It’s December, time to decorate your Christmas tree with sparkling lights. Maybe you should do the same thing with your gun safe…
Few, if any, gun safes come with adequate factory-installed lighting. Even if you have overhead lamps in the room where your safe resides, you’ll still find that the inside of your safe is dark, making it difficult to find small items. By adding interior lighting to your gun safe, you’ll lessen the chance of “bumping and grinding” your precious firearms as you move them in and out of the safe.
Here is a simple, do-it-yourself project that costs very little money. String LED lighting is now available at low cost. Called “rope lights” or “string lights”, these are strings of LEDs in lengths of plastic tubing. Gunsafe vendors sell strings for up to $35.00 per coil, but you can buy the same products at discount chains for under $5.00. Brian J. from Virginia reports: “I just went to Wally World’s Christmas clearance section and picked up two strands of Rope Lights for $3.50 each!” He then installed the strings behind the shelves of his gunsafe, as you can see in the photos.
LED string lights draw very little electrical power and have a very long life-span so you can leave your Rope Lights running continuously in winter. In addition to illumination, LED strings will provide some warming of the air in the safe, which helps prevent rust by raising the dew point. We still recommend that you use a GoldenRod or similar warming unit, placed at the bottom of your safe, plus desiccant packs to actually absorb moisture.
As you can see, Rope Lights provide a great lighting solution that illuminates even the small dark corners of internal shelving units. Rope Lights are easy to install. Just string the lights behind your shelves. Most safes come with a pre-drilled hole in the bottom for a dehumidifier. Just slip your Rope Light power cord through this hole and plug it into the wall.
Gun Safe Buyers’ Guide
For more tips on how to illuminate your safe and protect its contents from rust and corrosion, read our Gun Safe Buyers’ Guide. The most comprehensive Gun Safe Resource on the web, this article covers a multitude of topics including lock selection (electronic vs. manual dial), fire-proofing, door hinge design, water-proofing, wall construction, rust prevention, handgun storage options, and gun safe installation.
Gun safe interior photos by Brian J., used with permission.
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The 6.5 Guys have been testing the bargain-priced Magnetospeed Sporter chronograph. This compact chrono offers great utility at an affordable price — you can buy the Sporter for under $180.00. Strapped on your barrel, the MagnetoSpeed Sporter records velocities accurately without requiring any hardware to be placed downrange. Everything is self-contained at your shooting station, so you no longer have to waste time setting up tripods and aligning the bullet path through old-fashioned chrono skyscreens.
Watch Video Review of MagnetoSpeed Sporter by the 6.5 Guys:
The 6.5 Guys give the MagnetoSpeed Sporter two thumbs up:
“Optical chronographs have been in use for decades but can be cumbersome to deploy and don’t work well in certain weather conditions. The folks at MagnetoSpeed have addressed these shortcomings with a completely different technology that is extremely compact, cost effective, convenient to use, insensitive to weather conditions and, best of all, accurate.
We’ve been using the MagnetoSpeed since V1 and the only reason we use our optical chronographs is for situations where we cannot hang the bayonet from the gun barrel. This is the most convenient, accurate, and portable chronograph system that we have come across. You’re also less likely to damage your MagnetoSpeed when compared to optical chronographs (which seem to attract bullets). There are also a number of useful accessories available. As discussed in the video, the XFR adapter and associated smartphone application allows users with MagnetoSpeed Sporter and V3 displays to download their current (un-archived) shot series to their Android or iOS device.”
CLICK HERE for MagnetoSpeed Sporter specifications and operating instructions.
MagnetoSpeed Sporter in Stock Now at Grafs.com for $179.99
Priced at just $179.99 at Grafs.com, the Magnetospeed Sporter model costs less than half as much as Magnetospeed’s V3 models. This chronograph attaches directly to your barrel so you don’t have to go downrange to position tripods and set up skyscreens. For most people, the Sporter model contains all the features they need. READ Magnetospeed Sporter Review.
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Barnard makes great actions, many of which come complete with superb two-stage triggers. For a long-range competition rifle, a Barnard action is a very good choice. And now you can save up to $150.00 on Barnard Precision actions, complete with trigger. Our friend, 4-Time National Long-Range Champion John Whidden, decided to offer a special Holiday Promotion for shooters. A wide selection of Barnard actions have been discounted 10% (ten percent). This is a great opportunity to save money.
Whidden Gunworks has many Barnard actions on sale. These include repeater actions and actions that will fit large magnums — so there’s something for every application. John Whidden tells us: “As a part of this sale, Whidden Gunworks is offering $50 off barrel installations for any in-stock action sold. We have in-stock barrels from both Bartlein and Lilja. If you hurry, there is time to have your barrel installed on your new action by Christmas!”
This sale is limited to the models shown below and the inventory on hand:
Barnard Action Q & A with John Whidden
Q: In addition to the Model P, What Other Actions Does Barnard Produce?
Whidden: Many shooters familiar with the Barnard Model P, but we now carry six (6) other Barnard actions. These include the PC action with multiple bolt/port options, the Model SM repeater (with Rem 700 footprint), and the PLM which is a perfect fit for the big .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge.
Q: What Are the Key Features of Barnard Actions?
Whidden: Barnard actions have won a reputation for accuracy, robustness, and exceptional straightness and quality in manufacture. Their design is very rigid and stiff. The three-lug bolt gives a short bolt-lift. These qualities are available in the full line of of Barnard actions. The fact that many models include the excellent Barnard trigger make them a good value among custom actions.
Q: What Barnard Actions Do You Recommend for Particular Disciplines?
Whidden: For those interested in F-Class and Long Range Benchrest shooting styles the Model PC is very attractive. The PC is the same size and footprint as the familiar Model P except that the PC offers different bolt/port configurations. Available in the PC are right bolt/left port, left bolt/right port, and dual ports. The Model S and SM actions will accept Remington pattern triggers and fit into stocks inletted for the Rem 700. This gives PRS shooters the chance to have a superb action with a three-lug configuration for their use. The PL and PLM are sized for the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge and wildcats based on that case-head size.
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Many shooters are familiar with ballistics tables, weather programs, and even wind meters for smart devices, but few may know about a very handy Leveling Tool that comes factory-installed on Apple iPhones. The leveling function is a little-known option in Apple’s Compass App. It works well for a multitude of tasks.
There are a numerous reasons that a leveling tool should be in every rifleman’s range bag. From leveling optics during mounting to figuring out how much extra compensation is going to be required for a tricky angled shot, knowing just how far off things are from plumb can go a long way towards realizing success in the field.
This writer has used the leveling app on his iPhone to level a rifle on a rest while at the range. It definitely worked for “field expedient” leveling duties. That’s especially important for long-range applications. Just one degree of cant (tilt) can move your point of impact 7 inches at 1000 yards.
Of course, the iPhone level doesn’t use an actual bubble to find angles. Rather, it relies on the device’s sophisticated accelerometer to do so, and with a great degree of accuracy. Navigating to the level is done by first selecting the Compass App, at which point the device will need to be calibrated by rotating it a full 360 degrees. Once the compass is fully calibrated, simply make right swipe gesture to bring up the level — it will start operating immediately.
From there, use is intuitive and easy, like most iPhone Apps. Switching from horizontal plane to vertical is done by simply changing the physical axis of the phone. How do you know when you’ve got things just right — well the entire lower half of the screen turns green when everything is perfectly level. You’ll also see a zero° read-out, like this:
Bottom Line: If you already own an iPhone, you should definitely give this App a try. The price is right (free), and for a wide variety of tasks the iPhone Level App is actually pretty handy.
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Need a new barrel for your Rem-actioned hunting or tactical rifle? Here’s a great DIY option for riflemen. McRee’s Precision offers complete, no-gunsmithing re-barreling kits for Remington and Rem-clone actions. These feature a high-quality, pre-chambered “PRE-FIT” stainless barrel from Criterion, a Savage-style barrel nut, a recoil lug, and a special barrel-nut wrench. With this system you can easily re-barrel your favorite Remington rifle yourself in less than an hour. You don’t need to pay gunsmithing fees, or wait weeks (or months) for a busy smith to do the job. And the price is under $500.00. McRee’s Precision even offers a Half-MOA Accuracy Guarantee with its pre-fitted barrel kits. NOTE: Check MrReesPrecision.net on Thanksgiving for a Holiday Special Price (probably 10% Off).
McRee’s Precision Remington DIY Barrel Kit includes Criterion Pre-Fit Stainless Barrel, Barrel Nut, Recoil Lug, Thread Protector, and Barrel Nut Wrench: The stainless steel Barrel Nut is set up for 1 1/16 x 16 barrel threads, while the stainless steel recoil lug has a 1/8 inch removable locator pin and is set up for 1.0625 dia barrel threads.Barrel Kit Specifications.
McRee’s Precision sells Rem-action Pre-Fit barrel packages (complete with barrel nut, recoil lug, and wrench) starting at $499.52 (get a Holiday Discount on that price commencing 11/24/2016). Choose from five chamberings: .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .260 Rem, .308 Win, and .300 Win Mag. These Pre-Fit barrel kits are “100% complete and ready-to-install”. All you need to do is remove your current barrel, place the recoil lug, spin on the new tube, follow the instructions for setting head-space, then torque the barrel nut against the lug. NOTE: You may require a barrel vise and action wrench to remove the original barrel. Minor inletting changes may be needed forward of the action.
The folks at McRee’s Precision say their Pre-Fit system offers many advantages: “Remington Pre-Fitted Barrel Kits have become popular over the years. If Savage can do it, why not for our Remingtons? Our [Criterion-supplied] barrels are spec’d to the McRee standard of performance. There are several places to get the tools required to remove your factory barrel correctly. Once you have your barrel removed all you have to do is follow the normal Savage procedure to install your new barrel. We recommend that you contact your local gunsmith for the install. Feel free to call us with any questions.”
Product Tip from Ed LongRange. We welcome readers’ submissions.
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Trimming and chamfering brass are tasks hand-loaders grow to hate. Those chores are time-consuming and tiresome. Thankfully there are faster, better alternatives to manual trimming/chamfering. In this article, Forum member Erik Cortina shows how to use the Giraud tool which trims and chamfers in one operation. Erik has his own YouTube Channel dedicated to precision reloading and accurizing. Here we feature Erik’s video about the “mother of all brass trimmers”, the Giraud powered case trimmer. Erik says: “If you do volume reloading… this is the only trimmer to get. It not only trims to length but it also chamfers your case mouth inside and out.” In his video, Erik offers some very clever and useful tips that will help you get the most from your Giraud.
This is a manufacturer’s photo showing an older model.
The Giraud trimmer is very precise. When set up correctly, it can trim brass with amazing consistency. In the video, Erik trims five pieces of brass in 15 seconds (6:32 mark). He then measures all five with precision calipers (7:00-8:08). All lengths are exact within .0005 (half a thousandth). Erik notes that the Giraud trimmer indexes off the case shoulder. As long as you have fire-formed brass with consistent base-to-shoulder dimensions, you should get very consistent trim lengths.
The secret to the system is a 3-way cutting head. This cutter can be swapped in and out in a couple minutes with wrenches provided with the kit. Erik has three different heads; one each for 6.5mm, 7mm, and .30 caliber. The video shows how to adjust the cutting heads to match caliber diameter (and to get the desired amount of inside/outside chamfer).
To trim and chamfer cases, you simply insert them nose-first into the cartridge-specific case-holder. Erik offers a smart tip — He uses a die locking ring to position the cartridge holder (3:15). This can be locked in place. Erik says die locking rings work much better than the hex-nuts provided by Giraud (with the hex-nut, one must re-set cut length each time you change case-holders.)
The Giraud can be used in either horizontal or vertical modes. Erik prefers to have the trimmer aligned vertically, allowing him to push cases down on the trimmer head. But the trimming unit has twin sets of rubber feet, allowing horizontal or vertical orientation.
Improved Case-Holder Made with Chamber Reamer:
For his .284 Shehane, Erik had to create his own case-holder (Giraud does not make one for that wildcat cartridge). Erik used his chamber reamer. To his surprise, Erik found that the brass was easier to trim in the custom case holder (compared to the Giraud-made spring-loaded holders). With a perfect fit, trimming and case extraction went more smoothly and the process was easier on his hands. (See 9:00-10:00). Based on Erik’s experience, you may want to create your own custom case-holder.
Trim Bullet Meplats Also
With a special bullet-holder fitting and meplat cutter head, the Giraud power trimmer can be used to trim bullet meplats. Trimming meplats can help make the Ballistic Coefficents of a batch of bullets more consistent. Uniforming meplats is also often done as a first step in the process of “tipping” bullets to improve BC.
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Do you use bushings to size your case-necks? Are you assuming that your bushings are actually round on the inside, with a hole that’s centered-up properly? Well you may be in for an unpleasant surprise, based on what our friend Jim de Kort recently discovered. Jim was concerned about the run-out on his brass. His cases went into his bushing-equipped FL die pretty straight, but came out of the die with up to .004″ run-out. “What gives?”, Jim wondered. “Could the problem be the bushings themselves?”
To answer that question, Jim decided to examine his bushings. Using an Accuracy One Wheel-drive concentricity gauge, Jim checked out some of his neck bushings. What he discovered may surprise you…
Neck Bushing Flaws Revealed
Trust no one… — Jim de Kort
Jim writes: “I measured the concentricity of my 6BR rounds today. I noticed they went into the neck-bushing equipped full-length sizing die with less than .001″ deviation but came out with .003-.004″. The culprit, it appears, was the bushing itself. Without it the cases stayed within .0005″ to .001″ deviation, so something was happening with the bushing.
One bushing had .00025″ deviation on the outside, yet almost .003″ on the inside, so it is crooked. But even when using a bushing that is within .001″ I still get .003″ runout after sizing. I repeated the same procedure for my 6×47 and got the same results. When using the bushing, concentricity suffers a lot.”
Before we bash the bushing-makers, we must acknowledge that many different things can contribute to excessive run-out and/or mis-alignment of case-necks. We don’t have all the answers here, and Jim would be the first to say that some mysteries remain. Still, these are interesting results that give all precision hand-loaders something to think about.
Jim Borden of Borden Accuracy also offers this tip: “Check the trueness of the face of the die cap. That has more to do with trueness than the bushing. Also check perpendicularity of hole in bushing to top surface. When I was making dies, the cap was made by threading and facing the threaded tenon in same setup.”
Editor’s Comment: Many people have great results with neck-bushing dies, but Jim isn’t the only fellow who has seen some very odd results. I personally employ honed, non-bushing dies for many of my chamberings. These non-bushing dies (with the necks honed for .002-.003″ neck tension) produce extremely straight ammo, with run-out consistently under .0015″.
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A while back, we featured a portable reloading bench built on a Black & Decker Workmate. That proved a VERY popular do-it-yourself project so we’re showing it again, in case you missed it the first time.
Texan Robert Lewis made himself a great portable reloading bench from plywood mounted to a Black & Decker Workmate. The bench, roughly 22″ x 19″ on top, folds up to fit easily in your car’s trunk or behind the seats in a pick-up truck cab. Four recessed bolts hold the wood top section to the collapsible B&D Workmate.The sides and back of the unit are attached to the base with small nails. There is a small shelf (also nailed in place) which can be used to clamp a powder measure or hold a scale. Shown in the photo is a Harrell’s Benchrest measure and Harrell’s single-stage “C” press.
The whole unit can be built for about $65.00 with pine, or $80.00 with oak (as shown). Robert explained: “The Workmate was $40. If someone bought a 2’x4′ sheet of 3/4″ oak plywood, I think it is around $30. Using pine plywood would be about half that. Fasteners were $3. Spar Urethane would be $5.”
Robert told us: “I used a couple ideas I found on the web. The Larry Willis website gave me the idea to use the Black and Decker Workmate as a base. I found the Workmate on sale for $40 and the top is made from oak plywood I had in my shop. I sealed the wood with three coats of Spar Urethane. The whole thing folds into a nice package for transportation to and from the range.”
Editor’s NOTE: In the time that’s transpired since we first ran this story, the price of a Black & Decker workmate has gone up. However you can still pick a WM225 Workmate for under $65.00. Target is currently selling WM225 Workmates for $64.99.
Next time you have a barrel fitted, consider having your gunsmith create a “stub gauge” from a left-over piece of barrel steel (ideally taken from your new barrel blank). The outside diameter isn’t important — the key thing is that the stub gauge is created with the same reamer used to chamber your current barrel, and the stub must have the same bore diameter, with the same land/groove configuration, as the barrel on your rifle. When properly made, a stub gauge gives you an accurate three-dimensional model of the upper section of your chamber and throat. This comes in handy when you need to bump your case shoulders. Just slide a fired case (with spent primer removed) in the stub gauge and measure from base of case to the end of the gauge. Then, after bumping, re-measure to confirm how much you’ve moved the shoulder.
In addition, the stub gauge lets you measure the original length to lands and freebore when your barrel was new. This gives you a baseline to accurately assess how far your throat erodes with use. Of course, as the throat wears, to get true length-to-lands dimension, you need take your measurement using your actual barrel. The barrel stub gauge helps you set the initial bullet seating depth. Seating depth is then adjusted accordingly, based on observed throat erosion, or your preferred seating depth.
Forum member RussT explains: “My gunsmith [makes a stub gauge] for me on every barrel now. I order a barrel an inch longer and that gives him enough material when he cuts off the end to give me a nice case gauge. Though I don’t have him cut that nice-looking window in the side (as shown in photos). That’s a neat option. You can tell how much throat erosion you are getting from when it was new as well. For measuring initial seating depths, this is the most useful item on my loading bench next to calipers. Everyone should have a case gauge made by their smith if you have a new barrel put on.”
Forum member Lawrence H. has stub gauges made with his chamber reamers for each new barrel He has his smith cut a port in the stub steel so Lawrence can actually see how the bullet engages the rifling in a newly-cut chamber. With this “view port”, one can also see how the case-neck fits in the chamber. Lawrence tells us: “My stub gauges are made from my barrels and cut with my chamber reamers. With them I can measure where my bullets are ‘touching the lands’ and shoulder bump dimensions. This is a very simple tool that provides accurate information.” The photos in this article show the stub gauges made for Lawrence by his gunsmith.
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One of our Forum members asked us the question: “Does anybody make a good range box with cradles for cleaning at the bench?” The answer is yes — the MTM model RBMC Range Box offers slide-in plastic cradles that provide a reasonably sturdy platform for a quick clean when you’re done shooting. The RBMC box also offers plenty of storage for jags, brushes, solvents, ammo boxes and other miscellaneous gear you need for the range.
Among the many range boxes available, the MTM model RBMC Range Box leads the pack in terms of versatility. It is rugged, it has plenty of storage space, and it doubles as a handy cleaning station. This Editor has used the MTM Range Box to clean rifles and as a “range expedient” rifle holder when adjusting scopes and tensioning action screws. It’s a good product that does the job and stands up to rough handling.
Fitted Cleaning Cradles
The key feature setting MTM’s RBMC apart from most range boxes is the rubber-coated cradle system. Wide enough to fit a 3″-wide fore-arm, the cradles slide into vertical slots on either end of the box. This allows your range box to serve as a maintenance station. The RBMC is really pretty stable in this role, and the cradles won’t mark your stock. The cradles even feature slots on each side to hold your cleaning rods. The MTM Range Box is secure enough to stay in place when you’re brushing the barrel. However, if you’re working on a carpeted bench top, keep one hand on the box when running a cleaning rod through the bore, just to ensure the box doesn’t slide.
Versatile Upper Tray with Dividers
The MTM Range Box has two major components — the box base (with cradles), and a large upper tray with hinged top and carry handle. This large upper tray clamps securely to the bottom unit for transport. The top tray has a long section that holds cleaning rod guides, long brushes, grease syringes and the like. There are two, clear-plastic fitted divider trays. These will hold your patches and jags, plus comparators, ring wrenches, and other small tools.
What Might Be Improved
Though we really like the MTM Range Box, it’s not perfect. First, we wish the box was a bit deeper, to have added carrying capacity. The dimensions of the MTM Range Box are: 25″ long x 11.5″ wide x 8.75″ high. We’d like to see it 12″ high/deep to allow larger solvent bottles to stand upright and to provide more space to carry tools and shooting muffs. However, it is deep enough to hold the large 100-round MTM cartridge boxes that are popular with many shooters (see photo at right).
While we like the twin clear plastic dividers that fit into the removable top-tray, but we wish the dividers had individual hinged tops. This would keep small items more secure.
Creedmoor Sports has launched a completely redesigned, “new and improved” website. You’ll find it easier to navigate, with improved search funchtionality, and a more mobile-friendly interface. Check out the updated site at: www.CreedmoorSports.com.
To help celebrate the launch of its updated website, Creedmoor Sports is running a big SALE this weekend on premium rifle cases. Creedmoor makes some of the best soft rifle cases you can buy. They are constructed with premium materials and can be ordered in sizes big enough for long match rifles.
Do you have some old, tired brass that needs a thorough cleaning — inside and out? Consider using an ultrasonic cleaning machine. When used with the proper solution, a good ultrasonic cleaning machine can quickly remove remove dust, carbon, oil, and powder residue from your cartridge brass. The ultrasonic process will clean the inside of the cases, and even the primer pockets. Tumbling works well too, but for really dirty brass, ultrasonic cleaning may be a wise choice.
Our friend Gavin Gear recently put an RCBS Ultrasonic cleaning machine through its paces using RCBS Ultrasonic Case Cleaning Solution (RCBS #87058). To provide a real challenge, Gavin used some very dull and greasy milsurp brass: “I bought a huge lot of military once-fired 7.52x51mm brass (fired in a machine gun) that I’ve been slowly prepping for my DPMS LR-308B AR-10 style rifle. Some of this brass was fully prepped (sized/de-primed, trimmed, case mouths chamfered, primer pockets reamed) but it was gunked up with lube and looking dingy.”
UltimateReloader.com Case Cleaning Video (7.5 minutes):
Gavin describes the cleaning exercise step-by-step on UltimateReloader.com. Read Gavin’s Cartridge Cleaning Article to learn how he mixed the solution, activated the heater, and cycled the machine for 30 minutes. As you can see in the video above, the results were impressive. If you have never cleaned brass with ultrasound before, you should definitely watch Gavin’s 7.5-minute video — it provides many useful tips and shows the cleaning operation in progress from start to finish.
Ultra Dry Necks After Ultrasonic Cleaning — Some Suggestions
The Ultrasonic cleaning process gets cartridge brass so “squeaky clean” that increased force may be required to seat your bullets, or they may “grab” as they go in the necks. To reduce bullet-seating effort, you may benefit from adding a little dry case lube inside the case-neck before loading (use a nylon brush). Another trick is adding a teaspoon of Ballistol lube to the cleaning solution. That provides a trace lubricant inside the necks, but does not interfere with powder ignition in any way.
The RCBS ultrasonic cleaning machine features a large 3-liter capacity, 60 watt transducer, and 100 watt ceramic heater. The RCBS ultrasonic machine can be found under $140.00, and this unit qualifies for RCBS Rebates ($10 off $50 purchase or $50 off $300.00 purchase). RCBS also sells 32 oz. bottles of cleaning concentrate that will make up to 10 gallons of Ultrasonic Solution.
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This is one amazing .50-caliber rifle. Along with the lever-actuated falling block, it has a massive swing-out breech block like you’d find on a field artillery piece. The action is so wide that the sights and scope are offset. You’ve heard of the “Beauty and the Beast”? Well here the Beast IS a Beauty….
View looking down at the action from above. Note the hinged Breech-Block.
The Lee Classic Cast “O”-style press has always been an excellent value — it works as well as some other presses costing twice as much. And now Lee has improved on its Classic Cast Press design by adding a breech-lock fitting in the top. This allows you to swap dies in and out in seconds, once your dies are equipped with breech-lock quick-change bushings. The Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock press is available for under $120.00. That makes it a bargain compared to other heavy-duty single-stage presses. Midsouth Shooters Supply offers this press (item #006-90999) for $114.49, while Natchez Shooters Supplies sells the press (item #LEE90999) for $117.49.
Breech-Lock System Allows Fast Die Exchanges
With the Lee Breech-Lock Press system, the die drops straight in from the top. Then, with a quick 1/6th (60°) turn, the die locks firmly in place (like the breech on an artillery canon). The interrupted three-start thread assures dies return and lock into the exact same position each time. Bushings cost $7.43 each at Midsouth. If you prefer, you can leave a bushing in the press, and screw your dies in normally. But consider that it normally takes a dozen or more turns to screw in a normally threaded die. The Breech-lock system is way faster.
The Lee Classic Cast press features a strong, cast-iron frame and all-steel linkage. The large 1 1/8″-diameter ram is guided by over twelve square inches of ram bearing surface. We like the fact that you can mount the handle on either side, and adjust handle angle and length. As Lee explains: “The start and stop position is adjustable with a 48-tooth, ratchet-type handle clamp. In addition, the handle length is completely adjustable. Shorten [it] when you’re loading handgun and short rifle cases.”
Lock-Ring Eliminator Quick-Change Bushings
With Lee’s basic quick-lock bushings, you control vertical die position with the normal locking ring that seats against the top of the bushing. That works fine, but Lee also offers a handy Lock-Ring Eliminator Bushing (Lee SKU 90063). This clever design combines bushing and lock-ring into a single part. The Eliminator is turned from a solid piece of steel and the lock ring is integrated into the design of the part. With the Eliminator you’ll get the most repeatable and precise die positioning because lock ring and bushing are all one piece. Moreover, some guys say the Eliminator Bushings are easier to grab and remove than the standard Lee Breech-Lock Bushings.
Press owners have praised their Lee Classic Cast Breech-Lock units. Here are reports from two MidwayUSA customers:
Five Stars: Perfect single stage press. Loads accurately 6mm BR and 308 Win for competition. Large clearance is also great for my 460 Wby and 30-378 Wby. Pistol rounds in 44 mag and 45 ACP also load easy. The press has a lot of leverage for full-length rifle case sizing. Nice primer disposal system. Lowest price for its class. This unit beats my Lyman press by several miles…. ” — J. Davidson, California
Five Stars: This thing is outstanding and better than my old RCBS partner press. Once you get the sweet setting of the die, lock it in place and next time you load, you need not fumble to find the best setting. Breech lock is the key. I load a lot of .308 Win and .223 Rem for my ARs and this requires full-length sizing. Lee meets the challenge with no flex and excellent ram/die fit and alignment. Another nice feature is that the breech-lock inserts have a lock preventing [them] from unlocking. [T]he spent primer disposal is perfect vs. RCBS where primers can miss the primer catcher. The handle can also be placed left or right as needed and shortened for small cases or pistol to reduce the handle travel.” — E. Stanley, Rockford, IL
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Jeffrey Block has created a great FREE software program, OnTarget, that measures shot groups quickly and precisely. All you need is a photo or scan of your target. The program allows you to set your target distance, and provides caliber-specific tools to precisely mark the center of each shot. Once you’ve marked each bullet hole, Jeff’s OnTarget program automatically calculates group center, maximum group spread (CTC), average distance to center, group width and height, and group offset from point of aim. The program will even measure multiple groups on the same target.
Video Tutorial Shows How OnTarget Software Works
Jeff created an excellent Animated Tutorial demonstrating OnTarget’s functions. It shows how to import a target image or scan, how to set target distance and scale, how to set bullet size, how to circle each bullet hole, and how to save the marked and measured target. VIEW OnTarget TUTORIAL.
After just a few minutes spent learning the program’s tool buttons, we were able to plot shot groups on a variety of targets with ease. Once you select the target distance and bullet diameter, figuring group size is a simple matter of centering a circle tool over each bullet hole. Then the program “connects the dots” and provides all the info you could want automatically.
The program worked with bullet holes as small as 17 caliber and as large as 50 caliber. It is very precise, but remember that if your target photo was taken at an angle, distorted perspective can cause slight errors in measurement. Therefore, for the ultimate precision, you want to start with a flat scan of the target.
OnTarget Compared to Measuring Manually
We found OnTarget to be especially useful for groups with widely dispersed bullet holes, or very small bullet holes, such as 17 caliber holes. We’ve found that it’s difficult to measure 17-cal group sizes with a standard caliper, because the tool itself obscures the tiny holes. With OnTarget, the program can zoom up your target view, making it much easier to plot the center of each shot. And with a widely dispersed group of shots, the program automatically finds the two most distant shots. You can’t mistakenly pick the wrong pair of shots to measure.
MEASURING REAL TARGETS — Actual Examples
Here are examples we created with OnTarget. The first photo shows a 17 Mach 2 target. These tiny 17-cal holes are notoriously hard to measure. With OnTarget, it’s a snap. You just load the target image into the program, zoom in with the controls, and then click on the center of the holes. The program automatically calculates group size, displaying measurements in both inches and minutes of angle (MOA)
Original Target (with ruler for scale)
Target Captured and Displayed in Program
Detail of Group, Enlarged by Program
10-shot Groups? — No Problem
Here’s another target, showing 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. The first image shows the target image loaded into the program with the ten holes circled in red.
Target Displayed in Program
For this target we have used the Aiming Point option. The Aim Point was set at the center of the “X” and the program calculates average distance from the Aim Point. Very cool.
Detail of 10-Shot Group, Enlarged by Program
No Scanner Needed
The OnTarget program grabs target scans directly from a flatbed scanner using Microsoft’s Windows Image Acquisition system. But don’t worry if you don’t have a scanner. You can just take a digital photo of your target and OnTarget will import it quickly and easily. To set target scale, a simple tool allows you to mark a known length on the target (such as the diameter of the “X” Ring), and the program will then size the target accordingly. Is OnTarget precise and accurate? Here’s what Forum Member Steve W. says: “I used the extreme spread measurement of a group on one of my 600-yard match targets… as it was officially scored at the match. By clicking the +—+ icon, then clicked the cursor in the centers of the two extreme spread holes, I then entered that value in the reference window. After that it was simple because the bullet placement cursor’s circle was the same size as the black outline of the actual bullet holes on the picture of the target. OnTarget’s measurement came up within .006″ of the official 2.772 inch measurement of the group. That’s pretty darned close; well inside the human judgment of aligning the tips of a micrometer on the bullet holes.”
Bottom Line — Great Program — Download It Today
Jeffrey Block has done a great service for shooters by creating the FREE OnTarget program. It is easy to learn, it functions great, and it can save you time and effort measuring targets. It also lets you easily archive and compare multiple targets produced during load development or rifle testing. You can record ammo type, date, location, weather etc. in note fields accessed by “Group Info” and “Target Info” tabs.
Keep in mind that OnTarget was NOT created to replace existing methods for scoring competition targets. But for all other target measuring purposes it does a great job. Visit Jeff’s website, OnTargetShooting.com, view the tutorial, and check out OnTarget for yourselves.
To learn more about OnTarget, see more measuring samples, and read advanced Power-User Tips, visit our full OnTarget Product Review.
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When doing load development for any rifle, it’s nice to be able to shoot from the bench with a stable front pedestal rest. Unfortunately, rifles with narrow fore-ends and ARs with tubular handguards can be somewhat wobbly on front bags. The solution is to attach a forward bag-rider to your rifle. This provides a nice, wide and flat base that sits securely in a benchrest-style front sandbag. A wide bag-rider helps prevent the gun from rocking, steadies your aim, and improves tracking. If you’re handy with tools, you can craft your own bag-rider from metal, wood, or Delrin, but there’s an easier option. Whidden Gunworks offers a nicely-engineered “bolt-on” front plate that will enhance the bench-rested accuracy of any rifle with an accessory rail on the forearm.
The Whidden Track Plate fits securely in the forearm accessory rail on prone, cross-the-course, and Palma rifles. These guns typically have a narrow and/or rounded fore-end so they rock and wobble when used with a front pedestal rest. The TrackPlate cures that. Once installed it provides a rock-solid, 2.9″-wide platform that mates perfectly with a benchrest-type front sandbag. This gives sling-shooters maximum stability when testing loads or zeroing their sights or scope. Plus you can now shoot F-Class competitively with a prone gun.
The Track Plate is light-weight, has catamaran-style runners to aid tracking and prevent rocking, and can be easily stowed in a range bag. The machined aluminum Track Plate fits BOTH Anschutz-style and American-style recessed forearm rails.
The Track Plate is available from Whidden Gunworks for $40.99 or from Champion’s Choice for $40.00 (item W29P). Plate designer (and National LR Rifle Champion) John Whidden says: “The Plate is great for any rifle with a rail whether it ís smallbore, centerfire, or an air gun. Now you can try F-Class with your favorite prone rifle: the Plate has a perfect low-drag finish for riding a rest or sandbags and is competition legal in all dimensions.”
Front Bag-Rider for AR-15s from EGW
Similar to the Whidden Track Plate is a 3″-wide Delrin bag-rider from Evolution Gun Works (EGW). This was developed expressly to fit the fore-ends of AR15-type rifles with round float tubes. The EGW front bag-rider attaches to a front sling swivel stud anchor. That allows it to mount as easily as a Harris bipod — no rail needed! Just unscrew the swivel stud, put the front bag-rider in place and attach one hex-head machine screw. The front bag-rider is contoured to match the handguard profile so it fits securely with no wobble. Overall, it is a slick system. Front and rear bag-riders can be attached in a couple of minutes. The Delrin blocks slide easily in the bags and make the gun ultra-stable. The gun tracks straight back. The front bag-rider comes in two (2) variants, a $39.99 radiused version (item 32141) that attaches via swivel stud, and a $49.99 version (item 32143) that mounts via a Picatinny-style rail.
EGW AR Front Bag-Rider System
EGW Picatinny Rail-Attached Front Bag-Rider
EGW Rear Bag-Rider for AR Buttstocks
EGW also offers a REAR bag-rider that attaches via the sling swivel anchor. The EGW AR Rear Bag-Rider accessory (item 32142), designed to work with A2-style buttstocks, sells separately for $39.99. This rear bag-rider provides a longer, straight “keel” that works very well in rear sandbags, giving the rifle more stability, and improving the tracking.
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Our good friends Ed and Steve (aka “The 6.5 Guys”) have just released an in-depth product review of the AMP Annealing system. Produced in New Zealand, the AMP (Annealing Made Perfect) unit is a sophisticated, microprocessor-controlled annealing machine that achieves ultra-consistent results through an electrical INDUCTION process.
AMP Annealing Machine Review by the 6.5 Guys:
Ed was so impressed with the AMP annealer that he purchased his own AMP to replace a carousel-type, dual-torch annealer he previously used. Ed tells us that “once you have the correct setting for your brass the AMP’s results are repeatable every time.” By contrast, Ed explained, “with butane torch systems you have to adjust the system when the ambient temperature changes, or even if your butane fuel is slightly different.” Ed says that, with his AMP system, he can anneal a case every few seconds. Yes it does require manually handling each case but “the actual annealing process is so fast, this really isn’t a big issue.”
If you want to extend the useful life of your precious cartridge brass, then you should definitely consider annealing. And if you are in the market for an annealer, the new AMP machine deserves serious consideration. Though not inexpensive, it achieves excellent results according to the 6.5 Guys.
6.5 Guys’ AMP Annealer Review Key Points:
1. The AMP machine provides complete peace of mind that you are annealing properly — there is no guesswork. With a propane machine you have to calibrate dwell times which can be error prone. Even if you don’t change out your cartridge, dwell times will vary with temperature changes as this affects the propane pressure.
2. We noticed that the AMP machine produces brass that is more like factory brass from a hardness standpoint. Despite all our efforts and research around calibrating our propane machines, brass never seemed returned to factory condition and shoulder spring-back would increase with each reloading so we had to adjust our sizing dies. When a cartridge comes out of the AMP it is very, very close to new condition.
3. One of the things we dreaded was setting up our propane machine for different cartridges. With Ed’s OCD he would spend a good 30 minutes making sure everything was perfect. With the AMP machine you simply change out the pilot and select the proper program. It’s really straight-forward.
NOTE: We strongly recommend you read the Full AMP Annealer Review on 65guys.com. It contains a detailed explanation of the machines’ operation and the reviewers explain the pros (and cons) or the machine compared to flame-type annealers.
The current price for the AMP Annealer, with three pilots of your choice, is $995.00 USD. Additional pilots are $20.00 USD. For more info, visit www.AMPAnnealing.com.
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This feature story is the third (and final) installment of a three-part series by 2016 National Long-Range Champion John Whidden. In this article John, who runs Whidden Gunworks, talks about the Palma rifle he used at the 2016 Camp Perry National Matches. This unique .308 Win prone rifle features a Barnard “P” action in a converted aluminum Anschutz “Precise” smallbore (rimfire) stock. The combo of Barnard action and Anchutz ergonomics is hard to beat, says John, who told us: “this is easily the best Palma rifle I’ve ever had.”
As a bonus, the Barnard “drop-in” required no modification of the Anschutz Precise stock. This means John can actually swap in his rimfire barreled action and shoot smallbore with the same stock.
Sling Rifle Evolved: The Ultra-Accurate Hybrid Palma Rifle
by John Whidden
The mental component of Long Range competitive shooting is always challenging but having tremendous confidence in the accuracy of your equipment is a huge benefit. There’s nothing to start your Palma match off well like knowing that you are shooting the most accurate Palma rifle you’ve ever owned.
After winning the 2016 NRA Long Range National Championships at Camp Perry, there are always plenty of questions about the equipment used by those at the top. Shooters are always looking to learn what is the best equipment at any given time so that when the time comes to spend our own hard earned dollars we can make the best choices. Even if you shoot an entirely different discipline knowing which manufacturers are making winning gear is very valuable.
Whidden 2016 Palma Rifle
Action: Barnard “P” (three lugs, 60° bolt lift)
Barrel: Bartlein 32″, Light Palma contour, cryo-treated by 300 Below.
Stock: Anschutz Precise aluminum smallbore stock, set up for centerfire barreled action.
Trigger: Barnard Two-Stage adjustable
Whidden’s Wonder-Gun: German Stock, New Zealand Action, American Barrel
The Palma rifle I shot this year at Camp Perry is one that I have been super pleased with. I built the rifle early this year and the major components are a Barnard P action, Anschutz Precise smallbore stock, and Bartlein barrel. The caliber is .308 Win, as dictated by the Palma rules. Palma matches are fired from 800, 900, and 1000 yards utilizing iron sights only. No optical sights are allowed.
The Anchutz Precise stock is so well-designed that once I finished adjusting the details, I realized that my hold was about 1/3 smaller than with the stocks I shot previously. While in recoil the gun will track vertically and fall back down right on my own target just as it should. In the past, with my other Palma rifles, it was frankly sometimes a struggle to get them to settle back on target after a shot.
Whidden Gunworks has installed a variety of different actions in the Anschutz Precise stocks. Though the stocks are designed for the .22 LR caliber 2013 action rifles, we’ve successfully installed Barnard, Kelbly, Bat, Nesika, and Remington clone actions into them. The Barnard Model P makes a particularly simple installation because there is no modification necessary to the stock at all. A competitor can then shoot both his centerfire rifle as well as his smallbore gun in the exact same stock. The location of the trigger and bolt handle on the Barnard are positioned just right to make this work. Other actions do require at least some amount of modification to the stock, and we have found the Barnard works the best.
Barnard manufactures several models of actions as part of their lineup. All of the actions in the lineup use three lug bolts which give a shorter 60-degree bolt lift when opening and closing. All of the critical surfaces are machined after heat treating. This means that they are exceptionally true and square, more so than other actions. The Model P action is most familiar to Palma and F-Class shooters and are commonly seen on the firing line. The fact that Model P actions include an excellent two-stage trigger makes also the pricing very attractive.
Based on my previous excellent experiences, I selected Bartlein barrels for this rifle. When shooting internationally in the Palma matches we are restricted to 155 grain .308 bullets, but I made the unusual choice of a 1-10″ twist for these bullets. I’ve shot this fast twist for some years with the 155s with good success and it’s pleasing to know that Bryan Litz is finding benefits in some cartridges to shooting faster twist rates than we previously thought we needed. The chamber is the 2011 Palma and the barrel is a Light Palma contour finished at 32” length. The barrel was cryo-treated by 300 Below. The point of impact isn’t changed at all by barrel heating and the accuracy is incredible regardless of the temperature of the barrel. This can’t be said of all the barrels I’ve owned.
Get Your Own Whidden Wonder-Gun for $4500.00
Like what you see — but wonder how much it will cost? Whidden Gunworks can build you a rig like this, fitting a centerfire barreled action in the Anschutz Precise stock. John tells us: “The price of a rifle like this one but without sights or mounts would be just under $4500.00. We attempt to keep all of the parts except the stock in inventory, so lead time should be under eight (8) weeks.”
Stock Offers Great Adjustability
One thing that is quickly noticed about the Anschutz Precise stock is its adjustability. The engineers did a very good job of allowing many of these adjustments to be made while in the shooting position, most notably the cheekpiece adjustments. When a shooter picks up a Precise stock for the first time they also notice how narrow the fore-end is. This really contributes to reducing the pain in the forward hand in prone when shooting with a sling. This stock is, by far, the most comfortable sling stock I’ve ever handled.
This rifle was very accurate right away and very comfortable to shoot. I’ve built some really good shooting Palma rifles but this is easily the best Palma rifle I’ve ever had. The Barnard action with its superb quality and excellent two-stage trigger has been the best choice I could have made. When you can go to the firing line knowing that you have the very best, the foundation for success has been set.
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MagnetoSpeed’s technology has completely changed the market for firearms chronographs. With a MagnetoSpeed barrel-mounted chrono you can quickly and easily record muzzle velocity (MV) without having to set up tripods or walk down-range. The compact MagnetoSpeed chronos are easy to set up and transport. With the full-featured V3 model, everything you need comes in a small fitted case. In the top photo are the components used with the MagnetoSpeed V3 Kit:
1. V3 Bayonet sensor
2. Display and control unit
3. Bayonet spacers (plastic and rubber)
4. Cords and mounting hardware (left), suppressor heat shield (right)
5. Alignment rod (square cross-section)
6. Rail adapter (sold separately)
Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com recently reviewed the MagnetoSpeed V3 and came away impressed. Gavin explains the a good chrono is essential: “If you want to load and shoot precision ammunition, you need the tools that will produce and validate the precision of your loads. A good chronograph is one of those tools! In this post I’m going to introduce you to the MagnetoSpeed V3 chonograph, the high-end electromagnetic chronograph which fills out the top slot in MagnetoSpeed’s equipment portfolio.”
In this 11-minute video Gavin reviews MagnetoSpeed’s top-of-the-line V3 Chronograph. He shows what ships with the unit, how to set it up for both rifles and pistols, and then he puts it through its paces showing how it captures velocity data. Gavin says he will follow-up with future videos showing how to link the MagnetoSpeed V3 to your mobile phone and how to log velocity data for future reference. To learn more about this high-tech chrono, visit UltimateReloader.com.
Here’s a smart new product from Midsouth Shooters Supply: 250 self-adhesive Benchrest Targets on a convenient roll. Not just for benchrest competitors, these stick-on targets work great for anyone doing load development. Each target offers a precision 1/4″ grid at the top with diamond aiming box below. This is similar to official targets used in Benechrest matches, with the addition of the upper grid lines which allow you to instantly estimate group size. These targets also include an area to list your load components. Midsouth sells the 250-target roll for $14.98.
This target was designed for benchrest shooting, developing new loads or cataloging existing ones. This easy-to-use target has a 1/4″ grid pattern at the top which helps measure groups. The vertical aiming square at the bottom helps align the cross hairs of your scope for consistent shot placement. At the very bottom of the target there is room to record your reloading information. Each Target sticker measures 6″ x 4″ with a 4.5″ x 2.5″ printed area.
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