Reloading fun

#1
American-style disclaimer: any information in this post is to be used at own risk!

Anyway, being a little board at the end of my workday, I thought I would recount my recent hand loading exploits (dons anorak).

I recently discovered at my local gunsmith 1.5 kg of Vectan Sp7 flattened-ball rifle powder. This is a double base rifle powder intended for broad use and measures up as a whisker faster than Vit N135. Perfect for 223 Remington, thinks I, and at €20 per half kilo, about 40% cheaper than vit.

Problem: the cheese eating surrender monkeys provide insufficient data for most of their powers. Bugger. The one data point that I have is a 55 grain bullet in a 222 Remington, which asks for 24 grains. Good enough to start with!

Anyway, so I load 60 rounds in groups of 10, at one grain increments from 22 to 28 grains with crappy 55 grain Winchester FMJ bullets, looking for two things: overpressure signs, and the load with these awful things that is good enough for short range practical rifle (I ended up with about 1500 of these things for free, so I might as well use them, but I don't like putting expensive vit behind them.) Anyway, I got a 2 MOA group at 25 grains, and overpressure signs at 28 grains (flattened primer). Jobs good!

The next stage was to try the same exercise with 62 grain FMJ, but starting a little lower for safety. This went less well: the most accurate group (still an uninspiring 2 minutes) was at 26 grains, but overpressure came at 26.5 grains, a little too close for comfort.

Conclusion: this power the likes lighter bullets.

The next step was obvious: 52 grain Sierra match king bullets! Loading half a grain each side of 25 grains, both 25 and 25.5 grains gave five round groups of around one minute using military-style iron sights! Good enough for government work!

I'm pretty happy with that, and I'm debating with myself as to whether I'm going to try the same powder with a 69 grain match kings, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't perform as well as my standard N140 load which just fills the case without any compression, since Sp7 is significantly denser. On the other hand, it does meter much better than the cut-tubular vit...

What I have learnt:

Match kings are far better than any FMJ can ever be (this puts into perspective how creditable the performance of the RG 155 grain Bisley match ammunition is).
With experience and knowing what you are looking for, it is possible to safety work outside the tables provided you know how not to blow yourself up.

Thank you for allowing me to waste five minutes of your lives!

PS -- rifle is a 20 inch AR 15 with a 1:7 stainless barrel
 
#2
Interesting tale there Stoatman. Around 30 years ago I had a similar experience with a 455 Webley. Absolutely no data to go on, so I used 45 ACP data and halved it. The result was interesting, on squeezing the trigger I heard a feeble bang followed immediately by a thud of the bullet hitting the bottom of a figure 11. Slight underload. I progressed from there to a halfway decent load, that did not put the revolver into a low earth orbit but did get about a 3 to 4 inch group in the middle of the fig 11 at 25 metres. Happy days.
 
#3
I use a remmie 700 in .223, So for only used factory but have found that the US barrels tend to throw the heavier rounds all over the place. RG would'nt even group when i tried some. The cheep & nasty American Eagle ammo that the range office at Bisley had shot a very tight group considering it is cheep & cheerfull. Hornaday 55g's also shot a very tight group. Basically i find that 55g or lighter pushed fast works very well in the american / remmie barrels. anything heavier just wont stabilise.
Nice info on the handload data, i have enough spare brass now to start so i will follow your lead on that one.
 
#4
I have a .223 remmy with a 1:9 twist. Using 69g scenars it will give me consistent cloverleafs at 100m (providing the nut behind the but gets his act together). Does the same with 55g Vmax too. At present I am using 27.5g of varget for the Vmax and 24.5g of H4895 for the scenars.
 
#5
Concrete_Marmoset said:
I use a remmie 700 in .223, So for only used factory but have found that the US barrels tend to throw the heavier rounds all over the place. RG would'nt even group when i tried some. The cheep & nasty American Eagle ammo that the range office at Bisley had shot a very tight group considering it is cheep & cheerfull. Hornaday 55g's also shot a very tight group. Basically i find that 55g or lighter pushed fast works very well in the american / remmie barrels. anything heavier just wont stabilise.
Nice info on the handload data, i have enough spare brass now to start so i will follow your lead on that one.
I would imagine your barrel has a twist of 1-12 if your getting poor groups with heavy bullets. If you start reloading try a 52gr Amax with 24gr loading up to 25.5 gr of Varget. Benchmark is also a nice powder to use in .223 again 25gr with a 52gr Amax.
 
#6
.338lapua_magnum said:
I have a .223 remmy with a 1:9 twist. Using 69g scenars it will give me consistent cloverleafs at 100m (providing the nut behind the but gets his act together). Does the same with 55g Vmax too. At present I am using 27.5g of varget for the Vmax and 24.5g of H4895 for the scenars.
Any pressure issue with 27.5gr of Varget?
 
#7
flutedbarrel said:
Concrete_Marmoset said:
I use a remmie 700 in .223, So for only used factory but have found that the US barrels tend to throw the heavier rounds all over the place. RG would'nt even group when i tried some. The cheep & nasty American Eagle ammo that the range office at Bisley had shot a very tight group considering it is cheep & cheerfull. Hornaday 55g's also shot a very tight group. Basically i find that 55g or lighter pushed fast works very well in the american / remmie barrels. anything heavier just wont stabilise.
Nice info on the handload data, i have enough spare brass now to start so i will follow your lead on that one.
I would imagine your barrel has a twist of 1-12 if your getting poor groups with heavy bullets. If you start reloading try a 52gr Amax with 24gr loading up to 25.5 gr of Varget. Benchmark is also a nice powder to use in .223 again 25gr with a 52gr Amax.
Yes you are right about my barrel. Many thanks for the handload info, will deffo give that a try.
 
#8
50gr Vmax is about the same powder load too. Those and the 52gr Amax has worked well in every Remy 700 that I have loaded for. COL, start at SAMMI spec and work out 5thou at a time unless you can get hold of a oal guage. Garente you sub MOA at 100 on your first batch, you can tinker from there 8)
 
#9
Concrete_Marmoset said:
flutedbarrel said:
Concrete_Marmoset said:
I use a remmie 700 in .223, So for only used factory but have found that the US barrels tend to throw the heavier rounds all over the place. RG would'nt even group when i tried some. The cheep & nasty American Eagle ammo that the range office at Bisley had shot a very tight group considering it is cheep & cheerfull. Hornaday 55g's also shot a very tight group. Basically i find that 55g or lighter pushed fast works very well in the american / remmie barrels. anything heavier just wont stabilise.
Nice info on the handload data, i have enough spare brass now to start so i will follow your lead on that one.
I would imagine your barrel has a twist of 1-12 if your getting poor groups with heavy bullets. If you start reloading try a 52gr Amax with 24gr loading up to 25.5 gr of Varget. Benchmark is also a nice powder to use in .223 again 25gr with a 52gr Amax.
Yes you are right about my barrel. Many thanks for the handload info, will deffo give that a try.
For what it's worth I've also seen the same problem using 62 GR Radway Green NATO ball in 1:12 twist barrels. If the 308 is anything to go by American Eagle is utter cr4p but at least it has the right bullet weight for your rifling twist.
 
#12
flutedbarrel said:
.338lapua_magnum said:
I have a .223 remmy with a 1:9 twist. Using 69g scenars it will give me consistent cloverleafs at 100m (providing the nut behind the but gets his act together). Does the same with 55g Vmax too. At present I am using 27.5g of varget for the Vmax and 24.5g of H4895 for the scenars.
Any pressure issue with 27.5gr of Varget?
None whatsoever. I know that is above the recommended load but I was using the ladder method of working loads, going up in increments of a tenth of a G and I had no problems all the way up. Having said that, I do keep a careful eye on the brass and I anneal after 5 reloads using melted lead rather than a naked flame.

Working with 52g Amax at present. Next calm day I will be testing.
 
#13
.338lapua_magnum said:
flutedbarrel said:
.338lapua_magnum said:
I have a .223 remmy with a 1:9 twist. Using 69g scenars it will give me consistent cloverleafs at 100m (providing the nut behind the but gets his act together). Does the same with 55g Vmax too. At present I am using 27.5g of varget for the Vmax and 24.5g of H4895 for the scenars.
Any pressure issue with 27.5gr of Varget?
None whatsoever. I know that is above the recommended load but I was using the ladder method of working loads, going up in increments of a tenth of a G and I had no problems all the way up. Having said that, I do keep a careful eye on the brass and I anneal after 5 reloads using melted lead rather than a naked flame.

Working with 52g Amax at present. Next calm day I will be testing.
Take all the precautions. Lead poisoning is quite unpleasant according to an old shooting acquaintance who got it whilst working full time in an indoor range.
 
#14
Aye EXSTAB I am fairly cautious with leadmelting. I do quite a bit as I cast for my lever action. Also in the process of making a small furnace for melting brass at the moment.
 
#15
Interesting to see some of you talk about 0.1 grain increments with rifle reloading. I used to think the same way until I read "Black Magic" by John Feamster, who literally wrote the book on the ultra-accurate AR15. He never quotes a load which is not x.0 or x.5, even in his bench rest notes. When searching for a load, he initially does whole-grain increments, and then narrows it down with half grain increments. And this is a guy who takes AR 15 space guns bench resting (and got a sub-quarter inch group at 200 yards on his first time out!)

Since I'm shooting iron sights at the moment (admittedly target sights) there is no point in wasting time, money, and barrel life trying to squeeze in a few extra tenths of a minute of accuracy when I could be spending the time shooting competition cards and practising!
 
#16
stoatman said:
Interesting to see some of you talk about 0.1 grain increments with rifle reloading. I used to think the same way until I read "Black Magic" by John Feamster, who literally wrote the book on the ultra-accurate AR15. He never quotes a load which is not x.0 or x.5, even in his bench rest notes. When searching for a load, he initially does whole-grain increments, and then narrows it down with half grain increments. And this is a guy who takes AR 15 space guns bench resting (and got a sub-quarter inch group at 200 yards on his first time out!)

Since I'm shooting iron sights at the moment (admittedly target sights) there is no point in wasting time, money, and barrel life trying to squeeze in a few extra tenths of a minute of accuracy when I could be spending the time shooting competition cards and practising!
I've found quite a difference between 0.1 grain either way. I'm shooting a TRG22 which will squeeze out any improvement available. I actually throw a lot of loads once I've settled on a weight. and a consistent throw seems pretty reliable. Haven't had time to do any proper experimenting for the last two years though. Maybe next year.
 
#17
Finding quite a difference with a 10th of a grain strikes me as a rather sensitive, "peaky" combination you have got there. When doing initial load development for my wife's Remington 700, I did not get any significant change in accuracy over the whole loading range for 69 grain match kings and N140 at 0.3 grain increments, so settled on the start load of 24.6 grains which was marginally the best cloverleaf and didn't result in crushed powder. It was also seated a whisker off the rifling (no way to measure exactly how far this was, since I was not using a micrometer seating die or bullet length gauge -- I was "blueprinting" using a permanent marker instead!) Also, I was individually weighing the powder charges... and exactly the same load seated to magazine length shoots superbly out of the AR 15 as well -- vertical group around 7 mm at 100 m, horizontal group 25 mm discounting the two flyers that I knew I pulled (so best eight out of 10 shots) sling supported, target sights. Can't whinge!
 
#18
stoatman said:
Finding quite a difference with a 10th of a grain strikes me as a rather sensitive, "peaky" combination you have got there. When doing initial load development for my wife's Remington 700, I did not get any significant change in accuracy over the whole loading range for 69 grain match kings and N140 at 0.3 grain increments, so settled on the start load of 24.6 grains which was marginally the best cloverleaf and didn't result in crushed powder. It was also seated a whisker off the rifling (no way to measure exactly how far this was, since I was not using a micrometer seating die or bullet length gauge -- I was "blueprinting" using a permanent marker instead!) Also, I was individually weighing the powder charges... and exactly the same load seated to magazine length shoots superbly out of the AR 15 as well -- vertical group around 7 mm at 100 m, horizontal group 25 mm discounting the two flyers that I knew I pulled (so best eight out of 10 shots) sling supported, target sights. Can't whinge!
I was thinking more of the 22mm centre to centre at 400 yds type of performance but horses for courses I suppose!
 
#19
Sorry, I didn't realise that you were talking about bench rest-type accuracy!

Since I only have the luxury of a 100 m range, and that data is shooting with a sling and iron sights on a 20 inch barrel, we are talking about completely different games!

Best group with the wife's 700 at 100 m was 0.35 minutes of angle centre to centre,5 round group. Equivalent to 35.7 mm centre to centre at 400 yards. Shot with a scope and bipod.

Once I have my space gun upper built we might be starting to talk about that level of accuracy (with a scope), but until then...
 
#20
I don't tend to arse around too much with tenths of a grain, I use .5 increments. Personally I find head space is more important than powder charge, accuracy wise.
 

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