January 20th, 2016

SHOT Show Day One: Old Friends, New Products

krieger barrels john shot show

SHOT Show offers a unique opportunity to see a host of new products AND reconnect with old friends in the shooting world. We met with our friends John Krieger (Krieger Barrels), Ian Kelbly (Kelblys.com), Dave Kiff (PT&G), and Eric Stecker (Berger Bullets). On SHOT Show Day One we saw many interesting items, including a new $1500.00, 15-60x52mm comp scope from Vortex and the amazing Bix’n Andy Elypse action. That 15-60X Vortex should prove a great choice for F-Class competition and the Elypse “raises the bar” for lightweight benchrest actions.

Vortex Optics — “Golden Eagle” 15-60x52mm Competition Scope

New Vortex golden eagle 15-60 scope

Everyone involved in long-range target shooting should check out this New Vortex “Golden Eagle” 15-60x52mm scope. It offers a 4X zoom ratio with 60X max magnification, with an affordable street price of around $1500.00. That undercuts the competition from other major brands by hundreds of dollars. Two reticle options will be offered, a fine cross-hair and one with MOA-based hold-over lines. We’ll provide a more complete report soon….

Howa — Mini-Action Bolt Gun

Howa Mini Varmint Action

We finally got our hands on the Mini-action Howa, a very nice little rifle. I immediately noticed that the bolt is extremely smooth — really nice. The HACT 2-stage trigger is excellent — just about perfect for a varmint rifle. The action is nearly an inch shorter than a conventional “short action” so bolt movement is shorter. The rifle is currently offered in .204 Ruger and .223 Remington, and Howa may release a .222 Remington, 6.5 Grendel and 7.62×39 version in the future. Street price on this rifle is around $600.00. I give this rifle two thumbs up, way up. I want one.

Kelbly’s — New Composite GRS Stocks

Kelbly's GRS Norway Composite Tactical Stock

Kelbly’s is the North American distributor for GRS stocks from Norway. For 2016 GRS has introduced advanced composite stocks. These share the ergonomic design of GRS wood stocks, but offer greater strength, rigidity, and durability. If you are looking for an advanced composite-matrix stock for hunting and tactical applications, you should check out this new GRS. We were very impressed.

Bix’n Andy — Titanium Elypse Action

Bullets.com Bix'n Andy Elypse Ti Titanium Action

This may be the most sophisticated benchrest action ever created. The new Bix’n Andy Elypse action will be offered in both stainless and Titanium (shown above). The action features an elliptical profile and a drop port. The trigger, sold separately, is superb, absolutely superb. There are many unique features, such as the flared loading port ramp and easy-change bolt handle. This is truly the Rolls-Royce of precision actions.

Shilen — AR and Savage Drop-in Barrels

Shilen Drop-IN barrels AR Savage

We visited the Shilen booth and chatted with Wade Hull, Shilen’s President. Wade explained that Shilen now offers a variety of Drop-in Barrels for Savages as well as “large-format” ARs (AR10 type rifles in 308-family chamberings). Wade also noted that Shilen has streamlined its production process, so wait-time on chambering work has been reduced significantly.

Stocky’s Stocks — New 3D-Printed Prototype Stock

stockys stocks 3d printing prototype tactical

3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping has come to the gunstock world. Stockys Stocks showed off a high-tech 3D-printed prototype of its new tactical stock with removable cheekpiece. We also checked out Stocky’s impressive Long Range composite stocks. Very strong, and very rigid, these stocks feature a CNC-milled aluminum bedding block. These are a stunning value for just $199.99.

RAS Tuners — Combo Tuner + Muzzle Brake

RAS Brake Tuner Muzzle NECO

Tuners work — though it may take a bit of time and effort to dial in your tune. The RAS Tuner system combines a sensitive tuner with a removable muzzle brake. There are systems for ARs as well as bolt guns. The inventor of the RAS says he has seen significant reductions in group size.

Tactical Solutions — High-Bling Rimfire Rifles and Pistols

Tactical Solutions .22 LR pistol suppressor

If bling is your thing, then Idaho-based Tactical Solutions has you covered. This company offers a wide variety of firearms including .22 LR rimfire target pistols and rifles. The rifle in this photo is configured with a permanent barrel extension that makes it ATF-compliant. But the actual barrel is threaded below the barrel extension so you can add a suppressor and still have a short overall-length “fun gun”.

Hygenall — LeadOff Products

lead remove safety hand wash

Anyone who does a lot of shooting may be exposed to lead residues. Lead is a tough substance to remove from human skin. We chatted with the scientists who created these LeadOff products and were quite impressed. The product uses sophisticated chemistry to “grab and remove” the lead molecules on your skin. This product has earned health agency certifications.

Champion — Plinking Targets for Fun Shooting

Champion Plinking Targets

Among all the “Operator-ready” Black Rifles and Tactical gear, it was nice to see a display dedicated to the simple fun of shooting. As kids, we all started our shooting careers plinking with a BB Gun or a simple rimfire rifle. Champion makes a variety of reactive targets that are great for plinking.

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January 20th, 2016

Primer Seating Depth Uniformity and Accuracy

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Yesterday’s post covered primer seating depth. This article offers many useful tips — including a clever way to measure primer seating depth with ordinary jaw-type calipers. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.

USAMU reloading tip

Primer Seating Depth — Why Uniformity is Important
The first concern is for safety: for that reason, primers should be seated below flush with the case head. One primary cause of “slam fires” (which includes catastrophic failures from firing out of battery) is “high,” or protruding primers. These stand above the case head, are readily felt with simple finger-tip inspection, and may fire when slammed by the bolt face and/or a floating firing pin in feeding.

Here at the USAMU, we ensure our rifle primers generally run -0.003″ to -0.005″ below the case head. Maximum primer depth is -0.006″ and minimum is -0.002″. Upon inspection, any cases with high primers will be corrected before loading. Aside from improving ballistic uniformity, ensuring the primers have proper compression upon seating also helps reduce possible misfires. These can be caused by the firing pin’s expending part of its energy either seating the primer or having to deform the primer cup enough to reach the anvil.

SMART TIP: How to Measure Primer Seating Depth with a Set of Calipers
A zeroed, precision set of standard calipers will also measure primer seating depth. (You don’t really need a custom tool.) Merely close the jaws and place the calipers’ narrow end squarely across the center of the case head/primer pocket. Keeping the narrow end in full contact with the case head, gently open the jaws, and the center bar will extend until it reaches the primer face. Voilà! Primer depth is read on the dial. Taking a few measurements to ensure accuracy and repeatability is recommended until one is familiar with this technique.

Brass and Primer Defects Can Cause Seating-Depth Variances
Factors affecting variance of primer seating depth include brass maker and lot number — all primer pockets are not created equal! Another factor is the primer manufacturer and individual primer lot. We’ve encountered occasional primer lots by top-quality makers that included some primers with slight defects affecting seating. While finely accurate, these primers were out-of-round or had small slivers of cup material protruding which affected primer feeding or seating depth.

Has one’s brass been fired previously? If so, how many times and the pressures involved also affect future primer seating. Obviously, this is another factor in favor of segregating one’s high-accuracy brass by maker, lot number, and number of times fired, if possible.

Measuring Primer Seating Depth with Purpose-Built Gauge
The next question, “How do we measure primer depth?” happily can be answered using tools already owned by most handloaders. [See tip above on how to measure depth with calipers.] At the USAMU, we have the luxury of purpose-built gauges made by the talented machinists of the Custom Firearms Shop. One places the primed case into the gauge, and the dial indicator reads the depth quickly and easily. The indicator is calibrated using a squarely-machined plug that simulates a case head with a perfectly flush-seated primer, easily giving meaningful “minus” or “plus” readings. The gauge is usable with a variety of case head sizes.

Primer Seating with Progressive Presses
Methods of primer seating include hand-seating using either hand held or bench-mounted tools, vs. progressive-press seating. Progressive presses may either seat by “feel,” subjective to each operator, or by using a mechanical “stop” that positively locates primers nearly identically every time. Testing here has shown that we get more uniform seating with the latter type progressive press, than we do with a high-quality bench-mounted tool lacking a positive stop.

Primer stop depth adjustments on our main progressive presses involve turning a punch screw in and out. While the screw is not calibrated, fine “tick” marks added to the top of the press help users gauge/repeat settings by “eye” efficiently with practice. Then, once a sample of primed cases is run to confirm the range and accuracy of depths, the identifying lot number and maker is noted on the press for reference. When it’s necessary to switch brass/primer lots, changes are easy to make and settings are easily repeated when it’s time to switch back.

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
January 20th, 2016

Is “Stainless Steel” Really Rust-Proof?

Some folks feel that they don’t have to worry about rust and corrosion on stainless steel barrels, actions, and other components. That’s not really true. “Stainless” is a bit of a misnomer. First, there are different types of stainless steel alloys, with different degrees of rust resistance. 300 series stainless is more corrosion resistant than the 416 stainless commonly used in barrels. The composition (by percentage weight) of 416 stainless is 0.15% carbon, 12-14% chromium and the rest iron. 416 stainless steel lacks the roughly 10% nickel content that makes the 300 series more corrosion resistant in atmospheric conditions. But because 416 handles pressure better and is easier to machine (than 300 series steel), 416 stainless remains the better choice for barrels.

stainless steel barrel Techshooter

Though some grades of stainless are more corrosion-resistent, ALL varieties of stainless steel can rust if they are not handled and stored properly. Forum reader Kells81 observed: “Wanna see some rusted stainless? Go to the big “C” brand store in Ft. Worth. Every stainless gun they have on the used gun rack is rusted.” Tom Easly of TRE Custom explains: “Sweat is very corrosive. Sweat and blood will rust many stainless steels. I hate to handle my guns or drip on them when I sweat. It really helps to just wipe them good with a wet rag, dry and wipe on a light coating of gun oil. I think most stainless barrels are made from type 416 stainless, and it is generally pretty corrosion resistant, but not when exposed to sweat, blood, or chlorates (corrosive priming), and some other electrolytes.”

Forum member Jacob, who is studying materials science at LSU, provides this technical information: “The basic resistance of stainless steel occurs because of its ability to form a protective coating on the metal surface. This coating is a ‘passive’ film which resists further ‘oxidation’ or rusting. The formation of this film is instantaneous in an oxidizing atmosphere such as air, water, or other fluids that contain oxygen. Once the layer has formed, we say that the metal has become ‘passivated’ and the oxidation or ‘rusting’ rate will slow down to less than 0.002″ per year (0.05 mm per year).

Unlike aluminum or silver, this passive film is invisible in stainless steel. It’s created when oxygen combines with the chrome in the stainless to form chrome oxide which is more commonly called ‘ceramic’. This protective oxide or ceramic coating is common to most corrosion resistant materials.

Halogen salts, especially chlorides, easily penetrate this passive film and will allow corrosive attack to occur. The halogens are easy to recognize because they end in the letters ‘ine’. Listed in order of their activity they are: fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, astatine.

These are the same chemicals that will penetrate Teflon and cause trouble with Teflon coated or encapsulated o-rings and/ or similar coated materials. Chlorides are one of the most common elements in nature and if that isn’t bad enough, they’re also soluble, active ions. These provide the basis for electrolytes. The presence of electrolytic solutions can accelerate corrosion or chemical attack.”

CONCLUSION: Stainless steel barrels and components won’t rust nearly as fast as blued steel, but you still have to take precautions — particularly removing sweat and corrosive salts from the barrel. Also, don’t let moisture build up inside or outside of the barrel. We recommend wiping your barrels and actions with Eezox, or Corrosion-X after each use. These are both extremely effective rust-fighters that go on thin, without leaving a greasy residue. (Eezox leaves a clear finish, while Corrosion-X has a slightly waxy finish.) Also store your guns in Bore-Store bags when the guns go in the safe. Bore-Stores wick away moisture, and the synthetic fleece inner surface is treated with rust-fighting chemicals. Bore-Stores also protect your guns against dings and scratches.

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