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Discussion Starter #1
I was looking up load data for my 357 magnum in the Lee Modern Reloading Manual 2nd Edition recently and couldn't find any mention of the test barrel used in developing their loads. I checked several other calibers and same thing. This is the only manual I've seen that doesn't list the test barrel (unless I overlooked it somewhere). Can others confirm what I'm seeing or correct me if I'm wrong? I've often read that the test barrel is a critical element in determining a safe load because pressure can change significantly from barrel to barrel based on length, twist, type of rifling, cylinder gap, etc., which would make this a huge omission from the Lee manual if true. Just curious if this is true of if I just need new eyes. Thanks.
 

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I'm not near my copy, but IIRC one of the manuals has the description of test setup up front in the book in it's own section. May be faulty memory, but double check.

The test barrel is critical in the test setup, and things change when you vary from it at home.

As a manufacturer of reloading equipment, Lee has a mix of powders, bullets and cases that is somewhat agnostic as to component manufacturer.
 

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Lee has compiled load data from various bullet and powder manufacturers all into one manual. He didnt do any actual load development & testing himself. The barrel length will vary depending on who ran the test their data was based on.
 

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Thanks for commenting because this was really bugging me. I scoured the book and the only reference to barrel length I could find was in Chapter 7 on page 80. It says, "Most listed velocities are from a 24 inch and sometimes longer barrel." If I'm reading this statement in the right context, it could be interpreted that the powder charges listed would generally be safe to use in equal length or shorter barrels, which would be the case for most rifles and virtually all handguns, but trying to correlate muzzle velocity to any of the loads listed in the manual in any handgun caliber would be useless. I realize that reloading manuals are just "guides" to reloading and not precise cookbooks, but I don't think it's too much to expect somewhat realistic and relatable values for velocity from the loads identified. Every other manual I've used includes test barrel characteristics such as length, rate of twist, and usually whether or not it's vented. This omission just doesn't feel right to me considering how often the Lee manual gets referenced as the standard for reloading a particular caliber in gun forums, so I suspect that jonesy814 is correct in that the data in the Lee manual are an amalgam of loads from the powder and bullet manufacturers without a common reference to a test barrel. This is not what I was hoping for, but I suppose it will have to do.
 

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Reloading manuals are not "guides" and not "recipe books".

They are documentation of measured experiments. This is why it's wise to invest in a numbered of reloading manuals. Most will be published by component (bullet / powder / case / primer) manufacturers, and those books will feature their products which were used in their testing. You can also find some manufacturer data (like Hodgdon) publish their data online.

If you vary anything from the test conditions that they measured, you're doing your own experiment. Is the experiment safe? You can only determine that with an instrumented barrel.
 

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Thanks for commenting because this was really bugging me. I scoured the book and the only reference to barrel length I could find was in Chapter 7 on page 80. It says, "Most listed velocities are from a 24 inch and sometimes longer barrel." If I'm reading this statement in the right context, it could be interpreted that the powder charges listed would generally be safe to use in equal length or shorter barrels, which would be the case for most rifles and virtually all handguns, but trying to correlate muzzle velocity to any of the loads listed in the manual in any handgun caliber would be useless. I realize that reloading manuals are just "guides" to reloading and not precise cookbooks, but I don't think it's too much to expect somewhat realistic and relatable values for velocity from the loads identified. Every other manual I've used includes test barrel characteristics such as length, rate of twist, and usually whether or not it's vented. This omission just doesn't feel right to me considering how often the Lee manual gets referenced as the standard for reloading a particular caliber in gun forums, so I suspect that jonesy814 is correct in that the data in the Lee manual are an amalgam of loads from the powder and bullet manufacturers without a common reference to a test barrel. This is not what I was hoping for, but I suppose it will have to do.
First I like Lee and use their products, their manual was the first I every had, (came with the press) As mentioned the data is just compiled from other sources. The Lee manual is often cited because to many people just want to look for load data, put some powder in a case and call it reloading. Or they just use the powder companies online load dtat.

If you want o really be in the hobby, you need manuals from Hornady,Speer and Lyman.(they use actual guns, not test barrels)
It's a small price to pay, considering how much money is spent on all the other equipment.

The most important part of a manual is the BEGINNING CHAPTERS, One can actually learn things:)
There is more to hand-loading then just a "recipe"
 

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Personally, most prited manuals are about of of date by the time they are printed and sold. The most up to data data will be from online sites like Hodgdon and Alliant...............
 

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But the data is a documentation of an experiment. The books are done with the powder and components available at the time, and those tend to be available for many years. I don't think manufacturers routinely duplicate the older tests for new editions. New manuals often include additional new component testing done by the manufacturer's laboratory, and sometimes drop older tests. If you do a test a year ago, and use the same components today - the results should be the same (within a margin of error). I'm not sure how out of date the books are...

The new year editions of reloading guides (like the ones Hornady publishes) don't obsolete the older versions unless you are trying to use components just introduced to the marketplace, and the book happens to have tested them.

I do like Hodgdon's online site quite a bit. The specific data is right there when I need it. I have bought some of their newer powder (Like BE-86, a low copper fouling reformulated replacement for BullsEye), and the online data is what I use.
 

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Except powder formulations do tend to change frequently since they are a blend to get a specific performance requirement. The Clays you bought a few years ago is not the same as the stuff today - not even from the same company or country (as an example)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I own reloading manuals from Nosler, Sierra, Hornady, 2 from Speer including their 15th Edition and one from the 80s, and a hard cast manual from Lyman that I haven't used in a while. I frequently use the online reloading resources from the bullet and powder manufacturers. All of them cite barrel characteristics. I stand corrected though because I double checked the Hornady manual and it cites an 8" Colt Python as the test gun and not some generic test barrel in developing their loads. I figured that everyone was using test barrels because they are easier to configure for measuring pressure and for maintaining repeatability, but I'm glad to see that some production firearms were used by Hornady in developing their load data. I still maintain IMHO that these manuals are guides and not just documented experiments. Otherwise why would they go into so much detail, often step by step instructions for preparing cartridges prior to and after recharging? Experimental data would simply list the components, record the processes, take measurements, and report the results, but all of these manuals go well beyond those basics. With respect to Lee products, I generally have the highest regard. The first set of dies I ever purchased (in the late 80s) were Lee dies. My first press was a Lee press. I own many Lee factory crimp dies. I have never had an issue with their hardware. And even though I don't like the omission of specific test conditions from the Modern Reloading Manual, I still like the variety of powders and bullets included. Most of the other manuals and internet resources are limited to only the bullets or powders they manufacture. My intent was not to put down the Lee manual in any way, just to confirm what I thought to be true about the omission of barrel length. To me this makes the load data less useful, but in no way without value as noted above. Thanks again all.
 

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Personally, most prited manuals are about of of date by the time they are printed and sold. The most up to data data will be from online sites like Hodgdon and Alliant...............
Not really, there may be new powders out from the companies but they are slow to disclose data as they didn't test them. Alliant online data sucks compared to Hodgdon or Accurate.
On the "Older" powders a test and data is a test and data. Good today as it was a few years ago, Of course there is the Nuclear Speer "8 but I have even used some of those, Some potent loads,

As mentioned before the Manuals are not just load data or recipes which is all some people want. The good stuff is in the beginning chapters.

So many many new reloaders get there info on the Web and post brillant questions like whats a good load for a 38 special. Don't even list the bullet or what powders they have.
 

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My 1995 powder works just fine with my 2018 load data (also 2000, 2010, and 2014) . The powder isn't listed in the Lyman Reloading Manual 45th Edition that was printed for at least 12 years and is considered the "holy grail of reloading manuals" right after Dean Grennell's ABCs of Reloading Metallic Cartridges. Another consideration is that even the Lee's Reloading Manual 2nd Edition has no data for Lee Cast bullets. I have an (out of print ? ?) an RCBS cast bullet manual for RCBS cast bullets, and Speer Reloading Manual has RCBS cast lead bullet data.

I have found acceptable (none of my solutions are perfect) answers to reloading using the Lyman, Hornady, and Accurate Arms reloading manuals. I know which bullet, my preferred powder, primer in stock on my shelf. Now I look for the previous load data I used or "what does the book say?", and start reloading without all these other trivial issues slowing me down. Velocity is measured by my chronograph (not load data) , powder charge is MEASURED by weight, but dispensed by volume, cartridge length is measured, and reloading begins. My charges never approach published maximum charges unless I make a mistake. ONE powder bottle (might weigh 8#), ONE box of bullets (might contain 500), and ONE box of primers (might be 1,000) are at my reloading press. This is my only ABSOUTE rule I never violate. Experience is a strict teacher.

I am the source of group size variation. My guns and my ammo are more accurate then me. Wind is the other big factor, I read a book, not the wind. I missed, so what? I have more than 1 golden perfect bullet in the box. Enjoy your time at the reloading bench, treasure your time at the range. In both places you can be sharing our joy of the shooting sports.
 
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