Picking a first set of components...


January 7, 2008, 10:38 PM
I've got all my equipment, and now need to choose some components... powder, primers, bullets, for my very first complete loads. Is there a procedure for doing this? Just open a manual and pick one? Start with some basic FMJ and go from there? How about powders? Thanks for any input.

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evan price
January 7, 2008, 10:44 PM
It might help to mention what type of pistol or rifle you are loading for, and what the intended purpose of the ammo is (blasting, long range target, cowboy action, etc).

January 7, 2008, 10:54 PM
I plan to load .223 for semi-autos, and .308 for semi-autos and my new-to-me bolt gun. I will probably start with .308. My eventual goal is accuracy, but my initial goal is to get my feet wet, and create loads that will shoot in the bolt gun, and function reliably in the FALs.

Or I can start with .223 if that would be easier for some reason.

January 8, 2008, 01:13 AM
start by determining what bullet you want to use. either it has shot pretty well for you in the past, or you like some ballistic properties of it, or you are looking for killing reputation, whatever. so, now you have your favored bullet. if you are just starting out, go ahead and buy a second choice bullet to have on hand in case you find something w/ your first choice bullet that doesn't work. preferably in a different weight.

so, now that you have the bullet, crack a speer #13. i have always had best luck w/ the top powders they list for that bullet. so grab a pound each of the top 2 listed powders for your chambering and bullet weight. cross check that selection to make sure they will work w/ your back up bullet - they probably will, but as reloaders go, you will likely find another powder that interests you. optional purchase, but if you really get into handloading, you'll eventually have it anyway.

for primers... a brick of cci 200's for the 308 - unless one of your powder choices is a ball powder (like win 748), in which case you will also add some cci 250's. go ahead and grab a brick of cci 400's (add 450's if you'll be loading a lot ball powder) for your 223.

and you're all set.


you can bypass lots of this by asking for favored start components... for the 308 you'll get a lot of 'varget' and '165/168' responses - this helps you quickly narrow down your choices. for the 223, you'll get lebenty-eight billion different suggestions. pick one that makes sense to you and run w/ it.

January 8, 2008, 04:07 AM
Start by seeing what your retailer has. Primers are kinda at a premium right now. Might ask when they get their shipments in if they are out. And if they have a lot on hand, buy more than you think you need. Always good to have more stock on hand so you can stay busy whenever you want.

January 8, 2008, 08:15 AM
I did go by the shop yesterday and made a list of what they had on hand, but unfortunately I left the list at home today. They seemed to have a reasonable selection of powder; no so much with primers.

Looking through my manuals, it seems the most popular .308 primer used was a "Federal 210M"... well they didn't have that, they had Federal 205M. I think that was all they had in terms of non-magnum large rifle primers? Would that one work for me?

Also, where is the best place online to buy bullets? Thanks,

January 8, 2008, 09:40 AM
FWIW. Start with just one of your calibers, and concentrate on that until you get the hang of reloading. That way you keep things simple.
308 is a good place to start. As said before, pick a bullet based on what you are going to do with it. Are you hunting? or just shooting paper? Most bullets will shoot accurately in todays rifles. Choose a quality bullet not based on price, but on performance and needs.
next, look at a reloading manual. Any of the big names should do. I like the Nosler manual. Look at the loads that fill the case. These are listed in percents. A fuller case can help keep things uniform. That is a good thing. Also most manuals note which loads seem more accurate. Granted this is for what they are shooting, but it can help.
Primers, I like CCI. Prices are high, but the rounds dont shoot very well without the primer.
Follow the guidelines in the manual for each reloading step, and make about 12 round for maybe 3-4 different loadings. For example- 12 rounds with 46 grains powder, 12 rounds with 47 grains, 12 rounds with 48 grains, and maybe 12 rounds with 49 grains. ( your charge weights will vary) This way you can go to the range and shoot different loadings to see if any one of them will shoot more accurately in your rifle.
Remember to watch for pressure signs and shoot slowly and take notes. Write everything down, so you will know which shot better when you get home.

Good shooting.

January 8, 2008, 10:18 AM
I will probably start with .308. My eventual goal is accuracy...


Make sure you buy an extruded powder, as opposed to a ball powder. Hard to fault something like IMR4895, as it was used in both LC M118 and M72 Match ammo, and will also work in your .223.


January 8, 2008, 10:26 AM
When i started loading i picked a bullet i wanted to use in 1 caliber...
Then i loaded 4 different types of powder (had a friend supply me with all 4 for testing.. I was really lucky) and made 4 groups of 5 rounds throughout the gambit of a powders top and bottom charge... If that bullet dont get as accurate as you want try another... Once i had 1 done i went to the next caliber... This way there was no chance of mixing up your loads... I ended up with 50 test loads on my first trip for 30-06... After 50 rounds in 1 day i really didnt feel like doing another gun so it was great for me that i did 1 rifle at a time

Ol` Joe
January 8, 2008, 10:41 AM
1st pick a bullet (brand & wgt) based on what you want to do with it, hunt, paper punch, ect. Then check a couple of manuals for the powders they recomend useing with that wgt and style bullet. Speer, Hornady, Nosler, all list the powders that performed best for them. Try the one that was given most or had honorable mention. Then follow the component list in the book for the bullet you are useing. After you become a bit surer of yourself and have some experiance you can switch components.
The best accuracy and "normally" velocities come with the powder that most fills the cartridge case. Nothing is cut in stone when reloading though and exceptions do happen. That`s what makes it interesting...;)

January 8, 2008, 10:45 AM
Thanks guys... are the powders in the loading manuals listed in any particular order? Like the first one exhibited the best performance for the testers, or anything like that?

evan price
January 8, 2008, 11:30 AM
Nope, powders are usually just listed as far as I can see because every gun is different.

If you are reloading for a FAL you need to make sure you full-length resize your brass.

THe CCI #34 military primers are the best deal for .308 plinking ammo, with IMR 4895 or H4895 powder for an easy to load deal. You can knock up a fair approximation of the 168-gr match round pretty easily.
Look out for deals on pulled US mil-spec .308 projectiles, they used to be common, they might come back again.

January 8, 2008, 12:40 PM
Some powder measures do better than others when using 'stick' type rifle powders.Try yours out with several test throws and mesure the loads as you throw them.
ie:my older 'non-magnum' dillon powder measures jam up like crazy on stick powders,so I use ball or flake on the rare occasion that I load for my thutty thutty.

January 8, 2008, 01:12 PM
Some manuals list powders in order of velocity.

I'd start with .223. It's cheaper than 308, and you're bound to have some mistakes.

A good powder for 223 and 308 is BL(C)2. It is the commercial version of WC846, the military powder in 308. I think H335 will work in 308 too. H335 is a great 223 powder.

January 8, 2008, 01:20 PM
I think the Lyman manual lists the best powder in bold... Its what they had the best accuracy for that bullet tip with i think

January 8, 2008, 02:41 PM
...are the powders in the loading manuals listed in any particular order? Like the first one exhibited the best performance for the testers, or anything like that?

Doesn't matter, as the best performance varies from one rifle to the next. Welcome to the world of load development.


January 8, 2008, 03:07 PM
Thanks guys... where does everyone buy their bullets online? I see Midway has some, but are they the best source?

January 8, 2008, 10:33 PM
Also, primer selection, how important is it to match the exact primer that is shown as being used in the loading manuals? Do you need their specific brand and product number, or will any primer of the same class work pretty much the same for 99% of purposes?

i.e. if I can't get the exact brand X model X of large non magnum rifle primer, can I just go pick up whatever large non magnum rifle primers the store might have on hand?

January 9, 2008, 12:04 AM
USSR said make sure you pick an extruded powder as opposed to a ball type powder but I do know that I totally disagree. My reason is that ball powders measure far more consistantly than extrude powders. Since they are more consistant, I find that they are more accurate. If you were toask which are the most popular powders you would get a lot of recomendations for BLC-2, H-335 and, TAC. These are all ball type powders and all work wonderfully in the 223. Ialso understand that BLC-2 works very well in the 308 though I have not tried it. Tac is also recomended in the 308 and if it isnear as good as it is in the 223 then it is worth trying. H-322 is fine cut extruded powder and it also works pretty well in the 223.

Bullets: I find that for accuracy you just cant beat Sierra bullets. Now I know that some people will inevitably disagree with me on this but lots of folks will surely agree with me as well. I have no less than 6 22 caliber rifles and they all love the the 52 nad 53 grain Sierra Match kings. What I really like about these is that hat I can substitute the 50 or the 55 grain Blitz king and ad get almost as good accuracy, sometimes better. Hornady V-max are quite a bit cheaper right now and sometimes are nearly as accurate thought the edge almost always goes to Sierra. The Nosler 50 grain Ballistic tips are generally quite good too.

Primers: I am not all that picky about primers but lately have been buying more and more CCI bench rest primers in both large and small. Some folks will tell you that they make abig difference but I haven't seen it yet. The reason that I go with a BR style primer is that I presume them to be more consistant. It is also my personal belief that hotter is better so I will sometimes opt for a magnum primer even if it is not called for as long as the pressures aren't at the upper end.

308: The Sierra 168 grain Boat tail match was for the longest time the standard by which all others were judged when it came to national match shooting. I am sure there are others out there that are as good if not better, they are also probably more expensive.

My recomendations: Buy a pound of BLC-2 or TAC or better yet one of each. Both will work in both cartridges. Buy some ome 52 grain Sierra HPBTM bullets, item # 1400 or the 53 grain #1410. As for the primers, you will need both large and small, but most any brand will do. Try the Sierra 168 grain HPBTM for the 308. Consult your book first but try 26.5 grains of either powder under either the 52 or 53 grain Sierra forthe 223. I think you findthisaveryy good place to start. Just in case you are wondering why I am pretty sure of this I can tell you. I have a Savage BVSS with a 1/9 twist barrel, another with a 1 in 14 twist barrel and 2 AR 15s that all shoot these loads right around 1/2" or better for 5 shots at 100 yards. In addition to that I also have Savages in 22-250 and 220 swift that all love the 52 and 53 grain Sierra Match Kings. They are also half inch guns.

January 9, 2008, 12:12 AM
Midway Misouth Wideners Graf. I won't bother to find the links right now just google the names and you will find links. Shop around. MIdway prices jumped right after the first of the year while Midsouth had not yet increased their prices. They will. As a result I ended up buying 3000 or so bullets from Midsouth. I saved as much as $4/hundred on some of the bullets that I was buying. I amost forgot Natchez.

January 9, 2008, 12:54 AM
Do a search for OCW (optimal charge weight) here in the handloading forum. Someone provided a good link the other day about squeezing all the accuracy out of your handloads. It was a good informative read. It bases the theory of good accurate loads on the shock wave travelling up and down the barrel. The idea is to have the shock wave hit the front of the barrel and return to the receiver region at the instant the bullet leaves the barrel. Essentially, at the point of minimal deflection of the barrel's natural harmonic.

Also, in my 223 and 300WSM, the middle ground of the listed charge weights has provided the best accuracy . Both approaching 1/2" groupings at 100 yards with about 1-2 grains below the max loading listed. Max loads opened up a bit more. Your results may vary.

This is also why I recommended you buy more supplies than you think you need. You have better chances of getting the same lot numbers of the supplies, which should yet again provide a little better consistency for you. It'd be a real bummer to work up a wonderfully accurate long range hunting load only to have your supplies dry up during load development. Then you'd have to possibly retune the load for hunting season because you had to buy more of the same supplies with different lot numbers of powder, bullets and primers.

Dig for a load notebook too, their simple for notetaking and when you find that really accurate combo, you'll know just what made it work for you. Then, once you have this, then start playing with different primers, COLs and so on to see if you can improve it even further.

January 9, 2008, 03:29 PM
USSR said make sure you pick an extruded powder as opposed to a ball type powder but I do know that I totally disagree. My reason is that ball powders measure far more consistantly than extrude powders. Since they are more consistant, I find that they are more accurate.

If you are creating "blasting" ammo by not weighing each and every charge, then, Yes, ball powder will flow thru your powder measure better than an extruded powder will. However, if you want the most accurate ammo you can make, then you will use an extruded powder, drop a light charge thru your powder measure, and then trickle it up to weight on your powder scale. Have been shooting in 1,000 yard competition for the past 5 years, and have yet to see anybody using a ball powder.


January 9, 2008, 03:38 PM
Winchester primers... 1,000 of each small and large rifle primers.
IMR4064, IMR4895, or Varget.
bullets... 168gr BTHP or 165gr BTSP in .308"; 55gr SP in .224"

January 9, 2008, 05:49 PM
My Nosler book has asterisks next to most accurate load per powder, per bullet, per cartridge. Also listed was the most accurate powder for each cartridge. Sometimes the max was most accurate, sometimes not. % capacity was sometimes 100+%, but several other most accurate loads were ~80% capacity.

Other load data will have min and max loads (Lee, Hodgdon).

Some will just have max loads.

Basic rule of thumb: starting loads are 10% less than maximum.

Powder manufacturer websites have load data.

If you can buy powder and primers local, you can avoid Haz Mat charge.

MidwayUSA, Cheaper Than Dirt, MidSouth, Natchez Shooter's supply.

Cabela's, Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops have some components.

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