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Updated 01/31, 1999, Rev.1 20/08/00

Preferred Loading Tools and procedures


The methods and tools that I have used over the years have produced good and reliable hunting ammo. By selecting tested components, from various publications, the many non producing loads are thereby eliminated. The reading of magazines dealing with hand loading should be a foregone inclusion.

When you consult some of the bulletin boards on the internet you will notice the by the questions ask, that some handloaders do not research even the simplest procedures. I am not a bench rest shooter; also I use many of the procedures used in that discipline. Whether you deem them to be necessary is of course your choice. I simply like to make the best possible hunting ammo. A well organized loading and workbench is helpful.(;-)

My hunting ammo is not suitable for rapid fire or auto loading rifles. Out of 50 finished shells I select 10 to do my serious deer and antelope hunting with. I very rarely shoot game over 300 yards, and one shot kills are the rule not the exception. Besides I hate to waste deer meat with poorly placed shots.

At present I hand load only for four caliber, the 243 Win, 243 AI, the 280 AI and the 30-06. In the near future I will add one more caliber to my list, the 7mm SSAI a modified 7mm-08 Ackley Improved. Since the first two wild cats are accuracy numbers I will deal with them in this article as a guide of how I load them.

List of my major tools.

Press: Redding Ultimag is a powerful unit suitable for the heaviest application of case forming or sizing. Has very precise alignment and is effortless to use.

Powder Measures: Herter's and Redding BR-30. Herter's is the most accurate with coarse powder like H 4831.A $15.00 tool years ago.

Powder Scales: Herter's Powder Scale for bullets and a Redding Model 2 is set up with a powder tricler and has a 500 gr capacity. For weighing shot charges when needed.

Bench Top Drill Press: Used for case trimming and inside neck reaming with the Forster drill press fixture. Flashhole uniforming. Primer pocket & inside neck cleaning.

Whale 6" Bench Grinder: For sharpening tools and drills etc.

Cordless Black &Decker electric screw driver with 2 Batteries &Charger: --This is perhaps one of the best tools for outside neck turning, chamfering, primer pocket uniforming, case neck annealing, drilling with a collet, case cleaning, and of course screw and nut driving.

Dies: I have several makes of dies, like RCBS, Hornady, Herters, Lee and Redding 3piece competition sets for the Akckley Improved. These dies have sliding sleeves and micrometer adjustments. I consider them the best production line dies. I also use these dies in the Lee portable hand press on the range for testing loads. This little hand press is useful for hunting gophers; you can reload while waiting for your barrel to cool down. I do the priming with the Lee auto priming tool.

Measuring Tools: Perhaps the most essential implements on the loading bench. A 6 inch caliber measuring in 1/1000". A micrometer measuring in 1/1000". A tubing micrometer to measure neck walls in 1/10000".

I made a Chamber Length Tool from a fired case and a piece of round aluminum rod. A Bullet Seating Gauge also made from a fired case. Size the case neck and remove the primer. Polish and remove metal inside the case neck until a bullet is firmly held in place but can be moved back and forth with hand pressure. If you have a Tremel tool you can split the neck at bit of the shoulder no further work is needed. The bullet is held by tension. I coat the bullet and the inside case with STP or other lubricant. Now insert a bullet and ease it into the chamber, the lands will push it into the case neck. Take it out, measure the overall Length and record it.

Later with the bullet seating die you can adjust the length for best performance. With out a firing pin smoke a loaded bullet and try in your rifle. You will see where the lands touch and how much. A hole is drilled in both case gauges for the Remington ejector pin to fit in, so it won't cock the empty case when taken out. I also check loaded shells with a NECO Concentrity Gauge for bullet runout.

I use a K&M outside Neck turning tool. My preference for neck walls in hunting rifles are 0.012" to 0.0128 with a 0.270 chamber neck, which provides a good hold on the bullet and cleans up most case necks. There are many more small tools that are used for hand loading. You will find them as you progress.

Case prep for the 243Ackley Improved and the 280 Ackley Improved.

My 243 AI starts with new 6 mm Remington brass to achieve the long necks I need for a chamber that is 2.082" long. Go to my home page and find out, and click on

Long neck brass This page deals with more loading procedures and annealing.

The 280 AI is made up from virgin Norma 280 Reminton Brass. I use this more expensive brass, because of better dimensional consistency. My chamber neck is 0.311 and the length of my chamber is 2.530", which is 0.010 shorter than the 280 Remington brass. Fire forming will shorten the case to 2.525 give or take a thousand.

The cases are first expanded with the .284 K&M Expandrion, a match to the K&M outside neck turner with the end cutting carbide pilot. These two pieces are mated for a perfect free turning fit and work flawless together. I set the neck turner for the first cut to about 0.013 wall thickness, which will nearly clean up the outside of the neck all around. Another cut takes the case wall to about 0.0122 thickness. Please make sure that you cut a couple of thousands into the shoulder. After that the cases are chamfered on the outside and inside.

The end cutting K&M carbide neck turner pilot or mandrel is a new addition to the K&M tool line. It takes care of later neck thickening that may occur near the neck/shoulder junction. It will also remove the dreaded dough nut, which is caused when the neck turning is not tight against the shoulder. The radius at the junction sometimes prevents cutting into the shoulder; going in too far would weaken the neck junction. The end cutting pilot will remove any thickening caused on the inside of the neck in both instances. The carbide pilot mandrel is very smooth and hard and requires hardly any lube.

Next all cases are primed and charged with 16 to 16.5 gr. of 700X powder and filled with very tightly packed cream of wheat. A closure of Crisco at the very top keeps the filler from falling out. The outsides of the cases are lightly covered with Crisco so the cases won't stick to the chamber during fireforming.

Since the cases are 0.010" longer then my custom chamber they have to be forced into the throat. This will achieve zero head space. The fired case comes out perfectly shaped. The K&M Expandrion will iron out the small crimp left by forcing the case into the throat. The case should now have a chamber clearance of five to seven thousands. Set one bullet and check the outside final dimension to have not less than 0.001 radial clearance on the neck and not more then 0.0015". Monitor these dimensions and correct them as needed if brass flows into the neck. After you clean your chamber and cases of all Criso you are ready to do your loading. It has been my experience that the cases gain about 0.004 with the first full power loads. See my home page and find information on starting loads and advice.

If you have a standard 280 AI chamber you will not get the fitted neck. Neck turning should only clean up the outside to about 75% of the neck area, to preserve as much neck thickness as possible. The standard chamber neck is 0.318". With a custom chamber it is not possible to fire factory 280 Remington ammo.

The Die Setup.

Some loading tools will actually deflect when the die makes contact with the shell holder. This will cock the die and distort the case. Placing a 7/8 O-Ring under your die lock nut can reduce some of this distortion. Tighten die lightly and index the setting on the press with a small punch. I have O-rings on all my dies. This allows the die to move in alignment with the shell holder. When setting the die put a case in the shell holder and bring the ram up far enough without sizing, then lock your die in place for best alignment.

Head Space Setup.

Dies are designed to do their thing with the shell holder in contact with the bottom of the die. A standard shell holder has a recess of 0.125". Some have more. Some chambers are as much as 0.015 longer in magnums then what? You get away with that because of the belt. If you keep pushing the shoulder back every time you reload your brass will not last very long. All brass should headspace on the shoulder, forget about the belt. If you have a chamber like that, Redding will make you a custom shell holder. Up to 0.010 you can buy their 5 piece set from 0.127 to 0.135.

Next thing you can do is find out exactly how much you need, and make a shim stock washer of the appropriate thickness and clue it with epoxy to the top of your shell holder. You can also set the die above the shell holder, with the ram at the very top. This is not my option.

To find the head space without an adjustable precision gauge is quite simple. Move the shell holder to the top and screw the die down to within 0.025"or less. Loosen the lock ring and set the die hand tight to pull up the threads against the press threads. Now you place a very small dimple of red lipstick in the center of the case shoulder using a tooth pick. Insert the case and start screwing the die down a little with each stroke until the lipstick dimple starts to spread real thin.

A 1/8 turn of the die will move it about 0.005", so go easy. 100% contact will make the dimple disappear altogether you stop before that point for about 1/1000 head space. Take a feeler gauge and measure between the shell holder and the bottom of the die. This is the size of shim stock you glue on top of your shell holder for solid contact. With a bushing die you simply stay away from the shoulder.


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