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Thread: First time home loading - Sako 85 20" Varmint - What kit and what loading components

  1. #1

    First time home loading - Sako 85 20" Varmint - What kit and what loading components

    I know this subject is no doubt asked by every new member to this forum at some point, but I'm looking for some starting advice from someone who may have a similar setup to me and in most of the existing threads I have found, the advice has been very much specific to that persons rifle / requirements.

    I'm looking to start home loading for the first time. I currently have a Sako 85 with a 20" Varmint barrel - 11" twist (ASE Ultra stainless mod) in .308 and I don't have any existing loading kit.

    I'm generally of the mindset that buying right the first time is better than buying cheap and buying twice, although I don't want to spend more than I really need to. I guess the reloading kit is fairly generic and not specific to my rifle, but any advice on what kit I should start off with would be greatly appreciated.

    Do I need a media tumbler or sonic cleaner, or both? Should I get a multi stage press, or is a standard press sufficient with the right additional tools? What additional tools should I get and any recommendations?

    I guess where it gets specific is what cartridge components should I start out with.
    What loading book?
    What bullet type / weight for range use?
    What bullet type / weight for stalking? (I currently have some factory Hornady 150gr SST, but not tried them out in the wild yet)
    What brass.. Sako, Hornady, Lapua, Fed?
    What powder?
    What primers?

    I intend to load for both stalking and range use and I appreciate that I'll require different bullets for each discipline. The rifle will get more use on the range than for stalking at the moment.

    I also intend to load for .223 in the near future and once I know what I'm doing, so kit that will be capable of swapping between the two sizes easily would be beneficial.

    Last edited by A J; 19-01-2012 at 16:47. Reason: Forgot to mention caliber!

  2. #2
    Read the second and third stickies at the top of this forum.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by jack View Post
    Read the second and third stickies at the top of this forum.
    I have, however neither of them make any mention of what seems to be a good starting benchmark for my rifle. I'm sure I'm not the only user on here reloading for a Sako 85 and I was hoping that someone with a little more wisdom on the subject may be able to share some of their experience.

    Considering there are many threads similar to this, but specific to other rifles, I didn't think I was remiss in asking.

  4. #4
    AJ I have the same rifle as you and there is no difference between it and any other .308. I have found the short barrel has quite a harsh bark but you mention using a moderator anyway so it shouldn't be a problem. There is currently another debate running about reloading for short barreled rifles with some very good advice contained in that thread. With regard to starting out reloading do a search of previous threads because this has been debated numerous times in the past once again with some very good advise given and some interesting opions expressed.

  5. #5
    AJ my advice for equipment is buy once, Dies = Redding or Forster, Brass = Lapua, Primers = CCI, Powder = Varget, Heads = Sierra, Hornady and Nosler all worked for me.

  6. #6
    AJ you could not go far wrong in buying the RCBS Rockchucker supreme reloading kit.

    It is not cheap but has everything you need, is of top quality and will last you a lifetime, just add dies and a shellholder together with a digital or vernier calipre to measure cartridge overal lengths and you will be ready to go.

    For components, bullet choice will be down to what you want to shoot and what you rifle likes, for brass Lapua and Norma are top quality butare an expensive luxury you dont rerally need unless you want get really anal about your reloads.
    Vit 140 and Hodgdon's Varget are very popular powders for the 308, as for primers most reloaders use either CCI or Federal in either standard or Match configuration.


  7. #7
    Many thanks guys. I guess there's no real way around the trial and error stages.

    I've settled on Lapua brass, it seems by all accounts to be worth the extra, but still not sure on bullet weight. I'm going to try some Hornady A-Max and Lapua Scenar, but still unsure if I should try 155gr or 168gr bullet heads.

    As for reloading hardware, I like the look of the RCBS Rockcucker kit, but also hear good things about the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP progressive which seems quite good a 459? I know I'd still have to add scales, brushes and lube pads etc, but are the progressive presses worth the extra, or are they really a bit overkill?
    Last edited by A J; 23-01-2012 at 12:11.

  8. #8
    Dont spend your money on a progressive, learn your art on a single stage press and when you are experienced you will realise why a single stage press is better for premium handlaods.


  9. #9
    I went down the expensive reloading route first time around Redding Comp dies etc etc- and using this is a great "premium brand" kit for the money -

    But now second time around I have gone for a Lee hand press, ram prime, beam scales etc etc and their delux dies...and can't see measure any difference! Saved a fortune and it takes up a lot less space too!!

    For lots of info on the cartridge go to -

    For the bullet weight/twist 150gn's are generally well accepted or check out -

    For a whole host of reloading data (although there is no guarantee it will be safe in your rifle) go to the powder manufacturers (Varget is a good choice for 308) website or see -

    I agree with the components - quality is worth it, and they are what I would buy if going new again. For game/target bullet heads though I would recommend Sierra Gamekings as those you have listed are not really hunting/expanding heads. Primers I would always use either CCI BR's or Fed GM210M's.

    Any good branded reloading manual should suffice, just work your loads up carefully looking for pressure signs on the brass. Probably best to get someone to show you first time. Measure, check, adjust and measure again!!

    My shopping list recently was:

    Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit
    Lee Deluxe 3-Die Set 308 Winchester
    Lee Balance Beam Scales
    Lee Case Trimmer Cutter and Lock Stud
    Lee Case Length Gage and Shellholder 308 Winchester
    Primer Pocket Cleaner
    Chamfer and Deburring Tool

    Should set you back a quarter of what you have previously been looking at, but if the money is burning a hole in your pocket go to Sinclair International's website and go for a Wilson or Forster arbor press and associated kit.
    Last edited by Oly; 23-01-2012 at 19:56.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Whitebeard View Post
    Dont spend your money on a progressive, learn your art on a single stage press and when you are experienced you will realise why a single stage press is better for premium handlaods.

    Thanks Ian. After watching a few walkthroughs on YouTube I came to a similar conclusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oly View Post
    Lots of good info.
    Thanks Oly, I'll take a look at the kit you mentioned. Those links look pretty useful too.

    I seem to be getting my head around things now.
    Last edited by A J; 23-01-2012 at 21:19.

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