Load development methods...

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by Fiftydriver, May 28, 2009.

  1. Fiftydriver

    Fiftydriver <strong>Official LRH Sponsor</strong>

    Jun 12, 2004
    I have lately noticed several questions on the web about using ladder testing to develope loads and today I had a local customer come to the shop asking basically the same question and wanting to know how I develope loads. I looked at him and said he would be amazed at how simplistic my load development is.

    We were returning from a shooting session where he had taken possesion of his new rig I put together for him. Nice rifle, 300 RUM on a Borden Timberline magnum receiver, Lilja #7 1-9 twist barrel, McMillan A-5 stock, NF 5.5-22x 50mm. Basic full custom medium weight rifle.

    It took us roughly 3 rounds from a freshly machined bore and he was on a 16" gong at 1000 yards. He was simply amazed and rang the gong 7 times in a row before I told him he may want to slow down and get the barrel break in finished before he got to many rounds down the bore.

    To say he was happy would have been a slight understatement. Again, back to our conversation on the way back to the shop. He said he was very thankful that I had put the time into developing such an impressive load. He wanted to know what my process was for developing this load which clearly showed 1/2 moa accuracy potential even out to 1000 yards.

    I told him this was my standard load for the 300 RUM which is 93.0 gr Retumbo under either a 200 gr Accubond or 210 gr SMK. He asked again how I developed such an accurate load. I was kind of beating around the bush. A customer would expect to hear a story about long extensive range testing but that was not the case, it rarely is with my loads. I finally decided to come clean.

    I told him I started long ago with one of the first 300 RUMs I built using a Lilja barrel. Worked the load up until I noticed an ejector ring on the case head and slight increase in bolt lift, then dropped off two grains from that load and considered that my max working load. Loaded up 20 rounds of test ammo and went and tested the rifle. Shot under 1/2 moa at 800 yards I believe I tested that rifle at and ever since then, its been one of my pet loads for the 300 RUM.

    He wanted to know how the loads shot while working up the load, told him I had no idea, shot them over the chrono graph behind the shop and into my bullet stop offhand at 30 yards.......

    I admit, I was a bit sheepish telling him this. Made no real difference, did not take away from the fact that his rifle shot extremely well, even with virgin cases and this quick picked load........

    To be honest, most of my rifles have their loads developed this way. Very rarely have I not done this and not had a rifle shoot to the 1/2 moa accuracy level and generally have extreme spreads under 20 fps and often much less then that.

    Loads developed this way have taken varmints with one shot kills well over 1500 yards, Big game with one shot kills out to 1300 yards and even hold moa accuracy levels at +3000 yards!!!

    Do not take my comments as saying using detailed load development techniques as a waste of time because I certainly do not believe that. I know that all testing done and case prepping and ladder testing will help get you a great load, likely I could get my rifles to shoot even better but I sit back and think the rifles and loads are already shooting as well or better then I can on average so why look for greener grass.

    Many of my customers send me range report of what their rifles are doing with loads they have developed with alot of effort and time at the range and they shoot the rifles better then I did when accuracy testing them. Much of this is likely because they simply are better shooters then I am and I fully admit that, but I am also sure its because of the load development.

    With some of the more intense and extreme chamberings and wildcats, I tell my customers there is a fine line between meaningful load development and tinkeritis which simply burns up your rifle barrels. IF they want a rifle to do load development with, they need one that is barrel friendly, not a 7mm AM for example.

    So, how many of you find your loads with around 10 rounds down the barrel? Or, how many of you shoot hundreds of rounds in load development to find your load? Or are you somewhere in between?

    I fully admit, most of my load development would cause most experienced long range shooters and hunters to look at me with a bit of doubt but I have 7 personal rifles and one long range handgun right now that I developed their current loads in less then 10 rounds each and they are all still using those loads. They were all developed without shooting a single bullet on paper and at 30 yards shooting over a chrono and just looking for the top working pressures for that combo. Simplistic in the extreme but I can not fault the consistancy of any of these loads or their accuracy or consistancy......

    Lets here your load development techniques.
  2. WildcatB

    WildcatB Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2008

    'The proof is in the pudding' - 7 for 7 with this method is no fluke.

    However, you seem to be a very meticulous person and the guns you are using this method with aren't your average quality guns.

    Have you tried this with factory guns?

    Also, how do you come up with your seating depth?


    PS. I'll give your method a try Sunday with my nephew's 270.


  3. AJ Peacock

    AJ Peacock Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2005

    We've discussed this so much in the other threads, I almost didn't post to this thread.

    With the experience I've had with the rifle you built for me, I'll bet that it would be a challenge to create 1moa+ loads for your creations. Good rifles shoot about everything well.

    The rifles I use for hunting have all shot well under 1/2 MOA and hold 3/4moa or better ALL the time. I have a couple rifles that I tinker with, but once I find a load with my 'serious' rifles, I try to save their barrels. I'd say it takes me 30-50 rounds on average to find a killer load for a quality rifle.

    Certainly, the better the rifle, the easier it is to get a load to shoot. Even with the best rifles, some tinkering can improve things. The 338AM you built me has shot anything I fed it into 3/4moa or better, a little seating depth tweeking and it's easily under 1/2moa.

    I like the ladder method shot over a chrono, then select a node, load it up and tweek the seating depth. It's worked for me in the past.

  4. esshup

    esshup Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    I've done LOTS of load testing trying to see what shoots the best in my rifles, but then again, I'm shooting factory rifles. I have exactly 1 custom, that's a .22LR made to for shooting the 60 grain Aguila SSS bullets. I'm taking Kirby's load advice on the 7mm AM that's being built and I'll leave it be. I believe his guns can shoot better than I can. I visited him last year and 3 different guns shot a combined group of 3/4 MOA (or so) at 800+ Yds with me only firing 2-3 shots from each gun for the first time.

    I want to have fun with the 7mm AM, and not shoot out the barrel doing load testing! I think whatever he recommends for a load will be good enough for me.:D

    Kirby: Kentucky elk was a non-draw (35,000:1 odds), still waiting on the results from Wy and Co. I don't care what method you use to find the load. If it works, that's good enough for me!
  5. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

    Jun 12, 2001
    I hate load development mainly because I do not like the extreme concentration that is required to shoot well from the bench.

    I have evolved into using two methods.

    First method is to let someone else do it. I use that method on the 7AM and the F-class 308 rifle I got from Dave King. For the 7AM, I just shoot the load Kirby gave me with the gun plus one more grain with the fully formed cases. This load will hold 0.5 past 1500 yards. For the F-class rifle Dave King had written a load on a box of fired cases and I use that load with totally no tweaking. People such as my daughter or Dirtball can get that load to go under 0.3 MOA but I personally seldom can get there with it . Because the F-class rifle has a special chamber set up for the 168/175SMKs I cannot get it to shoot an Accubond nor partition into less than 1.5MOA.

    Second method is to load up cases and go and shoot to find the max pressure the rifle will bear and then load enough rounds at max pressure to see is it is under 0.5MOA. If it is under 0.5 then it is time to go hunting. If it is not then I start switching bullets to see if that will help and that is how I happened upon the Berger 115s for the 240 Wby. The rifle was just not quite happy with the lighter Sierra 107s at max pressure that I had planned to shoot.
  6. Fiftydriver

    Fiftydriver <strong>Official LRH Sponsor</strong>

    Jun 12, 2004
    I seat the bullets roughly 10 thou off the lands and go.....

    Again, simplicity to the extreme. This seems to be about as good as it gets for the SMK bullets. I realize that the Berger bullets tend to prefer to be seated into the lands but with the sharp ogive and my throat design, I find that once the bore has a few rounds down it and a bit of carbon fouling, the bullet can be gripped tightly by the origins of the lands and at times pull the bullet from the case if a loaded round is not fired and extracted. As such, I also load the Bergers off the lands so this problem is resolved. Again, my rifles are big game hunting rifles so getting a bullet stuck in the bore is not an option in the field.
  7. Michael Eichele

    Michael Eichele Well-Known Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    Where is the fun in that?

    Maybe this is why I am so drawn towards calibers like the 308. I enjoy testing ALOT and developing ALOT. I enjoy getting to know a given rifle by putting nearly 1000 rounds down the bore before ever taking it to a match or hunting. In calibers like the 300 RUM as I have learned the hard way, the barrels are nearly gone by the time I get to know it the way I like to. I almost always find a load that works well beyond my expectations by spending mass quantities of time behing the stick. This also keeps me from going crazey and off of drugs. :D

    I have had my new hart barrel for 4 weeks now and have over 400 rounds through her. I know what bullets she likes and disslikes, what powders she likes and wont digest. When I go to the field after game, I have enough time behind it and confidence with it so there isnt so much as even a thought in the back of my mind that maybe the bullet wont find its mark this time. When I pull the trigger, I know it is there.

    If I could afford a 300 RUM barrel every 3-4 months, I guess I would get pretty married to the 300 RUM as well. It is interesting that of the two 300 RUM barrels I have had, the loading data for the 180's at the sweet spot were identical. Now I have a 338 EDGE barrel in the works and hope to heaven that the typical 92-94 GR. H1000 load under the 300 SMK will work as I have no desire to waste barrel life developing loads.
  8. KQguy

    KQguy Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2007
    I use the OCW method,test 3 different seating depth's and I'm done.I have decided to quit loading to the lands,I feel it causes too much inconsistancy.The Ogive can vary from bullet to bullet,so that can give inconsistant results.Also,as the throat erodes,you will have to keep tweaking your load,to maintain whatever pressure you developed from loading into the lands.I use A max bullets,and jump them at least .010",and get alot more consistancy.The more I shoot,the more I realise the importance of consistancy.I would rather have a load that I can count on being 3/4 moa all the time,rather than a load that shoots 1/4 moa when all the star's are aligned perfectly,and 1 1/4 MOA on other day's. Just my 2 cents.
  9. BountyHunter

    BountyHunter Writers Guild

    Jun 13, 2007
    Ogive variance will still bite you loading off the lands depending on the bullet, so you still need to track it if you are after min groups. I have seen as much as .022 in a box of 100. Some guns are ogive sensitive and some are not.

    Throat erosions does not stop because you load off the lands, so still have to reset the seating depth, particularily in the barrel burners.

    Most have found that the Amax's are fatter and like off the lands and shoot well in guns when most others for some reason are not working. good bullet, I am shooting them in two comp guns now.

    Many of the VLDs like in the lands, but some have found that they like way off the lands also.

    There are many ways to get the loads to your criterea however tight or loose that is.

  10. justgoto

    justgoto Well-Known Member

    Apr 11, 2009
    I think it could be possible to tell within 10. I have seen at least two possible loads with 20 shots every time I tried. The load I was working on tonight I only shot 10 and I think I have one.
  11. elkaholic

    elkaholic Well-Known Member

    Dec 4, 2008
    I have a 300 ultra with a lilja barrel and it likes 95 grains of retumbo behind one of my 195 rebated boatails. As someone else mentioned, I like to test a lot and have the barrel burned out by the time it's time to hunt! I just built a 6.5 (4 contour 26" Lilja) based on my own reamer and a .270 parent. It will shoot under 1/2 moa with 140 bergers seated in to lands or A-Max just off. I've had it a month and have put 500+ rounds through it already. I'm thinking of building a 300 based on the same case as I'm tired of all the headaches with the Ultra including very short case life. Does anyone else have trouble finding dies that will size the ultra down sufficiently? Back to developement.....I too like to load until I get bolt stiffness or light extractor marks and then back off two grains. If that groups well, I play with seating depth and go from there. That doesn't sound like too much shooting: problem is, there are dozens of powders and bullets and I like to shoot'em all!!!!!!
    P.S. if anyone is interested my case holds 11% more than a .270 and I can shoot the 140's over 3200 before they holler uncle.......
  12. padd54

    padd54 Well-Known Member

    May 2, 2009
    I tried this method,but am having a hard time figuring out which load is the best. Any help would be appreciated. 338lm, ar-30, 26"b, 105yds, 68F, no wind, 3200ft el., 40% h.

    Shot #4 was operator error. :)

    Shot with a hot to touch barrel.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2009
  13. sambo3006

    sambo3006 Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2004
    I have never gotten too scientific with my development unless forced to. I generally pick a load a little below book max or load up a series of powder charges and shoot them on paper through the chronograph. I will either load 10 thou off the lands like Kirby or to mag box constraints. I have loaded for probably 40 different rifles over the last 20 years, and while this is a limited sample I find that they either shoot or they don't. I have yet to see one that shot 1.5 moa+ with the first couple of loads suddenly produce 0.5-0.75 moa with a "magic" load. I usually use Nosler Ballistic Tips or Accubonds. If a rifle won't either one of them, I'm done.
  14. pitbull320

    pitbull320 Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2008
    I use the loads that Kirby gave me with my 338 edge and they work I can shoot ok and sunday it shoot 5 rounds in a 4" group at 1100 yards which for me is outstanding I use 93gr of retumbo and seat at 3.750 with 300smk and this is out of a light rem 700 Lss

    Kirby thanks again see you thursday around 10:00am