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Methodology for reloading batch size

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by smurf hunter, Jul 1, 2010.

  1. smurf hunter

    smurf hunter Auburn, WA Active Member

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    I'm a reloading newbie. I own and have read most of the Lyman manual and feel I understand all the steps and how to do things safely. Everyone agrees to start with the minimum load and work up - I concur.

    But in practice what does that actually mean?

    For example, I find what looks to be a good starter recipe with minimum powder loads.

    1) how many rounds should I make? If these are undesirable for any reason, we don't want too many of course.

    2) Should I make a few rounds with the same components of incrementally hotter loads?

    3) Different component combinations, all min. starting loads?
    I might reload some 38spl and 357mag, different bullets, etc.

    I'm loading for a 6" GP100 357mag. Given it's weight/size and the fact it's a revolver, many issues that could happen from too light a load (not cycling a semi) or too hot are less of or not a concern at all. I'm thinking of making 5 rounds of a starter recipe, 5 more with 10% more powder and see how it goes.

    I belong to a nice outdoor range, but it's almost 10 miles away - seems wasteful to go out there just to see how 5 or 10 rounds worked.

    Thoughts and ideas are welcomed.
    Thanks
     
  2. A2theK

    A2theK Olympia Member

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    I'd like to compare loads if possible.

    I'll tell you out of a Ruger Vaquero .357 4.2grs of Trailboss pushing a 158gr lead SWC in a 357 case works great in a Colt Python, but crappy in my Ruger.

    I'd say start at the medium powder setting and if it works then use it and don't monkey with it too much.

    As always your mileage may vary.
     
  3. SAR1846

    SAR1846 Oregon Member

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    What I do, is whip up a "box" worth of loads... how can you tell otherwise if a batch is going to be accurate. You need a good sample size to test. Pistol ~50, rifle ~20. Honestly, most of my rifle loads are also 50rnds minimum.

    If you want to be a minimalist, in order to get some good feedback from reloads, you'll need to shoot several 5 round groups... I figure at least 3x. Then you can vary the powder charge a bit (pistol typically @ 0.2gr, rifle @ 0.5gr), and whip up another batch.

    For 38/357, I've stuck with a basic mid-range cast lead load for my 38's... I'd rather spend more time at the range, practicing my hold, sight alignment, breathing, and squeeze vs. spending my time at the reloading bench working on squeezing out the last 1/4 inch difference between my handloads and Fed GMM wadcutters.

    I'd advise you to review as many reloading manuals as possible (Alliant, Hodgdon, and Accurate powder are online!), and follow the more conservative recipe. Btw, If you're too light of a load, you can have a bullet lodge in the barrel or forcing cone... if you're too heavy, you stress out the frame, and start stretching it. Both are bad things, and can happen. There's a lotta room in a 38/357 cartridge for anyone to make an oops, and doublecharge or worse. I'd also advise having a mentor show you the ropes... esp if you haven't reloaded before.
     
  4. motoman98

    motoman98 Gresham, OR Active Member

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    Using the loads in current loading manuals for pistols, I've never found a load that wasn't safe in my guns....from experience, not word of mouth. However, I always work up to the load I finally choose, changing only the powder amount and seeing how it's accuracy and function in my gun. Revolvers aren't difficult to load for, when shooting be sure to use a solid rest, so you can see any difference: point of aim vs target hit location and group size. I'll load the whole range of loads, (carefully labeling) usually 5 to 10 of each so I might take up to 50-100 to the range. Record your results in a logbook for future reference.
    Good start to finding what is best in your gun.
    I usually only use one bullet type per outing.
     
  5. Taurus 617 CCW

    Taurus 617 CCW Northern Idaho Member

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    For my rifle I started with the Nosler reloading guide. Each bullet weight category gives a "most accurate load tested" indication. That's where I started.
     
  6. smurf hunter

    smurf hunter Auburn, WA Active Member

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    Solid tips. This gives me something to work on.
    Thanks all.
     
  7. dmwebb34

    dmwebb34 Bend, OR Member

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    First, welcome to reloading!! I'm sure you will love it!!

    Finding "the load" for can take a while. I might suggest buying a box of several different brands of ammunition for the rife/pistol you plan to reload for and go shoot those. Which ever brand shoots the best for your rifle/pistol you can start reloading using the same specifications as that brand and vary the components.

    This might speed up your search for "the load" plus give a beginner a good starting point for your reloading. Just an idea.
     
  8. CrossHairs

    CrossHairs Tigard Active Member

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    A chronograph really helps too. I was surprised to find that my XD9mm runs about 100 fps fast than my P226 9mm for the same load. I would never have guessed that 1" of barrel would have made that much difference.

    I started with the min load for unique powder and montana gold bullets....and stopped right there. I discovered the same with Accurate #7, but had to run to a mid load for Blue dot.

    The key to the reloading is the consistency you can generate from your hand loads. If consistency comes from finding the 'perfect' load, then go for it. At this point, I know that any variance in my loads is a far smaller than what I introduce with poor shooting :) technique! So I am not stressing about getting the Goldilocks load (just right).
     
  9. smurf hunter

    smurf hunter Auburn, WA Active Member

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    Got out to the range yesterday and shot off my first hand loads. My initial objective was to prove I understood my equipment and the process - and all of it safely.

    I started with a 38spl recipe from Hodgdon for Winchester Autocomp and Hornady XTP 125gr JHP.

    I did 5 at minimum, another 10 with +0.2 grains. I also did 3x 357mag rounds - just to ensure I understood how to adjust my dies for the longer brass. These were close to minimum.

    Even though I weighed my powder repeatedly, and re-read many portions of reloading books and the equipment manuals - there was that small element of fear. Until you pull the trigger and see a hole in the paper, you simply don't know if you did it right.

    I'm here today, with all my fingers. Every round went boom, and most of them went where I expected :)

    Here's what I learned:

    1) Powder measuring is a pain.

    That Lee Perfect Powder Measure is fairly consistent, but it's very tough to make fine adjustments. I've also noticed that powder dispenses differently as the weather (temp+humidity) changes.

    2) 38spl loads seem to "snap", whereas 357mag is more "Boom" with a push. Previous to this I never had similar enough rounds for a meaningful comparison.

    3) Not all brass manipulates well. I had really good results with some used PMC brass, but some other generic brass became deformed/creased/dented during seating and/or crimping. This might be ok to fire, but I won't re-use afterwards. This only happened a few times, so maybe a fluke...

    Last night I made ~30x 357mag rounds. Half of them I made with magnum primers, as that's what my 357 recipe called for. I'm curious to see if there's any observable change.

    Now that I have some confidence I probably won't kill myself with this new hobby, I'm going to spend some time at the bench and try to be more methodical.
     
  10. Lloyd Braun

    Lloyd Braun Vancouver Active Member

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    that first trigger pull is a little scary huh
    nice job
    FYI i dont really notice the difference when using magnum primers
    there is some data on standard vs magnum primers and it showed minimal velocity and pressure increases when using magnum primers
     
  11. SAR1846

    SAR1846 Oregon Member

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    Congrats!!!

    Always a good sign!

    Getting a good powder setup takes time... Some powders meter well thru powder measures... some brands are better than others... The trick is to be consistant. Use the same force & motion on the powder measure at all times. With practice, I'm typically +/- 0.1gr on some powders. For match or hunting ammo, I typically set the powder measure to underdrop by a few grains, then trickle up to the exact charge. Again, time & practice with your equipment helps.


    All brass are not created equal... if brass is doing something weird during crimping / seating, that may be something else, such as not enough flare, maybe because the case length is a lil long or short.


    Changing components do make a difference... I forget the make, but there's some small pistol primers which are regular & mag.

    Good job! Practice makes perfect!
     
  12. MWS

    MWS Oregon City,OR Member

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  13. smurf hunter

    smurf hunter Auburn, WA Active Member

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    Think I figured out my brass issue. I had a couple brands of ammo that used "Starline" cases. I've heard fine things about this brass - so figured something else must have gone wrong on my end.

    Turns out I had some very hot, full house Buffalo Bore rounds (bear stoppers I'm told) that used those cases, in addition to some no name brand I got off the internet.

    Basically those hot rounds had stretched the case length just enough to mess up my crimp. I just need to buy the Lee .357mag case length gauge/shell holder and can remedy that. All my other once fired brass are within tolerances for length.

    Thanks for all the support.
     
  14. johnboy

    johnboy Hillsboro Member

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    All shooters who have the time would benefit from reloading. You just have more control and if you follow the simple rules it is safe. I have been loading my own for over 30 years with never a problem.......OK.....one blown primer, one non fired primer, a couple of stuck brass....over 30yr time period.....nothing serious. I use 2 or three load books just to compare the same load 2 or 3 ways to be safe. Take it slow and all goes well.....
     
  15. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm like a broken record here, but here goes anyway.

    I always use matched head stamp brass that I get from gunbroker - once fired indoor range pickup. Different brands will have different inside volumes resulting in varying pressures and varying results. When you think of how many times you can re-use the brass, the cost is minimal.

    I always check my loads with a chronograph to be sure my bullet speed is correct compared to the same bullet in a factory round. The bullet, especially a defensive bullet, is designed to expand and work properly at a certain speed. Also, with any type of bullet, you can be certain that you aren't making slow, wimpy loads. Of course you have to stay within the min/max numbers from the powder manufacturer, which sometimes means you have to change to a different powder.

    Always use a case length trimmer as you just found out so that your crimps will be even and so that you don't crush your brass.

    Imho reloading should be done by people who are picky, picky. Reloads have a bad rep only because people don't pay attention to the details and skip steps.

    $.02

    PS as for powder measures, it helps to buy ball powder, or if extruded powder then be sure it's a type that's been chopped into very short lengths. Long, unchopped extruded powders never feed accurately for me.
     
  16. onearmedswordsman

    onearmedswordsman Hillsboro, OR Member

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    * I develop to batches: 1) pressure test batch, 2) accuracy batch.

    * Pressure batch: follow all reloading manual directions and work your way up. Ten percent from max load is a good rule of thumb.

    * Accuracy batches: start from hottest load and work your way down. Usually (not always) most accurate load is close to the hottest load.

    * For statistical significance:
    - the minimum sample size should be 7 rounds per load. Ten is good since you can shoot two 5 rnds groups. More is better.
    - Fix all variables, change only one variable at a time. Variables: case type, bullet, powder, primer, seating depth, etc.

    * In handgun reloading, seating depth is super critical. The deeper the higher the pressures. Check COAL at beginning, mid and end of you batch to make sure it is even.

    * get as many reloading manual as you can.

    * Get a chrony. It provides you with additional data points.
    Remember same loads will have different muzzle velocities depending mostly on barrel length.

    * if you are going to get serious about reloading for several firearms, consider getting Quickload or similar s/w. It is not a replacement for reloading manuals, but, a nice addition/complement. Helps a lot when having to work on a load that cannot be copied exactly out of a manual.

    My $0.023 (adjusted for inflation)
     
  17. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    Good advice. :thumbup:
     
  18. CXD Arms

    CXD Arms Evergreen State New Member

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    The thing about working up loads for accuracy and (safety) is this; When reloading you are dealing with several variables which can work together, work against each other or possibly cancel each other out.

    The key to being scientifikal bout this process is just what several people have said; change only one variable at a time and record the results. The easiest thing to do initially is to prep all of your cases the same, use the same components and then change only the powder amount. If you don't get the results you want, then change ONE thing and ONE thing only. It could be the powder, primer, the bullet type, the case brand, etc, etc.

    The problem with this is that you are supposed to start over with the minimal charge for the given powder whenever you change something else and work back up again. This takes way to long to do unless you have deep pockets to purchase one pound of each of the powders you want to try as well as 100's of bullets, primers, blah, blah, blah. Not to mention the time to test and also load up the 'recipe'

    My opinion is that too many people forget to work for consistency in the load or combination and are also too fixated on getting a specific result from a combination instead of finding out what the result will be with that set of components. It's trial and error with some luck mixed in.

    Also, many of us forget the law of diminishing returns. I don't turn my case necks just like I don't use a micrometer adjusted bullet seating die nor anneal my cases for the same reasons. How much better can your reloads realistically get for the time and money spent. I'm already producing better than factory ammunition with a minimum amout of time and materials because I makes sure things are CONSISTENT!
     
  19. smurf hunter

    smurf hunter Auburn, WA Active Member

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    I completely understand the reasons for operating in a scientific manner. There's no other way to evaluate round A vs. round B otherwise.

    Then again, there's no point in comparing rounds until I have a chrony, or if I'm doing ballistics testing on non-paper targets. So far every round has gone "boom" and there's been a corresponding hole in the paper. Without a chrony, all I can do is perceive sound, recoil and muzzle blast differences. Hotter loads seem to increase all of the above :)

    I recently loaded up two sets of 357mag rounds. Both with the same powder and die setup (that's my intent at least). One set uses CCI 500 small pistol, the other Winchester small pistol magnum primers.

    Locally I've noticed inconsistent primer inventory, so I wanted to learn, what/if any difference the primers made in the event I cannot find my preference.
     
  20. CXD Arms

    CXD Arms Evergreen State New Member

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    When it comes to max loads the chrony is another tool evaluating but they are not the final word as far as charge weight. It all concerns pressure which velocity is derived from.

    You will begin to see pressure signs whereas the speed may or may not still be increasing with the increasing charges. Flattened primers, bolt embossing, unusual recoil, difficult extraction, etc will be there before a kA-boom and it is best to heed to them.

    While most of us don't have expensive pressure transducers or specialized equipment, we can stay within the safety margins and get the results we want without those finite pressure numbers.

    Again, it comes down to what the person wants, what they THINK they want and what they actually need. Accuracy is derived from consistency. Be consistent in your method, however you do it and you will get the results.