Precision .308 Handloading Tips
April 19th, 2021
5 minute read
Recently, I have been strolling down the aisles of numerous sporting goods stores and one thing was shockingly apparent — the near total lack of ammo. At first it was 9mm, .38 Special, .45 ACP, .223 and .308 Win. ammo that was not available. Today, most of the popular chamberings are in short supply, if you can even find any.
As a result, many folks are considering handloading. To be honest, a lack of components is just as much of a concern as the lack of ammo itself. But, handloading is still worth considering as savvy consumers may be able to procure enough components to get them back on the range — and develop some really good loads for their guns.
Why Should I?
Reloading is a necessity for many shooters, including myself. In addition, I find handloading to be a great hobby on top of all the benefits that come from rolling my own ammo.
A good friend of mine came to me the other day and wanted to get serious about reloading — particularly .308. I asked him what he was intending to accomplish. He said, “I want to save some money along with getting the most accurate loads for my .308 — regardless of if I’m on the range or in the field hunting.”
There has been a lot of discussion on just how much a person can save by reloading. A considerable amount of variables enter this equation. Under normal circumstances, you can cut cost by 50% or more compared to the cost of new ammo.
Obviously, this ratio is perhaps skewed by the increase prices of today’s components. But remember, new ammo has escalated in price as well. Honestly, I am not certain how much I save by reloading these days, but undoubtedly I can shoot a lot more for the comparable cost of new factory ammunition.
To get the most consistent, accurate performance from your .308, there are steps to be taken to achieve this lofty goal. Many shooters enjoy seeing bug-hole groups from range sessions. I had an experienced, highly successful benchrest shooter tell me one time, “Many matches are won and lost at the reloading bench.” Even if you’re not interested in benchrest competition, much can be gained from their handloading knowledge and technique.
The Right Resources
If you have never reloading before, you’ll need a good press. While many different single-stage presses suffice, I really like Redding Reloading’s T-7 Turret press. This design allows you to insert and adjust all dies into the seven station turret so that when you complete one step, you simply turn the turret to the next step without having to remove and install the appropriate die.
If you are using fired cases, a primer pocket uniforming tool is extremely helpful. Ideally, we strive for consistency and conformity of our cases in every aspect. Cleaning and uniforming the flash hole is a good start in the process.
A case trimmer is another very helpful tool to have. In my experience, Redding’s 2400 Match Precision Case Trimmer trims and uniformly squares the case mouth. This Redding trimming lathe actually turns the case like a true lathe, assuring a square case mouth dimension for a uniform bullet release. After this process, all cases will be exactly the same measurement and dimension. A deburring tool is then utilized to debur the inside and outside of the trimmed case.
The Next Step
After firing a cartridge in your chamber, you will need to determine the minimal shoulder bump. There are tools designed to measure the dimension of your fired case, and bumping the shoulder back .001 – .002 will ensure bolt closure without over-stressing brass. Redding Competition shellholders help achieve the proper shoulder bump so the brass will conform to the individual chamber without overstressing the cases.
Redding’s Instant Indicator checks datum line headspace against SAAMI minimums and allows for minimal shoulder bump. This tool will help establish proper bullet seating for your chamber.
Many shooters also utilize Redding’s Type S sizing dies, which use individual bushings to accurately size the neck of the case to the necessary dimension without overworking the brass. These dies enhance the brass to chamber conformity, which is key to precise chamber fit, assuring bore axis centering of bullet.
Precision competition shooters often weigh every charge of powder so they all are exactly the same, not just “close.” Redding’s Competition Powder Measure such as their PR-50 does a great job. Making sure every round has exactly the same amount of powder may shrink your groups dramatically.
While many of us have our favorite brand of bullets, the best rule is to allow your rifle to determine which bullet it prefers. There is a ton of .308 caliber bullets available to accomplish a multitude of applications. Seating bullets precisely for your chamber spec is essential. Redding’s Competition Seating die controls and constrains all of the components to assure a concentric bullet seating process. A micrometer assures the exact seating depth and makes adjustments so painless.
In order to determine the correct seating depth, there are many ways to accomplish this with a variety of tools. Some benchrest competitors seat the bullet into the lands. As a hunter, I never do this and always back off the lands at least .015 – .030. If no shot is fired, the loaded round can then be ejected without the bullet getting stuck in the lands and powder filling the action.
Some of these steps may seem complicated, but they’re really not. If I can do it, anyone can! I suggest you purchase a good reloading manual like Nosler, Sierra, Hornady or Speer, as there is a ton of beneficial information inside. Hodgdon also has a plethora of reloading data available.
When everything comes together and those 5-shot groups begin to shrink, it’s easy to see why so many enjoy handloading. It can be great pastime, therapeutic perhaps, and so gratifying. For several years I have been shooting some friendly competition matches. At first, I sometimes embarrassed myself. Over the years my shooting equipment hasn’t changed or improved, but my handloading techniques have — and the results have been evident.
Today, we are experiencing reloading components and factory ammo increasing in price. To celebrate their 75th year in business, Redding Reloading Equipment has announced a price freeze on all their products through 2021. This is a most welcome and appreciated gesture. Happy 75th Redding!
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