I often have customers come into my shop and ask if I can get a specific brand of powder or projectiles. As most of you know, with the shortages, a lot of the more popular powders and projectiles just aren’t available. I’m not wishing to be all doom and gloom, but we’re likely to see these shortages continue for at least another two years. Talking with importers, we’ll get shipments coming through, but they won’t be full shipments – and they won’t have every bullet, powder and case you want. So, what can you do?
I’ll answer my own question and say, “Damn the shortages – it’s not going to stop me … time to experiment!” I’ve said this before, but one of the worst traits hunters and target shooters display is obsession and obsession’s best friend, superstition.
Superstition looks a bit like this:
“Do you have any Hornady ELD X bullets?”
“No, sorry, they’re all sold out.”
“Now I can’t shoot, as that’s the only bullet that shoots in my rifle!”
Well, sorry, but I don’t buy that; the load you normally use might work well, but it won’t be the only one.
When it comes to bullets, let’s look at the realities. Your favourite load is generally your favourite because you’ve shot something with it, and it died; it may also be your favourite because it shoots tiny little groups at 100m. Both these reasons are valid, but it doesn’t mean other loads won’t work. Generally, all it means is that these were the first loads that worked for you.
So, what can you do if your favourites are out of stock? Let’s look at the options. When it comes to powders, stop thinking actual ‘powder’ and start thinking ‘powder burning rate’.
In my shop, there are four burning rates that are most popular, and for ease of explanation, I’ll describe them by their ADI powder names: ADI 2206H, 2208, 2209 and 2217. With 2206H and 2208, there’s a bit of crossover, and a .308 can work well with either powder; however, 2206H works better in smaller cartridges like a .223. Your 7mm-08 favourite, 2209, also works well in 6.5 CM. One of the most versatile Magnum powders is 2217 – it’s the go-to for 7mm Rem Mag and .300 Win Mag. But there are other choices … think Alliant Reloader powders, Norma, Winchester, Vihtavuori and, of course, Hodgdon. Note many Hodgdon powers are made by ADI and are the exact same powder. Below are some options.
|ADI 2206H||H4895*||VV N530||IMR/ADI|
|IMR 4895||IMR 4166|
|ADI 2208||Varget*||CFE 223||VVN 133||Norma|
|ADI 2217||H1000*||IMR 7977||Reloader 26||VV N570||ADI 2225#|
*Hodgdon powders made by ADI.
# ADI 2225 is slower but is also a very good 7/300 Mag powder.
As you can see, there are other powders that will work, and I can say from personal experience (having used most of these powders) you’ll still get what you need as far as accuracy and consistency goes and, in some cases, you’ll get better results than your trusted ADI powders.
Furthermore, there are a few powders I really like that are still floating around. The first is Norma URP – this is a versatile powder with a burn rate just a bit faster than 2209 and I’ve found it delivers very good SD numbers in my Creedmoor; velocities are similar to 2209 but not quite as high as Reloader 16. IMR 7977 is a great powder for the 7mm Rem Mag with slightly higher velocities than 2217 and similar to 2225. CFE 223 is a bit of an overlooked powder, and contrary to its name, it works even better in a .308 than a .223. Velocity-wise, it can push a 150gn bullet close to 3000 FPS; its only downside is that, in my experience, it doesn’t quite deliver the stellar SD numbers a target shooter might want.
Another powder I’ve started playing with is LEVERevolution; Hodgdon don’t give any data for a .308, but so far, I have to say it has promise with velocities well over 2800 FPS with 150gn bullets. If you want to experiment, start off with data for the .308 Marlin Express and work up very slowly.
I talk to lots of hunters on a daily basis, and while many talk about being able to make a 5-600m shot, most get animals a lot closer than that – with 300m being a long shot for many hunters – so the need for a very high BC bullet isn’t always justified; a traditional soft-point bullet with a flat base will be effective at 300m.
I realise some hunters specialise in longer shots, but a lower BC bullet can still make hits – you just have to allow for a bit more wind drift.
If we compare the Hornady ELD-X 143 6.5 bullet with the 129gn InterLock, we can see there’s a big difference in BC .625 vs .445 and at 300m the difference looks like this.
|129gn InterLock||MV 2820|
|143 ELD-X||MV 2700|
The biggest thing we give up in this comparison is wind drift. Energy is higher for the ELD-X for sure, but the InterLock still has more than enough – you can’t kill them deader! Back to accuracy again … traditional lead-tipped hunting bullets won’t always shoot as well as a premium bullet, but in eight years of testing rifles for NZRod&Rifle, I’ve found that most of them are actually quite capable of easy sub-MOA performance. And there’s a bonus – many traditional bullets have less aggressive ogives and can be easier to tune in your rifle. Bullet seating depth can be critical for high BC bullets and finding that depth can use up time and precious components; both of these issues may be reduced with a traditional tangent ogive bullet. Don’t just limit yourself to Hornady and Sierra – Nosler, Norma, Swift and Barnes are all great bullets.
My last bit of advice to bush hunters is to try a round-nose bullet; I’ve found them to be accurate and great killing bullets.
What if your rifle won’t shoot as well as it used to? Maybe accuracy is no longer 1/2 MOA or perhaps you’ve given up 150 FPS because you haven’t got the perfect powder. Will you still be able to hunt effectively when your rifle doesn’t shoot sub-MOA? Well, the answer is clearly, yes. Sure, those 500m shots might be riskier, but you can still kill at 300m with a 1.5 MOA gun. Now, that may be a worst-case scenario if you’re loading with a bullet that doesn’t work well in your rifle, but let’s be honest – it’s still a meat maker.
I get asked a lot about match bullets for hunting and I’m on the fence on this one. Jeremy Hanaray from Rivers to Ranges is a professional guide; he and his clients shoot lots of animals every year, and Jeremy likes some versions of the Sierra MatchKing for hunting and is a big fan of how they drop animals. So don’t discount a bullet until you’ve talked to some people who’ve actually used it. Personally, I’ve found Sierra’s traditional GameKing bullets some of the easiest bullets to achieve decent accuracy with.
We’ve been through some tough times recently: gun buy-backs, licence renewals taking forever, tough new gun laws in the pipeline and, of course, that bloody COVID thing. We can’t let that get on top of us; we need to be out – hunting and target shooting. It’s good for the mind as well as the body, so see the glass as half full, and try some new reloading recipes. If all else fails, don’t overlook loaded ammunition; I’m always impressed with how good it is these days.
Lastly, please don’t be a dick and buy up all the good stuff and hoard it just in case – buy only what you need, and let other hunters and shooters have some as well.