Bullet quality is determined by many factors, one of which is weight. When all bullets weigh the same, they are more likely to fly to the same point on the 50 yard target. (I’ve written on this topic before here and also here.)
I recently received 100 sample “green” bullets for testing from Bayou Bullets. These are lead semi-wadcutters (LSWC) of the H&G 68 style that will be familiar to many Bullseye shooters.
The color is from the proprietary coating and lube the manufacturer uses. They say it significantly reduces smoke. In volume, delivered, they work out to about a dime per bullet.
I was interested in them to see if they would reduce leading in the chamber area of my 1911 wad gun. That leading is deposited – I think – when incoming rounds from the magazine carom off the top of the chamber and into firing position. Each time they do so, they leave a small amount of lead which accumulates and, after 70 or so rounds, cause a failure to chamber. So, I scrub the chamber at the end of each match, or else,
Bayou Bullets kindly sent the sample at no charge. This will be my first report on their product. In the future I will be loading up some test rounds to see how they fly at 50 yards. You may look for a future report with those results.
At about the same time as the green bullets arrived, I also came into possession of some Hornady #12108s, another 200 grain LSWC but with a slightly different shape. I found these at a garage sale in the neighborhood. I was one of their first customers and when the seller mentioned “some gun stuff” was still inside, I asked what it was. Most of these items were the kinds of accessories that reloaders buy, try and then use only on rare occasion. I already had most of them.
But there were also a couple of very heavy, unopened boxes of these Hornadys. And the boxes appeared to be in fresh condition suggesting they were a recent purchase. When the seller asked ten bucks a box, I grabbed them up. (That’s a nickel per bullet.)
Later, I found these for sale (but out of stock) for $25.00 per box of 200.
And finally, already on-hand in my reloading supplies is a large cache of bullets from XCaliber. I’ve been loading and shooting these H&G #68 200 grain LSWCs for some time. They cost between seven and eight cents each. (XCaliber is a local manufacturer.)
In summary, then, all three brands are 200 grain lead semi-wadcutters. Two are the popular H&G #68 style and the third is somewhat similar. The Hornady’s were the most expensive at $0.12 per bullet except for my lucky purchase while the Bayou Bullets are $0.10 each and my local XCaliber’s are less than $0.08 per bullet.
I have a number of questions to be answered, one of which is whether or not price indicates manufacturing quality control.
To find out, I drew 100 random samples of each manufacturer’s product and weighted them, bullet by bullet. That was a time-consuming process that included a 30 minute warm up time for the scale, and then checking to be certain the scale “zeroes” between each weighing.
You can see that the XCalibers were the lightest by 3-4 grains and those from Bayou Bullets were the heaviest by about one grain more than the Hornady product.
But the absolute weight is not of interest here. I can adjust my sights up or down for different weight bullets and, as long as that weight doesn’t change, they should shoot to the same point.
What matters is a consistent weight.
To see how consistent they are, we need that strange measurement known as the standard deviation. We want to know how much the bullets deviate from the average, and that’s what the standard deviation will tell us. The smaller the standard deviation, the more consistent the weight.
A small standard deviation is the goal.
Here are the calculated results.
In this table, you can see that the Hornady bullets with a standard deviation of 0.470 are the most consistent in weight even though the range, from minimum to maximum, is larger than those from Bayou Bullets. Apparently there are one or more Hornady bullets that are “out of the norm” that account for that larger range but, by and large, most of them are closer to the average weight than any other brand.
That is what I would have expected based on cost. Generally speaking, the more expensive the bullet, the more consistent the weight.
But the Bayou Bullets product had a standard deviation only a little worse for two cents a bullet less and my local supplier, XCaliber, while the cheapest of the three and having the highest standard deviation, shoots quite well.
The XCaliber product is my “day in” and “day out” Bullseye supplier. They are reasonable in cost, available when I need them on fairly short notice, and for my level of expertise, they fly more than good enough. But they do have that chamber leading problem in my wad gun that I mentioned earlier.
The calculated numbers seem to bear out the adage that you get what you pay for.
But it is quite possible with the equipment most reloaders have on hand to weigh and sort any of these brands down to an extremely low standard deviation by including only those bullets within, say, a tenth of a grain of each other. That’s a time-consuming process but, among the top echelon shooters who make their own ammunition, this is not an uncommon task.
All other things begin equal, however, I’d rather spend a few dollars more and avoid that job for my general recreational and friendly league competitions which constitute 95% of my shooting.
These preliminary results suggest that Hornady’s product should fly the best and be followed in accuracy by the Bayou Bullets and then my hometown XCalibers.
What really matters, of course, will be seen in the target. For that, we will have to wait for live testing at the range.