January 17th, 2019

.223 Rem for F-TR — Logical Choice for a Junior Shooter

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Jeremy Rowland decided to put together an F-TR rifle for his eldest daughter, who enjoys competitive shooting. For his daughter, Rowland chose the .223 Rem option because it has less recoil and components are less costly than the .308 Win. Here is Rowland’s account of how he developed a .223 Rem load. For more details (with data charts), read Jeremy’s FULL STORY on Sierra Bullets Blog.

Journey to Find a .223 Rem F-Class Load

by Jeremy Rowland, Reloading Podcast
My oldest daughter has been to several matches with me, and has even competed in several, using her .243. I decided this coming season (2016), she would compete with a .223 Rem in FT/R. Looking for a good starter rifle, I settled on the Savage Axis Heavy Barrel since it has a 1:9″ twist. This would be a great little rifle for her to learn on. The rifle was shot unmodified, as it came from the factory. A Sinclair F-Class Bipod w/micro elevation adjustment was fitted to the front.

Next came finding the components I wanted to use for her match loads. After spending hours and hours running numbers on JBM stability calculator as well as in my iPhone Ballistic AE app, the 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKing® (TMK®) looked really good. So that’s what I decided to go with. I jumped in head first and ordered a bulk pack of the Sierra 69 gr TMKs. I had settled on Hodgdon CFE 223 since it shows good velocity. I decided to go with once-fired Lake City brass with CCI BR4 primers.

Next came the testing. I decided to run a ladder test (one shot per charge from min to max looking for the accuracy node). The ladder test ranged from 23.5 grains to 25.6 grains, in 0.3 grain increments.

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Ladder Test Conditions: Temp: 59.4° | Humidity: 63% | Elevation: 486 | Wind: 5-12 mph

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Bullet: 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKing®
Case: Lake City (mixed years, sorted by case capacity)
Primer: CCI BR4
Powder: Hodgdon CFE 223 (one round each from 23.5 to 25.6 grains)
Cartridge OAL: 2.378″
Base to Ogive: 1.933″ (.020″ off lands)

After his ladder test, Rowland settled on a load of 25.2 grains of Hodgdon CFE 223. He then fine-tuned his load with different seating depths: “I loaded up 5 rounds each at .020″ off lands, .015″ off lands, .010″ off lands, and .005″ off the lands. Here are the results from the best group for OAL/Ogive fine tuning. As you can see, I think I’ve found a winner in these 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKings.”

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Seating Depth Test Conditions: Temp: 36.3° | Humidity: 73.8% | Elevation: 486 | Wind: 5-7 mph

This article originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog.

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January 16th, 2019

Variances in Load Data — Why Load Manuals Don’t Always Agree

load manual sierra reloading hornady data

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks
One of the first things new reloaders notice is that load data varies between reloading manuals. The Sierra Bullets Technicians frequently get inquiries asking us to explain why the load data appears to be inconsistent. This article explains five key factors that can influence published load data.

Example of load data variances for two 168 grain bullets:

Sierra Reloading Manual Hornady Load Reloading

Here are five reasons why the load data varies:

The Bullet
Basically, the similarities in the .30 caliber 168 grain Match bullets (for example) end with weight and diameter. The bullets likely have dimensional differences such as bearing surface length. Bearing surface has a large effect on pressure and velocity. There are also differences in boat tail, flat base, ogive and over-all lengths, which each help determine the cartridge over-all-length (COAL). With different COAL’s, we can expect changes in pressure and velocity also. In some calibers there are differences in bullet diameter with different bullet manufacturers.

It is also worth noting that bullet manufacturers do not all use the same copper alloy for their jackets. This produces more or less friction that results in load pressures and velocities. The solid copper bullets also vary quite a bit in comparison to a lead core and copper jacketed bullet.

The Gun
Each gun is unique, even if you are using the same make, model, and caliber. Special consideration should be used to consider that not all firearm chambers are the same either, creating more variables that need consideration. There can be drastic differences in the throat length. This controls the amount of “jump” that a bullet experiences when the cartridge is fired.

The Powder
Within normal manufacturing tolerances, you can see some variation in a given powders burn rate between different lots of the same powder. So naturally when two different Manuals are produced, it would be doubtful that the same lots would be tested.

The Cartridge Cases
New cases are almost always near minimum specs in dimension. A load fired in a new case would likely have slightly more pressure that when fired in a re-sized case. This would certainly be true if we were loading into fire-formed cases that have had minimal re-sizing done. Fired cases that are full length resized most of the time be slightly larger than the new unfired cases. This gives you differences in case capacity. The same powder charge placed within a new case and a full length resized case will produce different pressure levels and probably different velocities.

Conditions
Temperature can cause pressure increases or decreases. Hot temperatures tend to cause pressures to increase, while cold temperatures will usually do the opposite. Humidity and altitude can impact pressures and velocities likewise.

Conclusion
As you can see, an amazing number of variables effect any load combination. With the differences in the manuals, you’re just seeing firsthand examples of what took place when the data was collected with that particular set of components and firearm. Think of a reloading manual as a report. In essence, a reloading manual says, “We tried this particular component combination, and these are the results we obtained.”

Remember that you may or may not reach the same maximum load safely. There is no “one load fits all bullets.” The minimum load data offers a safe place to start. The maximum load data listed should always be regarded as a safety guideline and not necessarily a goal! Your gun should shoot accurately without breaching the maximum load data. The best advice is: always start low and work your load up!

If you have questions about variances in load data or other reloading questions, please call our ballistic technicians at 1-800-223-8799 or send us an email at sierra [at] sierrabullets.com.

Sierra Bullets Blog reloading information

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January 15th, 2019

Case Priming Procedures — Insights from Glen Zediker

Primer Forster Co-ax priming tool
The anvil is the tripod-shaped thin metal piece protruding above the bottom of the primer cup. Getting the primer sitting fully flush on the bottom of the case primer pocket, without crunching it too much, requires some keen feel for the progress of primer seating.

top grade ammo book Glen ZedikerIn two informative Midsouth Blog articles, Glen Zediker offers helpful advice on priming. First he examines what happens to the primer itself as it is seated in the cup. Glen explains why some “crush” is important, and why you never want to leave a high primer. Glen also reviews a variety of priming tools, including his favorite — the Forster Co-Ax Bench Primer Seater. Then he offers some key safety tips. Glen provides some “rock-solid” advice about the priming operation. You’ll find more great reloading tips in Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, which we recommend.

Priming Precision vs. Speed
Glen writes: “The better priming tools have less leverage. That is so we can feel the progress of that relatively very small span of depth between start and finish. There is also a balance between precision and speed in tool choices, as there so often is.”

Benchtop Priming Tools — The Forster Co-Ax
Glen thinks that the best choice among priming options, considering both “feel” and productivity, may be the benchtop stand-alone priming stations: “They are faster than hand tools, and can be had with more or less leverage engineered into them. I like the one shown below the best because its feeding is reliable and its feel is more than good enough to do a ‘perfect’ primer seat. It’s the best balance I’ve found between speed and precision.”

Primer Forster Co-ax priming tool

Primer Forster Co-ax priming tool

Load Tuning and Primers
Glen cautions that you should always reduce your load when you switch to a new, not-yet-tested primer type: “The primer is, in my experience, the greatest variable that can change the performance of a load combination, which is mostly to say ‘pressure’. Never (never ever) switch primer brands without backing off the propellant charge and proving to yourself how far to take it back up, or to even back it off more. I back off one full grain of propellant [when I] try a different primer brand.”

Primer Forster Co-ax priming tool

Priming Safety Tips by Zediker

1. Get a good primer “flip” tray for use in filling the feeding magazine tubes associated with some systems. Make double-damn sure each primer is fed right side up (or down, depending on your perspective). A common cause of unintentional detonation is attempting to overfill a stuffed feeding tube magazine, so count and watch your progress.

2. Don’t attempt to seat a high primer more deeply on a finished round. The pressure needed to overcome the inertia to re-initiate movement may be enough to detonate it.

3. Don’t punch out a live primer! That can result in an impressive fright. To kill a primer, squirt or spray a little light oil into its open end. That renders the compound inert.

4. Keep the priming tool cup clean. That’s the little piece that the primer sits down into. Any little shard of brass can become a firing pin! It’s happened!

These Tips on Priming come from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth Shooters Supply. CLICK HERE to learn more about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

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January 15th, 2019

CMP Releases 2019 Competition Rules (Many Changes)

CMP Rulebook 2019 High Powder Smallbore rimfire pistol rule competition

CMP Releases 2019 Competition Rules

CMP Competition Rulebooks that will govern all CMP sponsored and sanctioned competitions in 2019 have now been approved by the CMP Board’s Rules Committee and posted on the CMP website. Significant changes in this year’s rulebooks include dividing the former Service Rifle and Pistol Rulebook into two separate rulebooks, the establishment of a new program to give persons with disabilities an opportunity to earn Distinguished Badges, and the creation of separate unlimited classes for Modern Military Rifles and Rimfire Sporter Rifles. 2019 CMP Competition Rulebooks are effective immediately and can be downloaded from the CMP website by using the following links:

Highpower Rifle Competition Rules, governs Service Rifle and Long Range Rifle
LINK: http://thecmp.org/wp-content/uploads/HighpowerRifleRules.pdf

Smallbore Rifle Competition Rules, governs CMP traditional Smallbore Rifle Position and Prone
LINK: http://thecmp.org/wp-content/uploads/SmallboreRulebook.pdf

Pistol Competition Rules, governs Service Pistol and 22 Rimfire Pistol
LINK: http://thecmp.org/wp-content/uploads/PistolRules.pdf

CMP Games Competition Rules, governs As-Issued Military Rifle, Modern Military Rifle, Vintage Sniper Rifle Team Match, Rimfire Sporter Rifle and As-Issued Pistol
LINK: http://thecmp.org/wp-content/uploads/CMPGamesRules.pdf

CMP Rulebook 2019 High Powder Smallbore rimfire pistol rule competition

Access All 2019 CMP Competition Rulebooks HERE »

Here are key 2019 CMP Rule Change Highlights. For a more complete list of important changes, read the official CMP 2019 Rule Change Summary.

New Distinguished Marksman Program For Shooters with Disabilities
A major new CMP program being introduced in 2019 is the Distinguished Marksman Badge Program for competitors with medical or physical limitations or disabilities. To implement this program, the CMP is establishing a new Distinguished Badge called the Distinguished Marksman Badge. Any rifle or pistol competitor with a disability or limitation that previously prevented them from fully meeting rules requirements for earning EIC credit points is invited to apply to the CMP for a “Distinguished Marksman Authorization” (contact acantu@thecmp.org or phone 419-635-2141, ext. 602).

Electronic Scoring Target Rules
New electronic target (EST) installations at the Talladega Marksmanship Park and CMP Travel Games necessitated special rules to govern irregular shot entries that may appear on electronic targets. CMP EST rules were updated this year, based on EST experiences. CMP Rules now define EST complaint resolution processes for: 1) a protested shot value; 2) a missing slow-fire shot; 3) a missing rapid-fire shot; 4) an extra slow-fire shot and 5) an extra rapid-fire shot.

Highpower Rifle Rule Changes

Separate Highpower Rifle Rulebook
Until this year Service Rifle and Pistol events all had the same rulebook. As a result, rules frequently skipped from rifle to pistol and back and this often caused confusion. Now there are two separate rulebooks, one for Highpower Rifle and a separate rulebook for Pistol.

Long Range Rifle Classification System
The CMP brought Long Range Rifle competitions at 800, 900 and 1000 years back to Camp Perry and the National Matches in 2018. This successful new program attracted 182 competitors who made 454 event entries. This year’s change features the introduction of a Long Range Rifle classification system that will expand the CMP Highpower Rifle classification system implemented in 2018 (HP Rule 3.11.4).

National Matches Program
The 2018 National Matches Program that introduced CMP Cup Matches, Long Range Rifle Matches and the Roosevelt Match (for U.S. Krag and M1903 rifles) will be unchanged in 2019. All of the highpower rifle events that were on the 2018 National Matches Program are already in this year’s National Matches Schedule. If you have not done so already, download the 2019 National Matches Calendar.

CMP Rulebook 2019 High Powder Smallbore rimfire pistol rule competition

In 2019, the “Standard Modern Military Rifle” will return to its original rules for AR-type rifles that featured a 7.5 lbs maximum weight and metallic sights only. In 2019, AR-type rifles that weigh more than 7.5 lbs or that have optical sights will compete in a separate Unlimited Class. In addition, Modern Military Rifles with optical sights will now all be in the Unlimited Modern Military Rifle Class. Free-floating handguards will be allowed in both the Unlimited and Standard Modern Military Rifle Classes.

CMP Games Rule Changes

The CMP Games Rulebook that governs As-Issued Military Rifle and Pistol events as well as Rimfire Sporter Matches has some of the most significant 2019 rule changes. These include the establishment of an Unlimited Modern Military Rifle Class and the expansion of the Rimfire Sporter Tactical Class to become a combined Tactical and Unlimited Class (TU-Class). Changes in this rulebook are.

Modern Military Rifle
For 2019, after much debate and inputs from many, the CMP decided to return the first Modern Military Rifle Class to its original rules as a Standard Modern Military Rifle and to establish a separate Unlimited Modern Military Rifle Class. The Standard Modern Military Rifle will go back to its original 7.5 lbs. weight limit for AR-type rifles and 9.0 lbs. for M1As. Standard Modern Military Rifles will be restricted to metallic sights only. Rifles that weigh more than 7.5 lbs. or 9.0 lbs. or that have optical sights will now be in the Unlimited Modern Military Rifle Class. Restrictions against float tubes or metallic sights with finer adjustments were removed for both classes.

As-Issued Military Rifle Events
The core of the CMP As-Issued Military Rifle program is the ever-popular Garand-Springfield-Vintage Military Rifle triad. Those events and the Carbine Match, which accompanies them on many match programs, remain unchanged.

(more…)

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January 14th, 2019

Wind-Reading Tips from Champion Shooters

Shooting Sports USA

The digital archives of Shooting Sports USA magazine (SSUSA) features an Expert Forum on Wind Reading. This outstanding article on wind reading starts off with a section by ballistics guru Bryan Litz, author of Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting. Then four of the greatest American shooters in history share their personal wind wisdom. Lanny Basham (Olympic Gold Medalist, author, Winning in the Wind), Nancy Tompkins (Past National HP Champion, author, Prone and Long-Range Rifle Shooting), David Tubb (11-Time Camp Perry National Champion), and Lones Wigger (Olympic Hall of Fame) all offer practical wind-reading lessons learned during their shooting careers.

CLICK HERE for Full Article in Shooting Sports USA Archive

CLICK HERE to Download Article Issue in Printable PDF Format.

Whether you shoot paper at Perry or prairie dogs in the Dakotas, this is a certified “must-read” resource on reading the wind. Here is a sample selection from the article:

Shooting Sports USA



Visit www.SSUSA.org

Shooting Sports USA magazine (SSUSA) has a modern, mobile-friendly website with tons of great content. Log on to www.ssusa.org. There you’ll find current news stories as well as popular articles from the SSUSA archives. The SSUSA website also includes match reports, gear reviews, reloading advice, plus expert marksmanship tips from the USAMU.

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January 12th, 2019

“Mirage Is Your Friend” — How Mirage Can Reveal the Wind

South Texas Mirage Reading article
Diagram from SouthTexasShooting.org.

Mirage as a Wind Indicator

Read FULL ARTICLE in Midsouth Shooters Blog

by Glen Zediker
Most good shooters use mirage as their leading indicator to spot changes in the wind. With well-designed stand, the scope can be set it up where you can see the wind with the left eye and see the sight with the right without anything more than a visual focus shift. That gets the shooter back on the trigger with the least chance of missing another change. In the photo below e you can see 11-time National High Power Champion David Tubb using a spotting scope set up for his left eye.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope
David Tubb sets up his spotting scope so he can easily see through it with his LEFT eye, without shifting his head and body position.

There are resources that give clues or evidence of wind direction and strength: wind flags, observation of grass and trees, and mirage.

Almost always I use mirage as my leading indicator. Mirage (heat waves) is always present but you’ll need a scope to read it. For 600 yards I focus my scope about halfway to the target. Mirage flows just like water and the currents can be read with respect to wind speed as well, but it’s not clearly accurate beyond maybe a 15 mph speed. The thing is that mirage shows changes, increases or decreases, and also direction shifts, really well.

A couple more things about mirage flow: when mirage “boils,” that is appears to rise straight up, either there’s no wind or the scope is dead in-line with wind direction. And that’s a quick and accurate means to determine wind direction, by the way, move the scope until you see the boil and note the scope body angle. Here’s another tip — the boil can predict when a “fishtail” wind is about to change, a boil precedes a shift.

wind mirage spotter spotting scope

You don’t need to spend big bucks for an effective spotting scope to view mirage. You can get the Vortex 20-60x60mm Diamondback angled spotting scope for just $399.99 from Midsouth. That’s complete with 20-60X zoom eyepiece. Though inexpensive, the Vortex Diamondback is popular with many competitive shooters and hunters. No, it doesn’t offer the sharpness of an 80mm Kowa Prominar or Swarovski spotting scope, but you’ll pay $2400+ just for the body of those high-end optics.

Choice of EyePiece — Wide-Angle LERs Work Well
I use a long-eye-relief 20X to 25X wide-angle eyepiece. That setup shows the flow best. And pay attention to where the wind is coming from! See what’s headed your way, because what’s passed no longer matters. That’s true for any indicator. Right to left wind? Read off the right side of the range.

Once I get on target then all I am doing is watching for changes. It’s really uncommon to make a big adjustment between shots. The fewer condition changes you are enduring, the easier it is to keep everything on center. That’s why I shoot fast, and why I start at the low point in a wind cycle.

sighters spotting scope mirageMaking Corrections with Limited Sighters
Here’s a Tip for NRA High Power matches where only two sighters are allowed: “Make a full correction off the first sighting shot location! Even if there are minor changes afoot, that’s how to know how well you assessed condition influence pre-shot. Don’t second-guess. After the second sighter you should be on target and then simply watching for changes. Pay attention, correlate visible cues to the results of prior shots, and if in doubt, click into the wind.”

Information in this article was adapted from material in several books published by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. Glen is an NRA High Master who earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

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January 11th, 2019

Bed It Right! Bedding Compounds Compared by Speedy

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

A customer of well-known gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez recently asked Speedy about bedding compounds. Speedy offered some interesting advice based on long-term testing of various materials. Speedy favors Marine-Tex because it is very stable over time, while other materials can shrink up to 6% dimensionally. A good bedding job should be a perfect fit to your barreled action. If the bedding material shrinks over time, that is NOT a good thing….

Speedy’s customer asked: “I know you’re not a Devcon man in regards to bedding compounds but I respect your input in such matters and my question is this in regard to aluminum actions. If Devcon was considered, for an aluminum action, would you prefer aluminum compound formula or steel formula? I personally prefer Devcon steel and Marine-Tex for steel receivers but my experience with aluminum is limited. Also do you have a release agent preference that works better with aluminum?”

Speedy answered: “My only preference of one epoxy over another is their stability over time. My buddy who works for the Texas State Weights and Measures Department had me cast several of the most common types of epoxies used for bedding into 1.000″ machined blocks. After one year of being kept in a controlled climate and measured for shrinkage monthly, the Marine Tex shrunk only 1/10th of 1% (i.e. 0.1%) whereas almost all the others (including Devcon Steel formula, Devcon Aluminum formula…) shrunk 3% to 6%. The only other compounds that matched the Marine Tex were Araldite 1253 and Araldite 2014, with the latter being quite expensive for daily use.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

Speedy added: “The Marine Tex Grey has no atomized metal in its makeup even though it appears that it does. This can be proven by the use of a strong neodymium magnet. What is humorous to me is that people don’t like aluminum yet will bed their actions atop aluminum pillars that have twice the coefficient of expansion (COE) of steel. Like Devcon, it is what people have always done and used. Thus [they] perpetuate the same old stuff. That’s my two cents’ worth. But as I tell everyone, ‘I’ll tell you what I know or do, but it’s not my job to convince anyone to do it my way’.”

Release Agents — Try Shoe Polish
Regarding release agents, Speedy stated: “I use Kiwi Neutral or Tan shoe polish. This works great and you can find it anywhere. Do NOT use the black or brown as it will stick.”

Marine-Tex Pillar Bedding Marine-Tex Bedding Block Aluminum Actions

View More Photos of Speedy Inletting and Bedding Job
CLICK HERE to see an interesting bedding job done by Speedy using a custom titanium bedding block. Speedy notes, “The stock was a raw blank requiring full inletting for the action to fit properly plus the titanium block. All the loading ports, bolt handle cut, bolt stop, and trigger guard cuts were done with diamond tooling to eliminate fraying and/or delamination of the wood.” You’ll find more projects by Speedy on his Facebook Page. Speedy is in San Antonio, Texas now, and accepting new projects with his company S.G. Rifles LLC.

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January 8th, 2019

Reloading Rescue — How to Remove a Case Stuck in a Die

stuck72

Western powders, ramshot, norma, accurate

To err is human… Sooner or later you’ll probably get a case stuck in a die. This “fix-it” article, which originally appeared in the Western Powders Blog, explains the procedure for removing a firmly stuck cartridge case using an RCBS kit. This isn’t rocket science, but you do want to follow the directions carefully, step-by-step. Visit the Western Powders Blog for other helpful Tech Tips.

Curing the Stuck Case Blues

decapstem72Sticking a case in the sizer die is a rite of passage for the beginning handloader. If you haven’t done it yet, that’s great, but it probably will eventually happen. When it does, fixing the problem requires a bit of ingenuity or a nice little kit like the one we got from RCBS.

The first step is to clear the de-capping pin from the flash hole. Just unscrew the de-capping assembly to move it as far as possible from the primer pocket and flash hole (photo at right). Don’t try to pull it all the way out. It won’t come. Just unscrew it and open as much space as possible inside the case.

Place the die upside down in the padded jaws of a vise and clamp it firmly into place. Using the supplied #7 bit, drill through the primer pocket. Be careful not to go too deeply inside the cartridge once the hole has opened up. It is important to be aware that the de-capping pin and expander ball are still in there and can be damaged by the bit.

Drill and Tap the Stuck Case
taping72drilling72

Once the cartridge head has been drilled, a ¼ – 20 is tap is used to cut threads into the pocket. Brass is relatively soft compared to a hardened tap, so no lube is needed for the tapping process. RCBS says that a drill can be used for this step, but it seems like a bit of overkill in a project of this nature. A wrench (photo above right) makes short work of the project.

RCBS supplies a part they call the “Stuck Case Remover Body” for the next step. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and have the bit and tap, this piece is easily replicated by a length of electrical conduit of the proper diameter and some washers. In either case, this tool provides a standoff for the screw that will do the actual pulling.

pulling72fingers72

With an Allen Wrench, Finish the Job
Run the screw through the standoff and into the tapped case head. With a wrench, tighten the screw which hopefully pulls the case free. Once the case is free, clamp the case in a vice and pull it free of the de-capping pin. There is tension here because the sizing ball is oversized to the neck dimension as part of the sizing process. It doesn’t take much force, but be aware there is still this last little hurdle to clear before you get back to loading. Don’t feel bad, everyone does this. Just use more lube next time!

wholekit72unstuck72

Article find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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January 4th, 2019

Single-Stage Reloading Presses — Product Video Showcase

RCBS Rock Chucker MEC Marksman Lyman Brass smith ideal Frankford co-ax forster Hornady iron Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock Press

Hand-loaders have never had so many great choices in single-stage presses, with many different configurations and features. There are classic O-Frame presses, Coax-style presses, Open-front presses, Pyramid presses, and compact C-Frame presses. Here is our 2019 Single Stage Press Showcase with products from Forster, Frankford Arsenal, Hornady, Lee, Lyman, MEC, and RCBS. We’ve included short videos showing the features of these reloading presses.

If you are shopping for a new press you should look at the various features of each. You may prefer something classic like a Rock Chucker, or the innovative open-front MEC. If you are looking for a compact press to use at the range, the new Lyman C-Frame is very impressive for the price. And the Forster Co-Ax remains a great addition to any loading room.

MEC Marksman Single-Stage Press

If you are looking for a new, full-size single-stage reloading press, definitely consider the MEC Marksman. Created by the makers of the popular MEC shotshell reloading systems, the MEC Marksman combines a sturdy cast-iron frame with a modern open-front design. With a $189.99 street price the Marksman press cost roughly $20 more than an RCBS Rock Chucker, but the MEC offers some distinct advantages — such as an open front plus a floating shell-holder system.

MEC Marksman Press Gavin Gear single stage open front press die caddy accessories

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com got his hands on a MEC Marksman press and put it through its paces. He came away impressed with the product, saying it delivers excellent performance, and has many impressive features. Gavin tells us: “Cast iron tools and machines are a lifetime investment. The made-in-USA MEC Marksman features ductile cast-iron construction, an open-front frame design for easy cartridge access, a new floating shell-holder design with a unique retention system, and ambidextrous handle setup.” MEC also offers a wide selection of accessories for the Marksman press, including a press riser/mount, shell-holder caddy, and die trays.

Frankford Arsenal M-Press Coaxial Reloading Press

Frankford Arsenal M-Press co-ax coaxial new reloading press die caddy accessories

Sorry, this new Frankford Arsenal coaxial M-Press has not started shipping yet so we don’t have a video. But MidwayUSA says it should arrive by mid-February 2019. We think this new M-Press should interest Forster Co-Ax fans. While the operation is similar to the Forster Co-Ax, there are some important differences. The new M-Press mounts on a flat surface, with nothing protruding below. That is significantly different than the Forster Co-Ax. The die block is different. It also appears that the shell-holder system is different. But this still self-aligns like a Forster Co-Ax. “A free-floating design allows the die and shellplate to move on two axis, so the case is always perfectly centered in the die, minimizing bullet runout.” The way the arms move is also different. In the Forster Co-Ax, the rods slide within the press frame and the part that holds the shell is fixed to them. In this design the rods are stationary and the part that holds the shell slides on them. However, the overhead handle certainly does copy the distinctive Forster design. NOTE: According to MidwayUSA, this M-Press does NOT have priming capability, unlike the Forster Co-Ax. Credit Boyd Allen for design analysis.

Forster Co-Ax Press

co-ax forster Hornady reloading single-stage  PressIf you are not yet familiar with the many unique features of the Forster Co-Ax, we recommend you watch the video above, a very thorough video review by Rex Roach. This shows how the press operates and highlights the design elements which set the Co-Ax apart from every other reloading press on the market. This 14-minute video shows the key Co-Ax features, explaining how the floating case-holder jaws work (3:30 time-mark), how the dies are held in place (4:40 time-mark), how spent primers are captured (6:10 time-mark), and how to set the primer seating depth (10:00 time-mark). We’ve used a Co-Ax for years and we still learned a few new things by watching this detailed video. If you are considering purchasing a Co-Ax, definitely watch this video start to finish.

In recent years, Forster Co-Ax® presses have been somewhat hard to find, as demand has out-stripped supply. The Co-Ax has many dedicated fans, given its unique features, such as the floating case-holder jaws, and easy, rapid slide-in/slide-out die placement. We’ve also found that Co-Ax presses load very straight ammo and we like the ability to switch between short handle (good for bullet seating) and long handle (ideal for heavy case-sizing tasks). We also think the Forster Co-Ax has one of the best spent primer capture systems on the market — a straight drop into a removable plastic cup. Simple and it works.

Lyman Brass Smith Victory Single-Stage Press

Lyman Brass Smith Victory Single stage press video

Lyman’s New Victory Single-stage Press competes with the RCBS Rock Chucker Press. With beefy cast iron construction, the Victory’s strength and leverage rivals the Rock Chucker. If you like to prime on a press, this Victory has a priming system that’s much easier to use than the Rock Chucker system. The priming tube is right up front. Simply push the shuttle at the button of the tube to advance the primer into place. The entire primer-loading system can also be removed so it doesn’t interfere with case and bullet-handling operations. We generally prefer to prime cases separately using a dedicated hand- or bench-mounted tool, but the Victory press does the job nicely. Overall, the Victory is a great value in a full-size “O-Frame” press. It’s on sale now for $154.99 at Midsouth.

RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Single-Stage Press

RCBS Rockchucker Rock Chucker Supreme Single Stage reloading press Bruno Shooters Nearly every serious hand-loader has owned or used the RCBS Rock Chucker press. This Editor still uses a Rock Chucker passed down by his brother 20 years ago. And yes, it is still going strong. The latest Rock Chucker Supreme single-stage press features an improved “upside-down Y-path” dual-bin spent primer catcher. Otherwise the Rock Chucker Supreme remains big, strong, versatile and sturdy. It has very strong linkages, with a compound leverage system providing plenty of power — FL-sizing is a breeze even with large, magnum cases. The 1″-diameter ram has 12.5 sq. inches of ram-bearing surface.

Some people may not know that the Rock Chucker offers a secondary 1 1/4″ x 12 thread for shotshell reloading dies and Piggyback 3 upgrade. The Rock Chucker Supreme retails for under $180.00 ($167.50 now at Bruno’s). The RCBS Rock Chucker is definitely a quality product that can last a lifetime. For heavy-duty sizing chores this remains one of the best choices in single-stage presses. We do recommend shopping around. You can sometimes get a pretty big discount on Rock Chuckers and RCBS has regular rebate programs.

Lyman Brass Smith Ideal C-Frame Compact Press

The Lyman Brass Smith Ideal Press is a very affordable, cast iron C-Frame reloading press. We think it is the new “class leader” in compact presses. This works great as a secondary press for your reloading room or a small press you can take to the range. The large front opening allows you to access the shell holder without hitting the support bar on other types of presses. Unlike other compact presses made from aluminum, Lyman’s Ideal press is cast iron so it is rigid and strong. The high-quality steel ram is one inch in diameter. The Brass Smith is a true ambidextrous press that can be accessed from either side and mounted the same. This is a great choice for a second, auxiliary press for depriming and bullet seating.

Lyman Ideal C frame iron press midsouth shooters

Hornady Iron Single Stage (Open-front) Press

In this “Reloading with Rosie” video, the attractive female host loads some ammo using the Hornady Iron Press. With a beefy, pyramid-style cast-iron frame with an open front, this press offers some advantages over a traditional “O-Frame” type press. Access is considerably easier, for one thing. And the top of the press includes slots to hold dies and tools — that’s really a very nice feature that saves time. Also an optional “automatic” priming system shuttles primers from a vertical tube in the back to the shell-holder in the front. That’s clever. Over all the Iron Press is a nice piece of engineering — good job Hornady.

Hornady Iron Press video

Lee Classic Cast (Iron) Breech Lock Press

Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock PressThe Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock Press offers excellent value for the money ($112.00 at Midsouth). Based on the proven design of the Classic Cast press, the updated Breech Lock series adds the quick-change die bushing and an improved primer drop system. This press is strong, with cast iron frame, all-steel linkage, and 12 square inches of ram bearing surface.

Lee says this press has the “largest opening and the longest stroke in the industry” among O-frame type presses. The handle can be mounted on either side. We love the fact that the handle angle can be adjusted, as well as the lever arm length — that allows you to adjust travel and leverage to suit your preference. Smart engineering.

The new spent primer drop features a large-diameter hollow ram with clear hose that drops primers straight to a bin — that’s simple and effective. The press is very rigid and the base is wide enough for good stability. We have one of these Classic Cast Breech Lock Presses in our reloading room and it works well.

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January 4th, 2019

Seeing Bullet Holes at 1000 Yards? Yes It IS Possible…

Pentax PF 100ED
Coalinga Range in California. At dawn we could clearly see 7mm and .30 Cal bullet holes at 1000 yards.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmWhile attending the CA Long Range Championship a few seasons back, we had the opportunity to test the performance of a high-magnification (63X) spotting scope in near-ideal conditions (maybe the best I’ve ever witnessed). On the event’s last day we arrived at 5:45 am, literally as the sun was cresting the horizon. I quickly deployed our Pentax PF-100ED spotting scope, fitted with a Pentax SMC-XW 10mm fixed-power eyepiece. When used with the 100mm Pentax scope, this 10mm eyepiece yields 63X magnification. Befitting its $359.00 price, this eyepiece is extremely clear and sharp.

At the crack of dawn, viewing conditions were ideal. No mist, no mirage, no wind. The first thing this Editor noticed was that I could see metal nail heads on the target boards. That was astonishing. As soon as the first practice targets went up, to my surprise, I could see 6.5mm, 7mm, and 30-caliber bullet holes in the white at 1000 yards. No lie…

That’s right, I could see bullet holes at 1000. I know many of you folks may not believe that, but there was no mistaking when I saw a 7mm bullet cut the white line separating the Nine Ring and Eight Ring on the target in view. (I was watching that target as the shot was fired and saw the shot-hole form). And when I looked at the 30-cal targets, the bullet holes in the white were quite visible. In these perfect conditions I could also make out 3/8″ bolt heads on the target frames.

The Human Factor
When viewing the bullet holes, I was using my left naked eye (no safety glasses or magnification). I also had a contact lens in my right eye (needed for distance vision). To my surprise, while I could see the bullet holes without much difficulty with my left eye, things were fuzzier and slightly more blurry with the right eye, even when I re-focused the scope.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmThen I invited 3 or 4 shooters to look through the scope. One younger guy, with good eyes, said immediately: “Yeah, I can see the holes — right there at 4 o’clock and seven o’clock. Wow.” Some older guys, who were wearing glasses, could not see the holes at all, no matter what we did to the scope’s main focus and diopter adjustment.

The lesson here — if you have to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses, just that extra bit of optical interference may make a difference in what you can see through the scope. Basically anything that goes between the scope eyepiece and your eyeball can degrade the image somewhat. So… you may be better off removing your glasses if you can still obtain good focus sharpness using the diopter adjustment and focus ring. I did the left vs. right eye test a half dozen times, and I could definitely see small features at 1000 yards with my naked eye that I could not see with my right eye fitted with a contact lens. (I did have to re-focus the scope for each eye, since one had a corrective lens while the other did not.)

Mirage Degrades Image Sharpness and Resolution
The “magic light” prevailed for only an hour or so, and then we started to get some mirage. As soon as the mirage appeared I was no longer able to see raw bullet holes, though I could still easily see black pasters on the black bulls. When the mirage started, the sharpness of the visible image degraded a huge amount. Where I could see bullet holes at dawn, by mid-morning I could barely read the numbers on the scoring rings. Lesson: If you want to test the ulimate resolution of your optics, you need perfect conditions.

Chromatic AberrationChromatic Aberration Revealed
As the light got brighter and the mirage increased I started to see blue and red fringing at the edges of the spotting disk and the large numerals. This was quite noticeable. On one side of the bright, white spotting disc you could see a dark red edge, while on the other side there was a blue edge (harder to see but still present).

The photo below was taken through the Pentax spotter lens using a point and shoot camera held up to the eyepiece. The sharpness of the Pentax was actually much better than this photo shows, but the through-the-lens image does clearly reveal the red and blue fringing. This fringing is caused by chromatic aberration — the failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same point. Chromatic aberration, most visible at high magnification, causes different wavelengths of light to have differing focal lengths (see diagram). Chromatic aberration manifests itself as “fringes” of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image, because each color in the optical spectrum cannot be focused at a single common point on the optical axis. Keep in mind that the Pentax does have “ED” or low-dispersion glass, so the effect would be even more dramatic with a cheaper spotting scope.


CLICK HERE to view LARGE PHOTO that shows aberration more clearly.

If you wonder why top-of-the-line spotting scopes (such as the $2980 Swarovski ATS-80 ) cost so much, the answer is that they will deliver even LESS chromatic aberration at long range and high magnification. With their exotic apochromatic (APO), ultra-low-dispersion glass, a few ultra-high-end spotting scopes can deliver an image without the color edging you see in the photo above.

The Pentax PF-100ED is a heck of a spotting scope. Any scope that can resolve bullet holes at 1000 yards is impressive. But if you want the ultimate in optical performance, with minimal chromatic aberration, you may need to step up to something like the 88mm Kowa Prominar TSN-884 with Flourite Crystal lenses ($2450.00 body only), or the 82mm Leica APO ($3899.00 with 25-50X eyepiece).

EDITOR’s NOTE: The purpose of this report is to show what is possible… in IDEAL conditions. With this Pentax 100mm, as well as a Swarovski 80mm, we have often been able to resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. But again, that performance requires really good viewing conditions. By 10:00 am at my range, even with the 100mm Pentax at 75 power, seeing 6mm bullet holes is “iffy” at best. So don’t go out and mortgage the house to buy a $4000 optic with the hope that you’ll be able to spot your shots at 1000 yards. If conditions are anything less than perfect, you’ll be lucky to see bullet holes at 500 yards. The real solution for very long-range spotting is to set up a remote target cam that broadcasts a video picture to a screen at your shooting station.

Permalink - Articles, Optics, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
January 4th, 2019

10 BEST Bolt-Action Rifles of All Time — What Do YOU Think?

Ten 10 best bolt action rifles shooter

A while back, RifleShooter online magazine published a list of the purported Ten Best Bolt-Action Rifles of All Time. Ten classic rifle designs (including the Remington 700 and Winchester Model 70) were featured with a paragraph or two explaining their notable features.

“Best” Lists Stir Controversy…
These Top 10 lists are always controversial. While most readers might approve of half the entries, there are always some items on the Top 10 list that some readers would challenge. Here is RifleShooter’s Top 10 list. What do you think? Are there some other bolt-actions that are more deserving?

1. Springfield M1903
2. Mauser 98
3. Winchester Model 70
4. Remington Model 700
5. Weatherby V

6. Sako L61/AV
7. Savage Model 110
8. Ruger M77
9. Tikka T3
10. Mannlicher-Schonauer

10bolt1402.

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January 2nd, 2019

Hunting — Programs to Strengthen America’s Ranks of Hunters

NRA join hunt hunter hunting education hunting license wildlife training

This report based on story in American Hunter magazine, by J. Scott Olmsted, Editor in Chief

The 2016 report of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, a survey conducted every five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, showed that today only about 11.5 million Americans aged 16 or older hunt. That’s only 4.9 percent of adults among a population of 320 million.

Declining Numbers of Hunters — What We Can Do
Too many Americans have left the field; they no longer hunt. Too many current American hunters continue to consider leaving the field. In fact the number of American hunters today is about half what it was 50 years ago, and the decline is expected to continue to accelerate.

Demographers don’t see any uptick on the horizon. Nearly a third of American hunters are baby boomers. The youngest boomers are 54, and trends suggest most hunters stop buying licenses by about 65. So what happens in 11 years when the last of the baby boomers stops hunting?

NRA join hunt hunter hunting education hunting license wildlife training

Indeed wildlife and wildlands are heavily dependent on hunters and fishers to survive and thrive. State agencies, which manage most of the wildlife in America, derive about 59 percent of their collective funding from hunting- and fishing-related activities. A primary source of that funding — hunters — is shrinking. Note that funding doesn’t come from birdwatching or hiking or kayaking, to name a few non-consumptive activities that contribute no funds.

where to hunt map NSSF

Hunter Education Programs from the NRA
The NRA was the first organization to develop a hunter-education course, in 1949 in New York. It became the model. Today, in the digital age, the NRA provides NRA Hunter Education Online.

NRAHE.org offers FREE comprehensive hunter safety information online. The 15-chapter sequence features videos, photos and graphics, audio recordings, interactive modules that prospective hunters may access whenever and wherever they are able to complete it. It provides the best method for teaching future hunters lessons they will remember the rest of their lives.

Let’s not forget our youngest hunters. Since 1985, the NRA’s Youth Hunter Education Challenge (YHEC) has introduced more than 1.2 million young people to safe, ethical hunting. YHEC competitions test participants’ hunting, stalking, and marksmanship skills. To learn more about YHEC, visit Yhec.nra.org.

Youth Hunter Education Challenge

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January 1st, 2019

The Modern F-Open Rifle — Action, Stock, Optics, and Cartridge

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Emil Kovan is one of the top F-Class shooters in the world. He won the 2014 United States F-Open Championship, and finished second in F-Open Division at the 2016 Canadian National F-Class Championship in Ontario. He is a great shooter and a great gun-builder as well.

The Anatomy of a Modern F-Class Open Rifle

Report by Emil Kovan
Kovan Match Rifles LLC, www.matchrifles.com

“What are the best components for an F-Open class rifle, and why?” That’s a question that I get asked all the time and will try to answer in this article. Two months ago, I was contacted by Duane, a gentleman I met at the 2015 F-Class Nationals. He was interested in building a rifle with the new Master Class Low Profile F-Open Stock, created by Carl Bernosky and Alex Sitman of Master Class Stocks.

I have known Alex Sitman for many years, and use his stocks exclusively, but was not very familiar with his new Low Profile F-Open stock. After a brief conversation with Alex, I placed an order, and had the stock inletted and bedded at my shop in a month. My first impression was “Wow that’s a long stock” — the forearm is significantly longer than on the original Master Class F-Class prone stock. I bolted the barreled action in, and squeezed the end of the forearm and barrel together, the stock flexed a little bit, but not as much as other designs that I have tested. I think that’s due to having “more meat” in the receiver area. The full stock depth continues farther forward that on some other “low profile” designs. That makes the stock stiffer in the vertical plane, reducing the hinging effect forward of the action. The stock was finished in gloss black per the customer’s request. Interestingly, I found that the multiple layers of paint and clearcoat stiffened the stock up quite a bit.

CLICK IMAGE below for full-screen version
.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Low Center of Gravity Tames Torque
Compared to the original Master Class F-Open stock, the barrel sits about an inch lower. Lower center of gravity equals less torque, and that is very important when shooting heavy bullets in fast twist barrels. Another significant improvement is that the toe of the stock is flat and parallel to the forearm. I added a 3/4″ track rail in the rear, and milled the underside of the fore-end to create two parallel “rails” in the front to help the stock track better.

One of the biggest reasons why I like Master Class stocks, is the pistol grip. I don’t shoot “free recoil” and a comfortable pistol grip is super important to me when selecting a stock. The new Master Class Low Profile stock shares the same grip as the old model. This allows the stock to accommodate either a “hard hold” style or a more free-recoil style of shooting — whatever the rifle’s owner prefers. This design versatility is one reason I recommend Master Class stocks. Shooters may experiment with either shooting style to find what suits them best.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Cartridge Choice — A 40° .284 Win Improved
Duane decided to have the barrel chambered for my 284 KMR IMP (Improved) wildcat. What is .284 KMR IMP and why choose it over the straight .284 Winchester? Improved by definition means “made better”, I took a great cartridge, and modified it to increase capacity, reduce pressure, and increase brass life.

There are many “improved” variants of the original .284 Winchester: 7mm Walker, .284 Shehane, .284 Ackley and so on. My version, the 284 KMR IMP, shares the .010″ blown-out sidewalls of the .284 Shehane, but I have further increased the case capacity by changing the shoulder angle from 35 to 40 degrees. The 284 KMR IMP allows you to almost match magnum cartridge velocity in a standard-bolt-face action. If you want to run 180gr-class 7mm bullets over 2900 FPS, it is cheaper and more convenient to have a barrel chambered in 284 KMR IMP than to spend $650 for a magnum bolt.

Tuning Loads for the .284 Win Improved Cartridges
The 284 KMR IMP seems to have two nodes, one around 2820 fps and other at 2940 fps. My match load clocks at 2935 fps with single-digit ES. Note –I selected that load based on accuracy, NOT raw speed. A lot of novice (or hard-headed) shooters make the mistake to push their cartridges to the max, and disregard more accurate loads at lower velocity.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

The sport of F-Class is rapidly growing, and the equipment used is improving constantly. I remember that only few years ago, an F-Open rifle that could shoot sub-one-inch of vertical at 300 yards was considered competitive. Now, we are pursuing sub-one-inch vertical at 600 yards! It takes a great rifle to approach that goal, but it is also up to the shooter to learn and experiment as much as possible in order to achieve success.

Dies for an Improved .284 Win Cartridge
One of the biggest challenges in campaigning a wildcat cartridge has been obtaining great dies. When searching for custom dies, it almost seems like that the odds are stacked against us. The most common problem is wait-time — custom die orders can take months to be completed. Also, most custom die makers want you to send them two or three cases, each fire-formed three times. I find that funny because if could somehow properly size the cases for three fire-forming cycles, I would not need a sizing die.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Custom-made dies should size the case just right, but sometimes the die’s internal dimensions are slightly off, and this leads to problem number two: dies sizing too much (or even worse) too little. I had a one “custom” die that would not size the bottom of the case enough. This made the extraction of fired cases very difficult. I feel that the best option (if available) for shooters interested in wildcat chambers is to have their gunsmiths make the dies. I offer that die-making service in addition to barrel chambering.

BAT Machine “M” Action
Duane decided to use a BAT M action for this rifle, and I think that he could not have made a better choice. We are blessed with many good match-quality receivers: Barnard, BAT, Borden, Kelbly, Nesika, and Stiller just to mention a few. These are all very well-made and suitable for F-Class. Among BAT Machine Co.actions, I like BAT models M, MB, and 3LL best. I prefer these because because of their size (large bedding footprint) smoothness, timing, options available, and last but not least visual appearance.

Trigger: I recommend and use Jewell triggers. Other good options are: Kelbly, CG Jackson (good 2-Stage) Anschutz (best 2-Stage for Bat and Kelbly actions), Bix’N Andy, and David Tubb.

Barrel: Duane made another good choice here. He decided to go with a Brux 1:8.5″-twist, 4-groove cut-rifled barrel. If you look at the F-Class and Long Range benchrest equipment lists, you will see that cut-rifled barrels are currently dominating. Many records have been shot with both button-rifled, and cut-rifled barrels. I have shot both, and prefer cut-rifled barrels. I am not saying that button-rifled barrels are not capable of shooting as well as cut-rifled barrels, but on average, in my experience, four out of five cut-rifled barrels (from top makers) will shoot well, vs. three out of five buttoned barrels. YMMV, but this is what I’ve observed.

Brux Barrels is not the only company that produces very accurate cut-rifled barrels. We know that Krieger, Bartlein, Satern, and Hawk Hill Custom all make fine cut-rifled barrels as well.

Scope: Duane’s rifle was fitted with a Nightforce 15-55x52mm Competition scope with DDR-2 reticle. This optic is ultra clear, reasonably lightweight (28 oz.), super reliable, and has 1/8 MOA clicks — what you want for long range F-Class competition. In this 15-55X NF model, I like the DDR-2 reticle best, because fine cross hairs (FCH) are hard to see in heavy mirage. The DDR-2 has a heavier horizontal line, with a center dot. March scopes are also very popular and very well-made.

.284 Win F-Class F-Open Rifle Emil Kovan Brux BAT M Master Class Bernosky

Thanks for reading, and keep ‘em in the middle…

Emil Kovan F-Class competition bio photoEmil Kovan Competition History:

– 2014 F-Class Open National Champion

– 2016 F-Class Open Canadian Championship, Silver Medal (tied for first on score)

– 2015 F-Class Open National Championship, Silver Medal

– F-Class Open National Championship Teams, 2015, 2014, 2013, Shooting Team Member

– Over 15 wins in Regional and State Championships in Palma, F-TR, F-Open

– 2013 U.S. National Team Member

– 2017 U.S. National Development Team Member

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January 1st, 2019

Primer Pocket and Flash Hole Uniforming Basics

Reloading Case Prep Flash Hole Primer Pocket

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a series of reloading “how-to” articles on its Facebook Page. This post explains how to uniform primer pockets and remove burrs in flash holes. These brass prep operations can help ensure greater consistency, shot after shot. Visit the USAMU Facebook Page for other, helpful handloading tips.

Primer Pocket and Flash-Hole Conditioning

This week, we’ll address a question that frequently arises: “Do you uniform primer pockets and deburr flash-holes?”

As we tailor our handloading methods to the specific needs of each instance, the answer, not surprisingly, is “occasionally!” Generally, the USAMU Handloading Shop does not uniform primer pockets (PP) or deburr flash holes (FH) of our rifle brass. That’s not to say we’re against it — rather, it reflects the very high volume of ammunition loaded, the fact that very few cases are ever re-loaded for a second firing, and the types of brass we use. However, as a need is perceived, we DO deburr flash holes (of which, more later.)

As to the type cases we use, many thousands of our long-range 5.56x45mm cases come to us from the arsenal with the primer of our choice pre-installed and staked in per their usual practice. Obviously, we could not uniform either FHs or PPs on this live-primed brass. However, after careful sorting, inspection and preparation, we do obtain match-winning results with it. Regular readers have seen photos of some of the tiny 1000-yard test groups we’ve fired with weight-selected domestic brass which had neither Primer Pockets uniformed nor flash holes deburred.

Reloading Case Prep Flash Hole Primer Pocket
Figure 1 shows a fired, deprimed 7.62×51 case with primer residue intact. In Figure 2, the primer pocket has been uniformed to SAAMI specs. Note the shiny finish — evidence of the metal removed to uniform and square the primer pocket.

Shooters who reload their brass several times may decide to uniform PPs and deburr FHs, especially on their “300-yard and beyond” brass. Unlike us, they will be using their cases many times, while the operations are only needed once. Also, most handloaders only process a relatively moderate amount of brass compared to our 20-thousand round lots. Having high quality Long Range (LR) brass helps. Many of the better brass manufacturers form their flash holes so that no burrs are created.

Still, it does pay to inspect even THESE manufacturer’s products, as occasional slips are inevitable. Very rarely, some of these makers will have a significant burr in, say, 1 per 1000 or 2000 cases, and it’s worth catching those. Recently, we began processing a large lot of match brass from a premier manufacturer, and were startled to find that every case had a burr in the FH — something we’d never before seen from this maker. We then broke out the FH deburring tool and went to work.

Reloading Case Prep Flash Hole Primer Pocket

For those who do opt for these procedures, note that various tool models may have adjustable depth-stops. Pay attention to the instructions. Some flash hole deburring tools which enter the case mouth, not the primer pocket, depend on uniform case length for best results.

Does It Really Make a Difference?
It can be difficult to truly verify the contribution to accuracy of these procedures, particularly when firing from the shoulder, in conditions. Members of this staff, as individual rifle competitors, do often perform these operations on their privately-owned LR rifle brass.

One could ascribe this to the old High Power Rifle maxim that “if you think it helps, then it helps”. Another thought is to “leave no stone unturned” in the search for accuracy.

However, an extremely talented World Champion and Olympic Gold/Silver medalist commented on his own handloading (for International competition, which demands VERY fine accuracy). He noted that he did seem to see a decline in accuracy whenever he did not uniform FH’s, deburr FH’s and clean primer pockets before each reloading; however, with the wisdom of decades’ experience, he also remarked that “It could have been that I just wasn’t shooting as well that day.”

Permalink - Articles, Reloading 2 Comments »
December 27th, 2018

Chronos by The Numbers — Tips on ES, SD, and Sample Sizes

USAMU Marksmanship Unit Velocity Chronograph Testing Sample Sizes

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) regulary publishes “how-to” articles on the USAMU Facebook page. One informative “Handloading Hump Day” article covers chronograph testing and statistical samples. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tips that can benefit any hand-loader. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.

Chronograph Testing — Set-Up, Sample Sizes, and Velocity Factors

Initial Chronograph Setup
A chronograph is an instrument designed to measure bullet velocity. Typically, the bullet casts a shadow as it passes over two electronic sensors placed a given distance apart. The first screen is the “start” screen, and it triggers an internal, high-speed counter. As the bullet passes the second, or “stop” screen, the counter is stopped. Then, appropriate math of time vs. distance traveled reveals the bullet’s velocity. Most home chronographs use either 2- or 4-foot spacing between sensors. Longer spacing can add some accuracy to the system, but with high-quality chronographs, 4-foot spacing is certainly adequate.

Laboratory chronographs usually have six feet or more between sensors. Depending upon the make and model of ones chronograph, it should come with instructions on how far the “start” screen should be placed from one’s muzzle. Other details include adequate light (indoors or outdoors), light diffusers over the sensors as needed, and protecting the start screen from blast and debris such as shotgun wads, etc. When assembling a sky-screen system, the spacing between sensors must be extremely accurate to allow correct velocity readings.

Statistics: Group Sizes, Distances and Sample Sizes
How many groups should we fire, and how many shots per group? These questions are matters of judgment, to a degree. First, to best assess how ones ammunition will perform in competition, it should be test-fired at the actual distance for which it will be used. [That means] 600-yard or 1000-yard ammo should be tested at 600 and 1000 yards, respectively, if possible. It is possible to work up very accurate ammunition at 100 or 200 yards that does not perform well as ranges increase. Sometimes, a change in powder type can correct this and produce a load that really shines at longer range.

The number of shots fired per group should be realistic for the course of fire. That is, if one will be firing 10-shot strings in competition then final accuracy testing, at least, should involve 10-shot strings. These will reflect the rifles’ true capability. Knowing this will help the shooter better decide in competition whether a shot requires a sight adjustment, or if it merely struck within the normal accuracy radius of his rifle.

How many groups are needed for a valid test? Here, much depends on the precision with which one can gather the accuracy data. If shooting from a machine rest in good weather conditions, two or three 10-shot groups at full distance may be very adequate. If it’s windy, the rifle or ammunition are marginal, or the shooter is not confident in his ability to consistently fire every shot accurately, then a few more groups may give a better picture of the rifle’s true average.

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December 25th, 2018

Merry Christmas to Our Readers — Thanks for Your Support

Christmas AccurateShooter.com tree snow

Christmas AccurateShooter.com Elk CanadaHoliday Greetings to Our Readers
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our readers and especially our 43,000+ Forum Members. This marks our 14th Christmas “in business”, and the site is stronger than ever thanks to our contributing Gold and Silver Forum members and industry sponsors. AccurateShooter.com is now accessed by over 500,000 visitors every month, who enjoy our Feature Articles, Daily Bulletin, Shooters’ Forum, and our Facebook Page. We added 5000 new Forum members this past year! Part of the reason for that success is the hard work of our dedicated staff and volunteer helpers.

Unsung Heroes Deserve Recognition
I want to acknowledge those guys who have really helped out the site. Number one is our Systems Admin, Jay Christopherson. Along with being a darn fine shooter, Jay is a computer guru who keeps the servers running smoothly. We acknowledge Boyd Allen and EdLongRange who supply story leads for the Daily Bulletin, as well as F-Class John, who prepares Deals of the Week. We also thank Jeff Williams, our “Answerman” who fields questions from our readers. We have a great place to test rifles thanks to our valued friend (and designated trigger-puller) Joe Friedrich. Special thanks go to: Ed Mobley and Steve Lawrence of 65Guys.com; Bill, Editor of Rifleshooter.com; Gavin Gear; and Erik Cortina. These folks have worked on important product tests, contributing stories and videos. I also want to recognize our regular contributors, including Craig Arnzen, Vince Bottomley, James Mock, John Whidden, and Glen Zediker. All these men (and many others) have all contributed much time and effort.

We also want to thank our major sponsors, without whose support the site could not provide the full AccurateShooter.com experience, with an active Forum, an archive of in-depth articles, and fresh content 365 days a year in our Daily Bulletin. We’re grateful to all our sponsors and advertisers. In particular, we want to acknowledge the major online retailers who have been strong supporters of this site for many years: Bruno Shooters Supply, Bullet Central, Graf & Sons, Grizzly Industrial, EuroOptic, Midsouth Shooters Supply, Powder Valley Inc., and Precision Reloading. Thanks also to major advertisers Capstone, Nosler, Precision HC Gear, Stocky’s Stocks, Whidden Gunworks, and Zeiss Optics. The continuing support of these companies, and ALL our sponsors, helps us serve our readers and Forum members.

Christmas AccurateShooter.com Elk Canada

Photos courtesy Freechristmaswallpapers.net.

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December 23rd, 2018

What You Need to Know about Firearms Gift Transfers

firearm gun gift law rules NSSF
Image Courtesy NSSF. This story is based on an NSSF Article.

‘Tis the season of gift-giving (and Christmas Day is nearly here). Perhaps you’re considering giving a a first rifle to your grandson or perhaps a carry pistol to a spouse. When making a gun gift to a friend or family member, however, there are some very important legal considerations. Also the rules on firearms gift transfers vary from state to state. Bottom line here — you need to know the law BEFORE you deliver that shiny new firearm to a family member, close friend, or relative.

The first thing to remember if you’re thinking about giving someone a gun is that … it’s a gun! You already know that ownership of a firearm brings with it some serious legal and ethical obligations that other consumer products don’t. So let’s look at some questions you may have about giving a firearm as a gift.

firearm gun gift law rules NSSF
Image Courtesy NSSF

ATF Firearms gun giftsThe first question you have to ask is whether the intended recipient can legally own the firearm where he or she lives. With more than 20,000 different gun laws on the books, even the kinds of firearms that law-abiding citizens can own vary from place to place. For example, juveniles (under age 18) generally speaking are precluded by law from possessing a handgun. Check out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) website for an overview of local laws and, whatever you do, don’t forget that you can never under any circumstances transfer a firearm to someone you know — or have reasonable cause to believe — legally can’t own one. That’s a federal felony, so be careful.

There’s no federal law that prohibits a gift of a firearm to a relative or friend who lives in your home state. Abramski v. United States, a recent Supreme Court decision involving a “straw purchase” of a firearm did not change the law regarding firearms as gifts. The following states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington State) and the District of Columbia require you to transfer a firearm through a local firearms retailer so an instant background check will be performed to make sure the recipient is not legally prohibited from owning the gun. Maryland and Pennsylvania require a background check for private party transfer of a handgun. There are exceptions, so it’s important to check the law of your state or ask your local firearms retailer.

ATF Firearms gun giftsConsider a Gift Card Instead of Direct Gift
The ATF recommends that if you want to give someone a new firearm, rather than going to a gun store and buying the gun on your own, consider instead purchasing a gift certificate/card from your favorite gun retailer. Then give that gift card as the present. That way the recipient can choose the exact gun he or she wants, and there’s no question about who is “the actual buyer of the firearm,” which is a question any purchaser must certify on the Federal Form 4473 at the time of purchase. The Gift Card option avoids any “straw purchaser” issues.

Intra-Family Transfers and Antique Arms
What if you want to give “Old Betsy,” your favorite old deer rifle, to your son or daughter as a college graduation gift? Again, in most states, there’s no law that says you can’t, but some states require even intra-family transfers to go through a licensed dealer. Remember, you can never transfer a firearm directly to another person who is a resident of a different state. In that case, you must transfer the firearm through a licensed dealer in the state where the person receiving the gift resides. Using a gift certificate from a firearms retailer near where the recipient lives might be a good solution. Pre-1898 antique firearms are generally exempt from the dealer requirement. [But check with the laws in your jurisdiction]. Be safe and check with your dealer or local law enforcement before you hand over your prized possession.

Regulations on Firearms Shipping to Third Parties
When you intend to transfer a gun, there are important rules on interstate shipping*. Generally speaking, you can only ship a handgun by common carrier (but not U.S. Mail) and a long gun by U.S. Mail or common carrier to a federally licensed dealer, but not to a non-licensed individual. With all carriers, federal law requires you to declare that your package contains an unloaded firearm. To be safe, always consult your carrier in advance about its regulations for shipping firearms. Also check your state laws on transfers.


*Different rules may apply to shipping to parties IN-STATE or shipping firearms to yourself in temporary care of others. Always consult your own state laws, but here are some FAQs copied directly from the ATF.GOV website:

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December 21st, 2018

Get Smart — Read FREE Applied Ballistics TECH Articles

Want to improve your understanding of Ballistics, Bullet Design, Bullet Pointing, and other shooting-related tech topics? Well here’s a treasure trove of gun expertise. Applied Ballistics offers three dozen FREE tech articles on its website. Curious about Coriolis? — You’ll find answers. Want to understand the difference between G1 and G7 BC? — There’s an article about that.

“Doc” Beech, technical support specialist at Applied Ballistics says these articles can help shooters working with ballistics programs: “One of the biggest issues I have seen is the misunderstanding… about a bullet’s ballistic coefficient (BC) and what it really means. Several papers on ballistic coefficient are available for shooters to review on the website.”

Credit Shooting Sports USA Editor John Parker for finding this great resource. John writes: “Our friends at Applied Ballistics have a real gold mine of articles on the science of accurate shooting on their website. This is a fantastic source for precision shooting information[.] Topics presented are wide-ranging — from ballistic coefficients to bullet analysis.”

READ All Applied Ballistics Articles HERE »

Here are six (6) of our favorite Applied Ballistics articles, available for FREE as PDF files. There are 31 more, all available on the Applied Ballistics Articles Webpage.

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December 18th, 2018

224 Valkyrie Video Showcase — Field Tests and Reloading Info

Valkyrie Video .224 224 Valk Gavin Gear Reloader

The .224 Valkyrie is the “trendy” cartridge now for AR shooters looking for better long-range performance than the standard .223 Rem (5.56×45) can provide. With the right bullets and load, the .224 Valkyrie offers significantly less drop and drift at long range. The .224 Valkyrie is basically a 6.8 SPC case necked down to .22-caliber. You can use your existing AR15 lower, but you will need a dedicated .224 Valkyrie upper, or at the minimum a new barrel, modified bolt with proper bolt face, and 6.8-compliant mags.

Valkyrie fans say this efficient cartridge offers performance rivaling a 22-250 in a smaller case. The Social Regressive YouTube channel explains: “There are two key reasons why the 224 Valkyrie is unique and desirable. First, it is specifically designed to fit the limitations of the AR-15 platform. It does so even when loaded with gigantic bullets, like the 90-grain SMK that Federal announced. The .22-250 Rem is too long and too fat to work in the AR-15 platform; it needs an AR-10 bolt and magazine.”

Valkyrie Video Fest — Five Informative Videos

Here are five videos featuring the .224 Valkyrie cartridge and rifle options. We think the two applications that make most sense for this new cartridge are: 1) PRS Gas Gun matches (Open Class) — you get 6.5 Creedmoor ballistic performance with much less recoil for faster shot transitions; and 2) Long-Range (400+ yards) varminting — you get performance similar to a 22-250 in a cartridge that works with your existing AR15 lower. That will really help with those long shots on P-dogs.

In this video Gavin Gear test the .224 Valkyrie cartridge in both AR and bolt-action rifles. Using a drone to capture images of shots on target, Gavin produces some impressively small groups at 600 yards. This shows that the .224 Valkyrie has serious accuracy potential when the load is right.

In this 37-minute video on the “IraqVeteran8888″ channel, Chad tests a .224 Valkyrie rifle with various ammo, including 90gr handloads. The test addresses the pros and cons of this new cartridge, explaining the need to have realistic expectations, and a barrel with twist rate suitable for your bullet choices. This is a long video, but worth watching if you are contemplating building or buying a .224 Valkyrie.

This follow-up IraqVet888 video focuses on reloading for the .224 Valkyrie. Chad addresses a multitude of issues including: powder selection, bullet options, brass longevity and primer pocket uniforming. If you own a .224 Valkyrie and hand-load for the rifle, you should watch this video.

Here Gavin Gear tests Starline’s new .224 Valkyrie brass, seeing how well it stands up to repeated firings. Gavin checked for primer pocket stretching and found that 50% of the cases went 8 or more firings before the primer pockets grew too much. However a few cases did need to be retired after four firings. Gavin notes: “Brass longevity is one of the key considerations for loading 224 Valkyrie, so I thought I would put my Starline 224 Valkyrie cases to the test! Be sure to read the full Brass Test article for more insights.

The .224 Valkyrie has been marketed as a low-recoil round that can stay supersonic to 1300 yards and beyond (with 90gr Sierra MatchKings). Here a Sniper’s Hide duo shots an AR-platform .224 Valkyrie at distances out to 1550+ yards. To be honest, the accuracy wasn’t that impressive. However this test confirms that the .224 Valkyrie does launch the long, heavy projectiles at high enough velocities to prove superior to the standard .223 Rem. Frank Galli (aka “Lowlight”) teams up with Brian Whalen of Colorado Precision Rifle at the Blue Steel Ranch in New Mexico.

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December 16th, 2018

The 6.5 Guys Review Howa Mini-Action Rifles

Howa Mini Action Rifle 6.5 Guys 65guys.com Legacy Sports 6.5 Grendel 7.62x39

Are you looking for a new varmint rifle for next season, or perhaps you’re shopping for a “first rifle” for your son/daughter, or young relative, as a Christmas gift. Then consider the Howa Mini Action. This unique product, with a very compact action, offers excellent value for the money. The actions are smooth, the triggers are good, and the accuracy is typically better than you’ll get from most domestic rifle makers.

We’ve been fans of the Howa Mini Action rifles since they were first introduced. With actions that are nearly an inch shorter than typical “short actions”, these Mini Action rigs work great as a compact “truck gun” or carry-around varminter. Current chamberings are: .204 Ruger, .222 Rem, .223 Rem, 6.5 Grendel, and 7.62×39. There are 20″ lightweight, 20″ heavy contour, and 22″ standard contour barrel options.

6.5 Guy Ed Mobley Tests the 7.62×39 Howa Mini Action Rifle
Howa Mini Action Rifle 6.5 Guys 65guys.com Legacy Sports 6.5 Grendel 7.62x39

The Howa Mini Action rifles come with the excellent HACT 2-stage trigger and a 5-round or 10-round, synthetic detachable box mag (depending on caliber). The Mini Action’s bolt is 13% shorter than on regular short actions, providing a shorter, faster bolt throw. Weight is also reduced. This makes for a nice, compact (and very shootable) package.

6.5 Guys Test Howa Mini Actions in 6.5 Grendel and 7.62×39

The 6.5 Guys tested a pair of Howa Mini Actions, one chambered in 6.5 Grendel and the other in 7.62×39 Russian: “After trying out the Howa Mini Action rifles at SHOT Show 2017, we got a couple of loaners in 6.5 Grendel and 7.62×39 courtesy of Legacy Sports. These rifles are known for their smooth cycling and lightweight actions, as well as some unique chamberings for bolt rifles (6.5 Grendel, 7.62×39). Long story short, we really enjoyed them.” In fact Steve liked his 6.5 Grendel enough that he plans to purchase the gun. Get the full scoop in this VIDEO REVIEW:

The folks at Legacy Sports also conducted extensive accuracy tests of commercial ammunition in 6.5 Grendel and 7.62×39. The most accurate 6.5 Grendel ammo, with a stunning 0.29″ group, was Alexander Arms with Lapua 123gr Scenar; second best (0.56″ group) was Hornady with 123gr A-Max bullet. The most accurate 7.62×39 ammo was Hornady 123gr SST with a 0.62″ group in the 20″ Heavy Barrel version. View Howa’s Test Reports with these links:

6.5 Grendel Factory Ammo Data | 7.62×39mm Factory Ammo Data

Howa Mini Action Rifle 6.5 Guys 65guys.com Legacy Sports 6.5 Grendel 7.62x39
Click HERE for full-screen image.

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