Can your handloads beat factory ammo?


May 21, 2003, 01:39 PM
Can your handloads beat factory ammo? It seems to me that factory ammo has gotten so much better than it used to be that, except for the tactile satisfaction I get from reloading, reloading for accuracy, at least in my hunting rifle, isn't necessary. (It probably never was, but reloading is so enjoyable.)

My .30-06 handloads, on a good day, can about equal Federal Premium 165 gr. ammo, which means .9 to 1.1 MOA. The best group I ever got, though, from my Winchester 670 rifle (an economy rifle based on the Model 70) wasn't with Federal Premium. No, it was with cheap Remington Core-Lokt 180s; that 4-shot group (I only had 4 rounds left) measured .75" center-to-center.

I'm sure that was just a fluke, but the fact remains that, for me, it's difficult to beat good, factory ammunition. How about you?

If you enjoyed reading about "Can your handloads beat factory ammo?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
Steve Smith
May 21, 2003, 02:04 PM
My ammo will at least match Fed GM, but Fed GM doesn't come the way I need it. They don't load a 77gr. Match King .223, and they don't load an 80 grain .223 .010" off my ever-increasing throat. Black hills covers the 77's, but at $22 per 50??!! No thanks. I shoot too much for that! I know my ammo will at least match that, if not beat it consistently.


May 21, 2003, 03:20 PM
I'm new to reloading (about one month), and already my handloads are much more consistant than factory. By consistant I mean all shoot closer to the same velocity -- less deviation within the batch, according to my chronograph.

As for accuracy, I'm trying to design and build a shooting table so I can shoot from a good solid rest. Until then, I'd be guessing on accuracy.

Bottom Gun
May 21, 2003, 03:23 PM
I agree with Steve. Factory ammo choices are just too limited. I can make exactly what I want by handloading.

May 21, 2003, 03:26 PM
One thing that my handloads cannot match is the velocity from factory ammo.

I reload for the 243Winchester, and any/all of the loadbooks I have will not allow me to match or exceed the velocity I get out of Winchester SuperX ammo.

The factory Winchester ammo does have flattened primers, at least the annular ring around the firing pin indent.

I'm sure I can duplicate the Winchester velocities, but it won't be within the maximums of the load books that I have.

May 21, 2003, 03:42 PM
I think we pretty much all agree .... whilst factory ammo these days is indeed pretty consistent ... no way can it come up to the standards we can apply as handloaders .... in particular with respect to ''ideal'' loads for a specific weapon.

I also would mention that I find most so called 357 mag ammo is these days so downloaded (for safety reasons I guess) that it is rarely anything like a true 357 load. I load my Lyman 158 gas check cast swc atop 14 grns Vit N-110 ..... and that is a good round for me ... not quite a max but wayyyyy better than factory.

I know 9mm's are pretty cheap too if you shop around but again ... I load my own for practice ........ with 125 grn cast RN over 5 5 Vit N-340 ...... maybe doean't save much on cost but .. gives me a round that suits.

The ultimate tho I guess would be the bench rest shooter's needs ..... and there reloading would I'd say potentially totally outdo any factory stuff.

May 21, 2003, 06:52 PM
I have a hard time beating certain handgun loads, but I can consistenly beat factory rifle "target" loads in my own rifles. My .308 shoots Federal Gold Medal into about 1.25-1.5"@100yds. Several of my handloads run about 1-1.25"@100yds out of the same rifle.

May 21, 2003, 06:52 PM
I'm not sure how to answer this, folks...:neener:
There is no factory ammo for some of my rifles...:what:
And anyway, mine fits better!

May 21, 2003, 08:17 PM
Well, according to the replies so far, I guess I'm in the minority as far as factory ammo is concerned. No matter, I'll still keep handloading for my ol' '06, trying to find that perfect load, using factory ammo for my hunting needs and handloads for practice/plinking.

I still have a few things to try, such as getting brass from one lot, and trying to control runout better. On this last point, I just started using an RCBS gauging tool to measure my handloads--it was eye opening, to say the least. My ammo ran anywhere from .001" to .0075". I separated those with .003 or less from the rest. Now a trip to the range should tell if that little exercise is worth the effort. In the past, I've played with bullet seating depth, which seemed to help, but the resulting cartridges were too long for my magazine. I still think, though, that controlling concentricity will be a major component in my handloads' accuracy.

Standing Wolf
May 21, 2003, 09:19 PM
Factory ammunition is much better than it used to be, but doesn't include the light target loads I prefer—and even if it did, I'd still prefer to load my own for plain old-fashioned pride of craftsmanship.

May 22, 2003, 09:31 AM
The best I've ever gotten with factory loads is 2" 100 yd. With my handloads, worked up painstakingly over a long time, I get 1/2" to 3/4" groups routinely. And they're cheaper, and I never have to worry whether the stores are open when I'm low on loaded ammo. No questions here.

May 22, 2003, 11:17 AM
The only rifle I was not able to improve upon factory ammo was back in the late 1950's. Gave the wife a 222 which was super accurate out of the box. Routinely shot 1/2 moa w/factory but best I ever achieved w/handloads was moa. Never figured what powder the factory used, it looked like 2400 but was not, as they were using way too much to have been 2400.

"My ammo ran anywhere from .001" to .0075". "

Part of your runout can be caused by variations in case wall thickness, but IMHO most runout is caused by the expander plug in the sizing die with good brass; identify the worst cases and discard them or use for plinking only.

To check for source of runout, check 2 or more fired cases for runout. Clean & Lube inside necks w/Imperial Case Neck Lube or graphite and outside of cases as usual. Remove your expander plug and run one case through your die, then measure again. You will probably see very little if any increase in runout. Just for kicks, put expander back in and run second case. This will give you an idea as to how much of a problem your expander is causing, but remember, your runout is currently as low as .001 If you want a more representative test, increase the number of cases checked in this manner.

To improve performance of your expanding operation, you can remove the exp. stem and chuck it in a drill; using crocus cloth or very fine wet or dry sandpaper, polish the ball. Place a rubber o'ring on the stem just below the lock nut and install in die so that the ball is as high as possible (be sure it is below the neck sizing portion of the die). Ideally, the ball will enter the bottom of the case neck while still being guided by top part of neck in die. The o'ring will allow the lock nut to hold the adjustment as set but also let the stem self-center within the "slop" or play in the threads. Now run a test as above and see if your runout is not improved. Aftermarket carbide expander plugs are available for some dies, some of which have a floating expander ball which is preferable. Anything you can do to reduce friction on expander will improve concentricity.


Steve Smith
May 22, 2003, 12:23 PM
DAL, I would suggest you focus on one rifle only (that 670?) and try to get some Rem Core-Lokt bullets and load them. Most folks don't shoot at distances great enough to see .007" rounout problems. I dote that you did not mention the bullet and primer that you're using. Type of powder, in many cases, is much less critical than bullet and primer. This is more likely a case of "your rifle doesn't like certain bullets" which happens to all of us, or a primer issue, or both.

Suggestions: Try several different brands and types of bullets. Sierra Match Kings and Game Kings, Hornady HPBTs and A-Maxes (if they make them that big), Nosler J4s, and a few others. Change the primer around. I think you could spend less time on worrying about your cases and more time trying different components and it will benefit you.

P.S. I'm in the Springs too.

May 22, 2003, 01:54 PM
I don't know. I haven't purchased any factory centerfire ammo in over 18 years and I fire over 10,000 centerfire rounds each year. I couldn't care less about what factory ammo has to offer.

May 22, 2003, 02:32 PM
The latest factory stuff is indeed accurate, and they load more in one second than I load in an afternoon, but then, they do not separate their cases by straightness and no more than .1 grain weight, nor do they do that with their bullets, nor do they measure their powder to the nearest 1/10th of a grain, nor do they measure the chamber on my particular rifle, which is why, on average, my groups are about 50% smaller than what they load. Not bad on them, because they load for everyone, while I load for me.

May 23, 2003, 01:43 AM
Thanks to all for the good advice.

Steve Smith, I never thought of getting Core-Lokt bullets to try. I will have to locate some and give them a try. So far, I've only used Speer 165 gr. BTSP. I have some Hornadys loaded up, but I haven't tried them yet, although I was at the range today. On my way to the range, I picked up a box of Remington Express 165 gr. PSP ammo from Wal-mart. Guess what? After sighting in (I replaced the old, cheap rings with some Leupolds to match my Leupold scope) I fired a 3-shot group that measured .75" (I really adore this rifle:D). I decided to stop there and move on to other rifles. On my next range trip, I'll concentrate exclusively on the '06 and my handloads.

hps1, thanks for the detailed advice. I have an aftermarket Redding carbide expander ball I use. You mentioned something that I think I'll try--separating brass according to runout. I've never really tried that; maybe I should have paid more attention to it. Oh well, handloading is a learning process, and I still have a LOT to learn.

May 23, 2003, 11:14 AM
ok, I'm so new to this that I have not even started yet (reloading stuff should be at the hose when I get home today!!) but what is runout??

and I hope I can do better than factory loads, that's why I got the stuff to start with!!!

May 23, 2003, 11:25 AM
yzguy: Here's my non-expert definition: Runout is a measurement of how off center the bullet is from the bore. It's caused by inconsistency in the case neck thickness, or simply bad seating that grinds metal from the bullet and seats it off center. Basically, a round with high runout will not enter the bore perfectly straight, negatively affecting downrange impact.
If you're a beginner or shoot short range don't worry about it. I've been reloading for 10-15 years, and I still don't. There are too many other things for me to worry about.

May 23, 2003, 11:30 AM
Midway has the 165 gr Remington PSP's in their catalog or you can check them out @ por 1-800-243-3220.

Runout is checked with a dial indicator in a special fixture in which the case is supported near the shoulder and just in front of the expansion ring with the dial indicator set to see how far off center the seated bullet is in the the case. The indicator can also be used to check the case neck to see if it is concentric with the body of the case.

Personally, if I were just starting to reload, I would not get too concerned with runout, as, if you were to check your factory ammo you would find that your handloads will equal their runout. Once all the other problems or worked out, you may then wish to further refine your loading techniques by uniforming cases, improving runout, etc.


May 23, 2003, 11:39 AM
I have handloaded for some 30 years and I think that I will take one of my handloads over a factory round any day. Besides a good handload has been fine tuned and tweeked to what a given rifle prefers. Myself I have not shot any factory ammo in any of my rifles ever since I started reloading. :D :D

May 23, 2003, 03:48 PM
oh... ok, got it.... thanks

Steve Smith
May 23, 2003, 03:51 PM
Personally I do not feel that runout is much of an issue to the 300 yard or less shooter, and especially if he is not looking for sub-MOA performance at 300 or more. I'm sure you could ask hundreds of thousands of handloaders who are getting great 100 yard accuracy about runout and they'd reply "runwhat?"

Try not to stress.

May 23, 2003, 06:36 PM
There is not ANY available commercial ammo that will match my pistol loads in velocity, consistency, and accuracy.

May 24, 2003, 10:18 AM
Mine are so good that I don't even buy factory ammo anymore for my .308.
I still buy alot of 9mm because I can't load it much cheaper. After I get enough brass for my .45, I will start reloading it. I have a bunch of .357 brass for the M-28 that is on layaway, so it is possible that it will never see a round of factory ammo.

May 24, 2003, 10:58 AM
In a caliber that is inherantly accurate, and simple to reload, reloading is always more accurate, once you have found a recipe that works.
When I first started out, I didn't have a caliper, or any fancy equipment.
I didn't sort brass, I didn't do ANYTHING special.
Except tailor the bullet weight to the twist rate in my gun, and shooting style.
And use components noted for their good performance in that bullet weight and velocity range desired.
The first load I tried gave me one hole groups at 70 yards. (.223)
I found no reason to change anything.
I certainly lack the skills to do anything approaching sniper accuracy over 200 yards, but my gun, and my bullets aren't the problem.
Anywhere from 70 yards to 200 yards, the ground hogs and crows at my brother's farm are not safe at all.
I certainly couldn't do those shots with factory ammo.

May 26, 2003, 10:06 AM
As far as price and accuracy,.. it always does!:)

May 27, 2003, 05:51 PM
I'm ashamed to admit that so far, after a month of loading my own ammo, my handloads are less accurate than factory ammo both in .32acp and .38spl. The case has not been tried with my Makarov loadings.

I'm not really discouraged, but surprised just the same. I'm going to keep on plugging and see how I progress.

May 27, 2003, 06:40 PM
Don't be discouraged, it takes some experimentation with powder, bullet weight/profile and velocity before favorable result occurs. Its all part of the fun!
BTW, what kind of guns are you using with your handload?

May 30, 2003, 02:35 AM
I can't think of any factory loads that beat my handloads, but I did just get some Hornady Light mags for my .308, and they are very, very good, and very fast, too...150's at 2920 fps out of a 20" barrel.:D

If you enjoyed reading about "Can your handloads beat factory ammo?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!