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Reloading for Crook Shoulders: by Bill McLeod

14/09/2021 11:11 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

A lot of my shooting has been with rifles and shotguns with noticeable recoil. I used to think that a lot of practice would strengthen my shoulder which would make the recoil more manageable. This did not happen. Instead I found that, after many years, my shoulder became painful after relatively short exposure to recoil that I once had been able to endure. For a long time my favourite sport was clay target shooting. I enjoyed a number of successes in competition in trap, skeet, and sporting clays. I loved seeing the clays smashing. Eventually, I found that I could not complete two rounds of skeet without flinching and my shoulder would ache for a week. I reluctantly gave up clay target shooting. I even changed from my trusty Beretta 686 20 gauge to a 410 Remington pump for duck shooting. It worked fine but you needed to be on your game. My tolerance for rifle recoil also diminished. Falling off my grandson’s  skateboard and landing on that shoulder probably didn’t help. Thank goodness for cortisone.

Rolly’s article describing his work to assemble a rifle of significantly reduced recoil was music to my ears. My efforts to achieve the same result were slightly different. I have a number of rifles that have proved very effective in the field and I wanted to continue using them. I could tolerate a couple of shots at a time but that was all. I found that the recoil of a 243 was about all I could handle. So a solution to the problem was to try to handload my ammo for my bigger rifles down to 243 levels. Some anecdotal data was available on the internet but this was of the nature of “it worked so it must be OK”. I have examined rifles which have been destroyed while using handloads so the casual approach of “ it will be right” did not cut it for me. 

Fortunately, I found a published source of information by a reputable powder distributor, Hodgdons, which gave tested recipes for low recoil reloads. Even better, they specified ADI powder which was readily available to me. The document is entitled Hodgdons H4895 REDUCED RIFLE LOADS for Youth Hunting, Informal Target and Plinking. I have used this data to load 270 Winchester, 270 Winchester Short Magnum, 7mm-08 Remington, 30-30 Winchester, 308 Winchester, 30-06, and 300 Winchester Short Magnum ammunition. The results were excellent without exception. I could load my favourite Short Magnum Sakos to where they did not hurt me. I find that in the smaller cases, such as 308 or 7-08, I get excellent results with 80% loads. The bullets I used in these loads were normally Speer Hollow Point Varmint  bullets, they seem to shoot well in all my rifles, but I have had equally good results with lighter weight Nosler Ballistic Tips, Hornady SSTs, and Sierras. I did find that annealing the cases noticeably reduced the sooty deposits on the case neck indicating that the annealing was resulting in better obturation.

One question is “OK they don’t hurt while practicing but how do they work on animals”? I admit that I was a little apprehensive when I had the first chance to use them on animals despite my confidence in using low powered hunting rifles such as the 222 on deer and pigs. I need not have worried, they worked fine. Toughest animal I’ve shot so far was a big boar with the light bullet, light load 30-06. The Nosler Ballistic Tip worked fine on this and several other animals. Good shot placement is important, I won’t try Texas heart shots on big animals. For range shooting I am confident competing at the hundred and the two hundred metre distances, the shooter is the limiting factor, not the ammo. I can still enjoy using my bigger guns without pain.

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