Anyone have trouble getting factory Howa barrels to shoot?

jLorenzo

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I got a 20" 1/10 .308 barreled action on sale for 275$, threw it in a Bell and Carlson. Wanting to shoot hornady 178s and 155s. Tried both in bthp and ELD. Best itll do is a touch over a minute, also mag length for the legacy sports mag is 2.79.
With FGMM 168s it clover leafs.
I did have some luck with Nosler 175gr custom comps but need to get more for load dev. Been using the same lot of Varget for awhile. Fairly new to reloading.
Just curious about others experiences with Howa factory barrels, this is obiviously a budget gun but may eventually rebarrel with a Howage nut if I cant get this to shoot a commonly available bullet.
 

tarheel7734

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They are guaranteed sub moa. If yours is not and everything checks out with your build and if no one can shoot sub moa with your build I would contact howa. All the ones I have seen were .5 to .75 moa guns.
 

McMillan

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I've had no luck if tried load dev on 3 of them and they were .8 to .9 at best
 

jLorenzo

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I've had no luck if tried load dev on 3 of them and they were .8 to .9 at best
Id be happy with that if it was consistent. The fgmm shoots great but I only shot factory when I first put the gun together to see how it did. I have heard of other very experienced shooters and reloaders have trouble as well. Bit of a shame because the fit and finish is excellent for the money. Maybe its the hammer forging. Then I see Frank shoot bugholes with his factory HCR. I can shoot fairly tight groups with other guns. Just have to keep doong load dev. I really just wanted to find a common bullet and powder combo and stick with it once its all dialed in. The less I need to do the better.
 

McMillan

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Id be happy with that if it was consistent. The fgmm shoots great but I only shot factory when I first put the gun together to see how it did. I have heard of other very experienced shooters and reloaders have trouble as well. Bit of a shame because the fit and finish is excellent for the money. Maybe its the hammer forging. Then I see Frank shoot bugholes with his factory HCR. I can shoot fairly tight groups with other guns. Just have to keep doong load dev. I really just wanted to find a common bullet and powder combo and stick with it once its all dialed in. The less I need to do the better.
I have seen a few that shoot but many that don't. It's a shame because a howa bravo is a he'll if a cheap factory rifle
 
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celltech

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A 24" .308 Howa was one of the first rifles I ever tried handloading for and could not get it to shoot for squat, although 168/175 GMM would shoot 3/4" groups. Back then I was trying Varget and 4064. Once I tried H4895 and seating 0.020" off the lands I got Sierra/Hornady 168s to do the same or better. I also picked up one of those 20" fluted barrel combos off Brownells and it likes the same loads.
 
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Bigskyguy

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I have a 6.5cr with a 26" inch barrel that shoots 1/4 inch groups with Hornady factory ammo. Seems odd the 308's have problems. It's too had yours won't shoot.
 

3guns2hands

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If it shoots well with factory ammo, you may want to revaluate your load work up process. Most factory rifles won't guarantee accuracy for handloads due to this.
 

Shootin Stuff

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Load you up some FGMM “mimic” loads.

If that shit don’t shoot just as well as the factory stuff then the problem is not your rifle.
 

JaoeyP

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I've been a Howa fan for years. I have a 223, 22-250, 243, and 7mn Rem Mag that all shoot 3/4 moa or better. I also have a 300 Win Mag that I haven't shot enough to tell you how it groups. I took it out once and decided not to shoot it again until I could install a brake.

With FGMM 168s it clover leafs.
I did have some luck with Nosler 175gr custom comps but need to get more for load dev. Been using the same lot of Varget for awhile. Fairly new to reloading.
I'm curious why you think your rifle doesn't shoot well. It may not be shooting what YOU want it to shoot, but it sounds like it is shooting plenty good.

So, ANY rifle/barrel may not like a given bullet. The best thing to do is to let the rifle tell you what it likes. I learned to not fight a barrel if it doesn't do well with the bullet I like.

The 178 ELDS have a very tangent profile and should be treated similar to VLDs in their loading process. Lots of seating depth experimentation. I never could get them to shoot well in my Rem700 308. I didn't do any better with 155s.

My two suggestions are, 1 stop fighting items feed it what it likes, not what you like, and 2, if you want something other than the 168 FGMM/SMK, look for a bullet with a more tangent ogive and quit chasing high BC bullets.
 
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mheimer_45

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I’ve got a 24” .308 that’s about 10 years old that won’t hold 2” groups with any ammo. Its sitting in a corner waiting on a rebarrel. Also have a 24” 6.5 that I had the barrel taken off and the receiver face squared. We took so much off we had to rechamber. Now that rifle is a 1/2” gun with h4350 and 140 amaxes. (Yes I said it. I’ve still got plenty).
 

ceekay1

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With FGMM 168s it clover leafs.
Sounds like you've already figured it out.

If the rifle wouldn't shoot anything, I might question the rifle/barrel... but if it "cloverleafs" with a load, then case closed. You can either pick the bullet it already likes, or just be ok with having to put a little more time in at the reloading bench.

I'd say chances are you can get it to shoot the bullets you already have or want to use, you just may have to play around with CBTO and/or jump before you throw in the towel.

I have a 26" 6mm Creedmoor Howa that's consistently printed .3-.5" through the first 850rds of it's life, I'm actually going to be sad when the barrel is smoked.
 
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tarheel7734

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Gavin at Ultimate Reloader is one of the most meticulous dudes I know. He had a similar experience with Howa and documented his troubleshooting on his YouTube channel and Blog - take a look - https://ultimatereloader.com/category/howa-1500/
That is nothing like the problem he was getting sub moa already but was expecting .5 moa or better out of a factory barreled action.
 

ceekay1

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Gavin at Ultimate Reloader is one of the most meticulous dudes I know. He had a similar experience with Howa and documented his troubleshooting on his YouTube channel and Blog - take a look - https://ultimatereloader.com/category/howa-1500/
That is nothing like the problem he was getting sub moa already but was expecting .5 moa or better out of a factory barreled action.
Yeah, I saw that... He does generally do good videos.

He was getting .5” then went to a different (shorter I think) freebore with the new barrel... which is a cool but expensive way to play with bullet jump 😝 I think that’s where he saw the difference.

The standard “.020 off the lands” doesn’t always work in a rifle limited by mag length, especially if the SAAMI freebore is long to begin with. I bet if dude had gotten into the weeds a bit playing with bullet jump he could’ve sharpened up the factory barrel a bit.

I think for most guys who won’t/can’t just grab a new barrel and happen to not have a lathe, experimenting with seating depth can do a whole lot. The traditional thinking is always trying to get closer to the lands, but good things can happen if you back up too. It used to be that a .003” change in seating depth was a lot and you never backed up. Now some guys with some bullets are jumping .100” or more if that’s where the gun’s shoot.

IDK, for the OP I’d say try loading some of the same bullets (pick one bullet/grain) with a known/same powder charge, shorter than max mag length (obviously), and working back from there to find a jump that looks good. You should see it on paper (unless your increments are too small: you can try to hone in to .001” after you’ve found your general .010 range).
 
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jLorenzo

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Gavin at Ultimate Reloader is one of the most meticulous dudes I know. He had a similar experience with Howa and documented his troubleshooting on his YouTube channel and Blog - take a look - https://ultimatereloader.com/category/howa-1500/
Yes I have seen that video as well.
I have all but given up on the ELDs going to try some Nosler 175 CC that it liked. with the legacy sports mag only allowing for 2.79 would there be any benefit to loading the round even shorter than that? I assume that factory throats tend to run long and 2.79 is kind of short as far as COAL for .308
 

ceekay1

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with the legacy sports mag only allowing for 2.79 would there be any benefit to loading the round even shorter than that?
Short answer: probably yes.

If you don’t already have a comparator to measure base-to-ogive (BTO), you’ll need something, because it’ll be tough to wing it and COAL is never really right because most every bullet tip is slightly different. But, if you load a few -.010” (so ~2.78” COAL, but using BTO is more accurate), then -.020 (~2.77” COAL), then ~2.76” COAL, etc... using the same bullet and powder charge... You should be able to find a spot where the BTO works better and it shows up in your groups (a lot of guys think now that this is actually more important than a ladder test for powder for finding where a gun shoots best).
Obviously, you don’t want to go so short that you’re crunching powder, or past where the bullet’s bearing surface is past the neck and down in the case, but there’s plenty of room to play with.

This bullet jump stuff started as a way to shrink spreads/groups at long distance, but turns out it works the other way too: smaller group spreads at distance mean the gun usually shoots tighter in closer too when you’re in the right “jump window”.

There's a whole series of articles on it at precisionrifleblog.com that’s worth checking out.

In my experience, it totally works, it’s just relatively “new thinking” compared to the “traditional thinking” of always trying to be .020” or less off the lands, although some really good shooters/gunsmiths have been onto it for a while now...

You may not get it to “cloverleaf” (but maybe it will), but it’s more than likely you’ll be able to find a jump that’ll give you consistent sub-MOA groups, and because .308 isn’t a throat-burner, it’ll probably stay that way for a long time because the jump is more of a range/window instead of an exact to the .001” precise measurement and is way more forgiving than when right up on the lands.

What’s funny is, you don’t really even need to know where the lands are or what your jump distance really is because you’re limited by max mag length anyways. So a simple way of thinking about it is: all you’re trying to do is find a cartridge length that works better/best with your barrel...
 
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hereinaz

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When it comes to jump, test it for yourself. There are plenty of credible guys who are jumping .150 and more.

Just load up 20, separated by .05 and jump the hell out of them at the best powder load you found.

What's it cost you? The old reloading religion and high priests of jamming fill the internet with their sorcery.

But, the heretics are out there jumping their bullets a country mile. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. There be lemons among all barrels, especially factory. I have seen a .243 Howa that wouldn't shoot worth crap. It was just a dud.
 
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ceekay1

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When it comes to jump, test it for yourself. There are plenty of credible guys who are jumping .150 and more.

Just load up 20, separated by .05 and jump the hell out of them at the best powder load you found.

What's it cost you? The old reloading religion and high priests of jamming fill the internet with their sorcery.

But, the heretics are out there jumping their bullets a country mile. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. There be lemons among all barrels, especially factory. I have seen a .243 Howa that wouldn't shoot worth crap. It was just a dud.
Hilarious (and true) lol!

There are definitely some bad barrels out there for sure, it happens. But, a lot of guys give up too quick before they've really tried figuring it out and actually know if it's really the barrel... and a lots of times guys who reload are the worst offenders, because they don't want to stray from "the way they've always done it".
 
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MakeSawdust

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Yeah, I saw that... He does generally do good videos.

He was getting .5” then went to a different (shorter I think) freebore with the new barrel... which is a cool but expensive way to play with bullet jump 😝 I think that’s where he saw the difference.

The standard “.020 off the lands” doesn’t always work in a rifle limited by mag length, especially if the SAAMI freebore is long to begin with. I bet if dude had gotten into the weeds a bit playing with bullet jump he could’ve sharpened up the factory barrel a bit.

I think for most guys who won’t/can’t just grab a new barrel and happen to not have a lathe, experimenting with seating depth can do a whole lot. The traditional thinking is always trying to get closer to the lands, but good things can happen if you back up too. It used to be that a .003” change in seating depth was a lot and you never backed up. Now some guys with some bullets are jumping .100” or more if that’s where the gun’s shoot.

IDK, for the OP I’d say try loading some of the same bullets (pick one bullet/grain) with a known/same powder charge, shorter than max mag length (obviously), and working back from there to find a jump that looks good. You should see it on paper (unless your increments are too small: you can try to hone in to .001” after you’ve found your general .010 range).
I did not read the whole thread yet. I would not try to find a general .010" range. You COULD skip over the node. If you tweak seating depth in .003" increments and shoot groups it looks eerily similar to what happens when guys turn a tuner and shoot groups. If you find a spot where groups tighten and open and then tighten again you have been through two nodes. If the tight spots are not tight enough, you likely have a gun issue, or it doesn't like the bullet, powder, primer combo you are using.

Edited to add: It doesn't seem to matter how far you are jumping. The nodes at greater jumps actually tend to be more forgiving. My hypothesis is that the effect on the pressure curve is less when the bullet is already jumping a fair bit.
 

hereinaz

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I did not read the whole thread yet. I would not try to find a general .010" range. You COULD skip over the node. If you tweak seating depth in .003" increments and shoot groups it looks eerily similar to what happens when guys turn a tuner and shoot groups. If you find a spot where groups tighten and open and then tighten again you have been through two nodes. If the tight spots are not tight enough, you likely have a gun issue, or it doesn't like the bullet, powder, primer combo you are using.

Edited to add: It doesn't seem to matter how far you are jumping. The nodes at greater jumps actually tend to be more forgiving. My hypothesis is that the effect on the pressure curve is less when the bullet is already jumping a fair bit.
Go read Berger's proposed method to test jump on VLD. They say to run the jump in .050 increments if I remember correctly, but it isn't .003 for sure. That is my experience, once you get brave enough to get away from the jam. Even with VLD, I have started at about .020 off the lands and rarely have needed to do extensive testing of jump before it shoots at about .5 moa. Of course, I am running easy to tune cartridges that just shoot. And, I have never messed around with the jam or tiny jump. Once you stop fiddling at the lands where small differences might matter, and really start jumping--then you will need larger increments to find differences.

When it comes to jump, be bold, commit. You've got nothing to lose. Load up 20, five each starting at .050 off the lands and then sets of five with a jump by .050. The old high priests of the jam might curse you and call you a heretic, but don't worry about it. You can ward them off with a full length sizing die set to bump shoulders .002. That stuff is like garlic to vampires. They cringe if it isn't neck sized.
 

ceekay1

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It hasn’t been mentioned yet, so I’ll mention it... another thing that’s kind of nice/cool about playing with seating depth and/or bullet jump is that you really don’t need a chrono: the targets tell you what you need to know.

As far as how far to jump/back up: you're trying to jump in big enough increments to find a fairly wide/forgiving window (node), so small increments probably won't get you there. Now, in .050" increments? IDK? The thing to remember is that every bullet's jump is different due to it's shape/ogive/length/weight, some like .050" of jump while others like .150", so yes, it is also true you don't want to skip-over the window/node you're looking for for that particular bullet.
 
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McMillan

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Go read Berger's proposed method to test jump on VLD. They say to run the jump in .050 increments if I remember correctly, but it isn't .003 for sure. That is my experience, once you get brave enough to get away from the jam. Even with VLD, I have started at about .020 off the lands and rarely have needed to do extensive testing of jump before it shoots at about .5 moa. Of course, I am running easy to tune cartridges that just shoot. And, I have never messed around with the jam or tiny jump. Once you stop fiddling at the lands where small differences might matter, and really start jumping--then you will need larger increments to find differences.

When it comes to jump, be bold, commit. You've got nothing to lose. Load up 20, five each starting at .050 off the lands and then sets of five with a jump by .050. The old high priests of the jam might curse you and call you a heretic, but don't worry about it. You can ward them off with a full length sizing die set to bump shoulders .002. That stuff is like garlic to vampires. They cringe if it isn't neck sized.
Yep and I'm one of those high priests of the jam. What you've described is a whole lot of stuffing around when you can just put it in the lands and be done with it no testing of different seating depth needed. Just jam it in any random amount and it will shoot. If it won't shoot in the lands it won't shoot with a jump. Only time I ever stuff around with a jump and usually it takes stuffing around to make it work is if I can't get to the lands and still feed out of a mag
 

MakeSawdust

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Yep and I'm one of those high priests of the jam. What you've described is a whole lot of stuffing around when you can just put it in the lands and be done with it no testing of different seating depth needed. Just jam it in any random amount and it will shoot. If it won't shoot in the lands it won't shoot with a jump. Only time I ever stuff around with a jump and usually it takes stuffing around to make it work is if I can't get to the lands and still feed out of a mag
I have noticed this as well. I don't like to be jammed as I have had an action full of powder and I don't want to get way in the weeds with neck tension and annealing to keep it from happening again.
 
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ceekay1

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Yeah, there's some truth to just jamming it in the lands and seeing if it will or won't shoot there lol.

But, that's just not feasible much of the time in factory guns or really lots of guns that need to feed out of a mag reliably, or especially ones that are throat-burners where jam/lands are moving significantly every 100 rounds.

Finding a jump a bullet likes doesn't have to be fucking around, it's easier or at least no harder than doing a ladder test for powder.
 

MakeSawdust

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Go read Berger's proposed method to test jump on VLD. They say to run the jump in .050 increments if I remember correctly, but it isn't .003 for sure. That is my experience, once you get brave enough to get away from the jam. Even with VLD, I have started at about .020 off the lands and rarely have needed to do extensive testing of jump before it shoots at about .5 moa. Of course, I am running easy to tune cartridges that just shoot. And, I have never messed around with the jam or tiny jump. Once you stop fiddling at the lands where small differences might matter, and really start jumping--then you will need larger increments to find differences.

When it comes to jump, be bold, commit. You've got nothing to lose. Load up 20, five each starting at .050 off the lands and then sets of five with a jump by .050. The old high priests of the jam might curse you and call you a heretic, but don't worry about it. You can ward them off with a full length sizing die set to bump shoulders .002. That stuff is like garlic to vampires. They cringe if it isn't neck sized.
I am only responding to this because I started out as I described. I learned it from Dan Newberry's site 15 years ago. He suggested .005" increments. It worked. When I started trying to go down the rabbit hole I found all these other methods that were supposed to be superior. The berger method, chasing the lands to maintain a particular jump, etc. I spent 3 or 4 years trying them all. I struggled big time. I kept seeing Padoms posts and seeing his seating depth tests. I decided to give it a try again, but I used .003" instead of .005" increments.

I have fucked around with Berger's method on several barrels. It is .030" increments. I honestly believe it is the result of randomly getting lucky and finding a node.

I have also chased the lands to maintain a consistent jump. It only works in cartridges that are super easy to load for. In finicky stuff it is a disaster.

Normally a node is .006 to .009 wide. The groups will get gradually tighter and then open and then tighter again. It is a pattern.
I DON'T CARE HOW FAR OFF THE LANDS YOU ARE. I HAVE WATCHED THIS PATTERN FROM IN THE LANDS TO .125" OFF THE LANDS. THERE WILL BE SEVERAL GOOD SPOTS WITHIN THAT WINDOW.

Sometimes, with a good bullet, powder, and primer for that cartridge and a heavy contour barrel, everything will shoot pretty good.

I can take a 6 Dasher with .150 freebore, a hydroformed Lapua case, 32 grains of Varget, a cci 450 and a lowly hornady 105 hpbt, seat it at .020 off and it will shoot sub half moa as long as the gunsmith cut the chamber straight. I can also move the charge weight to anything sane and the jump to anything sane and guess what, sub half moa. That is why the 6 br cartridges are the darling of prs. They are the easy button. 6 Dasher is the only one I have played with extensively. As long as I only need half moa, it is almost impossible to have it go out of tune with quality components.

Today's stuff is getting so good, it is actually difficult to find a load that shoots poorly. You only really see it in finicky cartridges or when there is a problem with the components, dies, or rifle system. There have been threads on this site discussing whether or nor it is even necessary to be in a node to shoot prs. When running factory barrels or barrel burner cartridges, load development seems to make a lot bigger difference. In custom rifles with truck axle barrels and forgiving cartridges you literally have to try to make a gun shoot worse than 3/4". A lot of times doing load development the worst load will still shoot 3/4" or even tighter. Most people are somewhat satisfied with that. They don't monkey with a half moa load to get it to quarter minute. When things are that forgiving the hunt and peck method of finding charge weight and the hunt and peck berger method of finding seating depth are likely to find a suitable load. It doesn't make it the wrong way, necessarily, but it can lead guys astray when they are working with a finicky cartridge and they can't figure out why it takes them 200 rounds to find a load. I have been there and it is very frustrating.

If the Berger method works for you, great! I have had it work for me as well. In the grand scheme of things, across several barrels and cartridges, it is not as consistent as tuning in small increments. Again, I don't care if you start at the lands, .040" off or .100" off. If you tune in small increments you will find a node that shoots tight. Just about any load that isn't completely FUBAR can be made to shoot well by tuning seating depth, and there is not just ONE good seating depth, there are several.
 

McMillan

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I have noticed this as well. I don't like to be jammed as I have had an action full of powder and I don't want to get way in the weeds with neck tension and annealing to it from happening again.
unless you are jamming heaps like 30 thou plus or running ultra low neck tension it's not an issue. I would have ejected hundreds and hundreds of live rounds running a jam and I've never had one come out. I run 2 thou neck tension and I don't bother annealing at all. I use to do new brass for every new barrel. Now im using my own reamer so I may anneal my brass when i get a new barrel or probably every second barrel.
Yeah, there's some truth to just jamming it in the lands and seeing if it will or won't shoot there lol.

But, that's just not feasible much of the time in factory guns or really lots of guns that need to feed out of a mag reliably, or especially ones that are throat-burners where jam/lands are moving significantly every 100 rounds.

Finding a jump a bullet likes doesn't have to be fucking around, it's easier or at least no harder than doing a ladder test for powder.
Ill give you that running a jam on factory rifles often isn't an option. In a custom build just run a free bore that is conducive to do so. I've seen no issue even with barrel burners as long as it's still jammed. I just set my projectiles out a bit further every 300 rounds