June 14th, 2020

Precise Neck Expansion with Gage Pin Die from Porter’s Precision

Porter's Precision Gauge Pin Die

Gage Pin Die System Product Review
by F-Class John
Consistent neck tension is often considered key to precision reloading. Neck tension (or interference as it’s more accurately known) helps ensure that the bullet is held with a known amount of pressure ensuring a consistent release each time. The more common expansion method employs expander mandrels. However, there is another lesser-known but very effective method — using GAGE PINS. This article reviews a unique Porter’s Precision Products Reloading Die designed to work with high-quality Gage Pins.

Gage Pins, long-time tool of machinists, are used to measure the size of a bored hole. They come in a variety of sizes and classes. In the reloading world, most people use ZZ Gage Pins that are sized .0005″ apart and are accurate to .0002″. The nice thing about Gage Pins is that you can order them in either a + or – size which means their accuracy errors on one side or the other so by ordering sets of + and – you can effectively make half-sizes. It’s this flexibility and great range of sizes that make Gage Pins so attractive.

For all the good that Gage Pins can do, until now there has not been a handy way to use them in a reloading press. Some folks tried using a bullet puller to hold the Gage Pin. But on many presses, this can be inconvenient because of long handles or unusual height requirements. As a result, I have mostly resorted to using conventional expander mandrels.

But now I have started using precision Gage Pins, thanks to a special new Gage Pin die system from Porter’s Precision Products in Texas. Not long ago I received a video from a friend showing someone using a custom die specifically made for holding Gage Pins. It turns out that Porter’s Precision Products out of Texas makes a custom Gage Pin Die product that consists of a die body, collet, and die cap. Porter’s Precision also sell a wide range of Gage Pins that have been nicely tapered to prevent damage to brass.

Porter's Precision Gauge Pin Die

Using the Porter’s Precision Gauge Pin Die for Expanding Necks
Using the Porter’s Precision Gage Pin die is pretty straight forward with one caveat. The instructions are very clear that the collet must be inserted at an angle into the threaded cap to help ensure it tightens correctly otherwise damage to the collet may occur. Once you do this a couple times it becomes very simple and shouldn’t be a concern, especially since there’s rarely a ready to actually remove the collet unless you’re changing from one caliber range to another.

With the cap and collet now threaded onto the die body, choose the Gage Pin you want to use, insert it into the collet and tighten the cap down. Once the pin is where you want it, use a set of wrenches to firmly tighten the cap down and you’re ready to go. Thread the die in your press and simply adjust the height to ensure the Gage Pin is being inserted fully into the neck of your brass. You want to make sure the entire neck is being expanded without damaging the rim by pushing it to far up inside the die.

General Thoughts — Gage Pins vs. Expander Mandrels
The actual use of Gage Pins on case neck doesn’t vary from expander mandrels. They both accomplish the same goal and which tool you choose really comes down to personal preference. Where Gage Pins really shine is in their durability and the vast selection of sizes/diameters/tolerances. You can even find long-wearing, reduced friction carbide Gage Pins, but they do cost more.

For me, using the Porter’s Precision Die allowed smooth operation and Porter’s Gage Pins are really well-made. This makes expanding a dream even without any lube in the necks (although I still recommend lube when using a steel Gage Pin, as opposed to carbide). If you’ve been in the market for a way to help expand your necks with enhanced consistency, give Gage Pins a try using the Porter’s Precision Gage Pin Die.

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June 14th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Handsome F-TR Rig Built for James Crofts

James Crofts CigarCop KW Precision Cerus Walnut Laminated Stock Borden Brux fluted fluting Phoenix bipod

A multi-time F-TR National Champion, James “Jimmy” Crofts is one of America’s top F-Class competitors. And now this F-TR ace has a stunning new rifle in his arsenal. AccurateShooter Forum member CigarCop, head honcho of KW Precision LLC, recently completed a new F-TR rig for Crofts. This handsome, state-of-the-art rifle features top-tier components: Borden action, twin Brux barrels, Cerus RifleWorks F-TR Stock, and Jewell trigger, all resting on a wide-base Phoenix Bipod.

James Crofts CigarCop KW Precision Cerus Walnut Laminated Stock Borden Brux fluted fluting Phoenix bipod

James Jim Crofts f-class f-tr rifle brux borden cerus
James Crofts photo by Kent Reeve.

Have a good look at these photos below. Yes, envy is the appropriate reaction. With the smooth operation of the Borden action and the predictable accuracy of Brux barrels, we bet James’s new rig will shoot as good as it looks.

James Crofts CigarCop KW Precision Cerus Walnut Laminated Stock Borden Brux fluted fluting Phoenix bipod

CigarCop actually chambered two barrels for James, with different fluting patterns — conventional linear flutes for one tube, and lines of staggered ovals for the other. Finished length for both barrels is 30″. Yes it looks cool, but the fluting was done mainly to save weight with the 30″-long lengths. CigarCop tells us the complete rifle, without scope and rings, weighs just under 15 pounds. Max allowed weight for an F-TR rifle, with scope, is 18.18 pounds (8.25 kg).

James Crofts CigarCop KW Precision Cerus Walnut Laminated Stock Borden Brux fluted fluting Phoenix bipod

To learn more about this impressive F-TR rifle build by CigarCop, visit our AccurateShooter Forum and read KW Precision’s F-TR Gun-Building Thread. The stock was created on an automated CNC milling machine by Cerus Rifleworks.

James Crofts CigarCop KW Precision Cerus Walnut Laminated Stock Borden Brux fluted fluting Phoenix bipod

When James Crofts is not shooting his .308 Win F-TR rig,
he often trains with a .22 LR Rimfire rifle. Read on…

Rimfire Training for F-Class Competitors

2014 and 2012 U.S. National F-TR Champion James Crofts is one of America’s top F-Class shooters. A member of 2013 World Championship-winning F-TR Team USA squad, James knows a thing or two about long-range shooting. But you may be surprised to learn how James sharpens his shooting skills at relatively short distances. You see, James often practices with a .22 LR rimfire rifle at distances from 50 to 200 yards. James tells us: “Shooting my F-Class rimfire trainer saves me money and improves my shot process and wind-reading abilities.”

Remington rimfire 40X barreled action in PR&T LowBoy stock with PT&G bolt.
James Crofts F-TR Rimfire .22 LR

Rimfire Training Teaches Wind-Reading Skills by James Crofts
Training with the rimfire is extremely useful and can be done from 25 yards out to 200 yards. I am lucky and can shoot 50 yards right off my back deck. That is far enough that any miscue on rifle handling will show up on the target. I use a two dry-fire to one actual shot routine for my practices. This gives me much more positive reinforcement without any negative reinforcement.

Wind reading is extremely important with a .22 LR rifle. I use a set of smallbore flags to aid my wind calls. The smallbore flags are a must and force you to look at the flags and mirage on each and every shot.

James Crofts F-TR Rimfire .22 LR
This Rimfire rifle features a CMP-sourced Rem 40X barreled action, PR&T Low Boy stock, Jewell trigger, and Phoenix bipod. The gun was built by Ray Bowman of Precision Rifle & Tool. James Crofts told us: “The project turned out awesome — the rifle was a hammer from the beginning even with the stock barrel.”

Rimfire Training Is Cost-Effective
Rimfire ammunition is much less costly than centerfire ammo. Though .22 LR prices have risen, you can still get a 500-round brick of very good .22 LR match ammo for around $75.00. That works out to fifteen cents a round. That’s a fraction of the cost of handloading .308 Win match ammo. The top match-grade, .308-cal centerfire bullets can cost around $60 per hundred. Then you have to figure in brass, primers, and powder. Finally you have to consider your precious centerfire barrel life lost to practice.

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June 14th, 2020

Got a P-Dog Trip Planned? Bring along a 17 HMR Rimfire Rig

Volquartsen 17 HMR Dustin Ellermann 17 HMR

We are coming into peak Prairie Dog season. For long shots you’ll definitely want a centerfire. We like the 20 Practical in an AR and a 22 BR/BRA in a bolt-action. That will have you covered out to 700 yards. But for shorter shots on small critters — say inside 150 yards — it makes sense to have an accurate 17 HMR rimfire rig. Today’s 17 HMRs are capable of surprising accuracy, rivaling a good centerfire rig, but with less recoil and much lower cost per shot. And the 17 HMR offers more than double the velocity of a .22 LR — up to 2650 fps with a 17-grain bullet.

Top Shot former Champion Dustin Ellerman likes his Volquartsens, and we can see why. With one of his favorite 17 HMR rimfire varmint rigs, he’s seen some outstanding accuracy with CCI ammo. A few seasons back, on his Facebook page, Dustin reported: “Prepping for prairie dogs and I’m floored by this cold, sub-half-inch group shot with the Volquartsen Custom 17 HMR at 100 yards.” This thumbhole-stock rifle features a Bowers Group USS suppressor, and 3-12x56mm Meopta Scope. Dustin tried different types of CCI 17 HMR ammo. This small group was shot with CCI A17 ammo.

Volquartsen 17 HMR Dustin Ellermann 17 HMR

What’s the effective range of a 17 HMR on prairie dogs? You might be surprised. in 2015, Dustin took another Volquartsen 17 HMR on a Prairie Dog hunt in Wyoming. He was impressed with the rifle (shown below) and the little rimfire cartridge. Dustin says the effective range of the 17 HMR is farther than one might expect: “I made hits out to 300 yards. 200 yards was easy as long as the wind wasn’t too bad.”

Here’s the Volquartsen 17 HMR Dustin used in Wyoming in 2015:
Volquartsen 17 HMR Dustin Ellermann 17 HMR

After that 2015 P-Dog expedition, Dustin became a fan of the 17 HMR cartridge: “Never paid it much attention before now because the ammo is five times more expensive than .22 LR and I mostly target shoot. However, for prairie dogs, the 17 HMR is amazing!” Consider this — Hornady’s 17 HMR ammo pushes a 17gr V-Max bullet at 2550 fps, twice as fast as typical .22 LR rounds.

Prairie Dog Adventure with Savage A17
This video shows a successful Prairie Dog hunt. Watch and you’ll see hits out to 160 yards (00:50), proving the effective range of the 17 HMR cartridge. The host is shooting a Savage A17 semi-auto 17 HMR rifle in a Boyds laminated stock.

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