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Gentlemen, as always, any comments you might care to make will be appreciated.
I always wanted a .25-20 barrel for my Contender Carbine, but when Bullberry got up to a 4 month wait for their barrels I decided to give the T/C Custom Shop a try. All of their barrels in whatever .25 caliber they make are 1-10 twist. I initially thought this was too fast and was resigned to a wait for Bullberry.
After reading the posts on the .25-20 on Shooters I figured 1-10 might not be such a bad idea and got it from the Custom Shop. I have heard criticism of T/C? work, including that the barrels are not stress relieved, etc. etc. Well, I gotta get my feet wet sometime. This I count as a learning experience.
The barrel measures .2585 just in front of the chamber, narrowing to .258 further down the tube. I have two moulds for it, the RCBS 85 grain cowboy and the Lyman 70gr. 257420 GC. The RCBS will cast any alloy you pour into it and give useable, well filled out bullets. The Lyman design has smaller bands and refuses to fill out unless the alloy has a boatload of tin. I?e taken to using linotype in it exclusively. These run around .2605.?I have a .259?sizing die, but generally use it only for the Lyman bullet. The RCBS mould casts from .259-.260 depending upon the alloy.
My die set is a Lyman, purchased mainly for the ??die. A Redding neck die does most of the resizing work. The Lyman full length sizer squeezes down the neck quite a bit and doesn? get used much. Lubricant for the bullets has been either 50/50 or Lee liquid alox when I get lazy.
It has been an interesting experience right from the start. I started with jacketed bullets (sorry) and found that while it shot at least passably with the 86 Remington and a little better with the 75 Speer (1.1 to 1.3 inches at 50 yards) it really likes the 60 grain Hornady, and about any suitable powder will shoot into around .65 inch at 50 yards. Not a bad start, but only the 60 grain Hornady has usable accuracy at 100 yards plus for small critters.
With about 500 jacketed bullets down the tube I started after the lead stuff. I made a few mistakes early on. First, the 257420 out of wheelweight metal did not group at all at normal 25-20 speeds-say 1600 to 2000 fps. I am an avid small game hunter, and I had visions of maybe trying an expanding lead bullet on a coyote at calling distance. Well, the only thing that expanded was the group size, to the point where the groups with higher velocity could not account for all the bullets fired at 50 yards. Not much of a start.
Moderate loads using the ?ast bullet?powders like 4759, 5744, 4198 and 4227 did not show much accuracy at 50 yards either when I used the RCBS Cowboy bullet. When I say moderate, I mean 1400-1500 fps out of wheelweights or linotype. The only loads I got to shoot even passably, like 1.5 inches at 50 yards, were light charges of fast powders, like 3.0 grains 231 or Red Dot at around 1100-1200 fps. Bumping up the charge to 4 grains Unique resulted in another of those ?here did all the shots go??experiences. I recovered a few of the fired bullets and noted pretty severe gascutting of the bottom bands. The baseband measured .253-.254?on some of the bullets.
I started afresh with the decision to protect the plainbase bullet with something, so started experimenting with faster powders and buffer/Dacron. Now, I know some of you don? pair buffer/fiber with fast powder, so if you feel the need to comment, please do so. I have had some experiences with buffer with the K-Hornet that gave me pause with light charges of fast powder, but not so in the .25-20. I have fired hundreds, near a thousand, of these loads over the chronograph and have never noted even one abnormal reading. Velocity spreads have been low and velocity of buffered/fibered loads vs. unbuffered loads are identical. I settled on 3.0 (later 3.1 grains of my newer lot) of W231 with the RCBS as giving the velocity I wanted for a small game load, 1150 fps. I found that buffer and a vegetable fiber wad (.030) gave better accuracy than the buffer alone. I couldn? see why that would be so and I recovered a few bullets. Each had a small mound of buffer still attached to the base of the bullet, even though I had taken care to remove lubricant from the bullet base. That may or may not be the reason the load shot a little worse, but it was something I could blame. The wad prevented this, but the load starts getting pricey. Buffer and wads ain? cheap, so I switched to Dacron with the same results. My technique for its use is identical to BruceB?. I picked W231 for its ability in a powder measure. This does around .8 to .9 inch at fifty yards. I am going to make some specific comments about this load in another post on this forum. I?e got some things going on with it that deserve your notice.
Full power loads with the Lyman bullet have given me considerable trouble. Most surprising have been the large extreme spreads, upwards of 100 fps+ with a number of standards. To date, I?e tried IMR 4227, H4227, H322, H and IMR 4198, W296, 4759, 5744, AA 1680, H2400,Unique, Red Dot, Titegroup, and W231. Those charges of slower powder were most likely to give high extreme spreads. On average, I? say they do about an inch and a half to an inch and three quarters with most loads tried, which is pretty borderline, in my opinion. Reloder 7 was the last powder tried, the Swedish version, and it shows the most promise will full power loads around 2000 fps with the Lyman bullet. Probably not coincidentally, the case is full of powder and it groups around 1-1.1 inches at 50 yards. Only in linotype, though.
This is my second Contender carbine barrel, and both have given me trouble with cast bullets. Frankly, these are the only shoulder arms I have loaded cast bullets for that didn? do well. It is possible there are some issues with the sizing of cases, how the action locks up, bullet seating, the forearm used, etc. etc. Relating everything I have tried would get tedious, and this post is long enough already. I?e got around 3500 rounds of lead bullets through the gun.
I would appreciate some advice on getting Contenders to shoot with lead.
Despite the trouble, I have hunted and bagged a lot of small game the past two years with the 25-20, and I cannot say enough good things about this cartridge. I can hunt anything from tree squirrels to coyotes with the same gun and be neither overgunned nor undergunned.