Sunday, March 29, 2009

Trying Out New Ammo in .40 S&W and .22LR

A few weeks ago I noticed that I was running low on hollow point ammunition for my .40 caliber pistols and I was running dangerously low on .22 for my .22 pistol and rifle. Dangerously low in my case means "The value pack box is running empty and plinking will be generally curtailed." The .40 caliber pistols are a little different as they serve in both competition and home defense, so I run the occasional hollow point rounds through them. I went and made a series of purchases at my local gun shop and at Wal-Mart to replenish my stocks.

From the gun shop I purchased two boxes of Remington Express .40 S&W and one box of Winchester WinClean, also .40 S&W. The Remington ammo was 155-grain jacketed hollow point is jacketed in the the usual copper/zinc "gilding metal" you usually see. Winchester uses what they call a "Brass Enclosed Base" bullet in the typical weight of 180 grains. The bullets that Winchester uses in this ammunition are interesting to say the least. They're not a traditional full metal jacket round like you would normally see for your target ammunition. The bullet is jacketed in brass instead of gilding metal. This isn't a bad thing; Remington does the same with its Golden Saber bullets, and more than a few reloaders make their own .223 bullets out of discarded .22LR brass and lead wire. The front end of the Winchester bullet looks like it's exposed lead which kind of surprised me.

So, with the desire to see how these fared in my 1911, I went to the nearest indoor range, the Abe Lincoln Gun Club. It's members-only, and fortunately for me, I have a membership there. Also, it's about a mile away as the crow flies (and about three miles of driving on twisting country roads) so it's good for a Friday night of plinking.

The testing was easy enough. I was comparing accuracy, muzzle flash and perceived recoil. I was using a range of 10 yards for the accuracy portion of the test. The targets were simple: a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 copier paper with a 3-inch Shoot-n-C target in the center. The test handgun was my STI Trojan, a 1911 clone with a 5-inch barrel and 8-round magazine capacity. Unlike most 1911s, this one was in .40 S&W. It's stock except for the sights, a Dawson Precision fiber optic front sight. The sight was installed by Don Steele at Precision Gunsmithing here in Springfield. I also had three ammunition types as my control groups: Blazer Brass 180-grain and Winchester "White Box" 180-grain full metal jacket rounds for use in comparing the WinClean ammunition, and the Remington Express would be compared to Winchester's Ranger (now known as SXT) 155-grain hollow point rounds. The 180-grain control ammunition is mild in its recoil and hits dead center of the target for me. The 155-grain control ammunition is a bit louder and jumps a little more, but isn't enough to cause real issues. It hits a little high and to the left but still groups nicely. Instead of using a rest, I went with the usual two-handed "Chapman" grip and stance like I would use in competition. I'm trying these ammo types out for practical shooting purposes, after all. Also, please note that I'm a D-class shooter in USPSA, which means that my accuracy is not exactly laser-perfect. It's good enough for the practical targets, but I'm not doing Olympic free pistol any time soon.

The first ammunition I tried out was the Remington Express 155-grain hollow point. This is a, shall we say, "robust" round. I was able to stay on the paper at 10 yards, but the noise, kick and flash were very noticeable. The grouping was "acceptable at best" in that I could cover my eight-shot test strings (one full magazine) with my fist (roughly a 4"x4" square), and the rounds were evenly spaced from each other. After two magazines full, I decided to go to the FMJ instead. The recoil was a bit uncomfortable. The Winchester Ranger ammunition was a mild round comparatively speaking. Less flash, less perceived recoil and I could fit the control string into a 2"x2" square at ten yards, with most shots touching each other. The Remington Express ammunition is better suited for outdoor use than home defense, as even with my hearing protection doubled up I thought it was excessively loud. With the amount of flash even out of a 5" barrel, you could probably use the Remington ammo as an ersatz flamethrower indoors. I wouldn't suggest it, though. The Express ammunition is also very dirty, leaving a lot of residue in the barrel. Fortunately, a bore snake stays in my bag at all times, so that got removed quickly. In all, the Remington Ammo is probably better for coyote or feral dog removal when hiking than it is for removing a two-legged predator from the confines of your own house.

The WinClean ammunition performed exactly like the control ammunition did. The eight-shot strings tore a ragged hole in the center of the target at 10 yards. I wasn't really impressed until I saw the spent brass on the ground. There was no residue on the outside of the case at all, and most of the casings were clean inside as well. If I hadn't seen the dent in the primer I would have mistaken it for a new case. I'll say this much: if Winchester starts selling those bullets and primers as reloading components, I'll buy them. I haven't ever seen such a complete burn of powder and little or no residue. Even the barrel was clean after two magazines' worth. I never get that with Winchester's regular ammunition. It was even cleaner than with the Blazer Brass, and that's a pretty clean cartridge. If I can scrounge up a case or two of this, I'm going to start using it for my indoor matches exclusively, at least until my reloading press and equipment is set up. Then I'll be able to recycle my brass.

So, the results are in: Buy the Remington Express 155-grain JHP in .40 S&W if you have to, buy the WinClean 180-grain Brass-Enclosed Base because you want cleaner brass and less exposure to lead vapor. The .22LR will be covered in the next post.

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