Match -vs- Bulk Pistol Ammo: Does it Make a Difference?

Flying blind. That’s a fair description of my pistol accuracy evaluation until this point. Here’s some things I have thought more than once: Is my handgun sighted in? I think so. Is my handgun grouping well? Either it isn’t, or I’m having a bad day, not sure.

All that has changed in the last couple weeks! In that time, I obtained a Ransom Pistol Rest, welded up a sold stand for it, and added a permanent pistol evaluation shooting bay in my shop. So far, I’ve tested my Glock 20, a 1911 pistol, and two S&W 629 revolvers with my Ransom Rest. I’m totally hooked! Now I can answer questions about handgun mechanical accuracy, evaluate factory ammunition, test my handloads, and more. This is awesome. In this article I’ll share some of the first results from testing with this new setup!

Setting Up the Ransom Rest

Overkill. That’s the name of my game! When I looked at setting up the Ransom Rest, I envisioned a dedicated space for shooting/testing (with purpose built backstop), a welded steel stand/base, and related storage/filming optimizations. It all worked out quite well! I used the end of one of my shop containers to offer an “open door and shoot”  optimized workflow, and even put some lights in place to help balance the indoor/outdoor lighting situation.

With the custom-built stand screwed down to the floor (I’ll be switching to lag bolts and hold-down clamps to allow rotation) this is a solid and versatile setup.

The Test Scenario

For this round of testing, I wanted to undergo an initial exploration of the following topics:

  1. For a factory revolver, does match ammo make a difference? (match ammo -vs- progressive loaded ammo)
  2. Would my 4″ S&W 629 shoot any different than my 6″ S&W 629? (particular ammo shooting better in one, worse in the other)

Here’s a picture showing the two revolvers side by side:

At left we have my custom 6″ full-underlug S&W 629 (the only customization is the black IONBOND finish), and on the right side we have my bone-stock 4″ S&W 629, my backpacking carry weapon until getting my S&W 329 PD.

Test Load and Loading Setups

The primary test ammunition for progressive-vs-match ammo was a load that shot very well in initial testing:

Use load data at your own risk. Ultimate Reloader is not responsible for errors in load data on this website. Always cross-reference load data with manufacturer’s published data.

The Match ammo loading setup was as follows:

Pictured above:

  • Lyman Brass Smith All-American 8 turret press (with RCBS expander, LEE seater, LEE factory crimp die)
  • Lyman Brass Smith Powder Measure
  • Lyman Brass Smith Beam Scale
  • RCBS powder trickler

And for progressive loading, the following equipment was used:

Shown above, a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP 5-station progressive press with the following die-station utilization:

  1. Empty (no sizer, new brass)
  2. Expander
  3. Powder charge
  4. Bullet seating
  5. Bullet crimping

The same bullet, same load, same bullet seating depth, and same crimp was used for each loading setup to ensure a “close as possible” equivalency for the ammo loaded with each setup.

Ransom Rest Testing

Each pistol was setup in the Ransom Rest, and was shot approximately 10 times to allow each revolver to “settle into” the rest inserts. Before installing each S&W 629 into the rest, the grips were removed:

6″ S&W 629 Installed in Ransom Rest:

After settling in shots were fired, strings of 5 shots were fired (all shots were fired at 19.0 yards). I was VERY careful to reset the revolver and rest the SAME way each time (pressing on the rest, not the revolver), and was very careful to actuate the trigger release the same way each time. I fired about 200 rounds in order to get fully familiar with the Ransom Rest, and to perform the testing.

Initial Results: Match -vs- Progressive Ammo

I consider these initial test results to be narrow in scope, and subject to further testing. The data here told me some valuable things about my ammunition any my revolvers, but a lot more testing could and will be done in this problem domain!

Here’s the summary data:

My conclusion? For my S&W 629 6″ revolver, the progressive loaded bulk ammo performed just as well as the match-grade handloads. I had wanted to get chronograph readings to compliment the accuracy data, but my Magnetospeed V3 refused to cooperate. More on that next time!

Initial Results: 6″ -vs- 4″ S&W 629

I did most of my testing with the 6″ 629 for this story, but I did “cross reference” some loads in the 4″ 629, and the results were not quite what I expected.

A couple things stood out here:

  1. The 4″ 629 wasn’t as accurate as the 6″ 629 overall
  2. The 4″ 629 seemed to prefer 240 grain XTP bullets rather than the 265 grain Interlock bullets

However, I think I’ll do more testing after a deep cleaning of this 4″ S&W 629. I’m not sure if that will make a difference, but it’s one more thing that I can test with this new Ransom Rest- how does cleaning affect accuracy for revolvers? I’ll have to find out!

I have a lot more testing to do, but this first round of testing has been both interesting and fun. Are you wondering about a particular aspect of handgun accuracy? Please drop a comment!

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3 thoughts on “Match -vs- Bulk Pistol Ammo: Does it Make a Difference?”

  1. I would like to see a comparison between factory target ammo and your reloads with different powders and different cast bullets.

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