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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Denver Instrument, maker of the MXX and Timberline Series of precision balances, has created a helpful guide explaining how to get the best performance from a digital scale. Denver Instrument knows that, to achieve and maintain a very high level of accuracy with digital scales, they must be calibrated regularly, leveled properly, and kept away from sources of interference. Unfortunately, some reloaders treat their electronic scales as if the machines were toasters — something to place on a tabletop, plug into an outlet, then “set and forget.” There’s a better way to set up your scale and keep it functioning optimally. Here are ten guidelines provided by Denver Instrument. Follow these “Ten Commandments” and you’ll benefit:
ONE: Thou shalt choose the best resting spot. The performance of your balance depends greatly on the surrounding environment. Choose a location away from the main traffic flow of the room, especially doors. Also be aware of heating and cooling vents as these produce air movement. You can adjust the environmental settings on your balance to provide the best performance in the chosen location. Balances must be placed away from magnets as they affect the weigh cell performance.
TWO: Thou shalt avoid vibrations. Vibrations can come from large machinery in production environments and from fume hoods in laboratories. An alternative to fume hoods are Power Safety Workstations which are designed specifically for use with a balance.
THREE: Thou shalt watch temperature changes. On an analytical balance a one degree temperature change can cause a 1 digit (0.0001g) drift. Although Denver balances have temperature correction built-in, it is still important to calibrate your balance when the temperature changes significantly. Choosing to place your balance in a temperature controlled room, away from sunlight, and calibrating often helps minimize the effects of temperature.
FOUR: Thou shalt calibrate often. Upon installation and each time the balance is moved you should calibrate your balance. For example moving an analytical balance to a location that is only 13 feet higher changes the weight reading from 200.0000 g to 199.9997 g; which means the result is 0.0003 g lighter than the actual mass.
FIVE: Remember to check the level. The instrument should be leveled upon installation with all feet (two front feet for round pan units, four feet for square pan units) touching the countertop. If the level changes, the balance should be re-leveled and recalibrated. As an example, a 200g sample would weigh 0.0025 g less when tilted at an angle of 0.3°.
SIX: Honor thy weights. Keep in mind that weights are only as reliable as their quality and certification. Remember, a 1 g does not weigh precisely 1.00000 grams. Weights should be recertified annually. Denver Instrument offers recertification services on all weights 1 mg to 5 kg. Check to make sure you have selected the proper weight class for your balance. The weight tolerance should be better than balance readability. Always use tweezers or gloves when handling weights as smudges and indentations change the value of the weight. Keep weights in cases so they don’t get scratched or dusty.
SEVEN: Thou shalt always use a small container and weigh in the center of the pan. Especially when using an analytical balance, the effects of air buoyancy increase as the sample container size increases. Using a small sample container will minimize the effects. Items placed on the pan provide a downward force. Placing them directly in the center of the pan keeps corner loading errors at a minimum.
EIGHT: Thou shalt not unplug. To perform within published speci-fications, balances must have power applied for 30 minutes to 48 hours depending on the resolution of the balance. Denver balances have a standby mode which turn the display to standby but keep power cycling through the electronics.
NINE: Thou shalt not ignore static. Static is one of the most common weighing “noises”. It can cause reading to appear too high, too low or just be unstable. Denver balances include grounding methods to reduce the effects of static. However sometimes extra supplies are needed. Consider anti-static weigh dishes, anti-static brushes or low tech ways to increase the humidity of the chamber like placing damp cotton balls or glass wool in a small vial in the corner of the analytical draft shield.
TEN: Thou shalt clean often. Dirty weigh pans and powder in weighing chamber can contribute to static issues and lead to a wide variety of problems. Denver weigh pans are made from stainless steel and can be cleaned using a variety of household and laboratory chemicals. A small paint brush can be used to get power away from the edges of the draft shield for easy clean up.
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The ANSI / SAAMI group, short for “American National Standard Institute” and “Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute”, have made available some time back the voluntary industry performance standards for pressure and velocity of centerfire rifle sporting ammunition for the use of commercial manufacturers. [These standards for] individual cartridges [include] the velocity on the basis of the nominal mean velocity from each, the maximum average pressure (MAP) for each, and cartridge and chamber drawings with dimensions included. The cartridge drawings can be seen by searching the internet and using the phrase ‘308 SAAMI’ will get you the .308 Winchester in PDF form. What I really wanted to discuss today was the differences between the two accepted methods of obtaining pressure listings. The Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) and the older Copper Units of Pressure (CUP) version can both be found in the PDF pamphlet.
CUP Pressure Measurement
The CUP system uses a copper crush cylinder which is compressed by a piston fitted to a piston hole into the chamber of the test barrel. Pressure generated by the burning propellant causes the piston to move and compress the copper cylinder. This will give it a specific measurable size that can be compared to a set standard. At right is a photo of a case that was used in this method and you can see the ring left by the piston hole.
PSI Pressure Measurement
What the book lists as the preferred method is the PSI (pounds per square inch or, more accurately, pound-force per square inch) version using a piezoelectric transducer system with the transducer flush mounted in the chamber of the test barrel. Pressure developed by the burning propellant pushes on the transducer through the case wall causing it to deflect and make a measurable electric charge.
Q: Is there a standardized correlation or mathematical conversion ratio between CUP and PSI values?
Mahin: As far as I can tell (and anyone else can tell me) … there is no [standard conversion ratio or] correlation between them. An example of this is the .223 Remington cartridge that lists a MAP of 52,000 CUP / 55,000 PSI but a .308 Winchester lists a 52,000 CUP / 62,000 PSI and a 30-30 lists a 38,000 CUP / 42,000 PSI. It leaves me scratching my head also but it is what it is. The two different methods will show up in listed powder data[.]
So the question on most of your minds is what does my favorite pet load give for pressure? The truth is the only way to know for sure is to get the specialized equipment and test your own components but this is going to be way out of reach for the average shooter, myself included. The reality is that as long as you are using printed data and working up from a safe start load within it, you should be under the listed MAP and have no reason for concern. Being specific in your components and going to the load data representing the bullet from a specific cartridge will help get you safe accuracy. [With a .308 Winchester] if you are to use the 1% rule and work up [from a starting load] in 0.4 grain increments, you should be able to find an accuracy load that will suit your needs without seeing pressure signs doing it. This is a key to component longevity and is the same thing we advise [via our customer service lines] every day. Till next time, be safe and enjoy your shooting.
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Powder Valley Inc. (PVI) is now carrying Shooters World-branded powders produced by the Czech enterprise Explosia A.S., which has produced propellants since 1920. Powder Valley will initially be offering four new Shooters World propellants: Clean Shot, Heavy Pistol, Match Rifle, and Blackout. These are canister-packaged forms of the popular Lovex propellants sold in Europe. These powders are very affordable — they cost just $19.95 per pound at PVI. For other pricing and ordering information go to PowderValleyInc.com. Match Rifle, Blackout, and Clean Shot are all currently in stock at PVI.
Shooters World says: “We have received nothing but praise about the quality of these [Lovex] propellants. Because of this, we are very confident in how our canister propellants will fare in the reloading market. We have had many competitive shooters using our product[.]”
The following descriptions of Shooters World propellants have been provided by the manufacturer. Since AccurateShooter.com has not tested any of these powders yet, we cannot verify any particular claims:
Shooters World Powders — Manufacturer’s Product Descriptions
Match Rifle propellant is our canister form of Lovex D0 73-06 propellant. It is similar in burn speed to Accurate® 2520 and CFE™223. It holds the broadest utility across all moderate rifle propellants. The propellant gas generation rate is appropriate for cartridges of the light to heavy sectional density .223 Remington and .308 Winchester. It can load the 55 grain .223 Rem, as well as the 77 grain .223 Rem. It loads the 150, 168, and 175 grain .308 Winchester, and loads all .30-30 combinations. It works in .30-06, in 7mm-08, and even in the .22-250.
Blackout propellant is our canister form of Lovex D063-02 reloading propellant. It is slightly slower in burn speed than Accurate 1680®. The propellant gas generation rate is superior for subsonic 300 Blackout, 7.62×39, and some straight-walled rifle cartridges, where rapid transformation from powder to gas is desired. You would be hard pressed to find a subsonic 300 Blackout propellant that will give you the cycling reliability of the Shooters World Blackout.
Clean Shot propellant is the canister form of Lovex D0 32-03 propellant. Ballistic results for this propellant show it to be highly versatile, with low residue in a myriad of pistol cartridges. The burn rate is similar to Accurate No. 2®. Additionally, we have tested this propellant in shot shell, and found it to be exceptionally clean and consistent in velocity. This propellant can be used in virtually all pistol cartridges. A spherical propellant, it meters through charge plates extremely consistently and will work with a high-speed loader with very good flow. This propellant contains flash suppressant and is optimized for .45 ACP, 38 SPL, some standard velocity 9mm, some .40 S&W applications, reduced loads in .357 magnum, .44 magnum, and others.
Heavy Pistol propellant is our canister form of Lovex D0 37-02 propellant. It is similar in burn speed to Accurate® No. 9. The gas generation rate is appropriate for cartridges of the magnum pistol family and the .300 AAC Blackout, supersonic with light bullets. It does contain a level of flash suppression, incorporated into the propellant. A spherical propellant, it meters through charge plates consistently and will work with high-speed loaders with very good flow. This propellant is bracketed on the fast side by D0-37-01 (similar to Accurate® No 7), and on the slow side by D0-63-02 (similar in burn speed to Accurate® 1680).
Technical Information — CIP vs. SAAMI
Shooters World is in the process of developing reloading data based on SAAMI/ANSI standards. This data will be published on the Shooters World website, as it is generated and proofed in SAAMI test barrels, and compared against SAAMI reference ammunition. Hand-loaders can also reference information in the Lovex Reloading Guide, which has data tested to CIP (Commission Internationale Permanente) standards.
Note that Shooters World has maintained the nomenclature of the Lovex propellants on its reloading canister bottles. Shooters World did this to ensure that reloaders would have maximum access to reloading data — both from European and American standards. Shooters World says: “The charge weights and pressures reported in the Lovex Reloading Guide have been found very reliable”.
The main difference between CIP data and SAAMI standardization has to do with barrel length. CIP barrel length standards and SAAMI barrel length standards do not necessarily correspond. Therefore, the velocities reported in the Lovex Reloading Guide may not directly relate to USA standards. As is always the case, any reloader should start the load development process at a safe “starting charge”, and slowly increase charge weights to desired performance levels. Never exceed a maximum published load.
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Tech Tip by Doc Beech, Applied Ballistics Support Team
I am going to hit on some key points when it comes to bullet pointing. How much pointing and trimming needed is going to depend on the bullet itself. Specifically how bad the bullets are to begin with. Starting out with better-quality projectiles such as Bergers is going to mean two things. First that you don’t need to do as much correction to the meplat, but also that the improvement is going to be less. NOTE: We recommend you DO NOT POINT hunting bullets. Pointing can affect terminal performance in a bad way.
NOTE the change in the bullet tip shape and hollowpoint size after pointing:
Don’t Over-Point Your Bullets
What is important here is that you never want to over-point. It is far better to be safe, and under-point, rather than over-point and crush the tips even the slightest bit. To quote Bryan Litz exactly: “Best practice is to leave a tiny air gap in the tip so you’re sure not to compress the metal together which will result in crushing. Most of the gain in pointing is taking the bullet tip down to this point. Going a little further doesn’t show on target”. So in essence you are only bringing the tip down a small amount… and you want to make sure you leave an air gap at the tip.
Also keep in mind, bullet pointing is one of those procedures with variable returns. If you only shoot at 100-200 yards, bullet pointing will likely not benefit you. To see the benefits, which can run from 2 to 10% (possibly more with poorly designed bullets), you need be shooting at long range. Bryan says: “Typically, with pointing, you’ll see 3-4% increase in BC on average. If the nose is long and pointy (VLD shape) with a large meplat, that’s where pointing has the biggest effect; up to 8% or 10%. If the meplat is tight on a short tangent nose, the increase can be as small as 1 or 2%.” For example, If you point a Berger .308-caliber 185gr Juggernaut expect to only get a 2% increase in BC.
Should You Trim after Pointing?
Sometimes you can see tiny imperfections after pointing, but to say you “need” to trim after pointing is to say that the small imperfections make a difference. Bryan Litz advises: “If your goal is to make bullets that fly uniformly at the highest levels, it may not be necessary to trim them.” In fact Bryan states: “I’ve never trimmed a bullet tip, before or after pointing”. So in the end it is up to you to decide.
Pointing is Easy with the Right Tools
The process of pointing in itself is very simple. It takes about as much effort to point bullets as it does to seat bullets. We are simply making the air gap on the tip of the bullet ever-so smaller. Don’t rush the job — go slow. Use smooth and steady pressure on the press when pointing bullets. You don’t want to trap air in the die and damage the bullet tip. You can use most any press, with a caliber-specific sleeve and correct die insert. The Whidden pointing die has a micrometer top so making adjustments is very easy.
Bryan Litz actually helped design the Whidden Bullet Pointing Die System, so you can order the Pointing Die and Inserts directly from Applied Ballistics. Just make sure that you pick up the correct caliber sleeve(s) and appropriate insert(s). As sold by Applied Ballistics, the Whidden Bullet Pointing Die System comes with the die, one tipping insert, and one caliber-specific sleeve. To see which insert(s) you need for your bullet type(s), click this link:
The Lee Classic Cast “O”-style press has always been an excellent value — it works as well as some other presses costing twice as much. And now Lee has improved on its Classic Cast Press design by adding a breech-lock fitting in the top. This allows you to swap dies in and out in seconds, once your dies are equipped with breech-lock quick-change bushings. The Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock press is available for under $120.00. That makes it a bargain compared to other heavy-duty single-stage presses. Midsouth Shooters Supply offers this press (item #006-90999) for $112.95, while Natchez Shooters Supplies sells the press (item #LEE90999) for $112.99.
Breech-Lock System Allows Fast Die Exchanges
With the Lee Breech-Lock Press system, the die drops straight in from the top. Then, with a quick 1/6th (60°) turn, the die locks firmly in place (like the breech on an artillery canon). The interrupted three-start thread assures dies return and lock into the exact same position each time. Bushings cost $7.43 each at Midsouth. If you prefer, you can leave a bushing in the press, and screw your dies in normally. But consider that it normally takes a dozen or more turns to screw in a normally threaded die. The Breech-lock system is way faster.
The Lee Classic Cast press features a strong, cast-iron frame and all-steel linkage. The large 1 1/8″-diameter ram is guided by over twelve square inches of ram bearing surface. We like the fact that you can mount the handle on either side, and adjust handle angle and length. As Lee explains: “The start and stop position is adjustable with a 48-tooth, ratchet-type handle clamp. In addition, the handle length is completely adjustable. Shorten [it] when you’re loading handgun and short rifle cases.”
Lock-Ring Eliminator Quick-Change Bushings
With Lee’s basic quick-lock bushings, you control vertical die position with the normal locking ring that seats against the top of the bushing. That works fine, but Lee also offers a handy Lock-Ring Eliminator Bushing (Lee SKU 90063). This clever design combines bushing and lock-ring into a single part. The Eliminator is turned from a solid piece of steel and the lock ring is integrated into the design of the part. With the Eliminator you’ll get the most repeatable and precise die positioning because lock ring and bushing are all one piece. Moreover, some guys say the Eliminator Bushings are easier to grab and remove than the standard Lee Breech-Lock Bushings.
Reports from Classic Cast Press Owners
Press owners have praised their Lee Classic Cast Breech-Lock units. Here are reports from two MidwayUSA customers:
Five Stars: Perfect single stage press. Loads accurately 6mm BR and 308 Win for competition. Large clearance is also great for my 460 Wby and 30-378 Wby. Pistol rounds in 44 mag and 45 ACP also load easy. The press has a lot of leverage for full-length rifle case sizing. Nice primer disposal system. Lowest price for its class. This unit beats my Lyman press by several miles…. ”
— J. Davidson, California
Five Stars: I waited until Lee would bring out their breech-lock system in classic cast design. This thing is outstanding and better than my old RCBS partner press. Once you get the sweet setting of the die, lock it in place and next time you load, you need not fumble to find the best setting. Breech lock is the key. I choose this press over Hornady, due to all-steel construction. I load a lot of .308 Win and .223 Rem for my ARs and this requires full-length sizing. Lee meets the challenge with no flex and excellent ram/die fit and alignment. [T]he spent primer disposal is perfect vs. RCBS where primers can miss the primer catcher. The handle can also be placed left or right as needed and shortened for small cases or pistol to reduce the handle travel.”
— E. Stanley, Rockford, IL
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Have you tried the IMR Enduron powders yet (IMR 4166, 4451, and 7977)? We’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen. IMR’s new line of Enduron extruded powders offer good temp stability, reduced copper fouling, and good load density for many of the most popular cartridges (such as .223 Rem, .308 Win, .30-06, 300 WSM to name a few). Some of our Forum members have reported excellent results with IMR 4166 in the 6mmBR, Dasher, 6.5×47 Lapua and .308 Win. One member wrote: “in my 6.5×47… 4166 gives speeds and accuracy pretty much exactly the same as Varget.” And other shooters have observed reduced copper fouling with Enduron series powders, so IMR’s Enduron anti-fouling chemistry does seem to work.
Varmint hunters, big game hunters, match shooters and military snipers all seek powders that are insensitive to temperature changes. These powders all have it. This translates to point of impact and group size remaining the same, no matter what temperature conditions prevail. Another huge benefit is an additive that prevents copper fouling from building during dozens of rounds being fired. Here the advantage is top accuracy for longer periods of time, and less cleaning time.
A third major accomplishment with this technology is ideal load density. Experienced reloaders know that a case-filling load often delivers the most uniform velocities and best accuracy. We see this in popular match cartridges such as the 6PPC, 6mmBR, and .308 Win. These new Enduron powders offer excellent “full case” load density for the most commonly used cartridges with popular bullets.
These three powders, IMR 4166, IMR 4451 and IMR 7977, are environmentally friendly by not having any ingredients harmful to the environment. Add to that, the three of them cover the most popular cartridges from .204 Ruger up to the mighty 500 Nitro Express, and the handloader “has it all”.
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If you’ve been shopping for a Progressive Reloading Press, here is an excellent opportunity. The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Progressive Press is now on sale for just $378.99 at Midsouth Shooters Supply. That’s the lowest price for this press that we’ve seen in a long time. Plus — to sweeten the deal — Hornady will kick in 500 free bullets. As part of its 2015 Get Loaded promotion, Hornady will give 500 free bullets to purchasers of a Lock-N-Load AP Press (or other qualifying product).
The Lock-N-Load AP press is a good machine that has been refined and enhanced over the years. We like the rotary-style case-activated powder measure. We find this easier to adjust that the Dillon system with horizontal sliders. The auto-indexing Lock-N-Load AP press features a Five-Station Die Platform allowing you to use a lock-out die or separate sizing and crimping dies.
See How the Hornady L-N-L AP Progressive Press Works in this video:
The features of the Lock-N-Load AP press are reviewed in this video from UltimateReloader.com. Our friend Gavin Gear put the Hornady progressive through its paces. The video shows how to set up the press, how to install/adjust dies, how to set loads with the powder measure, and how to operate the built-in priming system. If you plan to purchase a progressive press from any manufacturer (Red, Blue, or Green), you should definitely watch this video before you purchase.
In this video, Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics explains how to choose a bullet for long-range shooting and explains what you should be looking for when developing a long-range load. Bryan notes that, with a new rifle build, the bullet you select may actually dictate your gun components. When starting from a “clean slate”, once you select a bullet, you will then pick a barrel, twist rate, and cartridge that are appropriate for that bullet. In choosing a long-range projectile, Bryan recommends you choose a high-BC bullet “that is known for precision”. Then you need to find an ultra-consistent, reliable load.
This video is worth watching. Bryan Litz makes some very good points.
Load Development — Why Consistency is Key (and Half-MOA May Be Good Enough)
After choosing a bullet for your long-range project, then you need to develop a load through testing. Bryan explains: “Once you’ve selected a bullet … and you have selected the components around that bullet, the most important thing to remember in hand-loading is consistency. You’re going to do some testing to see what combination of powder charge, powder type, and seating depth give you the best groups and lowest standard deviations in muzzle velocity.”
Bryan says that if you develop a load that can shoot consistent, half-minute groups in all conditions, you should be satisfied. Bryan says that many long-range shooters “spin their wheels” trying to achieve a quarter-MOA load. Often they give up and start all over with a new bullet, new powder, and even a new cartridge type. That wastes time, money, and energy.
Bryan cautions: “My advice for hand-loaders who are long-range shooters, is this: If you can get a load that is reliable and can shoot consistent, half-minute groups with low MV variation and you can shoot that load in any condition and it will work well, then STICK with THAT LOAD. Then focus on practicing, focus on the fundamentals of marksmanship. The consistency you develop over time by using the same ammunition will mean more to your success in long range shooting than refining a half-minute load down to a quarter-minute load.”
Bryan notes that, at very long range, shooting skills and wind-calling abilities count most: “Your ability to hit a 10″ target at 1000 yards doesn’t improve very much if you can make your rifle group a quarter-minute vs. a half a minute. What’s going to determine your hit percentage on a target like that is how well you can calculate an accurate firing solution and center your group on that target. A lot of people would be more effective if they focused on the fire solution and accurately centering the group on the target [rather than attempting to achieve smaller groups through continuous load development].”
Editor’s Note: We agree 100% with the points Bryan makes in this video. However, for certain disciplines, such as 600-yard benchrest, you WILL need a sub-half-MOA rifle to be competitive at major matches. Well-tuned, modern 600-yard benchrest rigs can shoot 1/4-MOA or better at 100 yards. Thankfully, with the powder, bullets, and barrels available now, 1/4-MOA precision (in good, stable conditions) is achievable with a 17-lb benchgun built by a good smith with premium components.
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Our friend Grant Guess recently had a “close encounter” with a bad primer. An apparently defective primer caused part of the casehead on one of his rounds to blow out. This, in turn, allowed high pressure gas to vent through the damaged primer pocket. Take a good look, boys and girls. This is yet another very good reason to wear safety glasses. The cartridge was a 6.5-06, handloaded in necked-down Winchester-headstamp .270 Win brass. Grant reports:
“I had a blow through between the primer and the primer pocket today. The action was really smoking and I got a face full of gas. This was a reasonably light charge. Thank God for safety glasses.
I should also mention that it appears there is a 3/64 hole that is halfway between the primer and the primer pocket. Like it burned a small jet hole through both of them.”
Could this happen to you? It just might. On seeing this damaged case, one of Grant’s Facebook friends, Chris D., observed: “Search the internet, you will see a lot of these pin hole ‘in the corner’ failures. Obviously Winchester has some issues with the LR primers.”
Careful Examination Reveals Apparent Primer Defect
After this incident, Grant examined the damaged case: “I pinned the flash hole and it is not over-sized or under-sized. The primer clearly has an area where it had a defect. At [50,000 CUP], it doesn’t take much of a defect to cause issues. There was a slight bit of pucker-factor on the next shot….”
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In response to our Bulletin story about the availability of Norma powders at Midsouth Shooters Supply, one of our Forum members asked: “I’m having trouble finding Reloder 15 for my 6.5×47 Lapua — should I consider running Norma 203B instead?” As we’ve explained before, these two powders, both made by Bofors in Europe, are very, very similar. Here are some hard numbers that should demonstrate how virtually identical these powders really are.
Target Shooter Magazine writer Laurie Holland compared Norma 203B and Reloder 15 using data from QuickLOAD. Laurie also checked load manuals to see how listed charge weights varied for the two propellants. Laurie concluded there was very little difference between Norma 203B and Reloder 15.
Norma 203B vs. Alliant Reloder 15 Commentary by Laurie Holland
Running [203B and RL15] through QuickLOAD doing a ‘charge table’ run for a 130gn Berger VLD at 2.700 COAL in 6.5X47 Lapua, gives very similar positions in the table [for both powders]. The charge required to achieve 62,000 psi estimated pressure varies by a mere 0.2 grains between the pair, Norma 203B being the heavier of the two. The estimated Muzzle Velocity (MV) also varies by a mere 2 fps, RL15 estimated to produce 2,946 fps MV compared to 2,944 fps for N203B at 62,000 psi (with the parameters I used).
If they aren’t the same thing, they’re so close as to make no difference and as Forum Boss points out, they’re made by the same people (Bofors) in the same plant.
[The Berger Reloading Manual includes data for both powders] for the .308 Winchester and heavier bullets (185 to 230 grains). Maximum charges and claimed MVs are not always identical, but are so close as to be marginally different production lots of the same thing, or maybe the result of minor testing variations.
.308 Win Max Charge Weights in Grains (RL15 / N203B) (Berger Manual)
MVs [for the four bullet types] are close but not identical, the largest difference being for the 210s which shows RL15 producing 2,428 fps MV v 2,383 for Norma 203B.
Norma 203B Chemistry
According to the Norma Reloading Handbook #1, Norma 203B has the following composition:
2.0% surface coating
4.6% Various chemicals
3,957 J/g specific energy
890 g/l specific density
For comparison, the 7.5% NG component compares to 15% in Viht N500 series powders and 10% in Ramshot TAC / Big Game / Hunter.
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Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This week’s “Handloading Hump Day” post covers an important safety issue — why you should never assume that a stated “book” load for a particular bullet will be safe with an equal-weight bullet of different shape/design. The shape and bearing surface of the bullet will affect the pressure generated inside the barrel. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.
Beginning Handloading, Part 13:
Extrapolating Beyond Your Data, or … “I Don’t Know, What I Don’t Know!”
Last week, we addressed several key facets of Service Rifle reloading. Today, we continue our Handloading Safety theme, focusing on not inadvertently exceeding the boundaries of known, safe data. Bullet manufacturers’ loading manuals often display three, four, or more similar-weight bullets grouped together with one set of load recipes. The manufacturer has tested these bullets and developed safe data for that group. However, seeing data in this format can tempt loaders — especially new ones — to think that ALL bullets of a given weight and caliber can interchangeably use the same load data. Actually, not so much.
The researchers ensure their data is safe with the bullet yielding the highest pressure. Thus, all others in that group should produce equal or less pressure, and they are safe using this data.
However, bullet designs include many variables such as different bearing surface lengths, hardness, and even slight variations in diameter. These can occasionally range up to 0.001” by design. Thus, choosing untested bullets of the same weight and caliber, and using them with data not developed for them can yield excess pressures.
This is only one of the countless reasons not to begin at or very near the highest pressure loads during load development. Always begin at the starting load and look for pressure signs as one increases powder charges.
Bullet bearing surface length (BSL) is often overlooked when considering maximum safe powder charges and pressures. In photo 1 (below), note the differences in the bullets’ appearance. All three are 7mm, and their maximum weight difference is just five grains. Yet, the traditional round nose, flat base design on the left appears to have much more BSL than the sleeker match bullets. All things being equal, based on appearance, the RN/FB bullet seems likely to reach maximum pressure with significantly less powder than the other two designs.
Photo 1: Three Near-Equal-Weight 7mm Bullets with Different Shapes
Due to time constraints, the writer used an approximate, direct measurement approach to assess the bullets’ different BSLs. While fairly repeatable, the results were far from ballistics engineer-grade. Still, they are adequate for this example.
Bullet 1 (L-R), the RN/FB, has a very slight taper and only reaches its full diameter (0.284”) very near the cannelure. This taper is often seen on similar bullets — it helps reduce pressures with good accuracy. The calculated BSL of Bullet 1 was ~0.324”. The BSL of Bullet 2, in the center, was ~0.430”, and Bullet 3’s was ~ 0.463”. Obviously, bullets can be visually deceiving as to BSL!
Some might be tempted to use a bullet ogive comparator (or two) to measure bullets’ true BSL for comparison’s sake. Unfortunately, comparators don’t typically measure maximum bullet diameter and this approach can be deceiving.
Photo 2: The Perils of Measuring Bearing Surface Length with Comparators
In Photo 2, two 7mm comparators have been installed on a dial caliper in an attempt to measure BSL. Using this approach, the BSLs differed sharply from the original [measurements]. The comparator-measured Bullet 1 BSL was 0.694” vs. 0.324” (original), Bullet 2 was 0.601” (comparator) vs. 0.430” (original), and Bullet 3 (shown in Photo 2) was 0.602” (comparator) vs. 0.463” (original). [Editor’s comment — Note the very large difference for Bullet 1, masking the fact that the true full diameter on this bullet starts very far back.]
Please join us again next week as we examine other lesser-discussed variables that affect pressure and velocity during handload development. In the meantime, stay safe, and favor center!
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On our main AccurateShooter.com site, you’ll find an excellent article by German Salazar on the Basics of Neck Turning. If you’re new to the neck-turning game, or are just looking for good tips on improving your neck-turning procedures, you should read German’s article. Below we offer some highlights and photos from the article, but you’ll need to read the whole story to view all the illustrations and follow all the procedures step by step.
Why Should You Consider Neck Turning?
Let’s assume that your rifle doesn’t have a tight neck chamber that requires neck turning; if you have a tight neck chamber, of course, the answer to the question is “because you have to”. For the rest of us, and that includes the vast majority of Highpower shooters, neck turning isn’t a requirement, but it can be a useful way to bring your ammunition a small but meaningful step closer to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: perfection. I’m not talking about a theoretical improvement, but a real one, an improvement that lies in equalizing and optimizing the neck tension of your loaded rounds. Inconsistent neck tension is a real contributor to increased muzzle velocity variance which itself is a significant factor in increased elevation dispersion at long range. So there’s our basic reason for neck turning: to equalize and optimize neck tension in order to reduce elevation dispersion.
The Tools of the Trade
Here you see everything I use and a bit more. The press, a cordless screwdriver (always plugged in, turning is tough on the old battery), a couple of K&M neck turners (one set up for 6mm, the other for .30 caliber) an expander for each size, some Imperial lube, an old toothbrush or two to keep the cutter clean, a handle with a caseholder (for those emergencies when the screwdriver dies and there’s just one more case to go!), steel wool and a tubing micrometer finish the list of tools. Hey, I left the dial calipers out of the picture! They’re always handy, keep them around, but they are useless for measuring neck thickness, so don’t try. I usually use an Optivisor magnifier while I turn necks, very handy for a clear view of what’s happening on the neck.
Expanding the Neck
Put some lube on the inside of the case neck and run it into the expander. Really, this isn’t hard. I prefer to expand each case immediately before turning it as opposed to expanding all the cases and then turning them. Brass is somewhat springy and will tend to go back toward its original size; therefore, by expanding and turning immediately, you are more likely to have all cases fit the mandrel with the same degree of tightness and to get a more consistent depth of cut.
Cutter Adjustment for Cut Depth and Length
All the tools I’ve seen have pretty good adjustment instructions. The only thing they don’t tell you is that you should have five to ten spare cases to get it right initially. Anything of the right diameter will do while you learn, for instance, just use that cheap surplus .308 brass to do initial setup and save the precious .30-06 for when you know what you’re doing. Be patient and make your adjustments slowly; you’ll need to set the cutter for thickness as well as length of cut (just into the shoulder). The depth of cut (brass thickness) takes a bit of fiddling, the length of the cut is generally easy to set.
The Finished Product — A Perfectly Uniform Neck
If you read the whole article, and follow the procedures using quality tools, you should get very good results — with a little practice. To demonstrate, here’s an example of my finished, neck-turned brass. You’ll see there is a perfect, 0.0125″ thick neck. It’s very uniform around the circumference, usually I only see 1 or 2 ten-thousandths variance. Now, with the necks uniformed like this, we can select the bushing size that will give us our preferred neck tension and experiment with various levels of tension, secure in the knowledge that all of the cases will actually have the desired neck tension.
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“Once-fired, lot-number-traceable Lake City 7.62×51. This has been de-primed, pocket-swaged, small base body die’d, full-length sized, trimmed with a Gracey Trimmer, and tumbled. Now it’s shiny again. It’s like gourmet macaroni for shooters!” — Dennis Santiago
Our friend Dennis Santiago shoots a variety of disciplines, including Vintage Military Rifle. He burns through a lot of brass, some of it run through gas guns, so he often saves money by acquiring once-fired Lake City Arsenal brass. But that stuff is often pretty ugly when it arrives. For his “previously-owned” Lake City Brass, Dennis does a complete case prep operation and a thorough cleaning/tumbling operation. Special attention is paid to the primer pockets — they are swaged to remove the military crimp. The cases are trimmed and chamfered in one operation using a Gracey Powered Case Trimmer.
Dennis likes once-fired Lake City brass for some applications. The price is right, and with proper attention to detail during case prep, Lake City brass can shoot exceptionally well indeed. You may want to sort Lake City brass by weight. To remove the military crimp you have a variety of options — you can swage it out with a special tool like Dennis does, or you can ream out the crimp. For Wilson trimmer owners, Wilson makes a special Primer Pocket Reamer to remove military crimps. It works very well, as shown below:
Case Processing with the Gracey Trimmer
Designed by Doyle Gracey 30 years ago, the Gracey machine trims, deburs and chamfers in one operation, indexing off the case shoulder. The manufacturer claims the Gracey will process 20 cases per minute while holding .002″ tolerances on trim length. Two steel cutters are employed — one cutter trims the case to length and puts a chamfer on the inside of the case mouth. The second cutter removes the burr from the outside of the case-mouth. A 1/15 hp motor turns 1550 rpm. Interestingly, a clamped rubber hose serves as the “drive shaft” to turn the cutting head.
“This model may have a piece of wood for a base, no on-off swith and a piece of bent sheet metial to contain brass shavings — but it does trim, debur and chamfer with great speed and accuracy at a nice price. The [Gracey] two-bladed cutter requires a little more patience to adjust than the one-piece cutter on the Giraud, but it gets the job done superbly. [The Gracey] does the job for less money, if you’re willing to tinker with the cutter blade adjustment.” Gracey machines are still available new from MatchPrep.com for $335.00 (or $235.00 without motor).
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German Salazar has written a very thorough guide to measuring nearly all the critical dimensions of cartridge brass. In his Measuring the Case article, on his Rifleman’s Journal website, German reviews the tools and techniques required to measure everything from case overall length to case neck concentricity. Step-by-step, German shows how to measure: Case Length, Case Body length (below neck), Neck Diameter, Headspace, Base Diameter, Neck Thickness, and Case Neck Concentricity.
If you are an “advanced reloader” or want to be, you should read German’s article. Not only does German explain the most common measuring procedures, he highlights some alternative methods you might not have tried yet. The article also links to related discussions of more complex measurement tasts, such as determining case body wall thickness variation.
Even if you’re not a competitive shooter, measuring your brass can provide important safety benefits. As German explains in the conclusion of his article: “There are obviously a lot of measurements that can be taken on the cartridge case and in some cases, more than one way to take them. However, the first two that any new reloader must learn are case length and neck clearance, these two are safety concerns and if overlooked can results in serious damage to the rifle and injury to you.”
We are re-publishing this article at the request of Forum members who told us the information proved very valuable. If you haven’t read this Safety Tip before, take a moment to learn how you can inspect your fired brass to determine if there may be a potential for case separation. A case separation can be dangerous, potentially causing serious injury.
On his Riflemans’ Journal blog, German Salazar wrote an excellent article about cartridge Case-Head Separation. We strongly recommend that you read this article. German examines the causes of this serious problem and he explains the ways you can inspect your brass to minimize the risk of a case-head separation. As cases get fired multiple times and then resized during reloading, the cases can stretch. Typically, there is a point in the lower section of the case where the case-walls thin out. This is your “danger zone” and you need to watch for tell-tale signs of weakening.
The photo at the top of this article shows a case sectioned so that you can see where the case wall becomes thinner near the web. German scribed a little arrow into the soot inside the case pointing to the thinned area. This case hadn’t split yet, but it most likely would do so after one or two more firings.
One great tip offered by German Salazar involves using a bent paper clip to detect potential case wall problems. Slide the paper clip inside your case to check for thin spots. German explains: “This simple little tool (bent paper clip) will let you check the inside of cases before you reload them. The thin spot will be immediately apparent as you run the clip up the inside of the case. If you’re seeing a shiny line on the outside and the clip is really hitting a thin spot inside, it’s time to retire the case. If you do this every time you reload, on at least 15% of your cases, you’ll develop a good feel for what the thin spot feels like and how it gets worse as the case is reloaded more times. And if you’re loading the night before a match and feel pressured for time — don’t skip this step!”
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IMR has received reports that this particular powder in 1-lb and 8-lb containers may have become unstable due to possible rapid deterioration. Use of this product from these lot numbers may result in spontaneous combustion, fire damage or possible serious injury.
What to do (with Affected Lots of IMR 4007 SSC):
1. Stop using this product immediately! Fill the powder container with water which will render the product inert and safe for disposal.
2. Mail, email or fax a copy of the powder label showing the lot number to the contact information below to include your name, address, phone and email.
3. Replacement choice of any other IMR smokeless powder product will be shipped to you for no charge.
4. If you have loaded the powder subject to this recall into ammunition, we recommend that you pull the bullets, remove the powder and wet the powder with water for safe disposal.
IMR deeply regrets any inconvenience this may cause, but we believe in safety first. Contact information: IMR Powder Company, 6430 Vista Drive, Shawnee, KS 66218, email email@example.com, imrpowder.com, call 1-800-622-4366 or 913-362-9455 and fax 913-362-1307.
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Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This USAMU “Handloading Hump Day” article, the second in a series on improving concentricity, has many useful tips. If you use standard (non-micrometer) seating dies when loading some cartridge types, this article is worth reading. And visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.
Once again, it’s time for USAMU’s “Handloading Hump-Day!” Last week, we addressed achieving very good loaded-cartridge concentricity (AKA “TIR”, or Total Indicator Runout) using standard, “hunting grade” reloading dies.
We explained how to set up the Full-Length Size die to float slightly when correctly adjusted for desired case headspace. We also cited a study in which this method loaded ammunition straighter than a set of [higher grade] match dies from the same maker. [One of the keys to reducing TIR with both sets of dies was using a rubber O-ring below the locking ring to allow the die to float slightly. READ Full-Length Sizing Die TIP HERE.]
Now, we’ll set up a standard seating die to minimize TIR — the other half of the two-die equation. As before, we’ll use a single-stage press since most new handloaders will have one. A high-quality runout gauge is essential for obtaining consistent, accurate results.
Having sized, primed and charged our brass, the next step is bullet seating. Many approaches are possible; one that works well follows. When setting up a standard seating die, insert a sized, trimmed case into the shell-holder and fully raise the press ram. Next, back the seating stem out and screw the die down until the internal crimping shoulder touches the case mouth.
Back the die out one-quarter turn from this setting to prevent cartridge crimping. Next, lower the press ram and remove the case. Place a piece of flat steel on the shellholder and carefully raise the ram. Place tension on the die bottom with the flat steel on the shellholder. This helps center the die in the press threads. Check this by gently moving the die until it is well-centered. Keeping light tension on the die via the press ram, secure the die lock ring.
If one were using a micrometer-type seating die, the next step would be simple: run a charged case with bullet on top into the die and screw the seating stem down to obtain correct cartridge OAL.
However, with standard dies, an additional step can be helpful. When the die has a loosely-threaded seating stem, set the correct seating depth but don’t tighten the stem’s lock nut. Leave a loaded cartridge fully raised into the die to center the seating stem. Then, secure the stem’s lock nut. Next, load sample cartridges and check them to verify good concentricity.
One can also experiment with variations such as letting the seating stem float slightly in the die to self-center, while keeping correct OAL. The runout gauge will show any effects of changes upon concentricity. However, the first method has produced excellent, practical results as evidenced by the experiment cited previously. These results (TIR Study 2) will reproduced below for the reader’s convenience.
TIR Study 2: Standard vs. Match Seating Dies
50 rds of .308 Match Ammo loaded using carefully-adjusted standard dies, vs. 50 using expensive “Match” dies from the same maker.
Standard dies, TIR:
0.000” — 0.001” = 52%;
0.001”– 0.002” = 40%;
0.002”– 0.003” = 8%. None greater than 0.003”.
AccurateShooter Comment: This shows that, with careful adjustment, the cheaper, standard dies achieved results that were as good (or better) than the more expensive “Match” Dies.
These tips are intended to help shooters obtain the best results from inexpensive, standard loading dies. Especially when using cases previously fired in a concentric chamber, as was done above, top-quality match dies and brass can easily yield ammo with virtually *no* runout, given careful handloading.
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We saw some interesting gear at a 600-yard IBS match at the Piedmont Gun Club (Rutherfordton, NC). On display were a variety of hand-made wood cleaning cradles designed to fit on table tops. These typically employ a box-style design, with layer of cloth or other padding to cushion the underside of the stock. On display were both single-rifle cleaning cradle/boxes and dual-rifle rigs. This is a good do-it-yourself project that can be built with simple tools.
Click Photos to View Large Versions
Notice that these cradle-boxes feature an extended lower section in the rear. This lower “lip” butts up against the edge of the table so the whole assembly stays in place. In the photo above it appears that the lower section may actually be cut from a rubber block, but we’re not sure.
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