Experimenting with Berger 90 LRT in the 223

Bob Roach

Private
Full Member
Minuteman
Jan 1, 2003
169
0
SC MISSOURI
I have a new rifle with a 1/7 Brux 26" barrel, and I was really wanting 90 grain bullets to work in it.

I know you cannot make a 90 grain bullet run fast enough in a 223 to work. I have read that several times. However I am from Missouri, and I need to be shown that it will not work.

I did a lot of reading about 90 grain loads using H4895, RL15, IMR 4350, Varget, N540, N550, and N140. None of them worked real well from what I could find out. IMR4320 got the highest velocity at 2627 fps with cratering at 80 degrees.

Well I am no Rocket Scientist, but it looked to me like H4895, IMR4895, Varget, IMR4350, RL15, N140, N540, and N550 could be removed from further testing. I have complete confidence that the people doing the testing knew what they were doing. This means I would need to look for another thus far untested powder.

That would probably be 8208 XBR, 4007 SSC, IMR7828, H4831SC, and RL17 I would think. Well with some work with Quick Load I determined that none of the above Except RL17 looked like it would work at all. The common problem was not getting enough powder in the case to get any velocity. I did have an issue with Quick Load also causing a glitch. My version does not list the Berger 90 grain Long Range Target bullet that I was planning to use. Working the calculations using the 90 grain VLD the program was showing pressure pretty early.

I decided to give RL17 a try anyway after reading about it's presure curve giving more velocity in small cases. RL17 is a Swiss powder with some different properties from what I read. From my understanding this small stick powder is treated all the way through with a Retarder. The result is a powder that has a very long pressure curve. The main application for RL17 was in the short magnums. It was designed to work in small capacity cases. Well the 223 Remington is definently a small capacity case. Let the Experimenting Begin.

I started my testing very conservative at 23.5 grains of RL17, using Remington BR primers, and Federal 223 cases. My Custom Remington 700 has a <span style="font-weight: bold">long throat</span> on the Brux 1/7 barrel, I was seating the 90 grain Berger Long Range Targets bullets at an <span style="font-weight: bold">OAL of 2.52 which is 20 off the lands</span>. The long throat is a very big deal getting this to work. You need case capacity to put powder in. When using the 90 the bullet is So Long that it is eating up a huge amount of case space unless you have it seated very long. We are talking almost single shot long. My goal was to keep the 90 at magazine feeding length from an AI magazine which is nice and long.
The reading on the Pact XP was not very impressive on the very first shot about 8:00 AM this morning registering a pitiful 2386.8. Well the good news No Pressure Signs, and no flattened or cratered primers.
I had loads worked up in .2 grain increases to 25.3 grains. I figured I would need to quit before I got to that loading.
Well I was wrong the last load clocked 2575 fps, and looked like I could go on up a little more. I was getting lots of velocity spread all the way up that I was not real impressed with.
Back to the house to reload a few more shells.
I dropped back to 25.0, and went up to 25.6 in .2 grain increments. These 4 loads only took me .3 past where I had quit in the morning.
While reloading I got to thinking in an article I was reading about reloading some small capacity Bench Rest/Target cartridges using RL17, they were using CCI 450 Small Rifle Magnum Primers. Well a little more flash, and possibly a harder primer sure would not hurt anything. Lets load a few using 450 primers.

Expecting a velocity and pressure jump with the change to the 450 primers, I dropped the charge back to 25.4, and again worked up in .2 grain increments. Again as I was reloading, I figured I would end up pulling most of these bullets. I reloaded 5 loads using the 450 Magnum primers for the second trip to the range.

<span style="font-weight: bold"><span style="font-size: 11pt">Back to the Range for round II with my second batch of test rounds to test.</span></span>

The 4 loads using the Remington BR primers still were showing lots of velocity spread.

When I changed to the loads with the CCI 450 magnum primers things started to come together.
The first load of 25.4 was not real impressive.
The second loading with 25.6 looked much better: 2670, 2641, and 2662 for an average velocity of 2658 and an extreme spread of 29 fps. Not Bad for a change.
The next load was 25.8, and again was pretty impressive with 2693, 2694, and 2702 for an average velocity of 2696 with an extreme spread of only 9 fps. We were getting flat primers at this point at 65 degrees.
The next load was 26.0 grains which clocked 2712, 2723, and 2714 for an average velocity of 2716 fps and an extreme spread of 11 fps.
The last loading was 26.2 grains and this one exibited quite a bit of spread again with 2765, 2702, and 2727.

The 3 loadings from 25.6 thru 26.0 were very impressive with 3 shot averages of 2658, 2696, and 2716 with extremely low velocity spreads.

Well I got way better results than I would have expected. I also discovered that RL17 seems to like Magnum Primers. Taking into consideration that it was 65 degrees when doing the testing I decided that the lowest acceptable loading was probably the place to start.
I will be loading more 25.6 grain loads using CCI 450 Magnum primers for further testing. As soon as temperatures come up this Summer I think another work up would be in order to see where pressure peaks at around 100 degrees.

I have already ran the calculations in Exbal, and the 90 grain Berger LRT at 2650 fps shoots flatter at 600 yards than my 26" 308 shooting 168 SMK bullets. I can work with that in my Econo Target rifle.

<span style="font-size: 14pt"><span style="font-weight: bold">NOTE: Do Not Use The Loads Listed Above.</span></span> Just because the loads mentioned appeared to be safe in my rifle at 65 degrees, does not mean they are safe in any other rifle, or even my rifle considering I have no Real Pressure testing equipment. Lots of factors affect pressure such as how deeply the bullet is seated in the case. How deep your throat is. The bullet you are using. Moly or Naked. Chamber dimensions, temperature etc. If you decide to give RL17 a try start with light loads as I did, and work up slowly, and vary carefully. In a small case like a 223 I believe a .2 grain increase between loads is plenty.

So far it looks to me like RL17 may have some potential in this application. I believe I will continue to work with this combination of bullet and powder and try and learn more. It would be nice to have a 90 grain load for the 223 that will stay with a 308/168 on Drop & Wind.


Bob





 

SJshooter

BTM FDR
Full Member
Minuteman
Mar 20, 2011
407
0
Maryland
picasaweb.google.com
Re: Experimenting with Berger 90 LRT in the 223

Wow. Impressive. Thanks for all that info. Especially the part about it being flatter out to 600 than a .308 w/ 168 SMKs. Interesting.
 

Run N Gun

Sergeant
Full Member
Minuteman
Nov 18, 2010
181
1
KY
Re: Experimenting with Berger 90 LRT in the 223

hmmm interesting!!
 

Bob Roach

Private
Full Member
Minuteman
Jan 1, 2003
169
0
SC MISSOURI
Re: Experimenting with Berger 90 LRT in the 223

My shooting buddy went to St Louis to the Big 600 Yard F Class Match this weekend. He found out one shooter who did very well was shooting a 223 with 90's in F-TR. My buddy talked with him some. He was loading Aliant Power Pro 2000 MR. With the powder charge quoted I am sure he was shooting it single shot with the bullet seated way out past magazine length. But then again I have never tryed any 2000 to see how it fills a 223 case. It is a newer Hi Performance ball powder from what I read about it. Looked like in between RL15 and Varget, which I would have thought to be a hair fast for 90's in a long barrel 223. It must be working fine for him however.
With some luck, I hope my buddy got some contact info. I only had a couple minutes to talk with him yesterday morning while the wife was toe tapping ready to head to Church. He was in the same shape on the other end of the phone also.

Well looks like I will be building trusses today for another wife project. I need to wait on more bullets anyway before more reloading can be done.

Bob
 

Xcount

Sergeant
Full Member
Minuteman
Jul 31, 2009
332
89
Re: Experimenting with Berger 90 LRT in the 223

I find the whole .223 budget target rifle thing kind of funny. several guys have worn out several barrels and reported the results as less than acceptable compared to .308 but yet others have to try. The big factor that nobody will talk about is pressure. many guys will load the .223 using 90's to use less wind than several .308 loads but when you compare the loads on safe pressure levels the .223 will never shoot better. All the loads that guys use when they want to brag about how great their .223 shoot are unsafe, well I could load an unsafe .308 round and shoot inside a 90 grainer with less critical reloading practices and get less vertical dispersion at 600 and beyond. Your 223 will beat a 168smk, great, but nobody is using a 168smk so what have you accomplished?? run the numbers compared to a Berger 168 Hybrid if you want to begin an apples to apples comparison.

If you are truly trying to build a budget target .223 just shoot Amax 80's. they are cheaper than Berger's or Sierras, they shoot great and you will find a good load in a matter of hours. Then you can actually shoot to learn how to read the wind instead of testing unsafe load after unsafe load. Plus those 90's are going to wear the barrel out much faster than a 308 but nobody wants to consider that point in the budget.
 

heavy barrel

Private
Full Member
Minuteman
Mar 17, 2009
50
1
52
phoenix,az
Re: Experimenting with Berger 90 LRT in the 223

The trick to making the 90's work safely in the 223 is throat length. You have to throat it really long. You have to dedicate a barrel to shooting 90's. I've been shooting Berger 90 vld's for the past year. At this years Berger Nationals I finished 8th in the grand agg, including 2nd on sunday, shooting a 223. I shoot a Savage rifle with the factory barrel that has been throated for the 90's. My OAL is 2.687" including a 20 jam. A loaded round is almost as long as a 308. I use RE15, Wolf sm 223 primers & Lapua brass. I have 10 loading so far & the primer pockets are nice & tight. I shoot 90 VLD's at 2820 fps. If you run the number on JBM you will see the 223 w/90's has an advantage over the 308 shooting 185 Berger's. Apples to apples. Before I started shooting the 90's German told me about his experience with them. But I'm also from Missouri (originally) & had to find out for my self.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Seymour Fish