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.308 hand load workup input/advice wanted

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by datguy, Feb 19, 2012.

  1. datguy

    datguy Vancouver, WA Member

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    I'm posting this thread in hopes to get some feedback from those more experienced than I am about hand loading. I have found that my FN SPR A1A really seems to like Federal Gold Medal Match Sierra 168 gr HPBT ammo. I get consistent .5 MOA groups with this factory ammo. Well, I drank the koolaid and now I want to see what I can accomplish and learn by rolling my own rounds for the rifle.

    Here is what I have DONE thus far.. I have five reloading books currently. I have read the instruction sections of each of them. I see why people suggest having more than one reference. I have read a lot of online information on loading and loading .308. I have read the stickies in this section here on the Hide.

    I have put together a solid reloading bench with a good set of equipment for a beginner, **I think**.

    My starting goal was to try to duplicate the factory load that my rifle seems to like. This includes putting together a safe round that fires. I did six sets of four rounds at different powder loads for my first trip to the range. They are once fired Federal brass from the above mentioned factory loads. I tumbled, cleaned primer pockets, slight chamfer/debur on the brass. My case lengths were 2.005 +/- .002.

    I used Federal 210M primers, varget powder and Sierra 168gr HPBT with powder loads of 40.5, 41.0, 41.5, 41.7, 41.9 and 42.1.

    I took my first ever produced twenty-four rounds to the range with my newly purchased Chrony Alpha in hopes to get an idea of velocity. Needless to say, I didn't get the Chrony setup correctly. So, my numbers were all crap. As I was leaving I got some good info on how to get better results from the Chrony.

    All six of the loads were grouping four shots under .75" at 100 yards. The 42.1 stacked 3 in one hole and the fourth was adjacent to it. I was shooting off a bench with an Atlas bipod and a sandbag in the rear. I'm no expert marksman. The SPR makes me look pretty good.

    So, that was my first trip out. Next trip out, I'm going to take my .17HMR to help figure out the Chrony before i shoot my .308 hand loads so I can hopefully get some data.

    I was thinking of starting at 41.9 powder load and stepping up in .2 grain increments to 43.0 for the next range outing. I will also, hopefully, get a good read on the factory load that I am getting good results with.

    I appreciate any input, advice, etc anyone is willing to share. This is easily one of the most fun things I have ever done.

    My current goal is to work up a good load using this bullet and then shoot a few hundred of them, making small adjustments as I need/learn to see what I can do.
     
  2. motoman98

    motoman98 Gresham, OR Active Member

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    You left out an evaluation of the condition of your fired brass. Old time handloaders always are watching for pressure signs-low or high- on fired brass. THE ruler for pressure (unless you get into the strain gauge measurements). Signs: are the primers round at the outside edge/primer strike, or flattening and how much?....as loads get higher, any primer cratering(flowing)? What about case head expansion.. use your calipers and aquire data to digest, and learn about your rifle/loads as you go. Have fun.
    Note: From my own experience, you have made a great choice in Bullets. They ARE the biggest part of the recipie for success in accurate loads.
    I am an outspoken fan of Sierra.
     
  3. OR4X4

    OR4X4 Hour south of portland Member

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    This is not a suggestion to do this as it's a little hot of a load and may not be compatable in your rifles particular chamber:
    for 168 HPBT matchkings I use just under 46 grains of varget in my SPS and my primers still have some shoulders left. Max powder loads are rarely the most accurate so find your rifle's sweet spot.
    You are doing it correcly by "ladder loading" in small increments.
    Flat primers are not as bad of a sign as volcano'd primer strikes, though both are of concern.

    Get a guage and work out your chamber and round's OAL (or use a good set of calipers, a sharpie, a bullet, and a case with slightly soft neck tension to figure it out). You will squeeze as much precision out of matching your "jump" to your rifle as any other basic single step in loading. Do not load touching the lands as this increases chamber pressure!

    Brass internal volume consistancy is important.
    Weigh all your bullets one by one and put them in groups by exact weight.
    Meplat trimmers if you want to get crazy with it.
    Buy as many cans of Varget at once as you can, as Varget is notorious for varying from one lot to another - meaning if your one lb runs out and you grab another from a different lot you will have to re-work the load again. I also mostly use Varget, great stuff.
    Get match grade dies. RCBS or Lee /similar are great to learn on but graduate accordingly when you are ready.
    Get the primer pocket and flash hole tools and make the pockets all uniforn and deburr all the flash holes (consistant ignition is rather important).
    Same lot #s of "premium" or match quality brass is nice.
    Don't FL resize the brass you fire out of that rifle, The expansion that occurs while forming to the chamber on FL sized or new brass is inconsistant depending on thickness and that causes changes in your internal pressure from shot to shot. Just neck size the brass and only use it in that rifle.

    After you have a good set of brass for your rifle, fireformed, consistant case volume and weight, same lot primers, same lot powder, consistant bullet weights, ect ect (can you tell how sold I am on consistancy for precision yet :D) You and that Rifle will have a lot of fun long range time together!
     
  4. datguy

    datguy Vancouver, WA Member

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    Thanks a lot for the info!

    I spent a few hours working up another set of rounds to try out. My Sierra book says max load is 43.x. The label on my Varget suggests 46.0. I stepped up to 44.2 in this set of rounds.

    I need a couple trinkets to help me measure the chamber of my rifle. Ordering this week. I also need to get a good set of dies. I have RCBS and am already over them. I am leaning toward the Redding Competition 3 die set with bushing style neck sizing. I'll continue to work with what I have until I have the cash to get more advanced with the measuring and sizing of the brass.

    I'm getting a hell of a kick out of loading my own rounds!

    The brass I am using is already fire formed from firing the factory loads. Once I learn a little more, I'll probably buy some new, nice brass.

    I appreciate the input. It helps a lot when you don't know anyone that does this stuff.
     
  5. Twodogs

    Twodogs portland Or Active Member

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    43.6grs of 4895 is a good match for the fgm load.
     
  6. datguy

    datguy Vancouver, WA Member

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    I was able to try my second round of hand loads. At 43.7gr I saw a small amount of change in the case around the primer pockets. I don't know the correct term. But the brass flowed just a little bit around the primer pocket. I tried one of the 44.2gr and it also showed the same deformation. I stopped with the one 44.2gr.

    I'm still getting the hang of using my Chrony chronograph. Which means I didn't get good readings on all of my shots today. A few lessons learned on that front.. Namely, I need to purchase a sled.
     
  7. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Rather than tell you first off what "Works for My Rifle" I offer this as a load development procedure.

    First, read this "article" which describes Creighton Audette's Incremental Load Development method.

    http://www.desertsharpshooters.com/manuals/incredload.pdf

    The purpose of this exercise is to identify the Accuracy Nodes of YOUR rifle. This is a test best done with some distance involved. For me I was able to get some separation of the loads at 300 yards while at 100 yards they all seemed to be right on top of each other. As the article points out you are looking for loads that wihile not the same, give similar performance which shows as less vertical spread.

    Once you have identified the accuracy "nodes" and there will probably be more than one or two, pick one to use for the remainder of your load development.

    I'll use my Remington 700 SS 5-R Milspec only as an example. I found that there were two accuracy nodes by using this test. One occured around 44.4 gr of Varget with a 168 gr Nosler Custom Competition and another at 45.5 gr of the same powder/bullet combo.

    I loaded several 5 round batches around each "node" and found that the best performance to be the higher node of 45.5 gr which gave me a speed of 2715 fps.

    "Bug Holes" at 100 yards. Accuracy at distance is 1/4-1/3 MOA depending on wind or my patience.

    I find it better if I leave the Chronograph home while developing loads like this. All too often one can get tangled in their fruit of the looms over SD, ES, MAD, Avg, readings on the Chrono and overlook the actual performance on the Target. Once I have a well performing load for my rifle(s) I then drag out the chronograph and shoot not just 10 rounds but no less than 25 so I get a larger sample and then use the Average speed for my "Ballistic Cheat Sheet" that I keep with the Ammo.

    When "reading" primers for pressure sign just remember that they aren't always the best method. A primer pocket that's been "reamed" too much can allow the primer to take a "mushroom shape". If the manufacturer decided that they didn't like the sharp edge where the firing pin protrudes from the bolt face, and chamfered it, you can see a "false cratering" in this area. On my Remington even my "wussie" loads have "cratering" due to this extra chamfer. Only cure is to install a custom bolt or have a gunsmith bush the bolt face and drill a proper sized hole without chamfer. Unless you're using NATO brass, you won't have pressure issues with Varget and a 168 gr bullet as long as you stay under 46 gr.
     
  8. datguy

    datguy Vancouver, WA Member

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    Thank you so much! This helps me a lot! I know I need to get my brass more consistent than I am currently able. This load development method was what I was loosely doing. The pdf you linked to really fills in some gaps in my knowledge and process understanding.

    I was mostly after the first step of recreating a factory load that my rifle liked - Federal GMM Sierra 168 HPBT. So, I wanted to clock it out of my rifle's short, 20" barrel, and then see where my loads were in comparison. This was mostly as a starting point for learning the process of assembling a round. That quickly transformed into load development for my rifle.

    I am going to stick with Varget and the Federal match primers for a while. I'll buy some good brass after I am a little more experienced with what I currently have and I have the rest of the tools and measuring trinkets I'm wanting. I think I'll pick up another box of the 168 match kings and get a box of the 175s as well.

    This is a lot of fun. I'm thoroughly enjoying the process. It sure makes work a lot more bearable knowing I have this to look forward to when I'm off work!

    Thanks again!
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
  9. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    As for brass, you may want to just sort what you have by weight. It's generally assumed that cases with the same headstamp, that have the same weight, also have the same volume. Consistent volume is essential for consistent performance. Since you're shooting a bolt action you can just neck size. This will allow your cases to maintain maxim volume as they are "fire formed" to your chamber. If you have "hundreds" of pieces of the same headstamped brass, just segregate them into units of 50 (which will fill a typical ammo box). This way all the cases in that batch have uniform volume and logically perform the same. BTW, do the weighing after trimming.

    Also, for bullet selection, don't overlook the Nosler Custom Competition Bullets. I started out with Sierra Match Kings but one day my Dealer was out of them and I tried the Nosler. Let's just say that my last order from Powder Valley had two boxes of 168 gr Nosler Custom Competition bullets on it. Each box containing 1,000 ea. They're great. I also get great performance from the 175 gr C/C's but the 168's are only $0.21 ea in the boxes of 1k.

    Whatever you do, focus on ONE bullet and ONE powder at a time. You'll go nuts if you don't. Just like any other "tuning" process, one change at a time and when you've reached a limit for that, then go to the next variable and "milk" it for all it's worth. If you "shotgun it" by making several changes at a time progress will be slow if not totally elusive.
     
    evltwn and (deleted member) like this.
  10. datguy

    datguy Vancouver, WA Member

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    Again, thank you, deadshot2, for the info! I am sticking with the SMK 168's for now. When I have some cash for a good Powder Valley order, I think I'll buy a thousand of the Noslers and see how they do for me. $0.21ea is a LOT less per round than the $0.28-$0.33/ea SMKs. I picked up some more Varget today. I have components for a couple hundred more of this combo to try, learn from and ENJOY building and shooting!

    My Wilson case trimmer is supposed to arrive tomorrow.
     
  11. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Before you "pop" for a $210 box of bullets, just pick up a box at a local outlet and try them first. The Sierra and Nosler bullets have different Ogive's, one a tangent and the other a secant. They will perform differently in different rifles. Rather than getting stuck with a box of 1k, try a box of 100 first and see if they play well with your rifle. They do well in mine but as always, YMMV.

    As for Varget, it seems to be the best all around .308 powder. If you plan on shooting much at all, get an 8# jug. Even if you only buy ONE from Powder Valley it will save more than the cost of hazmat and freight when you consider what 8 single pound containers will cost you at local prices.
     
  12. datguy

    datguy Vancouver, WA Member

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    I loaded up four sets of 8 rounds today - 42.0, 42.5, 43.0 and 43.5gr of Varget with:

    Lapua brass, new, used it straight out of the box
    Federal 210M
    168 SMK
    2.800

    IMG_5720.jpg

    Interested in what I should try next. I keep reading about people using 45-46gr Varget. Hodgdon lists 46.0 as the max charge weight. My Sierra book lists 43.5.

    Test shots in above target were taken from the bench with a bipod and sandbag.
     
  13. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    So far it looks like your 43 gr load is the best due to the least vertical spread. The lateral spread could be wind, shooter, etc.

    Every rifle has "accuracy nodes" where everything comes together and the bullet leaves on the same path every time. For mine, the first one for 168 gr bullets using Varget occurs at 41.5 gr and the second at 45.5gr.

    I would make note of the 43 gr accuracy and do another test with loads increasing until you get pressure signs. It's highly likely that you will have another accuracy node with somewhere in the 45-46 gr range. If you have a chronograph you'll probably find that the speeds are in the 2600 fps range for the first "node" and 2700 fps for the second node.

    I like to load to the first "node" for my short range targets and then up at the 2nd node that's just under load max for longer distance targets so I can keep the bullet supersonic longer.

    Lastly, you can eliminate some of the horizontal spread by "preloading" your bipod. Make sure the legs are firmly on a non-slip surface and push forward then aim. Doesn't take a lot but it eliminates the "bipod bounce".
     
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  14. Blitzkrieg

    Blitzkrieg WA Well-Known Member

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    NOTE: Testing your hot loads in cold weather can be deceptive.. I recommend you not load a bunch of them up until you test your loads in HOT weather.. load a few up and leave them in the sun and then fire a few and see what is what before you get a set load and start stockpiling

    I like W748 for 7.62 NATO but you seem to have a good thing going with the Varget so stick with it

    Adjust those sights as soon as you get your designated load
     
  15. eganx

    eganx Kingston WA Active Member

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    Wow....lots of great info deadshot.
     
  16. datguy

    datguy Vancouver, WA Member

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    deadshot2- again, thank you for the information. It is a huge help. I think I will try 41.0, 41.5, 44.0, 44.5, 45.0, 45.3, 45.6 and 45.9 next. It is an hour and a half round trip to the range. I do preload the bipod. I admit I am not the best shot. Learning as I go. My rifle (FN SPR A1A) jumps quite a bit when fired. When funds allow, I was thinking I would buy a sled for this sort of thing. In the mean time, I'll do the best I can with what I have on hand.

    Blitzkrieg- that's good advice on temperature. Thanks! The scope is sighted in for a factory load.
     
  17. odiesplace97301

    odiesplace97301 silverton area Member

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    I find 44.5 varget a 210m primer with a 168 gold medal match bullet.
    I neck size the brass and run the bullets about .02 off the lands and grooves. It puts 5 rounds .75 @ 200
     
  18. Triplebuckshot

    Triplebuckshot Northwest Oregon Member

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    Just read this today actually.

    Snipers Hide Hand Loading Procedure

    There are like 5 differnt threads. Also if you get on Youtube you can watch Ultimatereloader.com do some reloading for an LR 308. Kind of helps to get an idea.
     
  19. pacific keeper

    pacific keeper North Coast New Member

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    Precision Shooting magazine publishes a series of essays on handloading called " The Precision Shooting Reloading guide " and it covers a lot of these techniques and procedures . A very good reference for these situations !
     
  20. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    It's also important to make sure that the bipod is "straight" when preloaded. A common error is to put forward pressure on the legs but then move the buttstock left or right enough to put a twist in the bipod. Either make sure it's totally straight for your shot before preloading OR, if using a stud mount with a bipod like a Harris, just loosen the mount knob enough to let the bipod swivel a little. Not too loose, just enough to allow the twist to equalize some.

    Also, look for some "Spike Feet" or "Claw Feet" for your bipod if shooting off the ground. Flat Rubber "Ski Feet" work better if shooting from concrete (or use a non-slip floor mat).

    Lastly, once you find a load that "shows promise", then do another workup around that load only in .2 increments of powder weight. Example, if 43.5 gr looks good, do 5 more "loads" of 43.1, 43.2, 45.5, 43.7, and 43.9 for a "fine tune". Think of it like tuning an old radio. First you "crank" the knob to find a station, then you "tweak" the knob so the station is the clearest. Same principle.