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Thread: Your Method to work up a load?

  1. #1
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Default Your Method to work up a load?

    Having learned quite a bit on some of these recent Range Report threads about working up a load, causes me to wonder....

    How do you guys go about working up a load for a new bullet you plan to use?
    Powder type first? how many types to keep from getting overwhelmed?
    How do you choose from the five or six Powder types in the manual?
    Grains Amount first? sticking with just one or two powders?
    How many rounds of a certain grain to load to see what it does?
    Messin' with different Primers at all?
    Seating Depth solved initially for that bullet or played with some?
    Always stick with 100yds on range?
    Barrel Cooling at range factor or just get it done?

    Seems there are a lot of new folks to reloading on this forum, can you experienced ones help us out with tips here, Thanks

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    Well, I suspect we're all going to be a bit different in our methods with some common features when working-up loads. I also suspect that most of us are accuracy enthusiasts and a bit obsessive as people...I am for sure.

    Here's what I do:
    -Buy two boxes of the bullets I'm working-up
    -Refer to the manual for recommended powders...use them if I have them or pick another on the list in the manual...I'm usually working with 2 or 3 powders at once.
    -Full length size my brass, trim, beburr, camfer, clean primer pockets and flash holes...uniformity is the goal here.
    -Prime the cases...all the same of course.
    -Start with the lowest charge in the manual for each powder, and throw five charges of each powder.
    -Seat each bullet to the same depth across the powders...again uniformity is the goal here, so my caliper is working on each round. Choosing a starting seating depth varies with the bullets for me.
    -Head off to the range telling my wife that I'm going to be a while...uniformity is the goal here too. My rifle is very clean to start. I shoot a fouling shot before testing the accuracy of the rounds I've loaded. I'm methodical and unhurried in my shooting behavior with each shot. I'll clean after finishing a five shot string of the powder, then fire another fouling shot before starting the next powder string.
    -Get home, measure the results, record.
    -Obsess over which powder seems to have the best potential, then convince myself it's too early to give-up on any of them, so I bump-up the charge with each and repeat the whole thing.
    -This may go on for a few range trips until it's pretty clear to me that I have a winning powder...occasionally it has been clear from the first range trip. Once I've got that, then I start playing around with the seating depth and the optimal charge with that powder. Once I've got acceptable accuracy with charge and seating depth (which can take a while), I load-up all the bullets that I have using that recipe.

    Now you know why I buy two boxes of bullets to start. I also add that when I'm done I have some very accurate custom ammunition that is tuned for my rifle. Last but not least, I enjoy shooting, so it's fun for me to do this. The key for me is not to be in a hurry.

    Doc

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    I reasearch what others have used, read, look at my powder inventory, and then take a few good guesses on which way to start!
    Bullets are easy, just stay with something that holds together well on animals. Once I find a combination to start I load up 16 loads.
    First shot fouls the barrel then I shoot 5, 3 shot groups at 100 yards. Go up a grain and try another 5 groups. Keep very good records and average the groups to see what gave the best results. I never shoot 5 shot groups because 3 tells me what I need to know.
    Sometimes the first combination gives you a great foundation and it is easy, other times it is very time consuming.
    Current project is my wifes .308 which everyone tells me is easy to load for. Various bullets and powders still leave me averaging about 1.15 inches for the best groups which is pretty good but the rifle is bedded and has a aftermarket barrel and I just have a hunch it will do better.
    Cardinal rule when working up any load is only change one thing at a time, otherwise you will never know for sure what changed what.

    How about when your rifle shoots a fantastic group (like my 270 WSM did yesterday, .25 for 3 shots)? Forget it! You need to shoot a bunch of groups and average them to rule out the flukes. Your looking for consistency over the long haul.

    Good luck. Few people realize how difficult it is to shoot off the bench. It takes pretty good equipment and experimenting and extreme consistency to bring out the accuracy of the rifle you are working on.

    Dont get discouraged. You will hear people talking about sub half inch groups on a regular basis out of hunting rifles. It takes a fantastic bench rest shot to do this with a superb rifle, load and optics. In short, it rarely happens every time they do it.

    Like Doc, I enjoy the shooting and always looking for ways to improve my bench shooting. It takes some time but the end results are worth it. But dont go insane trying to get those sub moa groups if your animals are all going to be shot at ranges of 250 yards or less. It aint worth the time.

    Barrel cooling? Every group fired starts out of a cold barrel. Bring a .22 to fill in the cooling time
    Tennessee

  4. #4

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    Determine your motive and goal.

    I reload to get the bullet I want at the highest velocity and most accurate load I can get. Based on that, I research. After doing a lot of research, you'll get a fairly good feel for what to expect out of certain powder/cartridge combinations and bullets. I research online published data and other user data for approximate start and max loads and so far it's worked very well.

    Starting with my start charge I load up one round each, in .5 gr increments up to a couple of grains past my expected max load. On a few occasions, I have not got any pressure signs until a couple of grains past expected. On a few other occasions, I have got them at less than expected. 2 rounds each would be better, but for overbore cartridges, it saves on barrel life, especially if your trying several powder/bullet combos. I have shot about 200 rounds through my 300 RUM trying different combinations of 3 powders and 3 bullets. the 300 RUM has a barrel life expectancy of about 1000 rounds.

    Once I've found the max loads for the combos I'm looking at, I start with what I think are the most promising velocity combos at max load and load 3-4 bullets at max and another 3-4 just above and below max to confirm my max load. With most bullets, I seat them about .020 off the lans. I then shoot them for groups at 200 yds and analyse their accuracy and velocity. I use 200 yds because I shoot and hunt at longer ranges and it is more revealing to shoot at 200 yds than 100. Some bullets shoot better past 100 yds. If I see a load that is acceptable (.5 MOA or better), then I may be done... but I might take the top couple of loads and shoot them some more at various ranges to make my final decision. If I don't get acceptable results, I try different seating depths going up by .010 and going down in .020 increments to see if I can find a sweet spot. If this doesn't work, then I start reducing my charges and repeating the process. So far with good shooting rifles, it's been fairly easy to find a good load. They shoot most combos well.

    That's how I do it.

  5. #5
    Member Alangaq's Avatar
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    I might just be the “odd duck” here as far as load development goes….

    For me, bullet selection is what drives all the other variables. I always run with a bullet that tends to be rather heavy for caliber but not at the extreme heavy end. For example I use 140gr bullets in the .260, 180gr in the 30-06, 170gr in the 30-30, 270gr in the 375’s and 430gr in the 45-70. Once I have determined the weight of bullet I will start looking at bullet availability and cost as this is paramount for me. I don’t personally have any rifles that will drive a bullet over 3000fps so I am not one to bother with the high end expensive offerings as the old plain Jane expanding bullets from Hornady, Remington, Speer and Sierra all perform very well at the velocities that I will be shooting them. I then rule out any boat tail bullets or bullets with plastic tips…. Just a personal preference, but I have always had better accuracy results with flat base bullets. If I can find bullets with good availability for around $0.25 each, then I am a happy guy. Think Remington Core-Lokt or Hornady InterLock…. Darn good bullets at a decent price.

    Once the bullet choice has been made I will acquire brass. Generally speaking I will look for the best deal on bulk brass and purchase a couple hundred pieces. This usually means that I will be working with Remington or Winchester brass.

    Now that I have bullets and brass, I will spend a considerable amount of time pouring thru my reloading manuals looking for loads that look promising. My main criteria here is powder. Ideally I prefer to use a powder in a new load that I also utilize in some existing load. Obviously this isn’t always possible, but sometimes you get lucky. Reloader #7 is a good example, as I have loads for the 375 Winchester and 45-70 that both use this powder. If I can find a load that uses a powder that I use in other loads I will start with that one and load up 10 rounds at the maximum and 10 rounds 1 grain shy of maximum. I will then pick two or maybe three more loads that put the velocity target up near the maximum for the cartridge in question and load another 20 each. 10 at maximum and 10 at 1 grain below maximum.

    Regarding primers, I pretty much always use CCI or Winchester. I don’t really like having a bunch of different primers for different loads.

    Once I am at the range I set up the chronograph and review my notes for my “expected” velocity and then start firing off the -1 grain loads both for accuracy and velocity. My target is at 100 yards and I shoot two 5 shot strings. I will then pull the targets, mark them with the pertinent data and continue on with the next load. Naturally any signs of excessive pressure or velocities that greatly exceed what is expected will cause me to discontinue with that particular load.

    Once I have fired all my work up loads I will pack it in and head home to review the results. Loads that show promise will then be worked up incrementally with powder changes, followed by bullet seating adjustments. This generally takes me a few trips to the range.

    And there you have it…. Not as complex and scientific as some I know, but it works for me. And in the end a have an economical and potent load that I use for practice and hunting. I actually only shoot one load per rifle. It simplifies things quite a bit and I have enough rifles that It doesn’t handicap me, but obviously wouldn’t work for everyone.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    http://www.washtenawsportsmansclub.o...incredload.pdf

    I do this. Long read but worth it.

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    Default It works for me, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alangaq View Post
    And there you have it…. Not as complex and scientific as some I know, but it works for me. And in the end a have an economical and potent load that I use for practice and hunting. I actually only shoot one load per rifle. It simplifies things quite a bit and I have enough rifles that It doesn’t handicap me, but obviously wouldn’t work for everyone.
    I can identify with your methods.

    I don't do it EXACTLY your way, but your way is closer to mine, than any other one, mentioned so far.

    Smitty of the North
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    You can't out-give God.

  8. #8

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    Start out at least 10% above the book max because they are too conservative and load it up till you have to hammer the bolt open with a rock. Then back it off a half a grain.

    Sorry about my poor attempt at humor on a serious subject such as this. I actually knew a fellow who loaded till the bolt got sticky and would back it off from there so he could get the "real potential out of his rifles".

    I used to spend a lot of time working up load incrementally but over the last several years have relied greatly on John Barnsness' articles "Loads that Work". He has boiled down loads for a myriad of caliber choices to a handful of loads that almost universally work in their given calibers. I use a micrometer and check for pressure signs but have found his load information to be reliable. His premise is that for any given cartridge there are a few load combinations that will almost unfailingly perform well. For instance, I use 76 grains of IMR 4350 with a 300 grain bullet in my 375 H&H, a load directly from his article. He suggests that if a 375 H&H will not shoot that load it may be time to look at the rifle and not the load for issues. That load does in fact shoot well in my 375. I have used his load information in a dozen rifle chamberings and found it to be solid, reliable information.

    There is a lot of good advice being posted here. Be leery of those who insist the book max is too conservative. You will gain nothing by exceeding the safe limits expressed in good loading manuals.

    mart

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    Default They're out there.

    Quote Originally Posted by mart View Post
    Start out at least 10% above the book max because they are too conservative and load it up till you have to hammer the bolt open with a rock. Then back it off a half a grain.

    Sorry about my poor attempt at humor on a serious subject such as this. I actually knew a fellow who loaded till the bolt got sticky and would back it off from there so he could get the "real potential out of his rifles".
    mart
    I can think of ONE frequent poster, that SEEMS TO advocate something, that is at least SIMILAR to that practice.

    Hopefully, I'm misunderstanding him.

    Smitty of the North
    Walk Slow, and Drink a Lotta Water.
    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

  10. #10

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    I consult the Alliant Website,(I only use RL Powders) Barnes Website, Barnes Book, a few buddies, Quickload, and a few internet reloading forums. Based on the information I get, I get a starting point that I am comfortable with. I then load it into FF'd brass (to that rifle). When I get to the range, my first shot is always from the hip, with my head turned and my eyes closed. I then inspect my brass to make sure I'm not starting with excessive pressure. I then shoot my loads up the ladder over a chronograph, recording all of my velocities When I get to velocity I want to get with no pressure signs, I drive home and load up a bunch more. I then go shoot and check for accuracy and zero. With a good rifle that's properly bedded and scoped, at pressure, they always shoot moa.

    I don't mess around with different powders. I keep it simple and only load RL powders.

  11. #11

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    Your method to work up a load???

    Could'a maybe worded that different! Yikes!

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    Quote Originally Posted by elmerkeithclone View Post
    Your method to work up a load???

    Could'a maybe worded that different! Yikes!
    That's funny EKC!!!! Rep points for that sir!!

    Doc

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    Member Rod in Wasilla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alangaq View Post
    ... If I can find a load that uses a powder that I use in other loads I will start with that one and load up 10 rounds at the maximum and 10 rounds 1 grain shy of maximum. I will then pick two or maybe three more loads that put the velocity target up near the maximum for the cartridge in question and load another 20 each. 10 at maximum and 10 at 1 grain below maximum. ...Once I am at the range I ... start firing off the -1 grain loads both for accuracy and velocity. ... Naturally any signs of excessive pressure or velocities that greatly exceed what is expected will cause me to discontinue with that particular load. ... Loads that show promise will then be worked up incrementally with powder changes, followed by bullet seating adjustments. This generally takes me a few trips to the range.
    Is starting at or near max published values really the best advice for a beginner? I've never done any handloading (have been considering it...), but I've always heard it's best to start a little more conservative than this method would indicate. Or am I missing something here?
    Quote Originally Posted by northwestalska
    ... you can’t tell stories about the adventures you wished you had done!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod in Wasilla View Post
    Is starting at or near max published values really the best advice for a beginner? I've never done any handloading (have been considering it...), but I've always heard it's best to start a little more conservative than this method would indicate. Or am I missing something here?
    Hi Ron,

    Starting at or near max is NOT good advice for anyone. However I was not giving advice, nor had the original poster asked for my advice. He simply asked how I work up MY loads and I know my rifles very well and the dementions of thier chambers and how they tend to do with velocity and pressure. So if I am changing a powder, bullet, brass or primer in one of these rifles I have a pretty good idea where I can start, and without exception, all of mine seem to have rather generouse chambers or some other deal that keeps velocities and pressures for a given published load a tad bit on the low side. Now when I start out with a rifle that is new to me, I start quite a bit lower than 1 grain below max, but I sure dont bother to go all the way down to the minimum load. Not giving you advice or telling you how I think you should do your reloading, but I am just sayin, that for me, I think that starting at the minimum is a giant waste of time, bullets and powder, that is published by folks wanting to cover thier azz incase some yahoo does something really stupid. In 20 years I have yet to load a minimum published load that came accross the chrono at a higher velocity that the published data. (of course I have only had a chrono for about 10 years, so the 20 year thing, is about a half guess on my part....)

    so I guess if you know your guns and your risk tollerance allows you to load a couple at max to shoot accross the chrono, then I think that is great. If that kind of thing makes your bett hole clamp shut harder than a cable swager then you should prolly start at the minimum....
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    Member Rod in Wasilla's Avatar
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    No problem Alangaq. Thanks for clarifying. Maybe I misinterpreted, but I read the OP as an inexperienced reloader requesting tips for how he should work up his loads. And since I've never done any reloading, I too am interested in any tips or information that the more experienced, like yourself, can offer. It was from that viewpoint that I was questioning your response. And now that I understand your understanding of the original question, your response makes more sense. Thanks again.
    Quote Originally Posted by northwestalska
    ... you can’t tell stories about the adventures you wished you had done!

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    Member Alangaq's Avatar
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    No, no Ron, you were right the first time. I should have been more careful in how I worded my original answer to his post and I am grateful that you caught that and prompted me to clarify.

    another thing that I did not mention is that i usually use Winchester brass no matter what the load book calls for, or says that they used in development. and usually (but not always) Win brass tends to have slightly more capacity than Fed or Rem brass. and that added case capacity is also going to drive your pressure and velocity down a tad for any given load, unless of course it called out Win brass in the first place.

    Additionaly, I only shoot the plain Jane hot core, corlok or interlock style bullets, and in my experience they seem to generate slightly lower pressures and velocities compared to other bullets like the partition or A-frame for any given load.

    if for example I went full on crazy and tried to work up a load for one of those tricky new fangled x type bullets, I would start with the minimum load as I have zero experience with them.

    Once you have been reloading for a while, you start to notice the trends, and eventually you become aware of a couple of short cuts that can be made safely, that will help speed up the process or save a bit of range time or some components. But for folks that are new to the game, I would suggest not taking any short cuts.

    and like I said, the short cuts I am talking about are not critical to safety. For example, when I am initialy working up loads and my main criteria is velocity and verifying that I am not into a dangerous pressure senario, I dont bother to do any prep work to the brass.... I resize and that is it. no cleaining, no primer pocket work, de-burr..... nothing, because it just doesnt make any difference for that particular data set and would just be wasted time and effort on my part. so long as my brass is under the max length I just load and go.
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

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    Rod, Rod, Rod..... not Ron... dang fat fingers....Sorry man
    “You’ve gotten soft. You’re like one of those police dogs who’s released in to the wild and gets eaten by a deer or something.” Bill McNeal of News Radio

  18. #18

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    Here is another method to consider:
    Ran across this the other day, and it seems to make a good deal of sense:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~dannewber...addevelopment/

    Optimal Charge Weight Load Development Instructions
    1. Decide on the bullet you want to use.

    2. Choose a powder. This is probably the most important step in the whole process. As a rule, you should choose the slowest burning powder practical. There seem to be plenty of exceptions here, so if you have it on good authority that a slightly faster powder works well with the bullet/cartridge combo you're using, feel free to choose that powder. A couple of examples would be IMR 4350 in the 30-06 and IMR 3031 in the .243 Winchester. An aside: When in doubt, consult the Nosler manual for their "most accurate powder tested." That powder nearly always gives good results in the application listed.

    3. Consult at least three load data sources for maximum charge weight for the powder you've selected. Powder manufacturers are the most reliable source. You must then decide on what your maximum charge will be.

    4. Back away from the maximum charge by 7 to 10 percent, and load one test round with this charge. Add 2% to the charge weight, and load another cartridge with that charge. Load a third test cartridge with the next 2% graduation. You will use these three cartridges for sighters, and more importantly to determine pressure tolerance in your individual rifle.

    5. Add another 2% or so to the charge level used in cartridge #3 of step 4, and load three rounds with this charge weight. Add .7% to 1% to this charge, and load three more. Add that same graduation again, and load three more. Continue adding the chosen graduation until you have moved ONE increment above your chosen maximum powder charge.

    6. The seating depth for all test loads should of course be the same. I normally seat the bullet a caliber's depth into the case, or to magazine length--whichever is shorter. I don't believe loading to approach the lands is necessary, or even desirable in most situations. So long as the bullets are seated straight, with as little runout as possible, the advantages of loading close to the lands are largely over-stated. This said, be certain that the seating depth you choose does not cram the bullet into the lands. Stay at least .020" or so off the lands for these excercises.

    7. The primer brand you choose is entirely up to you. Use magnum primers only with magnum chamberings, as their added pressure can distort the OCW conclusions on standard chamberings.

    8. At the range, you should set up 5 to 7 targets at 100 yards. The number of targets you use will depend on how many "sets" of cartridges you loaded. Be sure the targets are identical, and level. I like to use a simple black square, drawn on a white background with a large felt tip marker. I draw the square about 3/4" (interior dimension) for my 9 power scope setting. This allows a "tight fit" of the crosshairs in the square, and thus a repeatable sight picture. For higher power scopes, draw the square smaller, and vice versa.

    9. You can also put up one "sighter" target, and use the initial reduced rounds to get the POI on paper, as close to the bullseye as possible.

    10. Your barrel should of course be clean before starting. Depending on the number of rounds you will fire, you may decide that it is necessary to clean half way through the string, fire a couple foulers, and allow a couple of minutes to cool before continuing. With custom barrels, you may be able to fire 25 shots or more before fouling begins spoiling group sizes. With factory barrels, I wouldn't fire more than 15 to 18 shots before cleaning... This is all relative, of course.

    11. After you have fired the sighters and confirmed that there are no pressure signs (hard bolt lift, flattened primers, etc.) you allow the barrel to cool for an adequate amount of time (use common sense--the hotter it is outside, the longer it will need to cool) you will then fire your first shot from the first group of the graduated charges. You fire this shot at target number 1.

    12. Allow the barrel to cool, then fire a shot from the second graduation at target number 2. Wait for cooling of the barrel, then fire a shot from the third graduation at target number 3. Continue this "round robin" sequence until you have been through all of the targets three times. At this point you will have a three shot group on each of the targets.

    13. It is assumed that you are an experienced reloader, and that you know to watch for pressure signs on each of the increasing charges. Fire the subsequent charge only if there are no pressure signs on the previous charge. You can safely fire the heaviest charge you loaded so long as the next charge under it showed no pressure signs. This "heaviest charge" should be about 1% over your selected maximum charge, but will be safe so long as the next lowest graduation showed no pressure signs.

    14. Triangulate the groups. This means to connect all three shots in a triangular form, and determine the center of the group, and plot that point on the target. Measure this point's distance and direction from the bullseye, and record the information somewhere on the target. Do this for all of the targets. If you have a called flyer, you should discount that shot, or replace it in the group if you have an additional round loaded with that charge.

    15. You will now look for the three groups which come the closest to hitting the same POI (point of impact) on the targets. The trend of the groups should be obvious, normally (but not always!) going from low and favoring one side, to high and favoring the other side. But along the progression, there should be a string of at least three groups that all hit the target in the same relative point.

    16. After you have carefully measured group sizes and distances and directions from the bullseye, you will know which three groups come the closest to hitting the target in the same POI. You now choose the powder charge which represents the center of this string. For example, if 34.7, 35.0, and 35.3 grains all grouped about 1.5 inches high, and about 3/4 of an inch right of the bullseye, you would choose the 35.0 grain charge as your OCW (optimal charge weight). This charge will allow 34.7 and 35.3 grain charges to group right with it. This will be a very "pressure tolerant" or "resilient" load.

    17. Remember, don't get "bowled over" by a tiny group which falls outside the OCW zone. You can tune any of the groups to be tiny with bullet seating depth changes. After you have determined the OCW, you may want to try seating the bullets deeper or longer in .010" increments to see where your particular rifle does its best. If you're a real stickler for accuracy, you can do another "round robin" test using varied seating depths, perhaps in .003" increments. Look for at least two seating depth stages that hit the same POI and group tight as well. This said, I have often found that OCW recipes are so reliable that seating depth alterations--especially for game hunting cartridges--often don't seem necessary.

    18. Your next step would be to confirm your load recipe at the maximum range you will expect to use it. Load one round about 1% below, and another round about 1% above the OCW charge, and fire a three shot group with these two charges plus the standard charge at the maximum range you will require the load to be accurate at. You should note MOA, or very close to MOA grouping...

    19. The OCW load development plan works best with rifles and shooters that are actually capable of MOA accuracy. If your rifle has not shown a propensity for reasonable accuracy, you may want to have it corrected before wasting time and material with additional load developement. If you are not confident that you are at a level where you can shoot consistent MOA groups, you may want to hold off on intricate load development until your skills are better honed. Lots of practice with a scoped .22 LR is invaluable...

    20. I would sincerely recommend using shooting glasses during the firing sequences of ANY load testing. You can never be too careful here... And please know that anytime you embark on load development, you're basically on your own. Just like any provider of load data or development instructions, I must mention that I accept no responsibility whatsoever for any occurrences which are outside the realm of your expectations...

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