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Old February 19, 2013, 01:34 PM   #1
603Country
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Resizing - FL, NK, Lee Collet, FL bushing - group size

I'm just now beginning the comparison test between several types of case resizing dies for the 223, and the resultant accuracy from each. Ruger Hawkeye stainless in a Hogue stock with full aluminum bedding channel. Leupold VX2 6-18 scope. Nosler 40 gr BT. H335 powder. CCI BR4 primers. Nosler cases that have been highly prepped, which included neck turning. Timney trigger. RCBS competition seating die. Front and rear bags on a sturdy shooting bench.

As I've said before, I'm doing this just for me, but I'll share my results with ya'll. I can't and won't say that what works best for me is what will work best for you. I'll just say what my results were and you can do what you will with that info.

Today, in just a preliminary test to see if I was setting up the Lee Collet Die and the Redding Type S FL bushing die properly, I loaded up 3 rounds using each. Yes, I know that it isn't statistically significant having just the 3 rounds, but I'm sure you'll understand when I tell you that I just had to try them out.

First were 3 rounds that were previously loaded that I think were neck sized. Nice group of about 3/4 inch, with two in one hole. Just barrel foulers.

Second were 3 rounds using the Redding non-bushing FL die. Group was about an inch. Nothing special.

Third were 3 rounds neck sized with the Redding non-bushing die. Maybe a touch smaller group than from the non bushing FL die. Again...nothing special.

Fourth were 3 rounds sized with the Lee Collet neck sizing die. Wow! All holes touched and were essentially a one-holer, though the group was elongated and not round.

Fifth were the 3 rounds from the Redding Type S FL Bushing Die. I used it with the expander ball removed. The group was disappointing, being just about an inch. I'm going to try that one again right now, with a cold barrel.

So the statistically insignificant first 'abbreviated' test win goes to the Lee Collet Die. Now I'll go clean the rifle and start loading the rounds for the full test. I'll shoot one 15 round group with loads made with each resizing die, then clean the rifle and start on the next group. I'll stretch out all the shooting time to keep with a warm but not hot barrel. Each group will be begun with a cold barrel and one fouling shot, then the 15 rounds. Unless I have a case failure, all groups of 15 will be shot using the exact same cases.

I've been wanting to do this for a long time. To be honest, I just could not believe that the rather cheap Lee Collet Die could really work that well. If the prelim testing proves out in the full testing, I'll be ordering several more of those Collet Dies.

Last edited by 603Country; February 19, 2013 at 01:40 PM.
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Old February 19, 2013, 02:31 PM   #2
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603country, three shot groups have a 15% to 20% chance of representing what a 50-shot group will.

Shoot more shots per test group; at least 10, else your data's not statistically significant and far from being what's good to make decisions on.

If you still think 3-shot groups are good enough, prove it by shooting 5 of them with the same load. Then let me know which one you pick to represent the accuracy of that load.

Basics of testing ammo: if all the groups shot with a given load are different sizes, you're not shooting enough shots per group to get meaningful info on that load.
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Old February 19, 2013, 02:44 PM   #3
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Bart, you must not have read all of what I said. I know full well that 3 shots aren't enough. The groups will be 15 shots each (5 and cool, 5 and cool, and 5 and clean). I just did 3 shots because the rifle needed cleaning anyway and I couldn't resist seeing what the new dies could do.

And while we are talking... on the Redding Type S FL bushing die, I'm not using the expander ball. Would that be your chosen way to test the die? And when I inserted the bushing, I did it with 'numbers down'. Redding's instructions didn't specify the proper way to insert the bushing, but some internet sources said that was the way to do it. Is that correct? Thanks.
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Old February 19, 2013, 04:33 PM   #4
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603, I did read all of your post. All I did was counter your 3-shot claims.

For all I know, I'll applaud your 15-shot group you pick as the best.

Regarding expander balls, they're best used as slingshot ammo. Their only place in a full length sizing die is when uniforming new case neck to the same dimensions.

Put the bushing in the die whatever sizes case necks the right diameter on their inside to hold the bullet just right for you.
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Old February 19, 2013, 06:28 PM   #5
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603, your post was clearly stated. Some people have something to say, some people just have to say something.
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Old February 19, 2013, 07:39 PM   #6
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603,

I've got another variation for you. Since it's so easy for me to spend your time and money.

I don't know if I mentioned this in the other thread.... since the general consensus among pure accuracy shooters seems to be that "full-length" resizing is more/most accurate, you should try the Lee collet die with a Redding body/shoulder die. Theoretically, you have the best of both worlds.
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Old February 19, 2013, 07:44 PM   #7
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I just want to say that I'm very interested to see your results and applaud you for taking the time and posting the results.
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Old February 19, 2013, 07:52 PM   #8
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Well, I've used all the resizing dies and shot up all the reloads. I think I learned something, but the big thing was that what I learned from this exercise is that it isn't over. There was no clear winner of the comparison. The smallest group size was actually the standard Redding FL sizing die. The 15 rounds went into a round group that measured about 1 inch center to center of the widest spaced bullet holes. The worst group was from the standard Redding Neck Sizing die. I didn't measure it. The most disappointing group was from the Redding Type S FL bushing type sizing die. I didn't measure it. The most interesting group was from the Lee Collet die. Of the 15 rounds, 9 went into one big hole. The other 6 were spaced out around the big ragged hole. So the full group was bigger than the smallest group of the day (Redding FL Die), but the Lee Collet die let me put 9 bullets in one hole. That's mighty interesting and I've got to try that die some more. And I've got to try that Redding FL bushing die again. Maybe there's a learning curve, and so far maybe I haven't learned diddly about that die. Looked pretty simple. Instructions were clear.

Another thing that I learned is that the Ruger Hawkeye barrel doesn't foul badly at all from 16 bullets (15 and a fouler). Real easy to clean with Butch's.

If further reloading/shooting with these dies gains me any more worthwhile insight, I'll pass the info on. I'm going to focus on the Lee Collet and the Redding Bushing die. And maybe my shooting technique needs some polishing.
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Old February 20, 2013, 12:05 AM   #9
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603country, your tests are interesting.

Did you have both the full length bushing and standard dies set to bump fired case shoulders back only a thousandth or two? If more that that, it often causes accuracy problems.

I only hope the variables you introduced into the results are small. But you're off to a good start in testing.

You might try On Target software (free download) then use it to measure your groups' mean radius. That's about the best way to measure shot groups and ends up telling you what the average distance is you'll miss your point of aim.
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Old February 20, 2013, 06:29 AM   #10
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603 country,

Just wondering how far off the lands are your bullets when they are fired?

Also what is the diameter of the loaded round at the neck before and after firing?

Too much "jump" before the bullet finds the rifling can do bad things to your dispersion.

For kicks duplicate same load and seat your bullets .020" further out and see what happens.

Case in point just last night I was talking to friend in Mississippi and he told me about a test he ran a number of years ago with a 1917 Enfield. He loaded up ammo to the stated OAL length in loading manuals and then he started increasing the OAL about .010" at a time till he got to the point the bullet was barely held in the case mouth.

He said it was amazing in that the stated OAL in manuals had groups his hand would not cover the pattern and they got progressively smaller as the OAL got longer and the last group was under an inch. Everything was the same except OAL.

He had no idea how many rounds were on the barrel and no borescope to look at things inside and no erosion gage so there are several unanswered questions but obviously the longer the OAL the closer he was to rifling and the smaller the groups got the closer he got.

You might try some Sierra 52 gr. BR bullets and see how things go.
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Old February 20, 2013, 10:48 AM   #11
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BartB, you managed to hit on exactly what I'm thinking. I plan to fiddle with the two FL dies and try to set the shoulder back a bit less. I think the shoulder is getting set back too far with one or both of those dies. And I plan to ease the bushing die back off the case more than the 1/16 of a turn that Redding suggested. Regarding the Redding Type S FL bushing die, I can't accept that my accuracy was so poor with those reloads. It seems obvious to me that I'm not doing something right. More shooting to follow.

Hummer70, I'm loading the bullet just off the lands, though if I had to tell you at this moment how far off, I'd probably be lying to you. When I originally started shooting this load combination, I did vary COAL to see what shot best and settled on the length I used yesterday.

As I loaded and shot the various rounds, I noticed very interesting differences in several areas. The FL sized rounds, using the standard Redding die, showed higher pressure signs than the others did. I'll assume for now that it was due to being resized completely to a smaller interior volume. Also, the bullets required more effort to seat. The least seating effort was with the Lee Collet Dies, which required very little effort. That might, however, have been because the case necks were likely work hardened and didn't shrink around the mandrel as much as new brass might.

Also of minor interest is that different resizing dies caused minor differences in POI on the targets. I'll assume that's due to pressure variations caused by FL versus NK sizing and case volume differences.

So the question for me now is "what's the best die for loading my 223?" With rounds from the Lee Collet Die putting 9 of 15 rounds into one hole, I've just got to play with that die some more. If that many bullets went into the same hole, why did I have 6 flyers? Was it something I did? If I shoot a 5 round 'Lee Collet' group with a cold barrel for each round, will I get one big hole. We will see. If I decide to go with one of the FL dies, I've got to reduce shoulder setback. Brian's question/suggestion above about my needing to buy and test a shoulder bump die was a good question, but I probably won't go to that extreme just yet.

I should mention that I'm using that Nosler 40 gr BT for two reasons: It shoots pretty darn good and I have a lot of them. In that 1 in 9 twist, I actually get better accuracy from that 65 gr Sierra GK, but I'm saving them for pigs and coyotes.
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Old February 20, 2013, 11:41 AM   #12
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603,

Try Brian's experiment, too. You don't need to buy a separate body die. Just remove the bushing and expander both from your Redding FL S die and use its body only to set the shoulder back one or two thousandths at most, as Bart mentioned. That way you can still use the collet die on the neck.

If you don't have a proper gage for shoulder setback, you can improvise with your calipers and a spacer or a bearing bushing from the hardware store. You just want to measure before and after. The bushing doesn't have to match the shoulder datum diameter perfectly as this is a comparative measurement and not an absolute one. Just get something with a hole that lands about in the middle of the shoulder. A lot of 1/4" spacers are actually oversize to accommodate all 1/4" bolts and wind up being about right.



If you have a runout gage of some kind, check that your case heads are square to the rest of the case. It's not uncommon for a bolt face to be out of square or to be tipped slightly by bolt lugs not mating perfectly and in need of being lapped, or off due to an actual off-axis chamber. A head that's not chambering to the same fit each time can cause fliers by altering the rifle's recoil moments a little. I recommend you try to index all your cartridges with the headstamp upright when you chamber. That way if there is a head squareness issue, after the first time you fire them that way they will all be going back in with the head aligned the same way to reduce recoil moment variation.

Also check finished cartridge bullet runout if you can. Some guns care about bullet runout very little and others can open up an moa from it. If you have a way to measure it, you can drill a bullet size hole in your work bench and stick the bullet of the loaded cartridges in to gently straighten them. If it is not case heads but bullets causing an issue, it could be that 9 of your Collet die rounds seated straight but the other six were off slightly. Again, it depends how sensitive your chamber is to this.

I hope you are segregating your cases by which die did what to them so you don't cross over different amounts of work hardening of the necks by different sizing mechanisms. On another board a member recently posted some information from A-Square's book showing pressure and velocity increasing with each loading of some .30-06 brass due to work hardening of the neck increasing bullet pull, and with, start pressure. They even claimed up to a 10,000 psi pressure increase for their load. It seems high to me, but since they were measuring it obviously has the potential to happen.

That might explain why your FL loads had pressure signs the others did not. Your collet die should be working the brass less than the others as it neither over-resizes and expands, nor flows the brass to the rear of the neck. A standard FL die with expander should do the most work hardening of the neck. Given your pressure indications, it is possible this explains the results you saw. Generally, for cartridges firing at pressures high enough to stretch brass, it is the volume the case expands to during firing that affects peak pressure, not the resized volume. But the neck is another matter.

The solution A-Square promotes, and one a couple of makers of automatic annealing machines also promote, is to anneal necks after every firing. They are claiming to get the best velocity and pressure consistency that way. It's an awful lot of work to go to, but for the purposes of the numbers of cases you are testing, it would be another variable you could eliminate during load development. When you find the best load, you can try skipping it afterward to see if the groups open up or the pressure signs grow.

If you don't have annealing gear, I would use the candle flame method. It has a hard time overheating the brass. You just turn the neck and shoulder in a yellow candle flame until the head starts getting too hot to hold onto, at which point you drop the brass into water or wipe it off with a damp towel if you don't want to take time to dry them out afterward. The wiping gets the soot off.
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Last edited by Unclenick; February 20, 2013 at 11:52 AM. Reason: typo fixes and clarification.
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Old February 20, 2013, 12:27 PM   #13
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Unclenick, thanks for all the useful information. I was reluctant to buy a Redding body die, but the good ol internet showed me this morning that I could use the Type S die for that purpose.

The shoulder setback trick you showed me is great, and I appreciate it. And the candle brass annealing process (which I had never heard of) is much appreciated.

In order to keep all things equal during the comparison, I used the same 15 cases with each die. I did have some case failures toward the end of the comparison. The cases were not new and unfired, but had been reloaded several times before. Probably would have been better to just use all of the 50 Nosler cases I had, since they were weight sorted, neck turned, etc.

I'm off to the barn workshop to fiddle around with various dies. This has been interesting so far, showing results that were unexpected (to me), and I've got lots yet to do. I am amazed at that Lee Collet Die. Something that inexpensive isn't supposed to work that well.

Thanks for the suggestions.
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Old February 20, 2013, 12:31 PM   #14
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Did you ever see this video? That die has a bit of a learning curve when it comes to getting the press handle pressure right, but when you have it right it is a better mouse trap. No over-resizing. No "dreaded donut" forms. All you need is the shoulder bump back to have every possibility available to you.
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Old February 20, 2013, 04:31 PM   #15
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Well...now I know what resizing die I'll be using from now on. I shot 5 shot groups with loads from the Lee Collet, the Redding Type S FL bushing die, and the Redding standard FL sizing die. I adjusted both FL dies for a .002 shoulder setback, or at least as close as I could get to that, using Unclenick's suggested approach. The bushing die reloads grouped into about an inch, if you don't count one flyer (which I guess we have to count). The standard FL die grouped into 1 inch. The Lee Collet reloads grouped into 3/8 of an inch. That's 5 bullets in the same darned ragged hole. Amazing. Same 5 cases, so no chance of a couple of bad cases causing problems.

Now somebody is going to say that "it's just 5 bullets, so it isn't statistically significant". So let em say it. That's still 5 bullets in one ragged hole that only shows sign of having had 3 bullets hit the paper, so the other two were inside that 3/8 of an inch. That's significant in my book, particularly after all the shooting I did yesterday.

So here's the result of the testing:

- Die that led to best grouping. The Lee Collet Die
- Second place goes to the Redding standard FL sizing die
- Third place is either the Redding FL bushing die or the Redding standard NK die, or maybe using the FL die for Partial Sizing.

So...is this the answer for you too? Darned if I know, but I can tell you that the inexpensive Lee Collet Die let me shoot the best 5 shot group that's ever come out of this rifle. No other die was close.

I might consider doing some more testing and die adjusting, but my brass is getting tired and I'm back-ordered just like you guys are.

Thanks for listening.
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Old February 20, 2013, 04:46 PM   #16
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Maybe I didn't catch it, but as suggested and which I'm most interested in, did you or will you be testing loads that have been sized with both shoulder setback and with the Collet die?
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Old February 20, 2013, 04:53 PM   #17
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I did adjust both FL sizing dies to minimize shoulder setback. It resulted in better groups (slightly better) from the standard Redding FL sizing die. Adjustment didn't do much for the Redding bushing die. I'm still thinking that the bushing die should produce more accurate ammo than it does in my hands. Still, it would have to get seriously better to come even close to what the Lee Collet die did.

Or maybe you asked if I tried the Shoulder bump with the Type S die (without bushing) and then used the Lee Collet die. No, I didn't do that. It was next on my list, but when I got a one-holer from the Lee I just left it alone. Maybe I'll try it tomorrow, but how much better could it get? Once the cases start needing a bump, that's when I will most certainly use the bushing die (no bushing) to set the shoulder back a touch.
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Old February 20, 2013, 05:00 PM   #18
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I'm loving this thread. As a long time, high round count handgun handloader, I'm just hoping to get in to some genuine accuracy handloading for my first "proper" bolt action rifle. I have NOTHING to add other than to say:
Quote:
I'm doing this just for me, but I'll share my results with ya'll. I can't and won't say that what works best for me is what will work best for you. I'll just say what my results were and you can do what you will with that info.
...much appreciated, and clearly -- this is a perk for all of us when we choose to hang out together. We've got a good thing going here, and I'm pleased that you are sharing the results of your work. It is well received!
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Old February 20, 2013, 05:17 PM   #19
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Sorry, I wasn't clear about it. I do mean brass that has gone through both sizing operations.

I've been meaning to do this myself but as you stated, I haven't seen a need to go further than just the Collet die since it works so well by itself. However, I am still very curious about it.

I have a RCBS FL die but the decapping pin broke on exactly the third piece of brass I ran through it. I was so PO'ed that I took it off the press and have not put it back on. I guess it's time to do so!
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Old February 21, 2013, 09:10 AM   #20
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Regarding the number of shots per group that's going to give good data, consider the following.

Here's a plot of 250 shots. Do the following to get a few 5-shot or 10 shot groups:


1. Pick 5 (or 10) shot locations, then plot them on paper.

2. Pick another 5 (or 10) then plot them on the same paper but keep them placed relative to the same center point of the 250-shot group.

3. Repeat step 2 a few more times.

4. Now look at your several few-shot group composite.

5. Find the center of your composite.

6. Where's that composite center relative to the 250-shot group center?

This is the best thing I've ever seen to show how important it is to shoot enough shots per test group to be meaningful.

Note the shot spots you've not picked will be shot later should you "shoot" all 250 rounds.
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Old February 21, 2013, 10:05 AM   #21
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BartB, I do understand what you are pointing out, and I thank you for the information. The more rounds I shoot, the more I'll learn about the bullet/powder combination. However, in the case of the shooting I've just done, when one combo shot into one hole and the other combo's were nowhere close to that performance, I'm just going to take a mental leap and say to myself that the one-holer is what I want to use as my primary load (die, powder, bullet). If the answer wasn't so obvious (to me anyway), I'd do a lot more shooting before declaring a winner.

And, if truth be told, I will be doing more shooting with various dies. That Redding FL bushing die should have done better. You had convinced me that die was the way to go, and the only path to best accuracy. The results did not prove that out. You are obviously a knowledgable fellow with much shooting experience, so your opinion is to be trusted. Therefore, it must be that I didn't utilize all the potential from that die. I'll try it some more when I get my backordered Lapua brass (whenever that'll be). For now though, the Lee Collet Die will be my go-to sizing die. And I'll order one for my 260 Remington, where accuracy can be spotty.

The good news for me is that I can shoot till I get carpal tunnel syndrome in my trigger finger. I'm retired, with my own shooting range. Got plenty of bullets and primers. Could sure use those new cases though.

And let me mention that although I don't always agree with everything you say, I do recognize that you have much experience and knowledge. I listen...and I have learned a few things from you. And...also from FGuffey. And from Unclenick and a few of the rest of ya'll. The combined knowledge pool on this forum is huge.
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Old February 21, 2013, 10:13 AM   #22
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603 country, what combo shot all into one hole? I don't remember that.

If you're referring to:
Quote:
The most interesting group was from the Lee Collet die. Of the 15 rounds, 9 went into one big hole. The other 6 were spaced out around the big ragged hole. So the full group was bigger than the smallest group of the day (Redding FL Die), but the Lee Collet die let me put 9 bullets in one hole.
. . .that's not all shots in one hole. 9 were clustered quite well but 6 were outliers that have to be included for that load's performance.

Had the cluster of 9 all been shot in a row, they might mean something good. Otherwise, I don't think it's a good idea to use them alone.

But you're making pretty good effort to find out what's best.
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Old February 21, 2013, 10:45 AM   #23
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In post 11, I wondered to myself if I used that Lee die and I shot a 5 round group from a cold clean barrel, would it group into one big hole. I did load em up, and in post 15 I said that 5 rounds from the Lee Collet Die did in fact shoot into one enlarged hole. I can't be sure of all the why's and wherefore's of them going into one hole, but it may have been due to Unclenick's mention (and I can't remember the exact words) that with use of the Lee die you could accidentally vary neck tension if you didn't resize them all the same way. In fact, I hadn't consistently resized all of the cases of the 15 shot group where 9 went into one hole, and I remembered that. So for the 5 shot group, I was particularly careful to resize the neck of each case with 3 strokes of the ram handle and the case turned about 1/3 of the way round for each stroke. And...5 in one ragged hole. I also loaded up 5 rounds with the FL die and the Bushing die (both with less shoulder setback), and the group from the bushing die was, as seen in the larger test, in last place.

I'm gettin way more consistency from that Lee die, and all I can assume right now is that it's due to concentricity. I can't measure that yet, since Sinclair hasn't sent me my measurement tool.

This has been a lot of work just to find out what die to use for ammo to plink crows in the front pasture, but it has been very interesting. I'm just a retired engineer with time on his hands that wants to know what ammo components and prep result in the most accurate ammo. Might as well. I shoot a lot, and what's the point of shooting inaccurate ammo. And I like impressing friends and neighbors. I tell em "here, shoot this one", and they get tiny groups and are amazed. I just smile. So when you and Unclenick (and FGuffey) are talking, I'm listening.
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Old February 21, 2013, 04:16 PM   #24
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One more bit of information. Just to be absolutely sure about what I said yesterday, and because I have a lot of ammo to reload - and I might as well get it right the first time, I did more shooting. About 100 more rounds. As far as the Redding Type S FL Bushing Die, I found my problem. I started seating the bullets out closer to the lands and the groups tightened right up. After a remeasure of distance from bolt face to lands, it turns out that I hadn't been loading out as far as I had thought I was. So now I'd move the Bushing die into second place. I retested the standard FL die again, and it shot pretty good, and probably good enough to suit most folks. The standard Neck Die was just terrible, and just a month ago I thought it was the way to go. But still, the Lee Collet Die gives me the best 5 shot groups. No denying that. And it's funny, but with the Lee Collet Die it's not good (for my rifle) to load out close to the lands. I got best accuracy with what the Lyman 49th shows as an OAL of 2.215 inches for that cartridge and that bullet.

And perhaps worthy of mention is that the highly prepped Nosler cases gave me better grouping than did the highly prepped Winchester cases.

Whew...it's finally over and I believe in what I've found. Now to load up a 100 rounds or so. Again, thanks for listening.
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Old February 21, 2013, 04:42 PM   #25
Bart B.
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Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 5,433
603, try a bushing one size larger in the die so there'll be less neck tension; too much neck tension will hurt accuracy and sometimes ends up bending the case neck at its junction with the shoulder. One that's .001" smaller than a loaded round's neck diameter may make the most accurate ammo.

Then seat bullets out to where the just barely set back a few thousandths when chambered. That'll center them very well and help uniform startup resistance so velocity will be more consistant.

Good to see you fixed some mistakes. There's a few dozen I've made over the years. Finding and fixing 'em makes one smarter. . .if we remember them.
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Last edited by Bart B.; February 21, 2013 at 06:01 PM.
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