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OAL Gauge


New member
Jan 4, 2004
Hettick, IL.
Have any of you had any experience with Over-All Lenght gauges? I have been looking at a Stoney Point gauge. Is this a good one for the money?
Unfortunately, there is no "set" answer to that question. Each rifle will like its own OAL. Pick a reasonable starting point and go from there. I will usually start further from the lands and work closer, so I am not trying two different directions.

I have also found that many of my rifles have such a generous throat that I cannot get anywhere near the lands. My Savage .223, for example, has such a long throat that the bullets would barely be in the case and the rounds would never fit into the magazine. It is still the most accurate rifle I own, though. I just seat the bullets out as far as the magazine will allow while still retaining "one caliber" seating depth with the bullet. (.22 of the bullet seated in a .224 caliber round, .30 in a .308 caliber round, etc. for example.)
Injunear,, The problem with setting close to the lands is that it can raise chamber pressure on max or near max loads, to dangerous levels. The best way is to take a cerro cast of the throat of the rifle and then measure the depth of the throat. Once you know what the max depth is, you can play with the seating depth of the bullets. Just be sure to reduce the loads as you move closer to engagement. Since different shaped bullets engage the lands with different offsets, it can get tricky.

I prefer to seat all of my bullets with .010 clearance from the SAAMI max overall lenght and then play with the load to achieve the desired accuacy. It makes the entire process much simpler.

A simple way to determine what your freebore is, is to take a resized, unprimed, uncharged, case and seat a bullet into it. Start on the long side. Light a candle and smoke the bullet. Carefully chamber the round, trying to be very careful not to scuff the smoke. Be just as careful extracting the round. If done properly, you will notice very distinct 'Land' marks on the smoked bullet. Re-smoke. Repeat the process, reseating the bullet just a smidge, until the land marks disappear. Ta DA
I have a Stoney POint guage that works with a dummy case of the particular round and whatever bullet you are loading. It allows you to determine the distance from the lands with that specific bullet. From my experience, though, to seat close to the lands often exceeds the length of my magazine. So I think Dan has the right idea, and I hardly ever use my Stoney Point guage anymore. I use when I get a new rifle, just to know how long the throat is, but I no longer use it when reloading.
Originally posted by Injunear:
Well, I've got the OAL gauge. What's the best distance to seat off the lands for the best accuracy?
I use the Sinclair OAL gage, but the type of tool is not as important as safe accurate loads. I develop new loads with the bullet seated as close to the lands as the particular rifle's recorded history has indicates. If I've not been successful at .005 and always end up at .010 to .015 with my favorite quarter bore then I start at .010. No use to waste time at .005.

Steps to consider:
1. Determine maximum length magazine will handle.

2. Load three to five cartridges with starting powder load.

3. Establishing starting seating depth off the lands or how far you will seat the bullet out for this particular rifle. Example .015. The cartridge should cycle and chamber reliably. If it is longer than the allowable length of the magazine then go back to step 1.

4. Fire and inspect the first cartridge for brass pressure signs. If you have pressure signs stop and seat remaining rounds an additional .005 deeper. Repeat this process until your brass has a satisfactory appearance.

5. Develop you maximum accurate load for this seating depth. Tweak the seating depth for additional accuracy gains. Always inspect brass for pressure signs and reduce load accordingly.

Edit to Step 3. Have enough of the bullet base in the neck to securely hold it. For game hunting bullets I like at least caliber depth, but will go less than this for vermin rounds.

Handloading should be approached with the same degree of caution as an experimental science. THE INDIVIDUAL ASSUMES THE RISK OF SAFE LOADING PRACTICES. Failure to do so could result in injury, death, or damage to the shooter, handloader, bystanders, facilities, or equipment. All standard loading precautions should be undertaken, and you must be aware of the risks involved.

[ 03-12-2004, 16:36: Message edited by: Quarter Round ]
Thanks for sharing your knowledge on the subject. I start my loads about 2 grains below published max.I load 5 rounds starting there and work up 1/2 grain at a time watching for pressure signs, accuracy and the chronograph. I have read a lot of articles about case lenght, but haven't done anything other than using the loading manual for oal max. case lenght.