Reloading for bolt action rifle accuracy
Well, it's not particularly pertinent to the site, but since I'm sure alot of members who reload here may also try to do some match grade ammo for their rifles, I figure I'd offer some thoughts.
This is for bolt actions only, auto's and lever guns have some specific requirements that I'm not gonna mess with, and I don't have much experience with those platforms when it comes to reloading.
1) Case prep: Cleanliness and uniformity is what we're shooting for here, cleaning is pretty straightforward but the degree you wish to chase uniformity covers a broad spectrum, and for a factory chamber/barrel rifle will very quickly reach the point of diminishing returns. Making sure your brass is of the same brand and lot, deburring flash holes, and primer pocket uniforming is all I'm willing to do for a factory gun, I'll leave the volume sorting and neck turning to the bench resters. For others I'd recommend at least deburring flash holes and being really anal about triming.
As far as cleaning goes, I like to decap brass prior to tumbling to get the big hunks out of the primer pocket, then run a primer pocket brush after tumbling. Any stubborn powder residue on necks can be removed after sizing/trimming with a soak in hot water and simple green and a good wipedown with a rag. Just make sure that you at least rinse your brass off well if you put lube on em' for resizing. Your brass needs to be clean and dry to properly "grip" the chamber during firing.
Resizing: This is where alot people do the most damage, unfortunately the instructions included with most full length die sets will tell you to set your die up in a way that is most likely going to over-resize your brass. This is bad for accuracy and your brass, if you want to set up your die correctly your going to need a shoulder gauge of some sort, I use the SP comparator with shoulder gauges but there are several other gauges available. First you need your shoulder measurement off of fireformed brass then screw in your die till you hit the shell plate then back it off 3-4 turns, resize your brass and measure the shoulder then screw down the die in small increments and repeat untill you've just "bumped" the shoulder back .001-.002", now you have a properly set die. Now you're brass is gonna last alot longer, need trimmed less and be a heck of alot more accurate. I personally prefer to use a redding body die and a Lee collet neck sizer and only resize the body when necessary for function. Especially on non magnum cases you can get away with neck sizing only for a long time before feeding becomes difficult, and brass that fits your chamber is going to be accurate, not need to be trimmed much and last a long time.
Priming: Simple, use a hand primer, they have the best feel. If you've cleaned your primer pockets well you should get good uniform primer seating. Pay attention to your brass, if your shooting slightly overpressure loads, you're going to notice your primer pockets starting to get loose while hand priming. Beleive them!
Dropping powder and bullets: If you have the money for the gucci powder measures that trickle to .01grain you don't have to worry about measuring every charge cause your equipment is doing it for you. For everybody else, measure every charge. If you're not after match grade ammo go ahead and trust your thrower, but in my experience manual throwers will vary to the tenth of a grain, and that's just too much for ammo that I am hoping will bughole. Accuracy is about elimination of variables, do it where you can, it doesn't really take that long to throw a charge on the scale and trickle in a couple extra kernels of powder before you throw it in your case. Now getting your seating depth is a whole 'nother can of worms, some loads/rifles like slightly in to the lands some like quite a bit of jump. But the biggest problem people have is they can't get anywhere near the lands because their factory rifle has way to much freebore and way to little magazine. In those cases you just have to load to magazine legth and come back in .01" increments untill you either find a length your gun likes or you're getting too short. (note: use a proper gauge that measures COL to the ogive, not the bullet tip). As for actually plugging in bullets, take your time! Seat a little turn your case 1/4 turn seat a little more. This prevents runout caused by dirty/out of round seater plugs. Also if you notice you're shaving jacket during seating you need to go to a VLD type chamfer tool.
That about does it hope this helps some of you out that have been having trouble finding those sub MOA loads. (I'll do more on powder tuning later if there's interest)