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Can you provide advice on efficient load testing?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by coloradokevin, Sep 6, 2009.

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  1. coloradokevin

    coloradokevin Member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Okay, so I've been reloading for a couple of years now, but my reloads have mostly consisted of plinking ammo for handguns and my AR-15's (so, .223, .40S&W, .45 ACP, and .45GAP). While I've had good results with all of this ammo, I also realize that I haven't taken reloading to its full potential yet.

    I'm now trying to work up some elk hunting loads for my 8mm Mauser. Due to the troubles with finding bullets around here lately, I've settled on three possible choices for my bullets (based on availability). I have one box of each of these bullets on hand, and was hoping to work up some high quality and useable loads, and still have enough left over for the hunting season (I only have 50 bullets of each type):

    -180 grain Sierra Pro-hunter
    -180 grain Barnes TSX BT bullets
    -200 grain Barnes TSX BT bullets

    Given the price of bullets (particularly the Barnes Bullets), I'd like to find an efficient plan for working up these loads, and determining my most accurate choice. I currently have a can of H380 powder on hand, and about a 1/4 pound of H4895 powder.

    How do you recommend I conduct my load development, while being conservative with my bullet use?

    I should also note that I haven't loaded for this particular rifle yet, so I haven't picked out a favorite powder, bullet, seating length, or anything else at this point. For the 8mm Mauser I am starting at square one, but I'm far more cognizant of the fact that it will be more expensive to waste ammo if I don't have a plan while loading for this gun with hunting bullets!
  2. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

    Nov 25, 2006
    Northeast PA, USA
    I'm sorry to say there really isn't a short cut way to developing a good hunting load. As you know every rifle is different so what works well for me might not work well for you. I can tell you though, those 180gr Barnes and 180gr Sierra bullets are very different so the data you develop for one won't work for the other.(sorry) Luckily the data on the Hodgdon Load Data site includes those Barnes TSX bullets which should help. Also, take a look at the Barnes site, they have load data on the site which might help you zone in on a good load and which powders to use without wasting too many bullets.

    Good luck finding a good hunting load quickly...
  3. coloradokevin

    coloradokevin Member

    Mar 22, 2008
    Yeah, I figured as much. I'm just still hoping to do so with as little bullet expenditure as possible. These Barnes bullets are running around $40 per 50 bullets right now (if I recall what I paid correctly), so I don't want to waste them through a less-than-scientific approach to load development!

    I guess I'm not so much looking for the magic recipe, as much as I'm looking for the most logical way to approach the process of load development! While I fully agree that the same load that performs in your rifle may not perform in mine, I still suspect that there has to be a good way to go about completing the "research and development" stage of this project! Clearly I have at least a few key variables here:

    1) Three bullet choices on hand
    2) A variety of powder choices
    3) A choice of how much powder to use within any given type of powder
    4) A choice of seating depths on these bullets.
    5) A variety of available primer brands (granted, I only have one type of large rifle primer on hand right now, so I guess it will have to do, given the shortages)

    Testing every possible combination would expend far more bullets than I ever intend to buy, so I'm hoping to find a good way to approach this without wasting an excessive number of bullets (As a rough example: should I first try to select the bullet, then work on powder choice, then powder amount, then seating depth... or, do I try a different order of steps?).

    In the past I've been making ammo mostly for plinking, and it has performed reasonably well. But, load development in the plinking arena isn't too complicated. I'll load up 20 or 50 rounds sometimes and just shoot through all of them, making notes as to whether or not I liked the load. When the bullets get into the price range of premium hunting bullets, I start to think about ways that I can get measurable results without shooting through $500 worth of bullets!
  4. ForneyRider

    ForneyRider Member

    Jul 26, 2007
    Forney, TX
    I like 48gr of Varget and 200gr Accubond. THIS IS A MAX LOAD.
    Fortunately, 8x57 and Varget are very compatible.
    But keep it safe and work up from 5% of max.
    Accubonds aren't much cheaper than Barnes, but I love em so.

    Went with 51gr of Varget and Sierra Pro Hunter 150gr. This was the best accuracy out of the sporterized M98. My Brother can get the bullet holes to touch at 100 yards with the stock 2-stage trigger and a Zeiss Conquest scope. Barrel has a muzzle brake and has been nitrided.

    3.25 COL for both.

    You can get a little more velocity out of H4895.
  5. jfdavis58

    jfdavis58 Member

    Jul 19, 2007
    Albuquerque (NE heights), NM
    Considering the small amount of components you might look into Audette' Ladder method or Newberry's Optimum Charge Weight development methods. Revealing the methods or explaining the interpretation is something best left to the original authors---Google!
  6. 45ACPUSER

    45ACPUSER Member

    May 17, 2007
    You work up from reducing the charge wt 10 percent of max NOT 5%, and work up in 1 percent increments. The only exception to the rule is the use of 296 or H110 then it is 3 percent.

    My plan has sort of evolved around using OCW. I load 6 of each charge wt to be tested.
    I use the 6th round of each increment to used at first for fouling rounds and to check for pressure issues. But with the round round robin shooting of the OCW this may be redundant.
  7. dakotasin

    dakotasin Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    what i have done in the past for the fastest development is start at a mid-level charge, and work up in 1 grain increments and keep going until i hit my first pressure weirdness signs, back off 1.5 grains, and zero the rifle for hunting. you should be all done in 10 or fewer shots, and have a serviceable load. probably won't be your absolute best accuracy load (but it might), but you can be confident the load will be reasonably effective your uses (8x57 on elk is probably a 200 yard and in game at best). your load will be more than adequate for 200 yard hunting.

    ...and, go w/ the 180 sierras in this application. i run 175 sierra gamekings in my 8x57 w/ h-380, and it does well.
  8. Beelzy

    Beelzy Member

    Aug 15, 2009
    Work with the Sierras first. Their load recipes are pretty much spot on without much
    adjustment needed.

    I suggest a Mid-range load, load three rounds of that and the next higher charge as well.

    For hunting, that should get you really close to what you want without wasting too much
  9. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

    Dec 29, 2006
    Efficient load testing?!

    No such thing.

    Gunwriters always have this one shot sight in method. Read it several times in gun magazines. Maybe they can provide a two shot method for best reload.

    I will easily burn 50 rounds per powder. I shoot ten shot groups, (unless too hot or it stinks in five rounds) measure the velocity with a chronograph, and then, I am only reasonable positive that I know what I am doing.

    I will easily burn a pound of powder per session. Cumulatively, I am not at gallons of powder for my 35 Whelen, but it sure feels like it. Maybe if I shoot it enough it will start to group well. :banghead:

    Looking at an old, fifth edition of Ken Warner's pet loads, he had good success with IMR 4064, then IMR 4895. I don't see why Varget won't work well. He also did a lot of testing with IMR 3031 with the lighter bullets. I think this means don't go slow powders in the 8mm. Medium burn rate may be the slowest.
  10. freakshow10mm

    freakshow10mm member

    Apr 20, 2008
    Set your OAL for your cartridge using the bullets. Keep these separate as these will vary.

    Select the powder. Work up in 5 shot groups in 1gr increments.

    Decide what your criteria is. Fastest velocity or most accurate. The starting loads, called working loads by old school handloaders, will kill elk.

    To estimate velocity, take the actual powder charge divided by the max powder charge. Take that answer and multiply it by the velocity of the max. That will give a ballpark velocity if you don't have a chronograph.
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