USA Rifle Team pro shooter Ray Weaver is a man focused on F-Class shooting, and with a third-place podium finish in the F-TR National Championship as far back as 2015, he is not only been long successful at it, but is well experienced too. We had the privileged of interviewing Ray on his rifles, reloading equipment, process and load development techniques. Read to find learn about getting the basics right from a Pro.
We Talk with Ray
What shooting disciplines do you practice or compete in?
I compete in F Class, primarily TR and on rare occasions will shoot in F Open. I have shot in one PRS match and plan to shoot more, but have much to learn in that discipline.
How did you get started in reloading your own ammunition?
I started reloading .223 and pistol ammunition quite some time before shooting in my first competitive match. I was interested in learning how to do hand reloads so read up on it and got started. At the time I did not know much about it and was basically going through the motions. I did not have any help and got all my information from reading about it.
What is your main goal with reloading?
My main goal with reloading is to use it to find load combinations that will shoot consistently in each new barrel. That doesn’t always happen as anyone who shoots competitively knows. I try to be as consistent as I can possibly be and do not deviate from my reloading routine.
What sequence do you follow when reloading virgin brass?
With virgin brass I do an outside neck turn adjusting my tool to take off 65 to 80% thus normally there are spots that are not touched. I do it by eye and will adjust for different lots of brass. The only other step is to chamfer the ID at the case neck.
What sequence do you follow when reloading fired brass?
With fired brass I de-prime, clean the primer pocket lightly with a steel brush in a drill (I do not touch the flash holes), anneal, full length size, neck trim and chamfer ID and OD all in one step with Giraud trimmer, hit the outside with steel wool, brush the ID, blow cases out with compressed air, then insert primers. I keep my brass separated in lots of 100, and the case shoulders are pushed back about .003 from the fired brass. .308 barrels chambered with different reamers will not be dimensionally uniform. I have seen as much as .010 difference in in the length of fired brass from barrels chambered with different reamers, thus fired brass should be checked in a comparator to determine fired length, with the sizing die adjusted accordingly to get the desired sized length.
Do you anneal your brass and why?
I anneal after every firing out of habit. It doesn’t affect accuracy, but I do believe it will extend the life of the brass. I have reloaded brass until it either stops holding primers or in some cases bullets.
What caliber do you shoot with and why?
I shoot .308 since that and .223 are the only calibers allowed in F-TR class, and at long range with wind the 30 caliber holds up better than .223.
What does your reloading equipment consist of?
For reloading I use a Lee turret press for de-priming, a Redding single stage Big Boss press for sizing, and a K&M Precision Shooting Products arbor press for bullet seating. I use two sizing dies depending on how the barrel is chambered. One is a Redding competition bushing die. I use the .335 bushing. The other is a custom die to match a chamber reamer made for me by Dave Manson Precision Reamers. The die blank came from Newlon Precision and the reamer used to cut that die was from Dave Manson. My bullet seating die is a Sinclair International L.E. Wilson ball bearing micrometer seating die. My recent 600 yard F-TR record was shot with a barrel chambered with the Manson reamer and twice fired Lapua Palma brass sized with the Newlon die.
What load development method do you use to find a new load?
My load development is relatively primitive. I know for most barrels I should be able to find a suitable accuracy node somewhere between 2630 and 2680 FPS with 200 grain bullets in a .308. I use VV N150 powder and from practice I know about where to start on the charge. Each barrel is different and depending on how the first test goes using loads in .2 grain increments I get a pretty good idea what the powder charges will have to be on the next set of test loads. I normally shoot test groups of 5 shots and will run the range from around 2620 up to 2700 FPS, looking mainly for consistent groups. If I find something that is consistent, meaning ½ MOA and no fliers, I will then start adjusting seating depth to see if I can tighten the group.
Do you do load development before, during or after barrel break in?
I load develop during barrel break in, but normally will re check velocities after the barrel has more than 250 rounds. Some barrels will speed up significantly while others not so much.
At what MOA or Grouping size do you stop load development?
If I can get a .308 barrel to shoot consistently 3/8 MOA, I think that is going to be a very good barrel, and honestly, I have not found many .308 barrels that will hold 3/8 MOA consistently. I would not be afraid to compete with a barrel that shoots ½ MOA, provided it is consistent. A tight shooting barrel means more X’s, but at 1,000 yards a lot is going on and the wind is the great equalizer.
What components does your rifle and optics that you currently use, consist of?
The rifle that I shot the 600 yard record with consists of a Jewell single stage trigger, Precision Rifle and Tool wooden stock, Kelbly Panda short action, Krieger 30”, 1:10 twist, 4R, heavy varmit barrel, and Nightforce Competition scope. The rifle weighs 17.96 pounds, thus close to the 18.18 lb. limit for F-TR.
How often do you clean your rifle and barrel?
I clean my rifle after every load development session and after every local competition. During multiple day events I try to clean every other day.
What barrel cleaning equipment, products and procedure do you use?
I use a Tipton carbon fiber cleaning rod, Bruno Shooter Supply bronze brushes, Bruno patches, and Bore Tech solvents – CU+2 Copper Remover and C4 Carbon Remover, and occasionally will put some Iosso paste down the bore with a cotton patch followed by a brush, then C4. I would be the last person to question cleaning methods or products if good results are being obtained and most shooters have developed a routine.
What do you feel is your biggest factor resulting in your consistency?
I can’t say that I have been as consistent as I would like to be lately, but it helps to be comfortable behind the rifle, relaxed, and as much as possible do everything the same way for every shot – same body position, same hand position with the trigger hand, trigger finger in the same place on every shot, smooth steady trigger pull (which I have not been doing well lately), try to be as deliberate as possible. It is always an eye opener to forget to load a round during a match and pull the trigger with an empty chamber. You will find out in that moment how smooth your trigger pull is!
It is hard to beat aIt is hard to beat a good rifle barrel. All the things we do for consistency we do to eliminate variables that can adversely impact reliability and repeatability, but a good rifle barrel is a necessary part of the formula. I often wonder if some of the barrels I have not been able to find an accurate load for would perform accurately if I had the patience and skill to find the right combination for that barrel. I am learning as I go, and for quite some time, have operated under the assumption that a good barrel will show itself to be accurate early in the load development process. I am now rethinking that. Very recently I had a new barrel that for the first 240 rounds showed no promise at all. It did not like any of the test loads I tried. I was about to give up when I decided to give it another try and was pleasantly surprised when it dialed in and started shooting tight groups consistently. I shot that barrel last weekend very successfully in a 1,000 yard match. Every competitor must decide how much time and resources (bullets, powder, primers) he or she is willing to put into a new barrel before moving on, but my recent experience is a reminder that patience can pay off.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to us about your equipment and reloading methods Ray, it is great learning from you.