Scary experience with HSM ammo
See update at bottom.
I was at a machine gun shoot over the weekend. I took my 1886 Winchester to zero after installing the Providence Tool Company sight. I plan to have Scalisi Shooting Specialties custom load some ammo for me for that rifle, but in the mean time I planned to zero it with some 400 gr soft-point HSM loads that I picked up a while back from Wild West Guns. I figured it would give me a chance to burn up that ammo.
The range was a little over 300 yards with a 20 foot tall berm at the end. After the event ended for the day, I set up a target at 175 yards and began to zero, with someone spotting rounds for me. I fired a couple rounds and got it zeroed in close, then fired one that was just over the target. The spotter couldn’t quite tell how far over that one hit, so I fired again with no adjustment. This round fell short, but I was confident in my sight placement on both shots. Recoil on all rounds fired so far seemed slightly inconsistent.
I told my spotter that I was confident in my shots and that I would fire another round. When the trigger broke the rifle slammed my shoulder with substantially more recoil than I had ever experienced with a .45-70. It seemed like double the recoil of previous shots. The lever smashed into my fingers. The round struck the berm (over 300 yards out) about 10 to 15 feet up. I don’t know what kind of velocity increase it takes to cause a 400 grain .45-70 bullet to shoot that much flatter, but it must be substantial. The shooters on each side of me turned to me and said, “What was that!?” After my heart slowed, I put that ammo away, checked the rifle, and finished my zero with a few rounds of Winchester ammo I had left, which shot very consistently.
It is fortunate that I was shooting an ’86 Winchester, which is the strongest traditional lever-action design. Had it been a Marlin, which cannot handle the pressures that the Winchester can, or another type of rifle, results could have been worse.
I will be contacting HSM about this and will report the results, but it will take a lot for me to ever be comfortable shooting their ammo again.
It has been over two weeks, and I have not received any response or acknowledgement from HSM. I am beginning to feel that they may care no more about me than about the safety of their ammo . . .