is obtained. The last thing you want is a light load that cycles your over-sprung slide sluggishly. If you’re very used to the way major loads recoil from your limited pistol, the least disturbing loading choice for steel may be to simply substitute a light-weight bullet over your normal charge. This will yield a lighter-recoiling load, but one which shouldn’t greatly alter timing or require respringing of your pistol.
Optimal performance with reduced loads will be enhanced by careful springing to achieve a balance of crisp action, light recoil and stable sight-picture return.
IDPA stock service shooters will likely be shooting Glock pistols or perhaps another 9mm service type. Glocks do not take well to reduced loads or respringing, so look to median loads with heavier bullets and faster powders to provide softer recoil with good sight return.
Revolver open shooters don’t have such functional considerations to deal with. The author has seen everything that can be fired from a Smith & Wesson tried on steel, from round balls on up. For compensated space guns, try the 125 truncated cone with a fast to medium rate propellant like Unique or Red Dot. Severely reduced light bullet loads in 38 Special (as in all revolver cartridges) show wide velocity spreads due both to inconsistent powder burn rates at low pressure and simple aspect variation. Bulker powders such as 700X, Red Dot, or perhaps Clays should be used. Hodgdon’s Titegroup powder shows promise as well, being formulated specifically to attenuate aspect variation in big revolver cases.
If you really need to weenie out, try the 9mm Laser-Cast 115grain round nose in .356” with 3.5 grains of Red Dot. This bullet requires a modest taper crimp. Our test M-686 grouped this load just well enough to be promising.
I Hear Your Pretty Fast, Kid
Cowboy Steel shooters are on a whole different trip. The classic Steel Challenge courses are acknowledged to be much more demanding of accuracy than stages typically encountered at Cowboy shoots. At the Steel Challenge, Cowboy single actions may be loaded (carefully!) with six rounds and a second six-gun may be drawn to finish a string. We can anticipate that future winners of this event will be the cowpokes who made the fewest draws, taking time to hit’em all in six shots or only five. Such a winning strategy will demand a load that is very accurate and prints exactly to point of aim from both blasters. Point or index shooting will get your score a pretty tombstone on Boot Hill; every shot in the match needs to be a sighted one! Accuracy thus is more important than recoil control per se, and your usual Cowboy Action load may not be your best bet. Zero and group your guns at 40 yards and be certain of what they will do!