Handloading: Custom loads for every hunter

Handloaders usually aim for higher velocities and tighter groups. But, you can also hand load your favorite caliber with less powder and lighter bullets for new, smaller framed hunters or those who dislike recoil. The author looks at what's possible with the venerable 30-06 as an example.

Hunters have always been fascinated by velocity. I guess it’s just human nature to want the fastest car, biggest house, earn the most. Humans are competitive by nature and this trait seems to run over into every aspect of our lives.

But in the hunting world, velocity is not the ultimate end. Game populations were wiped out or severely compromised in many areas of our vast country in the middle 1800s with what today are considered antique calibers. Muzzle loaders originally, then the early metallic cased calibers such as the 45-70 for example, decimated the buffalo population. Most all of these early calibers depended not on velocity, but a large, heavy bullet accurately placed. There’s a lesson to be learned there.

The 30-30 was a marvel in its day taking hundreds of thousands of deer, elk and yes, even grizzlies, firing a 170 grain bullet at just over 2,000 feet per second. No matter how big and tough a grizzly is 7 repeated, well placed shots are hard to ignore. Even today, many, many deer are still taken with that caliber. Why? A 150 or 170 grain bullet shot from the 30-30 at the moderate velocity of approximately 2,100 fps simply gets the job done very efficiently. Not to mention there still is that John Wayne appeal to the still sexy looking Model 94 rifle and its look-a-likes.

With these facts in mind, handloading allows us to look at a calibers potential differently. As we look back and see how efficient the older calibers were at velocities we consider slow, if not antiquated today, there’s a lesson to be learned. Velocity does not in and of itself kill. Velocity simply allows us to shoot longer distances with less hold over. Notice I didn’t say shoot further as the old 45-70 was known for reaching way out there. But, you had to hold high, very high as the tall, often 6” high rear, tang sights those rifles sported show. Today, most modern calibers only drop approximately 9 inches at 300 yards if sighted in at 200 and only around 24-inches at 400. No matter how you look at it, 400 yards is a long poke for most ethical shooters without specialized equipment, especially in windy conditions.

New hunters, especially women, boys and girls are nervous and apprehensive when it comes to recoil, who isn’t? However, the astute handloader can substantially reduce both recoil and muzzle blast by lowering the powder charge and bullet weight of their cartridge.

Let’s take a quick glance at America’s most popular caliber, the 30-06. With the tremendous improvements in bullet technology that have taken place, I see no reason to shoot heavier bullets such as 180 or even the 165, especially if you’re loading for a young hunter.

Jacketed bullets still expand at 2,000 fps. That’s a good thing. Dropping down to 150 grain bullets for the newer shooter is also a very good thing. The Nosler manual shows loading 53 grains of Winchester 760 will give you a muzzle velocity of 2,680 fps out of a 24” barrel. Most rifles have 22” barrels so you can knock off 50 fps or more for the shooter barrel. Doing so greatly reduces both recoil and muzzle blast while still producing enough velocity for 200-yard shots. But, most importantly, the shooter is comfortable firing the reduced charge and much more likely to put the bullet in the proper spot. Personally, I prefer 150-grain Nosler partition bullets for lighter loads, they open very easily and still penetrate deeply.

But, Barnes all copper bullet technology allows us to drop a bullet weight or 2 down to 130 or, believe it or not, 110 grain bullets. Surprisingly, the 110 is designed for deer sized animals and really sizzles along with practically no felt recoil. But, first we’ll look at the 130 grain bullet if the 110 makes you nervous.

The Hodgdon manual reveals you can load the 130 grain down to a very modest 2,410 fps using 56.5 grains of H4831. Now, I’m shooting 130’s out of my 30-06 at 3,240 fps with 63.5 grains of Win 760 and I don’t find the recoil bad at all. Shooting the same bullet at 2,410 recoil is practically nonexistent.

I’d probably up that load to 44 grains of H322 for 2,711 fps. That will still remain light recoiling and zeroed in at 200 yards, still be traveling 2,110 fps for good expansion at that distance.

But, the all copper 110 grain will easily shoot through a deer, that’s what it was engineered to do. I’m fond of IMR 4064 for reloading. It’s very accurate and something about its burn rate softens recoil. I’ve found 50 grains of IMR 4064 pushes the 110 grain bullet 3,000 fps with the approximate recoil of a .243. Zeroed in for 200 yards, it’s still traveling 2,000 fps at 300 yards and only dropping 8.5”. Impressive.

That’s what I love about handloading. Who would believe you could load the 30-06 down with a powder and bullet combination that’s fast, accurate and deadly to 300 yards with recoil light enough for any neophyte?

You can find similar loads for other calibers on line or by checking your reloading manuals. It’s easy to customize a hand load perfect for your hunting companion.

Handloading, create your own perfect load for any situation.

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