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Sierra Bullets
Rifle Magazine
June - July 2005
Volume 40, Number 3
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 235
On the cover...
A Daly-Sauer drilling in 12 gauge over .30-30. Photo by John Barsness. Colt Peacemaker Centennial Frontier Six Shooter with bison bone grips. Photo by Mike Venturino.
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When I began handloading in the 1960s, only a handful of manuals dealt with the subject, and there were perhaps three dozen powders for everything from shotguns to super-magnums. Today buying all the current manuals would cost several hundred dollars, and there are over 150 canister powders available. How is a poor hunter to keep up?

Of course, reading Handloader helps, but even then there are too many new powders, cartridges, bullets and loading tools for even a staff of writers to try everything. It’s become impossible to duplicate “Pet Loads,” the long-time feature articles written by the grand master, Ken Waters – the reason nobody has tried.

Just an update for the .30-06 alone would involve at least 50 powders and a dozen new bullets a year. Multiplying 50 times 12 arrives at 600 possible loads. Multiply 600 by at least 15 rounds per load (the minimum required for meaningful data) and that’s 9,000 rounds. Throw in another 1,000 just for fouling and work-up shots, and the writer would have to fire 10,000 rounds.

I don’t know about you, but 100 rounds of big-game ammunition a day is plenty. Beyond that my data becomes suspect, because “the nut behind the bolt” grows a little loose after all that shooting. Even at 200 rounds a day (which I have done, purely in the interests of science), a “.30-06 Pet Loads: 2005 Update” would take 50 days to complete. Then the article would have to be written and photos taken – and I would require weekends off. Call it three months per “Pet Loads.”

Nope, life doesn’t work that way anymore. So when confronted by umpteen zillion possible combinations, what’s a poor handloader to do? I include myself as a “poor handloader,” because I don’t have time to try them all either.

The first thing is to consult all the manuals possible. These days many indicate which loads worked best in their test rifles. This doesn’t necessarily mean those loads will work in your rifle, but in my experience they’re a pretty good place to start – especially if more than one manual recommends a certain powder for the job.

Another tool, however, is the Internet. Half of American households are now online (and I suspect that an even larger percentage of Handloader readers are, because they e-mail us all the time). Here I must put in a plug for Handloader’s own web site: www.loaddata.com. This includes a database of most of the loads published in Handloader – including all those from the past few years, because they arrived at company headquarters either on a computer disk or via e-mail, ready to download into the database.

A subscription to LoadData.com costs $25 a year, but you also   get a new monthly column (by, ahem, me), reprints of articles published in Handloader and the ability to ask for information if you find the database lacking. These answers are also provided by me, and so far I’ve been able to come up with something at least 95 percent of the time, using information from my own extensive data and library.

The Internet also can provide more extensive information. Over the past couple of years, I’ve often logged onto www.24hour campfire.com, a “chat room” site that deals with all sorts of outdoor issues. The Campfire is more civilized than most. Thanks to the anonymity provided on most chat rooms, some people feel free to post any aggressive little notion that pops into their head. The Campfire is “moderated” by Rick Bin, the owner of the site, a level-headed rifle loony who keeps things reasonably polite.

The Campfire is primarily a shooting site. I use it mostly to find out what shooters are interested in, but even to glean loading information. For instance, you could post this question: “What’s your favorite deer load in the .257 Roberts?” You’ll probably get a couple dozen answers from enthusiastic Bob-shooters. Some, of course, will advise you to forget about the .257 and buy a .260 Remington or .257 Weatherby, but you’ll also get a bunch of loads mentioning several powders – and often new powders. If a certain powder keeps turning up, it’s probably worth a try.

You can also obtain information about new cartridges, bullets, rifles, scopes, binoculars or anything else we use. If 32 people have tried the new Window-Breaker bullet on big game, then you’ll get a cross-section of information, not just the word from some gun writer who was invited to Texas and shot a single 127-pound “wild boar” with the thing. Or say you’re having problems seating bullets straight with your new .300 WSM dies. Ask for help and you’re likely to get 20 answers, most of which will probably help.

Of course, you must winnow out the red-eyed fire-breathers, the boys who always get 200 fps more out of any cartridge than the manuals suggest. Luckily, the Campfire also has many moderate members, who quickly post objections to such envelope-stretching. Even a beginner can spot the fringe elements pretty quickly.

The best thing about the Internet, however, is that you don’t have to wait as long to get information. The United States Postal Service is more reliable than most people but still can’t transport answers at light speed. No matter how often loading manuals are updated, there’s always a lag, and even Handloader only comes out six times a year. But the Internet is always there, circling the planet.

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