Are modern reloading manulas too conservative?


December 7, 2012, 11:24 PM
I am not one to push the envelope on a given cartrage, if I want more speed I'll use a larger case and a longer barrel. But I noticed that I have never had anything resembling a pressure sign in any of my rifles with a published max load, and have seen people use loads well beyond max with no issues. Just for my own information I slowly stepped a round up in charge myself just to see, again not even a flattened primer (not that anyone else here has ever done such a thing LOL). Are modern reloading manuals just too lawyer proofed in your opinion? Or do they really need to fib about pressures for our own safety?

If you enjoyed reading about "Are modern reloading manulas too conservative?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
December 7, 2012, 11:39 PM
I would say that usually they are way on the conservative side. I've had several guns where I have chronographed factory ammo back to back with book max reloads and have had the factory ammo be 200 fps faster.

With my 500 S&W I had to go seven grains over book max to match factory Hornady ammo. And even then the cases still fell out of the cylinder without having to use the ejector.

On the other hand I have bulged cases in 10mm with a book max load, so it always helps to be careful and work up slowly. I also like to use manuals that list test pressures, and I cross check them with SAAMI specs to get an idea how much hotter I can go.

December 7, 2012, 11:41 PM
IMO: No, they are not.

When I started reloading in 1962, Speer, Hornady, and others did no actual pressure testing.
They used real guns, and if they started showing pressure signs without blowing up, that was the Max load.

Never mind that they used a new S&W Model 27 with polished chambers, and I had a worn out black powder Colt SAA converted to .357 with a worn out reamer in 1930 something.

Modern load data is for the most part compiled using electronic pressure transducers that give actual pressure peaks & spikes never even suspected by ballisticians in the years gone by.

What you see today is real measured pressure data that should be safe in any decently good condition gun of that caliber.

What you saw in the old manuals was somebody's best guess, in only the gun they were using at the time.

I stretched the frame and completely ruined a perfectly fine M1917 S&W in 1964 using published Speer .45 AR data.

Keep in mind that published data has to be safe in anything.
And they also have to leave a little fudge-factor for the folks that think they are way smarter then the guy running the million dollar pressure testing equipment at the lab.

If only that were so!


December 8, 2012, 12:42 AM
I'll compare it to a drivers education instructors comment, " The signs telling you the speed to drive in curves isn't the maximum speed you can drive thru the curve however SOME day you're going to see a sign in a curve telling you a certain SAFE speed and it MEANS it!" Some data I've seen in the past 30 years of reloading lists maximums that are definitely maximum. Some data I see in certain manuals I think are dangerous maximums and some data I think are outright lies and lawyer proofed. Some data maximums are no where close to maximum using the exact components listed and velocity they list is outright fabricated. A chronograph is a useful tool and will let you know whose data is realistic. It's not all data in a manual that lists low maximums but usually only in certain calibers. Be careful any time exceeding published maximums though and having several manuals to compare data is useful.

December 8, 2012, 01:21 AM
I have a Savage mod.11 in 7mmWSM loading a 160grBTSP with H1000, load data shows start load at 65gr max at 69.5 , working up a load with the latter test jumping up .5 gr at a time to find the sweat spot for that gun, when I got too 67.5gr the bolt lifted hard ! , I stoped , went home pulled apart the last 4 rounds , and rechecked everything and tryed again , and again 67.5 gr of H1000 was max and 66gr is the sweet spot with that power , the book says 69.5 , but my savage has a tight chamber , and 69.5 would just be a bad thing to try, so in that case I would not say new load data is NOT on the light side now, with my Savage 110 and my 111 both in 270win IMR 4831 and H4831SC max loads work fine .

December 8, 2012, 07:28 AM
What rcmodel said.

I do know that, at least Speer, has lowered their 22 Hornet data but they said so in the little write up in their most recent loading manual. They said the maximum pressure was lowered for the new data. I do not have the book near by so I will not try to quote the numbers from memory. (Speer also now recommends using small pistol primers with 22 Hornet with their loads).

While I do feel the lawyers and insurance companies are having a greater influence than in the past, I will still trust what the guy in the coke bottle glasses and lab coat determines with his multimillion dollar equipment.

December 8, 2012, 08:39 AM
They are a guide, nothing more. A few good manual's, a chronograph and a safe, accurate and sufficiently powerful load will be the result.

just for fun
December 8, 2012, 09:41 AM
It would seem as though too many reloaders beleive that, "it's OK to go 10% over listed max, that's there for the lawsuits." Sure thing. You wouldn't mind if I moved a few stations down from you, would you? Your gun, your hand.

December 8, 2012, 11:48 AM
The devil is in knowing which published data is ancient from the 'it ain't blowed up yet' days, to the old copper crush pressure testing days and which data was compiled from modern pressure transducers. lol

I mostly target plink with my plated bullet reloads and have a very limited budget so mid-range data works for me, both for the safety margin and more rounds per pound of powder. For SD loads I would work up from mid slowly but likely never load max.

December 8, 2012, 12:05 PM
I think they are conservative, but "too" conservative? No.

The publishers/testers no doubt realize there are a lot of reloading studs in the world who are convinced that every round they build must be a step more manly than anything they can buy, else what would be the point of doing it oneself? These types push the envelope and consider it safe because they figure the published numbers are conservative.

I can imagine a scenario such as this: The testers discover the "real" max for a 240-gr EK .44Mag load--the one that won't cause a kaboom but sits on the ragged edge of prematurely wearing out a Redhawk--is 20 grains of powder X. The publisher knows reloaders are sometimes tempted to push a hair past book max, so they back off 10% and call 18 grains the "publishable max." Then the lawyers take away 10% from that already castrated number and call 16.2 grains the "acceptable liability" max. So the published max becomes 16.2 grains.

The "factory ammo is wimpy" reloading stud reads that number for powder X and immediately knows it's too conservative because these published numbers always are. So he builds a handful of loads with this EK bullet with what he thinks is probably closer to the real max by adding 10% to the published max. No work-up, just a leap to the 110% charge. He loads the cases with a very manly 17.8 grains. He takes these to the range and brags to his buddies about them being 10% over published max, fires a few, pretends to be enjoying it so his buddies will agree that he is indeed a real manly man, and is satisfied. But the load he's shooting is still safely in at .2 grains under what was already 10% less than the marginally safe number.

As long as our hypothetical manly man thinks he's loading above max, he's satisfied, and nobody gets hurt or sued. If he's got a chrony and access to the Internet--well, that's another issue.

December 8, 2012, 12:31 PM
Why would a publisher give information that would bring us close to disaster? There should be a safe cushion in case we make a small mistake that might take us over the edge in the event they give us a "real" max load.

December 8, 2012, 01:43 PM
The days of having to push a caliber to just under the danger point are gone. We now have bigger calibers and better bullets. We now have tools to accurately measure pressure and to keep loads within safe parameters instead of making educated guesses. Instead of trying to make that .357 a .44, get a .44. Instead of tryin' to make that .44 a .454, get a .454. Thinkin' loading any gun past published max loads for any caliber is a sign of superior masculinity is not impressing anyone.

December 8, 2012, 01:49 PM
With some consideration as to what cartridge, powder, and other elements that can increase or effect pressures, I find that the published data is well designated as a SAAMI maximum load.

And considering that I load almost exclusively with slow burning powders for handgun and bottle neck cartridges, often times these powders will take you to compressed charges. So if you can't possibly squeeze more powder into the case, then how is it, that anyone could consider that as conservative? On the flip side, fast burning powders being used at maximum data will more often than not produce clear visible signs that one has reached the maximum operating pressure for that application.

There are a couple of powders and cartridge combinations I have used that have allowed me to work up beyond the published maximum, but who knows what pressures those were running? And just because the case didn't separate or punch primers, doesn't indicate how close to the limit that firearm is getting pushed to as well? I don't own a transducer and reading cases / primers with any real accuracy, is almost like reading tea leaves.


December 8, 2012, 01:51 PM
If anyone would know the limits, it would be Clark.


December 8, 2012, 01:52 PM
Without proper pressure testing equipment and the willingness to blow up your firearm you have no way of knowing if they are to conservative. I don't have the equipment and am certainly not willing to blow up my firearm to find the true maximum charge. So I will trust the manuals. I very rarely load max charges anyway. And the hunting 357 load I do load to max I shoot out of a carbine so I'm not worried about it being to much.

Brought to you by TapaTalk.

December 8, 2012, 02:05 PM
It's almost impossible to idiot proof reloading. That is the aim of reloading manuals since the 70's. Jump to bolt action rifle triggers and examine how they are set up at the factory now. My guess is they average 5#+ these days. Lawyers trigger's are an absolute anathema to marksmanship.

December 8, 2012, 09:37 PM
While I do feel the lawyers and insurance companies are having a greater influence than in the past, I will still trust what the guy in the coke bottle glasses and lab coat determines with his multimillion dollar equipment.

A bit of an exaggeration but :rolleyes: the point is valid. In the lab using a SAAMI tight spec. chamber and lead with modern equipment properly attached and ANSI Z540.1 certified and NIST traceable, we can know what is happening in multiple data points in the few milliseconds everything happens in. For those of us old enough, look at what a personal computer was in the early 80's, 90's, 2k's. We get more data and more accurate data each 10 years with better technology. That said, there is also the lawyer proofing of everything and for a reason.

Some Darwin candidate will use Ruger 45 data in an Uberti. Some will read some interweb expert info and use as the fool some years back who said use (don't use this data) take a 30 carbine case, fill to top with W231 and seat a 110 gr. bullet. do not do this. Or the person who will use Buffalo Bore 45-70 in a trap door Springfield or clone.

Some of us will methodically push the limits. We will do it with a reason and do it in a manner that will allow us to still use our given body parts. Others will do it haphazard and roll the dice. When you keep rolling the dice you will eventually lose.

December 8, 2012, 10:21 PM
Keep in mind that published data has to be safe in anything.

Another thing to consider is the temperature at which the ammunition is to be used. If you manufacture ammunition, or compile load data, you don't know the temperature of the ammunition when it's loaded into a firearm. A load might be well under pressure at ambient but seriously over pressure at hot or cold.

December 8, 2012, 10:29 PM
I will still trust what the guy in the coke bottle glasses and lab coat determines with his multimillion dollar equipment.

All you need is a test barrel, transducer (calibrated), analog to digital converter and a PC running the appropriate software such as LabVIEW.

December 8, 2012, 10:46 PM
I figure if you find yourself needing to push a bullet faster than the max listed loads provide, you might want to consider stepping up to the next more powerful round for that bullet size. I.E., if you want to push a 130g pill out of a 270win at much more than about 2950 fps, trade it in on a 270wsm, or maybe a 270wby.

December 8, 2012, 11:26 PM
I think some of them are conservative with some loads. I've gone a whole grain over some published data in 40 without seeing much pressure sign. But I'm not going to be the one to push the envelope and find out how conservative it is.

Andrew Leigh
December 9, 2012, 12:57 AM
The problem with loading are all the variables.

Internal case volume.
Powder manufacturing tolerance.
Chamber size.
Distance from lands (many new reloaders do not understand the effect)

So if one was to get all the variables going the wrong way then I think manuals are OK. We have locally produced case here that when loading 30-06will require 1.0gr less due to wall thickness as compared to a Remington case. Our local powder (can't get anything else) has a tolerance of +-3% assuming the worst this could be another 1.5gr. Worst case scenario I could be at 2.5gr off.

If my max load was developed with a powder of tolerance -3% and I bought a new batch at +3% that would a difference of 4.0gr. Not insignificant.

I do think many reloaders like to be at the top edge, why I simply don't know, when working at these extreme pressures on is looking for trouble.

1911 guy
December 9, 2012, 01:19 AM
My opinion here, and some of you know a lot more about reloading than I do.

Let's say the data IS conservative. It then begs the question "why does it matter?" the point of reloading is to either save a little money or make a load that is more accurate in your particular rifle or handgun than is available commercially. I can't think of anyone who just relishes the thought of spending an afternoon trimming cases or reaming primer pockets.

If you're in it to save cash on range ammo, then using more powder is costing you more money.

If you're in it to build a more accurate round for yourself, there's a couple facts getting in the way of pushing max. loads. With a few exceptions, the more accurate loads are in the bottom to middle of the scale. Now you want to bump it up a little to increase velocity while remaining below the point where accuracy begins to fall off. Published max load is probably still a few grains away. Maybe less if you're loading for a handgun.

So what's the point of pushing the envelope? Call me a sissy or a blockhead, but I don't really see it. I could load a few more grains in my .308, but what's the point when it's grouping well and has enough velocity to make the bullet perform well past any distance I'm likely to shoot a deer?

I also wonder if some of the percieved "taming" of max loads is due to more efficient powders in the last decade or so. Instead of cramming a case full of powder X and compressing a bullet on top, we can now load 3/4 case of powder Y with the same velocity and pressure. We've come far enough that there's now a market for powders that take up MORE room in the case to eliminate position sensitivity and the possibility of double charges. Trailboss comes to mind.

December 9, 2012, 01:31 AM
I'd say they aren't necessarily too conservative. Remember, people don't often exactly follow the loads, even if they feel like they are. Most of us have substituted different brands of brass or primers when developing loads, and we shoot these loads in guns made by a variety of manufacturers, with varying barrel lengths, etc.

In many cases I believe the max load could be safely exceeded, if you knew what you were doing. But, in other cases I've seen pressure signs while relatively low in the charge weight, while exactly following the recipe in the manual.

December 9, 2012, 01:37 AM
The loads have certainly been dropped some since my first reloading manual. I also see some variation in the manuals, and a larger difference in the data I downloaded from the bullet manufacturers. Here is how I look at it.

Each one doing the testing reports what they found to be true in their test with the equipment they had. I don't expect it to agree. For sure the latest testing is using better equipment, so I take that over the old stuff.

For me, the goal is to make some ammo that will be accurate and repeat. Once I have that done all I have to do is adjust the sights to be dead on at a specific distance, then learn to shoot! I don't really care whether a 270 is going at 2600 or 2800, as long as I know where it will hit at 100, 200, 300 yards etc. and know my ammo will consistently do it. Add to that: I want to be safe in the doing!!! No use crowding those max loads gents.

We would be better served in finding that accurate load, and learning the flight path of our bullets than worrying about getting the fastest load in town.

I use current data, and check several sources, then work up looking for that accurate load. I seldom get to the max load before I find what works well in the specific gun I am loading for.

On one occasion in one gun I had a situation where with a certain powder I had overpressure signs with a start load. I never did figure why. I changed powder and all was well. These things can happen. That is why I always say start low and work up with care. Lets keep our guns in one piece and our bodies whole. (

December 9, 2012, 03:05 AM
I shoot a lot of 40S&W and have wondered why Lyman #49 loads were higher than powder manufacturers' loads.

When I read the test barrel specs used for Lyman #49, it showed groove diameter of .401" instead of more typical .400". If your 40S&W barrel has .400" groove diameter and used Lyman #49 load data, you will be over the powder manufacturer's max and even Lyman's max charges.

For this reason, I often urge the shooters of 40S&W to slug their barrel and use the lower powder manufacturer's load data. When I am working up a load, I will use the lowest start/max charges of the available published load data.

December 9, 2012, 07:12 AM
As I wrote, the chronograph is your friend when developing loads and is the only safe indicator of where your pressures might be.

December 9, 2012, 09:28 AM
But I noticed that I have never had anything resembling a pressure sign in any of my rifles with a published max load, and have seen people use loads well beyond max with no issues. Just for my own information I slowly stepped a round up in charge myself just to see, again not even a flattened primer

Here is a question.
At what psi do these "pressure signs" you seek rear their ugly head?

SAAMI Max pressure varies from cartridge to cartridge, but do these "pressure signs" vary as well? I don't think so,How can they, the brass, the primer and the rifle do not know if you are shooting a 30-06 (60K) max or a 270 Win (65K) Max.

The 223 has a MAP of 55k psi. Will a 223 handload start to show pressure signs at 56k, 60K, 65K or will the 223 show pressure signs well above 55k into the 270 Win range of 65+++K?

Arkansas Paul
December 9, 2012, 10:08 AM
I don't get the obsession with hot rodding rifle rounds. If you have to go above published data to get what you want, it's time to step up to the next power tier. (If you're hot rodding a .30-06, it's time to go to a .300 Mag of some sort, etc.).
I do load "Ruger Only" stuff in my Blackhawk, but that's tested, published data. If I wanted to go beyond that, I'd get a .454.
The thing is, most of my rifle loads are loaded near the middle of the road. The on game performance is still great.

Pete D.
December 9, 2012, 11:35 AM
and have seen people use loads well beyond max with no issues. Just
Hmmm. Maybe that is better said as "with no apparent issues".
About pressure signs....any....any of the commonly accepted pressure signs is unreliable as an indicator of what is safe. It is certainly possible for a given load to be over max pressure and show no signs of being so. That doesn't mean that it is safe.
Remember this...Any pressure sign.....if you accept them as accurate....would mean that you are already beyond maximum, not just approaching it.

December 9, 2012, 12:08 PM
Now the characteristics of pressure curves can be measured in real time. I was told by a guy involved in this the "mules" have many channels of instrumentation, as an example, they can measure primer duration.

Older reloading manuals used physical observations, such as bolt sticking, and primer indications, as indications of pressures. These are unreliable.

Years past, if pressure gages were used, they used copper crusher discs. All you would get from a crushed disc is a maximum value. Today they can measure the pressure curve and determine the width of the curve and with enough shots get a statistical measure of how the pressure curve varies. That is important for it shows that some powders, noticeable Blue Dot, is not appropriate for reduced rifle charges, as the pressure curve goes wild little changes in components. You can find pictures of rifles blown with Blue Dot loads, the owners often assume they double charged the case, because they are trying to find an explanation, or they just donít know what when wrong. But modern technology shows why certain powders are not appropriate in some application.

This guy blew up his 257 Weatherby with Blue Dot but thinks it was due to a double charge. However after talking to Alliant, I think it was due to Blue Dot being too sensitive to changes in position, components. Used to be Alliant published all sorts of data based on copper crusher tests, if you notice now, many loads in the older manuals are no longer being published. Either there were better powders for the application, or the powders recomended were too sensitive for that application.

December 9, 2012, 12:43 PM
I want to piggyback with another question: What about deviations in the pressure curve? Basically, no two ignition sequences truly progress exactly the same. So could this be why many people think recommended loads appear "conservative"? This due to the behavior of Powder A becoming non-progressive after XXgr of powder and XXk PSI.

I only ask this because I have noted how some of the data from Hodgdon lists the pressure range on the charges. Some powders seem to be taken to higher pressures than others in the same cartridge. To me this would be a clue suggesting at some point you are too close to running over Maximum Average Pressure on a significant percentage of shots fired.

December 9, 2012, 01:10 PM
Here is a question.
At what psi do these "pressure signs" you seek rear their ugly head?

SAAMI Max pressure varies from cartridge to cartridge, but do these "pressure signs" vary as well?

When talking about difficult extraction as a measure of pressure, this does vary from gun to gun or cartridge to cartridge. Brass sticks in a chamber when the steel expands beyond the yield point of the brass case. This is dependent on the strength and thickness of the steel. So for example with 357 Magnum revolvers you can get cases sticking in the smaller J and K frame guns while they work just fine in the larger L and N frame guns.

As far as SAAMI pressure goes it is designed to be safe in the weakest gun chambered for that cartridge. I would guess that since the 30-06 came out in 1906 and the 270 came out in 1925 that the 30-06 has been chambered in some slightly weaker guns. This brings up one reason why you can sometimes safely load way above book max. If you have a strong modern rifle chambered in an older cartridge it is perfectly safe to load it to 65,000 psi regardless of what the SAAMI spec is. If you want a good laugh look up the SAAMI spec on 8mm Mauser.

December 9, 2012, 02:22 PM
Have you ever wondered why SAAMI and CIP limit pressures to approximately 65,000 psi? When you consider typical proof load pressures for the Remington 700 for instance, I think it's clear what the limiting factor is.

December 9, 2012, 02:34 PM
I would say it's because pressure testing has improved.
As far as different loads for different actions, you only need to look at the load data for the 6.5X55. Many manuals now have seperate data for modern rifles and older rifles.
The 8mm Mauser(one of my favorites)is sort of a special case. If it hadn't been changed from it's original bore diameter of .318 to .323, I would guess that it would probably have separate load data like the swede for older actions.
Unfortunately, or not, depending on your point of view, Mauser still made sporting rifles in the smaller bore years after the change. Many of these made there way here. In Europe the differance between the JRS and the JS was known. But once in the hands of those unfamiliar with the differance, and with a box of .323 bore ammo, especially if loaded to CIP specs, the pressure could be signifcant, resulting in damage or destruction.

December 9, 2012, 03:16 PM
As far as SAAMI pressure goes it is designed to be safe in the weakest gun chambered for that cartridge.

Right. Discounting the age of a firearm and the improvements made in metallurgy and designs over the years, all firearms are, or should be, designed with a factor of safety.

The SAAMI pressure limits for the ammunition is not the pressure where the firearm will fail catastrophically.

Which is also why firearm manufacturers test their firearms with proof loads. They intentionally overload the firearm to see how the it stands up to over pressure ammunition. I believe there are also standards for proof testing.

So, it is quite possible to exceed published data and the firearm appear to performing safely. Without the appropriate testing equipment, the home reloader is just shooting in the dark (pun intended) and potentially teetering on the ledge when exceeding the published data. Many of the old standby indications have been determined to be unreliable in many instances.

Yes, testing equipment and testing protocols are more reasonably priced these days than in decades past but I suspect it is still expensive. If it was inexpensive, every little bullet manufacturer would have published data as well as many home reloaders would have the ability to test their hand loads.

December 9, 2012, 03:23 PM
the chronograph is your friend when developing loads and is the only safe indicator of where your pressures might be.

The problem is that the chronograph only tells you what the average pursue was as the bullet was pushed down barrel.

Peak pressure is what blows things up, and a chrono is not measuring that, just the average pressure.

December 9, 2012, 07:37 PM
Depends upon the manual you are talking about. Alliant and the Lyman 49th, not so much; Sierra's, definitely. I once called Sierra about one of their "Max" loads. They told me that they didn't know what the pressure level was, "that's just where we decided to stop". So much for the science behind their "Max" loads.


December 9, 2012, 09:31 PM
Sierra has said in the past that they load up to a consistent load that provides them with repeatable velocity without exceeding max allowable pressure and then call it quits.

Someone earlier in the thread said something about the load not knowing whether it was fired in a high pressure cartridge or not and that you should be able to load any modern rifle to 65kpsi. If all brass were in fact created equal, being of equal thickness through the case wall and head and all being able to handle 65kpsi without rupturing or letting the primer go, then that might be the case. As it is though, all cases are not the same and the brass is only designed to survive to a certain pressure. Go much above that pressure and the case head starts to swell and the brass well exceeds its elastic limit in the head. The rifle might be able to handle it just fine, but the brass is going to be scrap assuming that you can get the action open to get it out in the first place.

As for the data publishers that include the pressure for each load in their test barrel in their data. You can't really question if their data is conservative. They tell you what pressure they got. I've run some Quickload looks at some of those loads and the next incremental increase in powder nets you an overpressure load, or the case can't hold any more powder.

Smokin Gator
December 9, 2012, 09:40 PM
Also, the manufacturers have access to proprietary gun powders that we can't get. This enables them to sometimes load a particular caliber to a higher velocity while still keeping pressures safe. For us to try to duplicate the velocity would require too high of pressure with the powder available to the public. Mark

35 Whelen
December 10, 2012, 02:34 AM
They are a guide, nothing more. A few good manual's, a chronograph and a safe, accurate and sufficiently powerful load will be the result.

^^^This^^^ What's maximum in the firearms used to develop the loads in the manuals may or may not be maximum in my firearms. that's why manuals state o'er and o'er: "Start low and work your way up." As an example, I recently fired some published maximum loads of AL2400 in my Uberti .44 Specials. The fired cases fell out of the chambers under their own weight... same as they do when firing mouse fart loads I use in Cowboy Action Shooting.


Peter M. Eick
December 10, 2012, 10:02 AM
I tend to view modern manuals as more based in measured factual data than prior manuals. I think the older manuals were worked up based upon copper/lead crusher data and not that well instrumented.

The issue I have is suppose we accept that premise, ie that modern manuals are better measured. You then test some old data and it goes beyond the SAAMI spec for the load with modern instruments. You now have a choice. You can lower the modern manual load so it matches the SAAMI pressure spec or you can raise the pressure spec. I believe they lowered the modern loads instead of raising the spec.

So for decades I shot 5 grns of Unique in a 38 special with 158's. Today that is plus p or more but back in my first manual it was a less than max load. The gun has fired 10's of thousands of them (actually over 40,000 rounds fired) and yes did I have to send it back for repairs. But not for high pressure issues, more for wear and tear issues.

So what to do?

I treat modern manuals as a guide, older manuals as more absolute limits and work extensively with my chrono and a bit of reasonable sense to develop my loads.

Peter M. Eick
December 10, 2012, 10:06 AM
Double Tap.

The forum was running slow this morning.

December 11, 2012, 04:42 PM
I believe they lowered the modern loads instead of raising the spec.Of course they lowered the load. The SAAMI specs were based on well instrumented material yield strengths. Those haven't changed. The only thing that changed with modern load measurements is awareness of how close to/far beyond those material limits loads previously thought "OK" really were.

December 11, 2012, 05:14 PM
I know there are some wild-eyed guys out there pushing the limits with their handloads, but I have found the majority of "Bubba" reloaders are afraid to go anywhere near max loads. I can't count how many times one of the flys on the wall at a local gunshop tells someone (or me) that they/I shouldn't try loading anywhere near max loads. To me, if I can't get near factory velocities with some accuracy, I just move on. If I am inside 100fps of similar factory loads and shooting clovers, I am happy.

I find as many sources of info as I can get my hands on and use common sense comparing the differences in data. I would never load up to max without a careful workup. And the only time I might try to creep over a max published load is if I haven't had any strange jumps in velocity up to max and I am looking for the accuracy to come back in the next few increments.

December 12, 2012, 07:23 PM
Here is an example between the very conservative Sierra Reloading Manual and the reality-based Lyman 49th Edition Manual which I spoke about in a previous post. When I was involved in 1,000 yard competition with my .30-06, I quickly found that RL22 was THE powder for LR loads using the 190gr Sierra MatchKing bullet. While Sierra doesn't list a RL22 load, they do list a Norma MRP load which is the same powder as Alliant RL22, both coming off the Swedish Nobel Industries line and packaged accordingly. Sierra lists a Max load of 57.6gr, while Lyman lists 60.5gr as a Max load. Folks, that is essentially a 3.0 grain difference! My load of 60.7gr was determined to be a 59k psi load by QuickLoad and I have used it competitively for many years, so CLEARLY a load using 3.0 grains less is nowhere's near being a "Max" load. IMHO, lack of confidence in a reloading manual's data is not a good thing.


December 12, 2012, 07:36 PM
By USSR :) An oldie but goodie

December 12, 2012, 07:44 PM
Wow, 243winxb, you REALLY reached back in the time machine for that one.:D


December 12, 2012, 09:11 PM
There's one aspect of the loading manual that hasn't been discussed. If you read the Speer manual for a 30-06 150 grain bullet they indicate that if Speer manufacturers 5 bullet styles for that same weight bullet the manual lists the load which develops the highest pressure for the one bullet that developes the highest pressure. That's not to say you couldn't load the other 4 bullets to a grain or so more powder. Maybe? Bullets with a shorter bearing surface of a softer jacket could possibly handle a heavier charge. But, you never know when you will get the combination of a hard bullet, hard case, tight case neck and hot primer that could cause problems. Shooter

December 13, 2012, 10:10 AM
Here is an example between the very conservative Sierra Reloading Manual and the reality-based Lyman 49th Edition Manual which I spoke about in a previous post.

I wonder if Sierra's conservative load data has something to do with their using high % antimony lead for their cores.

December 13, 2012, 10:54 AM
IMO there are just so many uncontrollable and relatively unknown variables involved that reloading manuals have to be conservative. Chronographs are great tools but its easy to get caught up in numbers and speed. If everyone focused on cloverleafs instead of numbers I suspect it would be a much safer hobby.
After many years of testing and yes, overloading, I'm not near as brave as I once was. Maximum accuracy & terminal performance with maximum loads seldom go hand in hand and aren't worth the wear and tear on equipment or the personal risks.

December 13, 2012, 11:26 AM
Back when Barnes first introduced their X bullet (around 1989), I was attempting to work up an elk load for my Ruger #1 in 300 Win Mag. I quickly noted that a load which was perfectly safe using 180 grain Noslers, resulted in difficult extraction with the x bullets. I surmised that this was due to increased bearing area in the all copper x bullet (significantly longer than the Nosler).
Conversely the new Barnes TTSX bullets can apparently be loaded hotter than a similar weight bullet from the other manufacturers due to the grooves cut in the shank

December 13, 2012, 11:51 AM
I really doubt if reloading manuals are "Lawyered" to the conservative side. Today's testing methods/data are much better than they were several years ago, resulting in some loads that are a bit lighter. I don't think the authors would down load data just incase somewhere out there an unsafe gun may have a "standard" load blow it up.

December 13, 2012, 12:03 PM
I wonder if Sierra's conservative load data has something to do with their using high % antimony lead for their cores.


High antimony doesn't seem to bother the Lyman folks, both load data use the Sierra MatchKing bullet. When Alliant's load data website used to list a .30-06 with the 190SMK, the load was at least 60.0gr of RL22.


December 13, 2012, 01:07 PM
I don't think so. For .38 Special 148gr LHBWC, my 1999 Winchester guide shows a range of 2.9-3.3gr of 231 powder.

Hodgdon's website has it listed as 3.5-4.0.

December 13, 2012, 01:27 PM
High antimony doesn't seem to bother the Lyman folks, both load data use the Sierra MatchKing bullet. When Alliant's load data website used to list a .30-06 with the 190SMK, the load was at least 60.0gr of RL22.

Don, I'm definitely with you and your methods for load development as described in the thread that 243winxb posted a link to, but I was curious about Sierra's rationale. The difference in load data from manual to manual doesn't surprise me given that loads are worked up in test barrels with transducers and not all test barrels or transducers are created (or calibrated) equal. SAAMI reference ammunition is supposed to create a level playing field but that's not to say that everyone is using it to calibrate their set ups. SAAMI has no power at all in the world of firearms and ammunition. Compliance with SAAMI specs is optional and few manufacturers are paying members of SAAMI.

December 13, 2012, 02:09 PM

Yeah, I'm with you regarding compliance with SAAMI specs. SAAMI merely gives an upper pressure limit that no manufacturer or reloading manual publisher will bump up to the edge of and I don't blame them for that. But listing perhaps a 53k psi or 54k psi load and calling it "Max" for a cartridge that SAAMI lists at 60k psi is just plain ridiculous.


Peter M. Eick
December 14, 2012, 01:34 PM
I am not an expert on materials and strengths, but just consider the problem. At one extreme if we were a powder maker testing loads we could set the pressure limit to be say 10% of SAAMI max and our lawyers would love it. Guns would last forever, blowups would be unlikely (assuming we get the bullet out the barrel) and we would have low liability for bad things since we could show we are very conservative and the data were "safe".

No suppose we set the pressure limit to be say 200% of SAAMI max. Proof loads basically. Ok, some guns will blow, some will take a few shots and wear badly and some would take it fine. Our lawyers would hate us and we would have a lot of liabilities and problems but boy our data would be quick.

Between the two end members is a continuum of options for us to consider. One choice may be to go to the SAAMI limit and then back it off a bit more. You know, 5% for every lawyer we have on retainer. That way we get go to say 70% of SAAMI spec. Ok, our Lawyers aren't pleased, but they can live with it. Now our problem is our customers who expect a bit more velocity and dang it, Chrono's are everywhere so they know if we are bs-ing them.

Well we could get a longer proof barrel to jack the velocities up. We could get a tight proof barrel and get the velocities up or we could raise pressures.

Lawyers just jumped in and said no to more pressure. So now we have our absolute pressure but it is below the SAAMI limit. What to do, what to do? Why not lower the SAAMI pressure limit. Then we can have the lower pressures, be close to SAAMI and we can say it was done for safety. That is a good idea!

That was a fun little story but in my mind, it is about what has happened to the 357 Magnum that used to go 1550 with a 158 out of an 8 3/8" barrel. Now the same gun will only do 1265. How come ammo from the 1930s/1940s will do right in the 1500 fps with a 158 and ammo today won't? Read the story above and you might get an idea what happened as a general concept.

Someone posted that the lowered the loads because they realized that they were closer to the material limits with a piezo then they could tell with a copper crusher. There is probably some truth to this, but then again, why load the data to the weakest gun out there? Why not maintain the standards and let the gun manufactures fix the problem?

Who knows if I am right or wrong, probably I am wrong, but I keep banging away using hot loads in certain guns that I am willing to "prematurely wear".

December 14, 2012, 10:28 PM
Anyone ever notice that the original factory load for the 270 Win was 3140fps with a 130gr bullet back in 1925! Now that is beyond the max load in most manuals? Did our advances in materials and propellents step us back instead of forward? Someone once told me that they dumbed down the 270 to sell more magnum cartrages, I don't know if that is true or not but it seems suspect.

December 15, 2012, 02:56 AM
Why not maintain the standards and let the gun manufactures fix the problem?The did maintain the standards. What they found was that the loads were in some cases greatly exceeding the standards set forth. The guns, even the weakest one, was built around those standards. The problem was the loads and that is what was fixed.

If you enjoyed reading about "Are modern reloading manulas too conservative?" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!