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Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

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Unread 04-14-2012, 10:06 PM
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Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

I'm copying this post from my Practical Riflery forum, thinking some here may find it of interest.

Posted earlier about trying Ramshot Magnum and 300 grain Sierra Matchkings in my 338 Lapua Magnum. My conclusion was that it was not a good powder choice, based on early pressure signs, not even approaching max.

I must now amend my post to some degree. :o

As I perused the 'net looking at the 338LM data others were sharing, a couple of things seemed to keep coming up. Where the Savage 338LM's were concerned, sticky brass seemed common, especially when using Hornady brass. And the other thing was that reloaders tended to be reporting only high level charges, apparently choosing (perhaps) to ignore starting loads. Very few posted any muzzle velocity figures.

I don't as a rule recommend using a chronograph for load development. This puts me at variance with a lot of guys I respect quite a bit, and I respectfully disagree with them (still), but in some cases--especially where a cartridge and its published data and chamber specs are relatively new--a chronograph can serve a good purpose. We'll talk about that in a moment. For those curious, my main reason for not using a chronograph during load development is that my OCW method was designed to allow very modestly equipped reloaders the ability to get to a really good load, with a bare minimum of equipment. Too, chronograph numbers can actually be misleading, steering the reloader toward favoring non-optimal charge levels. Just because the numbers are tight on the initial testing, that does not mean groups are going to be good, and vice versa.

With the Savage 110BA, however, we're obviously dealing with an entity unto itself, at least insofar as load preference goes. The chamber seems almost excruciatingly tight, even to the extent that you can (speaking for my own rifle), seat a bullet in the fired Hornady case without even running it through the sizing die. The fired case neck is still that tight. Lapua cases are better, however, and they will allow a bullet to pass into the fired case neck, but then only barely... and I found at least one Lapua fired case which had a neck too tight to admit the new bullet. Savage should probably cut these chambers a little more "field friendly" if you ask me. These are not bench rest guns, and of course were not designed to be, so they ought not have BR type chambers. Brass gets dirty, even on your loaded rounds, and with minimally spec'd chambers this can cause problems chambering, and/or extracting.

If you own a Savage 338LM, make sure your brass is squeaky clean, especially in the case neck areas... get that soot off there.

For the above mentioned reasons, I was actually having Hornady 285 grain factory match ammo hang cases in the chamber. I'd have to punch them out with a Dewey rod... :o

Upon chronographing the Hornady match load, which was supposed to (according to the box flap) make about 2745 fps, I found that it beat that figure by 100 fps, or just over... and was closer to 2850 fps. This indicated to me that chamber pressures were higher than Hornady anticipated. I found that the Hornady factory load only needed 39 MOA to hit vertical center at 1350 yards (100 yard zero), and that was quite a bit less than JBM thought for that load's advertised 2745 fps. Plug in about 2850 fps and the numbers from JBM worked--at least out to 1350 yards.

I wanted to try some Ramshot Magnum in this gun. I shot a couple of widely spaced fouler shots and then began a test at 87 grains. By 87.5 grains, I was well onto the scatter node (see my webpage linked at bottom of this post for explanation of that nomenclature).

I concluded that with a scatter node that large, pressures were just way too high to consider working in that area. Primers were a bit flat, and there was some ejector marking on the case heads--but then again, the factory Hornady stuff showed ejector marks also--so I dismissed this as soft brass, not properly blaming it on high pressure--which I should have.

Here is that target...

Major scatter node at 87.5 grains. :shock: That would put the OCW at a suspected 89 grains (about 3% higher, in general), and some have reported good accuracy at that charge level with 300's... but that's gotta be badly stressing the cases--it would in my rifle anyway.

When you see a scatter node that large, it says to me that pressures are already running high in that area. Ramshot uses psi, and says this load should be around 66k to 67k... that's about 54k CUP... on the high end of the pressure scale for sure, and in all truth, probably higher than that considering the look of my primers and the ejector swipe I was seeing... I like to see smaller (though notable) scatter nodes... this one is HUGE. :o

The starting load per Accurate-Ramshot is 83 grains, the max a 90 grains.

Pretty flat primers and ejector marks even at 88 grains... so there was no use going any higher than 88.5 grains with this idea.

Didn't check velocities, but did note that others who have tried this powder said it gave high pressure and low velocity in this application, with MV's in the 2500's. Maybe these guys were shooting other types of rifles with more ample chambers, I don't remember.

Here is where a chronograph would have helped a lot. :o I would have seen that I was getting appreciably more than 2500 fps at these pressures... so much for the internet encyclopedia of infallible knowledge.

I went back to the drawing board and loaded some lower charge levels with 300 SMK's and Ramshot Magnum, and tested these loads today with a chronograph. While this powder does not seem likely to get the most speed off the 300 grain bullets in the 338LM, it does have a few things going for it. It can make plenty enough velocity to get the heavy bullets out well past 1000 yards, the powder is a little less expensive than Hodgdon's and Alliant's offerings, and it's a ball powder that meters extremely well. Temp sensitivity would be a concern, but at this point I'm not sure how much, or, if it would even be a true worry in most circumstances.

Here is a target from today...

I shot 3 sighter/fouler shots at 82.5, 83.5, and 84.5 grains of the Ramshot Magnum, and they did 2496, 2521, and 2522, respectively. Note how close these fall on the target, indicating a likely accuracy node at 83.5 grains. By my calculations, there should actually be an accuracy node at 83.5 grains, so that stands to reason. The 82.5 grain shot was a cold clean bore shot, and these are typically a bit slower than the follow up shots, so it might have gone faster from a warm, seasoned barrel.

Even at 2500 fps MV, the 300 SMK will cake walk to near 1400 yards, so you couldn't fault a guy for going with that lower charge, really.

I saw no flat primers or ejector swipes today, so these loads were all well within reasonable pressure levels.

But I was wanting at least 2600 fps from these 300's. I did, however, get over the desire to push this cartridge to 2800 fps + with 300's when I realized the toll it was going to take on the 3 dollar apiece brass cases! I suspect many others will work their way to that same conclusion... guessing. But I did at least want 2600 fps, if possible, so I continued the test.

Normally I shoot, in round robin fashion, 3 shots of each charge level for at least 5 graduations... but with the cost of bullets and wear and tear on the brass, and on the barrel considered, plus the fact that I already knew from studying the higher charged target where the lower nodes *ought* to be, I decided to shoot only three higher graduations, of 85.5, 86.3 (the suspected node), and 87 grains.

You will note that I mistakenly shot one of the 86.3 grain charges at the 87 grain square (it went into the same hole as the right-most bullet did), but note the dashed line at the 86.3 grain square to see where it would have been if I'd aimed at the right target. :oops:

So the 86.3 grain OCW with Ramshot Magnum and 300 grain SMK's is confirmed. This is using Lapua brass and CCI 250 primers. The velocity of the 86.3 grain load will average about 2600 fps, based on the numbers that I got today. ES should improve with seating depth adjustments and/or primer swap.

So if you don't like burning the candle at both ends, you can probably find the Ramshot Magnum working well at 83.5 grains, and again at 86.3 grains in the Lapua cases with 300's.

If you're shooting a rifle with a standard chamber, you could probably go on toward the max charge in Ramshot's data, around 90 grains, but do so carefully, of course. There is likely another node at around 89 grains in most rifles, I would suspect.

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Unread 04-15-2012, 08:59 PM
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Re: Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

Tried the Ramshot Magnum loads at 600 yards today... they didn't do bad, but the Retumbo at 89.3 grains pushing the 300 SMK's was about 1/2 again as tight... to be fair, the wind had picked up quite a bit by the time I got to the Ramshot Magnum loads...

Here is a target with only 3 shots (the other two went off the board, had to do a sight correction)... vertical is sub 1/2 MOA for the 3 shots, so this recipe should perform well, I'd say...

86.3 grains of the Ramshot magnum, 300 SMK in Lapua case with CCI 250 primer.

This flies at 2600 fps from my 110BA...

I also tested the next lower node, for a 5 shot group. It's close to 1.5 MOA... but with the Retumbo load doing 1/2 MOA today, it's hard to get excited about this group. Again, however, the wind was up quite a bit, so that dispersed the group some, for sure. I did not try to call wind and correct, I was looking for vertical, mostly... here is that target:

The above target was nailed to a 12 inch (trunk diameter) cedar tree. This second load was only making 2500 fps MV... but would you look at this... :o

The 300 SMK's went all the way through 12 inches of cedar at 600 yards. I didn't realize the shots were blowing to target center, so I was not intentionally shooting into the tree... it just happened. :o

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Unread 04-16-2012, 12:42 PM
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Re: Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

What is Dans user name on that forum I'd like to pick his brain a bit.

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And catch from breast to breast the noble fire!
On valour's side the odds of combat lie,
The brave live glorious, or lamented die;" - Iliad, Book V
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Unread 04-16-2012, 01:31 PM
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Re: Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

I dont see the point in gettting a super mag w/112-114 case capacity h20. And being remotely happy with 2600. I feel that I have seen LTLR shoot that to 2700 out of a 340wm. I shoot 250's out of mine at 2900.The Lapua should hit 2800,many are doing that in a Norma @ 5% less case capacity
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Unread 04-16-2012, 03:41 PM
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Re: Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

I can get the 300's to 2800 fps, but you see flat primers and I don't want to wreck the brass too early...

250's would go 2900, no problem... but same issue, working that brass harder than I need to.

The 89.3 grain Retumbo load makes 2700 fps MV with the 300's, so it's probably running about the same pressure as your rifle pushing the 250's to 2800, or close there-to...

(and even at 2500 fps MV, the 300 SMK's will cake walk to 1400 yards, well super-sonic... )
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Unread 05-20-2012, 07:38 PM
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Re: Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

Thanks for posting this info on this forum.

I just bought one used but not even broken in yet.

First thing I did was clean out a ton of copper and threw on a SS 20X i had laying around.....the fellow had a chinese counterfeit mark 4 on it when I met up with him. He is trying to get the gunshop he bought the package from to compensate him so potential is theer for me to get a mark 4 on it soon.

I hit the range yesterday and got .8 moa with factory hornady 250's.

I think it will shoot very well with the right loads.

Barrel is very rough and copper fouling is heavier than what I expected but after reading on line today, it takes a bit to break in these barrels supposedly....at least in many cases.

Again, thanks for the information.

Do the Hornady 285's work well for you still? That is the projectile I am leaning towards. That or the SMK's
“When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such governments. …” Jefferson

We are very close to this point now.
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Unread 05-20-2012, 09:25 PM
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Re: Savage 110BA 338LM and Ramshot Magnum, 300 SMK's

I'm sure the Hornady 285's would shoot well... the factory loads I've tried (that have that bullet) shoot good... no problems at all.

Yes, the barrel will need about 100 rounds before it settles in...

I've got mine shooting very tight with Retumbo and 300 grain Matchkings... you can tell when a load is right when your cold clean bore shot is within MOA (or better) of the first shot... if it's not, you gotta re-work. (None of this "foul the barrel before hunting season stuff") ;)

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