Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Talk about the AR15 style rifles chambered in 450 Bushmaster.

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Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Hoot » Wed Jul 08, 2015 8:01 pm

The New Kid on the Block
Not to sound like the “Eyes of Age”, but I’ve had the good fortune to have done just about everything I could think of with my 450b and a couple of different barrels to boot. So, when Bartz Manufacturing agreed to let me try their spin on the 450b theme, I figured why not? They assembled a 20” upper from random parts, shot three rounds down the barrel to avoid any embarrassing events and sent it my way for a test drive. Knowing it was on the way, I threw together my best workmanship of a cross section of loads based upon what bullets I have on hand at the moment. I didn’t however do any of my Barnes XPB loads on this first go around. Bartt shipped it on Friday and it arrived on Monday, so I didn’t have time to load up all my favorite recipes, but some offerings were. I decided to use the same 38gr charge of Lil Gun for all the bullets since that charge works well across a wide weight range. Keep it simple ya’ know. Same old favorite Remington 7 ½ primers and 1-fired brass sorted into 5-round lots by length. IE 1.88-1.89, 1.90-1.91, 1.92-1.93, etc. I did that because for all but one of the loads, I knew I would be using the factory taper crimp. It’s been discussed on the forum…
No doubt, the Bartz Manufacturing web page will have better component images soon, but in the meantime, I’ll touch upon them. My Dad always bought the best of anything he got despite being a working stiff. “Better to hurt once since you generally get what you pay for.” Despite the nice hydrographic camouflage receiver and smart charging handle, I was immediately drawn to the EXO Nickel Boron coated Slick Bolt BCA. Now that’s doing it the right way! It looked like bare steel that had gotten a “melt-down” procedure and was slippery to handle. The bolt movement back and forth was still stiff as the gas rings had not lapped their way in yet, but if you took the NiB cam out, it spun like a roulette wheel. In a nutshell, the BCA oozes quality. No errant machining marks and not a single burr anywhere. If you’re used to run of the mill Mil-Spec parts like I buy, this was a pleasant surprise. There was obvious attention to the small things.
Here are some images and I apologize for the lighting. I bought some of those LED bulbs and their spectrum is akin to the sunlight on the moon. No more over-Coppertoned looking pictures that my CFLs made, but I certainly need more experience with the exposure. Come to think of it, I seem to recall having the image color temperature setting in my camera set to incandescent. That probably accounts for the unspectacular color rendering.
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Everything in the pictures are NiB coated except the extractor and the cotter pin. And the barrel extension doesn’t cut your finger when you stick it in there to wipe it out. Again like it got a “melt-down” process. It’s the way I do all my barrel extensions for a smother engagement without giving up any tolerances on the locking surfaces. Quite the contrary with this upper. The bolt fits the right kind of tight in the barrel extension when rotated by hand into the locked.position. There’s a lot of that kind of workmanship throughout the rifle, like it was designed and made by one of us after having owned an original Bushmaster made upper. Not that aerospace precision is needed for ARs to run like clocks, but it gives you the warm fuzzies. Balance is fine by me, but I’m not a weight Nazi. Witness the DPMS SS lower that I use and the shake weights inside the A1 stock. Of course overweight is in the eye of the beholder and his physician. ;) I’m definitely no string bean.
Here are a couple of images of the complete upper wearing my load testing scope (Nikon Monarch 6-24x50). It obscures the picatinny rail portion of the receiver, but if you’ve seen one picatinny rail, you’ve seen them all. Also the muzzle crown and extended Charging Handle, which scope users will appreciate.
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For the first outing / break-in, I loaded the following:
250gr FTX (yellow tips)
225gr FTX
240gr XTP Mag
200gr FTX
230gr FMJ
200 COP gaping hollow points, already loaded, left over from a previous experiment, charge weight unknown.
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So off to the range…
Here’s my setup and a view of the upper mounted on my DPMS SS lower. The digital camo in neat looking. Several other members at the range came over and eyeballed it. I used the black magazine that came with it but there are digital camo ones also, I understand. The ammunition can’t tell the difference.
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OK, so the predictable good loads shot well and bullets I’ve had trouble with in the past shot not so well at 100 yds. The same way they shot in my regular upper. I brushed and patched with Kroil after each shot of the first set which happened to be the 250 FTX. After each cleaning, I shot one junk brass, 230gr FMJ to burn off any remaining solvent after two dry patches. With each load change, I also cleaned, patched and fouled. A lot of up and down at the shooting table. Weather started out with calm wind and about 70 degrees. By the time I finished, it was still calm and 80 degrees. Stifling humidity. :roll:
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Given the foulers patterned as opposed to grouped, as is typical of them, I didn’t know what to expect.
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This is my pet load and I had dialed in the scope.
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No surprise here. Never had spectacular luck with them over 38gr of Lil Gun. Still only slightly over 1 MOA.
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This weight is my whitetail deer hunting load, albeit using Barnes XPB bullets. Not too shabby for a new barrel!
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There a reason behind the lackluster group. I used a stab crimp for these as that works well with them, however I was not aggressive enough with the depth of the stab and the average velocity of only 1900 fps bore witness to insufficient neck tension. Heck, the junk brass foulers which employed a .476 taper crimp shot better with an average velocity of 2350fps. I will not make that mistake when I do more testing with this bullet. Get this! Even at such low velocity and only a 230gr bullet, the Mid-Length gas system kicked every one out and chambered the next! We may have a good compromise between the stock Carbine Length and aftermarket Rifle Length gas systems. On the other end of the spectrum, the leftover 200 COP loads were smoking down the range and not one single ejector mark or head swipe from any of them, nor the other 35 rounds. Did I mention, no FTFs nor FTEs out of any rounds. Not a single hitch in my giddy-up.
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If you recall my work with these last year, IMHO, they are not a good match for this caliber. Probably a wicked 45 ACP bullet though. I’ll give them another at bat soon since I have plenty of them thanks to my Secret Santa.
Here’s the vital statistics for all the loads I tried on this first outing.
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I did a quick bore patch with Kroil when I was done but waited until I got home to give everything a good scrubbing. Much to my delight the carbon deposits so common to the rear of the bolt and inside the BCA mostly wiped off with a paper towel moistened with a little Kroil. A few small spots required my specialized thumbnail tool to scratch off. I forgot to mention that all the BCA related pictures were taken after shooting the 40 rounds and getting back home. They were wiped off with a paper towel.
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A pleasant departure from my phosphated Mil-Spec ones. Even after I had polished them to a mirror finish! I’m totally onboard with this NiB coating process! :thumbsup:
The Bottom Line:
While I have tried two other aftermarket, Rifle Length gas system barrels, they were on my own upper, so I can’t comment on the overall quality of the other brand’s complete uppers that you can buy. I can say that the Bartz Manufacturing 450 Bushmaster upper is built using top shelf components with a definite eye on quality of workmanship and it showed in every aspect of operation. That’s not saying there isn’t room for improvement, but that is more about feature differences from what I’m used to. I really like a forward assist, especially when I just climbed into my stand and hoisted up my unloaded weapon, only to be able to see better around me and there stands a nice buck. I like being able to ease a round quietly into the chamber and then thumb the FA for assurance. Not a deal breaker but certainly an option that should be available. I know a slick side receiver is more rigid, but it’s a trade I’m willing to accept. Second, I’ve had protracted range sessions in the past where it was not unusual to run through 100 rounds in one setting. With my slip-on Limbsaver recoil pad, shake weight recoil impulse stretching system and my brake, I could have easily shot another 100 and been no worse for wear and tear. I understand trying to design with the best chances of having an AR style rifle that can be sold in as many liberal states as possible. That being said, I dearly missed my Ross Schuler Brake. After only 40 rounds, I felt it. Mainly in my cheek, but also to a lesser extent, in my shoulder after hunching down on it in a benchrest posture. I meant to shoot it standing, offhand, but ran out of time. I hear a threaded barrel in their 16 inch model may be in the offing, but I’d like to see that available as an option in the 20” as well. For someone as jaded as me to only be able to come up with two negatives, that’s saying something. I look forward to running many bullet specific load workups in the near future to see not only the sweet spots, but how this platform handles the meaty, beafy, big and bouncy charges. I’ve seen how the Carbine Length system handled the heavy hitters and to a lesser extent, the Rifle Length system, but the Mid-Length may be the middle ground we’ve been looking for.

Stay Tuned…

Hoot
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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Hoot » Thu Jul 09, 2015 8:27 pm

I realize I haven't been as active as back in 2010 through 2012, but it is okay to make remarks or ask questions. Any loads you want to see get an initial run? If I have some, I'll test 'em. Despite the fact that I'm more of a lighter, faster load kind of guy, I can do some heavier stuff as well.

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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Al in Mi » Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:21 am

as always Hoot, nice report.

If I may add as a suggestion to loads, it might be nice to run a group of factory as sorta a "control load" seeing a few guys may not be into reloading their own.

I've been stewing on that hydro color scheme and the more I look at it the more it grows on me!!!!

That charging handle is sweet too!!
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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Hoot » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:10 am

Al in Mi wrote:as always Hoot, nice report.

If I may add as a suggestion to loads, it might be nice to run a group of factory as sorta a "control load" seeing a few guys may not be into reloading their own.

I've been stewing on that hydro color scheme and the more I look at it the more it grows on me!!!!

That charging handle is sweet too!!


The 250 FTX "Yellow Tips" are as close to factory loads as anyone can reload to. Trust me on that. Yes, they clocked a little hot, but I suspect it was the unbroken-in bore and it's resistance contributing to that. As I've said, the 450b craves more pressure. That having been said, I have not had the opportunity to calibrate the 2) 1-pound bottles of Lil Gun that I got and batches can vary in their energy yield. I have a 4lb jug that runs a smidgen hot, which I don't use for bullets 250gr or heavier. Nothing wrong with it other than probably not a good candidate for heavier bullets. That was not what I used though. Judging from my results with the 250gr FTX, which is usually the load I calibrate my new powder with, this new bottle isn't too far from that 4lb jug. Most folks just trust the manufacturer when they buy new powder, but I've seen too much variation in Lil Gun to do that. Since I use QuickLoad for recipe starting points, I have to calibrate the powder characteristics using the results I get from the first time out.

I certainly can re-load some more 250s with a charge that yields velocities about 100fps slower. That would be more in line with results gotten from factory loads. I don't expect the re-do loads to perform differently. In it's defense, the barrel is not broken in yet. On my original 20" Bushmaster bore, it took somewhere around 200 rounds before it was broken in and shot at it's best accuracy level, but it had a chromed bore. I have a cleaning regimen that reduces break-in time, though you spend more time at the cleaning table to achieve that.

So the take-away is that physically, my 250gr loads are as close to factory as I can get, other than the powder factor. I'll re-test with slower when I got to the next phase of testing.

Hoot
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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Jim in Houston » Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:40 am

Great report! Do you get to keep the gun? Just kidding. :-)
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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Hoot » Fri Jul 10, 2015 1:25 pm

Jim in Houston wrote:Great report! Do you get to keep the gun? Just kidding. :-)


Hopefully long enough to test a lot of different load recipes. I haven't really stressed it yet. To that end, that bolt has more meat around the lugs than my stock Bushmaster bolt. That having been said, I've never worried about shearing or cracking a lug in my stock bolt. The AR barrel extension and bolt lug system is a lot stronger than most people think. It would make for an interesting bolt action if it hasn't already been done. Wouldn't take much bolt lift to unlock it. When I had my 300 WSSM AR15, now I worried about the overall stress on that one. That actually used an AR10 type bolt, BCA and barrel extension, along with a proprietary receiver made to fit the AR15 on the outside.

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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Texas Sheepdawg » Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:13 pm

Great report. Good to see ya back in the saddle. Can't wait to see what the FMJ LeGendre crimped loads with my recipe will do. Haven't been able to get any range time down here in TX. Seems to rain every time I get time off to do so. Plus with everything else going on in my world right now, there's just no time.
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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Hoot » Sat Jul 11, 2015 7:34 am

Texas Sheepdawg wrote:Great report. Good to see ya back in the saddle. Can't wait to see what the FMJ LeGendre crimped loads with my recipe will do. Haven't been able to get any range time down here in TX. Seems to rain every time I get time off to do so. Plus with everything else going on in my world right now, there's just no time.


That would be a good one to test as it would establish performance criteria in several areas.

Temps here are supposed to be near 90 all weekend. That's not a good time at the range or me, but it's plenty of impetus to sit in the air conditioned basement and make loads. I'll revisit your thread to get your recipe specifics. I do recall from personal experience that they settle down the faster you clock them.

Stay tuned...

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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Texas Sheepdawg » Sat Jul 11, 2015 7:48 am

Here's a pic of finished product. It's the copper one on the right. The one on the left is the FMJ brass jacket.
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FMJ
image.jpg (107.78 KiB) Viewed 8176 times

While you're at it, try this too at 37.0 grains of LilGun.
image.jpg
200 gr COP with LSC
image.jpg (135.58 KiB) Viewed 8176 times


I haven't had time to test my version. I've been too busy.
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Re: Range Report Bartz Mfg 450b Upper 1st Outing

Postby Hoot » Sat Jul 11, 2015 10:27 am

In the loads in the bottom picture, are they double crimped, or are the lower crimps just scars in the brass from the last time you loaded them? That top crimp looks really heavy!

Hoot

Edit: never mind the observation about the heavy crimps. I just noticed they're not FMJs and you're crimping down into the driving band groove. :roll:
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