March 27th, 2020

Ammo Sales Spike… and Gun News in Pandemic Times

Coronavirus Ammo Ammuniction Sales Guns FFL SCOPE Data

Here are some gun-industry news highlights for the week. With the Coronovirus pandemic dominating the news, there have been some important developments. First, we are seeing a huge spike in ammo sales, along with significant growth in gun purchases. Second, groups are fighting State Executive Orders mandating closures of gun stores. Third, a number of gun accessory companies are gearing up to provide health-related products such as N95 masks and disinfectants.

Coronavirus Ammo Ammuniction Sales Guns FFL SCOPE DataAmmunition Sales Spike with Widespread Concerns Over Coronavirus Pandemic
The National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) SCOPE data platform reported a 168% spike in ammunition shipments for the week ending March 14. For all of 2020 so far, ammo shipments are up 21%.

Ammo Sales up 168% Nationwide
During the week ending March 14, distributors shipped close to $10,000,000 worth of ammunition, representing a 168% bump above the 3-year average for the same week. In some states, SCOPE DLX shows up to a 600% growth in ammunition shipments. Overall, ammunition shipments are up 21% year-to-date (YTD).

Gun Sales Rising Significantly
Concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic continue to drive firearms sales as well. According to Chris Means, NASGW Director and President of Tactical Gear Distributors, ammunition was the first category to spike but firearms have been following, with high demand for carry guns are ARs. Firearms shipments were up 13.74% compared to the 3-year average for March 8-14.

Coronavirus Ammo Ammuniction Sales Guns FFL SCOPE Data

About the Data Tracker: NASGW SCOPE is an analytics platform for shooting sports manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. SCOPE DLX collects weekly shipment data from 20 leading distributors that represent demand from FFLs across the United States.

AR15s Are in High Demand Again — Sales are Rising

Gun Industry News — Coping with a Crisis

Legal Challenge to New Jersey Closure of Firearms Dealers
The Second Amendment Foundation has filed a lawsuit challenging New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s order shutting down firearms dealers in the Garden State. In Kashinsky v. Murphy, the SAF is joined by the New Jersey Second Amendment Society in alleging violation of “civil rights under color of law” by shutting down firearms dealerships, preventing citizens and businesses from exercising their rights under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments. Federal Judge Judge Shipp has set Friday, April 3 as the deadline for the state’s opposition brief to the SAF’s suit. This important Second Amendment case could have ramifications across the nation.

New York Shutters Kimber Manufacturing Plant in Yonkers NY
In related news, the Kimber Plant in New York state has been closed in response to executive orders. Due to the New York state decision to shutter non-essential businesses as part of the COVID-19 response plan, Kimber Mfg. Inc. has stopped production at its New York facilities. Production continues at Kimber’s new, state-of-the-art Troy, Alabama manufacturing facility.

NOTE: In many other states, firearms and ammunition production facilities, along with retail gunstores, ARE recognized as “essential businesses” and therefore allowed to stay open. For a state-by-state run-down, read the NSSF Covid-19 Information and Resources for FFLs.

Radians Donates 14,000 N95 Masks to TN Hospitals
Radians, manufacturer of quality safety eyewear and hearing protection for shooters and hunters, donated over 14,000 N95 masks to medical facilities in Memphis, TN. Wisely, in 2018 Radians added the N95 respirator to its line of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Radians CEO, Mike Tutor, said the N95 mask donation “represents Radians’ corporate responsibility to help during challenging times. With a worldwide shortage of respirator masks, we knew this donation would quickly assist first responders and health care workers [during] the COVID-19 crisis. The respirators will also be of service at COVID-19 test sites.”

Coronavirus Ammo Ammuniction Sales Guns FFL SCOPE Data

Otis Technology Joins the Fight Against COVID-19
Otis Technology has partnered with Saint Lawrence Spirits to make, bottle and distribute hand sanitizer to first responders in desperate need during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Otis Technology began using its facilities — normally used to manufacture firearms maintenance products — to immediately begin manufacturing personal protective equipment.

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March 27th, 2020

Introduction to Auto-Indexing Progressive Presses

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing

On Wednesdays, The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit regularly publishes reloading “how-to” articles on the USAMU Facebook page. One “Handloading Hump Day” article, part 5 of a 6-part series, relates to reloading on Progressive Presses. This article concerns proper procedures for Auto-Indexing Progressives, which advance the shell-plate with every pull of the handle. Auto Progressives are very efficient, but they also require special attention and focus, because so many things are happening at once. You need to train yourself to watch every station. If you run a progressive press now, or are considering getting a progressive, we recommend you read this article. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other helpful handloading guidance.

Progressive Loading Presses — Self-Advancing Shellplate Type

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

Recently, we addressed manually-operated progressive presses for the beginning handloader. This type press requires one to manually advance the shellplate after each handle stroke. An advantage for beginners is that nothing happens at any station until the loader wants it to. This helps users avoid problems from clearing malfunctions without noticing that the shellplate has advanced itself. (Read Previous USAMU Article on Manual Progressives.)

The next, more luxurious type progressive press advances the shellplate automatically whenever the handle is cycled. [Editor: This is also called an “Auto-Indexing” Progressive Press.] Typically, each stroke automatically sizes and primes a case, operates the powder measure (if used) and seats a bullet. Some also have case feeders that automatically put a new case in the shellplate with every cycle. Others require the loader to insert a case each cycle. With both types, the loader usually puts a bullet on each sized/primed/charged case.

[CAVEAT: While our Handloading Shop has several progressive presses, ALL of our powder charges are thrown/weighed by hand. We do not use powder measures on our presses. Our progressives are used for brass preparation, priming, seating, etc., but not for fully-progressive loading.]

The manually-advanced press can be a boon to beginners, but as one gains experience it can be a mixed blessing, depending on one’s style. If one pays close attention to every operation and loads without distractions, the manual press is very reliable and allows full scrutiny of each round as it is loaded. However, if one easily drifts into day-dreaming, or isn’t focused on paying careful attention at all times, the manual progressive can be a bit of a liability. The opportunity for forgetting a powder charge, leading to a squib load, is ever-present. [Editor: A lock-out die can help reduce the risk of a squib load, or a double-charge. See below.]

The automatically-advancing progressives help prevent this by ensuring a powder charge will be dropped each time the handle is operated. Experienced handloaders often appreciate this feature due to the savings of time and effort. Individual preferences between the two press styles are influenced by several factors. These include one’s comfort with more- vs. less-complicated mechanisms, how often one changes calibers (case feeders often must be converted, in addition to dies and shellplates), how many rounds one loads annually, relative ease of changing primer mechanisms from small to large, etc. Automatic progressives and their caliber conversion kits tend to be significantly more expensive than manual progressives and caliber conversions from the same maker.

One USAMU handloader, who likes simple, bullet-proof machines and maximum efficiency when converting presses, owns two manually-advanced progressives. One is set up for large primers, and the other for small primers. He can change calibers in the twinkling of an eye. As he loads for many different calibers, this fits his style. Another handloader here is just the opposite. He loads for a few calibers, but in larger quantities. He much prefers his self-advancing press with case-feeder for its speed. He makes large lots of ammo in a given caliber before switching, to improve overall efficiency. His caliber conversion kits are more expensive than those for the manually-advanced progressive, but he uses fewer of them.

Whichever type one chooses, it is VERY important to buy quality gear from a manufacturer with a long, well-established track record for quality, durability and good customer support. Avoid jumping on the “latest, greatest” model until it has a proven track record. For example, this writer knows a loader who got a brand-new, expensive, self-advancing model press some years back, shortly after its introduction. As is too often the case these days, the manufacturer released it before all the “bugs” were worked out.

Better Safe Than Sorry — the RCBS Lock-Out Die
RCBS Makes a “Lock-Out Die” that senses the powder charge. This will halt the Progressive press if you have a double charge, or an undercharge. Your Editor has the Lock-Out Die on his RCBS Pro 2000. It has “saved his bacon” a half-dozen times over the years. It can be used on Dillon and Hornady progressives as well as RCBS machines.

It would not fully seat primers to the correct depth. No amount of adjustment, extra force, or fiddling would do better than to seat primers barely flush with the case head. Any inattention could result in a slightly “high” primer, protruding above the case head. It created a risk for slam-fires, particularly in semi-autos without spring-retracted firing pins, such as the M1 or M1A. In desperation, he had a machinist buddy study the problem and machine a new part to correct it. No dice. Its engineering didn’t permit full primer seating, even with extended parts. He now wishes he’d heeded his shooting buddies’ advice to stick with the “tried and true,” reliable performer they all used.

Whichever press one selects, see if the maker has a kit or list of commonly-replaced parts. Having needed springs, pins, etc. on hand in the rare event that one breaks or “goes missing” can save the day when one is busy loading for a match! Another tip for improving one’s overall loading efficiency (rounds loaded with minimal set-up/tear-down time) is to plan one’s handloading by primer size. For example, if your machine is set to use small primers, load all the calibers that you intend to that take small primers, before converting the press to load large-primer calibers.

In our next chapter, we’ll discuss peculiarities of progressive loading for rifle cartridges, with remedies for problems such as excessive cartridge-case headspace variation when sizing, tips for ensuring best powder charge consistency, and so on. Until then, be safe, and good shooting!

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March 27th, 2020

How to Assemble Your Own AR-15 from Components

AR-MPR-Build-2-AR-15-Tools
Here are the main tools you’ll need to assemble an AR-platform rifle

In these challenging times, many Americans are buying an AR-type rifle, or starting an AR project — assembling the rifle from available uppers, lowers, and parts kits.
Planning to put together an AR-platform rifle? Or are you looking to upgrade your AR with a new barrel, stock, or trigger group? Then you should check out the AR-15 Rifle Build DVD from our friends at UltimateReloader.com. This DVD covers all the details of a custom build, using high-resolution video sequences, and helpful supporting graphics.

AR-15 DVD ultimatereloder.com

In this DVD, Gavin Gear guides you through the entire process including selecting components, acquiring and using the necessary tools, assembly steps and details for each component, and even mounting a scope. Building an AR-15 can be overwhelming, but with the right guidance and help it’s not difficult and can be very rewarding. With this DVD you’ll be able to build your AR-15 with confidence.

Upper: Barrel / Gas Block / Gas Tube
AR-MPR-Build-4-Barrel-and-Gas-Tube-2

Upper: Handguard Installation
AR-MPR-Build-5-Handguard

UltimateReloader.com’s AR-15 Build DVD is available just $9.90 (plus $3.80 shipping/handling). This DVD can pay for itself many times over by showing you how to do your own gunsmithing (and get quality AR components at attractive prices).

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