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Dream Shot - One Shot - © 1999 Galen L. Geer

“The first formula recommended using 1.19 grains of Reloader 15 powder for every grain of cordite,” Doc said. ”I was using a 400 grain Hawk bullet so I loaded it with 65.45 of the Reloader (55x1.19=65.45). To keep the powder against the primer I filled the case with Dacron filler.”

For reloading dies Doc bought a set of RCBS dies by mail order from Huntington Reloading Products. Reloading for the .450/400 NE was not going to be an inexpensive project. A box of 20 brass cases cost fifty dollars. A box of fifty 400-grain bullets was another fifty or seventy-five dollars, depending on whether the bullets were soft points or solids. “Every pull of the trigger was between six and eight dollars. To get a load performing equally in both barrels of each set, meant having to load eight rounds of each powder charge.”

Although Doc was following the proven route to finding the sweet spot load for a rifle, he wasn’t getting there. “The barrels wouldn’t regulate,” Doc said. “I examined the brass and discovered one chamber had a scar on the chamber wall. When I fired that barrel the brass would flow into the scar, changing the pressure and bullet performance.”

No matter how hard Doc tried he couldn’t regulate either set of barrels.“I took the gun to Ralph Carter in Penrose, (one of Colorado’s most prominent gunsmiths), and asked him to check out the gun.

Carter sized the chambers and informed Doc that each chamber was a different size. “The only way to fix the problem,” Carter told him, “is to have a reamer made and resize all four chambers.”

Doc faced a second problem. Once the chambers were resized, the RCBS reloading dies wouldn’t fit.

“What choice did I have?” Doc said. “The investment in the gun was sizable. Besides, I was too far into it to give up.”

Doc told Carter to resize the chambers.

“After that was done he made a set of reloading dies for the gun,“ Doc said.

After Doc picked up his rifle, two sets of barrels and reloading dies, the process of developing a load was renewed.

“I was back to where I started,” Doc said. “Only this time I had a recommended load of 1.33 grains of IMR 4831 (1.33x55=73.15) to each grain of cordite and a 400 grain Woodleigh bullet.”

Once again Doc set out to find a load that performed equally in each set of barrels. The hand loading was complicated by the need to match two different bullet types - solids and soft points. The Woodleigh bullets were stable and Doc began closing in on the sweet spot load.

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“I was tweaking the load a half grain at a time,“ Doc said.

“Each time I took the rifle to the range I had to carefully note each shot from the different barrels and what the bullet was. Each weekend I got a little closer to the load that I needed and during the week I’d load some more test rounds.”

After several weeks of shooting, Doc finally had his load; 75 grains of IMR 4831, a 400-grain Woodleigh bullet and the Dacron filler to hold the powder against the primer. It was now August, 1996. The load and gun tuning had taken a full year. Doc began the next step in the handloading hunter’s quest for a perfect shot - practice. Every weekend Doc would join his friends (known locally as the Middle Arkansas Rottweiler Retriever and Boilermaker Drinkers Social Club, Canon City Chapter), at the range. Doc would take his position at fifty yards and shoot offhand.

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.6 December 1999
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