i lost track of # of shots on my brass


September 13, 2005, 06:46 PM
so long story short. i got my 243 brass all mixed up. from once to 4 times fired to scavanged stuff. i've sorted by headstamp but will the number of firings play hell with my load development? i'm not really worried about for hunting and plinking, just when comparing groups of diffrent loads. also, i'm cheap and don't want to have to buy any more brass unless i have to. i was thinking of switching to 6 shot groups and taking the tightest 5. thanks for any input.

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September 13, 2005, 09:20 PM
depends on how accurate your rifle is. it has been my experience that brass that has been shot several times in standard hunting chambers loses some accuracy, though it isn't that much.

i don't know what your development process is like, but you might investigate the audette ladder method... typically, i'm all done w/ development in 10-20 total shots. i know other folks who can get a 500 yard worked up in as few as 4-7 shots by just going by pressure, load density, and seating depth (although in the 1 rifle i tried this w/ it worked well, i'm not comfortable enough yet w/ the system so be able to tell if it works as advertised).

i don't seperate new and old brass. i develop a load, then it is all treated the same. generally, this means 10-20 once or twice fired brass mixed in w/ a couple hundred new brass. w/ centerfire rifle cartridges, you'll start splitting the necks before anything nasty happens.

last, the ladder method works w/ handguns, too.

bottom line: don't worry about it. just watch for neck splits, and toss the bad cases as they go.

September 13, 2005, 10:27 PM
i'm not sure what the audette ladder method is. i basically just load five shots for every half grain increment between min and max loads. then use the best group. which is why i'm worried that one or two flyers caused by inconsistant brass would cause me to pass over the most accurate load. however, now that i think about it, do i really want a load that's that dependant on consistant brass if i'm not gonna use consistant brass every time? i think i just awnsered my own question.

September 14, 2005, 02:14 AM
1) Resize and decap all of your brass.

2) Trim all to uniform length.

3) Weigh each one and sort by weights.

Smokey Joe
September 14, 2005, 05:45 AM
Dakotasin--I too would like to know more abt. this Audette ladder method. Working up the BEST load for a given rifle is tedious. Can you give us a description, or a link to one? Please?

September 14, 2005, 07:39 AM
ok, quick n' dirty - w/ use you tend to develop your own twist that will work better for you.

say you have a cartridge that holds about 50 grains of powder. get out your load book, and notice the max and min charges. take out and prep enough cases to cover the low thru the high ends using approximately 1% powder charge increases: .5 grains... if you are shooting something w/ a cap of around 100 grains, each increase will be 1 grain. this is not hard and fast - some people think that 1% is too much of a jump, others think not enough. for my own purposes, 1% has been very nice to me.

so, back to 50 grains: the min charge is 48 grains. load one at 48.0, one at 48.5, one at 49.0, one at 49.5 and so on until you have reached the max. now, seat the bullets to your preference.

make sure the rifle is approximately zeroed. now, don't touch the scope again until your load is final. shoot your ladder at the same target, noting the impact of each bullet. the further away you are, the more reliable your results, but it will work as close as 100 yards (all my load development is done at 250 yards). you need to make sure your target is big enough to catch all the shots - 8.5x11 sheet of paper is usually plenty big and provides room for error. remember, do not change your poa! do not mess w/ the windage or elevation!

now, let your target tell you the story. you are looking for the holes that are closest together. ideally, there will be 3 shots that are within an inch of each other. the closest shots will be the combination your rifle likes best, given your settings. so, shots #1, 2, and 3 form the tightest 'group'. this tells you that load #2 will provide you the most consistent groups, and allow for minor differences in case weight, and scale differences, etc w/o significantly altering group size or poi.

some caveats/shortcuts:
generally, best accuracy will be found when the bullets are seated to the rifling/mag constraints - so seat the bullets as long as you can.

loading manuals have no way of knowing whether the lot of powder you have is hotter/cooler than what they started w/. they also can't tell you how much seating to your particular rifle changes pressures. because i'd rather not make development into a dozen range-trips proposition, i routinely load well beyond max. i usually end up having to pull a couple bullets, but the upside is that my development time is minimized, and i can spend more time on practice. so, ie, if my book tells me that 50 grains is the max charge, i'll load up to 52 or 53 grains (in 1% increments). i want to load hot enough that i cover my individual rifle's preferences w/o having to try and shoot the same target again under different environmental conditions.

after you shoot your ladder, all that is left to do is to make sure what you have is the best. many times you will end up w/ 2 groups that shoot about the same. load up 3 or 5 of the middle of those 2 groups, and shoot them head-to-head. smallest group wins, or better chrony results (in terms of sd, es) win. sometimes, there aren't 2 good groups, only one. in which case, just load up a few at the middle charge, and shoot them to make sure group size is acceptable, and shoot a couple more to make sure your scope is on and you are done. you can be completely done w/ load development in 2 range trips, firing a minimal of shots.

September 14, 2005, 08:20 AM
Audette's Ladder was devised by the late Creighton Audette.
I believe he wrote several articles published in American Rifleman many many years ago.
He was a Palma Match team captain and many reloaders and precision shooters followed his writings closely.

Audette's research supported the theory that a critical factors in superior ammunition was to have concentric cartridge case walls measured about " above the solid part of the cartridge case head.

He also opined that every rifle barrel has it's own "sweet spot" in which certain loads would give the best performance. His ladder helped shooters find that sweet spot.


September 14, 2005, 03:19 PM
that method sounds alot more practical than what i'm using. i've got to develop some loads for my new encore and my old mossberg and i'm gonna use that method. one question though. the OAL listed in the manuals isn't absolute? how do i find the maxium length i can use, just make them as long as i can so they'll still chamber? or is there a way to measure it. also some of my lighter loads the bullets are alot shorter. is there a minimum length they need to be seated into the case? thanks for all your help. you've been most informative.

Smokey Joe
September 14, 2005, 05:12 PM
And that is, how does Audette, or you, or I, account for the occasional shot which is less than perfectly launched, say, by a bad trigger squeeze? With only one shot at each load, such a single bad shot throws off 100% of your data for that particular powder weight.

I grant you that having multiple velocities shot on one target will nicely show up the relationship between one weight of powder and the next. But won't the same relationship show up just as clearly comparing 3-4 targets, each of which has several shots of identical loads (I use 10 rounds/charge weight in load development)?

I guess I'm just not as confident as Mr. Audette of launching every single shot perfectly.

Oh, and how far does he hike in a range session, going 600 yds after every single shot to mark the hole in the target? That's GOTTA be time-consuming! For the 22 shots in the target shown, it works out to 7.5 miles of hiking. Just a thought.

September 14, 2005, 05:19 PM
the OAL listed in the manuals isn't absolute?

no, and usually not even close, unless you have a custom rifle w/ specific chamber dimensions you spec'd out before the rifle was chambered.

as w/ most things in life, there are almost no absolutes in reloading.

how do i find the maxium length i can use, just make them as long as i can so they'll still chamber? or is there a way to measure it.

well, yeah, there is a way to measure it, but i don't use it (stoney point tools - go to cabela's website and look 'em up if you are curious about it). the way i find the max length (the connotation there is sorta misleading, but, whatever...): take a deprimed, sized case and seat a bullet very, very long - maybe just have a 1/16" in the mouth. then, take this case w/ bullet ('member, no powder/primer) and use the bolt to slam it home. sometimes you can get the bolt closed, sometimes not. now, take this dummy out, and put it back into your press, and screw the seater stem down to match the new seating depth, and add just a little more - like a 1/16 or 1/8 turn on the stem. take the dummy back out, and slam it home again. you should be able to get the bolt closed this time, though it will probably be difficult. now, do the seating stem operation again. this time, before you jam the bullet into the rifling again, go over the ogive w/ some steel wool to eliminate the rifling marks that are on it. now, slam 'er home again, and using a fairly bright overhead light, look for rifling marks on the bullet. they will be there, but now you can see them very easily. once more thru the seater process and you should have it - if not, repeat the process again. once you know what you are doing, it will take you about 3 minutes to find your rifle's max c.o.l..

now, before going on, make sure the dummy will fit your mag box. this is an extremely important step, and very easy to skip. don't skip it! if everything is kosher, write the spec's on the case w/ a sharpie and toss it into your die box (eg: rem 700 162 hornady btsp) so you now have a reference point to go back to when you start experimenting w/ seating depths and different bullets, and alter your die's settings.

next step is to load a magazine w/ your new load (these can be live). make sure that the rifle will feed and extract loaded rounds w/o a hiccup. if your bullet is a little too long and is engaging the rifling, you will want to shorten it because eventually on a hunt, you will unload the gun, the bullet will stay, and you will have a disabled gun that needs all the spilled powder cleaned out of the trigger group etc (speaking from experience).

if you have a tru crf rifle (mauser 98), the best way to do this is to pull the bolt, clip the case into the claw, and slam it in... a more tedious process, but it will work.

as far as loading into the rifling... i do it frequently. sometimes just for experimentation, sometimes for a dedicated target gun (where the round that goes into the chamber will always be fired). i am aware of all the warnings about it, and you should be too. if you decide to engage the rifling, then make sure you treat the process as an entirely new load development process, and don't just start w/ your previous best load charge.

also some of my lighter loads the bullets are alot shorter. is there a minimum length they need to be seated into the case?

yeah, they have to be seated deep enough to stay in the case. some say that they need to be at least seated a half of the bullet diameter, others say as long as they are deep enough to not be cocked (excessive run-out), and still others say they need to be at least a full bullet diameter into the case (in a 25-06, full diameter would be at least .25" into the case, half is .12"). you'll figure it out thru experimentation.

remember, altering seating depth alters the case volume, which alters pressures. it also alters the distance to the lands & grooves, which will alter any behaviors such as pressure spikes. all that said, as long as you always come up from below, there should be no surprises.

good luck!

September 14, 2005, 05:24 PM
use a solid benchrest and sandbags.
to check the targets use a 4-wheeler, your truck, a closer target, or hoof it - a little exercise can't be all bad, especially leading into hunting season, can it?? :D

confidence is a very powerful, underrated thing, no? i have confidence in the method because i've used it a lot. but it took awhile to get that confidence. and initially, i did use 2 or 3 of each charge, but after awhile, i gained confidence and went to 1 shot.

the audette method isn't for everybody... but it is another method. and you can't have too many options... can ya?

September 14, 2005, 09:42 PM
And a 40X or 60X spotting scope can be a big help too.

September 14, 2005, 10:13 PM
thanks a bunch guys. i knew working up a load seemed way to much like "work". i'll give it a try with a load bullet i've already found a load for and see how close it gets. thanks a bunch.

September 14, 2005, 11:58 PM
And a 40X or 60X spotting scope can be a big help too.

now there's some sage advice... my own only goes to 45, but for 7mm's and bigger, it works fine for spotting holes out there quite a ways. i have a hard time w/ 22's, though, even at just a couple hundred yards.

hawken- good luck! i hope it works for ya.

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