by: Phil Hoham
Often times the best way to reload for accuracy is simply by testing out different bullets. One of the most important things that a hand loader needs to know is that just because a bullet shoots great out of one rifle, doesn’t mean it is going to shoot just as well out of another. One common misconception is that there is a “best bullet” for a given caliber and weight. Take our 6.5 144gr Long Range Hybrid Target bullets. These bullets boast a high BC and the design is revolutionary. On paper, this might look like the best bullet out there for a 6.5, but that doesn’t mean that it is going to shoot well out of your rifle. Every rifle and barrel is unique. Your specific rifle might prefer the 6.5 140gr Hybrid Target bullets or VLD bullet instead, or maybe even the 6.5 130gr AR hybrid bullets (especially if you are loading for an AR-15 style rifle). This means that an important part of accurate load development is finding out which bullet “fits” your specific rifle and application best.
The “fit” I am referring to is more influential on how a rifle will perform than any other load characteristic. This means that possibly the quickest way to find your most accurate load is is not to change your powder charge or seating depth possibly, but rather, to change bullets. Start with one known safe load and one specific COAL, then start testing comparable bullets (adjusting your load to ensure you aren’t going over pressure!). In a few three-shot groups with different bullets, you will quickly know which bullet will perform the best in your rifle.
Once you have found the bullet that shoots best, you can tweak your load to get optimal performance with that given bullet. You will find that the optimized load with this bullet will outperform all other optimized loads using other bullets (when it comes to that specific rifle).
There are plenty of reasons why you may choose one given bullet; such as availability, BC, or brand preference. In those cases, you can certainly start by optimizing a load for that bullet, but if you start by testing different bullets first, you will find the best “fit” for your rifle. In some situations, you may find more than one bullet produces great results, in that case you would pick the one you prefer based on brand, BC, design, or other personal preferences.
So if different bullets will shoot differently out of every rifle, why do so many competitive shooters prefer Berger bullets? Bullets that have both a high BC and are highly uniform in their dimensional characteristics are more likely to outperform other bullets in a head to head comparison. Berger bullets use J4 Precision Jackets, which are the most concentric jackets in the world.
Combine this with our meticulous bullet forming process and you get the most dimensionally consistent bullets there are (within a given lot). Which means statistically, you are more likely to find the best “fit” with one of our bullets. Doesn’t guarantee that a Berger bullet will be the best for your rifle, but does mean a Berger is more likely to be that best “fit” when you are reloading for accuracy.
It is important to note that bullet/barrel fit plays too big a role for the consistency of the bullet (or high BC) to overcome a poor bullet/barrel fit. Also, a poor bullet/barrel fit in no way suggests that you have a bad barrel. It just means that the bullet and barrel you are using are not a good “fit.” This can happen even if both are perfectly produced, high quality products.
So, what makes a bullet “fit” well with a given rifle? Honestly, while everyone has a theory, no one knows exactly. It has to do with bullet and barrel dimensions, metallic composition of the barrel, twist rate and many other nearly impossible to define variables. All you need to understand is that just because a bullet shoots well out of your buddy’s rifle doesn’t mean it will perform the same out of yours. So try shooting different bullets to see what works best. “ You have to feed the critter what IT likes.
One last thing to consider is that barrels change over time and you may have to revisit your either your powder charge, bullet seating depth. Or maybe both.
If you have any questions on this. Please contact one of our tech line at 660-460-2802. We are on the phones from 8am to 4:30pm (eastern time) Monday through Friday and are always glad to help!