With the obligatory cleaning and workbench checkout finished, it was time to consider the ammo situation. A week ago, at the local Cabela's, I stumbled across some Hornady 123 gr SST factory ammo. I picked up two boxes (20/box) so I had something to use as a benchmark against which I could compare my hand loads. This Hornady ammo has a good reputation and while priced at slightly over a dollar per round, I was OK with that. After it was fired, I would have 40 pieces of once fired Hornady brass which is worth a lot more than 40 rounds of .308 Winchester. If you are wondering about Grendel brass availability, suffice it to say that you won't find it laying around at the range (at least not the range I go to).
At the same time I order the upper from MidwayUSA, I picked up some items I would need for reloading. I had no Grendel 6.5 reloading dies, case gauge, etc. I made a list of what I needed and found everything online, getting it from Graf & Sons and MidwayUSA.
For my 40 year old RCBS Rock Chucker single stage press, I picked up a set of Redding reloading dies. This was my first purchase of Redding dies. A Wilson case gauge was also obtained. I didn't need it the first time around but would need it for when I started resizing my fired brass. I snagged a case trimmer pilot for my 40 year old Lyman trimmer too. I'm not sure how much brass growth I'll see but I'm sure there will be some.
I had a limited number of options as far as brass was concerned. Buy some Lupua 6.5 Grendel brass or form my own from 7.62x39 (AK-47 brass). That was about all I found after spending time with the search engine. Supposedly Wolf was offering factory loaded brass cartridges but all I found was an "Out of Stock" status on any site that actually had it listed (which wasn't that many). Again, a little research indicated I would get my money's worth from the Lapua brass so I decided to go that route. I bought 100 rounds of annealed brass all ready to go. Above is a piece of the Lapua brass with a Nosler 120 gr Ballistic Tip bullet loaded and ready to go.
While certainly not a reason to purchase Lapua brass, I was pleasantly surprised when the blue box of brass arrived. The 5 x 10 cartridge index was attached to the inside lid of the box with the 100 rounds of brass in the box. After dumping the brass out, I detached the index from the lid and dropped it into the box (there were alignment slots for it). This resulted in an instant 50 round cartridge container for my hand loads. Cool....I didn't have to go digging through my stash of ammo boxes looking for an appropriate container. Maybe that is why Lapua gets the big bucks when compared to the .308 brass I but from Winchester that comes in a plastic bag (complete with out of round case mouths). Just kidding. I know Lapua has an excellent brass reputation and look forward to reloading it many times over.
While somewhat exaggerated by the close-up photo, here is the Nosler 120 gr Ballistic Tip bullet sitting atop the 6.5 Grendel brass, waiting for its trip up into the seating die. It isn't as long as it appears, but I can say that the 120 gr bullet looks out of proportion (length vs. diameter) compared to the bullets I use for other calibers. For these heavier bullets, a lot of it is in the brass case. Overall cartridge length typically runs a maximum of about 2.270" with most in the 2.230" to 2.450" range. As with any magazine fed rifle, max length won't be exceeding the longest cartridge you can reliably feed from the magazine, assuming you aren't into the rifling with the long cartridge.
Let's see how it looks compared to a few others I reload. Left to right: .223 Remington, 6.5 Grendel, .308 Winchester, and the .30-06 Springfield. Keep in mind that the Grendel has to fit in a magazine that fits the AR-15 magwell so it won't be longer than the .223. However, it is carrying a bullet that is more than double the weight of what is in that .223 cartridge and the ballistic coefficient is oh so much better.....it won't be bleeding velocity nearly as much once it is a good ways down range.
I loaded 16 rounds with the Hornady 95 gr V-Max bullets and 20 rounds using the Nosler 120 gr Ballistic Tip bullets. Each group of 4 cartridges contained a different charge weight. I used Hodgdon Benchmark for the V-Max rounds and Hodgdon BL-C2 for the Ballistic Tips. I've used BL-C2 on and off since the '70s, when I first got into reloading for a .308 Win Ithaca bolt gun (that I still have and will not part with). It was my first time using Benchmark. Both are ball powders and metered very accruately through my RCBS ChargeMaster.
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