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How do you find the best load?

1109 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  PaulS
:D Hi all,
If there is a right answer to this question, I know this would be the place to get it. I recently purchased a Savage 111 in 30-06. I chose this caliber because of it's versatility and popularity. This is the first rifle that I have loaded for. The only problem is that there are so many loads with so many bullets and powders, not to mention the different bullet seating depths. The different combinations must run in the tens of thousands. My question is this: What method do you use to come up with the best load for your particular rifle? Trial and error would take years. My first loads have been Nolser ballistic tip 150s over 46-49 grains of Varget. The results at the range today were OK, (about 4" @ 100 yds on a windy day)but I am sure that it can be better. I am just a little bewildered when trying to consider what to try next. Thanks for your help.
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HoCoMDHunter - You're right trial and error does take years, but so does organized development. I take what weight bullet I want to shot, then pick a powder and do a load ramp with it (starting at minimun published data and working up in .x grains to max.), after I find the "best" combination of powder/bullet, I'll start adjusting COL(AOL) to shrink groups. Then I'll start weeding cases by weight, bullets by weight - not really neccesary, but adds to the consistency. Then I'll do the same except change primers, then again w/another powder. This does take me years, and a lot of reloading. Isn't that why we handload? There are many other ways to find the optimal load for a given gun that are faster, but IMHO they limit your knowledge of what's available. You will find a "good" load early on with this proceedure, and may want to pick one powder/bullet/primer combo and work with that.
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I generally can find a load I want to use for hunting in two or three shooting sessions. Here's what I do and did for my .30-06. I wanted to use 165 gr. NBT for deer hunting. I also wanted good velocity. I went to the Nosler manual, looked up the top performers in velocity, 4350 and 4831. I then chose a load midway between minimum and max load and started there. I then increased the power charge by .5 gr. I did the same with the 4831. After shooting 5 shot groups with all of these loads, I took the two best loads for each powder, went back to the bench and started messing with OAL. The loads were for a M70 Classic Featherweight, so they needed to fit in the magazine, this length was my max OAL, I made it shorter by .005" for .25" for each of the loads, went back to the range and regrouped. As it turned out, 57.0 gr. of IMR 4350 was most accurate in my rifle and gave the best velocity, that's my hunting combination. Just because I love to reload and mess around I'm now trying to find a good load with H380 because it is so easy to load and meters so nicely. This is a good start in my opinion, but not bench-rest material.
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I agree with Selmer. I start by picking the bullet I think I want to use. This is usually based on experience, research results, or just plain "trying something different". I typically will reach for Hornady, Speer or Nosler when starting on new loads since I have had such good luck with those brands in the past. It just depends on what type of hunting / shooting I'm planning on doing.

The next step is looking thru all of the loading manuals looking for a powder or a maybe a couple of them that do what I'm looking for. This is usually good velocity with max load density (how full the case is). Full cases tend to be more consistent than partially full ones, as in a powder that is too fast for the cartridge being loaded. Then it's start low and work up until the desired result is found .... usually this is purely which load is the most accurate. For a hunting load, I like that load to also be at the mid to upper range of velocity as well to help flatten trajectories and get the most out of the cartridge.

If the result I'm looking for isn't there, I will try a different powder. If it's still not there, I'll scrap that bullet and try something else. Apparently that bullet and my barrel aren't compatible. Maybe I'll try a different brand in the same weight, or maybe something as simple as trying the same mfr in flat base instead of boattail or something like that (although I typically start with flatbased bullets anyway since I believe they hold together better and the boattails are not necessary until you get out past 300yds or so).

Anyway, I usually get pretty lucky and hit what I'm looking for at the time within the first or 2nd group of tests since most every bullet made today CAN BE plenty accurate enough for hunting purposes in a gun that likes them.

Hope this helps ... Crayfish
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Good points Crayfish, I forgot to mention that I started with 150 gr. bullets the first time I went to group my .30-06, and no matter the brand, that featherweight barrel hated them, so then I moved up to 165 gr. BT's, I never ended up having to switch powder, but that's sometimes necessary as well. We shoot .30-06, .243, and .308 mainly, with a little .30-30 and load 7 mm mag and .338/.378 Wby. for a friend, so for our main loading stock of powder we have IMR 4350, IMR4831, and H380. We like to use as few different powders as possible so we can keep costs down and these three serve us very well. We use slow mag powders for the Wby., in case you were wondering.
After carefully picking a caliber and gun noted for good performance in my particular application, I then pick the bullet I want to use, then I research the best powders for that caliber. I try that powder first, and maybe a couple of others. Then I work up my loads, and voila!, I get good results. The key is to use the lessons other people have learned.
Picking a load, for me, begins with the weapon and it's use. I know the rifling twist so I know the best bullet weight to use in it - I choose the bullet that best suits the purpose of the weapon. I now have one bullet weight and a general idea of the demands on that bullet - for hunting large game I like the Nosler partitions, for medium game I choose the non "premium" bullets from Sierra or Speer. For MY 3006 I chose 150 to 165 grain bullets for my use. I chose the Speer for availability and cost.
Now I know the cartridge and bullet I wish to use so I can open up the manuals and look at the powders that give the highest velocities in this cartridge with this bullet weight. There are usually three that are right on top, with a few that are close. I choose to use ball powders because they work best with MY techniques. I don't hunt in -20 degree temps or, at the other extreme, 100 degree temps. There are rarely more than two top powders that are ball powders but I work up loads in .5 grain increments with each powder using a given primer (Winchester or CCI). The OAL is the one given in the manual while I work the load up. I keep notes on the group size (five shots) in slow deliberate shoots in calm conditions. It does take time but I usually end up with one or two loads that produce preliminary groups at 1 inch at some point along the loading scale. I almost always go to the point where I notice the first signs of over-pressure and then stop. I look over the notes and find the smallest group that was produced BELOW this level. I take that load and work around it in .1 grain increments to find its most accurate load. After having done this with two or three powders I take the chronograph to the range and run the most accurate loads through the chronograph. Now I can use the standard deviation and extreme spread to modify the OAL and primers to get the SD and ES to their lowest point while maintaining the accuracy. I almost always choose the most accurate of the three loads as my "pet" load but I continue to load all three for several trips to the range to find out which one is most consistant. After three trips with the best of the best I have a load that is consistant, accurate, and one of the fastest that can be loaded for MY weapon and MY uses.
My goodness, It takes as long to write this as it does to work up the loads.

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