Load Development vs factory loads

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by johnlives4christ, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

    Apr 28, 2008
    the reloading manual i have basically says you need to load for each gun you use, finding the right combo of powder and bullets for best accuracy.

    i understand this for accuracy. and i understand for safety, because some guns might show signs of over pressure with ammo that works fine in other guns.

    i do have a lyman manual in route and perhaps it will answer my question but i'll post here for opinions and advice.

    basically my question is, how do you determine a good all around load? one that will work in every gun of that chambering, matching factory ammo.

    if i had a sweet combat magnum like josh then i could see making up the perfect load for it. but i have a smith snubby38, so i dont really care as long as it's halfway accurate but 100% reliable.

    so far the lee dipper has been pretty good for making plinking ammo for the 38. it feels a tad weaker then factory ammo, but not much. so im content with it.

    but what if i had 2 or 3 more 38's? or 2 or 3 45acp's? how do you go about making factory equivalent loads for several duplicate caliber guns?

    factory ammo, for the most part is accurate enough to suit me.

    do you pretty much settle on a middle of the road load that functions well and chronographs around the right speed?

    and since im just starting off i dont have a chronograph, should i get one? or can i get by without one for a while. i dont see much need for one honestly unless i was wildcatting. so is it just for matching factory speeds?

    working up rifle loads, as long as they dont show signs of over pressure, it makes no difference what speed they are because you're really going for accuracy. handgun as well i would think

    so how do you decide what to do to make a basic all around load to match factory ammo?

    something that might be good for say... plinking OR stockpiling for future use
  2. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA
    Since velocity is a function of barrel length and many other factors, to match factory ammo you have to buy some and test it to get its actual specs in your gun. You need to measure its accuracy by shooting at least five five shot groups at 100 yds then average their performance. You need to measure velocity (you can not trust the specs on the box as they were not shot in your gun) so you would need a chrongraph. Premium factory ammo today is very good stuff. It is normally very accurate (that means it is made consistently from round to round and lot to lot) and usually maximized for velocity without exceeding industry pressure specs. But most of us don't need to match factory ammo. We need consistently accurate, fast enough ammo, that is safe to fire in our gun.

    Without testing tools you only need to shoot groups to determine the best accuracy. Reloading manuals do the testing for you for excessive pressure. But as you increase the powder load you must not exceed the max loads listed in the manuals and stop at the level below that which shows signs of excessive pressure (What those pressure signs are, is in the reloading manual's "how-to" text). The classic way to find the powder level that works for you is to shoot at least three groups of five, average them, and compare them to other powder levels.

    In order to find the perfect load you have to try different bullet weights, different powders, different powder load levels. It is a long trip to get to perfect. OR.....

    Using a reloading manual pick the weight bullet you need, pick a appropriate powder, pick a middle load level and shoot away. But don't load a thousand rounds that way. Load a few and test them for accuracy to see if they are accurate enough and make sure there are no signs of excessive pressures. Do no use the max load this way. A middle load between min and max will most likely work just fine.

    If you do not have a couple of good reloading manuals then get them. The Hornady or Sierra or Speer or Lyman (for cast bullet reloads) work just fine. Read the "how-to" section of each and re-read it until you truly understand it. Then start your load development program. Come back here after you have done that and ask any question you might have. We are here to help if you educate yourself first. BE SAFE!

    Show Low likes this.

  3. carver

    carver Moderator Supporting Member

    John, most of us go thru just what you're going thru now, when we first get started. I have been reloading for almost 40 years, and I have never owned a chronograph. Like most of us you just want to build an acceptable bullet for plinking around, and shooting a few informal targets. LDBennett told you right. This ain't rocket science either! You don't need to get fancy unless you want better than factory for some real compition! I, like most others just go by the manual, they have done all the testing on the ammo I want to reload, and with the bullets, and powder I want to use. I just start in the middle, and work my way up to max, if I want to go to max (and I usually don't). As long as you load middle of the road ammo it should be safe to shoot in any modern properly working firearm.
  4. RandyP

    RandyP Active Member

    Jan 22, 2009
    I have found it 'simplest' to just load my target ammo (plated bullets) at low-mid published data and use the same ammo for all my guns in that caliber. The paper zombies at the local indoor range don't seem to mind. For my use, loading to max would only waste powder.

    For SD use even those loads would serve me well, though I do own some factory made hollow point stuff that sometimes makes it into a carry magazine.
  5. steve4102

    steve4102 Former Guest

    Jan 27, 2006
    For handguns it pretty simple. Pick a bullet and a powder and work up to middle to upper middle loads, check for signs of pressure and acceptable accuracy. If you have three or four pistols of the same cartridge then test them all at the same time. I have several handguns chambered the same and my plinking/target loads are the same for each gun. But, I am no where near max with plinking ammo. In my high power 10MM Hunting loads, each gun has it's own load. These loads need to be fast and accurate and each gun is different.

    If you are going to load for more than one rifle of the same cartridge, you must always FL size your brass. Neck sizing is not an option if you plan on interchanging ammo. The process is about the same as pistol. Pick a bullet/powder combo and start low and work up checking for pressure and accuracy. If you find a load that works well in all your guns, great, if not you may have to keep testing or use different loads for each gun. Me, all my rifles have very different loads and must be kept separated..
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  6. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    Carver and i share the same school of thought. Most of my handguns get fed middle of the road loads 99% of the time. I simply pick a charge that is listed smack between start and max in the load tables listed for my case, primer, and bullet weight and go with it. This method has proven acceptably accurate in all of my handguns, and some even shoot superbly with these loads, I just got lucky on them. In fact that Fancy DCM you mention, I stumbled onto a one holer load using 125 gr cast boolits with 5.0 grains of titegroup, the very first time i loaded for it...
  7. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

    Apr 28, 2008
    lets take 40 caliber for example. i buy federal 40 s&w from walmart. about 15 dollars a box.

    is this a mid power load? is it a near max load?

    for a revolver it dont matter much since the power of the round doesnt impede the functioning of the gun but for an automatic i want ammo that will function in all firearms chambered for that round. i have a glock 22. well lets say i picked up a ruger p94 in 40 caliber. id want the little ammo stash in 40 i have been making to work properly in that gun, just like if i had bought 2 boxes of factory ammo and shot each box through each of the respective guns

    i have read a manual. granted it was an old shooters bible reloading manual (i think, too lazy to go see) it basically explained all the steps and why each gets done. i've went back and read several of the parts a few times as well. but it mentioned nothing about making plinking bullets other then using a powder measure instead of weighing each load.

    like i said i did buy a lyman manual but haven't received it yet. a 48th since i got a good deal on it. it will help me with some of the finer points. but the basic concept i understand.
  8. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    most factory ammo is loaded to a certain pressure, tested with high dollar lab equipment that is designed to read chamber pressures.

    I cant say for sure, but thinking logically, IF i were in charge of an ammo plant, and it were my ass if something got screwed up, I would want the pessures of my factory ammo to be right between SAAMI standards for minimum and maximum pressures for the given round. the reason being, it should be powerful enough to reliably cycle all semi auto designs, so no disgruntled customers there, and its far enough off max pressure to be safe in all modern weapons chambered for that round, then simple disclaimers printed on the box releasing me from any liability and BAM, were sellin ammo to the masses.... At least thats the only logical way i can see it.
  9. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    John, if you load your 40s with a midrange load, they will cycle reliably and shoot fairly accurately. I did it for my FIL, he had a ruger P95 in 40 and that dude has the itchyest trigger finger I know of. he had me 1100 pieces of brass to process in one week :eek: they all got reloaded with 175 gr TC boolits over whatever mirange load i found in the manual. That gun with those loads would hit bean cans easily at 25 yds...
  10. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA
    If you watch all the magazine tests for factory ammo you will see that more often than not the ammo factories find combinations that give max velocity. They custom blend the powder to be able to repeat the test lot's velocity over years of production. Factory loads can be duplicated but not with all powders and sometimes not within the data provided in reloading manuals. That is mostly because they use powders you and I can not buy, that they customize for consistency between lots of production ammo.

    I would never suggest anyone exceed reloading manual loads regardless that they do not reach factory ammo specs. IT US NOT SAFE!

    I recommend either picking one in the middle and be happy with it or do real load development NEVER EXCEEDING THE MANUAL MAXIMUMS!

    BE SAFE!

  11. Zhurh

    Zhurh Active Member

    Mar 19, 2010
    Upper Yukon, Alaska
    I just started reloading over the winter. After trying out a load for 30-378 (100 grains RL-22, 180 Barnes XXX, 215's) and seeing that it consistently held an inch pattern at 100 yards; I loaded up a 100 ct MCM box. We have a 200 mile dirt road to get to nearest pavement and I have killed more junk on our supply runs than you can ever imagine. So the 30-378 & mcm box of ammo will stay in the truck.

    I also loaded up 50 rounds 7 mag to try and find the most accurate powder weight. I'm using 4350, 160 noslers, and 215's. I loaded 57.5, 58.5, 59, 59.5, and 60 grains. So I shot 5 rounds each weight at 100 yards, then at 50 yards. 57.5 & 58.5 held about an inch & a half pattern. 59 through 60 held right at an inch at 100 yards. Pattern was a little closer at 50 yards but similar.

    So I figured I'd experience this near spiritual revelation with the old 7 mag but didn't happen, ha. This is an old lucky gun, the one my boys always grab and it has killed close to 20 moose & way over 100 caribou over the years. I can consistently hit a 12 inch target at 400 yards 2 out of 3 shots. The gun is far from a tack driver but has proved up over the years.

    Do you all find guns that don't shoot dramatically better no matter the load? Should I go the seating depth route and buy one of those gauges for inside the chamber? Should I repeat the process and try again once it warms up? OR should I be happy with the gun I have had for many years and just load 100 ct for another mcm box at 60 grains of powder?
  12. johnlives4christ

    johnlives4christ Former Guest

    Apr 28, 2008
    trying different powders or bullets will help. eventually you'll find the right combo
  13. LDBennett

    LDBennett Well-Known Member

    Dec 20, 2003
    Hesperia, CA

    If you find a hunting rifle load that shoots groups of three shots on average at or below one inch you have a very good gun indeed. Further load development not only is a waste of time but the increase in accuracy will only mean the gun is a better match gun. Match accuracy is nice but I think not necessary for hunting larger critters. Now for a Varmint gun you would very much like the gun closer to 1/2 inch for five shots groups at 100yds averaged over at least five groups. It takes customized guns to do much better, I think.

  14. jacksonco

    jacksonco New Member

    John if you dont already have it you should get a copy of Modern Reloading 2nd edition by Lee. It is a very good manual and has a lot of how to and why stuff in it. It also has a large data content for just about any cartrige you could think of. I use mine more than the other manuals I have.
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