New to Reloading and Confused...

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by allensm, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. allensm

    allensm New Member

    Sorry this is long.

    I have an S&W .40 M&P. I'm just getting started with reloading (Noob Alert!) and the one thing I have learned from all I have read during the past few months is "GO SLOW." I have no problem with that and have read the following books:

    - The ABCs of Reloading, 9th Edition
    - Modern Reloading, Second Edition
    - Sierra Rifle and Handgun Reloading Data
    -Hornady of Cartridge Reloading
    - Speer Reloading Manual #14
    - Lyman 49th Reloading Handbook
    - The Complete Reloading Manual for the 10mm/40 S&W

    In addition, I have spent countless hours reading everything from every web site I could find in my searches. That search led me to the purchase of a Lee Classic Turret Press, .40 S&W dies, scales, and all the other goodies, many of which I probably didn't need right now (but I like toys so I bought them).
    I also ordered what I believe to be anyway, the best components for me to start with. They are:

    - A whole lot of once-fired brass
    - Montana Gold .400 180 grain CMJ bullets
    - CCI #500 Small Pistol Primers
    - Powder (Win 231, HP-38 and WSF)

    Various sources I have read say that the above components are favorites of many of the more experienced and a good start for the newly indoctrinated.
    Researching load data for my first test loads has left me more than frustrated. I have looked in all the books I own, checked out all the manufacturer web sites and fine no load data really comparable to the components I have. It appears you have to but the bullet manufacturers bullets (if they publish data) and then with only a minimal subset of powders they chose to use in their testing. The same goes for the Powder manufacturers. In my case Hodgdon/Winchester owns the powder and makes bullets. Additionally, Montana Gold doesn’t publish data.

    I understand about using like bullets regardless of manufacturer and should be able to use FMJ or TMJ data for CMJ. But, about all I am finding is JHP and a wide swing in O.A.L. that leads me to believe that I may encounter pressure problems by not keeping an eye on this. I just lack experience at this point to know how to judge it. Somce information I have been able to glean from printed sources include the following:

    Source Bullet Powder Starting Load Grains Velocity fps Pressure C.U.P. Max Load Grains Velocity fps Pressure C.U.P. O.A.L
    Lyman's 49 Edition 180 JHP 231 5.00 927 20,400 5.60 1015 22,800 1.115
    Speer's 180 JHP 231 4.40 800 5.60 1000 1.135
    Complete RM / Sierra 180 JHP 231 4.40 800 5.60 1000 1.125
    Complete RM / Hodgdon 180 XTP 231 4.10 797 23,800 5.00 947 32,900 1.125 MG 180 JHP 231/HP38 5.20 1.125
    Complete RM / Hodgdon 180 XTP HP38 4.10 797 23,800 5.00 947 32,900 1.125
    Lyman's 49 Edition 180 JHP WSF 5.00 853 17,700 6.20 993 23,400 1.115
    Speer's 180 JHP WSF 5.00 800 6.60 1050 1.135
    Complete RM / Sierra 180 JHP WSF 5.00 800 6.60 1050 1.125
    Complete RM / Hodgdon 180 XTP WSF 5.40 946 28,000 5.80 1013 32,900 1.125

    I just want to learn to hand load and shoot my gun to it just goes bang and doesn’t end in pieces on the floor.
    Can some maybe point me in the right direction or tell me what I may be doing right or wrong so far?
  2. woolleyworm

    woolleyworm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2009
    SW Fort Worth
    Welcome to TFF Allen. Start with some dummy rounds with OAL at the manuals specs. Check to ensure proper feeding in your gun. ( start this process by removing your barrel snd dropping the the round in. use an empty, sized & measurement verified case to give you a good visual on how the case should look when properly headspaced in your chamber.) also check that the ogive of the bullet is still above the case mouth. Then start at mins and test as you work up your charge weights.

    I will review some other manuals tomorrow evening and see what other data I can find also. Hope that answer helps you.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012

  3. woolleyworm

    woolleyworm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2009
    SW Fort Worth
    Also add that W231/HP38 is a good choice to start with. They are the same exact powder, load data is identical. There may be slight differences between lots though, so even if I am using the same exact powder, I will reduce 5% if I am anywhere near a max load.
  4. garydude

    garydude Member

    Welcome Allen. Let me say that you are doing a spectacular job of self educating and by utilizing all your available resources, including this forum. What we as hand loaders generally do is gather as much useful information as we can then compile it into a solid starting point for a new loads' development. I can say that more often than not my components do not exactly match the load data i use in determining a starting load. This is a frustrating reality, but with time and exposure you will rapidly develop skill in choosing starting points as well as best components for the desired application.

    I'll defer to Woolleyworm (and others) to give you actual load data suggestions as I'm sure he loads allot more of that caliber than I do. He is amongst our most knowledged members here regarding all things reloading.
  5. JLA

    JLA Well-Known Member

    Feb 26, 2007
    Heart Of Texas
    good advice posted above.. Ill just reinforce that you can use any data for any 180 gr projectile. just start at your starting charge and work up. W231/HP38 is an excellent powder in the .40
  6. steve4102

    steve4102 Former Guest

    Jan 27, 2006
    You will rarely if ever find published load data that matches all of your components. In fact you never will.

    As stated in most if not all of the books and manuals you have, Published load data is not a Recipe and should not be treated as such, it is merely a guideline. That is why they all tell us to, Start Low and Work Up.

    It is perfectly fine to use data of same weight bullet of similar design and construction.

    OAL is ALWAYS bullet & gun specific, regardless of what the manual says. The bullet has to fit-feed-fire your gun. After all if it doesn't fit-feed-fire, then there is no need to worry about pressure.
    If you are loading shorter than published OAL, then you need to reduce yor charge wt to compensate for the shorter length. If using starting data, shorter OAL doesn't matter as much. If working to the top end, everything matters.
    Make up some dummy rounds and find the longest OAL that functions in your pistol. Then Start Low and Work Up.

    Tip, only make a couple of each at first. Once you find the best OAL and powder charge then load a bunch.
  7. PanhandlePop

    PanhandlePop Member

    May 27, 2011
    Great advice above. My absolute favorite 40 powder is WSF, it fills the case sufficiently to make detecting double charges easy and meters well. I've used 231, but I lean toward the other. As noted above, run a plunk test with dummy rounds to determine OAL for your chosen bullet and your gun's chamber. In the 40, 1.125 OAL has worked fine for me, although if you work your loads from the start up you can go shorter and I've seen preferences of 1.135. When I've had doubts about powder charges, I've tended to default to the powder mfg data.

    Something you might find interesting re: lighter loads for the 40 is at

    Have fun, be safe, and welcome to the wonderful world of reloading.
  8. mikld

    mikld Well-Known Member

    Jun 24, 2009
    It's quite often said around here; "Start low and work up". Being very new to reloading, for your peace of mind go with the lowest load for your size bullet. Experience, and confidence will come as you crank out ammo and you can always load more rounds with a little more powder (reloading more= fun!).
  9. allensm

    allensm New Member

    Steve4104: Thanks for the link. I’ve somehow missed that in all my reading and it is very informative and explained a lot.

    PanHandlePop: I appreciate your link too. It is one that I have read a few times and will probably give it another read once I get a couple of test rounds down the range.

    Everyone: Thanks for all the constructive and encouraging feedback. I think this has helped give me the confidence that I needed that I have been going in the right direction and doing what I should be at this stage.
    I will heed all the advice given and apply it to my further reloading efforts and report back with my results. (As I have seen with many other new reloader posts it seems you just HAVE to tell someone that you did it and still have all your fingers!)
  10. allensm

    allensm New Member

    Well I finally had a chance to go and shoot some test rounds and one other trip for another 300+- rounds and all I have to say is WOW!

    I built 10 rounds of each powder (231, HP-38 and WSF) in .1 increments starting at the bottom and going to about mid range. I was still a bit spooked about going to close to max at this point and figured the low to mid range loads should do me just fine. I shot each bunch slowly at 25’ and made comments on each target when I was finished. I later measured groupings accounting for a shot here and there that I knew I flinched or did something stupid that threw the groupings off. All said and done most of the groupings were in the 2.25-3.32” range. This is not particularly great but I felt good about it since I am relatively new to shooting after 30+ years. Practicing weekly should narrow that in a bit over time.

    My next step is to try Precision Delta 165 and 180 grain FMJs (I have 1,000 of each on order now) to see how they do with this powder combination. It will allow me to save about $0.07 per built round which translates into cheaper play time. I figure you can’t go wrong with that. I do have to say I like the idea of the Montana Gold CMJs with no lead exposure.

    I am also looking into getting some Trijicon sights to assist me seeing the sights better. These factory sights are a bit on the dim side and even painting them over with Testors (have tried a few different color combinations) the still make it a bit hard to see on occasion. I trust the Trijicon sights make the difference I hope to see.

    Next step is to build up the rest of the case of MG 180 grain CMJs and start shooting them up. I average about 200-300 per range session and plan on trying to get out there weekly to improve my skills.

    I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you that offered advice and encouragement while I was trying to get started. Sometimes a gentle nudge is what’s needed to get started.
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