Selecting your load is one of the major challenges for new reloaders. There are a couple rules of thumb:
- NEVER use load data from any source other than a current, mainstream published source. If someone wants to “share” a pet load with you, do your homework and make sure you can find that exact load in a current, mainstream published source and then only use it if you start at the “minimum” published load for that combination of components.
- My personal recommendation – that I follow to this day (and I began reloading in the 1960’s!) – is to find a load in two current published manuals.
- The VERY BEST combination of those two published manuals is if you have one for the bullet manufacturer you are using and one for the powder manufacturer you are using. Cast lead bullets are an exception. Those manufacturers typically don’t publish load data. But you will be able to carefully match cast bullet loads by bullet description safely as long as you ALWAYS START AT MINIMUM PUBLISHED LOADS.
- ALWAYS start at the minimum published load.
- NEVER load below the published minimum either. That’s doesn’t make a “safer” or “softer” load. There is a phenomenon which is too complex to go into here where a load under the minimum can actually generate excessive pressure that can be a significant hazard to your health.
- One of the trickiest things about finding new loads is to know which components can or cannot be substituted. For a MINIMUM published load, you can safely substitute primers and cases from the brands specified in the manuals. Case selection and matching (See Jason’s articles under “Advanced Techniques” about reloading for ultra-accuracy) have more to do with accuracy than safety. Changing primers can influence pressures by as much as several thousand PSI or CUP, so you should NEVER substitute primers higher than minimum published loads. If you must substitute primers after you have worked up a load you like that is higher than minimum, the only safe way to substitute at that point is to start over at the minimum and work the load up again. That’s actually not as much of a handicap, however, because you may actually find a better “optimal” load once you have changed primers.
- NEVER substitute bullets without going back to the original published minimum loads.
- NEVER substitute powders, PERIOD! If you change powders, find a new load combination for that powder and bullet combination and start from scratch.
Joel Guerin, Versailles, Kentucky