Rifle cartridge reloading


February 6, 2003, 11:56 AM
I have been reloading for straightwall handgun cartridges (38Spec and 357mag) for about 3 years now. With my recent purchase of a Winchester chambered in 6.5x55, I need to start reloading for a bottlenecked rifle round.

My current equipment:
Lee Turret Press with 4 Station upgrade
RCBS Balance Beam scale
Lee Carbide Dies with Rollcrimp die and autodisk powder measure (I have the adjustable charge die as well)
Lyman case trimmer
Access to a chronograph

What dies should I go with for the 6.5x55? I'm happy with the Lee dies for the 38/357, but are they adequate in the rifle arena as well? Also, I plan to use used brass from factory loads fired in my gun. That means I shouldn't need a full length sizer for the time being, right? If neck-sizing I shouldn't have to lube the cases, right? I don't compete, so there's no need for expensive, uberprecise dies.

Lastly, got any load recommendations? I'm shooting (no pun intended) for a 140gr bullet at 2500-2800fps. I could also use some bullet recommendations. I will be hunting deer with this load but will also like to do some target shooting with it as well (nothing formal).


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February 6, 2003, 04:01 PM
Chris, I am not real familiar with the Lee turret press, but the inexpensive Lee(Challenger) press should work for what you want to do.
Let us know how many cartridges you plan on loading (approx), if you plan on adding other rifle calibers etc. This will help in trying to steer you right.

I have Lee rifle dies and like them. I was given the Lee RGB dies in .223 and load my AR with them and have no problems. I also use some RCBS, again no problems. Most dies on the market will work ok. You can neck size with full length dies by doing some adjustments on the die in the press.It is good to have a full length die to eventually get your brass back into shape. I hunt with only full length sized cases to make sure of positive feeding. I have done some neck sizing only when I was into bench shooting and minor competition, and did see some improvement, but not enough to mess with it for hunting loads. Hunting loads should be fully functional to start and then accuracy would be the 2nd criteria.

Anyway lets us know what you want to accomplish in a little more detail and you'll get all kinds of answers.--------Chainsaw

February 6, 2003, 04:54 PM
I'm already loading for the 38 Special and 357Magnum on my Turret press. I am going to add 6.5x55 any day now. In the future, I may add the 3006.

My only goal is to create relatively inexpensive 6.5x55 ammo that is tailor made to my rifle and hunting needs.

I'm just not sure about the neck sizing vs full length sizing, lubing, etc or what dies are best for rifle loading (this ammo will only be shot in my gun). If I neck size with the full length dies, do I still need to lube the cases?

Once I find a load that works for me, I'll probably load 200 to start and add a box or two to the hoard as I have time.


February 6, 2003, 05:02 PM
Get some Lee RGB dies for $10. You can adjust the Lee dies so that they barely touch the shoulder of the cartridge, in effect nearly duplicating a neck sizing die that gives good accuracy, yet offering a little bit more sizing in order to ensure accurate operation. They'll work fine in the Lee turret. My dad uses Lee dies in a Lee turret for 30/06,7mm-08 and .223. We used to load 6.5x55 on one (first cartridge I reloaded-back when you could only get Norma brass!)
Lubing rifle cases is not that bad. Spray lube is quick and easy, as is the RCBS oil lube and case rolling pad. Spray is alittle more costly, but faster. RCBS lube is dirt cheap, and still quicker than Lee's lube,Imperial sizing wax,etc.
For bullets, I recommend all boxed brands, as well as the economical 6.5mm bullets available as remington or winchester bulk components from vendors such as midwayusa.
For powder, I believe we used IMR4350 quite a bit, but it was years ago. Check websites and data manuals for better info on the best powders.

February 6, 2003, 05:16 PM
Word of caution. Loading the rifle cases on the turret press won't allow you to use the turret operation. Just trust me on this, but what you get is the turret trying to index before the case mouth has cleared the decapping pin on the resizing die.

For 6.5mm bullets I would recommend Sierra GameKings. I use the 140 gr (I think it's the only GK bullet in 6.5mm) in my .260. Should be no trick to get 2500-2800 fps with your 6.5x55mm. My only load for the .260 pushes those slugs just a few fps shy of 2600 fps. (2588 if you want to split hairs). Gives me sub-MOA performance on demand.

Good luck with your ventures into rifle reloading. Don't be too worried, it isn't as hard as it looks.

February 6, 2003, 05:57 PM
You can index the turret by hand. No biggie.

If it's a bolt-action rifle, try the Lee collet dies - I use 'em for my critter guns.

February 6, 2003, 08:40 PM

Yeah, I forgot about that. That's how my dad loads his 7.5 MAS ammo. Been a while since that show!

February 6, 2003, 09:18 PM
Thanks guys. You guys are reinforcing what I had already thought. This is good, it means I'm on the right track.

re: turret press; I already turn it by hand. The auto-index never seemed to work as smoothly as manual operation.

As far as powders go, 4350 is definately one I was considering, but how is H414 in comparison? It sounds like it would flow through the meter easier.


February 6, 2003, 11:34 PM
Chris, H414 is an excellent powder. I load .243 Win-.284 Win. and 30-06 with this powder. It does meter great thru my RCBS powder measure. Good velocities and accuracy.

I have switched all my reloading over to "ball type" powders such as AA#2-BLC-2- W748-H414 and milsurps WC846 and WC872. I really like the performance also. If you hunt/shoot in a cool climate like I do, you can use a magnum primer with these powders as well.----------------chainsaw

February 7, 2003, 08:59 AM

I have never used 414, but I have used quite a bit of H4350 feeding my .260 Rem. My recipe, in the smaller case, is 41 gr H4350 under a 140 gr GameKing, touched off by a WLP primer, packed into a Remington case. This is good for 2588 fps, which is close enough to my 2600 fps goal I don't feel the need to go to max powder charge.

For me it was very easy to make a 6.5mm round shoot well. Hope this holds true for you! Either way, it is kind of fun.

Mr Bill
February 7, 2003, 11:40 PM
I would suggest refraining from making 200 rounds all at once to start. I'm concerned you may make 200 rounds that will cause you frustration by not patterning/performing well.

I've found experimenting with 5 or 6 rounds each with same powder charge and free-bore to with evaluating accuracy is more efficient. Load 20 to 30 rounds in goups of 5 or 6 with same powder charge and different free-bore (seating depth), adjust the free-bore in .005" to .010 increments from one group to the next. You may discover that your rifle will show preference for a particular free-bore. I don't recommend you start with the bullet against the lands unless your loading to the lowest listed powder charge in your manual. Starting between .015 and .020" free-bore and seat incrementally deeper to around .040 or .050" or maybe .060" free-bore.

If you'd want to establish velocity first then don't be to particular about trying to achieve tight groups at first. Start with about a .020" free-bore then after you've established a powder charge for your desired velocity, then experiment with adjusting the free-bore. Try to keep a record or journal of the results of each loading along with your load data so you can refer to it to determing when the load improves (pattern converges) and when it gets worse(pattern diverges). You may see some changes in pattern size with the different weight charges. This is a clue to what the rifle likes the charge to be at that particular free-bore. I don't recomend you try to keep this information in your head. Keep your notes simple and it's not hard to do or maintain. You may find a reloading and ballistic software helpful to keep this record with. There are some relatively good ones available on the net as share and free ware. They may also help to establish your point blank aim and or trajectory table while sighting in.

Even though I have a Dillon progressive, I seldom use it as one for loading rilfe rounds. I typically size, deprime and prime the respective brass first, then drop and weigh each charge (afterward looking over into each brass to get a visual on each charge) and finish by seating the bullets. My simple mind finds it easier to keep track and stay focused on one phase at a time. I do use it as a progressive when loading 38s, 357s and 45 handgun rounds because the powder throws are a lot more consistant and I find loading them to be simpler.

IMR4350 is a good choice. Regarding extruded powders, I feel IMR 4831 feeds better, more consistantly, through my Dillon 550s metering bar. I think the sticks are a little shorter and narrower and results in less bridging. I also use W760 and have also tried H414 and they are about the same but not quite. Although I'm not saying W760 is any better, I like it only slightly better than H414. If you select a ball powder you may want to use 'hotter' primers as mentioned earlier regarding magnum primers in cold tempuratures. I get a slight bit increase in velocity with WLRM's over WLR's but not enough to get excited about. The older supply of WLR's I have are considered a hotter primer.
I select my starting powder based upon is potential to fill the case capacity.

If you choose to get a neck size die, from my experience I suggest also get a full length die too. Eventually you want to bump the shoulder a little so they chamber easy again. You can use the full lenght die to partially size the neck and not touch the shoulder and wall by not setting it as far down as the instrutions say for full lenght sizing. Yes I always lube the case regardless, keeps the process consistant. I recently stuck a case in a die, first time in ten years of loading, it's very frustrating to say the least. I size about 2/3's of the neck which is enough to support the bullet and still maintains the case to chamber relation after forming. Somewhere between the 4th and 10th firing you'll find full sizing again every so often will help. Watch your depriming pin and expansion ball rod adustment. As for crimping, it's your choice but, to keep the variables limited I don't recommend it at first, get the powder charge and free-bore established first before experimenting with crimping.

Bullet choice; Sierra's Game King and Nosler BT are typically accurate bullets however, for hunting might try Remington Core Lokt, Speer, Sierra Pro Hunter, Hornady Interlock bullets, Nosler Partitions, listed in no particular order. My experience with a 7mm 140 grain Noster BT produced great accuracy from my rifle however, at 50 yards with a 2600 to 2700 fps velocity the bullet performed successful on a deer but the post mortem was disconcerting. The bullet completely fragmented upon striking bone. The result could best be described as liking to an M80 exploding in the deers chest cavity, with no exit wound. Since then I have leaned toward Speer Grand Slams and Remington Core Lokt for hunting but, they are also inherently not as accurate. If you were sure your game shot was going to be greater than 100 yards then the balistic tips should be fine. Experiment until you find a bullet your rifle patterns well or better than others and that your budget will support.

That's all I can think of at the moment regarding suggestions based upon my experiences. Good luck and happy loading.

February 7, 2003, 11:45 PM

Reloading dies are a lifetime investment. The best is always a bargain regardless of initial cost.

I would strongly recommend that you get Redding dies. Second choice would be either RCBS or Lyman.

You'll never regret buying quality.

Whatever you get, I would recommend that you get both a full length and neck sizing die.

I like H414, 760 and BlC2 powders in these medium capacity cases.

If you use Remington 9 1/2 standard large rifle primers, they will light off these powders with no problems. You won't need magnum primers.

Mr Bill
February 7, 2003, 11:51 PM
What Cheygriz says.

February 8, 2003, 12:32 AM
I would suggest refraining from making 200 rounds all at once to start. I'm concerned you may make 200 rounds that will cause you frustration by not patterning/performing well.

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that I would start off with 200 immediately. I want to load a large batch AFTER I develop a good load.

I understand dies are a lifetime investment. However, I've been well served by my Lee dies and wanted to find out how different brands stack up. The info in catalogs doesn't give much help. On paper, I didn't see much difference between Lee and RCBS. I'll check into Redding.


February 8, 2003, 08:10 PM
I have not used the turret press myself but my brother had problems with his when he reloaded .223 ammo. The problem was bent (out of alignment) cases due to the flex in the quick change turret. He never had any problems with pistol ammo but the bottle neck cases gave him fits.

He bought a Lee "O" style press and solved his problem. Watch the results on yours and have fun!


February 9, 2003, 12:00 AM
I load 6.5x55 (4 rifles) use Lee and RCBS dies,I do not see any difference in the dies.Have fun.

Bob F.
November 3, 2003, 12:13 AM
Still working up a pet load for 6.5x55. 100gr Sierra HP, 120 Nosler BT, 129gr Hornady Interlock, 140gr Hornady SST. H-380, IMR 4350, H4831, IMR-4831, & IMR-4895 so far. Several good groups but lacking consistency. Only "blood" so far is a groundhog (neck shot @ 125yds-tail didn't even twitch!). Think I'd like the 120 Nos BT on deer and coyotes.

Good advice from Mr Bill. Seating depth should make a big difference in your Mod 70. I'm shooting a 96 Mauser so the case would have to be twice as long to get .020" freebore! Those sucker have LONG throats!!

Been upgrading-new trigger, better scope, etc. Nice round, just needs a better shooter here. Shot one 0.776" 3 shot group @ 100yds yesterday. I have some case length issues I'm trying to figure out. Some say trim allto same length no matter how short! Dunno?!

Glassman-'nother hillbilly here!

Stay safe!

Mike Irwin
November 3, 2003, 01:54 AM
Good lord, Bob!

You really dove back into the archives to respond to that one! :)

Chris has been load-developing for his 6.5 for some months now, and it seems that he's really zeroing in on a good load.

Really testing for accuracy is proving to be a chore for him as there aren't too many good rifle ranges for 100 yard shooting in the DC metro area, and his rifle rest isn't the best (I keep yipping at him about it... :) ).

Better hurry and finalize those loads, Chris. Hunting season is neigh upon us!

Bob F.
November 3, 2003, 07:15 AM
Mike: yeah, I dug back but it didn't take long to get a response. Now if Chris and others would come back with pet loads....

Used up my 4350 and since I've traded off my .270 thought I'd spring for a canof 3031, unless someone has a better suggestion. Seems like everyone has their own favorite. May try another pound of H-380, man, that meters nice!

Chris might have to come visit. We have a 100yds "all-purpose" range and a hi-power with 200, 300, & 500yd berms!! Gotta 24" steel disc at 500yds. Burn up all my spare rds slamming it, that's a hoot!!!

My rest is a 8"x8"x 16" wood block and some homemade sandbags. Pretty solid but not optimum, just cheap!

November 3, 2003, 08:39 AM
Wow, blast from the past...

The loads I've used so far are plenty accurate for the distances at which I hunt, but being a perfectionist, I keep chasing better ones. I started seating the bullets out further too. That made a big difference.

This is likely going to be my last pound of IMR 4350. The stuff does not meter well. I'm also experiencing random fliers that screw up my groups. At first, I thought it was just me, but I've read the same online more than once. It seems to be an issue in the 6.5x55 and 120-140gr bullets with 4350. I want to try H380 next, but not until after hunting season...

Anyway, I'm going to the range again today at lunch. I have a 140gr Gameking over 43.5gr IMR 4350 that looked promising last time, the same bullet over 44gr, and Hornady's 129gr Interlock over 45.5 (the few loads I found were in the 45 to 46gr range) that is totally new for me.

My 140/42.5 does reasonably well. The last time I got to shoot at 100yds, I shot a 5 shot group that had a 3 shot cluster of less than an inch and two fliers that stretched the group to just over 1.5".


Mike Irwin
November 3, 2003, 11:44 AM
Those fliers were probably from dodging the brass that David's .308 was shucking your way. :)

Have you considered fire lapping your barrel?

You're also going to find that none of the extruded stick powders in the IMR line will meter very well in a Lee powder measure.

If you want truly repeatable charges, you'll have to go to something like a short-cut powder, or get away from the extruded sticks altogether.

A lot of people swear by Winchester 748, but I've just never been that impressed with it.

If I were going to be reloading rifle cartridges these days, I'd probably stick with an IMR powder, set the measure (I have an RCBS Uniflow for IMR stick powders) low, and trickle it up to weight.

In fact, that's the way I used to do it. :)

November 3, 2003, 11:49 AM
No kidding. I was 6 feet away and still got hit by the occasional shell. No problem though.

I don't want to firelap the barrel until I've convinced myself it's not a load issue. I have a firelapping kit somewhere...


November 3, 2003, 02:23 PM
I went to the range during lunch and tried my new handloads.

I started with the 140gr/43.5gr 4350 and shot a 3 shot group that is mighty close to .5" at 50yds, dead center and just under an inch higher than POA.

Same bullet with 44gr 4350 shot 3 rounds into about .75-1" and was over 1" high at 50yds.

129gr Hornady Interlock over 45.5gr 4350 was 1" high and grouped at .75" with 3 shots.

After going back and forth and not doing any better, I tried the first load again. It grouped 3 into .75" with a hot barrel (this gun shoots poorly when hot). Still good. My final group was an under 1" 5 shot group with a very hot barrel (can't hold your hand on it, but won't sizzle water).

The best part about the first load is that it shoots exactly where I want it and is much more consistant than the others.


Bob F.
November 3, 2003, 04:09 PM
Looks like I might have to buy another lb of 4350! That H-380 meters GREAT!! I think that's what put the Sierra 100gr HP into .75". Whatduyuknobout Reloader 15?

November 3, 2003, 04:19 PM
Never used RL15. Actually, IMR 4350 is the only rifle powder I've used. Even if the results are good, I'm interested in finding another powder. I get 2/10 grain variation from charge to charge unless I use the powder measure to get close and a trickler to "top off". That's what I did for the loads I shot today.

After the holidays, I may pick up several powders and see what they can do.


Mike Irwin
November 3, 2003, 04:23 PM
As I said the other day, Chris...

You know what a 3 shot group tells you?

It tells you that you need to fire two more shots.... :D

November 3, 2003, 04:30 PM
Yeah, but those extra two shots usually depress me.

Besides, that skinny featherweight barrel just doesn't handle heat well at all. I think 3shot groups are going to show me what the gun is capable of in field conditions.


Bob F.
November 3, 2003, 05:07 PM
Often I'll take a .22 plinker and a couple handguns so I can mess around waiting for the barrel to cool. Don't have the patients to take a 1/2 hour to shoot a five shot group, usually forget what I was doing by then!

November 3, 2003, 06:55 PM
I normally take something else as well, but this was to be a short trip during lunch. I didn't want to tote a bunch with me.

BTW, I used a micrometer to measure my groups. My best was a .45" group with the 43.5gr load. I also shot a 5shot .7" group with the same load after 30 shots and a hot barrel.

Target on the left with dime is 3shot .45" group. Target on right with quarter is 5shot .7" group with hot barrel.



Mike Irwin
November 3, 2003, 08:08 PM
"Yeah, but those extra two shots usually depress me."

I suggest you shoot one shot groups, then. VERY small. :)

November 3, 2003, 08:41 PM
Hey, if that first shot is always exactly where you want it, then what do addtional shots prove? I only need one to kill a deer :neener:


Bob F.
November 4, 2003, 07:53 AM
Super shooting, Chris! I'm jealous!

November 4, 2003, 10:28 AM


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