I need some reloading guidance concerning ES SD

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by stuffisgood, Sep 20, 2019.

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  1. stuffisgood

    stuffisgood New Member

    Mar 17, 2012
    I could use some guidance as to what I need to do next in my reloading process/equipment to get my SD and ES down. Where I live 400 yards across a hay field is a solid poke, so I know worrying about these numbers isn't a huge deal for me the vast majority of the time. That said, I like the idea of precision reloading, and I do occasionally get the opportunity to travel and hunt where longer shots become more of an option. Both rifles are consistent 1/2 moa shooters at 100 yards, so I had always assumed I was good to go. Until I recently bought a chronograph...

    Rifle #1 Ruger M77 220 Swift heavy barrel (tang safety) w/ Nikon Monarch 6-24x
    Shooting Nosler 55 gr Varmagedon @ .020 off lands
    Federal GM210M primers
    Norma brass
    H380 @ 39.5 gr giving me 3630 fps.
    SD 40 ES 33

    Rifle #2 Cooper M52 Excalibur 280 AI w/ Leupold VX6 3-18x
    140 gr Nosler Accubond
    Fed GM210M
    Nosler brass
    H4831SC @ 61.5 gr giving me 3105 fps
    SD 46 ES 60

    I use the same reloading process for both rifles. Cases are FL resized using Redding FL sizer and their competition shellholder sets. I've got a Wilson case trimmer for that task. Cases all get primer pocket and flash holes uniformed, deburred/chamferred, inside of the neck brushed out. Both have micrometer seating dies, the Cooper a Redding, and Forster for the Swift. Powder charges are thrown low and trickled up to the desired weight using an RCBS 10-10 scale. I've got a Caldwell chronograph. It's relatively cheap, but got pretty good reviews.

    Life was too busy this year to do anything other than hunt WT locally. The load I have will work just fine for that. Next year I've started planning an antelope hunt with a couple friends. I would like to have things straightened out before then.
  2. L.Sherm

    L.Sherm Well-Known Member LRH Team Member

    Jul 26, 2017
    I think I would start by switching powder and primer combo's. I've had great luck with 3 280AI with RL23 and 215 primers.
  3. codyadams

    codyadams Well-Known Member

    Jan 7, 2015
    I am by no means a professional, but my long range guns have final loads with e.s. numbers under 20, very often low teens. Here is some of the things I do...

    If possible, to start out I pick a relatively temp stable powder that will give me good case fill, I have found having a nearly full to lightly compressed load gives me the best e.s. numbers. Some cases this is challenging, such as a .264 win mag, but can be achieved with most cases. Next, I find where my max will be in that particular gun with the components chosen, usually in large increments such as a grain at a time, and document this, looking for a flat spot. If I find a flat spot in acceptable velocity, I work in smaller increments, if there is no flat spot noted, I work in smaller increments in the velocity range I want and try to find them. It looks something like this.... 20190920_215051.jpg

    Loading in the flat spot, or "node", really helps keep velocities consistent over a wide range. If I still don't find good enough e.s., I tune it with different primers with a similar work up to see if the velocity line smooths out.
    Rex Tharp and Greyfox like this.
  4. Schnyd112

    Schnyd112 Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2015
    How many rounds per group? Also, I don’t think it is possible to have a SD higher than your extreme spread. Standard deviation is a measure of how far about any one shot may be from the average. Something like 70% of your shots are supposed to be inside 1 standard deviation from the mean, so that’s a range of 2 standard deviations (that’s statistics). Extreme spread is the difference between your highest and lowest, the extremes, so something is messed up in those numbers.

    Those numbers are not bad, I shot competitions and won ribbons with a .220 that never had an extreme spread less than 40 FPS. Now, they aren’t single digit SD, but that is the holy grail of numbers. Primers, primer depth, neck tension, annealing, all help to keep your numbers more consistent. But if it shoots well, why bother running every round over a chronograph to get numbers you don’t need?

    Finally, try h4064 in your .220 Swift. That’s an old cartridge and it deserves an ancient powder.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2019
    Salmonchaser and Rex Tharp like this.
  5. Deputy819

    Deputy819 Well-Known Member LRH Team Member

    Sep 24, 2016
    I bet your numbers might actually be a little better. I ran a Caldwell optical chrony for a while. When I got a Magnetospeed I saw just how “Off” the optical chronograph was.
  6. antelopedundee

    antelopedundee Well-Known Member

    Oct 14, 2018
    If you're getting 1/2 MOA at 100 yards what are you worried about? I'd try a different chronograph before I'd "tinker" with the loads.
    Wlfdg likes this.
  7. WildBillG

    WildBillG Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2018
    Have you shot these loads out to 400yds to see what happens. If there is a problem shooting farther will show you.
  8. Blackdirt Cowboy

    Blackdirt Cowboy Well-Known Member

    Dec 9, 2018
    First thing I’d do is trade the Caldwell in for a magnetospeed or a Labradar. I bet your numbers are way better than the cheap chrony is leading you to believe.
    Jud96 likes this.
  9. GoosePilot

    GoosePilot Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2018
    When do you start adjusting for bullet seating depths? Do those seating depth chronograph flat spots tell you anything? Here is what i did the other day. https://www.longrangehunting.com/threads/working-on-1st-wildcat-7mm-blaser-rogue.226746/
  10. bearcat2

    bearcat2 Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2009
    Numbers are nice and you want them as tight as possible ideally. But if it is shooting 1/2 MOA I would take it out and shoot it at the longest range you have available, or the longest range you would consider shooting at an animal. I've seen plenty of guns/loads that didn't have that great of SD's that still shot great. If it'll group 2" at 400 (1/2 MOA) I wouldn't worry about it unless you are planning on shooting double that range, and then I would test it at 800 before I got carried away with trying to tighten up your numbers.

    Unless of course you are like some of us and just enjoy dinking with loads to see what you can accomplish. Then by all means enjoy yourself tinkering around and seeing if you can get down to single digits (unlikely). Just remember, accuracy is the bottom line, I've seen loads with awesome numbers that wouldn't consistently hit the broad side of a barn.
  11. codyadams

    codyadams Well-Known Member

    Jan 7, 2015
    Usually one of the first things I do with Berger, Nosler and Hornady bullets is a seating depth test, if it is a combo I have worked with before I know roughly where max will be, and skip this next step. If not, I do this.

    I find max by starting low and going up, 1 round at each charge weight, going up in .5 grain increments in standard or smaller cartridges, such as a 6.5 creed, and 1 grain in bigger cartridges, such as the .338 Norma Mag, until I see pressure. I then know my max allowable charge.

    Then I run a seating depth test. I already know where max is, so I go a couple grains below that (in my experience powder charge isn't as important here other than just having safe pressures) starting at .005"-.010" off, and running out to .125"-.130" off in .030" jumps, and don't use my magneto speed, I go for accuracy. The most accurate seating depth range is usually obvious, and I run with that until nearly the end then fine tune seating.

    Next, I should know my max by now with either previous experience or my initial max pressure work up, I use my magneto speed to get velocities by loading 1 shot at each charge, and move up in either .2 to .3 grain increments to cover a range of about 1.5 - 2 grains up to or just under my max. I graph them, and almost always find one or two flat spots in different velocities. If I had an attachment for my magneto speed or once I get a labrador that wouldn't contact the barrel, I would be simultaneously doing a 400-600 yard ladder test to confirm the velocity numbers. For now I rely on the numbers. If velocity is all over the place and inconsistent, this is where I try different primers with a similar workup. I may drop it by a few 10ths if I switch to mag primers.

    Usually by here I have located a flat spot or two, seating depth is roughed out, and if I needed to change primers that is done. I pick a load in the middle of my preferred flat spot, and load up some for groups. If they shoot really good, I leave it alone and call it a day. If it leaves something fo be desired, I do another seating depth test with groups, but this time I only cover a .020" to .030" range (depending on what my initial seating depth test showed) in .005" increments. In quality rifles, by here I almost always find a half or better MOA load that is sub 20 e.s.

    The only guns that I haven't been able to achieve half or better MOA groups and/or sub 20 e.s. numbers using this method is a few barreled factory rifles, but I have even got it with several of those. In only one or two guns I had to switch powder, as accuracy just wasn't coming together with a given powder, though the distance off the lands for a given bullet usually remains the same for the life of the barrel, so changing powders at any given time is just a charge workup.

    While it sounds like a lot of rounds, I have found this to actually take the least amount of rounds compared to other methods that I tried that use less initial rounds, as I may settle for mediocre performance, but later want better outcomes so I do more load tuning that ends up using just as much or more ammo than doing it like I just explained would use anyway.

    There are other things to test as well, such as neck tension and neck length sizing, and I'm sure some other things if you really want to get the absolute most out of a rig, but for hunting purposes out to 800-1200 yards the results I see are plenty. For benchrest or elr competition, or if you just want more, that is where these other things come into play.

    However as others have said, a cheap chronograph will undo all the work you would put in to this. It may get you a good general idea of velocities, but it simply won't be as accurate as a magneto speed or labrador, and for this kind of load tuning, you simply need to be able to acquire accurate velocities.

    Sorry for the long winded response!!
  12. TRG65

    TRG65 Well-Known Member

    Dec 21, 2017
    I echo the Satterlee testing method to find the velocity nodes. After I find the nodes, I test for seating depths with groups. Then I usually do another group and velocity test a round the best seating depth and velocity node to confirm. My goal is sub .5" average with 3 3-round groups, single digit sd, and 20 for es. The 20 es is usually the one I compromise on as most of my loads are in the low 20s when I work up on a new barrel.

    This is one of my favorite articles on ES and SD.
  13. Jud96

    Jud96 Well-Known Member

    Jun 30, 2013
    I use a very similar method to @codyadams. I have also used many other methods, but the one he described is honestly the most effective and solid method of finding the best load in your rifle. I would ditch that chronograph and get a Magnetospeed. I have the cheaper Magnetospeed Sporter that was only like $150-160. It’s just as accurate as the V3 model, it just has less features and isn’t as nicely built. I was more concerned with how accurate it read velocities than a few extra features. In my opinion that’s the cheapest and best chrono to get. It’s far better than any ocular chrono, but doesn’t cost much more than one of them.
  14. Orange Dust

    Orange Dust Well-Known Member

    Oct 23, 2015
    Listen to cody. I will add this. Keep loading density high. Another trick i have become a big fan of is the sinclair neck expanding die. Remove your expander button on your die or if it also holds the decapper, replace with next smaller size and expand the necks in a separate step. Really helps keep them straight and helps develop consistant neck tension. Neck tension is a big player with es. I have a load for a 22-6mm that has an ES of 4 doing this with an hbn coated bullet, so pretty sure you can get it down with a swift.