By John Taffin
When you shoot jacketed bullets, barrel fouling can occur and there’s not much we can do except just keep shooting — then clean. Cleaning has been made easier in the past few years with the emergence of “miracle” bore cleaners but it’s still a messy, often stinky job.
But the biggest step forward has not been with solvents but, oddly enough, powder. Thanks to Hodgdon’s we can now actually clean the rifle barrel as we shoot. The answer is CFE223 powder, with that CFE standing for “Copper Fouling Eraser.” This powder minimizes copper fouling and actually cleans the bore as we shoot. How’s that again? But it really does.
Here’s what John uses for loading his .223 rifles and pistol. But, it took some tweaking when he
encountered a sizing glitch. Check out how he solved it in the article.
John got the “best groups ever” as he said, from his Mini-14 using Hodgdon’s CFE223 powder.
Maybe you will too.
How’s It Shoot?
For years I’ve been shooting a bunch of .223 rifles; a pair of Ruger Mini-14s, a Ruger Model 77 Compact and a New England Firearms single-shot. All of my reloading chores for them have been accomplished with a set of standard RCBS dies. I often caution anyone not to load up a large quantity of reloads until they actually have the gun they’re going to use the loads in. This was brought home to me again with my latest .223 which I tried to match up with 400 loaded rounds using Hornady, Sierra and Speer bullets. These were not loaded with the AR-style Springfield Armory Saint Pistol on hand, but for my other .223 rifles.
When I tried to use them, all of which functioned perfectly well in the other .223 rifles, I ran into a problem. The round would feed into the chamber of the Saint Pistol, however when the trigger was pulled the result would be a “click” and the round wouldn’t fire. To remove this cartridge from the chamber it was necessary to take the Saint apart.
The solution was a set of RCBS Small Base dies and I added a Lee Factory Crimp die. The problem was solved, and all the new loads using CFE223 powder and the same bullets chamber perfectly. In measuring factory loads, original handloads, and those loads assembled with the new Small Base dies, I found the original handloads to be .0015″ larger at the base than the factory loads, while my new reloads were about a half-thousandth less than the factory loads.
Light and affordable, the New England Firearms single-shot rifle still delivers great shooting,
and seems to like the new “self-cleaning” Hodgdon powder. These are 100-yard groups.
Bullets in the 50-55 grain range are used with 27.0 to 28.0 grains of Hodgdon’s CFE223 powder. These are just slightly under maximum loads and in my 18-1/2″ Mini are in the 2,900 to 3,000+ fps range. The Mini-14s have iron sights so for me at least they are not long-range rifles. However, two excellent loads have proven to be the Sierra 55 HPBT over 27.0 grains of CFE223 for 2,932 fps and the Speer 52 HP with 28.0 grains of CFE223 at 3,082 fps. Both loads put three shots into 0.75″ at 50 yards, which is the best I have ever been able to do with a Mini-14.
The same Sierra 55 HPBT at 3,054 fps in the 22-1/2″ New England .223 puts three shots in 7/8″ at 100 yards, while the Speer 52 HP loads does 3,287 fps and groups in just over 1″.
The Springfield Armory Saint Pistol has a 7-1/2″ barrel and instead of a buttstock, it has a stabilizing forearm brace. It’s been equipped with a Crimson Trace LiNQ laser sight and shooting from the hip with my CFE223 loads at seven yards (sort of “across the living room” distances!) places all three rounds in one hole — or very close to it. Muzzle velocities are about 20 percent slower than those obtained in the Mini-14 so keep that in mind.
None of my .223 rifles using loads with CFE223 powder have experienced any copper fouling to this point. I’m more than happy to forego extensive barrel cleaning, and I know you might find this hard to believe! CFE223 certainly makes my life much easier and it’s a bit of modern powder magic, if you ask me!