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Thread: Got my equipment, now what? Some basic (and not so basic) questions....

  1. #1
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Default Got my equipment, now what? Some basic (and not so basic) questions....

    Been wanting to get into reloading for about ten years but for one reason or the other, didn't. First glimpse of reloading was when I bought a Weatherby 300 mag and it would not shoot better than minute of apple. I tried 5-6 different Weatherby factory loads in it with nothing equaling 1". I almost sold that gun till my buddy, an avid reloader, told me to get some dies and we would work up a load. After 20 rounds, we had a 168 grain Amax load that shot consistent 5/8" groups. I was a believer after that.

    Sold my home soon after, on the road with work, never had a place for a reloading bench. Working in Kotz in 2004, I ordered the rockchucker kit, only to find I couldn't get primers or powder sent up there. A $30 restocking fee at Midway and lesson learned.

    Now back home in NC, I finally broke down and got myself set up. Got the RCBS Rockchucker kit (more or less) as I got the Chargemaster 1500 combo and will order Forster case trimmers. Additionally, I wanted the original RCBS hand primer, not the new model offered in the kits. Otherwise, I bought all the contents of the deluxe reloading kit. Just today, at my LGS, I picked up a Dillion 550 and some 40 S&W/10 mm dies. Got an 8' workbench from Costco the other day. Will buy the RCBS 50 BMG kit soon, but wanted to develop a skill set before rolling my own with the big boy. Also, I got 500 rounds of Talon ammo to burn while climbing the learning curve with my reloading skills. I am ready to go so to speak.


    I said all that to say this....

    What do I do now


    I understand the basics of reloading. I understand the importance of safety (rtfm), value of case uniformity with rifle rounds, bullet seating depth being important, barrel harmonics, etc.. But there are a few lingering questions I would love to bounce off you guys.




    How do you go about "working up a load"?

    Meaning, I got my Speer manual and see 30 or so rounds for 300 Weatherby. What mental flow do you have to dictate a bullet to use, bullet weight, powder, etc... So many choices, almost a double edged sword of sorts. Curious if there is some logic to the process or if it is simply trial and error to feed a given gun what it likes.


    For bench rest/target rifle rounds, what is your process for separating cartridge cases?

    Example, I buy 100 Norma cartridge cases and attempt to sort them. I measure them for OAL, and weigh them to determine likeness in case volume. What criteria do you use when sorting? Wondering just how nit picky to be when it comes to the most expensive part of reloading components. Also, how do you go about deciding what OAL to trim all selected cases to? Logic implies that the shortest length in the batch is where you start and you must pick a number above that. Curious what kind of thoughts one might have when choosing the OAL of the brass.


    How important is a crimp die (such as Lee) on hard hitting ammo like the 500 S&W, 45-70, etc..?

    I have read varying reports on the utility of such a die. Some say it holds the bullet in place and prevents the gun from jamming. From what I read, when the gun fires, the recoil from the fired round jars the rounds in the cylinder (in case of 500) and can cause them to creep out. Other benefits perhaps, but this is what caught my attention. I have RCBS dies for the above calibers and seems some folks think the Lee crimp is better on certain ammo.


    Do I need to trim straight walled cases (500 S&W and 45-70)?

    The Forster case trimmer I am looking at will work on everything but my 500 due to the diameter of the cutter. To trim my 500 S&W, I will either need to change many parts on the smaller case trimmer, or buy the larger case trimmer they sell. Seems shouldered rounds like the 300 Weatherby will get most the case trimmer time. Wondering if I should invest the extra $100 or so in the larger case trimmer.


    Will case preparation/uniformity, bullet selection, powder charge, or bullet seating depth/concentricity have the biggest effect on accuracy?

    A loaded question perhaps. ha ha... But is one of the above more important than the other as it relates to target shooting with rifles, MOA, etc... I have the Weatherby shooting 5/8" groups at 100 yards, wondering how to go to the next step. Also, likely buying a Remington 700 "police" .308 soon for target shooting. As this gun is for all out accuracy (for me) I am wondering what steps in the reloading process will effect accuracy the most. In essence, where should I devote the most time?




    Any comment appreciated as always



    -Dan
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Member jrt34's Avatar
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    Geez buddy, quite the dissertation!

    all seriousness, congrats on all the gear. You'll never regret the Dillon, although I wouldnt recommend starting with it. My advice, stick with your rockchucker to start out. Pick a single cartridge to start out with and figure out what your application will be, plinking, hunting etc....

    When I start with a new cartridge I skim the manuals and try to think about powder. If I can find a powder that works with multiple bullet weights, Ill start there. Minimizes the different powders I have to deal with. Then it's just a matter of selecting bullets that work for your intended use and spending some time on the bench. Rembember to start low and slow and work your way up.

    Last thing, spend the money and buy a chronograph. In my opinion, it is a critical piece of equipment. A quality one can be had for around a hundred bucks, no reason to go without!

    Good luck, be safe

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    Wow, thats a lot to chew on. jrt34 has a lot of good points. Probably the first thing is to decide what you want a particular gun to do. Then you can pick the proper bullet for that application. Target bullets usually don't make good hunting bullets and hunting bullets don't usually make good target bullets. Pick a bullet, then pick a powder. Ask others what powder they are using in their 300Wthby for accuracy and velocity to get an idea what should work. IMO extreme case prep will only make small differences in accuracy. Before trimming your rifle cases, fire them once to get them to equal outside dimensions, then trim, then weigh. What lenght you choose to trim to won't make a lot of difference so long as they are under max length spec and equal. Straight wall cases usually don't need trimmed as they don't tend to grow in length. If you are going to crimp, it helps if they are the same length to get the crimps even. The heavy hitter handguns should have a fairly heavy crimp. Pistol dies all have a built in crimper on the seater die that can be adjusted to crimp from not at all to a lot. With the Lee crimp die, I don't think it's necessary to trim to length. I'm guessing as I don't use them. On the 300Wthby, if it's shooting consistantly at 5/8", load a bunch of those and call it good. You may knock off 1/8" or so but unless your bench rest shooting, what will it matter. For best accuracy IMO bullet then powder type then amount followed by case prep with primer brand thrown in somewhere is more or less the things to try for best accuracy. Some times OAL makes a real difference and some times not. Each gun is a world of it's own but most things will be more or less consistant from gun to gun for accuracy.

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    Heres my 2 worthless pointers for someone who loads essentially for target use:

    1. I only use premium components. That means Lapua or Norma cases, Lapua or Sierra MK bullets. I have had good results with Accubonds too. Also Federal 210M primers.

    2. I weigh every charge.

  5. #5
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies guys.




    -Dan
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  6. #6

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    Even though you're a hopeless cause, I'll give ya my 2 pennys. The Wilson LE is probably a better trimmer than the Forster.

    As far as accuracy goes, you need a good rifle and load combination and of course a good shooter. The short straw on any of these is going top be the short straw on your accuracy.

    For reloading... you want precision and consistency. You want an accurate scale and the Chargemaster 1500 is probably the best auto scale on the market, but you need a good beam scale to back it up... you really do. If I only had one scale it would be a good beam scale. There are a number of environmental factors that can affect an electronic scale.

    Case prep.... very important. Don't bother trying to sort your cases before they have been fired in your chamber and don't sort by weight. Case volume (capacity) is what matters and to sort by weight is to ASSUME that weight is proportional to volume... and that ain't necessarily so. Best thing to do is keep your lots separate. With new brass, you want to FL size it to get it uniform. I always reserve new brass for load development, varmint control and rock busting. This is the fire-forming stage.

    There are a lot of sizing techniques and from the research I've done, FL sizing is the most common for precision shooters, and bushing sizing is the most common among the precision FL sizers. The other and most common overall method is expander FL sizing. With bushing sizing, you constrict the neck to it's desired size in one step. With expander sizing, you squeeze the neck down with the down stroke and open it back up with the upstroke, which induces a lot more work stress on the brass and less option in neck tension. I've done just about every method, and I believe FL or partial FL (bushing) sizing is the way to go. The thing with bushing sizing is you should turn your necks for consistent tension. The bottom line here, again, is precision and consistency from one firing to the next. Some like to neck size only and if you neck size only, you will eventually have to FL size because your brass will eventually become to stretched. Some like to neck size and body size separately. Very important in the sizing process is the neck concentricity. Your neck needs to be aligned with the throat and bore. If it's canted off center, it will align the bullet off center into the throat. Bushing sizing is god for neck concentricity. You're getting a very basic overview of sizing here.

    After your brass is sized, primed, and charged with powder, it's time to seat the bullets. Redding Competition, Forster Ultra and Hornady New Dimesion Match grade are the best for bullet seating concentricity, with the Hornady being the least expensive. When I spoke to a Redding tech about which dies to get, he said get the standard sizing die and the competition seater.

    Bottom Line.... you want want consistant sized brass, with concentric necks and concentrically seated bullets. To gauge this it's good to get a good concentricity guage, Sinclair probably being the best.

    Your most important hand loading in vestment will be your dies, next will be an accurate scale. Quality of brass will determine how much initial prep is required and how long it will last.

    See ya at the 1K line

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    JME, JMO, Just my answers.

    How do you go about "working up a load"? ------

    I pick a bullet, pick a powder, then find data for loading it, maybe pick the bullet and powder from data in loading manuals. Start low and work up, to where youíre getting close the velocities one might expect for that cartridge. If you donít have a Chronograph, you might stop a bit short of the Max charge for safety reasons.

    For bench rest/target rifle rounds, what is your process for separating cartridge cases?--------

    I donít separate cartridge cases, of the same brand. They all should be sized, and then trimmed to the same length, less than the max, or to the trim length, which is about .010 less, then chamfered. I like to Uniform the primer pockets, too. This helps insure the primers are seated below the case head.

    How important is a crimp die (such as Lee) on hard hitting ammo like the 500 S&W, 45-70, etc..?------

    Probably all revolver cartridges should be crimped, for the reasons you mention, and also for uniform ignition. It takes a bit more pressure to release the bullet. Something like that. The Lee FC die is a good way to criimp.

    Do I need to trim straight walled cases (500 S&W and 45-70)? ------

    No, on straight walled. Bottle Neck cases should be trimmed. And, chamfered.

    I like my Forster Trimmer, enough, that Iíve never considered getting another one.

    Will case preparation/uniformity, bullet selection, powder charge, or bullet seating depth/concentricity have the biggest effect on accuracy? -------

    All are important, except your seating depth may be less important, providing itís not unsafe, as to the OAL being too long.

    A loaded question perhaps. ha ha... But is one of the above more important than the other as it relates to target shooting with rifles, MOA, etc... I have the Weatherby shooting 5/8" groups at 100 yards, wondering how to go to the next step. Also, likely buying a Remington 700 "police" .308 soon for target shooting. As this gun is for all out accuracy (for me) I am wondering what steps in the reloading process will effect accuracy the most. In essence, where should I devote the most time? -------

    Were it me, I wouldnít try to better 5/8" groups by changing loading techniques, but to try an make my loads more consistent, and devote the most time to shooting better. Maybe, trying different shooting techniques.

    Smitty of the North
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    Has it ever occurred to you, that Nothing ever occurs to God? Adrien Rodgers.
    You can't out-give God.

  8. #8
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaRifleman View Post
    When I spoke to a Redding tech about which dies to get, he said get the standard sizing die and the competition seater.

    Good to hear as that is how I went about it myself. I got the basic RCBS die set for the Weatherby 300 mag and splurged on the match seating die with micrometer. I thought you had died or something MR. Glad to have you chime in. Your last post was actually, well.... helpful.





    Smitty, thanks for sharing some knowledge with me


    Much appreciated fellas. Putting up my 8' bench tomorrow or the next day. Looking like rain and temps of 85 in NC tomorrow. I got some painting to do in the garage before I can get the reloading bench situated and the humidity ain't going to help. I may drink beer and read my Speer manual. Tough choices. Looking forward to learning more about reloading and do appreciate the insights here.


    -Dan
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

  9. #9

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    Hey Dan, very glad it was helpful! Have you checked your messages? I replied to your PM a while back. I got real busy toward the end of last summer through most of the winter and took a sabatical from the forums.

    On the RCBS dies, they are the last ones I would recommend. The RCBS competition seating die is not a true competition die like the Redding, Forster and Hornady New Dimension. The later use a sleeve to line up your case concentrically with the bullet before seating the bullet. That said, if your neck is not concentric, even a good comp seater will not fix that. I'm guessing you're getting a standard expanding type sizer. Get a carbide expanding button for it as well and then get a small rubber o ring from a hardware store and put it on just below the expander button. This will allow your button to float, and the carbide button will offer less resistance, both which will greatly help to produce concentric necks. I would recommend the New Dimmension dies, because the New Dimmension sizer also uses a sleeve like the seater, and they're cheaper than the Forster and Redding dies. You can get a micrometer stem for the seater separately through Midway. And if you want to know just how good your sizing and seating is, get a Sinclair Concentricty guage.

  10. #10
    Member MNViking's Avatar
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    How do you go about "working up a load"?
    I try to use the Hodgen Extreme Exuded powders to limit the effect on temperature. I also try to pick a powder that has a compressed load for the max.

    For bench rest/target rifle rounds, what is your process for separating cartridge cases?
    I don't mess with separating cases.

    Will case preparation/uniformity, bullet selection, powder charge, or bullet seating depth/concentricity have the biggest effect on accuracy?

    Neck turning, COAL, velocity, in that order.
    Finally, Brad Childress is GONE!

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