Reloading .308 / Finding The Best Accuracy

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by Brokor, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Reloading enthusiasts often have their own methods and procedures, but they all end up adhering to some basic guidelines to ensure safe reloading and operation of their firearm.

    Stats: Hornady 178g A-Max, BC .495, OAL 2.780, Stability 2+, 40gr Varget, 2450fps, 100m zero, transonic stable well past 1000m.

    The following are just the highlights and key points I would like to share as I walk you through my journey at reloading the Hornady A-Max 178gr bullet for the 30 caliber platform. Just as a caveat, Hornady does not make the A-Max any longer, but they have replaced them with a newer version known as the Hornady ELD series with an even better reported ballistic coefficient. But, for those of us who still own these bullets, they ought to know they are still quite viable as a hunting round. The reason, in case you may be wondering has to do with the properties of the polymer ballistic tip, which would suffer from heat issues resulting in deformity at terminal velocities (very long ranges) beyond 500 meters approximately. The new ELD bullets are reported to be more heat resistant, resulting in better long range accuracy. For those who do not intend to shoot long range, this will not even be a consideration. As a side note, I would take these same steps to load the ELD rounds.
    DSC00113.JPG A-Max 178gr DSC00122.JPG ELD Match 178gr

    Equipment needed/recommended: Reloading dies, press, calipers, powder measure, weight scale, powder funnel, case trim tool, primer pocket tool, priming tool, case lube, reloading handbook.

    DSC00099.JPG I started out by acquiring some quality Hornady brass. With reloading, this will often be the most expensive part, especially if you are the type who prefers match brass and understands how many uses you can get out of quality brass versus the really cheap stuff.
    DSC00097.JPG The bullet you choose will determine your load parameters. I have chosen the Hornady A-Max 178gr in this case.

    DSC00100.JPG Be certain to use a reputable source for your load data, like this Lyman reloading handbook. It's really great to find the exact bullet I am loading, too. I often start out with a lower charge of powder and rarely go directly to max unless I am already familiar with the load I am making. For my load, I am going with a strong 40g of Varget powder. This will give me approximately 2450 velocity and create 44,000 pressure at the muzzle. Different powder will grant you various possibilities, and understanding this will give you the key to success when reloading (not all powders are the same). Your reloading handbook should list the velocity and pressure for each powder.

    DSC00102.JPG I prefer to use a hand priming tool, instead of a press mounted priming tool because I like to feel each round and achieve the most precise results. If I were reloading bulk target ammo I wouldn't mind as much, but for match grade hunting ammunition I prefer hands on, slow and steady.

    DSC00101.JPG I set up the press for my specific load, adjusting the dies appropriately. I will often test one round without a primer or powder charge and measure.
    DSC00103.JPG DSC00112.JPG I want the completed round to fit into my magazine and to function properly, so I never ignore the OAL specs listed in the handbook. I will also give a 24 hour waiting period and re-measure on loads which approach maximum charge. You do not want to press down and seat a bullet into an overfilled cartridge case, and you certainly do not want to fire it. No crimp, thank you very much.

    DSC00104.JPG Using a head space gauge for your brass is extremely important on necked rifle cases. This is a Lyman head space gauge, and typically I would check the brass after I resize and clean the case lube off each one. In this photo I am using a case I have already primed just to show you, however. This gauge will accurately and quickly measure low/high for each end of the brass. With new brass, it's not really as important, but it's still useful for those who may not be accustomed to reloading and may have set their resizing die incorrectly. And yes, even with new brass I resize.

    DSC00105.JPG Clean those primer pockets on used brass.

    DSC00106.JPG I use this Lee case trimmer (Deluxe Quik Trim) with the appropriate die even on new brass when reloading necked rifle rounds (but not on handgun cartridges). I always keep them stowed away in their cases when not in use to prolong life. The blades on the trimmer can be easily damaged. It's definitely one of the best tools, it allows not only for properly sized brass, but chamfers the brass nicely also. This will allow for a perfect seam against the bullet when seated, resulting in proper pressure, expansion, and improved accuracy.

    DSC00107.JPG DSC00108.JPG DSC00109.JPG The powder you use will have to be set up in your powder measure, and I ran at least a dozen times to make certain it was right. Having a good setup helps, and this works for me. Granted, it's not a super expensive high tech setup, it just works.

    DSC00110.JPG DSC00111.JPG I always write the load data on the box I use for my ammo. Using clear tape, it can be removed easily, and a second layer of tape will ensure the date remains intact.

    DSC00115.JPG DSC00114.JPG I like to keep track of my load data. It may be months or years until I reload the same thing, so it is nice to pop right back in and be at full competency immediately with the help of this data.

    DSC00116.JPG DSC00117.JPG A Mildot Master ballistic tool requires no batteries. Works for those of us who prefer mils and the insert also can be flipped for the MOA/yard civilian types.

    DSC00118.JPG DSC00119.JPG DSC00120.JPG DSC00121.JPG This is all just way too fancy for the average Joe hunter type, but if you want to make the first shot count every time...The JBM link will provide you with everything you need to make your own ballistic charts and tables...Yes, mine are hand written and not a printed copy. Your data will vary from the general readout as you shoot.
    Screenshot from 2017-04-15 05:00:59. Get to know your ballistic data. JBM --create charts and customize to your preferences. Copy and paste into your document editing program and save for printing or copying later. Do this for each temperature range you intend to be shooting. For example, I often create charts for 30 degrees F and higher, every ten degrees until I get to 65, then every 5 degrees until I reach 100 F.

    Get some range time! I need more myself...

    Is your bullet going to be stable? JBM - Calculations - Stability

    Know your rifle, its twist rate, test fire at range how you plan to shoot in the field. If using bipod, test with it at range and zero with it at the range. Your rifle harmonics will change with every alteration of your shooting stance, position, and any object the rifle may be resting on. Remember, ballistic data is just an averaged value using formulas (even though they are very close) and it's up to you to acquire the most precise data from actually firing on the range. You can even go crazy and factor in humidity or even the Coriolis effect (but I'm guessing you don't want to do that) if you are worried about hitting your mark at 3000 meters. [fnny]
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2020
  2. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    Thank you, enjoyed reading it. Nice to hear what other people do in the real world and how it works out for them.
    Ura-Ki and UncleMorgan like this.
  3. Bishop

    Bishop Monkey+++

    I like vargent power it's made the 264 life longer
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  4. Altoidfishfins

    Altoidfishfins Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    A little more than half way through your writings I began to ask myself where your headspace gauge was. Just a little further...and there it was.

    Very good Brokor!

    I used to reload bottleneck cases without one some years ago. But eventually ran into a situation where I had unknowingly set the shoulders back on some '06 brass, resulting in splits around the case heads due to the excessive headspace that had been created by the now too short cases. Had to scrap the rest of the brass (not to mention the safety issue) that had been resized, once I figured out what the problem was.

    The investment in headspace gauges for each caliber of bottleneck cases that I reload (.223, .308, .30-06) was well worth it.

    And oh yeah...
    Reminds me, I need to pick up a new powder measure for my single-stage press. Lost the last one when I moved.

    Good read, Brokor. Great links, too!
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2017
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  5. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    Very good read.
    Ura-Ki likes this.
  6. 3M-TA3

    3M-TA3 Cold Wet Monkey Site Supporter++

    Too bad I can only give a single like to the OP. If you didn't learn something you probably need to read it again. BTW, my former Marine sniper friend will tell you to use Hornady all day long.

    Well done!
    Brokor, Dunerunner and Ura-Ki like this.
  7. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    I have had reasonably good luck with the Hornady bullets in my .308's up to 168 gr. but for hunting larger game, I move up in rifle power and range potential. That said, the Hornady bullets them selves perform as expected and they fly strait! Great Read,
    Brokor and Dunerunner like this.
  8. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    Excellent introduction to the reloading process..

    I have a single stage press (less change of my making an error). And, I like it that way. :D

    Reloading is serious business. There are many areas of the process which can lead to damaged firearms and injury if you are not careful. That said it is an enjoyable process for me. It relaxes me, allows me time to myself and forces me to adhere to a strict operational procedure.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
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  9. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

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  10. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Yup, Been ReLoading for 60+ years, both as a Hobby, AND as an OEM Ammunition Manufacturer With a Class 6 FFL...
    Consistency is the Key to Reloading.... Do it RIGHT, and exactly the SAME WAY, for each Cartridge, in a Lot... The more attention paid to Consistency, the better the accuracy of you product.... If you just want to move Lead, Down Range, that is one thing, HOWEVER, if you want High Accuracy, Repeatable Consistency, Especially at Long Range, then you need to make each round, EXACTLY Like the one before... Not just "Close" but at the absolute Limit of your capabilities... There are "Tricks of the Trade" that can help with that... Case Dimensions not just within Tolerances, but EXACTLY the same, including Volume.... Projectiles, not just from the same OEM Lot, but separated into LOTs, by weight, down to the .001 Grain... Powder NOT just close to the same weight, but EXACTLY the same weight, down to the .001 Grain.... Projectile Seating Force exactly the same for each round, and exactly to the same Depth, in the case mouth, down to the micrometer in overall length. These are just a few of MANY "Tricks of the Trade" that are used.... ALL it takes is TIME and Patience...
  11. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Some twist rate/bullet weight info for .308 I use:

    - 7" * for heavy VLD bullets and/or subsonic ammo.
    - 8" for bullets heavier than 220 gr.
    - 8" Ratchet rifled 4 groove
    - 10" for bullets up to 220 gr.
    - 10" * Ratchet rifled 4 groove
    - 12" for bullets up to 170 gr.
    - 13" * Ratchet rifled 4 groove
    - 14" * for bullets up to 168gr.
    - 15" * for bullets up to 150 gr.
    - 17" * for bullets up to 125 gr.

    I have my A-Max load set up for the 1:10 barrel, and if I wanted to achieve max stability with a lighter bullet (such as 168gr) I would need a 1:12 barrel. I prefer the 1:10 because I can shoot my 190gr heavier loads as well, and heavier bullets do reach out the farthest. But, for every day hunting (which for me is never beyond 300 meters) it's not as crucial to be worried. I just like to have the very best arrangement for that day when I really do need to reach out past 1000 meters. I wouldn't ever try to take an animal at that range, so you know I am talking about Red Dawn gobblygook.
  12. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Yes, for the professional competition types those are all very important. The thing is, our bodies and our shooting abilities factor in greatly, too (not to mention the wind) --far more than .001 grains of powder. Again, to the competition types, it's all critical. They can also be some of the most superstitious bunch in the world, and the entire genre is laced with elitists at every corner, too. Just so everybody knows, I do not claim to be a professional, an expert, or any kind of guru. This is only my journey and you can choose to take it as is or seek information elsewhere, like Ghrit pointed out.
  13. Oltymer

    Oltymer Monkey++

    Nice, and by the book, not often encountered in the world of "hunting" loads but necessary at long range - 400 yards+ - not intended for anything but paper or the most dangerous Red Dawn animals. Down the road you might want to try some Lapua brass with those same Hornady bullets along with the same loading procedure and see if the group tightens any.
    Brokor likes this.
  14. Tempstar

    Tempstar Old and crochety Site Supporter+

    I buy factory rounds when on sale to target shoot and so I have brass. Lucked out and got some 30-06 AP that I loaded for .308. 210 grain bullet out of my 1:10" barrel. Fired 20 to get my load good, then loaded 80. Handloading makes all the difference, as does putting my bullet against the lands, which makes my precision rounds only fit the one rifle. They just will fit into the mag because of the length.
  15. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I have Lapua brass, no difference except the price. But, I can probably get more runs out of the brass. Sometimes I wish it would improve accuracy!
    Hornady match is sufficient. I'm not entering any competitions, no need to tighten groups if I can hit the target already.
    That's the difference between an elitist and a common man. ;)
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  16. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grampa Monkey

    In reloading for the .308 I have found such variances in chamber dimensions between different rifles that I have to keep my brass segregated for each rifle, and load it for that particular rifle ONLY if I want the best accuracy potential! Some factory rifles seem to have the Mil spec 7.62X51 spec chamber, while some have a sort of median chamber, and a few have match type chambers that are quite picky on what you feed them. .30/06 taught me to measure EVERY fired brass from a new rifle to see what the chamber dimensions were, and to keep brass for each rifle separate! I have only found this for Mil based cartridges even in modern rifles, with no real need on non mil based rounds!
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  17. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Mil based rounds are usually NOT reLoaded, when used in combat, but left where they lay.... or swept up for salvage on .MIL Ranges, and sold as such.... but your point is also very valid if you are reLoading for High Accuracy..
    Gator 45/70 and Ura-Ki like this.
  18. hot diggity

    hot diggity Monkey+++ Site Supporter+++

    Excellent tutorial.

    I got a big smile reading the bit about the data book. It's as valuable to me as the kids baby pictures.
    Brokor likes this.
  19. Andy the Aussie

    Andy the Aussie Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Much the same process I have used since my teenage years (I am far from a teenager now ;) ). My mother gave me my tools to reload rifle/pistol ammunition for my 15th birthday in 1984 (my 14th present was a Pacific 366 for 12ga). I am pretty much still using all those things now (I did upgrade to digital scales however).

    Mulwex AR2208 (when sold under the Hogdon label it is "Varget") is a great powder, it's what I am loading in my .308 hunting rifle at present (the actual cans are dated 1987). Back then it was considered our "budget option" when Winchester or IMR was in short supply.

    I have the same journal I started using back in '83 for 12ga initially and then all the rest. Funny seeing my "14yo handwriting" on the same pages as my 49yo version.
  20. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    UPDATE: Do not buy this brass.
    Starline Reloading Brass 308 Winchester Match - MPN: 308Match (50)
    I've only ever used Hornady match in recent years, but due to it being hard to find at times, and because this order is only for reserve ammo and range testing, I thought it was worth the effort to try it out, but the brass primer pockets were all too small. Ordinarily, I'd just use a reamer and hand ream it out, but this stuff was seriously too small. I even tried to drill it out, that's ridiculous!
    Again, do not buy this Starline brass, ever.
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    Has any one ever used this?[ATTACH]
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