What do you look for when you "work up" a load?
This is a discussion on What do you look for when you "work up" a load? within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; I've read several different pieces of advice about working up a load in various manuals. I'm just curious what your techniques are to work up ...
November 11th, 2011 10:58 AM
What do you look for when you "work up" a load?
I've read several different pieces of advice about working up a load in various manuals. I'm just curious what your techniques are to work up a load when you don't have published data for the exact bullet and/or are trying to find the most accurate load?
Do you simply resort to grouping, recoil, heat, etc. or are there other techniques that help you determine the best load?
November 11th, 2011 12:55 PM
When I started reloading back in the early 80s I just went with whatever was in my Lee load chart that came with powder dippers and never varied, now my range loads are a little more creative and all about accuracy. Everything else is secondary. It seems that more often than not there are no data for the exact bullet I'm using. For a new bullet design (using autoloaders), I'll determine the OAL I need via the plunk test. Based on that and manual reviews, I usually start with a batch at a mid-range load. If that just doesn't look like the accuracy I want (I'm NOT a great shot, so I'm looking at keeping all the hits within 3-4 in. at 15-20 yds), I'll move up and down by .02 gr and see if there is an improvement. Of course, not looking at other variables make this sound pretty simple, but things like powder selection, bullet weight and type, and what your gun "prefers" certainly play a big role, too.
Like so much dealing with shooting and reloading, there are more ways than one to arrive at your destination. Experiment within the bounds of safety and see what works for you.
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November 11th, 2011 09:38 PM
I like to pick a middle of data load as a starting point. I will then load 10 rounds of that load and will load 10 rounds going up 1/2 grain and going down 1/2 grain from that starting point and usually cover several grains in either direction in half grain increments. I will use a Sharpie to write the load weight on the side of each round. Then I'll take a handfull of targets to the range and shoot a bunch of groups off the bench. Somewhere in that you should see a load that shoots much better than the others. If it shoots really good than your done. If it's just so good than you can then work around that load in smaller increments and see if it shoots better or not. Most times you can get most powders to shoot fairly good with a particular bullet, then again maybe not. Then it's time to try different powders or primers or whatever.
A chronograph is a good testing tool also (sometimes). Typically extreme spread and standard deviation numbers will tell you a lot about a load. Usually the lower these two numbers are the more accurate the load will be (unfortunately this is not a fast and true rule of thumb). The best way to test any load is on paper. I also found that when load testing rifle rounds that I get much more useful info shooting at 200 yards instead of 100 yards. Seems that most loads will hold together fairly well to 100 yards but start to fall apart between 100 and 200 yards. A good high power load in my book should shoot at or less than 1 MOA.
I don't put nearly this effort into my pistol loads but, the same principals apply in any type of loading. Of course you need to shoot your pistols at much shorter ranges.
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NRA Endowment Life Member
November 11th, 2011 11:23 PM
If you truly want to work up a load safely, a chronograph is a must. After you verify you aren't running off the top end of the load charts, then play around under the maximum to find your best accuracy.
November 13th, 2011 01:01 AM
That's great information and exactly what I was looking for. I'll follow that exact procedure (within safety limits) and test some new rounds this week. Fingers crossed...
Originally Posted by Jeff F
Do most ranges allow you to use a chronograph or is it something best used in an open field in the middle of nowhere (safety in mind, of course)? Is the chrono necessary for pistol rounds?
Originally Posted by gigamortis
November 13th, 2011 09:46 AM
The caliber I "worked up" the most is my .30-06. It takes a lot of range time to work up a really good load. Obviously safety is a concern (flattened primers, etc.) but accuracy is my prime indicator. Every powder in every amount has a different effect, as does different brand bullets in the same weights (primer brand never seemed to have any noticable effect).Change the COL slightly and the testing starts all over. Even distance can prove a loading to be worthwhile. I once had a load of 150 grain Nosslers that was truely one-hole accurate at 100 yards, but barely stayed on the paper at 200 and beyond. In the end, I settled on 4064 powder behind a Sierrra 165 BT splizer that was very accurate out to 300 yards (the limit of the shooting range) and had mild recoil. Nothing I shot with it had time to complain about its accuracy. It took about ten different sessions on the range to come up with that loading.
Just because a certain load shots fantastically in your buddy's Rem 770 doesn't mean it will also do so in you Winchester. Each rifle, even of the same make and model, will have a preference to a particular loading. That's where the fun comes in--finding that sweet spot of a loading for your gun.
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