11-11-2012, 04:11 PM
I wanted to ask some of the seasoned reloaders on here how many rounds of what ever combination of powder, brass, primers, and bullets do you typically make when developing loads?
11-11-2012, 05:06 PM
It would take me 20 hours to write out my entire load development regime.
So I am going to steal someone else's work, as this is fairly close to what I do.
This is Dave Affleck from the Rocky Mountain Varmint Hunters Video Company load development.
I edited where I saw fit in bold.
Daveís Rapid Load Development Strategy
Here is a methodology I often use in working up a load for a new rifle. Itís not the only way to do it, heck itís not even the only way ďIĒ do it. And Iíve left out a lot of common variations in the interest of keeping this from getting too long. But, it does work to arrive at a good load quickly, in a logical organized manner.
Determining which powder to use is always my first step. Start by picking a good bullet - a proven performer for whatever cartridge/twist you have, Starke or Fowler 52ís for a 14 twist .22-250 for instance. Or, maybe you have a big supply of a bullet that you are bound and determined to use - in such a case finding the best powder for that bullet becomes even more important. I've got thousands of 50 and 55 Vmax on the shelf for instance, and often just use them and never try another bullet - just because I have so many of them. Note, if you really need to test more than one bullet, which is not unusual, always start with the heaviest bullet. That way, you can use "max" for the heavy as "starting" for the lighter ones.
KIND OF: I USUALLY HAVE ONE POWDER IN MIND, USUALLY VITAVOUHROY OR HOGDEN EXTREME SERIES, AND I PICK 5 BULLETS AND WORK OUT 5 LOADS (IF THERE IS THAT MANY, SOME CARTRIDGES ONLY HAVE A 1 GRAIN SHIFT FROM MINIMUM TO MAXIMUM LIKE THE 204 RUGER).
I ALSO LOAD 7 CARTRIDGES PER LOAD, AND I'LL SET UP A TARGET BACK STOP WITH 10 TARGETS ON IT. TOP ONE FOR THE 2 TEST CARTRIDGES AND BOTTOM ONE FOR THE ACTUAL TEST.
I FIRE THE 2 TEST CARTRIGES TO CHECK ZERO AND THEN THE 5 BUSINESS ROUNDS. THE BARREL NEEDS TO COOL FOR AT LEAST A MINUITE BETWEEN SHOTS. OR RAPID FIRE BARREL HEAT WILL SCREW UP YOUR TEST .
Determine "jam" length (seating depth with the bullet jammed hard into the lands). If you are comfortable loading with bullets contacting the lands (I am), back off .005 from "jam" and that's a good seating depth to start with (the bullet will still be in firm contact with the lands at .005 off "jam"). If you would feel better getting the bullet back off the lands I recommend a solid .005 off to start (I do NOT like loading at the proverbial "just kissing" point - way too indefinite). NOTE - there are exceptions to everything, but, I've found best accuracy is almost always found either with firm contact into the lands or not more than .010 jump (there ARE exceptions!). Iíve read from reliable sources that .22's usually shoot best at .020 off the lands but in exhaustively testing several centerfire .22's, I found .020 off the lands has usually been where groups really start going to shit - I don't recommend it as a good starting point based on my own testing.
Choose some powders to test. However many or few you feel like playing with. I usually choose not less than 3 and not more than 5 powders to begin testing.
Now, here's where my load development technique starts to get tricky. Well, not really tricky, but it is MUCH, MUCH easier to do if you are setup to load at the range. Which is why I always recommend starting out with Wilson dies and a good repeatable powder measure instead of buying an "RCBS kit". But that's a whole nuther ball of wax...
For each powder you want to test, begin with the "starting load" and your chosen bullet at your predetermined seating depth (just into or just off the lands but NOT "just touching"). Load one round at a time, increasing the powder charge for each case (no two will have the same powder charge). Start shooting them into a group. Keep going until you have reached "max". Use your own judgment on what "max" is - if in any doubt, don't go above the published data you are using. I always do this testing over a chronograph, so I'll very quickly know what the max charge and velocity is for each powder I'm testing. Do this for each powder. After shooting this series of groups, I usually know which powder is going to work best. If shooting was done over a chrony, you'll know how velocity stacks up for each powder. You will also have fired a "group" with each powder, I generally end up with about 10 shots in each of these groups (typically in .2 or .3 gr. increments). That's a 10 shot group with each shot having a different powder charge. Guess what? If doing this shooting at short range, like 100 yd's, you will very often find that one or more of the powders produced an amazingly small group for each shot having a different powder charge - I've literally drilled 10 shot "one holers" doing this kind of testing at 100 yards. By the same token, it's likely that some of the powders will have really laid down shotgun patterns in this test. It's my belief that generally speaking, the powder which produced the smallest group with each shot having a different charge weight will also produce the smallest groups when all the shots are weighed the same (as with everything else, there ARE exceptions!). Or, at least I can plainly see it's not a temperamental combo and will be easy to work with.
Note - depending on intended application, I USUALLY like to do this testing at 300 yards or greater. Some of the data you can obtain and observe at long range is completely lost at close range. Without going into detail, simply put it this way: If you intend to use this load at 500 yards, I recommend you do this testing at 500 yards. Vertical which may not show up at all in 100 yard shooting will be way evident at 500. Also, on a related note, and again without going into great detail, strange but true: The load which gives the lowest velocity spread and SD is not always the load which gives the least vertical dispersion at long range. Moral of the story, if you intend to shoot long range, TEST long range! I AGREE, 300 IS A GOOD DISTANCE
So, in one whack, you have quickly determined which of the powders tested will likely give best accuracy, what the max. load is and what velocity you are getting.
From there, simply "work down" from the max load shooting groups to determine the most accurate charge weight.
Fine tuning with seating depth is a logical next step.
Primers can make a big difference, no doubt about it. But I generally don't monkey with them except as a last resort. I've rarely had to go that far, but it happens.
Please note, there are about a zillion different ways to skin this cat and the method I've just quickly laid out here isn't always going to be the best way. I don't even always do it this way myself. It's simply one of many schemes that will get you to the same destination. It's a logical and organized methodology, but not necessarily the most logical or organized. Certainly not necessarily the best. The conditions and variables that come into play which may make it advisable to do things completely differently are so varied and vast it is impossible to even try and cover them all. Even just the variations on this methodology are virtually unlimited.
- Dave Affleck
ONE MORE NOTE:
THE FOLLOWING THINGS EFFECT ACCURACY IN CARTRIDGE LOADING:
1. BARREL TWIST MATCHING BULLET WEIGHT
2. POWDER BURN RATE MATCHING ABOVE
3. CARTRIDGE GRIP ON BULLET BEING EQUAL (TRIM, CHAMFER, MEASURE SORT BY SIZE)
4. BULLET SEATING DEPTH
5. BULLET TO CASE CONCENTRICITY, WHICH IS WHY RELOADED BRASS FIRED IN THE SAME CHAMBER WILL ALWAYS SHOOT BETTER THAN NEW BRASS. AND WHY YOU SHOULDN'T COUNT ON ACCURACY IF YOU ARE USING THE SAME BRASS IN 3 OR 4 DIFFERENT RIFLES.
6. INDIVIDUAL BULLET WEIGHTS, THAT'S WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO SORT THEM.
CHANGE ONE ITEM AT A TIME, IT MIGHT TAKE 50-100 BULLETS TO WORK UP A LOAD, BUT THAT COMBINATION SHOULD BE GOOD FOR 700-1200 ROUNDS SO TAKE YOUR TIME AND GO SLOW.
AT 700-1200 ROUNDS THE BARREL WILL CHANGE BASED ON THROAT WEAR, IN MILD CALIBERS LIKE THE 223, 6MM BR AND 308 YOU CAN OFTEN JUST WORK UP NEW LOADS.
IN VERY FAST CALIBERS YOU ARE USUALLY DUE EITHER A NEW BARREL, THE BARREL CUT OFF AND SET BACK OR FIRELAPPING.
11-11-2012, 05:14 PM
I wanted to add a couple things before anyone jumps all over the methods of madness.
The best long range instructional reloading DVD I have seen is the Defensive Edge Reloading for Long Range DVD. His methods are great.
5 rounds ought to give you enough info. to let you know you are close or if you need to move on.
11-11-2012, 06:40 PM
For years I used 5 rounds per load, but I felt I wasn't gaining much, just using more powder & bullets. I now use 3 rounds per load. Once I've zero'd in on what I want (could be 2 or more loads) to keep working with, I then load 5. This method works well FOR ME.
11-11-2012, 10:51 PM
I use 5 and cut the worst two. If it shows promise I'll shoot it again and again to prove a point.
I figure I am going to shoot 800-1500 bullets out of a rifle before I have to figure something else out. I don't want to be wrong.
Goal is to figure out what I want within 50 rounds for something like a 30-06.
I know a couple basic things, I have it pretty solid I want to shoot Nosler Accubonds or the Barnes TSX so it's not like I am doing 100's of combinations.
For a Tikka T3 Varmint in 30-06 I knew I wanted to shoot 180 Accubonds at game and 190 SMK's at the range. Well the Tikka has a 1 in 11 twist for the 30-06, so quickly I could see I needed to try another weight bullet. So I switched to 165 Accubonds for game.
The 165 Accubond outshoots any other load so far. But of course it sucks at 1000 yards. So I have coaxed the rifle into accepting the 190 Lapua Scenar with a ton of back and forth on the load.
If here in Australia I was allowed to own more than one firearm (wierd kind of Visa I am on), I'd only worry about the 30-06 for game. And I build a totally different and more specialized rifle for F-Class.
Which when I get back to America next year I'll do.
Remember only change one variable at a time. Let me repeat that ONLY CHANGE ONE VARIABLE AT A TIME. Unless you like to drink, as changing more than one variable will kill some serious brain cells that only Alaskan Hazelnut Stout or Slow Elk Stout can bring back.
Reloading does not save you money, it gets you shooting more.
Not explictly stated above, just implied.
If you aren't using a quality chronograph when developing loads, you are just guessing! Nothing cuts down on load development time like real data, not influenced by the shooter. But an Oehler 35P chrony and never look back.
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