Old Vs. New Reloading Manuals


October 6, 2003, 11:47 PM
I will preface this question/comment with the obligatory disclaimer: Don't try anything that shows up in this thread at home.

With that said, why in the heck are today's recipes lighter than in manuals of old? Someone today told me that he loaded a 225 gr. speer for the .44 mag with a ridiculous amount of 2400. I looked at the 47th Lyman and then at an old 45th Lyman to check out this guy's recipe. It was WAY OVER max, even for the old manual. However, the manuals disagree on max loads by a full gr. Is this, as I have heard, just the folks at Lyman listening to their liability lawyers, or is 23 gr. too much? What is, in you old timer's estimation, the safe max. What did Mr. Keith say in this instance, as I am sure he had something to say on the subject.

(Above emphasis added by moderator - - JPG

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Jim Watson
October 6, 2003, 11:54 PM
Elmer Keith loaded .44 Magnum with 22 grains of 2400, a 250 grain SWC and a STANDARD primer. He saw no use for jacketed bullets in a revolver.

I think current data is lighter because:
The lawyers have got them more cautious.
Better lab equipment is getting more accurate pressure readings.
The powders are different. An article in Handloader said current production 2400 would equal Elmer Keith's and Skeeter Skelton's pet .357 and .44 loads with about one grain less powder.

October 7, 2003, 12:35 AM
Jim has it right.
There is a certain fudge factor built into the loads considered safe. In other words, published loads don't push your guns to the absolute max pressure just before they let go. They publish loads with a certain built in safety margin. Keep in mind that what might be a max load in freezing temperatures will be well over max in a 100 degree summer day. So, we don't want to load right to the brink of disaster; we want a load that is safe in our guns under all conditions.
In addition, some of the loads of yesteryear were never tested using scientific instruments. They didn't blow up the gun very often, so they were considered safe. Years later, these loads were pressure tested in a lab and were found to be operating at a higher pressure than is considered safe today. Elmer Keith blew up more than one gun with his loads.
Powder manufacturing processes and powder burn rates have changed over the years. As was mentioned, the 2400 you buy today isn't the same 2400 sold 50 years ago. Again as Jim mentioned, you can obtain equivilent velocities to Elmer Keiths loads using less of todays 2400. In addition, today we have a broader selection of powders to choose from. It isn't uncommon to find a load using a different powder that gives you better performance and less pressure both. Hodgdon's Lil Gun is one such powder for large bore revolver loads.

This has been said many times before, but in general, it isn't worth it to push loads to the edge of the envelope. A load that is safe and gives you 50 fps less velocity is going to have the same effect on target as a load that is over max.

October 7, 2003, 01:38 AM
I had a friend who worked at one of the companies that produced reloading manuals. He was horrified to learn that decades ago their recommendations had absolutely nothing to do with testing. They would just get together and, well, guess. If later feedback showed that there were problems with a given load they would change it in the next edition. One manual was so bad that they bought back as many of the copies as they could, got all they had together and destroyed them. I believe it!

October 7, 2003, 12:02 PM
How far down will the loads go?
357 mag max has gone below 38 Special:
"Speer 6" 1964 38 s&w special 160 gr. soft point 11 gr. 2400
"Speer 6" 1964 357 mag 160 gr. soft point 15 gr. 2400
Midway "Load map" 1999 357 mag Speer 160 gr. soft point 10.9 gr. 2400

What went wrong that Midway could get the max loads so far off and make
a useless load book?
They used an "Oehler System 83 and piezoelectric transducers, the latest
in industry standard equipment".

"Speer 3" 1959 44 mag 240 gr. JSPooooooo23.0 gr. 2400 1564 fps
"Speer 6" 1964 44 mag 240 gr. JSPooooooo23.0 gr. 2400 1564 fps
"Speer 7" 1966 44 mag 240 gr. JSPooooooo23.0 gr. 2400 1564 fps
"Speer 8" 1970 44 mag 225 gr. JHPooooooo24.0 gr. 2400 1574 fps
"Speer 9" 1974 44 mag 240 gr. JSPoooooo19.5 gr. 2400 1344 fps
"Speer 10" 1979 44 mag 240 gr. JSP&MSP 22.2 gr. 2400 1392 fps.
"Speer 11" 1987 44 mag 240 gr. JSP&MSP 22.2 gr. 2400 1452 fps
"Speer 12" 1994 44 mag 240 gr. JSP&MSP 17.7 gr. 2400 1271 fps
"Speer 13" 1998 44 mag 240 gr. JSP&MSP 21.0 gr. 2400 1434 fps

I admire Vernon Speer and the load books made when he was alive, but the quality went down later.
"There is a tremendous difference in the way different rifles handle
pressure and it is entirely possible that a riffle used in one test was
different in this respect than another one we used. We do not have a
pressure gun in our laboratory, because it is my opinion, backed up by
quite a few years of experience, as well as firing data from various
laboratories using pressure guns, that data received from this is
exceedingly unreliable. For a company such as Remington or Winchester
having same gun and operator comparable results to chick on the
production problems are no doubt sufficiently accurate for the purposes
for which they are used.
We use the head expansion method in determining the pressure at which
cartridge case was fired It is our belief that cartridge case is the
weakest link in the modern bolt action rifle. If the pressure at which
these cartridges cases are fired do not exceed the elastic limit of the
unsupported rim of the cartridge case, then we consider that the
pressure are entirely usable, regardless of what they might be. We fire
increased loads, increasing the charge by about a grain at a time,
checking the rim diameter of the cartridge case with sensitive measuring
instruments, before and an after firing. If any measurement increase in
the diameter of the rim of the case is noted, we consider that pressure
excessive and reduce the charge about 6% and list it a the maximum load
in our loading table. These is no reason why handloader cannot use this
dame procedure himself and determine whether or not the loads he is
using are safe and practical for use in his rifle."
Vernon D. Speer February 6, 1958 as printed in "Handbook for shooters
and reloaders vol. 1" P.O. Ackley 1962

October 7, 2003, 04:52 PM
Wow, thanks for the informative and interesting posts. Clark's post is especially interesting as I have not seen the old Speer manuals and did not know that there was such a wide disparity between editions. I guess the bottom line is to either follow today's milquetoast manuals or be very careful and inspect very closely for OP signs when increasing loads above advertised recipes. By the way, the recipe that this gentleman recommended to me was for - - - - grs of 2400 under a 225 gr Speer with a CCI magnum primer. No I have not tried it, since it is for all appearances insane. He did however mention that it is a compressed load!!!! YA think?!?!?!?

Ala Dan
October 7, 2003, 05:02 PM
Greeting's All-

I knew an ole' boy who use to fill .44 magnum cases with
2400 by pouring the powder into a cup, and dipping the
sized and primed case into the powder until it was just
enough room to seat the bullet!:uhoh: Finally, he blew
the ejector housing slap off his Ruger .44 magnum Super
Blackhawk; and I haven't seen hide nor hair of him in
recent years?

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

Mike Irwin
October 7, 2003, 05:05 PM
There's a wide disparity between editions because lots of factors change over the years.

Powder lots change

Bullet jacket lots change

Cases change

Primers change

Atmospheric conditions change

Crushers change

and most importantly of all?

The people running the tests change

All of those factors, plus many more, mean that you'll never have exactly the same results from edition to edition.

October 8, 2003, 12:31 AM
I have IMR4895 surplus bulk $8/ lb, and IMR4895 retail canister powder $18/ lb.
How much variation can there be in these two?
What is the canister guarantee?

The reason I ask is I am hearing that 2400 is faster than it used to be.
How can that be, if they blend to make spec on canister?

A society that teaches evolution as fact will breed a generation of atheists that will destroy the society. It is Darwinian.

Mike Irwin
October 8, 2003, 01:00 AM
There's no guarantee of exact replication of perforamnce between between lots of canister powder, ONLY that there is an attempt to maintain approximate burning charisterics, and the manufacturers can, and do, change those specifications over time.

That's why when you buy a new can of powder, and the lot number on the package is different, it is recommended that you drop back on your loads by 10% if you're in the upper 1/3rd of the loading range for that powder.

For anyone who doesn't know, a canister powder is what you can buy in your local gun shop. WW-231, IMR-4064, Alliant Bullseye, Accurate No. 5, they're all canister powder.

Often, to achieve the desired burning characteristics, powders from several, or even many, batches are blended together to give the desired burning characteristics. Once that is done, the powder is packaged into containers and stamped with a lot number.

Minute differences in manufacturing, even the use of a different machine for a batch of powder, in the chemicals used, etc., can have an effect on the ultimate burning rate of a particular batch, and ultimately the lot.

It also needs to be noted that reloading companies don't develope those charts using a single lot of powder. They develop them using powder from many lots, and average the results so that they're valid across ALL of the lots that are in circulation at that particular time.

And as I thought that I had made so abundantly clear, powder is but one of MANY variants that can have a dramatic effect on the pressures registered during testing, and ultimately on the final loading charts. Those variations are, by definition, beyond the capabilities of the powder manufacturers to control.

October 8, 2003, 12:45 PM
"By the way, the recipe that this gentleman recommended to me was for - - grs of 2400 under a 225 gr Speer with a CCI magnum primer. "

October 8, 2003, 01:47 PM
And also remember, the reloading manual guys weren't using your gun.

Even with the components all being the same, different guns, even of the same make and model, will show different pressure levels.

October 8, 2003, 08:47 PM
Thank you all for your input.

October 10, 2003, 03:50 PM
Here is an excerpt from the book Sixgun Cartridges and Loads published in 1936, by Elmer Keith.

Page 99: We have some individuals who will read over the powder company charges or my recommended loads, and then say, "Well this guy Keith used 18.5 grains of this new #2400 powder behind his 235 grain bullet eh ? Hell; he probably cut the charge a grain or two, in writing about it, to make it safe for everyone, so I'll just add two grains for a starter and get his real load". Anyone proceeding along this line of reasoning WILL get a real load-probably a new gun also. Handloading is NOT for such logical minded jaspers as this chap, and such have no business shooting anything but factory loads.

In reading this book, I find it extremly interesting that he dealt with the exact same issues we still talk about today. I started reading the book about a week ago and almost every page contains something that I read on this board in the last week.

Mike Irwin
October 10, 2003, 05:39 PM
In the old days it was easy.

You never had discussions like this with black powder. You filled the case, seated the bullet so that there was no air space between the powder and bullet base, and shot. Everything else was in the details.

Then comes smokeless powder.

And it hasn't been the same since. :)

October 10, 2003, 06:54 PM
CAUTION: The following post includes loading data beyond currently published maximums for this cartridge. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Neither the writer, The High Road, nor the staff of THR assume any liability for any damage or injury resulting from use of this information.

Once I got it straight how it works, I just use load books as a start point, and with strong guns, screw the max load limit.

But for those of you just starting out, you are confined to the area between the start load and the max load in your load book.

Strong guns for me are semi auto pistols [except the CZ52], '98 Mausers, 91/30 Mosin Nagants, Ruger #1s, and handi rifles.

Weak guns, where I must obey load books are CZ52 pistols and revolvers.
Back to how I screw the limit: I work up until the brass has a lowered life expectancy, then back off a safety margin, and then start looking for an accurate load. I start at that point and work down. The safety margin must be big enough to compensate for variations in chamber temperature, component tolerance, and my assembly process. That safety margin should be 6% from leaky or pierced primers and a stuck bolt. It should be at least 2% from a slightly sticky bolt or reduced brass life expectance.

With my system I have bravely worked up loads with white knuckles and butterflys in my stomach only to find later that the same load is in an old load book.


And with semi auto pistols, I have to look for primers falling out, primers piercing, and feed ramp case bulges.
The loads must be backed off 6% from a case bulge, as the case buldge is probably 6% from a case hole, which is probably 6% from a case head failure. And I don't like either of those happening to me.

None of my hot handgun handloads are in any books, so I am going to have to write a book. I have started measuring velocities and I will make people pay to read them.

October 10, 2003, 09:34 PM
I love Philip B. Sharpe's lists in "Complete Guide to Handloading"... he groups by bullet and powder, which makes for interesting comparisons. Plus, nothing like the smell of an old book.

One of his columns used in his load lists is "Recommended by" - a cool way to show the source of said date in a compact list - could add the date to this as well.

What if we created and maintained a "living" online reloading database - by living, the site would invite folks to submit data and grow the library. Also could be used to keep things 'fresh' as lot numbers change, etc.

I know there are such things out there on some cool websites, but nothing like I envision. PM if you have ideas, I can whip up a low-fi prototype in ColdFusion in probably 10 hours.

Johnny Guest
October 11, 2003, 11:51 AM
Okay, friends - -
This is a valid topic for discussion, so I'm not shutting it down, as I have been urged to do. I am not censuring any member, or issuing formal warnings. I AM calling everyone's attention to the H&R forum rules, posted prominently as a float at the very first of the H&R forum.

Please, READ the rules and adhere to them. I don't want to close down discussion of a topic started in a sincere quest for knowledge.

I have no all encompassing explanation for the WIDE variation in load data. I can make a couple of guesses, mostly along the lines of those already given. Differences in instrumentation, testing procedures, components, and in PEOPLE.

One problem here is that we have members who are just starting out in loading, and also some very advanced loaders/experimenters, all posting and reading on the same forums. This is the reason for the forum rules.

1.ANY load data, previously published, which exceeds that currently published must be properly attributed. As Clark so articulately pointed out above, there are wide variations in data from the same source, depending on which edition of the loading manual you read.

2. If you want to post load data that you personally use, which exceeds that published in recognized sources, just include the BOLD PRINT CAUTIONARY NOTICE to this effect. (See Float; see Clark's post above.) If you feel compelled to repeat what some ole dude in the general store and gun emporium told you HE loads, ‘way above max, you gotta put in the BOLD PRINT stuff. This is "Local Range Rules" in this forum. If you can't conform, either go elsewhere or expect to see your writings harshly edited. Nothing personal.

Another caveat: Honest mistakes DO happen. Any time you contemplate taking a load from some post on the ‘net, here or elsewhere, you owe it to yourself to "Second Source" the information. (Credit to Moderator C. R. Sam for popularizing this term for a concept well known to researchers in various fields.)

One excellent example: Member Clark, sometimes a bit adventurous in his personal experiments, is careful to insert cautionary notes. He follows the procedure as to attribution of load data from old sources, and by pointing out the inconsistencies, indicates there are problems with it. However, even HE makes the error of mis-copying some data, above. The entry from "Speed 8" he shows for the 240 JSP is actually from the section for the 225 JSP in that edition. Hey, honest mistake, and he does NOT advocate using the load - - It is simply an illustration.

Anyway, guys - - Keep on swapping information. Just be careful, and keep to the rules.
Johnny Guest
H&R Forum Moderator

October 11, 2003, 06:42 PM
Mr. Guest,

Thanks for the edits in my previous posts. I will, in the future, include the full disclaimer in bold with any load data. No offense intended, and none taken. As you said, this thread was started in a quest for knowledge, not in an attempt to start any "my load is bigger than yours" competition.

Sven, The idea a repository of loading knowledge sounds neat.

Johnny Guest
October 11, 2003, 08:45 PM
ExpatGator, I appreciate your understanding. I particularly like the principle, ' . . . a quest for knowledge, not in an attempt to start any "my load is bigger than yours" competition."'

Over in Revolver forum, I've been engaged in an exchange concerning my anticipated purchase of an S&W model 58, and there have been some good suggestions about loads offered. My stated aim is to have a good LSWC load at about 950 to 1050 fps. Sure, it is possible to reach the vicinity of 1300 fps - - but this is not my aim.

Similarly, I really like a .357 magnum load of a 162 gr. LSWC over Unique at around 1050 to 1100 - - More of an extra hot .38 Spl load. My OTHER favorite .357 load is a 158 Hornady XTP with a well-above published amount of 2400. I'm not against warm loads, but if I were to share the latter load, it would be accompanied by that same Bold Print warning. My regular .44 mag load, though, is really rather mild.

Sven, your idea sounds very interesting. Do you have some sort of prototype or first draft of what you envision? Please shoot me a PM or e-mail when you're ready to do so.

October 11, 2003, 10:49 PM
Johnny, you are right.
That should be 240 gr 23 gr of 2400 1521 fps for Speer 8.
I see you already edited my post.

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