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Hand Loading Adventure In .410

Discussion in 'Shotguns (SGC)' started by JoeHeugh, Sep 21, 2020.

  1. JoeHeugh

    JoeHeugh Beware the Springer

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    Being concerned that when the lead “ban” comes into force decent 410 cartridges will be hard to find I decided to have a go at rolling my own. It’s not difficult but there are pitfalls, so I thought I’d write a bit about my experience. Any comments are more than welcome because it’s all new to me.

    I was lucky in that I was very clear about what I wanted to achieve as I think it’s easier to make something specific rather than have a loose idea for a good all rounder. Fortunately it seems my expectations were realistic although I wasn’t really to know that at the time. I wanted a hard hitting subsonic cartridge, fibre wad and with a noise level somewhere between Lyalvale Magnasonic and Eley Subs capable of taking rabbits out to 30 yards. I admit that I was pushing the range here and so far had restricted myself to 20 yards with factory loads but felt the 410 could go further. I’m only going to shoot rabbits with this cartridge and I believe having a single purpose has saved me from trying to make too many compromises. At the moment I’m using lead but later it will be reworked for bismuth.

    When I started I immediately found myself in a catch 22. First you need a recipe and then you need to source the exact components because as everyone will tell you (except Youtube) 410 IS A HIGH PRESSURE CARTRIDGE – DO NOT SUBSTITUTE COMPONENTS OR DEVIATE FROM THE RECIPE IN ANY WAY. There’s actually not that many subsonic recipes and I found it impossible to get all the required components for any of them, but I got close. This took a bit of research and experimentation and resulted in a lot of trepidation the first time I pulled the trigger but I got away with it. I’m not publishing the recipe here on open forum but if anyone wants it you can pm me and if I “know” you I’ll send it on.

    Next step was getting the tools to put it all together. There’s not a lot, there is the MEC 600 Junior but at £300 that was a step too far just to dip my toes in the water. At the other end of the spectrum are various American survival kits so I tried to find some middle ground and put a little loading station together. The main parts are:

    Lee Powder Measure.
    You can get sets of measuring ladles but I felt an accurate and repeatable powder charge was the only way to go and this does the job really well.

    Lee Autoprimer
    I knew nothing about primers when I bought this and didn’t realise that it wouldn’t work with shotgun primers, well after a bit of work with a file it does now! This was pretty essential as it’s much easier for me to buy loose primers and unprimed hulls than it is having primed hulls sent by courier. You can tap primers in but I felt this was probably a safer / better option.

    Scales are essential along with a few simple hand tools and a means of crimping the assembled cartridge for which I use a roll-over tool and hand drill. I find the easiest way to load the shot is just to put the part assembled hull on the scales turn them on so the weight reads zero then pour in the required load and re weigh with an accuracy +/- a couple of grains.

    reload-kit.jpg

    I started by concocting 5 recipes of varying powder and shot weights, initially in no 6 shot as it was all I had to hand. Results varied, three seemed good and but the two which happened to be either side of the spectrum were poor, one seemed puny while the more powerful gave a real scattergun effect. I now think this had little to do with the charges and was more down to poor consistency as it seems critical to have the crimp just right. It was a problem that plagued me to begin with although I seem to have overcome it by thorough weighing and measuring throughout the process and using a double shot card.

    By the time I got some no5 shot I had whittled my recipes down to three, I bought a cheap sound meter and began sound testing alongside some very basic pattern testing against sheets of A4! Because I often shoot close to properties, noise is a big concern for me and has become a kind of selling point, “you won’t see me, you won’t hear me but I’ll get the job done!”. Nevertheless I ran into problems, it seems that the sound perceived has less to do with an absolute peak value and more to do with other factors and a cheap sound meter that may not be fast enough to catch the peak is not a particularly useful instrument. Anyway it gives an indication and coupled with a recording is useful to gain an impression of the noise level. Whatever, all three cartridges were quieter than Eley Subs and usable.

    Here’s a couple of comparisons, first Magnasonic vs my Green load (I name my loads by the colour I use on the overshot card). Actually the two are very similar in performance although the Magnasonic is a little quieter and more efficient given it’s a nominal load of 17g vs my 20g, that said I think the Magnasonic is closer to 18g in reality.

    magna-green.jpg

    Next up Eley Subsonic vs my Blue load. Not a fair test really as the Eley is No6 shot giving roughly 170 balls against my 132 no5. I’m not keen on the Eley, it’s too loud but I really like the Blue, I have a good feelings about it but when I look at the patterns it’s just not quite up there with the Green. It’s weird loading shotgun cartridges, it seems as much of an art as a science and you start getting funny intuitions.

    sub-blue.jpg

    Of course what really counts is how they perform in the field. Green is the only one I’ve really used in earnest and it does the job of knocking rabbits down at 30 yards. At 20 yards it does more than that and I think I’m going to name it “The Breaker” because when you pick the rabbit up it’s usually more or less a bag of broken bones. Earlier I said that I’d restricted myself to 20 yards with factory loads so I should admit I’m now using a red dot sight to get to 30. The purists might not be happy with that but remember I’m only using this gun on rabbits and with these patterns at 30 yards I need aimed shots.

    Now lets talk about cost, all the kit cost me about £150 and the consumables for 300 cartridges about the same. So £300 which is probably enough to keep me going for 2 years. I just don’t shoot enough for it to be cost effective but for me it’s about getting the best out of my gun and that’s worth paying for. What I have learned is reloading is all about consistency, not bunging components together so I am now looking at the Mec Junior an whether star crimping is feasible so even more expense. It was a leap in the dark when I started, I didn’t even know if I would be able to put a decent cartridge together but I’ve now found myself involved in a fascinating (and quite addictive hobby) which has given me far more insight into the humble 410 than I could have got any other way.

    Where next? My brilliant Green load is a little less brilliant in my mates Mossberg, in fact it’s rubbish. What’s going on, I’m going to have to do a lot more pattern testing of his gun and that’s going to take time….. and that’s before we get anywhere near bismuth or even a squirrel load! Oh and I’m not even reloading, I’m happy to use new components although I will be cutting down the fired Hulls to 2 ½ inch for my Webley 410.

    baikal-v-mossberg-mini.jpg
     
    Pyb, magicstu, WR14210 and 5 others like this.
  2. r10hunter

    r10hunter Honorary Member

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    Great work!!!
    You are achieving comparable results to something like Remington long range that cost almost £20 a box.

    Your green load is tight but I would want that in a .410 especially shooting moving things.
    With an airgun you have ten seconds to make up your mind if that rabbit is 30 or 36 yards with a shotgun you have 1 second as it bolts from cover.

    That bit of extra pattern density and pellet energy is all good just the same with pigeons if you take a shot that is really a little too far for .410 the pattern is still reasonable and pellet energy high.

    I much prefer no 5 shot in subsonic or .410 cartridges it seems to always pattern better and hit nice and hard.

    I use a red dot on my fox driving gun they can be effective on running animals.

    Very impressive work you are producing a quality cartridge at a good price.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
    JoeHeugh likes this.
  3. terry1001

    terry1001 Major Poster

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    I had a brief flirtation with reloading for a shotgun but in 12 bore. I bought a Ponsness Warren press and tried a variety of once used cases. As I think you've found the crimp or rollover is critical in building up the initial pressure and a weak crimp stops the powder burning properly or cleanly. With new cases you will have a much better chance of getting consistent results although for me the cost was excessive as I only wanted cartridges for clays or game and it was better to use factory loads. For any special loads the economics change.
    The same problems arise with metallic cartridges where getting the correct grip on the bullet from the case neck is vital. With a shotgun there's several things that can affect patterning including pressure, type of powder (how fast it burns), wads and overshot wads and the strength of the crimp/rollover plus any varnish/sealant applied over the end of the cartridge.
    I don't know if you can get access to a chrono suitable for use with a shotgun but that might help with working up loads and keeping sub-sonic. I wish you luck and fun with this and commend your testing.
     
    JoeHeugh likes this.
  4. JoeHeugh

    JoeHeugh Beware the Springer

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    R10, I'm pleased you think the patterns are good, I'm certainly happy that I've managed to come up with a cartridge that seems consistently effective but I do think a lot of it has to do with the gun and I guess I've been very lucky with the Baikal especially when I compare the results with my mates. I'll continue to work on one for him and have a few tweaked loads for him to test so I'm sure we'll get somewhere in the end. I don't think steel will be much of an option in 410 especially with a plastic wad going through the moderator and if results with bismuth are good then I know we won't have to retire the guns when the time comes.

    The red dot makes life much easier, I can use the gun instinctively and she has brought down a number of pheasant but once I stop and start to think then it all goes to pot. I think it's the moderator that puts me off and that was my main reason for limiting ground shots to 20 yards.

    Terry, yes I will be looking at a chrono and have seen ideas making use of a traffic cone to prevent damage from stray shot or the wad. By the way, that was another interesting observation from testing, both the Eley Sub and Magnasonic wads were reaching out to 30 yards whereas mine seem to fall away some distance before.

    I think another big part of it is the simple satisfaction of taking a rabbit with a cartridge you put together yourself and it puts a smile on my face.
     
    r10hunter likes this.
  5. r10hunter

    r10hunter Honorary Member

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    If you Put the chrono behind a log and shoot over the top from about 3 yards it will work fine.

    The effective barrel length is one variable that you may wish to look at. The mossbege may be producing more velocity.
    You may need to slow his shells a little.
     
    JoeHeugh likes this.
  6. Nutmeg

    Nutmeg Well-Known Member

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    An interesting read. Nice work mate.
    Just for my curiosity, what powder are you using?
    I've loaded .410's with Hogdon H110, Vit N110 and currently using SP3. I think the H110 with 17g of lead produced the best results as a clay shooting load but a sub-sonic hunting load recipe would be of interest to me.
     
    JoeHeugh likes this.
  7. pogue

    pogue Keyboard Hero

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    some good research mate :cool:
    your mates mossberg pattern looks blown, some full chokes do this in .410 :eek:
    know a lad with a multichoke .410 and its rubbish with full choke and blows the pattern, very good tight patterns with half and threequarters :thumb: biakals are imported and just ''assumed'' to be full choke, but you need to look what choke is stamped on them, mines stamped IM/0.38
    i had a choice between that and full choke, and it patterned tighter than full with most cartridges.
     
    JoeHeugh likes this.
  8. JoeHeugh

    JoeHeugh Beware the Springer

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    Nutmeg, its H110. Pogue, interesting thought there, I will check my Baikal - yes I'd always just assumed....
    Just been messing about with sound files just before I go to bed. Seems sound meters aren't that useful, this seems to fit much better with what the ears hear, once we get to pink it's starting to get loud and the width of the line equates to more noise as well:

    cartridge-audio-spectrum.jpg
     
    Nutmeg likes this.
  9. pogue

    pogue Keyboard Hero

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    what range are the first 4 patterns at Joe ?
     
    JoeHeugh likes this.
  10. JoeHeugh

    JoeHeugh Beware the Springer

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    Hi Pogue, all the patterns were shot at 30 yards and all are marked with a 30 inch circle (wife moaning I've left magic marker on glass topped garden table). They are all no5 shot apart from the Eley subs. I chose 30 yards not to follow any convention but this is the range I intend using the cartridge too.
     
  11. HW95J

    HW95J Donator

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    Nice work, lovely pattern especially with #5 Been loading 3" for a while (fibre ,18.5g #6 shot, Lil Gun powder), don't need to buy any factory stuff. Much cheaper and much better. I've also been thinking about Bismuth so would be interested to see any experiments with that. Need a mortgage to buy the stuff though...
     
  12. OneShotOneThrill

    OneShotOneThrill Newbie

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    Hi Joe (and other members),
    I thought your post was a good read and thanks for taking the time to write it up.
    I have reposted a link to this thread in a small but very specific growing group on farcebook, you'd be most welcome to join us..
    ".410 Hushpower / Stealth Shotguns"
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/162020409114938
     
    WR14210 and JoeHeugh like this.
  13. JoeHeugh

    JoeHeugh Beware the Springer

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    I've asked to join, thanks.
     
    OneShotOneThrill likes this.
  14. WR14210

    WR14210 Posting Addict

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    Interesting FB group which I've just joined. Recommended for anyone interested in 410's. :thumb::thumb:
     
    OneShotOneThrill likes this.
  15. magicstu

    magicstu Engaging Member

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    Yep. Just jumped on the band wagon too
     
    OneShotOneThrill likes this.

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