June 9th, 2018

Varmint Ammo — How Good is “Good Enough”?

Wyoming varmint hunt prairie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure
Photo by Forum member R. Hardy. View Related Thread.

Summer’s here, so many folks will head to the hinterlands on prairie dog safaris. On a good P-Dog adventure, you may shoot hundreds of rounds over a long weekend. So you’ll need plenty of ammo. With these ammo volume requirements, you probably won’t have time to load to benchrest standards, and you may not have the budget for match-grade bullets. To save time you may throw (rather than weigh) your charges, or even load on a progressive press. This all raises the question of ammo accuracy — how good is “good enough”? A Sierra Bullets expert answers that question here — explaining how to efficiently load ammo for varmint work.

Ammunition Accuracy Requirements 101 — Varmint Ammo

Wyoming varmint hunt prairie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure

This story based on article by Sierra Bullets Chief Ballistician Tommy Todd
I load and shoot ammunition for a living. In my duties here at Sierra I constantly test bullet accuracy for our production needs. Because of this, I shoot a variety of different calibers and cartridges on a daily basis and a large demand of this shooting is keeping the guns and loads tuned for optimum accuracy. I have a very narrow window of tolerances to maintain in order to provide our customers (you) with the most accurate bullets on the market.

I have learned many tricks and techniques over the years to tuning a load, prepping brass, and cleaning barrels to keep a gun shooting. I often utilize the things I have learned and take them to extreme levels when competing in a shooting event. I also often ignore most of these things (other than safety) and simplify the process if the shooting I will be doing does not warrant.

Recently I went on a prairie dog shoot in Wyoming with some good friends. The targets cooperated as did the weather with the exception of some challenging winds we experienced. We had a great time and make a lot of hits on those small rodents. When loading for the 223 Remington rifles and the TC Contender, I cut a few corners in the ammunition-loading process due to both time constraints and accuracy needed. When shooting at a prairie dog a miss is simply that, but when shooting at say the X-ring at 1000-yard competition, a poorly-placed shot [harms your] placing in the match. Because of this, I can afford to miss an occasional shot at a varmint due to ammunition capability without worry but will not allow the same tolerances in my match ammo. For the Wyoming trip I utilized a powder measure and simply dumped the charges into primed cases that had been full-length sized and primed.

Wyoming varmint hunt prarie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure

I had measured enough for length to know that while there was some variance all were under maximum length. I know there is some variation of the measure I utilized but not significant enough to warrant weighing every charge. When seating the bullets a competition seating die was used and I verified OAL on the occasional cartridge to make sure nothing changed.

The ammo produced shot under one inch at 200 yards in one of the guns I planned on taking on to Wyoming with me. [Editor: That was for TEN Shots — see below.] I knew I had loaded ammunition that was quite suitable for the task at hand which was evidenced by the number of hits I was able to make at fairly long range.

Wyoming varmint hunt prairie dog Sierra Bullets Tommy Todd Reloading accuracy powder measure

NOTE: The author, Tommy Todd, explains that, when loading ammo for F-Class matches, he uses more exacting methods. He weighs every charge and seats his bullets carefully with an arbor press. Todd adapts his methodology for his particular application. The lesson here is to load to the level of precision demanded by your discipline. READ Full Story HERE.

Varmint Prairie Dog hunting safari reloading powder measure Tommy Todd

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Hunting/Varminting, Reloading 1 Comment »
March 2nd, 2017

The Great Debate — Weight vs. Volume in Powder Dispensing

Lee Auto-Disk Chargemaster weight vs. Volume

When we first ran this story a while back, it spurred a hot debate, with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Some guys argued vehemently that volumetric powder dispensing was best — citing the experience of short-range benchresters, most of whom still throw their charges. Others say weighing your charges is best, so long as you have a very precise, and very repeatable scale. We know some of the top 1000-yard shooters weigh their charges to the kernel.

Lee Auto-Disk Chargemaster weight vs. VolumeMost competitive long-range shooters weigh powder charges for their handloads. Some even use ultra-precise magnetic force restoration scales to load to single-kernel tolerances. But is weight-based measuring always the best way to fill a case with powder? Another option is volumetric charging. This method fills a precisely-sized cavity with powder and then dumps the charge into the case. A Harrell’s rotary powder measure works this way, as does the sliding powder filler on a Dillon progressive press.

For long-range applications, most people believe that precise weighing of powder charges is the best way to achieve optimal accuracy and low ES/SD. However, those short-range Benchrest guys do pretty darn well with their thrown charges, at least at 100 and 200 yards.

Our friend Dennis Santiago recently observed something that made him scratch his head and wonder about weighing charges. His AR-15 match rifle shot better with volumetric (cavity-measured) charges than with weighed charges dispensed by an RCBS ChargeMaster. Here’s what he reports:

Cavity vs. Dribble (Dennis Santiago Report)
I had the chance to compare nominally identical ammunition loaded two ways. These were all .223 Remington match loads using 77gr Sierra Match Kings over 23.4 grains of Hodgdon Varget. Same gun. However I loaded some ammo with charges dispensed with a Lee cavity-style powder measure while other rounds were loaded with powder weighed/dispensed by an RCBS Chargemaster. The cavity-drop ammo (with powder dropped from the Lee unit) was consistently better than the weighed-charge ammo. I have no idea why…

So, ladies and gentlemen — what do you think? Why did Mr. Santiago’s volumetrically-charged ammo shoot better than ammo filled with weighed charges? What’s your theory? Gary Eliseo suspects that Dennis’s Chargemaster might have been drifting. What do you think? Post your theories in the comments area below.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 16 Comments »
December 5th, 2014

Bench Hacks 101: Modified Straw Trick for ChargeMasters

RCBS Dispenser strawHere’s a clever, easy modification for your RCBS ChargeMaster electronic powder dispenser. Many folks use a McDonald’s straw to smooth kernel flow out of the dispensing tube. Forum member Mike S. (aka in2deep) found that, even with a straw in place, he sometimes got clumps, which dropped 5-6 kernels at once, throwing off his dispensed weight.

Mike looked at the situation and ingeniously decided to trim the straw into little v-shaped arms or prongs. This helps to break up the clumps, so the kernels flow out the end of the tube more consistently during the dispense cycle. Mike writes:

Soda Straw Modification
This is a further tweak of the popular soda straw modification as the original mod would still allow Varget powder to collect in the straw and dump sometimes as many as 6 or 8 or even more extra kernels in the pan. It would sometimes signal an overcharge, but even when it didn’t there could be as many as 6+ kernels too high or too low (total spread of 12+).

The little arms (prongs) on the straw tend to separate the kernels into groups of 1 or 2 or 3 and prevents piling and many times the throw is now within 1 or 2 kernels of the desired weight.

RCBS Dispenser straw

Straw Cutting Tips — Mike found the shape/angle of the “arms” is very important. If the cuts are too fine or too course it allows the kernels to collect almost like before but the illustrated angle seems to allow an average of only 2 or 3 kernels per trickle input from the machine. This means that more charges are much closer to the actual desired weight and max kernel variances will be cut in less than half and there will be almost no overthrows.

Credit Boyd Allen for sourcing this tip.
Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
August 30th, 2014

Zediker Article Discusses Merits of Reloading at the Range

Glen Zediker Reloading at RangeThe February 2013 edition of Shooting Sports USA magazine has an interesting feature by Glen Zediker. In this Transporting Success, Part I article, Zediker explains the advantages of loading at the range when your are developing new loads or tuning existing loads. Glen, the author of the popular Handloading for Competition book, discusses the gear you’ll need to bring and he explains his load development procedure. In discussing reloading at the range, Glen focuses on throwing powder and seating bullets, because he normally brings enough sized-and-primed brass to the range with him, so he doesn’t need to de-prime, re-size, and then re-prime his cases.

Zediker writes: “Testing at the range provides the opportunity to be thorough and flexible. You also have the opportunity to do more testing under more similar conditions and, therefore, get results that are more telling. Once you are there, you can stay there until you get the results you want. No more waiting until next time.”

Zediker starts with three-shot groups: “I usually load and fire three samples [with] a new combination. I’ll then increase propellant charge… based on the results of those three rounds, and try three more. I know that three rounds is hardly a test, but if it looks bad on that few, it’s not going to get any better.”

Glen reminds readers to record their data: “Probably the most important piece of equipment is your notebook! No kidding. Write it down. Write it all down.

Glen Zediker Reloading at Range

RCBS Partner PressThere’s More to the Story…

Editor’s Note: In Zediker’s discussion of loading at the range, he only talks about throwing powder and seating bullets. In fact, Glen opines that: “there is little or no need for sizing.” Well, maybe. Presumably, for each subsequent load series, Zediker uses fresh brass that he has previously sized and primed. Thus he doesn’t need to de-prime or resize anything.

That’s one way to develop loads, but it may be more efficient to de-prime, re-size, and load the same cases. That way you don’t need to bring 50, 80, or even 100 primed-and-sized cases to the range. If you plan to reload your fired cases, you’ll need a system for de-priming (and re-priming) the brass, and either neck-sizing or full-length sizing (as you prefer). An arbor press can handle neck-sizing. But if you plan to do full-length sizing, you’ll need to bring a press that can handle case-sizing chores. Such a press need not be large or heavy. Many benchresters use the small but sturdy RCBS Partner Press, an “O-Design” that costs about $79.00. You may even get by with the more basic Lee Precision Compact Reloading Press, shown in Zediker’s article. This little Lee press, Lee product #90045, retails for under $30.00.

Glen Zediker Reloading at Range

Permalink - Articles, Reloading 5 Comments »
November 30th, 2012

Reloading Tip — Eliminate ‘Static Cling’ in Powder Measures

In the wintertime, it’s common to encounter problems with static electricity when throwing your powder charges. The static can cause powder kernels to cling to the surface of reloading components, and can cause powder clumping. Clumped or sticky powder may make your measure bind or grab in the middle of the cycle, which can throw off your charge weight. Here are a couple simple ways you can minimize the effects of static electricity and improve the consistency of your powder measuring.

Harrells Powder Measure Alligator grounding clips bounce cloth

Ground Your Powder Measure — If you’re throwing powder charges in the fall or winter and have problems with bridging or sticking powder, use a ground wire. Bullet-smith Victor Johnson (Johnson Precision Bullets) tells us: “I have a 25-foot piece of real small wire with alligator clips on each end. It’s that long so I can run it down the hall to a water pipe. Use the wire tie from a bread bag to hold it in a small roll to put in the range box. When using it at the range use a 6″ nail from the co-op or Lowe’s / Home Depot and just push it into the ground.”

Use Bounce Dryer Sheets — A quick pass with the thin sheets used in dryers will eliminate “static cling” on your plastic reloading parts like powder throwers, powder funnels, and reloading press guides. Thanks to Doc76251 for this tip.


Reduce Electronic Scales’ Drift with Anti-Static Spray

Reloading Tip by German Salazar from RiflemansJournal.com

Digital Scale Static Guard Static ElectricityApparently reducing static charges on and around electronic scales can reduce their propensity to drift, lessening the problem of “wandering zero”. Just how and why static charges interfere with scale performance is unclear, but many shooters have noticed that static electricity can cause electronic scales to behave strangely. So how do you reduce static charges around your digital balance? German Salazar has found a very simple solution — an anti-static aerosol spray — that, by all indications, actually works. When this “spray-can solution” was suggested to German by a fellow shooter, German was skeptical. However, German tried the stuff and he says that it really does help the scale maintain zero over time, with much less observed drift.

On his Rifleman’s Journal website, German explains that the use of “Static Guard” spray helped mitigate the problem of a drifting zero on his Ohaus Navigator electronic scale. German writes: “My electronic scale… suffers from drifting zero (as they all seem to). I’ve read dozens of forum posts about drift and how to minimize its occurrence, so I know this problem isn’t limited to my scale or my workshop. Sometime last year, John Lowther mentioned the use of anti-static spray as a solution to the drift problem. John stated that the spray had virtually eliminated drift for him.”

Digital Scale Static Guard Static Electricity

German found that the Static Guard actually worked: “The spray works great, just as John said it would. I spray all surfaces that I touch with my hands and arms as well as the pan (top and bottom), the metal tray on which the pan rests and the table under the scale. In six months or so of using the spray I’ve re-applied it about two or three times; it certainly isn’t something that you need to do each time you sit down to load. Before using the spray, it was not uncommon for me to re-zero the scale 10 times in the course of loading 72 rounds; now it might need it once during a session.”

READ Full Story on RiflemansJournal.com

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip 5 Comments »
November 23rd, 2012

How to Get an RCBS ChargeMaster for $250.00 (After Rebate)

The RCBS ChargeMaster Combo Electronic Scale/Dispenser is very popular with reloaders. The units we use have dispensed loads faithfully (and accurately) for many seasons. We rarely, if ever, mess around with manual powder measures anymore. If you haven’t bought a ChargeMaster yet because the price (typically about $349.00) has been out of reach, now you’re in luck. Midsouth Shooters Supply has discounted the ChargeMaster to exactly $300.00. That qualifies for a $50 off rebate from RCBS. When you figure in the $50 Manufacturer’s Rebate, your final price (not including shipping) is just $250.00. That’s a good deal. But just to be clear — you still have to pay shipping!

How to Claim Your $50.00 Mail-In Rebate
You can get $50.00 cash back from RCBS. You need to have purchased at least $300.00 in 2012 RCBS “Product” to qualify for the RCBS $50.00 mail-in rebate. With the rebate you get $50.00 back directly from RCBS. This lowers the effective price of a new ChargeMaster to $250.00 (before shipping and after rebate). Purchases must be made between 1/1/2012 and 12/31/2012 and the rebate form and supporting materials must be received no later than 1/31/2013.

Permalink Hot Deals, Reloading 1 Comment »
May 30th, 2012

New Redding Powder Measure for Small Varmint Cartridges

Redding 10X Powder MeasureRedding is releasing a dedicated small-case powder measure with a charge weight range of 1 to 25 grains. This specialized Model 10X powder measure should work well for small varmint cartridges such as the .221 Fireball, .20 Vartarg, and the 17 Hornet. The powder cavity and micrometer settings put the charge for a 17 Hornet right in the middle of the powder measure’s capacity — the most accurate part of its range. That’s good news for small rifle cartridge reloaders.

In addition, 17 Fireball and 17 Hornet shooters will be pleased to not that Redding has introduced a 17-caliber drop tube adapter that fits the small-diameter necks of these compact varmint cartridges. With this 17-cal adapter (Redding part #03817), you can throw charges directly into 17-caliber cartridge brass, without the need for separate small-neck funnels.

Features of New Redding 10x Powder Measure:

• Micrometer-controlled powder metering chamber
• Hemispherical Cup for smoother operation
• Cast iron and hard chrome construction
• Positive metering chamber lock
• Adjustable powder baffle

The 17 Hornet is based on the venerable rimmed .22 Hornet case. However, the case is not just necked-down from .22 caliber. The case designers reduced body taper, moved the shoulder, and changed the shoulder angle to 25°. This effectively modernized the old .22 Hornet case, improving efficiency while retaining the max OAL, so that the 17 Hornet can work in any action big enough for the .22 Hornet. Hornady’s “Superformance” 17 Hornet loaded ammo is designed to push a 20gr bullet at an impressive 3650 fps.

Hornady 17 Hornet Ammunition

Permalink New Product, Reloading 3 Comments »
January 22nd, 2012

SHOT Show: New Products from Redding Reloading Equipment

Video Report by Robert Whitley
Redding Reloading Equipment unveiled some new products at the 2012 SHOT Show. In this video, Dave Dibble, staff engineer for Redding, showcases some of Redding’s new items. These include the new small-caliber drop tube adapter, the Micrometer Seating Stem Retrofit kit, and Redding’s New Imperial BioGreen Case Lubricant (for pad application).

17-20 Caliber Drop Tube Adapter
This is a Lexan replacement fitting that goes on the bottom of a Redding powder measure drop tube to provide a better fit on small cases. The adapter is a simple friction fit and works with all Redding powder measures and the Redding powder funnel. The adapter simply slides onto the existing drop tube. The adapter should fit any Redding drop tube of 1960s vintage or newer.

Micrometer Seating Stem Retrofit Kit
Redding offers a unit that upgrades existing Redding standard seating dies to a micrometer-top seating die, with hash marks corresponding to .001″ (one-thousandth) movements in bullet seating depth. Note, before you order, check the part number on top of your existing standard seating die, and find the corresponding upgrade kit.

Imperial Bio-Green Case Lube
This new, non-petroleum lube, said to be “as slippery as traditional Imperial Die Wax”, can be used on any pad type-lubricant applicator. Clean-up is easy because the lube is water-soluble and the lube won’t stain your brass. Redding recommends this for folks who use ultrasonic cleaners as there is no petroleum to contaminate the ultra-sonic cleaning solution. Redding says reloaders should be able to “clean a lot more cases before changing the [ultrasonic] fluid.”

Permalink - Videos, New Product, Reloading 5 Comments »
January 15th, 2011

New Redding Jumbo-Capacity LR-1000 Powder Measure

Here’s good news for .338 LM, .416 CheyTac, and .50 BMG Shooters — No longer will you need to make double throws with a manual powder measure, just to get enough powder to fill your case. Redding Reloading has introduced a NEW high-capacity powder measure that can pump out up to 140 grains of powder with a single throw. The new Redding LR-1000 measure features an all new-metering chamber capable of producing accurate powder drops of up to 140 grains.

Consider that a .338 Lapua Magnum typically uses about 100 grains of powder. With Redding’s new LR-1000 measure,you can fill the case with one throw and still stay within the optimal (middle third) “sweet spot” of the measure’s capacity. This will yield better results, as Redding explains: “[Large Cartridge Shooters] have been forced to resort to double powder drops or working at the very outer limits of a measure’s capacity to throw the needed quantity of powder for these big cases. Neither practice represents the best solution.”

Redding LR-1000 Powder measure

LR-1000 Large Capacity Measure Specs
The LR-1000 features cast iron construction with a hard chromed rotor and cutting edge. Note that the hemispherical cup at the base of the metering chamber reduces bridging with extruded powders, even with small throw volumes. The LR-1000 ships complete with jumbo-sized powder reservoir, powder baffle and a zero-backlash micrometer. For more info, visit Redding-Reloading.com, specifically the Media Center Page (click on “2011 Press Kit”).

Permalink New Product, Reloading 1 Comment »
January 22nd, 2010

SHOT Show Report: New 'National Match' Die Sets, New Calibers, and Versa Pak Reloading Kit

Gas gunners take note — for 2010 Redding has created new “National Match” reloading sets in .223 Remington, .308 Winchester, and 30-06 Springfield. These new three-die sets are designed expressly for the AR15, M1A, and M1 Garand used in High Power comps and Garand matches. These kits include a full-length sizing die, a Competition Seater Die, and a taper crimp die. Previously these dies were only offered individually. If you’re shooting an AR, Garand, or M1A, these new sets may be just what you need.

In addition to the National Match die sets, Redding has added new calibers to its die catalog for 2010. Complete die sets will now be offered for the popular 6.5 Creedmoor, the 260 Rem Improved 40° (also know as the 260 Ackley), and the 458 Socom. This should please the growing numbers of High Power shooters using the 6.5 Creedmoor, and the tactical guys looking for more velocity than a standard 260 Rem can deliver.

New Complete Basic Reloading Set
For shooters just getting started in reloading, Redding has put together a new basic reloading package that contains virtually everything you need except a press and dies. Redding’s new Versa Pak includes a reloading scale, powder measure, case trimer, powder trickler, case lube pad, funnel, deburring tool, and other case prep tools. In addition, the Versa Pak comes with the Hodgdon Reloading Manual and Redding’s excellent Advanced Handloading DVD. The Versa Pak will retail for about $350.00. That may sound like a lot, but if you add up the cost of all the gear included in the Versa Pak, it is a good value. You’ll also save time (and shipping costs) by acquiring all the essential tools at one time.

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