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  1. #1
    The Gunsmithing Moderator blacksmithden's Avatar
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    How I do a load development

    Ok..I've posted this way too many times. Time for a sticky.
    Notice that I said this is how "I" do a load development. There are many variations on this, but they're all basically the same.
    I'm assuming you've already got the gun reasonably sighted in.

    First batch:
    Pick your powder, primer, and bullet.
    Find the minimum and maximum powder charges for your particular combination of components
    Starting at minimum, load up 5 rounds
    Increase your powder charge by 0.5 grains, and load 5 more.
    Continue going up in 0.5 grain steps, loading 5 of each until you've reached your maximum charge.
    Load 3 extra rounds. The charge doesn't matter, as long as they're in your safe min/max zone. These are for fowling shots.
    Print out enough targets so that you have one for each group of 5 that you're going to shoot and write down the powder charge on them with a big black marker. Write it big enough that you will be able to read it from your shooting position. Print one extra.
    Clean your gun really well.
    Go to the range and fire those 3 extra rounds into the extra target. This makes sure it's hitting paper, and it adds some fouling to the barrel. The value of this is debated, but it's never hurt anything, and it'll make sure you're actually hitting the paper before you start.
    Put up your targets in order of increasing powder charges.
    Shoot 5 rounds into each target, making sure you're shooting the right group of 5 into the right target !!!!!
    Take a picture of the whole batch, and one close up of the tightest group. This is for future reference when you forget the powder charge of the best group like I do....and you WILL !!! LOL.
    You're done for today. Go home and get drunk.
    If your wife asks why you're getting drunk, tell her I said it was a necessary part of the process. Hell...I've got big shoulders, will probably never meet her, and I don't judge.

    Second batch:
    Take the powder charge of your tightest group from the previous day, and subtract 0.5 grains from it.
    Load 5 rounds with that much powder
    Load the next five with 0.2 grains more powder
    Carry on increasing in 0.2 grain steps until you're 0.5 grains over your previous day's tightest group.
    Load the 3 extra fouling rounds
    Print out the targets and label them with each powder charge just like the day before.
    Clean the gun
    Fire the 3 fouling rounds
    Put up your targets and fire 5 of each load into it's respective target
    Take a picture.
    The tightest group is your load.

    Now...you can go in 0.1 grain steps for your second batch if you want...I never found that I could tell the difference when going that fine. My hands just aren't that steady. Again..this is how "I" do it. You may tweak the process as you see fit, but that's basically it.

    Some people only shoot groups of 3...that's fine...I do 5...to each his own.

    If you change a component, be it powder, bullet, brass, whatever, you will need to do the above process over again with the new components.
    Using different components in one round of load development completely invalidates the process and defeats the purpose.

    Let the gun cool between groups of 5. If you're shooting a red hot gun that's had 50 rounds run down the barrel in the last 5 minutes there is no a way you'll ever figure out what the best load is for your gun. The groups will be spreading like crazy.

    Things change with ambient temperature. You MAY...not always, but MAY find that there's a difference between what works at +30 degrees ambient temperature and -30 degrees ambient temperature.

    Consistency is the key to accuracy. The goal of every precision shooter is to find the perfect load for their gun, and then repeat it EXACTLY, over and over again. Changing bullets, power, seating depth, brass type, primers...whatever, will all contribute toward screwing things up for you.

    DO NOT ADJUST YOUR DAMNED SCOPE WHEN YOU'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF SHOOTING A GROUP ! I can't count the number of times I've seen this done, and it just makes me want to smash my head off the wall. WHY !!?!?!?!!? You are completely invalidating the test.

    Most modern firearms are more accurate than the shooter once they've had a proper load development done. That's a fact. If you just can't get the thing to group, you may have to change to a different powder, or bullet...or bullet weight...or whatever. Sometimes, a gun just isn't happy with what you're trying to make it do. If you've tried several bullet weights and powder and it's still shooting a 5" spread at 100 yards, either you need a hell of a lot more practice shooting, or something is wrong with your scope. I had a $1300 Vortex Viper PST, BRAND NEW OUT OF THE BOX, last year seriously messing with my mind. I thought I'd lost my touch until I finally figured out that the reticle in the scope was what was screwing me over. Changed the scope and my groups went from 4" down to under 0.5" instantly. Never rule out that your optic may have a problem if nothing else seems to be working.


    Please feel free to add your own experiences, tips, and tricks.
    Cheers !
    Last edited by blacksmithden; 05-01-2017 at 10:45 PM.
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  2. The Following 5 Users Like This Post By blacksmithden

    DOA (05-03-2017), ESnel (05-01-2017), GTW (05-02-2017), Rory McCanuck (05-01-2017), triq (05-02-2017)

  3. #2
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    Well written.

  4. #3
    Super Moderator Rory McCanuck's Avatar
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    There's some gold in there, Den.
    Well done.

    Where Den says start fine tuning in 0.2gr increments, you'll usually find a 'node.'
    A node is a range of charge weights where the groups are all the same size, and in the same spot.
    On a chronograph, there will be some variations in speed, but that doesn't show on the paper at 100 yards.
    If your node spans a full grain, find the middle of the node, and call that your load.
    That way, when you load up a bunch, if some are 0.2gr light, some right on, and some 0.2gr heavy, they'll still all hit the same spot.
    Don't blame me, I didn't vote for that clown. Oct 20, '15

  5. #4
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    I like to use the chronograph as well when working up loads.

  6. #5
    The Gunsmithing Moderator blacksmithden's Avatar
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    Think of it this way. Every gun barrel will vibrate at a certain frequency when its struck with something hard just like any other piece of steel. There will be multiple vibrations in there as well. Hit a piece of steel on its end and listen. Now hit it in the middle and listen. Different sounds, right ? The way the vibration travels through the material is different. Now imagine youre hitting the entire length, from the inside, with changing internal pressures, and a weight travelling down the middle. Yes, trying to visualize all of the vibrations, pressures, and how they change in the nanosecond it takes from inital bang to bullet exiting is way the hell beyond me too.

    What I can tell you is that the barrel is vibrating like hell with compound frequencies that are acting on each other. They may feed on each other or cancel each other out. This in turn causes the end of your barrel to, for lack of better words, vibrate/flop around at extemely high speed. No, you cant see it with the naked eye.

    What you are trying to accomplish by doing a load development is to get that vibration in some kind of a harmonic (again..I dont know a better word for it) that will have the end of the barrel at the exact same place in its vibration, every single time your bullet exits. Its sort of like hitting on just the right frequency to produce a specific note in music

    You may find multiple vibration "nodes" that produce this result. Its all about the way the barrrel "rings".

    One thing that will effect these rings a fair bit is barrel temperature. This can be effected both by ambient temperature as well as how hard youre working the gun. Ideally, you would be able to let the gun cool down to the room temperature before taking the next shot so as to duplicate the previous shot's conditions as closely as possible. I dont have that kind of time on my hands unfortunately. The thing to do is at least let the gun cool down between groups. Trying to do a developement on a screaming hot barrel just doesnt work. The heat changes the properties of the steel....which in turn changes the way it vibrates....blah blah blah...doesnt work....makes it ring at different frequencies..blah blah blah...notes get out of tune rather than making music....dont do it.

    There are a multitude of things that effect accuracy....bullet quality, bullet weight, sectional density of the powder, seating depth, the temperature of your powder will even effect how it burns...you name it. Any one thing, and the degree to which it varies may have anything from a minor to a major effect on things. One thing may compound something else to adversely effect your accuracy. Once youve got your load development done, the single most important thing is repeatability. Do everything you can to make sure the shot youre about to take, and the ammo youre shooting, is as close to last time as possible.
    Last edited by blacksmithden; 05-03-2017 at 07:58 AM.
    GOC moderator
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    The High River Gun Grab - NEVER FORGET !!!!
    Feb 26 2014 - Swiss Arms prohibition and ordered confiscation by the RCMP - NEVER FORGET !!!!!

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  8. #6
    Shotgun, rifle and a 4 wheel drive! BrotherRockeye's Avatar
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    That's pretty much how I like to do it, but I prefer to get drunk first

    I kid I kid

    I like to raid my kids art supplies for markers and mark the charge weights in different colors.

    Legend
    Base of cartridge
    Target

    That way I know that the blue based cartridge was shot at the target with the blue writing and the legend key written in blue says "25gr".
    It can all be done in a 50 round plastic cartridge case. I put the legend in the lid on masking tape with the corresponding 5 cartridge row beneath it.
    Works good for me.
    We're kin cuz we shoot! What we shoot, and what we shoot at, shouldn't matter!

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  10. #7
    Super Moderator Rory McCanuck's Avatar
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    There is a really good write-up on harmonics at VarmintAl's.
    http://www.varmintal.com/amode.htm

    Fair warning: that's one deep rabbit-hole if you want to do some reading
    Don't blame me, I didn't vote for that clown. Oct 20, '15

  11. #8
    Moderator kennymo's Avatar
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    I thought this was going to involve a cannon and a five gallon bucket......


    Well done though.
    Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

  12. #9
    Senior Member GTW's Avatar
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    Most enjoyable aspect of the GOC forum is learning new things and advice freely given. You guys above rock, but I'm concerned about Kennymo and what he plans to do with the 5 gal bucket and cannon!
    "Mr. Speaker, we really could replace Justin Trudeau with a cardboard cutout, and his peanut gallery wouldn't know the difference"

  13. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTW View Post
    Most enjoyable aspect of the GOC forum is learning new things and advice freely given. You guys above rock, but I'm concerned about Kennymo and what he plans to do with the 5 gal bucket and cannon!
    He plans to shoot himself out of the cannon and because he's all about doing things properly and safely the bucket will be used as a helmet.

  14. The Following User Liked This Post By ESnel

    Rory McCanuck (05-03-2017)

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