reloading for accuracy: my experience

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One of the toughest questions about reload accuracy is not only about shooting technique but also figuring out what combination of primer, powder, bullet, and seating depth is necessary to achieve the best accuracy and stability from your firearm. This article walks you through the 5 tips and 7 steps to reloading with maximum accuracy.

Reloading for accuracy: 7 Steps

So, let’s begin with 7 steps for an accurate reloading!

1. Get started with a heavy bullet

The biggest issue in hitting targets at greater distances can be wind drift. Because of this, we use the most heavy and highest Ballistic Coefficient (BC) bullets specifically designed to hunt. The drawback is that you require a quick twist rate to properly stabilize the high BC bullets. Moreover, the majority of factory barrels aren’t designed for these types of bullets.

The requirements for your bullets could differ significantly. You might search for hard-hitting ammunition for danger-prone hunting, or perhaps a light laser beam bullet that will reduce the necessity to shoot coyotes in broken terrain. Choose the right bullet length to meet your requirements. The bullet type you choose won’t affect the average accuracy of your reloading.

2. Select a great powder

To select a specific powder, check your reloading manual, the powder manufacturers’ websites, or contact the bullet manufacturer to obtain load data. Usually, all the information is in reloading manuals.

3. Freebore

Then, we calculate the distance from the beginning of the rifling (lands) by using the new bullet. It is referred to as “freebore”. In most cases, it is necessary to seat the bullet longer than the freebore to ensure it doesn’t get stuck in the rifling or get stuck when you remove the loaded ammo.

You’ll require a special cartridge case to match your rifle , which threads on the gauge. The case that you purchase has an extra-long neck, which allows your bullet to move freely in and out as you rotate your plunger rod.


The OAL gauge requires practice to ensure consistently good results. Try a couple of bullets and measure using each bullet until they are comfortable with it and you are getting consistent numbers (e.g. (+/- .002″). If you notice that you have drastically different measurements from bullets, choose the longest length of your freebore to be sure you are not causing any problems.

To evaluate the freebore measurement on your gauge, require a caliper that has a bullet comparator that is caliber-specific (also available from Hornady and other companies).

It is also possible to make use of the bullet comparator in order to gauge the amount of rounds that you press and make sure your seating die is the proper length.

Even competition shooters seat their bullets out long to touch the lands. Bench rest shooters frequently shoot their bullets .010 or .020″ in the land. Do not seat bullets in lengths that jam since it could affect the precision of reloading a hunting rifle.

Bullet seating

The measurement of the base-to-ogive on cartridges is usually abbreviated as OAL It is however preferred to utilize BTO in referring to this measurement in order to prevent confusion between the general length (measured from the base of the cartridge up to the point of the bullet) and abbreviated COAL.

When checking to see if your bullets are seated to the correct length, it’s MUCH more accurate to measure BTO, because the bullet tips (meplats) are often irregular and can vary +/- .010”.

The length of the freebore and measuring the seating depth from the base to the ogive (BTO) can be the most effective method of knowing how far from the ground where you’re seated the bullet.

4. Load Cartridges

Once the freebore has been identified, you can load the cartridges with different seats to find the most precise BTO. Caution: Some guns have magazines that aren’t long enough for seating bullets close the land. Take a look at the internal dimension of your magazine prior to reloading!

When your mag is smaller than the freebore measurement, begin with the seating depth around .010″ less than the magazine, and then reduce it by .030″ increments. The highest reloading precision is typically found near the mag length of these rifles.

If you’re still not satisfied with your first test, you can use finer increments, based on the best depth of your first test or divide the difference to attempt .030″, .070″, .110″, and .150″. Certain rifles are more finicky and prone to a snarl and with only 24 rounds in the tube, it’s likely you’ll get to the jackpot.

Micro-adjustable seating devices like those used in the Redding Competition Seating Die vastly improve the accuracy of reloading as well as the time of the seating depth adjustments.

Seating depth

Utilize the lowest powder charge for the bullet/powder combo for testing seating depth, as pressures may rise when you approach or touch the land. If touching the lands turns out to be best, then you can work up a powder charge slowly to determine your max load.

However, should you make an extremely hot powder charge which shot about .100″ of the lands, then you may be in danger of overpressure when you move the bullet out to touch the lands.

5. Prepare for loading in steps

With the ideal seating depth determined during step 4. create three loads using the 1% of powder step between the point of starting and the maximum specified loads.The majority of rifles require at least two or three shots in order to return to a zero after the bore was completely cleaned.

So, prepare an additional 6-8 fouling rounds at the starting load for sighters and to season the tube with a little copper before starting the test. The extra fouling rounds could be used in the next test session or to season the barrel again if the rifle needs cleaning during the test.

6. Ladders

After the fouling rounds, then shoot one shot from each charge weight in ascending order to one target with the same aim point for 100 yards. A second person should watch and note each shot at the bench on a duplicate target.

You can then use another target and label each hole with the powder charge. Also, you should shoot using a chronograph, and keeping track of every velocity (highly suggested).


As you build up your charge bullet weight, look for pressure indications, and then take a break at the first sign of your weight being becoming too hot.

Common pressure signs include slightly more difficult bolt lift, flattened , or cracked primers and a shiny ejector marking at the lower part of the case of excessive recoil, or an abrupt increase in speed over the normal increase for that powder step. Do not shoot any heavier load after you notice pressure indications!

Place an X at the bottom of all equally and heavier loads. Eliminate these loads from your test. Then remove them once you are at home.

Pressure signs are difficult to detect in bright sunlight. A brightly elevated ejector mark can be an indication that you are over your pressure. Primers are another good gauge for pressure. You will see that the primer is cracked and also has sharper corners than the radius of one of the other primers.


After you’ve completed your first step, repeat the procedure by adding the second and third strings, making sure you have a clear area for each. If you don’t own a spotter, you could color code bullets using markers in the bullet’s area just in front of the ogive to ensure that it doesn’t touch the bore.

If you shoot a white target you’ll be able to detect the hue of every shot. Just ensure that you note the colors you used for each of the powder groups. If you cannot make a good shot, record it in your log to ensure that an inaccurate data point will not affect your judgment. This is the motive behind shooting three distinct ladders.

Fouling and cleaning

If you have a factory barrel, you may need to clean the rifle between the 2nd and 3rd ladders to make sure that the fouling hampering accuracy. Hand-lapped barrels that are custom made can shoot up to 20-30 rounds, with no or little alteration in accuracy caused by fouling. Take a couple of fouling shots after cleaning and then resumption by putting the ladder back in place.

Leave ample time between shots to allow barrel heat to dissipate. Results from tests can be uneven if the barrel is hotter after every shot. Heavier, contoured barrels are typically less affected by heat. Barrel temp must be monitored to ensure you have the most consistent groups of shots possible. Use your smartphone to record shots can improve the consistency.

7. Reloading Analysis and Selection

Analyzing your results and deciding on the most suitable load is the last step of the process. Sometimes, the results are clear. However, sometimes the subtle details should be explored in depth to make the right decision.

The first sign that you’ve discovered a reloading accuracy node occurs when 3 successive load steps are grouped together. If you notice this across all three ladders, it’s obvious to select the center load. Its placement with charges that are above and below it means that it won’t too depend on pressure and powder changes.

When the spread of velocity was less than 10 fps in that weight, you’re nearly certain to be a winner.

5 tips reloading for accuracy

There are many benefits to load your own ammunition for your rifle. It’s enjoyable, economical and you can achieve the extreme accuracy by meticulously loading your own ammunition for your firearm, not factory ammunition. If you’re new to loading handloading ammunition for rifles. Here are some essential aspects to consider for precision.

1. Start with proven loads

There’s plenty of info on the internet for reloading virtually every rifle cartridge. The first thing to do when loading a brand new rifle cartridge is to research on loads that have been tested that you’re planning to load. You better read the reloading manual as well as the powder manufacturer’s load data.

2. Fire form your brass

It’s as simple as that accurate handloads are likely to be more excellent when you use brass that has been fired at least one time with the exact firearm you plan to load. This is due to the fact that, after firing, brass has expanded to match the exact shape of the chamber inside the rifle. Square primer pockets to an even depth and debur flash holes. Resize the cases.

For rifles that bolt, it is possible to use a neck-only sizer after the brass has been formed by fire to preserve the bulk of the profile that was formed by the fire. You’ll find this combination of fire forming and neck-only sizing to be a great accuracy combination.

3. Optimize bullet

Perhaps the most straightforward and effective method to handload precision rifle ammunition is taking measurements of your rifle’s chamber and lead dimensions and then adjusting your bullet’s seating depth when you are seating bullets.

By using specific tools (bullet comparator or the COL (Cartridge overall length) gage,) you can determine the depth that minimizes the distance the bullet moves forward prior to engaging the rifling inside the barrel. At a higher level, it is ensuring that the bullet does not “free flounder” excessively in the freebore prior to locking into the Rifling.

The result is bullets that are more in-line with the barrel and have less “wobble” around its axis when it rotates. The most common starting point for this length of travel for a bullet is .020″, which is part of the calculation when you employ special instruments to determine and measure the bullet’s seating depth.

4. Optimize bullet concentricity

To allow your bullet to travel straight across its barrel, it needs to be concentric to the neck neck that it’s press-fit into. There are a few methods to achieve this.

The first and most simple method is to use bullet seating dies that have a floating bullet plug for seating. Hornady rifle dies as well as Redding competitors seating dies make use of this technique. In order to align the bullet prior to seating commences, this kind of die for seating will guarantee minimum run-out of the bullet (maximum concentration).

Another method to verify the concentricity of your work is to use the bullet concentricity gage that permits you to test concentricity and determine the correct one.

5. Test

The process of reloading accurate rifle ammunition requires some trial and error. It is possible to experiment with diverse bullets weights various bullet profiles, various powders, different powder charges and primers, various sizes of dies, and also changing the bullet seating depth just to name some things!

The best way to accomplish this is to begin by determining what you believe the ideal load would be, then select one variable to alter and then load five to 10 cartridges at a time using the variable that you have changed.

Example: Calculated optimal COL = (.020” off the lands)

5 cartridges, COL = X + .020” (on lands)
5 cartridges with Col = X + .010″‘ (.010” off the land)
5 cartridges 5 cartridges, CO = 5 cartridges, COL = (.020″” from land)
5 cartridges. The COL is + .010″ (.030” from lands)

Conducting the experiment

After this loading exercise, take your rifle out to the range, count your shots, measure your time and evaluate the accuracy of each. This will guide you towards the correct direction. If you can determine the ideal seating depth for that bullet, you can then load cartridges using the charge of the powder as a variable to alter.

It could take some time, but with this method, you’ll be able to make ammunition for your firearm that will be far better than factory ammunition from a store.


Although not comprehensive, the five actions and guidelines can get you moving on the right path to precise loads on the bench, or at the fields. The process of creating accurate rifle ammunition is an experience, and could be a lifetime experience and a very enjoyable one!


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Author - Hans Wimberly
Hans-Wimberly - the owner of Gearsadviser
When I`m not spending time with my beautiful wife and great 3 children, you will find me reloading ammo!
Doing sport shooting, or talking with my friends about (oh, yeah!) guns.

Read more about me here.

At Gearsadviser, I`m committed to ensuring that you have the best possible reloading experience. I conduct thorough research, testing, and evaluation of reloading gear, offering impartial and informative reviews to assist you in making informed purchasing decisions. My reviews are based on hands-on testing, research, and analysis of customer feedback. I regularly update my reviews to reflect changes in product availability and new information, so you can be confident that you're receiving the most current recommendations.

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