The Hunter's Life

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gitano 06-15-2008 03:02 PM

.50 Alaskan Bullets
The single bullet that stands out for both precision and 'lethality', among all bullets in all calibers that I own and shoot, is the Speer 115-grain HP in 7mm. Second to that one is the Speer 130-grain HP of identical design. All others bunch up considerably behind those two. That being the case, when I started the process of designing a bullet for my .50 Alaskan, (I'm fixin' to make my own jacketed bullet swaging dies), I decided the bullet design of the Speer large-meplated HPs was a good starting place.

As some of you may remember, my ultimate target with the .50 Alaskan is a bison. In Alaska, the free-ranging bison are known for their skittishness, and 300-yd shots are not uncommon. While I hate shots as long as 300 yds, a bison bull is a big target, and .510" bullet is a big hole-maker, so while I would prefer a shot around 100 yds, I feel I should be prepared to take a 300 yarder.

That being the case, simply being able to reach 300 yds is not sufficient (or proper) design criteria for a big game bullet in my opinion. So I've decided that a bullet - for bison - needs to drop no less than 36" from the point of aim, and be carrying at least 1500 ft-lbs of energy at 300 yds. Of course I would prefer a flatter trajectory, and increased impact energy, but this is the floor I'm setting the design parameters to achieve.

Using the Speer large-meplatted HPs as the design model, I get the following form:

Meplat diameter = 0.194"
Meplat depth. . . = 0.400"
Ogive length . . .= 0.954"
Bearing length . = 0.714"
Total length . . . = 1.668"
Tangent Ogive Radius = 2.55" (5 calibers - same as 115, and 130 HPs)

This design yields an estimated bullet weight of 506 grains, and an estimated BC of .359.

At a MV of 1765 f/s from the 26" barrel, the chamber pressure is estimated at 27,700 PSI.
At that MV, the muzzle energy is 3515 ft-lbs. The drop at 300 yds, when sighted in for a 12" target, is 24", and the impact energy is 1882 ft-lbs.

The muzzle energy is at the upper limit for 'pleasant' shooting. I might drop it a bit, but because the BC of this bullet is only 'mediocre' at best, small changes in MV result in big changes in down-range trajectory and delivered energy. The impact velocity at 300 yds is only 1300 f/s. I have my concerns about even a large-meplatted HP behaving like anything other than a solid when impact velocities are that low. Even though a .510" "solid" is certainly a 'killer', the 'shock' delivered by a high-impact, large-meplatted HP, is significant. That shock is precisely why the 115 and 130 grain bullets are such exceptional killers.

While the idea of a HP .50 caliber bullet is a bit anathema to my desire to keep this arm as 'traditional' as I can, terminal performance, both in the context of precision and 'lethality', come before dogmatic adherence to "tradition". I've been known to 'cut my nose off to spite face' a time or two... but not when it comes to doing what I can to dispatch the game animals I hunt, as quickly as possible.

Now I've just gotta make the swaging dies for the bullet. :eek: No small feat... At least for me. Oh yeah, one onther small matter too... get drawn for a bull bison.


Jorge in Oz 06-16-2008 05:13 AM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets

There's a dude (seller id: secant0give) on that normally sells 45/70 HP projectiles. Could check those out, they are designed for the Marlins I believe so they are a tad flat.


Jorge in Oz 06-16-2008 05:20 AM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets
These are what I was talking about before.

gitano 06-16-2008 09:30 AM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets
That's an interesting site, Jorge. Thanks for the link. I don't have a problem getting bullets for the .50, I just want to make my own. That way I get what I want, not what somebody else thinks I should have, or what they can sell the most of.

Those .458s 300-gr HPs look good - at least to me, as do the "long ogive" 405s. Among the original bullets used in the 45-70, the 405 was among the most popular. Turns out, 405s shoot the best from my Buffalo Classic, but I'd be inclinded to try the HPs just to see. I'll contact the seller to see what postage to the US would be.


recoil junky 06-16-2008 12:41 PM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets
And speeking of 50 Alaskan bullets:

I found this hunk of lead after I was doing a bit of shooting with the 300RUM the other day, and I'm guessin' it came from SOMEBODY'S 50 Alaskan. :stare:

I'm guessin' that you are going with a jacketed bullet because of the velocity? (Or just because you are stubborn and have to have things your own way ALL the time :greentongue: )

If "tradition" was to be a big part of your ideals, why not design your own cast/gas checked bullet. The good ole boys who hunted buff (not in the buff :shy:) didn't use jacketed bullets, as you may well know. A cast bullet in the dimensions given would be pretty leathal on buff'lers I'm a thinkin'

All kidding aside Paul, I can't wait to see and shoot the 50 Alaskan again.

I was wondering. You mentioned a Buffalo Classic. How does it shoot for you? You might recall my intrest in gettin a 45/70 and I'm torn between the Buffalo Classic and a Marlin Cowboy. Of course I would have to cast my own bullets for either of them :biggthumpup: I have a Lyman 457124 mould that Dad used for his Trapdoor Springfield and I've been casting some for a college to use in his Sharps reproduction. I'd probaly have to get the 457193 for the Marlin though.

Drat! More casting and reloading stuff to buy. :confused:


gitano 06-17-2008 12:30 PM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets
Cool! I'm tickled that you found that bullet.

The .50 will be coming to Colorado again for sure, and this time it will be 'dressed' properly.

With regard to jacketed vs. cast, it's not my hard head that's getting in the way this time. The bullets I cast simply lead the barrel way, WAY too much. (I strongly suspect that most of the problem is my casting accumen - or lack there-of.) Gas-checks improve things considerably, but jacketed bullets doing 1650-ish leave no 'residue'. I'm still toying with the prospect of fire-lapping and seeing if that helps - I imagine it will. Also, the jacketed, hand-made .50 cal. bullets I get from NwCP are really just fine. I just wanna make my own.

WRT to the Buffalo Classic:

It shoots very well for me. Shooting .405s best, and the best of the 405s is Oregon Trail's Silver Bullet. Those bullets shoot VERY well from that rifle.

As for choosing between a Marlin lever gun and the 1871 Buffalo Classic... It'd be a difficult choice for me to make. In the end, the BC is a break-open NEF-ish. While it's a good peice for the price, it's still essentially a NEF. Like I said, it'd be a tough choice for me. I strongly recommend that you hold both of them in your hands before making the final choice.

Based on the Marlins I have held, the "fit and finish" on the 1871 and the Marlin are almost identical.

While I like lever-guns well enough, I like single-shots just a little bit more.

The BC, with it's 32" bbl MAY weigh just a tad more, but I suspect the differences in weight will be pretty small given the more complex lever action.

One thing I would caution you on is to be especially wary of the ported Marlins. EVERYBODY complained of those not long after they came out. So badly that as far as I know, Marlin quit porting them altogether.

Finally, all the people I know with a Marlin chambered in .45-70 Gov't, load them 'to the max'. More importantly, ALL the people I know with a Marlin chambered in .45-70 Gov't, hate to shoot them - ported or not. (Two of the guys I know traded them off not too long after gettng them, and the others have relegated theirs to being 'closet queens'.) As I've said before, I keep MVs in the BC to about 1650 f/s with the 500 grain bullets, and 1850 f/s with the 405s. At those velocities, I can shoot the rifle "all day". Move that 500 up over 1800, and it gets down-right unpleasant. I've had it up over 1900 with the 500s, and it was particularly ugly. Maybe a guy with the nom-de-plume "Recoil Junky" would have more fun with those higher loads. :D

I'd be happy to bring my BC to Colorado for you to play with, but I'm already trying to figure out how I'm gonna get all the guns I wanna bring (.338 MAI, .375x55 Swiss, .50 Alaskan, and .58 ML), down there. The Buffalo Classic is at least 5th on the 'wish' list.


RatherBHuntin 06-17-2008 04:59 PM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets

Originally Posted by gitano (Post 79864)
I'd be happy to bring my BC to Colorado for you to play with, but I'm already trying to figure out how I'm gonna get all the guns I wanna bring (.338 MAI, .375x55 Swiss, .50 Alaskan, and .58 ML), down there. The Buffalo Classic is at least 5th on the 'wish' list.


Mail it

gitano 06-17-2008 05:11 PM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets
Yeah, Glenn, I'm thinking of doing that with all of them considering how the airlines are starting to behave.


recoil junky 06-18-2008 01:38 AM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets
You can mail the Buffalo Classic to me and I'll keep it waarm for you :greentongue: I've thought abot the Buffalo Classic quite a bit. I'd start with the 45-70 and the send the action in to have it fitted with a 38-55 barrel, then I could have the best of both worlds.

The Marlin Cowboy in 45-70 is still a possibility. It's got a 26" octqagon barrel that would be just awesome as a saddle gun. AND it's NOT ported so I would get the full effect of the recoil :biggthumpup:

Decisions, decisions, decisions. :Banghead:


gitano 06-18-2008 11:03 AM

Re: .50 Alaskan Bullets

I'd start with the 45-70 and the send the action in to have it fitted with a 38-55 barrel,
Sounds good to me.


The Marlin Cowboy in 45-70 is still a possibility.
Have you held both the H&R 1871 and the Marlin?

While I have owned horses, I've never owned a "saddle gun". I woulda thought a 26" bbl was a bit long for that application. No?


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