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Pistol Load Development Methods

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by PhillySoldier, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. PhillySoldier

    PhillySoldier Member

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    Wondering what testing methods people use for pistol load development?


    Previously I would start loading in 0.2 increments from mid range to a little below max published data. I would make 5 rounds of each and fire over a chrono looking to what got me closest to a 130 power factor. Im not a competitor but figured this is what is most used by minor competitors for accuracy with the lightest recoil.


    Recently though I have started testing with a ransom rest and shooting 10 rnd groups @ 25 yards. The results were disappointing and really proved to me just how bad my reloads were. On a good note though was finding out that what I previously thought of as my limitations was more a matter of my ammo choices. This has definitely changed up my load development. Now Im more goal orientated to find what is most accurate.


    My testing has changed and continues to change as I find ways to improve. For each rung testing I’ll shoot two groups of 10 rounds from the ransom rest and record the group sizes as well as the velocity results. I’ll compare the results to see what groups the best across a few 0.1 increments.


    My older testing was much smaller in rnds per group as well as larger increments between rungs. It’s a more of a hassle now though to drag out so much gear and an hour to get setup and ready. So now Im loading everything, 20 rnds of each 0.1 increment from a little above low to max. I loaded up 300 rnds for my next test. 20 rnds each of 15 different increments. I figure I’ll test shoot in 0.2/0.3 increments till the results narrow that down a bit to whats working best and I can further test from there. Definitely overkill but Id rather just get the testing done in as little trips as possible. Left over ammo I’ll re-designate to plinking rounds.


    Any advice, suggestions, criticisms are welcome. And also interested in testing methods used by other members. If it needs to be said; my goals are finding out loads are most mechanically accurate out of each of my pistols. I put it this way to “hopefully” head off any debates on shooters skills vs mechanically accuracy.
     
  2. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    Though the Ransom reset is know to be the best it's not very easy to set one up to shoot consistent. The ones I know with one ended up pouring a concrete bench with anchors set to mount the unit. ANY movement in the setup will give you error. Then you have to deal with the movement in the grips, which can also cause problems. They also say it takes s few rounds to settle down too.

    Using a rest to support you wrist and barrel will out shoot a improper setup on a Ransom rest.

    When I test new pistol loads I jump up in 0.1gr increments depending on the load range, 5 shots for quick screening. Increasing the round count as I narrow it down.
     
    kidneyboy likes this.
  3. PhillySoldier

    PhillySoldier Member

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    Nice concrete bench at my range and using there 30lb base plate as well as clamping everything down. Luckily no consistency problems but it is a hassle to drag all the gear through the range and takes at least an hour to get setup, on target and the 20 settling shots done; just to start testing... And friggin had mess ups with both my last two RR trips. Last weekend after getting all setup, I winded up having problems w my gun and had to call it quits before even starting. The trip prior to that, I got all setup and realized I forgot my damn chrono and had to wait another hour for the gf to run it out to me. Least I had another gun w me that trip to go plink around while I waited :)
     
  4. Toprudder

    Toprudder Member

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    I use a rest to test my pistol loads. I normally use 10 yards, but sometimes do 25. I use a chrono to check for velocity/SD. I like to do at least 5 or 10 shots of each charge, and I typically do 5 or 6 charge levels from min to max. With some of my guns I have no problem getting 0.7-0.8" groups with good loads (10 yards).

    I seriously considered getting a Ransom Rest, but when I learned how much setup is involved, I decided it was not worth the trouble.
     
  5. kidneyboy

    kidneyboy Member

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    ^^^
    This is what I do. If the load range is big I'll go in .02 increments. Generally there are 1 or 2 standout loads which I load 10 or 20 of and then reshoot. If I'm happy with those results sometimes I'll play around with the OAL.
    I am not concerned about power factors and don't have any interest in owning a ransom rest.
     
    doubleh likes this.
  6. rskent

    rskent Member

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    So, what have you found out so far? What bullets and or powders give you the best results, over all?
     
  7. vaalpens

    vaalpens Member

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    With my testing I don't look for super accuracy. I decide on a COL that I think fits my gun and the bullet and stick with it unless I have cycling issues.

    My load workup is mostly 6 charge levels with .1gr increments and 5 loads per charge. I normally have a good idea what works in my guns so that and the powder I am using determines where I start. I test at 15 yards utilizing a rest and a scope if possible. I use a chrono. Based on the results I will determine if I want to do additional loads with lower or higher charges. Once I identified the possible accurate loads, then I will test them out again and bracket them if needed just to verify before I decide on a load. Where the load ends up velocity wise will determine how many I load of them and what I use them for. After a while I would normally pick my most accurate loads and test one or more of them at 25 yards. I will test 10 of the same load, but basically shoot 2 targets with 5 each.

    Obviously I keep track of all my results, and it gives me great pleasure once in a while when I am able to better a previous best grouping load.
     
    PhillySoldier and jell-dog like this.
  8. PhillySoldier

    PhillySoldier Member

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    I only recently got the ransom rest; so not too many trips out with it yet.

    First trip out I decided to run some tests on a bunch of different brands of factory ammo to use as a baseline for comparing to my reloads in the future. I tried 8 different brands from your cheaper blazer brass to atlanta arms match grade. No surprise the match grade did well and was grouping (10 shots per group @ 25 yards) around 2" give or take 0.2". What did surprise me was how bad factory brands I normally use such as blazer brass and american eagle did. These groups spread out to like 5-6". Would have to be in front of my notebook at home to be more exact. One surprise was a brand called Browning Performance Target 147g. I have never personally shot it outside this test but picked up some for the test after reading of someone else's testing. This shot as well as the expensive atlanta arms match grade. They also had an 115g fmj at an even cheaper price that grouped a little worse at around 3"

    My second trip out was with my normal reloads made up of berry's and precision delta projectiles and titegroup powder. Again I would need to check but charge weights should be around 4.0-4.2g. These were as bad if not slightly worse than the blazer brass groupings at 5.5-6". I did not at the time do a full ladder test of each. Again my loads at the time based around a 130 power factor

    I really need to go back and experiment more with the above now that I have the rest and only change one variable at a time. However I was so disappointed in the above results I decided to try something completely new. My next testing was or 6.0 to 6.6g of Alliant Power Pistol and Hornady 115g fmj's.

    These grouped excellent and were getting 1.5" to 1.7" groupings! Huge difference by near 4 times my previous grouping size and even tighter than the match grade factory ammo. However my lowest rung test was shooting a bit hotter than the book data (difference in barrel size im guessing) at put me at near max listed velocity range so I only tested the 6.0 and 6.2 loads and stopped there.

    I came back home and made up some loads from 5.0 to 5.5g intent on lowering the velocity back to my normal 1150 range but after discussing it further on the board here I agreed w the others advice to not worry so much about a particular velocity range and also not to be so fearful of going over the published max's.

    So now I have everything from 5.0 to 6.6g made up for my next testing. Unfortunately last weekend I went to the range and had problems w my gun and didnt get to actually test anything.

    I guess the biggest thing I learned so far was what I previously thought of as "my" 5-6" groupings at 25 yards as being my shooting skill level and age was limited by my ammo choices both factory and reloads. Looking forward to unsupported testing myself in the future with ammo choices I know are at least capable of better.
     
  9. tcj

    tcj Member

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    Other than rounds for competition that have to meet a power factor, I start at the low end and work up in .2 increments to max.

    Using the chrono as a check I look for 1) making sure that I am not exceeding specs; 2) my SD/ES is "reasonable"; 3) that I'm consistently cycling for a semi-auto or that I am getting at least 600fps for a revolver and 800 for a carbine. Once I have confirmed the aforementioned I then take the best and run at least 10-20 rounds of each firing from a rest (usually a bag) at 5, 10 and 25 yards looking for consistency of groupings. FYI @ 25 I'm happy these days to be minute-of-man accurate :D.
     
    PhillySoldier likes this.
  10. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Questions for those who have done serious accuracy-seeking work with pistol loads: In handguns, do you really get "accuracy nodes" similar to those found in rifles? Do you really get materially-different, repeatable, real differences in absolute accuracy/precision by tuning charge weights?
     
    egd likes this.
  11. Toprudder

    Toprudder Member

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    Sometimes, sometimes not. I would say more often not.

    It was very interesting one time when I was testing a particular load work-up, and found a node in the middle of the charge range that gave a low standard deviation, and a matching accuracy node. It seemed to follow a bell curve, too. This was with 230gn 45acp and 800x powder.

    Sometimes I see a consistent SD through the whole range, but find an accuracy node. Sometimes the opposite. I do believe that my one 45 that I use for testing actually prefers a certain velocity range, my most accurate loads with 230gn bullets seem to cluster around 700-750 FPS.
     
    ATLDave likes this.
  12. egd

    egd Member

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    The saying, swallow an elephant but choke on a gnat comes to mind here. Or, better yet, much ado about nothing (or at least very little).
    I'd bet there ain't 3-4 people on this whole board that could tell any difference in actual hand held shooting between such finely tuned meticulous testing. Sure testing is necessary but this seems a little overboard. Unless you have nothing better to do, then go for it.
     
    ATLDave likes this.
  13. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    I don't think you can call it nodes in most handguns since the charge window is so small. But yes, you do find loads that like a specific charge weight and OAL. Changing OAL for tuning works in handguns too. But may not make any difference depending on the load. Just like rifles there are no 2 barrels/guns alike. I very seldom use a crony when I'm testing handgun ammo. The only time I do is when I'm satisfied with the end results, then it's just more data.
     
    ATLDave likes this.
  14. vaalpens

    vaalpens Member

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    Good to see that it is not just me that get accurate results with Power Pistol. I don't load 115g bullets, but my 124gr Power Pistol loads normally group best at 5.3g or 5.6g. This is my best 5 shot grouping at 15yards to date with a 9mm SIG SP2022 3.9" stock barrel:
    Load-1004-05_15yd.png

    I have done limited testing at 25yards, but following is my best 5 shot grouping at 25yards with a 357sig SIG P229 3.9" stock barrel:
    Load-943-50_25yd.png
     
    Toprudder likes this.
  15. PhillySoldier

    PhillySoldier Member

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    Im testing with a sig 226 4.5" barrel myself. And i agree, ive always favored 124 grain in the past. When i was doing the first test though with the differing brands of ammo, it really showed the 115g doing the best so i figured i would try it in my new loads. I probably should add that i had an barsto semi drop barrel in it and it has a 1:16 twist compared to the stock 1:10

    By the way, nice groupings. I havent had a chance yet to shoot the new reloads unsupported. I wanted to finish my ladder testing first before cranking out a large output
     
  16. PhillySoldier

    PhillySoldier Member

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    And yes i was impressed w the power pistol. It was my first time using it. I was using only titegroup previously
     
  17. murf

    murf Member

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    yes, changes in oal also tunes the load. the differences, while relatively small, will show up @ 25 yards and beyond. most don't see the difference because (and please don't take this personal) the nut behind the trigger isn't good enough for the difference to show up.

    also, a very small change in powder weight makes a remarkably large difference down range. when your total powder charge is five grains, one tenth of a grain is huge.

    also, matching primers to powder can be significant.

    also, bullet/neck tension is a biggie in auto-loaders and small revolvers due to bullet pull and push into or out of the case. i like .003" minimum on my auto-loaders.

    luck,

    murf
     
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  18. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    When they can do this without a rest at 7 yards shooting through the chrono at 5 yards I figure it is likely a good one. If it repeats I test it at 25 to 45 yards. If it shoots well there, it's a good one.

    A good pistol load will often shoot well over a .2 or .3 grain spread.

    I either start at rock bottom or the middle of the data, just depends. Work up in .1 to .5 Gr increments depending on the powder speed/caliber/bullet weight and where I am compared to max.
     

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  19. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Oh, I don’t take offense to that at all. I’d be the first to say I’m not a bullseye shooter. Printing tiny groups isn’t really my thing. But I’m interested in the technical insights of those who ARE interested in that and good at it.

    So what is the mechanism in play? I understand most of the charge weight tuning in rifles is about barrel whip/harmonics. It seems to me that a pistol barrel is too short, and therefore too stiff, to get measurable differences in that at even 25 yards? If that is correct (and I may be wrong), what is it? Why would the same bullet, same primer, same brass, same chamber, same barrel, shoot more accurately at one charge that another? Is it the same for revolvers and semi-autos?
     
  20. murf

    murf Member

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    IMG_20180613_0001.jpg IMG_20180613_0002.jpg IMG_20180613_0003.jpg

    the changes made here: 4.4 gn w231 (1), 4.3 gn w231 (2), 4.3 gn w231 (3),
    1.080" col, 1.085" col, 1.070" col, respectively.

    the first, 4.4 gn, load pushed the group left and wasn't too bad accuracy-wise.

    the second, 1.085"col, load pushed the group high left. the accuracy is not bad.

    the third, 1.070" col, load sprayed bullets everywhere on (and off) the target. this was not the shooter, it was the decreased col. causing this.

    murf
     
  21. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    COAL I can understand in terms of alignment with bore. That makes sense. I’m talking about the charge weight.
     
  22. murf

    murf Member

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    IMG_20180613_0004.jpg this is the best combo of powder weight and col for this bullet. centered group and not bad in the accuracy dept. for a g19.

    murf
     
  23. murf

    murf Member

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    IMG_20180613_0005.jpg IMG_20180613_0006.jpg IMG_20180613_0007.jpg

    another example of how col will change the group. pic one shows a good load @ 1.175" col. pic three is how good this load shoots through an accurate pistol.

    pic two shows what happens when the col is wrong. in this case it is too short and the bullets are all over the target (or not). the bullet was seated too far down into the case and the case rim was catching on the bottom of the feed ramp (a difficult thing to do in a glock).

    i hope this helps in explaining why i think powder charge and col are important in auto-loading pistols. i think these two are important in revolvers, but not so much. revolvers are much more sensitive to bullet/case tension and crimp.

    i also tested different primers when working up that 265 gn load for the 45 acp. win lp primers gave a bit better extreme spread than my normal cci 300, but did not show any difference on paper. so all the 265 gn loads are with cci 300 primers.

    luck,

    murf
     
  24. murf

    murf Member

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    give me a bit and i'll try and find an example for you.

    murf
     
  25. murf

    murf Member

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    IMG_20180613_0008.jpg

    this is the best i can do. same gun, same bullet, same powder @ different amounts. the case is different and the recoil is very different, which i attribute to the difference in group size. the 44 mag load kicks like a mule.

    i'll have to look farther back to see if i can find a low-end bullseye load or something to see if powder charge makes a significant difference @ longer distances.

    murf
     
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