Handloader Magazine Lube Shootout

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Handloader Magazine Lube Shootout

Postby mtngun » Mon Feb 23, 2015 1:31 pm

Many years ago, Handloader/Rifle magazine published an excellent lube test. The author used a ransom rest and had gobs of data, so it was hard to argue with his results. I no longer have a copy of that test, but here is something related that I found on the internet. I don't think this is the exact same article that I remember, this seems to be more of a short column, nonetheless the author appears to be the same and his conclusions appear to be the same.

By John Zemanek, Handloader #145 May/June 1990.

Dave Scoville recently sent me an assortment of Lubes offered by Thompson Bullet Lube Co. All of the samples recieved, except for one were heat type lubes. That is, they required heat to be used in a lube-sizer. The one cold lube was Bear Lube Cold, but as it's flow temp is 90, it too had to be heated. I figured the best way to test these bullet lubes was to try them out with some of my favorite bullets and loads in which I normally use Javalina lube. My goal was to see if I could achieve the same sustained accuracy with the Thompson heat lubes.

I began the test with Bear Heat Lube which flows at 110 degrees, and lube-sized a batch of 44 cal 250gr H&G No.503 SWC's through my Star lube-sizer (he used his wife's hair dryer for heat). The Bear lube Heat did not perform very well with my 250gr 44's. Leading was heavy and accuracy rapidly deteriorated. My bullets were cast from WW alloy and it was obvious a harder alloy was needed. Another batch of bullets were cast using 50/50 WW & Lino, plus 2% tin. This blend will produce bullets slightly harder than Lyman #2 alloy.Accuracy improved with these harder bullets and the leading was noticeably less, but my standard lube, Javalina, still out performed Bear heat Lube with 8.5grs of Unique under the H&G 250gr SWC. When I switched over to full magnum loads with 20.0grs of 2400, however, the accuracy contest between Javalina and Bear Heat Lube was dead even. Also, the mild leading I experienced with the lighter load disapeared.

My next test was with the 38 Special, using a 148gr wadcutter, an H&G No.50-BB, loaded over 3.6grs of 700X. My 6" Colt Python will consistantly print 10 shot 25 yd groups of under 1.5" with this load. The alloy was the same as that used in the 44 Magnum's heavy loads and I used the same testing methods emplyed with the 44 Magnum. That is, I fired 10, 10 shot groups from a machine rest (100 rnds) without cleaning the gun. This system of continous shooting enabled me to make a comprehensive analysis of how the bullet lube influenced accuracy and how well the lube prevented leading.The 10, 10 shot groups I fired with Javalina Lube behaved exactly as it always had, turning in an average group size of 1.489", with mild leading after 100 rounds. The Bullets lubed with Red Angel printed an average groups size of 1.527", or .039" larger. This minor difference made it too close to call and a more extensive test would be required. Probably 50, 10 shot groups. In the 38 test, the Red Angel produced one of the smallest groups at 1.089", which occured on the third 10 shot string. Red Angel also turned in the largest group which was fired on the 10th, 10 shot string going 2.115". Had it not been for this last large group size, the Red Angel lubed bullets would have turned in the smallest overall group aggregate. The smallest Javalina group was 1.157" on the 6th 10 shot group. It's largest group was the 2nd 10 shot group at 2.009".

Next I loaded up 2 batches of .357 Magum ammo using Javalina and Red Angel. One of my favorite loads is 13.5grs of 2400 under the 173gr H&G No.43 SWC Cast/Swaged HP. The range was 40 yards with the 6" S&W M686 mounted in the Ransom Rest. As with previous tests, 10, 10 shot groups were fired without cleaning the pistol. The Javalina bullets turned in an average groups size of 1.766". After 100 rounds I inspected the pistol and found very moderate leading which was easily wiped out. The only real problem was lube residue which had accumilated in significant amounts on the exterior of the pistol and under the extractor star, which made the pistol difficult to rotate during the last 30 rounds.........Wheeeew! Done with the first page :-)!I then fired 100 rounds with the bullets lubed with Red Angel. The average group size was 1.600", which was .166" smaller than the Javalina groups. Leading was noticeably less with the Red Angel. In addition, the pistol remained noticeably cleaner and there was no difficulty in rotaing the cylinder. It was clear by this stage that the Thompson Heat lubes performed better in high pressure/velocity loads then they did in moderate, or light loads. Secondly these heat lubes were demonstrating that they performed much better with bullets that were as hard as, or harder than Lyman #2 alloy.

My next test was with Blue Angel, which has a flow temp of 125 degrees, with a 44 cal 250gr H&G No.243 GC-SWC Cast/Swaged HP. The alloy I used with these bullets was a blend of one pound of foundry type to 3 pounds of WW. Because this is a GC'd bullet it was necessary to switch from the Star to the Saeco lube-sizer. The Blue Angel flowed through the Saeco as easily as the Red Angel did in the Star.The average 40 yard group size with bullets lubed with Javalina measured 1.895", and the Blue Angel turned in an average of 1.650". This appeared to be a significant differance and I began to wonder if the difference would be of much value at longer ranges. I switched from my 7.5" Ruger RH that was used for these tests in my Ransom Rest, to a 9.5" Ruger Super RH with a 2.5X Redfield scope. The target was set back to 75 yards and groups were fired from a sandbag rest. Bullets that were lubed with Javalina consistantly printed an average 3.542" group. Those with Blue Angel went 2.544". That, of course was a significant improvement.My standard load with this bullet is 20.5grs of 2400, W-W cases and Fed #155 primers. This combination produces a velocity of 1,450 fps from the 9.5" bbl of the Ruger Super RH. It is not a maximum load, but it is the most accurate. I've tried 21.0grs and 21.5grs of 2400, but there has always been a significant loass of accuracy when ever the posder charge was increased. When I used my std load with Blue Angel bullets and achieved such an astonishing increase in accuracy, it seemed to me after inspecting my cases, primers and analyzing the groups, that I might be able to boost the charges a bit and tighten the groups in the process.Increasing the charge by a hald grain up to 21.0grs of 2400 powder, muzzle vel jumped form 1,450 to 1,520 fps for an increase of 117 ft lbs in muzzle energy. Mor importantly, the average groups size at 75 yards decreased from 2.544" to 2.025".

I was so impressed by this outstanding performance that I used the combination to fill my doe tag. It was a clean, one shot kill at a measured distance of 125 yards.According to the liturature supplied by the Thompson Bullet Lube Co., their lubes will produce higher velocities and better accuracy. Insofar as gas checked bullets are concerned, I found that statement to be absolutely true.

I had observed the same phenomenon with the 44cal 200 gr H&G No. 237 GC bullet.The best average group size I've ever been able to obtain with the 44 cal 200gr No.237 GCSWC bullet is 2.75" @ 50 yards when they were lubed with Javalina. The same bullet lubed with Bear Lube Heat, averaged 2.25" at the same distance. As for the velocity difference, my standard load with Javalina Lube, is 35.5grs of W-W296, which delievers 1,590 fps. When I lubed with Bear Lube Heat I was able to increase the charge to 26.2 grs and the velocity rose to 1,620 fps.With this stiffer charge, the average groups size shrunk down to 1.995" from a 10.5" Ruger Super BH.

Since it was becoming quite obvious that Thompson's Heat lubes turned in their best performance gas checked bullets, I loaded up another batch of 357 Magnum ammo, using the 155gr Lyman 358156 GCSWC bullet. A charge of 14.0grs of 2400 behind that bullet will produce a muzzle velocity of 1,440 fps from my 8" Colt Python, and average 2.5" 10 shot groups at 50 yards.when lubed with Javalina. When the same bullet is lubed with either Bear Lube Heat (110 degrees) or Blue Angel over 15.0grs of 2400, it delivers 1,510 fps and prints an average 10 shot 50 yard group of 1.880". When the target was moved back to 100 meters, I immediately recognized I'd stumbled on to an outstandinglong range load for my 8" Python. I was able to shoot consistant 10 shot groups well under 3.5".This load is one full grain over the maximum charge listed in the Lyman CAST BULLET HANDBOOK. I should caution the reader this load unless you have exactly the same components. After you've reached the maximum load, and things look okay in your experience, the increasing by 0.03grs is in order. I used an alloy of 50/50 WW and lino, plus 2% tin and Hornady GC's. Bullets were sized to .3567". Other components were either Bear Lube Heat or Blue Angel, W-W cases and Fed 200 primers. This combination of components was quite safe in my handguns, but when I used Javalina Lube and/or a softer alloy, the primers showed definate signs of excessive pressure and case extraction became difficult. In addition to the high pressure signs, the groups opened up considerably.

One of my favorite medium high power target, small game, and general purpose loads in the 41 Magnum is the H&G 220gr No258 GC SWC seated over 11.0grs of HS-6. The Alloy used for these is the same as that in the 44 Magnum with the 250gr H&G No. 243 GC SWC. The bullets lubed with Javalina averaged 2.246" at 40 yards and the Blue Angel bullets averaged 2.137". The bullets lubed with Blue Angel grouped poorly with lighter loads and were not as accurate as those which had Javalina. As for the Magnum loads which had 18.5 grs of 2400 and the 220gr bullets, Fed 155 primers and W-W cases, the Blue Angel bullets delievered the tightest groups. As with the 357 and 44 magnums, the Thompson Heat lubes turned in their best performance with plain based bullets which were loaded to pressures and velocities above the moderate range.When used with HARD bullets and loaded to pressure which approch magnum levels, Thompson's Heat Lubes will deliver fine accuracy. In particular they do their best work with GC'd bullets which are loaded to magnum pressures and velocities.

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