The DIY Hunter


270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder

Winchester Model 1885 in 270 WSM wiht Vortex Viper HSLR scope

Winchester Model 1885 in 270 WSM with Vortex Viper HS LR 4-16x50 scope.

270 WSM Berger 150 Gr. VLD Ladder at 300 yards

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder and my hand-drawn copy.

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 300 yard ladder.

The total vertical distance of all eight shots is only four inches with shots 1, 2, 3, and 4 only 7/8 inch apart vertically.

My friend Rick has been showing and telling me about how he works up loads for his rifles. He is a master at long-range shooting and is always sharing tidbits of information that I love to learn about. One thing that has really intrigued me lately is how he shoots a ladder test of different powder charges to help chose the best powder charge to get the best accuracy.

I decided to try doing a ladder test myself with working up a hand load for the 150 Berger VLD in my Model 1885 270 WSM. I just recently picked up some H1000 powder to use in a 105 Gr A-Max load for my 243 WSSM and looking over the data on this powder I figured it would work well for this 150 VLD load.

H1000 powder is a slower burning powder than my favorite MagPro powder. With its slow burn rate H1000 excels in overbored cartridges with heavy for cartridge bullets and the 150 Gr is about the max that .277 bullets come in. Although there is a heavier 160 Gr. Partition but anyhow the 150 Gr. bullet is a heavy for cartridge bullet as is the 105 Gr. in the 243 WSSM in which I got the powder for.

For this ladder test I took the max charge of 67.5 grains according to Berger, then set charges in 0.2 grain increments. So for even numbers, I went with 67.4 instead of 67.5. My first load was 66.0 then 66.2 and so on until the eighth load was 67.4 grains of Hodgdon H1000 powder. All seating depths are exactly the same with the only thing changed being the powder charge.

When shooting a ladder test the greater the distance the better, of course within reason. For me 300 yards works great and that is the distance I shot this ladder at.

One cool thing about setting the seating depth on my single-shot Model 1885 is that I take a bullet and seat it really long and then slide it into the chamber then see how far it goes in before it stops. I then seat the bullet a little deeper and try it and so on until I have the cartridge fitting fully in the chamber. I'm sure I could get equipment to measure the depth and so forth to get just the exact distance off the lands but for now this method works great for me.

As I shoot the ladder I take a scratch piece of paper to draw the target with and after every shot I examine the target with a spotting scope and mark it on my drawing. After I am finished shooting I can transpose the information onto the real target.

So what am I looking for in the ladder test? As I understand it, I am looking for the least vertical variation in three or more points of impact. I then want a charge that fits in the middle of that. Looking over my ladder shots 1, 2, 3, and 4 are only 7/8 inch in vertical distance apart. Holy crap! Shots 1, 2, and 3 are actually a 1 inch group at 300 yards. I think I am going to like the 150 VLDs! It also made sense that shot 4 went to the right as the wind really picked up at that time. However, for the purposes of the ladder I'm not looking at horizontal shot placement only vertical.

If you are looking for more information on Ladder Testing to develop long-range loads this article on goes into much greater technical depth on the process.

It looks like number 3 is my ticket at 66.4 grains of H1000 powder. I'll shoot this load and see how it goes on my next trip to the range and post the load here on my blog.

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 100 yard group

270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD 100 yard group.

Back at the range in June the 66.4 grains of Hodgdon H1000 powder shot this near half-inch group at 100 yards off sandbags.

View is 270 WSM Berger 150 gr. VLD load on my 270 WSM Handloads page.

243 WSSM 105 Hornady A-Max

243 WSSM 105 Gr. Hornady A-Max


243 WSSM 105 Gr. Hornady A-Max 3 shot groups

243 WSSM 105 Gr. Hornady A-Max 3 shot groups.


243 WSSM A-Bolt Varmint Stainless Laminate Rifle

My 243 WSSM A-Bolt Varmint Stainless Laminate rifle with a 20 MOA EGW Rail with low Four Hole Skeleton Weaver rings and a Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50 MOA second focal plane scope. Because the 20 MOA picatinny rail places the scope higher I needed the comb raised to get proper eye, cheek alignment. I recently had Karl McKnight make the fully adjustable comb and add the extra length to the stock I need with a new recoil pad/spacer. Karl did a fine job! I like the look and especially the functionality.

Shot the chronograph.

Oops! This explains why I didn't hit paper.


243 WSSM 105 Gr. A-Max 3 shot group

A 3/4 inch and 7/8 inch group for my first time trying the 105 Gr. Hornady A-Max out of my A-Bolt Varmint Stainless Laminate rifle.

Rick, a friend of mine, worked up a great 105 Gr. A-Max load for his 243 WSSM over a year ago. He has been shooting absolutely amazing groups with this load out to 600 yards. Before he worked up the load both he and I questioned if our Browning A-Bolt rifles with 1 in 10 twists would be able to stabilize such a long bullet. Rick proved that they would with his A-Bolt Varmint Stalker and Hodgdon H1000 powder.

This bullet really intrigues me so I had to see if I could get the 105 Gr. A-Max to shoot myself. I was able to purchase a couple boxes of bullets from MidwayUSA and then trying to get the Hodgdon H1000 powder has been a nightmare. Finally after over a year I was able to purchase a 8 lb. jug of powder after watching on Utah Gun Exchange's website. It cost me $275 for a jug, for powder that Powder Valley sells for $159... that is if they or anyone ever had any in stock. Well the good news is I now have powder. Yeah!

I took Rick's powder charge that he worked up by shooting a ladder of incremental charges. With the powder charge I then seated 10 bullets, 4 bullets at 2.35, 3 at 2.34, and 3 at 2.33 OALs.

I first fired one of the four 2.35 bullets into a clean target to make sure the load would hit paper. I then shot three groups of three bullets each. The 2.35 OAL bullets produced a 3/4" three shot group. The 2.34 OAL bullets produced a 7/8" three shot group and the 2.33 bullets only hit the paper one time??? This didn't make any sense at all until I went to move my chronograph, Oops there was two dings in the metal rods that come out of the chronograph. It was cloudy, then sunny off and on making it very difficult to get the chronograph to give me anything but errors so I hadn't been paying attention to it and oops I shot it, twice. Dummy me!

I'll see about giving my rifle a good cleaning and then load up some more and see how they shoot. Once I'm comfortable with the load I will post the load here on my blog.

Back at the range in June. This time trying to tune the load with a ladder test of powder charges.

243 WSSM 105 Gr. Hornady A-Max 300 Yard Ladder

243 WSSM 105 A-Max 300 Yard Ladder Test.

After having great success shooting my first ladder to develop a load for my 270 WSM with 150 Gr. Berger VLD bullets. I decided I should try shooting a powder ladder with the 105 A-Max to see if I could find a powder charge that was tuned to the 2.35 COAL.

The first shot was low and off the paper so I adjusted the scope for the remaining seven shots. Well, there really wasn't any definitive horizontal layer between any three bullets... if shot #4 had of been lower near 5 and 6...

Each load is 0.2 grains of powder greater than the previous load. The idea is that you chose the appropriate seating depth then shoot incrementally different powder charges to locate a horizontal node between three or more shots.

Although, the total vertical distance between all the shots is 2 inches and the group size is only 2 5/8 inches. This isn't too bad for a span of a grain and a half of powder difference at 300 yards. Any of the powder charges is probably plenty accurate enough for me.

I'll keep tinkering on this load.

100 Yard Three Shot Group on June 28, 2014

After shooting the ladder of powder charges last time out I didn't find any real node. The closest node I could find was shots 5 and 6. Given this I probably should shoot another ladder test at even greater distances. Given that I would like to take this rifle and load out to shoot at Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf course in the following week I didn't think I had time to tweak this load any more.

243 WSSM 105 Gr. Hornady A-Max 100 Yard 3 shot group

243 WSSM 105 A-Max 100 Yard Three Shot Group

Shooting load number 5 from the ladder group produced this three shot group at under 3/8 inches.

With little time to prepare for Spirit Ridge I decided to load up powder charge number 5 and see how it grouped at 100 yards. As you can see from the photo it shot really well, right under a 3/8" group. This is plenty good enough accuracy for me.

View load information for this 243 WSSM 105 A-Max load on my 243 WSSM Handloads page.

270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range three shot groups

Groups from my third time to the range with shooting 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range bullets. So far I'm not finding any combination that will shoot these bullets with MagPro powder.

Top Groups are from my Winchester Model 1885. Bottom groups are from my Browning X-Bolt Stainless Stalker.

Aug. 14, 2013
So far not so good. I've been to the range three times testing handloads in both my X-Bolt and Model 1885 that are chambered in 270 WSM. I am beginning to think that my favorite powder (MagPro) may not work with this bullet. I am getting 3+ inch groups in both rifles.

This last time out I shot three, 3 shot groups that are each 3.25 inches or greater and a fourth group of 2.5 inches. Not very good for 100 yard groups at all.

The only other bullets I have had this much trouble with were Hornady Interbonds. I tried two varieties of Interbonds with five different powders and I could never get any groups under 2.5 inches with Interbonds.

Thinking this long tangent ogive bullet would need to be seated as near the lands as possible, I have been working with loads that have long cartridge overall lengths at and near the max I can get the X-Bolt to reliably feed in the magazine. For my next attempt I am going to try a couple different powders that I have a little of and see what happens. If another powder works the trick will be finding any of it in stock at a retailer right now...

If another powder doesn't work I will probably have to bag using this bullet for my hunts this fall and fall back to the 140 Accubond the shoots pretty darn well from both of my 270 WSM rifles. But then I might also try the 150 Berger VLD's. Hmm...

270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range three shot groups

For my fourth trip to the range I abandon MagPro (my favorite powder) and tried Winchester 760, IMR 4350, Hodgdon 4831, and Hodgdon Retumbo.

My groups are looking much better. Still need some work but it now looks like the bullet is trying to shoot.

270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range three shot group IMR 4350

The first and third shot in this three shot group using IMR 4350 are nearly in the exact same hole. The group measures 1 1/16".

IMR 4350 will be what I work on tweaking the load with more.

Aug. 22, 2013
Ok, the fourth day out trying loads went much better. I just had to give up my MagPro. :(  Once I gave up my favorite powder the groups got much smaller. IMR 4350 will probably be the powder I work on tweaking the load with.

In between trying to archery elk hunt myself and work I am trying to get this bullet shooting so that Dallen can use it to hunt elk in September with his Utah General Youth tag. The IMR 4350 looked promising as did the Hodgdon 4831sc my old 25-06 Rem. favorites.

Something else I found with the 150 Accubond LR is that I can't use compressed loads. The ogive gets a ring crushed into it from my Hornady seating die. The hollow cavity in the nose of the bullet must make the bullet a little "soft" in the ogive area. 66 grains of Retumbo was the limit I could get in new brass without noticeably crushing the ogive. You know it's crushed once you have seated the bullet then lift the press arm and the cartridge is stuck in the die.

With the ogive being this easy to crush I'm a little concerned of this bullet fragmenting very rapidly at close range. I will make sure Dallen and I avoid direct shoulder shots on elk under 200 yards until we get a better feel for it's performance. It should be just deadly with very rapid kills for any shots through the ribs and into the lungs much like a Berger VLD.

Crushing into the ogive also happens when there's resistance from the bullet not seating straight into the cartridge neck. I find it best to slowly seat the bullet a little then lift the press arm and rotate the shell a little and seat the bullet a little more and do this about three times to get the bullet fully seated.

150 Gr. Accubond Long Range Crushing Ogive

Notice the ring that has crushed into the ogive from just a little pressure from the seating die when seating a lightly compressed load. These bullets are really soft.

270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range IMR 4350, 3037 FPS

The average velocity of the load I tried today with IMR 4350 was 3030 FPS from my X-Bolt. Pressures were just fine so I may try bumping up the powder a little. We'll see...

I would really like the bullet to be going 3100 FPS however accuracy is much more important. My 140 Gr.  Accubond loads are going 3320 from my X-Bolt.

270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range three shot groups IMR 4350, H4831sc

Three groups each with IMR 4350 and Hodgdon 4831 from my X-Bolt.

1/2 inch group 270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range IMR 4350

This IMR 4350 load will be what I load up for my X-Bolt for Dallen's hunts this year.

Vortex Viper HS LR Rifle Scope Parallax Adjustment

In the middle of shooting today I realized the parallax was a small issue and that the cross hair was floating around a little on the target. This is where I have to set my Vortex Viper 4-16x50 HS LR  scope to get the field of view and cross hairs on the same focal plane for a 100 yard shot.

Aug. 28, 2013
After a thorough barrel cleaning I was back at the range with my X-Bolt. This trip out I had three loads with H4831sc and three loads with IMR4350 powder. As always after each group of three shots I cool the barrel off with a shop vac pulling air around and through the barrel.

Both powders produced a group under an inch. The IMR 4350 had a 0.59 inch group and the H4831sc produced a 0.89 inch group. Both of those groups may have been a little tighter had I recognized that the parallax adjustment for a 100 yard shot does not match up with the indicator marks on the scope.

I shot all of the H4831sc groups with the parallax not removed. After firing the first shot of IMR 4350 I noticed the cross hairs not being completely stationary on the target. Oops, I forgot to set the parallax for 100 yards. The next two shots were through the same hole. If I had the scope set properly for the first shot maybe, just maybe this could have been a little better group.

As I have almost used up a box of bullets and I need the rifle ready for Dallen's elk hunt in two weeks the IMR 4350 load is going to be my load that I load up for my X-Bolt. Before mid October I will need to see how it shoots in my Model 1885 270 WSM. Hopefully it also shoots well in this rifle so we both can use the same load for our Utah rifle mule deer hunt.

View the load data for this 270 WSM, 150 Gr. Accubond LR load on my 270 WSM Handloads and Ballistics page.

270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range three shot group from Model 1885 Rifle

Even in a rain storm this load shot well in my Winchester Model 1885.

This group 3/4 inch group at 100 yards is with the same IMR 4350 150 Gr. Accubond LR load that shoots well in my X-Bolt.

September 7, 2013
I loaded up a few more of my IMR 4350 loads and tried them in my 270 WSM Model 1885. It was raining when I shot but it still shot a great group. As you can see from the photo the same load that I worked up in my Browning X-Bolt Stainless Stalker also shot well in my Winchester Model 1885. This is great! I can use the same load in both of my 270 WSM rifles. Perfect!

Due to the rain I was unable to chronograph the load in this rifle but it is probably around 100 FPS faster with the extra five inches of barrel length this rifle has over my X-Bolt.

With the Vortex HS LR 4-16x50 scopes I have on both of these rifles, the velocity and the ballistic coefficient of this bullet I can dial in shots well in access of 1000 yards. My X-Bolt setup has a 20 MOA EGW rail 20 MOA Picatinny Rail which gives me some extra MOA that I can dial in for an extra long shot.

Now comes seeing how well these bullets perform on game. First up is Dallen's elk hunt come mid September.

Recovered from elk 150 Gr. Accubond LR

The 29 grains remaining from the recovered 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range bullet from Dallen's 2013 Utah bull elk. Isn't the lead supposed to be bonded to the copper?

For more on the 150 Gr. Accubond LR see:

270 WSM 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range and Berger VLD Groups

300 Yard Ladder Test of 150 Gr. Accubond LR and Berger VLD Bullets

Shooting with a fair amount of wind the VLDs on the left stacked in shots 1 through 4 in 7/8" in vertical distance.

The 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range bullets on a perfectly calm morning shot all over the place with the H1000.

July 5, 2014
After having such great success in getting a really accurate 150 Gr. Berger VLD load I thought I would revisit the 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range. I tried a new powder, Hodgdon H1000 to develop my 150 Gr. VLD load and it also worked great in getting a very accurate 105 Gr. A-Max load for one of my 243 WSSM rifles. Both the 105 A-Max and 150 VLD took just a few rounds to come up with really accurate loads using a ladder test of incremental powder charges and then shooting them at 300 yards.

With such an awesome ballistic coefficient I really want to get the Accubond LR to be a tack driver. It would appear based on all the powders I have tried that a little faster burning powder than I would think should be used in these heavy for caliber bullets is needed to get accuracy. My best load was with IMR 4350 which is the fastest burning powder I tried.

I guess I will try a ladder test of IMR 4350 with the Accubond LR to see if I can get my load fine tuned any more.

2015 I have abandoned the Accubond Long Range. I like the preformance on game, the accuracy and price of the 150 Gr Hornady SST In My 270 WSM X-Bolt.