Basics of Reloading for Long Range Shooting

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by kfrye, Jan 29, 2006.

  1. kfrye

    kfrye Well-Known Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    I am not sure if this has been covered completely on a post before, but I would like to start a thread covering what to do and what not to do to make a rifle perform at its best.

    I am familiar with reloading, but would like to know what needs to be done with

    Case prep

    Die set up
    (measuring chambers, determining where to seat a bullet, etc).

    Essentially a general walk through of what you gentlemen who are skilled at this craft go through whenever you reload. Please feel free to input what equipment you use also, or what is needed without breaking the forum rules.

    I would like to begin adding on to what I have already, but would like to get critical items first.
    I plan to add an OAL gauge and prep center, along with a mic to measure neck runout.

    Thanks for your help.
  2. green 788

    green 788 Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2005
    boomstick... /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif

    That's like walking into a bar and asking what the best tasting beer is. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/laugh.gif

    But there are some basics which no one should argue with...

    Basically, you want to reduce the ES (Extreme Spread) of your handload. That means the difference between the slowest bullet and the fastest bullet.

    You'll hear folks toss out the Standard Deviation number, but that's just this side of worthless if you ask me. Extreme Spread is where it's at--if you want every shot to go where you aim.

    Some things to get the ES down would be:

    Segregate the brass to 4% maximum case weight spread. (2% heavier than the mean, 2% lighter). Then use a "runny" ball powder like W748 and get a volume check on each case. Basically, fill it to heaping with the 748 and weigh the charge. All charges should be within .1 grains on .308 sized cases, and around .2 on larger cases (my criteria).

    You can weigh your bullets if you like, and segregate them into groups. Use the odd ones at closer ranges, save the perfect ones for the 600 yards and farther groups.

    I've yet to see any evidence that deburring flash holes helps much if any. If you have obvious shavings of brass in the flash hole, poke a toothpick in there and move them aside. There just isn't any believable science that says that a tiny burr of brass is going to change anything significantly here--so long as it isn't obstructing the flash hole. If you move it aside with a toothpick it'll get flattened against the case head on the first firing.

    Some guys turn necks. My choice would be to purchase good brass instead (if available).

    Don't goober with your primer pockets. Those primer pocket uniformers do more harm than good in my experience.

    Some guys weigh primers. If it's a money match and it makes you feel better, go for it. I think it's way too obsessive.

    In the end, developing the load properly will preclude you from having to jump through all of the hoops that many folks do. An Optimal Charge Weight load will be a lot more tolerant of issues which bring about minor pressure changes. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif


  3. BountyHunter

    BountyHunter Writers Guild

    Jun 13, 2007

    Depends on what kind of chamber you have and level of accuracy you are trying to achieve. Most factory chambers are so oversize that lot of extra work equals little benefit which is what green788 is talking about.

    However, if you have custom match chamber, then it can make all the difference in the world by most people who shoot extreme accuracy.

    Trimming- most people trim to what it says in the book. However, they have no idea what lenght their chamber neck actually is. has chamber length guages (p 34)to put in a case to measure actual neck length. You might want to trim to closer (.010) to max to limit carbon build up.

    What is the advantage some will say? If you trim to book measurement and your chamber is .030 longer, you have an area for carbon build up which is detrimental to extreme accuracy. Most people would be shocked at what their chamber throat and bore actually looked like. Carbon is harder to get out than copper and it actually layers carbon, copper, carbon etc.

    If you are going to have a gun built have your smith make a "bump guage" it is nothing more than a barrel stub reamed to fit on the shoulder. Cost is about $30. Easy to measure shoulder movement. Stoney point sells a set of headspace guage tools(35.65) from sinclair again.

    I normally use the Redding comp shellholders which have .002 increments. Never have to touch my dies once set up and just change shellholder if I want a bump.

    Seating bullets- couple general rules which can always be broken. Magazines you are limited to mag OAL. However, if you want to fire singleshot, then VLDs generally like some jam (ie as much as .030 into lands) while bullets like Sierras generally like it off the lands. Mag guns are limited to OAL which can lead to inconsistencies in ogive to lands. In single shot OAL is meaningless, you want to measure where ogive is to the lands.

    How to find the lands.

    Slight neck tension seat a bullet long and "crush" seat by loading into chamber. do a couple times and that will generally give you about .050 into lands. More accurate is the sinclair seating depth tool ($28.95). Very easy to measure and monitor throat erosion. Mags throats can move as much as .003 or more per 100 rds.

    After that I start load development at either max mag oal and come back or at about .030 in lands and shoot a ladder.

    I strongly differ with Green788 on advantage of the OCW vs ladder particularily in custom guns. Ladder is proven time and time again in extreme accuracy guns. Have not heard of even one top notch competitor said they developed their load on OCW, until that happens, OCW is at best a good idea for mid level accuracy if that is all you want IMO, but that is a whole different arguement.

    I use a chrono and find the barrel nodes for that load. one 20-25 shot ladder, I have confirmed tuning nodes (2-3 normally), and I can tune in the middle of one of the nodes to avoid temp related pressure spikes, know where my pressure limts are,know if the powder is going to work and within .3 gr of final load, and then in about 2 more quick sessions I can fine tune the load, seating depth and neck tension.

    I have taken new barrels and guns from the smith to competition and won or placed very high in as little as 3 days of short evening testing and only 65 rds, so I know dang good and well the ladder method works for extreme accuracy.

    Testing without a chrono is a waste of bullets, barrels, powder and time IMO if you are after serious accuracy which is another difference with OCW and ladder.

    Primer pockets and flash holes. I do not touch flashholes that are drilled (right now Lapua). I normally ream the others except for BR cases, they like the tighter holes. Test 5 reamed cases vs 5 unreamed and you will need a chrono. You might find that reaming them opens up your ES and SD. I always go for lower ES, if you have low ES you will automatically have low SD.

    Primer pockets- better brass is more uniform and benefit is more limited. However, all top notch competitors normally do it. Why, because they have proven to themselves it works in custom guns with extreme accuracy levels.

    Anyone can do a simple test: uniform a bunch of primer pockets, look at the amount of material taken off one side or the other and say does common sense say that might make a difference IF I did not do it for extreme accuracy. Will that primer fire if setting in lopsided, will it effect accuracy, then use your common sense. Why would anyone build a $3000 gun and not do it? $20 B&D power screwdriver with uniformer and 10 minutes does 100 pieces of brass while watching TV in the winter.

    If I have a factory chamber and 1 MOA accuracy standard, then probably no benefit. Some are anal and weigh primers. Why, spots discrepancies. Federal had a bad lot of F210 primers get out two years ago and their quality control was non-existant in that lot. It was proven that the ES using those primers went into almost triple digits, go to another lot and back down to single digit. You could visually see in most cases and could measure differences in weight. I normally do not weigh, but I either use F210, RWS or CCI BR primers. Only use mag primers on the 338 Lapua Ack Improved.

    Powders- I always go with powders that are not temp sensitive. I always record my lot #. Why, wide lot to lot variation, for example 4 yrs ago Alliant let out a lot of RL 22 that was extremely hot. I loaded my normal load (did not test) went to National Comp and was blowing primers, and broke 3 triggers from blowback in 2 days before I quit trying to use it. I had to drop 4 grains from my previous load. Always record and always test new lots. When you find one you like, buy lots of it. I have 30 lbs left of my favorite comp powder which is Norma MRP.

    Bullets- I sort by weight and base to ogive. Weight for my standards is +- .001. I measure ogives with the Buhay ogive checker ($125) from RW Hart and David Tubbs sells the same checker under his name. It is very fast, easy and give uniform results. My last box of 338 SMKs had an .016 extreme spread with over 480 falling into .005. You can use a pair of Stoney Pt bullet comparators on a dial caliber. They are cheaper, slower, subject to variations in how you measure but workable.

    Cleaning- more thoughts than you care to hear. However, couple principles always apply.

    1. good bore guide if you like your throat and chamber. Lucas is the best $40

    2. Good rods, I like Dewey coated rods and if long barrels, Dewey will put a 10" SS extension on it so it is 50". Boretech has good bearings in the handles but rod coating peels off and warranty service with them is pain in the ___.

    3. cleaning chemicals require you to remove two things. Carbon and copper. For copper I like Montana Extreme 50 BMG also works good on carbon. Proven with borescopes. Google "precision shooting magazine" Jan 06 issue and good article on the best carbon cutter out there, I believe the name was Slip200TM (think that was the name). They also like Bore Tech Elimator for copper, but I tried it two years ago and 50 BMG beat the socks off the Eliminator.

    I use hard bristle brushes from Kleen Bore or Montana Extreme. Do not use bronze anymore normally.

    More than enought food for thought and contraversy.

    Have fun.

  4. Mysticplayer

    Mysticplayer Writers Guild

    Jul 27, 2001
    The two above posts include a wealth of info. I would like to add a few points.

    For me, LR accuracy boils down to consistency. Each bang must be as identical to the last and next as possible for the bullets to land in the same place.

    Let's assume you have a rifle, optics, and bench set up to allow you to shoot sub MOA at LR. Otherwise, all the load development in the world will not help.

    I start with a concentric and true chamber. Nothing else matters. You can check this with a concentricity guage and measure a few fired cases as it comes out of the chamber. Anything over 4 thou runout and you may as well consider a new barrel. Most chambers, even factory one, usually run 0 to 2 thou runout.

    While loading, I want to maintain that case alignment so I only use Lee collet neck sizing dies (bushing dies are another great alternative). Seating die is usually not too critical. Just measure afterwards to ensure no runout has been induced.

    With very low runout out ammo, the load work up is straightforward as described above and in many other locations. Use the best bullets you can.

    I do turn necks liking nothing under 12 thou and over 14thou. I also try an anneal the necks after a few firings. I like high neck tension and find 3 to 4 thou about right. I strongly recommend match primers, and quality temp stable powders. I do not weigh my brass as the error in the brass manf is greater then the weights I would measure. I do check case volume as the combustion chamber affects pressures and velocities. I don't ream primer pockets but do remove the burrs inside the case. I might consider drilling flash holes if that can be proven to help. I weigh all my charges and hold to min 1 tenth even in large magnums (I have found as little as two tenths to make a difference in accuracy in cases like the 7RM). Clean the bore only when accuracy degrades and clean only as much as necessary to restore accuracy. Watch your barrel temp and how it reacts to heat. Ensure your scope maintains Point of Aim (yes, some big name scopes move around under recoil). Keep good notes.

    Be as consistent in form and rifle control as possible. We are ultimately, the weak link.

    With a quality rifle and ammo, there is no such thing as a flyer (shooter error maybe). If a shot is obviously 'wrong', I mark that brass. Firing again usually has the same result - pitch that brass.

    What you have left is a tuned set of components that is as consistent as humanely possible. That confidence is what makes great groups possible. This doesn't mean the rig must shoot microscopic groups. It just means that it is consistent enough to steer under shooting conditions.

    A consistent 1/2 MOA rifle and a shooter that knows how to steer it is truly a tough competitor to beat. The best and worse BR rifle is probably only a tenth or two MOA apart.

    The best and worse wind/condition doper is separated by a foot or more.

  5. kfrye

    kfrye Well-Known Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    Thanks for the great info!

    For background, I am going to be working with a Remington Sendero in 338 RUM, but will be sent to Hart to be Accurized and possibly made into a 338-300RUM for extra punch. The gun will be topped with leupy 8.5x25, but haven't decided on which reticle yet. I do like the varmint reticle.

    The gun will be set up for big game and milk jugs up to at least 1000 yards, if not farther. I know it isn't a full out custom, but I want to have a comfortable starting spot to know what I want later on. My goal is to be able to reliably hit what I am aiming at, but I am not ready to be entering competition.

    I know and understand that a deprime, measure, reprime, powder and bullet won't get me what I want past 4-500 yards and beyond.