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Author Topic: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets  (Read 12913 times)

xsquidgator

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Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« on: February 11, 2011, 07:42:52 PM »
I picked up a thirty-some year old (1977 mfr) Marlin336 in 30-30 today and am planning on reloading for it, mostly with home-cast 170 grain flat point bullets.  Does anyone have any comments or experience in reloading cast bullets with the so-called Marlin "micro-groove" rifling?  From my understanding, "micro-groove" rifling was intended to optimize performance with jacketed bullets.  Being cheap, my intention is to use cast bullets almost exclusively.  What sayeth the peanut gallery?


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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2011, 11:49:24 PM »
It can be done successfully, but you are going to have to pay extremely close attention to hardness and diameter.  You do have a copy of the Cast Bullet Handbook, correct?
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xsquidgator

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2011, 08:07:12 PM »
It can be done successfully, but you are going to have to pay extremely close attention to hardness and diameter.  You do have a copy of the Cast Bullet Handbook, correct?

Why, yes I do, actually.  Are you going to tell me something crazy, like I actually have to read it?   :hmm

I *assume* you mean (going by memory here) that I need to get the bullets to be about 0.001" oversize, after slugging the bore?  I have a 308 bullet cast bullet sizer I was planning on using.

For hardness, well, I'm having trouble there.  It used to be a year ago that the water-quenched bullets I made out of a wheel-weight type alloy would end up about BHN 19.  I tried it a few weeks ago expecting to confirm that I was still making nice hard bullets, and to my surprise they came out (a week after casting) at BHN 9 not 19.  I've been meaning to read the cast bullet manual again to understand the metallurgy better.  I suspect I've been casting at too cold a temperature (perhaps 650 to 700F) and maybe that's why the antimony and other good hardness constituents aren't dissolving properly.  Think if I turn up the heat another 100 degrees I can get my water-quenched bullet hardness up again?  I don't mind frosted-appearance bullets, if that'll make them harder.

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2011, 01:08:23 AM »
Re-read it again yes.  And while I agree with going hotter, you have another issue to address-  If you go to hard, they can actually shatter on impact.  Not good if you're hunting live critters of the medium or big game variety.
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xsquidgator

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2011, 06:51:39 AM »
Re-read it again yes.  And while I agree with going hotter, you have another issue to address-  If you go to hard, they can actually shatter on impact.  Not good if you're hunting live critters of the medium or big game variety.

Fortunately I'm not hunting with cast bullets, just punching paper.  Being quite new to hunting, as in I've been meaning to learn from someone and haven't gotten around to it yet, if I d start I'll only use good quality jacketed softpoints or the like.
Thanks for the hints about temperature and the other stuff.  My 30-30 mould and other reloading stuff should be here later in the week and I'm looking forward to working out and up some 30-30 cast loads.

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2011, 11:19:16 AM »
One area to watch is your velocity. If you push these lead bullets too fast, you risk leading the barrel which will have a drastic consequense. IMHO

xsquidgator

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2011, 04:17:49 PM »
One area to watch is your velocity. If you push these lead bullets too fast, you risk leading the barrel which will have a drastic consequense. IMHO

Absolutely.

I have a multi-pronged approach to preventing leading. With rifle cast bullet loads, I like to work up loads with cream-of-wheat filler above the powder charge and under the bullet.  As much as it takes to fill the empty space in the case, with the bullet very mildly compressing the cream of wheat and powder charge.  In my experience, when the round is fired, the cream of wheat gets compressed under the bullet into a tight plug that both acts as a gas-check to prevent leading. It also seems able to scrub out existing leading from the bore.  This works very well for me in bolt guns, and I have also used it in gas guns like the SKS and M1 Carbine without problems, too.  In the SKS/AK bits of the cream of wheat have gotten spread out and into the action, but it's been absolutely clean in my M1 Carbine.

Using case fillers is not entirely without risk.  Loads need to be worked up with case filler independently of published data.  Compressing a charge can adversely change a powder's burn rate and significantly raise pressures.  And, since the case filler is being pushed underneath the bullet, the effective bullet weight for tabulated load data is the weight of the bullet plus the weight of the case filler added.  I have not had any problems in doing this, but I think I am very cautious in approaching this and I work up cast bullet/cream of wheat loads very gingerly, with a lot of chrono-ing and examining fired brass for pressure signs on the way up.  This approach may not be for everybody.

I plan to check for leading nonetheless, and the other prong of my approach is to use my reverse electro-plating "Foul Out" system, if i do get leading.

With reasonably hard, water-quenched wheel weight bullets, I have been able to get the cast bullets up to about 1800-1900 fps and still have them spin stabilize.  When working up my rifle cast bullet loads, I generally load up several rounds, and incrementally work up in 0.5 grain or 1 grain increments until a satisfactory velocity is reached, or I reach the max of published data.  I hope the chrono will help me detect problems with pushing the lead bullets too fast, too.  My hunch is that my extreme spread and standard deviation in velocity should jump upwards when I reach the point of pushing them too fast, in case I failed to recognize that the bullets are going faster than the table data for that bullet weight.



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xsquidgator

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Hard info from Lyman #49
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2011, 08:14:14 PM »
Well, I should have read the book first ...   :whistle

p. 213 specifically says "Shooters loading for Marlin rifles with Micro-Groove rifling should keep cast bullet velocities below 1600 fps for best accuracy."
I will look forward to putting this to the test!

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2011, 05:17:35 PM »
It's too bad that one can't get linotype slugs anymore. We used to get it for free from newspapers, so that they wouldn't have to pay to have it hauled off. That cast some nice hard bullets just as it came.

Does Lyman still sell their "#2Alloy"? If so, it casts some good hard bullets.
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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2011, 09:59:35 PM »
Re-read it again yes.  And while I agree with going hotter, you have another issue to address-  If you go to hard, they can actually shatter on impact.  Not good if you're hunting live critters of the medium or big game variety.

Thanks!  I made some test boolits tonight and I'm happy to say my preliminary signs are that you are correct, hotter melt of wheelweight alloy while using the same Brownell's flux as before, seems to have definitely raised the hardness.  Immediately out of the mold and water quench, I'm getting BHN 13.  Hopefully after these have sat for a week or so they'll be up around BHN 19 or 20.  Before hardness testing these, I also noted that they made a tinkling sound when I was swirling them around in the bowl and applying the alox tumble lube.  Just like the raw material did before I melted it down into ingots, no more thudding.  Whether they're too hard and will shatter remains to be seen.  Any ideas on how to estimate or measure the bullet toughness?

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2011, 11:58:59 PM »
Sorry, been meaning to reply and forgot.  Did you read up about case hardening them in an oven?  That supposedly works well, making the outer area hard enough to track rifling and not melt while leaving the inner metal soft/malleable enough to preform predictably upon impact.  I have not done this personally, but know a couple individuals that do reporting good results.
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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2011, 10:44:56 AM »
Sorry, been meaning to reply and forgot.  Did you read up about case hardening them in an oven?  That supposedly works well, making the outer area hard enough to track rifling and not melt while leaving the inner metal soft/malleable enough to preform predictably upon impact.  I have not done this personally, but know a couple individuals that do reporting good results.

I've heard of the oven heat treat, if it's what I'm thinking of.  Going by memory it's an hour at 400F followed by a water quench?  I will have to get an oven dedicated to that purpose though, if I want to try the oven.  Shooting buddy and I have talked about getting an old one for that, but we haven't gotten any further than we did about our plan to buy a birdshot-making machine either.

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2011, 12:06:13 PM »
I've heard of the oven heat treat, if it's what I'm thinking of.  Going by memory it's an hour at 400F followed by a water quench?  I will have to get an oven dedicated to that purpose though, if I want to try the oven.  Shooting buddy and I have talked about getting an old one for that, but we haven't gotten any further than we did about our plan to buy a birdshot-making machine either.

Goodwill toster oven.  Or you could blow $40 on a nice one with temp control and timer.


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xsquidgator

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working up a 30-30 load with cast bullets and cream of wheat case filler
« Reply #14 on: May 03, 2011, 08:49:02 AM »
After months of distractions and potting around, I finally have a bunch of suitably-hard cast bullets and enough 30-30 cases that are sized, trimmed, and ready to load up.  Ready to start working up a load.  Since I'm not in a hurry why not take the opportunity for the board here to comment on it and help me get optimal results.

I'd like to use IMR4064 powder since that's what I mostly use for rifle, except for 223 in which case I use BL-C(2).  I have not been able to locate load data for cast bullets and IMR-4064, and am of a mind to work up a load since there is load data for IMR-4064 and jacketed bullets.  I was thinking of looking up the data for this latter case (IMR-4064 and jacketed) and backing way down, like 20-40%, for a starting load charge.  Then, work up using a chrony and examining for pressure signs on the way up.  I have the data at home (not here) but the starting load of IMR-4064 for example a 150 grain jacketed bullet was about say 30 grains.  It should take a lesser charge of the same powder to get a cast bullet of the same weight up to the same speed, correct?  I was thinking of say for this hypothetical example, to start way down at perhaps 22 grains of IMR-4064 with case filler on top under the bullet, and work up in 1 or 0.5 grain increments until I approach the muzzle velocity listed in the tables.

I have used this approach to work up cast bullet loads, safely I think, for 8mm Mauser and for 7.62x39.  Especially for the 8mm, pressure-wise I could go much higher safely but I don't push the cast bullets faster than about 2000-2100 fps.  That's in the ballpark of the 150-170 grain 30-30 bullet speeds anyway, and my interest is mostly in being able to cheaply shoot my 30-30 a lot (at paper and at the plinking range, not hunting) without being dependent on an external source of bullets for loading.

Does this sound reasonable?  Does monkeying with two variables (cast bullet and using case filler too) set off red danger flags with people?

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2011, 11:08:24 AM »
Quote
It should take a lesser charge of the same powder to get a cast bullet of the same weight up to the same speed, correct?

Incorrect. When you make a change that reduces bore friction (such as going to lead or moly coated bullets) pressure doesn't build as quickly and the effective burn rate of the powder is reduced. You will need to increase the charge to get the same velocity with lead that you would with a jacketed bullet. It's counter intuitive but that's the way it goes.

IIRC, IMR-4064 is already at the slow end for .30-30. You might want to consider moving to something like 4895 or 3031.
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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2011, 12:01:19 PM »
I am with JesseL on wanting a faster powder.  I would probably try the BLC2 that you have on hand.  Maybe 26-27 grains to start + .75 gr of polyfill.
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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2011, 03:08:06 PM »
Quote
IIRC, IMR-4064 is already at the slow end for .30-30. You might want to consider moving to something like 4895 or 3031.

I am with JesseL on wanting a faster powder.  I would probably try the BLC2 that you have on hand.  Maybe 26-27 grains to start + .75 gr of polyfill.

Ah, that would probably explain why there's jacketed bullet data for IMR4064, but not cast bullet data.  Thanks for the info on charges for jacketed vs cast bullet loads too, I had not heard that or read that yet.  I do recall that there was data in the Lyman cast bullet book for IMR-4895 I'm pretty sure.  I just haven't used that powder in a long time.

Maybe the BL-C(2) will do then.  I'll have to look and see if there's cast data for that in 30-30...

Would you say the same thing for 308 cast bullet loads, about favoring something faster burning than IMR-4064?  I have not yet looked much or any for 308 cast bulletloads.   I had thought to likewise work up a cast load for my FR-8 that would be easier on it than shooting full-power 308s.  It would be great to have an IMR-4064 load for that since it's a safe burn rate powder for my M1A also... I don't think BL-C(2) is in the burn rate range where it's recommended for gas-operated service rifles.

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2011, 04:41:19 PM »
Lead bullets develop very different pressure curves than cast bullets, so your safe burn rates for jacketed bullets in your M1A don't apply to lead.

For instance, for an M1 Garand, mid-range powders (Varget,  4895, etc) and mid-range bullets (150-175) are only to be used to protect your op-rod.  But, a Lee 200 gr gas checked bullet over 42 grains of 4831 is a great cast bullet load.  Violates both the rules.

For your M1A you need to read this.  BruceB at the Cast Boolits site has done LOTS of shooting of the M1A, and that thread is a log of much of his work.

I bet BLC(2) would be fine with that 170 grain in your M1A.  Bruce logs a lot of loads with H335, which is close on the rate chart.  I would guess around 34-36 grains of BLC(2) would give a decent starting point.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2011, 10:49:40 AM by sqlbullet »
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xsquidgator

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2011, 08:20:18 PM »
Yet another layer of reloading complexity in front of me   :hmm... being mystified and then learning something new is one of the cool things about reloading, to me!

I'm going to have to read that link you put up there, thanks!

Checking my Lyman #49 and Lyman cast bullet handbook...
Lyman #49 lists cast loads (for 173 grain FPs, about what I have using the Lee mold that drops my first batch at 177 grains) --> IMR-4198 and IMR4227 are list, with IMR4198 being listed as potentially the most accurate.

I like your BL-C(2) advice because I have BL-C(2) on hand, and don't have the others.  And checking my notes and logs, I worked up a shootable load for my K98 in 8mm using BL-C(2) and cream of wheat filler. 

Every time I think I've figured it out and have a pretty good bead on understanding things, something like this comes along.  Helps to keep life interesting.

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2011, 06:27:55 AM »
I finally got around to beginning to work up a cast bullet load, using BL-C(2) per above.

So far so good, after one range outing to test.  The cast bullets are the Lee 170 LFP ones which were about BHN 19 several months ago, with 7.5 grains of Cream of Wheat case filler in between the powder and the bullet, just enough to fill the space with maybe very slight compression.  Four shot strings, mostly concerned with "is it safe to shoot at this level?" and looking for pressure signs.  Plus/minus is the std deviation

23.0 BL-C(2) --> 1576 fps +/- 26
24.0 BL-C(2) --> 1686 fps +/- 23
25.0 BL-C(2) --> 1724 fps +/- 28
26.0 BL-C(2) --> 1770 fps +/- 17

Plotting these in a graph, the line is pretty linear, so I haven't reached the point yet where more powder produces less velocity increase.  I think I could/should continue to work up a bit more, approaching 2000 fps.  The 24, 25, and 26 data points are "very" linear.

I had a dozen or so rounds left over, so I used them to shoot at a 100 yard target.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of them landed in about 1/2 a sheet of notebook paper at that distance - I wasn't even sure if they'd be on paper or not.  The rounds are likely more accurate than that, since this is about as well as I can do with my eyes and plain old iron sights at that distance.

Anyone see any problems with continuing to work up?  The closest thing to a guide I've seen is some Hornady load data for 160 grain FTX (their "LEVERevolution" plastic-tipped bullets, of which I also loaded up and tested yesterday, also using BL-C(2) powder and the Hornady load tables).  30 grains of BL-C(2) with these yielded 1810 fps, and 33 grains got 2047 fps, both figures in agreement with the Hornady load data.  Max load of BL-C(2) is listed at 33.2 grains for this 160 grain jacketed FTX bullet.  I know they're not the same as the cast lead bullets per the discussion above, but... I'm expecting or thinking that I should be ok continuing upwards for a few more grains of BL-C(2) to approach 2000 fps?  No pressure signs at all so far using up to 26 grains BL-C(2).  Perhaps up to 29 grains in 0.5 or 1.0 grain increments, and see what velocities those yield?

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2011, 03:28:14 PM »
Another thing to keep in mind is that the composition of wheel weights used for autos has changed recently and has low/no lead anymore (can't remember exactly). From what I have heard the weights used for semis is still the same though. You might want to do a bit of research to be sure.

Disclaimer: I have not yet begun casting my own boolits, though I have a fairly large stash of lead ingots and old wheel weights for when I do. :D
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xsquidgator

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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #22 on: July 19, 2011, 10:44:34 AM »
I've heard that about the wheelweights.  I'm lucky that I've only used real wheelweights once (the old kind, paid a tire store guy for half a 5 gal bucket of wheelweights and other crap that was in the bucket).  My luck is that my job (medical radiation physicist in a hospital, radiation therapy for cancer) gives me access to little lead-alloy containers that once shielded radioactive material.  FWIW they never were radioactive and are not now radioactive.  They add the same good stuff to the alloy to make them hard enough to use, which makes them very similar to wheelweights just a lot cleaner once you remove their packaging.  Not to be confused with the 1/16" lead sheet used to line x-ray rooms, that stuff is pure lead and often has nasty glue stuck to it as well.

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Working up cast bullet load for 30-30: Project Finished finally
« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2011, 12:37:14 PM »
It took almost a year, but finally, yesterday I got to the range and finished I think testing these cast bullet 30-30 loads in my same old micro-grooved Marlin 336.  Including the data from a few months ago for completeness, here's what I worked up to using BL-C(2) powder and uncooked Cream of Wheat cereal as a case filler on top of the powder charge, under the bullet:

Plus/minus is the std deviation from n of about 4 readings at each level.
COL 2.550", 177 FLP cast bullets.  (about BHN 19).  Chronograph is about 6-8 feet from the muzzle.

Previously collected data:
23.0 BL-C(2) --> 1576 fps +/- 26
24.0 BL-C(2) --> 1686 fps +/- 23
25.0 BL-C(2) --> 1724 fps +/- 28
26.0 BL-C(2) --> 1770 fps +/- ?
---------
Newly collected data:
27.0 BL-C(2) --> 1849 +/- 29 fps
28.0 BL-C(s) --> 1859 +/- 31
29.0 BL-C(2) --> 1897 +/- 32 fps

I'm satisfied with about 1900 fps, and don't feel the need to go higher even though it ought to be possible to get a bit more yet out of it.  This is in the ballpark for the muzzle velocities I see at Hodgdon.com for 170 grain jacketed bullets.

I also shot some rounds from these last 3 groups at 50 yards after I'd chronographed enough.  I'd say they're "good enough".  No tumbling or keyholing, nice clean holes in the paper, and the grouping (maybe 3-4" at 50 yards) was about as good as I usually do with the 336's iron sights anyway.
No signs of leading at all using this cream of wheat stuff.
Thanks for all of the advice and feedback!  I don't know how much I'll actually use this, but I feel some sense of accomplishment at having worked up to this and now I can mostly plink with my 30-30 as much as I want to without having to buy bullets.   :thumbup1


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Re: Marlin 336 (30-30), Microgroove barrel, and cast bullets
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2011, 06:00:05 PM »
Graph your charge weights vs. velocities-

Notice how your velocity and charge weights don't increase in linear fashion?  Be careful.  If that 29 grain charge is accurate enough for you, and burning clean enough, I wouldn't push it much farther.
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