as would be used for any other rimless, shouldered cartridge.  No special tricks or tips required, but you must remember that bullets must be 0.312” in diameter.  Since that is what the .303 British takes, there is a good choice of bullets available.

Several of the modern loading handbooks, Hornady’s, for instance, include loads for the 7.65 Argentine. The Model 1891 is not weak, but I think it best to stay with modest to moderate loads.  Such loads are easier on the shoulder and have the best chance of exhibiting fine accuracy.  For hunting, the Argentine is safe with heavier loads, as the results with the aforementioned Graf/Hornady show.

For general shooting pleasure, I think I will seek a load that performs at the .30-30 level. The Hornady Manual says that 36 gr. of IMR 3031 will kick out a 150-gr. Bullet at about 2400 fps.  Thinking ball powder, W748 should work well.

Collecting, Anyone?

I have had my eye on ads for used guns and their prices for many years. The days of low-priced, surplus military rifles of quality are long over.  There are many of these bangers, however, and they do turn over as collectors get interested in something else or go to their reward.  If you stay vigilant and knowledgeable a good buy can come your way.  That said, the cost of historically important military rifles has increased significantly in the last few years.  That would include examples of the Krag/Jorgensen, the 1903 Springfield, the M1 Garand, and of course, the Mauser.

Mausers were never used by the American Military (although the 1903 Springfield is a really good copy of the 1898 Mauser). However the role played by Mausers in the technical development of bolt action, military arms should make them attractive to all arms enthusiasts.  These developments would be well illustrated by perhaps a half dozen rifles from the late 19th century.  And the cost would be way, way less than a similar assemblage of Colt revolvers or Winchester rifles.  Cost, of course, is affected by the condition of the individual arms, pristine examples bringing many times the price of rough examples or rifles that have been modified in some way.

So, “serious” collectors would scoff at my barrel bobbed ’91 Argentine Mauser.   I will only say that it has matching numbers, is in excellent condition, functions as it should, shoots very well, and fully illustrates Mauser design of its time.  It is a part of American sporting history as well as of the history of military arms design.  I enjoy owning it and shooting it, and that is not likely to change.


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A Thompson Center G2 Contender in .32 S & W Long

This post describes the design and performance of a Thompson/Center G2 Contender equipped with a .32 S&W Long barrel made by Match Grade Machine of Hurricane, Utah.

But first, I have to present my annual, winter bald eagle picture.  This Mr. Baldy perched in a hardwood by the house at ATOTT Headquarters.  I believe he is thinking about moving because there is no open water left in the frozen bay.  I am no nature photographer but I try.  This was taken with a Fuji FinePix 4500 (14 mega pixels) with lens at about 30X zoom, hand held through the glass of our front door.  The image stabilizer removed most of my shaking so the image is not too bad.

Master of all he surveys

Thompson Center Contender

The T/C Contender is a visible hammer, break-open, single shot pistol that appeared in 1967.  It was invented by Warren Center while he was working for the K. W. Thompson Tool Co. which then manufactured the pistol for sale.  Primarily a hunting arm, the Contender enjoyed some popularity and the Thompson Center line expanded to include a carbine and a stronger action for powerful cartridges that could be had in pistol or rifle configuration.  The original Contender action was replaced by the improved G2 model in 1998.  The company was bought by Smith and Wesson in 2007 and production was moved to Springfield, Massachusetts.  The Contender disappeared from the market for a few years during the gun market craziness that attended certain governmental administrations.  The G2 Contender and other single shot T/C products reappeared in 2015 when one could again buy a Contender pistol or carbine.

The versatility of the Contender owes to the possibility of using interchangeable barrels to shoot different calibers with one action.  Rimfire and centerfire cartridges are both possible because of the Contender’s clever, hammer-mounted firing pin combo.  Thus, you may fire the .17 HMR or the .44 Remington Magnum, and most everything in between, from the same action by using easily interchangeable barrels.  The sights, optical or metallic, remain attached to the barrels so resighting is not necessary when changing to a new caliber.  That has a lot of appeal.

My Thompson/Center Contender

I purchased my G2 Contender pistol with walnut stock and a 12-inch barrel in .22 rimfire.  My supplier was the E. Arthur Brown Company, an outfit that lists a lot of products by T/C, Ruger, and others.  I found EABCo very good to deal with.  Since I wanted to work with the .32 S & W Long I immediately began to look for a company that could supply Contender barrels in custom chamberings.  Cartridges like the 32 Long are simply too obscure for production of factory barrels.  Lucky for me I found my desired barrel could be made and supplied by Match Grade Machine of Hurricane, Utah.  At their web site it is easy to design and order the barrel you want.  This company provides an excellent product and they shipped mine in about four weeks.  Outstanding!  A visit to their web site will show that the company can supply barrels in many chamberings for all models of T/C pistols and carbines.  A picture of the barrel sent to me follows.  Note that this bull barrel has the optional scope base for Weaver rings.  Note also the large hole in the front of the lug that admits the pin used to attach the barrel to the action

Ten-inch barrel, .32 S&W Long, from Match Grade Machine

The EABCo will do an extra-cost action job on your T/C frame if you so specify.  One may well ask why one needs to pay for an action job to get a good trigger on a gun as expensive as a G2 Contender.  My thought is that many parts in today’s manufacturing world are milled on CNC machines.  These machines are so precise that parts produced on them are fully interchangeable and easily assembled into a finished gun.  However, these parts may not mesh quite as well as in the good old days when some hand finishing was used.  Hence, the need for additional tuning to get a fine trigger.  I paid the price and I am happy with the result.  My Contender operates smoothly and the trigger is light and crisp.

In the picture with the hammer cocked you can see the hammer pin set for centerfire operation.  Turning the lever on top of the hammer will set the pin higher for rimfire operation.  It would be difficult to think of a simpler method for allowing both types of operation in the same pistol.

Cocked, showing hammer set for centerfire opertion

The next picture shows the assembled pistol with a Leupold 2X handgun scope installed.  This is the weapon that went to the range with me for testing factory ammo and a few handloads, primarily at 25 yards.

G2 Contender with MGM barrel and Leupold 2 scope

It Is A Long Barrel

At 10 inches the MGM barrel is quite long compared with a barrel on the usual .32 revolver.  Most common on a wheelgun is 4 inches, as on an S & W Model 30/31 or a Colt Police Positive, these revolvers being pocket pistols.  A few 5- and six-inch barrels may be encountered.  Thus, my T/C outfit should show comparatively high velocities in comparison.  Velocity results for ten-shot strings came out like this:

Remington .32 S&W Long 98 gr RN averaged 841 fps Ex Spread 53 fps

Magtech .32 S&W Long 98 gr RN averaged 826 fps Ex Spread 58 fps

Sellier & Bellot .32 S&W Long 100 gr FN averaged 1009 fps Ex Spread 62 fps

Handload 3.3 gr Universal Clays and 85 gr Hornady XTP averaged 930 fps ES 50 fps

Handload 3.3 gr Universal Clays and 90 gr Sierra JHP averaged 977 fps ES 96 fps

Handload 3.7 gr Universal Clays and 100 gr Hornady XTP aved 1068 fps ES 115 fps

Handload 3.3 gr Universal Clays and 95 gr SWC aved 1106 fps ES 50 fps

These velocities might prompt me to sing a couple choruses of “Happy Days Are Here Again!”  They are really quite satisfying.  The Remington and Magtech factory loads give about 100 -150 fps higher velocity than they would from a four inch barrel.  The Sellier and Bellot is astounding from the 10-inch MGM and I will have more to say about that later.

Left to right: Remington 98 gr RN, Sellier & Bellot 100 gr FN, HL Sierra 90 gr JHP, HL Hunter’s Supply 95 gr SWC

But Could I Hit Anything With It?

What a downer it would be to have to report poor accuracy, but I do not need to because the gun shows target grade accuracy.  The barrel, as shown in the pictures, is heavy.  The trigger is crisp and light at about three pounds and the 2X Leupold scope does its job well.  You could fire the pistol offhand with a two-hand hold if it did not take too long to break the shot but I shot over sandbags for my group shooting.

Best accuracy results were obtained with handloads using the lighter jacketed bullets.  The picture shows two groups shot at 25 yards, one using Hornady’s 85 gr XTP and one with Sierra’s 90 gr HP.  I must say that I have not done enough handloading and shooting yet in order to reliably pick winners.  The Sierra and Hornady perform about the same here and both will be capable of consistent 25-yd groups under an inch.  The Hornady 100 gr XTP handload, which sped away at 1068 fps, did not do quite as well as the 85 grainer.

Two groups, Hornady 85 gr XTP left, Sierra 90 gr JHP right (25 yards)

The Remington and Magtech factory loads were so-so with groups being a bit less than 2 inches.

Sellier & Bellot

Sellier & Bellot is a manufacturer of cartridge ammunition located in the Czech Republic.  The company is owned by CBC, a Brazilian company that also makes Magtech ammunition.

Many S&B products are imported into the United States.  Their.32 S&W Long uses a flat-nosed, 100 gr bullet so the cartridge is similar to the old, American made .32 Colt New Police but it can be fired in any revolver chambered for the .32 S&W Long.  This ammo has been available from many ammo sources on the internet.

The S&B 32 Long performs about the same as ammo from other factories, that is, unsuitable for most handgun applications other than plinking due to light loading.  On a hot day it did manage 696 fps (ES 107, SD 31) from the four-inch barrel of my S&W Model 30-1.

I got a surprise from the TC Contender with its 10-inch MGM barrel.  From this barrel the S&B ammo produced 1009 fps (ES 62, SD 16).  This performance was verified on two other occasions.  The velocity increase of the S&B is not matched by Remington (841 fps) or Magtech (826 fps) ammo, although they good gave good velocities.  I conclude that the Sellier & Bellot 32 Long ammo uses powder that is more progressive and is able to take advantage of the longer barrel length.  I have to admire a barrel that puts 32 Long performance in a league with the 32 H&R Magnum.

Accuracyof the S&B ammo was very good with an eight-shot group measuring 1.12 in.  The best seven were in a bunch that measured 0.80 in.

Group from Sellier and Bellot 100 gr lead flat nose, 25 yards


The Thompson Center G2 Contender with 10 in. MGM is a combination of high quality products.  It works extremely well and gives much greater performance than one usually expects from the .32 S&W Long.  That is exactly what I was looking for – the answer to the question “How good is the .32 S&W Long?”  The answer:  In this Contender it is as good as the .32 H&R Magnum used in 4-6 inch barrels. Handloads using medium burning pistol powders like Universal Clays,  A #5, and Unique are outstanding.  It is great that jacketed bullets work really well and can be given velocities that will insure expansion.

This outfit would work really well for small game hunting, taking varmints, and silhouettes.  I have only begun to explore the velocity and accuracy performance of handloads.  That is where I will concentrate my future work with this great, single shot handgun.

T/C G2 Contender frame and custom .32 Long barrel


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