December 16th, 2015

Insane Accuracy — How to Craft Record-Breaking Ammo

Rodney Wagner Insane Accuracy IBS Record 6mm Dasher

Rodney Wagner shot the smallest 5-shot, 600-yard group in the history of competitive rifle shooting. First measured at a mere 0.349″, then certified on the IBS Record books at 0.336″, Rodney’s group is mind-blowingly small — and it was centered for a 50 score. This amazing group shows what can be done with a great gun, a talented shooter, and superb hand-loaded ammunition. Today’s Tech Tip reveals some of Rodney’s reloading methods that helped him put five shots you could cover with a dime into a target 600 yards away.

Creating Ultra-Accurate Benchrest Ammunition

Rodney takes great care in loading his brass, and he employs a few tricks to get superior consistency.

Fire-Forming — To prepare his cases for fire-forming, Rodney starts by turning his Lapua brass to just past where the new neck-shoulder junction will be: “I just cut enough for the 6mm Dasher neck. A little bit of the cut shows on the shoulder after forming.” Then Rodney runs a .25-caliber K&M mandrel through the whole neck, expanding the neck diameter. After the entire neck is expanded, Rodney re-sizes the top section with a Wilson bushing, creating a false shoulder. Then, as further insurance that the case will be held firmly in place during fire-forming, Rodney seats his bullets long — hard into the lands. When fire-forming, Rodney uses a normal 6mmBR load of 29.8 grains of Varget: “I don’t like to stress my brass before it has been hardened. I load enough powder to form the shoulder 95%. Any more than that is just wasted.” Rodney adds: “When fire-forming, I don’t want to use a super-hard primer. I prefer to use a Federal 205, CCI 200, or Winchester — something soft.” Using a softer primer lessens the likelihood that the case will drive forward when hit by the firing pin, so this helps achieve more consistent “blow lengths”.

Rodney Wagner IBS 600-yard Record

Ammo Loading — Rodney is fastidious with his brass and weighs his charges very precisely. Charges are first dispensed with an RFD manual powder measure, then Rodney trickles kernel by kernel using a highly-precise Sartorius GD-503 laboratory scale. He tries to maintain charge-weight consistency within half a tenth of a grain — about two kernels of Varget powder.

K&M arbor press bullet seating force accurateshooter.comOne important technique Rodney employs is sorting by bullet-seating force. Rodney batch-sorts his loaded rounds based on seating force indicated by the dial gauge on his K&M arbor press: “I use a K&M arbor press with dial indicator strain gauge. When I’m loading I pay lots of attention to seating effort and I try to batch five rounds that feel the same. For record rounds I try to make sure I get five of the same number (on the dial). When sorting based on the force-gauge readout, you need to go slow. If you go too fast the needle will spike up and down before you can see it.”

In practice, Rodney might select five rounds with a gauge value of 25, then another five with a gauge read-out of 30 and so on. He places the first five like-value rounds in one row of his ammo caddy. The next like-value set of five will go in the next row down. By this method, he ensures that all five cartridges in a five-round set for a record target will have bullets seated with very consistent seating force.

Unlike some top shooters, Rodney does not regularly anneal his cases. However, after every firing, he does tumble his Dasher brass in treated corncob media. After sizing his brass, before seating the bullets, he runs a nylon brush in the necks: “The last thing I do before firing is run a well-worn 30 caliber nylon brush in the necks, using a small 6-volt drill for power. This is a quick operation — just in and out the neck”. Sometimes, at the end of the season, he will anneal, but Rodney adds: “If I can get 10 firings out of the case I’ve done good.” He usually makes up new brass when he fits a new barrel: “If it is a good barrel (that I may shoot at the Nationals), I’ll usually go ahead and prepare 200 pieces of good brass.”

Tips for 600-Yard Shooters New to the Game
In the course of our interview with Rodney, we asked if he had any tips for shooters who are getting started in the 600-yard Benchrest Game. Rodney offered some sensible advice:

1. Don’t try to go it alone. Find an old-timer to mentor you. As a novice, go to matches, watch and ask questions.

2. Go with a proven cartridge. If you are shooting 600 yards stick with a 6mmBR or one of the 6BR improveds (BRX or Dasher). Keep it simple. I tried some of the larger cartridges, the 6XC and 6-6.5×47 Lapua. I was trying to be different, but I was not successful. It wasn’t a disaster — I learned something. But I found the larger cases were not as accurate as a 6BR or Dasher. Those bigger cartridges are competitive for score but not for group.

3. You don’t have to spend a fortune to be competitive. Buy a used rifle from somebody and find out if you like the sport. You can save a lot with a used rifle, but do plan on buying a new barrel immediately.

4. Don’t waste weeks or months struggling with a barrel that isn’t shooting. My best barrels, including this record-setting Brux, started shooting exceptionally well right from the start.

Rodney Wagner 600 yard record

Rodney’s record group was measured at 0.349″ at the match, then IBS record-certified at 0.336″.
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December 16th, 2015

Star Wars Movie Guns Interactive Quiz

Star Wars Force Awakens Gun Quiz NRA

The new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, opens this Friday in theaters nationwide. The latest film in the Star Wars saga (and the first in a decade), The Force Awakens will surely entertain Sci-Fi fans. But gun enthusiasts will also find items of interest in this film. It may surprise you, but many of the notable prop guns in Star Wars movies were created from actual firearms — from competition air pistols to military carbines. Take a look at that poster above. Check out the “blaster” in Harrison Ford’s hand — that’s based on a real firearm. To test your knowledge of Stars Wars firearms, take the quiz below, created by the NRA Blog. Enjoy the quiz and “may the Force be with you….”

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December 16th, 2015

How Changing Primers Can Affect Velocity in the .308 Win

primer CCI Wolf .308 Win Reloading

It may seem obvious, but you need to be careful when changing primer types for a pet load. Testing with a .308 Win rifle and Varget powder has confirmed that a primer change alone can result in noteworthy changes in muzzle velocity. To get more MV, you’ll need a more energy at some point in the process — and that potentially means more pressure. So exercise caution when changing primer types

We are often asked “Can I get more velocity by switching primer types?” The answer is “maybe”. The important thing to know is that changing primer types can alter your load’s performance in many ways — velocity average, velocity variance (ES/SD), accuracy, and pressure. Because there are so many variables involved you can’t really predict whether one primer type is going to be better or worse than another. This will depend on your cartridge, your powder, your barrel, and even the mechanics of your firing pin system.

Interestingly, however, a shooter on another forum did a test with his .308 Win semi-auto. Using Hodgdon Varget powder and Sierra 155gr Palma MatchKing (item 2156) bullets, he found that Wolf Large Rifle primers gave slightly higher velocities than did CCI-BR2s. Interestingly, the amount of extra speed (provided by the Wolfs) increased as charge weight went up, though the middle value had the largest speed variance. The shooter observed: “The Wolf primers seemed to be obviously hotter and they had about the same or possibly better ES average.” See table:

Varget .308 load 45.5 grains 46.0 grains 46.5 grains
CCI BR2 Primers 2751 fps 2761 fps 2783 fps
Wolf LR Primers 2757 fps 2780 fps 2798 fps
Speed Delta 6 fps 19 fps 15 fps

You can’t extrapolate too much from the table above. This describes just one gun, one powder, and one bullet. Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) as they say. However, this illustration does show that by substituting one component you may see significant changes. Provided it can be repeated in multiple chrono runs, an increase of 19 fps (with the 46.0 grain powder load) is meaningful. An extra 20 fps or so may yield a more optimal accuracy node or “sweet spot” that produces better groups. (Though faster is certainly NOT always better for accuracy — you have to test to find out.)

WARNING: When switching primers, you should exercise caution. More speed may be attractive, but you have to consider that the “speedier” primer choice may also produce more pressure. Therefore, you must carefully monitor pressure signs whenever changing ANY component in a load.

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