Monday, June 9, 2014

Know Your Ammo

It's the corollary to 'Know your rifle". You need to know your ammunition. First in general terms. What is the bullet weight? What is the purpose of that bullet? How far does it go and retain enough energy to be effective? How much does it drop between various distances?

Then specifically, in your rifle, how does one type of ammunition from one company perform? If you are working on accuracy for target shooting, the differences can be surprising.  I have a .22 bolt action rifle that I bought for the CMP Sporter matches. Trying to decide what ammo to use, I bought a box of every type of .22 long rifle on the shelf in my local gun shop.

This gave me an excuse to go to the range. Targets at 50 yards. The rifle has a scope, so my targets consisted of a black dot paster in the center of a paper plate. All the ammo performed fine, but one stood out. In that rifle, from a supported rest, Wolf Gold Medal Match was the clear favorite. 5 round groups all in the paster, usually 3 to 4 of them touching.

I could do no better, so my search for ammunition for that rifle was done. Now I could practice, knowing that the rifle and the ammo were not the cause of the scattered pattern I was seeing when I shot offhand.

This leads to a decision for every serious shooter. When do I stop trying to buy ammo and start reloading my own? Not .22 of course, the design and price of that ammo does not lend itself to reloading. But all the centerfire cartridges. Because if you really want to know your ammo and how it performs in your rifle, reloading isn't optional. And that will open the door to an ongoing series of posts.


Goober said...

Reloading your own is a pre-requisite to shooting long distances accurately.

Likewise owning a chronograph and good, solid reloading equipment.

When you buy factory ammo, you get exactly what you paid for, which is...

???? who the hell knows????

Dave H said...

I see three reasons to load your own:

1) Cost. Some cartridges seem way more expensive than they should be. For example, right now .380 ACP and .45 ACP prices are almost identical. If I want to stay in practice with my .380 carry gun I can either pay the price or try to save a few (dozen) bucks a month by loading my own. (Although I've found one bit of reloading wisdom to be true: you won't save money by reloading, you'll just end up shooting more for the same price.)

2) Availability. Some cartridges are bloomin' hard to find. I bought a Savage 99 in .250 Savage caliber last summer, and spent months looking for ammo. What I could find, the bullets were too heavy for the barrel rifling. I can't easily buy ammo by mail (being a resident of NY) but I can buy all the components to load my own. I have enough now to keep this rifle shooting for years.

3) Performance. The key to precision shooting is repeatability - you, your gun, and your ammo doing the same thing every time you pull the trigger. Every manufacturing process in the world defines what is "good enough" to sell, and anything that doesn't meet that definition gets scrapped and costs the manufacturer money. So ammo manufacturers have an incentive to ship stuff that's going to vary quite a bit in muzzle velocity, bullet weight, and other characteristics. And most shooters won't even notice. By loading your own you control all the characteristics of your ammo. And you can tune them to your own gun, because you don't have to worry about pleasing old Dave whose ancient Savage 99 can't take heavy bullets.

jon spencer said...

Your gunshop had 22lr on the shelf?
Although I am seeing more and different types becoming available.
Seems like the the mfg.'s are catching up to demand.

ASM826 said...


They did about 3 years ago when I did the testing.

NotClauswitz said...

If you shoot your M1 Garand at over 200-yards you should reload for it because "Match" ammo is stupid costly and the recipe for success is an investment in knowledge that won't let yo down.
The First is you load for accuracy not speed or knockdown power, the 2nd being that you load within the parameters of the op-rod and the stabilization that YOUR rifle likes. 3rd is a lot of bullet weighing and brass prep is strictly OCD funtime when you're looking at the cavernous case of a milsurp .30-06 from Lake City. H4895 or Varget work well and plain-base 150-grain bullets do too. Although it's fun to play with 169-grain Sierra Match Kings it's not actually necessary in order to win a match.