I buy a manual every few years usually when switching bullets to try something different. I could probably shoot my current load for the rest of my life but where's the fun in that?
I find the online offerings severly lacking as far as different components go, if they have my bullet, they usually won't have my powder and vice versa. But if you find them adequate for your intended purpose save your cash for components.
Bottom line onlne info gets you rolling, manuals give you options.
"...my question would be is there any reason for a semi-experienced handloader with web acess need to buy a manual? "
No. Not unless you are looking for info on a new power or new cartridge, maybe not even then if you use the makers web sites.
No matter what some "new" manual has in it, or what bullet and powder lot or case or primer they used, the basic rule of "start low and only work up to max unless you see over pressure signs" takes care of it all. It sometimes appears some folks simply go straight to the max listed charges expecting to get the same safe results. That's not so and doing it that blindly could get them blinded for sure.
Your chamber pressure will ALWAYS be different from the book makers because their rifle is different from yours. Thus it's imperative we actually work up our own loads no matter what a "new book" says. Most of the time our results will produce lower pressures and speeds than the tightly chambered test rifles. Meaning, the book data is NOT "lawyered up", any differences are because the guns are different. The makers publish what they got and WE have to apply what they say with a bit of intelligence.
I probably have some thirty manuals gathered slowly over 45+ years of reloading because I like to read them, not because I 'need' them. I sure don't do any significant cross referencing between them, I pick a powder and start charge and develop my load, period, with an eye towards what the book says was their maximum.
Firearm safeties & reloading manuals..
Both amount to crutches for a walking man. And before long, he ends up actually needing them...
You can eliminate accidental discharges by never, ever, chambering a round until actually shooting.
You can use any reloading source you like, provided you follow the golden reloading rule:
-Always work up, with ANY change-
ReloadersNest [a loose source]
QuickLoad [to calibrate source to my components]
Oehler chronograph [calibration tool]
Local thinking [Common sense]
You have to assume any source is wrong, and any gun is loaded, until verifying otherwise.
You don't need a book for this.
All are great points and some I hadnt thought of. Some of your discussions go a bit more in depth than what I was getting at. Basically what I ment is why go out and buy, for instance, a Hodgdon Manual when you can go right to the Hodgdon website and load data and get the same exact thing for free.
I guess another point I gave up on buying a manual was when I started using RL-17 in my 300wsm. I checked several manuals that didnt even have data for RL-17 and I found no reason to Buy a $30 book just to get one basic starting point for one cartridge and bullet weight. Plus I would have had to wait until the next printing to get what I needed and I wanted to have that load for hunting season. I went to the Alliant site and found a good starting point in about 5 minutes for that specific powder.
I get the inpression that some may feel this is reckless but I dont see how it can be too bad when you are gaining data from the manufactuers web page. Whats the difference?
Thanks its great to hear all your input! We are all set in our techniques of handloading but its good to hear some differnt thought processes.
"Skin that one, pilgrim, and I'll get you another!"
I guess I am a bit different. I cross check many different manuals and go with the averages. Many manuals will give an accuracy load on the best powder that worked in their bbl. I like that info because it helps me narrow down powders. Usually a powder not listed is for a reason. (unless it's new) My collection of manuals gives me many different powder options. I still always start at the min load and work up to the velocity I am striving for. I have found in many non custom guns approaching the max is not a good idea. A couple of my guns REFUSE to let me take the velocity where I need it even though the manual says it's safe. I would much rather have an accurate rifle than one that travels in the mid threes but is not consistent. JMHO
I have manuals from Sierra, Nosler (two of them), Hornady, and Speer, I'd buy one from Berger but they don't have one. I haven't purchased the Barnes manual because I only shoot one Barnes bullet.
I also have QuickLoad and all the free powder company manuals I can find.
I use the bullet maker's manual, the powder company manual, and QuickLoad to zero in on the powder to use and the charge weight range for the first ladder test with any new bullet. Frequently QuickLoad is a lot closer to predicting what my MV will be than the bullet makers and powder makers manuals.
I definitely recommend having and using some bullet makers manuals, but I don't regard them as the gold standard at all.
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." R. Feynman. (Last sentence of the Feynman appendix to the Space Shuttle Challenger Report.)