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Thread: Handloading Strategy

  1. #1
    Member Sako Workhorse's Avatar
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    Default Handloading Strategy

    1.) I have been methodically working up a 180 gr. load for my Sako 300 Win mag. with the goal of achieving maximum accuracy. I have been using Hornady Interbond ballistic tip bullets, RL 22 powder, and Winchester WLR primers. I have achieved all the accuracy I can, and now want to further the quest. What is the best strategy at this point? Change powders or change bullets?

    2.) Interestingly enough, when I chronographed my loads, I noticed the loads which produced the most consistent velocities were not necessarily the most accurate. Does this make any sense?

    Looking forward to some words of wisdom,
    Thanks in advance!

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    Default Loading

    If the powder you are using is giving you the velocity you want, and you are happy with the bullet weight; I would change bullet type or brand and see what happens. This is assuming you have experimented with charge weight and bullet seating depth of current load.

    There are many ways of going about the accuracy quest in handloading but for starters, use fireformed cases from that rifle (even if Full-Length resizing).
    Also try weight sorting your brass and keep Lot #'s consistent. Also weigh you bullets, setting aside any that deviate .1 of a grain. Then once you think you have it nailed try different primer brands. This can sometimes lower the velocity deviation.

    -Hope this helps you out

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    Member Sako Workhorse's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TomM View Post
    If the powder you are using is giving you the velocity you want, and you are happy with the bullet weight; I would change bullet type or brand and see what happens. This is assuming you have experimented with charge weight and bullet seating depth of current load.

    There are many ways of going about the accuracy quest in handloading but for starters, use fireformed cases from that rifle (even if Full-Length resizing).
    Also try weight sorting your brass and keep Lot #'s consistent. Also weigh you bullets, setting aside any that deviate .1 of a grain. Then once you think you have it nailed try different primer brands. This can sometimes lower the velocity deviation.

    -Hope this helps you out
    Thanks! I have spent a lot of time varying the powder charge but only a little effort on the seating depths. Because of the shallow ogive, there is a limit to how far forward I can seat the bullet (magazine limitation).

    A couple more questions arise:
    1.) Do we weigh the cases assuming that that reflects the internal volume of the case, and hence the pressures the charge generates? I have been sloppy about weighing cases and even insuring the same case lots, but have carefully trimmed all cases to the same length.
    2.) Since my most accurate load produced a greater variability of velocities than some of those loads with a smaller standard deviation, does that suggest incomplete powder ignition and hence a magnum primer might help?

  4. #4
    New member George's Avatar
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    Default handload tuning

    Very difficult at this point to predict which variation in load will give the best return of increased accuracy. Many extremely complex things happen between trigger release and bullet exit!! Maybe try the bullet type/brand change first. Also, nothing abnormal about best accuracy with a particular load even though the velocity SD not the lowest. Doubt it has to do with ignition though. I call this point in load testing, "chasing accuracy" because it can never be perfectly captured. Your best accuracy load may be what some call the sweet spot. Not always, but could be that this load produces a barrel oscillation where the bullet exits the muzzle at or near a zone of confluence of nodes in the vibration cycle of the barrel or the bullet exits the muzzle at an angle of departure that is very consistent. Also, weighing/sorting brass gives best chance of consistent volume, consistent dimensions thus consistent results. You can only take a shot at guessing the next variable to change- maybe the bullet, maybe the seating depth, maybe the loading/resizing technique, maybe the brass, etc. Every gun has a unique "personality". good shooting

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    Default Interbond tips

    Something you might also want to check with your interbonds is to see if they have crooked tips. Find a very smooth and flat surface to roll the bullets across and watch the tips and see if they wobble or not. Some may wobble just a little, but some you'll probably see the crooked tips just by looking at them without rolling.
    I've bought two boxes of 165gr IB's for my 300wsm and just under half of each box were wobblers. I had also loaded up a bunch of 225gr IB's for my dads 338 win mag...they wobbled too. This was all brought to my attention by a coworker who was reloading 7mm IB's. He shoots a lot and said this is the first platic tip bullet he's ever seen do this. He called Hornady about it and they said it must have been a bad batch and to send them back and they'd send him a new box. Which they did, but there were a bunch in that box as well. Two other coworkers also have 150gr and 180gr .308 IB's...also crooked tips. So we're thinking it's just a function of their manufacturing process and how they install the tips.
    I've read lots of posts on other forums of people getting great results the the IB's and no mention of the crooked tips so perhaps it's a non-issue. I was in a time crunch to get a final load worked up for my wsm so I only loaded up straight tipped bullets...with which I've gotten good accuracy and am quite pleased with. Velocity wasn't quite where I wanted it, but I'll trade fps for a tight group. At some point I'll load up a batch of the crooked ones and see if there is any difference or not. Wether or not it'll affect groups at 100yds, I don't know...probably not, but maybe it would at further distances.
    Now that I've got plenty of time till next season, I'm going to be playing with Sirocco II's and Barnes TSX's.

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    Default Handloading the 300 Sako..

    Workhorse,

    I think you're on the right track, I use RL-22 in the 300 WM and 180 grainers. I believe I would change to a magnum primer. I use Fed-215 and get very consistant velocities. The load with wide velocity spread is probably at the "hummer" velocity but ignition is not uniform. The WLR primer is good but when over 60 grains of slow powder it doesn't ignite well. Your probably at about 72-74 grains of RL-22 and that's about right. I use 74.0 and Fed 215's and get 3060 fps from my old Sako. You'll want to back off a grain or two and work back up to your best velocity, if you change primers. RL-22 gives extreme spread of about 20 fps and an SD of 8 or 9, so it's working. Another powder to try is the Hodgdons H4831 sc. This is very good and loads in about the same density as RL-22. I have generally had MOA or better accuracy from all the Hornady bullets, but bonded bullets don't usually give gilt edge accuracy.

    One more quick note. I don't weigh cases for magnum hunting rifles. I've never found it to be worth while to give any improvement in accuracy. Don't mean to step on anyones toes here but it just hasn't proven itself worth while. I trim cases to the same length and I only neck size, or partially F/L size.
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  7. #7
    New member George's Avatar
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    Default primer change

    Murphy, you're absolutely right. I must have mis-read the cartridge Sako Workhorse was working on. Try the Fed. Magnum primer but start back a few grains to approach your most accuracy velocity and see if accuracy tightens up at about that velocity. That would be an indicator of the best barrel harmonics at bullet exit. If you do get the SD down to less than 10, plus good or improved accuracy... you're there!

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    Default

    You can try two things I can think about:

    1. Find the most accurate powder charge keeping bullet seating depth constant.

    2. Find the most accurate bullet seating depth using the "most accurate powder charge" from step 1.
    ---------

    Those steps take quite a lot of time, and before shooting each group the rifle must match its pre-shooting condition, or at least its shooting conditions during the previous group. Does your rifle shoots best from a cold and clean barrel, or from a warm and fouled barrel?

    I don't try these things anymore because it takes a long time, and it's very expensive in the long run. Also, for my type of hunting (moose), a group around 2" at 100 yards is good for a 300-yard shot from a rest.

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    Default What a great reference source!

    Thanks everbody! My mother's cousin taught me to handload and he's been dead for twenty years, so there's been nobody around to ask questions like these. There are books of course, but it's not like asking a very specific question and getting to-the-point answers.

    By the way, in my first box of IB bullets, i did have one with a crooked ballistic tip. It happened to be the very first one I pulled out of the box which I used for my dummy round and didn't notice until I rolled it along the table. I assumed I had just seated it carelessly.

    I'm sorry to hear that bonded bullets tend not to be as accurate. They seemed like such a good idea for an all-purpose round.

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    Thumbs up Seating Depth

    Adjust your bullet seating depth now to obtain best accuracy!
    Alaska

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Default

    A few questions, or things to think about before providing advice.

    What size groups are you getting, and what size groups are you after? Sometimes handloaders seek accuracy goals that may be unrealistic in a hunting rifle, and burn alot of powder and put alot of bullets down range when a perfectly good hunting load has already been found. Not that there is anything wrong with lots of shooting, but you need to figure out what your expectations are.

    What game are you hunting? Personally the terminal performance of a bullet is more important to me than absolute accuracy, and hence I won't bother with bullets that may produce excellent accuracy, but will be unsuitable for hunting.

    If the 180 gr interbond is the bullet you want to use for hunting, I'd first try various seating depths with your most accurate powder charge, and if still not happy with results, I'd change powders. That said, I've only heard good things about RL22 in 300 mags, and I've found when the consensus is a paticular powder is good in an application, I save alot of time by using that powder and getting the bullet dialed in.

    If you still can't get the accuracy you want with that bullet, I'd try the barnes triple shock in 180, and if that still isn't there, 168 gr. The triple shock due to it's construction acts like a heavier bullet on game, and I'd take a 168 triple shock over most any 180 gr cup core bullet, even the bonded ones.

    I've found unless there is a problem with the gun, if I start with a good bullet and powder, I can find a suitable hunting load within one or two range sessions. The first session is to work up to a max charge in 1 gr increments to see which loading works best. The next session brackets the best load 1/2 gr higher and lower and repeats the best load. If still not there I'll fiddle with seating depth. If still not close, I can spend alot of time trying to find the magic combo, or I can have a gunsmith clean up the chamber and crown.

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    Default

    Wow! Some great info posted here. Here's some other food for thought. I once bought a box of Federal premium factory ammo for my .338 and measured every round to see how consistently they were loaded. I figured if I wanted my ammo to shoot more accurately, I would need to load it more consistently than Federal. Here's what I did and found out. I first measured the cartridge overall length using my dial caliper and a Davidson seating depth checker. This measures from the case head to the ogive of the bullet not the tip of the bullet. The factory ammo had as much as 10 thousandths of an inch variation in seating depth. The primer seating depth from the case head was 1 thousandth of an inch below flush using my dial caliper. Every round's primer was within that depth. I didn't bother to measure powder charges because my scale is only so accurate and I couldn't improve it. I also didn't measure case length figuring I could trim them down pretty close. So the low hanging fruit here was the bullet seating depth as measured from the ogive of the bullet. So here's the standard I came up with and use to prep my brass and load.

    No more than 2 thousandths of an inch variation in bullet seating depth as measured from the highest point on the ogive (you'll find ogives are not always perfectly symmetrical)

    No more than 2 thousandths of an inch variation in case neck length measured from the bottom of the case head to the top of the case mouth with a dial caliper

    No more than 1 thousandth of an inch variation in primer seating depth (in my case I seat them 5 thousandths of an inch below flush with the case head)

    You'll find that once you determine the optimum bullet seating depth for your rifle it will remain consistent from bullet to bullet provided you are measuring from the ogive and not the tip. Bullet lengths vary between lots let alone manufacters and the ogive is what first contacts your lands and grooves so it's a great reference point for every bullet...at least until your barrel's throat gets eroded and your accuracy drops off...but that's thousands of rounds down the road and depending upon how much you shoot...several generations.

    I also casually ream primer pockets to uniform depth but I don't measure anything

    Bullet seating depth has a significant impact on accuracy so consistency is important. I used to weigh cases and cull those that varied but so few were culled I just stopped doing it. I don't turn case necks either because I don't believe a hunting rifle will typically justify the effort.

    There are plenty of reloading tools out there to help you in your quest for accuracy. Some that have proven benefical to me are those that allow you to measure the overall length of the cartridge from the bottom of the case head to the bullet ogive and a micrometer adjustable bullet seating die. It's easy wth this die to progressively seat the bullet in tiny increments until my ideal seating depth is met.

    Some people may read this and think, what a freak! Two thousandths of an inch bullet seating depth variation? I need to put my cigarette down here while I load up this powder! ;-) I load 100 rounds at a time so they last me a while and I have the satisfaction and confidence of knowing I'm shooting the most accurate ammunition I could realistically load. The approach has served me well. Good hunting!

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    Default

    Forgot to add I also deburr flash holes and chamfer case mouths. Pretty anal huh?

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    Default It's a Hobby...

    Sep,

    Well no, not anal at all. I do all that stuff. Ok, that's no proof but at least we could have a support group. To me handloading is a very enjoyable hobby, not something I do to save money or make more accurate ammo, I want to do it.

    Case prep is a very important aspect of good ammo. Bench rest shooters spend lots of time and money on their brass. They weigh the brass and not the powder and shoot there bullets into one hole.

    This case prep is trimming, deburring, primer pocket uniforming, flash hole reaming and often neck reaming or turning then carefully size the case to fit the chamber of your rifle, not every rfle, and seating the bullet straight and true to the specific depth for you rifle.

    Good point about the .001" variation of primer depth, .002" in bullet seating depth. It's not really harder to do the extra steps, just a little more time.

    I handloader should buy a good dial caliper and micrometer and learn to use them, it's part of the game.

    For my log sheet, I have a line for the rifle, by serial number and also the magazine length (the max length that a round will go in that rifle's magazine).
    Then overall length at contact, (touching the lands), then the ogive length at contact for this bullet in this rifle(measured with the stoney point nose attachment), and finally the over all length and ogive length of this load for this bullet in this rifle. So I know at a glance where I am from the lands.

    Handloaders need to understand the chamber, the throat, the lead and the groove and land dimensions of the rifle or handgun used and build ammo to fit it. Otherwise the one size fits all factory fodder will do just fine.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Default

    Amen Murphy, kinda grows on ya. I really enjoy it.

  16. #16

    Default I have a different perspective...

    The practice of experimenting with numerous different components in long bench rest shooting sessions, with the aim being "to find the accurate handload" is erroneous. And especially so if pursued with Magnum cartridges at high velocity.

    Why?
    Throat errosion and barrel damage.

    Benchrest shooters consider a barrel to have lost its competitive match accuracy by about 700 rounds fired. Those guys are shooting small, light loads of powder compared to any magnum case. .22 ppc/6mm ppc; these are burning about 1/3 the powder of the small magnum cases. The more powder you burn, the more damage you do to your barrel.

    Aside from the fun of passing a day at the range, why spend you barrels most accurate potential searching for "the accurate load"? Maybe you bought a RemChester and you plan to shoot-out the barrel before having a custom barrel fitted? I can buy that. Yet, when you get your new/custom barel fitted, the process starts all over again.

    The aim behind this whole effort, and it is a very time consuming and pain staking process, is to "find the accurate load"; right? Well, before you burn up your barrel, even though you don't know you're doing it, consider whether your rifle is put together to actually become inherently "accurate".

    What is Accuracy? We'll not open that can of worms today; but it means different things to different people.

    Before you consider all th anal/compulsions that benchresters have dreamed up in their pursuit of perfect ammunition, YOU NEED to know your chamber and your scope/mount/rings are functioning 100% and are themselves dependable.

    Uniforming primer pockets and broaching primer flash holes won't matter much if your gun won't shoot consistently to the same point of aim.

    You might own a $4000 custom rifle. McMillan stock with full bedding and pillars with fully adjustable pull and cheek piece, a trued Rem 700 action, a Super-Duper barrel, a match quality trigger etc etc. Yet if you put a $2000 Nightforce scope into a STD type mount and rings; your gun will not shoot reliably.

    Scope mount and rings are likely the biggest detriment to "accuracy". Guys just will not pony up the bux for good mounts and rings.

    To know what your gun is capable of, you need to know your chamber. The RCBS Precision Mic is a Very Worthwhile tool to own. More important than any other tool because it will show you the variation in your brass which occurs in your chamber. If your Precision Mic headspace gage shows you that your unfired factory cartridge reads -.0003", and the same fired case now reads +.001"; you now know something more important than which powder your rifle 'likes". You know your chamber is so large that it allows a virgin or factory case to grow .0013 when fired once.

    If you reload this case, the once-fired one above; neck-sizing it only, and find it has grown another .0003 or more, you can infer that your chamber is larger than is conducive to accuracy results.

    Another thing I find more critical to accuracy than "load development" is bullet seating. Seating your bullets out into or near the rifling lands is conducive to accuracy.

    It seems to be commonly accepted handloader's lore that you should do a lot of "testing" If you are shooting regular .308/.30-06 based cartridges and aren't trying to wring that last .001 out of your groups, then barrel life will likely be well over 5000 rds; maybe 10,000. Those cartridges don't burn as much powder as the magnums, so they last.

    Call the technical boys at the bullet companies. Consider what they tell you about cumulative firings and barrel wear associated with magnum cartridges.

    My experience is this: prepare your rifle by bedding the action, or use a aluminum block bedded stock, use precision sight mounts and rings, buy a scope collimator and test your scope(s), and finally, know what is going on with your brass. Then and only then will you KNOW your rifle will shoot. If your chamber is such that your brass grows significantly, have it set back for a tighter oal dimension.

    I would also not chase the dragon on max velocity. There Ain't No Such Thing As Free Lunch!

  17. #17

    Smile Try This

    Federal also makes a Large Rifle Magnum Bench Rest primer, they seem to work for my .338 Mag.

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