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Tuning a Load?

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Unread 04-21-2007, 06:54 AM
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Tuning a Load?

My question is what order you use to decide on a load.

Let's assume that your gunsmith did an excellent job on your new long range rig. The action, barrel, crown, trigger are all perfect, and you have broken in the barrel.

I'll assume that your brass is all matched and in great shape too, and that the shooter is world class and capable of shooting zeros.

What I assume we are left to choose is bullet, powder, primers, and bullet distance from lands.
We want to shoot as high of a BC bullet that our twist can handle as our first choice, but will go with a compromise bullet if it is much more accurate.

How do you go about deciding which powder and primer to go with first, and just for the sake of argument let's assume that with your first choice you can't get under 1 MOA, and you know the rifle can shoot much better.

What would be your order of changes to tune this hypothetical rifle. Thanks.

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    Unread 04-21-2007, 10:18 AM
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    Re: Tuning a Load?

    I pick the buller I want to shoot first, based on what is going to be on the other end - paper, steel, or critters.

    Then I pick the powder, based on what I need - usually I will avoid ball powders because they are so dirty, and temperature sensitive.
    There are exceptions though... Some ball powders classic for the caliber, like 414 for the 6mm, 748 and BlC2 for the 223, etc.
    Also... if I were loading for a PD shoot, I would consider a ball powder cuz they throw so well.

    If you don't know what powders, then look in a loading book. For a given weight of bullet, the slower powders will usually give the best velocity, and the faster powders will give the best ES and SD... and tend to group the best.

    The primers are already a given... I use Rem 7-1/2, CCI BR-2, and BR-4

    Here, kitty kitty kitty.

    LRH member #23
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    Unread 04-21-2007, 03:25 PM
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    Re: Tuning a Load?


    With the components and loads set for the first range session, what if things don't work out, what do you start adjusting first, second, etc. For instance would you stick with your first choice load and adjust the distance from the lands first or would you adjust powder charge, etc.

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    Unread 04-21-2007, 08:59 PM
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    Join Date: Jan 2002
    Location: Armagh, PA
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    Re: Tuning a Load?

    [ QUOTE ]
    ......what if things don't work out.......

    [/ QUOTE ]

    What is your definition of "don't work out"? Most of my custom rifles will shoot all loads well (sub MOA) but show a preference for certain combo. I find that combo by changing powders. Not a good LR firearm example...but I had a T/C Contender Super 14 barel chambered in .35 Remington. Would not shoot under 1.75" at 100yds with any of half a dozen different powders. Found one load in an old manual that called for H335...what the heck...threw together a series of five rounds at five different charges and none went over 1" with the best at .5".
    Dan B.
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    Unread 04-22-2007, 02:52 AM
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    Re: Tuning a Load?

    [ QUOTE ]
    Thanks. With the components and loads set for the first range session, what if things don't work out, what do you start adjusting first, second, etc. For instance would you stick with your first choice load and adjust the distance from the lands first or would you adjust powder charge, etc. edge.

    [/ QUOTE ]

    Don't work out?? Hmmm.

    Well... if you are going for "Longe Range Hunting", I would assume that when you take the gun out of the box, the first thing you do is take it apart, adjust the trigger to ~2-ish pounds, and epoxy bed the action and float the barrel.

    That being said...

    I guess if you are an elk or deer hunter, then you try another bullet, cuz there are so many of them out there... but there is a limit as to how many bullets you can test.

    Since this IS "Long Range Hunting", one would presume that the cartridges are large for the bore size, ergo, magnums, or cartridges that burn optimum powders of 4350 and slower class.
    Also, that the barrels will not be feather weight.

    So a medium or heavy barrel that is made reasonably well, should show it's possibilities pretty quick.

    So going through the whole catalogue of bullets would be fruitless, cuz you wouldn't have a throat left.

    You have to make some decisions up front.

    If the gun is off the rack, then you can have an excellent barrel, or a turd.

    A good barrel should be showing good groups right off with reasonable loads.

    For example, with a 300WM, and a quality 180 - 200 grain bullet, if you can't get 3/4" or better with H-4350 and/or H-4831 within 60-80 rounds, you have a dog-a-roo, and don't waste any more time with it!!

    Playing around with every 180 bullet you can buy ain't gonna change things. You might "get lucky" and find something after 400 rounds (and $300 worth of components)... but even then, that "good group" might just disappear the next go-around.


    I set the bullets to touch the rifling - if the magazine isn't long enough, I either lengthen the magazine, or load single rounds - after all, at 700 yds you ain't gonna need (or get) a quick second shot.

    With bullets seated to touch, and decent powder/bullet weight combinations, if I couldn't see good grouping possibilities in 100 rounds, I would replace the barrel with a custom barrel from a good maker.


    "I think"... that putting together a long range hunting rifle is a project that should be planed and thought out.
    I don't think you get a successful long range rifle by grabbing the first magnum on sale at Wally-world, with the generic Chin-lee 3x9 scope that he threw in to sweeten the deal.

    I think these rifles need to be thought out in advance... balanced as a unit.
    You pick the caliber and optics and rifle to fit your goals.

    For example...
    I have a need for a very long range coyote/feral dog rifle. A member of my family has a problem with them on her pedigreed cattle spread. A lost calf is the down payment to a nice car!

    I used to use a 300 WM with 178 A-Max's, but I found out that they didn't open up very fast, and often bounced around the north 40.

    So I am putting together a new 1,000 yd coyote/feral dog rifle in .264 Win Mag, so I can use real fragile varmint bullets.

    I had considered building from scratch, but the cost wasn't worth it, so I bought a Remington Sendero-II, after two friends said that they were using the Sendero-II's for 1,000 yd "F" class match shooting, "out of the box", with trigger adjustments.

    I chose the rifle and scope together with one purpose, so everything was picked before the rifle was bought.

    Here's the process.

    1 - Caliber - I needed to have a caliber that had the most possible range, with proven fragile "varmint" bullets... which was why I was giving up on the 300 WM. The caliber/bullet had to have enough energy at ~1,000yds to completely wreck a 70 pound feral dog with an attitude, even with a less than optimal hit.

    Simply going up the list of varmint bullets came to .264/6.5mm. Bore sizes larger than that had poor choices in varmint bullets, with poor BC's, which meant poor wind characteristics. The bullet was the 95 gr V-Max which has a very good BC and excellent (and proven) "explosive" effects.

    That was just about IT for bullets.

    Then the scope... the targets in this case are furtive, and don't stand out in a meadow waiting for you to get your collective poo-poo together. So fast ranging and very fast shooting were needed. When I was using other guns in the past, the time waisted in dialing the elevation cost me many targets... and also many were lost because I was a "whole turn off" on the elevation turret.

    So I chose the Leupold MK4-M3 scope that had ranging cams (BDC), and one turn from 100 to 1200yds. If I dialed it, it would be there, RIGHT NOW!
    I had used this scope in 1,000 yd field competitions before and it does work well, and fast.

    I made these decisions BEFORE I chose and bought the rifle.

    On the recommendations of the Sendero's, I was a little bit cautious, cuz I have had a few Remington that were turds in the past. I ordered it with the understanding that I could refuse it "for cause"!

    When it came in last fall, I looked it over real hard, and it was probably the nicest/smoothest Remington I have seen in 20 years - action was like glass, barrel was centered in the channel. I ran a tight patch through the barrel, and it was consistently smooth, with no loose spots. No tool marks, or rough spots anywhere. Not a perfect test, but a good start.

    Working up the loads... With a cartridge like the 264WM, you don't want to spend months looking for a load, cuz you won't have any barrel life left.

    So I picked two powders that looked good - H-4350, and H-4831. I picked these powders because they are temperature stable, and clean burning. The H-4350 is a bit fast to be "optimal", and the H-4831 is optimal in burning rate, giving 100-150 fps more velocity.
    But I have found that powders on the fast side generally give better groups, and I was looking for the best accuracy.

    Then I loaded 2 rounds of each powder weight, in one grain steps.

    Now two rounds don't prove a great load... but the DO prove a badd load, plus you can find the max loads and upper pressure limits at the same time.

    If two rounds are touching, this can be a great load, or just two shots out of a five shot group that was badd... but if the two shots are 1.3" apart, you KNOW this is a sucky load, and you don't waste time with testing it further.

    Then you pick the best two shot groups, and test them with 5 shot groups. It's easy.

    If I hadn't found a good load in ~100-120 rounds, I would have sent it out for a new barrel.

    That's how I do it... I'm sure that others do it differently.

    On the Sendero... all the 2 shot groups were touching [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    ... and then the snow came!

    Here, kitty kitty kitty.

    LRH member #23
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    Unread 04-22-2007, 12:38 PM
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    Re: Tuning a Load?

    I think you have to look at what variables you can control first, ie bullets, cases, powders, primers and maybe seating depth and neck tension.

    Old rule of thumb, bullets, barrels and cases. Best in each.

    Cases first in order RWS, Lapua, Norma, Win, Fed and god forbid finally Rem.

    Primers, really depends on caliber. magnums I start with 210s and then 215s. Normally 215s are not needed except really large cases, large loads of hard to ignite powder. Many times in mags the 210s work much better. smaller calibers the CCI Br 2, 4 and 450s. But that is my preference. Lot of guys are having good luck with the PMC (Russian) primers.

    Powders- non temp sensitive, ie Hodgen would be the first line to look at. However, I have 25 lbs left of Norma MRP which is a smoker in the 300 WSM.

    For example, seating depth may be limited by max OAL on a magazine. If that is the case start at max and work in.

    Pick the bullet type that will work for your target type. Game, paper etc.

    Seat to max magazine oal if mag gun or if single shot, seat into the lands .030 IF a VLD, if sierra then seat touching. Reason, only one way to go and that is back out. Most have found the VLDs prefere into the lands IF possible, and Sierras and other non VLDs normally like it off.

    Work loads up on powder first to find best powder load, then seating depth changes and finally neck tension. I have found that once I have my powder load, I can change primers and normally find out if the primer is going to help or hurt the load. We can discuss methods to find the powder load all day long.

    No no big game gun will shoot in the zeros routinely, so do not let anyone tell you that lie. The guys on BR central have standing bets for any fool that says otherwise for him to come and prove it. Damn few BR guns shoot in the .0 routinely, most are .1 or .2. Big game guns normally cannot do that, maybe once in a blue moon (if it was even measured right) but not routinely. If your gun shoots .5 all day long and once every year you shoot at .1 you have a .5 gun not a .1 gun. A once in a lifetime 3 shot group does not mean that is what that gun does routinely.

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    Unread 04-22-2007, 01:41 PM
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    Re: Tuning a Load?


    You have given him so many variables to look at, that he has more variables to deal than rifle barrel to test it all. You haven't answered a thing.

    By his description, the barrel, rifle, cases, etc are already a fixed quantity.

    He asked about "bullet, powder, primers"... that's all.

    To have him try all the primers etc, will leave him with a shot out barrel.

    The cups on Fed primers are much thinner that the others... and they show pressure signs much sooner.

    The variation in primers is so slight that it takes a bench grade gun to tell the difference, and even then, it's in the hundredths of an inch, or thousandths.

    I can swap 7-1/2s and BR-4 and see no difference in my Benchrest rifle (a 6mmBR).

    If his caliber can be had in Lapua or Norma... then he shoots what he has - and for a longrange hunting rifle, the difference between Norma and Winchester is moot!

    He asked a simple question... finding a good longrange hunting load should NOT be that difficult.

    Here, kitty kitty kitty.

    LRH member #23
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