September 9th, 2014

Core Concepts — Bullet Making Tips from Randy Robinett

Randy Robinett, founder of BIB Bullets, is a highly respected custom bullet-maker. In recent years, Randy’s 30-caliber projectiles have won countless benchrest-for-score matches, and captured many National titles. If you want to “run with the big dogs” in score competition, campaigning a 30BR with BIB bullets is a very smart way to go. In this article, Randy talks about the process of creating highly uniform cores for benchrest bullets.

This article originally started as an exchange of posts in Stan Ware’s Bench-Talk Forum. Stan, a gifted gunsmith, converted the Forum posts into an article, which first appeared on Stan’s Bench-Talk.com Website.

How to Make Benchrest-Quality Bullet Cores
by Randy Robinett, BIB Bullets

OK, Stan “made me do it”! A while back, Stan Ware asked if I’d submit a ditty on bullet-making. Here is the “picture is worth a few words” version. Below is a photo of a spool of lead wire. This is the first step in making benchrest-quality bullets. This spool of .250″ diameter lead wire will be cut into approximately 130 pieces, each about thirty inches long.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

The Core Cutter
Here’s a really neat machine built by my Uncle and BIG MIKE. This is the core cutter. We made it using scrap steel and borrowed the crank shaft out of a 1966 Yamaha motorcycle to get the desired reciprocating-motion slide. When properly “juiced”, this machine can cut more than 3000 cores per hour.

As you doubtless deduced, the “sticks” are inserted, then fed via gravity — straightness is a virtue here! The crank, for now, is powered by the human hand. The bucket contents are the result of loading the cutter and turning the crank wheel. This photo shows cores for 112 grain, .30-caliber bullets. There are about 2500 cores to the bucket.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

Here’s a close-up of the business end of the core cutter. Using recorded micrometer settings, this clever design allows us to get very repeatable length when changing through the length/weight cycle.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

The photo below provides a closer look at the just-cut cores. Note the relatively clean shanks and square, unflared ends. This bucket contains roughly 2500 cores. By contrast, a tour of the Hornady plant will reveal cores being cut and squirted via a single operation, and deposited into 50-100 gallon livestock watering tanks!

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

Upon my first tour of a commercial plant, I lost all feelings of guilt about the cost of custom, hand-made bullets. When one totals the amount of labor, “feel” and “culling” that goes into them, custom hand-made bullets represent one of the best bargains on the planet!

At Hornady, each press produces 50-55,000 finished bullets per 10-hour shift. By contrast, a maker of hand-crafted bullets, at best, may make 3% of that number during a 10-hour span! Yep, hand-made benchrest-quality bullets are a labor of love and should be purchased with these criteria in mind: 1) QUALITY; 2) availability; 3) price. There is no reason for a maker of hand-made benchrest-quality bullets to negotiate on price. His time is worth what one receives from the bargain!

Core-Making Q & A
Randy’s original Bench-Talk Forum posts inspired some questions by Forum members. Here are Randy’s answers to spedific questions about core-making.

Question by Stan Ware: Randy, a post or two back you said the cores were cut into 30″ lengths first and straightened. Why do you cut to 30″ lengths? What is the reason for this?

Answer by Randy: Stan, the wire is cut into 30″ lengths (sticks) and then straightened, following which it is fed into the core cutter and cut into the individual individual “cores”. If you look at the core cutter photo above, you’ll see a stick of lead wire sticking up -it’s toward the right hand end of the contraption. The cut cores are also “ejected” by gravity — the white “tickler” brushes the cores as the slide moves forward and dislodges the core from the cutter bushing.

Q by GregP: Randy, How do you straighten the 30″ sticks? Roll them between metal plates?

Answer by Randy: Greg, BIG MIKE may kill me for letting out the secret. WE “roll” the wire between an aluminum plate, which is equipped with handles, and the “plate” which you can see in the pic of cutting the wire. The straightening is really a drag. Eventually, we will have the new cutter hooked up to a “feeder/straightener” and the wire will be cut into core slugs right off the roll! Well, that’s the Dream….

Question by Jim Saubier: How much of a nub do you use at the end of the 30″ section? I imagine that every section you will lose a little from the feed end. Your cutter looks real slick, we are using the manual deal and it isn’t quick by any means.

Answer by Randy: Jim, Since I cut all of the sticks using diagonal-cutting pliers, the ends are, indeed, waste. However, only about 1/8th inch on the beginning end — the final core may be too short. I have attached a pic of my old reliable CH cutter. I still use this cutter for .22-cal and 6mm cores and, occasionally, an odd lot of thirties. The CH cuts very square ends which are free of bulges and/or flaring.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber


Stan Ware Retires
Stan Ware has announced that he is retiring effective September 1, 2014. We are sad to see Stan hang up his tools. He was superbly capable smith who also always delivered the highest level of personal service to his customers. We worked with Stan on a couple projects and we have the highest regard for his skills, professionalism, and his dedication to doing the job right… the first time. We’re sorry to see Stan close shop at SGR Custom Rifles, but we wish him well in retirement and we hope he will enjoy his years of freedom with his friends and family members. Stan wants to thank all his customers: “The one thing I have found out in thirty-one years working for gun enthusiasts is that the are the finest people in the world to work for, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo No Comments »
September 9th, 2014

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle Now Available In .223 Rem / 5.56 NATO

One of our favorite Ruger bolt-action rifles is now available in a caliber better suited for varmint hunting. The versatile Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, previously offered in .308 Winchester only, is now chambered in .223 Rem / 5.56 NATO. This newest version of the Gunsite Scout Rifle features a hybrid chamber that shoots both 5.56x45mm NATO and .223 Remington. This rifle is light and compact. With a 16.1″ barrel, it weighs just 7.1 pounds without optics.

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle 5.56 .223 Rem Remington Varmint picatinny rail

The .223 Scout Rifle is offered in both right- and left-hand versions, both with a 10-round detachable box magazine. You can choose either an all-stainless version ($1099.00 MSRP), with SS receiver and SS barrel, or a dark version ($1039.00 MSRP) with matte black alloy steel action and barrel. The bolt offers Mauser-style controlled round feed, with a lever-style safety on the rear of the bolt shroud. The rifle features a 16.1″, 1:8″-twist rate, barrel fitted with flash hider which can be removed to attach other 1/2-28 threaded barrel accessories. Interestingly, the magazine for .223/5.56 Scout Rifle is dimensionally the same as the mag for the .308 Scout Rifle. The .223/5.56 mag employs a plastic insert to feed the smaller cartridge properly.

American Rifleman Field Test of .223 Rem Scout Rifle

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle 5.56 .223 Rem Remington Varmint picatinny rail

Adjustable Length of Pull Through Buttpad Spacers
The black laminate stock is fitted with sling swivel studs and features checkered grip and forearm. A soft rubber recoil pad with three 1/2″ spacers allows the length of pull (LOP) to be adjusted.

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle 5.56 .223 Rem Remington Varmint picatinny rail

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle .223 5.56

Ruger Scout Rifles feature a Mini-14-style protected, non-glare, post front sight and receiver-mounted, adjustable, ghost ring rear sight. The forward-mounted Picatinny rail lets you use a variety of optics including LER scout scopes that allow “both eyes open” target acquisition. Ruger provides scope rings for mounting conventional scopes on the integral M77-style mounts built into the Scout Rifle receivers.

Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle 5.56 .223 Rem Remington Varmint picatinny rail

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, New Product 7 Comments »
September 9th, 2014

PT&G Replacement Bolt Heads for Savage Bolts

If you own a Savage rifle, here’s a product you should consider. Pacific Tool & Gauge now offers precision-machined replacement bolt heads for Savages. This product, available in a variety of bolt face sizes for $49.50 per unit, can benefit nearly everyone who shoots Savage bolt guns.

Pacific Tool PTG Savage Bolt Head

CLICK HERE for Full Product Review of PT&G Savage Bolt Head

German Salazar’s excellent Rifleman’s Journal website features an in-depth review of the PT&G Replacement Bolt Head for Savage Bolts. Written by Norm Darnell, this detailed review explains the benefits of the PT&G replacements, compared to the standard Savage bolt heads. After polishing, the factory bolt head can become slightly dished. According to Darnell: “The area around the firing pin hole sometimes has an indentation deep enough to allow the primer to flow into this void. This makes an unsightly blemish on a fired primer and can lead to hard extraction or worse. One [Savage] rifle I inspected had a continuing problem with pierced primers despite reasonably mild loads[.]” Even after machining the factory bolt face to make it flat, Darnell encountered problems: “The firing pin hole seemed to wear excessively which was of some concern. Material strength of the … bolt head* appears to be the source of these recurring problems.”

Pacific Tool PTG Savage Bolt Head

After testing out PT&G replacement bolt heads, Darnell found that his problems were solved. With the PT&G replacement bolt head, “the cartridge case heads and primers indicated no case-head rounding or primer damage”. Darnell was convinced, so he proceeded to fit PT&B bolt heads “on all three of my 308 bolts and one 223 with one spare bolt of each.” It appears that PT&G has a winner here — a smart, very affordable product that remedies a commonly-observed problem with factory Savage bolt heads.

* In the article, author Darnell writes that Savage factory bolt heads are investment cast. Fred Moreo of Sharp Shooter Supply says this is not correct: “Savage bolt heads were NEVER investment cast. From the get-go they were machined from solid stock. In 1988 they went to special profiled 41L40 bar stock to save machining operations and heat treated to 35-42 RC.”

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing 4 Comments »