Dipping My Toes In Satterlee

This post doesn’t have a conclusion, at least not yet. I just want to share some experimenting with Satterlee load development.

With that out of the way, my current recipe for 223 is a 62gr load I put together a couple years ago when I was starting out using the tried and true ladder load development method. I tried to put together several recipes with Hornady 55gr FMJs but never got good groups. The barrel I was using was a discount barrel of unknown quality bought from Gun Broker with a 1:8 twist and Wylde chamber. Watching Johnny’s Reloading Bench he did a series with various 55gr bullets from cheap to pretty expensive, one that did well as I recall was from Everglades Ammo. I found that my barrel liked their 62gr ver 2 bullet when I started ladder load testing at cannelure seating depth. I finally got my 100 yard targets to group!! I got a few dollars in my hand and replaced the barrel with a Ballistic Advantage Hanson profile mid-length Wylde chambered 1:8. With a few cartridge overall length adjustments I was under 1″ at 100 yards with 24.2gr of Varget, not bad for a home assembled AR with a Tasco scope and a wiggly shooter. This is my bulk load with mixed range brass.

Awhile back I picked up 250 Hornady 62gr BTHP 2276C bullets from Midsouth Shooters. At the same time I wanted to find a powder that metered better than Varget and was temperature tolerant, along the way I picked up a pound of Benchmark and a pound of H4895, both are in the Hodgdon Extreme line and both are mainstays for a reason. Both are small stick powders unlike the Varget which has larger sticks, this should meter more consistently in a volumetric powder throw, that’s my working opinion.

Now for data. The Hornady 2276C is kind of a unicorn, it is not on their website or in their 10th Edition Handbook Of Cartridge Reloading. Hornady has a page of load data for bullets that are not in their printed data, new projectiles and obsolete cartridges. The BTHP is not there either. I gleaned some data from Hodgdon Reloading and Lyman 49th and 50th and fired up QuickLOAD.

I made measurements of the bullet length, the large and small dimensions and length of the boat-tail to create a new bullet profile in QuickLOAD.

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I spent some time with QuickLOAD playing with what if scenarios, there is so much I have yet to learn. But I arrived at a starting and a safe max load that seemed prudent based on the available load data and QuickLOAD’s calculations, were below max pressure and not compressed loads.

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Here’s where I changed up from my previous ladder loads approach. I had heard on the Reloading Podcast about the Satterlee Load Development method and Eagle Eye Shooting discussed it in 2018; so I started at my calculated safe max charges and went down in .3gr increments. I ended up with 6 loads rather than Scott Satterlee’s recommended 10…hmm…this will be key later.

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I chose 12 pieces of Federal brass which had all been wet tumbled, annealed, sized, trimmed, chamfered and deburred. Rather than using the Frankford Arsenal digital scale I used my Lee Safety Scale which seems to have better repeatability and trickled the charges up.

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The plan is to shoot the loads over the chronograph and look for plateaus in the velocity graph. The plateau represents an accuracy node. I loaded 6 rounds of Benchmark and H4895 at the incremental charges I had arrived at, seated them all to 2.250″ COAL which is center of the cannelure and 1.830″ at the ogive.

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I had used the Hornady Modified Case, Comparator and Length Guage and found I had approx .20″ of free bore to the lands due to the longish taper of the bullet.

Off to the range.

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6 is not the same as, nor as good as 10. In retrospect I should have gone in .2gr increments to get more samples.

With Benchmark there may be a plateau in the 21.6gr to 21.8gr range, but without enough data points that is a guess. After examining brass and the visible case capacity reserve, I can probably go a bit hotter, though not to 25.0gr as with the Hodgdon 62gr FMJ data suggests.

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The H4895 string was ruined by the chrono error on the 2nd shot, but even if I assumed 41 fps (2577-2495)/2 that is still not an accuracy node.

So I have to ask myself, where do I go from here? Do I stay with the Satterlee approach? Do I make up a traditional ladder load set? I’m a hobbyist and this is a personal learning exercise for me, so I believe I will re-evaluate my max load, especially on the Benchmark load, and go back with .2gr increments. If it works out correctly I will save a lot of powder and bullets expended shooting ladder loads.



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