I’ve been too busy with other things to spend time at the reloading bench. But the other night I had a little time so I thought I’d switch the powder drop over from the pistol to the rifle rotor and get it adjusted. With that done, next station is the powder cop die.
Uh… the end of the die rod doesn’t fit into the mouth of a .223 Rem case.
But the fix is simple!
Turn it over.
You can see in the above picture that on the left you have a small end, 0.1855″ in diameter. On the right, the larger end, .2485″ diameter. Chances are when you bought your powder cop die, it was installed with the large end down, inside the die, and the small end stuck up and out for you to measure your powder.
Remove the little white rubber ring on the rod. The rod should then fall free of the die body. Flip the rod over, putting the little rubber ring all the way up towards the larger end, then put the rod back into the die flipped around. That’s it! Simple.
I’m not sure if this is any sort of Hornady-blessed way to do things. When I ran into the problem last night I hit Google first to see if there was a whole other die to handle smaller calibers; no, Hornady only sells the one. So further searching turned up this “flip it over” solution. Again, not sure if it’s Hornady-blessed, but others report it works fine. I guess I’ll find out eventually.
Nice technique! I shall have to adopt that myself.
Reader Mike left a comment that pointed to Dan Newberry’s Optimal Charge Weight website and reloading technique. Thanx, Mike!
Reading through Dan’s writings, I have to say there’s a lot of sound reasoning in there — or what sounds like sound reasoning, because I’m still new to reloading so it may be my naiveté talking. Googling on the topic turns up a lot of people who use his technique and that are satisfied with the results, and I’d like to try Dan’s approach especially since prior attempts at using the ladder technique didn’t quite get me what I was after. But I’m struggling with one point.
Backing up a moment, I do think there’s something to what Dan says. For instance, he points out how Federal Gold Medal Match .308 ammo is a top performer out of so many rifles. But how can this be? A lot of handloading lore revolves around the notion that every rifle is different, even two of the same rifle model that came off the production line physically adjacent to each other. I don’t deny that, but if truly that mattered so much, there’d be no way factories could develop such high-performing ammo, right? One place Dan really gets on with this is the issue of “seating off the lands”. He doesn’t deny there’s something to it, but he doesn’t put tons of stress upon it like others do. Again, look at Federal GMM, because there’s no way it can be set at some ideal distance off the lands because every rifle is different. So while perhaps distance off the lands matters, is it that critical to the process? Dan argues there are other things more important. That isn’t to say the distance isn’t important; I figure if you are wanting to wring the utmost performance out of a particular gun then yes it’s another variable to tinker with to see how it affects your loads for that gun. But first, worry about other things. Read Dan’s website to understand his reasoning and approach.
I think the reason that struck me so much was when I first tried my hand at .223 Rem reloads, there was greater discussion of this issue because Barnes bullets apparently can have a little more of an issue with the distance they are seated off the lands. So I kept agonizing and wondering if this was my problem, if that distance from the lands (or conversely, the seating depth) was my issue in some way. But lack of money to keep buying those expensive Barnes bullets gave out (not to mention my patience). So going into this new round of reloading, I’ve been struggling to find a COAL. For instance, so much reloading recipe data out there mentions the bullet, the primer, the powder, the case… but so often there’s no mention of the COAL. It’d be nice to know the overall length! Most solid publishers of data always provide it, but people often don’t. As a further example, since I’m going to make plinking loads of a 55gr FMJBT and use Ramshot TAC, I discovered that m4carbine.net has a “board standard” of using 55gr FMJBT’s with 24.5gr of TAC to get a generally good-performing plinking load. But… what’s the overall length? I scour and have yet to find it. So I did some measuring of factory and other reloaded .223 rounds that I have and well, my conclusion is to not sweat it so much. These particular bullets have a cannelure, and I’m just going to load it there and see how it does, not sweating it until later in the process. Thank you Dan for freeing me of fretting about this particular issue.
But the thing about Dan’s technique that troubles me? Only firing 3-shot groups.
Granted, you shoot a lot of 3-shot groups, but each are different loads (powder amounts). So really, you are trying to determine performance of that load based upon a small set of data. I’ve done enough shooting to know that 3-shot groups are great for the ego, but 5 shot groups tend to be a little more honest. I think I read in the Speer manual (if not there, read it from some reputable source) that after much analysis they concluded that 7 shots was the statistically best balance between shooting enough to get a good picture of performance but also keeping the number of shots low for cost, barrel wear, time, trouble, etc. purposes. Plus if I only load 3, what if I get an honest flier where I know I pulled the shot? That’s very easy to do when I’m testing loads at the indoor range… just as the trigger is about to break, someone opts to shoot their 300 Win Mag in the next bay and it rattles my fillings and there goes the shot. So now what? Does that mean I should load 10+ rounds of that powder charge just in case? and if something messes up, start that group over? But then, you’re supposed to fire in a round-robin fashion to try to combat effects of heat and so on, so if there’s one mess up do I have to start over?
All those questions aside, it just feels like 3 shot groups isn’t going to give me what I want. But then, maybe I’m looking at it wrong? Honestly… as I write this it’s making me think. If I’m perhaps (now better) understanding what Dan wrote, it’s not looking for a tight grouping but rather how the groups are generally printing… looking for groups hitting the same general area on the target. Thus, you start to find the harmonic vibration point for that rifle. Once you know that, then you can work to refine it to tighten up the accuracy part, fine-tuning the powder charge, fine-tuning the seating depth (which of course also affects distance off the lands).
Hrm. Is that the point?
Maybe then yeah, taking the more traditional Speer approach isn’t the way to go about it.
Hrm. Maybe I need to just shut up and blindly try Dan’s approach for myself and just see how it goes.
In related news, Mike also suggested I try out a Weaver T-36 to help me develop loads. I think that’d be great, but it’s going to have to wait. Too much money has gone out the door, so there’s no way I can afford that right now. I’m just going to pull the 3-9×40 and mount off my 6.8 hunting rifle and use that for now. It’ll just have to do. I figure it will be good enough since I am looking to make a plinking load and not wring out every last millimeter of accuracy.
Now I remember why I don’t like reloading rifle cartridges.
All the prep work.
I’m finally getting back on the reloading wagon. After doing some clean and lube maintenance on the presses, I took 100 pieces of new .223 Remington Remington-brand brass and started the prep work on them. I opted to use the single-stage press and just did a full-length resize (small-base die) on all 100 pieces. I then trimmed the cases to 1.740″. Why that low? I’m going to use my new RCBS X-Die and, if I read all the directions correctly, you take the brass, do a full-length resize, then trim it 0.020″ under the max case length. Thus for .223 Rem it comes out to 1.740″. Run it through all the stations on the RCBS case prep tool (chamfer and debur the mouth, uniform the primer pocket, etc.). And then we’re done. Ugh. 100 cases took almost 2 hours. It’s just slow and tedious.
Once I finished all of that, I did set up the X-Die on the Hornady Lock-n-Load progressive press. Haven’t set up the rest of the progressive press yet. I’m curious to see how the X-Die works out, and of course if I set things up correctly. I figure any time from here out when I deal with brass I’ll first use the single-stage press to do the full-length resize, trim it for the X-Die, then from here on out I hope I can skip all that prep work and can just go straight to the X-die on the progressive press. Hopefully in the long run that will save some time and trouble, yet still yield quality ammo.
Rereading the last iterating of my plan, I think it’ll work out. I don’t see any need to change plans. The one thing I’m not sure about tho is my sights. See, the particular AR I’ll be using presently has irons, and will have an Aimpoint CompM4s as soon as it gets here. Will that be an accurate enough scope for the load development? I’m not sure. I mean, a 2 MOA dot, trying to develop an accurate load… I’m not sure I’ll get there. Trouble is, I don’t have another scope to go around. What I might end up doing is taking the scope off my 6.8 SPC hunting rifle and putting it atop my Rock River Arms upper. Thing is there, that’s a stainless steel barrel, 1:8 twist, Wylde chamber and well…. should I work to develop for that when it’s not what I’ll generally use? Conversely, shooting the load out of both uppers would help me determine what’s going to be more general-purpose useful out of any upper I have. So… I’m not sure yet how I’ll do the testing. But I guess I need to go figure that out before I start loading.
When the February 2011 issue of American Rifleman showed up in my mailbox a few days ago, I look at the cover and see “Shooting & Loading the 6.8 SPC“. Ooo! How apropos!
In reading the article I was taken aback. How much actual experience with 6.8 SPC did the author, Bryce M. Towsley, have? I know he’s been around, but I’m talking specifically with the 6.8.
The article isn’t overall bad, but it just doesn’t seem all that well-informed.
He says “The 6.8 SPC is not a ‘drop-them-in-their-tracks’ cartridge”. I beg to differ, having dropped a deer DRT just a couple months ago. I know others have experienced the same. He also mentioned that they rarely exited, but until that same deer hunt I have never recovered a bullet… all have exited, and this one didn’t purely because of the angle at which I shot the deer (all hail Barnes TSX performance). But I’ll give him a pass on this given the rest of the paragraph seemed to have been speaking of past performance, not modern 6.8 performance.
Then he says after testing a multitude of factory ammunition and handloads, he says didn’t find the 6.8 to be particularly accurate. Eh?
Ignore the ones in the center as I was still zeroing the rifle. This is from a Wilson Combat 6.8 upper using Silver State Armory 85 grain Barnes TSX “tac-load”. The 3 groups on the diamonds are not accurate?
If the data in the article is complete, then I’m not sure what to say. Either it’s your gun, your handloads, or your factory ammo choice. Try some Silver State Armory for factory ammo. For handloading, Silver State Armory’s small-primer brass is the best.
When it comes to performance when hunting, the article makes it sound like 6.8 isn’t good for much beyond varmints and whitetail deer. People are taking elk with 6.8, big mean hogs with 6.8. So, not really sure why 6.8 gets the brush-off from the author.
What’s more confusing? While the online article doesn’t have the sidebar, the print article has a sidebar on 6.8 by Bill Wilson (the “Wilson” in “Wilson Combat“). Bill has done a lot of testing and work with the 6.8, and here’s the proof. <– go on, click it. It’s not just the copy nor testimonials at the top of the page; it’s not just the guns listed in the middle of the page. Look towards the bottom of the page and the number of animals taken, and those are just the big trophy-like ones. Look how many big Texas feral hogs were taken with 6.8. And look all the way at the bottom at the steel plates and the grouping there at long distance.
Furthermore, Bill’s sidebar says:
My initial impressions of the 6.8 SPC were its accuracy potential, functional reliability and lack of recoil. Shot through quality barrels, it’s easy to get 1/2″ to 1″ 100-yard groups with bullets suitable for hunting. Few load combinations I tried shot worse than 2″.
One article contradicts the other article. So which is it? Is 6.8 accurate or not? Me? I’ll take Bill’s word for it because I know how much work he’s done in this area.
But my personal reason for experimenting with the 6.8 SPC was not tactical or target shooting. It was hunting, specifically hog hunting. For those who have not hunted hogs, be aware that a 100-lb. hog is as tough to kill as an average whitetail, and a big, tough old 200-plus-lb. boar is as hard to put down as some elk-sized animals. They are tough, require good shot placement and deep penetration.
So how does the 6.8 SPC actually work on game? This little round has terminal performance way out of proportion to its size. At the time of this writing I know of more than 50 hogs weighing up to 270 lbs. that have been cleanly taken with the 6.8 SPC with neck and shoulder shots at distances up to 150 yards.
…my favorite [loads for hogs] being the 85- and 100-gr. Barnes TSX and the Nosler 130-gr. AccuBond. For predators and whitetails, I like the Barnes 85-gr. TSX, 110-gr. Sierra Pro-Hunter and the 100- or 110-gr. Nosler AccuBond.
Based on my hog and deer hunting experiences, however, I would not hesitate to shoot the largest hog, a large mule deer or a black bear with my 6.8 loaded with Barnes 110-gr. TSX bullets.
When you actually know what the history is of the 6.8, when you know what’s going on with the 6.8 and what it can actually do, you find it’s quite a fantastic and capable round. If you really want to stay on the cutting edge of what’s going on with 6.8, or if you just want to learn more about it, 68forums.com is your best resource.
I got into 6.8 because I wanted something more capable than .223/5.56 for hunting, but didn’t add tremendous amounts of recoil. Something in the AR platform gives lots of versatility and flexibility of options. I wanted this so I could have something my kids could hunt with. Thing is, it’s becoming what I’m enjoying to hunt with. I’d say the only downside is there still isn’t an inexpensive option for plinking rounds.
If this article can get more people interested in 6.8 SPC, that’s great. Unfortunately I wonder if people are going to read the article and blow it off due to the way the article was written. Hopefully people will pay more attention to Bill Wilson’s sidebar.
All of my Titegroup powder is gone. I loaded 300 rounds of .38 Special last night, and there was just a bit of powder left over. Not enough to bother with, so I’m calling it good enough and done.
I started with an 8 lbs. jug of Titegroup. 7000 grains in 1 lb of powder (56,000 total). I used it at a rate of 4.5 grains for the 9mm loads and 3.5 grains for the .38 Special loads. You do the math on how many pulls of the lever that was.
At the end of it all, I can say I really like my Hornady Lock-n-Load press. I’ve probably loaded close to 20,000 rounds on this press now with little problem. Is it perfect? No, but I’m quite pleased with it and it obviously does the job. And even here with me getting close to no powder, the powder drop was still dropping proper charges…. no worry about having to keep the hopper at least quarter-ish full to ensure consistent throws.
I need to run the press through some maintenance now, from cleaning, lubing, and so on.
And of course, I can now start on my .223 Rem reloading. But I’m not going to just yet; going to take a break. While I enjoy the reloading, the 9mm got to a point of “need to load all the bullets” which took quite a while. Then it turned into “need to use up all the Titegroup”. And it just loomed over me all the time… it became a chore, a chore I happily did and was dedicated to seeing through, but a chore nonetheless.
And now I done with it.
And now I can rest.
Called Winchester today and found out the ballistic coefficients on those bullets. Updated my original post with the data.
Lookie what I got!
For Christmas I received a Cabela’s gift card, so I put Daughter in the car and off we went. I actually was going to look at getting a new coat (those Carhartt’s looked pretty cool) but they didn’t have the color and size I wanted. So….. over to the gun counter I went. I was curious to see if they had any of that IMR 8208 XBR… and lo, they did! So as you can see I picked up a jug. I’m not going to use it yet… just figured to snag a jug while I had the opportunity. That shiny gold label is a cute gimmick… makes the jug really stand out on the shelf from all the other powder containers.
The rest is .223 Remington ammo to act as the control baseline for my .223 reloads. The UMC, PMC, and AE along with some Georgia Arms Canned Heat will serve the role for cheap plinking ammo performance. The TAP and Federal Gamekings aren’t 100% the same as my load (different bullet), but about as close as I could get in a .223 55 grain premium ammo. And I picked up a box of the Winchester 5.56 Q3131 stuff just for a 5.56 load comparison. I think I have some XM193 somewhere that I might also pull out for similar comparison.
Enough waffling. I think I have a plan for my next reloading efforts.
When I reload, I like to reload “everything at once”; that is, as long as the press is set up for X caliber, just keep reloading that caliber until I’m sick of it. Sure, the Hornady Lock-n-Load progressive press is relatively quick with caliber conversions, but I don’t have enough duplicate parts to just swap around without having to reconfigure some things, like the powder drop. So, just keep it dialed in and stable, load until I’m sick of it, then change. With pistol rounds almost finished, I can now shift to something else, and that something else will be rifle.
About a year ago I was trying to reload .223 Remington but it just wasn’t working out. So I put it on the shelf, loaded a lot of 9mm and .38 Special, and wondered what rifle to do next. I thought about 6.8 SPC because that’s really the only way to utilize those Barnes 6.8 SPC 95 grain TTSX’s, but I wasn’t sure about doing that because components are expensive (even the cheapest 6.8 components are still relatively more expensive than say .223 or .308) and I was still unsure about what caused the .223 reloads to not work out: was it me? process? equipment? components? not enough trials? so many possible reasons, I didn’t want to bet the farm on expensive 6.8 components until I had a better grasp on things. I recently was thinking about .308 Winchester, but that motivation was primarily driven by the thought of an elk hunt with Dad…which is now unlikely to happen. So I come back to the shelf. I mean, if I look at the long-term reloading plans I set about a year ago, I’ve accomplished much of what I wanted, but the path was always to go back to .223 Remington. Now of course at that time I was still very curious about hunting with .223 Remington and hadn’t made the move to 6.8 SPC, thus why I still wanted to come back to .223. But as I think about other reasons for shelving it, I want to come back to it to finish what I started. I want to figure out what was going on and what caused things to not work out.
And so, I’m going to work on .223 Remington. It’s final, no more waffling.
So here’s my plan. Fellow reloaders, feel free to comment.
The general plan is to use loading .223 Remington as a platform for figuring out my rifle reloading process. I want to iron out any issues and gain rifle cartridge reloading experience. Thus this go-round will be loading simple and, relatively speaking, cheap .223 plinking/practice rounds. Longer-term I want to be able to make fine-tuned hunting rounds, be it in .223 Rem (probably using something like heavy Barnes TSX/TTSX, or maybe 60 grain Nosler Partitions), or 6.8 SPC… being able to get exactly the best hunting ammo my rifles can shoot? That’s my longer-term goal.
The goal of this particular load is practice: a round to use for shooting practice, a round to give me practice in reloading. Thus I want to keep it fairly simple and straightforward, but also with a nod to mass production on a progressive press.
I will be testing it out of a Bushmaster AR-style carbine. It has a 1:9 twist, 16″ barrel, 5.56 NATO chamber, carbine-length gas system. While I can load it hot due to the 5.56 chamber, I don’t want to. My primary concern is accuracy, wanting to make a load as accurate as I can within the limitations of the components and the rifle. Velocity is a secondary concern. I doubt this will be shot beyond 200 yards, and if I can make a round with acceptable accuracy that’s less violent on the gun, all the better. Plus, it’d be nice if this load could work out of any .223-chambered rifle, so I want to do my best to keep it within .223-specs; I may not test it out of any other rifle (unless someone is willing to put up their rifle for the tests), so the Bushmaster will be the sole test platform.
So what is acceptable accuracy? Before I shoot the reloads I will obtain various factory ammo of similar design from different manufacturers (e.g. UMC, Winchester white box, I’ve got some Georgia Arms “canned heat”, some XM193, Federal P223S, etc.) and shoot them through the same rifle and note their performance. I will want to use both cheap target ammo but also some premium ammo. That will provide me a comparison baseline.
Bullets: Winchester bulk 55 grain 22 caliber (.224″) FMJ BT (WB556MC55). I obtained a lot of these when I originally bought my reloading equipment, thus they are what I’m going to use because they’re what I have.
Primers: Magtech small rifle (PR-SR, #7.5). I don’t know much about Magtech primers but they were what was available during the great Obama gun-rush. Google turns up positive results, so I’ll try ‘em for these plinking loads. My CCI #41′s I’ll keep for the hunting loads.
Brass: Initially I’ll start with new Remington-brand .223 brass, because again I have some. I want to minimize variables, so I figure starting with new brass of all the same brand/headstamp should help with consistency in the brass department. I will then continue to use this same fired brass while developing the load. After the load is developed, brass will be the next thing I vary because if I want to load a lot of rounds for plinking then “mixed used cases” is where I have to go.
When I work the brass I will be using RCBS small-base full-length resizing dies… at first! The first time through the brass will get this treatment, then will be marked. Subsequent uses of that marked-brass will go through a RCBS X-die (small base). Thus, when I do the initial brass setup, I will set up the brass, trim it, etc. according to X-die instructions. First time through I will also take care of things like deburring the flash hole, cleaning primer pockets, and so on.
COAL: Load to the cannelure. These bullets have a cannelure, so I’m going to load such that the case mouth is centered in that cannelure. Exactly what is that length? I’m not sure… have to wait until I get one loaded and then I’ll measure. But rough measuring lying a bullet outside a non-prepped case was somewhere around 2.2″.
Of course, that brings up an issue of to crimp or not to crimp. I personally want to crimp because there is a cannelure thus I CAN crimp, and since these are going to be practice loads 1. I don’t need nor expect “one-hole” accuracy, 2. the rounds are likely to be banged around in loose-storage in an ammo can, shot out of an AR, and so on… so I think a light Lee Factory Crimp would be good insurance against setback. HOWEVER, that said, I think I’m going to try developing the load without a crimp. I’ll work to find what’s “good enough”, then throw a crimp on there and see if that changes anything.
Powder: Of all the rifle powders I have on hand, I am going to use Ramshot TAC because it’s usable in .223 and it should meter extremely well, important for use in the progressive press. From my researching, I get the feeling that TAC will produce a good load… maybe not the best in terms of maximum accuracy and maximum velocity, but should be more than adequate. I should be able to get an accurate-enough load, but it just may not have the most velocity. But given my above-stated goals, that’s fine. Ease of loading with it, if it’s accurate-enough, low-cost, etc. all add up to a powder that fits the bill for the intent of the load.
As for charge weight, I’m going to start at 23.5 grains and work up to 26.5 in 0.5 grain increments. The Speer #14 book says that shooting 7 rounds gives you the best idea of how a load will perform without using a lot of components, so I’ll go with that emotion and load 7 at each charge weight. Once I see which of those 7 weights performs best, I’ll try some refinement from there (e.g. if 24.5 is best, try out 24.3, 24.4, 24.6, 24.7 and see how they do).
Testing Procedure: I will start by keeping all components relatively the same, except for powder charge weight. I say relatively because I will start with new brass and use the same brass throughout development, so over time it’ll be once-fired, twice-fired, etc..
I will initially shoot only for accuracy, not using the chronograph. The main reason is logistics. Best way to test for accuracy will be at the indoor range off a bench and I can’t use a chronograph there. The indoor range is the closest, and if I want to ensure I can work on this stuff well, I must have some conveniences here.
I’ll start by throwing a few Georgia Arms “canned heat” downrange just to get the barrel fouled and warm, then I’ll start with the various factory ammo, shooting for accuracy. The scope will be zeroed @ 100 yards and I’ll shoot at 100 yards, thus while I’m sure I’ll see some POA vs. POI shifts as I change ammo, in general that should keep me on paper. I’ll use fresh targets for each string. I’ll see what charge weight gets me the best results. After that, it’ll be going home, analyzing, and figuring out how to correct or refine.
Where I go from there will be determined by the results of the initial test. But I can say that of those factory ammos I purchase, I will not shoot all of them that first time. Once I have the most-accurate loading, I’ll then take everything to the outdoor range and shoot over the chronograph. I’ll shoot the factory loads too to get their velocities for comparison.
After that, I’ll try varying other things, like trying out the Lee Factory Crimp, using mixed used brass cases, and so on, and just see how performance goes. If all goes well, I’ll have myself a nice plinking load and perhaps be able to figure out why my attempts last year didn’t pan out.
I won’t be starting on this immediately as I’ve got a bunch of other things in life to get dealt with. But I did want to get my plan on paper. I may tweak it slightly between now and whenever I actually start loading, but the above is what I have so far.
Any input from seasoned reloaders is welcome.
Any reloaders out there worked with IMR 8208 XBR powder?
It’s a relatively new powder, but all the stuff I’m reading online seems very promising and positive. Excellent velocity, high accuracy, extruded yet short-cut so it should meter very well, temperature insensitive, and made for all sorts of cartridges. Loading it for .223 Rem, .308 Win or even 6.8 SPC seems like it could do very well. Seems like a dream powder.
I’m curious if any readers have used it and what your experiences are. If I can find some locally, I’m thinking about picking some up.