January 8th, 2013

Centerfire Benchrest Shooters Explore Benefits of Tuners

Barrel tuners have been used successfully in rimfire benchrest for many years (see photo below). While there are competing theories as to how and why barrel tuners work on rimfire rifles, there is no question that the accuracy of some rimfire barrels can be improved with the addition of a tuner. By changing the position of weights at the end of the barrel, we’ve seen shooters shrink their average group size as well as adjust the “sweet spot” for different lots of rimfire ammo. On the other hand, tuners can be the source of great frustration; some installations may yield little or no benefit. A shooter may have to experiment with a variety of different tuner designs (and weights) to find the optimal configuration.

Anschutz Tuner

Gene Bukys Barrel Tuner 333smittyCenterfire Tuners–Still a Work in Progress
In centerfire benchrest competition, the vast majority of competitors do not use tuners, though a few short-range shooters such as Gene Bukys and Jackie Schmidt have enjoyed considerable success. Gene has won major championships with tuned rifles. In 2011 Gene won both the Super Shoot and World Benchrest Championship (WBC), and Gene recently set a new NBRSA Sporter Class Grand Agg Record.

Centerfire benchrest guns typically employ shorter barrels with a much fatter contour (larger diameter) than rimfire rifles. Because centerfire rounds produce much higher pressures and velocities that a 22LR, a centerfire barrel also exhibits much different vibration characteristics than a typical rimfire barrel. Nonetheless, there are pioneers working with centerfire tuners who believe that tuning may be the “next leap forward” in centerfire accuracy.

Shown below is a switch-barrel benchrest rifle built by Forum member Eddie W. of Texas. It features a dual-port Hall “M” action with a ShadeTree Engineering Tuner crafted by Butch Lambert. The gun is designed to take both a 6PPC barrel for group shooting and a 30BR barrel for score shooting. The gun was barreled by Wayne Shaw, and Eddie did the stock work himself. Eddie reports: “It is a very accurate rifle.”

Lambert Tuner

Will we see more tuners on centerfire rifles? Only time will tell. Some folks believe that, since one can easily adjust the loads shot by centerfire guns (by tinkering with the powder charge and seating depth), tuners have limited utility. On the other hand, tuner advocates such as Gene Beggs believe tuners can help keep your group sizes small even as conditions (temperature, humidity) change. Gene believes that, with an appropriate tuner, you can spend less time fiddling with the load specs (changing your powder charge) and instead “dial in” your sweet spot using the tuner.

Lambert Tuner

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January 8th, 2013

Outstanding Primer Seating Tool from 21st Century Shooting

The tool-makers at 21st Century Shooting have come up with a very slick new Precision Hand-Priming Tool. This extremely well-made, benchrest-grade unit raises the bar among single-primer seating tools. Feel is great, changing shell-holders is simple, and nothing else on the market offers better control over primer seating depth. The tool’s precision-adjusting head provides clicks in .0025″ increments for precise seating depth. The tool’s body, internals, and shell-holders are stainless, while the handle is anodized aluminum. Price is $118.00 for the tool itself. Shell-holders (sizes from 17 Remington up to .338 Lapua Magnum) cost $7.99 each.

21st Century Priming Tool Review
By Boyd Allen
I have been priming cases, with various hand-priming tools, for about three decades, and in the process have pretty much tried them all, from least to most expensive. When I found out that this new 21st Century tool was adjustable for seating depth, I wondered about that. After all, what do I, who believes in seating by feel, need with adjustable seating depth? Well…..I was wrong. Let me explain.

Why Adjustment for Primer Seating Depth Is Important
Most hand-seating tools do not have an adjustment for how far up the priming punch comes up into the shell holder. As a result, when priming a case with a deep pocket, especially if there has been some wear of the tool’s linkage, the finger/thumb lever may contact the tool’s body before the primer is fully seated. Having a primer seated too high can cause a myriad of problems. Prior to this, the only seater that I had used that had an adjustable linkage was the Sinclair tool, and adjusting its linkage requires disassembly — regular disassembly if you want to keep it perfect. That’s not convenient. The Sinclair is good tool, but a pain in the neck to adjust.

Precision Control Over Seating Depth — With Click Adjustment
The 21st Century Priming Tool offers quick and easy depth adjustment (unlike its rival from Sinclair). The 21st Century unit can be adjusted in precise increments (.0025”) more quickly than you can read this sentence. The knurled head of the tool is threaded onto the body, which has a very sturdy ball and spring detent indexing system that is easy to adjust and precise. Clicks are secure and positive. With this feature, you can set the tool so that the handle is in any position (distance from the tool body) that you find convenient, when the primer is fully seated. Additionally, since leverage increases as the handle approaches the tool body, different stopping points afford differing mechanical advantages (more or less effort required) and sensitivity. By doing a little experimenting, I have found a point of adjustment that give me better feel for when the primer hits the bottom of the pocket, without overshooting the mark, while keeping the force requirement within a range that is comfortable when priming a large number of cases.

Quick and Easy Shell-Holder Changing
Changing shell holders is easily accomplished. No extra hex-wrenches or tools are needed, and there are no tiny set screws to roll of the desk, to be lost forever in the carpet, never to be heard from again until you hear them rattling up the vacuum cleaner hose. To swap shell-holders, simply screw the head off of the body, lift off the one that you one that you are replacing, set the one that you intend to use in place (assuming that it used the same size primer) and screw the head back down to the setting that you want. Changing primer sizes is equally easy. NOTE: The tool requires 21st Century-made shell holders. These may be turned (relative to the handle) so that the loading slot opening faces whatever direction you prefer.

Fit, Finish, and Feel
The body and head of the tool, as well as the internal linkages, are all made from stainless steel. These closely-fitted parts are precisely machined, with an smooth, attractive finish. The handle is black anodized aluminum. Overall, the tool is well-shaped, and built like a stainless/aluminum brick.

Bottom Line: Great Tool That Works Exceptionally Well
I can’t imagine anyone, who uses a single-primer tool of this type, not liking this tool. When it comes to hand reloading tools, I can afford to have pretty much whatever I want (within reason). After testing and using this tool, I pulled my Sinclair tool from its case, and replaced it with this one. That should say it all. After using this tool, I will have to give serious consideration to other 21st Century reloading products the next time I need a new tool. One thing is for sure — we have an important new player in the design and manufacture of top end of reloading equipment. 21st Century’s Precision Priming Tool “raises the bar” among single-primer seating tools.

Tool Size Considerations
I wrote the review and then took the pictures, which, upon reflection, make the tool look smaller than it is, because of the size of my hands. I thought about putting a ruler in the pictures, but rejected that as visual clutter, so I will simply tell you that from tip of thumb to that of my little finger, my right hand measures a little over 10 inches, and the palm is 4 inches wide. The size of the tool is just right.

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