Which allows the smallest groups "tumble lubing" or conventional "lubing"?

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  • Last Post 16 March 2023
John Alexander posted this 21 February 2023

Tumble lubing with Lee Liquid Alox, or similar liquids, is popular. But lots of shooters would rather "lube" only in the grooves, usually with a lubrisizer.  

Many of posters to this and other forums have said that one or the other produces results satisfactory to them. But which is better?

I suspect that with a good pistol and otherwise good ammo, either method produces groups smaller than 99% of shooters can shoot.  But what about a high quality rifle shooting from a bench? Is one method better?  That seems like a question that serious shooters should be trying to answer, especially shooters who enjoy competition. These obsessed guys do the most far fetched nit picking in hopes it will give them a tiny edge.  Are they missing out by not using tumble lube?  

A few years ago I polled competitors at our national match about their equipment and ammo.  On lubes --  79% used a lubrisizer, 7% of those also applied a tumble lube. It wasn't clear what the other 21% were doing. None admitted to using only tumble lube or no lube. Does this mean that tumble lube alone doesn't produce competitive CB ammo.  I doubt it. 

Do we know which is best.  What do we know?  Who has run some tests to find out?

John

 

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Ross Smith posted this 21 February 2023

I wouldn't lube at all if I could get away with it. I think as long as the lube is not excessive and causing to much fouling you are OK.

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RicinYakima posted this 21 February 2023

John,

There is a tremendous difference in "tumble lube" processes.

Most folks that use a lube and sizer, size to a fix diameter and lube some or all of the grooves depending up design. 

Some folks tumble lube so that it looks like the bullets have cancerous growths all over the bullet. Some thin it down to 25% and it is hard to tell it has any. Then they size and / or seat gas checks and maybe lube again. 

I would be very interested if someone who has shot benchrest would even tell me how they tumble lube. \

Ric

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Bud Hyett posted this 21 February 2023

I agree with Ric, this is hard to compare due to the variety of techniques for each method. My thought is each technique is stand-alone. As the shooters using powder coat advance in their knowledge and share this knowledge, powder-coat may eventually supplant the grease and paper-patch methods. I look forward to the reports of their experiments and may eventually convert to their way.

  • There is a tremendous difference in "tumble lube" processes. - Yes, this makes the design of the experiment to compare extremely difficult. 
  • Most folks that use a lube and sizer, size to a fix diameter and lube some or all of the grooves depending up design. - Even here, the traditional way has too many factors for an easy design of experiment. 
  • Some folks tumble lube so that it looks like the bullets have cancerous growths all over the bullet. - A variable that is again hard to standardize. How does the coating become consistent from shot to shot? 
  • Some thin it down to 25% and it is hard to tell it has any. Then they size and/or seat gas checks and maybe lube again. - This is another variable.
  • I would be very interested if someone who has shot benchrest would even tell me how they tumble lube. - To standardize the results, these may have to be shot side-by-side to level out temperature and wind conditions. 

Farm boy from Illinois, living in the magical Pacific Northwest

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TRKakaCatWhisperer posted this 21 February 2023

add to the list the processes of lubing by putting the bullets into a tray adn pouring the lube into the tray to harden OR dipping the bullet into the same type of lube and putting onto a tray.  THEN sizing (or not).

I use the dip method and push through size to strip off the excess lube.  I aslo use the tumble lube and push through sizing.

 

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Shopdog posted this 21 February 2023

On my varmint rigs;

MINIMAL lube,applied most often to only the bttm groove and area immediately over GC.... "by hand" with a small penknife.

My(varmint) goals being different from BR. No foulers/sighters allowed. And no bag riding in the sense it applies to BR. So locktime and bullet velocity mean more. But in general my demands are higher in some respects.

My advice has been; run the least amt possible,and adjust viscosity moreso than ingredients. Good luck polling competitors,haha.

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John Alexander posted this 21 February 2023

Bud makes it sound impossible to have a test for finding out if one is absolutely better than the other.  He is right, but I was not asking if there is a universal law for which one is always better.

What seems to me to be of more interest  is answering the following question. With the best groove lubing procedure (for Shopdog and me that would be minimum lube) versus the best tumble lube procedure (for me that would a very thin coat) -- which one should I take to the next match.

Put another way, most CBA competitors are using groove lubing, could they do better with some version of tumble lubing? I have just started testing to try and find out for my case and it is too early for me to venture an answer.  I wondered if anybody else is asking themselves the same question. There are a lot of CB questions I don't know the answer to.  This is just one that seems worth trying to answer.

John

 

 

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John Alexander posted this 21 February 2023

Ross, are you sure you can't get away with no lube?

John

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Ross Smith posted this 21 February 2023

John: I tried once and accuracy fell slightly and the incedence of metal flake increased, slightly. I have not tried no lube since. My experience is far from being statiscally correct though.

Like shop dog I prefer to lube only the bottom groove but that is hard to do if you then bump your bullets. No lube means the grooves will be "squished".

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Lucky1 posted this 21 February 2023

Wow John. I'm going to add a few more worms to the can. In addition to many ways to tumble lube (which I'm guilty of) there is also all the different lubes for the lubrisizers and the amount you put on. (Guilty again) So my guess is that it will be impossible to run any kind of test that will satisfy this question.

Scott Ingle

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John Alexander posted this 21 February 2023

Lucky 1,

I have agreed that it will probably be impossible to answer the general question -- which method is always better? And if you did try to answer, the correct answer would have to be "that depends".

That is not the question I am trying to ask -- apparently not very clearly

The objection that there are too many ways to do both types of lubing is like saying you can't successfully test for the best weight of a powder charge because there are several hundred different powders available.  True, but not a good reason not to optimize your charge weight within the constraints you have.

John

 

 

 

 

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Lucky1 posted this 21 February 2023

I think that "it depends" sums it up. Back to your original post, I don't think anyone is "missing out" by not tumble lubing. Tumble lubing for me is slow since it requires a dry time that the lubrisizer can avoid. Since I'm putting on a gas check I run the bullet through either the Lee or the Lyman to seat and size. Same amount of time expended to get to that point. Then it is 'pull handle or shake container' When you got my info at Nats that year it was lubrized. Most of my tumble lubing comes with odder sizes like .316 or .329 where I have modified a Lee push through sizer. The rest goes through the Lyman. So for me best accuracy takes a back to getting a way to getting them lubed period and I can't feel that either one or the other is severely disadvantaged accuracy wise. Sidenote- I have a friend who goes belt and suspenders and does both on the same bullet. He can outscore me often so maybe he's onto something.

Scott Ingle

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Lucky1 posted this 21 February 2023

John, This is part 2 since you're making think about this. Does one have an edge over the other. (Non scientific answer with no stats to follow.) When I first start this CBA sojourn about 8 years ago, I started sizing with Lee push throughs because they were relatively inexpensive and available. Plus I didn't know if I'd really take to this shooting sport. It got me going and I didn't have leading issues so I called it a victory. Then I bought a Lyman at Norm Duesterhoeft's estate sale with a bunch of dies. I found it easier because I didn't have to factor the dry time and if I needed a dozen to load the night before the match, no problem. Did switching from the Lee to the Lyman help my scores? Unfortunately, not that I could notice for better or worse. It still came down to my lack of wind reading skills and questionable bench rest technique. So I can't say statistically but my feeling is that is a wash.

Scott Ingle

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Shuz posted this 22 February 2023

Lucky1--I have been able to reduce my drying time with the tumble lube method by applying a hair dryer to the tumbled bullets.. I also cut my Liquid Alox 50% with mineral spirits and add a small amount of Lundmarks floor wax. (I basically tumble lube with what's now called Ben's liquid lube.)

I size in a custom Lee type push from the bottom sizer.  The bullet I am currently using is the RCBS 25 -120 , and my thoughts are that this thin bullet is less prone to bending than if I  used a Lyman or Saeco lubrisizer.

I believe that if lube purging exists, it is greatly minimized by a light coat of tumble lube. 

My current quest is to determine, for me at least, which is better, tumble lubing or powder coating. I have had encouraging results with both in the .250 Savage and .25-06.

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Lucky1 posted this 22 February 2023

My tumble lube evolved from alox, to thinner alox, to 45% carnuba- 45% alox and 10% mineral spirits. I use some Turtle Wax carnuba that is kind of greenish so I refer to it as Turtle snot since that is what it resembles. I like the hardness of the carnuba for handling the bullets during loading and I dry them next to the furnace in the basement. Not as fast as your hair dryer but.... I also agree some bullets like my 6.5s are better going through the Lee so I'm still firmly in " it depends" category as each method has it's advantages. Shuz, Let us know more if you get powder coating figured out too.

Scott Ingle

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John Alexander posted this 26 February 2023

I guess to sum up what has been offered so far is:

I. It will be  impossible to answer the general question --  " what is always the best way to "lube" cast bullets? is it to fill grooves or tumble lube"?

2. Until somebody starts winning CBA rifle matches with tumble lube only (and probably not even then) competitors are going to keep on filling the grooves by default.

3. A lot of other shooters are going to tumble lube because if done right, it saves time, requires less equipment, and it works well enough to suit them.

John

 

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Qc Pistolero posted this 26 February 2023

I shoot in a ligue where the only calibers and rifle types date from before 1900.45-70s are the most often seen but an odd 38-55 pops up here and there.

Some use lubrisized bullets ans some use tumble lubed.Shots are taken at 100 and 200yds;the 10 ring at 100 is 1'' while the one at 200 is aprox 3 1/2(sorry,too cold outside for me to run in my shop get a target.).A winning score runs around 235/250 give or take a couple of points depending on the kind of day we are having.Now,the interesting part is that both type of lubing can shoot these scores.Note that in all cases the velocity is around 1200 to 1300fps.So I'm tempted to say that it depends on the gun.For example,my 45-70 Pedersoli Sharps prefers tumble lubed while my High Wall Pedersoli in 38-55 hates them.

Liquid Alox 50/50 with mineral spirits;I simply pour a little(emphasis on ''little'')on aprox 75-100 bullets in a plastic can and transfer them to another plastic can 5 or 6 times then let them dry on a pan.It takes aprox 2 days and I repeat the process.After another 2 days,I put some in another plastic can and spray them with baby powder or corn starch (here again a little is enough.just so the bullet takes a whitish color)so that the lube won't stick inside the seating plug of the die.Without hurrying,I can lube twice and coat them with powder in an aprox total of time of less than 30 minutes for 500 bullets.

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 26 February 2023

for you 2nd class accuracy * plinkers * out there ...

i shoot my 1300 fps plain base bullets lubricated only when i pick them up with greasy fingers as I seat them ... they are really only greasy on 2 sides where my fingers touch them ...  i am counting on the randomness of chambering the bullets to condition the barrel ...

if that is what lube does ...  i have only had lube do funny things when i use too much of it ... that might be a strike against tumble lubing ...

and yes I feel the shame and guilt of not working harder at shooting cast bullets ...  ken

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Mal in au posted this 27 February 2023

I have a Schultz & Larsen Mod.62 300 mt Free rifle that goes on and sometimes under 1” @ 100 ,I use tumbled alox thinned with pure mineral turps,next time I have it on the bench I will use filled grouves  alox. The projectile is Lyman 311644bv  tapered.Load is 30 gns Varget(2208) Win primers . Will report back.

Cheers Mal in au.

   

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RicinYakima posted this 27 February 2023

Qc, You just said it took 4 days!

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John Alexander posted this 27 February 2023

Ken,

Have tried washing your hands and just shooting them bare.  I faithfully did what you are doing on the nose of a bore riding bullet for a couple of years for a load going 1,500. Finally wondered why it worked so tried some without the grease and they shot the same.

 

Mal in au,

We will look forward for your results.

John

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Qc Pistolero posted this 27 February 2023

Qc, You just said it took 4 days!

yes.I cast them by batches of 6 to 700 at once and come up with a few less after inspection(aprox 4 to 6% rejects when all is right).After 2 days,they feel a little tacky and ready for the second coating.I try to always have at least 1 to 200 bullets ready for loading.

After reading what Ken does,I might try a single light coating though!

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lkydvl posted this 06 March 2023

Any bullet I wanted better than plinking accuracy out of, I would never tumble lube.  No sense risking damage to the base of the bullet no matter how you tumble lube.

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shootcast posted this 06 March 2023

I don’t know if I qualify as a serious shooter or whether I have a tack driver rifle. I consider myself more a plinker than a Benchrest shooter. I have used both methods of lubing bullets. Lube/Sizers & liquid lubes. Our first match of the year just passed. I used a load combination that Ed Harris suggested many years ago. I chambered a used barrel on a table top lath with a solid standard reamer in 7.62x39. I then used Ed’s suggestion of Alliant 2400/ 15.5 grains of powder. The Lee 160 grain tumble Lube Bullet. My alloy is mostly old wheel weights sweetened with Lino, tin. A combination said to be near Lyman #2. I quench from mold and allow bullets to age harden. Then tumble Lube and allow to dry. Then they get home made aluminum gas’s checks and sized / lubed .311. White label Lube called 2500 +. My score for this match was 375-3x. That’s about as good as I can do.

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Mal in au posted this 14 March 2023

Results are in, on the range this morning,perfect conditions no wind @ 8 am,  tumble lube albeit shot on another day but similar conditions. 22mmx15mm centre to centre. Lube in grouves 22mmx17mm centre to centre. Cheers Mal in au.

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Mal in au posted this 14 March 2023

Thanks Jeff for the pic,s Shot 20 rounds in total,a mixed bag, had 3 in one hole with the 2 nd to last group but  two outliers one high the other low put paid to that and went 1.5”. The Schultz is a delight to shoot,big heavy thing with amazing set trigger, in fact it came with 3 trigger groups. They don’t have much free bore and prefer a tapered projectile,most others finish too far back in the case, Beautiful Fall weather here ATM great for shooting.   Cheers Mal in Au.

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John Alexander posted this 14 March 2023

Thanks for running your test. Excellent groups.

We usually see the distance between the two widest shots reported for a group, but reporting vertical and horizontal gives you a bit more information.  I sometimes do that as well.  The very first CBA national match was reported as vertical +horizontal if I remember correctly.

Just to be sure I am understanding, did you shoot 20 shots with each lube or 10 with each?  Are the numbers averages of two or four groups or just for the targets shown?

Weather is not as nice here as it sounds there so my similar tests will wait awhile.

What little results we have so far don't show an advantage for either lube method.

Thanks again for your report.

John

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Mal in au posted this 14 March 2023

Hi John just the targets shown, from memory ( rusty) the tumble group I shot a total of about 20 shots ,the one shown being the best on the day,same with yesterday. My humble conclusion is not much different results using either method, The testing, I will be the first to concede was not very scientific .I will stick to tumble just because it’s so much easier, With my .303. Cast loads I shoot the pills unsized and put the gas check on with a seperate die,no sizing takes place so tumble is the only method to use.I do the same with my 6.5 x 55.  Just nice to get out for a shot on such a beautiful day.

                           Cheers Mal.

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John Alexander posted this 14 March 2023

Thank you for the clarification.

John

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OU812 posted this 15 March 2023

I would first seat the bare cast bullet in case using just enough neck tension without deformity. Then I would apply Lee liquid alox using q-tip. Letting the alox harden overnight. This works pretty good for me.

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Premod70 posted this 15 March 2023

I would think a ungrooved bullet tumble coated may be a good method especially on one with a taper to match the barrel’s throat angle. Thin the lube until it is a wash and pour the solution through a strainer containing the bullets might be a thought as well. Too many ways to skin the cat for there to be certain better way.

Forrest Gump is my smarter brother.

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OU812 posted this 15 March 2023

I am concerned with powder sticking to the base of lubed bullet inside case. Especially using 2400 and seeing big vertical stringing. Allways wipe lube off base of bullet before seating.

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John Alexander posted this 15 March 2023

The amount of tumble lube I use doesn't result in tacky bullets. Powder won't stick to them.  Maybe try thinner coat.

John

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Mal in au posted this 15 March 2023

Hi John and fellow travelers, as I said my approach wasn’t very scientific, averages of the 20 shots group sizes produces a different result, Tumble H 22.5 X V 35.5 mm….  Lubed H22.5X V 28 mm. So lubed is now the winner. My bad for being lazy.   Cheers Mal in au.

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John Alexander posted this 16 March 2023

Mal,

Thanks for the additional information. The funny thing is that if you shot another 20 shots of each, the results might go back the other way.  Old lady probability is hard to please.

John

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Mal in au posted this 16 March 2023

Yes more than likely, one thing I might try is up the charge a few tenths @ a time ,could tighten up the vert.I thought I was very careful with the shoulder pressures,but that can be very subjective. Tough to measure.The 62 stock is not really ideal for free recoil.

                       All good back to the drawing board. Cheers Mal.

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