Developing a 223 Rem Varmint Load

This morning I continued with my developing a 223 Rem varmint load.  The load will be tested at the range tomorrow in the Weatherby Vanguard HSP Varmint rifle that I am currently reviewing.

What with the festive season, visitors, local trips and a visit to Japan, this is the first chance I have had for hunting and shooting since early December.  A few readers were kind enough to enquire if I was still in the land of the living!  Yes, indeed, and all is well.

I began my load development, following my standard approach.  That is, I set the bullet seating die to position the 55 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip at 10 thou off the lands.  Keeping that depth constant, I then tested a range of propellant charges, starting at the recommended minimum and carefully working up towards maximum, always keeping a close watch for any signs of pressure.

I was particularly pleased with the results from the Weatherby Vanguard HSP as it demonstrated a fondness for the 55 grain Nosler BT.  Best accuracy was in the zone of 25 to 26 grains of AR2208 (Varget in the USA).

Handloading for Best Accuracy in a 223 Rem Varmint Rifle

This morning I set my balance for 25.5 grains and charged 30 cases with AR2208.  I then loaded a series of three-shot test lots, varying from 5 thou to 45 thou clear of the lands.  I did that in 10 thou steps.  Based on the first lot of testing, I am hopeful of finding a load that delivers about 0.5 MOA.  For an off-the-shelf factory rifle with a medium weight varmint barrel, that is excellent performance.

With a new rifle, this initial load testing is by necessity slow.  I treat loaner review rifles as I would one of my own.  That means breaking-in the barrel properly.  That starts off shooting one round then cleaning the bore thoroughly.  In the early sessions, I have at least reached the shoot three rounds then clean stage.  After the next, session I should be at the shoot ten rounds and clean point.

When the rifle is demonstrating good grouping, it is a bit frustrating to be spending so much time in just barrel cleaning.  However, breaking-in a barrel properly pays dividends in the life and accuracy of the rifle.  It is very much worth doing, no matter how enticing the results of the test shooting are.

While my main interest is in developing a 223 Rem varmint load for the Vanguard HSP, I will not be neglecting factory ammunition either.  I am expecting that some of the available factory loads will also be good performers, making a great combination for those folks who do not reload.