Handloading the .30-06 Ackley Improved

By cleverly increasing the parent cartridge's powder capacity, the .30-06 Ackley Improved wildcat provides higher velocities.

Handloading the .30-06 Ackley Improved
Ackley wildcats, such as the .30-06 Ackley Improved, feature increased case capacity and provide superior ballistics. Plus, standard factory loads of the parent cartridge can be fired in an AI-chambered rifle.

The most prolific creator of wildcat cartridges was P.O. Ackley. During the 1940s and ’50s, he developed an extensive portfolio that became widely known as Ackley Improved (AI) wildcats. Ackley’s signature features included a less tapered case and an abrupt 40-degree shoulder angle, both to increase case capacity. He also developed several belted “short” magnums based on the .300 H&H case.

One key feature of the AI chamber is that it maintains the same headspace as the parent case. That means factory ammo can be safely and reliably fired in a rifle chambered for an AI cartridge.

During the nearly 50 years I’ve enjoyed handloading, I’ve experimented with several wildcats, including a few of Ackley’s, such as the .257 AI and the .280 AI. My latest foray into experimenting with a wildcat round came about accidentally. I had ordered a set of dies, some ammunition, and component bullets to prepare a report on handloading the .300 PRC cartridge for the 2020 edition of the Hodgdon Annual Manual. When I ordered the dies, someone who handled my order mistyped the part number, and I received a brand-new set of .30-06 Ackley Improved dies instead.

I decided to keep the dies and convert my .30-06 Savage Model 110 rifle to .30-06 AI. That way I could build some handloads and compare their performance to that of several .30-06 handloads I had developed and fired in that rifle for past columns.


Reloading-30-06-Ackley

With the reloading dies and the rechambered rifle in hand, I embarked on this project. It was straightforward, and it produced some interesting results.


The accompanying chart lists the results for the .30-06 hunting handload I developed previously with Sierra’s 180-grain Spitzer and 57.5 grains of Alliant’s Reloder 19 powder, plus the ballistic data I obtained with five .30-06 AI handloads. Fireforming was accomplished without mishap. I annealed the once-fired brass before fireforming and didn’t lose a single case.

Because of the greater capacity (approximately 3 grains, or 5 percent), I could safely start with the 57.5-grain powder charge and work up from there. I bumped the charge weights up in one- or half-grain steps and fired two, five-shot groups with each load. The 60.5-grain load gained 130 fps, and accuracy hovered around one MOA. The rifle’s pointblank range increased by approximately 25 yards.

I measured the velocity eight feet from the gun’s muzzle with an Oehler chronograph, and I used the usual pressure indicators of primer appearance and bolt lift to estimate how safe the “hotter” handload recipes were. They were safe in my gun. Coincidentally, the Speer Reloading Manual #4 (circa 1960) includes recipes for the .30-06 AI, and the maximum velocity listed exactly matches my results.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

The Future Of Special Operations Small Arms

We're taking a look at what the Army's Elite Units are using for service rifles and what the future of SOCOM sniping looks like.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market. Rifles

Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm. Optics

Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet. Ammo

Danger Tamed: Hornady DGX Bonded Hunting Ammo

Joseph von Benedikt - May 23, 2019

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet.

The new Bushnell FORGE riflescope is “the only choice for long-range hunting enthusiasts.” Optics

Review: Bushnell FORGE 4.5-27X 50mm

Sam Wolfenberger - May 01, 2019

The new Bushnell FORGE riflescope is “the only choice for long-range hunting enthusiasts.”

See More Trending Articles

More Reloading

Special attention is required when handloading the .44-40 Winchester, especially when the loads will be fired in a rifle. Reloading

Reloading the .44-40 for Rifles

Lane Pearce - October 25, 2019

Special attention is required when handloading the .44-40 Winchester, especially when the...

The joys of handloading are many, and one of them is sharing the experience with a novice. Reloading

Share the Handloading Experience

Lane Pearce - May 19, 2019

The joys of handloading are many, and one of them is sharing the experience with a novice.

If you like light recoil, deadly performance, and classic guns, Goex Olde Eynsford black powder is just the ticket for your shotshell loads. Reloading

Blackpowder Shotshell Loading

Ross Seyfried - July 01, 2019

If you like light recoil, deadly performance, and classic guns, Goex Olde Eynsford black...

Federal Premium is now offering new Fusion hunting bullets just for reloaders. Reloading

Reloading Federal Fusion Component Bullets

Lane Pearce - December 05, 2019

Federal Premium is now offering new Fusion hunting bullets just for reloaders.

See More Reloading

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.