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COAL and Powder Weights. Am I being too anal?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by drgoose, May 29, 2010.

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  1. drgoose

    drgoose Member

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    I am kind of new to reloading. Up to now I have been reloading pistol ammo for plinking. I started with a single stage lee and then I bought a Loadmaster (that is a whole different thread:banghead:) but today I decided to start developing a load for my Glock21 just to get used to the process. Before I just picked a middle of the road load for the 45 ACP and ran with it.

    I am using a MTM mini digial scale and it is having varitions around 0.1 grains and it is driving me nuts. I would weigh a charge at 4.9, tricke a few grains of powder and it would jump to 5.1 or I would weigh a charge at 5.1, lift the pan and powder, set it back again to weigh it and would read 5.0. I am starting to think that even though the scale might read up to tenths of a grain, it is not sensitive enough to consistently measure 1/10's.

    My second irritation today is with my RCBS seating/crimping die. I set it to 1.275 inches, measure my bullet and be very happy. Seat a second bullet and it would be 1.276, the next one 1.278, the next one 1.275 all without touching the die and taking the stroke of the press all the way up and trying to use the same amount of pressur. The first question is if a variation of 0.003 inches in cartridge OAL would make any difference in any situation? Is the press not consistent enough or does the die have some play somewhere. I saw some "match" dies with a micrometer, so I am assuming that those are built with much tighter tolearances than the regular ones.

    Thanks guys
     
  2. azar

    azar Member

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    The MTM digital scale claims 1/10th of a grain accuracy but in my experience it's closer to 1/5th. You are not doing anything wrong. It's the scale. Get an RCBS 5-0-5 (or an equivalent) and leave the MTM for measuring case H20 capacity, weighing bullets, etc.

    Bullets will vary in length on the tip. 0.003 inches isn't really bad. Unless you are planning on shooting in 600 to 1000 yard competitions it's not going to make one iota of difference (may not even then, but I wouldn't know). It's better to use a bullet comparator and measure the bullet on the ogive, rather than the tip.

    Don't sweat the small stuff.
     
  3. bds

    bds Member

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    0.1 grain variation in powder charge is good enough for match shooting - No worries. Also, make sure you are in a room with little air movement (no open windows/door or active A/C vents) - you can check this by test weighing under a bowl. If you still get around 0.1 gr variation, it really is close enough (most powder measures/throws vary around 0.1 gr anyways). If you are really anal, you can "cluster/group" like charges together (all the 4.9 gr and 5.0 and 5.1 together and shoot them as a group - that's what we do for match shooting practice).

    BTW, what powder measure are you using? If you are using Load Master, it should be Pro Auto Disk. If that's the case, you just need to pick the disk hole you are happy with and it should keep dropping the same consistent powder charges. I keep note of powder charge weight and the disk hole number. Next time, I just select the hole number and weigh the first few charges. Then I move on to load my 500-1000+ loads.

    Also, when using "fired" mixed headstamp brass, you'll always get variations in case length - and it's also ok. I have been shooting matches with mixed headstamp with slight case length variation for years and I consider myself a bit "anal" too. :D

    What I do is set the bullet seat depth at a specified mark so the "average" floats around that point. If a case is noticeably too much out of spec, I set it aside in my "junk" load tray and I shoot these rounds separately.
     
  4. Damon555

    Damon555 Member

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    Yep, you're being to anal. You'll give yourself fits chasing 1/10th of an inch or a grain.
     
  5. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Plus or minus .1 grain is probably closer than factory loads, even if the cheap scale is right on.

    1.275" OAL is the MAXIMUM for .45 ACP hardball. You might run into magazine or feeding trouble at that, so be prepared to seat a little deeper, depending on your bullets.
    A .003" spread on pistol ammo is great.
     
  6. blackops

    blackops Member

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    Load ten rounds being "anal." Then load another 10 not. Shoot them both. If the difference pleases you then you're not being too anal. That's what I did and the difference was enough to make me content with being "anal." Some guys care about 1/4-1/8 of an inch, some don't. I do. People are different. No one is perfect.

    -T
     
  7. JimKirk

    JimKirk Member

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    As a new loader it is best that you are "anal" rather than being nonchalant and uncaring.

    It is much safer that way! For you and your guns!

    Jimmy K
     
  8. pvthouse

    pvthouse Member

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    Wait blackops I hope that u mistyped that or something. I would think that an 1/8 or a 1/4 inch would be a huge difference when talking about COAL from what I've been reading. But then again I'm new.
     
  9. GW Staar

    GW Staar Member

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    I agree, but if your load is middle range, you can afford to be less anal. If your load is approaching maximum, you're wise to be more so.

    The one sure thing I've found, after reloading 40 years worth, is that not only is no one perfect, nothing they build is either. There no such thing as a perfect box of bullets or a box of cases that all weigh the same or have perfect dimensions. Powder has even been known to change a little, lot by lot, and primer dimensions aren't perfect either.

    Add that to imperfectly metering powder measures, imperfect presses, dies, shell holders...and on and on, and a reloader may be tempted to quit.

    However, reloaded ammo, following the basic guidelines of safety, even in the face of all the imperfections before us, is most often more accurate, and just as safe as factory ammo.

    When you find your powder loads varying a bit, look at the highest of a bunch of thrown charges, and see if high load is max or above according to your manual. If it is decrease a bit. That's not too hard...and if you want less of a variance, get a better scale. You will not find a perfect scale, just less imperfect. Be prepared, price nearly always rises with quality.

    ...and watch those shot cases for signs of too hot a load.
     
  10. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Yep, and as Jim posted, 1.275 is max, so if you are right on the edge of fitting some mags, as well as some throats. I load 230 RN at 1.260 to 1.265. I shoot for the middle of that, but as long as it is within that range, I am happy.
     
  11. drgoose

    drgoose Member

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    Thanks everyone

    I feel better.
     
  12. Steve C

    Steve C Member

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    Make sure you have all the fans and AC vents shut off when using your scale as a breeze will change the readings.

    IMO a balance is better than a digital for accurate weights. The balance doesn't change with battery charge or electrical interference. As far as anyone knows, gravity has remained the same from year to year.
     
  13. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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    ....and the people shooting next to you!

    That's great advice.
    There are always going to be errors. So ALWAYS err on the safe side.

    Generally speaking, with auto pistol reloading the smaller the volume inside the case, the more careful you need to be. That's what makes starting with 45ACP so nice, as compared to starting with 9mm or 380.

    Definitely get yourself another scale. Balance beams may not be "flashy", but then gravity won't cause you any variations. A good used 5-0-5 will cost you about $25 and last you the rest of your life. Ohaus sold the 5-0-5, and offered it for re-branding by RCBS, Hornady, Lyman and others. They are easy to find.
     
  14. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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  15. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Even digital scales have to be perfectly level if best repeatable accuracy is desired.

    If it is not level, the pan support post that rides on the load transducer will rub on the side of the scale cover hole it sets in and give minor variations in weight.

    Most bench tops & tables are way out of level.
    Pick up a small bubble level at the hardware store and level the scale side to side & front to back and see if that helps.

    rc
     
  16. Roccobro

    Roccobro Member

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    Reviews I have read on some of the smaller (and sub $50) scales say the resolution is .2g. Described exactly as you did.
    Justin
     
  17. ranger335v

    ranger335v Member

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    "COAL and Powder Weights. Am I being too anal?"

    For worring about powder variations of .1 or .2 gr and maybe 3 thou of OAL in a handgun? Yeah. More than a little. If either of those were to cause a KABOOM you are loading far too hot already.
     
  18. 1SOW

    1SOW Member

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    I'm anal and try to load 9mm very close to my choices for powder and oal.

    My son is not anal and just keeps his load and oal inside safe limits.

    In our weekly USPSA league most of the time he wins locally and shoots well.

    I compete in the same class so obviously I don't win.

    After our practice range shooting we finish shooting by lining up 12 gage hulls at 25 yards and compete. I usually win that.
     
  19. Blind Bat

    Blind Bat Member

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    I'm too anal about powder charges. To keep my anal retention from slowing down my loading too much I'll start by dropping ten charges and dumping them back into the powder measure just to get the powder settled. Then I'll find set my target charge weight and dump 10 charges into a pan and weigh those ten charges. If my taget load is 4.5gr, I'll look for 45.5 on the scale. I figure that should get the powder measure to the point where the scale will consistently read my target weight. I then check the powder charge every time I fill primers, powder, etc.

    I also make sure to look into every case to make sure the powder measure is doing it's job. I found I was slower with a balance scale because reading the perfect charge weight is more subjective.
     
  20. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    I used to dump 10 charges, after throwing 10 to 15 to settle things down, and weight them together to get an average, but I decided I was being too picky. (Or maybe I just got lazy)

    Now after I settle down the measure I start weighing charges one at a time. As long as they are within an acceptable range, I go with it. If I am at max I make sure everything is there or slightly below. If I am not, it can vary a little over and under as long as the average is right on. I do this running the brass through the LNL and bumping the handle just like I will be when I am loading. Since I do not size while loading, it goes very smoothly and is practically identical to when I am checking charges. I record that setting on the measure, and use it until the powder lot changes.

    Many pistol charges will be right at the "0" mark on the balance beam or over and under up to a half of a mark. Any more variance than that I try to stay away from, but some will go to three quarters over (700X) and under and still shoot very well. As long as I am not at max, I don't sweat it.

    Some powders, like AA #2, will be dead on practically every time.
     
  21. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    As has been said, it largely depends on your purpose. Generally, I don't worry about .1 or .2 grain charge variation or a few thousands difference in OAL. BUT.......when I'm going for absolute accuracy, I carefully measure each load on a 5.0.5 scale with a trickler and measure every cartridge to within .001". I also worry about primer cup uniformity, neck tension, etc. At that level, it takes hours to load a couple hundred rounds. For general use, it's too much work.

    I'll +1 the other comments about not being cavalier with handloading, though. Carlessness/complacency have cost people eyesight and digits, or worse. Being a competent and attentive reloader does not require being extremely anal about each load, just that you pay enough attention that squibs or significant charge variations don't slip through the cracks. It's real easy to spot an empty or overcharged case when looking down on a hundred or more together in a loading block with a good light.
     
  22. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Agreed, you have to be careful about the right things.
    Don't worry about +/- .1 grain of powder or .003" OAL.
    Be sure you don't have +/- 100% and wreck your gun with a stuck bullet "squib" or a double charge.
    Be sure you have adequate neck tension so you don't deep-seat a bullet against the feed ramp and run the chamber pressure up that way.
     
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