The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Skunkworks > Handloading, Reloading, and Bullet Casting

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old September 21, 2012, 08:46 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: January 10, 2012
Posts: 3,261
working up a load

When you guys are working up an accuracy load for your rifle, what is your procedure for shooting those loads ?

When I shoot to work up a load I load 10 rounds of each powder charge such as 20.0 grns, 20.5, 21.0, 21.5 and so forth, the next trip to the range would be 22.0, 22.5, 23.0, 23.5. Same bullets, same primers, same case lots. I fire five for group, let the barrel cool and fire five of the next powder charge etc. I repeat this til I have fired a total of twenty rounds, five each of each powder charge. then repeat the same procedure with the next twenty of the same powder charges I just fired. This gives me two groups of each powder charge to compare the results. I start with the lowest powder charge and work up checking the cases for pressure signs.
Does this sound correct or is there any way I can improve on my method ?
rebs is offline  
Old September 25, 2012, 04:27 PM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: September 2, 2010
Location: Plainview , Long Island NY
Posts: 1,604
I do the same as you, Than try different OAL. If your using a bolt gun with fire formed cases,I than neck size only,than partial neck size. At the end,we find a combo that works for the rifle. Try a different powder and the game starts all over again. I enjoy reloading as much as target shooting.Hope I helped in some way,be safe. Chris
cw308 is offline  
Old September 25, 2012, 04:47 PM   #3
Join Date: November 7, 2009
Location: BC, Canada
Posts: 84
Berger VLD Advice for Load Dev. This works!

I can't believe how well this Load Dev works:

I did this for my TTSX 165's and it was bang on. For me the 0.10 & .13 off the lands performed very close but the other 2 groups were well off. After this I found the .10" off the lands were giving me close to half MOA for the TTSX & LRX.

By the way, invest in the Hornady Comparator & OAL Gauge. You need to know your chamber and seat bullets to the Ogive. Otherwise you won't wring out the real accuracy potential of your rifle - loading to OAL (I used to do this).

For powder, the half grain increments worked great (5 sets of 6 rounds to the max charge). A chrono is worthwhile and almost a necessity.

Getting the Best Precision and Accuracy from VLD bullets in Your Rifle


VLD bullets are designed with a secant ogive. This ogive shape allows bullets to be more efficient in flight (retain more velocity = less drop and wind deflection). While this result is desirable for many rifle shooters the secant ogive on the VLD bullets produces another result in many rifles. It can be difficult to get the VLD to group well (poor accuracy).

For years we encouraged shooters to use a base of cartridge to end of bearing surface OAL (I will use the term COAL to represent this dimension) which allows the VLD to touch the rifling or to be jammed in the rifling. This provided excellent results for many shooters but there were others who did not achieve top performance with the VLD jammed in their rifling. These shooters were left with the belief that the VLD bullets just won’t shoot in their rifle.

Other groups of shooters were discouraged by our recommendation to touch the rifling. Some of these shooters knew that at some point during a target competition they will be asked to remove a live round. With the bullet jammed in the rifling there was a good chance the bullet will stick in the barrel which could result in an action full of powder. This is hard on a shooter during a match.

Yet another group of shooters who were discouraged by our recommendation to touch the rifling are those who feed through magazines or have long throats. Magazine length rounds loaded with VLDs could not touch the lands in most rifles (this is the specific reason that for years we said VLD bullets do not work well in a magazine). When a rifle could be single fed but was chambered with a long throat a loaded round that was as long as possible still would not touch the rifling.

Until recently, shooters who suffered from these realities were believed to be unable to achieve success with VLD bullets. Admittedly, we would receive the occasional report that a rifle shot very well when jumping the VLD bullets but we discounted these reports as anomalies. It was not until the VLD became very popular as a game hunting bullet that we were then able to learn the truth about getting the VLD bullets to shoot well in a large majority of rifles.

After we proved that the Berger VLD bullets are consistently and exceptionally capable of putting game down quickly we started promoting the VLD to hunters. We were nervous at first as we believe the VLD needed to be in the rifling to shoot well and we also knew that most hunters use a magazine and SAMMI chambers. Our ears were wide open as the feedback was received. It was surprising to hear that most shooters described precision results by saying “this is the best my rifle has ever shot.”

We scratched our heads about this for awhile until we started getting feedback from hunters who were competition shooters as well. Many were the same guys who were telling us for years that the VLDs shoot great when jumped. Since a much larger number of shooters were using the VLD bullets with a jump we started comparing all the feedback and have discovered the common characteristics in successful reports which gave us the information needed to get VLD working in your rifle. We were able to relay these characteristics to several shooters who were struggling with VLD bullets. Each shooter reported success after applying our recommendation.

Getting the Best Precision and Accuracy from VLD bullets in Your Rifle


The following has been verified by numerous shooters in many rifles using bullets of different calibers and weights. It is consistent for all VLD bullets. What has been discovered is that VLD bullets shoot best when loaded to a COAL that puts the bullet in a “sweet spot”. This sweet spot is a band .030 to .040 wide and is located anywhere between jamming the bullets into the lands and .150 jump off the lands.

Note: When discussing jam and jump I am referring to the distance from the area of the bearing surface that engages the rifling and the rifling itself. There are many products that allow you to measure these critical dimensions. Some are better than others. I won’t be going into the methods of measuring jam and jump. If you are not familiar with this aspect of reloading it is critically important that you understand this concept before you attempt this test.

Many reloaders feel (and I tend to agree) that meaningful COAL adjustments are .002 to .005. Every once in a while I might adjust the COAL by .010 but this seems like I am moving the bullet the length of a football field. The only way a shooter will be able to benefit from this situation is to let go of this opinion that more than .010 change is too much (me included).

Trying to find the COAL that puts you in the sweet spot by moving .002 to .010 will take so long the barrel may be worn out by the time you sort it out if you don’t give up first. Since the sweet spot is .030 to .040 wide we recommend that you conduct the following test to find your rifles VLD sweet spot.

Load 24 rounds at the following COAL if you are a target competition shooter who does not worry about jamming a bullet:
1. .010 into (touching) the lands (jam) 6 rounds
2. .040 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
3. .080 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
4. .120 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds

Load 24 rounds at the following COAL if you are a hunter (pulling a bullet out of the case with your rifling while in the field can be a hunt ending event which must be avoided) or a competition shooter who worries about pulling a bullet during a match:
1. .010 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
2. .050 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
3. .090 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
4. .130 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds

Shoot 2 (separate) 3 shot groups in fair conditions to see how they group. The remarkable reality of this test is that one of these 4 COALs will outperform the other three by a considerable margin. Once you know which one of these 4 COAL shoots best then you can tweak the COAL +/- .002 or .005. Taking the time to set this test up will pay off when you find that your rifle is capable of shooting the VLD bullets very well (even at 100 yards).

Eric Stecker
Master Bulletsmith

Last edited by miykael; September 25, 2012 at 04:53 PM.
miykael is offline  
Old September 25, 2012, 09:23 PM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: September 22, 2011
Location: Middle America
Posts: 518
I think that we all do it the same differently.
I start by studying loading books and determining just what type of load I want to build. This is dependent upon the weapon and existing needs.
So I find something that I don't already have covered. I pick a range of bullet weights and types that will meet my arbitrary and imagined needs and work on the powder types I will try, first.
At this time we will go with me having all of the above worked out. I will find a safe/soft starting point for the bullet - powder combination. I load three rounds of the starting load and another three rounds with a heavier charge and this continues until I have ten different charge loadings to test.
As I shoot from my drive way, my trip to the range is closer than the carport.
I fire each set, checking for any pressure or other potential problem, then the next in the series. This continues until I find my upper limit. If the weapon is an auto-loader, full function is a must or that load is dropped. Now with the lower and upper limits set I can begin working on accuracy. During the preliminary testing, a 'feel' may be found with a load or in a series of loads, I will hone in on that at the start.
A test load with 3 to 5 rounds and then another with a minimal change of load. These are benched at 100 yards and when a winner is found, a new set of loads with smaller variations of the charge follows. Eventually a loading will be found that is the most promising. With the best loadings I will load up 30 to 35 rounds. 10 to 15 will go across the chronograph and the remaining 20 will get a slow fire from the bench.

Yes that takes a lot of time and shooting, but that is what I like doing.
I will load up a fair sized sampling of the final load and move on to my next project. Many times a bullet or bullet type or powder combination just won't come together and I will re-think the options again.

I don't change primer brands or types. I buy in bulk and that's what I use.
I will make COAL adjustment from time to time as I see fit.
I do make use of cheaper bullets in the initial steps and only switch to the better ones when I'm getting close to a 'keeper' load.

And now you know how I keep busy.

Enjoy and be safe,

oldpapps is offline  
Old September 28, 2012, 08:25 AM   #5
Bart B.
Senior Member
Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 6,318
I've only worked up one load in my life of wearing out many barrels. That was for the .264 Win. Mag. For the .30-06, .308 Win. and a couple of 30 caliber magnums, I just used the same load recipie others have used to win the matches and set the records. Those loads were good enough to shoot as accurate as anybody elses, so why wear out a barrel or two trying to improve on it.

If one shoots 20 or more shots per test group, I'm convinced they'll get much better confidence levels than what 5 shots in a group show. What convinced me of this is when I let a dozen or so folks shoot one of my scoped .308 Win. match rifles from a bench at a public range. That rifle and the ammo used would shoot into 3 inches at 600 yards; 1/4 inch or better at 100 yards. Those folks shooting it using their bench techniques had 5-shot groups at 100 yards ranging from 3/4 inch to almost 2 inches.

So, in my opinion, no wonder there's hundreds of "best" loads out there for a given bullet in a given cartridge. I also believe that one will get much smaller test groups if they learn to shoot from the prone position with a bag under the stock fore end and another under the stock toe. Us humans are much more repeatable in how they hold a rifle this way than from a bench. Even the benchresters don't hold onto their rifles' fore ends pulling the stock back into their shoulders as it rests atop something on the bench; they know that's not a good way to get best accuracy.

And I think one should also use the largest group fired as the accuracy for a given load; that's what can be counted on most of the time. The smallest groups shot are seldom equalled again.


I'll add one more intersting thing about measuring anything. If one doesn't get the same results each time, their measurements ain't very accurate. So, it also applies to measuring groups of shots assessing a rifle's or ammo's accuracy. If all the groups with a given load ain't the same size, they are not a very good assesment of the accuracy it produces. Remedy? Shoot more shots per group until they're all about the same size. . .within 10% or so at least. Best example's averaging several few-shot groups. If all the groups were shot atop each other, they many group composite would very well accurately measure the rifle/ammo accuracy. It would also be larger than the biggest few shot group fired.

Last edited by Bart B.; September 28, 2012 at 06:44 PM.
Bart B. is offline  
Old September 28, 2012, 09:12 AM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: December 4, 1999
Location: WA, the ever blue state
Posts: 4,678
If Bart, at the highest level of competition, does not work up loads for accuracy, that gives me reassurance. I don't work up loads for accuracy, and I am just some guy that shoots rodents at 250 yards and ruminants at 500 yards.
The word 'forum" does not mean "not criticizing books."
"Ad hominem fallacy" is not the same as point by point criticism of books. If you bought the book, and believe it all, it may FEEL like an ad hominem attack, but you might strive to accept other points of view may exist.
Are we a nation of competing ideas, or a nation of forced conformity of thought?
Clark is offline  
Old September 28, 2012, 05:29 PM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: January 6, 2011
Location: Thornton, Texas
Posts: 3,184
Some like chocolate and some like vanilla...My approach is a lot like what OldPapps does. I start with 3 shot groups, beginning with something near minimum recommended charges and if I find something promising I'll go to 5 shot groups. I have a shooting bench and 100 yard range at the house, so it's pretty easy to work up loads. I'll shoot a bit with several loads, think about the results, and go back to the workshop to put together new loads until I find something I like. The barrel is cooling while I'm in the workshop. I've got time and I've got gunpowder, so I can fiddle around until I have what I want. Then, when I think I've found the load that's best, I'll load up enough to have some for the next day, and I'll shoot with an early morning somewhat fouled barrel and it being truly cold. That's as close as I can get to what I'll be doing in the deer blind. If I get what I want then, that's my new load.
603Country is offline  
Old September 28, 2012, 07:17 PM   #8
old roper
Senior Member
Join Date: June 11, 2007
Posts: 1,372
Bart B, let me ask you a question. Your retired Navy enlisted so in all your navy shooting was it factory? At what point after retiring you start reloading?
Semper Fi
old roper is offline  
Old September 29, 2012, 11:28 AM   #9
Bart B.
Senior Member
Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 6,318
old roper asks:
so in all your navy shooting was it factory? At what point after retiring you start reloading?
While in USN shooting events, I shot commercial match ammo as well as arsenal ball and match ammo. Also shot handloads made at the USN Small Arms Match Conditioning Unit or some I loaded myself.

Tis interesting that you ask when I started reloading. I don't understand the relevance of such a question. There's folks who've won matches and set records with centerfire rifles using factory or arsenal ammo that have never reloaded nor handloaded a single round of ammo. But here's the answer.....

I started reloading when in high school a few years before entering the USN in 1956. Never got serious about it until I started competitive rifle shooting in 1965.

Last edited by Bart B.; September 29, 2012 at 11:41 AM.
Bart B. is offline  
Old September 29, 2012, 01:57 PM   #10
old roper
Senior Member
Join Date: June 11, 2007
Posts: 1,372
Bart B, just asking I remember this old post

Bart B Bart B is offline
Platinum Member

Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,639
Re: U.S. army sniper school
In 1971 while on active duty in the US Navy, my detailer in the Pentagon called me and said a SEAL Team Training Center in Hawthorne, Nevada wanted to get me on board as a sniper. A few weeks later they called my detailer and asked again but this time it was for me to be an instructor. Bless my detailer, he didn't let me go as I was already in a critical billet for the Vietnam situation. And besides, he said, it was risky business as a sniper and many instructors went to 'Nam with their students. Seems the USN had records on who had earned the USN Distinguished Marksman Badge and those people were who they were after for the SEAL teams; I learned all this at a Navy reunion a couple of years ago talking to one of the guys that was stationed at the Hawthorne, NV site.

I did some investigating and learned some stuff about what they did cover in their courses. Very little ballistics was covered; the shooters didn't need to know it. They got good training on wind doping in learning how to read mirage or heat waves through spotting scopes and what their zeros were for different ammo types they might use in their rifles. Most of their training was learning how to be sneaky but some naturally was in marksmanship.

The US Navy's Small Arms Match Conditioning Unit in San Diego made virtually all the rifles used by their SEAL Team Snipers. Remington 700 actions with match grade barrels made for Lake City M118 ammo epoxy bedded in synthetic stocks wearing Redfield 3x9 scopes. After each one was built, it was taken to their 600 yard test range, clamped in a machine rest then various lots of M118 ammo was tested. When a good ammo lot was found two cans (920 rounds) of it were packaged with the rifle then shipped to a Seal Team. Most of the time the rifles would stay inside of 5 inches at 600 yards with the ammo shipped with them. Not bad for ammo that had to shoot about 10 inches at 600 yards by Lake City Arsenal specs. Accuracy dropped to about 6 inches at 600 yards when the 20-inch long 2-inch diameter silencer was put on.

The Unit also modified a few M1 Garands they had rebarreled to 7.62mm NATO for the USN Rifle Team by adapting M14 magazines to fit. These would shoot almost as good as the Rem. 700's using M118 ammo. When fed the "Mexican Match" ammo favored by the USN Rifle Team, these M1's would equal the Rem. 700's for accuracy. This ammo was M80 ball made by Lake City Arsenal using IMR4475 powder packaged in 8-round clips for the Navy but had the 147-gr. bullet replaced with a Sierra 168 Int'l. match bullet. Not surprising as the Navy's converted M1 Garands were more accurate than the US Marine Corps' or Army's best M14NM's available at the time. The Unit's manager once told me that if they could find some non-hollow point bullets that would shoot well in these M1's they would have proposed they be used as the standard US military sniper rifle.
Reply With Quote
Semper Fi
old roper is offline  
Old September 30, 2012, 12:52 PM   #11
Senior Member
Join Date: December 4, 1999
Location: WA, the ever blue state
Posts: 4,678
May 1997 issue of Precision Shooting had an ad for Krieger Barrels, Inc. that showed an actual-size copy of a 3.325" 20-shot group shot at 800 yards by "Bert Bobbit".
That ad was news to Bart, and they did not spell his name right
I have been trying to read every post he makes ever since, but I don't often do things the way he does, because his standards are too high. But not working up loads, I can handle.
The word 'forum" does not mean "not criticizing books."
"Ad hominem fallacy" is not the same as point by point criticism of books. If you bought the book, and believe it all, it may FEEL like an ad hominem attack, but you might strive to accept other points of view may exist.
Are we a nation of competing ideas, or a nation of forced conformity of thought?
Clark is offline  
Old September 30, 2012, 01:00 PM   #12
Brian Pfleuger
Moderator Emeritus
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Western Colorado, finally.
Posts: 19,100
It's not quite as easy though with cartridges that aren't involved in BR. Proven accuracy load info is harder to come by and often turns out to be not quite so "proven".
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old October 1, 2012, 05:51 AM   #13
Bart B.
Senior Member
Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 6,318
Brian, if you check with Sierra Bullets, I think you'll find out they use the same recipie for each cartridge-bullet combination used to test their products for accuracy. Only a few are used in BR disciplines. Every time a given bullet's test barrel is replaced in their rail guns, the same load's used again. Last I heard from Sierra was they never worked up a load, prepped cases or weighed powder charges. Their best match bullets shoot under 1/4 MOA at 200 yards.
Bart B. is offline  
Old October 1, 2012, 06:06 AM   #14
Bart B.
Senior Member
Join Date: February 15, 2009
Posts: 6,318
I did help work up one other load that wasn't mentioned in my earlier post. In early 1991, when Sierra Bullets sent a few thousand of their prototype .3084" diameter 155-gr. Palma bullets to former Palma Team members to develop loads for, I was one who got to help. Half a dozen or so of us used new cases weighing about 165 grains, Federal 210M primers, and medium speed powders and charge weights of our choice. 45.3 grains of IMR4895 was selected as it produced the best accuracy across the six test barrels.

Later that year, several thousand rounds were loaded on two Dillon 1050 progressives and used in 4 days of long range matches with folks from around the world shooting it. Some 20 to 30 top level competitors all said it shot 1/2 MOA at 600 yards from their barrels. Their barrels had a variety of contour, bore, groove and chamber dimensions. I was pleased to shoot the high aggregate score over those 4 days of matches comprising 175 record shots at 600 through 1000 yards. Used a 30-inch Obermeyer 1:12.7" twist barrel with .2990" bore and .3070" groove diameters.

Last edited by Bart B.; October 1, 2012 at 04:39 PM.
Bart B. is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 05:24 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2016 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.15153 seconds with 9 queries