Well, times are changing and 2021 has seen a continuation of the ammo and handloading supply challenges.
With deer season fast approaching my good friends, Jim Zirkle and Gary Claypool, were frustrated with the fact they couldn’t find their favorite bullets and powders. Stores simply had nothing in stock.
The internet was of some help; after some diligent searching we found our favorite deer bullets, .30 caliber, Barnes 130 grain TTSX, on-line at Midway Shooting Supply. However, we couldn’t locate powder no matter how diligently we searched and often there’s a hazardous shipping charge which quickly adds up. What’s a shooter to do?
Well, you have to improvise.
LUCKILY, there are many different powders available, either in your shooting supplies or possibly at a store. Hodgdon, IMR, Reliant, Scott and other manufacturers make good reliable powders and with some supplies trickling in you may be able to use what you have at home or what you can buy.
Naturally, you first want to check what you have on hand. I’m going to stick with the 30-06 caliber to keep things simple, but you can use the same approach with whatever caliber you may have or are fortunate enough to have supplies on hand for.
Since we were all shooting the all-copper Barnes bullet, I immediately went to the reloading manual to see what other powders would create the same 3,200 fps velocity as our original loadings. I quickly discovered many powders did just that. Some of the more common were 51.7 grains of IMR 4895, 54.7 grains of IMR 4320, 54.6 grains of Varget and 52.6 grains of IMR 3031. But the powder choice listed I would prefer to use was 54.3 grains of IMR 4064.
NOW these are all maximum loads and should be worked up gradually for your own particular rifle as every manual recommends for safety’s sake. Some rifles do have small chambers and reach higher pressures with less powder. Be safe. Less powder doesn’t necessarily mean lower velocities; your rifle may shoot just as fast with a lower load. Pressure equals velocity, velocity equals pressure as physics tells us.
I am very fond of IMR 4064 as it is very accurate, has less perceived recoil to my mind and has always delivered great results in my experience. It’s my go-to powder for many different calibers.
However, not to lose sight of our original quest, we had many options to choose from if we could just find some powder.
Now, the same is true of bullets. You may have a favorite bullet weight, but times being what they are, they may not be available. However, you may have some bullets on hand and they can work out just fine.
Myself, I formerly used 150 grain bullets, but experimented with other weights, some heavier and some lighter. You have probably done the same and need to dig through your cupboard or drawers to see what may be sitting around you’ve forgotten all about.
Since bullets must have adequate penetration to hunt big game, heavier bullet weights are desirable in lead core designs. But, flexibility is the key in these times. If your favorite loads use 150 grain rounds, you may have heavier bullets available, but if you’re using 165 or 180 grain bullets you can drop down to 150s with no problem. You may find some bullets on the shelves, don’t be too picky, grab what you can and adapt.
What can anyone do if they only can find or have on hand lighter bullets?
TODAY, several companies now manufacture reduced loads for new or recoil sensitive hunters in those lighter bullet weights. Lacking heavier bullets, you may be able to mimic this new technology with 125-130 grain lead core spitzer bullets if you have some on hand. I don’t recommend 110 grain bullets as they are very fragile. However in a real pinch … well keep the velocities very low, 2,500 or less.
Anyway, I discovered several reduced loads for these lightweight projectiles of 125 or 130 grains: they are 54 grains of IMR 4350 for 2,644 fps, 57 grains of IMR 4831 for 2521 fps or 44 grains of H322 for 2687 fps. Jumping on-line should reveal other relevant data to match the powder and bullets you have on hand. Keep your shots within 200 yards to insure bullet expansion.
With supplies so limited you can also network with your hunting buddies and friends. Someone may have primers, another a specific powder or brass. Yet another may have bullets and so on. By combining your resources several hunters may be able to develop an excellent hunting load all can profit by. Asking around may put you in contact with someone you have never met before and by bundling your resources, you not only create some great handloads, but make a great new friend in the process.
So, keep an open mind, be adaptable and inventive, you may actually discover a new load you prefer over your old standard one. With every challenge come new opportunities, let’s seize them and prosper.