It’s no secret that aficionados of large capacity .17’s for coyote hunting are always seemingly semi-starved for good 30 gr. bullets. With Berger out of the market and no longer providing the required J4 jackets to the custom makers, finding 30’s on J4’s is mostly a game of buying up old stock that guys decide to turn loose of. Some of the prices I have seen being asked for them though, seem just ludicrously high to me.
Texas Gold 30 gr. Flat Base
So, when I heard from Montana Mize recently that he had worked up a new 30 gr. flat base design, I was definitely interested! I got him on the phone and ordered a couple hundred of them to play with.
Tale Of The Scale, Micrometer and Caliper
Before loading some up to try I took 10 bullets out of the bag for some quick measurements. Ogives of all ten were well within .001 of each other – nice! Weights of 9 of the 10 were within .1 gr. of each other, with one bullet .3 gr. heavier – nice! I also measured a reasonable and desirable .0004 pressure ring on the heel.
These are some very consistent, very nice looking bullets.
Testing In The .17 Predator
I would of course be testing them in my old .17 Predator. It’s an accurized Model Seven with a 9 twist Lilja, 24″ long. This rifle was a bona fide sub 1/2 MOA shooter when new. But, alas, it isn’t anymore… With right at 1,000 rounds on it and over .060 of throat erosion on it now, groups have, “grown”… When new it shot in the 4’s, then eventually started shooting in the 5’s, then pretty soon after that in the 6’s, and now it’s honestly just barely a 3/4 MOA rifle using the same 30 gr. boat tails it used to shoot consistent 4’s with when new.
I will add, that due to the throat erosion, the 30 gr. boat tails can no longer be seated to within .010 of the lands. I’ve chased them as far as I can with the boat tails and still have enough bullet shank left in the neck.
Sometimes It’s Time To Change The Ogive
No such issue with these new Texas Gold 30 gr. flat base bullets though. It’s no secret that when accuracy starts to fade on a barrel due to erosion, you can often get some of that accuracy back by switching to a bullet with a chunkier ogive that can still reach the lands.
With the ogive on these new 30’s, in my old .17 Predator, when seated so that the lands are leaving “square marks” on the bullet (firm contact), the base is about even with the neck. As far as “reaching the lands” goes, this bullet fits like the boat tails did when the barrel was new.
How Do They Shoot?
So… I was both curious and hopeful about how these would shoot in my old campaigner. I suspected they would probably shoot better than the boat tails do anymore. But, only one way to find out for sure…
First load tried, I just used the same powder charge as my working load with the boat tails, with the bullets seated for firm contact with the lands. I think I chose to start with firm contact as much for the novelty of being able to as anything. This rifle has always shot better with a little bit of jump though, actually.
So, first group…
All vertical. But, if that vertical can be tuned out, showing some real promise. I stopped after just that one group. Just looking at the first group, I knew I had some tuning to do and no sense spending precious barrel life shooting more with this load.
A maxim in handloading, that some go by, is that strong neck tension, combined with firm contact with the lands, is a recipe for vertical. I have experienced it before and tend to believe it. When seating them, I did notice the pressure ring made for a bit more neck tension than when using the boat tails (boat tails have no pressure ring). You can actually see where the seater was slightly marking the noses of the bullets due to heavy neck tension.
So… back home again. My first thoughts for dealing with the vertical, was to seat them deeper, off the lands. So I simply seated all of the remaining loaded rounds .005 deeper. When I went back to shoot again, I took my small portable Harrell’s press and the seating die so I could keep adjusting seating depth at the range.
First group is #1 in the picture below.
After that first group, I went back to my little portable press on the tailgate of my truck and seated five rounds another .005 deeper and took them back to the bench and fired group #2. This is what I was hoping to see!
So, back to the truck again and seated another 5 another .005 deeper – now .015 deeper than the very first all vertical group. Maybe things would just keep getting better. But, no, group #3 opened back up a bit.
So, one more time, seated five more to the same depth as group #2 and fired group #4. Calling it good right there!
I’d like to say, that I don’t generally believe in making decisions based on only one or two groups. I’m a big believer in seeing what happens with four or five consecutive, five shot groups, to really see what a barrel is going to do.
But, my .17 Predator is a hot rod coyote killing machine with only a finite amount of barrel life. Most of which is undoubtedly used up already. For this rifle, two five shot groups in a row with a load, measuring a .450 and a .510, I’m just going to be satisfied with that and not using up anymore barrel life to see what groups three, four and five do.
Bottom line? These little pills can shoot! I hope I can thump a few coyotes with them soon…
Contact Montana Mize at 254-784-9533 to see if he has any left <grin>.