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Improving Pistol cartridge accuracy

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by J-rod O, Feb 26, 2020.

  1. J-rod O

    J-rod O Member

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    I’ve recently started loading 9mm and have been happy that everything I’ve been putting together has been firing. I shot some groups with handloads today and compared them to some groups with factory rounds, and my hand loads seem to be less accurate. Any suggestions on where to start making adjustments for accuracy? RMR 9mm FMJ
    4.6gr unique
    CCI 500’s
    S&B once fired brass
    1.123 OAL
     
  2. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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    What is your method for testing? Distance? How many shots in your group? Off a bench or standing?
     
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  3. IlikeSA

    IlikeSA Member

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    Most guns have a preference for powders and bullets. Sometimes you have to change them up until you find the right combo. How inaccurate were your reloads in comparison?
     
  4. sequins

    sequins Member

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    Ensure you are weighting very even charges with very consistent COAL. The number one cause of inaccuracy in my experience is inconsistent velocity. If your seating depth is varying by more than 0.005" or your powder charge is varying by 0.1gn or greater you really see accuracy open up. You need very consistent velocity to get very consistent accuracy.

    Another possible cause of inaccuracy is mixed headstamp brass with varying neck tension, but I think that's more impactful on rifles than on pistols ASSUMING it doesn't mess up your COAL.

    I'm assuming you're testing accuracy from a rested position with a fixed POA, ie. if the shots land low you don't try to compensate with kentucky windage you just keep trying to group and, though low, you try to see how tight it is.
     
  5. J-rod O

    J-rod O Member

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    I
    was shooting off hand five shot groups from 4 yards. Nothing too scientific but the grouping was much more consistent with the factory ammo.
     
  6. forrest r

    forrest r Member

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    Ditch the unique
    Ditch the cci primers

    Try to find either AA#2 or WST powder and federal primers. 10-shot groups @ 50ft. The target is not hand/cherry picked by any means, nothing more then the target used to test that load with.
    N6XBlbc.jpg
     
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  7. fxvr5

    fxvr5 Member

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    Yeah . . . you can't judge accuracy based on that method.
     
  8. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator Staff Member

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    You're saying 12 feet?
    How much difference in spread are you getting?

    1. Try the RMR 124gr jacketed FN Matchwinners
    2. Unique has a reputation of not metering that well. I've been having very good luck with Alliant e3
    3. I've had good luck with CCI 500 when loading 9mm, but I have had better consistency with Federal 100...make sure your primers are fully seated below flush
    4. Using the same headstamp is a good thing...make sure the primer holes are centered
    5. You might try varying your OAL. When I load RN, I usually loaded closer to 1.140"; FN at about 1.114"
     
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  9. Pete D.

    Pete D. Member

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    THE key to accurate testing of loads in a firearm is eliminating variables as much as possible. Shooting the way you are does not do that. There are way too many other elements that affect accuracy when shooting offhand.
    Consistency....that is why the recommendations about charge weight, seating depth, bullet choice.
    Test at a longer distance....at least 50 ft.
     
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  10. ballman6711

    ballman6711 Member

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    I usually shoot at 7-10 yards, but when testing for accuracy I will set my target at 25 yards. With an accurate round I'll get 3-5 inch groups offhand, and about 2 inches or less from a rest. This is with a 3" 1911 in 45acp.

    As every one else has said, consistency is the key to accurate rounds.

    chris
     
  11. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    Seems the OP is just talking about relative accuracy, not necessarily the making of match grade ammo. Unless his handloads were creating excessive recoil compared to the factory ammo he was shooting, the relative accuracy of his shooting technique should be similar.....and it's not. He doesn't give bullet weight, so it's impossible to know where he is on powder charge. That generally has the most impact on relative accuracy.
     
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  12. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    First thing I would try is a quality JHP, that change alone can make all the difference.

    FWIW “match grade” accuracy doesn’t mean a thing. I have won more pistol matches with ammunition that isn’t my most accurate combination, then again USPSA and IDPA have other considerations than just accuracy. In those games, it doesn’t matter what you can do off a bench with the ammunition, it’s how fast you can place the required number of shots into the smallest zone, generally at relatively close ranges.
     
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  13. lordpaxman

    lordpaxman Member

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    If you’re new to reloading or new to reloading just 9mm, then it wouldn’t surprise me you fired the reloads differently than the factory loads. Part of the brain telling the hands “hmmmm... this could be bad....”
    Shoot from a rest of any kind even sandbags supporting your wrists for a better measure of precision and accuracy.
    Reloaded ammunition can be better than factory, but it isn’t a given and certainly you’ll need to load more than just one test to find the sweet spot your gun likes. Use what your currently have and only change one variable at a time. I’d vary the powder charge first, staying within the lines, and see if that makes a difference. Find the best accuracy/precision within those and then vary the COL again staying within the lines. If it doesn’t meet your expectation you’ll need to change some components, usually powder and bullet. I run CCI primers and like the results. Good luck!
     
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  14. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    If the bullets ain't keyholing, they're accurate enough for most action pistol games!
     
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  15. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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  16. whughett

    whughett Member

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    I keep seeing “Unique” doesn’t meter very well. I routinely spot weigh a charge maybe two or three times in a hundred. A Lyman balance beam scale calibrated with check weights at each set up. If the charge is off by 1/10 theses old eyes ain’t seeing it.

    Not a lot of experience with 9MM but would think Unique would be somewhat bulky for such a small case.

    Ditching CCI primers (?) in my neck of the woods the easiest primer to find.
     
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  17. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    The answers to #2 are key to the conversation.

    If we are talking about 2-4” groups at 7 yards. There is no reason to go down rabbit holes of certain brand of primers, trimming cases, uniforming flashholes, sort by head stamp, weigh charges, etc.

    With a 9mm carbine and 115gn Winchester JHP’s I can put 10 in 3.5” at 100 yards with mixed range pickup brass, loaded on a progressive, using $19/1000 primers.

    I am not saying that can’t be improved upon but the above alone is very unlikely to show vast improvements with such large groups at such close ranges.
     
  18. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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    10 drops of Unique on my C-H 502 measure gives .24 gr spread -
    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/powder-measure-reccomendations.863943/#post-11398909

    And compared to other powders:
     
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  19. PO2Hammer

    PO2Hammer Member

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    4 yards is not far enough for a valid accuracy test.
     
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  20. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    When you can shoot groups like this, off a bench, at 50 yards:

    9uK7aUJ.jpg

    you will have the confidence and ability to diagnose ammunition errors shooting offhand. But until then, you need to practice sight alignment, trigger pull, and follow through. I think the most likely cause for differences in your ammunition, at 4 yards, is you.
     
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  21. AJC1

    AJC1 Member

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    Here is what is best for me...
    9mm rmr (I like the multi purpose 115 best but I load all there 115)
    cci 500
    Any single headstamp case I use S And B along with many others.
    5.4-5.5 grains unique
    Coal of 1.090.
    Load a ladder of shots in .1 or .2 grains and find the best charge. Unique seems to work well in most of the +5.0 grains range for me. Then play with seating depth to fine tune. I stuck with 1.090 because it cycled well and accuracy met my needs at 15 yards.
     
  22. mdi

    mdi Member

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    Unique is an excellent powder but often maligned because some reloaders use light loads and call it "dirty" (careful about what you read on line concerning anything reloading related). Almost any powder will burn "dirty" when loaded light, at or below manuals' starting loads. As far as "poor metering" it depends on your powder measure and your methods, and besides when working up a load, weigh every charge. I use Unique, Universal and BR-5 under my 124-125 grain cast and JHP bullets.in some of my 9mm loads

    When working up a load, start with powder charges. Start low and for pistol reloading, go up in .3-.4 grain increments. I have found most loads that are accurate in my guns are below book maximums and some work quite well at or near the lower charges. When working up a load I sort brass by headstamps and normally after I find "The Load" I can relax my standards and often just weigh every 4th or 5th powder charge and use mixed brass.

    When developing a load, change one thing at a time. My "list" of changes is; First, change/work up powder charges. Then change bullets. then brass preparation and loading methods (crimp, etc.). And lastly, bullet seating depth ("chasing the lands").

    I have 3, 9mm pistols and my "Just in Case" load is with a charge of Universal under a RMR JHP. This load works quite well in my 9mms and is more accurate than I am (I keep about 1,000 rounds handy Just in Case). I normally shoot 10-12 rounds minimum when testing a load, and when nearing "The Load" I will often shoot more. I want to find out what the gun and load are doing rather than my marksmanship..

    Go slow. Double check everything. Most important, have fun...
     
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  23. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    4 yards is a valid, if not very sensitive, test for the accuracy of a shooter. Not nearly sensitive enough to test ammo differences, though, which is your point.
     
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  24. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    If groupings are poor at 10 feet, it's about 98% certain to be reflective of shooter variability, and about 1.9999% likely to be something inherent to the gun, and about .000001% like to be because the bullet is the wrong caliber and literally rattling down the barrel. Other than that, it's not an ammo issue.

    Having trouble putting things through a touching hole at 10 feet is like bumping into your mailbox while you're backing out of the driveway. It's operator error. Tweaking ammo to improve groups at 10 feet is like adding a wing to generate more downforce on the car that you bumped into the mailbox.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
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  25. film495

    film495 Member

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    I'm no expert, but run tests working out changes to one variable at a time. Powder charge increments in spec, OAL adjustments in spec, slight changes to crimp, etc. Pick one to test/refine, then use that spec - and test the next variable with the next set of test loads. A lot of people don't bother to trim pistol brass, but for testing - I'd measure the lot your working with and pick 10 or so that are extremely close in length and the same head stamp - for each test lot you work out, to further reduce any variables.

    I'm a new at hand loading and one error I've found is if I don't flair the case mouth quite enough, I'm not sure the bullets are going 100% straight into the case, food for thought. they can be rolled to see if the wobble at all, really bad ones are obvious.
     
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