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What is your process for working up a load?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by -Gadsden-, May 10, 2014.

  1. -Gadsden-

    -Gadsden- New Member

    Mar 11, 2013
    New Hampshire
    Seems like everyone has their own preference for how they proceed with a new load, or improve an existing load.

    Being somewhat new to the hobby and now that I'm comfortable with the basics, I'm interested in the methodologies that have worked well for other reloaders in narrowing down all the choices you have and applying that to make effective ammunition for whatever task is at hand.

    I'd love to hear others' processes to see how I can improve mine!
  2. oldfortyfiveauto

    oldfortyfiveauto Member

    Mar 9, 2008
    Assuming you are talking about rifles please do a search on ladder loads. This is the quickest and easiest way to an accurate load.
  3. rchery59

    rchery59 New Member

    Jan 12, 2013
    I only load handgun so take this for what it's worth. Using published data I start low, 5 rounds at a time.I increase the charge untill I get to max. I use a chonograph and sand bags .I shoot the light stuff, keep moving up till I get the desired results with accuracy, gun function and velocity. I watch for pressure signs all the way.Any pressure signs I stop there. With revolvers function gets taken off the table.
    It can be time consuming and take a few trips to the range, I'm OK with that.
    Once I find the sweet spot I load up a bunch and have at it. If it's a semi auto I'll load all of them at once. Revolvers I might load all but usually not.
  4. jwrowland77

    jwrowland77 Senior Member

    Apr 8, 2012
    Central Arkansas
    I mainly shoot rifle. I'm always looking for the most accurate. Even hunting ammo, I want three shot single hole groups, cloverleaf at worst. Normally what I'll do once I find the load data I'm looking for is I'll workup in .3gr. I generally start off with my bullet .03 off the lands.

    Let's say I have a range of 42-45.7. My workup looks like this. 42,42.5,43,43.3,43.6,43.9,44.2,44.5,44.8,45.1,45.4,45.7. I shoot three bullets in each load. I'll take the top 3 and normally load ten of each and go from there and find the best one. It's worked out pretty good for me so far.

    Pistol plinking loads, I go about one thirds up the load range and call it good. Pistol accuracy loads, I'll do a proper workup, starting with minimum load and working up to max in .2gr increments.

    Revolver, I've only done one load, and I do the same as my rifle. Only difference is I work up from min to max in .3gr increments from the beginning. No .5gr jumps in the beginning.
    Last edited: May 11, 2014
  5. silicosys4

    silicosys4 Senior Member

    Jun 29, 2012
    For me it depends on my goals and for the type of gun.

    If I want a good range or plinking load for semi auto handguns I start about 3/4 up the listed charge weight range, then work my way down by 0.2 grain increments until I get the lightest load that is decently accurate, has minimal leading, and chambers/cycles through everything....which runs the gamut from a glock 19 to a blowback uzi. This meant a light crimp and a midrange load for me. Unfortunately I have had to increase my 9mm plinking load charge weight by 0.2 grains since I picked up the uzi.

    For the rare times I make up some self defense loads with commercial hp's, I start about halfway through the listed range of charge weights and go up to max using a chronograph until I get the highest velocity average with reasonable accuracy, which usually ends up being a few tenths of a grain under max charge weight.

    For revolver plinking loads, I use the same method as semi auto plinking loads but don't have to worry about my revolver rounds having to cycle a wide range of guns like my semi autos, so I will usually end up close to minimum charge weight for plinking loads unless I'm loading for a magnum.
    If I'm loading for my magnum revolvers, plinking loads are loaded in the magnum range.
    For magnum plinking loads I start low in the range of listed charge weights, and work towards finding a midrange magnum load that doesn't lead and has the best accuracy. When I'm loading for magnum plinking loads, I use home cast bullets so bullet hardness and powder types are also something to tweak to prevent leading, much more so than non magnum revolver loads.

    Magnum revolver self defense loads are kind of counterintuitive. I try to find something with reasonable recoil and good velocity and accuracy, so I start somewhat high and go lower until I find the lowest recoiling load that still develops magnum velocity and reasonable accuracy. For me this ended up being a 158 grain xtp at 1150fps from a 3" sp101 in .357 magnum, or a 240 grain xtp at about 1100fps from a 2 3/4" .44 magnum. Both are significant upgrades over their "special" counterparts while still having manageable recoil.

    My attempts at developing rifle loads so far have been mediocre and have consisted of various charge weights with a few types of bullets and powders. So far I can match factory ammo for accuracy with surplus pulled bullets and once fired cases but am not making match grade ammo by any means. Since I'm loading for an FAL I am happy that I can consistently hit a 6 inch target at 200 yards, lol.
    I look forward to having the time to develop loads for my bolt guns with good brass and closed base bullets.
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
  6. -Gadsden-

    -Gadsden- New Member

    Mar 11, 2013
    New Hampshire
    great tips guys :)
  7. witchhunter

    witchhunter Participating Member

    Aug 29, 2012
    Lassen County, California
    I pick the bullet that I want to use, determined by my intended use. For instance, pdogs and a .223. I want to shoot a 40 grain Vmax. I set my seating die to start around .015 off the lands. I pick a powder that gives good velocity, then I start with a low to medium weight. I load 9 of each weight going up by .5 grain 9 at 24, 9 at 24.5 etc.
    I shoot 3 each 3 shot groups of each weight. Average the groups. When I find a half grain weight that shoot well, I load 9 each of .1 or .2 grains and do it again until I find the perfect weight. Then I adjust seating depth to fine tune by .005, 9 each. 3 each 3 shot groups. You can usually see the groups getting bigger or smaller as you progress incrementally. All this shooting over a chrono looking for low average velocity and SD. Sounds like a lot of work, but it pays off with a pdog gun that shoots bug holes all day. My latest 223 load workup, I tried several powders and several bullets, but it shoots one hole groups.
  8. ImjinScout85

    ImjinScout85 New Member

    Jan 2, 2013
    Here is what I did the other day when working up a new load for my 9mm with new to me powder. The powder range was 3.9 to 4.5grs. and I have 2 9mm pistols that I load for. I loaded 20 rounds each with 4.0, 4.2, and then 4.4grs, this gives me 10 shots for each gun with the different charge weights. I only load for plinking and don't have access to a chrony so I go by accuracy and felt recoil and make notes on the targets to how the round performed. Once I find what I like best and works in both pistols I'm good to go.
  9. Oldman1151

    Oldman1151 Member

    Mar 6, 2013
    Which load did you find most accurate?
  10. noylj

    noylj Participating Member

    Jul 27, 2007
    1 establish max COL that will fit magazine, feed, and chamber
    2 reduce COL by turning seating stem down ½ to 1 turn
    3 check at least two different manuals for lowest starting load for given powder and. Bullet weight.
    4 load 10 rounds at this starting load and increment charge weights up to just below highest max load, so you have 10 rounds at each charge weight increment
    5 buy a box of factory loads of that bullet weight
    6 shoot 10 rounds of factory and note felt recoil, location of ejected cases, primer appearance, and case expansion at widest point on cases (about ¼" above extractor groove)
    7 shoot two 5-shot groups at each charge weight and note same variables as factory
    8 continue shooting and determine range of charge weights for smallest groups and be sure not to exceed noted value for each pressure variable
  11. ImjinScout85

    ImjinScout85 New Member

    Jan 2, 2013
    The 4.4grs. was the best and most accurate
  12. chief99

    chief99 New Member

    Feb 7, 2014
    Jacksonville N.C.
    40 s&w oal

    Another rookie question. Loading 40 cal. 165 gr. Berrys copper plated. My Lee and Lyman manuals have OAL as 1.225, the lowest I have seen in the Lyman is 1.085 , that is for jacketed rounds. Some of the factory loads are as low as 1.oo9 and are not consistent. Don't understand. I'm loading 4.7 grs. of bullseye . Keep seeing threads about loading for accuracy. Mostly practice at 21 ft. Sometimes shoot a 2 in. group and sometimes it looks like I'm shooting a shotgun. So I believe that's just my shooting skills and not the bullet. Very frustrating. How do you learn to shoot more accurate.
  13. sappyg

    sappyg Participating Member

    Nov 6, 2010
    South Carolina
    Load work up process

    Here is mine;

    1. What am I trying to accomplish?
    2. What components do I have available?
    3. DANG.... Don't have that.
    4. Plan B... Because I don't have whatever component desired
    5. Reference several sources
    6. More confused than ever now
    7. Agonize over 2/10 a grain forever
    8. Take a leap of faith and load a batch
    9. Shoot em
    10. Start the process all over again

    It works for me.
  14. bds

    bds Elder

    Jan 10, 2010
    Northwest Coast
    Hopefully my post answers some of your questions. You may need to start new threads to discuss rest of the questions not answered.

    I load for multiple pistols and this is what I use for new pistol bullet/powder work up. Since I shoot at indoor ranges where I cannot set up a chrono, I use the accuracy trends as my guide.

    1. Resize and chamber check cases to be used for the work up in the tightest barrel to ensure they all drop in the chamber and fall out freely. This way, when the dummy rounds (no powder/no primer) don't fully chamber, you'll "know" it's not from improper resizing of the case.

    2. Determine max OAL. Using the barrel drop test outlined in Walkalong's thread, I use the shortest max OAL from all the barrels I have - http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=506678

    3. Determine working OAL. Starting with the max OAL from step #2 or length limited by the magazine (whichever is shorter), I incrementally decrease the length until the dummy rounds reliably feed/chamber from the magazine for all the pistols. (Note: I found the same bullet nose profile like RN from different manufacturers will have different "ogive" that may result in different working OAL. For 40S&W, depending on the barrel, your working OAL may be longer than SAAMI max of 1.135")

    4. Identify load data and start/max charges. Using the working OAL from step #3, for the same bullet type (jacketed/plated/lead/Moly/etc.), nose profile (same nose profile or similar to focus on bullet seating depth) and bullet weight (being off by 1 gr like 124 vs 125 is OK as most bullets vary by that much or more), I reference all available published load data from powder/bullet manufacturers and utilize the most conservative start/max charges for the initial range test. For semi-auto pistol loads, if I am using faster than W231/HP-38 powders and/or using shorter than published OAL (or deeper bullet seating depth), I may consider using .2-.3 gr below published start charge as my start charge and to identify light recoil target loads.

    5. Conduct powder work up/range test. Load 10-20 rounds of each .2-.3 gr incremental loads and shoot 5 round shot groups at 7-10 yards while monitoring accuracy trends. In my notes, I will identify which powder charges started to reliably cycle the slide/extracted/ejected spent cases. If I have any pressure concerns at a particular powder charge, I will stop my range test.

    6. Review range test results and repeat range test. Identify the powder charges that produced the most accurate shot groups and "fine tune" by loading smaller increment (.1-.2 gr) loads and repeat range test to verify accuracy trends. I will subsequently test the most accurate loads at longer distances of 15-25 yards and may test higher powder charges (based on initial range tests/if higher charges were not tested) at later range trips.

    7. Custom tailor loads for accuracy. If I want to enhance the accuracy of the load for the particular pistol/barrel than the shortest working OAL I used to work with all the pistols, I will test longer working OAL for that pistol/barrel.

    This will definitely require a new thread discussion and covered in depth in multiple threads in "Handguns: Autoloader" category - http://www.thehighroad.org/forumdisplay.php?f=33

    A quick tip to improve your range test accuracy for new bullet/powder work up is to dry fire while watching the front sight. If the front sight moves/jumps when the hammer/striker is released, practice dry firing until the front sight doesn't move. You may want to search for threads that cover polishing trigger contact surfaces to smooth out/break in your trigger.
    Last edited: May 13, 2014

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