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Rob’s Reloading Ramblings - The Old and the New

By Rob Bedingfield

I feel that I must mention the Christchurch massacre aftermath before I get into more pleasant ramblings. I was in the Square with my wife and two best friends from Australia when it hit the fan. When the full details were known I knew we were in for some draconian, hasty gun legislation, probably conveniently ready and waiting. 

 

In the last few issues of NZG&H, Peter, Nik, SSANZ and COLFO did a great job of pulling no punches and keeping us informed. My main concern was the speed at which some shooters fell in with the ‘Divide & Rule’ scenario.

 

Certain individuals and organisations kicked semi-auto owners under the bus, so to speak. Media statements like, “I don’t need a semi-auto, I need only one bullet when I’m hunting” only assisted the opposition. I saw the same thing happen in Australia in 1996 - we attended the rally in Sydney, 100,000, of us were there (140,000 in Melbourne) - Police figures.

 

I soon realised that the semi-auto owner was law-abiding and deserved our help, not a put down. The power of reasoning has long gone. In my 72 years I have never seen New Zealand citizens treated so badly by a government and the opposition. We cannot hope to win against these tyrants if we remain divided.

 

Remember the ‘I’m all right Jacks’ and treat them with the contempt they deserve, also remember ACT, the lone voice that stood up for us in parliament.All gun owners must join COLFO or SSANZ for a united voice.

 

“Media statements like, “I don’t need a semi-auto, I need only one bullet when I’m hunting” only assisted the opposition.”

 

My grandad was a fine old gentleman and when I was only knee-high to a sandal strap he would take me on walks before the rest of the family had risen. I worshiped him and looked forward to my infrequent visits to his house. It seems strange nowadays but it seemed like the only people who had cars back then were the doctors. Travel to another town involved much organising of train and bus.

 

Grandad was a pretty good shot, especially with his beautiful Simpson side by side which I now have, as well as the Mannlicher .270 mentioned in my previous article. Both are cherished but my earliest hunting memories are of him and his 1901 BSA Long Lee Enfield (Long Tom) slung on his back.

 

Gun cleaning was not one of Grandad’s strong points and when we visited I pulled the guns out of the cupboard and cleaned them as best I could. The main reason for this was my pleasure in being able to handle the guns, smell the gun oil and linseed, and drift off into the world of hunting. 

 

They weren’t called “Long Toms”for nothing, barrel length is 30.2” (767mm) and overall length 49.5” (1257mm).

 

There is much talk of depression nowadays and having Parkinson’s disease means that I am subject to this awful condition. I never realised that it had me until the right drugs brought me out of it. There is a hell of a lot more to it than just feeling depressed. The awakening came when I realised that I had removed the Long Tom from the safe and I was back to doing what I enjoyed, back to the land of the living.

 

So dirty was the old rifle’s bore that it took me two hours to get the crud out of it, my 36-inch cleaning rod only just popped out the end. It was a labour of love and I gave it the full treatment, locked it away and sat down with a large dollop of single malt Scotch whisky. Bliss! - the only thing nicer would’ve been another glassful. (Specialist’s recommendation).

 

I had no plan to reload ammo for the Long Tom so I began looking for surplus military ammo. Staff at our local gun shop, Fiordland Frontier Supplies, found on the internet a load of Greek surplus 174 grain FMJ at Gun City, cheap and with reloadable (non-Berdan primed) brass to boot. 

 

That problem solved, I called on Cobus at GUN TECHnz, Gore and had him check the rifle’s safety with Mk. 7 ammo. I have to admit to feeling a little guilty presenting him with a rifle that may have been used to shoot his ancestors.

 

I had in my possession a target/aperture sight which he fitted. These were used in conjunction with a corresponding sight on the forearm to drop volleys on the Boer horsemen on the open veldt at ranges up to 2800 yards. One problem was a missing ejection screw. Of course, Enfield used their own thread but this was no problem to Cobus.

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I later found out that my son had pinched the screw for his SMLE. I could hear him laughing all the way from Melbourne. The aperture sight seems not to belong to this rifle, the single screw constantly came loose and the sight fouled the bolt shroud. Not to worry though, the “V” sight was fine and as long as I wore my glasses I could see the front sight, which helps somewhat.

 

 

TOP & ABOVE: During the Boer War these sights were used for very long volleys, dropping .303 rounds onto enemy positions out to 2800 yards.

 

When the A.N.Z.A.C. club shoot came around it was hosing down. No one wanted to stand in the rain so we decided to stay under the pistol range roof and have a go at the 267 yard gongs, no scopes. It was later said that there were 70 booms and only a couple of “dongs”, and, would you believe it, my shot was one of those dongs.

 

At one stage I thought I was going to win but Brendon buggered that up with two hits. There was some suggestion that we may have been shooting at and/or hitting the wrong gong.

 

Never mind, I was the oldest shooter with the oldest rifle, something to crow about. The day finished in the usual grand style: Step up to the mound, five rounds in the magazine and repel the enemy with a withering wall of fire. I think this is the best part of the day for Steve, our range officer who probably gets a buzz from the cordite fumes.

 

“No one wanted to stand in the rain so we decided to stay under the pistol range roof and have a go at the 267 yard gongs, no scopes.”

 

If you like walls of fire watch the DVD “Zulu” where the British square shows its effectiveness, best played large screen with sound through the stereo. I also recommend on YouTube, “The Real Gunsmith”. He is an interesting old guy with years of building and shooting custom rifles, and of course, a must watch are Nik’s hunting adventure videos in the Central North Island.

 

LOADING UP

Don’t worry readers, I’ve also been doing some interesting handload testing with my .300 Win Mag and my .270. “The Real Gunsmith” made mention of recent developments in (Alliance) powders for the .270 Winchester, namely Reloder 16 and 17. The info is on the internet and only quotes one load which I assumed to be maximum with 130gr projectiles.

 

“The rifle has been mentioned in previous articles and is a rebarreled Parker Hale Mauser. The .300 can only be described as exhilarating when shooting off the bench.”

 

As per normal I started low (52 grains of Reloder 16) and progressed in groups of three with half grain increases. All groups were remarkably tight (minute of deer - actually nothing over 1.25") and velocities started at 2900fps.

 

I continued up to 54.5 grains with no alarming pressure signs, average velocity 3044fps and a 0.75" group, pretty good from my 22" barrelled Tikka. By dropping half a grain the group was a pleasing 0.47" and velocity 3033fps. By comparison, my regular load is 59 grains of AR2213SC at 2940fps and just under an inch group.

 

I will obviously change to the Reloder 16 load for my future 130gr Tikka .270 handloads. On the subject of .270 loading, I have three such rifles in the cabinet, the Tikka, a BSA and the Mannlicher. All three shoot best with different powders, namely AR2213SC (now displaced by Reloder 16), IMR 4064 and IMR 4350 respectively. This certainly shows the difference in barrels.

 

More than likely I will trial Reloder 16 in the BSA and the Mannlicher, not to mention an interesting 150gr load with Reloder 25, so stay tuned as I have further fun at the range. My friend Bob, while observing my antics, assured me that he would ring for an ambulance if the rifle let go at an over max load, thanks mate! I think it would take a hell of a load to bust a Tikka.

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On the subject of being cautious, a friend told me of a mate who owned two identical Tikkas, one a .308 and the other a .270 Winchester. A .308 round was inadvertently forced into and fired in the .270. Apparently it just hissed with the escaping gasses, remaining intact although unusable.

 

If my life depended on it the Tikka would be my choice of all the guns in my cabinet. Now for some really hairy-chested load tests with my .300 Win. Mag.

 

At the Te Anau range Rob puts the Long Tom through its paces.

 

The rifle has been mentioned in previous articles and is a rebarreled Parker Hale Mauser. The .300 can only be described as exhilarating when shooting off the bench. The Shilen 26" tube is a beauty but does have an unusually long freebore. Because of the restricted magazine length I cannot make use of it, or can I?

 

“If my life depended on it the Tikka would be my choice of all the guns in my cabinet.”

 

I am in the habit of getting into arguments regarding the relevance of freebore on accuracy, personally believing that it makes little difference. I reasoned however, that if I loaded a 180gr Sierra Match bullet to a millimetre off the lands it would provide greater case capacity. All I had to do was slip the rim up under the extractor. The cartridges would not fit into the magazine but who cares, they could be fired single shot for range use. Hunting loads would stay normal length. 

 

I vaguely remember Nick Harvey doing something along these lines and I respect his wisdom. My hunting load with 180gr Speer projectiles is 81 grains of Reloder 25 for a velocity of 3032fps and a group of 1.25". The max listed is 82.3 grains. I made up a series of three loads and duly seated the 180gr Sierra Hollow-Point Match projectiles to not quite touch the lands. The results are shown below.

 

Charge Weight (Grains) Group Size (Inches) Velocity (FPS)
81.5 1.28" 2997
82 1.79" 2993
82.5 (CAUTION: Above Maximum) 1.29" 3050
83 (CAUTION: Above Maximum) 0.78" 3124

 

The results speak for themselves, the 83 grain load being the clear winner. With Reloder 25 being such a slow burning powder I was using magnum primers but they seemed to make little difference. None of these loads showed any sign of problem pressures but I stopped at 83 grains.

 

The next test is to load a box at 83 grains and see how they go at longer ranges (670 yards max range at Te Anau). A word of warning, this load is above the listed maximum, which is NOT recommended. I only tried it because the 82.5 grain load showed no pressure signs and the Mauser is a very strong action.

 

If you try to duplicate it approach with caution and back off if warning signs suggest excessive pressure - like flattened primers or stiff extraction. All rifles are different.

 

Rob

 

(Ed: We will let Rob have his say, but NZGUNS does not endorse exceeding maximum loads in any rifle).

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