October 4th, 2012

TECH TIP: Diameters Vary Among Bullets of Same Caliber

Choosing the right-diameter bullet can have a big effect on accuracy in match rifles. “Wait a minute”, you might say, “doesn’t one simply choose a 6mm bullet for a 6mm barrel and a 7mm bullet for a 7mm barrel, what’s the big deal?” Well… it’s not that simple. Not all bullets of the same nominal caliber actually have the same true diameter. We’ve seen different-brand 6mm bullets vary by as much as a full thousandth (.001″) in diameter. We have seen undeniable evidence that a poor “fit” of bullet diameter to bore dimensions can result in a poor-shooting gun, even one with a high-grade barrel.

Conversely, if you find the bullet diameter you barrel likes, that may instantly improve your accuracy. The accuracy gain may be more significant than making changes to the bullet seating depth or even powder charge. The importance of bullet diameter is compounded by the fact that 6mm match barrels are available with both .236″ and .237″ land diameters. Some barrels prefer “fat” bullets while other barrels prefer “skinny” bullets.

Last year, Jason Baney measured 12 different sets of 6mm Match Bullets, including a couple different lots of the same bullet design. Interestingly, Jason did measure the “old” Berger 105 VLD, the new-generation Berger 105 VLD (first lot from the new die), and the “new, improved” Berger 105 VLD from the new die, after it was polished. Ten (10) Bullets were measured per type. Each bullet was measured three times (3X) around the largest circumference, normally where a pressure ring would be located (some bullets have a pronounced pressure ring, others do not). NOTE: We provide the numbers from Jason’s tests, but remember that bullets from different production runs may have slightly different dimensions. You should augment our findings with your own measurements from later-produced bullets.

6mm bullet diameters

Download this CHART as an MS Word Document.

The first two columns of the chart show the smallest and largest bullet diameters measured for each 10-bullet sample. The third column shows the extreme spread over each 10-bullet set. Note, these numbers are NOT averages, but represent the “low” and “high” diameters for each set. (FYI: Jason noted that while the Lapua Scenars were very consistent, an earlier 2005 “JEVDAK” lot had smaller meplats than 2007 and 2008 lots.) A Mitutoyo Micrometer was used, zero-checked for each bullet.

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