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Evaluating reloads? (Newbie has questions)

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Bobarian, Aug 8, 2013.

  1. Bobarian

    Bobarian New Member

    Nov 11, 2012
    Republic of Texas
    Greetings, comrades.

    I've just fired my very first batch of rounds that I reloaded myself (9mm). Happy to report that I've still got both eyes and all my fingers.

    So the bullets came out of the correct end of the gun and hit the target, but beyond that, what do I want to evaluate? I know that I need to examine the spent cases for evidence of gas leaks, cratered primers, swelled case heads and splits.

    When you're working up a load, how do you decide when you've got it dialed in? Is there some rule of thumb for shot group at certain distance?

    Or should I just beg the Spousal Unit to let me buy a chronograph?
  2. Osageid

    Osageid New Member

    May 7, 2012
    Chrony good start

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
  3. 243winxb

    243winxb Mentor

    Jul 7, 2004
    Hopewell Big Woods
    A good way to evaluate reloads is use a Bullseye target. The slow fire score fired with a 9mm should be almost as good as a 22lr pistol. [​IMG] If you have a 22lr?
  4. James2

    James2 Active Member

    Nov 27, 2009
    Northern Utah
    Well, a chrony if you wish, however, Not necessary. Some enjoy shooting over a chrony and more power to them if that makes their day. I have never felt the need for one.

    Does your ammo load and shoot reliably? Cycle the action? Look good on paper?
    In working up a load, I am likely to load 5 each of 5 different ascending loads then go shoot. Look at the primers for problems. Look at how clean they burned. See how they felt. At some point you are going to say, hey, these are doing what I want. Then you will want to load a few more and test for accuracy. Is there really any spot to stop all this? Probably not, but we can reach a spot where we can say, these are doing what I want.

    When I get a load worked up that is doing what I want it matters not to me how fast its going. The load manuals give me an idea what to expect and that is close enough for me.

    For a rule of thumb: Enjoy yourself doing it!!!
  5. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Senior Elder

    Nov 25, 2006
    Northeast PA, USA
    I have to disagree strongly with you. Using a Chrono is not like plating with a toy for enjoyment, it's a very good tool for reloading. You can see if the load you're loading is generating too much velocity or see if enough velocity is being generated to reliably expand the bullet you're using. There is much more but those are just 2 of the reasons to use a Chrono when reloading.
  6. Bovice

    Bovice Participating Member

    Sep 27, 2009
    Fire your first shot into a safe backstop. If you're extraordinarily overpressure, a chrono isn't gonna save you here. Did it cycle the action?
    If yes, shoot over a chronograph next. 5 minimum for me. Do you see numbers you expected?
    If yes, try shooting a group at increasing distances. I start close and go out to 15 yards. If it's going to be used for match shooting, I'll try it on the plate rack at the full distance of the action bay to see if it works.
    If yes, keep the load data.

    If at any point you cannot answer "yes" to these questions, it's back to the drawing board.

    PACKIN' PLASTIC New Member

    Nov 2, 2003
    You don't really need a chronograph, the powder company will give you load data and you will usually get good results from a near max load and normal FMJ bullet.

    What I would focus on is dimensional issues: poorly seated primers, bulged casings, wrong bullet seating depth or too little/too much crimp.

    Use a case gauge, a set of dial calipers and your eyes to compare your rounds to a quality factory cartridge. Drop your factory cartridge in the case gauge, it could drop in and stop hard on the case mouth then fall back out under it's own weight when you dump it out. If your reloads stick in the gauge or won't go in all the way or sink down past the chamber then you have a problem.

    Your primers should be unsmashed and slightly deeper than flush exactly like a factory round. High primers can cause misfires and slamfires.

    Your bullet should be straight, uncrushed and set no deeper than the loading manual gives as a minimum. You can usually go taller/higher and many people simply match a similar factory round in overall length. Also you need to be sure all your rounds are close to the same height, you will get a few thou in variance but you should not see a large difference or progressively getting deeper, with Lee dies I find they tend to work their way deeper which is dangerous.

    Granted you aren't going to go through all this with every round you ever make but this is how you make sure everything is going as it should. I do suggest visually checking all your primers and if you should ever need to rely on your reloads for serious purposes then go ahead and gauge every one.

    If you are using mixed range brass then sorting it carefully to remove military stuff and damaged or wrong caliber casings will make your life easier and improve the quality of your reloads. Some people sort by headstamp but with 9X19 I think you can load all the US commercial brass together and get decent results.

  8. Reloadron

    Reloadron Mentor

    Jul 6, 2012
    Cleveland, Ohio USA
    Congratulations on your first batch of rolling your own. Coming away will all your extremities is a good start and having the gun remain in one piece is also nice. :)

    How did the bullets group on the target? Personally when working up a new load I like to shoot off a rest. My concern is how consistent my loads are and how accurate they are. That done I do exactly as you have done and inspect the fired brass. How did the gun feel when firing it? If you have fired factory ammunition it had a "feel" to it as to recoil. How did your loads feel?

    Depending on the gun and cartridge you start with a safe load and work up. During this process see what your groups are doing? Do they get smaller? Do the get larger? Continuously look at your spent brass for the signs mentioned earlier. Use a good easy to read target as suggested by 243winxb.

    The subject of a chronograph comes up all the time. The general consensus is always about the same. A chronograph is a nice to have. Hand loaders have been rolling their own very safe and accurate ammunition long before chronographs were available and affordable for the hand loader. I have one and do use it sometimes, mostly with my rifle ammunition I load and sometimes to compare factory ammunition for consistency. I seldom use it for handgun unless I am curious about something with a load. So my opinion falls into the nice to have but not at all necessary or required for making good, safe and accurate ammunition.

    Load on and enjoy....
  9. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    Did they cycle the gun well, eject properly and consistently, were they accurate, were they at a recoil level/feel that is pleasant for you?

    If so, your golden, if close, tweak the charge a tenth or two and see if it improves.
  10. Bobarian

    Bobarian New Member

    Nov 11, 2012
    Republic of Texas
    Thanks, guys. That's a lot of good advice to process. I didn't intent to start a religious war WRT the chronograph. I have to admit that my inner techno-geek is quite enamoured with that gadget.

    OAL for all rounds was consistent. I don't have a case gauge, but I removed the barrel from my pistol and did the "thunk test", using a factory round for comparison. And Mrs. Bobarian did a visual inspection and could not tell factory from reload.

    The pistol (M&P Shield) cycled perfectly, but I did not think to pay attention to case ejection. I also had a factory round in the magazine, and noticed no difference when it was fired.

    Shooting from a rest is excellent advice. I was so nervous with my very first batch that I was all over the paper, so my grouping is meaningless.

    Sounds like I need to make up a few more test batches before I commit to reloading a hundred rounds.
  11. witchhunter

    witchhunter Participating Member

    Aug 29, 2012
    Lassen County, California
    It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your reloads. Cheaper or better. If it is better, more accurate, more penetration, explosive results etc, then you must run tests for that maxim. In example if you are looking for accuracy, shoot a baseline with factory loads then try all options, powder, primer, bullets seating depth, crimp. keep accurate records. Chronograph are a valuable tool. Use consistant techniques for all tests. Just doing this you will shoot more and become more aware and efficient with your gun. Keep it clean for best results.
  12. blarby

    blarby Mentor

    Feb 25, 2011
    Calapooia Oregon

    While its true you don't really Need one, I do disagree with generic pressure BBL data. It des not track well with real world data.

    Thats the first barometer I would use.

    And that would be my second.

    After that, its a matter of repeatability.

    Thats a good test- both the first, and the second... Especially if its her gun :D

    Thats ok, we do it weekly it seems, anyway. New folks show up with new ideas, old folks remember they had accounts and log back in, it makes for quite the potpurri.

    Here, here !

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