Reloading for bolt action rifle accuracy

Reloading for bolt action rifle accuracy

This is a discussion on Reloading for bolt action rifle accuracy within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; 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 ...

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Thread: Reloading for bolt action rifle accuracy

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array blueyedevil's Avatar
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    May 2006

    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)
    Last edited by blueyedevil; December 20th, 2007 at 12:18 PM.

  2. #2
    VIP Member Array Tubby45's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Making ammo.
    Good post.

    A little term help: ogive (pronounced O-jive; with a 'j' sound)

    The ogive is the curved part of the bullet where it curves from the shank (straight part) to the tip. It starts as soon as the bullet diameter tapers down.

    The meplat (pronounced: MEE-plat) is the leading surface of a bullet tip. Take a bullet and hold it nose down, base up on the table. The part that touches the table is the meplat.

  3. #3
    VIP Member Array aus71383's Avatar
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    +1 Good post. I'm looking forward to reloading for rifles - just have to get a rifle I can reload for first.


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  5. #4
    Member Array Hawker's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    I'm shooting a custom .308 that consistently shoots .25 MOA. I load each round one at a time on Sinclair stuff. (Use 4064, Sierra 168g Match, Lapua Brass and Federal Primers). I know this is quite time consuming, but I am very happy with the results.

    I feel very fortunate to own this rifle as it was previously built for and owned by a USMC Scout/Sniper. It's built on a Blueprinted Rem 700 action.

  6. #5
    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    I use Lee original loaders for my .308. Yeah--one at a time. I have a superb Savage 110fp that's been action bedded in a Bell and Carlson stock done by Aurora tactical. I also use the Lapua brass, but Remington 9 1/2 primers seem to do best. I experiment mostly with bullet seating depth in this one. This rifle is always accurate from 110gr HP's to the 168gr. Alot of my initial loadings of this cannot be improved upon.

  7. #6
    Member Array paknheat's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    The .308 Win is one of my favorites to load for. I load mine one at a time as well. I use Varget powder, Winchester primers and Winchester brass as well. Out of my Mauser, the 150gn Hornady SST will shoot 3 shots through the same hole. The Whitetail population around here absolutley hate it.
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  8. #7
    Senior Member Array cmidkiff's Avatar
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    Jan 2005
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    I'm loading .204 ruger for a moderately customized Savage model 12. I use a neck sizer only on fired brass with a .39g Sierra BlitzKing over W748 and a CCI 400 primer. Performs great on paper, now I'm waiting for the opportunity to try it on some ground hogs :)

    I use an old RockChucker single stage press... nothing fancy, but it's strong, doesn't flex, and is mounted securely and in a comfortable position for me.

    I like my Lee press mounted primer tool better than the hand tools I've tried.

    I have an RCBS powder measure... seems to work well for me, but then the only other one I've used was a Lee auto disk... didn't care for that one at all.

    I was using an el-cheapo frankford arsenal electronic scale. It was not a good purchase. The Rangemaster 750 I bought was way worth the money. Lesson learned... don't skimp on a good scale!

    I'm looking at one of the powered case prep stations... one that spins your pocket brush, pocket reamer, chamfer and deburring tools for you. Anyone have one they can recommend?
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  9. #8
    Distinguished Member Array sniper58's Avatar
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    I reload for .30-06 (Sig w/ incredible consistent accuracy). My next project is my son's .300 Weatherby. I get better accuracy than factory stuff at a (generally) lower cost. +1 good post!!!!!!
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  10. #9
    VIP Member (Retired Staff) Array P95Carry's Avatar
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    I am not heavy on the finer measurement special tools - in fact don't so a whole lot of rifle these days, well not the super critical.

    Just wonder tho how folks view the ''simple'' method for getting ideal COL for a particular bullet and ogive profile.....

    Seating a bullet in a prep'd but empty case with just neck tension and no crimp ..... setting it up to be knowingly slightly over long. Then firmly but carefully chamber said dummy and after extraction inspect bullet for witness marks for rifling - ''painting'' bullet with black Sharpie or engineer's blue helps. I have done this in particular for .223 when loading a new bullet profile and also with my .243 when loading rather long heavy bullets.

    It's tedious because it takes a few samples to get results that are meaningful - but worth it such that (for me) I'll be pretty sure I have maintained a 25 thou ''jump'' .... and so that seating depth knowledge then allows me to adjust for charge according to effective case capacity in that combo.
    Chris - P95
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  11. #10
    Lead Moderator
    Array HotGuns's Avatar
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    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
    I can come up with the money...but where can I get one of these Gucci powder chargers?

    That would save a lot of time.
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  12. #11
    Senior Member Array ridurall's Avatar
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    I've been reloading since 1978 and of all the powder measures I've used the Belding & Mull I find to be the best for me. It's not quite as fast as the RCBS type but It's very accurate. My favorite rifle cartridges to load for accuracy are .223, 22-250, .308 and 30 Belted Newton. (close to 30-338) I think the Belding & Mull will load as accurate and any rig out there. I don't know if they are still made but if you get a chance to pick one up go for it. I don't think there is a better powder measure out there new or used. If you ever get the chance to pick one up go for it. You won't be sorry.
    Life member NRA since 1983
    I carry a Colt Delta Elite 10mm in Milt Sparks VM2 with 2 extra magazines on my belt. This is normally worn on a belt under my bib overalls and works great for me. My wife carries a Walther PPS .40 w/Crossbreed holster.

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