Load" is 13 Grains of Red Dot"
© 2014 - Ed Harris
Revised Sept. 27, 2007
My success in economizing by using up leftovers of misc. shotshell powder changed my approach to hand loading. About 15 years ago I was given an 8 lb. caddy of Red Dot from the estate of the late Vincent Marino, a fellow gun club member who was an active trap and skeet shooter. I no longer reloaded shotshells, so asked myself, "what can I do with it?"
At the time my shooting was now mostly NRA-style high-power rifle, but using cast bullets in WWII militaries. I was working at the time with a Winchester M1917 Enfield and a Smith-Corona M1903A3, both .30-'06s, and I also had a Long Branch No.4 MkII* in .303 and a Finnish M28/30 in 7.62x54R. I needed several hundred rounds a week to practice offhand, reloading, and working the bolt in sitting and prone rapid, but didn't want to burn out my barrel or my wallet. Powder used to be cheap, but then was $15/lb. (and is closer to $25 today! - or more), so cost is a factor in component choice.
I used to ignore pistol or shotgun powders in reduced rifle loads for the usual reasons: the risk of accidental double-charges, fears of erratic ignition, and concerns with maintaining accuracy, and reduced utility with a low-power load.
Still, the caddy of Red Dot kept "looking at me" from the corner. Would it work? Looking at data in the RCBS Cast Bullet Manual No. 1 and the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook suggested it would, so I tried it, much to my delight!
Red Dot is bulky compared to the usual rifle powders used in .30-'06-size cases. It occupies more powder space in typical charges than common "reduced load" rifle powders, such as #2400, IMR4227, IMR4198 or RL-7. The lower bulk density of Red Dot adequately addressed my safety concerns because it makes an accidental double charge far less likely.
After considerable experimentation, my friends and I found "The Load" of choice in most .30 and .303 calibers was 13 grains of Hercules Red Dot. We found this a good starting point in any FULL SIZED rifle case of .30 cal. or larger. "The Load" has distinct advantages over more expensive alternatives, within certain limitations, which are:
1. The case must be LARGER than the .30-40 Krag, and have a normal working pressure greater than 40,000 psi. The No. 4 Enfield in .303 Brit is OK, the 1896 Krag is not!
2. The rifle must be of MODERN (post 1898 design, suitable for smokeless powder, with a bore size of .30 cal. or larger.
3. The bullet weight must be within the NORMAL range for the given cartridge.
4. Inert fillers such as Dacron, kapok or are NOT RECOMMENDED! (Nor are they necessary).
Within these restrictions now engraved in stone, "The Load" works! The bullet may be either jacketed or cast. Gas checked cast bullets required in the .30 cals., otherwise you will get leading, but plain based ones work fine in the 8mm Mauser or larger.
"The Load" has shown complete success in the .303 British, 7.65 Argentine in the '98 actions (not the 1891 please), .308 Win., 7.62x54R Russian, .30-'06, 8x57 and .45-70 (strong-actioned rifles such as the 1886 Winchester or 1895 Marlin -- 12 grs. is maximum for 400 gr. bullets in the Trapdoor Springfield.
Since the article originally appeared I have heard from people who successfully used it in the 8mm Mauser, .35 Whelen, .375 H&H, .444 Marlin and .458 Winchester.
"The Load" fills 50% or more of a .308 Win or .30-'06 case. The risk of an accidental double charge is greatly reduced, because the blunder is immediately obvious if you visually check, powder fill on EVERY CASE, as you should whenever hand loading! A bulky powder measures more uniformly, because normal variation in the measured volume represents a smaller percentage of the charge weight.
Red Dot's granulation is somewhat less coarse than other flake powders of similar burning rate, such as 700-X, which aids metering. Its porous, uncoated flakes are easily ignited with standard primers. So-called "magnum" primers do no harm in cases larger than the .30-'06, but are neither necessary nor recommended in smaller ones.
I DO NOT recommend pistol primers in reduced rifle loads, because weak primers may cause erratic ignition, and their thinner cups can perforate more easily, causing gas leakage and risk of personal injury!
The velocities obtained with 13 grs. of Red Dot appear mild, but "The Load" is no pipsqueak! In a case like the .308 or .30-'06, you get (from a 24" sporter barrel) about 1450 f.p.s. with a 200- gr. cast bullet, 1500 with a 170-gr., or 1600 with a 150-gr. cast load.
"The Load" is fully comparable to "yesterday's deer rifle", the .32-40, and provides good expansion of cheap, soft alloys (10-13 BHN) at woods ranges. Jacketed bullet velocities with "The Load" are about 120-150 f.p.s. less than a lubricated lead bullet of the same weight. Longer-barreled military rifles pick up a few feet per second. My preferred alloy in the .30 cals. is a mixture of 5 lbs. of backstop scrap to 1 lb. of salvaged linotype. Wheelweights also work well, as do soft "Scheutzen" alloys such as 1:20 tin/lead in medium bores over .30 cal. and larger. "The Load" drives soft-cast .30-cal. to 8 mm bullets fast enough to get a nice mushroom, without fragmenting.
These cast loads out-penetrate factory .30-30 soft points, and kill medium game up to 150 lbs. well at short ranges up to 100 yards, when placed accurately. In medium and large bores like the .375 H&H or .45-70, "The Load" gives typical black powder ballistics for the bore. A 255-265 gr. cast bullet in the .375 H&H approximates the .38-55 at 1330 f.p.s. Soft 300- 405-gr. cast bullets are pushed at 1300-1350 f.p.s. from a 22" barrel .45-70, sporter are very effective on deer at woods ranges. Cast bullets over .35 cal. do not have to expand appreciably to work well on game if blunt and heavy for their caliber.
The Load" works equally well with jacketed bullets, and is a good way to shoot up those old pulled military ball bullets you have lying around. Jacketed bullets give somewhat lower velocities than with cast lead, due to less effective obturation and greater friction in the bore. I have use pulled GI .30 caliber Ball, and Match bullets with "The Load" for cheap 200-yd. NMC bolt gun practice. Accuracy is equal to arsenal loads, but I use my 600-yard sight dope at 200 yards. I expect 5-6" ten-shot, iron-sight groups at 200 yards using M2 or M80 pulled bullets and about 3-4" for the M72 or M118 Match bullets. I use these mostly in bolt-action rifles, but they can be single-loaded for offhand or slow-fire practice in the Garand as well.
These .30 cal. pulls shoot fine in the .303 British or 7.62x54 Russian, despite their being a bit small, because the fast-burning Red Dot upsets them into the deeper grooves. The 173-gr. Match .30 cal. boat tail bullets may not shoot as well at these low velocities as lighter flat bases in the 12" twist .308 Win. barrels, but they do quite well in ten- inch twist barrels such as in the '06, 7.62 Russian, .303 British and 7.65 Argentine.
The longer bore time of these 1400 f.p.s. (typical 170-180-gr. jacketed load velocity) practice loads makes errors in follow- through apparent, a great practice and training aid. The light recoil and lower report of these loads helps transition Junior tyro shooters from the .22 rimfire to the service rifle without being intimidated by the noise and recoil.
Zeroing is no problem in the M1 or M14, because "The Load" shoots into the ten-ring of the reduced SR target at 200 yards from your M1 or M14 rifle at using your normal 600 yard sight dope! The somewhat greater wind deflection blows you into the "8" ring at 200 yards with the same conditions you would expect to do so at 600 yards with M118 Match ammunition. This provides your Junior shooters some useful wind-doping practice.
The economy of a lighter charge is obvious. A full power .30-'06 load using 50 grs. of an IMR powder like 4064 today in 2007 costs 15 cents a pop, just for powder, at 140 rounds per pound (if you are lucky enough to still find new powder at $21/lb.) By substituting 13 grs. of Red Dot you get 538 rounds per pound at a realistic cost of 4-1/2 cents assuming you pay $25 per pound at retail. Greater savings are possible if you get the best price and buy powder by the caddy. It is still possible to get an 8 lb. caddy of Red Dot for around $100 if you shop around. Or just become an old vulture and hang around waiting for an old trap shooter to die and do his widow a favor!
Velocity and point of impact of "The Load" is not noticeably affected by varying powder position in the case. I shoot them either slow fire, or clip-fed and flipped through rapid-fire in the bolt gun with equal accuracy. Red Dot is very clean burning and is economical both on the basis of its lower charge weight, and its lower basic cost per pound compared to other "rifle" powders. If you substitute a stiffly jacketed 110-gr. .30 Carbine soft point bullet, which is designed for somewhat higher velocities than imparted by "The Load", you have a non-destructive “coup de grâce", small game or wild turkey load which shoots close to your deer rifle's normal zero, but at 25 yards!
Best of all, using a shotshell powder I already have reduces the kinds of powder I keep and eliminates the need for a special "reduced load" powder. This approach is ideal for rifle shooters who are also shotgunners, since almost everybody who reloads for 12-ga. probably has a keg of Red Dot already!
I now realize it is foolish to use heavier charges of more expensive powder for routine practice, varmint or small game loads in my center-fire rifles. I seldom shoot at over 200 yards, and don't enjoy wearing out expensive target barrels unnecessarily. Since I already have good sight dope and need to work more on technique and save my remaining barrel accuracy life for matches.
I am glad I found the way to get a lot more shooting for the dollar. Economical powder choice IS possible, and my reloading has become less complicated and more enjoyable simple since I realized I could do most of my rifle shooting with 13 grains of Red Dot!
Last edited on Thu Sep 27th, 2007 11:20 am by Ed Harris