When it comes to shooting small groups at 1000 yards, consistency becomes important. In fact, consistency is the main key to accuracy over a number of shots at this distance.
Not only consistency of the shooter, but also consistency of the rifle components, and even more so, the consistency of the cartridge components, loading and case preparation, as this is where the most variables come in. To find out how to get better reloading consistency, we talk with the man who has proven to have the best consistency in all aspects, by officially shooting the smallest ever 1000-yard group in the US in history, Charles Greer.
The online shooting and reloading community has been taken by storm by the news and rumors of this amazing feat, which has since been confirmed as officially the world record. Charles not only proves a lot about shooting and consistency, but also, that age is just a number, both when looking at his age-defying appearance, and by achieving such an amazing record at the age of 83. We truly salute you with this amazing feat Charles, and hope to learn more about your loading and shooting in years to come.
What shooting disciplines do you practice or compete in?
I only compete in 1K Benchrest these days. I’m 84 this year and the other disciplines are a little too strenuous for me. Over the years I have shot IDPA, IPSC, Three Gun and various other run and gun sports but I’m concentrating on BR now.
How did you get started in reloading your own ammunition?
When I started shooting long range BR in 2006 I quickly found that to be competitive I would have to have the best equipment I could afford and very consistent ammo. Factory loads at that time did not offer the performance I sought.
What is your main goal with reloading?
Very consistent performance…single digit ES, pressures well below max to extend brass life and reliably consistent components. I want powder that is not too heat sensitive, as I shoot in Arizona, and bullets that I can load out of the box without a lot of weighing and measuring.
What sequence do you follow when reloading virgin brass?
I shoot only 300WSM and 6BRA these days and use good Norma and Lapua brass. With brand new brass I load up some rounds as for a normal match with a slightly light charge, seat a regular match bullet without any brass prep and shoot a match this way to fireform the new brass. I shoot these when I know I’ll be shooting the second relay of the day as in AZ the second is always very windy and there is not much chance of shooting a great score anyway. I’m always surprised at how well these new rounds perform with virtually no case prep.
What sequence do you follow when reloading fired brass?
After the first firing I clean the outer case necks with steel wool and brush out the inner neck. I lube the inner neck with dry lube and apply a bit of Imperial Sizing Wax to each case with my fingers as I run it through a custom Whidden full length non-bushing sizing die with an expander in a Forester Co-Ax press. After sizing I clean off the sizing wax and trim the case mouths down to a uniform length with an electric Trim It II machine that also chamfers the case mouths in the process. I clean the primer pockets and then sort the cases by weight. I arrange the cases in a loading block by weight and maintain that order for the life of the case so the cases I shoot for record are always exactly the same weight. I use a 21st Century hand primer to prime the cases and then charge them using a V3 Auto Trickler and FX120i scale. Bullets are seated using a custom Wilson hand die and an arbor press to a seating depth determined by measurement. Last step is to check a sampling of rounds for concentricity with a Sinclair Concentricity Gauge.
Do you use an arbor press with a force measurement gauge and note the seating pressure of each load?
I’m using a Sinclair Arbor Press and I seat the bullets by feel. The Whidden sizing die I use that runs an expander through the neck gives a very consistent result and even tension. If I want to vary the neck tension I use a different sized expander.
Do you anneal your brass and why?
I anneal every third or fourth firing to avoid hardening of the case necks and help maintain even neck tension.
Roughly how many firings and reloads do you get out of your cases?
As to number of firings….I was having problems with loose primer pockets on my WSM Norma brass after just a few firings. Too much pressure, I suspect. I reduced my charge of RL23 to 63gr bringing my velocity down to 2,825 with the 220 Bergers from over 2,900 and the primer pocket problem resolved. I have a gauge that allows me to check the tightness of the primer pockets that I now use as part of my process to make sure pockets are still snug. I have 8 firings on the brass I’m using now and the cases are still good. Interestingly if anything accuracy is better at the lower velocity. Sometimes faster is not better.
What caliber do you shoot with and why?
Primarily 300 WSM in both my light and my heavy guns. At our range in the AZ desert wind is almost always a factor. I’ve found that I get the best results overall from the heaviest, highest BC bullet that will work well in my barrels.
What does your reloading equipment consist of?
- Dies – Whidden full length non-bushing sizing die with an expander
- Reloading Press – Forester Co-Ax press.
- Case trimmer – Trim It II machine that also chamfers the case mouths
- Priming tool – 21st Century hand primer
- Powder dispenser – V3 Auto Trickler and FX120i scale
- Seating Die – Wilson hand die
- Seating Press – Sinclair Arbor Press
- Concentricity Measurement Tool – Sinclair Concentricity Gauge
What load development method do you use to find a new load?
With a new caliber I’ll check the Accurate Shooter forums to see what loads are working for top competitors. I’ll pick a combination that’s been winning and start there. I’ll load up enough rounds for a ten round ladder at different charge weights to determine max pressure, back off a couple of grains from max and load up enough to shoot a few groups at whatever seating depth the bullet I’ve chosen is said to like. For instance….I’m now shooting exclusively Berger 30 cal 220 gr LRHT bullets in my 300WSM’s. Berger suggests seating these bullets well off the lands so that’s where I start and then, after shooting some 3 shot test groups, adjust in or out until I get the best result. Then I’ll load up enough rounds for a few more groups at varying charge weights and test those. At that point I’m usually getting pretty close to a good load and will shoot some five shot groups with the one that looks best to prove it. Not very scientific, I’m afraid, mostly trial and error. I’ve shot 300WSM for so long I pretty much know what works and what doesn’t.
I test loads at 100yds to minimize the wind effects and have found that to get the result I want at 1K my load has to consistently give me 5 shot groups at 100yds in one hole measuring in the low 2’s with some groups in the 1’s. I shoot all my test groups over a Chronograph and track velocities and ES’s.
Do you do load development before, during or after barrel break in?
At what group size do you stop load development?
I’ll figure it’s good enough when I consistently get 100yd 5 shot groups in the low two’s with an occasional group in the one’s.
What chronograph do you shoot and measure velocity with?
The Chrono I’m using currently is the Magneto Speed Sporter. Easy to use and gives a very consistent reading.
What components does your rifle and optics that you currently use, consist of?
My match rifles are basically clones except for weight….the LG is 17lbs, the HG is 28. Both have Borden RBLPRE actions, Jewel triggers, Krieger barrels and Wheeler/McMillan LRB stocks. Both rifles have good muzzle brakes, hydraulic recoil reducers in the butt and recoil pads. I’m using Vortex Golden Eagle 15-60 scopes on both in Burris Signature Zee rings.
What front and rear rests do you shoot from?
Both rifles have 4″ forearms in front and 1 1/2″ wide rails in the back. I use a Sinclair Competition Front Rest with upgrades and a mechanical rear rest for both with custom Edgewood bags.
How often do you clean your rifle and barrel?
Usually I clean after each match….around 50 rounds on each rifle. Also after testing sessions.
What barrel cleaning equipment, products and procedure do you use?
I first run a couple of patches soaked in Kroil through the barrel to clean out any loose stuff. Then I put in some CarbOut with a patch on a brush, stroke it a few times and let it soak for an hour or so, swab that out and put in some Wipe Out with Accelerator and stroke that a half dozen times with a copper brush. I let that soak for a few hours, sometimes overnight, then patch it out with BoreTech Eliminator that removes any remaining coppering.
I’ve been using some triangular patches that I found last year that work with a specially designed copper brush that is more narrow at the front end to allow for the patch and normal brush width towards the rear. Allows one to apply solvents, etc, easily and brush them in at the same time. This is the only system I use now…no longer use a jag. They’re made by a company named Bore Smith.
What do you feel is your biggest factor resulting in your consistency?
I think fine accuracy results from combining an excellent barrel with the appropriate bullet for the discipline one is shooting. Quality components are critical along with accurate loading and measuring equipment. Shooting just one load in one caliber makes reloading a lot more efficient and consistent than loading for several different guns and calibers. Once I’ve got it right it’s just a question of loading up my match rounds each month and shooting. Keeps life simple.
Are there any other points you may want to add?
I’ve found recently that different primers can make a big difference in results. For years I used Fed 215M primers in my WSM’s because, well, they were magnum rounds…made sense. Then earlier this year I ran out of 215’s and loaded up some rounds with 210M primers that I had on hand. Wow! Suddenly my group sizes were almost cut in half. From now on whenever I develop a load I’m going to test with several different makes and types of primer.
Well, there you have it from the record holder himself, trail and error can often be as, if not more successful than theoretic or scientific methods, as it factors in actual conditions, and primers make a bigger difference that I or most other shooters thought.