March 29th, 2015
We are often asked, “Can you recommend a good reloading book that picks up where the typical reloading manual leaves off — something that goes into more detail about the processes involved.” There is such a book, and it’s fairly recent: Metallic Cartridge Handloading: Pursuit of the Perfect Cartridge, by M.L. (“Mic”) McPherson. Released in 2013, this 425-page book goes into greater depth than McPherson’s popular intro reloading guide, Metallic Cartridge Reloading. McPherson’s latest reloading treatise covers all aspects of the reloading process: the cartridge case; maintaining, improving and loading the case; the seating and reading of primers; the loading of propellant; bullets and the loading of bullets; accurate load development; internal and external ballistics; bullet making and casting; and reloading presses.
With hundreds of photos and illustrations, this book is a good reference for shooters getting started in precision reloading for accuracy. Compared to some other books on reloading procedures, McPherson’s new resource is more up-to-date, so it references more modern reloading tools and techniques. NOTE: This is NOT a reloading manual containing specific load data. Rather, it is a how-to book that covers the process of cartridge reloading from start to finish.
Reviews by actual book buyers:
A great resource for handloaders although a little technical for beginners. I have been reloading for 40+ years and picked up some good ideas. — Loren R.
This is a book intended for people who have been reloading for a while. The book contains very detailed information about reloading. — Kaj H.
About the Author, M.L. (“Mic”) McPherson:
Mic McPherson, Technical Editor of Hand Loader’s Digest, is the author of numerous firearms resource books including Metallic Cartridge Reloading and Accurizing the Factory Rifle. He has written scores of articles for leading gun periodicals including Precision Shooting, The Accurate Rifle, Rifle Shooter, and Varmint Hunter Magazine. Mic also served as an Editor of the 8th and 9th Editions of Cartridges of the World.
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March 22nd, 2015
A while back, we featured a portable reloading bench built on a Black & Decker Workmate. That proved a VERY popular do-it-yourself project so we’re showing it again, in case you missed it the first time.
Texan Robert Lewis made himself a great portable reloading bench from plywood mounted to a Black & Decker Workmate. The bench, roughly 22″ x 19″ on top, folds up to fit easily in your car’s trunk or behind the seats in a pick-up truck cab. Four recessed bolts hold the wood top section to the collapsible B&D Workmate.The sides and back of the unit are attached to the base with small nails. There is a small shelf (also nailed in place) which can be used to clamp a powder measure or hold a scale. Shown in the photo is a Harrell’s Benchrest measure and Harrell’s single-stage “C” press.
Click for Detail of Top.
The whole unit can be built for about $65.00 with pine, or $80.00 with oak (as shown). Robert explained: “The Workmate was $40. If someone bought a 2’x4′ sheet of 3/4″ oak plywood, I think it is around $30. Using pine plywood would be about half that. Fasteners were $3. Spar Urethane would be $5.”
Robert told us: “I used a couple ideas I found on the web. The Larry Willis website gave me the idea to use the Black and Decker Workmate as a base. I found the Workmate on sale for $40 and the top is made from oak plywood I had in my shop. I sealed the wood with three coats of Spar Urethane. The whole thing folds into a nice package for transportation to and from the range.”
Editor’s NOTE: In the time that’s transpired since we first ran this story, the price of a Black & Decker workmate has gone up. However you can still pick a WM225 Workmate for under $60.00. Target is currently selling WM225 Workmates for $59.99.
Click HERE for FREE WORKBENCH PLANS.
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March 19th, 2015
If you have ever turned a large quantity of case-necks using power assist, you know that a carbide mandrel can make the job go easier, with better end results. In our experience, when using carbide mandrels (as opposed to ordinary steel), the cases move more smoothly with less heat build-up. Pat Reagin of PMA Tool explains why carbide neck-turning mandrels work better:
Carbide offers several advantages over conventional steel and stainless steel when making any tooling, specifically neck-turning mandrels:
Dimensional Stability — Carbide maintains its dimensions indefinitely during heating and cooling. This eliminates the need to allow the mandrel time to cool every few cases.
Coefficient of Friction and Wear-Resistance — Carbide exhibits a low coefficient of friction value as compared to all steels and wears up to 100 times longer. This reduces (but does not eliminate) the amount of lubricant required.
Galling Resistance — Carbide has exceptional resistance to galling and welding at the surface. This basically eliminates the chance of getting a case stuck on a mandrel due to insufficient lubrication.
Given the benefits of carbide neck-turner mandrels, you may be asking “where can I get one?” Sinclair Int’l offers carbide mandrels for Sinclair neck-turners for $49.99, in a full range of calibers: 17, 20, 22, 6mm, 25, 6.5mm, 270, 30, and 338.
$49.95 Carbide Mandrels from PMA Tool
PMA Tools now also offers carbide mandrels in a full variety of sizes. At $49.95 each, PMA’s carbide mandrels are priced competitively with Sinclair’s mandrels. PMA offers carbide mandrels in .17, .20, .22, 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm and .30-caliber. These will work with Sinclair Int’l and 21st Century neck-turners, as well as PMA neck-turners. PMA tells us: “We now have carbide neck-turning mandrels in stock. These mandrels are made with high-tech CNC grinding-machinery, and should give you excellent results. We hope to be add other larger-caliber carbide mandrels to our lineup in the future.”
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March 18th, 2015
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Today’s “Handloading Hump Day” post covers bore-cleaning, specifically the use of pull-through style bore snakes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page each Wednesday for helpful tips.
Today, we’ll shift from handloading to rifle bore cleaning and maintenance, with information courtesy of the USAMU’s Custom Firearms Shop. We recently had some inquiries about bore cleaning, and this seems a good opportunity to share. After all, even the best handloads won’t yield their full potential in a poorly-cleaned and maintained rifle.
1. BORE SNAKES: MIRACLE REPLACEMENT FOR THE CLEANING ROD?
The experiences of both our firearms test specialist and this writer have given no evidence that proper use of a clean bore-snake will damage a match barrel. Of course, one does not pull the bore-snake at an angle to the crown when removing it — pull it straight out, parallel to the bore’s direction, to prevent crown wear over time.
Bore-snakes are very useful for some applications (primarily a hasty, interim wipe-down). In [my] experience they cannot replace a thorough cleaning with a proper rod and brushes. While the experiment cited here involves rimfire, it may help illustrate. Several years ago, the writer used his new, personal Anschutz to investigate the bore-snake issue. It had been fired ~350 rds with match ammo and had had 3 typical rod/brush cleanings.
Next, starting with a clean bore, the writer fired 300 more rounds without cleaning in order to build up a “worst-case” fouling condition. Afterwards, the writer examined the bore with a Hawkeye bore scope. There was a uniform, grey film down the entire barrel, with some small, intermittent lead build-up at and just forward of the throat.
A new bore-snake was then wet with solvent and pulled through the bore. The Hawkeye revealed that the grey fouling was gone, and much of the visible fouling at the throat was reduced. However, nine more passes with the bore-snake, checking after each with the Hawkeye, revealed no further improvement in cleaning. The writer then cleaned with two wet patches, observed, then one stroke of a new, wet bronze brush, and one wet patch to clean out residue.
The Hawkeye showed a significant reduction in fouling at the throat; it was virtually gone. A second pass with a wet bronze brush and a wet patch removed the remaining fouling. Scrubbing the bore further, checking to see how much fouling was removed, revealed no significant improvement. The reason for this test was to learn what’s needed to get (and keep) this Anschutz clean with minimal cleaning rod use — and thus, minimal risk of bore damage/wear. Leaving fouling in the bore promotes corrosion over time.
Obviously, this applies to a nice, smooth rimfire match barrel, using good, well lubed ammo. It doesn’t apply directly to the use of copper-jacketed bullets, which leave a stubborn fouling all their own. However, it does suggest that while the bore-snake can be helpful and a useful field-expedient, to truly clean a rifle barrel one will still need a good quality rod, bronze brush and solvents. [Editor: Add a good-fitting cleaning rod bore guide
2. SO, WHAT ABOUT BORE SNAKES FOR BARREL BREAK-IN?
The goal of barrel break-in is to fire each shot through a clean barrel, preventing copper buildup and allowing the bullets their best chance at burnishing sharp edges. Thus, it seems this purpose would be best served by one’s usual rods, brushes and rod guides.
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March 15th, 2015
Apparently reducing static charges on and around electronic scales can reduce their propensity to drift, lessening the problem of “wandering zero”. Just how and why static charges interfere with scale performance is unclear, but many shooters have noticed that static electricity can cause electronic scales to behave strangely. So how do you reduce static charges around your digital balance? German Salazar has found a very simple solution — an anti-static aerosol spray — that, by all indications, actually works. When this “spray-can solution” was suggested to German by a fellow shooter, German was skeptical. However, German tried the stuff and he says that it really does help the scale maintain zero over time, with much less observed drift.
On his Rifleman’s Journal website, German explains that the use of “Static Guard” spray helped mitigate the problem of a drifting zero on his Ohaus Navigator electronic scale. German writes: “My electronic scale… suffers from drifting zero (as they all seem to). I’ve read dozens of forum posts about drift and how to minimize its occurrence, so I know this problem isn’t limited to my scale or my workshop. Sometime last year, John Lowther mentioned the use of anti-static spray as a solution to the drift problem. John stated that the spray had virtually eliminated drift for him.”
German found that the Static Guard actually worked: “The spray works great, just as John said it would. I spray all surfaces that I touch with my hands and arms as well as the pan (top and bottom), the metal tray on which the pan rests and the table under the scale. In six months or so of using the spray I’ve re-applied it about two or three times; it certainly isn’t something that you need to do each time you sit down to load. Before using the spray, it was not uncommon for me to re-zero the scale 10 times in the course of loading 72 rounds; now it might need it once during a session.”
READ Full Story on RiflemansJournal.com
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March 15th, 2015
Here’s a great search service that can help you locate hard-to-find ammunition and reloading components — while saving money in the process. Ammoseek.com monitors more than a dozen online vendors — checking current pricing and available inventory, for pistol, rifle, and shotgun ammunition. Need .45 acp ammo for your 1911? Just select “.45 ACP” from the “Quick Seek” list on the right. Likewise you can find .223 Rem and .308 Win Rifle ammo with one click.
Find .22 LR Ammo Quickly
CLICK HERE for AmmoSeek.com .22 LR Ammo Search Results
Looking for hard-to-find .22 LR rimfire ammunition? Well AmmoSeek makes it easy — you don’t even have to enter any search words. Simply click on the highlighted links for AmmoSeek’s 22LR Page.
Use Ammoseek.com to Find Reloading Components Too
Ammoseek.com also lets you search for reloading components, including powder, primers, brass, and bullets. This is a huge time-saver. You can instantly check a dozen or more vendors to see if a particular type of powder is in stock. Likewise, you can quickly check for primer availability. If you have a big match coming up and are short on primers — this could solve the problem.
Story Tip by Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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March 12th, 2015
Looking for powder? Precision Reloading just received a pretty large shipment of Hodgdon, IMR, and Winchester Powders. This vendor also has popular Accurate, Alliant, Norma, and Vihtavuori Powders in stock. Sorry, no Varget or H4350 arrived, but Precision Reloading does have many popular propellants now. Powders currently IN STOCK at Precision Reloading (as of 9:00 am, 3/12/2015):
Hodgdon: H4831sc, H4831, H4198, H414, H335, H380, Hybrid 100V, H50BMG, Titegroup, 800X, Superformance, LeveRevolution (and others).
IMR: 4166 (New Enduron), 4227, 4320, 4350, 4451 (New Enduron), 4895, 7828SSC,
Alliant: RL33, RL50, 4000MR, PowerPro Varmint
Norma: 200, 201, 202, 203B (like RL15), 204, MRP, URP
Accurate: 4064, 4350, 5744, Magpro
Vihtavuori: N133, N135, N160, N340, 20N29
Reloading tip: If you currently use Alliant Reloder 15, Norma 203 B is very, very close. It is made by the same manufacturer, in the same plant, with the same burn rate and kernel size. Of course, for safety, you should still start low and work up your load incrementally.
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February 27th, 2015
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Yesterday’s post covered primer seating depth. This article offers many useful tips — including a clever way to measure primer seating depth with ordinary jaw-type calipers. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.
Primer Seating Depth — Why Uniformity is Important
The first concern is for safety: for that reason, primers should be seated below flush with the case head. One primary cause of “slam fires” (which includes catastrophic failures from firing out of battery) is “high,” or protruding primers. These stand above the case head, are readily felt with simple finger-tip inspection, and may fire when slammed by the bolt face and/or a floating firing pin in feeding.
Here at the USAMU, we ensure our rifle primers generally run -0.003″ to -0.005″ below the case head. Maximum primer depth is -0.006″ and minimum is -0.002″. Upon inspection, any cases with high primers will be corrected before loading. Aside from improving ballistic uniformity, ensuring the primers have proper compression upon seating also helps reduce possible misfires. These can be caused by the firing pin’s expending part of its energy either seating the primer or having to deform the primer cup enough to reach the anvil.
SMART TIP: How to Measure Primer Seating Depth with a Set of Calipers
A zeroed, precision set of standard calipers will also measure primer seating depth. (You don’t really need a custom tool.) Merely close the jaws and place the calipers’ narrow end squarely across the center of the case head/primer pocket. Keeping the narrow end in full contact with the case head, gently open the jaws, and the center bar will extend until it reaches the primer face. Voilà! Primer depth is read on the dial. Taking a few measurements to ensure accuracy and repeatability is recommended until one is familiar with this technique.
Brass and Primer Defects Can Cause Seating-Depth Variances
Factors affecting variance of primer seating depth include brass maker and lot number — all primer pockets are not created equal! Another factor is the primer manufacturer and individual primer lot. We’ve encountered occasional primer lots by top-quality makers that included some primers with slight defects affecting seating. While finely accurate, these primers were out-of-round or had small slivers of cup material protruding which affected primer feeding or seating depth.
Has one’s brass been fired previously? If so, how many times and the pressures involved also affect future primer seating. Obviously, this is another factor in favor of segregating one’s high-accuracy brass by maker, lot number, and number of times fired, if possible.
Measuring Primer Seating Depth with Purpose-Built Gauge
The next question, “How do we measure primer depth?” happily can be answered using tools already owned by most handloaders. [See tip above on how to measure depth with calipers.] At the USAMU, we have the luxury of purpose-built gauges made by the talented machinists of the Custom Firearms Shop. One places the primed case into the gauge, and the dial indicator reads the depth quickly and easily. The indicator is calibrated using a squarely-machined plug that simulates a case head with a perfectly flush-seated primer, easily giving meaningful “minus” or “plus” readings. The gauge is usable with a variety of case head sizes.
Primer Seating with Progressive Presses
Methods of primer seating include hand-seating using either hand held or bench-mounted tools, vs. progressive-press seating. Progressive presses may either seat by “feel,” subjective to each operator, or by using a mechanical “stop” that positively locates primers nearly identically every time. Testing here has shown that we get more uniform seating with the latter type progressive press, than we do with a high-quality bench-mounted tool lacking a positive stop.
Primer stop depth adjustments on our main progressive presses involve turning a punch screw in and out. While the screw is not calibrated, fine “tick” marks added to the top of the press help users gauge/repeat settings by “eye” efficiently with practice. Then, once a sample of primed cases is run to confirm the range and accuracy of depths, the identifying lot number and maker is noted on the press for reference. When it’s necessary to switch brass/primer lots, changes are easy to make and settings are easily repeated when it’s time to switch back.
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February 23rd, 2015
Some of our readers have questioned how to set up their body dies or full-length sizing dies. Specifically, AFTER sizing, they wonder how much resistance they should feel when closing their bolt.
Forum member Preacher explains:
“A little resistance is a good, when it’s time for a big hammer it’s bad…. Keep your full-length die set up to just bump the shoulder back when they get a little too tight going into the chamber, and you’ll be good to go.”
To quantify what Preacher says, for starters, we suggest setting your body die, or full-length sizing die, to have .0015″ of “bump”. NOTE: This assumes that your die is a good match to your chamber. If your sizing or body die is too big at the base you could push the shoulder back .003″ and still have “sticky case” syndrome. Also, the .0015″ spec is for bolt guns. For AR15s you need to bump the shoulder of your cases .003″ – .005″, for enhanced reliability. For those who have never worked with a body die, bump die, or Full-length sizing die, to increase bump, you loosen lock-ring and screw the die in further (move die down relative to shell-holder). A small amount (just a few degrees) of die rotation can make a difference. To reduce bump you screw the die out (move die up). Re-set lock-ring to match changes in die up/down position.
That .0015″ is a good starting point, but some shooters prefer to refine this by feel. Forum member Chuckhunter notes: “To get a better feel, remove the firing pin from your bolt. This will give you the actual feel of the case without the resistance of the firing pin spring. I always do this when setting up my FL dies by feel. I lock the die in when there is just the very slightest resistance on the bolt and I mean very slight.” Chino69 concurs: “Remove the firing pin to get the proper feel. With no brass in the chamber, the bolt handle should drop down into its recess from the full-open position. Now insert a piece of fire-formed brass with the primer removed. The bolt handle should go to the mid-closed position, requiring an assist to cam home. Do this several times to familiarize yourself with the feel. This is how you want your dies to size your brass, to achieve minimal headspace and a nearly glove-like fit in your chamber.”
We caution that, no matter how well you have developed a “feel” for bolt-closing resistance, once you’ve worked out your die setting, you should always measure the actual amount of shoulder bump to ensure that you are not pushing the shoulder too far back. This is an important safety check. You can measure this using a comparator that attaches to your caliper jaws, or alternatively, use a sized pistol case with the primer removed. See Poor Man’s Headspace Gauge.
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February 22nd, 2015
Shooting Times has released an article entitled “Ten Most Common Reloading Mistakes”. Listed below are the Top Ten mistakes hand-loaders can make, at least according to Shooting Times. What do you think of this list — does it overlook some important items?
Top Ten Reloading Mistakes According to Shooting Times:
1. Cracked Cases — Reloaders need to inspect brass and cull cases with cracks.
2. Dented Cases — Dents or divets can be caused by excess case lube.
3. Excessive Powder Charge — Overcharges (even with the correct powder) can be very dangerous.
4. Primers Not Seated Deep Enough — “High” primers can cause functioning issues.
5. Crushed Primers — Some priming devices can deform primers when seating.
6. Excess Brass Length — Over time, cases stretch. Cases need to be trimmed and sized.
7. Bullets Seated Too Far Out — If the bullet is seated too long you may not even be able to chamber the round. Also, with hunting rounds, bullets should not engage the rifling.
8. Burrs on Case Mouths — Ragged edges on case mouths can actually shave bullet jackets.
9. Excess Crimp — This is a common problem with pistol rounds loaded on progressives. If case lengths are not uniform some cases will get too much crimp, others too little.
10. Inadequate Crimp — This can be an issue with magnum pistol cartridges in revolvers.
Do you agree with this list? We think some important things are missing, such as not adjusting full-length sizing dies properly. This can cause the shoulder to be pushed back too far (or not far enough). Another common mistake is using brass that is worn out, i.e. stretched in the case-head area from multiple cycles of hot loads. We also think the #1 error a reloader can make is using the wrong powder altogether. That can be a fatal mistake. See what happens when you load pistol powder in a rifle.
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February 21st, 2015
Rick Jensen, Captain of the U.S. F-Open Rifle Team, recently tested some of the new IMR 4451 powder. Rick and other team members were looking for a good powder that could replace Hodgdon 4350 which is difficult to obtain currently. The makers of IMR 4451 claim that it is not sensitive to temperature and that it delivers competitive accuracy. So far, Rick’s tests, done with a .284 Winchester and 180gr Berger Hybrids, appear to confirm those claims. Rick posts:
“I did a little informal powder comparison of H4350 versus the new IMR 4451. Rifle used was a Kelbly Panda with a 30″, 1:8.75″ twist 5R Bartlein barrel [chambered in .284 Win]. All charge weights were 50.0 grains using CCI BR2 primers. I was very impressed with this new powder and I believe it to be equal to H4350 as far as temperature sensitivity.
I did not test for accuracy but I will tell you my groups were pretty much equal between the two and all were in the .2-.3 MOA range. I will defiantly be shooting more of this powder in the weeks to come, assuming the supply chain will allow. It looks very encouraging to finally have a alternative to H4350 that we might actually be able to buy.”
Chronograph Results with Temps from 23° F to 101°
Here are chronograph results of a comparison test between IMR 4451 and H4350. Rick’s rifle was cleaned and allowed to cool between each test. Five fouling shots were fired before each test. Important: Note that for both Test #1 and Test #2, the powder order is reversed in the mid-temp fields (IMR 4451 first, then H4350). For the low and high temp entries, H4350 is listed first.
Here are the IMR 4451 fired cases, displayed Left to right, coldest to the hottest (in terms of case temp when fired). All charge weights were the same: 50.0 grains.
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February 20th, 2015
If you have been patiently waiting to acquire a Forster Co-Ax® reloading press, now’s the time to strike. These popular presses have been out-of-stock for months, but now Grafs.com has Co-Ax presses in the warehouse and ready to ship. Price is $319.99. That includes shipping charges (but there is a flat $7.95 additional handling charge per order).
If you aren’t familiar with the unique design and function of the Forster Co-Ax Press, watch this video by Forum member Erik Cortina:
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