One of the things I’ve learned about loading for rifles is that you can quickly find your self in analysis-paralysis. I’ve been loading pistol for a while, and my approach has alway been to load it hot enough that it cycles the action. There just isn’t a whole lot to it.
Rifle, on the other hand, I’m loading for accuracy. And there are a million factors which can affect the accuracy of a given load. Bullet weight, charge, case prep, OAL just to name a few. You can run yourself ragged chasing the jagged hole. It is a worthy pursuit, but you have to decide how far you are willing to go because there are a million combinations you could try before you are satisfied.
After some research, I found there are a couple different ways of doing load development. Some of them are more complicated than others. I decided to follow a modified Optimal Charge Weight method developed by Dan Newberry. I’ve provided the link so I don’t have to explain it all here. It’s an interesting read. I decided on this method because it matched up with the equipment I have. Basically, you load 3 rounds of each charge, gradually increasing the amount of powder by 1 or 2% until you reach your max load. All bullets are seated at the same OAL. Each round is fired then into its target, while allowing for the barrel to cool between each shot. After all rounds have been fired, you look for the group of shots which hit approximately the same point of impact, not necessarily the charge which results in the smallest group. Once you’ve determined the group, pick the charge in the middle so that any variations in load will allow the shots to grouped fairly close together. This load can then be fine tuned by making adjustments in the OAL of the cartridge.
My results were as follows. All targets were shot at 100 yards:
I have no idea what happened to the third shot. I’m inclined to say it when in the same hole as the bulls-eye, because I know everything was right when the shot went off. Then again, without witnesses, I might as well be telling fishing stories…..
Based on these results, I’m going to continue development with 45.9 grains of Varget as the basis of this load. I can’t adjust the OAL too much as this is intended to be a hunting load. I really don’t want to end up with an action full of powder because the bullet got stuck in the lands of the barrel. But based on my measurements I have about 0.050″ to play with in terms of adjusting the OAL.
If you are looking for instructions on how best to prep and load your cartridges, check out this series of posts on Carteach0’s Blog, Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. I highly recommended thoroughly reading them before touching the powder……