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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Off to the range.
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.
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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I owned a Marlin 60 since 1987, but never really got ‘into’ guns until 2011 when I bought my first 9mm pistol. That was soon followed by a .380 and a 12 guage pump, and I was all in. I had done some 20 guage reloading growing up, and threw myself into 9mm and .223 reloading in 2017, .380 in 2019, 7.62×39 in 2020 and my first revolver in 45 Colt in 2022. It is so satisfying to go to the range and string together ever improving groups with ammo I loaded myself; it doesn’t hurt that I’m a little OCD about technical things, the tangible/visible rewards are really gratifying.
I have a nagging but as yet unattained ‘want’ for a .358 Yeti unloader, it just looks like a really cool caliber. My next learning curve, space permitting, is casting and coating.