My journey with the Ruger Precision Rifle has been exciting, but we’ve only just begun the part of this story where things get really interesting. My initial loads (no development) have yielded some great results in the Ruger Precision Rifle: a 0.626″ 5-shot group with 6.5 Creedmoor, and a 0.341″ 5-shot group with .243: (click to enlarge)
These results were obtained by the “let’s fire form some brass, and do a quick range trip” approach. Literally the very first steps towards finding the “magic formula” for each of these rifles. Let me give you a quick road map for load development from start to finish as currently planned:
- Initial loads, fire form brass (done)
- First progressive loads (last post and this post)
- Phase I load development (chronographing, bullet trials, etc)
- Phase II load development and single-stage precision loading
- Incremental optimizations
The goal is to develop a set of high-performing loads for a variety of applications including long-range target shooting, and hunting. The steps in this process will be performed independently for each rifle (6.5 Creedmoor, and 243 Winchester at this point).
So why start with progressive loads? Isn’t it a bit crazy to load ammunition for a precision rifle on a progressive press? No, it isn’t at all. Progressive loading of rifle ammunition is way faster than single stage, and it makes rapid development of loads a lot faster in my experience. Once we “rough in” the formula we’ll take things to the single-stage press and see how/if performance is improved with that setup. It may surprise you that a lot of precision shooters load all of their ammo on progressive presses (including some forms of competition).
With that, let’s talk about my setup for these initial progressive loads for 6.5 Creedmoor. Following on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP unboxing and 6.5 Creedmoor setup posts, we’ll continue here with the first cartridges to come off this press: 6.5 Creedmoor!
Since I was using new brass, I decided to skip traditional sizing in station #1, but instead used the sizing die expander ball only to open up the case necks a touch. There’s two reasons for this. First, you never know when a case mouth may be dented or otherwise “out of spec”. Second, my previous loading session with Jim Findlay (on another press) surfaced a problem with dented ogives as shown here:
If you look closely in the picture above, you’ll see where the seater plug in the seating die has dented the ogive of the bullet. This is not good for the performance of the bullet in flight at all! In order to prevent this, I chamfered the inside of the case neck (to make bullet seating smoother) and employed the expander ball in the sizing die to slightly enlarge the inside diameter of the case neck. This worked great as you can see in the comparison picture above (cartridge on right was loaded with improved setup and case prep).
Satisfied with this fix, I moved on to progressive loading. I call these “factory style loads” since I’m using new brass which I’m not full-length sizing. Here’s the die setup I show in the video shown later in this post:
Here’s what’s going on in this picture:
- Station 1: Hornady Custom Grade (standard) seating die (expander ball engagement only)
- Station 2: [not used]
- Station 3: Powder charge (see notes below)
- Station 4: [not used]
- Station 5: Hornady Custom Grade seating die with micrometer stem
This is one of many possible die station configurations, and I would consider adding a Hornady Powder Cop die in station 4, however it’s easy to do a visual looking down through the hole for station 4 hence not using that die in this setup.
In this video I demonstrate this setup in action loading 6.5 Creedmoor on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP as shown above:
In the process of cranking out the initial loads for this setup I did encounter an issue I was able to sort out. The 308 powder drop funnel (insert) in the Hornady Lock-N-Load powder measure at first seemed to work fine with 6.5 Creedmoor, but after loading a few cartridges, I had a problem. It turns out the diameter of the hole in this drop funnel is very close to the outside diameter of the 6.5 Creedmoor case neck, and the case would actually press-fit inside the drop funnel (essentially get stuck). Thinking quickly, I swapped out the 308 funnel for the .22 funnel. This did work, but the H4350 powder I’m using for 6.5 Creedmoor did not flow well through such a small hole. What to do? This is where having a metal lathe is GREAT. I took a spare .22 drop funnel and carefully drilled it out to .250″ on the lathe. It’s important to note that you need to have a perfectly centered hole for your drop funnel to work properly so I wouldn’t suggest trying this without a metal lathe. After installing this “6.5 optimized” drop funnel I had perfect powder drop action and no spilled powder (.22 funnel would bridge H4350 grains and spill when the cartridge was lowered out of the powder measure).
Here’s a picture (left to right) of the 308 funnel, the “6.5 optimized” .250″ funnel, and the standard .22 funnel:
You can see visually how much better the powder will flow with the “6.5 optimized” funnel compared to the .22 funnel. I’m not sure if this type of funnel is commercially available (I’ll be working with Hornady on this), but even if it was, I wouldn’t have wanted to wait for it to arrive in the mail!
Here’s the load specifics for this batch of 6.5 Creedmoor loads:
- Brass: New Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor with chamfered primer pockets and case necks (inside and out)
- Bullet: Hornady ELD-X 6.5mm 143 grain (Hornady #2635)
- Powder: Hodgdon H4350, 39.2 grains (Hodgdon lists 41.5 grains as max load for 142 grain bullet)
- Primer: CCI Br2 Large Rifle Benchrest
Note: This load data is for reference only. Always cross-reference with manufacturer’s load data. Ultimate Reloader is not responsible for errors or possible issues you may have when using this load data. Use at your own risk.
I’m really happy with this loading setup for the purpose of developing loads for the Ruger Precision Rifle. Next, I’ll be chronographing loads, experimenting with bullet weights and other components, and shooting a lot of groups. Stay tuned as the story continues!