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Casting for the the .257 Roberts

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One advantage of being a cast lead shooter is that you can get in some pretty good practice with your hunting rifle prior and between hunting seasons without expending any amount of high priced factory ammunition. California is its holy wisdom has made most of the prime hunting areas in the state into non- lead zones. There are only a limited number of companies that manufacture none lead hunting bullets and most of them are in the premium price category.

My plans are to use my Pre 64 Model 70 257 Roberts this season. With this as a goal, I worked out a great shooting load using the Barnes 100 grain TSX tipped triple shock bullet with the pretty blue plastic nose caps. I usually have a preference for lead core bullets, but after finding the magic combination of Accurate Hunter powder and proper setting from the leads the Barnes shots as well or perhaps better then anything else that I have used in over 40 years of reloading. Besides, these bullets really look sexy both in the box and when loaded in your gun. No one can claim that you are not a shooter in the 21st century.

Prior to hunting season I sight my rifle in from the bench with my hunting load and then use a couple of hundred rounds of cast lead loads for practicing from the shooting positions that I would normally use in the field. It is a long run to a major rifle shooting range, but I have a 25 yards indoor shooting range about 5 minutes from my home. Their policy is to allow only handguns and firearms using pistol cartridges up to the 500 S&W range. I have worked on the program of educating them that a light cast lead bullet in any rifle can without too much effort be loaded to a level well with in the window of today’s handgun loads.My favorite cast lead load for the 257 Roberts are assembled with a 95 grain plain base bullet cast from a two cavity RAPINE aluminum mold. I have in the past casted this bullet using Linotype or Wheel Weights plus 2% tin. Both mixtures are dropped directly from the mold into room temperature water. At 25 yards I find very little difference in accuracy with either of these two lead mixtures. My best shooting load at 25 yards is with a charge of 7.5 grains of Unique. I have also used 9.0 grains, and could see very little difference in accuracy. I find that groups with either mixture began to open up when going above 10 grains. Since I am only looking for a load to practice with at the indoor range, I have settled on the 7.5 grain load for economy and comfort of shooting. I also find that I have less of a cleaning chore when I use a CFVENTURES soft gas check under the bullet, especially when shooting plain base bullets.

California hunting season opened on the 17th of September. Prior to opening day, I took the gun and lead loads to the indoor range and shoot 75 rounds every day for 6 days. My practice session was composed of sitting in a chair and resting the forearm of the gun in the crouch of another product that is a blessing to any field shooting, the BOGgear shooting tripod [www.BOGgear.com]. This is one piece of equipment that I carry into the field with my and even carry over to Africa in order to insure that one in a lifetime shot. I did not use any type of a butt or arm rest and believe this to be just about how I shoot in the field and that I would be using a shooting stick or rest of some sort whenever possible. I would then shoot 15 groups of five shoots each and wait until the barrel cooled down between each shot string.

Every night I cleaned the barrel using patches only and some GI WW11 bore cleaner that I wanted to try out. This is an old formula compared to some of the new miracle products being offered today. I am glad to report that there was very little leading because I never let the barrel get too hot. Cleaning was with a wet patch left for ten minutes or so and then dry patches. After the barrel was reasonably clean, the barrel was left clean and dry for the next range session.

My plans to go out into the field to hunt during the opening day of deer season fell apart for reasons out of my control. Since I had this extra time to play with the gun and the loads, I decided to see if the Barnes bullet was still on target after shooting over 450 cast lead loads and the six or seven cleaning sessions. I took off for a day to go to a 100 yard range to see how my Barnes load was holding its accuracy where it was still shooting. In the past if have found that I prefer to have a fouled barrel for my first shot on game. Since the barrel was as clean as I could make it, I decided to try something new for the first shot testing.

I had received a sample of a new bore treatment from Sentry Solutions [www.sentrysolutions.com]. The product is called SMOOTH COAT and it is a liquid that you whip down a cleaned bore and allow to dry for several hours before using with either jacketed or lead bullets. The instructions are simple and the claims promised by the manufacturer were challenging stating improved first shot accuracy and easier cleaning. I had coated the bore the night before going to the range and then at the range shot four shots at 100 yards with out any additional bore preparation. These four shoots went into a tight one half inch cluster right on point of aim. I then shoot 15 five shot groups with the lead load at 50 yards and the largest group had a spread of about just over one and a quarter inch.

Being very please with the gun and both the hunting and lead loads and Knowing that I would not get out deer hunting for a couple of more weeks, I then decided I should spend the time doing some more lead practice shooting.

Being back to just having only a 25 yard range for practice, I again found that my eyes have a hard time focusing in most high power hunting scopes at that range . It is not the scope, but my eyes are in pretty bad shape now at age 77. Of course there are scopes available for short range shooting, but most of these scopes are for air guns and in any case I have not had a chance to use any of them.

I had been using one inch black squares as aiming points on white paper. At 25 yards the lead load will shoot into less then one half inch consistently. I find that the lead load shoots at 25 yards about 2 inches lower then my point of aim. My eyes see the bullet holes in the white portion of the target better then when I am shooting holes into the black. Therefore I find that having a point of impact below my point of aim is really an advantage.

I have for the last couple of month been working with a Pentax Lightseaker 30 scope 6x24x44 with their mil-dot reticule. I had never had a chance to use a Pentax scope before this project. In the past, have had several Pentax cameras that I used over seas and admired the quality highly. I am more of a shooter then a photo bug and the Pentax line of scopes had always been just outside of my spectrum. I decided to mount the Lightseaker on my 257 as a platform for load development and perhaps some long range shooting. When I first looked through the scope, after mounting it on the rifle, I was amazed at how clear and shape were both the reticule and the target. This scope features a parallax adjustment knob on the left side of the scope with an adjustable range from 50 yards to infinity. It also features a quick focus adjustable eye piece that is heaven sent for those of use with older worn out eyes. Between these two adjustments, I was able to get a sharp image of the reticule and an acceptable image of the target when the scope was set at 6 power. I personally think this is exceptional for a scope of this power range that is primarily designed for long range shooting.

The mil-dot reticule has four dots on each of the reticule lines and a cross hair in the center. I found that I could when using the 6 power setting use a quarter inch diameter red marking dot as an aiming point. Being lazy, I could use just one aiming point and then use each of the mil dots on the reticule as a separate sighting point. When using these programs, I was able to have a single center aiming point and then shoot 15 separate groups onto the paper. Each group was exactly spaced from each other both vertically and horizontally on the target. This speaks highly of the quality of workmanship that Pentax has put into their scope line.

I shot 15 five shot 25 yard groups allowing the barrel to cool between groups and the largest group was a little over three quarters of an inch and the smallest was a jagged cluster of less then three eights of and inch.

I did not clean the barrel after firing these 75 shots and after reloading these same cases again, I went back to the range to see what would happen if I shoot another session from a dirty barrel. This time I again shot 15 5 shot groups using the mil dots, but did not let the barrel cool for the entire string. I can tell you that a barrel can get really hot even with light lead loads when you don’t let it cool. The barrel became too hot to hold on to and the last five groups opened up to over and inch and a quarter. That evening I cleaned the barrel after firing that full 150 round string and found traces of leading, but much less then I was expecting. You would think that shoot this number of rounds through a gun over two or three weeks would be a lot of work, but with the lead loads it was a ball. Secretly, I did a couple of sessions shooting at chips of spent bullet jackets that were laying on the rubber backstop, just to have some plinking fun.

Leo Grizzaffi is a lifelong hunter and veteran of many African safaris. Author and reloading expert, his specialty is the care and feeding of big bore double rifles, however he also dabbles with the little calibers. Leo resides in California, where being a lawyer and judge in the City of Los Angeles sometimes interferes with his busy hunting and reloading schedule.

I believe the use of the SMOOTH COAT through three range session had a lot to do with the performance level that I experienced and I plan to work with this bore treatment on some other calibers that I find have a propensity to foul with high performance loads. Now the next challenge is to see if I can find a deer this season to complete the goals of this project.


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