Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The one problem with bringing two .300 winmag rifles to boomershoot

Is the ammo cost.

Up 'til this week I haven't had the ready cash to buy either the ammo or the components for our boomershoot trip. I just now finished ordering them.

For said trip, we've got three shooters; and we're bringing two .300wm rifles (a customized Win model 70 featherweight in a Hogue pillarbed stock with CDI bottom metal, and a Bulberry barreled Encore), and two 5.56 rifles (a long range superheavy AR, and an AR carbine for the high intensity event).

I'm bringing 200 rounds of precision ammo for each of the long range guns, plus at least 200 rounds of plinking ammo for the carbine and for the other AR to use in the high intensity events.

Now, the 5.56 aint nothing so to speak. I've got a few hundred rounds loaded, a couple thousand empty brass, and probably 12 lbs of the powder I use for those loads; plus at least 400 match bullets lying around., and a whole case of small rifle match primers.

I used to shoot a hell of a lot of 5.56, and haven't in the last two years so...

The big issue is the .300wm, and the fact that I don't yet have a large stock of fired cases for it.

Now, conventionally to acquire said stock of cases, one just buys factory ammo and shoots it; because it's usually only slightly more expensive than buying fresh rifle brass, and powder, and bullets, and primers etc...


Not in the case of .300wm however; especially match grade heavy weight loads.

The least expensive factory .300wm loads I can find run $22 to $24 a box of 20, and aren't significantly cheaper in 100rd or 500rd quantity. Also thats all below 180gr, and I want 190 to 210gr.

No major manufacturer actually loads above 200gr winmag in long range bullets for national distribution (a couple load 240gr smasher solids for big game. Some of the specialty companies do load heavy vlds, like Biterroot, HSM etc... but they don't have national distribution). The heaviest long range loads the majors sell is usually 185gr or 190gr (almost always with the Sierra Match King, a great bullet choice; or the 185gr Lapua Scenar, another great bullet choice).

The least expensive factory option on 190gr, is $38 a 20rd box, and again, not available cheaper in 100rd or 500rd quantity. The commercial "gold standard" round, available in wide distribution, is the Federal Gold Medal match, 190gr SMK; and you can get it for $42 a box (and it retails locally for over $50 a box by the by, so $42 is a big discount).

Honestly, I understand the relatively high per box price; what I don't understand is why I can't order it in 100rd or 500rd quantities (at hopefully a substantial discount).

At any rate, that would mean around $800 for the 400 rounds we need... yeah, not happening.

So, off to powder valley I go (generally the cheapest, and best customer service, in the reloading business).

I've already got 100 winchester cases , 100 sierra 190gr bullets (more on that in a bit), and a case of large rifle magnum match primers (for which in total I paid $140, local retail); so I need to grab brass and bullets for 300 and powder for 400.

Ok, well, powder for 400 .300wm is about 5 lbs. Actually, it's a little over 4lbs plus wastage, but that means you need to buy 5 lbs.

I'm going with Reloder 25, as that's what Walt Berger recommended to me for his 210gr bullets (he gave me load data for about 20 different powders, but rl25, h1000, and Retumbo actually ended up the best out of a 26" barrel. Of those, rl25 is cheapest in 5 pound quantities).

Local retail price, about $24 a pound. Powder valley had it for $90 for 5 lbs.

Brass... I'm just going to stick with standard Winchester .300wm, and match prep it myself. I'm not shooting benchrest with this stuff, so I'm not going to lathe turn it or segregate into 1gr lots or anything (if I were I'd spend the $1.40 a piece for the lapua match brass and save myself the extra work).

Local retail price, $39 for 50. Powder valley, $145 for 250 plus $29 for 50 more.

I bought my primers locally for $42 a case (a case of 1000), but powder valley has them for $33.

Bullets... this is where things get interesting.

So, for the custom 1000 yard gun I'm still building, I plan on using the Berger 210gr long range boat tail match hollowpoints; and when I have the chamber reamed, the lede will be set for that bullet.

However, in talking with Brian Litz over at Berger, he mentioned that some factory rifles don't like their 210s, because they're set up for 165gr to 180gr bullets, with shorter ogives etc...

I talked with Bulberry about what bullets I was planning on using with the barrel they made for the Encore, so it should be reamed right for the heavies; but the Winchester has a factory featherweight barrel, and I'd guess it's probably set up for best accuracy with the 165-180gr factory loads most people would be shooting.

Also, you never know exactly what load a barrel is going to like. Even when it's reamed for the longer throat,  a particular barrel might just like a lighter (or heavier) bullet than any other barrel.

Finally, I'd like to try out some loads that I can reasonably duplicate with factory ammo, in case I should ever need to buy some in the field, or when I can't load in time for an event etc...

So, rather than just buy 400 Berger 210s, I want to mix it up a bit.

I already bought 100 190gr SMKs, because I know I can get commercial loaded ammo using that bullet... and it's a great bullet for which plenty of good experience and data exists.

I got them on special sale at a local retailer for $34 per 100 (the normal retail is like $45). Powder valley has them for $31.

I also want to try the 210gr SMK, which sell for $35 a box of 50 retail (yes, $0.70 each bullet only... special order only as well), but Powder valley has them for $26 for 50.

Specifically, I want to try the 210gr Berger against its two best competitors, the SMK, and the 208gr Hornady (for some reason Lapua don't make any Scenars over 185gr, and the 190gr and heavier Noslers just aren't in the same league).

The Hornady is considerably cheaper than either Berger or Sierra, at $39 per 100 local retail; with Powder Valley coming in at $28 per 100.

The Bergers are actually less expensive than the heavy Sierras (more than the 190s though), at $59 per 100 retail, but only $41 per 100 at Powder Valley.

So, if we were to presume all Hornady (as it's the least expensive), and all my components were purchased at powder valley; the same 400 rounds that would have cost us over $800 plus shipping from the factory, would run $440, plus shipping.

Since the primers and powder both have useful remainders out of their lot, the actually cost per round is right around $1, vs. the $2.10 for Federal Gold Medal Match (and I'll presume that FGMM is about the same quality as my best match handloads, since I wont' be playing silly benchrest games with necks, runout, weight sorting etc...).

Not cheap by any means; but I'll take $1 a round over $2.10 any day, even factoring in my time and effort (probably about 10-12 hours to do all 400).