I need help – my .223 Rem reloads aren’t working

I don’t get it, or maybe I should have seen it coming.

Working with my .223 Remington reloads, trying to come up with a good round for hunting. Last thing I did was the ladder test. Based upon what I saw, I thought I had a decent window to go with, so I loaded up 30 rounds. The trick was varying the powder in 0.1 grain increments. I’d shoot 5 shoot groups at 100 yards, and whatever grouped best I would use. For all the load details, click on the aforementioned links.

Today I finally got to try things out. I sent a few rounds of Georgia Arms Canned Heat downrange to get the barrel heated up, then off I went. I don’t have time right now to take pictures of each target, but suffice it to say the grouping was abysmal. The best grouping I had was maybe the 25.1 grain group, which made a sort of rectangle 2.5″ high and a little less than 1.0″ wide. 25.5 grains had almost a 6″ vertical spread! And it wasn’t just one flier that ruined the group… you’d see the holes fairly decently spread about.

I don’t get it.

So I thought OK…. maybe it’s me. I’m not the best rifle shooter in the world. I was doing my best to use all the proper fundamentals, especially breath and trigger control. I took my time. But it’s always possible I messed things up. I set the rifle down and went into the range’s store and bought a box of Hornady TAP FPD .223 Rem 75 grain. Yes it’s not 100% the same load, but my intention was to pick a round that I knew was known for high accuracy and that I knew worked in this gun. I wasn’t even using the best shooting form and still managed just over a 1″ group. So, could it be me? Perhaps. Could it be the gun? Perhaps. But I’m thinking it’s the load.

I should have guessed it because during the ladder test there wasn’t that perfect ladder, like I was lead to believe there would be. Even then there was too much spread and “randomness” as to where the bullets hit paper. However, I shrugged it off because with only 3-shot groups, I’d have 2 shots reasonably close and the 3rd off somewhere and figured that was me. Now, I don’t think so.

So I don’t know what to do at this point. I don’t know what to change to try to salvage this load. This is where I’m asking for help.

Meantime, I think I’m going to buy a few boxes of factory ammo, either Federal’s P223S or Corbon’s version with the 62 grain bullet. Zero the rifle for that factory load. Then at least I’ll have the rifle ready to go for a hunting trip and not have to wait on my reloads before I take her hunting. I also think working on those .223 load may have to wait since I need to crank out a large quantity of 9mm reloads. But who knows… this is going to nag at me. 🙂

If you’re an experienced reloader and have any tips or suggestions as to what I can do, please let me know.

10 thoughts on “I need help – my .223 Rem reloads aren’t working

  1. OAL?, Crimps?, Brass length?, Sizing?, Bullet concentricity?, the list goes on. There is any number of things that can cause groups to wander and grow.

    You have a bunch of yours left over to autopsy?

  2. No, nothing left to autopsy.

    However, I could perhaps load up a few more just like this and get the same results. Looking back at all the results I’ve gotten to date, it’s all fairly consistent so I’m sure some new loads would work out just the same.

  3. Vertical spread could be inconsistent powder charge, or neck tension (crimping). (Probably some other things I don’t know of.)

    I’d try it again without the Lee crimp die.

    • I actually wondered about the crimping.

      Because of the grooves in the Barnes TSX bullets and the fact the crimp was going right into a groove, I wondered if that might be affecting it.

      It may not be the problem, but it’s certainly the easiest thing to try.

      If I can make some more up before Saturday, I’ll load some with crimp and some without. Compare and contrast.

        • I gave her a cleaning before going to the range this morning, but it’s always possible she needs a deep cleaning.

          Still, the 5 TAP shots I fired were the last I shot and they were rather a good group. So I can’t imagine dirty barrel is the problem.

  4. Try looking closer at the factory ammo that shot well, compare the velocities, bullet, case length and OAL to what you are producing. Sometimes you can contact the manufacturer and get information on the burn rate of the powder they use so you can match it to one of yours. I would suggest trying to duplicate their round first, then tweak it from there to get the “cocktail” for your rifle. Might save a lot of frustration.

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