While many folks enjoy the convenience of an electronic powder scale/dispenser such as the RCBS Chargemaster, some hand-loaders still prefer to use a traditional balance beam. Balance beam scales are simple, compact, and don’t suffer from electronic “glitches”. Moreover, even if you use a digital dispenser at home, when you’re doing load development at the range, a balance-beam scale may be more convenient. A scale doesn’t require electrical power, so you don’t need to bring battery packs or string long power cables. Just bring some kind of box to shelter your beam scale from the wind.
While designs like the RCBS 10-10 are decent performers as built, they can be made much more precise (and repeatable), by “tuning” of key parts. Forum member Scott Parker (aka SParker) optimizes a variety of popular beam scales, including the Ohaus 10-10 (USA-made model), RCBS 10-10 (USA-made model), RCBS 5-10, Lyman M5, Lyman D5, and others. You send Scott your scale, he tunes the key components, tests for precision and repeatability, and ships it back to you. The price is very affordable (under $85.00).
Scott tells us: “I have tuned several 10-10s. They all have turned out very sensitive, consistent and hold linearity like a dream. If only they came that way from the factory. The sensitivity after tuning is such that one kernel of powder registers a poise beam deflection. For repeatability, I remove the pan and replace it for the zero 10 times. The zero line and the poise beam balance line must coincide for each of those 10 tries. I then set the poises to read 250.0 grains. I remove and replace the pan 10 times with the calibration weight. For linearity, the poise beam balance line and the zero line should coincide within the line width. This is roughly one half a kernel of powder. For repeatability, the poise beam balance line must return to that same balance point ten times. I then adjust the poises back to zero and recheck the zero. I have a master’s degree in chemistry, thus I am very familiar with laboratory balances. Email me at vld223 [at] yahoo.com or give me a call at (661) 364-1199.”
The video above, created by British shooter Mark (aka 1967spud), shows a 10-10 beam scale that has been “tuned” by Scott Parker. In the video, you can see that the 10-10 scale is now sensitive to one (1) kernel of powder. Mark also demonstrates the’s scale’s repeatability by lifting and replacing a pan multiple times. You can contact Mark via his website, www.1967spud.com. To enquire about balance-beam scale tuning, call Scott Parker at (661) 364-1199, or send email to: vld223 [at] Yahoo.com.
Video tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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Take one look at Lyman’s new Bleacher Blocks, and you’ll say “That’s clever, why didn’t anyone think of that before?” These tiered (stepped) cartridge loading trays save space on your bench AND make it easier to select a particular cartridge from a full block. Each row is a different height for convenience.
Here’s what Lyman says about its innovative cartridge block design: “Just as bleachers allow people to see over those in front of them, our new loading blocks allow for easier handling of cases in and out of the loading block. Our stepped design allows you to easily grip a single case without jamming your fingers down into a group of cases like in traditional loading blocks, and allows for a smaller ‘footprint’ on your bench.”
We see many applications for this stepped cartridge holder. Use the different levels for sorting brass. Or, migrate the brass from top to bottom as you proceed through case prep stages. If you are assembling loads with different bullets for load testing, you could arrange the loaded rounds on different levels for easy recognition. (For example put V-Max loaded rounds on the top tier, and Blitz-King loaded rounds on the bottom tier). Or slice a Bleacher Block in the middle to make yourself twin 25-round stepped Cartridge Caddies.
Made of durable polymer, Bleacher Blocks are molded in three sizes to fit a variety of rifle cases. The smallest size (with 0.388″-diameter holes) fits .223 Rem-size case heads. The middle size (with 0.485″-diameter holes) fits .308 Win-size case heads. The biggest Bleacher Block has 0.565″-diameter recesses to accommodate belted magnum-size cases. All three cartridge block sizes hold fifty (50) rounds. Suggested retail price is $7.95 per block and Lyman expects to start shipping later this month.
Product tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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For those who prefer to neck-size their brass (rather than full-length-size), the LEE Collet Die is a popular, inexpensive option. It works by having collet tangs or “fingers” press the neck against a central mandrel. The benefit is that you get a very straight neck, which is sized consistently from top to bottom. Canadian shooter Jerry Teo explains: “LEE Collet Dies produce sized cases with very low runout (measured runout is under .001″ using a Sinclair concentricity gauge). You also don’t get the build-up of brass at the base of the neck, as can happen with bushing neck dies. The neck-shoulder junction stays nice and crisp.”
TIP ONE — Adjusting Tension
LEE Collet dies don’t have a specific mechanical adjustment for neck tension. But you CAN easily modify the die to provide more or less tension. If you want to adjust the neck tension using a Lee Collet die, you can simply chuck the mandrel in a drill and reduce the diameter with some sand-paper (to increase neck tension) or you can order a mandrel the next caliber larger and turn it to whatever diameter you want (the larger the mandrel diameter, the less the neck tension). You can also order custom mandrels from Lee sized to any diameter you want.
TIP TWO — Polish and Tune for Easy Case Removal
Some users have complained that their Collet Dies grab the case-neck too firmly, making the case hard to remove. There are solutions to this problem. First inspect the collet fingers and smooth the inner surface up a bit with polishing compound or an extra-fine sanding pad. Second, you can open up the fingers a little bit. LEE recommends that if your Collet Die is sticking, take a steel punch and tap the fingers apart a little bit so that the natural “unloaded” position is wider. Lastly, you should lightly lubricate the outside of the collet fingers (see arrows) before you re-assemble the die. This will ensure they slide smoothly. Also, to prevent the collet fingers from closing too tight, never load up the die with your press without putting a case in place first. Without a case neck between the collet fingers and the mandrel, the collet can clamp itself too tight as you raise the ram.
TIP THREE — Size Twice and Spin Your Case 1/8th Turn
After reaching fully “down” on your press handle, withdraw the case about an inch and manually rotate it about 1/8th (NOT 1/4 or 1/2) turn while still in the shell-holder, then size again. This will place the die’s collet petals on the four “high spots” of the case neck and will result in a rounder, more evenly-sized neck with slightly more bullet tension. This takes only about one second more per case and is well worth the slight extra effort. (We thank reader Stonecreek for this smart tip).
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Yesterday’s post covered primer seating depth. This article offers many useful tips — including a clever way to measure primer seating depth with ordinary jaw-type calipers. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.
Primer Seating Depth — Why Uniformity is Important
The first concern is for safety: for that reason, primers should be seated below flush with the case head. One primary cause of “slam fires” (which includes catastrophic failures from firing out of battery) is “high,” or protruding primers. These stand above the case head, are readily felt with simple finger-tip inspection, and may fire when slammed by the bolt face and/or a floating firing pin in feeding.
Here at the USAMU, we ensure our rifle primers generally run -0.003″ to -0.005″ below the case head. Maximum primer depth is -0.006″ and minimum is -0.002″. Upon inspection, any cases with high primers will be corrected before loading. Aside from improving ballistic uniformity, ensuring the primers have proper compression upon seating also helps reduce possible misfires. These can be caused by the firing pin’s expending part of its energy either seating the primer or having to deform the primer cup enough to reach the anvil.
SMART TIP: How to Measure Primer Seating Depth with a Set of Calipers
A zeroed, precision set of standard calipers will also measure primer seating depth. (You don’t really need a custom tool.) Merely close the jaws and place the calipers’ narrow end squarely across the center of the case head/primer pocket. Keeping the narrow end in full contact with the case head, gently open the jaws, and the center bar will extend until it reaches the primer face. Voilà! Primer depth is read on the dial. Taking a few measurements to ensure accuracy and repeatability is recommended until one is familiar with this technique.
Brass and Primer Defects Can Cause Seating-Depth Variances
Factors affecting variance of primer seating depth include brass maker and lot number — all primer pockets are not created equal! Another factor is the primer manufacturer and individual primer lot. We’ve encountered occasional primer lots by top-quality makers that included some primers with slight defects affecting seating. While finely accurate, these primers were out-of-round or had small slivers of cup material protruding which affected primer feeding or seating depth.
Has one’s brass been fired previously? If so, how many times and the pressures involved also affect future primer seating. Obviously, this is another factor in favor of segregating one’s high-accuracy brass by maker, lot number, and number of times fired, if possible.
Measuring Primer Seating Depth with Purpose-Built Gauge
The next question, “How do we measure primer depth?” happily can be answered using tools already owned by most handloaders. [See tip above on how to measure depth with calipers.] At the USAMU, we have the luxury of purpose-built gauges made by the talented machinists of the Custom Firearms Shop. One places the primed case into the gauge, and the dial indicator reads the depth quickly and easily. The indicator is calibrated using a squarely-machined plug that simulates a case head with a perfectly flush-seated primer, easily giving meaningful “minus” or “plus” readings. The gauge is usable with a variety of case head sizes.
Primer Seating with Progressive Presses
Methods of primer seating include hand-seating using either hand held or bench-mounted tools, vs. progressive-press seating. Progressive presses may either seat by “feel,” subjective to each operator, or by using a mechanical “stop” that positively locates primers nearly identically every time. Testing here has shown that we get more uniform seating with the latter type progressive press, than we do with a high-quality bench-mounted tool lacking a positive stop.
Primer stop depth adjustments on our main progressive presses involve turning a punch screw in and out. While the screw is not calibrated, fine “tick” marks added to the top of the press help users gauge/repeat settings by “eye” efficiently with practice. Then, once a sample of primed cases is run to confirm the range and accuracy of depths, the identifying lot number and maker is noted on the press for reference. When it’s necessary to switch brass/primer lots, changes are easy to make and settings are easily repeated when it’s time to switch back.
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Are you a 6 PPC shooter who relies on Vihtavuori N133? Or maybe you’re a .45 ACP Bullseye shooter who uses N310 or N320. Or perhaps you favor N150 in your 6mmBR or .308 Winchester. If you are a Vihtavuori powder user (or are considering trying these fine Finnish powders), then check out Vihtavuori’s new FREE mobile App.
The new Vihtavuori Reload App lets you keep track of your favorite reloading recipes, and manage load development. You can log load recipes for as many firearms and cartridge types as you want. The App holds all relevant data — cartridge class, bullet, loads specs. The Vihtavuori Reload App also provides instant access to the latest Vihtavuori Reloading Data as well as other Vihtavuori information. If you want hard copy of your load recipes, just email the recipe(s) to your personal e-mail account and then you can print out the info with a networked printer.
For over 90 years, Vihtavuori has been known for producing high-quality propellants with reliable ballistic performance, long shelf-Life, and a wide selection of burn rates. Vihtavuori powders are manufactured to very high standards, and many world records have been set with Vihtavuori propellants. For more information, visit www.Vihtavuori.com.
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Here is a simple technique that can potentially help you load straighter ammo, with less run-out (as measured on the bullet). This procedure costs nothing and adds only a few seconds to the time needed to load a cartridge. Next time you’re loading ammo with a threaded (screw-in) seating die, try seating the bullet in two stages. Run the cartridge up in the seating die just enough to seat the bullet half way. Then lower the cartridge and rotate it 180° in the shell-holder. Now raise the cartridge up into the die again and finish seating the bullet.
Steve, aka “Short Range”, one of our Forum members, recently inquired about run-out apparently caused by his bullet-seating process. Steve’s 30BR cases were coming out of his neck-sizer with good concentricity, but the run-out nearly doubled after he seated the bullets. At the suggestion of other Forum members, Steve tried the process of rotating his cartridge while seating his bullet. Steve then measured run-out on his loaded rounds. To his surprise there was a noticeable reduction in run-out on the cases which had been rotated during seating. Steve explains: “For the rounds that I loaded yesterday, I seated the bullet half-way, and turned the round 180 degrees, and finished seating the bullet. That reduced the bullet runout by almost half on most rounds compared to the measurements from the first test.”
Steve recorded run-out measurements on his 30BR brass using both the conventional (one-pass) seating procedure, as well as the two-stage (with 180° rotation) method. Steve’s measurements are collected in the two charts above. As you can see, the run-out was less for the rounds which were rotated during seating. Note, the change is pretty small (less than .001″ on average), but every little bit helps in the accuracy game. If you use a threaded (screw-in) seating die, you might try this two-stage bullet-seating method. Rotating your case in the middle of the seating process won’t cost you a penny, and it just might produce straighter ammo (nothing is guaranteed). If you do NOT see any improvement on the target, you can always go back to seating your bullets in one pass. READ Forum Thread..
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From time to time, we all encounter a primer that doesn’t go off. It’s normal to attribute the problem to a bad primer. But sometimes there are other explanations. George S., one of our Forum members, experienced a couple failures to fire, but he learned that the issue was his priming TOOL, not his primers. Here’s what George told us. There’s a lesson to be learned:
“I had issues with CCI 450s when I had my first 6BR barreled. I had probably three or four out of 20 rounds that failed to fire. the primers were dented but didn’t fire. I called CCI since I had bought a case of them. The tech was decent enough but had the audacity to tell me I was not seating the primers all the way in the pocket. I proceeded to let him know I had been reloading longer than he had been alive and I knew how to seat a primer.
Turns out that I did and I didn’t! I was using the RCBS primer tool I had used for years and the primers felt just fine to me. I finally decided to check the tool and since I had a new one I took the seating pins out and measured them. The seating pin on the tool I had been using for years was shorter by a few thousandths! I then used the pin from the new primer tool and darned if the primers that didn’t seat down to the bottom of the cup.
I switched to a K&M primer tool for seating the CCI primers and have not had a problem since. It was the combination of harder cup and lack of proper seating. I did call the CCI tech back and apologized for being an idiot.”
Another Forum member witnessed a problem cause by misuse of a priming tool: “I did … see a failure to fire on a Rem 9 1/2 primer only a week ago. That was in the new Rem muzzleloader that uses a primed case to ignite the pellets. After watching the muzzleloader’s owner seat his primers, I believe that it was operator error not the primer. He was seating the primer and then squeezing the priming tool so hard that his hands hurt after a few. We got that corrected.”
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Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This past week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article, the latest in a 7-part series, relates to 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.
Preliminary Load Development and Velocities
When developing a load for ones firearm, a chronograph is a very useful tool. Naturally, it tells the bullet speed, allowing ballistic calculations for wind deflection and trajectory, as well as velocity variation. It can also be used, in conjunction with recent handloading manuals, as an indirect indicator of pressure.
Differences between individual barrels, chamber throats, and powder lots, plus many other variables, can cause results to differ from those cited in the manuals. Thus, beware the notion of a “magical high-speed barrel.”
When Velocities Raise Pressure Concerns — Suppose the manual states that their 26-inch .260 barrel achieved 2900 fps with X bullet, Y powder, Z case, and W primer. If you achieve that speed with identical components in your 26-inch barrel while using five (5) grains less powder, that should raise a red flag. Pressures may be at or near maximum in your rifle, despite the higher “maximum” charge cited in the manual. Observe for pressure indicators as discussed in your manuals, and never exceed published maximum powder charges.
When working up a potential match load for your rifle, it is wise to survey at least 2-3 current factory sources of data for your powder/bullet combination. This will give you a sense of the variations possible due to random factors. Then, beginning at a safe, listed “starting” powder charge, work your way up in increasing powder increments while shooting over the chronograph. Also, assess your brass and rifle for signs of increasing pressure.
What size powder increments should be used? This depends on the case volume and powder chosen. A 0.3 grain or 0.5 grain increase in powder charge may be significant in a .223, but of little consequence in a .300 Magnum. Faster burning powders are more sensitive to small changes in powder charge, increasing pressures more rapidly than slow-burning powders.
Chronograph Sample Sizes — Factors to Consider
How many shots should one fire to obtain an accurate velocity for each powder charge increment when loading? That depends in part on the uniformity of velocities given by your particular powder/bullet/barrel combination.
For example: a 3- or 5-shot sample gives an extreme spread (ES) of 140 fps between the high and low velocities recorded. The lack of uniformity indicates that firing 1 or 2 shots over the chronograph to check a powder charge is likely to give a wide margin of error. In such a case, larger sample sizes will give a better idea of the true, average velocity. While approaching the loading manual’s listed maximum charge, track the ascending velocities per charge increment. One may well see that as charges approach maximum, velocities may become much more uniform. Moreover, velocity gains per increment of increase often become smaller. Ideally, one won’t encounter velocity variations this large. Changing primers and/or neck tension may increase uniformity. If wide variations persist, however, a different powder may offer great improvement.
Consider this: A 2-shot scan gives double the data of a one-shot sample. A 4-shot sample gives twice the data of a 2-shot scan. Larger samples are particularly useful if there is much velocity variation in the population.
On the other hand, one might already be familiar with a particular powder/bullet combination in one’s barrel. If it is known to have little variation, a 1 or 2-shot scan in the early stages while working up toward the maximum can be useful, while saving expensive bullets. As powder charges approach their maximum, some like to test accuracy while shooting over the chronograph. Although it’s a bit trickier to set up the bench, chronograph and target, this does yield more data per bullets expended. In such an instance, 5-shot or even 10-shot groups may be desirable at times.
Consider 20-Shot Sample for Long-Range Match Loads
Once one arrives at a load combination intended for competition use, one should chronograph at least a 10-shot sample. This gives a reasonable picture both of the load’s uniformity and its average velocity. For long range use, a 20-shot sample of ones finalized match load is even better. This accurately shows the uniformity of one’s velocities over time. It is more likely to reveal any rare shots that develop velocities significantly different from the average.
Thus ends Part 7 in our series on Accuracy Testing and Chronographing. Next week, we’ll conclude our section on Chronograph Testing. Until then, stay safe and enjoy the shooting sports!
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Here’a useful article by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant. This story, which originally appeared in the Sierra Blog, covers some of the more common ammo problems that afflict hand-loaders. Some of those issues are: excessive OAL, high primers, and improperly sized cases. Here Mr. Pilant explains how to avoid these common problems that lead to “headaches at the range.
I had some gentlemen at my house last fall getting rifle zeros for an upcoming elk hunt. One was using one of the .300 short mags and every 3rd or 4th round would not chamber. Examination of the case showed a bulge right at the body/shoulder junction. These were new cases he had loaded for this trip. The seating die had been screwed down until it just touched the shoulder and then backed up just slightly. Some of the cases were apparently slightly longer from the base to the datum line and the shoulder was hitting inside the seating die and putting the bulge on the shoulder. I got to thinking about all the gun malfunctions that I see each week at matches and the biggest percentage stem from improper handloading techniques.
One: Utilize a Chamber Gage
Since I shoot a lot of 3-gun matches, I see a lot of AR problems which result in the shooter banging the butt stock on the ground or nearest solid object while pulling on the charging handle at the same time. I like my rifles too well to treat them that way (I cringe every time I see someone doing that). When I ask them if they ran the ammo through a chamber gage, I usually get the answer, “No, but I need to get one” or “I didn’t have time to do it” or other excuses. The few minutes it takes to check your ammo can mean the difference between a nightmare and a smooth running firearm.
A Chamber Gauge Quickly Reveals Long or Short Cases
Size Your Cases Properly
Another problem is caused sizing the case itself. If you will lube the inside of the neck, the expander ball will come out a lot easier. If you hear a squeak as the expander ball comes out of a case neck, that expander ball is trying to pull the case neck/shoulder up (sometimes several thousandths). That is enough that if you don’t put a bulge on the shoulder when seating the bullet, like we talked about above, it can still jam into the chamber like a big cork. If the rifle is set up correctly, the gun will not go into battery and won’t fire but the round is jammed into the chamber where it won’t extract and they are back to banging it on the ground again (with a loaded round stuck in the chamber). A chamber gage would have caught this also.
Oversizing cases also causes problems because the firing pin doesn’t have the length to reach the primer solid enough to ignite it 100% of the time. When you have one that is oversized, you usually have a bunch, since you usually do several cases at a time on that die setting. If the die isn’t readjusted, the problem will continue on the next batch of cases also. They will either not fire at all or you will have a lot of misfires. In a bolt action, a lot of time the extractor will hold the case against the face of the breech enough that it will fire. The case gets driven forward and the thinner part of the brass expands, holding to the chamber wall and the thicker part of the case doesn’t expand as much and stretches back to the bolt face. If it doesn’t separate that time, it will the next time. When it does separate, it leaves the front portion of the case in the chamber and pulls the case head off. Then when it tries to chamber the next round, you have a nasty jam. Quite often range brass is the culprit of this because you never know how many times it has been fired/sized and in what firearm.’Back to beating it on the ground again till you figure out that you have to get the forward part of the case out.
Just a quick tip — To extract the partial case, an oversized brush on a cleaning rod [inserted] and then pulled backward will often remove the case. The bristles when pushed forward and then pulled back act like barbs inside the case. If you have a bunch of oversized case that have been fired, I would dispose of them to keep from having future problems. There are a few tricks you can use to salvage them if they haven’t been fired though. Once again, a case gage would have helped.
Two: Double Check Your Primers
Another thing I see fairly often is a high primer, backwards primer, or no primer at all. The high primers are bad because you can have either a slam fire or a misfire from the firing pin seating the primer but using up its energy doing so. So, as a precaution to make sure my rifle ammo will work 100% of the time, I check it in a case gage, then put it in an ammo box with the primer up and when the box is full, I run my finger across all the primers to make sure they are all seated to the correct depth and you can visually check to make sure none are in backwards or missing.
Three: Check Your Overall Cartridge Length
Trying to load the ammo as long as possible can cause problems also. Be sure to leave yourself enough clearance between the tip of the bullet and the front of the magazine where the rounds will feed up 100%. Several times over the years, I have heard of hunters getting their rifle ready for a hunt. When they would go to the range to sight in, they loaded each round single shot without putting any ammo in the magazine. On getting to elk or deer camp, they find out the ammo is to long to fit in the magazine. At least they have a single shot, it could be worse. I have had hunters that their buddies loaded the ammo for them and then met them in hunting camp only to find out the ammo wouldn’t chamber from either the bullet seated to long or the case sized improperly, then they just have a club.
Four: Confirm All Cases Contain Powder
No powder in the case doesn’t seem to happen as much in rifle cartridges as in handgun cartridges. This is probably due to more handgun ammo being loaded on progressive presses and usually in larger quantities. There are probably more rifle cartridges that don’t have powder in them than you realize though. Since the pistol case is so much smaller internal capacity, when you try to fire it without powder, it usually dislodges the bullet just enough to stick in the barrel. On a rifle, you have more internal capacity and usually a better grip on the bullet, since it is smaller diameter and longer bearing surface. Like on a .223, often a case without powder won’t dislodge the bullet out of the case and just gets ejected from the rifle, thinking it was a bad primer or some little quirk. For rifle cases loaded on a single stage press, I put them in a reloading block and always dump my powder in a certain order. Then I do a visual inspection and any case that the powder doesn’t look the same level as the rest, I pull it and the one I charged before and the one I charged after it. I inspect the one case to see if there is anything visual inside. Then I recharge all 3 cases. That way if a case had powder hang up and dump in the next case, you have corrected the problem.
On progressive presses, I try to use a powder that fills the case up to about the base of the bullet. That way you can usually see the powder as the shell rotates and if you might have dumped a partial or double charge, you will notice as you start to seat the bullet if not before. On a progressive, if I don’t load a cartridge in one smooth stroke (say a bullet tipped over sideways and I raised the ram slightly to reset it) Some presses actually back the charge back adding more powder if it has already dumped some so you have a full charge plus a partial charge. When I don’t complete the procedure with one stroke, I pull the case that just had powder dumped into it and check the powder charge or just dump the powder back into the measure and run the case thru later.
I could go on and on but hopefully this will help some of you that are having these problems cure them. A case gage really can do wonders. Stay tuned for Easy Easy Ways to Save Yourself Headaches at the Range Part 2!
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What kind of case lubricant do you use. If you’re like most hand-loaders, you prefer some kind of thin, spray-on lube. Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com surveyed his readers, with the results displayed in the chart below. Thin spray-type lubes took the top spot, followed by waxy-type lubes.* CLICK HERE to Vote in the Case Lube Poll.
Gavin explains: “Over the years, I’ve talked quite a bit about different case lube products and techniques for both rifle and pistol reloading. Depending on your goals, the cartridge being reloaded, and what you have on-hand, your options will typically be honed down to a few ‘best options’. But the more you talk with seasoned reloaders, the more options you’ll discover.”
Synthetic Motor Oil for Special Tasks
One new lubrication option Gavin has tried is synthetic motor oil “I’ve started using another product for rifle case lube: synthetic motor oil. In particular, I’ve been using this oil to ‘prime’ rifle sizing dies when starting a loading session. This priming combined with fresh spray lube (Dillon DCL recently) has been a good combination for .223/5.56 and .308/7.62x51mm loading sessions.
I just pour a bit of synthetic motor oil into the quart jug cap, dip my finger into the cap, and apply about one drop to the outside of the case with my fingers. I then dip the end of a Q-Tip into the oil cap (just a drop applied), and roll the end of the Q-Tip between my fingers. The Q-Tip is then ‘rolled’ inside the case mouth to provide lube for the expander ball. I’m wondering how many thousands of applications I could get out of one quart of motor oil!
*This Editor’s own perference follow this ranking. For regular case-sizing with benchrest cases (and close-fitting dies), I use Ballistol aerosol (active ingredient is mineral oil). Not chalky or gummy, Ballistol is very, very slippery. A thin sheen lubricates extremely well yet wipes off easily. For heavy case-forming duties I use Imperial Die Wax.
Clean and Lube
One advantage of Ballistol is that, wiped on a patch, it will remove carbon residue from case necks. That way you can clean and lube your case in one step before running your case into the Full-length sizing dies. Just spray a little on a cotton patch. After cleaning the case-neck flip the patch over and lube the case body.
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You can see scores of new-for-2016 products in the free January digital edition of Shooting Industry magazine. The new product offerings are found in a 28-page feature article starting on page 76 and ending on page 104. In those pages you’ll find new items from leading companies such as: Alliant, Browning, Hodgdon, Hornady, Lyman, Nikon, Ruger, Vortex, and Weaver Optics.
Important New Products
You can also see the new products in Shooting Industry magazine’s regular website, on the New Product Showcase Page. As a teaser, here are three new products from that page — new Alliant Reloder 16 powder, a new Bench-top primer tool from Lee, and a handy Lyman maintenance mat. We are VERY interested in new Reloder 16 propellant. Alliant says RL16 has a burn rate similar to H4350/IMR4350, which would make RL16 ideal for many popular match cartridges.
NEW Product — Alliant Reloder 16 Powder
Alliant Powder Reloder 16 is a propellant that performs consistently across temperature extremes. Its burn rate is slightly faster than Reloder 17’s — well within the 4350 burn speed band. This makes it ideal for traditional hunting cartridges as the .30-06 and .270 Win. It will work as well with 6.5mm target loads and tactical applications where temperature stability is required. The Alliant Powder Reloder 16 contains a de-coppering additive but no toxic DNT or DBP.
NEW Product — Lee Auto Bench Prime
The new Auto Bench Prime from Lee Precision is an easy-to-use bench-mounted priming tool with a large lever that provides good “feel” with plenty of mechanical advantage. The symmetrical design allows for right- or left-hand operation. The Auto Bench Prime includes priming assemblies for large and small primers and a folding tray with a built-in primer-flipping feature. This allows direct filling from large primer boxes. The unit uses special, but inexpensive priming tool shell holders.
NEW Product — Lyman Maintenance Mat
The new Essential Rifle Maintenance Mat from Lyman Products is a smart item that any gun-owner can use. This 10″ x 36″ cleaning/assembly mat features small compartments for tools, parts, and cleaning item. The mat’s firm yet cushioned synthetic rubber surface protects your firearms. The Mainteance Mat’s molded-in compartments keep small parts and screws handy, yet out of the way. The Lyman mat is chemically resistant and cleans up easily.
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Hey guys, you’ll probably want to download this new Powder Burn Rate Chart issued by Hodgdon/IMR. This new table shows the latest IMR powders including the Enduron series (IMR 4166, 4451, 4955, 7977), shown in green below. This chart provides useful information for all hand-loaders. When doing load development, and testing one powder versus another, it’s generally wise to choose propellants that share the same relative burn rate, as least for starters. NOTE: Hodgdon powders are shown in blue, while IMR standard powders are shown in yellow. DOWNLOAD Chart HERE.
If you have ever turned a large quantity of case-necks using power assist, you know that a carbide mandrel can make the job go easier, with better end results. In our experience, when using carbide mandrels (as opposed to ordinary steel), the cases move more smoothly with less heat build-up. Pat Reagin of PMA Tool explains why carbide neck-turning mandrels work better:
Carbide offers several advantages over conventional steel and stainless steel when making any tooling, specifically neck-turning mandrels:
Dimensional Stability — Carbide maintains its dimensions indefinitely during heating and cooling. This eliminates the need to allow the mandrel time to cool every few cases.
Coefficient of Friction and Wear-Resistance — Carbide exhibits a low coefficient of friction value as compared to all steels and wears up to 100 times longer. This reduces (but does not eliminate) the amount of lubricant required.
Galling Resistance — Carbide has exceptional resistance to galling and welding at the surface. This basically eliminates the chance of getting a case stuck on a mandrel due to insufficient lubrication.
Given the benefits of carbide neck-turner mandrels, you may be asking “where can I get one?” Sinclair Int’l offers carbide mandrels for Sinclair neck-turners for $49.99, in a full range of calibers: 17, 20, 22, 6mm, 25, 6.5mm, 270, 30, and 338.
$49.95 Carbide Mandrels from PMA Tool
PMA Tools now also offers carbide mandrels in a full variety of sizes. At $49.95 each, PMA’s carbide mandrels are priced competitively with Sinclair’s mandrels. PMA offers carbide mandrels in .17, .20, .22, 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm and .30-caliber. These will work with Sinclair Int’l and 21st Century neck-turners, as well as PMA neck-turners. PMA tells us: “We now have carbide neck-turning mandrels in stock. These mandrels are made with high-tech CNC grinding-machinery, and should give you excellent results. We hope to be add other larger-caliber carbide mandrels to our lineup in the future.”
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You can now purchase an exact reprint of Howell’s classic book for $59.98. This 600-page hardcover (8 1/2″ x 11″) resource features 450 pages of diagrams, all drawn to the same 1.5x scale. The collection of cartridge diagrams includes many “cartridge blueprints” available nowhere else, including many obscure wildcats. Howell’s book includes sections on: case specs, use of forming dies, fire forming, cartridge annealing, case capacity variables, chamber pressure variables, and powder selection. CLICK to ORDER.
Here are reviews from two book purchasers:
“This is an absolutely incredible [book] for wildcatters, ballistic students and serious cartridge handloaders. It provides the critical dimensions (imperial and metric as well as displacement) for about 1840 cartridges[.] The first 100 pages explain the mechanics of cartridge forming. The cartridge drawings are in B&W, very legible and easy to copy or scan[.] Especially on the metric side there are a few notable cartridge ommissions… but it does not detract from the overall importance of this magnificent work, which I consider the best of the genre. A great buy for serious cartridge students at any price.” — Pierre Van W.
“This book has earned the reputation of being THE authority in the field of reliable dimensions for small arms cartridges. The author [lists] which cases are useful in making other cases which may not be available. This is the bedrock technical book for this subject area and is a necessity for any hardcore reloader. It is worth more than the price asked.” — Gene C.
Editor’s Note: A couple of guys who had the original edition of this book said they found a few errors in dimensions when comparing Howell’s diagrams with SAAMI specs. Before you spec a reamer or invest in dies, you may want to double-check dimensions found in this book.
Book tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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At the request of our readers, we have launched a “Deals of the Week” feature. Every Monday morning we offer our Bargain Selections. Here are some of the best deals on hardware, reloading components, and shooting accessories. Be aware that sale prices are subject to change, and once clearance inventory is sold, it’s gone for good. You snooze you lose.
2. Southern Shooters — 17 HMR Ruger American Rimfire Rifle
With ballistics far superior to a .22 LR, the 17 HMR is ideal for Prairie Dogs and small varmints out to 180 yards or so. Now you can get a reliable, name brand 17 HMR rifle for under $250.00. That’s right, Southern Shooters is selling the 17 HMR Ruger American Rimfire, with 22″ barrel, for just $244.21. FFL required. For other vendors with this rifle, CLICK HERE.
3. Bruno’s — 5% Off In-Stock Inventory and FREE Shipping
Here’s an awesome end-of-year special from Bruno Shooters Supply. Right now, Bruno’s is offering 5% off nearly all in-stock items. On top of that, through the end of the year you can get FREE ground shipping in the mainland US (Hazmat charges still apply). If you need hardware (barrels, stocks, actions), optics (scopes, LRFs, spotters), or reloading supplies (powder, primers, bullets, brass), you can find it at Bruno’s.
4. Midsouth — Hornady L-N-L Auto Charge Scale/Dispenser
The RCBS ChargeMaster is more widely used than the Hornady Auto Charge, but the Hornady unit works fine and is quite a bit more affordable. Now, with this Midsouth special, you can grab an Auto Charge for less than HALF what an RCBS ChargeMaster costs these days. That’s a bargain in our book.
5. Bullets.com — Handgun Safe $49.95
This pistol safe keeps your handguns secure while still permitting instant “push-button” access. The three-button lock can be personalized with 3- to 8-digit codes, and there is a key override. This safe will hold two (2) full-sized pistols and can also store passports, cash, or other valuables. The spring-loaded door gives you near-instant response. The all-steel case also includes mounting holes for fixing the safe to floor or shelf.
6. Sinclair International — Last Chance for 2015 RCBS Rebates
Get $50 back on $300 through December 31, 2015. Customers who purchase $50 of RCBS tools and accessories can receive a $10 rebate, or those who buy $300 in RCBS products will receive a $50.00 rebate. All RCBS products qualify for this rebate program. But you have to act quickly– qualifying purchases must be made before midnight on December 31, 2015. LINK: RCBS Products at Sinclair International.
6. GTD Distributors — Ruger LC9S Pro Carry Pistol $339.95
The Ruger LC9s Pro is a compact 9mm carry pistol that weighs just 17.2 ounces. It is one of Hickok 45’s favorite CCW guns, and he’s tried just about everything. The LC9s was a striker-fired upgrade of the original LC9. It has a smooth, short-travel trigger that breaks at about 5.5 pounds (compared to 8 pounds for the original LC9). This latest LC9s “Pro” model has the same enhanced trigger as the LC9s plus a simpler manual of arms. The LC9s Pro dispenses with the thumb safety and annoying magazine disconnect. LINK: Hickok 45 LC9s Pro Review.
8. Amazon — $4.95 Handgun Hangers 4-Pack
Save shelf space with these handy Handgun Hangers. These hangers provide the most efficient way to store a large handgun collection. Pistols hang below the shelf, opening up all the space above the shelf for other items. A four-pack of hangers costs just $4.95. WARNING: Before putting pistols on hangers, make sure your handguns are UNLOADED, with no round in the chamber.
9. Amazon — Howard Leight Electronic Muffs (Best Seller)
Every shooter should own a pair of Electronic muffs — they are great when you are doing spotting duties or are working near the firing line. They allow you to hear ordinary conversations while still providing vital hearing protection. Right now Amazon.com has the Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Muffs on sale for just $39.86. These NRR 22 muffs are currently Amazon’s #1 seller in the category. NOTE: For regular, sustained shooting we recommend muffs and/or earplugs with a higher NRR rating.
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Even with high-quality brass from Lapua, Norma, and RWS, occasionally you may find one or two cases per box which have a small flake or obstruction in the flash-hole. This will appear like a thin crescent on one side of the flash hole (see photo). You should inspect ALL new brass before loading to identify any pieces with a partially-obstructed flash hole. It’s a good idea to remove any flake or thin crescent left as an artifact of the flash-hole forming process. Because the flash-hole itself is normally centered and of the correct diameter, it is not necessary to ream the flash-hole to a larger diameter. All you really need to do is remove the small obstruction(s). This can be done quickly with inexpensive tools.
Use a Small Pin Vise to Remove Flash-Hole Obstructions
Folks have asked if there is a tool that can remove obstructions from a Lapua small, BR-sized flash hole without opening the hole size. The Lapua PPC/BR flash hole is spec’d at 1.5mm, which works out to 0.059055″. Most of the PPC/BR flash-hole uniforming tools on the market use a 1/16″ bit which is nominally 0.0625″, but these often run oversize — up to 0.066″.
If you want to just clear out any obstructions in the flash hole, without increasing the flash hole diameter, you can use an inexpensive “pin vise” with an appropriate drill bit. For $1.00, eHobbyTools.com sells a 1.5mm drill bit, item 79186, that matches the Lapua flash hole exactly. Other vendors offer a #53 pin vise drill bit that measures .0595″ or .060″ (depending or source). An 0.0595″ bit is close enough. You can find pin vises and these small-diameter drill bits at hobby stores.
For quite some time, Sinclair Int’l has sold a similar device for small (PPC and BR-size) flash holes. Like the 07-3081 unit for large flash holes, the 073000 Reamer for small flash holes works from the outside, so it can index off the primer pocket. It reams to .0625″, and also costs $39.99. The standard dimension for Lapua 220 Russian and 6mmBR flash holes is 1.5mm or .0590″. This tool will permit standard-size decapping rods with .0625″ tips to work without binding. However, note that both Forster and Redding normally supply .057″ decapping pins with their PPC and BR dies. So, it is NOT necessary to ream your Lapua BR/PPC flashholes, unless you prefer to do so for uniformity. It IS, however, a good idea to check BR/PPC flash holes for burrs before loading the first time.
NOTE: If you purchase either the 073081 or 073000 Sinclair Flash Hole Reamer tools, we recommend you mic the cutter tip before you process a bunch of cases. Sometimes a tip comes through that is oversize. This will ream the flash holes larger than you may intend.
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If you don’t match your ammo to your chamber, bad things can happen, that’s for sure. A while back, Forum member BigBlack had an experience at the gun range that reminds us of the importance of safety when shooting. He encountered evidence that someone had fired the wrong cartridge in a 7mm WSM rifle. The problem is more common than you may think. This Editor has personally seen novices try to shoot 9mm ammo in 40sw pistols. BigBlack’s story is along those lines, though the results were much more dramatic. It’s too bad a knowledgeable shooter was not nearby to “intervene” before this fellow chambered the wrong ammo.
7mm-08 is Not the Same as a 7mm WSM
BigBlack writes: “I know this has probably been replayed a thousand times but I feel we can never be reminded enough about safety. This weekend at the range I found a ruptured case on the ground. My immediate thoughts were that it was a hot load, but the neck area was begging for me to take a closer look, so I did. I took home the exploded case and rummaged through my old cases until I found a close match. From my investigative work it appears someone shot a 7mm-08 in a 7mm WSM. Take a look. In the above photo I’ve put together a 7mm WSM case (top), the ruptured case (middle), and a 7mm-08 case (bottom).”
The photo reveals what probably happened to the 7mm-08 case. The shoulder moved forward to match the 7mm WSM profile. The sidewalls of the case expanded outward in the much larger 7mm WSM chamber until they lacked the strength to contain the charge, and then the case sides ruptured catastrophically. A blow-out of this kind can be very dangerous, as the expanding gasses may not be completely contained within the action.
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Shooting Times has released an article entitled “Ten Most Common Reloading Mistakes”. Listed below are the Top Ten mistakes hand-loaders can make, at least according to Shooting Times. What do you think of this list — does it overlook some important items?
Top Ten Reloading Mistakes According to Shooting Times:
1. Cracked Cases — Reloaders need to inspect brass and cull cases with cracks.
2. Dented Cases — Dents or divets can be caused by excess case lube.
3. Excessive Powder Charge — Overcharges (even with the correct powder) can be very dangerous.
4. Primers Not Seated Deep Enough — “High” primers can cause functioning issues.
5. Crushed Primers — Some priming devices can deform primers when seating.
6. Excess Brass Length — Over time, cases stretch. Cases need to be trimmed and sized.
7. Bullets Seated Too Far Out — If the bullet is seated too long you may not even be able to chamber the round. Also, with hunting rounds, bullets should not engage the rifling.
8. Burrs on Case Mouths — Ragged edges on case mouths can actually shave bullet jackets.
9. Excess Crimp — This is a common problem with pistol rounds loaded on progressives. If case lengths are not uniform some cases will get too much crimp, others too little.
10. Inadequate Crimp — This can be an issue with magnum pistol cartridges in revolvers.
Do you agree with this list? We think some important things are missing, such as not adjusting full-length sizing dies properly. This can cause the shoulder to be pushed back too far (or not far enough). Another common mistake is using brass that is worn out, i.e. stretched in the case-head area from multiple cycles of hot loads. We also think the #1 error a reloader can make is using the wrong powder altogether. That can be a fatal mistake. See what happens when you load pistol powder in a rifle.
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Christmas is almost here, so today we’re featuring a hand-picked collection of “stocking stuffers” for precision shooters. So as not to bust your holiday budget, all of our selections are priced under $10.00. These items are handy tools that you’ll use over and over again at the range and/or at your loading bench (so you’re allowed to buy them for yourself, even after Christmas). Our AccurateShooter staffers use most of these items, including the Loading Blocks, Ballistol, Mirage Shades, Crocogators, and Barrel Bags.
Gifts $1 to $5
Hood Kwik Estimator
Barrel Mirage Shade
Surveyors’ Tape. Always watch the wind when you shoot. Inexpensive, Day-Glo Surveyors’ Tape (aka “Flagging Tape”), attached to a stake or target frame, makes a good wind indicator. It will flutter even in mild breezes, alerting you to both angle and velocity shifts. This should be part of every range kit. Don’t leave home without it.
Safety Eyewear ANSI Z87.1. Yes you can get ANSI-approved Safety Eyewear for under two bucks. At that price you should pick up a half-dozen sets, just so you have extras. We recommend that shooters wear eye protection at all times when handling firearms. This eyewear special is offered by CDNN Sports. Call 800-588-9500 to order.
Hood Kwik Estimator. Here’s a very handy tool to measure your 6mm groups. Bracket the group within the diverging lines of the Kwik Estimator and you’ll instantly get a good approximation of the actual group size. No more trips to the tool box for calipers. The inexpensive Kwik Estimator fits in a shirt pocket. (Thanks to Boyd Allen for this suggestion.)
Sinclair Barrel Mirage Shade. For high-volume varminters, and competitors who shoot fast in warm weather, a mirage shield is absolutely essential. This prevents hot air rising off the barrel from distorting the image in your scope. The aluminum Sinclair shield can be trimmed to fit, and comes with stick-on Velcro attachments. Two lengths are available: 18″ for short BR barrels, and 24″ for longer barrels.
Gifts $6 to $10
Ballistol Aerosol Lube
Sinclair Barrel Bag
Sinclair Load Block
Dewey Crocogator. The Crocogator tool, with knurled “teeth” at both ends, is simple, inexpensive, and compact. Yet nothing zips though primer-pocket gunk faster or better. Unlike some cutter-tipped primer pocket tools, the Crocogator removes the carbon quick and easy without shaving brass. One end is sized for large primer pockets, the other for small.
Ballistol Aerosol Lube. Ballistol is a versatile, non-toxic product with many uses in the reloading room. We have found it is ideal for lubricating cases for normal full-length sizing. It is clear, not gooey or chalky like other lubes. It is very, very slippery, yet is easy to apply and just as easy to wipe off. As you lube your cases, the Ballistol will also clean powder fouling off the case necks. For heavy-duty case forming and neck expansion, we’ll still use Imperial die wax, but for every-day case sizing, Ballistol is our first choice. It also helps prevent your dies from rusting and it even conditions leather. Ballistol is a favored bore cleaner for Black Powder shooters because it neutralizes acidic powder residues.
Sinclair Barrel Bag. If you run a switch-barrel rig, or take spare barrels to a big match, this simple but effective barrel bag will protect your valuable steel. The bag is moisture-resistant vinyl on the outside with a soft, quilted interior to protect the barrel’s finish and delicate crown. There are two sizes: one for barrels up to 26 inches, the other for barrels up to 31 inches. Both sizes are priced at $9.95 per bag. That’s cheap insurance for those priceless barrels.
Sinclair ‘Poly’ Loading Block. We’ve tried wood and injection-molded loading trays, and we prefer Sinclair’s white polyethylene loading blocks. They featured chamfered holes properly sized for the particular case you reload. The blocks are heavy enough to be stable on the bench, and the “dishwasher-friendly” material is easy to clean. The standard Poly Loading Block holds 50 cases, while the Competition Loading Block holds 25 cases with a tray for empties. For a bit more money, there’s also a Heavy-Duty 50-case model with an extra-thick 1″ base.
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Here is an interesting new measuring device from L.E. Wilson, makers of precision hand dies, case trimmers, and other precision tools. This new Case Gage Depth Micrometer measures shoulder “bump”, so you can determine your headspace both before and after Full-Length sizing. With this Depth Micrometer, you can ascertain exactly how much your FL-sizing die is pushing back the shoulder during the sizing process. While you can measure shoulder setback with comparators on calipers, this Wilson Depth Mic is much more handy. Just place your sized round in the base gage and then slip the micrometer over the top. Take a measurement before FL sizing and then, after sizing, click the micrometer top to verify the amount of shoulder set-back. The measurement is quick and repeatable — very slick.
This is one more nice product from the folks at L.E. Wilson. The $110.00 tool comes with a Gage Block and micrometer top with .001 gradations. The Depth Mic top is compatible with all other Wilson case L.E. Wilson Gages (one size works for all).
Product Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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