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“Super” Match Loads

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Category: Reloading
Forum Name: Reloading .303 British
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Printed Date: January 19 2021 at 10:36pm
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Topic: “Super” Match Loads
Posted By: britrifles
Subject: “Super” Match Loads
Date Posted: March 20 2020 at 2:13pm
OK, got down to business after first test firing my 0L Long Branch No. 4 Mk 1/2 today that I recently bought from A Square 10. 

 This set of tests was with my 69L Fulton Regulated Long Branch No. 4 Mk 1/3, BSA 5 groove barrel.

All groups were 10 shots, off bench at 200 yards, Mk 1 aperture sight.  

Two loads were tested:

Load 1- Standard Match Load

  DAC 1956 Cases, reloaded many times.  FL sized
  WLR Primers
  40.0 gr Varget, as thrown from the powder measure
  174 gr .311 SMK
  3.05 in. OAL

Load 2 - Super Match Load
  New PPU Cases, 169.0 to 170.0 grains selected, all trimmed to 2.10, primer pockets depth uniformed, flash holes reamed to 0.08 inch diameter and deburred
  CCI BR-2 benchrest primers
  40.0 gr Varget, all charges weighed to 40.0 on RCBS digital scale
  174 Hornady .312 BTHP Match
  3.075 in OAL

Best group was 1.9 MOA (Load 1 - Standard Match Load).  10 shot group averages were:

  Standard Match Load 2.48 MOA
  “Super” Match Load   2.28 MOA

Several of the cases had partial head separations and cracks in my Standard Match Loads.  These cases have been reloaded at least 50 times, trimmed many times.  I discounted only one shot in this load, with the worst flier on a case that nearly separated completely, case on left in photo below.   These always result in high shots, due to increased bolt thrust loads.  

Shot No. 6 in above target is the flier from the partial case head separation.

Target above is first group with Standard Match Load.  I had forgotten to degrease the chamber and the result is a increase in elevation on the target due to increased bolt thrust.  I’m a firm believer in degreasing the chamber before every shoot, this allows the case to grip the walls of the chamber and reduce loads on the bolt. By the end of the 80 rounds, the MPI had settled back to the center of the target. 

Target above is first group with “Super Match” Load.  Note the much lower and shifted right MPI with this load.  Odd given that the bullets are the same weight and same powder charge.  I made no sight adjustments during the testing. 

I alternated between these two loads until all 80 rounds were shot.  The pace was fairly quick, perhaps 30 seconds between shots and a few minutes cooling between groups.  

In summary, the “Super Match” loads had marginally better group sizes.  Again, the limiting factor with aperture sights is my eyesight.  Perhaps with a scope, there would have been a larger difference in group size and the “Super Match” loads would have likely grouped at 1 MOA.  Not nearly as good as Goosic’s groups (nobody can shoot like he does), but certainly respectable for a wartime service rifle.  


Posted By: Pukka Bundook
Date Posted: March 21 2020 at 5:50am
Both groups are excellent for a more or less standard service rifle, and show you know your stuff, Simon!
Your idea  and work on the muzzle make me think I should check my Maltby for muzzle wear;
It does not shoot like it should and I did repair the draws.
(Likes 150 gr best at present)
Again, Very good, and satisfying results.   One would have thought the old worn-out brass would have made a Lot of difference!
Your thread on re-building this rifle is a very valuable asset to us, and thank you for that!

Posted By: 303 Hunter
Date Posted: March 21 2020 at 7:32pm
Nice shooting! Give me something to gauge my own loads with. I would be happy with either one.

The Lee Enfield is to the Canadian north what the Winchester repeater was to the American west.   Cal Bablitz

Posted By: britrifles
Date Posted: March 22 2020 at 8:50am
This test was enough to convince me that it’s not worth the additional time and effort to sort cases by weight, debur flash holes and weigh every charge; also not worth the additional cost of benchrest primers.  At 1000 yards, it may show more benefit.  

This has been the consensus of most of our nations top service rifle shooters, particularly in the Games matches (M1, 1903, Vintage and Modern Military Rifle events) which is all shot at 200 yards.   Spending more time on the range and less time on the loading bench produces better scores. 

What I am still puzzled about is the very different POI of these two loads.  They are practically identical but there was initially a substantial difference in the mean POI.  The standard match load was shooting high, the super match load was shooting low right.  The MPOI of the two loads were about 3 MOA apart in the first string of fire.   As the groups progressed, the MPOI moved closer together towards the target center.  The most movement occurred at the string of fire and were about 1 MOA apart.  I can only assume that not degreasing the chamber had something to do with this.  There would have been some solvent remaining in the chamber which has some oil content.  

Posted By: Goosic
Date Posted: March 22 2020 at 11:59am
Sometimes you must look past the consensus vote. Improving your shooting skills to acquire consistent accuracy is a must when opportunities arise. However,when the opportunity to shoot is not available, take that time to fine tune your rifle of choice,as well as making finite adjustments to your "Super Match Loads".
Every component of your shooting equipment requires perfect alignment with one another which includes shooter to weapon,weapon to shooter,and a perfected load by the shooter matched to that same weapon.  More time at the range does not constitute for a better shooter,nor does more time at a loading bench constitute for a better super match load. Balance is the key. The weapon of choice is also part of the balance.  Any one person can buy or make a super shooting precisely tuned rifle but,without a skilled shootist, that rifle is junk. The same can be said for the ammunition.  If it is not taylormade to that specific rifle,it is just your average rifle firing your average ammunition. To advocate one skillset without the other and only listening to the general consensus does not allow for growth beyond what was said as a baseline.
I am by no means a bench rest paper puncher, nor am I a trained military marksman. I was however, taught to shoot with precision by an ex military rifleman, and was then told to improve on that by the same said instructor.  It starts with a mindset that you will be the best.The next step in your evolution is to become one with your rifle. Crafting a load for that rifle is next. Combine all those factors in to each other and you will be what you are striving to become.

Posted By: Shamu
Date Posted: March 22 2020 at 2:15pm
I once tested different powders in the same load, weighed for the same velocity, not duplicated for weight.
They were all over the target!
I seriously think the L-E action & its bedding is set up for  a very specific type of powder burn.

Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)

Posted By: britrifles
Date Posted: March 22 2020 at 2:39pm
My conclusions are really only applicable to the type of rifles and competitions I shoot in.  These are “as issued” rifles, not specially built, accurized or highly tuned rifles, they are military service rifles.  

It’s only been fairly recent that handloads were permitted at DMC/CMP matches, for many decades, ammunition was issued at the match. At one time, even the rifles were issued at the National Matches. 

Many of us who compete at one time thought that weighing all charges and other precision reloading techniques will give us an edge, but experience has shown that it’s not really true.  Those who have honed their skills in the various shooting positions and have spent a lot of time at the range in a dedicated disciplined approach to improving scores are the ones who win.  Much of it is psychological.  

We have a finite time to spend in this sport, the time spent on the loading bench and shooting off the bench trying to find that perfect load just does not pay dividends.  I spent several years, thousands of rounds looking for the perfect load on my No. 4 and M1 rifles that will consistently group under MOA. All that did was to wear the barrel throat.  I later found out that the rifles were quite accurate for a fairly broad range of powder types and charge weights.  And the experienced match shooters told me that, but I ignored them.   None of that helped me at all to shoot good scores in position.  These matches are won by shooters who have mastered the technique, not the load.  Prone is a given, you must be able to shoot clean scores in prone with a decent X count. The matches are won and lost in the standing stage.  Of course, I’m speaking of the US CMP matches, other nations run matches differently.

The guy who won the Nationals last year, and many others who have won major matches around the country, also see reloading just as the means to provide the ammunition for the sport.  That’s not to say that you should not be disciplined in the case prep and reloading process, it’s just that the extra effort to weigh every charge and the endless search for a magic load tuned to the rifle and shooter won’t pay off in high scores.  Many of them will tell you, load x grains of any medium burn rate powder with a quality bullet.  I realize that this goes against many ingrained beliefs, but I found out for myself they were right, for the type of shooting we do.  

I think you have also proven that your rifles shoot superbly with a wide range of powders and bullet types, even .308 bullets in .303 barrels.  For me, eking out that last bit of accuracy just isn’t worth the time it takes when you have to load 150 rounds every week.  

If you are into precision long range shooting with accurized match rifles, yes by all means, it will make a difference.   PRS, F-Class, Benchrest, definitely worth it.  This is just my opinion, others who have an interest in precision reloading techniques should continue with it, particularly if you have a rifle and the  shooting skills that responds to it, I for one do not.  

Posted By: Shamu
Date Posted: March 22 2020 at 2:48pm
Agreed absolutely.
I shot I.S.U. Matches to 1,000 yds, we used service issued ammunition.
I think "match loadings" work well for things like highly tuned Remington 700's with heavy match barrels, but its a waste for the average No4 Mk(#).
I do hand-load still. But its for the tuning to MY rifle & the consistency, not fancy "bullseye match work", let's keep that for the specialized match guns.

Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)

Posted By: Goosic
Date Posted: March 22 2020 at 8:14pm
(These matches are won by shooters who have mastered the technique, not the load. 
These are “as issued” rifles, not specially built, accurized or highly tuned rifles, they are military service rifles.
A magic load tuned to the rifle and shooter won’t pay off in high scores. 
The matches are won and lost in the standing stage.)

The four loads posted below are specifically developed for Match shooting or Long Range shooting/sniping.
When you apply the three components,experienced shooter,tuned rifle,(even if it is an as issued M40,M70,M1A1 Match service rifle),and a specific magic load,the payoff becomes exponentially higher in regards to scores,especially in the standing stages where all three components come into play. A projectile with the flattest trajectories and loaded to very specific tolerances, matched to a specific rifle,and fired in the hands of an experienced tactical systems operator standing? Perfection...

Cartridge, caliber 7.62mm, NATO, ball, special, M118LR (United States): 175-grain (11.3 g) 7.62×51mm NATO match-grade round specifically designed for long-range sniping. It uses a 175-grain (11.3 g) Sierra Match King hollow point boat-tail bullet. Produced at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. The propellant's noticeable muzzle flash and temperature sensitivity led to the development of the MK 316 MOD 0 for special operations use.

Snipers used to test shoot batches of ammo, find a batch that shot well (or at least consistently), then zeroed their weapon to that batch and tried to procure as much of that ammo as possible.

Cartridge, caliber 7.62mm, NATO, match, M118 (United States): 173-grain (11.2 g) 7.62×51mm NATO full metal jacket boat-tail round specifically designed for Match purposes. The round was introduced as the XM118 match in 1963 and was produced at both Frankford Arsenal and Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. It was standardized as M118 match in mid-1965. It used the same bullet as the .30-06 Springfield M72 match ball round, match-grade brass cartridges, and used fitted No. 43 primers. Production ceased at Frankford in 1965 but continued at Lake City until the early 1980s. Lake City used dedicated equipment to produce the ammo up until the mid-1970s and during that time the quality of the ammunition was quite good. 

Cartridge, caliber 7.62mm, NATO, match, M852 (United States): 168-grain (10.9 g) 7.62×51mm NATO hollow-point boat-tail cartridge, specifically designed for use in national match competitions. It was dubbed "Mexican match" because it was based on the international match loading used at the Pan-Am Games in Mexico. It used standard brass, primer, and propellant, but used a match-grade bullet. It was later approved by U.S. Army JAG in the 1990s for combat use by snipers. It replaced the M118SB as the standard match round. The bullet was very accurate at around 300 meters (competition match ranges) but suffered at longer ranges.

Cartridge, caliber 7.62mm special ball, long range, MK 316 MOD 0 (United States): A 175-grain (11.3 g) round specifically designed for long-range sniping consisting of Sierra MatchKing hollow-point boat-tail projectiles, Federal Cartridge Company match cartridge cases and Gold Medal match primers. The propellant has been verified as IMR 4064 (per NSN 1305-01-567-6944 and Federal Cartridge Company Contract/Order Number N0016408DJN28 and has a charge weight per the specs of 41.745-grain (2.7 g).

Posted By: britrifles
Date Posted: March 23 2020 at 3:30am
These are all loaded with machine powder dispensers with accuracy no better than my Redding measure (probably not as consistent), cases don’t have the primer pockets reamed or flash holes deburred.  They are loaded to a specified velocity and not tuned to individual rifles.  The one thing they do have is a match grade bullet which accounts for their superior accuracy. Our typical “match” handloads are just as accurate if not better.  

M72 was the first match assembled cartridge in .30-06 developed at Frankford Arsenal.   They used the M1 173 gr boattail bullet developed in 1926 which had been superseded by the M2 152 gr flat based bullet in 1938.  It shoots decently in a 1903 and M1, but our handloads with numerous modern bullets will do better.  

Britain, Canada and other commonwealth nations did the same thing for the .303, they made specific runs of ammunition used in matches with emphasis on bullet quality (particularly in holding tight tolerances on the jacket thickness).  Machines were checked often and cartridges test fired.  But they are all still machine loaded using standard cases and primers.  

 Many of us shooting the M1 in 200 yard matches use the Speer 125 gr flat base bullet, it is very accurate at this range, and goes against many common beliefs that a 168 or 175 gr boattail bullet is more accurate.  The inexperienced shooters will weigh individual charges, the match winners throw charges from the powder dispenser into the case, they spend more time on the range. 

The guy who knows how to shoot and using regular WWII M2 ball ammo will beat out the average shooter using tuned match loads with all charges weighed and all other benchrest reloading techniques every time.  For our service rifles, the largest source of error is the shooter.  Second is the rifle, a very distant third is the ammo.  


Posted By: philtno
Date Posted: March 23 2020 at 1:24pm
Originally posted by britrifles britrifles wrote:

For our service rifles, the largest source of error is the shooter.  Second is the rifle, a very distant third is the ammo.  
So, basically, this means "spend more time shooting and less time talking about it or trying to find the solution in the elusive "magic recipe"". Is that what you mean, Britrifles??

Posted By: Honkytonk
Date Posted: March 23 2020 at 2:30pm
I chased that dragon for a while until some wise men on this site set me straight. If you have a Lee Enfield that hasn't been tuned (bedded, etc) and you can consistently hit a palm sized target at 100 yards, the rifle is doing what it was designed to do. Absolutely experiment with loading to fit the round to the rifle. Once that's done, shoot... and shoot. Myself, due to work requirements (and general laziness when I did have time off) I didn't go to the range except to site in for deer season. In the field, my confidence in making routine shots was in doubt. Having been retired for almost five years now, and getting to the range once a week in the summer, I feel far more confident and competent. Even if I just take the Cooey 82. Shooting is shooting.

Posted By: britrifles
Date Posted: March 23 2020 at 2:37pm
 Yes, I learned this the hard way.  I kid you not, I spent several years and thousands of rounds in “load development” work shooting off the bench with my No. 4 and M1 rifles.  It didn’t teach me a thing about shooting. 

But what I said really only applies to service rifles and likely also applies to sporters.  For heavy barreled highly tuned match rifles where you are looking for precision shooting at long range, by all means, do the load development work, it will pay off.  By long range, I mean out past 600 yards.

Every No. 4 Enfield I have fired has responded well to my standard match load.  Will it work in every LE? Probably not in a very worn barrel.  There seems to be some consensus that boattail bullets don’t perform well in worn barrels, likely from throat erosion.   I usually recommend a new shooter try a few different bullet types, with any medium burn powder from published reloading tables.  Stick to mid range charges, there is usually little to gain by pushing velocities to max except get you increased recoil.  In service rifle matches, there is an advantage to reduced recoil in the rapid stages as requiring the target is faster with lighter recoil.  If you are a hunter shooting large game out past 100 yards, best load for max or near max velocity.

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