Retired gunsmith Stan Ware is a talented shooter who’s not afraid to think “outside the box”. Stan competes in both Hunter Benchrest (HBR) and Varmint for Score (VFS) disciplines. In his quest to build the ultimate Hunter Benchrest cartridge, Stan created the radical “Wolfpup” wildcat, based on a 6mmBR parent case. Noting the dominance of 30 BRs in VFS matches, Stan wondered if a stretched 30 BR could work in HBR competition. The challenge was case capacity. Under HBR rules the cartridge must hold at least 45.0 grains of water, equal to the capacity of the classic 30/30 case.
To get the requisite HBR case capacity, Stan figured he needed to boost the volume of a 30 BR case significantly, so he would have to move the shoulder forward — a lot. He did this by running a 30 BR reamer deeper and deeper, test-firing brass along the way. After three reamer passes, he ended up with the capacity he needed (the Wolfpup holds 45.3 grains of water). But then he looked at the finished product — a case with almost no neck, and he wondered “how could this possibly work?”.
From Trashbin to Winner’s Circle
Ware’s prototype Wolfpup ended up so short-necked, so unlike any “normal” cartridge, that Stan figured it was “dead on arrival”. Stan told us: “I said ‘this ain’t going to work’ and I threw the brass in the trash can. Honest. But later I thought I better shoot it and see what it does.” There was one problem — Stan didn’t have a seating die. He noticed the short neck provided a bit of tension after fire-forming, so he literally seated some bullets, BIB 118s and 125s, with his fingers. For powder he used H4198 and started with 35 grains, one grain more than a 30 BR load. Stan then did a pressure work-up: “I actually went up to 41.0 grains and didn’t have a sticky bolt. I ended up at 37.9 grains of Hodgdon 4198 — that gave 3150 fps, where the sweet spot is.” (Later testing revealed a second accuracy node at about 3020 fps, using 36.4 grains of H4198).
Stan’s radical short-necked Wolfpup shot great from the get-go. Once he found the right velocity node, the gun shot in the ones and zeros with both 7-ogive and 10-ogive bullets, both 118s and 125s. The Wolfpup proved easy to tune — it’s not finicky at all. And it’s a winner. Stan began shooting the Wolfpup in 2006 in both VFS and HBR matches and the ‘Pup’ started winning matches right away. In 2007, Stan won the Wisconsin State VFS Championship shooting the Wolfpup. In June 2010 at a Webster City, Iowa VFS match, Stan won the Grand Agg and posted high X-Count for the match, while placing first at 100 yards and second at 200 yards. How’s that for a cartridge that almost ended up in the trash bin?
Does Stan deserve an award for “most innovative benchrest cartridge design”? Stan chuckles at that notion: “I’m not a hero, not a genius. I really didn’t do anything. The fun part is thinking outside the box — for me anyway. Shooting is an age-old process of experimentation. You never learn it all.”
Why Does It Work?
How can such a radical case design perform so well? “That’s a good question,” Stan admitted. He then explained: “The 30 BR is inherently accurate, so I figured something based on the 30 BR should be accurate too. My personal belief is that the short neck doesn’t hurt you. Plus if the throat in the barrel is straight, the bullet can self-align. If the chamber is good, the bullet will self-center in the throat. In a regular case there’s not much room to do that, so a bullet can start off-center, and you don’t get the same results every time. A bullet in a conventional case is stopped from self-centering by the stiffer neck, particularly in a tight-clearance BR gun.”
Reloading the .30 Wolfpup
Stan’s Wolfpup chamber has a neck dimension of 0.330″. He turns his necks for a 0.327″ loaded round. Bullets are jammed .020″ forward of first contact with the lands. When he closes the bolt it pushes the bullet back in the case — almost a soft seat. Stan notes: “To start with I normally bump the shoulder .0005-.001″ so they go in easy. Just by doing that I get a little neck tension. I also use a bushing. Right now I’m running a .322, but it’s not particularly sensitive. I’ve tried one-thousandths increments up to a .325 bushing and couldn’t tell a lot of difference.” For bullet seating, Stan uses a Wilson 30 BR seater die into which he ran the chamber reamer. This gives perfect case fit during seating operations.
About the Illustrated Gunstock
You’ll notice Stan’s stock contains scenes from Vietnam and a quotation. Here’s the story. A Vietnam combat veteran, Stan served “in-country” with the Army’s 509th Non-Divisional Combat Unit (out of Fort Riley) from 1965-1966. Shortly before he left Vietnam, Stan went to a shop to have a souvenir lighter engraved. He asked the vendor for an appropriate inscription. The shop’s metal-worker engraved: “War is a tragedy. It takes mans’ best to do mans’ worst.” That message, along with the combat scenes, were hand-painted on Stan’s rifle by his wife Susan, a talented artist. She spent more than 20 hours painting the rifle stock.
Photos courtesy Ryan Ware and Stan Ware.
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One side of this gauge is the “go” side which quickly tells you the depth of a primer pocket, whether any crimp is properly removed, and whether the primer pocket is loose. If it feels loose on the “go” side, use the other end of the tool, the “no go” side, to test to see if the primer pocket is too loose to hold a primer. If the no-go slides into the pocket, then you know to junk that brass.
Primer Pocket Growth and Useful Case Life
Repeated firings at stout pressures can cause primer pockets to grow in diameter. This can create an unsafe condition if your primers are not seating properly. Are your primer pockets “good to go”, or have they been pushed to the point of no return? Do you really know? Many guys try to gauge primer pocket tightness by “feel”, as they seat the primer. But that method isn’t precise. Now there’s a better way…
The folks at Ballistictools.com have created a handy set of precision-machined gauges that let you quickly and accurately check your primer pockets. These gauges (aka “gages”) are offered in two sizes — for large and small primer pockets. A two-piece set of both large and small gauges costs just $19.99. These gauges let you quickly measure the depth of a primer pocket, and check if the crimp has been removed properly. Most importantly, the gauge tells you if the primer pocket has opened up too much. One side of the gauge has an enlarged diameter plug. If that “No-Go” side fits in the primer pocket, you should ditch the case — it’s toast.
Precision ground from O-1 tool steel, The Ballistic Tools primer pocket gauges serve multiple functions. The inventor of these tools explains: “I created the prototype of this tool for my own use in brass processing. I needed a way to quickly and easily measure primer pockets that was reliable and did not require wasting a primer. This tool has been indispensable for me and I would never go back to the old method of uncertainty and guessing.”
Product tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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Coating bullets with a friction-reducing compound such as Molybdenum Disulfide (Moly) offers potential benefits, including reduced barrel heat, and being able to shoot longer strings of fire between bore cleanings. One of the effects of reduced friction can be the lessening of internal barrel pressures. This, in turn, means that coated bullets may run slower than naked bullets (with charges held equal). To restore velocities, shooters running coated bullets are inclined to “bump up” the load — but you need to be cautious.
Be Careful When Increasing Loads for Coated Bullets
We caution shooters that when your start out with coated bullets in a “fresh barrel” you should NOT immediately raise the charge weight. It may take a couple dozen coated rounds before the anti-friction coating is distributed through the bore, and you really start to see the reduced pressures. Some guys will automatically add a grain or so to recommended “naked” bullet charge weights when they shoot coated bullets. That’s a risky undertaking.
Instead we recommend that you use “naked” bullet loads for the first dozen coated rounds through a new barrel. Use a chronograph and monitor velocities. It may take up to 30 rounds before you see a reduction in velocity of 30-50 fps that indicates that your anti-friction coating is fully effective.
We have a friend who was recently testing moly-coated 6mm bullets in a 6-6.5×47. Moly had not been used in the barrel before. Our friend had added a grain to his “naked” bullet load, thinking that would compensate for the predicted lower pressures. What he found instead was that his loads were WAY too hot initially. It took 30+ moly-coated rounds through the bore before he saw his velocities drop — a sign that the pressure had lowered due to the moly. For the rounds fired before that point his pressures were too high, and he ended up tossing some expensive Lapua brass into the trash because the primer pockets had expanded excessively.
LESSON: Start low, even with coated bullets. Don’t increase your charge weights (over naked bullet loads) until you have clear evidence of lower pressure and reduced velocity.
Procedure After Barrel Cleaning
If you shoot Moly, and clean the barrel aggressively after a match, you may want to shoot a dozen coated “foulers” before starting your record string. Robert Whitley, who has used Moly in some of his rifles, tells us he liked to have 10-15 coated rounds through the bore before commencing record fire. In a “squeaky-clean” bore, you won’t get the full “benefits” of moly immediately.
To learn more about the properties of dry lubricants for bullets, read our Guide to Coating Bullets. This covers the three most popular bullet coatings: Molybdenum Disulfide (Moly), Tungsten Disulfide (WS2 or ‘Danzac’), and Hexagonal Boron Nitride (HBN). The article discusses the pros and cons of the different bullet coatings and offers step-by-step, illustrated instructions on how to coat your bullets using a tumbler.
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IMR just announced its latest Enduron powder, IMR 4955, which features a medium-slow burn rate similar to Hodgdon H4831 or IMR 4831. The IMR Enduron powders are clean-burning, temp stable, and feature a proprietary coating that helps reduce copper fouling. We are looking forward to trying IMR 4955 based on our positive experience with IMR 4166. We have used Enduron 4166 and have seen excellent accuracy in .308 Winchester and 6mm BR rifles.
IMR 4955 lands between IMR 4451 and IMR 7977 on the burn rate chart. Hodgdon, which distributes IMR powders, says that IMR 4955 works very well for cartridges such as 25-06 Remington, .270 Winchester, and the .300 Winchester Magnum. Perhaps this will prove a good choice for the .284 Win and .300 WSM as well (F-Open shooters take note). If you are currently using H4831 or H4831sc you should probably give IMR 4955 a try.
Hodgdon says IMR 4955 offers some important advantages:
1. IMR 4955 has a small kernel size. This allows the powder to flow through powder measures easily and meter very accurately.
3. IMR 4955 is very insensitive to temperature changes, so shooters should see uniform velocities across a broad temp range.
3. IMR 4955 has very good load density for medium and big game hunting cartridges (such as the .270 Win and .300 Win Mag).
4. Like other Enduron powders, IMR 4955 boasts a special additive that helps reduce copper fouling as the rifle is fired.
IMR 4955 Should Be Available Early Next Year
— Load Data is Online Now
IMR 4955 will be available in early 2016 in one-pound and eight-pound containers. With the addition of IMR 4955 to the series of Enduron powders, reloaders have a new, advanced-formulation powder that should work for a wide variety of popular cartridges — from the .260 Rem up to big magnums. Reloading data for IMR 4955 is now available online in the Hodgdon Reloading Data Center. Below is a sample of Hodgdon/IMR load data for IMR 4955 as used in the .300 Win Mag cartridge.
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The folks at PMA Tool, makers of arbor presses, neck-turning tools, and other case-prep tools, offered some good advice about case trimming on the PMA Tool Website. Here we reprint a PMA article that explains case trimming basics and helps you choose the right case-trimming tool for your needs.
Case Trimming Basics
Trimming the cartridge case to the proper length is a crucial step in case preparation that should not be overlooked or underestimated. The cartridge case or the rifle can be damaged, or even worse you get badly injured. In most instances cases should be trimmed after firing and sizing. Trimming new brass is necessary for a lot of wildcats and can be beneficial in some instances, but by and large, trimming new brass is not necessary for most situations (unless you are neck-turning). Cases should be trimmed after you have sized the case, because the expander ball on the decapping pin can (and will) stretch the neck. Those of us who neck size should get into the habit of trimming after sizing as well. This is a good rule of thumb to go by, and hopefully it will keep you safe during the reloading and shooting process.
There are so many case trimmers out there that work, deciding which one is right for you can be confusing. Even though I have trimmed thousands of cases, using about every method possible, I can’t answer the question of what case trimmer is right for you because of all the variables that may be involved. I can, however shed some light on the subject.
The two most popular designs of trimmers either index (1) off the base or the head of the case, (2) off the shoulder or datum line of the case. There are pros and cons to each and it all depends on what you are willing to live with.
Indexing off the Base (Case Head)
Let’s talk about the first one I have listed, indexing off the base, or the head of the case. The pros to this method are that you can achieve a very accurate over all length and that is after all, what it is all about. The cons to this method are that you can get some variation doing it this way. Let me explain, the base is not always square to the body or can be damaged during firing especially if it is fired through a military style rifle with a very aggressive ejector. These cases should be discarded, but sometimes they can be overlooked. This condition can lead to an over all length that is incorrect. The case head being out of square will be corrected upon firing, however that case will wind up being shorter than the rest of your cases, possibly creating a difference in the neck tension on the bullet. The more you can do to eliminate variables in your reloads the better off you are going to be. This method can also be very slow, and if the user gets careless the result will be a inconsistent over all length.
Indexing off the Shoulder (Datum Line)
The second method I mentioned, trimming off the shoulder or the datum line of the case, has its pros as well. I have found this to be the quickest of the methods and very accurate as well. After the case has been sized through the die the dimensions (particularly the headspace) of the cases are usually very uniform and exact, this allows the case to be trimmed by indexing off the shoulder. This method can be done very quickly, by hand, or by powering either the case, or the trimmer. You also don’t have to worry about the case heads being out of square with the body using this method. Generally the trimming time is cut in half, and this leads to greater focus on the job, without becoming careless. [Editor’s Note: The World’s Finest Trimmer (WFT) is one power device that indexes off the shoulder datum. It works fast and is very precise. The new WFT 2 Model with interchangeable trim chambers works with multiple cartridge types.]
The choice is yours to make. I hope that this was some help to you, whether you are looking for your first trimmer or looking to replace the trimmer you have. Just remember to always put safety first and accuracy second, and you will start making little bug holes in no time.
Story Tip by EdLongrange. User Submissions are welcome.
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“The press is the heart of the handloading operation, also traditionally the most expensive single tool employed…” — Laurie Holland
British competitive shooter Laurie Holland has reviewed three popular, single-stage reloading presses for Target Shooter Magazine (targetshooter.co.uk). Laurie bolted up a Forster Co-Ax, RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme, and RCBS Summit to his reloading bench and put the three presses through their paces. These three machines are very different in design and operation. The venerable Rock Chucker is a classic heavy, cast-iron “O”- type press that offers lots of leverage for tough jobs. The smaller RCBS Summit press is an innovative “upside-down” design with a large center column and open front. It offers a small footprint and easy case access from the front. The Co-Ax is unique in many respects — dies slide in and out of the upper section which allows them to “float”. The cartridge case is held in the lower section by spring-loaded jaws rather than a conventional shell-holder.
If you are considering purchasing any one of these three presses, you should read Laurie’s article start to finish. He reviews the pros and cons of each press, after processing three different brands of brass on each machine. He discusses ergonomics, easy of use, press leverage, smoothness, priming function, and (most importantly), the ability to produce straight ammo with low run-out. The review includes interesting data on case-neck run-out (TIR) for RWS, Federal, and Norma 7x57mm brass.
Review Quick Highlights:
RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme
“My expectations of the antediluvian RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme’s performance weren’t over high to be honest as I mounted it in the place of the Summit. As soon as I sized the first of the stretched RWS cases though, I saw why this press has been such a long-running favorite. The workload was considerably reduced compared to the other two presses and doing 40-odd cases took no time at all with little sweat — it just eats hard-to-size brass.”
RCBS Summit Press
“Despite its massive build and long-stroke operating handle, [the Summit] took more sweat than I’d expected, even if it was somewhat less work than with the Co-Ax. Although the Summit is apparently massive, I noticed that the die platform would tilt fractionally under the heaviest strains[.] It is nevertheless a very pleasant press in use and bullet seating was a doddle — the few examples tried proving very concentric on checking them afterwards. The optional short handle would be valuable for this task.”
“[On the Co-Ax], the operating handle is above the machine, located centrally here [with] twin steel links at the top end of the press dropping down to the moving parts. The Co-Ax incorporates a number of novel features, principally its automatic and multi-case compatible shell-holder assembly with spring-loaded sliding jaws, very neat spent primer arrangements that allow hardly any gritty residues to escape and foul the moving parts and, the snap-in/out die fitment that allows rapid changes and also sees the die ‘float’ in relation to the case giving very concentric results. I own this press and it meets my handloading needs very well.”
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If you want to load ultra-accurate ammo and shoot very small groups, you should read this article, which we are re-publishing by popular demand. Many novice handloaders believe that neck bushing Inside Diameter (ID) size is the only important factor in neck tension. In fact, many different things will influence the grip on your bullet and its ability to release from the case neck. To learn the ins and outs of neck tension, take some time and read this article carefully.
Neck Tension (i.e. Grip on Bullets) Is a Complex Phenomenon
While we certainly have considerable control over neck tension by using tighter or looser bushings (with smaller or bigger Inside Diameters), bushing size is only one factor at work. It’s important to understand the multiple factors that can increase or decrease the resistance to bullet release. Think in terms of overall brass-on-bullet “grip” instead of just bushing size.
Bullet grip is affected by many things, such as:
1. Neck-wall thickness.
2. Amount of bearing surface (shank) in the neck.
3. Surface condition inside of neck (residual carbon can act as a lubricant; ultrasonic cleaning makes necks “grabby”).
4. Length of neck (e.g. 6mmBR neck vs. 6mm Dasher).
5. Whether or not the bullets have an anti-friction coating.
6. The springiness of the brass (which is related to degree of work-hardening; number of firings etc.)
7. The bullet jacket material.
8. The outside diameter of the bullet and whether it has a pressure ridge.
9. Time duration between bullet seating and firing (necks can stiffen with time).
10. How often the brass is annealed
— and there are others…
One needs to understand that bushing size isn’t the beginning and end of neck tension questions, because, even if bushing size is held constant, the amount of bullet “grip” can change dramatically as the condition of your brass changes. Bullet “grip” can also change if you alter your seating depth significantly, and it can even change if you ultrasonically clean your cases.
In our Shooters’ Forum a reader recently asked: “How much neck tension should I use?” This prompted a Forum discussion in which other Forum members recommended a specific number based on their experience, such as .001″, .002″, or .003″. These numbers, as commonly used, correspond to the difference between case-neck OD after sizing and the neck OD of a loaded round, with bullet in place. In other words, the numbers refer to the nominal amount of interference fit (after sizing).
While these commonly-used “tension numbers” (of .001″, .002″ etc.) can be useful as starting points, neck tension is actually a fairly complex subject. The actual amount of “grip” on the bullet is a function of many factors, of which neck-OD reduction during sizing is just one. Understanding these many factors will help you maintain consistent neck tension as your brass “evolves” over the course of multiple reloadings.
Seating Depth Changes Can Increase or Decrease Grip on Bullet
You can do this simple experiment. Seat a boat-tail bullet in your sized neck with .150″ of bearing surface (shank) in the neck. Now remove the bullet with an impact hammer. Next, take another identical bullet and seat it with .300″ of bearing surface in another sized case (same bushing size/same nominal tension). You’ll find the deeper-seated bullet is gripped much harder.
Neck-Wall Thickness is Important Too
I have also found that thinner necks, particularly the very thin necks used by many PPC shooters, require more sizing to give equivalent “grip”. Again, do your own experiment. Seat a bullet in a case turned to .008″ neckwall thickness and sized down .003″. Now compare that to a case with .014″ neckwall thickness and sized down .0015″. You may find that the bullet in the thin necks actually pulls out easier, though it supposedly has more “neck tension”, if one were to consider bushing size alone.
In practical terms, because thick necks are less elastic than very thin necks, when you turn necks you may need to run tighter bushings to maintain the same amount of actual grip on the bullets (as compared to no-turn brass). Consequently, I suspect the guys using .0015″ “tension” on no-turn brass may be a lot closer to the guys using .003″ “tension” on turned necks than either group may realize.
Toward a Better Definition of Neck Tension
As a convenient short-cut, we tend to describe neck tension by bushing size alone. When a guy says, “I run .002 neck tension”, that normally means he is using a die/bushing that sizes the necks .002″ smaller than a loaded round. Well we know something about his post-sizing neck OD, but do we really have a reliable idea about how much force is required to release his bullets? Maybe not… This use of the term “neck tension” when we are really only describing the amount of neck diameter reduction with a die/bushing is really kind of incomplete.
My point here is that it is overly simplistic to ask, “should I load with .001 tension or .003?” In reality, an .001″ reduction (after springback) on a thick neck might provide MORE “grip” on a deep-seated bullet than an .003″ reduction on a very thin-walled neck holding a bullet with minimal bearing surface in the neck. Bushing ID is something we can easily measure and verify. We use bushing size as a descriptor of neck tension because it is convenient and because the other important factors are hard to quantify. But those factors shouldn’t be ignored if you want to maintain consistent neck tension for optimal accuracy.
Consistency and accuracy — that’s really what this all about isn’t it? We want to find the best neck tension for accuracy, and then maintain that amount of grip-on-bullet over time. To do that you need to look not only at your bushing size, but also at how your brass has changed (work-hardened) with time, and whether other variables (such as the amount of carbon in the neck) have changed. Ultimately, optimal neck tension must be ascertained experimentally. You have to go out and test empirically to see what works, in YOUR rifle, with YOUR bullets and YOUR brass. And you may have to change the nominal tension setting (i.e. bushing size) as your brass work-hardens or IF YOU CHANGE SEATING DEPTHS.
Remember that bushing size alone does not tell us all we need to know about the neck’s true “holding power” on a bullet, or the energy required for bullet release. True bullet grip is a more complicated phenomenon, one that is affected by numerous factors, some of which are very hard to quantify.
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Do you own an RCBS electronic powder dispenser? If you do, take the time to watch this ChargeMaster Tuning video from 8541 Tactical. This nine-minute video demonstrates how to re-program your Chargemaster to “tune” the dispensing process. The video shows the exact programming procedures to follow, step-by-step. Some folks want a faster powder flow — others tune their machines for a more reliable drop (with fewer over-runs). One cheap and popular modification is to insert a 1″-long section of a McDonald’s straw in the ChargeMaster’s silver dispensing tube. This works surprisingly well to smooth kernel drop and prevent “clumping” that can cause an over-charge. The McDonald’s straw MOD is demonstrated in this video, starting at the 6:22 mark.
Large-Diameter Dispensing Tube Mod
Many folks have had success with the McDonald’s straw modification demonstrated in the above video. However, some folks would like to get even better flow performance (with virtually no clumping). Forum Member Frank B. has come up with a new option using a brass hose fitting with a large outside diameter. The hose fitting (with tape wrapped around the barbed nose section) is placed inside the RCBS dispensing tube (be sure to have some kind of wrap — you don’t want metal-on-metal). Here’s how the unit looks installed:
Frank tells us: “I have found a cure for the over-throw problem. It is a simple 1/4″ barbed hose nipple. I wrapped a couple layers of tape around the barbed end for a snug fit. With this in place, I have thrown 100+ charges of Varget without a single overthrow. The ID of the barbed end needs to be approximately 3/16″ to feed a steady flow. This works because of the larger ID at the drop.”
Frank adds: “You can see in the photo that the powder is not stacking up. You can watch it drop one grain at a time. Hope this will take the aggravation out of your case charging.” For best performance with this brass fitting MOD, we recommend de-burring and smoothing out the front edge of the brass fitting over which the kernels drop.
Brass fitting mod suggested by Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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Close-up of the Tri Way cutter with clear plastic chip guard removed.
Tired of trimming and chamfering your cartridge brass by hand? Giraud Tool may have a solution. Giraud, makers of rugged bench-mounted case prep machines, now offers a new case trimmer/chamferer that works with a power drill (or other power source). Giraud’s patent-pending Tri Way Case Trimmer is a self-contained unit powered by your drill or motor. Using a sharp carbide blade it will trim your cases to length, deburr, and cut both inside and outside chamfers — all in one pass. That’s pretty impressive for a $98.00 tool that fits in the palm of your hand.
1. Fully adjustable for cartridge length (and depth of chamfer).
2. Tool includes carbide blade that cuts a 15° inside case mouth chamfer and 45° outside chamfer.
3. Case holder supported by sealed ball bearing raceway.
4. Tool includes removable, transparent plastic chip guard.
5. Tool can work in any orientation (vertical, horizontal, or any angle).
The Giraud Tri Way Trimmer is designed to be powered by a portable hand drill, drill press, or other dedicated rotating power source. The tool indexes off the shoulder of your cases, but the blade adjusts so that cartridge overall length (COAL) can be controlled with precision. Constructed out of 6061-T6 aluminum and 303 stainless steel, the Tri Way is rugged. Note: This tool is not universal. The Tri Way is dedicated to a single cartridge and “related” cartridges with similar body dimensions. Thus you need a specific tool for each cartridge family. For example, the .308 Win tool will also trim .243 Win, .260 Rem, and 7mm-08.
Cartridge Sizes Available for Giraud Tri Way Trimmer:
.223 Remington (Also trims .17 Rem, .204 Ruger, .222 Rem, .222 Rem Magnum)
7.62 x 39mm (Russian)
.300 Blackout (Also trims .17 Rem Fireball, .221 Fireball)
.308 Winchester (Also trims .243 Winchester, .260 Remington, 7mm-08)
.30-06 Springfield (Also trims .25-06, .270 Winchester, .280 Remington)
.300 Winchester Mag (Also trims .264 Winchester Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum)
Product Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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21st Century Shooting produces a high quality powder funnel, that is very “user-friendly”. The top section is precision ground and polished for a smooth flow. The center has a see-through tube so you can watch the progress of your powder dropping into the case. At the bottom of each funnel is a black case adapter that seats securely yet won’t get stuck on the case. There are five different adapter sizes — the smallest fits .17 Rem to .223 Rem, while the largest fits big magnum calibers. We use the mid-sized, #3 adapter most often. This fits 6mmBR, 6.5×47 Lapua, and .308 Win family of cases (.243 Win, .260 Rem, 7mm-08, .308 Win). Additional adapters are $5.99 each. There are three tube lengths available: 3″, 6″, and 10″. So, if you need an extra-long drop tube (to help fill PPC and other small cases), 21st Century has you covered.
The 21st Century funnels are priced by size. The 3″-long model is $29.99, the 6″-long model is $31.99, and the big 10″-long model is $34.99. Prices include one (1) adapter. These high-grade funnels will help you load faster and easier, with fewer spilled kernels. We use these funnels and they do work well. The appropriate collars fit your .223 Rem, 6PPC, 6mmBR, Dasher, 6XC, .260 Rem, .284 Win, and .308 case necks just right — not too loose, not too tight. Kernels flow smoothly through the tube without sticking to the sides. The aluminum top section does not seem to attract a static charge so you don’t have to waste time brushing kernels off the funnel after use. We like this product. For high-volume precision reloaders, these funnels are worth the money.
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Hornady has introduced an innovative new single-stage press with some very impressive features. The new-for-2016 Hornady Iron Press™ features a super-strong, pyramid-style cast-iron frame with an open front. A very clever optional “automatic” priming system shuttles primers from a vertical tube in the back to the shell-holder in the front. We’ve never really seen anything quite like this before. You really should watch the video — it shows the patented auto-priming system in action. This system appears to be a very smart piece of engineering — good job Hornady.
Watch this Video to See Gravity-Fed Shuttle Priming System (00:45, 01:00):
The broad top of the beefy (26-lb.) Iron Press can hold case prep tools (such as chamfer tool and case-neck brush) and/or a box for bullets or brass. NOTE: This is NOT a turret press — you can only use one die at a time. However, Hornady offers an accessory “Die Caddy” (sold separately) that can hold up to three (3) more dies. That way you can quickly switch from a sizing die to a seater die (or vice-versa). What Hornady calls the “Accessory Mounting Deck” gives quick access to items such as trays for bullets or cases, chamfer and deburr tools, case neck brushes, primer pocket cleaners and other accessories. The Iron Press comes with the Lock-N-Load® bushing system which allows for rapid die changes.
Optional Automatic Priming System
The optional auto-priming system is a real selling point for this new press we think. When you move the press handle rearwards, a horizontal bar toggles back to pick up a primer from the column in the rear of the press. Then this same bar move forwards to place the fresh primer in the center of the shell-holder. Hornady explains: “The available gravity-fed Automatic Priming System (sold separately or with the Lock-N-Load® Iron Press™ Reloading Kit), combined with the Accessory Mounting Deck, increases reloading efficiency by allowing more processes to occur simultaneously. The Iron Press™ is the first of its kind to allow the ability to deprime, pause, and remove the case to chamfer & deburr … then replace and prime.” Do watch the video to see the priming system in action.
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K&M Precision Shooting Products has a very handy tool few hand-loaders know about. This brilliantly simple device lets you actually SEE your case necks as you expand them. This tool can benefit anyone who necks-up brass or who uses an expander to smooth out necks (or reduce tension) before loading.
K&M Expand Mandrel Window Riser
This is a simple threaded extension placed between your expander die body (K&M Expand Iron) and the top of your press. It carries the expander mandrel higher, above the press, and has a cut-out view port so you can see the mandrel as it passes through the neck. Smart, eh? This provides visual feedback during the process of expanding your brass. The patent-pending view riser costs $20.00. Will it expand necks faster, or reduce run-out? We doubt it, but we still would like to have one, if only to eyeball the mandrel to control the neck-entry rate more consistently from case to case.
Installation: Thread the Expand Mandrel Window Riser into the top of your loading press, then thread the K&M Expand-Iron (Expander Die Body) fully into the top of the window riser and adjust each so you can stroke out the press completely without driving the case mouth into the press adapter. This allows you to view the expanding operation which is typically blind under the press. The riser also eliminates the need for the stop screw in the expander mandrel. LINK: Expand Window Riser Instructions (PDF).
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We’ve all heard the old adage: “Keep your powder dry.” Well, tests by Norma have demonstrated that even normal environmental differences in humidity can affect the way powders burn, at least over the long term. In the Norma Reloading Manual, Sven-Eric Johansson, head of ballistics at Nexplo/Bofors, presents a very important discussion of water vapor absorption by powder. Johansson demonstrates that the same powder will burn at different rates depending on water content.
Powders Leave the Factory with 0.5 to 1.0% Water Content
Johansson explains that, as manufactured, most powders contain 0.5 to 1% of water by weight. (The relative humidity is “equilibrated” at 40-50% during the manufacturing process to maintain this 0.5-1% moisture content). Importantly, Johansson notes that powder exposed to moist air for a long time will absorb water, causing it to burn at a slower rate. On the other hand, long-term storage in a very dry environment reduces powder moisture content, so the powder burns at a faster rate. In addition, Johansson found that single-base powders are MORE sensitive to relative humidity than are double-base powders (which contain nitroglycerine).
Tests Show Burn Rates Vary with Water Content
In his review of the Norma Manual, Fred Barker notes: “Johansson gives twelve (eye-opening) plots of the velocities and pressures obtained on firing several popular cartridges with dehydrated, normal and hydrated Norma powders (from #200 to MRP). He also gives results on loaded .30-06 and .38 Special cartridges stored for 663 to 683 days in relative humidities of 20% and 86%. So Johansson’s advice is to keep powders tightly capped in their factory containers, and to minimize their exposure to dry or humid air.”
Confirming Johansson’s findings that storage conditions can alter burn rates, Barker observes: “I have about 10 pounds of WWII 4831 powder that has been stored in dry (about 20% RH) Colorado air for more than 60 years. It now burns about like IMR 3031.”
What does this teach us? First, all powders start out with a small, but chemically important, amount of water content. Second, a powder’s water content can change over time, depending on where and how the powder is stored. Third, the water content of your powder DOES make a difference in how it burns, particularly for single-base powders. For example, over a period of time, a powder used (and then recapped) in the hot, dry Southwest will probably behave differently than the same powder used in the humid Southeast.
Reloaders are advised to keep these things in mind. If you want to maintain your powders’ “as manufactured” burn rate, it is wise to head Johannson’s recommendation to keep your powders tightly capped when you’re not actually dispensing charges and avoid exposing your powder to very dry or very humid conditions. The Norma Reloading Manual is available from Amazon.com.
Real-World Example — “Dry” H4831sc Runs Hotter
Robert Whitley agrees that the burn rate of the powder varies with the humidity it absorbs. Robert writes: “I had an 8-lb. jug of H4831SC I kept in my detached garage (it can be humid there). 43.5-44.0 gr of this was superbly accurate with the 115 Bergers out of my 6mm Super X. I got tired of bringing it in and out of the garage to my house for reloading so I brought and kept the jug in my reloading room (a dehumidified room in my house) and after a few weeks I loaded up 43.5 gr, went to a match and it shot awful. I could not figure out what was going on until I put that load back over the chronograph and figured out it was going a good bit faster than before and the load was out of the “sweet spot” (42.5 – 43.0 gr was the max I could load and keep it accurate when it was stored in less humid air). I put the jug back in the garage for a few weeks and I now am back to loading 43.5 – 44.0 gr and it shoots great again. I have seen this with other powders too.”
If you have two jugs of the same powder, one kept in a room in your house and one somewhere else where it is drier or more humid, don’t expect the two jugs of the same lot of powder to chrono the same with the same charge weights unless and until they are both stored long enough in the same place to equalize again.
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If you load pistol ammo you should have a case gauge (aka “gage”) for each cartridge type you reload. Caliber-specific, precision-machined cylindrical gauges perform many important functions. They will instantly reveal if your rounds are too long or have excessive headspace. They will also show if your case is bulged or otherwise too fat to chamber easily. You can use the gauge with sized brass as well as loaded rounds.
Case gauges are a “must-have” for anyone loading handgun ammunition, particularly if you crank out large quantities of pistol ammo with a progressive press. An oversize round can cause a misfeed, jam, or other problem. That can ruin your day if you are in the middle of a shooting match. If you are relying on your handgun for self-defense, the last thing you want is a malfunction of any kind. This Editor personally runs every pistol round through a gauge before it goes into the ammo box.
UltimateReloader.com Video Shows How to Use Pistol Case Gauges:
Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com has prepared an excellent video that explains the benefits of pistol case gauges and shows how to use them. Gavin uses the quality gages produced by L.E. Wilson. These are available for the most popular handgun cartridges, both autoloader cartridges, and rimmed revolver cartridges. Gavin demonstrates gage use with .40 SW and .44 magnum cases.
Gavin states: “Using a case gage is very simple, and I would recommend that you add one of these gages to your reloader’s tool chest for each of the pistol cartridge types you reload. It may just save you a lot of time and hassle. Peace of mind is hard to put a price on!”
Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion.
Cartridge Efficiency: A Primer (pun intended!)by USAMU Staff
Each week, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading article on its Facebook Page. In this week’s article, the USAMU discusses cartridge case efficiency and its benefits. While this is oriented primarily toward NRA High Power Rifle and Long Range (1000-yard) competition, these factors also apply to medium/big game hunters. Assuming one’s rifle and ammunition are accurate, key considerations include ballistic performance (i.e., resistance to wind effects, plus trajectory), recoil, and throat erosion/barrel life.
Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion. A classic example in the author’s experience involved a featherweight 7x57mm hunting/silhouette rifle. When loaded to modern-rifle pressures, just 43-44 grains of powder pushed a 139gr bullet at 2900 fps from its 22” barrel. Recoil in this light rifle was mild; it was very easy to shoot well, and its performance was superb.
An acquaintance chose a “do everything” 7mm Remington Magnum for use on medium game at short ranges. A larger, heavier rifle, it used ~65 grains of powder to achieve ~3200 fps with similar bullets — from its 26″ barrel. Recoil was higher, and he was sensitive to it, which hampered his shooting ability.
Similarly efficient calibers include the 6mm BR [Norma], and others. Today’s highly-efficient calibers, such as 6mm BR and a host of newer developments might use 28-30 grains of powder to launch a 105-107gr match bullet at speeds approaching the .243 Winchester. The .243 Win needs 40-45 grain charges at the same velocity.
Champion-level Long Range shooters need every ballistic edge feasible. They compete at a level where 1″ more or less drift in a wind change could make the difference between winning and losing. Shooters recognized this early on — the then-new .300 H&H Magnum quickly supplanted the .30-06 at the Wimbledon winner’s circle in the early days.
The .300 Winchester Magnum became popular, but its 190-220gr bullets had their work cut out for them once the 6.5-284 and its streamlined 140-142gr bullets arrived on the scene. The 6.5-284 gives superb accuracy and wind performance with about half the recoil of the big .30 magnums – albeit it is a known barrel-burner.
Currently, the 7mm Remington Short Action Ultra-Magnum (aka 7mm RSAUM), is giving stellar accuracy with cutting-edge, ~180 grain bullets, powder charges in the mid-50 grain range and velocities about 2800+ fps in long barrels. Beyond pure efficiency, the RSAUM’s modern, “short and fat” design helps ensure fine accuracy relative to older, longer cartridge designs of similar performance.
Recent design advances are yielding bullets with here-to-fore unheard-of ballistic efficiency; depending on the cartridge, they can make or break ones decision. Ballistic coefficients (“BC” — a numerical expression of a bullet’s ballistic efficiency) are soaring to new heights, and there are many exciting new avenues to explore.
The ideal choice [involves a careful] balancing act between bullet BCs, case capacity, velocity, barrel life, and recoil. But, as with new-car decisions, choosing can be half the fun!
Factors to Consider When Evaluating Cartridges
For competitive shooters… pristine accuracy and ballistic performance in the wind are critical. Flat trajectory benefits the hunter who may shoot at long, unknown distances (nowadays, range-finders help). However, this is of much less importance to competitors firing at known distances.
Recoil is an issue, particularly when one fires long strings during competition, and/or multiple strings in a day. Its effects are cumulative; cartridges with medium/heavy recoil can lead to shooter fatigue, disturbance of the shooting position and lower scores.
For hunters, who may only fire a few shots a year, recoil that does not induce flinching during sight-in, practice and hunting is a deciding factor. Depending on their game and ranges, etc., they may accept more recoil than the high-volume High Power or Long Range competitor.
Likewise, throat erosion/barrel life is important to competitive shooters, who fire thousands of rounds in practice and matches, vs. the medium/big game hunter. A cartridge that performs well ballistically with great accuracy, has long barrel life and low recoil is the competitive shooter’s ideal. For the hunter, other factors may weigh more heavily.
Cartridge Efficiency and Energy — Another Perspective
Lapua staffer Kevin Thomas explains that efficiency can be evaluated in terms of energy:
“Cartridge efficiency is pretty straight forward — energy in vs. energy out. Most modern single-based propellants run around 178-215 ft/lbs of energy per grain. These figures give the energy potential that you’re loading into the rifle. The resulting kinetic energy transferred to the bullet will give you the efficiency of the round. Most cases operate at around 20-25% efficiency. This is just another way to evaluate the potential of a given cartridge. There’s a big difference between this and simply looking at max velocities produced by various cartridges.”
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We know many of you guys have a Forster case trimmer (hand lathe) sitting on your reloading bench. This tool does a good job of trimming cases to length. But did you know that an inexpensive accessory will allow your Forster case trimmer to chamfer while it cuts? Here’s the skinny on the 3-way head for the Forster case trimmer.
Tool Cuts Brass to Length, and Chamfers Inside and Outside
Forster’s 3-in-1 Carbide Case Mouth Cutter works with all existing Forster case trimmers. This unit does three jobs at the same time. It trims the case to length, it puts a 14-degree chamfer on the INSIDE of the neck, AND (last but not least), it cuts a 30-degree chamfer on the OUTSIDE of the neck. It does this all quickly and efficiently — in a matter of a few seconds. We tested the new tool ourselves on a few cases. The tool is solid and well made. The carbide cutting tips do perform a very clean cut. Be aware, however, if you have turned your necks already, you may have to reset the blade positions before you start trimming your brass.
Forster’s CFO, Robert Ruch, demonstrates the 3-in-1 case trimming/chamfering tool in the video above. As you can see, the tool turns very smoothly (no chatter). The actual cutting time, per case, is just a few seconds. The tool has an MSRP of $88.00, but it sells for around $65.00 to $70.00 at major vendors. Forster’s 3-in-1 Carbide cutting tool works with all existing Forster case trimmers and other hand lathes with a .490″ shaft diameter. The unit fits over the cutter shaft and secures with one set screw. The 3-in-1 cutter is available for five (5) calibers: .224, .243 (6mm), .264 (6.5mm), .284 (7mm), and .308.
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Redding Reloading is now providing Advanced Handloader’s Data Sheets in printable PDF format. This FREE form allows hand-loaders to document their tool settings, bushing size, powder charge, load specs (COAL etc.), and case prep status. In addition, the form allows you to enter your load testing information, complete with chronograph data, group size, zero range, and wind/temp conditions. With this single, handy form you can document all the vital information for a particular cartridge and load.
We’ve seen various reloading log templates, but this Redding form (shown below) is better than most because it combines both reloading data AND range-test data in one place. You can see all key details of the reloading process (tool settings etc.) plus the end results — how the load actually performed over the chronograph and on paper. This form allows the user to capture a large amount of information for later use, while accurately track load development. Go to Download Page.
FREE Ammunition Box Label Template
Redding Reloading has also developed a printable template for your ammo boxes (see photo at top of article). This lets you put all vital load info on your ammo boxes. There are fields for: Date, Cartridge, Powder, Grains, Bullet, Weight, Primer, Case type. Designed for Avery 5260 (or similar) label sheets, this template allows you to print 30 labels at one time. You can purchase the Avery 5260 peel-off printable label sheets at any office supply store.
Nobody likes to spend hours manually chamfering cases and cleaning primer pockets. There are simple hand tools that will perform these tasks, but the process is time-consuming and tedious after a couple dozen cases. To speed up case prep duties, you can get one of the large, powered case prep centers. These function well, but frankly we didn’t want to give up that much precious space on our reloading bench. One good solution is Hornady’s compact Case Prep Trio (item 050160).
This cleverly-designed powered tool has a small footprint, yet it can perform three tasks as well as much more expensive, tower-style case prep units. The Hornady Case Prep Trio is now $91.42 at Midsouth Shooters Supply. We’ve used this machine and it works well. The only negative is that you will get metal shavings on your bench (unlike some of the larger case prep centers). We’ve seen some guys put a small pan under the power head — then you can just dump the shavings out of the pan.
With three active stations, you can chamfer, deburr and clean primer pockets without having to change tools. The Case Prep Trio ships with inside chamfer, outside chamfer, and deburr tools. You can also use the machine with other optional 8/32 threaded accessories such as primer pocket reamers and case neck brushes. Conveniently, the Case Prep Trio has on-board storage for your tool-heads.
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When your cases become hard to extract, or you feel a stiff bolt lift when removing a cartridge, it’s probably time to full-length size your cases, and “bump” the shoulder back. With a hunting load, shoulder bumping may only be required every 4-5 loading cycles. Short-range benchrest shooters, running higher pressures, typically full-length size every load cycle, bumping the shoulder .001-.002″. High Power shooters with gas guns generally full-length size every time, and may need to bump the shoulders .003″ or more to ensure reliable feeding and extraction.
Use Shims for Precise Control of Shoulder Bump
Some shooters like to set the “default” position for their full-length die to have an “ample” .003″ or .004″ shoulder bump. When they need less bump, a simple way to reduce the amount of shoulder movement is to use precision shims in .001″ (one-thousandth) increments.
Here are reports from Forum members who use the shims:
“Great product. I have my die lock ring(s) adjusted for the shortest headspace length on my multiple chambers 6BRs and 6PPCs. When needing a longer headspace, I just refer to my notes and add the appropriate shim under the lock ring. Keep it simple.” — F.D. Shuster
Mats Johansson writes: “I’ve been using [shims] since Skip Otto (of BR fame) came out with them. I set up my dies with the .006″ shim, giving me the option of bumping the shoulder a bit more when the brass gets old and hardens while still having room to adjust up for zero headspace, should I have missed the original setup by a thou or two. Hunting rounds can easily be bumped an extra .002-.003″ for positive, no-crush feeding. Being a safety-oriented cheapskate, I couldn’t live without them — they let me reload my cases a gazillion times without dangerous web-stretching. Shims are a must-have, as simple as that.” — Mats Johansson
Sinclair Int’l offers a seven-piece set of Sizing Die Shims that let you adjust the height of your die (and thereby the amount of bump and sizing) in precise .001″ increments. Sinclair explains: “Some handloaders will set their die up to achieve maximum sizing and then progressively use Sinclair Die Shims between the lock ring and the press head to move the die away from the shellholder. Doing this allows you to leave the lock ring in the same position. These shims are usually available in increments of .001″ and work very well.”
Seven Shims from .003″ to .010″
Sinclair’s $12.49 Die Shim Kit (item 22400) includes seven shims in thicknesses of .003, .004, .005, .006, .007, .008, and .010. For ease of use, shim thickness is indicated by the number of notches cut in the outer edge of each shim. Even without looking you can “count” the notches by feel.
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L.E. Wilson, makers of hand dies, case trimmers and other precision reloading tools, has released a series of informational videos. These videos show how to assemble and operate L.E. Wilson tools including the new Wilson stainless steel case trimmer with micrometer adjustment (photo below). The first video explains the operation of the Wilson trimmer and shows how to initially assemble the tool, attach the handle, and set the cut length.
This second video shows how to set up the new stainless Wilson trimmer with micrometer cut-length control. The new micrometer feature allows you to set the cartridge overall trim length with great precision. If you are trimming a variety of different cartridge types, the micrometer cut length control comes in very handy. In seconds you can “dial in” different trim lengths, without messing around with set screw or locking rings. Fine adjustment is in increments of .001″ is done with the the Micrometer. Gross adjustment is done with with the stop screw. If you go from a very short case to a very long case, you will need to reposition the stop screw. Note: In addition to the videos shown here, L.E. Wilson has a video showing how to mount a the trimmer assembly and case holder arm on a base.
KEY FEATURES of L.E. Wilson Stainless Case Trimmer with Micrometer:
New long-lasting stainless finish with micrometer adjustment.
New increased width on Stop Nut. This provides for a firm stop.
Larger stop screw with Black Oxide Coating, adjustment from 3/8″ (old) to 1/2″.
New 304 Stainless Steel Handle standard on all trimmers shipped after July 2013.
Made in the U.S.A. with American steel.
Along with its case trimmer video, L.E. Wilson has produced three videos showing how to use Wilson cartridge case gages. This series of Case Gage Videos show how to use the gage to check headspace and properly set shoulder bump with a full-length sizing die.
Videos found by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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