Red Dot in Reduced Rifle Loads


"The Load" is 13 Grains of Red Dot" (In most strong-actioned, military rifles of .30 cal. or larger)


By C.E. (Ed) Harris, Revised 2-16-94
Red Dot is bulky, compared to the usual rifle powders used in .30-06 size cases. It occupies more powder space in typical charges than common "reduced load" rifle powders, such as #2400, IMR4227, IMR4198 or RL-7. The lower bulk density of Red Dot adequately addresses my safety concerns because it makes an accidental double charge far less likely.

"The Load" has distinct advantages over more expensive alternatives, within certain limitations, which are:

1. The case must be LARGER than the .300 Savage or .35 Remington.

2. The rifle must be of MODERN (post 1898) design, suitable for smokeless powder, with a bore size of .30 cal. or larger.

3. The bullet weight must be within the NORMAL range for the given cartridge.

4. Inert fillers such as Dacron, kapok or are NOT RECOMMENDED! (Nor are they necessary).

Gas-checked cast bullets required in the .30 cals., otherwise you will get leading, but plain-based ones work fine in the 8mm Mauser or larger.

"The Load" has shown complete success in the .30-40 Krag, .303 British, 7.65 Argentine, .308 Win., 7.62x54R Russian, .30-06, 8x57 and .45-70.

"The Load" fills 50% or more of a .308 Win or .30-'06 case. The risk of an accidental double charge is greatly reduced, because the blunder is immediately obvious if you visually check, powder fill on EVERY CASE, as you should whenever hand-loading! A bulky powder measures more uniformly, because normal variation in the measured volume represents a smaller percentage of the charge weight.

Red Dot's granulation is somewhat less coarse than other flake powders of similar burning rate, such as 700-X, which aids metering. Its porous, uncoated flakes are easily ignited with standard primers. So-called "magnum" primers do no harm in cases larger than the .30-'06, but are neither necessary nor recommended in smaller ones. I DO NOT recommend pistol primers in reduced rifle loads, because weak primers may cause erratic ignition, and their thinner cups can perforate more easily, causing gas leakage and risk of personal injury!

The velocities obtained with 13 grs. of Red Dot appear mild, but "The Load" is no pipsqueak! In a case like the .308 or .30-06, you get (from a 24" sporter barrel) about 1450 fps with a 200gr. cast bullet, 1500 with a 170gr, or 1600 with a 150gr cast load. "The Load" is fully comparable to "yesterday's deer rifle", the .32-40, and provides good expansion of cheap, soft alloys (10-13 BHN) at woods ranges. Jacketed bullet velocities with "The Load" are about 120-150fps less than a lubricated lead bullet of the same weight.

My preferred alloy in the .30 cals. is a mixture of 3-5 lbs. Of .22 backstop scrap to 1 lb. of salvaged linotype. Wheel-weights also work well, as do soft "Scheutzen" alloys such as 1:25 tin/lead. in bores of 8 mm or larger. "The Load" drives soft-cast .30-cal. to 8 mm bullets fast enough to get expansion, but without fragmenting. These out-penetrate factory .30-30 softpoints, and kill medium game up to 150 lbs. well at short ranges up to 100 yards, when placed accurately.

The Load" works well with jacketed bullets, giving somewhat lower velocities than with cast lead, due to less effective obturation and greater friction in the bore. The 85gr or 100gr Hornady or 90gr. Sierra JHP for the .32 H&R Mag. revolver, or the Remington 100gr .32-20 softpoint bullet become mild, but destructive varmint loads at 1600 fps from a .308 or '06.

If you substitute a stiffly jacketed 110gr .30 Carbine softpoint bullet, designed for higher velocities than imparted by "The Load", you have a non-destructive "coup de gras", small game or wild turkey load which shoots close to your deer rifle's normal zero, but at 25 yards! The 173-gr. Match .30 cal. boattail bullets may not shoot as well at these low velocities as lighter flat bases in the 12" twist .308 Win. barrels, but they do quite well in ten-inch twist barrels such as in the '06, 7.62 Russian and .303 British.

The economy of a lighter charge is obvious. A full power .30-06 load using 50 grs. of an IMR powder like 4064 costs 10 cents a pop, just for powder, at 140 rounds per pound (if you are lucky enough to find new powder for $14/lb.). Substituting 13 grs. Of Red Dot gets 538 rounds per pound at a cost of 2.6 cents which is a savings of over $7 per hundred rounds in powder alone! Greater
savings are possible if you get the best price and buy powder by the caddy.

Velocity and point of impact of "The Load" is not noticeably affected by varying powder position in the case. Red Dot is very clean burning and is economical both on the basis of its lower charge weight, and its lower basic cost per pound compared to other "rifle" powders.

Best of all, using a shotshell powder I already have reduces the kinds of powder I keep and eliminates the need for a special "reduced load" powder. This approach is ideal for rifle shooters who are also shotgunners, since almost everybody who reloads for 12-ga. probably has a keg of Red Dot already!

You can safely increase these charges up to 2 grains as needed to get best accuracy, but they will lead above 1300 fps unless gas-checked. Some individual rifles with smooth barrels shoot quite well up to 7 or 7.5 gr of these powders, but best accuracy is usually obtained when velocities are kept subsonic. I generally look for a velocity of 1080 +/- 30 fps These loads will usually shoot 2-1/2" to 3" groups at 100 yards. The minimum safe load which will always exit the barrel for indoor gallery work is about 4 grs. of the above powders.

More caution is required when assembling subsonic loads with jacketed bullets, because there is some risk of the bullet becoming lodged in the bore at near-subsonic velocities. You should not attempt to use less than 6 grs. of the above pistol or shotgun powders when loading jacketed bullets unless you check the bore after every shot and keep your hammer and ramrod handy!