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Thread: Which component makes for accuracy?

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    Default Which component makes for accuracy?

    I've been pretty casual in my handloading so far. I've basically used it to make cheaper ammo or make my 416 Taylor ammo. I want to get some opinions from experienced handloaders which component seems to matter the most in getting serious accuracy from your handloads. I've never really gone after super accuracy in my loads. I have always had better accuracy than factory stuff but I'm wanting to do some serious 308 Winchester load development this summer since I'll have to 308 rifles setup almost the same and it would be nice to find some ammo that works well in both. So curious, anyone who has experimented more, what is the most important thing to hone in?

    Powder charge, case length, bullet seating length, powder type...
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    Member alaskabliss's Avatar
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    Accuracy comes from the whole cartridge, not from one component. The trick is to make every bullet the same. You have to find a bullet your rifle likes along with a charge and seating depth. It all makes the difference between 2" groups or 1/2" groups.
    What I found to make the biggest impact on my accuracy with my loads is using the right tools to find and adjust seating depths. OAL guage and a bullet comparater will do wonders.
    With all my loads I start with case prep. Trim case to the books spec. I load three different powder charges for a given bullet. I seat all the same depth. Once I test the loads I find the most accurate load and play with the seating depth. Some people will play with the charge. Your preference.
    The seating depth has given me the most bang for my buck though.
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    I think the single most important hing is the handloader. Do it the same everytime. The Hornady L-n-L bullet comparator works for me, ~$20 at Sportsmen's.

    After loader, I agree with seating depth, or more precisely "jump", the distance the bullet moves forward out of the case before it engages the rifling in the barrel. I think this is the most important hard thing to do. Once you have your depth dialed in you can probably move the charge weight up or down half a grain without moving your POI.

    For easy stuff, I go with all of the following getting from 2MOA to <1MOA at 200 meters: Sort brass by headstamp, maybe weigh them if your data is wonky, or weigh them up front if you are inclined. Choose one bullet and stick with it. Choose one primer, buy a big box. Necksize, not full length resize. I tend to find a charge weight for a likely suspect powder that is a couple or three grains below published max before I go fooling with jump. Once I have a load that was accurate by COAL and is now more accurate by seating depth, then I'l start easing up out of the middle of the charge weight range.

    I do clean my primer pockets, many don't. I usually get a new rifle figured out with less expensive Sierra bullets and then I have a good place to start when I start loading the more expensive Barnes TSX. Don't know about getting one load to work in two rifles, it could happen. I find my AR-10 runs great on the .308 I load for my bolt action rifle, not sure how much tighter the AR-10 would group if I developed a second load just for it.

    At some point - usally about mid June for me- it is better to load a bunch of a good load and practice with that rather than keep looking for a great load.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swmn View Post
    After loader, I agree with seating depth, or more precisely "jump", the distance the bullet moves forward out of the case before it engages the rifling in the barrel. I think this is the most important hard thing to do. Once you have your depth dialed in you can probably move the charge weight up or down half a grain without moving your POI.
    How do you go about that then?
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    Quote Originally Posted by highestview View Post
    How do you go about that then?
    If your asking about jump then it is easiest with a couple low cost tools.
    I use the Hornady OAL guage and bullet comparator. You need a modified case that Hornady sells that threads onto the guage. Slide your bullet into the case and slide the guage into the chamber. There is a rod that pushes the bullet forward into the lands. Don't push hard, just lightly push. Tighten the set screw and pull the guage out and measure the case and bullet with the comparator affixed to the caliber and that will give you the max OAL of that bullet and YOUR chamber. It is different on every gun no matter make or caliber. Once you have a set max length you can adjust very easily by seating the bullet deeper. This is the most accurate way to do it that I have tried. The comparater measures from the bullet ogive. This is the part that touches the lands first. I have found a lot of variations measuring from the tip on even premium bullets. Hope that helps, I am in the valley but would be willing to show you in person if you ever wanted to swing out.
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    Look on Berger's web sight, they have a nice write up on how to find the "sweet spot" for COL. Most manufactures will give you a range that their bullets shoot best at. For instance, Barnes at about .05 off the lands. Of course, magazine depth may put a wrench into the COL debate unless you can tolerate shooting with only one in the magazine.

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    I think bliss has it right, I found two uhh, "southern engineering" ways to git'rdone.

    One, I found a factory load that shots good, and used my bullet comparator to measure the head to ogive length on a whole box of those and then seated my bullets the same.

    Second, less precise, seat some bullets "much too long" in sized but unprimed brass with no powder in them, and close the bolt on them one at a time. There should be marks on them where the bullet was touching the rifling. Some risk the bullet might stick to the rifling as you open the bolt, and get pulled out of the case a little bit, and then you might try to load something too long to close the bolt once you have a crimp on the bullet. I got around that by doing eight or ten of them and then throwing out the one that was clearly longer than the others.

    I think when I next get a new rifle I'll drop Alaskabliss a PM and offer him some beer in exchange for good data.

    What we are getting at here is what the rifle "sees" is not how long the nose of the bullet is from the primer, but how far the bullet jumps before it engages the rifling. The curve on a bullet's nose is an ogive curve, but somewhere on that curve is the ogive point, the point on the curve where the bullet first touches the rifling. A bullet comparator will let you measure from the case head to the ogive point. So you will be measuring head to ogive length (I abbreviate it HtO in my logbooks), instead of COAL. Of course your COAL needs to be short enough to fit in your rifle's magazine, but if you want smaller than 4" groups at 200 yards you will ~~probably~~ have to start dealing with HtO.

    Beware that even two bullets from the same box can have the same COAL but HtOs that differ by, gosh I have seen up to .015" in Speers at .224", .006" to .008" is not unusual with Sierra's at .338". Loading Barne's TSXs to HtO has driven me to drink white liquor from plastic bottles some days, I sort those by length in advance and load them in groups sorted by the distance from bullet point to ogive point. Usually a box of 100 will drop into three or four pretty consistent categories.

    With the Sierras I seat about .020 long to get the individual powder containers closed up, then measure and sort by how much deeper each needs to be seated. Then I can go through in order moving my seating plunger lower and lower into the seating die as I get closer and closer to the end.

    The first, oh, 65 times or so is a major pain in the tuckus, but once I got the process figured out it isn't too bad. I can generally pick an "ideal" HTO and hit a run of fifty to +/- .001" with maybe 2 or 3 far enough out to use as fouling shots.

    Typically in .308 "best" accuracy will be with bullet jump somewhere between 0.000" ("kissing") and .060". Imagine a bell curve with most of the "bests" at .015, .020, .025 and .030. Kissing makes me real nervous about chamber pressure, I do not know if my fear is rational or irrational, it just makes me nervous.

    Really and truly once I am to 4" at 200 yards, I have to look at my free time real flinty eyed like. I want to make sure I have enough time to practice kneeling and seated and prone and stuff before September first, but if I am moving my HtO around looking for a little bit smaller group I am stuck behind my bench rest lead sled thing instead of practicing from the field positions.

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    Default HtO or CBTO

    Quote Originally Posted by swmn View Post
    Beware that even two bullets from the same box can have the same COAL but HtOs that differ by, gosh I have seen up to .015" in Speers at .224", .006" to .008" is not unusual with Sierra's at .338". Loading Barne's TSXs to HtO has driven me to drink white liquor from plastic bottles some days, I sort those by length in advance and load them in groups sorted by the distance from bullet point to ogive point. Usually a box of 100 will drop into three or four pretty consistent categories.
    I had to smile when I read this because just yesterday I was loading some 300 gr. Barnes TSX for my .375 H&H and just about everyone one of my CBTO measurements was all over the place. In my experience this is typical for these bullets. Some manufactures consistently get them pretty close.

    However, to your point. I would not even think about developing a load without knowing the seating depth that my rifle wants for that particular bullet. There are plenty of examples of how to get this done. Daved points out one source of information below. Berger's new loading manual has a very nice explanation on how to do this and why it matters. I have always found seating depth to be a critical factor.

    Just a word on the terminology. You're absolutely correct that COAL and HtO or CBTO are not one in the same. We're talking about the same thing with both terms (HtO/CBTO). Bryan Litz uses the term Cartridge Base To Ogive (CBTO) when describing this. Glen Zediker in "Handloading for Competition" refers to this as "Dead Length", i.e., when touching the lands. I prefer CBTO, but as long as we know what we're talking about it's all the same. More important than what we call it, knowing that it's a critical measurement for precision and accuracy is the point and yes, unless the manufacturing processes are tight, you have to sort bullets to get consistent bullet base to ogive lengths in order to turn out consistent CBTO (HtOs), every time.


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    I will buy 1000 bullets, weigh them all and put them in 1/2 grain increment lots, then I weigh the cases and do the same, I clean the primer pockets and flash holes, neck size and trim to length. Now I am ready to get started loading, I will measure the seating depth, use the same weight bullets and cases, load 5 rounds at one length, test, then do it again, till I find the correct depth. Then this stays constant. I load each lot bullet weight and case weight, these become shooting lots, never to be broken, (the case weights), I even mark the back of the case to load it top up so the case fits in the chamber the same each shot. Yes this is over and above the hunting loads, but it sure works for small groups at the bench. I can take any of these loads and just put them in the rifle and it will shoot sub MOA. Have fun it can go as far as you want when it comes to reloading.

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    I spent a lot of time with the Barnes TTSX at the bench. It seamed I had to adjust the seater plug every round to get them perfect. Takes a lot of time to be accurate. Your not just gonna go throw some stuff together and shoot 1/4" moa. I try and load hunting roands and bench rounds the same. Keep everything the same and my dope chart and poi stays the same. Practice what you hunt with.

    To keep from getting burned out at the bench, witch is when you make mistakes it seems, is I prep cases at one sitting and load at another. At any given time I can load 50 rounds of everything I load for. If I am going on a big shoot then I spend a day prepping and a day loading. Saves my sanity.

    Getting super accurate loads can drive you crazy. After you do your meticulas case prep, figure a bullet and load, load a series of different charges, shoot and test rounds, find the most accurate one and change charge and/or seating depth, reload, re-shoot, re-figure, reload, re-shoot and on and on and on. It seems like a lot but there is nothing better then going to the range and stacking bullets one on top of the other.

    My biggest advise to anyone reloading is be very organized. Keep accurate logs of what you loaded and labels on your ammo box. Input all the data at the range that you get from shooting. I save all targets and write on them. Keep your reloading bench clean and neat. It all makes it easier to load and know what your shooting.
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    FWIW I think the TSX is a grat bullet and worth the trouble to get it to reach further. /highjack

    Quote Originally Posted by alaskabliss View Post
    IMy biggest advise to anyone reloading is be very organized. Keep accurate logs of what you loaded and labels on your ammo box. Input all the data at the range that you get from shooting. I save all targets and write on them. Keep your reloading bench clean and neat. It all makes it easier to load and know what your shooting.
    I think this is great advice. What I got to doing is putting an orange stick-on dot on sheets of notebook paper, then tack them to backers while I shoot at them. Once they are grouped on I write all the load data and conditions and range and so forth on the sheet of paper with the bullet holes in it and stick it in a three ring binder.

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    On the subject of TSX ogive variability, and related seating depth, etc.: One factor that can significantly influence this is the point on the bullet / manner in which the seating die stem engages the bullet.... All seating stems are not created equal. I cleaned up me stem so that it mates with the bullet more consistently from one to the next, and I found that a great improvement.

    In my experience, (thankfully) I have not seen the degree of ogive variability in the TSX's being described here. Within a given lot number, mine have been reasonably consistent. I have seen significant variability between lots and 'generations' of them however as designs are quite apparently tweeked over time.
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    You bring up a good point about the seating die stem. This is especially important with some of the VLD designs, e.g., the Berger's due to their shape. The Barnes are not that extreme, however, they are longer and more pointed. I will check this on my dies as it relates to my most recent experience.


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    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    On the subject of TSX ogive variability
    As in maybe some of the TSXs are pointy enough to reach up into the top of my seating die, while other ones are fat enough that the rim edge of the seating die is pushing on them instead?

    I hadn't thought of that variable, but it would explain a thing or two. Hmm. Thanks.

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    What "component" makes the most difference in a handload's accuracy ? "My" vote goes for the shooter #1 and the rifle #2 (you ain't gonna get ANYTHING to shoot good from a poorly constructed rifle)

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    Quote Originally Posted by back country View Post
    What "component" makes the most difference in a handload's accuracy ? "My" vote goes for the shooter #1 and the rifle #2 (you ain't gonna get ANYTHING to shoot good from a poorly constructed rifle)
    Gotta agree with back country on this one. Amazing what some guys can make stuff do and its just as amazing at what others can make the same stuff do.......
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    I think the most important component is consistency. A friend of mine chases the gilt edge of accuracy but lacks any sort of baseline- he changes all kinds of things, COAL, charge, primers, seating depth- at random and without any sort of scientific approach.

    So I'd suggest that you get to where you can make every round as close to identical as possible. For a lot of guns thats enough. If you want to experiment after that- only one variable at a time.
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    hodgeman, That's darn good advice - "consistency" right down to how many times you tap the powder measure when you drop a load or spin the bullet when seating with a threaded seater die ...... repeated moves and numbers make for boring but CONSISTENT performance - the best reloaders are arguably the most habitual reloaders

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    Quote Originally Posted by back country View Post
    Consistency right down to how many times you tap the powder measure when you drop a load or spin the bullet when seating with a threaded seater die ...... repeated moves and numbers make for boring but CONSISTENT performance - the best reloaders are arguably the most habitual reloaders
    This is exactly right. Now if they are doing the CORRECT STEPS TO ARRIVE AT ACCURACY habitually they will make great ammo. Doing the steps to arrive at the best recipe then making it the same and maintaining the firearm will assure great performance every time.

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    LOTS of good advice so far. The one thing I haven't seen is that cases should have the mouths champhered inside and out during prep. The inside champher allows the projectile to enter the case without being scratched or shaveing metal off the shank. The outside of the case mouth ensures that the neck centers in the die. In 308 bolt guns the lack of a crimp is probably more accurate as neck tension is probably enough, however in autos a crimp my well be required for loading and to retain the bullets in cases under repeated shooting.
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