Load Development (Part 3 - Loading)
Finally to the part where we actually put some cartridges together! In this installment, we will be going over how we use all of the equipment and components from the previous two articles to assemble the loads we typically use. This is meant to be a basic guide and a look at how we do it ourselves, not necessarily an in-depth reloading instructional, so hopefully this won't get too long winded!
Brass Prep: Virgin brass (even good stuff) will typically have some neck denting and will rarely be at the neck tension we want, so we'll usually start things off by running each piece of brass through the Sinclair Expander Die (seen HERE) with the appropriate mandrel for that caliber. This gets them nice and round and uniform. Then we run them through the Redding S-Type Bushing die from the last article, with a bushing size that will give us a neck tension of around .002" to .003". There are a lot of articles out there on neck tension and how to go about getting it set properly.
With fired brass, you can take out the neck expansion step unless you've dented any of the necks while out shooting. However, you'll need to lube the cases ahead of the sizing process unless you want them getting stuck in the sizing die. We use Hornady One-Shot most of the time. You will also need to take care to make sure you are bumping the shoulder back around .001" to .002" of an inch when sizing. We use the Forster measurement tool from the previous article, with the disc with larger holes in it for measuring a specific point on the shoulder of the case. This lets us know exactly how well we've set the dies and whether adjustments need to be made.
The we chamfer and deburr the virgin brass, which allows bullets to be seated smoothly and without damage to the bullet jacket. You can usually skip this step with fired brass, unless the mouth of the case is damaged or if you end up trimming your cases. If fired brass, this is where we will usually clean out the primer pockets as well. All of this can be done on the Lyman station we previously mentioned.
Then we wipe off whatever lubrication might still be on the cases, and we're ready for priming! This may seem to be a bit simpler process than some of the brass prep processes you've seen. Over the years we've tried weight sorting cases, turning necks, length-uniforming cases, etc, etc...and to be honest we haven't noticed much difference! If you're shooting Benchrest competitions, then by all means do every lilttle thing that might make a difference. We just haven't found it to be worth it in the more practical shooting that we're used to.
Priming: As mentioned before, we prefer to hand prime our cases to get a feel for the tension and for uniform primer seating. We shoot for just below flush with the case head.
Powder Charging: Best bet for precision loading is to weigh every charge. We run the RCBS Chargemaster and love it. Plenty of precision for our needs and cranks them out!
Bullet Seating: This can be a somewhat tricky and frustrating part of the process, especially if you aren't using very well made equipment or components. Consistent seating depths and low runouts in your completed rounds are extremely dependent upon the quality of the bullets, brass, and dies you use to put the loads together. We get great results from the Redding Competition Seating dies, and Berger Bullets. We do recommend coughing up for the "VLD Stems" for the Competition Seating Die, as it works best with the long ogive on the VLD style bullets. We use the Hornady OAL gauge and Forster comparator measurement tool to get a lands measurement with the bullet we're using, then seat to a depth appropriate to the desired amount of jump to the lands. You now have a loaded round!
Quality Control: Overkill or not, we check the seating depth and runout of every single bullet we make. The Forster gauge gives us our ogive length and we a willing to tolerate seating depths within .001" of the goal depth. We measure runout on The Hornady Lock-N-Load Concentricity Gauge, which can be seen HERE. Quick and easy concentricity measurement and gives the ability to fix minor deviations found. We're generally happy with runouts of .002" or less. Over that and we either try to fix them or simply cull them from the pile.
That's our load building process in a nutshell! If you'd like clarification or have any question on any of the above, please feel free to give us a call or send us an email. In the next installment we'll finally be getting to the actual load development and how we go about finding a load that will work in multiple rifles of the same chambering more often than not. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
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