I recently learned about Hodgdon's new Superformance powder and the amazing speeds this powder was producing for certain cartridges and bullet weights. In the 243 WSSM the best performance according to Hodgdon's data is for bullets in the 70 to 90 grain weight range.
After looking over Hodgdon's data and comparing it to my personal loads I figured I would try loading up a 70 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. I also wanted to see what the powder would do with some of my other favorite bullets that I have already worked up loads for with different powders.
I tried four variations of a 70 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip load out of my A-Bolt Stainless Varmint Laminate rifle that has a 24 inch barrel. With a 2.24 COL I was able to match the published velocity but the accuracy was horrible. With just a change in the COL to 2.23 the speeds were reduced by around 50 fps. With one grain less powder and a COL of 2.23 I was able to get an acceptable three shot group. Other than this one group that measures exactly one inch, two groups were greater than five inches and one at two and a quarter inches. It would appear that I will need to back off the powder to keep the 70 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip to stabilize in my rifle.
Speed of 22 inch barrel length 243 WSSM with a 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock and Hodgdon Superformance Powder. This load can probably take on another grain of powder. Also this load shot very accurately.
As always the 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock shot amazingly well from my little 22 inch barrel Browning A-Bolt Stainless Hunter Lamanite rifle. I only had 51 grains of powder in the load and I think I can go up one more grain of powder and still be plenty safe. I will try that next time. For now the 51 grains of Superformance produced a 3/4 inch group and the velocity was 3426, 3474 and an error on my last shot. So for now I will roughly say 3450 fps compared with MagPro in which I was getting 3360 fps. Now MagPro load and this load both could probably take on another grain of powder and still be safe. And keep in mind if this same Superforamnce load was shot from a 24 inch barrel the speed would probably be around 3550 fps.
I also tried a load with the 75 grain V-Max out of my A-Bolt Stainless Varmint Laminate rifle with 24 inch barrel. I only was able to get one velocity reading of 3721 as the other two shots gave errors thanks to the passing clouds. The velocity was way up from the 3560 fps I get with IMR 4350 powder (see my 243 WSSM Handloads). Accuracy... well, I only got two of the three bullets to even hit the paper... I'll work on some different loads of this bullet also. Speed wise the Superformance powder clearly beats my max load of IMR 4350 by 200+ fps.
For my initial 243 WSSM load tests this was my best accuracy load at one inch diameter with the 70g Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet and Superformance powder. The three velocities were 3701, 3731, and 3728 for this group. I will start tweaking the load based around this load.
I shot the 75g V-Max after shooting the 70g Ballistic tips. And the first shot of the 75g V-Max did not hit the paper and I would chalk that up as a fouling shot. For the best accuracy I will need to clean the barrel thoroughly before switching bullets and I have also found from past experience that sometimes it takes a barrel 10 to 20 shots with a new bullet before they start shooting well. At least that has been the case when I switch from a moly coated bullet to a non-coated bullet and vise-versa.
I liked the Superformance powder for a couple of reasons. One it is a ball powder which is nice for running through my powder measure. It actually looks just like my favorite MagPro powder except Superformance has a very strong odor, kind of like bug spray... The powder also did not produce any sign of a stiff bolt lift from excessive pressure even with compressed loads. Maybe I'm superstitious or something but I tend to like using powder that gives me a full to compressed amount of powder in the case. I guess in my mind I can visualize the powder being evenly placed throughout the entire case with no extra room to leave a void on the top side of the shell when it is in the chamber... I'm sure it really doesn't make any difference, but in my mind I feel better with the case at full capicity. But it does seem that I do get better accuracy with a full case. When I find a powder that just fills the case as it gets to the maximum pressure I get the best speeds and accuracy. And speed is what this powder is all about.
Here is the 3/4 inch 243 WSSM three shot group with the 80g Tipped Triple Shock. I plan on increasing the powder a little to see if the pressures are ok and the accuracy. I can't praise the accuracy of this bullet enough. The 80g Tipped Triple Shock always shoots great for me.
For the purposes of testing the speed and case pressures of the Superformance powder what I found I really liked the powder. The powder preforms as advertised. Now I will need to spend more specific time working on one load per rifle. I think I will focus on the 70g Ballistic Tip for one rifle and see about increasing the powder a little on the 80 TTSX for the rifle and bullet that Dallen has killed three elk, his first mule deer and a whitetail buck with.
Back to the reloading bench. When I get some Superformance loads that I am satisfied with I will post the load data on my 243 WSSM Handloads page.
Day Two: Here are the groups (if you can call them groups) from day two at the range. Four poor three shot groups with the 70g Nosler Ballitic Tip and the 3/4 inch 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock group. The bottom left group with two shot on the board and one in the dirt is the same load that shot well the first time out.
Day two at the range. I thoroughly cleaned my A-Bolt Stainless Varmint Laminate rifle using BoreTech Eliminator (this article discusses my thoughts on cleaning my rifle barrels Rifle Bore Cleaning Process) and then worked up the same 70g Ballistic Tip load that shot well the first time and three other variations of powder and COL with the 70g Ballistic Tip. I also went up on the powder with the 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock load from my first time out to see if it still shot well and if the pressures were ok.
Sadly, I could not get any of the 70g Ballistic Tip loads to shoot well. Even the load that shot decent the first time out did not do well this trip out. I'm not real sure where to go with this bullet now. I'm not having a lot of confidence with it. I guess I will try a few more loads with even less powder and maybe a different powder. My scope is solidly mounted... maybe I'll shoot a bread and butter load through the rifle to make sure it isn't the scope or the mounts..
Day Two. The chronograph was registering some amazing speeds with the short 22 inch barrel on my A-Bolt Stainless Hunter Laminate and a 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock. And best yet the load grouped very well.
Now on the other hand the 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock shot great again, making a 3 shot group at just under 3/4 of an inch. The velocities were 3547, 3544, and 3556 respectively. Wow! That bullet is cruising along and from a short 22 inch barrel to boot. Now the big question... were the pressures ok? The bolt throw after all three shots was smooth as butter with absolutely no stiffness and the primers although flattened some looked fine, in fact they show less flattening than the 70g Ballistic Tip loads are showing.
I really like this Superformance 80g Barnes Triple Shock load. I still would like to get a few more rounds on paper with it to be sure but I haven't ever really had any accuracy issues with this bullet. I'm feeling safe that this load is going into my 243 WSSM Handloads data.
Now what do I do to get the 70g Ballistic Tips to shoot hmm...
Day Three: Here are the groups from day three at the range. A longer COL than Hodgdon lists for this bullet and powder was the ticket for getting the bullet to start grouping. (At least this was what I thought but these same loads ended up spraying all over the place on day four.)
Day three at the range. Ok, I was really thrown for a loop for a couple days with the 70g Ballistic Tips not shooting with any accuracy at all. Nosler's bullets have always been shooters for me, my scope is on tight, this rifle shoots good... As I stewed this over and over in my head I kept coming back to what I have always found to effect accuracy the most, and that is the COL (cartridge overall length). I again went back to Hodgdon's load data and looked it over but this time I looked at all their load data for all their powders not just the Superformance loads.
One thing stood out like a sore thumb was the COL Hodgdon has listed for the 70 Ballistic Tip with Superformance compared to all the rest of their powders. Hodgdon has the 70g Ballistic Tip with a 2.23 COL for Superformance and a 2.28 for all the rest of the powders. Ah Ha, I have been basing all of my COL lengths in and around the 2.23 length thinking this was my best place to start... Maybe not.
This time I loaded up four different loads all with the same powder charge but each load was a hundredth of an inch different in COL, from 2.28 to 2.25 in length. Bingo! That was the trick. 2.26 gave me the best accuracy with a 3/4 inch group and the 2.28 and 2.27 COL groups were also trying to group with a 1 1/8 and 1 3/8 inch groups. But notice what happened when I seated the bullet at the shortest length at 2.25 nearing the 2.23 length, I get a flier. And if I seat the bullet even lower I get a scatter gun like I had on my first two trips to the range.
It looks like now I will start tweaking the load around the 2.26 COL and greater to get the best accuracy.
Day Four: 80g Tipped Triple Shocks are still shooting well as is my old reliable IMR 4350 power, 75g V-Max load (group #4). Not sure what to think of the 70g Ballistic Tip with Superformance powder right now.
Day Four at the range. Back to the range again. Today I tried two 70g Nosler Ballistic Tip loads and two 75g V-Max loads both in my 24" barrel A-Bolt. In my 22" barrel A-Bolt I shot two three shot groups of a 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock load.
I shot the two 70g Ballistic Tip groups (see photo groups 1 & 2) then shot a 75g V-Max load (group 3) with Superformance powder. And just to make sure the rifle and scope were not to blame for the less than stellar 70g Ballistic Tip accuracy, group 4 is my old reliable 75g V-Max load with IMR 4350 powder.
Once again the 70g Ballistic Tip is giving me a flier, and in a COL that it shot ok with before. I'm beginning to loose trust in this bullet, powder combo in my rifle.
Groups 5 and 6 in the photo show two three shot groups with an 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock load and Superformance powder. These six shots averaged 3575 fps from a short 22" barrel. This load is starting to get to the warm end of the pressure spectrum. The load is cruising and shoots pretty darn accurate. I'm getting close to a 80g TTSX, Superformance load I'm happy with.
Groups 1 through 4 are all out of the same rifle. The first shot I took with the 75g V-Max was off course as you can see in group 3 but the second and third shot were right together. My bread and butter 75g V-Max load shot well (group 4) as it always does. Because I switched bullets with the rifle without cleaning it I am going to give the flier in group 3 the benefit of the doubt as a fouling shot.
As of right now I am thinking of just sticking with the 75g V-Max over the 70g Ballistic Tip. I am actually getting faster speeds with the higher ballistic coefficient, heavier, V-Max bullet and I know the bullet shoots really well with IMR 4350. I just need to work up some more loads with the Superformance and the 75g V-Max and make sure it is consistently accurate with the higher speeds that Superformance produces. Superformance is giving me 200+ fps faster speeds over IMR 4350 for the 75g V-Max.
My next time out I think I'll work up more 75g V-max Superformance loads to test and see if it can be acurate.
Day Five: 80g Tipped Triple Shocks are still shooting well at a different COL. Once again like I get with 70g Ballistic Tips, I am now getting 75g V-Max bullets flying all over the place.
Day five at the range. I loaded up eighteen rounds of Hodgdon Superformance with the 75g V-Max bullet in various overall lengths. I also loaded six rounds of the 80g Tipped Triple shock with a different COL than I had on day four.
The photo tells the story today. The 80g Barnes Tipped Triple Shock continues to shoot well and what the heck is up with the 75g V-Max???
The 75g V-Max has always been a great bullet for me for accuracy. My 243 WSSM Handloads with IMR 4350 powder spits this bullet out of this rifle at 3560 fps and does so with great accuracy. I tested this load on day four as you can see in group number 4 in the lower right corner of day four's target above.
Just as the 70g Nosler Balistic Tip the 75g V-Max tries to shoot at times but often just goes all over the place. I know the 75g V-Max will shoot in this rifle but I just don't think Hodgdon Superformance is the right powder. I also suspect that the 70g Nosler Ballistic Tip would also shoot well in this rifle using a different powder.
With the Superformance powder I was averaging 3775 fps for the 70g Ballistic Tip at the maximum pressure that I felt comfortable with and the 75g V-Max I could actually get it going a little faster at 3800 fps with a very comfortable amount of pressure. Unfortunately Superformance may not be the right powder for these two bullets in my rifle. Maybe if I start backing off the amount of powder I will be able to get the bullets to be more consistently accurate. At times the bullets appear to want to shoot then the next time out with the same load they don't even want to hit paper. Whether its the powder itself of just the extreme speed I don't know but for now IMR 4350 powder is going to still be my bread and butter powder for the 75g V-Max and I may need to find a different powder for the 70g Ballistic Tip.
Now on the other hand Hodgdon Superformance is going to be my new bread and butter powder for the 80g Tipped Triple Shock with velocities of 200+ fps faster than my favorite MagPro hand load. With this load I have now increased my shooting distance comfort level on elk and mule deer with this bullet out to 400 yards. My son Dallen has taken three elk to date with this bullet, all of which were one shot kills. The elk have been at 120 yards, 205 yards and 272 yard respectively with the 120 and 205 yard shots passing right through the chest and shoulders and the 272 yard shot the bullet was resting against the hide on the opposite shoulder. With the additional speed I am now getting, 400 yards could still probably produce a pass through on an elk with a 80 grain bullet. And with the increase in speed, the 100 yard shots and closer we (my son and me) will probably need to be extra careful to slide the bullet around the shoulder bone and into the boiler room just incase this extremely solid bullet might come apart at such extremely high velocities.
The following articles are hunts where my son has taken big game with the 80g Tipped Triple Shock prior to the Superformance 200 fps increase in speed.
- Dallen's First Elk with a 243 WSSM
- Dallen's First Cow Elk with a 243 WSSM
- Dallen's Second Cow Elk with a 243 WSSM
- Dallen's First Mule Deer with a 243 WSSM
- Dallen's First Whitetail Buck with a 243 WSSM
In 2011 Dallen Takes a Buck at 619 Yards with a 243 WSSM with my Superformance 80g Tipped Triple Shock hand load. Did I just say my comfort level for this bullet was 400 yards???
Day Six: 80g Tipped Triple Shocks are still shooting well at a different COL. It opened up a little with a warm barrel for the procedeing six shots right after the first three were fired.
Day Six at the range. I loaded up a few more rounds of Hodgdon Superformance with the 75g V-Max, 70g Ballistic Tip and 80g TTSX bullets in what I think is the best overall lengths for each. This time I lowered the powder charge by two grains in the 70g BT and the 75g V-Max. I kept the warm powder charge in the 80g TTSX.
My brother Weston has the buck/bull combo tag this year like I had last year. He also shot with me today to get his A-Bolt Stainless Stalker 270 WSM ready for the upcoming hunt. I had him try my bread and butter 270 WSM 140g Nosler Accubond loads. The rifle shot the load fairly well with a single low flier in each of his three shot groups. His average velocity for all nine shots was 3343 fps. After shooting the paper he was four for five at hitting clay pigeons that he sat out on the 300 yard burm.
The first three shots of the 80g TTSX where right in at 5/8 of an inch. Then I shot a six shot group the wasn't the greatest but right at about a inch and a half. The average velocity for these nine shots was 3592 fps. This time out I also noticed a slightly stiff bolt throw. I will back in back down a grain to be safe and I will probably get a little tighter groups to boot. And then I should be ready for Dallen to use this load for his upcoming elk hunt.
I am now going to give up on Superformance and the 75g V-Max. It shot around an eight inch group and the velocities averaged 3623. This is getting close to the velocities I already get with the bullet and IMR 4350 powder not to mention I get great accuracy with the IMR 4350 powder (see the target above of day four, and group 4).
On day three the 70g Ballistic Tip really looked like it wanted to shoot and got my hopes up. Then with some of the same loads it shot horribly the next time out. I pondered what might have been the cause of better accuracy on day three and the only factor that might have been different was that I believe the temperature was cooler that particular day, I think? Anyway today with two grains less powder and a six shot group showed that the 70g Ballistic Tip was trying to shoot. I am now down to 3669 fps with this load and still not happy with the accuracy. Maybe Superformance is not the right powder for the 70g BT and 75g V-Max with my rifle... or do I need an even longer COL?
Day Seven: I shot six straight rounds using W760 that showed signs that I may be getting close to a load that shoots well.
The three rounds of Superformance also showed potential that I might get the 70g BT and Superformance combo to work.
With the W760 powder the average velocity was 3628 fps and the Superformance was 3795 fps.
Day Seven at the range (Nov. 19th 2011). With most of the hunting seasons behind me this fall it was time for me to get back to tinkering with getting the 70g Ballistic Tip bullet to shoot.
A friend of mine, Rick Camuglia who shoots a 243 WSSM, recently told me that the 70g Ballistic Tip is a half minute of angle bullet out of his Browning A-Bolt rifle. He offered his favorite load for me to try. The load Rick likes uses Winchester 760 powder and has a 2.3 inch COL. Thanks for your load info Rick.
After a trip to Sportmans Warehouse to get some W760 powder I was back at the reloading bench. The first thing I noticed with Rick's load was the longer COL. Maybe this bullet's ogive is a little more prone to need to be seated closer to the lands to get consistent accuracy. Maybe? Or is Superformance powder and the 70g Ballistic Tip bullet just a bad combo? Most likely.
I loaded up six rounds with the W760 powder and three with Superformance both with the same 2.3 inch COL. The overall length was just fine feeding from the magazine and it also was not too long to fit into the chamber without jamming the bullet into the riflings.
As you can see from the targets both loads appear to show that I can get this bullet to shoot well. I think I am going to give the barrel a good thorough cleaning and then I am going to go back to the reloading bench to try a few more seating depth lengths for my next trip to the range.
Day Eight: Today I shot five, two shot groups with Superformance and 70g BT bullets. Each of the five groups were different seating depths. All of these bullets were seated with longer overall lengths. The bottom group was the longest, so long that it was jamming in the lands when chambered. Too bad because it looked like it might be a shooter... but again I have thought this same thing before with other loads than haven't panned out.
Day Nine: Four Winchester 760 Powder loads and two Superformance powder loads for the 70g BT bullet today. With all groups fired with the barrel cooled via a vacuum between each group.
You will notice the COL lengths in roughly one hundredth of an inch length changes with the 2.30 length skipped because I shot that length on day Seven at the range.
At a COL of 2.282 inches I get a near half inch group and 2.290 inches a 3/4 inch group.
And, once again unacceptable groups with the Superformance powder.
Day Eight and Nine at the range (Nov. 24th and 26th, 2011). I still can't give up on the Superformance powder and the 70g Ballistic Tip bullet. Day Seven's Superformance group showed some promise, as others have before, so I wanted to try more long overall lengths.
I loaded up five different seating depths in just two loads apiece and gave them a try. Only one load showed promise and it was so long that it was jamming in the lands when chambered. I really don't want to mess with having a load jamming in the lands for a hunting load so that load is out.
On day nine I loaded four different Winchester 760 powder loads and two Superformance loads with different COL's.
The W760 powder shot the 70g ballistic Tip really well with basically the recommended overall length from Winchester. At 2.282 overall length I shot a near half inch group. In my rifle it would appear that with a COL of 2.280-2.290 inches there is a sweet spot with Winchester 760 powder. I will shoot a few more of these loads and add it to my 2243 WSSM Handloads page.
Ok, for sure this time, I am really, really going to throw in the towel with getting the 70g BT and 75g V-max to shoot with Superformance powder. I am happy with Superformance powder and the 80g TTSX.
- For the 70g Ballistic Tip I will be using Winchester 760 powder clocking in at 3628 fps.(pressures are plenty safe with this load so I'm sure I could get higher velocities than this with a little more powder if I wanted.)
- For the 75g V-Max I am going to stick with IMR 4350 powder clocking in at 3560 fps.
- 80g Tipped Triple Shocks I am using Superformance powder clocking in at 3550 fps from a short 22" barrel. (a standard 24" barrel probably would push this load around 3650 fps)
You can view all my favorite 243 WSSM Handloads on my handload page.