Handloader|February 2021
Dave Scovill

Handloaders are by and large creatures of habit, following a fairly strict routine with each cartridge, bullet or powder. The “process” helps to avoid unforeseen problems that might result in excess pressure with self-ejecting primers or little or no powder in the case, which usually means the end of the day at the range to go home and prod the stuck bullet out of the bore. I’ve managed to accomplish both in the same rifle, the same powder, primer and brass in the same week . . . way back in the early 1970s.

I attributed the cause of both problems to distractions. It doesn’t really matter what the distractions were, since anything that draws attention away from the matter at hand is bad news. In those days, I didn’t have a loading block. Following the squib event, I went out to the barn and made one out of a nice piece of redwood 2x6. The hole spacing wasn’t perfect, but the blocks allowed for the last and possibly most important observation, verifying the charge weight on the Redding powder scale, pouring it into the case and looking down in all of the cases (with a flashlight) to make sure they are all filled to the same level.

Folks can wait until the end of the loading process to verify that all the cases have the proper powder charge, but it is best to do so after pouring each charge as well, just in case you are reading the scale wrong for one or more charges or one of the scale weights was bumped. This applies whether you are using a powder measure, scale or electronic measure, since mistakes tend to repeat themselves without notice; and “bridging” with stick/extruded IMR-type powders are always a potential problem that can leave a partial charge in one case and an overcharge in the next case, or vice versa.

Using the same process, even with the aid of a checklist to make sure everything follows in proper order, and “view to verify” to make sure it happened, is necessary to maintain order and control. Then too, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result in terms of accuracy is the classic definition of insanity. It often pays to change the process a bit, such as using a different primer, brand of case or bullet seating depth with each set of 5 to 10 rounds for testing without losing a grip on the process and being distracted. The motivation then in the following tests is to determine if minor changes have a noticeable or measurable effect on performance. That is, seemingly otherwise minor changes offer motivation (enthusiasm) for testing, vice the same old routine with sometimes boring expectations.

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