Dad's Reloading Ledgers

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  • trickg

    Guns 'n Drums
    Jul 22, 2008
    12,353
    Glen Burnie
    When I started reloading back in 2008, I bought a notebook and created some columns so that I could record what I was reloading, and I did this based on the example I'd seen from my father who had been reloading for a good long while before I came along. I remember him recording various things in ledgers, and I really wanted to get my hands on them so that I could see what he was doing - what powders he was using, what charge weights he preferred, etc.

    I knew my Mom had them but she said they were buried in a box somewhere in her garage, and that basically if I wanted them, I needed to go to Nebraska where she lives to dig through those boxes to find them.

    Well, I finally got back to Nebraska, and as luck would have it, I hit paydirt in the very first box I looked in!

    What I found was even better than I'd hoped for. The first rounds he loaded that he recorded (and knowing my Dad who was a bit of a record keeper, it was the very first rounds he reloaded) were 14 rounds of 30-30 with 0-buck using 6 gr Unique on October 9th, 1958, down to the last rounds he loaded - 100 rounds of 41 mag with a 215 gr SWC using 8.0 gr Unique, on February 13th, 1997, just two weeks before he died on March 1st.

    Along with the raw data, he'd write anecdotal observations regarding pressure signs, performance, penetration into wood - typically pine - accuracy, whether or not they fed well in certain semi-autos, specifically some machine guns like the Thompson he had, etc.

    The interesting thing is that I thought I'd glean a bit more, particularly with the powders he chose to use, but he mostly used a lot of the very same powders in common use now:

    Unique
    Bullseye
    2400
    HP38/W231 (although they were different back when he was using them - they are the same now)
    3031
    BLC(2) (listed as Ball C-2)
    4198
    4227
    4895
    H110
    Blue Dot
    etc.

    I just found it to be kinda neat. He was very observant - at times he was pushing the envelope of performance, but he was also always being very careful and watching for signs of over-pressure.

    He also reloaded for other people as a side business, so he'd list initials for the people he loaded for on those lines. Sometimes he even corrected loads for people that had been poorly loaded by someone else. There was a notation regarding expanded primer pockets and cratered primers, and when pulled, he found that the loads were overloaded by a full 2.0 grains from listed max load!

    I feel like he's speaking to me from beyond through these ledgers, and I'm very happy to have them.

    I don't expect this thread to have a lot of responses, but I did want to share it.
    BED3252B-10AC-404B-9B70-CC0BD211CE85.jpeg
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    CAF6AAE2-6A18-411A-BBC3-FFF08DF685FE.jpeg
     
    Last edited:

    85MikeTPI

    Active Member
    Jul 19, 2014
    2,199
    Ceciltucky
    That's awesome. My dad never reloaded, but has a ledger of all the guns he's bought and sold over the years.. It will be interesting..
     

    trickg

    Guns 'n Drums
    Jul 22, 2008
    12,353
    Glen Burnie
    That's awesome. My dad never reloaded, but has a ledger of all the guns he's bought and sold over the years.. It will be interesting..
    In those boxes are also the bills of sale for many of the guns I inherited - I'll be collecting those too. I'm going back in about 6 weeks for another week, and while this trip was all about going back for a visit and for the celebration of my Mom's 80th birthday, (she actually turns 80 in November, but we had the party this summer) I'm going to go through those boxes and see if I can't organize and bring back some of those things. There are a lot of documents there too - I have scans of some of his military records, such as his DD214, which was in the same box as the reloading ledgers.
     

    Uncle Duke

    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Feb 2, 2013
    9,834
    Not Far Enough from the City
    Priceless to you I'm sure, and neat as all hell trickg for the rest of us to see!

    Your Dad had all sorts of gems hidden in those notes. Classic Bullseye 38 special wadcutter loads that became gospel over the years. 2400 loads that Elmer Keith was reputed to have used, loads that I wouldn't touch, not today and not tomorrow with any 38 revolver I may or may not own. Elmer they say used to blow up a gun or 12 a week, in my mind anyway so the rest of us don't have to!

    Interesting also to see IMR3031, a powder that had a lot more play yesteryear than it does today, but which remains now as then a great powder across a variety of cartridges, some of which your Dad obviously knew about. I myself like it in 30-30 to this day. Never tried 0 buck myself, always thought I would one day for grins. Closest I ever came was half jackets, cheap but with so-so results. And yeah, then as now, Unique is indeed Unique.

    Funny what you discover in boxes in the garage. Found my first birthday card (1 year old) from my mother a couple of years back. A tad dusty in that garage. Era appropriate for sure too....showed a kid cowboy on the cover, complete with sixgun and holster. Imagine finding a card like that now?? Yeah. Different era.

    Enjoy your finds! Bittersweet I know....

    Good stuff, and Thanks for sharing!
     

    JohnnyE

    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Jan 18, 2013
    4,702
    MoCo
    Wow! Great history. I have my pop's receipts for gun purchases as far back as the 1950's. They're great to see.
     

    Harrys

    Short Round
    Jul 12, 2014
    1,985
    SOMD
    Back in the mid 70s when I started reloading in the USCG we used books like the one attached to record our data. Sadly, my original loading data was lost in a PCS shipment.
    record.jpg
     

    lazarus

    Active Member
    Jun 23, 2015
    10,102
    Back in the mid 70s when I started reloading in the USCG we used books like the one attached to record our data. Sadly, my original loading data was lost in a PCS shipment. View attachment 375388
    Lol. I have a couple of those I had started using. Though, it is mostly home brew recipes in mine. I have a few pages of notes on reloading in one, but I switched to a MTM reloading log book as the larger format and better layout for how I like to keep notes. Plus it worked better for me with the 3 ring binder format to organize my reloading data by caliber and use tabs. I don't keep notes every time I reload, only when I work up a load I keep notes on everything I've tried. When I load something, I just fill out a load data card and toss it in with the reloads so future me, or my kids, knows exactly what the load is. Whether it is one box of ammo, or if it is a large bag or container of the same reloads.

    To the OP, that is really cool. I would treasure that.
     

    trickg

    Guns 'n Drums
    Jul 22, 2008
    12,353
    Glen Burnie
    Priceless to you I'm sure, and neat as all hell trickg for the rest of us to see!

    Your Dad had all sorts of gems hidden in those notes. Classic Bullseye 38 special wadcutter loads that became gospel over the years. 2400 loads that Elmer Keith was reputed to have used, loads that I wouldn't touch, not today and not tomorrow with any 38 revolver I may or may not own. Elmer they say used to blow up a gun or 12 a week, in my mind anyway so the rest of us don't have to!

    Interesting also to see IMR3031, a powder that had a lot more play yesteryear than it does today, but which remains now as then a great powder across a variety of cartridges, some of which your Dad obviously knew about. I myself like it in 30-30 to this day. Never tried 0 buck myself, always thought I would one day for grins. Closest I ever came was half jackets, cheap but with so-so results. And yeah, then as now, Unique is indeed Unique.

    Funny what you discover in boxes in the garage. Found my first birthday card (1 year old) from my mother a couple of years back. A tad dusty in that garage. Era appropriate for sure too....showed a kid cowboy on the cover, complete with sixgun and holster. Imagine finding a card like that now?? Yeah. Different era.

    Enjoy your finds! Bittersweet I know....

    Good stuff, and Thanks for sharing!
    One of the things I found interesting is that it kind of made me rethink some things that I'd thought about my Dad as a reloader. I could swear he told me once that he never loaded anything beyond what was in the reloading manuals, but clearly, that's not the case. It could be that maybe over time he developed that philosophy - the idea that he didn't need to push his loading or guns any further - but there was clearly a time where he was doing some careful experimentation to try to push the envelope. I do know that when I was working with him to learn to reload in my early 20s, I specifically remember looking up load data in the manuals, and deciding what we were going to load based on the min/max loads listed for what we were going to load up.

    I do remember him saying once that when he was a younger man, when it came to pistols, "the harder it kicked, the better I liked it!" That would lend some credence to some of the heavy loads he put together. As I was going through some of it, there was more the a few times where I raised my eyebrow thinking that there was no way in hell I'd push a 1911 as hard as he pushed his at times.

    You mentioned Elmer Keith. Dad was a big fan of Elmer. He had all of the books he'd published, and there are a handful of letters between him and Elmer that we have saved - Elmer was known for answering correspondence from readers of the columns he published in The American Rifleman and Guns and Ammo. The fact that Elmer was known to push the envelope when it came to load development with handguns may be why Dad did similarly in his early years as a reloader.

    One last comment here - when I first started reloading, I started with 45ACP, and I intended to use HP38 for the powder, mostly because that's what he'd used on the 45ACP reloads from him that I'd brought back from Nebraska. I was disappointed when Midway USA called me to tell me that their supplier didn't follow through, and that they wouldn't be able to send me the HP38. Rather than cancel the order, I switch it to Bullseye, but I was disappointed at the time that I wasn't going to be using what Dad used. HA! Looking through these ledgers, Dad loaded a lot of 45ACP with Bullseye, particularly his lighter loads for competitive pistol shooting, although he seemed to favor Unique. Once he got his Dillon, he loaded a lot more Bullseye and HP38, likely because it metered better in the Dillon powder measure.
     

    Clovis

    Active Member
    Aug 1, 2011
    1,272
    Centreville
    Great memories of your dad. I get the impression he was a bullet caster as well with the references to gas checks and the somewhat odd bullet weights. Am I off the mark?
     

    Harrys

    Short Round
    Jul 12, 2014
    1,985
    SOMD
    Lol. I have a couple of those I had started using. Though, it is mostly home brew recipes in mine. I have a few pages of notes on reloading in one, but I switched to a MTM reloading log book as the larger format and better layout for how I like to keep notes. Plus it worked better for me with the 3 ring binder format to organize my reloading data by caliber and use tabs. I don't keep notes every time I reload, only when I work up a load I keep notes on everything I've tried. When I load something, I just fill out a load data card and toss it in with the reloads so future me, or my kids, knows exactly what the load is. Whether it is one box of ammo, or if it is a large bag or container of the same reloads.

    To the OP, that is really cool. I would treasure that.
    I went digital in using Exel, Keep it on a thumb drive and just print out the latest. I back up to my cloud so I can access it anywhere.
     

    lazarus

    Active Member
    Jun 23, 2015
    10,102
    I went digital in using Exel, Keep it on a thumb drive and just print out the latest. I back up to my cloud so I can access it anywhere.
    I would, but my notes are as much for my kids or someone else who inherits all my stuff some day. Sure, I make sure what I am doing is safe. But at the same time, I want those people to know exactly what it is they are choosing to use.
     

    Harrys

    Short Round
    Jul 12, 2014
    1,985
    SOMD
    I would, but my notes are as much for my kids or someone else who inherits all my stuff some day. Sure, I make sure what I am doing is safe. But at the same time, I want those people to know exactly what it is they are choosing to use.
    I do keep paper copies in folders ber caliber and replace them with the updates.
     

    E.Shell

    Active Member
    Feb 5, 2007
    8,508
    The right side of the grass.
    Trickg, that's a great inheritance and insight into a part of your Dad's life!

    Two things to keep in mind as you look at the data:
    1) Pressure testing methods have changed since most of his entries and pressure levels deemed safe years ago have since been shown to exceed industry standards. This is one reason newer manuals specify lower top loads.
    2) Powders of the same nomenclature often have slightly differing characteristics when compared to powders years ago.

    I keep my handloading data in loose-leaf binders, with dividers for each cartridge, sometimes sub-divided by firearm if multiple guns are using the same cartridges. One for shotgun, one for metallics. As guns come & go, so can that section of my loose-leaf notebook. I don't throw any of that stuff away, but just move it to the back so it's out of the way.
     

    Uncle Duke

    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Feb 2, 2013
    9,834
    Not Far Enough from the City
    One of the things I found interesting is that it kind of made me rethink some things that I'd thought about my Dad as a reloader. I could swear he told me once that he never loaded anything beyond what was in the reloading manuals, but clearly, that's not the case. It could be that maybe over time he developed that philosophy - the idea that he didn't need to push his loading or guns any further - but there was clearly a time where he was doing some careful experimentation to try to push the envelope. I do know that when I was working with him to learn to reload in my early 20s, I specifically remember looking up load data in the manuals, and deciding what we were going to load based on the min/max loads listed for what we were going to load up.

    I do remember him saying once that when he was a younger man, when it came to pistols, "the harder it kicked, the better I liked it!" That would lend some credence to some of the heavy loads he put together. As I was going through some of it, there was more the a few times where I raised my eyebrow thinking that there was no way in hell I'd push a 1911 as hard as he pushed his at times.

    You mentioned Elmer Keith. Dad was a big fan of Elmer. He had all of the books he'd published, and there are a handful of letters between him and Elmer that we have saved - Elmer was known for answering correspondence from readers of the columns he published in The American Rifleman and Guns and Ammo. The fact that Elmer was known to push the envelope when it came to load development with handguns may be why Dad did similarly in his early years as a reloader.

    One last comment here - when I first started reloading, I started with 45ACP, and I intended to use HP38 for the powder, mostly because that's what he'd used on the 45ACP reloads from him that I'd brought back from Nebraska. I was disappointed when Midway USA called me to tell me that their supplier didn't follow through, and that they wouldn't be able to send me the HP38. Rather than cancel the order, I switch it to Bullseye, but I was disappointed at the time that I wasn't going to be using what Dad used. HA! Looking through these ledgers, Dad loaded a lot of 45ACP with Bullseye, particularly his lighter loads for competitive pistol shooting, although he seemed to favor Unique. Once he got his Dillon, he loaded a lot more Bullseye and HP38, likely because it metered better in the Dillon powder measure.

    If you're really lucky, you might find your Dad's old reloading manuals boxed up as well. Your photos show notes from 1958, and also from 1996. That's a 38 year span. There is also mention by your Dad of reloading manual Speer Number 8, which would be early 1970's. I think I remember reading somewhere that Speer Number One was published in or around 1954. By 1996, I am thinking that Speer's most current manual would have been Number 12. Your Dad may have even had Speer Number 1 in the 1950's.

    My point is, in trying to frame what data was and wasn't yet available and when within what looks like a 42 year window between '54 and '96, it's hard to say just exactly what load data your Dad may have been using, and when he may have been using it. It would be an interesting study in and of itself, as well as being a currently recommended best practice, to have and to compare data sources. The differences are many, and the differences sometimes profound, in a hobby where consensus (or near consensus across sources) is your friend. Speer 7 and 8 in particular had a reputation for data that was in some cases significantly different than what you'll see elsewhere, and what you'll see today. Both the high and the low side variations appear.

    Anyway, with luck you find your Dad's manuals. A company called Ideal had early load data also, with data that preceded even the earliest Speer data. All of those old manuals are a historical gold mine of information.

    Good Luck!
     

    trickg

    Guns 'n Drums
    Jul 22, 2008
    12,353
    Glen Burnie
    Thanks for the kind words regarding this stuff. I really do treasure these - as much as anything else, it's kind of a way he continues to speak from beyond.

    I also agree with those who say to not take what's written there as any kind of a guide for my current reloading. I've looked at some of it and thought, "geez Dad - you were pushing the limits on that one!" I also have some of his reloads that I currently beyond manual spec - particularly for his 25-06 - and we're talking 2 full grains above what my current manuals show. I use them - I know he used them, and they don't show signs of over-pressure, although from his notes he seemed to be ok with a little primer flattening, but he stopped short of primer cratering.

    I'm going back to Nebraska in about 6 weeks, and part of that trip will be to go through those boxes in the garage to kind of categorize and sort through some stuff, and I expect the old reloading manuals to be in there somewhere. I really hope they are - I'd like to see what was listed in those old books - again, not as a guide, but out of curiosity to see how published reloading data has changed.
     

    erwos

    The Hebrew Hammer
    MDS Supporter
    Mar 25, 2009
    12,990
    Rockville, MD
    I keep records of what loads did and did not work for me, as well as what guns I've got in the collection. I'm hoping my son and daughter will be able to at least understand what they're looking at when I die and they've got to make sense of it all.
     

    Uncle Duke

    Active Member
    MDS Supporter
    Feb 2, 2013
    9,834
    Not Far Enough from the City
    I keep records of what loads did and did not work for me, as well as what guns I've got in the collection. I'm hoping my son and daughter will be able to at least understand what they're looking at when I die and they've got to make sense of it all.

    One thing I learned over time was to keep my notes better organized, and in one place.

    Remember that load that didn't work out too well 7 years ago?

    Well, it didn't get any better yesterday! Imagine that?

    NOW I remember! :)
     

    trickg

    Guns 'n Drums
    Jul 22, 2008
    12,353
    Glen Burnie
    One thing I learned over time was to keep my notes better organized, and in one place.

    Remember that load that didn't work out too well 7 years ago?

    Well, it didn't get any better yesterday! Imagine that?

    NOW I remember! :)
    It's interesting you should say that - there are several places where a load is referenced from an earlier point with a notation to check the load data for that cartridge on a specific date.
     

    erwos

    The Hebrew Hammer
    MDS Supporter
    Mar 25, 2009
    12,990
    Rockville, MD
    I keep all my notes on Google Drive, and it is set to give my wife access a year after I don't access it anymore. I assume that if I get hit by a truck or something, she can utilize that she's the follow-on person to get access sooner.
     

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