I first heard about Hornady Superformance ammunition and powders over a year ago, when pulling targets at a rifle match. “Word in the pits” was that significantly higher velocities were possible without increased pressures. Naturally, I was interested, if only to have slightly better long-range performance – the main attraction was to try something new and supposedly better. However, I’ve been pretty busy, and wasn’t able to try them out until recently.
Even then, Hornady hasn’t made it easy. There is a decent selection of Superformance ammunition, but official load data for the Superformance rifle powder is very slim. It’ll supposedly work for .22-250, .243, and .300 WSM, but the other calibers they list might as well be .299 Macedonian Hoplite or .17-50 Weatherby BMG Accelerator – the powder as currently marketed doesn’t have a broad appeal. To be fair, Hornady says that the “magic” behind Superformance only works in a few calibers.
I thought I’d try Superformance powder in my .260 Rem-chambered Remington 700 VLS. It has a 26″ barrel, which tends to help me achieve higher velocity numbers when loading with Varget. However, since there was no load data for Superformance in the .260, or any other 6.5, I wanted to be careful.
As for projectiles, I normally use Hornady SSTs – 129gr, for this caliber. In this case, I bought the relatively new Barnes Match Burners, which are lead-core HPBT projectiles from the normally-lead-free Barnes bullet company. At around $27/100, they’re significantly cheaper than Sierra MatchKings ($36/100 or so) or Berger VLDs ($42/100).
These Match Burners are 140gr, which are pretty darn long when it comes to the 6.5/.264 diameter, and have a G1 BC of .586. This would roughly correspond to a G7 BC of around .300, but I don’t know for sure. I’m planning to do more shooting with them – especially since they’re cheaper and my reloading dollars go farther. Their general appearance is more confidence-inspiring than SMKs, even if the uneven meplat on practically every SMK doesn’t affect accuracy. However, for my initial tests, I wasn’t concerned with accuracy, precision, trajectory, or anything but the most basic question every handloader asks when trying a new load.
That question is, of course, “Will this load cause hot, sharp chunks of steel to enter my face at extremely high velocities?” Since there was no load data to work off of, I used Hodgdon’s data for 4831, because 4831 is close to Superformance in terms of burn rate, reduced it, and started from there. Since the load for a 140 was 44gr of 4831, I started with 42gr. I also loaded three each at 43, 44, and 45 grains of powder.
Although only three shots would limit my ability to determine how consistent the powder was with each load, it would give me a ballpark figure – and if I saw problem signs with the lighter loads, such as the hardened steel of my 700’s receiver causing facial disfigurement and/or death, I wouldn’t have to pull down 30 or 40 useless and dangerous handloads.
As it turned out, though, my rifle did not blow up. Nor did I see any of the classic high pressure signs, so I might try pushing it a bit farther. However, I’m not seeing amazing performance so far – the 42gr load averaged 2585fps, the 43gr 2612, the 44gr 2669, and the 45gr 2743. For what it’s worth, Hodgdon says 44gr of 4831 behind a 140gr Nosler Partition is good for 2715fps – no minimum load is listed.
My normal 129gr loads with Varget are in the 35gr range and I see mid to high 2600s with the 129gr SSTs – nothing to write home about, but it’s still a pretty flat-shooting and low-recoiling load. Speaking of that, while Hornady says recoil isn’t any greater with Superformance, basic physics says that a projectile of the same weight fired in the same rifle but traveling at a higher speed will have more recoil than that which is traveling at a lower speed. It might have been because I knew I was shooting progressively hotter loads, but I thought I noticed greater recoil with the 45gr load than, for example, the 42gr load.
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Please be smart when reloading, and don’t kill yourself or endanger your ability to attract a suitable mate – then again, if you’re really dumb and prone to doing things like blowing up your own rifle because you loaded 50 grains of pistol powder in a rifle, maybe you’d be doing the world a favor by not reproducing.