Handloading For Accuracy: Jacketed versus Cast

  • Last Post 26 October 2022
Wm Cook posted this 24 October 2022

Did anyone ever stop and consider what methods used to hand load and competitively compete in jacketed benchrest competition (100/200 yard NBRSA, IBS) are transferable to cast benchrest competition, or anyone who is chasing that .5 MOA barrier. 

Or maybe I should ask what variables do cast shooters work with for top accuracy that jacketed bullet shooters don't need to deal with.

As you can tell, I'm going through accuracy withdrawals.  This was to be my first year at the Nationals and I didn't make it.  We sold and bought a house on August 24th, moved, organized, arranged everything (how can you lose a toothbrush) in the next two weeks and on September 13th I had a knee replaced.   Bill C.

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Wm Cook posted this 26 October 2022


all we beginning casters knew that soft lead bullets were the problem with mediocre accuracy compared to the shiny Sierra Match we could buy for $2.75 back in the day.

so we beginners knew that hard bullets were the answer ... so all the matches should be won with glass hard lead alloys  ... and some success is had with chambers cut for hard alloys ...  those chambers look like chambers cut for mj bullets ...




You were right about pointing out the history of cast bullet accuracy.  It reminded me that I'm truly a Johnny come lately to this venue. 

Its literally a matter of dialing 1-800-RotoMetal for some Linotype, and for molds I got some direction from the CBA results sheets.  Starting from there I could skip past a lot of the work you all had to wade through.  Not much I can do but to say thanks for that.  

the good news is that we currently can get under 1 moa

Building a cast load that could consistently put 10 in an inch to inch and a half with an over the counter heavy barreled varmint rifle gives me way more satisfaction than shooting in the low mid two's with jacketed. And going from a barrel life of 600 rounds to many thousands of rounds is a real perk.

I'm was disappointed that I missed the nationals last month but I'm looking forward to next year. But when you get down to it, it doesn't matter if you shoot competition with others or if you're competing with your own personal best its a great way to keep you off the streets out of trouble. And there's a zen like feeling that comes over you when you bust a "dirt clod" at 50 yards with a lever gun.

My new knee should be up for range trips by mid December. 



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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 25 October 2022

the only difference between mj and cast bench shooting is

the bullets.

there is something wrong with our bullets.


22lr rifle bullets are factory swaged ... they are near perfectly uniform, in form and weight.  yet the best 22lr ammo is still only good for about 1/2 moa ...  just a joke in mj bench circles ...


if perfect cast bullets in form and weight still can only shoot 1/2 moa ...   

maybe our bullets had a bad childhood ... or identify as unworthy of our love ? 


all we beginning casters knew that soft lead bullets were the problem with mediocre accuracy compared to the shiny Sierra Match we could buy for $2.75 back in the day.

so we beginners knew that hard bullets were the answer ... so all the matches should be won with glass hard lead alloys  ... and some success is had with chambers cut for hard alloys ...  those chambers look like chambers cut for mj bullets ...


so i propose that because we can't get 80 BH lead alloy we will never get 100 cast shots in under 0.5 moa ... at least twice in a row ..


the good news is that we currently can get under 1 moa if we want to put in the money and time and time/money ... and with that, more and more of a 100 shot group will be in the 1/2 moa circle ...

a life with 1 moa cast is good ... ken




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Aaron posted this 25 October 2022

At this point in my life I just like banging away at dirt clods. Reminds me of when I was a youngster riding a bike down a long steep hill wondering if I could get it stopped before the end of the road at the 90 degree turn. Didn't matter if I was on a hardware store bicycle with ape hanger handle bars and a banana seat or a custom made Lejeune French racer - my smile was still the same. Yea. Cheating death I was! Having a great time too.

Dirt clods.....the scourge of the earth. Bust them all with jacketed or cast!

With rifle in hand, I confidently go forth into the darkness.

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Wm Cook posted this 25 October 2022

Accuracy is relevant to the firearm isn't it. My guess is that the .2's you shot with your Savage took a lot less time to work up a load for than your 1.0" - 2.0's you are shooting with your military rig.  My Savage 10 has a freebore of .0085. My Mosin's had a freebore large enough that it was never measured.  They chambered whatever I fed them. I would be tickled if the iron sighted Mosin shot in the high 1's at 50 yards.  I would be just as excited if the Savage could agg in the low 1's.

Early last year I bought a short barreled Savage .308 F10 with the sole intent of pulling the barrel and converting the bolt face to .223 and re-barrel to .222 for jacketed group shooting. For personal fun.  It was and still is a good idea (and it does have an 8" twist would take the 80 grain NOE)  But while I was waiting for the .222 barrel to come in I put about a hundred rounds of cast 311299 through the .308 barrel and the groups looked promising.  I was getting a few fliers but it looked like getting a load worked up would be a challenge and a hoot to boot. 

About that same time I found the CBA forum and learned about the cast benchrest competition.  I worked through the information that the CBA has about classes and found a class that the .308 I had just bought would fit. I was committed to the .222 but the feel of the rifle and how it rode the bags was real nice.  That led to a second .308 F10 but one with a full length barrel and I got to learning about how to develop an accurate cast load.

Now to get back on track regarding handloading jacketed bullets for accuracy versus cast bullets.

Load development with a high end jacketed bench gun is done with three shot groups followed by a few 5 shot groups followed by a few more 5 shot groups shot the day competition.  That upsets a lot of people's apple cart but its true.   And why shouldn't they.  They only have a choice three or so practical seating depths, and maybe four different powder charges.  That's powder charges as in 29.8, 30.0, 30.2, 30.4 not # of different powders.  After that its between you and the wind.  Either the barrel will shoot or not.  And by the way, that competitor shot that same lot of powder and that same bullet in probably their last dozen barrels that was screwed on that action. 

Jacketed BR shooters can't afford to put 120 rounds through a barrel working up a load when a barrel live only has a competitive life of 500 to 700 rounds.  In major events there are many shooters that will go to the line with less than 60 to 70 rounds through their barrel. Other than reading the wind, jacketed benchrest accuracy handloading can be taught fairly quickly. 

Three shot groups and cast?  Don't be silly.  To see if a cast load shoots well you'll be shooting 10 shot groups or preferably 25 shot groups to cipher out if a load will hold its own.

Try to remember that until a year ago I had never focused on how well I could get a cast load to shoot.  So as you read this keep in mind that I truely was starting out at ground zero on how to handload cast.  Between October 21 and May 22 I've developed a handload that I think will be competitive for the Production class.  My records show I tried 9 different powders, 6 different molds and put 475 rounds downrange to get there.

Could I cut that in half on maybe even better than that on my next rifle? Heck yeah.  But there are levels of detail in cast load development that makes jacketed benchrest pale in comparison.

And the same is true for handloading for accuracy with rifle or handgun that you may be using to shoot cast.  So yes shooting a 2" group with a factory rifle, a Nagant or a Springfield can be harder than shooting jacketed benchrest in the.2's.

And I repeat the disclaimer.  Popping cans or shooting steel plates is a heck of a lot of fun and that's what so great about cast shooters.  Most all don't look down their nose at what gets other people excited.  And again, sorry for venting. Bill.




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John Carlson posted this 25 October 2022

I shot jacketed in a Savage Target Action, Shilen Barrel, factory trigger so far from the custom tack drivers but it would shoot "in the threes".  I find cast (military) to be less predictable, less repeatable, and infinitely more frustrating even though I am now shooting "in the twos".  Of course I don't get to use the decimal point any more.

John Carlson. CBA Director of Military Competition.

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Wm Cook posted this 25 October 2022

Result sheet shows what your saying. For all intent and purpose with jacketed benchrest there’s one style of bullet, one powder, one primer, one case, one cartridge.

With jacketed the seating depth is either kissing or kissing plus .008 (sticking) into the lands. Powder volume is between 29.4 and 30+crazy.

Between the two the only thing that kept any similarity for me was neck turning. And that’s a ruse as well. We skim cut our cases to make us feel better about ourselves. IMHO.

Jacketed leaves ~.001 less than chamber cut. Not sure how tight restricted class cast shooters cut their chamber. Good question.

In short, at least for me, cast accuracy required managing a totally different set of variables. Very challenging but a barrel full of fun. Heck, just bullet fit to freebore and bullet fit to leade was a page turner.

At least the bench equipment, the bench technique and the hand loading equipment was the same. My rig qualifies for Production class. That’s got the fat forearm. How the heck factory, military class can shoot as well as they do with them skinny little forearms is incredible.

Hats off to anyone chasing cast accuracy. Be it a CBA competitor or someone working up the best load they can for a lever gun or a SA handgun. Lots of fun.

Just to be clear, there isn’t anything wrong with banging away on steel plates.

I’ve just been hooked on accuracy since I was a wee one back in the late 50’s. I borrowed my dad’s bench vice while he was at work, bolted it to our picnic table in the yard then clamped the family Rem 550 .22 in it to see how close the bullets came to each other. Very darn near cut that telephone pole in half with that exercise.

Thanks for letting me vent. I feel better now. Bill.

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RicinYakima posted this 24 October 2022

Opinion, for what that is worth.

Jacketed benchrest is pretty much ritualized now, custom or blueprinted actions, high quality barrels, match chambers and 2 oz. triggers. Most cast bullet shooters are using production rifles, chambers and barrels, except the real glutton for punishment military rifle shooters. 

Jacketed bullets are stronger, better and more accurate than any cast bullet made. There is little overlap between the two styles.

The firing of the rifles has many similarities, but a four pound trigger can't be shot like a 2 oz. trigger. 

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