Ammunition for Long Range: Part 3
Handloading is a serious investment, mostly of time. You can’t just dive into handloading/reloading though. You really need to understand what you’re doing, how you’re supposed to do it, how to set everything up and all kinds of specific terminology that’s common in the machining world but is very uncommon in the rest of the universe. We’ll go about this with the notion that you’re already handloading and you’re just not doing it for extreme range work.
Loading match grade rifle ammo is actually pretty easy, it just takes a huge amount of time. Here are some tips that will make you more successful:
1. Buy your components in as large a quantity as you can. Try to get your powder 8lbs at a time. You’ll want it to be all from the same lot so getting a 8lbs jug instead of 8x 1lbs cans will help. Your loads will be more consistent this way. Primers and bullets and brass are the same way but to a lesser extent. Still, get your bullets several hundred at a time. It’s cheaper to ship 400 bullets at once than to ship 100 bullets 4 times. Primers actually keep really well so long as they’re properly stored, so does powder. Bullets and brass store forever. I like to buy 500 rounds worth at at a time.
2. Sorting brass/primers/bullets by weight is only necessary if you’re getting components of sub-par quality. I use and encourage the following: Federal primers, Berger||Hornady||Sierra bullets, Lapua||Remington||Winchester brass, IMR powders.
3. Process your brass in large batches. Make sure you trim exactly the same way, size the same way, lube the same way, etc… The steps being identical makes the results easier to make identical. Identical results will mean more accurate ammo.
4. Don’t try to completely load any ammo from components in 1 day. Processing brass for loading can be a long process. You don’t ever want to be in a hurry when you finally get to priming/charging/seating step. Make sure you process brass completely and then set it aside for future loading. This means when you finally get to dropping powder and stuffing bullets in cases you’ll be relaxed as far as having all your prep steps done already.
5. Don’t mix containers of components. Don’t pour powder from one container into the other. You may have been sloppy with the almost empty can and stored it badly. That can degrade it. Don’t mix old stuff and new stuff basically.
6. Buy the best bullet you can get. Even if it’s more expensive than you wanted. With better bullets you’ll hit more often and your shooting sessions will be shorter so it all breaks out even in the end and you’ll be better off with better bullets.
7. See #6. See #6. Seriously, read #6.
8. Learn the OCW (optimum charge weight) method of load development. Learn the ladder test method too.
9. You’re wasting ammo if you don’t shoot it over a chronograph. Chronograph your loads. Before you load your first cartridge purchase a chronograph and learn to use it.
10. Don’t full length size if you don’t have to. Brass life is substantially increased by not working it. If you shoot a bolt action or single shot rifle then you can get away with neck-sizing which will increase your brass life substantially.
11. DO NOT MIX BRASS. 1 kind of brass, 1 load spec. You’ll hate yourself for breaking this rule.
12. Buy the best brass you can get. I recommend Lapua brass, then Remington, then Winchester. For military calibres surplus is a great way to go but avoid SAW brass like the plague and remember that machine gun fired brass will usually be way oversize and will require substantial effort to resize (even multiple sizing runs). Military brass should be considered on-par with Lapua as far as quality. Drop 1 grain or so from your max before loading in Lapua or Military brass. They’re thicker than Remington/Winchester/Hornady/Nosler/etc… and so you lose case capacity and need to drop the charge weight a bit so you don’t go over-pressure.
13. Wolf primers are not crap but they’re not the best. CCI and Federal are what I consider premium. Winchester primers are not something I like.
14. If you use Sierra Match King bullets, jamming the bullet into the lands a tiny bit is usually considered a good thing. I use Berger and Hornady before Sierra. Bergers seemed to like a short jump to the lands. Hornady SST’s liked a much larger jump.
15. Don’t get into velocity chasing. Get into accuracy chasing. Velocity is what it is. You have a performance window you’ll be in regardless of what cartridge you’re using so don’t fight it trying to get 20fps more. If your load groups under 1-inch at 100yrds then you’re doing ok for long range. For extreme range I’d suggest getting down to .5″@100yrds or smaller with your 3-shot groups and 1″@100yrds or less for 10-shot groups.
16. More chronograph data is better. Track every shot you are able to. Magnetospeed is a good way to do that.
17. Track how many firings each case has gone through. Start a set of buckets/bins/jars/etc… with labels. 1-fire, 2-fire, 3-fire, etc… You’ll get to see how many of your cases last how long and you might be able to make a decision that will increase your case life. It’ll help you see exactly how much service you get from your brass which will allow you to have more accurate price:round data.
Stay tuned for more!