Monday, May 1, 2017

Norma Subsonic-22 LHP Ammunition Test and Review


Subsonic-22, from Norma USA, is a 40 grain lead hollow point load intended for small game hunting and varmint control.  Subsonic velocity makes this round a lower noise option over high velocity ammunition.  This load is also a good choice for use with suppressors.

Norma USA ammunition is produced by RUAG.  RUAG also produces RWS rimfire ammunition.  For those with a keen eye, you can see that the Norma brass cases share the same headstamp as RWS ammunition.  I purchased the ammunition used in this test from Graf's earlier this year.  I believe it was fresh ammunition and should represent inventory currently available at retail locations throughout the US.

Velocity, accuracy, function, and terminal performance testing were all done in a Ruger 10/22 Carbine with 18.5 inch barrel at a distance of 25 yards.  The testing results are documented in the video and data sheet immediately below.  You may need to click on the data sheet image to enlarge it for better visibility.

Direct Link to Video on YouTube





Wrap Up:
Norma Subsonic-22 performed great in this test.  I was well on my way to a one ragged hole 25 yard accuracy test, but blew it on the last shot.  Even with the flier, the group still fits under a dime.

Functionally, this subsonic load had no difficulty cycling the action of my semi-auto rifle. That's good news because not all subsonic rimfire ammunition will function reliably in semi-auto firearms.

Terminal performance was very consistent across all 5 test shots.  Each bullet expanded fully and penetrated to a depth of at least 8.75 inches.

At current prices, expect to pay around 16 cents per round for this ammunition when purchased by the 50 count box.  It's a little cheaper if you buy it by the 10 box brick.  If you are looking for reduced noise small game hunting ammunition, Norma Subsonic-22 should be on your list of ammunition to try in your rifle.  You may get even better results than I did.
          


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Eley High Velocity Hollow LHP 22LR Ammunition Test and Review


Back in January 2016, Eley Ammunition announced three new 22LR products.  For the rimfire competitor, Eley Force and Contact.  For the rimfire hunter, High Velocity Hollow small game hunting ammunition.  At the time, I made a mental note to give High Velocity Hollow a try in the gel to see how it performed as compared to Eley Subsonic Hollow.  I was curious to see the performance differences in the areas of accuracy, velocity and terminal expansion performance.

I recently had the chance to test High Velocity Hollow with some samples provided to me by Eley USA.

Velocity, accuracy, function, and terminal performance testing were all done in a Ruger 10/22 Carbine with 18.5 inch barrel at a distance of 25 yards.  The testing results are documented in the video and data sheet immediately below.  You may need to click on the data sheet image to enlarge it for better visibility.

Direct Link to Video on YouTube



Wrap Up:
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I was really curious to see the performance differences between High Velocity Hollow and Subsonic Hollow.  You can refer back to my previous test of Subsonic Hollow HERE.

High Velocity Hollow runs about 200 fps faster than Subsonic Hollow when tested in the same rifle under similar conditions.  Eley publishes a velocity specification of 1250 feet per second for this load which falls in the ballpark of what US consumers expect from high velocity rimfire ammunition.  My velocity measurements came in quite a bit lower so I asked Eley about it.  I learned they establish their velocity in 23 inch test barrels with chronograph screens positioned at the muzzle.  My data was generated with a much shorter 18.5 inch barrel and chronograph screens positioned at 25 yards. Knowing this, it's understandable to see velocities in the 1100 fps range.

In my rifle, accuracy with this load was minute of quarter.  It didn't appear to be as accurate as Subsonic Hollow, but I've changed my accuracy testing from 5 rounds to 10 so it's not a perfect comparison.  At 25 yards, point of impact shift between the two loads was small so switching between the two shouldn't require re-zeroing of sights and optics at this distance.


I found on target terminal performance was the most notable difference between Subsonic and High Velocity Hollow.  As you can see in the image below, the extra velocity really helps the 40 grain soft lead hollow point expand, and still penetrate to a slightly greater depth than Subsonic Hollow.


Functional performance in my rifle was perfect through the testing.  I didn't experience any failures to feed, fire, or extract.

For small game hunting and varmint control, Eley High Velocity Hollow delivers higher velocity and enhanced terminal performance over Subsonic Hollow.  For those that prefer Eley ammunition, this new load is definitely worth a look, and test, in your own rifle.  Eley High Velocity Hollow is currently available at many retailers that stock Eley brand ammunition.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Aguila and CCI - Standard Velocity Shootout


I've long considered switching from 22LR high velocity ammunition to standard velocity match ammunition for speed steel competition.  While most wouldn't consider the recoil of 22LR ammunition as a detriment to fast shooting, I've done enough side by side comparison testing to know I can "feel" the difference between standard and high velocity ammunition.  With competitions won and lost by tenths of seconds, anything that allows me to get back on target faster is something I'm interested in exploring.

If you are new to the world of 22LR ammunition, here's a ballpark overview of the 22LR velocity continuum.  It's not exact, and you will notice that the ammunition types may overlap at the ends of their velocity range.  Let's just call this my interpretation of 22LR ammunition I've seen available recently with a little bit of 22LR SAAMI specification review thrown in for good measure.
     Subsonic  usually less than 1080 fps
     Standard Velocity between 1050 fps and 1125 fps  
     High Velocity  between 1150 fps and 1300 fps
     Hyper Velocity over 1300 fps

As 22LR ammunition supply has started to catch up with demand, two of the more widely available standard velocity loads are produced by Aguila and CCI.  CCI Standard Velocity is a favorite of many shooters and has been for many years. Aguila Super Extra is comparatively new to me.  I honestly can't remember ever seeing the Aguila ammunition brand until about 5 or 6 years ago. Earlier this month I purchased a brick of each and decided to do a little testing to see if either brand performed noticeably better than the other when tested in firearms similar to those I use for speed steel competition.


At this point, I feel compelled to state the obvious.  These tests were funded entirely by me. The tests were conducted as stringently as possible to control variables that were under my control.  The test results are representative of the performance differences I noted when testing TWO SPECIFIC SAMPLES of ammunition purchased at retail level. The results are not intended to be interpreted as representative of their respective brands, or even other samples of these specific ammunition products.  I have no vested interest in the outcome of the tests other than my own knowledge and satisfying my curiosity.


My test firearms were previously used by me in speed steel competitions.  High power scopes were added to facilitate more precise shooting.  Both scopes were dialed up to 16x magnification for the tests.  Rifle barrel length 16.5".  Pistol barrel length 4.5".  All shooting was done from the rests shown in the photo above.


Targets were set at 25 yards.  A chronograph was positioned 10 feet in front of the muzzle to capture the velocity of each test shot.

The velocity data summary and test targets are all displayed below.  Three rifle test groups were shot on the bottom targets and a single pistol group was shot on the top target of each page.  The groups are labeled for your convenience.









It might be tempting to rush to judgement based on this comparison test, but we also need to consider functionally reliability.  I actually worked on this project over two days. On day one, I sighted in the scopes.  I quickly discovered the trigger installed in my rifle was giving me light strike failures to fire with both ammunition types.  More frequently with the Aguila than the CCI.  I recovered a few of those rounds and included a picture below.


I swapped out the trigger with another I had on hand before returning to the range to conduct the actual testing.  Replacing the trigger resolved the light strike "problem" with both ammunition samples.  Clearly, this wasn't really a problem with the ammunition, but rather my test firearms.  It does illustrate the importance of testing ammunition in YOUR specific firearms before you rely on it for competition.

Similarly, your personal pistol and rifle barrels may give you better, or worse, groups than I managed in my testing.  My take away from this testing was confirmation that Aguila Super Extra SV groups really well from Tactical Solutions X-Ring rifle barrels.  This is something I initially discovered during my accuracy testing with the Ultimate Lightweight Small Game Rifle.


I'm currently working my way through my last few cases of Federal Champion AutoMatch.  Before that supply is gone, I'm going to do some additional testing with Aguila Super Extra SV in my current competition firearms to make sure it's 100% reliable. If it is, I anticipate making the change to use Super Extra SV as my practice and competition ammunition.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Fiocchi Subsonic Hollow Point 22LR Ammunition Test and Review


The next stop in my search for 22 LR subsonic small game hunting ammunition brings me to Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics 40 grain lead hollow point.  You can currently find this ammunition for about 10 cents per round at various on-line ammunition retailers.  This ammunition is made in the USA by Fiocchi of America in Ozark, Missouri.

While very familiar with Fiocchi centerfire ammunition, this was my first opportunity to gel test their rimfire ammunition.  The ammunition tested was purchased in 2017 so it should represent current production ammunition available on retailer shelves as of the date of this test publication.

Velocity, accuracy, function, and terminal performance testing were all done in a Ruger 10/22 Carbine with 18.5 inch barrel at a distance of 25 yards.  The testing results are documented in the video and data sheet immediately below.

Direct Link to Video on Youtube



Wrap Up:
In the video I just couldn't keep myself from using the word "consistent" as I described the performance of this ammunition.  25 yard velocity was right on target with the 1050 feet per second muzzle velocity published for this load.  Across all test shots, the ammunition reliably fed, fired, extracted, and cycled the action of the semi-auto test rifle. The terminal performance was very good with all bullets expanding to at least 1.5 times starting diameter and penetrating between 9 and 10 inches.


Practical accuracy is what sold me on this load.  The 25 yard ten shot test group measured .439" and can be easily covered with a dime.  Accuracy performance may be different from other rifles, but the field-grade Ruger 10/22 used for this test seems to like it very much.

 
I recently completed building and reviewing my ultimate lightweight small game hunting rifle.  I was a little disappointed in the accuracy results I achieved with this rifle when testing various subsonic ammunition during the review.  I had to chance to run this load through the rifle several weeks later and was very pleased with the performance. Shooting standing off hand from 25 and 50 yards, I ran a 10 round magazine through the rifle at both distances.  All 20 bullets found their mark on the steel plate, so the 16.5" Tactical Solutions X-Ring barrel also seems to like this load.  I think I have found my new small game hunting ammunition.

If you are looking for a subsonic small game hunting load, you should definitely check out the Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics 40 Grain Subsonic LHP.  



Friday, February 24, 2017

Ultimate Lightweight Small Game Rifle



The idea of building the Ultimate Lightweight Small Game Rifle (ULSGR) was hatched last year as I worked through the process of building two race rifles for NSSF Rimfire Challenge and Steel Challenge competitions. After a few false starts, and money down the drain, I landed on a combination of parts that proved to be very light in weight, but still delivered the functionally reliability required for serious timed competitions.

Purpose built for small game hunting at ranges of 25 yards or less, I wanted to build the lightest possible rifle that would function reliably with a variety of ammunition ranging from subsonic to supersonic velocities.  Avoiding the additional weight of add-on optical sights, the rifle would be fitted with windage and elevation adjustable open sights.  It would be built from "match grade" components, and be capable of shooting sub 1 inch 10 shot groups from a bench at 25 yards with ammunition it preferred.

I knew I could complete the ULSGR rifle with a total weight of less than 4 pounds, including a sling and magazine, if I followed the basic recipe I developed for my race rifles.  I set my stretch goal at 3.75 pounds and set about ordering new parts and re-purposing existing parts that I had accumulated during previous builds.  With specific colors in mind, it took several months to get everything I had in mind in all the right colors I wanted.

Completed rifles weighs 3 pounds 10 ounces

Parts List:

After a few false starts on previous builds, caused by not having all the required parts to complete a rifle, I've gotten much better at ordering all the required parts.  If you follow this parts list closely, you should have everything you need to build a complete rifle.

Trigger Assembly - Ruger BX Trigger
Stock - Knoxx Blackhawk! Axiom Coyote Tan
Receiver - Tactical Innovations Elite22F Flattop Matte Black (requires FFL transfer)
Barrel - Tactical Solutions 10/22 Open Sight Threaded Barrel Matte OD Green
V-Block - Tactical Solutions Performance
V-Block Cap Screws (2) - Tactical Innovations Blue
Bolt - Tandemkross "Krossfire"
Bolt Handle - Tactical Innovations Skeletonized
Recoil Buffer - Tandemkross "Shock Block"
Receiver Cross Pins (2) - Tactical Innovations Stainless
Takedown Cap Screw - Tactical Innovations Stainless
Sling - Ten Point Gear Tan/Green Camo
Magazine - Ruger BX Clear

If you went parts shopping today, it would cost around $750 plus shipping and transfer fee to pick up everything on the list.  Watching for sales and free shipping offers might knock a few dollars off the total.  It's not a cheap build, but I can't think of a single thing I would change about the rifle.  There isn't any room for functional or weight reduction improvement.  Also of note, the barrel is threaded just in case the process of purchasing a noise suppressing muzzle attached device is simplified in the future.   

Question Everything:

In my quest to reduce weight, I did comparison testing with several different rifle components after they arrived.  This was more for my own knowledge than anything else.

The first was the receiver.  The Tactical Innovations machined aluminum receiver was nearly an ounce lighter than a standard Ruger 10/22 cast aluminum receiver.  It was also much smoother inside and features a hole in the rear of the receiver where a cleaning rod can be inserted for breech to muzzle cleaning if you wish to do that.


I really like the Volquartsen TG2000 trigger group.  I've been using them for years in several different rifles.  I initially planned to use green one pictured for this rifle.  Before making my final decision, I compared the weights of the Ruger BX trigger and TG2000. Since this will strictly be a hunting rifle, I opted to go with the BX trigger and shave about 2.5 ounces off the build weight.  

The last comparison I wanted to share was the weight difference between the clear and black Ruger BX magazines.  I've always suspected the clear magazines weighed less than the black magazines. They "feel" lighter when you handle them.  Taking two brand new magazines out of the factory packaging, it was neat to see my suspicions were correct.  The clear magazines are 10% lighter than the black magazines.


Assembly:

The most difficult part of assembling the rifle is fitting the barrel.  If you came to the blog to read about the rifle then you are seriously interested in learning more about it, or possibly considering building your own rifle one day.  This video is for you.
 

The rest of the assembly process was very easy.  No additional fitting of parts was required.  A small drop of blue Loctite was required to keep the thread protector from loosening during firing.

On The Range:

As I anticipated, the rifle proved to be a flawless performer on the range.  It chewed through mounds of subsonic, standard, and high velocity ammunition with equal gusto. After two trips to the range, and several hundred rounds of mixed ammunition, I experienced my first failures to eject spent cases with standard velocity ammunition. After a good cleaning, it performed flawlessly again on the next trip to the range.

The 2 pound 10 ounce pull weight of the Ruger BX trigger and fully adjustable open sights both contributed greatly to accurate off-hand shooting at targets out to 50 yards.  The rifle is a plinker's dream come true and several hours of trigger therapy were undertaken in pursuit of this review.  As documented in the video, I had a great time "hunting" my steel critter targets and can't wait to get this rifle out in the woods next Fall.  

Velocity and accuracy testing was done on a portable bench using Caldwell's new Stinger rifle rest.  10 shot velocity averages were captured at 10 feet with a target placed at 25 yards.  The rifle clearly had preferences for some specific ammunition brands and loads over others.  The best groups came from both standard velocity lead round nose and high velocity hollow points.  All of the ammunition used for testing was of good quality, and represented ammunition most commonly used for small game hunting.

My only disappointment, from the range time spent with the rifle, was that I didn't find a good subsonic ammunition choice for the rifle.  I've got others available for testing, but it would have been great if one of the three varieties tested performed as well as the high velocity Mini-Mags.




Finishing Touches:

My initial thought was to use a basic 1" wide nylon web sling for the rifle.  As I was shopping for that sling, I happened to see these paracord wrapped slings.  Available in several different color patterns, this one caught my eye and I made the purchase even though it was contrary to my overall goal of minimizing weight.  I thought it just looked perfect for the rifle so a compromise was made.  It looks great and is perfectly functional even if it does add a couple extra ounces to the final rifle weight.



After my discovery that clear BX magazines weigh less than black BX magazines, I opted to use a clear magazine with the rifle.  I'm not really sure where I initially saw the reference, but I discovered that clear BX magazines can be dyed with common RIT dye.  Using a bottle of Rit DyeMore Sandstone, I ended up with two clear magazines with a rootbeer tint.  More fitting for a hunting rifle.  It doesn't make the magazines special in any way other than I can tell at a glance they belong with the ULSGR.  It was also a fun add-on project with the rifle build.


I'm very pleased with my finished rifle (as if you couldn't tell by now).  I hope the closing photo gives you some perspective on how light the rifle really is.  The partially filled half gallon water jug weighs exactly the same as the rifle.  Sling the rifle over your shoulder and you can easily forget you have it with you as you cross hill and dale in pursuit of small game.  I could have built it cheaper, but I really don't think I could have built it better.  It's a rifle I'm proud of and will enjoy for many years to come.

Total rifle weight is the same as the partially filled water jug.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

22 LR Ammo Test - CCI Subsonic 40 Grain HP



This CCI load is intended for small game hunting.  Running at subsonic velocity from rifle length barrels, this load eliminates the supersonic "crack" that comes with bullets traveling at higher velocities.  This make it an ideal ammunition to use when you wish to minimize your noise footprint in the woods.

Occasionally, subsonic ammunition doesn't generate enough recoil energy to operate a semi-auto rifle.  In my testing, I had no issues with the ammunition failing to cycle the actions on two different semi-auto rifles. 


For my evaluation, I performed accuracy and velocity testing at 25 yards using a basic Ruger 10/22 rifle with 3-9 power scope.  Gel testing was done at 25 yards with the Ruger 10/22 and also another semi-auto rifle with a short barrel and suppressor. 


Overall test results were good.  It would have been nice to see a tighter group on our test target, but not all rifles like all ammunition brands equally.  Luckily for us there are many different ammunition options available so we can find what works best in our specific rifle.

Velocity was right on the mark with manufacturers specification, and on target kinetic energy at 25 yards appears sufficient to humanely harvest small game quarry.

With regard to the one bullet that failed to expand, I'm left scratching my head as to why. Logically, you would expect a bullet travelling faster than a bullet that successfully expanded would also expand. As we saw in this test, gel testing can yield results that defy logic.  For me, that's part of what makes testing so interesting. 



My Thoughts:

CCI Sub-Sonic functions reliably in my semi-auto rifles.  It's accurate enough to meet my needs for small game hunting with iron sights at ranges out to 25 yards.  It is noticeably quieter than using high velocity ammunition and does not appear to sacrifice terminal performance at the lower velocity. One other thing to like about this load is the price. When you can find it in-stock, it's usually at a retail price of $9.00 per box of 100.

This load has been a staple in my ammunition cabinet for many years, but I've never had a chance to gel test it.  What I observed in the gel tests match what I've seen when using this load for small game hunting.  It's a good one.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Umarex Octane .22 Pellet Testing


I've had a Umarex Octane 22 pellet rifle for quite some time.  I initially purchased it during the Winter of 2013-2014 when I was going full tilt with centerfire ammunition gel testing on my other blog and YouTube channel.  That winter was pretty brutal for this area and I didn't get a chance to test very much so I thought I could bring my testing indoors and run some pellet tests in my basement.  I got a couple tests done and must have gotten distracted by something else, or maybe the weather got better.  Regardless, I've been sitting on a small tote of several varieties of pellets that I've never tested in my rifle.

Spin the clock ahead to a couple weeks ago when a friend posts on Facebook that he recently purchased a Umarex Octane 22 for pest control around his home.  I said, "Hey I have one too".  He says "What pellets does it like"?  I suddenly realized I had no idea. With that casual reminder, I thought I better get the old Octane out the range and get some testing done.

The mission was pretty simple.  .22 pellets come in many grain weights ranging from about 10 to 25 grains.  I had bunch of different pellets that fell in the middle of that range so my initial focus was on pellets in the 14 to 16 grain range.  I initially had a red dot optic installed on the rifle, but the stock on the Octane allows for a great cheek weld for the iron sights.  Add an optic and your cheek weld becomes a jawline weld.  I opted to go with the excellent fiber optic open sights with targets set at 25 yards.  Shooting was done seated behind a table with the just the forward elbow on the table.

I slowly worked my way though 7 different varieties of pellets I had available.  The targets appear in the order they were shot.  For each page of targets, I started with the upper left target and moved around the page clockwise.

In my specific rifle, the Crosman Piranha turned in the best group.  Crosman Powershot Penetrators weren't too bad either.  I guess my Octane is a cheap date because she seemed to prefer the mass retail pellets over the specialty brands from abroad.  She really didn't like the Gamo round balls based on my group size.  If you want the specifics on the pellets tested, you will have to click on the pictures so they enlarge.  At full-size you can see most of the details on the label of each pellet tin.    



With a clear winner in the Piranha, I wanted to make sure my group wasn't a fluke or just some lucky shooting.  Using one of the target holder clothespins as my skill shot target, I took one more 25 yard shot and broke the clothespin.  It's not a fluke.  My rifle likes Piranhas.  So I'll be getting a few more tins in case I ever have the chance to get the rifle into the field for some small game hunting.

Hey Billy, my Octane likes Crosman Piranhas.  You can get them just about anywhere.