Basic Handloading for beginners

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  • Basic Handloading for beginners

    SAAMI Specs
    The acronym SAAMI is commonly seen in many of the handloading/reloading texts you will encounter in your travels. If you don’t already know what SAAMI is about, have a read of the information provided below.

    About SAAMI

    The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) is an association of the nation's leading manufacturers of firearms, ammunition and components. SAAMI was founded in 1926 at the request of the federal government and tasked with:
    - Creating and publishing industry standards for safety, interchangeability, reliability and quality
    - Coordinating technical data
    - Promoting safe and responsible firearms use
    SAAMI Strategic Goals
    1. Be the leading global technical resource regarding firearms and ammunition manufacturers' issues.
    2. Maintain technically correct standards for terminology, performance, interchangeability and safety.
    3. Create a forum for the introduction of appropriate new standards and policies.
    4. Publicize pertinent SAAMI policies and standards.
    5. Increase our public visibility as "the experts" in our fields.
    SAAMI Mission
    To Create and Promulgate Technical, Performance, and Safety Standards for Commerce in Firearms, Ammunition, and Components
    Here is a link to the SAAMI/ANSI Standards to rifle cartridges


    Note, this document is not a must to read, however it is very informative and has all sorts of chamber spec drawings. Having a read thru this document should give you a better understanding of chambers and how maximum safe pressure data is obtained;

    So your probably wondering what this all means to you. To keep in simple in lay terms, if you stick to SAAMI specifications you can rest assured that the ammunition you are loading will be safe to shoot and work in most chambers. I say “most” chambers because there are those of us who occasionally deviate from SAAMI specs in some way or another for various reasons. Sometimes these deviations can be safe, sometimes not in the case of exceeding recommended pressure levels. Please keep in mind that all rifles are different and whilst powder charge ranges are generally well defined, you should really start from the beginning and work up a load yourself.

    Choosing Components
    If you are loading ammunition for very common calibres you will probably be lucky enough to have access to a wide variety of consumable items which increases the choices you have when it comes time to purchase. But what do you decide on when there are so many choices? Give the following a think about the next time you make a decision to purchase reloading components.

    At first cases can appear to be the most expensive component in reloading, but in actual fact they are probably the cheapest once you factor into account the amount of reloads per case versus the total cost of a batch of brass. Keep that in mind.
    Case quality is extremely important, but just like all of the other components, consistency is what really splits the difference between average cases and good cases. An example of good brass is something that has consistent case to case weight, consistent neck thickness and higher manufacturing standards. An example of high quality brass is Lapua or Norma brass. The most obvious positive attribute to Lapua brass is the reputation for long brass life. The longer the brass life, the less purchases, fire-forming and load development is required. Another positive associated with high quality brass is that you generally don’t need brass prep tools when using these brands as the cases are made to higher standards.
    Your average run of the mil brass on the other hand will generally come with more inconsistencies throughout and will require more time prepping and sorting. Besides the inconsistencies, average quality brass may also have a lower case life. At the other end of the scale you have Military once fired brass. This type of brass requires primer pocket reaming, pocket uniforming and often a decent full length size. If the once fired brass has come from a machine gun, usually the brass will have been fire formed to a larger chamber size.
    My advice when choosing brass is to go with the good stuff if money and availability permits. Otherwise just get the best you can afford.

    The most commonly available powder brand sold in Australia is that which is manufactured by ADI Thales. For this reason, that would be my first choice unless there is a very strong reason for needing an alternate brand.
    Brand names aside, put a little effort into online research to find out what powders have been working for others. You may quickly narrow your choices down to one or two powders. If you already have, or plan to purchase another calibre rifle, check to see if you can utilise one type of powder for multiple rifles. This not only reduces risk of using the wrong powder, it generally makes your reloading room a little neater.
    When you have multiple choices of powder types you may need to consider the projectiles you are shooting, length of barrel and the speeds you require.
    Competition shooters with longer barrels usually want faster speeds so they stick with slower burning powders that stay burning thru the length of the barrel. Short barrelled fast twist rifles (18”) usually need a faster burning powder to accomplish adequate velocity in a shorter barrel whilst keeping the projectile stable.

    Primers are an easy option in my opinion. You can test out various brands if you like but I prefer to stick with readily available options. By doing this I have less chance of not being able to obtain my usual preference and risk having to use a new type of primer. I like Federal Gold Medal primers such as the Federal 210M match primer. These primers have slightly wider cups than most other meaning you can squeeze and extra load or two in per case before loose primer pockets become an issue. CCI, Winchester, Remington and Wolf are also commonly found primers in most stores.

    There are an enormous amount of projectiles to choose from in most calibres. Projectile choice is determined by application (Target, hunting, plinking) and barrel. Knowing the twist rate of your rifling will allow you to determine the maximum weight projectile you can use before bullet instability becomes a problem.

    Pure bench rifles, target guns and range rifles will benefit from using high ballistic coefficient match projectiles. Match projectiles are usually cheaper than hunting projectiles, and offer much better flight characteristics when compared to a similar hunting projectile. Match projectiles often have thick jackets and for this reason are not suitable for hunting (or some may say).
    Pros (Match Bullets) - Generally cheaper than hunting bullets, Highest BC's available, very uniform bullets
    Cons (Match Bullets) - Not the greatest hunting bullet

    Hunting rifles will benefit from utilising hunting projectiles such as the Barnes TSX, Remington CoreLokt, Sierra Gamekings etc. These projectiles are made for taking game animals. There are also solid type projectiles that are designed for taking large game such as buffalo, elk, elephant, camels etc. These projectiles do not rapidly expand and rely on high penetration to punch through tough hides. Typically one does not shoot match or long range with your regular run of the mil hunting projectiles.

    Pros - Great for hunting
    Cons - Not the best for target shooting and utmost accuracy

    Long Range hunting rifles require both high BC bullets that are suitable for hunting. In order words, a hunting projectile with the performance characteristics of a match projectile. Berger hunting bullets make excellent choices for long range hunting rifles as these projectiles meet both the BC and hunting requirements.

    Pros - Great hybrid between a high BC match bullet, yet suitable for hunting
    Cons - VLD types are difficult to get shooting right, Solids are very long in size and can be an issue when it comes to fitting into a magazine

    As a general rule I recommend all shooters invest time into research BEFORE they commit to a purchase. Research could be experimental data that you obtain yourself, or it could simply be chasing up information on the internet. I’m a big fan of later, but you have to be careful that you are reading the right information. A simple search on google can net you an array of results that may make your mind up for you. Combine this with readily available components in your area and you will quickly have just a few choices to go with. As an example, the most common powders in Australia come from ADI Thales, so that is the more natural choice in powder type. Of course you could go with Vihta powders if you really wanted to, but will you be limiting yourself to only a handful of suppliers?