How do you start working up a load?

How do you Start working up a load?

  • Pick a random overall length and then shoot different charge weights until you find tightest group

    Votes: 9 16.1%
  • Berger method testing 4 different ogive lengths 010, 050, 090, 130 etc

    Votes: 14 25.0%
  • 10 round satterlee velocity node test and then play from there

    Votes: 14 25.0%
  • OCW test (similar to option 1 but looking for where bullets are impacting)

    Votes: 3 5.4%
  • Ladder testing at distance to find node

    Votes: 8 14.3%
  • other? State in comments below

    Votes: 8 14.3%

  • Total voters
    56

Bigeclipse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 10, 2012
Messages
1,741
Ive been all over the place with how I work up loads and have yet to settle on quickest way to find a decent load with out burning to many components. I am not a competition shooter but do strive to get .5-.75MOA groups out of a load. If I cant get that, I try another bullet etc. I have tried berger method, OCW method, Satterlee velocity method, old school pick a overall length and then load up bullets in .3-.4 grain increments to max load and test for best group. I have never done ladder testing. Honestly...It all seems to be a crap shoot for me. So just trying to see what everyone else does these days. Thanks!
 

Varmint Hunter

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Joined
Dec 26, 2001
Messages
3,244
Location
Long Island, New York
For hunting rifles I'll start with the magazine length, assuming that it is off the rifling, which it almost always is. Then I'll pick 2-3 recommended powders from a published reloading manual (or two). Work up looking for accuracy and/or pressure. I always shoot over an Oehler 35P while working up loads. If velocities exceed the highest speed in the manuals than you can be fairly certain that you are experiencing higher than normal pressure even if the usual signs aren't there. There are exceptions to this but without pressure testing equipment I'll rely on the books to keep me in a safer place.
Once a load looks good I'll start to vary seating depth to see if the groups can be tightened.
 

74honker

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2020
Messages
137
Location
Illinois
Not as experianced as most others here but I pick the bullet, start at mag length or pick a safe point from measured jump. Pick my powder from reliable sources of research, manuals, this forum, other handloaders with experiance with said powder. I then start with powder charge and working those up in 3 shot groups till I get a decent group or 2 within the velocity range I'm looking for and then tweak seating depth to tighten them up. Chrono every shot. I'm sure it's not the cheapest and easiest but as a somewhat newcomer every round I make and send down the barrel I'm learning something and I have my own range out to 500ish yrds about 50yd from my door so a bit spoiled in that aspect.
 

YZ-80

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Joined
Feb 20, 2019
Messages
959
Location
Maryland
When I get a new rifle I consult the manuals and other data resources like this site. I pick the bullet I want to use, usually something versatile I can use for both varmints and deer (e.g., 123 SST for my 6.5s). I look for the most widely recommended powder by doing some research (e.g., H4831sc for the 6.5-284) and then I decide on what I want to load up as a basic Ladder. I think it’s a waste of time to start at the published minimum but in the interest of safety, I load check charges at .3 to .5 grain increments up to a “mid-range” to make sure there are no pressure issues and then load 5 rounds each at .3 to .5 grain increments across what I think will be the “sweet spot”. This usually involves about 25-30 test loads. My seating depth baseline is .020” off the lands for everything unless it’s precluded by mag length. I go to the range, shoot ‘em and look for the tightest groups and then hone in on things from there in .1 to .2 grain increments on either side of the node. I don’t shoot round-robin. So, that’s the deal. Probably a gross oversimplification, but somehow it produces .25-50 MOA results. I’m fully aware that I may be leaving something on the table and that shooting at extended ranges may require that I up my game but I’m hitting what I want and having fun for now. Your mileage may vary.

Best,

-YZ
 
Last edited:

zr600

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Joined
Jan 16, 2018
Messages
520
Location
Nd
With the Berger bullets I usually start with the seating depth. I usually call and talk to the tech departments of said bullet company and see what they think. Then I do satterlee method with megneto speed .2 g at a time. Once I find the flatlines I load them into groups if they group good I’ll make up some to test again as a group and at least 5 for the chronograph to see if I’m getting the good es and sd. Usually works out pretty good. Might have to tweet seating depth little bit.
 

Tiny Tim

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Joined
Jan 26, 2015
Messages
377
I hear you brother! Been trying some of these different methods myself. Lately I've been doing the Berger seating depth test first (starting .010 off or mag length, whichever is shorter), followed by either the Satterlee method or a ladder (depending on the range I have access to at the time). I can usually fine a decent load in three trips to the range. I can then do some final tweaking after that if needed. But like YZ-80 said, "I may leave something on the table". I'm a hunter and don't shoot competitively any more. Bought a 300 WM just before season last year and had a .5ish MOA load in short order.
 

nksmfamjp

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2004
Messages
489
I used to jump in with an ocw test min to max 5 groups of 5 at 0.030” or mag length. Then after 2 ocw rounds, switch to oal to fine tune.

Now I’m trying a 100yd ladder with 0.2 - 0.4 increments. This helps me find pressure point velocity nodes and impact position. I shoot 1 shot per bullseye into 10 bullseyes. It tells me how velocity and impact point are shifting shot to shot....to find a node. At the same time, I shoot another ladder varying oal looking at poi shift and velocity nodes.

Then with the best oal, I do a 3 shot ocw test with the best oal and better charge weight nodes.

So far this second method is sucking, but I think that is because I tried straightening bullets to improve concentricity. I’m blaming my 1-2” groups on straightening loaded round. So, I’m reshooting these loads.
 

YZ-80

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Joined
Feb 20, 2019
Messages
959
Location
Maryland
It’s just a constant “work in progress” for me. I pick up new ideas and skills all the time and try them to the extent I have the time and resources. For now, I figure if I can achieve .5 minute at 300 with less than .5 vertical spread, I’m good to go where I hunt with shots out to 400. I really try to keep ES under 20 and I’m pretty meticulous about uniformity in brass prep but I’m not sorting by weights, annealing or keeping track of Lot numbers like some guys do (God bless you). Someday, maybe I will along my journey as I Continue to stretch things out.
 

jasonco

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LRH Team Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2009
Messages
1,122
Location
Denver, CO
I start with a "Satterlee" test, sort of? I use up to 20 different charges, why that many, looking for as much resolution as possible in one range trip, with a new powder and all I'm looking for is Max Pressure, with that load combination, in that rifle only!
Then from that test result, I'l select the high node and do an OCW test, with UP TO, 5 rounds of UP TO 5 sets, above & below that node, usually in .3gn increments, to confirm or pinpoint the node.
Next it's onto seating depth, once again, UP TO, 5 rounds of UP TO 5 sets, usually at .010 +/- from original starting depth, to confirm a seating depth.
Next it's onto the 1000 yard range with steel to validate, the load at range.
And if all has worked well at that point, I add it to my ballistic device and validate the bullet ballistics and it's finished, load more!

I'm not not that guy, that is concerned too much, over barrel life, with a hunting rifle, they'l make me another when needed?!
The one disclaimer is, that with a magnum, I load 3 rounds x5, with a 4th just for verification, is something is amiss.
 
Last edited:

Okanogan

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 5, 2015
Messages
258
Location
Riverside, WA
  • I pick the different bullets I want to try and find the distance to the lands for each using the wheeler method. I keep the max length dummy round as a reference (at least until later when I recheck after many rounds fired). Doing this first potentially encourages me to skip some bullets from selection or prioritize them lower as I don't like the expected range of jump or I have to seat them too deeply.
  • I pick a mid load for the bullet/ powder combination and do some variation of the Berger seating depth test looking for best groups. Lately I have tried more mid-long jump options than in the past.
  • If I can't get anything to group well, I might toss in the towel and move on to another bullet selection depending on how hopeless the results looked.
  • I use the best grouping seating depth and start looking for a powder charge weight with good group/ ES& SD. I keep records in particular on the velocities that seem to work well. If I'm not showing pressure, I will likely continue increasing charge weight until either the group opens up, the ES/SD increases or I start showing pressure.
  • If I can't get good ES/SD with a velocity that works well, I try different primers to optimize. If that doesn't work, I will try a different powder to achieve similar velocities but hopefully with more consistency.
  • If the load development is for a new rifle, I may have to repeat steps above as the barrel breaks in and speeds up. Generally this requires a reduced charge weight to reobtain something similar to the velocity that worked well.
 

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