This article shares all the details of how a two-time Precision Rifle Series (PRS) champion loads his match ammo – from what equipment he uses to the individual steps and order of his process. First, let me introduce Austin Orgain: Austin was the PRS Overall Season Champion in both 2020 and 2021, and has the highest total accumulated PRS points over the past 7 years. He was also the 2017 National Rifle League (NRL) Season Champion and won the 2020 AG Cup. If you had to name one guy that has consistently dominated precision rifle shooting over the past 5-7 years – that would be Austin Orgain. (Learn more about Austin)
Important: You should always reference comprehensive reloading manuals and start with the minimum recommended loads, and work your way up. Many of these shooters could be running “hot” loads, and just because the load is safe in their rifles doesn’t mean it will be in yours. There are a ton of factors that vary from them to you, including exact chamber/barrel dimensions, brass specs, reloading scales, powder lots, seating depth and tension, etc., so it’s critical to follow safety precautions. Failure to follow safe loading practices could result in severe personal injury (including death) or gun damage to the user or bystanders. The author has not independently verified the accuracy of the data and cannot be responsible for errors in published load data. Because this site and its affiliates have no control over the individual loading practices and/or components used, no responsibility is assumed by PrecisionRifleBlog.com, its author, affiliates, or Austin Orgain in the use of this data. The information is to be used at the sole discretion of the user, and the user assumes all risks.
These spotlight articles are all based on hours of conversations I had with Austin. Thanks, Austin, for being willing to share your expertise with the rest of us!
Austin Orgain’s Complete Match Load Data
Like most top competitors, Austin has been shooting a 6mm Dasher almost exclusively for the past several years. All of his major titles to date were won with the 6 Dasher. But, in 2023, Austin has been experimenting with 25-caliber cartridges. He started the year with a 25×47 and is currently competing with a 25 GT. To learn more about why he is trying the 25-caliber cartridges and his experience so far, check out this comprehensive article: Austin Orgain’s Experiment with 25-Caliber Cartridges.
I’ll share his exact load data for all of the cartridges he’s used in major PRS matches over the past few years:
6mm Dasher Load Data
- Bullet: Hornady 6mm 110 gr. A-Tip
- Powder: 31.7 gr. Hodgdon Varget
- Brass: Alpha 6 Dasher SRP (Small Rifle Primer)
- Primer: Federal 205 Small Rifle Primers (yes, the 205 – not the 205M)
- Muzzle Velocity from 26-inch Barrel: 2,870 fps (View Austin’s complete rifle details)
- Variation in Muzzle Velocity: SD = 3-4 fps, ES = 15 fps (that is over a string of 7-8 shots and represents extreme consistency shot-to-shot. Learn about SD & ES.)
- Bullet Jump: 0.050-0.060”.Austin: “The bullet jump on the 110 A-Tips is very forgiving. I was asked to provide some input as Alpha was developing their reamer for the 6 Dasher, and we designed it to have lots of freebore. It has 0.180” of freebore, compared to most other 6 Dasher reamers that used 0.120”. So, I’m jumping the 110s 0.050-0.060 inches. The Berger 105 Hybrids also liked to jump out around 0.100 inches.” (Learn about bullet jump.)
25×47 Load Data
25 GT Load Data
How much neck tension do you use for your match ammo? Austin: “I like my neck tension to be fairly light, around 0.0015-0.0020 inches. I feel like with light neck tension, the bullet seats more consistently. I want just enough pressure that I can’t force the bullet to move with my fingers.”
What kind of precision are you looking for out of your ammo before you have the confidence to take it to match?
“I want least 0.5 MOA at 900 yards. If I’m checking it on a really windy day, I mainly look at the waterline and mostly ignore left-to-right dispersion. I don’t want anything that has more than 2-3 inches of vertical at 900 yards.” – Austin Orgain
You can’t separate the reloading process and results from the reloading components that Austin uses. So before we dive into what equipment he uses and how he reloads, let’s start with what components he uses and why.
Austin prefers using Alpha Munitions brass. That is what he’s used out of his 6 Dasher for years, and he’s also exclusively used Alpha brass in his 25 GT. For his short stint with his 25×47 in the first half of 2023, he used Lapua 6.5×47 brass that he had fire-formed years ago when he first experimented with that cartridge.
Austin believes that Alpha brass is so consistent that he will use brand new, virgin brass straight out of the box to load his match ammo.
Do you ever sort or cull pieces of brass by weight or volume? Austin: “I went down that rabbit hole twice: one time when I was using Lapua brass, and then another time when I was using Alpha brass. Alpha has really good quality control. They have a robot that cycles through every piece of brass they manufacture. They have all kinds of cameras and sensors to measure overall length, concentricity, and weight to ensure it’s within tolerances and sort it based on those factors. So when you get a lot of Alpha brass, there won’t be 0.5-0.7 grains of weight difference from the lightest to the heaviest in the whole batch. I’ve actually gone through and found the cases at the far extremes in a lot and loaded them up in the same batch of ammo and shot them at long-range – and they all went into the same group. You know Lapua used to be really good back in the day, but even with Lapua, you might find a 2-4 grains difference from the lightest to the heaviest. For other brands of brass, you might see a spread up to 10.0 grains difference – and that much certainly might matter in terms of performance. If there is that big of a difference in weight, that means the volume of the case has to vary, too. But I can tell you from experience that you don’t need to sort or cull anything if you’re using Alpha brass.”
You shot the Hornady A-Tips for a long time. What do you like about those? Austin: “I ran the Hornady 110 A-Tip out of my 6 Dasher for 3 years, and it was extremely consistent for me. Before I switched to the A-Tips, I was using the Berger 105 Hybrids, which is a great bullet – but in my experience, they just didn’t quite hold together as well at distance. When using the Berger 105 in switchy winds, you would play the left-edge/right-edge game. The 110 gr. A-Tips are slightly heavier and have a higher ballistic coefficient, so with the 110s, you wouldn’t have to play that left-edge/right-edge game as often. Instead, the 110 A-Tips would be more left of center and right of center, instead of edge of plate or off plate. I also felt like I gained a little bit of an advantage by having slightly more weight to see the bullet signature on a longer-distance target. The A-Tips were also just so consistent lot-to-lot, and the BC was so consistent shot-to-shot that I could print these super tiny groups at 900 yards. That’s how far the range is at my house, and I could just print these tiny, tiny groups with the A-Tips every time. When I realized how consistent the A-Tips were, I knew that was what it was going to take to win from now on.”
Austin thought there was merit to using a little heavier bullet to make it easier to spot impacts. He tried a 6.5 Creedmoor some last year but felt the recoil was more than he’d like. What tipped him over the edge to try the 25 cal was the release of the new Hornady 25-caliber 134 gr. ELD-M bullet earlier this year. Hornady reached out to Austin to see if he would do some testing with their new 25-cal 134 gr. ELDM bullet and give them feedback on it. Austin told me he already had an old 25×47 barrel, brass, and dies on hand that he’d chambered years prior, so he thought it’d be fun to dust those off and see how they worked with the new Hornady bullets. He wasn’t even sure if the freebore that the old barrel was chambered with would work for the new Hornady bullets, but he gave it a shot.
“When I tried out the new Hornady bullets in my 25×47, I was like, ‘Man, that thing actually shoots really good!’ I tried the 6.5 Creedmoor a little bit last year and didn’t really like the recoil, but I did like the bigger signature from the heavier bullets. So I thought this 25-caliber might be a nice balance between that recoil and the heavy bullet – and it really is. It’s quite a bit less recoil than that 6.5 Creedmoor, and obviously, it’s more recoil than a Dasher – but it’s a good balance between the recoil and the energy of the bullet downrange and on the plate. I don’t know that it really gives you a huge advantage over anything else, other than carrying a little bit more energy – but it has shot well for me.” – Austin Orgain
Austin said he mostly uses Federal 205 Small Rifle Primers for his match ammo in cartridges like the 6 Dasher or 25 GT. I followed up to clarify if he meant the 205 or the 205M, and he said he uses the standard 205 primers, not the ones designated “match.”
Austin: “I can’t tell the difference between the 205M and the standard 205 primers. A long time ago, I had some guys in the business tell me that the only difference between Federal’s primers that are designated as ‘match’ compared to their standard primers is they just have one more person looking through them to flip out any that don’t look the same. Getting rid of the bad ones probably matters, but honestly, the only time I’ve ever had a problem with any primers at all has been with some of the CCI 450 not igniting. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with a standard Federal 205 primer not igniting.”
What is your standard deviation (SD) with the Federal 205 primers? Austin: “In my Dasher, my SDs are typically super low – like maybe 3 or 4 fps, and sometimes a little lower. If you shot 7-8 rounds, I’d expect my extreme spread (ES) to be around 15 fps or maybe a little less. That is kind of what you would expect with a Dasher. With the 25 GT, it is a little higher. Over that same 7-8 round string, I’d expect my ES to be around 25 fps with the GT with an SD of 5-6 fps – which is not terrible. Obviously, you want the lowest SD and the lowest extreme spread you can, but that’s not always what ends up printing the best down range. So, the lowest SD is not the be-all and end-all. Actually, I’ve found that the lowest SD nodes don’t always shoot the best. It’s always good to test and verify at long range. It’s nice when your load with the lowest SDs end up being your smallest groups at 100 yards, and what shoots the best at distance – but it doesn’t always work that way.” (Learn more about muzzle velocity consistency and what SD/ES means.)
Austin said he occasionally uses CCI #450 Small Rifle Magnum Primers, but that is primarily for cases that are a little larger, like the Creedmoor and 6.5×47 Lapua or 25×47 Lapua. Austin mentioned that he’d seen an issue with a batch of CCI 450s not igniting in the past, but obviously, that isn’t a regular occurrence, or he wouldn’t continue to use them. It’s not like CCI sponsors him, and that is why he uses them. One thing that might help for context is Austin literally shoots several thousands of rounds per year. He told me he shot 20,000 rounds in 2016 alone! He fires more rounds in a year than most people do in a lifetime, which means even if a failure happens less than 0.01% of the time – statistics say he’s going to experience it multiple times. I’m not trying to downplay his comment, but I at least wanted my readers to have that context.
Austin uses Hodgdon Extreme Series powders like Hodgdon Varget and Hodgdon H4350. These powders are very popular among precision shooters because they are specifically formulated for reduced temperature sensitivity. That means you have minimal change in muzzle velocity whether you are shooting in 30 degrees or 100 degrees. Some other powders might show a 50+ fps change in muzzle velocity difference between those temperatures, making it very difficult to hit targets over a long day of shooting. (See a PRB Field Test that quantifies how much velocity can change with various powders.)
Reloading Equipment & Process
The flow charts below show each step Austin runs through for brass prep to get his empty cases ready to load. On the left, you can see he only does a few steps when loading brand-new brass for the first time. On the right, you can see he has a few more steps when prepping dirty brass that was previously fired from his rifle.
Reloading Press for Sizing Brass: Redding Big Boss 2 with Inline Fabrication Case Ejector System
Austin: “The press I use to size my brass is a Redding Big Boss 2 singe-stage press. I have the Inline Fabrication Ultra Mount Press Stand and the Inline Fabrication Case Ejector System on that press, which allows me to only have to handle each piece of brass once. I can keep one hand on the handle, and the other grabs and slides it in the shellholder. I’ll run the handle down on the press, and then on the upstroke, the sized brass will be automatically kicked out of the shellholder and slides down into the bin with the rest of the sized brass. Not having to remove a case and then reach over to grab another case can speed things up quite a bit.”
Austin has used several different kinds of dies over the years but said he’s recently started using the Micron Precision Bushing Sizing Dies from Bullet Central. Austin: “I’ve been really liking those dies. They seem really well built and are nice dies. I will use those to decap and full-length size a case in one operation.”
In another conversation I had with Austin, I asked this: What has been your biggest equipment change in the past 1-2 years? Austin: “I really haven’t changed anything on my rifle or other gear that I can think of. Probably the biggest change has been with my reloading dies and switching over to Bullet Central’s Micron dies. I really like those.”
So you full-length size your brass every time you load it? Austin: “Yes.”
How far do you bump your shoulder back? Austin: “Very little – typically 0.0010-0.0015 inches is all I want to to set the shoulder back when I resize. I want to be able to close my bolt with any resistance, but I also don’t want to push the shoulder back any more than I need to. Typically, bumping the shoulder from 0.0010 to 0.0015 gets you right in that sweet spot. Obviously, you can sometimes get a little variation in how much setback you get on an individual case based on how much lube is on a case and the type of lube. As you run it through the die, you might notice that sizing one piece feels a little harder than others, so I just take that piece of brass out of the press, lube it a little more, and then run it back through the press again.
What do you use to lube your cases? Austin: “I use Hornady One Shot Case Lube. What lube you use can really matter for how consistent your sizing operation is. To apply the lube, I put 30-40 cases in the bottom of a little plastic tub I got from Walmart. Then I spray them all down and kind of shake them around and get them lubed pretty good.”
How do you measure how much you’ve set the case shoulder back? Austin: “It depends on the cartridge. If it’s a cartridge that I run a lot, then I typically have custom shoulder bump gauges (shown in the photo) made that were cut with the same reamer I used to chamber my barrel. If I’m loading an odd-ball cartridge that I don’t have one of those custom-made shoulder bump gauges for, I’ll simply use the Hornady Comparator Gauges.
How do you anneal your cases? Austin: “I have only been annealing every third firing. Up until this year, I used a flame-based annealer made by Annealeez. But, earlier this year, I picked up an Annealing Made Perfect (AMP) Mark II Induction Annealer and am excited to start using it.”
When you tumble your brass to clean it, how do you do it? Austin: “I just use a vibratory tumbler with dry media and add a little bit of brass polish in it. I typically let it run for 1 to 1.5 hours.”
Why do you trim your cases every time? Austin: “When you tumble your brass in a vibratory cleaner, you can sometimes get a neck that is rolled slightly in that process. Typically, what happens if a neck is rolled is when you seat a bullet, you will feel a little different seating pressure and might see a little sliver of copper roll up at the neck. While a lot of things people worry about when reloading don’t really matter, that is something that I have been able to tell matters in terms of performance. That’s why anytime I take a case out of the tumbler, I will run it through my Giraud Power Case Trimmer to chamfer and deburr each case. With the cartridges that we’re running, we don’t really get much case growth, so I don’t feel like I have to trim my cases after every firing. The Giraud trimmer is really just a fast way to chamfer and deburr the cases. If the cases are for a cartridge that I don’t load very often, I may not have the cartridge-specific bushing for the Giraud trimmer, and in those cases, I will simply chamfer the case neck using one of a Lyman Chamfer Hand Tool.”
So you don’t run your cases through a neck mandrel to set your case’s inside neck diameter? Austin: “Nope. I don’t run a mandrel at all. The Micron dies don’t have an option to run an expander ball at all. I used to run a Redding Type S Full-Length Bushing die, and I put a carbide, free-floating expander ball in it, and I’d set it up where I got the neck tension I’d want, but then that expand ball would barely touch when it came back through the inside of the neck to make it concentric. I really like that setup, but I started testing that versus the Micron die, and I can’t see any difference. Now, I wasn’t shooting hundreds and hundreds of rounds testing it, but I did shoot 20 or 30 rounds side-by-side and did different groups with different settings – and I couldn’t see any difference between them. So, I don’t know that it really matters, and for me, it seems like it’s probably past the point of diminishing returns and not even worth doing. To me, it’s definitely not worth doing if you have to add a whole additional step to your loading process to run your cases through mandrel. If you had a Dillon progressive loading setup where you could just add a mandrel die into your rotation, and it wouldn’t require a bunch of extra time or effort – maybe. But I’m not going to run all my brass through a mandrel if I’m doing it on a single-stage press.”
Do you ever neck turn your brass, uniform your primer pockets, or clean your primer pockets? Austin: “If I had to neck turn my brass, I’d quit! No, I don’t ever do any of that stuff.”
Austin: “Honestly, what I’ve been doing more lately with my 6 Dasher is buying 3,000-4,000 pieces of Alpha brass at one time. I’d shoot through all of it once, sell it as once-fired brass, and start with another batch of new brass. It just cuts down on the amount of time I spend in my reloading room because I don’t have to do much brass prep. But now, when I’m shooting one of the 25 calibers, I have to reload it because I have to neck it down and everything – so starting with new brass doesn’t save time. So I’m running through all of the fired brass steps and reloading those cases.”
Loading Ammo & Seating Bullets
Okay, now we have brass that is ready to load, here’s the process and equipment Austin Orgain uses to load his match ammo:
To prime his cases, Austin uses a Franklin Arsenal Platinum Series Perfect Seat Hand Priming Tool.
To measure his powder, Austin uses a Prometheus Gen II Powder Dispensing System, which is an automated powder-throwing scale that is extremely precise. It can measure each powder charge down to a single kernel of powder. I’m not saying it’s within a grain of powder – it measures within a single kernel of powder. The sealed, draft-proof enclosure and finely tuned scale allow the Prometheus to respond to a single kernel of IMR 8208 powder, which weighs about 0.009 grains! Austin uses it to weigh every single powder charge he loads in his match ammo, and that extremely consistent powder charge is part of what makes his ammo so consistent shot-to-shot.
For seating bullets, Austin has been switching between a couple of different presses: a K&M Precision Arbor Press and a Forster Co-Ax Reloading Press. Austin: “I’ve been using a Wilson bullet seating die with my arbor press for my 25 GT ammo, which is what I’ve been running lately at competitions. For my 6 Dasher, I sometimes load it on an arbor press and sometimes seat my bullets using a Forster Coax. You can feel the seating pressure a lot easier with an arbor press – but I can’t say that I’ve noticed any difference in terms of accuracy or consistency from the ammo I seated with an arbor press or my Forster Coax. When I’m seating bullets on the Forster Coax, I have been using Micron precision seating dies from Bullet Central. I kind of have a hodgepodge of stuff that I’ve pieced together, but it works!”
Do you sort bullets, trim meplats, or point them? Austin: “No, I think if, at the end of the day, you run a good bullet, like the Hornady A-Tips or the Bergers, none of that stuff matters. If it comes to the point where you need to do that kind of stuff to your bullets, you should just use a different bullet. And for the A-Tips, it’s not like you can trim the meplat or point them. There just isn’t a lot you can or need to do with the A-Tips. They are just so consistent.”
How much ammo do you typically load at one time? Like a barrel’s worth of ammo, a match’s worth, etc? Austin: “I usually load a match’s worth of ammo at a time.” A typical, national-level, two-day PRS match usually has a round count of 180-200 rounds.
How Long Does It Take You To Load 200 Rounds?
If you started with dirty, fired brass, how long does it take you to load up 200 rounds to take to a match? Austin: “That is had to say because I normally break it up into a few steps and don’t just run through it start to finish at one time. Typically, the day after a match, I will go ahead and size all the brass and throw it in the tumbler that night or the next day. Then, when I get time later in the week, I might trim everything. Then another day or two will pass, and I’ll go prime all the cases and have everything sitting there ready for powder and to seat a bullet just before a match. Then I usually will go check my load, and if everything is good, all I have to do is go throw the powder in each case and seat the bullet.”
“I would say I can size 200 pieces of brass in 20-30 minutes. Then I tumble for 60-90 minutes. Then, when I get to priming, weighing powder, and seating the bullet, I can do all those things simultaneously. Because there is typically a little time to wait for my Prometheus to weigh the next charge, I will fill that time by priming other cases or seating bullets. Whenever I am rocking and rolling, I can prime, powder, and seat a bullet for 100 rounds in 28 minutes. So for 200 rounds, the loading part would take just under an hour.”
What does your load development look like? Do you redo that for every barrel? Austin: “If I get a new barrel, I always break it in first. I never start doing load development until I’ve got 150-200 rounds down a barrel. Once I get a barrel broke in, I will clean it up real good, then foul the barrel with a few rounds, and then I’ll do a little bit of load development. I’ve run the 6 Dasher enough years now that load development for it is really quick. I’ll start by trying the same load I used in the last barrel. I’ll grab some left-over ammo from a match, and if it shoots good at 100 yards and the velocities look good and consistent, then I will try it at long-range. I don’t want to see more than 2-3 inches of vertical dispersion at 900 yards.”
“Obviously, you want the lowest SD and the lowest extreme spread you can, but that’s not always what ends up printing the best down range. So, the lowest SD is not the be-all and end-all. Actually, I’ve found that the nodes with the lowest SD don’t always shoot the best. It’s always good to test and verify at long range. It’s nice when your load with the lowest SDs end up being your smallest groups at 100 yards, and what shoots the best at distance – but it doesn’t always work that way.” – Austin Orgain
“Most of the time, there isn’t a drastic change in load between barrels. In my experience, I will typically land on one of 3 different loads for the Dasher. Load development gets super easy when you know the cartridge so well. Running the Hornady A-Tips helps, too, because those A-Tip bullets just really don’t care how far you jump them.”
Do you tune your load between matches? Austin: “If it needs to be. I always check my load between matches to make sure it’s still shooting good. I’ll check my zero and then run the load out at distance. If I make any changes to my load between matches, they are usually very small changes like either 0.1-0.2 grains of powder or changing seating depth by 0.005-0.010 inches or something.”
“Today, Clay Blackketter at Clay’s Cartridge Company loads most of my match ammo, although I still load quite a bit of my own ammo, too. It sometimes just comes down to how much lead time I can give him. I keep some components at my house and some components at his place, too. The nice thing is that Clay Blackketter, Tate Streeter, and I all have similar rifle setups and run the same ammo load. We had Wade Stuteville with Stuteville Precision chamber all of our barrels exactly the same, so the seating depth and everything are all the same. (Learn about Austin’s rifle setup.) Now Clay can basically just have one pet load for all of our rifles and load it up and go. So far, that has worked really well. The only thing that might vary a little from barrel to barrel is maybe 0.1-0.2 grains of powder difference from the ideal load for a specific barrel. But it runs so consistently that you are splitting hairs when you are using top-quality components and barrels. That small 0.1-0.2 grains of powder difference simply doesn’t make a huge difference in performance. We try to make it easy. We figured out what works, and until something else proves that it really is better, we just keep running that same load.”
For those that may not know, Clay Blackketter is another PRS Season Champion from western Oklahoma and one of the top precision rifle shooters in the world. He owns Clay’s Cartridge Company, which loads custom, match-grade ammo for top competitors and the military. Clay clearly knows how to load ammo that can perform at the absolute pinnacle of what precision rifles are capable of. Here is how Clay’s website describes their loading process and ammo consistency:
“Ammunition is loaded to the kernel with the most temperature stable powders available. All ammunition is trimmed/chamfered/deburred individually and each round is loaded on a single stage press to ensure consistency round to round. Do not be surprised if you achieve single digit extreme spreads with this ammunition. We routinely see pictures from our customers of sub five S/Ds on 10 shot strings!” – Clay’s Cartridge Company
I also think it’s worth noting that Clay’s Cartridge Company also offers custom load development services for your rifle, and says, “We have never sent a rifle back to a customer that would not shoot under .25” at 100 yards, under 2” at 600 yards and under 5” at 1000 yards.” That’s nuts! They provide all the load data to you once the load development is complete.
Do you ever shoot factory ammo? Austin: “I don’t think I’ve ever shot factory ammo in a match, but I would certainly consider running the Hornady 6 Creedmoor Match factory ammo if I was in a pinch. I’m just fairly particular about having control over how my ammo shoots.”
Be the first to know! Join the PRB mailing list to be the first to know when the next article is published!
Other Articles From Austin Orgain’s Shooter Spotlight
This is part of a series that is taking a deep dive with 6 of the most dominant precision rifle competitors in the world over the past several years. I’m calling it “What The Pros Use: Top Shooter Spotlights.” We’ll learn what gear they run and why they feel those things give them the best chance of winning. They also share lots of shooting tips and strategies along the way! (View which 6 shooters and what all will be covered.)
You also might be interested in checking out the shooter spotlight I recently published on Austin Buschman.
© Copyright 2023 PrecisionRifleBlog.com, All Rights Reserved.