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Gun Stuff 101 - Muzzleloaders Part 2

Muzzleloaders Part 2 - by Josh

11050763_983488331691089_3528038788973841174_nI wrote last time about the different types of powders, the forms in which they come, and the pros and cons of each type. This week I’d like to talk about the bench time necessary to determine proper projectile and powder combinations when hunting with modern muzzleloading rifles.

Today’s hunter has many bullet options, and most will perform reasonably well in most rifles. To find out what works best in your rifle, as always, is a matter of trial and error. And before you pass judgement on any one bullet/powder combination, you need to determine what your expectations are, and where you will be hunting. If you’re used to shooting ½ inch groups with your varmint rifle and expect your new CVA or Thompson Center to do the same, you will likely be disappointed. These rifles may be capable of that type of precision, but they don’t need to be. And most people don’t have the time it takes at the bench to wring that much out of their gun, and that’s ok.

Most production muzzleloaders are designed to take deer sized game (or larger) from moderate distances. If your muzzleloader is shooting four inch groups at 100 yards, is that good enough? It can do better, but remember, whitetail deer have a kill zone of about 10 inches, so almost any bullet/powder/ rifle combination will be just fine for hunting at closer ranges (50-75 yards). For 100 to 150 yard hunting, you need a little more precision, so it is best to spend some time at the bench finding out what bullet/powder combo will get the job done. If you’re getting 2-3 inch groups you’re just fine for those distances. Two hundred yards and further will be stretching it for typical muzzle loading rifles, but they are capable if you put the time in at the range. There are custom muzzleloaders using smokeless powder that can easily take game from 500 yards and beyond, but that’s not what I want to focus on as it is not what most folks are using.

There used to be a variety of .45 caliber muzzleloaders to choose from just a few years ago, however most manufacturers spend their time producing .50 caliber muzzleloaders which makes your projectile selection process a bit easier. Projectiles for these guns range in weight from about 200 grains to 300 grains. Most will come with a sabot (pronounced suh-bow) which helps seal the gap around the projectile to prevent gases from blowing past it. With bullets that use sabots, the actual diameter of the bullet will be smaller than the rifle’s caliber. The sabot makes up the difference – a .50 caliber gun will use .45 caliber bullets with a .50 caliber sabot. Power Belt brand bullets, for example, do not use a traditional sabot, but the projectiles have a plastic base which serves the same purpose.muzzleloader-bullet-types
Bullets for these rifles will either be lead, copper jacketed lead or solid copper. You can get them with a round nose, hollow point or plastic tip. Some are designed for moderate distances while others are designed with a higher ballistic coefficient (Read here about ballistic coefficient) and will be better for longer distances.

Finding out what works best for your gun takes time at the shooting bench to determine. Just remember to take all things into consideration, but most importantly: Where you will be hunting? How long will your shots be? And remember, respect the game and hunt ethically.

Gun Stuff 101 - Muzzleloaders Part 1

Muzzleloaders Part 1 - by Josh
muzzleloader My favorite time of year is just around the corner – muzzleloader season. The first two weeks of November are the best weeks for deer hunting in our neck of the woods. If you’ve never, been I highly recommend it. The normally keen and elusive big bucks seem to lose their minds in the rut (mating season) in search of does. So it’s the time of year to see more deer activity than any other time. But seeing them is only part of the fun. Successfully and humanely harvesting a doe or nice buck is the other part. There is plenty of gear available to accomplish this and I’d like to dedicate the next few weeks to talking about what is available to the muzzleloading hunter and how to use it.

Without getting in to too much history and detail, early muzzleloaders used black powder as a propellant. Today actual black powder is much less common. The majority of hunters use black powder substitutes such as Pyrodex, Triple 7, White Hots, Blackhorn 209 and several others. There are even muzzleloaders that can be used with a variety of smokeless powders too, but I’m going to focus primarily on the black powder substitutes.

There are many brands and types of powders available for us today and like everything else, advancements in technology bring us newer and better (sometimes) products. Powders for muzzleloaders are either pre-measured compressed cylindrical pellets, pre-measured rectangular sticks, or loose which has to be measured either by volume or weight. There are pros and cons to each type depending on your expectations.


Shooting with loose powders typically yields better accuracy. They burn faster and more consistently than pellets or sticks because there is more surface area to be burned. The size of the grains of loose powder can affect burn rate as well. Some powders like Blackhorn 209 do not vary in grain size but others like American Pioneer and Triple 7 do. For those that do they use the “F” designation to indicate the grain size (the “F” correlates to the screen size used to separate out grains during manufacturing). So you might see a bottle of Triple 7 that says FF next to one that says FFF. The powders are the same, but the grains of the FF are larger than the FFF. Typically (but not always) the FF powders are used for .50 cal rifles while the smaller FFF is used for smaller bore rifles and handguns. Some manufacturers like Pyrodex simplify it even further by labeling their powders either for pistol, rifle or shotgun. It is important to note that loose powders when measured by volume will be different than when weighed on a scale. For example 100 grains by volume might be 70 or 80 grains by weight, so be careful not to confuse the two. Over charging can destroy a gun and more importantly cause injury to the shooter. To see what overcharging a muzzle loader can look like … Google it … it’s not pretty.

Powders in pellet or stick form do not burn as consistently as loose powders but can still be very accurate for hunting and are certainly more convenient. They typically come in 30 or 50 grain sizes. The majority of hunters will either use 100 or 150 grains so two or three-50 grain pellets. Some will shoot 90 grains so three-30 grain pellets. It’s a matter of trial and error which combination of powder charge and bullet will work best in your gun so like I always say – you’ve got to shoot it to find out. Each manufacturer will vary on the suggested minimums and maximums for their powders so I strongly suggest you do a little research before you shoot.

It is inhumane to use too light a charge as it will not quickly and cleanly kill, and you certainly don’t want to blow your gun up by having too much powder.

In the coming weeks I’ll talk more about powders, maintenance, cleaning and shooting muzzleloaders. Send me an email if you have a specific question you’d like me to address.

July 15, 2015 Posted by RedNex in Ammo, Blog, News

Gun Stuff 101 - Ballistic Coefficient

Ballistic Coefficient - by Josh

“In ballistics, the ballistic coefficient (BC) of a body is a measure of its ability to overcome air resistance in flight. It is inversely proportional to the negative acceleration — a high number indicates a low negative acceleration. This is roughly the same as saying that the projectile in question possesses low drag, although some meaning is lost in the generalization. BC is a function of mass, diameter, and drag coefficient.” ( In case you'd like to do the calculation yourself ... here's the formula for ammunition.


Sounds pretty complicated, but BC, simply put, is a measure of how a bullet flies through the air. Is it important to understand? To the person shooting short range rifle and pistol it is meaningless, but if you plan on spending some time at the bench shooting 100 yards and beyond it might help to have some understanding of BC.

Every bullet when fired has air resistance working against it. The design or construction of the bullet is critical in how well it overcomes this air resistance. Here’s an excerpt from Chuck Hawks web site that helps to clarify. “BC is what determines trajectory and wind drift, other factors (velocity among them) being equal. BC changes with the shape of the bullet and the speed at which the bullet is traveling, while sectional density does not. Spitzer, which means pointed, is a more efficient shape than a round nose or a flat point. At the other end of the bullet, a boat tail (or tapered heel) reduces drag compared to a flat base. Both increase the BC of a bullet. For example, a Hornady 100 grain round nose 6mm bullet has a BC of .216; a Hornady 100 grain spire point 6mm bullet has a BC of .357, and a Hornady 100 grain boat tail spire point 6mm bullet has a BC of .400. All three of these bullets have a sectional density (which is the ratio of a bullet's diameter to its weight) of .242, because they are all .243" in diameter and weigh 100 grains. But the more streamlined bullets have a higher ballistic coefficient. They are the ones to choose for long range shooting where a flatter trajectory is important.” (

L to R: Round Nose, Spire Point, Spire Point Boattail

L to R: Round Nose, Spire Point, Spire Point Boattail

The same caliber bullets that weigh the same and fired at the same velocity will have different results just because of the BC. So, velocity is not nearly as important a factor as BC. Some of the load data on Hornady’s web site illustrates this better than I can. Left: 204 Ruger 24 Gr Right: 204 Ruger 40 Gr
Left: 204 Ruger 24 Gr
Right: 204 Ruger 40 Gr

The 24 grain NTX bullet is screaming out of the barrel at 4400 fps! (That’s fast) The 40 grain V max bullet has a muzzle velocity of 3900 fps (still pretty fast). Both rounds started with a 200 yard zero but look at the trajectory at 500 yards. The 40 grain bullet has five inches less drop than the 24 grain bullet. Now look at the velocity difference. The 24 grain bullet started out 500 fps faster, but at 500 yards we see that the 40 grain bullet is 500 fps faster. I checked Hornady’s data on these two projectiles and found that the 24 grain bullet has a BC of .170 while the 40 grain has a BC of .275.

So if you’re planning on some long range shooting, knowing the ballistic coefficient of your bullets can make all the difference.

July 14, 2015 Posted by RedNex in Ammo, Blog

Gun Stuff 101 - The Non Toxic Shot Shell

Non-Toxic Shotgun Shells by Josh

For most of the history of shotguns, lead was always the preferred metal for shot pellets. It is still the most widely used material for making shots shells as it is either/both more effective or less expensive than other alternatives. In 1992, however, it became federally mandated that waterfowl shot shells must use non-toxic materials. As a result, the hunting industry had to make some major changes and manufacturers are still trying to improve the effectiveness of waterfowl shot shells.

Steel shot is the most prevalent non-toxic alternative to lead and all of the major manufacturers have several product lines to meet hunter’s demands. Similar to the pistol, rifle, and other shot shells produced, manufacturers generally offer three categories (and in some cases more) of waterfowl shot shells – an inexpensive line (sufficient), a mid-grade line (better but more expensive) and a premium line (most effective but pricey).

As we all know, a well- placed shot with any hunting load is better than a poorly placed shot with the best, most expensive load, but steel shot moving at the same velocity as lead is not going to be as effective. Steel used in shot pellets has a density of about 7.8 grams per cubic centimeter (gms/cc) and lead has a density of about 11 gms/cc. Because of the difference in density, a lead shot pellet the same size as a steel shot pellet will have more down range energy. To increase the energy of steel pellets manufacturers increase the size of the shot. Remember the shot size chart from a few weeks ago? (Here) To achieve the same down range energy the steel shot pellet has to be almost two sizes larger. This also results in less shot pellets flying through the air. Another way to make up for the lack of down range energy is by increasing velocity. Typical lead shot shells will have muzzle velocities from around 1050 feet per second (fps) to around 1300 fps. Waterfowl loads start around 1350 fps and go as high as 1700 fps.

Steel is not the only non-toxic alternative. Several manufacturers offer tungsten based shot pellets which are very effective. Tungsten is denser than lead so many consider it to be superior to lead, but pure tungsten would be far too expensive so manufacturers generally use a blend of either tungsten + polymer, tungsten +iron, or tungsten + iron + nickel.

Bismuth is another alternative. It’s not as dense as lead but it is denser than steel so it too is very effective. Bismuth is also soft like lead so sometimes it’s the only choice for waterfowl hunters using older shotguns that have thin barrel walls that can be damaged by firing hard steel shot through them.

Now almost 25 years after the regulations changed, there are a wide variety of waterfowl shot shell options … you just need to find the one that works best for you and will take down the birds you want.

Gun Stuff 101 - Twist Rate

Twist Rate by Josh

I’ve talked before about ammunition compatibility with certain firearms and how some guns “like” one type of ammo over another, or perform better with a specific type of ammo. My past references have been in regard to pistols and shotguns, but ammunition / rifle compatibility is especially important when working to shoot your rifles as accurately as possible.

For bullets to be stabilized as they fly through the air at high velocities, they must have spin which is imparted by the rifling in barrels. Rifling is the spiral grooves machined on the inside of the bore. The rate of twist in the rifling of a barrel is an important factor in determining which bullet will be most consistent or “accurate” out of that barrel. I have seen first- hand where group sizes looked more like someone was patterning a shotgun than shooting for groups on paper. This was a result of the wrong cartridge/bullet combo for a particular twist rate. If you’re familiar enough with a particular caliber you could probably even tell what twist rate a rifle has just by seeing how certain types of ammo perform with it. So here’s a very basic explanation of twist rates that might help shed a little light on the subject.

The twist rate of a barrel is commonly expressed in inches. So if you look at a barrel or a manufacturer’s spec sheet for a particular gun you will see something like this – twist = 1/7 or 1:7 which means there is one full twist of rifling in seven inches of barrel. 1/9 = one twist of rifling in 9 inches of barrel and so on. So an 18” barrel with a 1/9 twist will have two complete twists of rifling in the barrel.

twist rate

Longer bullets require a faster rate of twist to stabilize them than shorter bullets of the same caliber. Longer bullets are typically heavier, so many shooters associate bullet weight with twist rate. For example, in a .223 a 1/9 twist rate is good for 55 grain bullets but the same twist rate will not stabilize a 75 grain bullet as well. The 55 grain bullets out of a 1/9 barrel can produce sub half inch groups where the 75’s through the same barrel would probably produce 3 or 4 inch groups. The 75 grain bullet is heavier so it would seem like the weight is the critical factor but it is actually the length of the projectile that is critical.

In most cases one would be correct in seeking heavier bullets for a faster twist rate or lighter bullets for a slower twist rate but not always. The majority of bullets used in today’s ammo are copper jacketed lead core bullets. But many companies like Barnes are producing solid copper bullets and copper is not as dense as lead. Using the .223 again as an example, a 55 grain solid copper bullet will be longer than a lead core bullet, so the same 1/9 barrel mentioned above might not stabilize the 55 grain solid copper bullet as well. It may need the same twist rate that it would take to stabilize the 75 grain lead core bullets.

The velocity at which the bullet travels through the barrel is also critical as it relates to twist rate. Let’s use the .223 again as an example and the .22-250. Most .223’s will have a twist rate of 1/7, 1/8, or 1/9, while most 22-250’s will have twist rates of 1/12 or 1/14. The bullets of both of those cartridges are the same diameter so why the different twist rate? – Velocity. The 22-250 will push the same bullet through the same size barrel at a much faster speed so it does not need as fast a rate of twist to achieve the same rpm’s needed to stabilize the bullet.

Twist rate and ammo compatibility may not be the answer to every “accuracy” problem. There may be multiple issues with a shooters gun that are not allowing him/her to shoot consistently. But trying a variety of ammunition with different bullet weights (lengths) can be the first step to eliminate that one aspect.

June 25, 2015 Posted by RedNex in Ammo, Blog, News

Gun Stuff 101 - The Shot Shell

The Shot Shell - by Josh
Shotguns are the most commonly used firearm in our area and are probably the best all-around firearm for a variety of purposes. From huge lead slugs to small #9 shot there isn’t much you can’t do with a shotgun.

There are different gauges of shotguns available – 12 and 20 being the most common, but 10, 16, 28 and .410 are also offered for today’s shooters. Gauge, as it relates to shotguns, is a measurement of the bore diameter. The term gauge “originated in the days when you would buy lead by the pound to make your own ammo. The gauge told you how many balls you could make for the gun from 1 pound of lead” (, based on the diameter of the bore you were using. gauge determination

For example, the diameter of a 12 gauge bore is 0.727inches, so you can make 12 spheres of that diameter out of 1 lb. of lead. For a 10 gauge with a bore of 0.617 inches, you can make 10 spheres. For a 16 gauge – 16 spheres and so on. The .410 bore is often expressed as 410 gauge but that is incorrect. It is technically .410 caliber.

Shot shells originally started out using black powder as the propellant, and some of the nomenclature used regarding shot shells is from that era. Dram equivalent is one example. Black powder in shot shells was originally measured in drams (1 dram = 1/16th oz.) and smokeless powder is measured in grains (7000 grains to a pound or 0.00228571429 ounces). Since shotgunners of that era were familiar with dram measurements and the velocities they produced, when the change from black to smokeless powder came, manufacturers labeled the new shells with the dram equivalent of black powder rather than grains so that shooters would have a measurement they were familiar with and would know what to expect from their shells. The dram equivalent expression is still with us today.

shotgun boxes Shot pellets in a shot shell are measured in ounces so when you see 1-1/8oz on a box of shotgun shells it simply means that there is 1-1/8oz of shot per shell. Shot sizes are expressed in numbers, refer to the following chart for more information (basically the higher the number the smaller the pellet.)


The length of shells are expressed in inches and can be anywhere from 2-1/2” to 3-1/2” depending on the gun. So when you look at a box of shells and see “12ga 2-3/4in – 3 dr eq - #8 - 1-1/8oz – 1125fps" it simply means it’s a 12ga shell that is 2-3/4” long with a 3 dram equivalent of powder using an ounce and an eighth of #8 shot and has a muzzle velocity of 1125 feet per second. Pretty simple. This information can be helpful for a variety of reasons. For a finicky shotgun it helps to know what it cycles best, or if a shooter wants less recoil he/she can select a shell with a lower powder charge and less shot. One shooter may prefer more pellets going down range at a lower velocity while another may sacrifice a few pellets to gain the extra speed. So the numbers on the box are there for a reason and can help the shooter find what he/she needs.

Technology changes constantly in most fields and shot shells are no different. Today there are probably a thousand different types of shot shells available to shooters and all of them are made for specific purposes. Most of the information one needs can be found on the box of shells and more can be found with a quick visit to a manufacturer’s web site. But shotguns are all different and you may find that your gun “likes” one shell over another. Your turkey gun may pattern 4’s better than 5’s. Your waterfowl gun may cycle 3” shells better than 3-1/2” shells. Your deer gun may only “like” #1 buck. All of this is a matter of trial and error - just like finding the bullet that is most consistent in your rifle. With shotguns most loads should shoot reasonably well in most guns, but sometimes this is not the case. If you want to know what your gun shoots best you’ve got to shoot it.

Gun Stuff 101

Reloading …. By Josh

Waterlogue 1.1.2 (1.1.2003) Preset Style = ?It's Technical? Format = Medium Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = Technical Pen Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = High Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = Normal Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Minimal Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Wide Paper = Graph Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light “How much does it cost to get into reloading?” “Is it worth it to reload?” There’s not any one simple answer to either one of those questions but let’s address both.

Why do people reload anyway??? 1. If you do a high volume of shooting, reloading will benefit you economically. 2. You might want to tailor your cartridge load specifically for a particular gun for accuracy and reliability. 3. The cartridge you want to shoot is not commercially available.

So where do you start? First you need to select what caliber and bullet-type you would like to load and buy the appropriate reloading manual. There are many manuals available to the shooter, like Hodgdon’s Annual Manual, printed yearly, which will have a variety of load data available for the powders that Hodgdon produces. For a beginner, it is better to buy a manual for a specific bullet manufacturer because it will not only have the load data for their bullets, it will also give you the information you need to learn how to reload - safely and competently. Hornady, Nosler, Speer and Sierra manuals are all excellent for the beginner and I would recommend any of these to a person interested in reloading. After you have a manual, you need to decide what type of reloading setup you want.

The least expensive reloading set up is a Lee Precision “Lee Loader” Kit and for about $39 plus components (powder, primers, brass etc.) you could have all the hardware you need to load many of today’s popular pistol and rifle calibers. This set up is very rudimentary and not very fast. So technically you could reload for very cheap but the setup is less than desirable.

The single stage press is the most common reloading press in use and a person can either buy their press and other hardware separately or buy one of the many kits that companies like RCBS, Lee and Hornady are selling. The kit will include all of the hardware needed to begin reloading. A reloading press performs three functions (typically) for pistol brass – resizing the shell, expanding the mouth of the shell and seating the bullet – and there are three dies to perform these functions. Rifle brass (bottle neck not straight wall) requires two dies as the press only resizes the shell and seats the bullet. Single stage presses only accept one die at a time so the handle of the press has to be pulled and dies changed out for each function. Single stage presses are definitely the better choice for shooters who are after precision, and will work for those who do a lot of high volume shooting, but there are faster options for you high volume shooters.

A slightly faster setup is a turret top press. Turret top presses can accept up to six dies at one time (2 complete pistol setups or 3 complete rifle set ups). The handle of the press has to be pulled for each function but you will spend a lot less time changing out dies.

The fastest reloading setup is the progressive press. Every function performed in the reloading process from seating the primer to measuring the powder to seating the bullet is performed on the progressive press, and each pull of the handle dispenses a fully loaded cartridge. This setup can save a lot of time for the reloader and it is consistent enough to produce quality reloads, but not ideal for the benchrest shooter who is after precision.

Each reloading setup gets increasingly more expensive but typically the more time you spend reloading, the quicker it gets. So is it worth it? Which setup is better? It depends on your budget, and only you can put a value on your time.

Gun Stuff 101


Steel-cased ammo vs. brass-cased ammo… What is the difference? by Josh

I hear many people talking about steel-cased ammo, its “lacquer” coating on the shell casing, and generally how they shoot dirtier than brass-cased ammo. People often ask if it’s ok to shoot steel-cased ammo in their gun. So here are my thoughts:

  • In the past the steel-cased ammo was manufactured with a lacquer coating on the shell casing. A buildup of the melted lacquer, which occurred during the firing sequence, sometimes caused malfunctions by gumming up the gun, and making it more difficult to clean. Steel-cased ammo manufacturers have addressed this problem, and now use a polymer coating. Silver Bear uses a zinc coating, and Golden Bear uses a brass coating. So the issues with “melting lacquer” are no more.
  • I’ve heard people say that steel ammo is dirty too. It is. But maybe not for the reason you’re thinking. Brass expands very quickly when fired. When it expands it seals the chamber which prevents gas and debris from blowing back into the receiver. Steel cases expand less and more slowly, which allows some gas and debris to blow back into the chamber, thus causing more fouling. Another by-product of not sealing as quickly means accuracy may also be reduced.
  • Steel cases are not reloadable like brass cases. For those that don’t reload, this is a non-issue.

    So should people buy steel or not? Well, it’s a tradeoff, and it’s up to the individual shooter whether it’s worth it or not. Firing steel-cased ammo won’t hurt your gun, and it is cheaper to shoot. But there will most likely be diminished accuracy, and it will cause more fouling. So it really depends on what type of shooting the individual is doing, and what his/her expectations are.

May 20, 2015 Posted by RedNex in Ammo

Hard to find ammo finds its way to RedNex

We've gotten our hands on some hard to find ammo... We think you are going to like what should be here Friday...Hurry in, it won't stay on the shelves long.

CCI Mini Mags, CCI Stingers, CCI AR Tactical, CCI Longs, and Federal XM855 420Rd Ammo Cans.

cc1956 cci0050 cci0029 cci0030 fedxm855

Hornady’s .22 WMR Critical Defense

In the past couple of years lots of developments have been made in the firearms industry. Perhaps the most notable of those developments was the .380 craze that struck two or three years ago. Small guns are in as people who have never owned a firearm begin to carry for personal protection. Lots of these folks buy a big honkin’ bullet thrower only to find out in short order that big guns tend to be heavy and difficult to carry concealed. They then beat a path toward smaller guns. Until recently that often proved to be a problem because the selection of small guns appropriate for concealed carry was limited and just as importantly appropriate ammunition for these guns was non-existent.

Hornady’s Critical Defense line of ammunition is a premium selection of gas for your gun that will put a smile on your face even as it leaves bad guys with lots of frowns. Hornady’s latest release (in its Critical Defense line) is its offering in .22 WMR. Defensive ammo expressly made for a .22 rimfire? Yup. While I would never counsel anyone to go with the .22 Magnum as their principal defensive round it does make for a dandy deep concealment piece. I often call these firearms, “get off me guns” and get off you they will when you employ .22 WMR Critical Defense in your short barreled pepper popper.

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