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Thread: Thoughts on "Good Enough"

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
    Hick's Avatar
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    Thoughts on "Good Enough"

    I couldn't find a category for this-- so I'll try here

    On this forum there is a huge amount of great information on reloading, and how to get the best accuracy from reloads. There are soooooo.. many things you can do for precision shooting. The question becomes: "What is good enough?" That, of course, depends on what kind of shooting you plan to do. This post is an invitation to talk about "good enough."

    I've been a little nervous about posting this, because I know there are a lot of strong opinions on the best way to reload. But, at 80,000 rifle and pistol loads so far, I have some experience. I finally decided to go ahead because I think it will make for an interesting and useful discussion.

    Obviously, what ammo is "good enough" depends on what you intend to do with the ammo. So-- when you reply to this post, it would help if you tell us what standard of "good enough" you are working at, so we can learn what things you do to get there.

    I shoot primarily for pleasure, open sights, once or twice a week at the local range, visiting with friends, and shooting primarily at metal gongs. At our range, the smallest gongs are 2-3 inches, and at 400 yards nothing bigger than about 12 inches. So-- my goal is to have fun at about 3 MOA. My rifles range from 223 Rem up to 303 British, military, levers and bolts. I shoot both cast and jacketed and at velocities from subsonic on up.

    When you get right down to it, how you reload mostly affects the vertical size of your groups, because so many things directly or indirectly affect muzzle velocity. So, I do the things that keep my velocity variation down enough for 3 MOA shooting. Some of the things I read about for precision shooting turned out to be unnecessary for that level of accuracy. This is my list of what I do and don't do that gets me to 3 MOA.

    Brass: I do not measure or trim my brass so long as the rounds will chamber. I also do not turn the necks. However, I do have dedicated brass for each firearm and only neck size. I also use the brass in sets of 50 that are all the same head stamp (consistent case volume).

    Annealing Brass: I don't unless it is gift brass that has had unknown use. Most of my rifle cases (thousands) have a dozen or more reloads already and are still doing fine.

    Setting up dies: I have set screws on all my dies and they are all permanently set for depth. I do not bother to readjust the dies each time I use them.

    Neck Expanding: I use Lyman M dies. The M die seems to work best at expanding necks on brass that is not always the exact same length. Since I rarely trim my brass this is important to me. I try not to expand any more than necessary (helps prevent splits).

    Gunpowder: I use a standard powder measure and nothing else (no powder trickler). Also, I drop the charges directly into the cases without weighing each charge. When dropping the powder, I check the powder measure about every 10 loads. That is, I drop 10 loads into cases, then weigh the 11th, then continue. As long as the weighed charge is within about 1 or 2 tenths of a grain I do not readjust the powder measure. After filling 50 cases, I shine a flashlight down into the cases looking for any inconsistencies.

    Cast Bullets: I don't worry about whether the bullets are shiny or frosty. Also, I do not sort my cast bullets by weight and do not worry about whether the gas checks are absolutely square on the base. BUT, I do reject bullets that have obvious defects. I have Lee, RCBS, NOE, Ideal, and SAECO molds and they all seem good enough.

    Alloy: I use a mix close to Lyman #2 for all rifle loads, and roughly 10:1 for my pistols. After making up a batch I check relative hardness. I squeeze a ball bearing between a new sample and a piece from an old batch that worked well in my firearms. If the dents in the two pieces are about the same I know the hardness of the new batch is similar.

    Bullet Lube: I powder coat plain based bullets (Smoke's Clear) and use gas checks and traditional lube for gas check designs. My standard lube is equal parts of old Christmas candles and beeswax with Vaseline to make it slightly soft. I use this for all my rifle cartridges except 223 Remington. The 223 and all my pistol bullets are lubed with one coat of Ben's Liquid Lube.

    When Powder coating I use the same size batch every time (50 bullets) and just set the oven dial to 400. Once the oven is pre-heated I put them in for 15 minutes. I do not use a thermometer to verify the oven temperature and I do not try to measure the internal temperature of a bullet in the oven. I check a few in each batch for good coating.

    Primers: I use a hand primer and prime 50 cases in a batch. I always use the same brand and type of primer that I used in load development. I run my fingertips across the heads of the primed cases to see if they are all well seated.

    Cartridge Overall Length: I adjust the seating die until the first cartridge is at the overall length I want, BUT, I do not measure the COL of each cartridge.

    Loads: I use published starting loads and do load ladders to find the most accurate for each firearm and bullet combination. If the gunpowder I want to use is not listed I will only use it if there is good data for powders both slower and faster, and then only by starting low and working up carefully. I never push my cast bullets beyond 140,000 rpm.

    Rifle cleaning: I take apart and detail clean my firearms every winter. During the shooting season I do not scrub the bores. I run a bore snake through the bore after each range trip. At my shooting frequency every winter amounts to about every 1000 rounds. Also, I do not scrub the bore when I switch between jacketed bullets and cast bullets.
    Hick: Iron sights!

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Do what works for you. In my case, a 3 MOA standard is unacceptable for most shooting.

    I have different standards for different applications.

    For PCP rifles, under 2 MOA...1” @ 50 yards
    For .223 bolt guns, under 1 MOA with jacketed
    For .223 AR’s, under 1.5 MOA with jacketed
    For .308 bolt guns, under 1.5 MOA with jacketed
    For pistol caliber carbines, under 5 MOA with cast at 100 yards

    There is no universal right answer. What you shoot and why you shoot factor into it.

    Heck, I doubt we can even agree on how accuracy is determined....3, 5, or 10 shot groups? One group, or the average of 3, 5, 10 groups. MOA at 50, 100, 200, 400 yards? (Cast bullets rarely are linear in group size wrt range). Do we count “fliers”....or only “when we do out part”....God I hate that phrase.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

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    I'm with you Hick. My reloading procedures are very close to yours.

    What is good enough? Every one has a different answer I suppose. What follows is what works for me.

    I shoot steel swingers also. I go to the target range to shoot paper only when I have a new rifle or I am trying a new mold/powder/load/scope/etc.

    I don't really hunt any more but when I did I determined accuracy very simply. I would find a load that would group acceptably. Usually that was 2-2.5" MOA for 3 shots. Like my Winchester 70 that has taken 2 nice mule deer. 100 round sessions were not financially possible on an E-5's salary in 1985. I was a young father on active duty when I hunted a lot. In the 80's we didn't make a lot of money. So I would take 20 rounds and zero the rifle as best as I could.

    Then the next time to the range with my kids and their 22's I would drag out the rifle that I would take on my next hunt and pick a target. I would then fire 2 shots as fast as possible. If they were close from a cold barrel I knew my rifle would perform. And it always did.

    That same sense of frugality is still with me and it especially applies now that I am retired and on a fixed income and supplies are hard to come by and expensive.

    All of my rifles are sighted in with specific loads. I take 2 or 3 at a time to the woods with my youngest son. We set up 3 or 4 steel plates at various distances and go to town. I usually shoot about 20 or 30 rounds per rifle.

    I still shoot 1 careful shot followed by a quick follow up as if I was going after game. I then switch rifles or drink coffee while I spot for my son.


    Steve in N CA

  4. #4
    Boolit Master


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    Im happy with hitting 8 inch plates at 300 yards with my .223 and 30.06. At 100 yards i like tight as possible groups on paper. Hand gun off hand shooting. I like hitting cans at ranges that are practical for the gun.
    One round at a time.
    Member of the NRA,GOA and FAOC. Gun clubs Zerby rod and gun club. Keystone Fish and Game Association.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master



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    Everything mass produced is manufactured to a tolerance. Reloaded ammo is not any different. If it's safe and it functions while meeting your performance requirements it's good enough.

    If you are a top level 1,000 yard Benchrest competitor your requirements are much different than a cowboy action shooter. I do both and for cowboy action even the junkiest ammo I can produce far exceeds my accuracy requirements for that game. If I could I would load rocks for cowboy action.

    My Krieger Barreled AR's with hold 1/2 MOA at three hundred yards for 10 shot groups with minimal brass prep. I trim and chamber on a GIRAUD TOOL COMPANY power trimmer and anneal every third loading. These are loaded on a Dillon 1050 using the Dillon measure. Both the measure and the press have been tuned and brass is processed in two steps. Second time through it's primer seating, powder drop and bullet seating only.

    My pre-64 94 is a 3 MOA gun. If I use my 1,000 yard Bench rest loading techniques its still a 3 MOA gun so anything beyond normal loads techniques is nothing more than a waste of time.
    Last edited by M-Tecs; 10-17-2021 at 12:45 AM.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    I like the premise , But there are a lot of do and do not in different things and a lot of I do this for this and that for that , Annealing , first it takes time and is a process all to its own , but for some brass it is a must , reloaded 308 years ago and for whatever reason there were neck splits .

    Trimming , again for some yes for others no and once again a process all of its own same with primer pocket uniforming and inside flash hole deburring , the list goes on and on .

    I myself would join you in so many ways what works with what at the time and do what you want time permitting and if it is needed or for trial and error or success , IN the end what works for one is what one should do , bench rest a lot of people go to the last little thing seeking the perfect group , the Houston warehouse bench rest experiments come to mind and his parting thoughts .

    Is it repeatable and does it do what you want it to ? back to trimming 308 brass that has been annealed and resized and some will be turned into 7mm-08 , feel sorry when some one has to go through the amount of reloading stuff and say too much and wished he had this or that .

    Muzzle loaders from flint to percussion and cartridge from black powder to semi auto rifles and same with pistols its all fun and has its own loading or preparation , find what works for you and stay the course and put a little or a lot away for the future of this our Republic and its salvation.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master 358429's Avatar
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    Defining acceptable tolerance is humbling. Maybe I need to neck turn the 9x19 brass

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by dverna View Post
    Do what works for you. In my case, a 3 MOA standard is unacceptable for most shooting.

    I have different standards for different applications.

    For PCP rifles, under 2 MOA...1” @ 50 yards
    For .223 bolt guns, under 1 MOA with jacketed
    For .223 AR’s, under 1.5 MOA with jacketed
    For .308 bolt guns, under 1.5 MOA with jacketed
    For pistol caliber carbines, under 5 MOA with cast at 100 yards

    There is no universal right answer. What you shoot and why you shoot factor into it.
    This is pretty much as I expected. Question: There are so many things reloaders do, but so little info on which things are most important for accuracy. Are there a few things you find most important to getting to your tougher standard that those at my level don't do?
    Hick: Iron sights!

  9. #9
    Boolit Man r80rt's Avatar
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    Good enough is good enough for me, I find a load I like and stick with it. Real world general purpose accuracy is fine with me.
    Last edited by r80rt; 10-18-2021 at 08:29 AM.
    Only a fool would attempt it, and God help me I am that fool.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Except for dedicated target rifles and Schuetzen rifles my rifle needs are for hunting with open sights at 50-75 yards and maybe 100 on a good day. At 50 yards with bolt rifles and single shot rifles I like to see an inch or less but, with drillings, double rifles and combination guns I'll take 2 inches in a heartbeat.

    Last week I ordered a Husqvarna 1640 in 6.5 X 55 and will top it with a vintage Schmitt & Bender, 4X scope. It will be my first scoped rifle in years and from it I will work for 1 inch at 100 yards. Should be fairly easily attainable.

    Schuetzen and target rifles, as tight as I can make them group and I'll fuss for hours with bullets and cases.
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master Handloader109's Avatar
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    Well, in reality, good enough is when I chamber a load it goes bang and a bullet hits the target. I'm not nearly anal or at all good enough to think I could shoot 1 inch groups with factory ammo all the time and there is enough variation in our casting and reloading to make perfect impossible, especially for me. If it rings steel or hits the target. I did good. All the way through the process.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    I take a lot of pains with loading match ammo for target-grade rifles. Weigh boolits, check charge weights on a scale, keep cases trimmed, specify primers, etc, etc, etc.

    I start out with the same approach when developing loads for guns for “fun shooting.” But in the latter case, once the load is developed, then the powder measure is set and only every tenth charge is checked to make sure it is “there or thereabouts,” primer brands are interchangeable, cases are trimmed or not, depending, and if the boolits aren’t perfect, well...I’d rather shoot them than melt them down and try again.

    I’m amazed by the posters that seem to think everything has to be a target gun and load. In my twilight years, where time itself is becoming a tight commodity, my thinking has largely “evolved” from COL. Whelen’s “Only accurate rifles are interesting,” to COL. Cooper’s “If it were half as accurate as it is, it would still be twice as accurate as it needs to be.”

    As long as I can “hit stuff” with it, it’s “good enough.”

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    I take a lot of pains with loading match ammo for target-grade rifles. Weigh boolits, check charge weights on a scale, keep cases trimmed, specify primers, etc, etc, etc.

    I start out with the same approach when developing loads for guns for “fun shooting.” But in the latter case, once the load is developed, then the powder measure is set and only every tenth charge is checked to make sure it is “there or thereabouts,” primer brands are interchangeable, cases are trimmed or not, depending, and if the boolits aren’t perfect, well...I’d rather shoot them than melt them down and try again.

    I’m amazed by the posters that seem to think everything has to be a target gun and load. In my twilight years, where time itself is becoming a tight commodity, my thinking has largely “evolved” from COL. Whelen’s “Only accurate rifles are interesting,” to COL. Cooper’s “If it were half as accurate as it is, it would still be twice as accurate as it needs to be.”

    As long as I can “hit stuff” with it, it’s “good enough.”
    Hear Hear and three cheers for the simplest explanation which nails it to a tee .

  14. #14
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    I am still exploring loads, but I am very like the OP in that my needs aren't demanding. 100 yards, offhand only... I don't need tack drivers. I picked a straight walled case to play with specifically because it means much of the fiddly stuff required by bottlenecked cartridges isn't a thing for me to worry about.

    I make sure new brass is in spec for length then never look at it again unless there is a problem.

    I use carbide dies so I don't have to lube cases. The brass lasts forever anyway.

    I use revolvers or single shots so my brass never gets dirty. I rarely have to wash or tumble it.

    I weigh every tenth charge... approximately...my Hornady dropper seems to be very reliable.

    Each gun has its own purpose and loads. Once I nail down a load, each box is labeled with its load and gun.

    Half the fun is getting the most accuracy I can without tormenting myself with lots of sorting and prepping.
    Last edited by Daekar; 10-19-2021 at 12:15 PM.
    I'm a big fan of data-driven decisions. You want to make me smile, show me a spreadsheet! Extra points for graphs and best-fit predictive equations.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master GhostHawk's Avatar
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    If I really want accuracy, and the rifle is capable of it. I will hand weigh charges so they are all within 0.1 grain.
    IMO the easy way is to use a dipper to get close, then scoop just a little and tap until the scale swings.

    I like to citric acid wash and clean primer pockets. Technically not neccessary, but I prefer to spend the time and do it.

    Weighing bullets will either make you a wicked good shot, or drive you insane. So I don't.

    Neck trimming mostly I don't.

    Really comes down to what floats your boat and how much your willing to invest in time per round.
    I truly believe we need to get back to basics.

    Get right with the Lord.
    Get back to the land.
    Get back to thinking like our forefathers thought.


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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post

    I’m amazed by the posters that seem to think everything has to be a target gun and load. In my twilight years, where time itself is becoming a tight commodity, my thinking has largely “evolved” from COL. Whelen’s “Only accurate rifles are interesting,” to COL. Cooper’s “If it were half as accurate as it is, it would still be twice as accurate as it needs to be.”

    As long as I can “hit stuff” with it, it’s “good enough.”
    I'm with you on this one. I'm getting to the stage where I think that I have purchased the last keg of powder that I will ever need.

    My time is precious with my great grandsons.

    I like to quote one of the late members here, Junior Doughty. He had a great website that is still up. He said"I just want to cast up a pile of bullets and go shoot!"


    Steve in N CA

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I gots this hoop leaver thutty thutty that she don't do well on paper but by golly I can hit a running deer shooting off the side under the neck of my galloping horse across a canyon with 20+ mile per hour switching wind at 1,000 plus yards....I can put the bullet right through the heart ever shot........that there's what I call "good enough" fer me.......

    .........
    Larry Gibson

    “Deficient observation is merely a form of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas prevailing.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Gibson View Post
    I gots this hoop leaver thutty thutty that she don't do well on paper but by golly I can hit a running deer shooting off the side under the neck of my galloping horse across a canyon with 20+ mile per hour switching wind at 1,000 plus yards....I can put the bullet right through the heart ever shot........that there's what I call "good enough" fer me.......

    .........
    Okay, that made me laugh!

  19. #19
    Curious Caster
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Gibson View Post
    I gots this hoop leaver thutty thutty that she don't do well on paper but by golly I can hit a running deer shooting off the side under the neck of my galloping horse across a canyon with 20+ mile per hour switching wind at 1,000 plus yards....I can put the bullet right through the heart ever shot........that there's what I call "good enough" fer me.......

    .........
    This is the kind of post that makes me wish there was a way to up-vote.
    I'm a big fan of data-driven decisions. You want to make me smile, show me a spreadsheet! Extra points for graphs and best-fit predictive equations.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    An old reloading mentor of mine used to say......are you painting a barn or painting a portrait. I load strictly for hunting and my goal is safe and functional rounds that are at least as good and probably better than factory ammo. I stay within the parameters in my loading manual, usually somewhere in the middle as far as power and try to be as uniform as possible. .1+/- of a grain of powder is my objective. In almost 50 of reloading I have never missed these goals. To each his own.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check