July 25th, 2016

Power User Tips for Ultrasonic Cleaning Machines

Ultrasonic Cleaning RCBS Ultrasound .308 Winchester 7.62x51 brass casings

Tumblers and walnut/corncob media are old school. These days many shooters prefer processing brass rapidly with 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.

READ FULL UltimateReloader.com Article on Ultrasonic Case Cleaning.

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.


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 $75 off combined $300.00 purchase). RCBS also sells 32 oz. bottles of cleaning concentrate that will make up to 10 gallons of Ultrasonic Solution.

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »
July 21st, 2016

.45 ACP Quick Guide — Reloading and 1911 Field Stripping

Do you shoot a .45 ACP? We love this short, fat cartridge because it is inherently accurate, it makes big, easy-to-see holes in paper, and because it it works so well in the classic 1911 series of pistols. It is hard to beat a good, tuned model 1911 when it comes to trigger pull/reset and natural pointing ability.

Once you get the hang of it, 1911-type pistols are also easy to field strip for cleaning. Here is a video showing how to disassemble and reassemble your model 1911:

Model 1911 Field Stripping and Reassembly

.45 ACP Ammunition Loading Guide

If you “roll your own” .45 ACP cartridges, there are many good powder choices. Our favorites are Vihtavuori N320, AA No. 5, and Hodgdon TiteGroup, but there are many other good choices. You’ll find these three recommended powders (plus seven others) in this .45 ACP Reloading Guide from Nosler:

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Handguns, Reloading 1 Comment »
July 19th, 2016

Powder Temp Stability: IMR Enduron vs. Hodgdon Extreme

powder gunpowder temperature sensivity temp stability Hodgdon Extreme Varget H4350 IMR Enduron 4451 4166

PrecisionRifleBlog.com (PRB) recently published results from a field test PRB conducted to quantify the temperature stability of the popular Hodgdon H4350 and Varget powders and compare those to IMR’s new Enduron line of powders, specifically IMR 4166 and 4451.

Hodgdon Extreme Series powders have attracted quite a fan base, with over 90% of the top shooters in the Precision Rifle Series choosing to run one of those powders. IMR recently released a new line of powders “with Enduron Technology” — which is also marketed to have “extreme temperature stability”. Sounds familiar! These new powders should compete directly with the Hodgdon Extreme Series, which gives shooters more temp-stable powder options to consider.

CLICK HERE to Read Full Powder Temperature Stability Test on Precision RifleBlog.com.

The top shooters in the PRS and veteran long-range shooters in other disciplines have learned to value a temperature-stable powder. That’s because a change in temperature can affect the trajectory or “flight path” of the bullet in two well-known ways:

1. Assuming all other environmental conditions remain the same, an increase in air temperature will cause a flatter trajectory due to a lower air density (easier for the bullet to cut through the air).

2. The same increase in temperature also causes the nitrocellulose-based powder inside the cartridge to burn at a higher rate, producing approximately four times the Point of Impact (POI) shift than just air temperature alone. (SEE: Temperature Effects On Zero on KestrelMeters.com.)

“The initial heat condition of your powder will affect the burn rate,” Bryan Litz explained at a recent Applied Ballistics Seminar. That means swings in ambient outside temperature can affect your internal ballistics, which will directly affect your muzzle velocity, which will change your bullet’s trajectory. Some powders are more affected by changes in temperature than others. So if your goal is first-shot hits and you may shoot in a variety of conditions — you should care about temperature stable powders.

Magnetospeeed LabRadar chronograph chrono powder gunpowder temperature sensivity temp stability Hodgdon Extreme Varget H4350 IMR Enduron 4451 4166

The folks at PrecisionRifleBlog.com meticulously loaded 6.5×47 Lapua ammo with each powder using some of the best equipment available. This included the top-of-the-line Prometheus Gen II Powder Scale, which is capable of loading to the nearest kernel of powder. This ensured the powder charges were identical for each round of ammo. PRB’s testers explain the full set of equipment and steps in their loading process in the Full Test Report.

Once they had a couple dozen rounds loaded with each powder, they went and shot them with each powder at 25° F, 65° F, and 140° F. The muzzle velocity of each shot was recorded using both a LabRadar Doppler Radar and a MagnetoSpeed Chronograph. The LabRadar is a new type of device that allows you to measure muzzle velocity within at least +/- 0.1% of the reading.

Magnetospeeed LabRadar chronograph chrono powder gunpowder temperature sensivity temp stability Hodgdon Extreme Varget H4350 IMR Enduron 4451 4166

Here are the results from the PRB Powder Temp Stability Tests:

Magnetospeeed LabRadar chronograph chrono powder gunpowder temperature sensivity temp stability Hodgdon Extreme Varget H4350 IMR Enduron 4451 4166

You can see Hodgdon H4350 had the least variance in muzzle velocity, with just 25 fps over the 115° swing in temperature! That is very, very low. Hodgdon Varget was the second least temperature sensitive powder in this test, with 46 fps of variance in muzzle velocity between temperatures of 25° F and 140° F. IMR 4166 performed very similar to Varget, and proved to be fairly insensitive to large swings in temperature. IMR 4451 had the largest swing in muzzle velocity of the powders tested, but keep in mind just 68 fps over 115° F swing is still a good performance.

Most powders aren’t specially formulated to be temperature stable. So they would likely show much larger swings than what these four top-performing powders showed.

PRB’s test team also noticed other interesting trends in the data. For example, variation in velocity does NOT appear to be linear across the full range of temperatures. By that, they mean the change per degree from 20° to 65° might be smaller or larger than the change per degree from 65° to 140°.

PRB’s testers talk about those things, provide a few other insightful views of the data, and discuss tools that can help you manage temp/muzzle velocity in the field in their full post. You can find that here: http://precisionrifleblog.com/2016/06/19/powder-temp-stability-hodgdon-extreme-vs-imr-enduron/

Permalink - Articles, Gear Review, Reloading 7 Comments »
July 19th, 2016

Powder Valley Has Varget One-Pounders in Stock

Varget Hodgdon powder from Powder ValleyToday, July 19th, as of 10:00 am Central Time, Powder Valley has one-pound containers of Hodgdon Varget powder in stock. Price is $23.75 per pound (not including haz-mat fees or shipping).

NOTE: Powder Valley’s current Varget inventory consists of one-pounders only. No 8-pound jugs are available. To order, go to powdervalleyinc.com, then click the Powders link (near the top of page), and then select the Hodgdon link in the row that appears. Scroll down until you see:

“HODVARG-01 *, HODGDON VARGET – 1LB.”

Given the high demand for the most popular Hodgdon Extreme powders, Powder Valley’s inventory of Varget could sell out. If you are in dire need of this powder, act quickly.

More Hodgdon Extreme Powders in Stock:
Powder Valley does not have any H4350 at this time but it DOES have ALL these other Hodgdon Extreme powders in both 1-pound and 8-pound containers:

H4198 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H322 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
Benchmark (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H4895 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)

H4831 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H4831SC (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H1000 (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
Retumbo (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)
H50BMG (YES 1-lb and 8-lb)

Hodgdon Extreme powders

Permalink Hot Deals, Reloading 1 Comment »
July 18th, 2016

Bargain Finder 44: AccurateShooter’s Deals of the Week

Accurateshooter Bargain Finder Deals of Week

At the request of our readers, we provide select “Deals of the Week”. Every Monday morning we offer our Bargain selections. Here are some of the best deals on firearms, 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.

1. EuroOptic — Vortex Viper PST 4-16×50 EBR-1 Scope, $499.99

Eurooptic.com Eurooptics Vortex PST 4-16x50mm scope Tactical Second Focal Place

Vortex’s Precision Shooting Tactical (PST) line of riflescopes offers features that are normally only available in high-priced optics. This 4-16x50mm EBR-1 Scope offers an illuminated second focal plane EBR-1 reticle, side-focus parallax adjustment, tactical turrets, and an objective lens that will allow you to see well into twilight. This scope also offers Milradian adjustments, a 30mm main tube, and a weight of only 22 ounces — making it an ideal optic for a tactical or precision rifle, varmint blaster, or hunting rifle. For current stock only at EuroOptic.com, save $200 off this already competitively-priced scope for an out-the-door price of only $499.99. No doubt about it — this is a great deal.

2. Powder Valley — $10 Off Berger 6mm and 6.5mm Hybrids

Powder Valley Berger Hybrid Bullets sale promo 6mm 6.5mm Match

Here’s a special deal for AccurateShooter.com readers. Our friends at Powder Valley have just put two of the most popular Berger match projectiles on sale. Right now you can get $10.00 off all 500-count boxes of Berger 6mm 105gr Hybrid and 6.5mm 140gr Hybrid bullets. This special sale runs from now until July 31 or when stock runs out (subject to quantity on hand). We recommend you act quickly — these are popular bullets. To get this deal, visit PowderValleyInc.com then click on the “Specials” link.

3. Bruno’s — LabRadar Doppler Radar Chronograph, $559.95

Bruno Shooters Bruno's LabRadar Chronograph Doppler Radar Chrono

The LabRadar is the most advanced chronograph on the market. When it was first released, you had to wait months to get one of these Doppler Radar units. Now they are in-stock and ready to ship at Bruno Shooters Supply for $559.95. Once you learn how to position and adjust the LabRadar, you should find the machine reliable and versatile. We do recommend getting a separate battery pack. If you are considering purchasing a LabRadar Chronograph, we strongly suggest you read the very thorough and informative LabRadar Review by Ray Gross, Captain of the USA F-TR team. NOTE: If the LabRadar sells out at Bruno’s, you should be able to get it from MidwayUSA, for the same $559.95 price.

LabRadar Review Ray Gross

3. Natchez — Special 5 Reloading Press Kit, $199.99

RCBS Special 5 Reloading Kit

This is an excellent entry-level reloading kit, which is on sale for $199.99 at Natchez Shooters Supply. We like the relatively compact Special 5 press for most reloading duties. Eventually you many want to add an additional large heavy press, but this will get the job done. This kit includes an RCBS Powder Measure, Digital Scale, Powder Trickler, Hand Priming Tool, Load Manual, Loading Tray, and more. It’s hard to beat this combination of tools for under $200.00.

4. Amazon — Discovery Scope Level $12-$16 (1″, 30mm, 34mm)

Optical Rifle Scope bubble level Discovery 30mm 1 inch 34mm Amazon

If you shoot long range, you need a scope level. This Discovery scope level is fully CNC-machined to close tolerances for a good fit. It is available with three inner diameters to fit scopes with 1″, 30mm, or 34mm main tubes. The 1″ version is just $11.99 while the 30mm model is $13.95 and the large 34mm version is $15.95. You could easily pay $35.00 or more for a 30mm scope level. Purchasers have praised this product: 89% of verified buyers rated this five stars.

5. Cabela’s — Lyman TurboSonic Cleaning Machine, $49.99

NRA Life Membership $500.00 Offer discount

If you have brass or small parts to clean an ultrasonic cleaning machine really comes in handy. This Lyman machine was a good deal at $69.99 before. Now it is an awesome deal at $49.99 from Cabela’s. Plus you may even be able to get it for less. One buyer said you can get this item for $44.99 including shipping if you use code “16CAVE” at check-out. Worth a try.

6. NRA & MidwayUSA — NRA Life Membership, $500.00

NRA Life Membership $500.00 Offer discount

Here’s the best deal going right now on an NRA Life Membership. This normally costs $1500.00, but if you CLICK HERE, you can get a life membership for just $500.00, thanks to an NRA/MidwayUSA promotion. This deal is good through July 31, 2016. You can also save on 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year NRA memberships.

7. Midsouth — Ammo Crates: Medium $12.97, Large $14.94

NRA Life Membership $500.00 Offer discount

These stackable, lockable “Ammo Crates” hold up to 85 pounds of shooting supplies. Choose from two different OD green versions on sale now at Midsouth. The $12.97 Medium (4.5″-deep) Ammo Crate is good for smaller boxes of bullets, factory ammo, or shotshells, while the $14.94 Large (7.25″-deep) Ammo Crate is ideal for packing the plastic 50-count and 100-count plastic ammo boxes. We like the Large-size, deeper crate for the added capacity since we typical carry our cartridges in the large 100-count MTM boxes with carry handles. Purchasers like these big Ammo Crates. Verified purchaser B-Lo states: “This thing is sweet and fully-loaded doesn’t flex and has good, tight locking lid/handles. A must have for anyone looking to store or transport larger quantities of ammo”.

8. Midsouth — Lyman Bleacher Loading Blocks, $5.90

Max NRR 33 db ear plugs

Lyman’s new Bleacher Block stepped cartridge holders are great. Use the different levels for sorting brass. Or, migrate the brass from top to bottom as you proceed through case prep stages. Made of durable polymer, Bleacher Blocks are molded in three sizes. The smallest size (with 0.388″-diam holes) fits .223 Rem-size case heads. The middle size (with 0.485″-diam holes) fits .308 Win-size case heads. The biggest Bleacher Block has 0.565″-diameter recesses for magnum-size cases. All three cartridge block sizes hold fifty (50) rounds. Purchase any size for just $5.90 per Block at Midsouth.

Permalink Hot Deals, New Product, Reloading 2 Comments »
July 16th, 2016

Advanced Reloading: Sorting Brass by Case-Wall Thickness

neck sorting tool case-neck Sinclair caliber neck tension

He who dies with the most toys wins — right? Well Sinclair has another interesting gadget you can add to your reloading bench. The Sinclair Case Neck Sorting Tool lets you quickly sort brass by neck-wall thickness. For those who shoot “no-turn” brass, sorting your cases helps achieve more uniform neck tension and, thereby, more consistent bullet seating. Large variances in neck-wall thickness can cause inconsistent neck “grip” on the bullet. Generally, we’ve found that more consistent neck tension will lower ES and (usually) improve accuracy.

Get Better Results with No-Turn Brass
We know some guys who shoot no-turn 6mmBR brass in competition with considerable success — but their secret is pre-sorting their brass by neck-wall thickness. Cases that are out-of-spec are set aside for sighters (or are later skim-turned).

Watch Case Neck Sorting Tool Operation in Video (May not load on mobile devices)

Case Neck thickness sorting gauge Sinclair accurateshooter.comHow the Case Neck Sorting Tool Works
Here’s how the Sinclair tool works. Cases are rotated under an indicator tip while they are supported on a case-neck pilot and a support pin through the flash hole. The unit has a nice, wide base and low profile so it is stable in use. The tool works for .22 through .45 caliber cases and can be used on .17- and .20-caliber cases with an optional carbide alignment rod. The MIC-4 pin fits both .060 (PPC size) and .080 (standard size) flash holes. Sinclair’s Case Neck Sorting Tool can be ordered with or without a dial indicator. The basic unit without indicator (item 749-006-612WS) costs $59.99. Complete with dial indicator (item 749-007-129WS), the tool costs $89.99. IMPORTANT: This tool requires caliber-specific Sinclair Case Neck Pilots (sold separately).

Editor’s Comment: The purpose of this Sinclair tool is rapid, high-quantity sorting of cartridge brass to ascertain significant case-neck-wall thickness variations. Consider this a rapid culling/sorting tool. If you are turning your necks, you will still need a quality ball micrometer tool to measure neck-wall thickness (to .0005) before and after neck-turning operations.

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading 2 Comments »
July 15th, 2016

Get Connected — Join 32,000+ Members on Our Shooters’ Forum

Accurateshooter.com shooters forum 32,000

AccurateShooter.com ForumThe AccurateShooter.com Shooters’ Forum hit another membership milestone. We’ve surpassed 32,000 registered members. Now we hope to reach 35,000 members in the next few months. If you have considered joining our Forum, but haven’t done so yet, there’s no better time than now. We have recently installed new “mobile-friendly” Forum software that works great with smart phones and tablets. You can now stay in touch when you’re on the go. Log in with your iPhone or Android phone. The new software also makes it much easier to add photos to your posts and classified adverts.

As a Forum member, you’ll be part of an active community of serious shooters. You can get valuable advice on shooting and reloading from top shooters such as National Champions Larry Bartholome, Sam Hall, and Derek Rodgers. As well, many top experts visit the Forum, such as Bryan Litz (Applied Ballistics), Shiraz Balolia (Bullets.com), Frank Green (Bartlein Barrels), and John Perkins (21st Century Shooting).

CLICK HERE to VISIT FORUM

Accurateshooter.com shooters forum 32,000Visit Forum.AccurateShooter.com to check out our Forum features. You’ll find a wealth of information shared by thousands of knowledgeable members. The boards are tightly moderated to prevent the ego battles common to some other internet forums. Our Shooters’ Forum maintains a high “signal to noise ratio”, with courteous and respectful exchange of ideas.

Sell Your Gear with FREE Classifieds

Along with our informational Forum areas, we offer FREE CLASSIFIEDS for all registered Forum members. You’ll find some great values in the Classifieds, and we provide a feedback system for buyers and sellers. Published feedback helps you buy and sell with greater confidence.

Accurateshooter.com shooters forum 30,000

Permalink News, Reloading No Comments »
July 15th, 2016

Smart Shopper: Compare Ammo Pricing with WikiArms

Wikiarms live ammo tracking

Wikiarms live ammo trackingIf you’re looking for loaded ammunition at affordable prices, WikiArms.com can help you find a good deal. WikiArms constantly searches the listings of ammo vendors across the web. Then WikiArms ranks the offerings by cost per round, low to high. This way you can instantly compare prices from multiple vendors including Ammoland, Brownells, Cabelas, Lucky Gunner, MidwayUSA, Natchez, Sinclair Int’l, Slickguns, Sportsmans Guide, and Wideners. Search bots refresh pricing constantly so listed prices are normally current within five minutes. WikiArms even displays the amount of product currently in stock for each vendor.

Using WikiArms is easy. Just click your choice of caliber (such as .22 LR, 9mm, or .308 Win) on the navigation bar, or hit the Good Deals link to see a variety of cartridge types all at one time. WikiArms is fast, and it is FREE to use. Check it out.

WikiArms also tracks prices on reloading components — bullets, brass, primers, and powders. From the WikiArms Home page, look at the left column under the “Reloading” header. From there you can select the type of components you want.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 1 Comment »
July 13th, 2016

Product Review: Hornady 6.5 Grendel Brass

Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass

With the increased interest in the 6.5 Grendel cartridge and Grendel-based wildcats (such as the 6mmAR and 30 Major), today we’ve re-released a review by Robert Whitley.

Robert Whitley of AR-X Enterprises, LLC builds match-grade uppers for AR-platform rifles. Many of Robert’s favorite chamberings are based on the 6.5 Grendel case necked-down to 6mm. Until 2011, Lapua was the only source for 6.5 Grendel brass. As you’d expect, Lapua’s Grendel brass is truly excellent, but it is also pricey, and sometimes hard to find. Now Hornady is producing USA-made 6.5 Grendel brass. Robert Whitley has worked with the Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass for over a year now and he is able to assess its performance compared to the original Lapua version. Writing in our Shooters’ Forum, Robert reveals: “It’s decent brass but hot loads will loosen the primer pockets fast. With moderate loads you will get good case life and service from the brass and it can deliver excellent accuracy as well. Not Lapua but not bad either.”

Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass 6mmAR TurboRobert reports: “I was able to get my hands on some of Hornady’s 6.5 Grendel brass. My big question was how it would measure up, particularly the loaded necks, and whether it would be compatible with our existing 6mmAR and Turbo 40 die sets. As it turns out, this brass looks like a perfect fit for our existing die sets (and obviously 6.5 Grendel die sets too). Accordingly, folks with existing die sets will be able to use the Hornady brass without any issues.” However, as the loaded neck on the Hornady brass is .001″ (one-thousandth) slimmer than Lapua brass, you may want to try a smaller bushing when sizing Hornady Grendel brass.

The Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass has a LARGE Flash Hole, about .078″ versus .0591″ for Lapua brass. Dimensionally, the biggest difference is the shoulder diameter, with the Hornady brass measuring 0.428″ vs. 0.424″ for the Lapua brass. The Hornady is actually a better fit for 6mmAR chambers which are about 0.432″ at the shoulder. Interestingly, case H20 capacity is virtually identical. Water capacity of new, unfired Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass is 35.1 grains, while new, unfired Lapua Grendel brass holds 35.0 grains of H20. Both brands of Grendel brass increase to about 36.0 grains H20 capacity after firing and full-length sizing.

Here are some of the particulars of the Hornady cases:

Hornady 6.5 Grendel Brass Lapua 6.5 Grendel Brass

Flash hole diameter: ~ .078″
OAL of brass: Average 1.515″
Weight of cases: 111.7 to 113.0 grains
Web diameter, unfired: 0.4375″
Shoulder diameter, unfired: 0.428″
Loaded neck diameter: 0.2895″
6mmAR loaded neck: 0.270″

Flash hole diameter: 1.5mm (0.0591″)
OAL of brass: Average 1.515″
Weight of cases: 111.0 to 112.5 grains
Web diameter, unfired: 0.4385″
Shoulder diameter, unfired: 0.424″
Loaded neck diameter: 0.290″
6mmAR loaded neck: 0.271″

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 2 Comments »
July 10th, 2016

Powder Comparison Test: H4350 vs. IMR 4451

Hodgdon H4350 IMR 4451 temperature powder test

Many Forum members have been looking for a good substitute for Hodgdon H4350 powder, which remains hard-to-find in many parts of the country. One of the best alternatives is IMR 4451, part of IMR’s new Enduron line of powders. Last year, top F-Class shooter Rick Jensen did a comparison between H4350 and IMR 4451, shooting the two powder in a wide range of temperatures. His data suggests that both powders show good temp stability.

Powder Comparison Test: H4350 vs. IMR 4451

Rick Jensen, Captain of the U.S. F-Open Rifle Team, has tested some of the new IMR 4451 powder. Rick and other team members were looking for a good powder that could replace Hodgdon 4350 which is difficult to obtain currently. The makers of IMR 4451 claim that it is not sensitive to temperature and that it delivers competitive accuracy. So far, Rick’s tests, done with a .284 Winchester and 180gr Berger Hybrids, appear to confirm those claims. Rick posts:

“I did a little informal powder comparison of H4350 versus the new IMR 4451. Rifle used was a Kelbly Panda with a 30″, 1:8.75″ twist 5R Bartlein barrel [chambered in .284 Win]. All charge weights were 50.0 grains using CCI BR2 primers. I was very impressed with this new powder and I believe it to be equal to H4350 as far as temperature sensitivity.

I did not test for accuracy but I will tell you my groups were pretty much equal between the two and all were in the .2-.3 MOA range. I will defiantly be shooting more of this powder in the weeks to come, assuming the supply chain will allow. It looks very encouraging to finally have a alternative to H4350 that we might actually be able to buy.”

Hodgdon H4350 IMR 4451 temperature powder test

Chronograph Results with Temps from 23° F to 101°
Here are chronograph results of a comparison test between IMR 4451 and H4350. Rick’s rifle was cleaned and allowed to cool between each test. Five fouling shots were fired before each test. Important: Note that for both Test #1 and Test #2, the powder order is reversed in the mid-temp fields (IMR 4451 first, then H4350). For the low and high temp entries, H4350 is listed first.

Hodgdon H4350 IMR 4451 temperature powder test

Here are the IMR 4451 fired cases, displayed Left to right, coldest to the hottest (in terms of case temp when fired). All charge weights were the same: 50.0 grains.

Hodgdon H4350 IMR 4451 temperature powder test

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 5 Comments »
July 10th, 2016

Free Plans for Heavy-Duty Reloading Bench

Reloading Bench Plans NRA American Rifleman

A while back, the American Rifleman magazine published an excellent article showing how to construct a rock-solid Reloading Bench. This bench is very well-designed, with many deluxe features, such as an upper drawer with fitted slots for die boxes, and large lower drawers with 100-lb rated slides to store heavy materials or tools. If you have good wood-working skills this would be an excellent project. You can download a detailed set of Bench Blueprints showing all dimensions and listing all needed materials.

CLICK HERE to Download Article with Photos | CLICK HERE for Bench Blueprints

The author, Dave Campbell, offers good advice on building the bench top: “I ripped a sheet of 3/4″ AC plywood into two 24″ wide pieces and cut them to 72″ long. Then I glued them together to form a 72″ long, 1 1/24″ thick top. The trick here is to keep the edges smooth and flat so that the laminate will adhere properly and without voids. I chose a light grey laminate finish for the top because it’s easier to see what I am working on and keep clean. If you have never worked with laminate, remember it’s prudent to glue and rout the edges flush before gluing on the top. The top was attached to the carcass with eight steel L-shaped angle brackets and No. 10×1 1/4″ wood screws.”

Photos Copyright © 2008 The National Rifle Association, used by permission

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip No Comments »
July 2nd, 2016

TECH TIP: How to Get Optimal Results with QuickLOAD Software

In our Shooters’ Forum, many questions are asked about QuickLOAD software — how to get best results, how to use the advanced features, how to adjust for temperature and so on. To help answer those questions, here’s a short feature we first ran during SHOT Show 2012. You can also CLICK HERE for a very detailed explanation of QuickLOAD in our main site.

At SHOT Show, we had the chance to meet with German software engineer Hartmut Broemel, creator of QuickLOAD software. This software program, while not a substitute for conventional load manuals, allows shooters to evaluate a wide range of powders and bullets, comparing potential loads on the basis of predicted pressures, velocities, load density and projectile in-barrel time.

READ Full QuickLOAD Review

We took the opportunity, in the video below, to explain some of the fine points of QuickLOAD for our members. QuickLOAD, sold by Neconos.com, helps reloaders understand how changing variables can affect pressures and velocities. It can predict the effect of changes in ambient temperature, bullet seating depth, and barrel length.

In the video below we explain how to adjust the program for true case capacity, bullet seating into the lands, and other important factors. If you are a new QuickLOAD user, or are contemplating buying the $152.95 program, you should watch the video. The program isn’t perfect, but it can accelerate the load development process, and it can save you money by narrowing down the list of appropriate powders for your cartridge.

No other product currently available to serious reloaders offers as much predictive power as QuickLOAD, and you’ll find your money well spent just for the vast collection of data on bullets and cartridges. With a couple mouse-clicks you can instantly get the specifications of hundreds of bullets and cartridges. Likewise, in a matter of seconds, you can compare load density for a half-dozen powders, or compare the projected velocities of one cartridge versus another.

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
June 25th, 2016

Varget 1-Pounders Available at Midsouth and Powder Valley

hodgdon imr varget powder propellant 1-lb Powder Valley Midsouth

Behold… the Holy Grail, Hodgdon Varget powder. Among all the rifle propellants on the market, Varget may have been the hardest to find in the last couple of years. But take heart, Midsouth Shooters Supply and Powder Valley Inc. now have 1-pound containers of Varget in stock for immediate delivery. To get to the PVI order screen, from the PVI Home page, click “Powders” then click “Hodgdon”.

hodgdon imr varget powder propellant 1-lb Powder Valley Midsouth

hodgdon imr varget powder propellant 1-lb Powder Valley MidsouthOver the years, Hodgdon Varget has proven to be one of the most accurate powders ever created. And it is also exceptionally temp-stable. In the .308 Win, 6mmBR, 6mm Dasher and other popular cartridges, Varget has set many records and won countless matches. It meters well (for an extruded powder) and can be used in a very large range of calibers and cartridge types. If you need Varget… don’t hesitate. Supplies are limited. This may sell out by the end of the day today..

TIME STAMP: This Notice Issued at 9:30 am EST Saturday, June 25, 2016.

Permalink Hot Deals, Reloading 2 Comments »
June 20th, 2016

Bargain Finder 40: AccurateShooter’s Deals of the Week

Accurateshooter Bargain Finder Deals of Week

At the request of our readers, we provide select “Deals of the Week”. Every Monday morning we offer our Bargain selections. Here are some of the best deals on firearms, 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.

1. Monmouth Reloading — Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 LRF $499.00

NRA Life Membership Offer

This excellent laser rangefinder rivals other premium LRFs selling for hundreds more. Head-to-head field tests with Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski LRFs proved that the new Sig Sauer Kilo 2000 can play in that league, but at a much more affordable price point. Sig accomplishes that with tight beam divergence and state-of-the-art DSP technology which allows the Kilo 2000 to range faster (and more reliably) at longer 
distances. Optic magnification is 7X. The Kilo 2000 weighs 7.5 oz and measures 3″ x 4.2″ x 1.3″.

— Lumatic OLED Display™ monitors ambient light and adjusts display brightness.
— AMR™ (Angle Modified Range) built-in angle compensation.
— 4X per second refresh rate in scan mode.
— Dependable waterproof (IP X-4) and fog-proof performance.
— Lightweight magnesium body and compact form.

SAVE MORE: Right now you can save an additional $110 off every Rangefinder Monmouth Reloading sells, including the Sig Kilo 2000. To save an additional $110, use Coupon Code LRF 110. That will lower your cost to $389.00 for the Kilo 2000, which is a total steal. (Time-limited offer).

2. Natchez — Special 5 Reloading Press Kit, $199.99

RCBS Special 5 Reloading Kit

This is an excellent entry-level reloading kit, which is on sale for $199.99 at Natchez Shooters Supply. We like the relatively compact Special 5 press for most reloading duties. Eventually you many want to add an additional large heavy press, but this will get the job done. This kit includes an RCBS Powder Measure, Digital Scale, Powder Trickler, Hand Priming Tool, Load Manual, Loading Tray, and more. It’s hard to beat this combination of tools for under $200.00.

3. NRA Life Membership $500 — Offer Ends 7/31/2016

NRA Life Membership Offer

If you are considering getting an NRA Life membership, now is the time to buy. You can get a Life Membership for $500.00. That’s $1000.00 off the regular $1500.00 price. You heard us right — save a thousand bucks on an NRA Life Membership. This offer is good through July 31, 2016. And with each lifetime membership, you get your choice of one of four print magazines: American Hunter, American Rifleman, Shooting Illustrated, or America’s First Freedom.

4. Midsouth — Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Manual

RCBS Special 5 Reloading Kit

Here’s a good deal on the new Lyman 50th Ed. Reloading Manual. Our Forum members have rated this as the best Loading Manual for starting hand-loaders. This 50th Anniversary Edition, the first to be produced in full color, includes more load data, and covers more cartridge and bullet types than ever before. This handbook has a strong heritage, starting with the Ideal/Lyman reloading manuals from the early 20th Century. (In 1925, Lyman purchased Ideal Reloading Products, which produced the Ideal reloading handbooks.)

5. Amazon — RAVPower 16750mAh Portable Charging Pack

Amazon Ravpower battery charger USB high-output battery pack LadRadar Bart Sauter

Bullet-maker Bart Sauter used this RAVpower portable charging unit to power his LabRadar chronograph at a short-range shooting match. He reports: “I bought a RAVPower pack from Amazon. It was the most powerful cell phone charger they had and it was reduced to $31. It was able to run the LabRadar for two full days without recharging and still had juice.” This unit has impressive specs: “4.5A Output: Highest output in the market, featuring a 4.5A total output capable of simultaneously charging two tablets, making it faster and more powerful than the rest. Exclusive iSmart Technology… ensures fastest and most efficient charge.”

6. Bullets.com — Norma .22LR Ammo (Match 22 & Tac 22)

Norma Match 22 Tac .22 LR Ammo rimfire ammunition bullets.com

Need quality .22 LR rimfire ammo at an affordable price? Consider Norma. Most folks think Norma only produces centerfire ammo and cartridge brass. As a result, people haven’t been looking for Norma rimfire ammo. Their loss is your gain. Accurate, reliable Norma .22 LR ammunition is in-stock right now at leading online vendors. This is good quality ammo, made in Europe. Bullets.com has Norma Tac-22 ammo in stock at $5.25 per 50-rd box (SKU: BL7819). In addition, Bullets.com offers Norma Match-22 ammunition at $7.50 per 50-rd box (SKU: BL11887).

7. Cabela’s — Lyman Turbo Sonic 1200, $59.99

Cabelas Lyman Turbo Sonic ULtrasonic Cleaning machine

Looking for a reliable ultrasonic cleaning unit at a rock-bottom, $59.99 price? Here’s a very good deal — this new Lyman 1200 sells elsewhere for up to $110.00. This machine will hold up to 350 9mm cases, and clean them in 10-15 minutes. The see-through cover lets you view the progress in the 6.5″L x 5.4″W x 2.6″D heated tank. Select four different dwell times with handy touch controls.

8. Amazon — 34 NRR Top-Selling Ear Muffs

hearing protection amazon cleararmor nrr 34 earmuff muffs safety

If you want serious hearing protection, and can tolerate large muffs, these Clear Armor earmuffs are hard to beat for the price. They seal very well and carry an unsurpassed 34db Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). These are the #1 Best Selling Safety Muffs on Amazon. Yes they are big and bulky — but you only have one set of ears. These are a good choice for loud magnum rifles and noisy indoor ranges.

Permalink Hot Deals, Reloading 1 Comment »
June 16th, 2016

Reloading Basics: Neck Tension, Expander Balls, and Bushings

Case Loading Neck Tension Sierra Bullets Paul Box

by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box
One thing that plays a major role in building an accuracy load is neck tension. I think a lot of reloaders pretty much take this for granted and don’t give that enough thought.

So, how much neck tension is enough?

Thru the years and shooting both a wide variety of calibers and burn rates of powder, I’ve had the best accuracy overall with .002″ of neck tension. Naturally you will run into a rifle now and then that will do its best with something different like .001″ or even .003″, but .002″ has worked very well for me. So how do we control the neck tension? Let’s take a look at that.

First of all, if you’re running a standard sizing die with an expander ball, just pull your decapping rod assembly out of your die and measure the expander ball. What I prefer is to have an expander ball that is .003″ smaller than bullet diameter. So for example in a .224 caliber, run an expander ball of .221″. This allows for .001″ spring back in in your brass after sizing, and still gives you .002″ in neck tension. If you want to take the expander ball down in diameter, just chuck up your decapping rod assembly in a drill and turn it down with some emery cloth. When you have the diameter you need, polish it with three ought or four ought steel wool. This will give it a mirror finish and less drag coming through your case neck after sizing.

Tips for Dies With Interchangeable Neck Bushings
If you’re using a bushing die, I measure across the neck of eight or ten loaded rounds, then take an average on these and go .003″ under that measurement. There are other methods to determine bushing size, but this system has worked well for me.

Case Loading Neck Tension Sierra Bullets Paul Box

Proper Annealing Can Deliver More Uniform Neck Tension
Another thing I want to mention is annealing. When brass is the correct softness, it will take a “set” coming out of the sizing die far better than brass that has become to hard. When brass has been work hardened to a point, it will be more springy when it comes out of a sizing die and neck tension will vary. Have you ever noticed how some bullets seated harder than others? That is why.

Case Loading Neck Tension Sierra Bullets Paul Box

Paying closer attention to neck tension will give you both better accuracy and more consistent groups.

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June 15th, 2016

High-Volume Case Lubrication — Tips from the USAMU

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Recently the USAMU’s reloading gurus looked at the subject of case lubrication. Tasked with producing thousands of rounds of ammo for team members, the USAMU’s reloading staff has developed very efficient procedures for lubricating large quantities of cases. This article reveals the USAMU’s clever “big-batch” lube methods. For other hand-loading tips, visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.

Rapid, High-Volume Case Lubrication

Today’s topic covers methods for quickly applying spray lube to cartridge cases prior to sizing. A typical order for this shop may be 25,000 rounds, so [speeding up] the lubrication process can be a real time-saver. While your ammunition lots probably aren’t this large, the efficient methods discussed here may help save a considerable amount of time over your handloading career. Our case lubrication rates range from 1500-1600 cases per hour, to 2400-2500 cases per hour, depending on caliber.

This shop uses virgin brass, whereas most home handloaders use fired brass, which necessitates some small changes at times. These will be discussed as they arise. Begin with fired brass that has been tumbled clean.

Ensure as much tumbling media as possible is removed from the brass, as when it gets into a size die, it can dent cases significantly. This is a good time to round out dents in the case mouths using a tapered tool to prevent damage from the decapping stem.

First, dump the clean cases into a large box or reloading bin. Shake the bin back and forth so that many cases are oriented with the mouths up. Next, pick up as many cases as is convenient with the mouths “up”, from natural clusters of correctly-oriented cases. With 7.62mm-size cases, this is usually 3-4, and with 5.56mm cases, this can be up to 8-10. Place the cases into the rack slots, mouth-up. Doing this in groups rather than singly saves considerable time. Once these clusters have been depleted, it will be time to re-shake the bin to orient more cases “up.”.

This photo shows a case lubrication rack made by a USAMU staffer.
accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Naturally, adjust the spacing to best fit the calibers you reload. We have found this size … convenient for handling through the various phases of case lubrication/transfer to progressive case feeders for processing. Note that the 1/2-inch angle does not cover much of the critical case area at the base, just forward of the extractor groove, where most re-sizing force will be exerted. As the USAMU uses virgin brass, less lubrication is required for our brass than would be needed for Full Length (FL) sizing of previously-fired brass.

NOTE: The amount applied using our rack is easily enough for our purpose. If using fired brass, be sure to adequately lube this base area to avoid having cases stick in the full-length sizing die.

Using a spray lube, coat the cases adequately, but not excessively, from all sides. Be sure to get some lube into the case mouths/necks, in order to reduce expander ball drag and case stretching/headspace changes. The spray lube this shop uses does not harm primers or powder, and does not require tumbling to remove after lubing.*

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Take a close look at the photo above. The USAMU shop uses a common kitchen turntable, which allows the rack to be rotated easily. We place this in a custom-made box which prevents over-spray on to floors and walls.

Angled Box Method for Smaller Cases to be Neck-Sized
A refinement of the above method which especially speeds processing of 5.56x45mm cases is as follows. A small cardboard box which holds about 100 cases is fitted with an angled “floor” secured by tape. With the smaller 5.56mm cases, usually about 8-10 cases per handful can be picked up, already correctly-oriented, and placed into the box together. This prevents having to place them into the rack slots, saving time.

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

HOWEVER, note that this does not allow nearly as much lube access to the case bodies as does the rack. For our purposes — neck-sizing and setting neck tension on new brass, this works well. If using this procedure with fired brass, take steps to ensure adequate lube to prevent stuck cases.

As always, we hope this will help our fellow handloaders. Good luck, and good shooting!


*A two-part test performed here involved spraying primed cases heavily, while getting more lube into the case mouth/body than even a careless handloader would likely apply. The second part of the test involved literally spraying considerable quantities of the lube directly into the cases, drenching the primers. After a several-day wait to allow the lube to penetrate the primers, they were then fired in a test barrel. All fired normally; no unusual reports were noted. This bolstered confidence that normal amounts of the lube would not adversely affect our ammunition, and we have been pleased with the results over several years.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 5 Comments »
June 14th, 2016

Reloading Gear Review: Lyman Case Prep Xpress

Lyman Case Prep Xpress gear review

For a few years now, Lyman has offered the Case Prep Xpress, an all-in-one case prep center that chamfers necks (inside and out), cleans and uniforms primer pockets, brushes the inside of case-necks, and uniforms flash holes. The unit can also ream out the crimps on military brass. However, the Lyman Case Prep Xpress does NOT trim cases.

The Lyman Case Prep Xpress comes with all the necessary tools (listed above), so you don’t have to purchase extra accessories. The five (5) gear-driven heads on the unit are powered by a high torque, low-speed motor ideal for case prep operations. Lyman’s Case Prep Xpress features handy storage areas for accessories, a removable brass shavings dump pan, and a handy clean-up brush.

Sinclair Int’l video clearly illustrates all case prep functions. Worth watching.

In the 3.5 years that this product has been on the market it has been a strong seller. If you’re prepping hundreds of cases, this unit will save considerable time and reduce hand/finger fatigue. While the Case Prep Xpress is not as sturdy as the metal-bodied Hornady prep center, the Lyman unit offers a lot of functionality for the money ($115-$125 normal price, and sometimes around $100 on sale).

Lyman Case Prep Xpress Pros and Cons

GOOD Features
Quite Affordable (under $120)
Compatible with RCBS and Redding Tool-heads
Removable Bin for Shavings
Four Brush Sizes: .25, .30, .38, .45
Compact Footprint

Not-So-Good Features
Tool-heads Not Particularly Sharp
No Case Trim Function
No Flash-hole Uniformer
No Top Dust-Cover
Only 1-Year Warranty

Reviews by Verified Purchasers

“Case prep is the most tedious and boring aspect for hand loading in my opinion. The process center makes all the steps in prepping the case very quick and with consistent results. It has reduced the time required to do these steps with separate tools by easily 50% if not more. Highly recommended.” — Brandon G.

“Quiet and capable. Worth every penny. I adapted a Lee Cutter and Lock Stud, to cut case lengths, and I can fly through my brass. I can do so much more brass without getting the sore, cramped-up hands.” — Dean Ellis

“This unit has plenty of torque, and my unit is very quiet. This unit will also work with tools made by RCBS and Hornady, or anything else with 8-32 threads. My Redding tools (specifically, my primer pocket uniformers) do in fact fit on this machine. This unit is certainly worth the money, and will revolutionize the way you reload by saving you massive amounts of time and wear on your hands/fingers.” — Mule

“A simple machine to perform complex solutions. I was up and running in about 10 minutes flat. This thing has made my life of reloading so much easier. I do wish there was a trimmer included, but I have a manual one from L.E. Wilson.” — Richard Niles

Lyman Case Prep XpressYou can find Lyman’s Case Prep Xpress for under $120.00 at Brownells and Midsouth, making it much less expensive than the larger Hornady Case Prep Center, which runs about $365.00. The Hornady unit is beefier, and will trim cases. However, we think the compact Lyman unit makes sense for guys who already have a good case trimmer, such as a Forster or Wilson. The Lyman Case Prep Xpress is hundreds of dollars less than the Hornady prep center. The money you save will buy lots of bullets and brass.

Case Prep Xpress $115.45 at Midsouth
The Lyman Case Prep Xpress is sold by most of the big vendors. The best current price we found was at Midsouth Shooters Supply, which sells the Lyman unit for $115.45.

Gear Review Tip from Edlongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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June 13th, 2016

Video Demonstrates Lock-N-Load Press Conversion Kit

Lock N load Conversion Kit Die bushing twist lock Hornady

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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June 10th, 2016

Guide to IMR’s Enduron Powders — What You Need to Know

IMR Enduron Powders 4955 4451 4166 7977

IMR® Legendary Powders now offers four (4) Enduron powders: IMR 4166, IMR 4451, IMR 4955, and IMR 7977. Shooters looking for readily-available alternatives to hard-to-find extruded powders should definitely check out the Enduron line-up. Precision shooters will find an Enduron option well-suited to most of the popular precision cartridge types. For example, IMR 4166 is a good replacement for Hodgdon Varget (commonly used in the .223 Rem, 6mmBR and .308 Win), while IMR 4955 is a fine substitute for H4831 (favored by F-Open shooters for the .284 Win and 7mm WSM cartridges).

enduron IMR Powder Hodgdon extreme

Modern Powder Technology for Enhanced Performance

The technology in IMR’s Enduron line of powders provides four very important qualities that enhance both in-gun and downrange performance.

IMR Enduron Powders 4955 4451 4166 7977

Copper fouling reduction – these powders contain an additive that drastically reduces copper fouling in the gun barrel. Copper fouling should be minimal, allowing shooters to spend more time shooting and less time cleaning a rifle to retain accuracy.

Temperature change stability – the Enduron line is insensitive to temperature changes. Whether a rifle is sighted in during the heat of summer, hunted in a November snowstorm or hunting multiple locations with drastic temperature swings, point of impact with ammunition loaded with Enduron technology will be very consistent.

Optimal load density - Enduron powders provide optimal load density, assisting in maintaining low standard deviations in velocity and pressure, a key feature for top accuracy.

Environmentally friendly - Enduron technology is environmentally friendly, crafted using raw materials that are not harmful to the environment.

The Enduron Line-Up of Four Powders

IMR now offers four Enduron powders that cover a broad range of burn rates. They are suitable for a wide variety of cartridges, from small varmint cartridges all the way up to the .338 Lapua Magnum.

IMR Enduron Powders

IMR 4166 possesses the fastest burn rate in the Enduron lineup. It is the perfect burn speed for cartridges such as .308 Win, 7.62mm NATO, 22-250 Rem and 257 Roberts. A versatile, match-grade propellant, IMR 4166 is comparable to Hodgdon® Varget.

IMR 4451 is a mid-range burn speed powder, ideally suited for cartridges such as .270 Winchester, .30-06 and 300 Winchester Short Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4350.

IMR 4955 is a medium burn speed powder, falling in between IMR 4451 and IMR 7977 in burn speed. It provides top performance in big game cartridges such as 25-06, 280 Remington and 300 Winchester Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4831.

IMR 7977 has the slowest burn rate among the Enduron Technology powders. Its loading density is perfect for magnum cartridges and contributes to superb uniformity, yielding outstanding performance in 300 Winchester Magnum, 7MM Remington Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum. IMR 7977 is comparable to Hodgdon H1000.

The Enduron Technology powders are available in one-pound (1 lb) and eight-pound (8-lb) containers from quality reloading retailers. Learn more about Enduron powders at www.enduronimr.com. For info on other IMR powders, visit www.imrpowder.com.

IMR Enduron Powders 4955 4451 4166 7977

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 1 Comment »
June 9th, 2016

Reloading Tip: How to Set Optimal Case Neck Tension

USAMU handloading Neck Bushing Die tension springback interchangeable bushings

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This week the USAMU’s reloading gurus addressed a question frequently asked by prospective handloaders: “How much neck tension is optimal, and how should I select a neck bushing size?” The USAMU offers a straight-forward answer, suggesting that hand-loaders start with a neck bushing that sizes the neck so that it is .003″ less than the loaded outside diameter with bullet in place. From there, you can experiment with more or less tension, but this is a good starting point for many popular cartridge types.

USAMU Reloading

Determining Optimal Case-Neck Tension

This week, we examine determining the correct case neck tension for optimum accuracy. Our method is simple, but relies on the use of case sizing dies which accept interchangeable neck diameter bushings graduated in 0.001″ increments. (Those readers using fixed-diameter dies with expander balls aren’t forgotten, however. Methods of tailoring these dies for proper neck tension will be found below.)

In our experience across many calibers, sizing case necks 0.003″ under the loaded-case neck diameter usually yields excellent accuracy. In other words, the sized case neck expands 0.003″ when the bullet is seated.

USAMU handloading Neck Bushing Die tension springback interchangeable bushings

USAMU handloading Neck Bushing Die tension springback interchangeable bushingsBushing Choice for Optimal Sizing
Over the years, we have periodically experimented with increasing neck tension to possibly improve accuracy. In testing with machine rests at 300/600 yards, accuracy often deteriorated as neck tension increased; thus, 0.003″ expansion (from sized neck to loaded neck) is where we usually start.

Using the .260 Remington as an example, our loaded cartridge case necks measure 0.292”. Simply subtract 0.003” from that, and use a bushing that sizes necks to 0.289” (after springback). There are exceptions — sometimes, brass may be a bit soft or hard. Some case necks might need, say, 0.001” more tension, but in general, this works well.

This .003″ standard of neck tension works very well for single-loaded, long range cartridges. Depending on your caliber and firearm, it MAY also work very well for magazine-fed cartridges. If this neck tension proves inadequate for your purpose, one can increase neck tension as needed while monitoring for possible accuracy changes.

Special Considerations for Coated Bullets: If you are using moly-coated bullets, this significantly reduces the “grip” of the case neck on the bullet, and you can expect to have to tighten your case necks accordingly — particularly for magazine-fed ammunition. In any event, we do not crimp rifle cartridges, and advise against it for accuracy handloads.

Tips for Using Expander Balls
Many savvy handloaders avoid the use of expander balls in high-accuracy reloading, if possible. These can stretch cases and/or disturb the concentricity of the case neck vs. case body. If using a die with an expander ball, tapering both ends of the ball and polishing it to a mirror finish can significantly reduce these effects. (Special carbide expander ball/decapping stem sets are available for this as well.)

The typical dies used with expander balls are intended to take any cases the user may find, and size them down well below the ideal “spec” to ensure any cases will give good neck tension. The necks are then expanded up to provide heavy to medium neck tension as the expander ball exits the neck. The brass is over-worked, leading to premature work-hardening, and seated-bullet concentricity may suffer. However, the cartridges produced are perfectly adequate for most handloaders. Those who seek finest accuracy generally prefer not to over-work their brass if possible.

Another Option — Custom-Honed FL Dies
There are companies which offer to convert one’s standard dies to accept neck bushings, and that gives excellent flexibility. Another, more “old-school” approach, is to have the neck of one’s FL die honed out to the desired diameter for sizing, based on one’s case neck thickness. The expander ball may then be reduced until it barely touches the case necks after sizing, or it may be eliminated entirely. However, once performed, this modification is permanent and leaves fewer options than the bushing route, if one later changes case neck thickness.

Those shooters who turn their case necks for optimum neck wall thickness uniformity, or for a tight-neck chamber, will want to take the reduced neck wall thickness into consideration. For example, when setting up a 7mm match rifle to use a standard hunting die without an expander ball, the slightly thinner necks resulted in a perfect 0.003″ reduction in the fired-neck diameter. The result was a low-cost die that fit with custom precision and yielded excellent, match accuracy!

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