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Steve's Rifle Cartridge Reloading

These are the techniques and equipment that I use to produce reloaded cartridges for bolt and semi-automatic rifles. Other techniques and equipment may be: better/worse, cheaper/costlier, safer/more dangerous or whatever. Read this stuff and use it or not, at your own risk!

Working Up Loads

One of the reasons people load/reload is to make custom ammunition to suite their own tastes and/or firearms. In order to do this, the amount and type of powder, type of bullet, primer and Over-All-Length (OAL) all may be toyed with in order to come up with that "perfect load".

Starting loads are usually found in various texts. (I)Try to avoid loading recommendations from friends and/or the WWW. Most loading manuals have "Starting Loads" that are both conservative and safe.

Powder selection, in my case, is by cost. Sometimes, powder selection is made by what's on the shelf. In general, IMR powders are very versatile in that they can be "lightly" loaded or "heavy" loaded and usually ignite very well, not needing Magnum primers. Ball powders tend to meter very well through powder dispensers, are somewhat cheaper, but like to be "heavily" loaded and sometimes require Magnum primers to insure complete ignition.

RULE 1 - For a given load, a slower powder may be used, with thought, if all else stays the same.

EXAMPLE - Let's say your reference material recommends a starting load of 46 grains of IMR8208. But I use Surplus Powder and IMR8208 is not one of them. Looking at the "Burn Rate Chart", I see that WC844 is a slower (and surplus) powder, so I assume that I can try 46 grains of WC844 as my starting load.

Primer selection is somewhat case dependant, Large and Small is set by the primer pocket size. Very large cases and loads to be used in very cold conditions usually require Magnum primers, as does Ball powder in medium cases. All of the manufacturer's primers seem to work well, some offer "Match" or "Bench Rest" versions, these seem to offer more peace-of-mind rather than actual accuracy.

Bullets - These come in all sizes and shapes, and you must decide what weight and shape (and cost) suits your target. Target and full metal jacket bullets (FMJ) make poor choices for hunting, but some hunting bullets may make good target bullets. Flat base bullets loose velocity pretty fast and are usually limited to 150-200 yards, while boat-tailed (BT) models are used for longer ranges. Some target, or match bullets are hollow point (HP), this doesn't mean that they are suitable for hunting use.

RULE 2 - For a given starting load, you can substitute a lighter bullet, keeping everything else the same.

EXAMPLE - PO Ackley says 44 grains of 4895 (starting) when using a 180 grain bullet. So, I can feel safe starting with a 174-grain bullet, keeping all else the same. (See this actual load work-up here) AT MAXIMUM LOADS; BULLET SUBSTITUTION SHOULD BE AVOIDED. When working at the upper end of the pressure limits, bullet-bearing surface becomes a real factor. The "rule" only applies to starting loads.

CASES - These, of course, must match the chamber, externally. But various manufacturers use thicker walls and/or heads, resulting in more or less INTERNAL case capacity. For any given load, the smaller the combustion space, the higher the pressure. Let's put it another way, the thicker the case walls, the higher the pressure, for a given load. This is most apparent with military surplus cases, and most loading manuals recommend reducing the starting load powder charge by 10-15%.

 CRIMPING - DON'T - Unless rounds are to be fired from a rifle using a tubular magazine, or the load is ”hot” and/or the bullet is very heavy

SEATING DEPTH, OR OVERALL LENGTH - For any given bullet, the more the bullet is seated into the case, the shorter the over-all length of the loaded round. IN GENERAL, the closer the bullet is to the start of the rifling, the "more accurate" the load is. ALSO, the closer the bullet is to the rifling, the HIGHER the pressure. So, be very careful creating "long" loads when at or near the max load!



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