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Working up a .223 load

As for the disclaimer, I am not recommending you follow/implement any of this reloading info/data.  For the reloading components and firearm that I used, it performed as I've described.  There are too many variables involved to assume you will have identical results with your firearm and your components.  Your results will most likely vary.  This write-up is not about what powder and bullet goes well together but rather the process I used to test them for my purposes.   You must follow good reloading practices to ensure safe and effective results. 

A significant reward obtained from the reloading process is working up an accurate load for your rifle, handgun, or shotgun.  There are many well written reloading books available on this subject that go into great detail on load accuracy.  By no means do I claim to implement all the best practices nor have I read all of the books on the subject.  However, for a shooter who uses firearms for self defense and hunting (and not tack driving from the bench), I've managed to work up loads that will outperform me virtually all of the time. 

This is an introductory level method of working up a load.  The point I am trying to get across is that small changes in reloading components can have a significant affect on the performance.  This write-up will deal with just one variable, the powder charge.  It will not address changes that primer types or case brands can have when using the same bullet. 

So....I wanted to work up a load, a reliable range practice round, for my Saiga .223 rifle.  A friend had bought an 8 pound container of surplus powder based on a recommendation from his co-worker.  His intentions were to load some .223 rounds for his AR-15 style rifle.  If I wanted to give it a try, I was welcome to do so since we reload at my place and the powder was waiting on the shelf while he gathered other components for his reloading project.  I had some brass, primers, and bullets available and so I took him up on the offer.


The powder was surplus, Data Powder 2230-S, from Accurate Arms Co.  While the container label had a recipe on it for .223 using 55 grain bullets, it listed only a single charge weight.  An internet search yielded the e-mail address for Accurate Arms (now owned by Western Powders).  I got a quick response to my e-mailed question.  This powder is a ball powder that is, according to the Accurate rep, 4% faster burning than their regular AA-2230 powder.  I checked one of my reloading manuals, the Lyman 48th Edition, and the AA-2230 numbers would seem to support the information in the e-mail.  It was time to load some cartridges.

For working up loads, I prefer to use a single stage press.  I have an aging (like me) RCBS Rock Chucker press that has occupied a spot on my reloading bench for better than 3 decades.  After checking the zero on the powder scale and loading the powder measure with the 2230-S powder, I pulled some cases from the storage shelves that had already been resized/de-primed and trimmed.  Since these range practice loads were intended for use in my Saiga .223 semi-auto (and maybe even my buddy's AR-15 if he liked their performance), I used mixed head stamp brass.  It was a mix of 5.56 x 45mm military and .223 commercial brass.  While I do sort and separate the brass for my .223 bolt action rifle (which gets loaded to higher velocities), I chose not to do so for these range practice rounds.  Since these rounds would not be loaded with max powder charges, I felt confident that the ~2 grain volume variation between the different brands of brass would not result in over pressure loads.  It is not recommended that you mix brass when loading near or at max powder weights. 


For these reloads, I used primers from a brick of CCI 400 small rifle primers.  For hand priming, I still use my old RCBS priming tool.  It made short work of priming the cases.

The info I got from Accurate Arms indicated a min to max powder spread of 21.5 to 24 grains.  Since I was loading with mixed cases, I decided to limit my max load to 23.5 grains.  My initial loads would include powder weights at 21.5, 22.0, 22.5, 23.0, and 23.5 grains.


I used Hornady 55 grain SX Spire Points that were left over from another reloading project.  I didn't have any FMJ bullets in that weight.  I will most likely try later using FMJs if I see promising results from these cartridges. 

I have a couple of MTM ammo boxes for workup loads.  A cheat sheet with the powder charge and any other necessary info is included with the finished cartridges.  On the back of the paper in the above photo, I have the overall length of the cartridge, bullet weight and brand, and powder type.  If I get busy and I don't have time to get to the range for a while, I won't end up opening the ammo box after several months and wonder what the heck I had loaded.

More .223 Load




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