Elements of Accuracy -- Making Perfect Ammo
Q: With the micro-sized groups you shoot, you must be doing some special voodoo. What is the secret to super-accurate reloads?
The secret to accuracy is that there is no secret--a good robust process that is repeatable every time is the key.
Q: OK, then, describe your reloading process...
When I get home from the range, I tumble the brass for a couple of hours to clean the necks up. After taking the brass out of the tumbler, I clean out all residual walnut media and walnut dust. I then use a little Imperial sizing wax on a RCBS pad to lightly coat the neck area of the cases.
I use a RCBS Rock Chucker single stage press. When using this or any other press, ensure that the ram has no lateral play or side-to-side slop--that will kill your bullet run-out.
After placing the correct shell holder onto the ram I use a stiff brush to remove any dirt trapped on the surface of the shell holder. Then the Full-Length Redding resizing die goes into the press. This die is adjusted to bump the shoulder exactly .001-.002". I have removed the expander ball on the decapping shaft. Trust me, don't use the expander. In most cases it will just tweak the neck or throw it out of alignment.
Bumping the shoulder .001-.002" is the key to concentricity. If your press is in good shape and you use high-grade dies your end result will be excellent. But, again, get rid of the expander ball. Your brass is fire-formed to your chamber. It is already straight and round--so you dont want to tweak it with the ball.
Now that all of my brass has been full-length resized and de-primed, I clean out the primer pockets with a RCBS primer pocket brush in a cordless drill--this really speeds things up. The double-ended Dewey Crocogator tool also works well, with one end for large pockets, and one for small. With that tool, a couple quick manual turns and the carbon's gone.
Next the brass goes back into my tumbler to clean off all of the residual wax. I wear latex gloves from this point on. I have this thing for shiny bullets...what can I say? Once the case lube is removed, I inspect the brass carefully for any defects or stuck media (use a straightened paper clip to clear the flash hole as needed).
I brush the I.D. of the necks with a bronze 30 caliber brush, then I use Froggy's Neck Lube
inside the necks, applied with a Q-tip. The lube reduces the friction by 100% when seating the bullet, prevents copper shaving and galling of the bullet.
I then prime all of my brass with a hand-priming tool. I currently use the Lee Auto Prime--it has a nice positive feel to it. I may try the RCBS APS strip tool. It would be handy to have my primers color coded, and it's real easy to store the primers in the strips. During load development, you can easily prime a dozen rounds with one brand of primers, then slide out the strip, and pop in another brand.
O.K. now comes the fun part--weighing the charges. Get a good scale capable of 1/10th grain accuracy. I like the triple-beam type scales such as the RCBS 1010 scale. I use a powder measure to drop the bulk of my charge then trickle up to weight. After all of my brass is charged I look over the top and down into all of cases to ensure that I have powder in all of them, you can miss one if you get distracted.
Now it's time to seat the bullets. I use Redding Competition Micrometer bullet seaters. I set seating depth so that the bullet is jammed .005" into the lands on my .308 and .010" out of the lands on my 6.5-284. You have to experiment with what works in your rifle. Different bullets may also have different seating preferences, even in the same gun. When you are working up loads, always start at least .020" out. Jamming bullets into the lands wiil increase pressures significantly when you're running near max.
Again clean out the shell holder with a stiff brush to ensure that the case is sitting flush straight up and down--this will ensure the accuracy of the finished bullet. Place the bullet into the neck, pull the ram slowly and evenly to a soft seat. Then I check the overall length to the bullet ogive, using the versatile RCBS "Precision Mic"
(photo left). The final check is for concentricity to ensure that run-out is acceptable and the round is good to go.
My bullets are usually within .001" on the O.A.L. (measured from ogive) and within .0005-.001" on concentricity. With these tolerances, they shoot really well. The Master's Workshop
(now why doesn't my bench look like that?):
Q: Now we have some specific questions. First, do you weigh your brass or bullets?
No, I never weigh brass! I tried it and could find no real improvement in accuracy or velocity spreads. Weighing cases is a waste of time with good brass like Lapua. And I don't sort bullets by weight. I find with the consistent Sierra 142 MKs I shoot, any minute differences in bullet weight don't matter. Consistent neck tension and low run-out is way more important to accuracy.
Q: Do you FL size every time? Do you use custom dies?
Absolutely, I full length resize all of my brass every time I reload. And guess what? I've never had a feeding problem.
I do use a modified sizing die, without bushings. My FL resizing die has been custom-honed in the neck area to give .0015" press fit on the bullet. I also put a slightly larger radius at the neck shoulder junction. I feel that this helps to seal the chamber. With this die, I get consistent neck tension every time--without bushings. Bushings are useful when you're fishing around for a good load. But once you find the right amount of sizing for ideal neck tension, you can do this better with a customized FL die.
Q: One of your rifles didn't shoot very well at first even though it had a premium barrel. So you had it rechambered. Quantitatively, how much better was it after the re-chamber? What other work was done?
My 6.5-284 rifle would not shoot, I tried every tweak in the book but couldn't get it to perform. After 200 rounds of frustrating load development I sent the gun to a different gunsmith. OK--endorsement time--I sent it to George Gardener of G.A. Precision. George is a guru in my book. This guy really knows how to make a barrel shoot. I have heard this again and again from many of George's customers. The guy is a wizard with a rifle.
George set the barrel back, re-chambered it, hand-lapped the bore and sent it back to me. Within 20 rounds the rifle was shooting one-ragged-hole 5-shot groups at 100 yrds. That gun will now hit golf balls at 800+ yards--though it takes a few shots to nail one. Yep, I've done it many times, with witnesses.
I learned a very important lesson from this exercise. If you have confidence in your shooting skills and the quality of your reloads, then you do have a basis for questioning a gun's inherent accuracy. Sometimes, just sometimes, when the gun won't shoot it really IS the gun's fault. Or in this case the original chamberer's fault...
Q: Golf Balls at 800 yards? What's your handicap?
Let's just say Tiger Woods has nothing on me....
Q: Lastly, tell us about this tack-driving 6.5-284, and what do you feed it?
My load: Lapua brass, Fed 210 primer, 142 Sierra MK, 50g H4831sc. Bullet seated .010" off the lands, velocity 2885 fps.
This rifle has a McMillan A5 stock (50% OD green, 25% black, 25% grey). Attached to the blue-printed Remington 700 action is a 1:8 twist, 26.5" #17 contour Krieger barrel. The stock Rem trigger has a 2-lb Steve Jones' trigger job. Hardware includes Williams bottom metal, Badger bolt handle, Ken Farrell +20 MOA base, Tactical Precision Systems' TSR rings, Nightforce 5.5x22x50 NPR2 reticle Scope, and Angle Cosine Indicator (A.C.I.) by Sniper Tools. Gunsmithing by George Gardner, GA Precision.Copyright 2010, 6mmBR.com | Accurateshooter.com, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without advance approval in writing from 6mmBR.com.
Part I action photo shows Jeff "Celt" Hicks of HD Rifles, courtesy SnipersHide.com.