So you plan to do some handloading or reloading for your rifle? Have you thought about where to start with regard to powder charges and how to do it safely? One of the biggest challenges is establishing safe starting points for load development. There are many sources of information about where to start that are available to reloaders, some are trustworthy and others aren’t. This post is going to discuss potential sources of reloading data to use to safely execute load development for your rifle. Safety is the paramount concern and will be the focus in this article, we want our readers to do things correctly, and that means doing it safely!
Accurate Reloading Data Sources
I’m going to say it right from the start, the biggest problem with finding accurate reloading data is the guy at the range. We’ve all met him. Mr. Knowsitall with the mustache that’s ‘been shooting for 30 years’ and the sheer length of time he’s been shooting is only outclassed by the vast amount of knowledge he claims to have as a result. Don’t listen to that guy unless you know him well and more importantly, you’re sure he knows his shit. Reloading can be exceedingly dangerous if it is not done with meticulous attention to detail and with safety as a first concern. Just because somebody has been reloading forever doesn’t mean they’re doing it right or qualified to give advice to others. BE LEERY OF 1ST HAND SOURCES OF ACCURATE RELOADING DATA!
I’m not saying anybody that wants to talk about accurate reloading data is a fool, I’m saying that you shouldn’t use another person’s data until they’ve proven themselves competent. 1st Hand information, and by that I mean a person telling you about where to start with powder charges and what to use should immediately send up a red flag. The reason is that everybody’s rifle is different. Even two guns made by the same manufacturer of the same model can behave differently when it comes to reloading. You should never use another person’s reloading data or think of it as accurate reloading data by itself.
The proper place to seek out reloading data is from the manufacturer of the powder you plan to use. I’m aware that bullet manufacturers also put out data with regard to the projectiles they produce and known and established data regarding powder used with those projectiles. Bullet manufacturer data can be considered accurate reloading data. However, in my experience and that of others, the reloading manuals put out by bullet manufacturers tend to be overly conservative with regards to powder charges. I’m not telling you to exceed what they list as maximum, or to start anywhere near it. I’m saying often times the charges are very conservative. Powder manufacturers on the other hand tend to have very accurate data with regard to starting and maximum powder charges to be used with given bullets.
Accurate Reloading Data Links
I’m going to list some links now for reloading data websites which are databases of bullets and powder charges put out by powder manufacturers. I will tell you the one downside to using powder manufacturers for data is their list of bullets is often not complete. They may not have data specifically for the bullet you plan to use. For that reason I suggest using both. Use the data books put out by bullet manufacturers AND that of the powder manufacturers to guide you in your search for good accurate reloading data. Be wary of any large discrepancies between the two and you should do just fine.
- Hodgdon Powder Reloading Data Center – LINK
- Alliant Powder Reloading Data Center – LINK
- IMR Powder Reloading Data Center – LINK
- Vihtavuori Powder Reloading Data Center – LINK
Those links will take you to databases of the powder manufacturers. If you can’t find the bullet you plan to use in your list I suggest purchasing the manual put out by the bullet manufacturer as well. As a general rule of thumb, you can approximate powder charges across different manufacturers when the bullets are of the same approximate weight. For example a Sierra 175gr 30 Caliber bullet might have data, but they may not list data for a 178gr Hornady AMAX 30 Caliber bullet. You can use the starting and maximum charge weights from the Sierra bullet on the Hornady bullet. HOWEVER! This assumes that you start low and work up to the maximum in small increments.
I’m going to put this in its own paragraph in italics for effect. START LOW AND WORK UP IN SMALL INCREMENTS – NEVER START AT OR NEAR A MAXIMUM CHARGE!
Wrapping Up Accurate Reloading Data
Every barrel is different and if you start near a maximum charge you risk a catastrophic event where the gun could come apart and injure the shooter. So just don’t do it. Start low and work your way up into progressively higher powder charges in small increments. Watch for all signs of pressure which we may make into it’s own post here in the future. Are the primers flattening? Do you have stamps in the case head from the ejector? Is your bolt tight and difficult to lift? If you see anything along those lines you need to stop and back off. The gun will tell you when it is getting close to having a problem, pay attention to the warning signs and you are unlikely to have a problem.