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Load development process

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by Billy_Ray, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. Billy_Ray


    Aug 6, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    I have read a couple threads recently where several posters are critical of someone (usually a newbie like myself) who is asking for load information. I am more than willing to do the work of reading, researching and developing loads, but I have not done it enough to know exactly what I should be looking for. So can the reloaders who are interested in helping newbies but not in giving them the shortcut please explain in as much detail as you care to, how you go about your load development process.

    1. Planned use (hunging, target, plinking, competition...)
    2. Bullet size/weight and how it relates to the planned use
    3. Velocity
    4. Powder
    5. Anything else I am missing

    Thank you all for your help and support, I would not have attempted reloading without the advice I have picked up on this board.

    Billy Ray
  2. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    I can hardly claim to be an expert or anything, and have experience only specifically with respect to my own needs. That said...

    1. Planned use: in my case, this is target practice. My goal is to practice with loads that are similar in terms of recoil to factory rounds. The accuracy of the round is important to me since the purpose of practice is to evaluate and improve my ability to hit what I'm aiming at.
    2. Bullet size/weight: in my case, needs to be the same as the rounds that I would be using for self-defense. FMJ as opposed to JHP is fine as long as the accuracy is the same. I've found JHP to be more accurate in 9mm.
    3. Velocity: I haven't measured mine even though I have a chronograph, because I don't have the lighting setup for my chrony yet and I shoot at an indoor range where the lighting just isn't strong enough for the chronograph to work. However, based on the loads I'm using, it should be reasonably close to what factory ammo claims to produce.
    4. Powder: I use Silhouette. I started with Titegroup, but that is a very demanding powder in terms of charge precision. I switched to Silhouette because it apparently has a relatively linear pressure versus charge weight response. People have been producing 9mm loads that hit major power factor with that powder. I find the recoil to be less "snappy" than with Titegroup. It also meters better. As it happens, it's also a good powder to use in .40 S&W, thanks to its medium burn rate and relatively linear response.
    5. Anything else: OAL. It's an integral part of the load workup. It's better to use a longer OAL if you can, because it gives you greater headroom on pressure in the event you accidentally overcharge a case. Sometimes that's not possible -- for instance, the OAL on my .40 S&W load is the same as what's specified in the load data and not longer, because what's specified in the load data is SAAMI max length. Even though I'm producing rounds for my guns only, I'd prefer to produce them in such a way that they should function in any SAAMI-spec firearm of the same caliber, just like factory ammo generally does.
    I work up my load 10 rounds at a time. It's enough to see if a given charge cycles the gun and enough to see if the groups are good with it. Even if max charge would get me the best groupings I will not use max charges in my loads. I'm not about to take the chance that the random variations in powder throw possible with the powder measure are going to send my load over the pressure limits. End result: I use 5.3 grains of Silhouette for my 9mm load (5.6 is the max) and 6.0 grains for my .40 S&W loads (6.2 is the max).

    Hope this helps...

  3. GioaJack

    GioaJack Conifer Jack

    Apr 14, 2009
    Conifer, CO
    You asked very good questions which shows you've already done a fair amount of research. Good for you, you're well on your way to becoming a real hand loader... not just a production line operator.

    KC did a very nice job of addressing your questions... he also takes this hobby with an eye toward learning as much as he can.

    It might be easier for folks to respond to individual questions or concerns, that way the answers can be dealt with in a more comprehensive manner, if that's what your looking for.

    Welcome to the forum, you'll learn a lot here.

    Oh, btw... based on your name... you don't wear a mullet, do you? :whistling:

  4. Billy_Ray


    Aug 6, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    I will continue to respect my elders for as long as they continue to respect my mullet. :tongueout:

    Billy Ray
  5. shotgunred

    shotgunred local trouble maker

    Mar 1, 2008
    Washington (the state)
    I go to the net. ask hey what are you using. If 4 or more people agree I make 250 practice rounds and shoot them at my next match.

    1. Planned use (hunting, target, plinking, competition...)
    98% + bullets shot in the USA are shot at targets.

    2. Bullet size/weight and how it relates to the planned use
    I like heavy bullets so I chose medium to heavy for every thing.
    I buy what is in bulk and have a preference for Rainier
    and Montana Gold.

    3. Velocity
    unless I am making them for self defense I make slow or medium
    Velocity. I feel that barn burmers shorten guns lives.

    4. Powder
    I use it:) Medium or medium fast. Its a lot about personal
    preference and you have to try several and make the call.

    5. Anything else I am missing?
    OAL important for feeding and pressure.
    Power factor if you are gaming it.
    Smoke-----lube lead and some powders.
  6. fredj338


    Dec 22, 2004
    #1 Select a bullet type & wt for the application. JHP or hard cast lead for hunting, FMJ, plated or cast lead for plinking & target or competition.
    #2 See #1. You can never go wrong w/ middle of the road bullet wts / caliber for plinking or competition, even target work. Hunting often requires heavy for caliber bullets.
    #3 Look at a loading manual & decide upon the velocity you want to work with. Target & plinking ammo often get by fine w/ middle of the book vel levels. Hunting ammo is usually closer to the upper end.
    #4 POwders, see #3. Again, looking at a loading book, select a powder that will give you the vel. level you seek. Slower burning powders build pressure over a longer duration so you can pack more powder in & get higher vel. safely. I choose a powder that will give me the vel. level I want w/ the lower/safer pressure. I also like a powder that fills at least half the case. (Example: With the 9mm, you can get to 1150fps w/ a 124grFMJ & both TG & WSF. WSF will do the 1150fps w/ less pressure)
    #5 Working up loads. I choose average middle data from 2-3 books. Load 10rds, then load 10 more up 0.1gr & down 0.1gr. Shoot them in order & note reliability, accuracy, any pressure signs & things like unburnt powder. That will work for any bullet powder combo for plinking & target ammo. For hunting ammo, you often want more vel.=more energy=a better killing round. So work your middle data up 0.1gr at a time for 10rds each (handgun). If you are loading for a larger magnum w/ slow powders, then 0.2gr increments will work fine. Choose the load that gives you 100% reliability & the accuracy you can deliver (test form a rest, most of us can't determine accuracy offhand).
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2010
  7. I start with
    1. What firearm am I working up the load for?
    2. Use, target, match, hunting,self defence.
    3. The bullet I want to use.
    4. research data on this bullet thru a variety of sources.
    5. Purchase a small sample of the components you choose and begin the work up to optimum accuracy, minimum spread and minimum deviation and of course feed and function. once I am satisfied with the load I will determine if it is worthy of a bulk buy of the components. If not choose another bullet and repeat as necessary.
    Some bullets require a velocity window to perform as advertised..jhp, lhp, etc.
    Velocity is important but accuracy is my goal.

    As for testing I like the OCW method for rifle and 10 round groups for handgun.

    Dont forget your Chronograph
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2010