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Thread: MAX hand loading for handguns

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    Default MAX hand loading for handguns

    Gentlemen, particularly, those who handload, handguns, to the MAX:

    If one can assume when loading for a small capacity cartridge case, a variance of .1 grain, or .2 grain would be much more critical, safety wise, than when hand loading for a larger capacity round.

    That being the case, and Iím assuming it IS, Do you measure, or weigh the charges? And, how close do you have to be with the powder charge?

    Normally, I donít hafta worry about this stuff, and load my 357, or 44 Mag with a charge that is clearly LESS than MAX, BUT now Iím loading for a 357 RIFLE, and I would like a Max, but safe load.

    To put it another way, say Iím using a charge of 15 grains, and itís a reely max, but considered a SAFE load for a Rifle, what happens when I have 15.2 grains or 15.5, or 15.9 grains? At what point, can I ďMAYBEĒ expect over pressure.

    How do I load what is considered MAX safely?

    Thanks, if you can help.
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    Now as a mechanist you learn all kinds of stuff about measurements like no two measurements are ever exactly the same. You can make 1000 widgets to very exacting standards and no two will be the same, it's plain to see if you have good enough tools to check them with. Add to this that an inch on your ruler isnít the same inch on my ruler, 20 grains on your scale isnít exactly 20 grains on my scale. So the real question is how close is close enough, what is the expectable fudge factor? This is what mechanists call tolerances or specifications and engineers are kind enough to include them on the plans for us.

    Now the guys that work up these max numbers for us reloaders have figured these variables into their numbers also but rather than giving us tolerances they give us a safety margin. These margins are there to keep us safe even if we stray, accidentally, due to the variables, into pressures where we shouldnít be.

    So the max numbers in the data arenít a cliff edge that we fall right off of the instant we cross but rather like the safety railing that keeps us far enough from the raw edge that we donít accidentally fall off it. Like the railing we should never intentionally clime over it to spit off the edge, that would defeat it, and we could fall off the edge without any further warning. But we can safely reach over the rail with an arm to point at something because our feet are still planted on the safe area, right?
     
    My 3% rule . . . not EVER more than 3% over max and the majority not running over any at all. I usually donít let anything more that 1% go because I want as consistent charges as possible but with some charges 1% isnít very much at all. It can be hard sometimes to charges that are +/-1%, other times it's very easy. So my NEVER no mater what rule is 3% because I know itĎs safe to lean out at least that far.

    Now in your example of 15g max charge 3% would be 0.45g and 1% is 0.15. Iím not going to worry about 15.1g every now and again or 15.2 showing up maybe 1 of 50 charges. But if half my charges are 15.1, some are 15.2, and nun are under 15, Iím gonna back it down so that the average is 15g. My average will be 15g, some will be a tad over, some a tad under and all as close to 15 as I can get them but never ever more than 3% over.

    Say I get pressure signs in some of them with my average at 15g, Iím already holding as close as I can to my 15g so I canít just back down the top number. I back my average down to maybe 14.8 to back down the top number and get out of the pressure problems.
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    Go by the book. No difference between revolver and rifle because the case is the same size. Rifles will give more velocity because of barrel length.
    But the best accuracy is always first even if it is under max. Very rare to need any max load.
    Did you know some revolvers can take more pressure then some lever guns?
    I just can't tell you to keep increasing loads. Please, please be careful.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bfrshooter View Post
    Go by the book. No difference between revolver and rifle because the case is the same size. Rifles will give more velocity because of barrel length.
    But the best accuracy is always first even if it is under max. Very rare to need any max load.
    Did you know some revolvers can take more pressure then some lever guns?
    I just can't tell you to keep increasing loads. Please, please be careful.
    Yes, never deliberately exceed the published data and there usually isnít any need to even be close to max data. However a 357 or 30-30 for bear protection is a very good reason to be mashing the gas in my book but there is no reason to exceed the data. All Iím saying is we donít need to freak out if (inadvertently) we get a toe over the line once in a while due to the inherent normal inaccuracies of measuring equipment, thatĎs been allowed for in the data. Thinking the max charge of 15g is good so 15.5 or 16g must be better is not allowed for in the data.

    Yes some revolvers can take more pressure than some levers, S&W X-frame is rated to 65,000psi and I canít think of any rifle round that is higher pressure than that. But the 92 levers will take a heck of a lot of pressure too, they come chambered all the way to 454 @ 60,000psi, a Rossi/Puma 92 in 357 will take all the top end 357 you can feed it without a hiccup.
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    Depending on your rifle you may be able to rechamber to 357max for a big jump in performance.
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    To go along with what Andy said, some powders meter more accurately than others. Max loads with ball powders like the Accurate 4100 I use are plenty safe with thrown charges, which don't vary more than .1 grain in my loading. Then I weigh every 10 just to continue to check.

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    ADfields:
    Is a "mechanist" a Mechanic, or a Machinist, or a combination of BOTH?

    OK, I appreciate your post, and it's a great help.

    Today I used a load of 15 grains H110, CCI 550, and Stoner's 180 grain LBT FN bullets. I'm weighing charges, to be on the safe side. Not too much of a bother, now that I have an electronic scale.

    9 shots averaged 1633 fps.

    I did this at 50 yards. I wasn't that thrilled with the accuracy, or my shooting, whichever, or both, but will try for accuracy and better shooting next chance.

    Most 357 loads shoot a bit high with this gun, and I cawn't lower the rear sight any more. I'm not ready to file down the front post sight, either, at this point.

    Another reason, I'd like a higher velocity load is that I wanna help stabilize the bullets for longer range. I fired some using 13 grains tother day, and at 100 yards, they didn't do well, I think maybe, possibly, I detected a couple of holes that were key-holed a bit but ???????????????? four shore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bfrshooter View Post
    Go by the book. No difference between revolver and rifle because the case is the same size. Rifles will give more velocity because of barrel length.
    But the best accuracy is always first even if it is under max. Very rare to need any max load.
    Did you know some revolvers can take more pressure then some lever guns?
    I just can't tell you to keep increasing loads. Please, please be careful.
    I hear you bfrshooter:

    I'm wanting a Rifle Load, and probably one that I wouldn't like in my revolver, but hopefully wouldn't blow it up, if I made a mistake, and shot it in the revolver.

    I never considered that "some revolvers can take more pressure then some lever guns".

    I'm assuming that my Puma 1892 will take more pressure than my Ruger New Model Blackhawk.

    I won't keep increasing loads, and I will be careful, as you suggest. Matter of Fact, that's what prompted my question.

    Thanks
    Smitty of the North
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    ADfields:
    Is a "mechanist" a Mechanic, or a Machinist, or a combination of BOTH?

    Smitty of the North
    Mostly itís a spelling auto correct thing but I guess in this case itís kinda correct. I have an AAS in diesel technologies because I wanted to be a truck Mechanic. First job out of collage was for a Industrial Bearing Inc as a Mechanic on huge gear reduction boxes used in copper mines. That morphed into machining which lead to CNC and then being an aerospace CNC Machinist in Phoenix for many a year.
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    There are several issues at play here, so lets try and break them down.

    Thrown charges vs. weighed charges. Personally I through all my charges from a Redding BR measure, all the way down to 3gr plinker loads in the 38 sp. to 100gr charges for the 500 Jeffrey. I've never had a pressure problem, and accuracy is always great. The only time I'd thought I should have gotten one of the smaller capacity powder throwers is when loading for a 218 mashburn, as it's one chambering that was finicky finding a good load for. The way use a powder thrower is to find out what setting provides a maximum published powder charge, and I throw and weigh 5 charges to be assured with my setting. Then I extrapolate to work my weigh down to a starting load.

    Pressure in the .357. This is a bit of a tricky one as the .357 was originally introduced as a 45,000 psi round, and often chamberedin guns designed for the 44 magnum. Then manufacturers started building 357's on smaller framed revolvers and the pressure was dropped to 35,000 psi. I don't know what your lever gun is rated for pressure wise. Pressure signs can be hard to read in handgun rounds as most brass cases don't start showing pressure signs until over 70,000 psi is reached. You're going to have to rely on published data and a chronograph.

    Way back when I was into my experimental reloading phase, one of the guns I worked with was a t/c contender. The contender can be safely loaded to over 60,000 psi with .223 dia cases, of which the .357 is a rimmed variant. I won't list any loads or even suggest one should try this, but with a 10" 357 mag contender and a 200 gr WFN cast bullet loaded long, I was able to reach 1700 fps with no pressure signs using H-110. I didn't find any pressure excursions with increasing loads of H-110 up to this level. However I subsequently got a 10" 357 maximum barrel, and found H-110 to have wide unpredictable pressure swings in the larger case. With the 357 max I found AA1680 to be capable of top accuracy and velocity, and it acted predictably with increasing powder charges. The point of this is that you shouldn't blindly work up past posted max loads as things can get weird pressure wise. Also a powder that works superbly and shows linear pressure signs with increasing powder charges in one chambering can behave erratically in another chambering, even one that doesn't appear to be radically different.

    As to accuracy problems with the 180 gr in your lever gun, my guess is that's an issue with your barrel having a rifling twist that is too slow to stabalize the longer bullet. If that's the case, pushing the velocity may be a cure, but you're probably still borderline on stability and may need to drop down to a lighter bullet.

    If your rifle likes a given cast bullet, you should be able to get a 10 shot 2" group at 50 yds with little problem. If it really likes the bullet, a 1" group should be achieveable, maybe not with 10 shots, but certainly with 5.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    That being the case, and Iím assuming it IS, Do you measure, or weigh the charges? And, how close do you have to be with the powder charge?

    Normally, I donít hafta worry about this stuff, and load my 357, or 44 Mag with a charge that is clearly LESS than MAX, BUT now Iím loading for a 357 RIFLE, and I would like a Max, but safe load.
    Smitty, you ask good questions, I always look forward to your threads. Usually your question is already answered when I find them, but still though provoking reading.

    For ball powder (like H-110) my Dillon powder thrower consistently hits +/- 0.1 grains when I check the charge weight on my scale. In your case I would be perfectly happy to set my thrower at 14.9 grains, knowing (expecting) every charge I hand weighed would weigh eitehr 14.8, 14.9 or 15.0 grains.

    At the range over a chronograph I would not expect to see a detectable difference between 14.8, 14.9 and 15.0 grains. Likewise on the target at 100 yards, I would not expect to see a measurable difference. If I did see a measurable difference, I would have to ask myself is figuring out which of those three charge weights was the winner would be worth the trouble, and if it is worth the trouble, would I bother to hand weight all the future charges at the winner charge weight?

    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    To put it another way, say Iím using a charge of 15 grains, and itís a reely max, but considered a SAFE load for a Rifle, what happens when I have 15.2 grains or 15.5, or 15.9 grains? At what point, can I ďMAYBEĒ expect over pressure.

    How do I load what is considered MAX safely?

    Thanks, if you can help.
    Smitty of the North
    The published load is considered to be the max safe load. In this case if a 15.2 snuck in every once in a while with my Dillon thrower set at 14.9 no one would probably ever be any the wiser. If a 15.9 snuck in, there is a problem with my equipment, and if I seat a bullet on it without catching it there is a problem with my process. 15 divided by 15.9 x 100 percent = 9 point something, almost ten percent error. Error that big ought to be caught.

    As far as creeping up to 15.9 against a published max of 15.0, I wouldn't do it. A 15.2 every once in a while, ehh, ok. Say you load 20 rounds at 15.2 on purpose. Maybe your gun will take it, maybe it won't. Maybe your just wearing it out a little bit faster. Maybe you'll need a face transplant.

    I have read a few places that modern guns are proof tested at double SAAMI pressure. Once. I dunno if a manufacturer sample of your gun was tested that way, and I don't know what your gun metal has been subjected to since it left the factory. Even it it was, no one ever tested it to proof pressure twice and there is no good reason for you to do it.

    The conservative I want my grandkids to be fighting over this gun many many years from now when I die from something other than reloading over published limits answer is, stay inside published limits, if for no other reason than to protect your investment in the gun.

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    I start with published loads and slowly increase the loads a .1 of grain or so until I occasionally get a case that sticks slightly then back off a .1 or .2 grain Cases will get sticky and hard to eject long before you damage the gun and if you shoot a few boxes with mixed brass of a given load without any hard to eject cases to will be fine- a few boxes will factor in variances in powder thrown etc. If you change primers or lots of powder you may get a few sticky cases - back off a bit or you can try increasing a few tenths if you don't get any sticking.

    If you shoot the same loads in two or more different guns you will have to go with the load that doesn't stick in any gun. In my case I have a 629 and 329 PD; I have to drop my max load a couple of grains to have a common load as cases stick in the 329 at lower pressures than the 629.
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    Paul H:

    I've got a Redding BR pwdr measure, and I can do that.

    I got in a habit of loading my handguns, 38, 357, and 44 with a dipper, either the Lee, or one I've made myself. There can be quite a diff in the charges, but I don't load them HOT, and it's never been a problem. With the pwdrs I use, I can't get a double charge without noticing it and I always check pwder depth.

    I have a Lee Dipper that's spose to get 15.2 grains of H110 which is about what I think I want. I've been using it, and weighing charges.

    From what you're tellin me, I could go with the Measure, using the H110, so I'll try that.

    As to stabilizing 180 grain bullets in my 1-30 twist, I have loaded, TWO different bullets of that approx. weight, and one is .010 Shorter than the other. I'm gonna test them both soon, and determine if I do have a stabilization problem with either one. The shorter ones worked before, and I'm not altogether sure, I have a problem with the longer ones. Maybe, it was my PP shootin.

    Thanks for your help.

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    swmn:

    I could do that. My measure is a good one, and the H110 powder should measure well.

    I'll just do like you say, and make sure I err on the low side.

    I've been using a dipper for these test loads, and weighing them, just like I'd do with extruded powders.

    My concern was how much error is gonna be a problem when dealing with small capacity cases, and Max loads.

    Thanks for explaining.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    I start with published loads and slowly increase the loads a .1 of grain or so until I occasionally get a case that sticks slightly then back off a .1 or .2 grain Cases will get sticky and hard to eject long before you damage the gun and if you shoot a few boxes with mixed brass of a given load without any hard to eject cases to will be fine- a few boxes will factor in variances in powder thrown etc. If you change primers or lots of powder you may get a few sticky cases - back off a bit or you can try increasing a few tenths if you don't get any sticking.

    If you shoot the same loads in two or more different guns you will have to go with the load that doesn't stick in any gun. In my case I have a 629 and 329 PD; I have to drop my max load a couple of grains to have a common load as cases stick in the 329 at lower pressures than the 629.
    Are sticky cases that great of an indicator?

    I'm not sure I wanna go that far. I certainly don't load my rifle to where I see pressure signs.

    Also, I think it would be difficult to KNOW for certain, if there is a diff of .1 or .2 grain. even when weighing charges. It's pretty easy to be off a tenth or two, for some reason.

    Thanks
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    Default sticky cases etc.

    With revolvers and their relatively thin cylinders case sticking is about as good of indication as you get IMO. You can get sticking from other causes like crud in the chambers but it on the safe side of pressure indication. There are many factors involved like the cases - that is why I use a variety of cases to find the weakest link. I've had loads that were too hot where I had to use some force to extract the cases but the gun wasn't damaged so there is still a good safety margin between where the cases start to stick and damaging pressures.

    Loading 50 or 100 rounds should cover the variances in powder charges normally thrown - some may be a .1 or .2 higher but if none of the cases stick you are still O.K. If you increase the desired charge by .1 you shift the normal distribution curve up by .1 but still have the normal variances - loading 50 or 100 rounds should cover the high ones.
    When I sent my 629 back a couple of months ago for a revamp the primary wear was errosion of the throat and that was after some 20 years of shooting heavy loads. The reality is that very few owners will ever shoot a revolver enough with any loads to ever cause any wear or damage - and if you have a S&W they will fix it free anyway.


    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Are sticky cases that great of an indicator?

    I'm not sure I wanna go that far. I certainly don't load my rifle to where I see pressure signs.

    Also, I think it would be difficult to KNOW for certain, if there is a diff of .1 or .2 grain. even when weighing charges. It's pretty easy to be off a tenth or two, for some reason.

    Thanks
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    swmn:

    I could do that. My measure is a good one, and the H110 powder should measure well.

    I'll just do like you say, and make sure I err on the low side.

    I've been using a dipper for these test loads, and weighing them, just like I'd do with extruded powders.
    That should be fine. A mechanized powder thrower, really at the end of the day, is a calibrated dipper. 7.0 grains of HS-6 for a midlevel .38Spec load in 158grain bullets would be a pretty small dipper, but the concept mechanized thrower v- manual dipper is the same, measuring by volume and expecting/hoping to make weight. Like an earlier respondent in your thread, I hand weigh about one in ten charges coming out of my mechanized thrower just to make sure my charge weight isn't creeping around.

    I'll have to fool with dippers a little bit. If, for instance, 1/8 of a teaspoon of this powder or a table spoon of that powder is a good choice for whichever caliber, it might be faster than setting up the thrower. Hmmm.

    I did cut down a spent .270Win case to make a "dipper" for my black powder pistol. I used a pipe cutter like plumbers use on small pipe and got it right at 40grains (by volume of FFFg) on the second try. I do have a brass dispenser bottle like thingo for pouring the FFFg into the measuring vessel. Maybe I'll pick up some spent 338WM brass this year... Thought provoking as usual.

    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post

    My concern was how much error is gonna be a problem when dealing with small capacity cases, and Max loads.

    Thanks for explaining.

    Smitty of the North
    This is getting into theory I have only read the edges of. Go pick up a big grain of salt and set it next to your computer monitor. If I correctly understand what I have read, in a given case capacity with a consistent bullet weight, the relationship between charge weight and maximum pressure is not linear, but rather exponential. Imagine a line sloping gently upward, that then hits a exponential knee and becomes mostly vertical with a gentle horizontal component to the vertical part.

    Down in published load territory we should be on the gently sloping part of the line, where a little bit more powder gives a little bit more pressure. At some unknown point, pressure will start increasing dramatically as the charge weight goes up one more small increment.

    Might be way way above published limits, might even be just barely inside the published limits. We don't know and it takes a very expensive laboratory to find out.

    Recall Elmer Keith's July 4th experiment, where he ground black powder as fine as flour, and then compressed it into a 45 Colt case with a heavy for caliber bullet for 45/70 swaged down to 45Colt diameter. How much of the result was because of bullet pull and how much was because he was over the published charge weight limit is debatable. There isn't a heck of a lot of room in a 45Colt case to fit much more than 40 grains of powder by volume. I doubt he fit 80 grains of FFFg, even ground to glacial silt particle size. Probably about a 400 grain cast bullet, no? I don't know that I have ever read a published number for bullet weight. But we do know his SAA came apart, he lived, and we ended up with .44 Remington Magnum.

    I would also point out we don't know how many hot loads that SAA had digested before the big bang. This is exactly why I am leery of buying used guns.

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    Default Buying Used guns

    I've been buying and shooting used guns for nearly 50 years with no problems. Modern guns aren't stressed enough to cause failure after repeated use and there are numerous indications of use and abuse to check for also.

    Old guns are a different matter - the steel is of dubious quality although generally sufficent if the gun has held together that long. I shoot my old guns with moderate loads and reserved my maximum loads for my newer guns. Most older guns are more valuable anyway so it makes no sense to abuse them.


    Quote Originally Posted by swmn View Post

    I would also point out we don't know how many hot loads that SAA had digested before the big bang. This is exactly why I am leery of buying used guns.
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    As always Smitty, you do make it interesting.

    Some points to consider.

    Sticking with loading manual loads, both with components (powder, primer, bullet, brass) and charge weight is likely the safest way to load.

    Maximum SAAMI pressures in handgun calibers are generally in the 35,000 to 40,000 psi range. At these pressures, brass and primer will rarely, almost never, show any of the excess pressure signs of high velocity rifle cartridges.

    Shooting a revolver cartridge in a rifle, such as a Marlin lever in 44 mag or 357, will almost always result in higher pressure than the same round in a revolver. When slower powders are used this is almost a certainly but both the brass and the rifle will withstand the higher pressure.

    I've tested many revolver loads and with a variation of charge weight as small as .1 grains it has always fallen in the normal variation of pressure so as not to be able to measure the difference in pressure from a 10.0 grains or 10.2 grains. Of course when dealing with small cases such as the 32 S&W or 9x19 point one grains does show up but not in a 357 magnum or larger case. I adjust charges in magnum revolver case at .3 grains or .5 for the larger cases. There are exceptions but that's a general rule. Generally speaking, smaller cases and faster burning powder need smaller increments of change in powder charge. Generally velocity (and pressure) variations are high with magnum revolver loads. Also I've shot enough loads to know that guns are generally stronger today than needed when loading to maximum SAAMI pressures. I don't worry about gun strength but even normal magnum loads can stretch revolver top straps shake the screws loose after a lot of rounds.

    Sticky brass in a revolver tells nothing about the pressure....oh it might, but it is more likely that it is a result of softer brass (didn't spring back after peak pressure) coupled with rough cylinder walls. I've found sticky brass in 38 special loads that were about 15,000 psi. And for those of you who think your wheel gun should have ultra smooth cylinders, don't polish them. These rough walls hold brass and help prevent set back which in some guns can cause dragging when cocking and slow the cylinder turning. Could be a problem.

    I use a Redding 10X pistol powder measure and it throws charges consistently to within one tenth grain (.1), even with extruded powders. My Dillon slide bar is not so close but within a tenth with most ball and flake type pistol powders.

    I weigh one or two of each fifty and batch sample large lots of ammo from the Dillon. Tens of thousands of rounds without a problem tells me this is still good.

    Another tip when using the Dillon is to use a powder than nearly fills the case for a normal powder charge. This makes spotting an over or double charge easier. I set it up with a light shining directly on the case after the expander/powder drop station. This enables the use to see the charge level in the case.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    As always Smitty, you do make it interesting.


    I use a Redding 10X pistol powder measure and it throws charges consistently to within one tenth grain (.1), even with extruded powders. My Dillon slide bar is not so close but within a tenth with most ball and flake type pistol powders.

    I weigh one or two of each fifty and batch sample large lots of ammo from the Dillon. Tens of thousands of rounds without a problem tells me this is still good.

    Another tip when using the Dillon is to use a powder than nearly fills the case for a normal powder charge. This makes spotting an over or double charge easier. I set it up with a light shining directly on the case after the expander/powder drop station. This enables the use to see the charge level in the case.
    Good point on the bright light shining directly. For now I have the powder thrower for a Dillon 550, but no Dillon 550 on which to run it. I am using my Dillon thrower on a RCBS single stage, I end up with a tray of charged cases just like the folks with dippers and can compare all the cases to each other at once.

    I have loaded on a multistage press (Dillon 550) before, and I heartily agree that both a near casefull of powder and a bright light shining directly are good ideas.

    Also, I too see +/- 0.2 grains when using extruded powders with my Dillon charge bar/ expander. Thankfully the sweet spots in all the rifles I own so far are 0.5 grains or more wide, so I can get away with using the thrower for them too.

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