Precision-Reloading

Precision Reloading – What Is It?

In Blog by Rich8 Comments

This is the first of a series of articles we will be putting out on the topic of Precision Reloading. Each post will talk about different steps in the process of precision reloading and how best to accomplish that specific task. We’re going to talk about everything from the equipment used for different steps in the precision reloading process to the actual process of using the equipment to reload ammunition. This being the first article in the series we are going to discuss the topic of Precision Reloading in general. What it means, what’s the objective, how to get it done safely. None of this is any fun if somebody gets hurt so safety is going to be a paramount point emphasized in all the articles.

What is Precision Reloading?

Precision reloading as defined here at AccuracyTech is the process of manually creating precision rifle ammunition by hand on the shooter’s reloading bench. This is a process opposed to buying commercially produced ammunition from a factory. Some people might ask, why do it yourself? Two main reasons! Price and Accuracy. Ammunition created through the process of precision reloading at the shooter’s home is done so at a more affordable rate than purchasing the ammunition from a factory. There’s a joke that says, “You don’t really save yourself half the money, you just shoot twice as often!” That’s a fairly true statement. With easier access to a greater quantity of ammunition you tend to shoot more often negating any monetary savings. The upside is your money lets you shoot twice as much!

Precision-Reloading1

Precision Reloading – 338LM (L) 308WIN (ML) 6.5CM (MR) 6x47L (R)

 

The other primary reason to embark on the journey of mastering the precision reloading process is the accuracy attainable from custom ammunition. When you fire a rifle and the gases propel the projectile down the bore of the barrel there is a shockwave that moves down the barrel as well. The whole barrel vibrates like a tuning fork. Using ammunition created through a proper precision reloading process the exit of the bullet from the barrel is ‘timed’ to coincide with the shockwave being back towards the chamber rather than at the tip of the barrel. Obviously the less movement at the muzzle, the more consistent the bullet’s exit from the barrel and thus the better the accuracy downrange. So the theory goes.

Measuring Performance of the Precision Reloading Process

As we work through this series of articles there is likely to be some controversy stirred. We’re going to challenge people’s understanding and precision reloading processes by putting emphasis in a different place, and at a different part of the precision reloading process, than many people are used to doing. We’re also going to challenge the historical performance benchmark of the precision reloading process. The best truly objective way to measure the performance of your precision reloading process is with a Chronograph. If you aren’t familiar with chronographs you can read our article on How to Use a Chronograph!

I can hear the yelling already. I know everybody considers group size, both at 100 yards and farther downrange around 500-600 yards, to be the end all be all measurement of how tight ammunition shoots and how well the reloader’s precision reloading process is producing quality ammunition. Here’s the issue, most people don’t shoot as well as they think they do. There are plenty of guys with tens of thousands of rounds of trigger time that can get behind a rifle, shoot a few groups, and make well informed judgments of how tightly a given amount of ammunition shoots. The problem is most shooters, even those that shoot more often than a lot of people, don’t shoot well enough to make that call. At least not when using group size as the only benchmark!

Challenging the Traditional Precision Reloading Process

I mention the book Accuracy and Precision for Long Range Shooting frequently on this website. Parts of it can be a little dry but there is really a lot of excellent information available within it and I highly recommend it for anybody interested in long range shooting. Bryan Litz knows a lot about the science of ballistics and putting rounds on target. There is great emphasis in the book on the standard deviation and extreme spread of hand loaded ammunition. To paraphrase the information if you have ammunition that produces inconsistent velocities with large standard deviation and extreme spread numbers the differences will become significant enough over distance to cause a miss.

Accuracy and Precision for Long Range Shooting

You absolutely must have ammunition that produces consistent velocities. This is one of the hallmark principles of the precision reloading process. I don’t think anybody will argue that point or dispute it’s importance. Where we tend to bend the spoon and free everyone’s mind is by advocating the use of the chronograph early in the precision reloading process rather than later on, at the end, as has been traditionally done. If you base your decision on what powder charge to use on the size of a group at close range you are setting yourself up for extra hassle and failure. Chances are your ability to shoot a tight group isn’t as well developed as you think. Certainly it is not well developed in a novice shooter new to loading their own ammunition.

You would do much better to base your decision on powder charge, at least early in the process, on how the different powder charges perform with regard to consistency when fired over a chronograph. Then when you’ve established a handload through your precision reloading process that shoots tight SD/ES numbers on the chronograph you go out and shoot for group size. I would honestly like to see a tight shooting load on a chronograph that doesn’t shoot a decent group at 100/500yds in the hands of a capable shooter. The issue becomes what we see as a result of a novice shooter and reloader who bases his powder charge and load data on group size in the absence of chronograph data.

Wrapping Up Precision Reloading Opener

Guys, I want everybody to be successful in their endeavors into long range shooting. Especially the new shooters. I don’t want new shooters getting pissed off and discouraged because of bad results that could be avoided. A lot of new shooters don’t even chronograph their ammunition. They shoot what they think is a decent group at 100 yards and bingo, we must have a great load right? Wrong. 100 yards is not enough flight time to really illustrate the effect of inconsistent velocities on point of impact. It becomes more apparent at 500 yards but even that can be deceiving. Especially when tactical rifle matches these days are starting to regularly stretch even past 1000 yards and into the teens.

If you want to be competitive, hell if you just want to have a good time, you need to do your homework during load development. That’s going to be the point of this series of articles on Precision Reloading. Helping everybody do it right so it isn’t their ammunition holding them back! Even if you disagree, at least read the articles and leave us some comments on what you think, we’re always interested to hear feedback from readers!

Owner and Proprietor of AccuracyTech, LLC. Rich is a Firearms Enthusiast, Precision Rifle Competitor, and Writer. He is committed to bringing readers quality reviews and articles related to the Precision Shooting Sports. If you have any questions for him, please use the contact form on the site.

Comments

  1. I have been wanting to learn how to reload for some time now. But every time I look at equipment and supplies, I get discouraged as I do not want to buy the wrong product and then keep having to replace equipment. I understand that the powders, primers etc will have to be experimented with. I am looking for guidence in learning how to do this. And I would rather spend more money once for equipment than less money 3 times, LOL Thanks, Cush

    1. Author

      Honestly it’s pretty hard to go wrong with one of the RCBS kits. I’m always looking for article ideas so maybe one on reloading gear for people getting started is in order.

      I started with an RCBS kit and I still have the press, hand primer, scale, etc. Reloading isn’t really a buy once thing. If you bought the best of everything from the get go it would be really expensive.

      You kinda have to get your feet wet and see if you even like it before you decide if you’re going to load all your own ammo. I’ll see about an article on the topic for the very near future.

  2. Hi, I am not sure if it is ok to ask this question here, so if not, let me know.
    I have recently started reloading and have done 4 batches. I am doing the Newberry OCW method The first batch wet of without a hitch. Then things got confusing. The second and third batches were producing signs of over charge even though I used the exact same charges in each batch. The third batch actually blew out one primer (CW was 45.4 g, same as previous two batches)The first batch had a shoulder length of 1.575, Trim length 2.005, neck bushing was .335. All batches using once fired Fed Prem 168
    The only difference in the next two batches was that I changed to .336 neck bushing. (Redding FL Die) My Rem 700 5r .308 chamber is very deep so It is impossible to get close to the lands.
    One internet guy said to make shoulder length .001-.002 less than the exact tight shoulder length. He also said that a fire formed casing would be the exact shoulder length from which to deduct the .001-.002. I told him that my fire formed casings from the 2nd and third batches ranged from 1.577-1.582….he said that is impossible which led me to have less confidence in his advice since I know what they measured!
    So I decided to try the following way to arrive at the proper shoulder length:
    I removed the firing pin and the ejector pin and spring and then made casings with Shoulder lengths in .001 increments.
    So the first length that allowed a free falling bolt close was 1.570, so I made the casings’s shoulder lengths at 1.569
    For reference, The lengths of My usual factory rounds is appx 1.5705 (Fed Prem 168 Sierra)

    Any advice will be appreciated

    Thanks

    1. Author

      .001-.002 less than fired brass is correct to avoid overworking it, how are you measuring that? Do you have a bump gauge?

      Was the weather different between the two batches? If it was warmer that could be part of the issue. It could be headspace but that’s easy enough to check if you size the next batch to 1.570

  3. You be one smart guy! Yes the weather was in the 30s on the first batch (barrell cooled dwn in one or two minutes between rounds. The 2nd and 3rd were the same day, upper 60s
    Yes I use a bump gauge. I used the bump gauge to check the fired casings and got the range of 1.577-1.582
    When you say headspace, you mean shoulder length or OAL to lands? People seem to use that term loosley:)

    1. Author

      Headspace being space between the case shoulder and end of the chamber.

      It was probably weather related, 30F is a significant swing, if you were near max at 30F you could easily be into over pressure land at 60F+

      I’d pick your next accuracy node lower in charge weight and go from there. What powder?

      1. IMR 4895
        Do you think I should use the 1.569 shoulder measurment even though it is 6 thousandths less than the fed prem 168s? They have shot very well in the past with only a few tight bolt closings.

        1. Author

          I think you should average 10 fired cases and subtract 1 or 2 thousandths from that

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