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Old 03-17-2015, 04:18 PM
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petey petey is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: "Pitch Pine", PA
Posts: 65,791
What I thought I knew...what I now know

So let me set the stage:

Age 10, I begin reloading by instruction of my father. First it starts off easy and simple, shot shells with a lee-load-all. The year progresses, so I move on to rifle and handgun reloading. Lots of fun finding accurate loads, far better and cheaper than any factory ammo you could purchase.... I never looked back, never shot factory ammo again, aside from .22LR and shotgun shells for spring gobbler or rabbit/upland bird. I still loaded my own shot shells for shooting clay birds.

I often switched bullets, mainly b/c I wanted a bullet that would do the job better on deer or elk or bear. Maybe that last animal I shot the year before ran further than I expected. Choose a different make/model, weight and find the best load (which normally meant 3/4" at 100 yards) I kept every target, have them today. It's funny to look back at what I did...

How did I find the load?, simple load three up of a certain powder charge, shoot for group...go up or down .5 grains...repeat. Choose the best, start moving seating depth, only by measuring OAL of cartridge (boy how silly I was) How many rounds did this take? Well a lot, sometimes upward of 100 or more rounds down the barrel to find that so called "perfect" load for that bullet.

How many factory barrels have I burnt up?.. well a few, depending on the caliber. I know one .338 in particular I smoked beyond accuracy repair.

Move on a few more years...get into some real "in depth" reloading. I'm gonna kill a critter out past 1000. Lets buy a RUM or two start pushing the biggest badest bullet I can find as fast as it can go. Yeah I killed a few out the history and read those stories. I didn't even know what a meplat or ogive was

Hey I'm using your standard run of the mill equipment, beam scales (accurate within .1 grain) single stage presses, etc...

Move forward 26 years from where I started: Now lets start shooting competition at 1000 yards. MAN what I've learned...

Have what I've been doing for so long, been so wrong? Well maybe not. To what level of accuracy are you trying to achieve? In those days, sub 1" 3 shot groups at 100 yards were fine to take animals out to even 5-600 yards. How I got to that point probably cost a lot more money and components by doing things the standard way, not knowing there's way more efficient ways of achieving the same or better results. So dealing with this 1000 yard game, where you have too many other variables, the one thing I've learned is that your gun and it's loaded round can not be another variable.

First off it's all about repeatability. If one thing is different, it can change the course. How much? Depends on the "thing" that is different and by how much. I no longer can be happy with .75", 3 shot groups at 100. That's 7.5" at 1000 in perfect conditions, and only 3 shots to boot. Folks I'm talking environmental chamber conditions too. Good enough to kill a deer or elk? Yup...good enough to compete with the rest...ha ha ha ha... when is it ever "perfect" in the real world? I look for .1 or .0X's in the 5 shot range. Folks we're talking putting one bullet inside the other, inside the other, inside the other, inside the other at 100 yards. You have to, or you're not even close to the same level as the guys down the line. How do you accomplish that? Well first off, you need good steel. If you don't have a good quality barrel and a competent smith, it's not going happen. I do a lot of research on what works for others, what the champs are using, what the top 20 shooters in the world used last year and everything that goes with it. I've chosen good so far, every barrel I own that goes on my bench gun shoots in the 1's or less. Bartlien, Krieger are among the top..Google it and see. Why I shoot both. Doesn't mean that a Hart or Lilja or Douglas isn't good, but the numbers tell you what the best are using and why I choose to use the same.

So this is all about reloading...assuming you have a descent barrel/rifle combo (building that rifle can be a gunsmithing topic), what changed in my 27+ years of how I reload?

I'll keep coming back to this, but it's about repeatability. Everything must be the same.

1. All about the equipment you use. If you use digital or a balance beam with .1 gr accuracy and that's what you use the measure things, well don't expect to be any closer than within +-.1 grain, which by the way is a .2 grain spread. Me? I got scales that help me measure to within .02 accuracy, yes that's 2 hundreths of a grain. Why? you'll find out how much I use it to measure EVERYTHING. Everything must be the same!

2. Brass prep. If you think you're going to just buy a bag of brass, tear it open, run it through your sizing dies and load them up expecting the same results your joking. First it starts with buying the best brass, which means the most consistent. Then you must make them all the same. Primer pocket uni-forming, flash hole de-burring, (oh yeah and this isn't RCBS stuff...this is machined tools to make each and every brass have the same hole/chamfer) All about repeatability, right? Everything MUST be the same and you need the tools to make them the same. This isn't run of the mill, mass produced tools you get at Walmart. They are machined tools to perfection. Ok so you trim, chamfer, anneal, turn necks to make them all uniform...then sort.

There's lots of opinions on weight sorting brass. This is all my opinion of course and feel free to give your own. I do it my way b/c it's something I can physically measure, easily. I weigh the brass on a scale that gets me within .02 gr. Many state that you must sort by volume.. OK smarty, how do you do that consistently and not take over 5 minutes per brass? What holds the liquid in? A spent primer? How do you know it's not different from the next case's spent primer? Using packing putty? OK how do you know you didn't put too little or too much in this one or that?.. you don't, period! Get my drift? Too many variables...yes there's variables with weighing, like where's the extra weight come from, inside or out? On the neck or in the web? Well I can't tell you other than I can measure it, easily. And when I'm done sorting my "prepped" brass I have a stack of brass that looks like a bell curve. Some high, Some low...and the vast majority right in the middle. I throw out the highs and lows or use them as cull cases and shoot the ones in the middle. They are close to the same. Doing it this way on over 200 pieces of 6XC, I have 170 cases that are within .4 grains. I still keep them separated by .1 grain increments but guess what? To my knowledge, they are all pretty darn close to the same. Does all this really matter? Maybe, maybe not,but I know I should have repeatability, b/c I have a baseline measurement that are as about as close as you're going to measure.
So I spent a lot on brass, there's a reason for that it's IMPORTANT. What's the 4 components of a cartridge to make it go bang? Brass ,Bullet, Powder, Primer. Notice Brass is first. It's the vehicle that houses everything else and it matters.
I Anneal every brass, every 2 firings, again consistently the same way so I have repeatability. Can you get away from not? Well yeah, but watch your accuracy fade away as you don't anneal. You tell me brass doesn't matter for accuracy, I'll prove you wrong every time.
I could talk for days about each and every step I do, and why, but the end result.. repeatability

3. Bullet prep. What the heck, man? You don't open a box of bullets and start going to town? You're crazy if you do, I'll tell you that much. So I buy in bulk, whatever the make/model, same lot's so I'm not having to deal with another variable. There's enough variables involved in mass produced bullets to begin with. Bottom line, most select bullets with superior BC to buck the most major variable in shooting long range The WIND. If you've ever done a true bullet sort you would be amazed at the differences you find. First and foremost, bearing surface. What is in contact with the rifling? The bullet right, so we want to make sure that our bearing surface is the same on all strings of bullets we're shooting. So if I'm shooting for a group or for score and sighters I may need 12-14 rounds. I want every one of those bullets to have the same bearing surface. You know what? I take that nice fancy scale and even weigh them to the nearest .02 grain, but not yet. In a box of 100 bullets you may have 5 different piles of bullets in .001" bearing surface increments. Yup that's 1 thousandths, and you need a tool that can measure that.
After sorted by bearing surface I want to uniform the point and in front of the ogive, so I trim the meplat then run every bullet through a pointing die. By trimming the meplat you decrease the BC of the bullet, but I end up ahead of the game by repointing it better than it was. Yup I,ve just modified this bullet and all its brothers to be exactly the same.. Repeatability right?
Now I weigh, just to make sure I didn't screw something up when I measured bearing surface. At the end of the day, there's normally a direct correlation with bearing surface length and weight normally after my pointing trick. I may find one a little off, and it's cast aside. Repeatability right?

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Last edited by petey; 03-17-2015 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 03-17-2015, 04:19 PM
petey's Avatar
petey petey is offline
Join Date: May 2002
Location: "Pitch Pine", PA
Posts: 65,791
4. Powder prep.. LOL, we all know that different powders have different burn rates and can cause different pressures based off of things like ambient temperature. Powder selection is important, but not so much as everything I've gone over so far. What?...yeah, you know that two different powders can get the same job done and there's things one needs to consider when selecting powder. It all comes down to consistency and guess what? Repeatability. Let me throw this little scenario out there.

I'll pick on the 6mm for a moment here. I'll even pick a bullet, hmmm, lets say the 107gr Sierra Match King, or even the 105gr Berger Hybrid,to me no nevermind to get this point across. Each one of those bullets require a certain velocity and twist /stability to be "accurate". I'll use that term loosely. For this example, lets say it's 2950fps. That's the optimal velocity it likes.Yeah there's "other" velocities it'll shoot good, but that's the best. Those bullets do not care if the vehicle pushing it is a .243, 6mm, 6 Dasher, 6XC, 6CM, or any of the other variant 6mm wildcats. So why wildcat then? Well many reasons, but the bigg'st in the competition world? Two words, barrel life. Look up articles on this. Why did they come out with the 6CM, which was really just reinvented from an original wildcat? Why do it when the 6XC was perfect, it could launch that bullet that desired 2950fps. Well the means to get it to that magic number. Was causes throat erosion, fire cracking, all the bad things that make a barrel go by by? Heat and friction right? What causes that? Powder going bang, bullet going down a barrel, fps for that bullet is the same in both right? What if I told you the 6CM could easily get 1000 more rounds than the 6XC? How??? The POWDER, all about case capacity. In order for the 6XC to push that bullet that fast it must use something like a H4350 or H4831SC, a 6CM can accomplish the same optimal velocity with H1000. Look at the burn rate charts and see how much slower H1000 is than H4350. The 6CM is born, same optimal velocity for accuracy, slower burning powder, same bullet, less heat, more barrel life. In fact the slowest burning powder you can fit in a 6XC may be 7828SSC, right handy to 4831SC. So why wildcat in the competition world? Well who wants to change barrels like underwear? Yeah yeah there's other reasons too, like feeding rounds in certain actions, but I'm talking MY world of benchrest 1000 yard shooting.

5. CBTO :Case Base to Ogive, for years I always measures OAL, end of case, to end of pointy bullet tip. It didn't tell me anything other than it could fit in a feed magazine or was to "specs". What I've found very important is freebore of a chamber. Where's that bullet seated on the neck of the case and how close it is to the lands. All has to do with neck tension, pressure concerns, blah blah. I wont write a book other than to say, I don't have a single barrel that doesn't prefer to have that bullet either touching or jammed into the lands. Very little if ever any jump in our world. In fact some people short freebore and chase the lands watching throat erosion, knowing that every X amount of rounds they need to seat you bullet out .001 further. Only way to do this is with measuring using the right tools and having something as simple as an ogive nut for your bullets. Any lengths you see written on my load development targets is ALWAYS CBTO

6. Neck tension.. So yeah I turn my necks, why?? Um do I have to say it?...ok repeatability. Even if it's a no turn neck chamber. Quite honestly I prefer tight neck chambers b/c of the tolerances required. We've all use those full length sizing dies right? Non-bushin type feed your case in, crush the crap out of it, shoot it, expands to your chamber, repeat. Really overworking brass. Remember all that brass prep work? You wanna get more than 5 firings out of it?, Why not just neck size and bump the shoulder if and when you ever have to? Buy different types of bushings, I like to stay somewhere around .004" less than loaded round. Remember this formula for clearance = brass neck thickness X 2 + bullet diameter

.013" thick neck X 2 = .026 + .244 = .270

In a tight neck chamber, your chamber better be no less than .271 nk, most like that .004, so this example is for a no turn .274 nk chamber and I turned my necks from .0145 to .013, to clean them up and guess what? repeatability. You will not have that on straight factory brass.

Most people say I run a .003 neck tension. What they really mean and we all know is they are running a .267 bushing in this case. It's really not .003 neck tension. Just means they're sizing down the neck .003 from overall loaded round before seating the bullet. It really has to do with the "grip" of the case on the bullet, so there's other factors that come into play like seating deapth, length of neck, blah blah.. I'm not going into a lot of detail b/c there's so much info on this stuff out there to read. Feel free to read at your own leisure.

7. Working up the perfect loads. So in years past we all just loaded up 3 and shot, then went up or down .5 grains until we found something that shot right? Wrong, .and read this carefully, b/c there is a lot of merit to this and will safe your barrel life. At what cost to your barrel? 100-200 rounds? How is it I can shoot less than 20 rounds and be in the .1's? Good steal? Yes. Good Brass prep? Yes. All that other crap above? Yes. now we're starting from scratch.

Two words " Ladder Test " There is awesome articles on this stuff and let me tell you it works. For those of you that are reading this for the first time and have no clue what I'm talking about, I'll explain at a 30,000ft level. Google it and read the real research, b/c it works plain and simple. I don't care if it's a factory gun or a custom, it'll work. Do this as soon as you change powder, bullet, any of those 4 components we talked about above. So back to that example of the bullet requiring that certain velocity to be accurate. The ladder test tells you this. Meaning it will tell you the node in which that bullet will be most accurate or in our world of long range, stop stringing vertically up the ladder. Where the harmonics of that barrel and that bullet and that series of powder charges do not change much because you're in the "Node" of accuracy. If you can't control your vertical, you dont have a chance at 1000. Left and right you have that whole wind thing going on, but vertical, you actually can control. It's all about finding at what point that the powder charge doesn't change your vertical.

Concept is simple. You start low lets say 37.8 gr and load each round identically the same only changing the powder charge by .2 gr increments. So you will have 37.8,38, 38.2,38.4,38.6,38.8,39,39.2,39.4,39.6,39.8,40 all loaded to the same CBTO, normally seated touching the lands (we know that's normally the best place for accuracy) Now some factory guns have long throats in them and you may not be able to touch the lands, so pick a spot where your bullet isn't seated out beyond where you're allowed.

You have to do this at 300 yards or farther, preferably farther. Now with a nice solid rest, start shooting at the same aiming point one after the next in increasing powder charges. Common sense will tell us as the powder charge increases so does pressure, so does velocity, so the bullet will "walk up the ladder" at some point throughout that string you will find horizontal stringing, not vertical.

So say 38.6, 38.8,39 shot on the same horizontal line. Bang, first accuracy node, keep shooting, you'll normally find another and so on. So lets say I choose that node to be my load to test. I'm going to choose 38.8 right? Why, well b/c if I'm wrong in my measurement by .2 gr either way I won't see a vertical change. This is where you guys using a beam scale it helps. Me.. I load to 38.00 or 38.02 to the two hundredths. I got lots of room for error.
Anyhow I load up a 5 string and shoot it.. Normally it's dead on and I'm done. I may tinker with seating depths by I go in instead of out as I've found jumping never works for the bullets I use. So here I just shot 12 rounds for a ladder test, 5 for group, after I picked my node and it's shooting in the .1', that was easy.

Those of you that loaded .5 grn increments 3 shot, guess what, you hit that accuracy node, but are you in the middle? More than likely NOPE! you can actually miss a node by going in .5 grains, notice my example. So as you're out there shooting away wondering what's going on, I'm all done and ready for a match. Why is this important? Well what if you're running a barrel burning round like a 6.5x284? Average life about 1000 rounds, maybe more or less depending on steel and cleaning techniques. If it takes you 200 rounds to figure out a "good load" your barrel has just lost 1/5th of it life in "tinkering". Every barrel has an end of life. There's nothing more sickening to have a barrel just start shooting good then all of a sudden have to start over.

Really folks... search Ladder Test and read the real research. I never knew anything about this stuff, but once I started applying this technique, it was like "what in the world have I been doing over the past 20 some years?"

I'd say that's enough for now, appreciate you listening to me ramble, but WOW what a ride over the last year.. Everything I knew, I know better now, believe me there's WAY more (primers, runout/concentricity, keeping track of brass, cleaning techniques, blah blah) these are just a few key points to get the point across. I thought I was a pretty good reloader over the past 27 years. What I now know is I only scratched the surface when it came to achieving ultimate accuracy. There is a meticulous attention to detail one must appreciate if you want to get to that level

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Last edited by petey; 03-18-2015 at 08:42 AM.
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