Forum member Rich DeSimone uses a handy “Stub Gauge” for setting shoulder “bump” and seating depth. The gauge is made from a section of barrel lopped off when the muzzle is crowned. The chambering reamer is run in about 1/4 of the way, enough to capture the neck and shoulder area of the case. Rich then uses his full-length die to “bump” a master case with the ideal amount of headspace for easy feeding and extraction. He takes that case and sets it in this Stub Gauge, and measures from the front of the gauge to the rim. He can then quickly compare any fired case to a his “master” case with optimal headspace. Since the gauge measures off the shoulder datum, this tells him how much to bump his fired brass.
In addition, the Stub Gauge can be used to set bullet seating-depth. Rich has a channel cut transversely on one side of the gauge, exposing the throat area. Since the interior of the gauge is identical to the chamber in his gun, this lets him see where a seated bullet engages the rifling. He can tinker with bullet seating length until he gets just the right amount of land contact on the bullet, confirmed visually. Then he measures the case OAL and sets his seating dies accordingly. This is much handier than using a Stoney Point Tool to measure distance to the lands. As your barrel’s throat wears, you may seat your bullets out further to “chase the lands”, but the gauge provides a constant land engagement point, in the barrel’s “as new” condition. By measuring the difference between the land contact point on the gauge and the actual contact point on your barrel, you can determine throat “migration”.
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Western Powders (which sells Accurate, Ramshot, and Norma powders) has published an article on case inspection and preparation. There are many tips in this article that can be useful to precision hand-loaders. For example, every time you open a new box of cartridge brass (particularly from domestic makers), you should inspect each case for flaws.
TIP ONE: Visual Inspection — Finding Flaws
Cases are mass-produced items and malformed ones are relatively common. Inspect each case carefully looking for obvious defects. A bench-mounted magnifying glass with light is a real help for the over-40 crowd. The main defects will be cracks in the neck or case body, crushed shoulders or deep creases in the neck. Next check the primer pocket. It is also fairly common to find flash holes that are damaged or, more rarely, not concentric to the primer pocket.
Imperfections like small dings in the case body, or necks that are not completely symmetrical do not have to be eliminated at this step. Damage of this sort is usually from loose packaging and usually has not seriously damaged the brass. [Running an expander mandrel in the neck] and fire-forming will iron out these largely cosmetic issues.
Retired engineer Alexander Müller (aka Nando-AS on our Forum) produces handsome oak ammo caddies in his home workshop. Cartridge-specific, the caddy’s holes are sized for specific casehead diameters, so your cartridges go in and out easily. There are also through-holes, allowing loaded cartridges to be placed nose-down if you wish.
The Hornady Lock N Load AutoCharge Electronic Scale/Dispenser is now on sale for just $179.49 at Midsouth Shooters Supply, and $178.28 at Amazon.com. Those are the lowest prices we’ve seen on this product in a long time, making this a real bargain. If you are looking for an affordable combination digital scale and powder dispenser, this is very attractive pricing. By comparison, the RCBS ChargeMaster now sells for $314.99 at MidwayUSA. That means you can save at least $135.00 by buying RED instead of GREEN.
While we have a lot of positive experience with the RCBS Chargemaster, we haven’t done any long-term testing of the Hornady AutoCharge. However, user reviews have generally been positive. We suggest you do your own research and then make your own decision. Both the Hornady LnL AutoCharge and RCBS ChargeMaster offer load precision to ±0.1 grains. Both the Hornady Autocharge and the RCBS ChargeMaster are sold with a one-year manufacturers warranty.
We know that many of our readers are now tumbling their brass in liquid media rather than dry media such as corn-cob or walnut shells. When done with STM stainless tumbling media (small ss pins), this system really does work, producing brass that is clean “inside and out”. The only down-side to wet tumbling is that sometimes the inside of the caseneck gets so “squeaky clean” that bullets take more effort to seat. This can be remedied with the use of a dry lube inside the necks. When cleaning with stainless tumbling media you’ll need a quality tumbler that is water-tight. The wet-tumbler of choice is the Model B Thumler’s Tumbler. Featuring a bright-red, side-loading drum, the Model B Thumler’s Tumbler is reliable and built to last.
A while back, Bill Gravatt, then President of Sinclair Int’l, had a chance to evaluate the Thumler’s Tumbler and the wet-cleaning process for cartridge brass. Bill came away a believer: “I wanted to share with you my experience using the Thumler’s Tumbler and stainless steel pin media to clean brass.
This week, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit is pleased to host pistol teams from the various U.S. Armed Services in the 56th Annual Interservice Pistol Championship. Our Handloading Shop members have enjoyed discussing pistol accuracy and enjoying the camaraderie of competitive shooters from all over. In that spirit, this week’s topic will focus on handloading for best pistol accuracy, rather than our usual rifle-oriented information.
Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. Different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.
In our Shooters’ Forum, a member recently noted that he needed to pull down (disassemble) some ammunition that was loaded incorrectly by one of his shooting buddies. You can use an impact puller to do this task, but if you have more than a dozen rounds or so, you may prefer to use a collet-style bullet puller. These work very quickly and positively, making quick work of big jobs. The efficiency of the collet-style puller is worth the investment if you frequently disassemble ammo. These devices retail for under $25.00 (collets sold separately). Normally, you’ll need a specific collet for each bullet diameter. But collets are not that costly, so this isn’t a big deal, particularly if you only load a few calibers, such as .223, 6mm, and .308.
Hornady and RCBS use different mechanisms to tighten the collet around the bullet. On Hornady’s Cam-Lock Bullet Puller, a lever-arm on the top of the bullet puller serves to tighten the collet around the bullet. Simply rotate the lever from the vertical to the horizontal position to grab the bullet. Lower the ram to remove the case. The bullet will drop out when you return the lever arm to the vertical position. This is demonstrated in the video below:
We are sad to report that long-time Forum member Frank S. (aka fdShuster) passed away this year. Frank was a very knowledgeable shooter who was always willing to help others. Here is one of Frank’s smart inventions. He devised a way to measure the length of a rifle’s chamber using a fired cartridge case. Frank’s system works by cutting a “collar” from part of the case neck. This then slips over a bullet seated in a case loaded without powder or primer. As you chamber the dummy round, the collar will move back to indicate the full length of the chamber. (Make sure the bullet is seated well off the lands so the dummy round can chamber fully.)
Western Powders (vendors of Accurate, Norma, and Ramshot powders), publishes a Blog that covers all aspects of hand-loading and rifle maintenance. Recently the Western Powders Blog published a Q & A series entitled Dear Labby: Questions for our Ballistics Lab. Here are some excerpts that pertain to powder storage and shelf life. Worried that your powder may be too old? Western’s experts explain how to check your propellants for warning signs.
Proper Powder Storage
Q: I live in southern Arizona where it is very hot. I am told powders will become unstable if stored in an area not air-conditioned. My wife says no powder or primers in the house. Can powder be stored in a refrigerator? What about using a fireproof safe? I would appreciate your ideas. — M.C.
Lab Answer: SAAMI guidelines are pretty clear on issues of storage. They recommend storing smokeless powder in containers that will not allow pressure to build if the powder is ignited — ruling out gun safes and refrigerators.
Would you like to swap dies in and out of a reloading press in just seconds, with a quick twist of the wrist? Hornady’s Lock ‘N Load twist-lock hardware makes that possible. This time-saving system uses “die bushings” that screw on to your dies. Don’t have Hornady press? No problem — the Lock-N-Load system can be used with non-Hornady presses via the Lock-N-Load Conversion Kit. This includes three die bushings and one press conversion insert. The adapter will work with RCBS RockChuckers and any other reloading press using a 1-1/4-12 thread. The Lock-N-Load Conversion Kit costs just $14.59 at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Watch this video to see how it works.
Product and video tip from EdLongRange. We welcome reader submissions.
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If you shoot a .308 Win, or any cartridge that uses a Large Rifle (LR) primer, you should read an important new article by Laurie Holland in Target Shooter Magazine. Holland, a talented shooter from the UK, tested no less than sixteen (16) different large primer types using a custom F-TR target rifle shot from the bench. Laurie loaded .308 Win ammo* with 16 LR primer varieties and then tested for average velocity, ES/SD, and group size. This may be the most comprehensive and thorough LR primer test ever done. Here are the primer types tested:
CBC Magtech 9½
CCI 200 LR
CCI BR2 Match
CCI 250 Magnum
Federal 210M Match
Federal 215M Magnum Match
Fiocchi Large Rifle
Kynoch Large Rifle
Murom KVB-7 (PMC LR)
Norma Superflash LR
PMC LR Magnum
Remington 9½ LR
Remington 9½ M Magnum
Sellier & Bellot LR
Test Rig: Osprey Rifles-built F-TR rifle with Savage PTA action, 32″ Bartlein 1:12″-twist ‘Heavy Palma’ barrel, and Dolphin Gun Company modular stock with an F-Open/Benchrest fore-end.
Some of Laurie’s results may surprise you. For example, would you guess that Sellier & Bellot primers had the lowest ES, by a significant margin? And get this, among ALL the primers tested, Rem 9½M Magnum primers produced the lowest velocity, while Rem 9½ LR (non-magnum) primers yielded the highest velocity. (The total velocity spread for all primers was 35 fps). That’s counter-intuitive and it’s odd that Rems were at opposite ends of the speed spectrum among ALL primers tested.
“The rationale for doing side-by-side tests is to see what effect primer choice has on ballistics, i.e. average velocities and MV consistency. There are a great many views on the subject, a few based on tests (including primer flame photography) but most apparently hearsay.” — Laurie Holland
Every serious hand-loader should definitely read the full test results to understand Laurie’s methodology and get all the details. This is an important test, with significant findings. But if you can’t spare the time right now, here are some highlights below:
Primer with Lowest Velocity: Remington 9½ M Magnum (2780 fps)
Primer with Highest Velocity: Remington 9½ LR (2815 fps)
Primer with Lowest ES/SD: Sellier & Bellot LR (12/3.1 fps)
Primer with Highest ES/SD: Remington 9½ M Magnum (47/14.0 fps)
Primer with Smallest Group Size: Remington 9½ LR (0.43″ average, three 5-shot groups)
Primer with Biggest Group Size: CBC Magtech 9½ (0.7″ average, three 5-shot groups)
Editor’s Comment: Laurie shot three, 5-shot groups at 100 yards with each primer type. The average group size for the top six primers varied by only 0.10″ (0.43″ to 0.53″), so one can’t conclude that one type is much better than another. Total group size variance (from best to worst) was 0.27″.
“The biggest surprise to me … came from an elderly (at least 10 years) lot of Czech Sellier & Bellot standard caps with an ES of 12 and SD of 3.1 fps, way below those of the nearest competitor. By contrast to the Fiocchis, they were an almost slack fit in the cases and this may have contributed to their consistent performance.” — Laurie Holland
NOTE: Values in chart are based on 15-Shot strings. The ES/SD numbers will therefore be higher than is typical with five-shot strings.
Testing 16 primer types was a huge task — we commend Laurie for his hard work and thoroughness. This extensive test is an important contribution to the “knowledge base” of precision shooting. Laurie’s findings will doubtless influence many hand-loaders who hope to produce more consistent ammunition, or achieve better accuracy. Credit should also be given to Target Shooter Magazine for publishing the results. Well done gentlemen…
*Reloading method for Test Ammo: “Test batches consisted of 16 or 17 rounds for each primer, charges thrown by an RCBS ChargeMaster and checked on lab-quality electronic scales, adjusted if necessary to within ± 0.04gn, so any charge weight variation would be under 0.1 grain which equates here to 5 fps.”
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Sinclair Internationalhas released an interesting article about Case Concentricity* and bullet “run-out”. This instructional article by Bob Kohl explains the reasons brass can exhibit poor concentricity, and why high bullet run-out can be detrimental to accuracy.
Concentricity, Bullet Alignment, and Accuracyby Bob Kohl
The purpose of loading your own ammo is to minimize all the variables that can affect accuracy and can be controlled with proper and conscientious handloading. Concentricity and bullet run-out are important when you’re loading for accuracy. Ideally, it’s important to strive to make each round the same as the one before it and the one after it. It’s a simple issue of uniformity.
Note that Erik has fitted a cartridge tip on his RCBS ChargeMaster’s dispensing tube.
Erik Cortina has been fiddling around with his RCBS ChargeMaster and he discovered something interesting. Through a series of tests he determined that the ChargeMaster dispensed slightly more precise charges when he trickled the last few 10ths of a grain on to the RCBS pan. Erik wasn’t expecting this result, but he confirmed there may be a slight benefit to this trickling method (as opposed to allowing the ChargeMaster to dispense the full charge).
We should note that Erik’s preferred method of weighing powder is to first dispense a slightly lower charge with the RCBS, transfer the pan to a laboratory-class Sartorius magnetic force restoration scale, then trickle up with his Omega (Dandy Products) Powder Trickler. However, if you don’t have a $800+ laboratory-grade scale, you might just try trickling on to the ChargeMaster pan. You can see Erik’s test procedure in this video:
As a cartridge case is reloaded multiple times, burnt powder residue and carbon builds up on the inside of the case. Unless the case interior is cleaned in some fashion, eventually you’ll see a reduction in case capacity. One of our Forum members from Australia wonders about the effects of reduced case capacity: “If the capacity of the case decreases as the crud builds up, then it effectively reduces the chamber size. Wouldn’t that change the pressure produced from that of an equivalent clean case?”
Ultrasonic Cleaning Example:
Interesting Test of Case Capacity Changes
Forum member Fred Bohl has actual test results that can help answer the above question. Fred proved that, over a 20-reload cycle, the case capacity of uncleaned cases did, indeed, decline a small amount. However, surprisingly, this did not seem to affect the actual chronographed velocity of the load. ES did increase, but Fred believes the higher ES was due to changes in case-neck tension, rather than due to the slight reduction in case capacity.
A while back, John Siebel, creator of the VarmintsForFun.com website, put together a 6-6.5×47 Varminter with a Lilja 10-twist barrel and BAT RBRP three-lug action. Richard Franklin smithed the gun using a Model 10 Varminter stock, one of Richard’s own stock designs.
Varmint Loads with 75gr and 87gr V-Maxs
Our Forum readers have asked for recommended 6-6.5×47 Lapua loads for the lighter bullets. Well, John has published some useful load data on his site that should provide excellent starting points for 75gr and 87gr projectiles. John writes: “The 75s and 87s will be my main groundpig/varmint rounds. I have worked up loads for all of them but I need to work on the 95s to fine tune them for the egg shoot. I used CCI 450 primers for all loads. They have shown to reduce ES greatly. This case has a small primer pocket and I reasoned with the slower burning powders I wanted to get my velocity as high as possible. I had plenty of H 414 and N 550 … so that’s what I tried. Velocities and case fullness seemed to be pretty dang good.”
John favored Vihtavuori N550 for the 75 V-Max, while H414 was his powder of choice for the 87gr V-Max. John found these two powders offered near 100% fill density. CLICK HERE to view John’s load details and the view more photos of John’s handsome varmint rig.
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Shooters rejoice — we now have new propellant options for rifles, pistols, and shotguns. Noble Sport is now importing its VECTAN series of powders, which are available now at Grafs.com. What’s even nicer, the VECTAN bottles contain 1.1 pounds of powder, so you get a little extra for your money (compared to traditional 1-pound containers). Check the VECTAN Reloading Data Page to see what Nobel Sport powders best suit your needs.
Here’s great news for fans of wildcat cartridges and for any hand-loaders who need dies with custom dimensions. Redding Reloading Equipment will now be making custom dies again. The procedure for ordering dies is outlined below. You’ll need to provide a chamber reamer print or three fired cases.
Redding is now able to offer custom dies because it has expanded its manufacturing capabilities in recent years. Redding has more than doubled the number of its CNC machines, expanded factory floor space by 40%, and added many new skilled workers. This growth in production capabilities has allowed the company to again accept orders for new Custom Dies and Die sets.
This article is part of Sinclair Int’l Step-By-Step Reloading Series. Most of the products mentioned in this article are sold through Sinclair’s webstore.
by Roy Hill, Brownells/Sinclair Copywriter
Making your own precision handloads is a meticulous journey with many steps, many important matters to consider, and many sets of measurements to calculate. For those who pursue the perfect group, the highest score, the really long accurate shot, the rewards more than outweigh the effort. Choosing the right cases, deburring the flash holes, making the primer pockets uniform, trimming the cases, and lubricating them are all familiar – and critical – steps along the journey. And now that your brass preparation is complete, you are at last ready to start running the cases through your press and fill them with primers, powder, and bullets. The very first die the brass encounters is the sizing die. You insert the case, work the press’s lever to return the case to its correct pre-fired dimensions – and the journey continues.
Gunsmith Darrell Holland has invented an interesting upgrade to the RCBS Auto Bench Priming Tool. If your hand starts to hurt after priming dozens of cases with a hand-held, squeeze-type priming tool, you may want to consider Holland’s invention, which he calls the “Perfect Primer Seater” (PPS).
Holland basically has modified the RCBS lever, adding a precise crush control and a means of measuring depth with a gauge. He claims this gives “an EXACT primer seating depth based on primer pocket depth and primer thickness”. With Holland’s PPS, primer seating depth is controlled with a rotating wheel that limits lever travel in precise gradations. You can buy the complete priming system for $215.00, or, if you already own the RCBS Auto Prime tool, you can purchase an adapter kit (with base, arm, adjuster, and gauge etc.) for $120.00. To order, visit Hollandguns.com then click on “Reloading Equipment”.
The $52.99 RCBS Precision MIC is a well-made and useful tool for measuring cartridge headspace and bullet seating depth. The Precision Mic measures from a datum point on the case shoulder to the base. Unfortunately the Precision MIC is not specifically made for the 6mmBR Norma, 22BR, 6XC or 6.5×47 Lapua cases. Don’t despair. Reader Caduceus devised a clever way to adapt a .308 Win Precision Mic for short cases that match the .308 Win in rim diameter and case body diameter. He simply creates a spacer out of a pistol cartridge. He trimmed a 9mm case to 0.511″ and “found this to be a perfect fit which gave a zero micrometer reading when the FL-sized 6BR case was placed in it.” We expect many readers already own a Precision Mic for their .308s. Now you can adapt this tool for the 6BR family of cartridges, for no extra cost. Cut the spacer shorter for the 6.5×47 Lapua and 6-6.5×47 cartridges.
How to Use the Precision Mic with a Spacer
Caduceus explains: “I can use the .308 version of the RCBS Precision Mic to compare brass which has been fully sized in my 6BR body die with brass which has been fired in my chamber. With the spacer inserted, FL-resized cases mic 0.000″ at the datum point on the shoulder. Using the same set-up, fire-formed cases measure +0.005″. In other words, my chamber has a headspace of +0.005″ above minimum dimensions. This is fairly typical of a custom rifle set up for switch-barrel use. If I were to FL-resize my brass down to minimum spec each time, this excessive working would shorten its life-cycle and might lead to case head separation. Now that I know the headspace of the chamber, I can substitute the standard shell holder on my press with a Redding +0.004″ competition shell-holder. This ensures that my cases only receive 0.001″ of shoulder set-back.”
Click HERE for a full article explaining how to adapt an RCBS Precision Mic for use with a 6BR. You can do the same thing with a 6XC or 6.5×47 case–just cut the spacer to a shorter length (for an 0.000″ mic reading). Note: You can also use this procedure with an RCBS .243 Winchester Precision Mic.
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