How To Handload For Consistent Long-Range Accuracy
“Though a far larger variety of off-the-shelf ammo is available these days, there are still real benefits to custom building one’s own hunting loads.
When I began hunting big game with centerfire rifles 30 years ago, it didn’t take me long to figure out factory ammunition wasn’t the best choice for every application. Though a far larger variety of off-the-shelf ammo is available these days, there are still real benefits to custom building one’s own hunting loads. These benefits of accuracy, versatility and consistency can pay dividends when it comes to precision or long-range hunting.
There isn’t room here for a comprehensive “How To” guide for precision handloading; the plan is to cover a few key considerations for someone looking to optimize their own high-quality loads for big game hunting. Nearly every topic will come down to a single factor: consistency.
When choosing a bullet for long-range shooting, the process is pretty simple—find the one that shoots best in your rifle. Bullet choice for hunting is a completely different proposition. Since it is the bullet that does the killing, simply getting the round on target is only part of the equation. The bullet also has to achieve the appropriate terminal performance to make a clean and fast kill. The ability to choose one’s own bullet may be the single most practical attribute of handloading.
There are as many considerations here as there are bullet choices so I will stick to a few key points. Impact velocity and bullet performance are inextricably linked. A bullet must be moving fast enough to expand in order to maximize performance. Traditionally, that minimum impact velocity for controlled expansion bullets such as the Barnes Triple-Shock and Nosler Partition hovered at 1,800 fps. That equates to around 500 yards with a 180-grain bullet in a .300 Win. Mag. With newer bullets designed for long-range hunting, that distance can be pushed quite a bit further.
Each manufacturer has their own bullet choices and recommended velocity windows. I’ve been hunting quite a bit with various Hornady bullets in recent years with great results. Their CX monolithic and ELD-X bullets have their own minimum impact velocities and make a good case for how this is not a one-bullet-fits-all proposition.
“First, the minimum impact velocity we recommend is the minimum required to get 1.5x caliber of expansion,” said Hornady’s Seth Swerczek. “For example, a .308 bullet, we recommend a minimum to achieve about .462″ diameter of expansion. The CX bullet, being so rugged, is recommended at a minimum of 2,000 fps of impact speed [at 600 yards with the 165-grain CX in our .300 Win. Mag. comparator]. The ELD-X, with its unique design, will give reliable 1.5x caliber expansion down to 1,600 fps [roughly 900 yards with the 178-grain ELD-X from the same rifle].””
The full article can be found here.
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