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Documentation: The single most important part of Handloading

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by Spitpatch, Nov 25, 2011.

  1. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps this has been visited previously. I do not consider myself to have found the best method, and ask here for your methods/suggestions.

    I will begin by stating my hard contention that documentation of what one has done with a load/gun/components/correlation with targets/game shot is the very most important part of handloading. I fully understand that reloaders (apart from handloaders) may not always adhere to a strict practice of documentation, but some good ones do.

    My (perhaps inadequate) documentation has served me well over the years: it has allowed me to reference back to a gun I have not shot for awhile, or a gun that belonged to someone else that I developed loads for. I can look back at what has been done with a certain caliber and/or gun, and give me a direction to proceed with further experiments in that direction.

    My failure is in that all this began before the computer age, and all my documentation is in "steno books", handwritten, with date as the header for each entry. I continue this practice. My records are chronological primarily, and this does not hamper me much when I search for previous data. The caliber and the gun are stated immediately following the date. I have nearly twenty of these steno books now, and one will average about a year of shooting (or, in some cases, two years, prominently marked on the cover as to time span).

    I note on a seperate page, each event of handloading. Chronograph results are entered as they occur chronologically (sometimes they may overlap if I shoot a gun different from the last handloading entry).

    I note all components used, velocities as stated from a reloading manual, as well as chrono velocities actually obatained, with the particular rifle/handgun entered with barrel-length, and any other particulars such as sights.

    Targets actually shot are kept in a seperate series of loose-leaf books, arranged to bore diameter (specific calibers within each bore diameter section), and reverse-chronologically, most recent toward the front.

    I can find any load I've ever done, and any target I thought valuable for any gun/caliber in about 10 minutes of looking, and correlate each to each based on dates.

    I am curious as to others who place this much value on data, and how they have dealt with storing it over the years.

    My targets are homemade, but consistent, utilizing 1" squares for most rifle work, with that base target enlarged/reduced according to optics/sighting equipment employed. (For the fat-barreled guns with high-power scopes, I reduce the square-size, and for pistols, the square is big).

    I consider documentation to be the very most important part of handloading. I encourage any newcomer (and some old-timers if they are amenable) to realize the value I have found. Youngsters seem to enjoy documentation of their efforts, and can come and see (copy) my books (and targets) to show their families and peers. I go back and supplement these data with entries of game shot with a particular load/gun.
     
  2. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I've got handwritten records of all loads that I've shot over the chrono. Before that, there was nothing to really write about! I've kept some targets, but mostly the ones that showed promise.
    I've only worked seriously with a few guns and most of them have been in the same caliber, but I can go back and see what certain powders have done for me in any of those guns. I've spent a fari amount of time with only three rifle cartridges, but enough to have definite preferences.
    I also learned that with as little as my wife shoots her short barreled 7mm-08, it's just cheaper and easier for me to buy premium ammo for it!
    My targets are "homemade" too. I scanned the center section of an Outers Score Keeper and reprint as needed. (I'm a cheap Bast*rd!)
     
  3. iusmc2002

    iusmc2002 Colville, WA Active Member

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    I use one of the big green books that says "Record" on the front. All I write down is the date, caliber, bullet weight and powder type/charge. I take the book shooting with me, and fill in the results as I go along. It was instrumental in figuring out the pet load for 2 of my rifles because I was making small powder increment changes and couldn't remember them offhand.
    I tried using a computer program, but since my wife won't let me reload in her sewing room, it was just a pain in the butt to transfer the data onto the computer, in a room on the opposite end of the house from the garage.
    I don't have or want a chrono right now, so that isn't applicable.
    I made my own targets with 1 inch squares with Microsoft Excel and print them as I need them(I'm a cheap bast*rd too!)
     
  4. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    "I don't have or want a chrono right now, so that isn't applicable."

    Trust me on this: you will.
     
  5. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    x2!

    It was the most enlightening item when it came to hand loading.
     
  6. sneakboxer

    sneakboxer NW OR Active Member

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    Good data is key. I log everything in excel and then record velocity, group size, and weather conditions. With good data you can make better decisions about new loads and spend less $$ and time. I use a spreadsheet for each powder combo. Each sheet starts out with as much info as i can find for easy reference. I'm a little OCD when it come to reloading.
     
  7. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    sneakboxer, this is cool. Your methods entail everything mine is lacking, given technology that is available today. My "spreadsheet" is only in my brain, and mercurical. You have hard tools for hard data.
     
  8. SPU

    SPU Southwest Oregon Old Fart

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    Thanks for starting this topic. I am so wet behind the ears to hand loading I still measure each powder drop, case and cartridge -- and I'm only loading .38 special, which I know some are comfortable "mass" producing. But I figure good habits now until I feel comfortable with operations is best.

    I have been trying to get to know how Unique and Bullseye compare in my handgun with different cast bullets and loads, etc. I haven't even decided on a method of record keeping. I'd like to use Excel (I have it), but I'm intimidated because I've never used it. So far I have a handful of loose notes correlated with targets which I also write the same basic info on so I can cross reference. I'm marking weight and type and (if known) manufacture of bullet, date, powder and charge used, headstamp of case, and general observations such as unburnt powder left, exceptionally dirty residue, basic accuracy impression, any signs of high pressure (none yet as I'm using recipe's), etc. for that load. I just bought some loader's stickers in bulk off of Midway that I am writing load data on at the bench, and leaving loose with test rounds, then sticking it on the test target and adding impressions, etc. at the range. Now how to file this info is up in the air, but before I get into more calibers I have to figure out a system and I am interested in how others do it. I print targets off free websites.

    I'm leaning toward filing by caliber, then powder used.
     
  9. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    I'm an "information junkie". I keep records on just about anything I do when it comes to handloading/reloading. Every receipt for components is kept, luckily I don't buy often but I do buy big. Last order was over 110#. This allows me to keep track of costs easily by just entering into an Excel Spreadsheet.

    Even though I am a product of a less enlightened time I've willingly made the transition to the "Computer Age". A laptop gives me the ability to take notes even at the range. My chronograph has a printer integrated and whenever I shoot a string, or several strings, I merely print out a tape and attach it to my workup sheets and targets. I can also download the Chronograph data into my PC for side by side comparison if I choose. Graphing, using this method, is simple, easy, and often very revealing as to a loads consistent performance (or not).

    There is a nice little free program one can download called Point Blank. Allows one to keep digital records of target data by entering your shot hits as "X-Y" coordinates. Measure the position of he hole as it relates to the center of the target, entering the distance above/below, and left/right of the point of aim and your "group" is instantly plotted as well as size. With all the load and firearm data entered it's a great filing system. Also has external ballistics calculations. Enter a target size or "kill zone" size and it will calculate the ranges which are considered point blank, or where no holdover/under will be necessary to achieve a "kill". More useful for hunting than competition.

    This program has been re-written to improve on it's existing performance. You can download it here and it's free Point Blank Software The "publisher" does ask that one consider a $10 donation to help maintain the site but that's optional.

    Being as I am a "Data Junkie", next on my wish list is a Pressure Trace System. No more guessing or assumptions when it comes to pressures my loads develop. Cost wise it's not that expensive. Around $600 for the system w/o their software package which is optional.
     
  10. iusmc2002

    iusmc2002 Colville, WA Active Member

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    Maybe so, but the choice right now, is between components or a chrono because the wife is making me save money so she can buy a new house and property in eastern WA. I may eventually want one, when I'm at a more advanced age, but right now.......
     
  11. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Will that house and property have a large, long, back yard with a natural backstop?
     
  12. iusmc2002

    iusmc2002 Colville, WA Active Member

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    It's nearly 80 acres, bordered by state or federal land (can't remember which), so if it doesn't have a "natural" backstop, by god, I'm going to get a tractor and make one!! Then maybe I'll get a chrono :thumbup: once I get all the components I can store on my acreage :laugh:
     
  13. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    With a location like that I wouldn't put up any fences on the public land side. I'd then plant a couple of apple trees. A good way to "invite some deer to dinner";)
     
  14. iusmc2002

    iusmc2002 Colville, WA Active Member

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    There's going to be PLENTY of incentives for those adorable, 4 legged, cloven-hooved, spawn of Satan, I mean deers, to come have a snack. I plan on setting up some shooting lanes and some wheelchair accessible stands so I can bring other wounded vets out for hunts.

    Sorry to hijack your thread Spitpatch
     
  15. Spitpatch

    Spitpatch Forest Grove, Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Cabin door was open, and you had no box-cutter or turban. Whiskey flask is over there by the altimeter, and the auto-pilot seems to be working okay.
     
  16. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I had to go back to read the previous post, because I surely thought the whiskey flask had been in use already today!

    Thanks for the laugh.

    I have Excel, just need to install it. I've been giving a lot of thought to pulling all of the data that I have from the one book and many loose papers. I think it's a great way to store and use this information.