January 30th, 2020

Good News for Gunsmiths — Changes to ITAR Regulations

Federal Trump ITAT EAR commerce Dept. State gun firearms export regulation change

On January 23, 2020, the Trump administration published new rules that will significantly help the U.S. firearms industry and American gunsmiths. The new regulations officially take effect on March 9, 2020.

The rule changes modify export control of American firearms, as well as related parts, components, and accessories. Under the new Federal rules, export of common firearms and parts will now be controlled by the Department of Commerce, NOT by the Department of State under its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Those draconian ITAR provisions had adversely affected small parts manufacturers and gunsmiths through hefty fees and burdensome paperwork even if they did not actually ship guns overseas.

Gun author Ryan Cleckner explains: “Up until this change, the Department of State regulated exports of most firearms and their related parts, ammo, and information through [ITAR] which contain a list of covered firearm types called the United States Munitions List (USML). The USML includes all rifles, handguns, and short-barreled shotguns. The Department of Commerce, on the other hand, has the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) which regulates the export of all firearm types on a list, called the Commerce Control List (CCL), including regular shotguns (those with a barrel length of at least 18″) and their related parts, ammo, and information.”

Cleckner summarizes the key regulatory changes in a 1/20/2020 Gun University Article:

1. Manufacturers will no longer have to pay a $2,250 annual registration fee.
2. No long approval process [for exports].
3. No Congressional approval needed for deals over $1 million.
4. Easier sharing of technical information for designs/R&D.

Gun University Ryan Cleckner Federal Trump ITAT EAR commerce Dept. State gun firearms export regulation change

We caution our readers that these gun export regulatory changes do NOT alter domestic gun control laws in America. And gun exports are still subject to government oversight. However, Cleckner explains: “Instead of dealing with the ITAR rules and State Department licensing, the firearms industry will be able to use the more efficient export system through the Department of Commerce for most firearms. Certain firearms, like machine guns, will still stay under State Department control (under ITAR).”

According to the NRA-ILA: “No more will small, non-exporting businesses — including gunsmiths — be caught up in an expansive regulatory scheme for manufacturers of ‘munitions’ and their parts that requires a $2,250 annual registration fee with U.S. State Department. Americans will again be free to publish most technical information about firearms and ammunition — including on the publicly-accessible Internet — without fear of accidentally running afoul of State Department restrictions that could land them in federal prison.”

The new regulations will simplify overseas travel by hunters and competition shooters. Americans temporarily traveling overseas with their own guns and ammunition won’t have to register them in a government database or fill out commercial exporting forms.

Federal Trump ITAT EAR commerce Dept. State gun firearms export regulation change

Meanwhile, commercial exporters of non-military grade firearms and ammunition will have fewer fees to pay and will benefit from a more flexible, business-oriented regulatory environment. But note, actual exports of firearms and ammunition will still require authorization/licensing by the federal government. End-users of the guns in the countries of destination will also remain subject to U.S. monitoring.

The NRA-ILA observes: “This latest action is just one more example of how President Trump continues to move forward with his positive agenda to protect the right to keep and bear arms and the businesses that comprise America’s firearms industry. American manufacturing, as well as lawful firearm ownership at home and abroad, stand to make big gains under the president’s export reform initiative.”

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January 30th, 2020

Airline Travel With Rifles — Important Advice for Travelers

travel air berger SWN southwest nationals rifle transport
Berger SWN Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher

The Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN), 2020’s biggest centerfire rifle match west of the Mississippi, is coming up next week. We know that many of our regular readers will be flying to Phoenix to attend the SWN. Here are some travel tips from experts in the industry.

If you’ll be traveling by air in the days ahead, be careful when transporting firearms through airports. It is important that you comply with all Homeland Security, TSA, and Airline policies when transporting guns and ammunition. Following the rules will help ensure you (and your gear) make it to your destination without hassles, delays or (God forbid), confiscations.

berger SWN Air Travel FAA TSA rules

Good Advice from an Airport Police Officer
To help our readers comply with rules and regulations for air travel, we offer these guidelines, courtesy “Ron D.”, a member of our Shooters’ Forum. Before he retired, Ron D. served as a Police Officer assigned to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Here Ron offers some very important advice for shooters traveling with firearms and expensive optics.

gun transport caseFirst, Ron explains that airport thieves can spot bags containing firearms no matter how they are packaged: “Don’t think you’re safe if your guns are placed in cases designed for golf clubs or trade show items. Baggage is X-Rayed now and cases are tagged with a special bar code if they contain firearms. It doesn’t take long for bad guys to figure out the bar coding for firearms.”

Carry-On Your Scopes and Expensive Items
Ron advises travelers to avoid placing very expensive items in checked baggage: “When traveling by air, carry on your rangefinder, spotting scope, rifle scope, medications, camera, etc. You would be surprised at the amount of people that carry-on jeans and shirts, but put expensive items in checked baggage. Better to loose three pairs of jeans than some expensive glass.”

Mark Bags to Avoid Confusion
Ron notes that carry-on bags are often lost because so many carry-on cases look the same. Ron reports: “People do accidentally remove the wrong bag repeatedly. I frequently heard the comment, ‘But it looks just like my bag’. When de-planing, keep an eye on what comes out of the overhead that your bag is in. It’s easy to get distracted by someone that has been sitting next to you the whole flight. I tie two streamers of red surveyors’ tape on my carry-on bag.” You can also use paint or decals to make your carry-on bag more distinctive.

General Advice for Air Travelers
Ron cautions: “Keep your hands on your items before boarding. One of the most often heard comments from theft victims was, ‘I just put my computer down for a minute while I was on the phone.’ Also, get to the baggage claim area quickly. If your family/friends can meet you there, so can the opportunists. Things do get lost in the claim area. Don’t be a Victim. Forewarned is forearmed.”

Choosing a Rifle Transport Case

Forum member David C., who will compete at the 2020 Berger SWN, offers this advice: “If you plan to fly with your rifle, a 55″-long case such as the Pelican 1770 may be too big and heavy. The 1770 is 36 pounds on its own and is quite unwieldly to move around. I would recommend going with a smaller case such as the Pelican 1720 with 42″-long interior. It weighs 19 pounds and if you separate your stock from the barreled action, everything fits just fine, as you can see below.” Editor: Note that you can also store a full-size spotting scope in the case along with your rifle:

travel air berger SWN southwest nationals rifle transport

Retired Airport Police Officer Ron D. advises: “Buy the best [rifle case] that you can afford. Don’t cry when your $3,000+ Benchrest rifle has a cracked stock or broken scope. Think about what it would be like to travel across the country and arrive with a damaged rifle. Baggage handling is NOT a fine art. There is no guarantee that your rifle case will be on top of all the other baggage. Then there is shifting of baggage in the belly of the plane. Ponder that for a while. Rifle and pistol cases must be locked. It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a simple pry tool will open most case locks. There is not much that you can do to disguise a rifle case. It is what it is, and opportunists know this. Among thieves, it doesn’t take long for the word to get around about a NEW type of case.”

Great Deals on Plano All-Weather Cases at Amazon

plano tactical rifle case

Match season has begun, and that means hauling gear either in cars or on planes. Either way you need good cases for your firearms. We found the Plano All Weather Gun Cases at bargain prices. These are well-built and designed to protect whatever you put in them for a third the cost of some other brands. No Plano cases are not as refined as Pelican or SKB cases, but if you’re on a tight budget, the Planos can do the job. Read this article for more information on Plano cases.

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January 30th, 2020

Can You Predict Useful Barrel Life? Insights from Dan Lilja

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Barrel-maker Dan Lilja’s website has an excellent FAQ page that contains a wealth of useful information. On the Lilja FAQ Page as you’ll find informed answers to many commonly-asked questions. For example, Dan’s FAQ addresses the question of barrel life. Dan looks at factors that affect barrel longevity, and provides some predictions for barrel life, based on caliber, chambering, and intended use.

NOTE: This article was very well-received when it was first published last year. We are reprising it for the benefit of readers who missed it the first time.

Dan cautions that “Predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject — there is not a simple answer. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.” Dan also notes that barrels can wear prematurely from heat: “Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.”

Q. What Barrel Life, in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?

A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers. But again there is not a simple answer. In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life. Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question. But there is also absolute barrel life too. That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild. The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question. To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything. But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important. And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog-size animals, the difference between a .25 MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5 MOA may not be noticeable in the field.

The big enemy to barrel life is heat. A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel. Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too. The throat erosion is accelerated by heat. Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups. A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too. For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.

And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels. This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.

Barrel Life Guidelines by Caliber and Cartridge Type
As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3000-4000 rounds. And varmint-type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.

For medium-size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester, 7×57 and even the 25-06, 2000-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.

Hot .224 caliber-type cartridges will not do as well, and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.

Bigger magnum hunting-type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds. But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won’t do as well, being closer to the 1500-round figure.

These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels. For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.

The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I’m pressed to predict a figure.

The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle (.22 LR) barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.

Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject. You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Benchrest Barrel Life — You May Be Surprised
I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional Aggregates that I’ve fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had thousands of rounds through them. I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.

I fired my smallest 100-yard 5-shot Aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho. It was a .1558″ aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class. And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200-yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time. I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper-foul quite a bit. But accuracy was still good.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

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