N140 or N150 for 90s in .223?

Discussion in 'Small Stuff--22s, 20s, and 17s' started by Mike McCasland, Sep 5, 2019.

  1. Mike McCasland

    Mike McCasland Gold $$ Contributor

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    Hey Guys,

    Just picked up a rebarreled .223 for MR F-T/R, and I'm starting load dev again. Rifle has a 28" HV Bartlein with the ISSF/.169 chamber.


    I plan to run 90gr VLDs, 90gr SMKs, or 88gr ELD-Ms behind Lapua brass and CCI primers.


    I've got ~75+ lbs of Varget, and I know that's 'the powder', along with 4895 (which I have none of, and can't seem to find a consistent supply). I'm hopeful to find a good load with Varget, however I never could get it to work to my satisfaction in my last .223 setup for TR.


    That brought me to looking at Vhit powders; they seem to have a very consistent supply here in the states, but I don't know many folks using it (I assume because it's historically been expensive).


    That said, I've done some searching and it looks like N140 and N150 would both work; the VV load data seems to show them both pushing 90s at near identical velocities. My preference would be to grab N150 as I think it'd also be a good option for 200gr bullets in a .308 too, however my main focus is to get something ideal for .223s with 90s.


    Anyone have any thoughts/experience/recommendations with either N140/N150 behind a 90gr class bullet in a .223? Any general ideas on expected velocities? The load data for the long throated 90/223 always seems to be off by a few gr/few hundred FPS.


    Thanks in advance!
    Mike

    Edit: Not interested in the double based N5x series.
     
  2. swadiver

    swadiver

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    can't say about 90 gr bullets, but N140 works very well for me with 80.5 Berger Fullbores in an F/TR rifle. liked it better than Varget or H4895
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
  3. Boisblancboy

    Boisblancboy

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    Can’t help but ask why not just use your health supply of Varget especially since it has proved itself for that particular combo?
     
  4. Mike McCasland

    Mike McCasland Gold $$ Contributor

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    Oh, I'm certainly going to try and get something working with it. That said, I didn't have the best luck with it on my last barrel, and I'm in a time-crunch to find something that works for our state midrange match in a month. Basically just trying to be proactive about backup options.
     
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  5. Boisblancboy

    Boisblancboy

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    Makes sense. I’ve been using H4895 with great results. It’s also been very temp insensitive but I know that doesn’t help answer your question.
     
  6. skiutah02

    skiutah02 Gold $$ Contributor

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    I've tried n150 with Berger 90s recently (discontinued lrbt) and they were very accurate, but couldn't get the speed out of them that varget allows before hitting pressure.
     
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  7. Mike McCasland

    Mike McCasland Gold $$ Contributor

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    How fast could you get them with N150?

    My last barrel was a 4 groove Kreiger, and I couldn't get past ~2770 with a charge of varget that was blanking primers, and killing cases in 3-4 reloads.

    I'm not terribly worried about speed, but do want to make sure they're not running at 2,400 or something crazy low.

    Love the sig line btw. :)
     
  8. Snuggie

    Snuggie F/TR-F/Open Gold $$ Contributor

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    Mike,I’ve shot very consistently with 24.5 gr Varget with the 90 Berger’s. Use a Bartlein 6.5 TW, 30 in 5R. Running about 2750 FPS. Made HM with it 2 yrs ago. Try it!! Good shooting!
     
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  9. skiutah02

    skiutah02 Gold $$ Contributor

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    In barrel that has the 90vld going 2835 and the 90lrbt going 2790 with varget, I could only reach 2714 with near primer piercing. The sweet spot seemed to be 2685.
     
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  10. Ned Ludd

    Ned Ludd Gold $$ Contributor

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    N140 would be predicted to be the better choice for a .223 Rem with 90s. It has a burn rate fairly close to Varget and has relatively small kernels like H4895. According to QuickLoad, I couldn't even come close to getting enough N150 into a case to hit OBT node 4 that I can readily achieve from a 30" barrel with Varget (~2815-2825 fps) or H4895 (~2840-2850 fps). The predicted fill ratio with N150 to hit that same node was 107.5%, and I just don't have enough boiler room for that much powder.

    Part of the problem might be exacerbated with the 28" barrel. Although I am aware that a number of folks successfully use 28" barrels in F-TR with a .223 and heavies, the shorter barrel will require higher pressure to hit the same accuracy nodes. Typically, the velocities where loads tune in won't be too much different for a 28" barrel than a 30". However, the pressure required to reach that node is much higher with the shorter barrel. It can certainly be done, but might make the issue with brass life even worse. Even with a 30" barrel, brass life shooting F-TR loads with the 90s over H4895 at ~2850 fps is quite poor. Varget is a little easier on brass in a comparable setup, at the very minor expense of 20-25 fps velocity. Even though it doesn't seem like much, a couple extra inches of barrel can make a difference if the pressure is right around the point the "straw broke the camel's back", as F-TR .223 loads with 90s often seem to be.

    Having said that, you really shouldn't have any issue developing tuned loads with the .223 and 90s using Varget, N140, IMR4320, or possibly even one or two other powders in that burn rate range. Expected velocities for a tuned load with a 28" barrel should be somewhere in the 2750 fps up to [maybe] 2825 fps range with those powders, some of which will depend on your specific setup and choice of reloading components. In addition, you could almost certainly find slower nodes using the same powders without too much trouble, somewhere in the 2650 fps to 2750 fps range, if desired. I can't imagine you would have any issues at all achieving those velocities with the 90s (i.e. I wouldn't be concerned about 2400 fps slow). In the past I've always run H4895 at the 2850 fps node and accepted poor brass life in exchange for the outstanding performance, but I have to admit that buying a case new Lapua brass every season or two gets old after a while.
     
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  11. milanuk

    milanuk Gold $$ Contributor

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    FWIW, in my experience with QL, it's data for N150 is considerably *off*. It's been (more than) a few years since I actively tried matching up QL's N150 values with the real world, but from what I recall, it was very nearly grain-for-grain equivalent with Varget, both behind a B82BT and a B155.5BT (which probably dates my efforts for ya right there) - while QL treats it more like H4350. I was never going for max speed with either, and a similar amount of N150 certainly required a *long* drop tube and/or some vibratory persuasion to make it all fit. It definitely was bulkier as far as case fill.

    I still have a fair amount of N150, and more recently, N140, whereas my stash of Varget will be pretty much cleared out after this fall's matches. Guess what I'll be tinkering with this winter? ;)
     
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  12. Mike McCasland

    Mike McCasland Gold $$ Contributor

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    Appreciate the insight guys, although it doesn't make the choice any easier.

    I guess it just depends on what bullet this barrel likes. I'm going into load dev putting most of my efforts behind the 90 VLD, however I'm a little gun-shy of them from my experiences on the last barrel.

    I just ordered a keg of N140 and N150; we'll see what we can do with it.

    If I can't get that 90VLD to work consistently, I think N140 behind that 88ELDM will probably be a good combo....ideally I'd have a longer freebore for that bullet, but in lieu of that, I just need more room in the case, and I think N140 will help there.

    Greg - I know you had a bunch of jacket issues with the ELDM (common theme with that line huh? :eek:). These are going through a 5R 1:7, so hopefully that'll mitigate some of it.
     
  13. Ned Ludd

    Ned Ludd Gold $$ Contributor

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    Mike - I have had jacket issues with both the 90 VLDs and 88 ELDMs. In fact, I lost the 88s on a load using Varget at about 2830 fps from 30" barrel, which is where they seemed to want to shoot in my hands. Both bullets have been lost from a rifle with a Bartlein 5R 6.8-twist 30" barrel; I have never lost a .224" bullet from a 7-twist 5R barrel. However, I have been pushing the Sierra 90s and 95s over H4895 from the same 6.8-twist barrel at ~2850 fps and 2750 fps, respectively, without any jacket issues as yet. So I can't claim the other bullet failures were the barrel's fault. I suspect it is more an issue of thin jackets.

    I am currently awaiting my other .223 F-TR rifle that I sent in to have a couple new 7-twist 5R barrels chambered. My plan was to use Varget, N140, or possibly IMR4320, with the 90 VLDs, solely for the purpose of reducing the pressure a bit and improving brass life. IMO - those are the three powders with the best burn rate range and kernel size as potential replacements for H4895. I'll be interested to hear how the N140 works for you, and will certainly post anything I find here once the rifle comes back, which should be in about month or so.

    In your position, I'm certain beyond any doubt you can get the Varget/90 VLD and/or 90 SMK combos to work very well. With the 7-twist 5R barrel, that combo ought to work with the 88s as well, assuming the rifle has sufficient freebore (those 88s have a pretty long bearing surface). So it seems as though you could treat the N140 as an experiment...if it works out well, it's a bonus, but if not, Varget ought to get the job done.

    As far as the QuickLoad files for VV powders, I am aware that N140 and N150 files both seem to have issues. Maybe all the VV powder files do, but I don't have any way to know that. Nonetheless, those are issues that deal with getting predicted velocities to match actual velocities for a given charge weight and setup. Whether powder bulk density has as much to do with those issues as the various burn rates, is another story. It might, or it might not be the issue with the VV QL files. What I do know is that the kernels of N150 are pretty big, which is not my first choice for the small .223 Rem case. In fact, even kernels of Varget are noticeably larger than H4895, which I find to work very well with the small case volume. As long as you can get enough of a given powder in the case to hit your target velocity range without over-pressure or compression issues, the ES/SD values will tell the tale of whether it will work for a given application. If the kernels are too large and/or there are fill issues, they ought to show up as inconsistent ES/SD. So not having reliable QL files for the VV powders is certainly unfortunate, but not necessarily a deal-breaker. N140 seems to tune in almost grain-for-grain with Varget in .308 Win with heavy bullets, so I'd expect it won't be completely out of the ballpark in a .223 with 90s, either. Certainly it's a testable hypothesis, without having to put forth too much extra effort, when you already essentially have "a bird in the hand", so to speak, with Varget. With a new barrel, you ought to be able to test most of this stuff and have a good idea what's going to work optimally by the time the barrel's fully broken in. Because there are quite a few different options, what I would avoid is trying to make something work that clearly doesn't want to. You typically end up with way too many test rounds through the barrel trying to tweak something "just so". In this case, I'd quit experimenting with anything that doesn't look promising straight out of the gate, because I expect at least one or two of the combos will look good right away.
     
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  14. 1911mag

    1911mag Gold $$ Contributor

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    Wow a lot of good input from top FTR guys running 90’s. I have used N150 for 3 years and currently have a 1:7 31” Bartlien barrel and currently avg 2730. I also have a Varget load that works as well. If I go to a big match I use my N150 load.
     
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  15. XTR

    XTR

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    For what it's worth...

    I have shot a lot of N150 in my 308s over the last 4 yrs, and I think it's great for that application, and the loads that I am getting and that others are getting running 200gr bullets seem to be w/i a couple of tenths of a gr of what the Varget shooters are running. (Mid 2600s with ~44.4gr±) BUT in a 308 you are bumping up against 100% fill to get there. N150 is bulky, it takes up the whole case, so I don't think it's going to give you what you want in a 223. I may give it a run and compare it to Varget in mine, but I seriously doubt you can get the standard Varget load of 24.5 gr of N150 in a case and still seat a bullet, and my thoughts are that the velocity will be down..

    I know precision beats velocity, but to run the 223 competitively with the 308s you also need a far bit of both.

    N140 on the other hand might work well, but I haven't tried it.
     
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  16. Mike McCasland

    Mike McCasland Gold $$ Contributor

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    Good intel! Makes me glad I got both. :)

    I got two rounds down the gun before I ran into issues unrelated to the load. That said, there was some tentatively good news on the day; this barrel at least appears faster than my last one. Both rounds were 90gr SMKs @ 2650FPS with 23.5gr of Varget. I'm guessing by the time the barrel speeds up a bit, and I work up to the usual pressures, it'll be north of 2800 with the VLDs.

    I'll make sure to post up the N140 & N150 data once I get the gun repaired and back to testing.
     
  17. Laurie

    Laurie

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    When I first played with 223 and 90s, I tried N540, N150, and N550 amongst others. N540 ran into pressure issues before getting to the MVs I was looking for and there were no outstanding groups. Given this, I'd have doubts about its N140 stablemate giving great results, it being effectively faster burning than 540 despite what Viht says in its product descriptions. With Viht being generally the first powder marque choice in the UK, I know of many people who use N140 in the cartridge with 68-80gn bullets (although I can think of better choices for 80s), but of nobody using it for anything heavier than that.

    My experience exactly. Far smaller groups than with N540, in fact superb groups by any comparisons, but short of legs largely because you can't stuff enough in. I've loaded a lot of N150 in 223 in the past for short-range matches at very modest MVs and had some good results, but with even mid-range F/TR having become ferociously competitive, it's just too low MV these days for most situations.

    N550 which when I started with uber-heavies in 223 was the most heavily recommended propellant by the Canadians (who had more experience with the cartridge than most at the time) produced the right MVs OK, but fell down on the groups for me and was fairly quickly discarded.

    I agree 100% with Monte ('milanuk') re N150 and its 'real' burning speed in cartridges such as 223 and 308, also pretty well with his views on its database values in QuickLOAD (although IME N160 is much, much further 'out' in this respect in the program). It's bulkier though than the Hodgdon / ADI equivalents which you can just get away with in long-freebore 308s, but not in 223.

    If you've got H. VarGet available (as you have in civilised countries, but we no longer do in Britain - thank you EU!) it's bordering on perverse to seek alternatives in the little cartridge with 90s. In point of fact, I preferred Alliant Re15 / Norma 203-B still more, but even in the cool British Isles it proved embarrassingly temperature affected.

    I too went down the 28-inch barrel length in my 223/90 F/TR days with barrel #2 (compared to 31-inches in #1) and much regretted doing so after the fact. Even an extra 25-35 fps MV can prove vital for long-range use.
     
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  18. Mike McCasland

    Mike McCasland Gold $$ Contributor

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    That's thoroughly appreciated, yet depressing feedback Laurie. Such is usually the case with anything .223 in TR. :)

    I'm still going to try it in the .223 anyway; worst case I can just run it in my 308s.
     
  19. Laurie

    Laurie

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    Always worth trying Mike, and N140 is as you say a very useful 308 powder as a fallback. Anyway, the 223 is such an awkward little b*gg*r in long freebore / heavy bullet configuration, you never know for certain what will and won't work in your barrel until you give it a go. :)

    [As a not quite yet certified lunatic, my old F/TR Savage PTA in the too-heavy McRees Precision chassis target stock has been rebuilt as an F-open rifle complete with fat Benchmark 1:7 barrel and barrel-tuner. So, I expect to be starting from scratch again this winter on load development. We've had some potentially highly suitable powders arrive in Europe since my last efforts, notably an Re15 burning rate variant of Alliant Re17, - Nitrochemie's Reload Swiss RS52 - which may prove to be ideal with 80gn and heavier bullets. I always was an optimist, Ha! Ha! :rolleyes: ]
     
  20. Brady W

    Brady W Gold $$ Contributor

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    Hey Mike, interesting quandary you have here. I'll throw in my two cents just in case it helps. Now, a preface: I am a service rifle shooter, so all this may be irrelevant.

    Last year I spun up a 14-6.5 gain twist, 5R, service rifle barrel. It is a 20" finish. I am limited to a 4x scope so I am using a Leupold FX-II with a .75 moa target dot. Last year I shot it for one weekend match with 80.5s and I was happy, this year I decided to try some 90s - I had won 150 from Sierra.

    Talking to Joe Carlos, I started with from 23.8 to 24.1 of N140. Did a test spread with some 'whatever' brass I had laying around and came to 24.0 at 2603 Avg with 8.4 SD, and 24.1 at 2606 Avg with 9.1 SD. Ultimately, I picked the 24.1 because it grouped better, and set off for a match.

    I shot a two day, 4x600 (160 shots for record, 1600 agg). The second day I shot the 90s the whole day, And shot a 792-32X. This was with well used, sorted, LC brass.
    The following weekend I shot the same score, but 36X - but my elevation was better, about 4" at 600 yds. I used new Lapua brass for this run, and I felt really good about it.

    I had good luck seating those at .004" off the lands, but I am going to try to step it in .002" increments, to see if it closes up a bit. If I can improve my ammo and hold just a little bit, this rifle will be an X-ring gun all day long.

    I am liking the N140 and the 90 SMKs, I just ordered more of both. Best of Luck!

    Brady @ Bartlein
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2019
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