Load development

Forums Reese Bottom Chat Room Load development

Viewing 8 reply threads
  • Author
    • #887

      I thought this would be good topic . I see load development methods that range from very basic(dump powder in case and seat bullet) to more complex (neck turning, sorting cases based on weight, sorting primers based on weight, sorting bullets based on weight, sorting bullets from base to ojive). Obviously neck turning is required in a tight neck chamber but that’s another topic.
      I would classify myself as a basic reloader but have tried quite a bit of the more complex techniques. With that said, I thought I would share what I view as some of the most common mistakes reloaders make and follow that with what I think is a better approach. I would also like to hear how others approach load development .

      1. Randomly putting together various loads with different seating depths, powder charges,and bullets.

      My method

      1st select the bullet for the intended purpose. Just remember that not all chambers work with all bullets.

      2nd select one powder to start ( not two)

      When developing a load it is imperative to have only one variable(only change one thing at a time).VLD bullets (tangent ogive) in most cases like to be slightly engaged in the lands so I start there when seating bullets. I then start light and work up the powder charge. The size of the case will determine how big the steps should be. I load only two of each charge at this point. If those two shoot an inch at a 100 the third is not going to help, so your just wasting time and components. When you find a load that looks good go back and five and see how it shoots. If it still shows promise I normally load a couple more groups to verify. If those two groups still look good I will then move on to seating depth. Remember one variable,so you must only change seating depth. At this pointyou should be on your way to solid consistent load.

      2nd issue is constantly changing loads

      My method

      When I find a load that shoots I stick with it. I have seen quite a few shooters drop one bullet out of 20 an start hunting for another load. In my case I have found my problem to be in the mirror.

      This is what I have found to work for me and thought it might be helpful to some others especially those new to reloading. There are more issues but I thought these would get us started.


    • #893

      Britt, Very good post and a great topic as well. I will also say this to anyone reloading ( as most of us do) and that would be. Do What Britt does. Britt is a hell of a fine shot and must be doing things right in the reloading room to have the success he does.

      For me I enjoy load work-up and after I get a load that shoots I am done experimenting. Find a good load and then work on, yourself the shooter. There is no substitute for trigger time.

      I do like to start out with components that are as consistent as possible, that is the basic components like bullets and brass. I was once told by a 1,000 yd benchrest guy “that until you start weighing your primers you will never win a match”. Well maybe so but I am not going to weigh a primer no matter what, some things just seem silly to me. I have also won a few match’s so I already know that he was full of $%#*.

      I also think that when you are looking for and playing around with the different powders for what ever caliber you are going to load for. You want to find a powder that will get as close as is possible to 100% load density, without it being a compressed charge. I want my cases to be as full as is possible, that way the powder isn’t laying on the bottom half of the case when the load is chambered and you are ready for it to go BANG! A full case will give you a consistent burn rate, sometimes this is very hard to do as you sure don’t want to over charge a case you must stay in that safe load range.

      There is a lot more to this loading deal Neck tension, Shoulder Bumb and more but since this topic is Load Development I think I will leave those alone.


    • #894
      Ron Lewis

      Good morning fellow shooters:
      Here’s how I do it: Generally speaking if I’m working up a load then I probably am breaking in a new barrel. Just as Roland said, I spent most of my time wearing out a barrel with the first load that I settle on and rarely do I change that load. The past couple years has forced me to vary this plan somewhat because of the inability for me to always find the same components. ( That is, sometimes I can’t find any 168ge Amax bullets and I have to shoot 175’s instead.

      Ron’s Way : ( Not necessarily the Right way but it works for me)
      1. I set a target at 200 yds ( I recommend you set yours at 100 yds) I have a permanent stand on my range sitting at 200 yds that’s the only reason I shoot at 200 yds
      2. I almost always use Lapua Brass if it’s available. I fine it to be the best quality and it has very good primer pockets. I pick one case to use and will work my load up using only this one case.
      3. Pick up the trusty load manual and look at the range of loads for the particular caliber.
      4. I start low on the chart and load the first round and shoot the target.
      5. I then reload this case with a stronger load and shoot again
      6. Reload with a stronger load and shoot again
      7. I repeat step 6 until I start to see pressure signs on the primer or the bolt starts getting stiff. When you see these indications of pressure it’s certainly time to stop. I almost never shoot loads in my competition rifles that are hard to eject from expansion because they are on the verge of popping primers or worst locking your rifle up in the match which will most certainly end your chance of finishing well in the match.
      8. This case is pretty much worn out at this point. I then use this case to make a dummy load that I keep in my die box for quick set up of my seater die.
      9. Notice that I did not shoot a group ( not yet any ways) nor did I discuss cleaning my rifle while breaking in the barrel. Those subjects will be discussed on another topic.
      10. Now I look carefully at my target and see where the bullets have been hitting to determine which load I’m going to start shooting. My goal is to pick a starting point to shoot groups. I’ve attached a sample target that shows the normal pattern. You can see from the target that the shots numbered 4,5,6,7,8 are sort of clustered together and that the ones number 1,2,3, are low and the ones 9,10,11 are high.
      11. In this case I would pick loads 5,6,7 and load three rounds of each and shoot.
      12. I would take the best load of these three and pick it as my starting load. ( Lets’ say load #6 is best)
      13. Let’s just say load 6 is 43.0 grs of Varget. I would load 15 cases: 5 cases with 42.5 grs, 5 cases with 43.0 grs and 5 cases with 43.5 grs
      14. I would shoot three 5 shot groups and pick the best one as my load.
      15. Total shoots fired in working up this load would have been 35 rounds and I would have my barrel pretty much broken in and ready to load to go shoot a match. I would have also only destroyed 1 case in the process.

      This type load development is a modified ladder test. There are many ways to accomplish load development and I have tried them all. For me this is a quick way to get your rifle shooting(90 % of the time). The fun stuff comes in on the 10% when this doesn’t work.

    • #897
      Wynne Echols

      This is great stuff and I applaud you fellows for taking the time to share your understanding of our sport. Gunny mentioned being consistent with what you do and then stated that he does not weigh his primers. I do not either, BUT, it has been suggested to me that for all reloads to be the same, they all have to be exactly the same(whatever that means) There are several good articles on the accurate shooter website about reloading.

    • #904

      I really think that someone had be at the top of their game before weighing primers is going to be a deal breaker. There are so many other variables at 600 and 1000 yrds I’m not sure there is any scientific way to test the effects of weighing primers but I would like to see someone run this test.

      You will need a control group of 50 loaded rounds where every component is sorted except primers .

      You will need an experimental group where each component is sorted including primers

      That’s the easy part. The difficult part is to determine how to fire these rounds to test .
      It is important that the shooter only knows that there are two groups of ammo not which one has sorted primers.

      I would think that he would shoot one five shot group with both in a close time interval. Let things cool and reverse the order. That would give 10 groups of each and if there is a pattern of more consistscy it should show up. You could do this which reloading technique to determine whether it is actually worth the effort. One thing that I have kept records on ( actually apprx 2500 rds ) was the effect of bullet run out in the loaded round. I will tell you if definitely makes a measurable difference on paper.

    • #910

      I have a thought or maybe a question for you more seasoned guys than I. I have a good load for my .223, it shoots fair at 300, but tightens up at 500. I decided to play with the load. I shot test shots at 300 and kept 5 shots in the 3/4 in range. Noticeably tighter than my previous load that I have been shooting. I went and loaded 20 rounds of this new load and went back to the range to shoot at 500 with high expectations. I was very disappointed. All 5 shot groups were in the 3 inch range at 500 with no or undetectable wind. My previous load would consistently group 2 inches or slightly less in the same conditions.
      My question is, is it possible to have one load for 400, 500 & 600 yards? Is it also possible that you can shoot even better with a specific load for a specific range? In this case, could I possibly find my accuracy is better with a different load at each distance?
      Keep in mind, I am a new shooter at these distances, but I have been pretty consistent in windless conditions.
      Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

    • #920

      After talking with Wynne today I have some ideas of areas for improvements in my reloading. Things that I didn’t know. As I am new to this, I still have a lot to learn and I appreciate everyone’s input. If there are any of you out there that may be a little timid about the competition shooting for lack of knowledge, I encourage you not to let that stop you. I have no problem admitting I am clueless about a lot of the reloading and precision adjustment that can be made to improve my shooting, but I certainly plan to learn. There are so many guys at Reese Bottom that have taken time to offer suggestions and help to get me pointed in the right direction and to all of you I am thankful. If there is anyone out there reading this that has an interest in shooting I encourage you to speak up. There are plenty of people willing to help get you started. I once heard,” the only dumb question is the question you don’t ask” this new sport has me addicted. It is truly amazing how far you can come in a short amount of time with good information. So, come shoot with us, we can learn together.
      To Britt,
      I did remember to adjust the parallax,but the shots were on 2 different days. No mirage, but maybe conditions were just different enough. I plan to try again soon.

    • #1183
      Tony Graham

      Here is Scott Fletcher’s load development:
      “I am no 240 expert. However, based on my recent tinkering with 240’s and last weekend’s 1000 yd LG match results (3.823/50; 4.115/49; 2 shoot-off wins), I offer the following comments:

      The PA bunch probably has the best collective wisdom on the 240’s. Their concensus is a 10 twist barrel w/ sweet-spot velocities on the order of 2750, with bullets not greater than 0.010 into the lands. This info was the basis for my starting points. I tend to be somewhat adventuresome with my barrel twists and chose a 10-1/2. (an 11 “works” here in the south, but may not in the colder temps of yankeeland). I drive the 240’s @ about 2850, so the rpm’s at this 10-1/2 twist and velocity are comparable to the rpm’s w/ a 10 twist @ 2750 (195k vs 198k). If you want to consider 230’s as well, it is safer to try a 10 twist, as this twist is what Berger recommends.

      In my view, BC and velocity are no more than sidebar issues. The real issue is accuracy. The poster-child example of this concept is the Sierra 200 SMK. About a decade ago, Sierra produced a lot of 200’s that were world-beaters. Folks shooting 210’s, 220’s, and 240’s had serious trouble competing with folks shooting the 200 SMK’s because these bullets were simply more accurate, BC and velocity be damned. For the longest time I was a “one trick pony” with my high BC and (only) “fair” accuracy 300 SMK’s driven at 2975. On a ballistics spreadsheet, this should have been an unbeatable combination. However, folks shooting lower BC 210’s at approximately the same velocity were customarily cleaning my clock.

      Your system will tell you which bullet it prefers. Barrels fall in love with certain bullets, tolerate some, and barf on others. If you are fortunate to have a barrel that likes both 240’s and 230’s, by all means go with the higher BC 230’s.

      What do I mean by a barrel “liking” a bullet? If I’m not shooting 5-shot groups in the 4’s @ 200 yds, I’m looking at other options. That kind of performance from your system says that you should be consistently competitive at 1000 yds if you do your job correctly.

      I would suggest ordering 100 of each bullet and putting them through the following screening test, bullets taken directly from the box with no sorting:

      First determine the maximum powder charge for the powder/primer combo you have selected. This should be done with all bullets seated 0.010 into the lands. You determine the maximum powder charge by loading cases in 0.5 grain increments, then measuring the extractor groove diameter for each shot. The maximum powder charge is the one that produces a 0.002 inch or greater increase in the extractor groove diameter compared to unshot (virgin) brass. The powder charge that you want to use for the following screening sequence is the one that is 0.5 grains less than the previously defined manximum powder charge.

      Shoot 2-shot “groups” @ 200 yds with the 0.5 grain, less-than-maximum powder charge at the following seating depths: 0 (touching), 0.001. 0.002, 0.003, 0.004, 0.005, 0.006, 0.007, 0.008, 0.009, and 0.010 into the lands. Select the best 2-shot groups for 5-shot group confirmation testing. The selected 2 shots should be touching, or nearly so. If any of the 5-shot groups tend to string vertical, shoot subsequent confirmatory 5-shot groups @ 0.1 grain increments up to the maximum powder charge in an effort to “knot-up” the group. If none of your 2-shot groups fall on top of/next to each other, your barrel has likely barfed on the bullet.

      Do this screening sequence for both the 240’s and the 230’s. You should know real quick what the system likes, merely tolerates, or barfs on. If you are determined to “make” a particular bullet shoot in your system, there are means and methods far beyond this post that can be tried. Sometimes these approaches work, but you will have typically accumulated an elevated round count that has significantly eaten into your useful barrel life.

      The foregoing assumes that the Bergers also like seating depths into the lands. I am lead to believe that most hybrid/VLD Bergers do, but a good percentage of the NC “Ackley Boys” shot 210’s from 0.010 to 0.030 off the lands. If Waverly gets plugged back into this thread, he could chime in with where his system likes the 230’s, and the screening test could be adjusted accordingly.

      Once you select a bullet, I would suggest sorting all by bearing length and weight. No matter how good the bullet lot appears to be, I have always found a few BAD outliers mixed in, either bearing length, weight, or both. In the case of the 240’s, I think Waverly is dead on by sorting them by “diameter” with a neck sizing bushing. Measuring the diameter of a 240 with a micrometer is not a pleasant experience, as you never get the same reading twice. Not only that, the lot I have has an inferred 0.006 inch variation in diameter. A very competent machinist/1000 yd benchrester who has “cyphered” on his batch of 240’s also maintains that these bullets also can have a banana shape. Sorting bullets over a bushing is a convenient way to cull out both diameter and “banana” extremes. (the 240’s have an exceptionally long bearing length, and the violence/deformations associated with their manufacture probably contribute greatly to these “inconsistencies”)

      The foregoing diameter and shape issues should not be considered the “kiss of death” for use (or non-use) of 240 SMK’s. My barrel really likes them at 200 yds right out of the box, diameter and shape variations be damned. The bullet sorting steps that I go through (or anyone goes through, for that matter) are to reduce velocity extreme spread as much as practical. Sorting over a neck sizing bushing is simply another step to this end, paying homage to physical properties we can observe and measure.

      It would appear that “all of the above” is workiing for me, based on the collective moaning I heard last weekend.

      Hope this has helped and gets you started off on the right foot.

      From benchrestcentral

      • #1186
        Wynne Echols

        Tony, interesting information, thanks for sharing. WWE

        • #1188
          Tony Graham

          I probably should have left that in my back pocket. But what the hay! Wynne you know that I’ll let slip whatever info I have to help anybody. The game we play, one must stay on the edge. Wynne you may remember Fletcher. You shot against him at Yukon at the Nats. GA Boy from Hotlanta. He does not talk much unless he knows you.
          Baron Graham IBS 2010

    • #1324

      I try to do all my loading the same way every single time so I don’t leave out a powder charge or make some other mistake.All my brass is prep the same way also I find it better to have a seating die for each rifle I own that way I don’t have to re-adjust when seating bullets 6 or 8 different times all dies are marked per rifle.some are neck sized and some are FL sized this is done on what each rifle shoots the best and yes I have several sets of dies.All dies are marked like I said and the powder brand and charge is marked Inside the box with the seating die I try not to remember any loads that way I don’t get any mixed up.My target loads are my hunting loads and I do hunt with my heavy guns a much as I can I hunt from the ground the old school way but I am always up hill on all my targets.So I have my way and you have yours find out what works best for you and stick with it but always look for ways to do better.

    • #901

      Wynne, I do believe that your reloads need to be as “Consistent” as is possible, yet I do Not weight primers so where is the logic in that? I believe that as Britt mentioned and as important as it is to “Change” only one thing at a time, that maybe primers would be in there somewhere. I am not saying not to weigh them, just that I am not going to weigh them.

      Now if I had a load that was not doing what I think it should be doing, or was not up to standard and thought I needed to play around with that load some I guess that at some point I might give that a try. Right now my 6.5X47L is doing everything I could ever ask for a load and rifle to do. It is shooting groups (aggregate’s) when I do my part of sub 1″ at 600 yds. I have shot 7 groups of less than 1″ in competition. Matter of fact if you remember you were there one day when I did this. We were shooting at Hoover and I shot a group that measured .860 or .870 or so, and then you “Mr. Wynne Echols” jumped up on the last relay and beat that group by something like .009 and this was shot at 540 yds or what ever that range is. I do not remember the exact group size that either of us shot but I am sure you will, all I remember is your’s was smaller. This same load and rifle has also shot cleans in F-Class 6 times, two at 1,000 yds and 4 at 600 yds. I don’t think the weight of the primers is going to make it shoot any better. The only thing holding it back now is me. The nut behind the butt always needs more work than a good load.


    • #903
      Wynne Echols

      Here is what I have noticed over the last let’s say three years or so that I have been involved with competitive shooting. Winning group sizes have shrunk by a huge percentage. This can be attributed to lots of things: better components, better gunsmithing, better reloading, better shooters, you get the idea. But the fact is that the winning groups are getting smaller. Fact is that if the 10 shot, 1000 yard group, recently shot in Montana is certified by the IBS, that group will shrink the record by 20 + %. Reloading that has worked for years will still work, but as the group sizes get smaller and smaller I believe the shooter must unlock all of the variables to stay competitive. Reloading is time consuming and granted some shooters have more time than others to spend reloading so I will agree that maybe certain parts of the process are more beneficial than others. Should a reloader weight his cases and not his primers, or weigh his bullets and not his primers, or bump the shoulder and not weigh primers, or triple weigh his charge and not weigh his primers. Who’s to say, I sure do not have the answer. If a shooter shows up at Reese Bottom and shoots 4 in a knot at 200 + flyer, same at 300, 400 ,and 500, what is the shooter to blame his lack of success on?

    • #913

      Be sure that you did not have any parallax. It is easy to forget to adjust especially going from 300 to 500 .

      What did the groups look like?


Viewing 8 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.