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Thread: Best powder/boolit combinations for accuracy

  1. #1
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Best powder/boolit combinations for accuracy

    I came to an interesting conclusion yesterday while at the range. Finding the "best" load for my handguns are a waste of time and money.
    I should be finding the worst loads so I can avoid them.

    Any decent load is capable of shooting better groups than I can without a rest. I don't practice from a rest since I will not have one available when I need the gun for serious purposes. After years of serious practice, I have finally reached the place where I can depend on my skill level to put my rounds into a decent group at the distances I need to be good at (basically the distance from my bedroom door to the middle of the living room where the front door is located).

    Any standard full power load will be more than accurate enough to do that.
    I have found that my guns don't care what powder I use as long as the bullet/boolit is traveling the speed it needs to go to stabilize properly.
    38 Special at 850fps. 9mm at 1100fps. 45acp at 850fps. All of these are easily achieved with standard loads in standard handguns.
    They invariably give great accuracy no matter what combination of powder, primer, or style of bullet/boolit I am using that day.

    Yesterday, I took several different loads to the range to test. Boolits in standard weights in several styles, all of which were loaded to standard velocities with any of several different powders.
    All of them shot well.

    The only times I have observed poor accuracy have been when I was using non standard loadings, either +P or very light loads. Either of those has the ability to take you out of the reliable area of your gun's performance.

    I realized that loading in the "classic" area for any given cartridge usually produces consistently good results. You can argue about design parameters and twist rates to your heart's content. There are good reasons the best loads are "classic".

    There is nothing magical about these loads. They simply achieve the standard velocities at standard pressures in standard guns. Any powder and projectile that gives you this combination will work.

    Even specialty guns are designed to shoot these same classic loads well.
    When you get into non-standard/custom firearms the rules change and so do the loads. I am not talking about those.

    I realized that searching for that perfect load is not something I need to worry about. Improving my skill level and consistency is far more important than trying to find a magical load that may only be marginally better than standard loads.

    What this all boils down to is this. Don't try to "buy" a better shooting load. Make yourself a better shooter. The results are always better when you are a better shot.

    With proper training and practice techniques, you can become a better shot. It took me years to get to the place I am now. I am not and never will be a great shot. I am more than adequate for my intended purposes. I am going to keep working to get better.
    My standard loads will get me there.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    Different goals require different methodologies. Sounds to me like you are loading for mediocrity . . . just good enough. If your goal is to put rounds into a large target at close range, then lots of loads will work. If you are a hunter or competitive shooter, accuracy at longer range, with enough power, becomes necessary. I wouldn't dream of hunting even whitetails with a so-so load. 1,000 fps and 2" ten shot groups at 25 yards with heavy for caliber bullets are my minimums. Some experimentation is necessary. Sometimes a half grain of powder or a change in primers makes the difference.

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy DCB's Avatar
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    I use a rest to test all my loads. it puts the results on the gun and the load not the shooter.
    21 yards is the magical number, for practice let em fly.

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy 1006's Avatar
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    I think the gun (handgun),itself, determines the accuracy more than any other variable.

    Just about any load will do the job at 30 yards or less.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    I want the best group I can reasonably get without spending a massive amount of time on load iterations. When I was growing up, everyone in our family shot factory loads that were plenty accurate for hunting so selection was simple - we just bought off the shelf. After high school, I got into handloading during the 1970's because 44-40 ammo was very expensive, and the only factory selections for 44 mag were full power or 44 Special. I also started casting at the same time to develop a midrange load for my 44 mag revolvers. However, I arrived at a good combination around 1979-1980 and have never changed the recipe since then. I did the same thing with my various 30-30 rifles - developed one recipe around 1985 and that's all I load.

    On the other hand, I have a good friend who will spend months working on different loads in order to wring the last decimal point from his groups. He is a hunter and a good shot - but I think it can get to a point where more development is irrelevant unless there is a need for that level of care, such as target shooting or long range hunting.

    One advantage of controlling your own loads is that it builds confidence in your shooting - knowing a rifle will do MOA or better dispels any doubt as to why a shot is missed in the field, and is good justification for more practice shooting.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    If I can reliably hit the 6" gong at 25yd then I am ok with it. And, yes, the factory level loads are what I use. Except in the .357. It gets reduced loads for the range.

    Mediocre? Yep. An accurate description of my shooting accuracy with a pistol. It is good enough for the intended use.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy memtb's Avatar
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    As mentioned by someone else.....the end purpose for the handgun is the determining factor for accuracy!

    For plinking, informal practice to become “as one” with my handgun, I don’t work for the best accuracy possible. For my hunting rounds from the same handgun, I strive for the highest velocities and best accuracy as is possible! Once I achieve the accuracy standard that I desire, I don’t do a lot of shooting with that load.....thereby conserving components! My practice and familiarity with the handgun comes from the light-load, less than perfect cartridges! memtb
    You should not use a rifle that will kill an animal when everything goes right; you should use one that will do the job when everything goes wrong." -Bob Hagel

    “LETS GO BRANDON”

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I think Tazman presented his thread very well. It’s all about having goals/requirements and meeting them. For what he was looking to achieve his rationale is spot on. I have a mix of goals. For home defense use, off the shelf ammo and middling accuracy at close distances is quite adequate. For hunting and competition I spend many, many hours developing the best loads in my guns and then spend countless hours honing my skills. Most people don’t shoot major competitions and for them that would be a waste of time and money. If just depends on why you’re doing it and what you need to get out of it.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    taxman,

    Good ideas. I have fired a lot of handgun rounds down range in the last 5 decades. I used to spend a good deal of time reloading and refining loads for each specific handgun. What a waste of time! Even in PPC competition, I was never able to beat the “universal” load of 148 grain wadcutter and 2.8 grains of Bullseye. That load kept me in the winners circle. If it performs at 50 yards, it will win the match.

    To each, their own goal, I prefer to develop one load that works in a multiple number of my revolvers rather than each one having a specific load.

    Kevin
    Last edited by StrawHat; 01-21-2022 at 09:55 AM.
    Knowledge I take to my grave is wasted.

    I prefer to use cartridges born before I was.

    Success doesn't make me happy, being happy is what allows me to be successful.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master AnthonyB's Avatar
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    Tazman; I agree completely with what you wrote. I apply much the same standard for some rifles - I don’t need MOA from a pistol caliber levergun. It just needs to be better than I am offhand. My hunting rifles and 1000 yard toy are treated differently, but those don’t get shot very often.
    Tony

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I agree for the most part. Using an accurate gun with properly fit bullets of an appropriate weight running at a reasonable velocity will get you 90% of the way to the most accurate load. That last 10% is going to require a lot of trial and error and the majority of shooter probably wouldn't even be able to tell the difference anyways.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    I don't hunt with a handgun. I shoot at targets but do not compete other than with myself. I work to improve so that, when needed, I will have the skills and familiarity to hit the target.
    I don't require a lot, but I had a lot of really bad habits to overcome. I still have one rear up and bite me every once in a while.
    Classic loads are classic for a reason. They tend to work well in anything chambered for that cartridge.

    For those of you who have special requirements or are just enjoying the quest for the perfect load for a certain handgun, more power to you. I wish you luck with your search.
    I spent more time and money searching for a magic load that would have been better spent working on making my skills adequate for my needs.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Good post tazman.

    I am one of those KISS guys. Some people get too worked up about accuracy when it is not needed and some people do not get worked up enough when it is needed. I "Swing both ways" depending what the goal is.

    Perfect example is my .38 load. It is used in three lever actions, and four revolvers. I test loads in a Marlin 1894 that I shoot the most and that I can mount a scope on. Find an accurate load for it and test it in the other guns. It it is "good enough" in those guns that is all I load. Seems to be OK for what I need for plinking and pests.

    I have one practice load for the three 9mm's. Just added two more so need to make sure it is still good. But I will be going for one load for all. It's a freaking 9mm after all...not a Bullseye gun. I carry factory bullets for when it matters.

    I have one load for the hunting .308's. Sub MOA in one but not in the other. I have another load that is sub MOA in the other .308 but I do not worry about it. 1.5 MOA is good enough out to 400 yards. One load for both. The long range rifle is different, but it is for a specific use that I hope to never need.

    Will be doing the same with the six .223's this year. Might need two loads for them but no more than that.

    I will "waste" plenty of ammunition shooting groups and plinking. I will not waste resources for the perfect load in every gun. I snicker at folks with 87 molds and a half dozen or more loads for each gun/caliber. Just seems so pointless to sub optimize to that extent. What a PITA to maintain an inventory of ammunition and if you shoot numerous loads in one gun, you need a notebook to set the sights for each load so it hits POA.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  14. #14
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I can't think of any handgun, rifle, or shotgun where this is true at all. It doesn't matter if we are talking handloads, or purchased ammunition. Some of them are more forgiving, sure, but to say that any of them will give "good" accuracy with any normal loading? Not even a little bit. One of the most accurate rifles I ever owned could shoot either .75 MOA or 2.5 MOA depending on the ammo. Even something forgiving like my Sig P220, some loads shoot 6-8 at 50 yards, and good load shoot half that. Shotguns are wildly erratic. My mossberg 500 for example will shoot a Remington 7/8 oz slugger 3" at 50 yards, or a Winchester 1 oz rifle slug, I'd be lucky to keep it on a 12"x12" target.

    You are correct that if you can't shoot, it's all for nothing, but if you are actually trying to get to a good level where you are trying to shoot targets beyond arrow distance, then you will need to find better ammo. If your pistol shoots 4" groups at 25 yards, then it doesn't matter how good of a shooter you are, you are not going to consistently hit a target of any reasonable size at 75 yards, and that's the reality of a lot of handguns shooting whatever ammo is on sale.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master tazman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by megasupermagnum View Post
    I can't think of any handgun, rifle, or shotgun where this is true at all. It doesn't matter if we are talking handloads, or purchased ammunition. Some of them are more forgiving, sure, but to say that any of them will give "good" accuracy with any normal loading? Not even a little bit. One of the most accurate rifles I ever owned could shoot either .75 MOA or 2.5 MOA depending on the ammo. Even something forgiving like my Sig P220, some loads shoot 6-8 at 50 yards, and good load shoot half that. Shotguns are wildly erratic. My mossberg 500 for example will shoot a Remington 7/8 oz slugger 3" at 50 yards, or a Winchester 1 oz rifle slug, I'd be lucky to keep it on a 12"x12" target.

    You are correct that if you can't shoot, it's all for nothing, but if you are actually trying to get to a good level where you are trying to shoot targets beyond arrow distance, then you will need to find better ammo. If your pistol shoots 4" groups at 25 yards, then it doesn't matter how good of a shooter you are, you are not going to consistently hit a target of any reasonable size at 75 yards, and that's the reality of a lot of handguns shooting whatever ammo is on sale.
    I wish I was capable of the accuracy you are able to achieve with handguns. I do the best I can with what I have. My poor eyesight and shaky hold simply do not allow me to shoot 4 inch groups or smaller with a handgun at 25 yards, even when using a rest. I don't have a Ransom rest available to use for testing.
    I have seen others do it with my handguns and ammo. I am not capable.

    A lot depends on your definition of good accuracy.
    In this thread I am talking about handgun accuracy. With a rifle, I can hold steady enough to shoot 1/2 MOA or better at 200 yards from a bench and expect to do so any time the wind isn't blowing a gale. I custom load ammunition for those rifles to get the best out of them. That hasn't been difficult or expensive to do.
    Handguns are a whole different world for me. I have been forced to learn my limitations and live with them. I could test loads from now until I die and still not be able to shoot the groups you describe.
    The loads I described work well for me in my handguns. That is all I will ask of them from now on.

    About that arrow reference. I used to be a state champion level archer. I could shoot significantly smaller groups with my bow and arrows than I could with any handgun or offhand with a rifle. Just something about that clicked for me.
    Last edited by tazman; 01-18-2022 at 08:12 PM.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master Tokarev's Avatar
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    I am not alone in the world! I buy most versatile powders that are Okay in as many of my guns as possible, and then I develop an accurate load on the hot side. Done.

    Just because I do not want to have to rummage through a storage cabinet thinking feverishly of where is that sweet can that I need for this particular gun.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    For the vast majority of the uses for handguns, in the vast majority of circumstances, 10,000 rounds of practice using any common consistent load far outweighs the benefit of any amount of load development.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    About that arrow reference. I used to be a state champion level archer. I could shoot significantly smaller groups with my bow and arrows than I could with any handgun or offhand with a rifle. Just something about that clicked for me.

    This is true. When I could still shoot a bow, without paying a price, at 22 - 40 yards I had to shoot each shaft at a separate target to avoid destroying arrows. I had an indoor archery range and an indoor handgun range in the tannery I owned. Inside of 40 yards a decent bow is more reliably accurate than any handgun without a rest.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master murf205's Avatar
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    Taz, when it finally dawned on me that a 44 magnum didn't have to have bazooka loads and I found out that my favorite powder (2400) could be safely loaded down, I realize how accurate a wheel gun could be with the butt rested on a bag of some kind. Don't apologize for having limitations, us older shooters just enjoy the game now. I spent a fortune trying other loads on my quest for perfection but in the end, I had found it right off the bat. I still had a blast (pun intended) doing it.
    IT AINT what ya shoot--its how ya shoot it. NONE of us are as smart as ALL of us!

  20. #20
    Moderator Emeritus robertbank's Avatar
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    Tazman you are the man. Right now with the advent of powder shortages etc I am happy to have some kind of primers, powder that will push my cast bullets and some FMJ pills. I shoot IDPA club matches now such as they are with Covid preventing any practical way for me to cross the border without paying for tests etc. I have a wife with a compromised immune system so I have to watch where I go. NO need to bring anything back with me.

    In normal times 231, Titegroup, Unique and 4227 would be all the powders in my gun room. Federal SPP, SPMP and LPP would be my primer selection. My Primers right now ar limited to Bosnian aka Russian primers for practice and my remaining stash of Federal Primers are used for matches.

    I have my favourite loads for 9MM, 45 Colt and 38spl/.357Mag all chosen because at one time early on some well known American shooters found them to be their favourite loads. They work for me too.

    Hell at 77 accuracy is staying within an 8" circle at 15 yards while shooting fast as I can. I never was much of a bullseye shooter with a handgun and no hell with a rifle standing. The latter as mniute of deer chest at 100 yards seemed to work for me. I occasionally shoot my rifles from a rest to see what the guns will do with a scope and me pulling the trigger.

    KISS lives for me.

    Take Care

    Bob

    ps Read where GC's improve accuracy so it is off to the range to play with my old toys with aluminum based pills. :>)
    Its been months since I bought the book, "How to scam people online". It still has not arrived yet!

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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