.500 NE Reloading - Noobie Questions

A Rosenth

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Hi all, I planning to getting a Merkel 140AE in 500 NE, and I’m thinking that reloading is probably a good option to save some $$. I’ve done some reloading, but not a ton, and for much smaller cartridges. With that said I have a bunch of noobie questions that I’m hoping some of the more experienced guys here can help answer.
  • Max pressure: the SAAMI spec is 40,000 psi, but I'm seeing lots of reloading data with pressure above 40k (seems like maybe people are treating 45k as the actual max?). Is this just an unwritten rule (at least for modern actions)?
  • Die brands: There seem to be limited options for these large bores. I see that there is a RCBS set available... What options are people using and recommending?
  • Brass: Do people have good experience with reloading factory brass? If so, are certain brands better than others? Or would I be better off buying new brass AND, if so, what are some brass brands that people like? I’ve seen Bertam online, but that’s about it.
  • Bullets: Have folks found that different bullets regulate significantly differently if all other variables are equal (i.e., same brass, powder, charge, bullet weight, etc.)? Wondering if I can get by with whatever bullets can be found cheapest for practice and save the more expensive stuff for actual hunting.
  • Bullet seating: Does bullet seating/COAL tend to be a big factor in regulation/accuracy the same way it can be in standard bolt guns?
  • Powder options: my searching has turned up H4350, IMR4350, and R19 as popular options. I have some H4350 and IMR4350 so I'm hoping these will work well, but I'm interested in what others have found to work for them.
  • Reduced loads for practice – is this just loading the "min" recommended amount of powder? Or do people go below the min recommendation?
  • Pressure signs: what are pressure signs to look for in a double rifle? Just flattened or punctured primers? Or are there other signs that one can glean overpressure from?
  • Barrel life: is there are consensus on general barrel life for these rifles? Seems like they tend to last a long time because they don't get shot that often, but just curious if I need to track this closely with barrel life in mind.
  • Practicality: Being relatively inexperienced with reloading, do you think I’d be biting off more than I can chew/throwing dollars down a bottomless pit by going this route? Obviously the upfront cost for supplies is high, but considering that a set of dies can be bought for the price of 20 factory rounds it seems like it would be well worth it if the reloading process isn’t too terribly complicated and wasteful in the trial and error phase.
Thank you in advance for any advice/input on this!
 
Hi all, I planning to getting a Merkel 140AE in 500 NE, and I’m thinking that reloading is probably a good option to save some $$. I’ve done some reloading, but not a ton, and for much smaller cartridges. With that said I have a bunch of noobie questions that I’m hoping some of the more experienced guys here can help answer.
  • Max pressure: the SAAMI spec is 40,000 psi, but I'm seeing lots of reloading data with pressure above 40k (seems like maybe people are treating 45k as the actual max?). Is this just an unwritten rule (at least for modern actions)?
  • Die brands: There seem to be limited options for these large bores. I see that there is a RCBS set available... What options are people using and recommending?
  • Brass: Do people have good experience with reloading factory brass? If so, are certain brands better than others? Or would I be better off buying new brass AND, if so, what are some brass brands that people like? I’ve seen Bertam online, but that’s about it.
  • Bullets: Have folks found that different bullets regulate significantly differently if all other variables are equal (i.e., same brass, powder, charge, bullet weight, etc.)? Wondering if I can get by with whatever bullets can be found cheapest for practice and save the more expensive stuff for actual hunting.
  • Bullet seating: Does bullet seating/COAL tend to be a big factor in regulation/accuracy the same way it can be in standard bolt guns?
  • Powder options: my searching has turned up H4350, IMR4350, and R19 as popular options. I have some H4350 and IMR4350 so I'm hoping these will work well, but I'm interested in what others have found to work for them.
  • Reduced loads for practice – is this just loading the "min" recommended amount of powder? Or do people go below the min recommendation?
  • Pressure signs: what are pressure signs to look for in a double rifle? Just flattened or punctured primers? Or are there other signs that one can glean overpressure from?
  • Barrel life: is there are consensus on general barrel life for these rifles? Seems like they tend to last a long time because they don't get shot that often, but just curious if I need to track this closely with barrel life in mind.
  • Practicality: Being relatively inexperienced with reloading, do you think I’d be biting off more than I can chew/throwing dollars down a bottomless pit by going this route? Obviously the upfront cost for supplies is high, but considering that a set of dies can be bought for the price of 20 factory rounds it seems like it would be well worth it if the reloading process isn’t too terribly complicated and wasteful in the trial and error phase.
Thank you in advance for any advice/input on this!
Let me see if I can help given I reloaded for two of them. First powder. Either RL15.5 or IMR3031 if you want to achieve 2150 fps with the lowest felt recoil. That’s the game. find your targeted fps then pick the powder that delivers that at the lowest grains. For example instead of my two recommended powders use H4315 or H4831SC. To get the same 2150 fps you need 114 grains versus only 80 grains for my two powders…trust me the last two powders at 114 grains will kick the shit out of you versus the first two being pussy cats. Anything else you will feel the increased recoil. I have Quik Load which is conservative. Stick below the maximum…never hot load a DR…never!!! Pretty much softs at the same weight at same FPS regulate the same. Your issue will be insuring your solids regulate with your softs. That can take some work. You will find reducing grains in your solids from your softs will get you their. If you shoot DRs it is plain stupid not to reload unless you have no care for cost of ammunition. I can load a 500 NE for about $5 all in. that same shell is as much as $12 if I bought it already loaded. No brainer. In my long career I have only had new Federal Premium bought ammo misfire. my reloads never have
 
Let me see if I can help given I reloaded for two of them. First powder. Either RL15.5 or IMR3031 if you want to achieve 2150 fps with the lowest felt recoil. That’s the game. find your targeted fps then pick the powder that delivers that at the lowest grains. For example instead of my two recommended powders use H4315 or H4831SC. To get the same 2150 fps you need 114 grains versus only 80 grains for my two powders…trust me the last two powders at 114 grains will kick the shit out of you versus the first two being pussy cats. Anything else you will feel the increased recoil. I have Quik Load which is conservative. Stick below the maximum…never hot load a DR…never!!! Pretty much softs at the same weight at same FPS regulate the same. Your issue will be insuring your solids regulate with your softs. That can take some work. You will find reducing grains in your solids from your softs will get you their. If you shoot DRs it is plain stupid not to reload unless you have no care for cost of ammunition. I can load a 500 NE for about $5 all in. that same shell is as much as $12 if I bought it already loaded. No brainer. In my long career I have only had new Federal Premium bought ammo misfire. my reloads never have

Awesome, thank you for the tips! This is great info. What brass do you prefer?
 
Norma is my favorite. Hornady based on availability is my second
 
Thanks! Looks like neither have any stock or even list them right now.
 
If you have never loaded for a double I would HIGHLY recommend getting a copy of Graeme Wright shoot the British double. and read it cover to cover several time. Developing loads that shoot to the regulation of the rifle is a bit different than loading for a bolt or single shot.
 
If you have never loaded for a double I would HIGHLY recommend getting a copy of Graeme Wright shoot the British double. and read it cover to cover several time. Developing loads that shoot to the regulation of the rifle is a bit different than loading for a bolt or single shot.
I keep seeing that a new edition is going to be published "soon." Do you have any insight on the timing of that? Would love to read it but not at current market prices!
 
Brass- Federal

Bullets- 570Gr Swift A Frames
&
570Gr Cutting Edge Bullets Safari Solids
 
Following with interest!
 
There's some good comments here and you will be able to find some good published data.

The 500 NE, like many of these large straight case cartridges, has it's roots in the black powder era. Obviously it has a very large case capacity so you will need to remain cognoscente of your load density (or ratio). In all of my handloading I stay between a minimum of 80% to a maximum of 95% with a seated bullet, Below 80% and you may start having issues and require a filler; on the other end of the scale pressure rises fast as free space lessons.

As mentioned above the target for a 500 NE is about 2150fps. It's not a speed demon it doesn't have to be. Both RL15.5 and IMR3031 were mentioned and QL "calculates" load density of 80gr around 80% using QL supplied data but I didn't spend any time to verify the calculations.
 
There's some good comments here and you will be able to find some good published data.

The 500 NE, like many of these large straight case cartridges, has it's roots in the black powder era. Obviously it has a very large case capacity so you will need to remain cognoscente of your load density (or ratio). In all of my handloading I stay between a minimum of 80% to a maximum of 95% with a seated bullet, Below 80% and you may start having issues and require a filler; on the other end of the scale pressure rises fast as free space lessons.

As mentioned above the target for a 500 NE is about 2150fps. It's not a speed demon it doesn't have to be. Both RL15.5 and IMR3031 were mentioned and QL "calculates" load density of 80gr around 80% using QL supplied data but I didn't spend any time to verify the calculations.
I read somewhere that QL doesn't work well for straight wall cartridges, so info from it tends to be unrealiable for these older big bores. Do you know if there's any truth to that?
 
I read somewhere that QL doesn't work well for straight wall cartridges, so info from it tends to be unrealiable for these older big bores. Do you know if there's any truth to that?
There is some truth to this. I load for a few straight (including the 500ne) or straight~ish (9.3x74r) cases, and quick load tends to indicate the pressure will be higher than it actually is. So if you are under the limit in quick load, you will probably be more than safe. BUT it sometimes can get hard to reach velocities that loading manuals say you can get, running off just quickload.
So my rule of thumb on straight wall cases, is that I use QL to get indications of which powders to look at, then use loading books to quantify the amount of power.

Hodgdons loading site has data for the 500ne. https://hodgdonreloading.com/rldc/

If you ever want to confirm that QL has problems with strait wall cases, just put in hodgdon loads into quickload and check for disparities, since Hodgdon lists their pressures.
 
There is some truth to this. I load for a few straight (including the 500ne) or straight~ish (9.3x74r) cases, and quick load tends to indicate the pressure will be higher than it actually is. So if you are under the limit in quick load, you will probably be more than safe. BUT it sometimes can get hard to reach velocities that loading manuals say you can get, running off just quickload.
So my rule of thumb on straight wall cases, is that I use QL to get indications of which powders to look at, then use loading books to quantify the amount of power.

Hodgdons loading site has data for the 500ne. https://hodgdonreloading.com/rldc/

If you ever want to confirm that QL has problems with strait wall cases, just put in hodgdon loads into quickload and check for disparities, since Hodgdon lists their pressures.
Great, thanks - any input on powders other than the ones above? Also still curious about how folks develop light "practice loads."
 
I read somewhere that QL doesn't work well for straight wall cartridges, so info from it tends to be unrealiable for these older big bores. Do you know if there's any truth to that?
There is truth to this. The discrepancy is about 10% on the conservative side; that is published in the QL manual somewhere. QL tends to be conservative for most, not all, cartridges but following good hand-loading practices should keep you out of trouble. Never assume that there is a conservative buffer.

For most people the measurable QL result is velocity, It obviously does spit out psi but that is just math. and you can not count on it. Pressure is not linear to velocity so it is imperative that you work up your loads checking for pressure signs along the way.

I mentioned paying attention to load density/ratio. Load density is a factor of bulk density of the propellant. QL supplies a good number of propellants to choose from which is great for doing some quick comparisons but sometimes the values are not quite right. This is important because without getting the load density right you may end up filling the case with more powered than you think in relation to total free space thereby increasing actual pressure. As I said, QL is just math so it doesn't really know the real-world load density. There are ways to adjust for this stuff.
 
Great, thanks - any input on powders other than the ones above? Also still curious about how folks develop light "practice loads."
Try N550 or N540, both of those work well if you can get the Vhit powders.

As far as "light loads" There is a balancing act you need to work on.
1) you need enough omph to be realistic,
2) you need to fill the case enough that you don't have to much empty case volume.

For instance If you look at this burn rate chart:
burnrate2019op.png

it will show you the relative speed that powders burn at.
CFE 223 is very close to Varget... BUT CFE packs down a lot tighter, and Varget takes up a lot of room for the same amount of powder.

As mentioned above, your powder weight adds a SHIT TON of recoil. With a grain of powder being worth (depending on caliber) 5 grains of bullet weight when it comes to recoil. So to build a low recoil round:
1. Chose a faster burning powder so you need less.
2. Chose a powder that is less dense, so that it takes up more room. (Personally I don't like going below 85%, and prefer to stay above 90%.
3. chose a lighter bullet.

As always, make sure you are following safe reloading practices, and following loading manuals.

Also. plinking loads should really only be used to get familiar with the use and mechanics of a rifle. Once you can use it proficiently, switch to the proper 570gr @ 2150 fps. You need to be using that for a while, prior to any use of the rifle in the field. This will help you be confident of yourself and the gun, when you are using it for real.
 

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Some good advice already given. Good dies are the ones you can find!

An additional very useful reduced load is 35.0 grains 5744, 525 grain cast bullet, 1200fps.
 

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