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After setting up the testing conditions, test a variety of loads by firing a series of three shots with each load. If possible, try a variety of bullet and powder combinations. The combination that gives you the best grouping on the target should be your selected hunting load.

Follow these guidelines when loading a powder charge.

  • Usually firearms are most accurate at 70–90% of maximum load.
    • A load less than that reduces velocity, causes a more rounded trajectory, and allows other variables, such as wind, to influence the shot.
    • Greater loads burn partially and unreliably, diminishing accuracy without adding benefit.
  • The ball with a patch generally accepts higher powder charges more safely than large conical bullets.

Refer to the owner's manual for your firearm's minimum and maximum loads. Also, some states require a minimum caliber for certain game. Be sure that you meet these regulations. To select a starting load:

  • Start with half of the maximum load or…
  • Load an amount of powder equal in grains to the firearm’s caliber.

Focus on accuracy factors to find the perfect load.

  • Vary the tightness of the round-ball patch.
    • Try different thicknesses and different patch materials.
    • Examine spent patches for holes or charring that may indicate you need to use a different material or loading technique. Patches that failed usually are torn or blown apart. Patches that are charred were too thin and allowed gases through.
  • Consider using tightly fitting conical bullets, which are often, but not always, more accurate.
  • Keep your ignition system functions consistent.
    • On in-line and percussion lock firearms, use the same brand of cap.
    • On flintlock firearms, use the same way of fitting the flint and priming.
  • Narrow down the best load combinations, and then try slight variations to see if any can be improved further.
  • Analyze what may be the most consistent weaknesses to improve load performance.