The Load" is 13 Grains of Red Dot"
By C.E. Harris, Revised 2-16-94
My success in economizing by using up leftover shotshell powder has changed my
approach to handloading. I had a caddy of Red Dot, and no longer reloaded
shotshells, so asked myself, "what can I do with it?" My shooting is now
mostly high-power rifle. I needed several hundred rounds a week to practice
offhand, reloading, and working the bolt in sitting and prone rapid, but didn't
want to burn out my barrel or my wallet. Powder used to be cheap, but today is
$20/lb. (or more), so cost is a factor in component choice.
I used to ignore pistol or shotgun powders in reduced rifle loads for the usual
reasons: the risk of accidental double-charges, fears of erratic ignition, and
concerns with maintaining accuracy, and reduced utility with a low-power load.
Still, the caddy of Red Dot kept "looking at me" from the corner. Would it
work? Looking at data in the RCBS Cast Bullet Manual No. 1 and the Lyman Cast
Bullet Handbook suggested it would, so I tried it, much to my delight! 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.
After considerable experimentation, my friends and I found "The Load" IS 13
grains of Hercules Red Dot, in any FULL SIZED rifle case of .30 cal. or larger.
"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
Within these restrictions I have now engraved in stone, "The Load" works! The
bullet may be either jacketed or cast. Gaschecked cast bullets required in the
.30 cals., otherwise you will get leading, but plainbased 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
(strong-actioned rifles such as the 1886 Winchester or 1895 Marlin -- 12 grs.
is maximum for 400 gr. bullets in the Trapdoor Springfield -- Ed.) Though I
have not tried it, I have no doubt that "The Load" would work well in other
cartridges fitting these parameters, such as the .35 Whelen, .358 Winchester,
.375 H&H or .444 Marlin, based on RCBS and Lyman published data.
"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 handloading! A bulky powder measures more uniformly, because normal
variation in the measured volume represents a smaller percentage of the charge
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 f.p.s. with a 200- gr. cast bullet, 1500 with a 170-gr., or
1600 with a 150-gr. 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 120-150 f.p.s. less than a lubricated lead bullet of the same weight.
Longer-barreled military rifles pick up a few feet per second, but "The Load"
starts to slow down in barrels over 28", such as the M91 Moisin-Nagant and long
Krags or 98a Mausers.
My preferred alloy in the .30 cals. is a mixture of 3-5 lbs. of .22 backstop
scrap to 1 lb. of salvaged linotype. Wheelweights 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. In medium and large bores like the .375 H&H or .45-70, "The
Load" gives typical black powder ballistics for the bore. A 255-265 gr. cast
bullet in the .375 H&H approximates the .38-55 at 1330 f.p.s. Soft 300- 405-gr.
cast bullets are pushed at 1300-1350 f.p.s. from a 22" barrel .45-70, sporter
are very effective on deer at woods ranges. Cast bullets over .35 cal. do not
have to expand appreciably to work well on game if blunt and heavy for their
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 85-gr. or 100-gr. Hornady or 90-gr. Sierra JHP for the .32 H&R
Mag. revolver, or the Remington 100-gr. .32-20 softpoint bullet become mild,
but destructive varmint loads at 1600 f.p.s. from a .308 or '06.
If you substitute a stiffly jacketed 110-gr. .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! A more accurate and
effective small game or varmint load uses a flat-nosed 150-gr. Page Ranking 170-gr.
.30-30 bullet instead. These don't expand at the 1400-1450 f.p.s. obtained
with "The Load", but their larger frontal area improves killing power compared
to roundnoses or spitzers.
I have use pulled GI .30 caliber Ball, and Match bullets with "The Load" for
cheap 200-yd. NMC boltgun practice. Accuracy is equal to arsenal loads, but I
use my 600-yard sight dope at 200 yards. I expect 5-6" ten-shot, iron-sight
groups at 200 yards using M2 or M80 pulled bullets and about 3-4" for the M72
or M118 Match bullets. I use these mostly in bolt-action rifles, but they can
be single-loaded for offhand or slow-fire practice ion the Garand as well.
These .30 cal. pulls shoot fine in the .303 British or 7.62x54 Russian, despite
their being a bit small, because the fast-burning Red Dot upsets them into the
deeper grooves. 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, .303 British and 7.65 Argentine.
The longer bore time of these 1400 f.p.s. (typical 170-180-gr. jacketed load
velocity) practice loads makes errors in follow- through apparent, a great
practice and training aid. The light recoil and lower report of these loads
helps transition Junior tyro shooters from the .22 rimfire to the service rifle
without being intimidated by the noise and recoil.
Zeroing is no problem in the M1 or M14, because "The Load" shoots into the
ten-ring of the reduced SR target at 200 yards from your M1 or M14 rifle at
using your normal 600 yard sight dope! The somewhat greater wind deflection
blows you into the "8" ring at 200 yards with the same conditions you would
expect to do so at 600 yards with M118 Match ammunition. This provides your
Junior shooters some useful wind-doping practice.
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. I shoot them either slow fire, or clip-fed
and flipped through rapid-fire in the boltgun with equal accuracy. 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!
I now realize it is foolish to use heavier charges of more expensive powder for
routine practice, varmint or small game loads in my center-fire rifles. I
seldom shoot at over 200 yards, and don't enjoy wearing out expensive target
barrels unnecessarily. Since I already have good sight dope and need to work
more on technique and save my remaining barrel accuracy life for matches.
I am glad I found the way to get alot more shooting for the dollar. Economical
powder choice IS possible, and my reloading has become less complicated and
more enjoyable simple since I realized I could do most of my rifle shooting
with 13 grains of Red Dot!