By Joey Hurst
I have been loading rifle ammo for years. I have enough confidence in my hand loads doing exactly what I want them to do to carry them to far away places hunting or shooting different type competitions. I’ve taken my ammo to Africa a couple of times and had excellent results.the way I was taught to load rifle ammo was a single stage press starting out by getting the brass ready which was trimming oal, punching out the primers, cleaning the primer pockets, lubing each one with imperial wax, lightly lubing inside the neck with a q tip. Chambering inside and outside the neck, priming, weighing each charge on a beam scale,using a funnel to put the powder in the case.
Finally seat the bullet at that most critical overall length. Wipe off the lube from each round and I could make about 20 rounds an hour. Didn’t need much more than that because the rifle was checked and the balance carried hunting.
Fast forward a bunch of years. I’m shooting rifles a lot more just for the fun of it having an interest in the CMP matches and now with the hot new game of BAMM (bolt action military match) plus the fact that I have an affliction for these old mil spec guns. I am flying thru ammo at an alarming rate. Things have got better over the years with the auto measures, turrant presses and electric case prep but still to much hand work for me and too slow. I’m used to loading vast amounts of 45acp to shoot in my favorite gun sport, wild bunch action shooting. I needed a faster way to load good quality reduced power lead gas checked rifle ammo.
Looking on YouTube, I saw a video of loading .30/06 on a 650 Xl ,the same machine I have. Still they were doing more case prep than I wanted to do and were using jacketed ammo. So with the wheels a turning and experimenting with different methods, here is how I now load rifle ammo. I’m doing it this way and it’s feeding the war guns well. First off, make sure you are in spec on the oal for the case you’re using.
Next, polish in the tumbler (I like them clean and shiny). Once you have them out of the media, place upright in a tray. Spray with Hornady one shot lube. Spray into the neck – it will not contaminate the powder or primer. Dump in the case feeder. Flip on the power. Case drops into number one position forms and decaps.
When using the Lyman neck expander I have turned some of the neck expander/decapper down so they will not contact the neck on the upstroke. This should help minimize case stretch. Position number two, prime and powder drop. Position number three is IMPORTANT! It’s the Lee universal neck expander for lead bullets or the Lyman lead bullet expander die. Without this die, cases will be crushed.
Position number four is the bullet seater, and number five is the Lee Factory Crimp Die. Of course, this is the Dillon 650 Xl setup to load the .30/06; I am using Lee Dies with this setup. I am also loading other rifle calibers on this machine including .308, 7.65 Argentine, 8mm Mauser, 7.62×54 rimmed, .303 British, 7.5 Swiss and of course lots of different pistol and old time calibers.
I can turn out large amounts of rifle ammo quickly and easily with this method and it’s plenty accurate good quality ammo without all the prep work. I will say this, though, spend extra time getting the dies setup properly. For the speed games I play, I want the round to drop in just like a factory round, no resistance when closing the bolt. Set the shoulder back too far and the rifle will misfire, not enough and the bolt will have resistance. There is the right spot in there, it just takes a little tweaking. Same with the Lee Neck Expander Die or the Lyman Die, it has to open the mouth enough that it will not shave lead, but not anymore than necessary, because overworking brass will shorten its life.
The overall cartridge length is determined by the lead bullet I am using, not by setting it to the lands. I’m using the same ammo in several different rifles and it needs to work well in all of them. As a test, I invited a good friend of mine over, Captain Commando Jarrett, who is an avid reloader and loads high quality bench rest type ammunition, which is hand crafted. He makes about 10 rounds per hour with his extensive case prep and measure of powder to the hundredth. The captain is the most precise hand loader I know. I thought this would be a worthy test, and I also asked him to bring his mint original 03a3 that these loads were tailored for.
Now I already knew that his ammo would outshoot mine, the question was by how much. I know that we are shooting the old war horse rifles and not bench rest, but we all want the old guns to shoot as well as possible and practical. We started shooting at 100 yards. The Captain was the shooter for both rounds, and now the shocking result: My Dillon fast loaded ammo without all the hand prep, and tied or edged his rounds out (just barely)! We were both absolutely shocked by the results, but on the upside it proves that high quality match ready ammo can be loaded on a high quality press and high quality results can be expected. This is how I successfully reload the war rifles. If you’re happy with your reloading speed then don’t change a thing. If you’re like me and had rather spend time shooting instead of reloading, then give this a try.