This article comes from author Robert F. Kay, editor at On Target Hawaii, and author of the book, “How to Buy an AK-47.” Robert recently had the opportunity to have a Q&A session with Rob Behr of Western Powders. Please enjoy Part 1 below. You can also purchase Robert F. Kay’s book HERE.
Editor’s Note: I had the opportunity to meet Rob Behr of Western Powders recently at the SHOT Show—a mammoth firearms industry trade confab held annually in Las Vegas. Western was there promoting its lines of handgun, shotgun and rifle powders. Western is not a big company compared to its competitors but think of them as the little engine that could. They have excellent products and a truly informative website with an online loading guide, a great blog and information on loads for popular firearms as well as some of the more esoteric ones.
I don’t have a lot of personal experience with their rifle powders but their products come highly recommended by some very knowledgeable folks here in Hawaii. However I have used at least one of their handgun powders, Accurate #5, in my S&W model 27 (.357 magnum) and loved it. (So let me brag a little bit. By using #5 I was able to work up a load accurate enough to knock down 12” plates at distances of over 100 yards).
Rob, who handles marketing (among other duties) for Western, is a very knowledgeable hand loader. In addition to managing the website, he writes the “Dear Labby” advice column for the company’s online magazine. Despite Rob’s self-deprecating manner, you’d be hard pressed to find a better authority on hand loading. I had a chance to interview him recently about the company and got some valuable tips on reloading to boot. This is the first of a two-part series.
For the handloader, it’s a great feeling to pop the flaps open on a new box of cases. New, shiny cases are a treat. However, new cases are not ready to load out of the box, and a look over them shows why — most will have noticeably dinged and dented case mouths. Here are a few tips on getting new brass ready to load:
Check Them All for Flash Holes
An easy flaw to watch for is a case without a flash hole. This is rare indeed, but I’ve seen one, and a few of my high-volume pistol-shooting friends have encountered more. Flash holes are almost always punched, but tooling isn’t perfect, or it breaks and goes unnoticed. I actually look at all of them just to get it off my mind.
Don’t Seat a Bullet to Size Case Necks
At the least run all the cases through a die that will size the outside and inside of the case necks. I just use my normal-duty sizing die. That way, I’ve also set case-neck dimensions to what I decided on; that means performance results consistent to my later loadings on these cases. There is not, or sure should not be, any worry about setting the case shoulder back to a shorter dimension than the new case has, if (and only if) the sizing die was adjusted in accordance with the concepts and process I outlined in the past articles.
Chamfer the Inside of the Case Mouth
After sizing, the next required step is to put a chamfer on the inside of the case mouth. The outside won’t need chamfering, unless you’ve decided to trim the cases.
I trim all my new cases, even though it’s not really necessary. For me, it’s more about squaring the case mouth than about shortening length. They’ll be plenty short enough. Just as I use the sizing die, I trim to the usual setting on my case trimmer that I have for used cases.
By the way, this is a simple way to set trim-to length on a case trimmer: Adjust the cutter head inward until it just touches the case mouth all the way around. That will be suitable from there on. Trimming, however, is purely optional.
Now the cases are ready to load. But there’s more you can do to get top results.
Do Any Other Case-Prep Steps
Any additional case prep steps are best done right now when new brass is at its softest. Especially if you want to outside-turn case necks, new brass is notably easier to work with. The exception is that I wait until after the first firing to do any primer-pocket uniforming. New primer pockets are snug.
Speaking of that first firing… This is important. “Fire-forming” is a term usually associated with describing changing a cartridge from its parent or original state into another state, which is a non-standard cartridge, when it’s first-fired in the non-standard chamber. Like making an Ackley-Improved version of a standard cartridge, or converting a .250 Savage into a 6XC. In other words, the firing itself expands and reforms the case to the shape of the new chamber. But! All cases are fire-formed to the chamber they’re fired in. That’s a lot of what I’ve been addressing in the past few articles.
Segregate Special Brass
I segregate my brass for my tournament rounds, and I do that when it’s new. Criteria and means are another article, but the reason I mention that now is because I select my “600-yard” cases, “300-yard,” and “200-yard” cases at the beginning, looking for the best, better, and good cases, respectively, for the three distances.
I need to know which are which before I make the initial loading because brass has a memory. More technically, it’s a “shape-memory effect,” a property that is shared by some other alloys also. It expands and contracts in a consistent pattern during each use.
Do not first-fire cases using a lighter (less pressure) load unless you intend to continue to use that load. Fire-forming with a lighter load and then using a nearer-to-max load in that same case will result in premature failures in that case. It doesn’t seem to matter much going the other direction, but, for instance, I would never charge up my 600-yard load in a case formed using my 200-yard load; there are significant pressure differences in those two.
And don’t forget to get dimensional checks and records on your new cases!
Barnes Bullets has added three loads to the VOR-TX ammunition lineup and new 300AAC Blackout and 450 Bushmaster components for handloaders.
The VOR-TX line extensions will bring three new loads to the Barnes VOR-TX family: A 308 Win. load featuring the 130-grain TTSX bullet, a 300 Winchester Magnum load with a new 190-grain LRX bullet, optimized for long-range performance, and a 35 Whelen load featuring the Barnes TTSX 200-grain projectile.
Click here to see our stock of Barnes VOR-TX ammunition and to check to see when the new loads are in stock.
For handloaders who want to fine-tune and optimize their 300 AAC Blackout and 450 Bushmaster ammunition, Barnes will now offer the 300 AAC BLK 120 grain TAC-TX BT bullet, previously only available in VOR-TX ammunition, as a separate item.
Also available for the first time, Barnes will offer a 275-grain TSX FB bullet specifically designed for 450 Bushmaster platforms.
Click here to see our stock of Barnes bullets and to check when the new bullets are in stock.
Welcome to the new era of exclusive projectiles at Midsouth Shooters! Introducing the Match Monster™ Bullets, made by Nosler.
Experience world class accuracy with Midsouth’s Match Monster™ Lineup!
Midsouth Shooters and Nosler have unleashed a new MONSTER! Introducing the new – MATCH MONSTER! This new offering gives shooters the superior performance they demand, at a bulk savings they deserve. We put this selection together with Match shooters in mind. These, like our Varmint Nightmare and Varmint Nightmare Xtreme Bullets, are purchased in huge bulk quantities and then broken down into smaller amounts – so that you get to take advantage of bulk savings. These bullets use extremely precise lead-alloy cores that create an impressive standard for Match Monster™ bullets. The hollow point bullet provides a small meplat to reduce drag and increase aerodynamic efficiency. A pronounced boat tail design provides efficient flight characteristics over a wide range of velocities.
The following is a specially-adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book, “Top-Grade Ammo,” by author Glen Zediker, owner of Zediker Publishing. Click here to order from Midsouth.
by Glen Zediker
First, I want to thank everyone who’s reading “Reloaders Corner,” and especially those who take the time to post comments and questions. That’s the fun of the web for me: it’s a closer connection to my readers and fellow shooters. Judging from a few responses to the last couple of articles on case sizing, I’d like to offer a little more detail to ensure there’s been no misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
I don’t have a lot of space here to cover all the smaller but often important peripherals associated with any larger topic. In the few hundred words I have available, it has to be a more specific treatment of a more specific thing, and that’s why I’ve been doing some of this material as series installments. There are a number of folks who claim neck-only sizing is necessary for best accuracy, and, in effect, that full-length sizing is a compromise, favoring function over accuracy. I want to use this space here this time to clarify a few potential confusions. And I’m not even really disagreeing with anyone.
To review, neck-only sizing is when only the case neck, all or some portion of it, is sized to adequately retain a bullet for another firing. The case body is not touched by the die interior, and the case shoulder may or may not be set back; that depends on the die design and operator preference. The idea is to better preserve the fired case dimensions; that is, make the case more closely mirror the rifle chamber’s dimensions. One advantage of neck-only sizing comes to those who expect dozens of loadings from a case. This tactic does, indeed, minimize case stretching on subsequent firings.
Mostly, do not get the impression that full-length sizing — essentially following the steps and methods I suggested in the past two articles — is short-circuiting on-target accuracy. It’s not. Not if tooling is what it should be and the operator makes the investments in money and time to gauge influential dimensions.
There are some who maintain that they only get good groups from neck-only sizing, and, moreover, that they get gatherings rather than groupings when they full-length resize, or when they use factory ammo. There can be some reasons for that, and they may have something to do with rifle-chamber dimensions.
A lot of factory-produced bolt-actions have fairly generous chambers; they are a little larger diameter and usually favor toward the longer end in headspace (but with all numbers within SAAMI tolerance). A rifle produced for across-the-counter sale needs to accept virtually any commercially available ammunition. If someone measures as many representatives of factory ammo as I have, it’s pretty clear that there are dimensional differences, significant differences. Additionally, it’s common to find some slightly oval chambers in factory guns. That has a lot to do with the freshness of the tooling when that barrel was reamed.
So, let’s construct a circumstance where we have a chamber that’s a tad amount big and a cartridge case that’s been manufactured on the smaller end of SAAMI blueprints. And this rifle has an ejector. As soon as the bolt closes, the ejector is bearing against the case, and it’s bearing well off-center.
For more clarity: rifles have extractors and ejectors. The extractor is the “claw” that rides in the case rim groove. It’s there to pull the case from the chamber. The ejector is a small, cylindrical piece that’s spring-loaded; its job is to lean or tilt the case toward the ejection-side of the action as the case is withdrawn from the chamber. It’s not commonly possible to encounter a bolt-action that doesn’t have an ejector (custom Benchrest actions and some Long Range Rifle specialty actions don’t).
Back to the reason I said anything about ejectors in the first place. It makes a banana out of a case. This is unavoidable. The pressure steadily being put against the case base by the ejector warps the case under fire. It’s going to happen on each and every case fired. The bigger the dimensional differences, the greater the warp. Of course, as the uses and reuses add up, the nature of expansion changes. A case can warp one way, and then another way, and then another. Brass has a “memory,” by the way, and we’re always fighting that. Cases tend to follow the same expansion pattern regardless of orientation in the chamber.
There are some, and I’m among them, who think case-body sizing is a good thing to help allay the effects of warped cases, when they return to a correctly-dimensioned chamber. If a rifle chamber is on the larger side, then I honestly think that neck-only sizing may be doing a better job working around it, or working with it, and that’s the primary source of accuracy improvement. I also know that little bit there will get pounced upon.
I’m shooting custom-chambered custom-made barrels in my rifles. I do not request “tight” chambers (in any dimension), but they sure aren’t oversized. I like to have headspace set to closely accommodate the case brand I plan to use; doing that minimizes case stretch from the get-go.
Using a concentricity fixture that’s designed to allow isolation of points of measurement along the cartridge, it’s easy to see the warp. Spin a new case, spin a fired case. Some experiment with marking the “high” (or low) point and reinserting the round in the same orientation each time. That’s tedious but possible using a single-shot approach to firing. The point is, that after full-length sizing, I see less runout. I have also seen additional body sizing improve the accuracy of rounds destined for use in rifles with smallish chambers, and that’s one of the first steps many competitive Benchrest shooters take when they’re losing the gilt-edge on groups. For that, they use a die that doesn’t touch anything but the case body.
If a case becomes a banana, it should be a smaller banana rather than a bigger banana. More technically, it’s a question of if the chambered round can sit in the center of the rifle chamber.
When David Tubb designed the sizing die for his 6XC cartridge, he added an additional 0.0005 inches downsizing right at the case head area. He maintains that is a key to good accuracy at long distance. He’s also setting the case shoulders back 0.002 and running a little more “neck tension” than you might imagine (difference between sized case neck inside diameter and bullet diameter). Tubb maintains that the consistency of case expansion has been an overlooked element in accuracy. Believe me, he’s tried everything, including neck-only sizing, to improve scores at 1000 yards.
If you’re running a factory bolt-action rifle, by all means try neck-only sizing. If you want to compare results to full-length sizing, just make sure you’re doing that second operation correctly.
Southwick Associates, a Fernandina Beach, Fla.–based market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor-recreation markets, released what it says are the top brands for many hunting- and shooting-product categories in 2015. This list was compiled from internet-based surveys completed in 2015 HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com panels.
Midsouth Shooters Supply looked over Southwick’s product-category winners and assembled the 10-most-popular category winners for 2015:
In a previous survey of people who said they reloaded, 88 percent cited “saving money” as the key reason. The survey, conducted in September 2015, said that “improving accuracy” was the second largest interest of handloaders at 70 percent. “Obtaining rounds difficult to find in stores” came in third with 40 percent, and “reducing waste” was cited as a reason by only 30 percent. Survey participants could choose more than one reason.
Of the types of ammunition reloaded, 76 percent reload rifle ammo, 64 percent reload for their handguns, and 30 percent reload shells for their shotguns.
“Over time, ammunition can be the most expensive aspect of recreational shooting, so it makes sense that avid shooters see reloading as a way to cut costs without cutting time at the range,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “Of course, a key byproduct of saving money through reloading is a person also becomes more knowledgeable about their firearm’s performance and can even potentially achieve better performance by fine-tuning a specific load to their firearm.”
You can participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com.
How do these survey results stack up, in your opinion?
The following is a specially-adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book, “Top-Grade Ammo,” by author Glen Zediker, owner of Zediker Publishing. Click here to order.
by Glen Zediker
A rifle chamber has a headspace; a cartridge case has a headspace. The first is set by the chamber reamer and its operator; the next is up to us on the loading bench.
This is the loose working definition for headspace necessary to understand for this next: It’s the space from the bolt face to the “datum line” on the case shoulder. SAAMI sets standards for this dimension for each cartridge, and a gunsmith or manufacturer can have a little leeway in establishing the exact dimension in a rifle chamber.
In practical terms: Chamber headspace dimensions are fixed; cartridge headspace dimensions are variable. In a semi-auto, there should be some room, space, ahead of the case shoulder when the round is fully chambered, not be a perfect, flush fit. This is necessary for safe function in a semi-auto. In a bolt-action, the difference between chamber headspace and cartridge headspace can be miniscule to non-existent.
A little extra space helps ensure reliable functioning in a semi-auto, and also, mostly, precludes the chance that the case might bottom out on the shoulder area in the chamber before the bolt is fully locked down.
Back to more definitions. A datum line is actually a diameter; the line itself (the point set by the headspace dimension) is the point along a case shoulder that coincides with this diameter. There are only 5 datums that apply to virtually all bottleneck rifle cartridges. (Modern bottleneck rifle cartridges headspace off the case shoulder. Belted magnums and rimmed cartridges are different stories, for a different story.)
To correctly resize cases, we need a gage. Of course we do! I prefer the one shown in this article. It reads from case base to datum line, just as it’s done in chambering a barrel.
I talked before about how semi-autos can often exhibit case shoulder growth in measurable excess of the chamber. Meaning: the case shoulder can be free to expand beyond the confines of rifle chamber dimensions, and that is from the premature bolt unlocking that accompanies most every gas-operated rifle. Even when the system is working optimally, the case shoulder can advance slightly as the bolt just begins to unlock and move away because the case is still containing pressure. The severity of the discrepancy has mostly to do with how much the gas system is overloaded.
To refurbish a spent case, the case body outside needs to be shaped up to near-to-new dimensions, and also the case shoulder needs to be “set back” an adequate amount to ensure positive chambering with just a tad of “rattle” between the chamber shoulder and the case shoulder. In a bolt-gun, the case emerges from the chamber holding essentially a dimensional mirror of the chamber itself (minus, always, the 0.001 “spring back” inherent in the brass material).
For best results, and case life, we need to figure out how much to set the shoulder back. Too much really won’t affect load performance, but, in my belief, deliberately creating what amounts to excessive headspace is not wise. It’s just that much more expansion, that much more “working” the brass has to endure. However! That’s not nearly as bad as leaving the shoulder too high! That’s dangerous.
For day-in, day-out use, I suggest setting back the case shoulder 0.004 inches from fired case dimensions for semi-auto ammunition. If you keep the chamber clean, then go with 0.003. I think that 0.002 is not enough in a semi-auto, but that is plenty enough in a bolt-gun, and 0.001 is the minimum. Commence argument, but I’ll stick by those numbers.
The numbers we need to get from our gage are these: new, unfired case shoulder height (where we started); fired, unsized case shoulder height (where we went to); sized case shoulder height (where we need to get back to).
Midsouth Shooters Supply customers buy a lot of Hodgdon powders because the company makes great products and because Hodgdon’s staffers support the efforts of reloaders in a number of ways.
We previously noted here that some of the company’s available materials appear in the Hodgdon Reloading Education section. Click here to see the landing page on which Hodgdon begins the education process. Click here to see Safety precautions. Then click the Reloading for Beginners tab to get an overview of the basics of handloading. Click here to prob
e more deeply into the data available for reloading rifle cartridges.
This time we’re going to explore the Hodgdon Pistol Reloading Data page. Like the Rifle page, the Pistol page gets you started by asking you to select a cartridge from a pulldown menu. The lineup of available cartridges begins at the 17 Bumble Bee and continues through the 500 S&W Magnum. There are dozens choices of currently available commercial favorites, such as the 380 Auto, 9mm Luger, and 45 ACP, plus a bunch of popular high-performance loads that can be chambered in handguns as well as rifles.
Once you’ve selected a cartridge, which for our purposes here is the 45 ACP, you’re then able to select a range of bullet weights. In the case of the 45 ACP, that ranges from weights from 155 to 230 grains and a variety of bullet profiles.
When the user selects a bullet weight (or weights), the site returns a range of data for that load. We’ve been looking at building a lower-recoil training load with a 155-grain bullet, so we clicked “155” from the bullet-weight menu, and then perused the two load-data selections the site presented: a 155-grain cast bullet and an SFire projectile. The cast load was what we’re looking for, so we then expanded that window and saw additional information about that choice, including Case: Winchester, barrel twist (1:16 inches), primer (Federal 150 Large Pistol), barrel length (5 inches), and trim length for the case (0.893 inches).
Then, in more detail, the window for the 155-grain cast LSWC (lead semi-wadcutter) load lists the recommended powders, starting loads, and maximum loads, along with estimated pressures. For our training load, a promising starting load for the 45 ACP 155-grain round is 4.9 grains of Winchester WST, which will produce a velocity of 919 fps and develop 13,100 copper units of pressure (CUP).
If we wanted to work up hotter and hotter loads, there are plenty of powder choices — 15 others, to be exact. Just among the starting loads we could run up to 1,019 fps with 7.8 grains of IMR 800-X, which is estimated to produce 13,600 CUP. Then, if we wanted to really push that 155-grain round, we could work up to maximum loads producing as much as 1,132 fps and 17,000 CUP with 6.2 grains of Hodgdon’s Titegroup.
Also, you can narrow your selections by manufacturer or specific powder if you have already have pet loads you like to work with.
The Hodgdon pistol-cartridge reloading table lets you select proven, safe, and varied mixtures of bullet weights and powder choices to build nearly any recipe of handgun performance you need.
The Hodgdon Pistol Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Bumble Bee through 500 S&W Magnum. See the image above for a detailed look at the 155-grain lead semi-wadcutter bullet.
The following is a specially-adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book,” Top-Grade Ammo,” by author Glen Zediker, owner of Zediker Publishing. Click here to order.
by Glen Zediker
Most discussions about reloading tend to center around tools, and the cartridge case–sizing die used to refurbish a spent case is one of the most important. Last time, we were left with a case that had been expanded to the limits of the chamber, plus maybe just a little. The sizing die gets it back in shape for a reuse.
First, I only advise the use of a full-length sizing die for bolt guns or semi-autos. As suggested, a full-length die contacts the full length of the case, the full diameter, from case mouth to case head, and can also contact the shoulder area. There are neck-only dies that, as suggested, only resize the case neck so it will hold another bullet. They don’t touch the case body, and many don’t contact the case shoulder.
A full-length sizer will compress the case body down to the die interior dimensions, which are close to those of factory new ammo. Keep in mind that we’re talking about scant thousandths of inches, but those add up.
Whether it’s a bolt-action, lever-action, semi-automatic, a rifle has to function, and ensuring that cartridges feed into and out of the chamber is the clearly most critical functioning necessity.
If you’re big into or only into single-shots, neck-only sizing is possible, certainly. But even then there’s honestly little to no accuracy or performance benefit from it. The idea is that maintaining the case-body dimensions that more closely replicate the rifle chamber generally tightens up everything and produces better accuracy. Makes sense. But unless we’re working with measurably perfected brass and perfectly concentric rounds and seating bullets to touch the lands or rifling, none of those attributes matter a whit. Any rifle with an ejector is going to warp case bodies, for instance, so the dream of case-to-chamber harmony just can’t exist.
If neck-only sizing was all that influential, then new cases wouldn’t shoot the good groups that they will.
Another thing a full-length sizing die does, or can do, is contact the case shoulder. This is critically important in sizing for repeating rifles.
Last time we talked about what happens to a cartridge case during firing, and it’s not pretty. One of the things that happens is that the case shoulder gets blown forward, which means that if the case were standing up on the bench, that the shoulder will be higher (taller) than it was before firing. To ensure function, and safe function, that dimension needs to be corralled and brought back to what it should be.
There are full-length sizing dies with interchangeable bushings that size the case neck. The idea is to control the amount of case neck reduction, and it also allows the use of a sizing die without an inside-neck sizing appliance (usually called an expander). Good idea. Still, I don’t recommend this style of die for most shooters. One reason why is that there’s a small amount of case neck that doesn’t get sized. Over time, this can create or increase the “case neck donut,” the small raised-up ring of brass that exists inside the case at the case-neck/ case-shoulder juncture. But the die is not the sole cause. Suffice it to say, the additional and inconsistent additional constriction against the bullet isn’t a good thing.
I also do not advocate running a sizing die without an expander or sizing button to control the case neck inside diameter (i.d.). That’s another touted advantage of the bushing dies. That only works well if case necks are perfectly uniform in thickness. Otherwise, it creates off-center case mouths, and ultimately, inconsistency, in bullet pull.
One of the reasons that the neck-bushing dies came about was from the warranted complaints that conventional sizing dies sized down the case neck outside too much. Most do. Then the expander or sizing button has to open it back up that much more. That’s a lot of stress on the case and the reason for polishing the expander. Another easy fix is to have a machinist open up the neck area in the die. That’s a good idea. I can’t get after the factory techs too much in setting the specs for their dies because they’re trying to cover their bases on all the potential combinations out there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve it. There doesn’t have to be more than 0.005 difference between outside diameters and inside diameters to ensure fully adequate sizing. In other words, if the case O.D. is sized down to 0.005 smaller than the measured O.D. after the expander has passed back through, that’s plenty. Check your die by sizing a case without the expander in place. Less is better, but don’t cut it too close; keep room to account for different brass brands, which have different wall thicknesses. This trick will help maintain more material consistency over the life of a case. Otherwise, it’s like bending a piece of metal back and forth until it breaks; the same effect does influence case life when there’s excessive material movement.
A small-base full-length sizing die is an option in some die makers’ catalogs. As implied, this reduces the lower portion of the case a tad amount more. I’ve never encountered the need for one in an AR-15. Most have fairly generous chambers, especially if it’s a true NATO-spec. However, I always use one in my M1As, especially when working with a tough case, like a Lake City, that has to fit back into a relatively undersized match chamber. One of the best I’ve used is from Dillon (just the standard die that comes on the Blue machines); Redding also makes a “National Match” sizer engineered just for that rifle.
Next time, I’ll go step-by-step on how to set up a sizing die.
As we’ve previously noted, Midsouth Shooters Supply customers enjoy using Hodgdon powders, in part because the company makes great products, but also because the company’s experts supply plenty of help for shooters who want to get started in reloading.
We previously noted here that some of the company’s available materials appear in the Hodgdon Reloading Education section. Click here to see the landing page on which Hodgdon begins the education process. Click here to see Safety precautions. Then click the Reloading for Beginners tab to get an overview of the basics of handloading. This time, we want to probe more deeply into the data available for reloading rifle cartridges.
The Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Data page gets you started by asking you to select a cartridge from a pulldown menu. The lineup of available cartridges begins at the 17 Ackley Hornet and continues through the 50 Browning Machine Gun, or 50 BMG. What’s nice is there are dozens choices of currently available commercial favorites, such as the 30-06 Springfield, as well as popular wildcats (219 Wasp), new entries, such as the 28 Nosler, and proprietary rounds, such as the 240 Weatherby Magnum and others.
Once you’ve selected a cartridge, which for our purposes here is the 25-06 Remington, you’re then able to select a range of bullet weights. In the case of the 25-06, that ranges from weights from 75 to 120 grains and a variety of bullet profiles.
When you select a bullet weight (or weights), the site returns a range of data for that load. Our search was to “select all,” which provided load data beginning with the 75-grain Hornady V-Max bullet. We then expanded that window and saw additional information about that choice, including Case: Remington, barrel twist (1:10”), primer (Remington 9 1/2, Large Rifle), barrel length (24 inches), and trim length for the case (2.484 inches).
Then, in more detail, the window for the 75-grain Hornady V-Max load lists the recommended powders, starting loads, and maximum loads, along with estimated pressure outcomes. The lowest-pressure starting load for the 25-06 75-grain Hornady V-Max round was with 58.0 grains of Hodgdon H1000, which will produce a velocity of 3,135 fps and develop 35,300 copper units of pressure (CUP).
The highest-pressure choice for the 25-06 75-grain Hornady V-Max round came with IMR 4451 (58.5 grains), which will produce 3,781 fps and 60,300 PSI (not CUP in this case).
Of course, you can deselect various elements to narrow your search. One particular bolt gun we have chambered in 25-06 Rem. has proven it can shoot commercial 115-grain Winchester Ballistic Tip ammunition (SBST2506) into three-quarters-inch groups if the shooter does his part, and its downrange performance with a 200-yard zero gives a bullet drop of -6.0 inches at 300 yards, so we can hold top of deer — but still on the target — and expect a center hit at 300 yards.
Unfortunately, that specific bullet isn’t available in the Hodgdon tables, but the data are still useful in building a test load to create something like it. We could select a similar bullet weight, such as the 117-grain Hornady SPBT, then look at which powders we wanted to work with to get the commercial round’s stated 3,060 fps muzzle velocity. (There are other considerations besides velocity of course, such as the bullets’ different ballistic coefficients, but first things first.) Or we could buy another 115-grain bullet, such as the Nosler Ballistic Tip, then use the 117-grain powder recommendations to begin working up profiles to build our own home-brew commercial load.
We’d choose one whose maximum load had a little velocity headroom in it — such as the Hodgdon Hybrid 100V that produces 3,111 fps with a maximum load of 50.5 grains and not the highest pressure. In this case, that’s 50,400 CUP. But there are plenty of other choices if that recipe doesn’t produce the results we wanted.
Also, you can narrow your selections by manufacturer or specific powder if you have already have pet loads you like to work with.
And that’s really the value of the Hodgdon rifle-cartridge reloading table: You’re able to select proven, safe, and varied mixtures of bullet weights and powder to begin making your own tack-driver loads.