By Glen Zediker
I’d like to introduce myself, and more importantly, introduce this new regular feature, Reloaders Corner.
I’ve been “at this” for over 40 years now, and “this” is shooting, handloading, and writing about it for the past 25. My background is competitive shooting, primarily NRA High Power Rifle. From that followed my exploration of handloading and education therein. Through publications work, I’ve had the rare fortune to be associated with some of the very best shooters, builders, and industry folks, people I can call upon when I need more complete answers, or another perspective…
As an NRA High Power Rifle competitor, I earned a High Master classification, and I did it competing in Service Rifle division. All that means is that my score average over a string of 240 shots fired in competition was 97 percent. A High Power Rifle tournament is four events fired at three different distances and three different shooting positions: 200-yard standing slow-fire; 200-yard sitting rapid-fire (10 shots, 60 seconds, one reload); 300-yard prone rapid-fire (same as sitting, but 70 seconds); and 600-yard prone slow-fire. In the rapid-fire events, we start standing, get into position, and fire the string, all within the time limit. Slow-fire is one-round loaded at a time, one minute per round time limit. There’s either 50 or 80 shots total for a tournament; fired either 10, 10, 10, 20, or all events 20 rounds each (rapids are then done in two separate strings). Sling support. Iron sights (there’s an optics class now). Learn more by clicking on http://competitions.nra.org/how-to-get-started/high-power-rifle-competition.aspx
Sorry to run on, because this little ditty here isn’t about High Power Rifle, but HPR is a pretty good test of the shooter, and the shooter’s rifle/ammo combination. So that’s where I come from.
The whole reason I started writing about all this came about because I couldn’t find anything to read that put the pieces together—all the pieces that all the better shooters knew. I wanted to learn more, and I spent a lot of time and effort doing so. I continually got answers from winners and those who built rifles for winners. Unfortunately, those answers were not the same as I had been reading, and none of the authors of the other material I had read had won any championships. I thought there must be others who would appreciate some short cuts, and that’s how I started my publications career.
I think I’ve helped a few folks along the way.
My business is Zediker Publishing, and I produce books with a focus on handloading and AR15s, my two favorite things to fuss over.
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t soak up sunshine for too long, and that’s not because I don’t think I know what I’m doing. It’s because it’s all learning, and sometimes things change. I haven’t had to learn everything the hard way. Here’s to hoping you don’t have to either… However! A good question is why anyone might pay attention to what I have to share, and that’s going to require a tad amount of shameless self-promotion. I can tell you that when I say something, there’s experience behind it. One thing I can warrant for competition-based information and evaluations, meaning that which has been generated from competitive shooting experience, and that is the volume of assurances. If I say a load performs well, it’s not based on a few 5-shot groups. It’s based on a volume of tournament scores. I’m not looking to load ammunition to make one or two important shots. I’m loading to make 1000 important shots.
This will certainly be talked about more than a few times as we move along, but, yes, what myself and others learn in competitive shooting most definitely and usually directly applies to any use we might put a good rifle to. The variety of competitions I have engaged in all require fully reliable, high-performance rifle/ammo combinations, that are accurate over distance. It’s all done outdoors with no breaks for bad weather. High Power Rifle equipment is not delicate or sensitive.
Along with others I associate with, I might be a tad amount more critical on load performance. I’m strictly into the long haul.
So, the advice that accompanies this first installment is to consider or reconsider your standards, and your evaluation of what is a good load. When I’m testing I choose the best group out of whatever it was I was testing. However, when it’s decision time, I choose the best, worst group. Let me explain. I really don’t consider what the very best any combination can show me is, but rather what is the worst the combination has shown me. Exceedingly tight groups are all too often a combination of luck and a little more luck. We got lucky in our judgment to choose the combination and the bullet fairy tipped her tiara. The more rounds anyone shoots, the bigger the groups are going to get. That’s just “math.” However, if three or four 10-shot groups are showing x-ring accuracy, I’m going to ignore the group measurement, pay more attention to the chronograph, and pay very close attention to any over-pressure indicators. I don’t want to see anything outside a golf-ball sized circle at 300 yards, and I’m hoping to keep it that way.
Speaking of… Years ago, I was a golf pro… That doesn’t really matter to this article, however, a truly legendary golf instructor, Percy Boomer (real name) had a line, “The difference between the amateur and professional is not in the quality of their best shots, but in their worst.” That’s it. The difference between a good load and one that’s almost a good load is that also. The good load stays tight, throughout. A “flyer” is grounds for disqualification. That’s a shot that strays from the herd. Don’t ignore it. Now, I’ve never had much faith in anyone who makes mention of a “called flyer” with respect to gathering load accuracy data. You can either shoot or you can’t, and if you’re calling flyers you best not be generating accuracy data. Sorry.
Whoa! I need to wrap this up. What you’ll get from this department is advice on choosing and using tools, component selection, load development, and a healthy dose of myth reduction. Mostly science, and only a little voodoo. Given my background, I can’t say I’ve loaded for too awful many different cartridges. Primarily it’s .223 Rem., .308 Win., and a few more obscure like PPC and 6XC. Aside from quirks, and components of course, what I suggest for one works for another. The processes, and effects, are pretty much all the same.