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What’s your process for finding a load?

I’m starting my journey into distance shooting with a shiny new Savage model 12 and a box of Hornady match ammo.

But, I’m planning on replacing some of the rifle’s components and starting to learn how to hand load as well.

So, as I go about this journey, I’d like to know what your process is for determining a good load?

Throw a dart at a list of powders and bullets? Methodical?

How do you hone in on a recipe?
 

Dyjital

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My process:

  1. Pick a bullet I want to shoot.
  2. Find a powder I want to use (internet, ideas, wild crazy logic)
  3. Find multiple books that show powder charges. I will put them in a list with min-max. I take the lowest minimum and the lowest maximum and that is my charge weight range.
  4. I will then load 3 or 5 of each charge weight. I run .3-.5gr spread.
  5. You will see a pattern open and then close down as you get close to an accuracy node.
  6. Find the node, dial in .1gr and try again.
  7. Then I'll load off the lands if I want to get precise. Some tuning may happen, some may not.
When I find a load that shoots good and I'm doing the .1gr spread, I'll put a chronograph on them and see how they 'land' with spreads.

There is some voodoo involved but it is a straight forward process.
 
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What Dyjital said. To clarify #6, let's say you find that 25.3 grains gave you the best results in the first run with the 0.3 grain spread. You'd make a batch from say 25.1 to 25.5 grains, in 0.1. grain increments, and shoot those sets to see more clearly where the node is around 25.3 grains.

...
When I find a load that shoots good and I'm doing the .1gr spread, I'll put a chronograph on them and see how they 'land' with spreads.
...
I didn't quite understand what this means. Once I have my load figured out, I chrono them so I can better guess how to adjust my sights for range and to sort of test my own reloading practices with an eye toward seeing a very low variation in velocity.
 

Dyjital

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I didn't quite understand what this means. Once I have my load figured out, I chrono them so I can better guess how to adjust my sights for range and to sort of test my own reloading practices with an eye toward seeing a very low variation in velocity.
After I do my .3-.5gr spreads I’ll chrono the .1gr spreads in the given range. Normally it’s .6 variance.

if 25.4 shot the best, I’d load up 24.1-24.7 in .1gr lots.
Of these I’ll chrono. One of the 6 loads will leave the least ES of all of them and then I’ll use that as my go-to load. (ES=extreme spread)

I’ll play with that one with lengths in and out until I find the best group again with .010 or .005” variances. Or I’ll leave it at the generic book length.


the below is posted for the OP to show the groups getting smaller then opening up.
E8CD256D-C745-43CC-98A2-1E43CE977786.jpeg
Easy to track a few accuracy nodes on this one.
 

Reno

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As much h as I love to reload, there are a few guns I own that shoot factory stuff as good if not better. My hand loads for those rifles usually do not cost less than factory, in some cases they cost way more per round. So I ALWAYS start with good factory ammos first these days.

As for the rest of my reloading, it’s for bulk. Which all ways comes out less expensive than factory bulk.
 

Reno

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Again emphasizing on bulk.

I tend to choose powders that flow consistently throw a flow.

I tend to choose bullets by #/$.
 
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...
But, I’m planning on replacing some of the rifle’s components and starting to learn how to hand load as well.
...
I would start with handloading unless the trigger is terrible or something is broken on the firearms. With a handload you can make almost anything shoot decently well providing the bore and chamber aren't awful, which they won't be on your new rifle. Once you know what it can do stock, then you can actually evaluate whether modifications are making a difference.

For example, from a test I did working up a hunting load, the best group I got was was LoadX (0.9" at 100 yds, 7 shot grp). The worst -- same day, same rifle, same conditions -- was LoadY (2.6", 100yds, 7 shots). If I had bought LoadY as a commercial round, and then started swapping things -- trigger, stock, scope, whatever -- I could be hundreds if not thousands of dollars into getting my rifle to shoot LoadY well. I was able to get LoadX for $20 or so in powder and bullets -- it's a lot cheaper to load your ammo for your rifle, than to modify your rifle for your ammo.
 
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For hunting I like heavy for caliber bullets so look through the bullet stash for something that fits the bill there, then look in my powder collection for an appropriate powder towards the slower end of the powders recommended for the caliber. I'll load up 5 rounds seated to the book length and shoot them for group. This gives me a benchmark to work from.
 
With respect to reloading, the first step I recommend is to acquire a reloading handbook, doesn't matter much which one, just so it's current. I like the Hornady book.

The next step is to accept the fact that, if you are serious about wanting to reload for repeatable accuracy, saving money is not in the cards :eek:

Now we have tools; the bench, the press, the dies, calipers, and various devices to assist with measuring relative and absolute dimensions, weights etc.

Next up are components; brass, primers, gunpowder and bullets. These are so dependent on what caliber you plan to shoot, it's hard to give general direction.

The good news is it's really a lot easier than it appears when you've never done it before. It also doesn't require spending a ton of money up front in order to learn the ropes and gain confidence. Just accept that as you advance, the progressive press you figured would take you all the way may need to be replaced with one that will.

Good luck!
 
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My process for a new bolt gun:

Pick a weight and bullet
Pick a powder
Refer to a reloading manual for decent starting charge weight
Use my Stoney point oal gauge to find my starting seat depth(I start .010" off the lands)
I load a ladder test going up about 2-3 grains going up past the max recommended load
Fire them over chrono watching for pressure signs and stop I feel I see some
Take the most accurate load and do another test at that weight now playing with seating depth to find my load. Sometimes I'll play around with powder from there to see if I can't improve it.

This has worked well for me. I found once my scope was junk, found barrels shot out, scope mounting/stock issues. It takes time, I also use a lead sled to try to take as much of me out of the equation as possible.
 
I’d never pollute a rifle of mine with factory ammo. Sure, I can compare the cost of my hand loads with Core-Lokts, but I generally shoot premium bullets. Find that in factory fodder and it gets pretty spendy.
 
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...
Use my Stoney point oal gauge to find my starting seat depth(I start .010" off the lands)
...
This is what that means and well worth the small price for the tools (about $50 if you already have calipers) and small amount of effort involved:


EDIT: there are tons of videos on this -- maybe this one is a bit on the jokey side but by the end I was sorta liking this guy. Search terms: "using OAL gauge" will get you many choices.
 
Depending on your bullet of choice and your rifle's throat, there may be a bit of a juggling act between an arbitrary seating depth and how much bullet bearing surface is inside the neck. And, with any rifle using a magazine to feed rounds, if the bullets are seated long enough, you may end up with a single shot rifle.

I suggest loading to SAMMI specifications until you get the basics down pat. There are many rabbit holes awaiting you as you learn :)
 
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The first step in developing a load is determining what the objective is and the acceptable consistent accuracy needed. For example, a hunting load accuracy for 45-70 does not have to be that great. However, the goal would be to have a bullet that kills well without blowing up the animal. A bench rest shooter may be looking for the optimal accuracy. A practical pistol shooter may be looking for low recoil and decent accuracy at a minimum power factor.

I avoid chasing the perfect load for accuracy. I have tried that and it wasted a lot of time and money. I typically figure out what I need out of the load, research what loads are working well for others and then try working up a couple powder or bullet combinations. Typically I can find a load that meets my need in one range trip.
 
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Lots of great advice here already.

Go with a proven powder and bullet for that caliber and twist barrel.

Then be as consistent and methodical as possible concerning creating the ammo.

Use tools to make sure you're clearing the lands (at least to start).

Vary the powder charge in small increments to find some accuracy nodes. Example, for .223 I vary each charge weight by 0.3gr, for 308, I'll start out varying each charge weight by 0.5gr. You can try smaller increments when you find a possible node you want to sneak up on.

Play with bullet seating depth to fine tune after you find your powder charge.
 

bsa1917hunter

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After I do my .3-.5gr spreads I’ll chrono the .1gr spreads in the given range. Normally it’s .6 variance.

if 25.4 shot the best, I’d load up 24.1-24.7 in .1gr lots.
Of these I’ll chrono. One of the 6 loads will leave the least ES of all of them and then I’ll use that as my go-to load. (ES=extreme spread)

I’ll play with that one with lengths in and out until I find the best group again with .010 or .005” variances. Or I’ll leave it at the generic book length.


the below is posted for the OP to show the groups getting smaller then opening up.
View attachment 646530
Easy to track a few accuracy nodes on this one.
I also like to see the "node" when hand loading as well. Most time it's blatantly obvious. Check out these groups from my AR10, when I was developing the best load with that particular bullet and powder combo. I'm also like Dizzy and vary powder charge weights by .5 grains in cartridges larger than 308w:

657YKIs.jpg
DcHjEYx.jpg
pj8gFsD.jpg

Seeing the node is simple most times and finding a good load is rather simple and straight forward.
 
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Down and dirty so i am not typing here all afternoon is this.

Begin and end with a chronograph. I just throw mine out on the ground and shoot prone right over the top of it.
I want to know all about the point of impact shift regions. I also want to know where max pressure is. I load until i see pressure, or groups that are clearly deteriorating with way high velocities.

Loose primer pockets or an expanded rim are other means to see pressure if you don't see it on the case head.

If a bullet does not shoot good i will give it one more try with a different powder. Then i switch the color of the box.

The goal is to find an accuracy region. Easy enough. To find the absolute top of that and the bottom takes many range sessions over a variety of temperatures and such. When i find that accuracy region with almost no POI i try to load right in the middle of that. That gives me the best odds for a good load that shoots good everyday.

You will find some loads shoot good one day. Then the next day they don't shoot well. You will also find some loads shoot great at 100 yards and not so well at 300 yards.

I like to do my 1st day at the range at 100 yards.(simplicity in walking back and forth and seeing the target through the scope) All follow up days are at 300 yards.

Note there are slight differences in case capacity between new and FL sized. You will see the after a few firings that the case neck grabs on tighter as the brass gets work hardened. You will see all this with a good velocity measurement system.

Look up Panhandle Precision on youtube.

Sam has a good tutorial. So does Johny's reloading bench.

Don't try to make a crappy barrel shoot good. It won't... day in and day out.
 
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