Reloading newbie needs advice
I am a flatlander (PA resident) that has never had to shoot over 100 yards to kill anything until last year on a mulie hunt in eastern MT. I was unprepared last year but got hooked when I saw my buddy and MT resident put one in the kitchen at over 300 yards. My goal this year is to be confident out to 400 yards.
So I bought reloading manuals, an RCBS Rock Chucker, a chronograph, an OAL gage, etc. and read a ton of material on line. Thanks to LRH for some of the articles and info.
My gun is a Ruger M77 Mark II, 7mm Magnum (NIB but I won it several years ago in a raffle, so this is my "weapon of choice" by default). I have read that it is not the best out there, but it's all I got for now. Besides, I am not thinking about 600 or 700 yard shots. One must walk before one runs. One upgrade - a Timney trigger but otherwise it is stock. The chamber measures 3.290 inches.
I am shooting Barnes TSX 160 grain, WLRM primers, RE 22 powder to start at 100 yards. Here is where I am with a cartridge length of 3.280 inches. (I did the same with 3.270 COAL but the results are understandably worse) The stats below are for 4 shots in each group:
Powder/ AVG/ ES/ STD DEV/ MOA
57 gr/ 2566/ 57/ 24.0/ 1
58 gr/ 2610/ 8.0/ 3.3/ 0.75
59 gr/ 2648/ 40/ 18.8/ 1
60 gr/ 2697/ 30/ 13.5/ 1
61 gr/ 2738/ 22/ 9.3/ 0.75
I was expecting to see only one low standard deviation and spread point, but I have 2; one at 58 grains and one at 61 grains. The Barnes manual allows a max load of 63 grains so my inclination is to keep going up in powder and see if I can at least match the performance at 58 grains. All else considered equal, I figure faster is better, provided I can match the accuracy at the higher velocity.
Any comments or suggestions otherwise? Also, if the numbers continue to improve as I get to 63 grains, the obvious temptation is to continue to go higher. I suspect that although the manual says to not go above the max load, there has got to be some margin there. I have read that some of the signs of going to high are ballooned cartridges and tough-to-eject cartridges. Anything else I should look for?
Thanks for any and all comments. Positive or negative.