Reloading bottleneck rifle cartridges: There are very few carbide resizing dies on the market for bottleneck rifle rounds like .223, .308 or .30-06, so you’ll most likely have to lube the cases before they go in the sizing die. A stuck case is no fun, so don’t get stingy on the lube. On the other hand, you’ll get dents in the shoulder if your die gets too much lube in it, so it’s just another one of those things you’ll have to do and figure out. Again, there are many types of lubes and methods I won’t get into here. Just trust me when I say that when you start out, too much lube is preferable to too little. With rifle, you won’t flare the case and often won’t crimp at all. There are two ways to size rifle brass – neck only and full length resizing. If you’re shooting a bolt gun, you can just resize the neck of the brass to accept another bullet using a neck only die. The case has expanded to perfectly match your chamber, so messing with it is really pointless and unnecessarily working the brass. If, however, you are shooting a semi-auto or using the load for more than one gun, you’ll want to full length resize for reliable operation. There are also small base dies that size even smaller to make sure they feed well through your action. If in doubt, just get a full length die. You can adjust it back so it doesn’t push the shoulder and only works the neck, and they usually will work fine in semi-autos. Be sure to follow the directions closely so you aren’t pushing the shoulder too much or too little. The case gauges I mentioned in the taper crimp section are more worthwhile here (you can’t do a plunk test on your rifle) if you are loading for semi-auto.
A few things about Overall Length (OAL): This one invariably drives the new guys nuts. One manual shows your .45 auto should be loaded to 1.275” and the next shows 1.210”, et cetera. Don’t stress about it. The thing you need to remember here is that the shorter the OAL (or the farther you push the bullet into the case) the less case volume you have. All things being equal, the round with the shorter OAL / less case volume will give you higher pressures. Assuming you’re inside max published OAL, you’re always safe going a little longer, but you might not be going a little shorter. I say to stay inside max published OAL because if you load too long you can run your bullet into the lands in your barrel and it can’t get a running start – this bumps up pressure too.
Working up a test batch / load development: Use multiple sources of data. When they all start showing you different things, you need to have an understanding why. “The bullet this source used is shaped differently, so the OAL is shorter – that’s why they used less powder”, “these people have better velocity numbers – oh, wait… they tested in an 8” universal receiver, where these guys tested in a 4” barrel”, et cetera. Look at the whole picture – bullet type, OAL, what gun they used to test the numbers, standard primer vs. magnum primer, what brass they used... it all makes a difference. The good news is that it will begin to make more and more sense the longer you do this. Never hesitate to ask in the forum if you have any questions whatsoever. There’s too much experience here from some of the old farts and young, good looking folks like me to risk anything. What works for most folks is to “ladder” their way up. I’ll find my start load and move up in small increments until I’m close to max. How big the increments are depends on the cartridge. In a 9mm, a one-tenth grain increment represents roughly 2-2.5% increases. In a .300 win mag, it isn’t even a tenth of one percent… you can take larger jumps up. No matter what you’re using, consider using smaller increments as you approach max published loads. Some folks will swear reloading manuals are written by lawyers and there is a lot of cushion in the data, but I’ve found exactly where the top is more than once well inside the listed max. Remember – you won’t always have the same brass they tested or be using the same exact primer and you definitely won’t be using the same exact gun. Load development takes time and resources. Get over it. Don’t try to take shortcuts. Start low, work up slowly and check for pressure signs along the way (any manual will take you through pressure signs, so I won’t go into it here). I load a minimum of 7 rounds of each powder charge for testing then mark the primers with different colored sharpie markers and write down what’s what so I know what I’m looking at a week or a month later when I get to the range... It’s important to take good notes. The first time you drop a batch of work up loads in the dirt and they aren’t marked, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Mark them with lighter colors so you can still see what’s happening with the primers, and I usually leave my hottest charge with no colors. As you work your way up through the loads you’ll likely get a little frustrated then have your first “ta-da” moment. Every gun is different and will like different things. When you come across the right load, you’ll know it. I’ve experienced a .2 difference in powder charge making the difference between what looked like a shotgun pattern and a single ragged hole. Depending on what your goal is, you might stop there and pull the others for their components. You might not find the right combo on the first try, or you may get something close, but it’s not great. That’s when you go back to the drawing board. If you were going in .3 increments, you may take your best load and go in .1 grain increments in either direction. The next time around, you may mess with OAL. All depends on how obsessive – compulsive you want to be with it. Just make sure you’re only messing with one variable at a time. Like I said – load development can take a while, particularly for rifle, but I’m here to tell you it’s worth it.
Last edited by Zombie Steve; 05-16-2011 at 19:21..