First time doing a ladder test...

Discussion in 'Rifles, Bullets, Barrels & Ballistics' started by TheHardWay, Apr 27, 2014.

  1. TheHardWay

    TheHardWay Well-Known Member

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    Gonna be starting load development for my 264WM, and have decided to give ladder testing a try since I have never done so. I've done a little research and got the gist of the process. I know to aim at the same POI for each shot and look for a close vertical grouping to determine the sweet spot. Once I have that narrowed down, I can begin fine tuning a load. I just have a few questions about the process. Hoping you guys can give me some pointers.

    1) I have some rounds loaded to use as 'fouler' shots as I am starting with a clean barrel. From what I understand, I should fire a couple rounds to dirty/warm up the barrel, correct?

    2) This sort of relates to #1. Should I clean the barrel in between each shot of different powder charge? Since each round is of different powder charge, do I want to 'wipe the slate clean' so to speak, fire a fouler, and then the actual test round onto the ladder test paper?

    3) How long should I wait between shots? 1 minute? 5 minutes? As long as it takes to clean the bore (if that is something I should be doing)?

    4) I was planning on shooting at 400 yards. I was thinking this would be enough to get separation/nodes, without being too affected by the spring time Colorado wind. Obviously, I will pick a day to shoot that has as little wind as possible to keep the shots on the paper, even thought I am mainly concerned with the vertical patterning. Is 400 yards enough to get separation? I know the 264WM is a rather flat shooting round, so perhaps 5 or 600 yards would be better?
     

  2. MudRunner2005

    MudRunner2005 Well-Known Member

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    1) Fouler/sight-in shots are always a good idea to get you to a good initial point where you're on paper.

    2) I never clean anything inbetween...Sometimes not even inbetween range trips. Most of the time I don't clean a gun until it starts throwing shots.

    3) I shoot all of each string, then let it cool completely inbetween shot strings. For standard calibers based on '-06 case, 5 shots max. For magnums, 3 shots max. For .308.....I've shot over 25 in a row, and the barrel was pretty dang hot, but a .308 can handle the abuse.

    4) I'd start at 100, then once you find good nodes, test at further distances. Just my thoughts on that.
     

  3. TheHardWay

    TheHardWay Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the reply.
    It was my thinking to stretch the yardage out a bit to make it easier to see where the groupings fall.
     
  4. cowboy

    cowboy Well-Known Member

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    If you feel comfortable shooting the ladder test at 400 yds then go for it. I have never found much benefit ladder testing at 100 yds.
     
  5. FearNoWind

    FearNoWind Well-Known Member

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    Yeah - I'd agree with that. I typically run ladder tests at 300 yards. 100 yards doesn't provide enough information to be useful in ladder testing. I fire fouler shots (2 or 3) off target so as not to confuse my test results. I shoot my first test set, allow the rifle to cool down (a good chance to walk out to the target, mark the shots and walk back to the bench) but I don't clean the rifle between sets. I do, however, clean the rifle after a day of shooting. Moisture can collect in and under the residue in the rifle barrel/chamber over time and cause damage. My final step in cleaning is a patch with Kroil or some other quality penetrating oil (e.g. Marvel Mystery Oil).
    I also use a good rest (even sand bags if that's all that's available) so that the set up for each shot is as close as possible to the others.
    Ladder testing is also a technique that deserves very careful attention to consistency in hold on the target and handling of the rifle at the bench. Carelessness at the bench will give you bogus data - that frustrates the process.
     
  6. Kennibear

    Kennibear Well-Known Member

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    All very good advice. As to barrel temp:

    Two methods I have adopted:

    1) Tape a type "K" thermocouple to the barrel with a small piece of aluminum HVAC tape- the kind that is like tinfoil with glue on it and a peel and stick paper backing. Sears sold one of their Digital Multi Meters with a temp function for less than $20 and the thermocouple looked like a wire with a drop of solder on the end. Shoot when the meter says the barrel is the same temp as you started, or pick a narrow range (10-15 degrees) to stay within.

    2) Use one of the new infrared point and shoot temp gauges. This works great! Point the laser at the same place on the chamber every time.

    I have a small battery powered blower that sits under the shooting bench and I stuff a hose into the chamber and blow cold air out the muzzle. You can watch the temp drop on the temp monitor as it blows. <90 seconds and a 300 WinMag or 375 Ruger is back down to temp after a shot.

    Just me but I believe you should shoot as far as you can. It just pushes thing apart so differences show up more pronounced. If 300 yards is your limit available, shoot 300 yards.

    KB
     
  7. Dr. Vette

    Dr. Vette Well-Known Member

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    I wait 3 min between shots on cooler days (<60 degrees) and closer to 5 min on warmer days. This keeps the barrel cool enough to keep it from "walking" when it gets warm. As my first shot on game is generally a cold barrel I like to keep close to that condition when testing. Sure it takes time when you're only shooting once every few minutes, but I often take a second rifle to play with and shoot that from a different bench on the range.

    I usually plan on a nice, relaxing, slow time alone at the range when I ladder test.
     
  8. TheHardWay

    TheHardWay Well-Known Member

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    Great points on the temperature.
    Range isn't really an issue for me. I have plenty of open space available and can set up for 2000+ if I wanted. Figure I'd keep it within a range where horizontal drift isn't as much of a factor.
     
  9. BountyHunter

    BountyHunter Writers Guild

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    Here is an explanation of my way of doing a ladder step by step.

    My methodology is after I have done basic research to determine, bullet,primer, and powder combo I want to use/test for each ladder. Now this might be many reloading manuals, others recommended loads, Qload, etc, but I find a "suspected" powder, primer, bullet and case and then work a load that is normally about 2-3 grains below max to 1-2 grains over at .2 to .3 increments depending on case size. Normally this is 15-25 bullets only with 4-5 extra of the lowest charge for initial zero on the other target.

    I use the smaller increments as I am looking for a node that often is only .5 to max 1.0 wide and this gives me a easier way to determine it. If you go .5 grains you can jump right over a node and never see it unless you are in the 338 lapua size cases.

    1. Shoot ONLY in early morning or evening in no wind conditions.

    2. Minimum of 300 yards prefer 400. I have found that seems to be the ideal distance for enough vertical dispersion as the bullets walk up and close enough to see each separate bullet impact with good spotting scope on white target. Shorter makes it to difficult to determine impacts and longer makes it too difficult again to see any impacts. You are wasting your time and bullets at 100.

    3. 35P chrono is used. MV grouping will match the accuracy nodes.

    4. I have a minature paper target at bench to plot each round and another sheet to write down each MV for each round. That way I do not lose track of any bullet shot as each is numbered on plot sheet and anytime I go down range to verify impact. I also mark each shot on the 35 P paper as it is shot.

    5. Minimum of 1 minute between shots from starting dirty bore, I usually zero at that distance on another target at the side to confirm accurate zero for bottom of ladder target which is normally large plain white cardboard with 1" aiming dot near bottom. I use .3 grain for most magnum cases and .2 for smaller cases as increments. Anything 338 Lapua and above you can do .4

    6. If I am not 100% sure of bullet location, I either walk down or I often use use colored magic markers(4-5 colors) alternating on bullet tips which show up on target. No they will not vary impact points on target. That is used all the time at 1K BR to identify any crossfires on your target.

    7. MV as you go up will be linear (ie roughly same FPS each bullet) until you hit a node and then it tends to decrease dramatically for that 2-4 shots and then jump linear again. You will see 3-4 rds with small MV variances normally in the node and then jump dramatically again. You can see on a magnum a jump of 20-25 FPS and then 3-4 bullets around 6-8 fps along then it will jump again back to around 20-25. This is only an example, not always.

    Here is the real key: Use a combination of bullet AND MV grouping confirms node and is usually easy to see when you compare the two, not just grouping!! You will have multiple bullets with similar vertical impacts and very low dispersion on MV.

    8. I pick the middle of the node, shoot groups to confirm basic accuracy and ES, SD nodes. I normally find 2 mabye three nodes, and one will be in the MV range I am looking for. Many times the top one is at the starting of high pressure point, so I often do not use that one. By using the middle of the node for powder, gives me enough variance on temps and other factors that I am not out of the node on any given day. I do not focus on the lowest solely on ES/SD. Once I find a node then it is an "acceptable ES/SD and tight grouping that is confirmed. I normally shoot for single digit ideally but low teens is acceptable with the grouping.

    I determine pressure by stiff bolt for the top end and case head expansion measured with a blade mic, primers (but not always accurate as some are softer than others) etc. It is a combination of everything that leads me to determine I am at high pressure. I take it until is see firm signs of pressure and then stop even if I have not shot all the shots IF I am at an acceptable MV and see good nodes.

    9. I then try groups at various seating depths at my best grouping and see what depth it likes. For a single shot gun, start .010 in the lands and come out. Magazine gun, start at max magazine COAL and in from there. I start .010 in, come out at .030, .050, .080 and .120 IF a single shot gun. One will be much tighter and then work in between to find the place normally down to .010.

    10. If the gun will not shoot 1 MOA, that makes shooting a ladder a little difficult as you do not know what is the real vertical or 3-4MOA grouping "inability", so IMO it is not for every gun.

    11. If a gun will not shoot with all this, then another ladder with another powder or bullet combo.

    I have proven this is repeatable and capable of taking a new rifle to winning in competition in under 50 rds fired.
     
  10. bill123

    bill123 Well-Known Member

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    Bounty Hunter. Great post. What seating depth do you use for the ladder test?
     
  11. BountyHunter

    BountyHunter Writers Guild

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    See #9
     
  12. bill123

    bill123 Well-Known Member

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    Just so I'm clear, for a single shot gun you will do all of your ladder testing at .010" jambed and once you've found the node, work back from there to jumped?
     
  13. BountyHunter

    BountyHunter Writers Guild

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    Yes, that is going to be the highest pressure and ONLY one way to go: back

    Now that is with a VLD type, other types such as hybrids or Sierrras, I start about .010 to .020 off if singleshot.
     
  14. bill123

    bill123 Well-Known Member

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    Why the difference between VLDs and hybrid/Sierra?