December 15th, 2014
We first featured this story in 2010, but the results of this rimfire ammo test have been of such widespread interest that we try to bring the test to readers’ attention every year.
In 2010, the staff of AccurateReloading.com Forum completed a massive .22LR Rimfire Ammunition Testing Project. Some 55 different types of ammo were tested, using a highly-accurate Swiss-made Bleiker rifle, with a 2-stage trigger. All ammo varieties were tested at 50 yards, 75 yards, and 100 yards, shooting five, 5-shot groups at each distance. Though these tests were completed some time ago, many readers have requested a “reprint” of the ammo rankings, so we’ve republished this data below.
The results are fascinating to say the least (and perhaps eye-opening). The tester observed: “I got some amazing groups, and some which are, frankly, absurdly bad! This has re-enforced what I had experienced with 22 ammo in the past — that is being consistently inconsistent.”
While we strongly caution that .22LR rimfire ammo may work well in one gun and not another, and ammo performance can be improved through the use of barrel tuners, the AccurateReloading.com research provides invaluable guidance for smallbore shooters. Overall, the testers burned through over 4,000 rounds of ammo, and you can see the actual test targets online. To read all the test reports, and view target photos visit AccurateReloading.com.
The lists below rank the average accuracy (by brand) of five, 5-shot groups shot at 50, 75, and 100 yards. CLICK HERE for Complete Test Results with target photos.
|0.162 Eley Tenex Ultimate EPS
0.164 Lapua Midas Plus
0.177 Lapua Polar Biathlon
0.187 Eley Match EPS
0.193 Eley Match
0.203 Lapua Midas M
0.215 Lapua Center X
0.216 Western Value Pack
0.229 Lapua Signum
0.241 Lapua Master L
0.243 Eley Pistol Match
0.256 Olin Ball
0.256 Akah X-Zone
0.261 Lapua Midas L
0.261 Lapua Master M
0.263 Eley Tenex Semi Auto
0.270 Lapua Super Club
0.272 Eley Tenex
0.303 Lapua Standard Plus
0.312 CCI Standard Velocity
0.319 RWS R 50
0.319 Eley Standard
0.328 SK High Velocity
0.339 Eley Club Xtra
0.340 Winchester T22
0.356 Federal Champion
0.362 Eley Subsonic HP
0.371 CCI Mini Mag
0.376 Federal American Eagle
0.377 Norinco Target
0.380 Sellier & Bellot Club
0.384 Eley Club
0.387 Eley Sport
0.392 Swartklip Match Trainer
0.398 Federal Gold Medal
0.403 Swartklip HV
0.409 Eley Match Xtra Plus
0.424 Sellier & Bellot Std
0.443 Remington Target
0.461 Lapua Crow HP
0.475 Eley Silhouex
0.498 Eley High Velocity
0.513 Winchester Super X
0.516 Kassnar Concorde
0.539 CCI Blazer
0.560 Winchester Supreme Pistol
0.576 Norinco Pistol Revolver
0.593 SK Standard
0.611 Sellier And Bellot HP
0.626 SK Standard HP
0.686 Logo HV
0.956 Pobjeda Target
|0.274 Lapua Center X
0.283 Lapua Standard Plus
0.295 Eley Tenex Ultimate EPS
0.307 Lapua Midas M
0.329 Lapua Master M
0.346 Eley Match
0.373 Lapua Polar Biathlon
0.399 RWS R 50
0.432 Lapua Midas L
0.448 Eley Tenex Semi Auto
0.467 Eley Match EPS
0.474 Lapua master L
0.491 Eley Match Xtra Plus
0.494 CCI Standard
0.496 Eley Subsonic HP
0.507 Eley Sport
0.512 Federal American Eagle
0.513 SK High Velocity
0.514 Eley Standard
0.516 Eley Tenex
0.516 Lapua Crow HP
0.532 Western Value Pack
0.533 Fed. Champion Target
0.535 Lapua Midas Plus
0.564 Akah X Zone
0.566 Olin Ball
0.573 Eley Club Xtra
0.616 Lapua Signum
0.631 Winchester T22
0.639 Swartklip HV HP
0.641 Eley Club
0.642 Eley Silhouex
0.647 CCI Mini Mag
0.679 Eley Pistol Match
0.682 Swartklip Match Trainer
0.690 Federal Gold Medal
0.692 Remington HV
0.703 Lapua Super Club
0.720 Winchester Super X
0.738 Eley High Velocity
0.759 Kassnar Concorde
0.765 Sellier And Bellot Club
0.770 Winch. Supreme Pistol
0.770 Norinco target
0.775 CCI Blazer
0.802 Norinco Pistol Revolver
0.841 LVE Logo HV
0.855 Sellier & Bellot Std
0.923 Sellier & Bellot HP
0.934 SK Standard HP
1.017 Remington Target
1.257 Totem Standard
1.442 SK Standard
1.578 Pobjeda target
|0.455 Eley Match
0.510 Lapua Midas Plus
0.549 Lapua Midas M
0.611 Lapua Polar Biathlon
0.611 Eley Tenex Ultimate EPS
0.619 Eley Match EPS
0.622 Eley Club
0.630 Lapua Center X
0.631 RWS R50
0.679 Eley Tenex Semi Auto
0.694 Lapua Midas L
0.729 Eley Tenex
0.739 Lapua Master L
0.753 Lapua Super Club
0.785 Lapua Master M
0.831 Eley Sport
0.851 Eley Match Xtra
0.859 Lapua Standard Plus
0.867 Akah X-Zone
0.877 Eley Pistol Match
0.907 Norinco Target
0.924 Eley Silhouex
0.939 CCI Standard
0.952 Eley Subsonic HP
0.970 Olin Ball
0.978 Kassnar Concorde
0.995 Eley Club Xtra
1.009 Western Value Pack
1.032 Federal Champion
1.087 Norinco Pistol Revolver
1.100 CCI Mini Mag
1.112 Lapua Crow HP
1.143 Winchester T22
1.142 Federal Gold Medal
1.144 federal American Eagle
1.156 Swartklip Hollo Point
1.165 Lapua Signum
1.170 Swartklip Match Trainer
1.175 Fed. Champion Value Pk
1.182 SK high Velocity
1.224 Winchester Super X
1.358 Eley Standard
1.367 Remington High Velocity
1.375 CCI Blazer
1.414 Eley High Velocity
1.450 Remington Target
1.504 LVE Logo
1.813 SK Standard
1.879 S&B Club
1.947 S&B Hollow Point
2.073 SK Standard HP
2.221 S&B Standard
2.266 Pobjeda Target
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December 15th, 2014
We’re well into December, and that means many readers will be putting guns in storage for a few months. It also means the weather is cold and damp — conditions that encourage corrosion. To ensure your rifles remain rust-free over the winter, we recommend some preventative measures. First clean the bore thoroughly, and remove carbon and gunk from the action areas. Slide a couple oiled patches down the bore and make sure that any bare metal parts (including sights, trigger guard, action, and bolt) are coated with some protective oil. We recommend Eezox, Boeshield T9, or CorrosionX. Eezox leaves a glossy dry film shield with excellent rust resistance. CorrosionX is more like a conventional oil, but with special anti-rust additives. Boeshield T9 leaves a slightly thicker, wax-like coating that blocks all kinds of oxidation, even on aluminum parts.
Laminated Long-Term Storage Bags
Before you put your guns away for the winter, you may want to pack them in long-term storage bags. You can get superior protection with ZCORR long-term storage bags. Used by the USMC for arsenal storage, ZCORR bags are like the ultimate zip-lock baggie. They keep air and moisture out, and the interior is impregnated with corrosion inhibitors that block rust. The basic long-gun bags cost $12-$16, and have a velcro closure. The “Collectors Series” storage bags ($22-$30 for long-guns) feature a foil-adhesive closure that is 100% air and water tight. The deluxe preservation-grade ZCORRs, priced at $32-$39, can be vacuum-sealed for maximum protection — just hook up a vacuum cleaner to the special one-way valve. See photo below of rifle in ZCORR Vacuum storage bag.
Our friend Jim Sheppard of the Shooting Wire, has used ZCORR bags for years. He writes: “I’ve used ZCORR bags in the past, but the latest firearms versions are reusable, equally durable (they’re far tougher than a plastic bag) and available in sizes that will protect pistols, carbines and long rifles. Their Collector Series storage bags and Ammunition and Parts Pouches use zip closures to protect a variety of sizes of parts, ammo or whatever.”
How ZCORR Bags Work
The laminated material used in ZCORR bags is puncture-resistant, tear-resistant, and will not harm any non-metal surfaces. Two key elements in bag’s laminate construction allow ZCORRs to block corrosion: 1) the foil barrier layer; and; 2) the VpCI-impreg-nated sealant layer.
The foil layer in ZCORR FSP Bags™ performs two tasks simultaneously; it keeps harmful corrosion causing elements out of the bag and keeps the corrosion inhibiting VpCI chemistry in the bag
The VpCI-impregnated inner layer provides the anti-corrosive properties. The VpCI chemistry impregnated in the interior layer migrates out of the plastic and forms an invisible gas inside of the bag. This gas is made up of VpCI molecules that are attracted to the interior and exterior metal surfaces of your firearm. The gas coats these metal surfaces with a one-molecule-thick layer of VpCI chemistry that stops corrosion before it can begin. This one-molecule-thick layer of VpCI chemistry dissipates off of the firearm when it is removed from the bag.
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December 11th, 2014
The 6.5 Guys, a dedicated duo of Pacific NW rifle shooters, have created an interesting series of shooting-related videos on their 6.5 Guys YouTube Channel. In this video, The 6.5 Guys set up and demonstrate the Bench-Source cartridge brass annealing machine. The video explains how to set up the machine, how to attach and adjust the torches, and how to “fine tune” the flame and dwell time to achieve best results.
Read Full Annealing Article on 65Guys.com.
To complement this video, the 6.5 Guys (aka Ed and Steve) have published an Annealing Tech Talk article on 65guys.com. If you own an annealing machine, or are getting started with cartridge annealing, you should read that article. It covers basic annealing principles, and gives useful tips on temp control, dwell time, and frequency of annealing. After the video, we feature highlights from this article.
We use 750° Tempilaq applied inside the case neck to indicate that the proper temperature has been achieved. If you turn off the lights, you will notice that the brass just barely starts to turn color. As you go beyond the 750° mark we observed that the case mouth will start to flare orange — you can see this with the lights on. From our research, we understand that this is the result of zinc burning off. We adjust the time on our machine between the point that the Tempilaq turns liquid and the flame starts to turn orange. In other words, if the flame is starting to turn orange reduce the time. We let the cases air cool — we don’t quench them in water.
The case starts to flare orange here, during a set-up test. Dwell time was then reduced slightly.
Read Full Annealing Article on 65Guys.com.
We aim the flame at the neck-shoulder junction. Some folks like to aim it at the neck and others the shoulder. When you see how the two flames meet and spread out vertically, it probably doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Here you can see the flame points aimed at the neck-shoulder junction.
Cases will turn color after annealing, but the degree of color change is not a reliable indicator. We have noticed that the appearance of cases will vary depending on brass manufacturer, brass lot, light source, and how long ago the case was annealed.
How Often Should You Anneal?
Some shooters anneal every time while others choose a specific interval. We noticed work hardening around five firings that resulted in inconsistency in shoulder setback and neck tension, so we choose to anneal every three firings. Your mileage will vary depending on how hot your loads are and how aggressively you resize.
Who are the 6.5 Guys? They are Ed (right) and Steve (left), a pair of avid shooters based in the Pacific Northwest. They have released 22 Videos on the 6.5 Guys YouTube Channel.
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December 11th, 2014
There are many different systems for storing handguns in a gun safe: coated wire racks (with U-shaped baskets), wood racks, plastic racks, rotary racks, door-mount brackets, door-mount holsters, and vertical shelving units. The rotary racks take up a lot of vertical space (and have a fairly large footprint), while the wire racks use up considerable horizontal space for their capacity.
If you’re looking for the most space-efficient, in-safe handgun storage system, consider the clever Handgun Hangers from Gun Storage Solutions. These vinyl-coated, wire hangers organize handguns below the shelf, freeing up storage space above the shelf. You simply slide each hanger on the shelf and then slip your pistol’s barrel over the lower rod. Handgun Hangers are intended for guns with an overall length of 10 inches or shorter. They will fit shelves that are at least 11 inches deep and 5/8-1 inch in thickness. Handgun Hangers will hold handguns .22 caliber and up, though the fit is a bit snug on .22s. A four-pack of Handgun Hangers costs $15.14.
WARNING — Always Make Sure Handgun is UNLOADED when using Handgun Hangers!!
Gun Storage Solutions also offers an Over-Under Hanger that holds two handguns — one above the shelf, and one below. A two-pack of Over-Under Hangers (capable of holding four handguns) costs $16.96. This may be a good solution for you. This editor personally prefers the standard model, so I can use the upper surface of the shelve to hold odd-shaped items such as cameras, binoculars, and miscellaneous valuables.
Magnetic Gun Caddy for Safe Doors or Walls
Many gun owners like to mount handguns on the inside door panel of their gun safes. If this doesn’t interfere with your long gun storage, this can be a smart solution. Most of the door-mount units require special holsters or a series of peg-board style hangers. That may not work if the exposed inside of your door is bare metal. Here’s a smart solution from Benchmaster. The new two-pistol Magnetic WeaponRAC has four magnetic strips that allow the $24.99 two-gun caddy to mount directly to a metal door surface or the inner side-walls of your safe. If your safe door and walls are carpet-lined, there is also a two-pistol WeaponRAC Caddy with Velcro Mounts. A single-pistol caddy is also offered in both magnetic and Velcro versions.
Editor’s Comment: If you only have 3 or 4 handguns, you may want to avoid racks altogether. Our preferred solution for 3-4 handguns is to place each gun in a synthetic fabric BoreStores sack and then line them up on the end of the top shelf in the safe. The silicone-treated BoreStores sacks wick away moisture and provide vital cushioning for the gun. This works fine for a small collection. If you have lots of wheelguns and pistols, however, look into the Handgun Hangers — they really are a space-saving solution.
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December 6th, 2014
With Christmas less than three weeks away, our readers’ thoughts are turning to holiday decorations, Yuletide gatherings, and “Where the heck can I find some darn .22 LR ammo!” Sad to say, you won’t find large quantities of .22 LR rimfire ammunition on the shelves of Wally World — those days are long gone. Affordable rimfire fodder remains in (relatively) short supply in the USA. However, if you’re willing to harness the power of the internet, you should be able to find the rimfire ammo you need.
We use three specialty search engines to locate bulk .22 LR ammo (and centerfire ammo as well): Ammoseek.com, Gunbot.net, and Slickguns.com. There are others, but these are three of the most effective. Here’s what we found this morning of December 6, 2014, using these three websites.
It’s really easy to find .22 LR ammo using Ammoseek.com. There is a handy “Quick Seek” .22 LR search link that instantly searches 108 different vendors. Shown below is just a partial list of the 481 items we found in seconds using Ammoseek’s .22 LR Quick Link. For future reference, bookmark the following link: http://ammoseek.com/ammo/22lr.
Link Ammoseek.com, Gunbot.net provides single-click search capability for .22 LR rimfire ammo. Simply click on the “22LR” Link on Gunbot’s home page, and within a few seconds you’ll get results from dozens of online ammunition suppliers. And of course you can select other popular types of ammo with a single click as well. For the best deals, select “Sort by Price” with the sort pull-down menu (by default it displays the newest result first.) We’ve highlighted the sort field in the illustration below so you don’t miss it. (You’ll probably want to click “in-stock only” as well.) Bookmark this GunBot .22 LR Quicklink to speed up your next 22LR search: http://gunbot.net/ammo/rimfire/22lr/.
NOTE: Gunbot.net is slower than Ammoseek.com. However Gunbot.net’s page is clean and simple, not plagued by distracting banners.
The Slickguns.com site is a little different than Ammoseek and Gunbot, because it covers a wider range of products, including firearms, knives, shooting accessories and more. With so many options, it’s easy to get lost on the Slickguns.com home page. Here’s a tip for ammo-shoppers — first click the “Ammo” link at the top. Then pick “22 LR” from the list of ammo types. For easy reference, bookmark this link: http://www.slickguns.com/category/ammo?caliber=3.
NOTE: You can pick other ammo types from the list of “Popular Calibers”. Here’s what you’ll see on Slickguns.com’s Ammo Page:
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December 5th, 2014
Here’s a clever, easy modification for your RCBS ChargeMaster electronic powder dispenser. Many folks use a McDonald’s straw to smooth kernel flow out of the dispensing tube. Forum member Mike S. (aka in2deep) found that, even with a straw in place, he sometimes got clumps, which dropped 5-6 kernels at once, throwing off his dispensed weight.
Mike looked at the situation and ingeniously decided to trim the straw into little v-shaped arms or prongs. This helps to break up the clumps, so the kernels flow out the end of the tube more consistently during the dispense cycle. Mike writes:
Soda Straw Modification
This is a further tweak of the popular soda straw modification as the original mod would still allow Varget powder to collect in the straw and dump sometimes as many as 6 or 8 or even more extra kernels in the pan. It would sometimes signal an overcharge, but even when it didn’t there could be as many as 6+ kernels too high or too low (total spread of 12+).
The little arms (prongs) on the straw tend to separate the kernels into groups of 1 or 2 or 3 and prevents piling and many times the throw is now within 1 or 2 kernels of the desired weight.
Credit Boyd Allen for sourcing this tip.
Straw Cutting Tips — Mike found the shape/angle of the “arms” is very important. If the cuts are too fine or too course it allows the kernels to collect almost like before but the illustrated angle seems to allow an average of only 2 or 3 kernels per trickle input from the machine. This means that more charges are much closer to the actual desired weight and max kernel variances will be cut in less than half and there will be almost no overthrows.
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December 1st, 2014
A while back, Forum member BigBlack had an experience at the gun range that reminds us of the importance of safety when shooting. He encountered evidence that someone had fired the wrong cartridge in a 7mm WSM rifle. The problem is more common than you may think. This editor has personally seen novices try to shoot 9mm ammo in 40sw pistols. BigBlack’s story is along those lines, though the results were much more dramatic. It’s too bad a knowledgeable shooter was not nearby to “intervene” before this fellow chambered the wrong ammo.
7mm-08 is Not the Same as a 7mm WSM
BigBlack writes: “I know this has probably been replayed a thousand times but I feel we can never be reminded enough about safety. This weekend at the range I found a ruptured case on the ground. My immediate thoughts were that it was a hot load, but the neck area was begging for me to take a closer look, so I did. I took home the exploded case and rummaged through my old cases until I found a close match. From my investigative work it appears someone shot a 7mm-08 in a 7mm WSM. Take a look. In the photo below I’ve put together a 7mm WSM case (top), the ruptured case (middle), and a 7mm-08 case (bottom).”
You can see from the photo what probably happened to the 7mm-08 case. The shoulder moved forward to match the 7mm WSM profile. The sidewalls of the case expanded outward in the much larger 7mm WSM chamber until they lacked the strength to contain the charge, and then the case sides ruptured catastophically. A blow-out of this kind can be very dangerous, as the expanding gasses may not be completely contained within the action.
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November 28th, 2014
Got a gunsafe with an electronic keypad? Is the battery more than a year old? Then you should replace it right away. Don’t procrastinate!
Here’s an important reminder for readers who have digital keypad entry systems on their gun safes. If you have a safe with an electronic keypad, you should replace the battery every year as a precautionary measure.
Here’s a true story. I have one safe with a Sargent & Greenleaf (S&G) keypad. Last December, I went to get into the safe. Punched in the combination, but all I got was a rapid “beep, beep, beep, beep” after I finished the last combination entry. I tried again to ensure I entered the combination correctly (I did). But again, the locking system responded with multiple rapid beeps indicating something was wrong. And the safe would not open. Now I was worried….
I popped out the battery holder (which slides in from the bottom of the keypad housing on the door). I removed the battery and tested it with a volt-meter. The year-old Duracell 9v only registered 6.1 volts.
Low voltage was the problem. I went down to the store and got a couple new 9V batteries. I tested the new batteries and both measured 9.4 volts output. I slipped one of the new 9V batteries into the keypad housing, punched in the combination and everything worked OK again. Eureka.
Most electronic locks for safes WILL “remember” the combination for a period of time even when the battery is low (and the keypad’s “brain” should retain the combination when you remove the battery for replacement). However, a dead battery, or extended periods of low voltage can give you problems. Don’t rely on wishful thinking…
If the battery on your safe is more than a year old, or if it is not giving you the right voltage, replace it today!
My Sargent & Greenleaf (S&G) keypad takes one (1) 9v battery. The version below takes two. Note how the battery compartment slides in from the bottom:
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November 22nd, 2014
Lapua brass is so good that you’ll be tempted to just load and shoot, if you have a “no-turn” chamber. However, some minimal case prep will ensure more uniform neck tension. Keeping your neck tension very uniform allows more consistent bullet seating. That, in turn, usually yields better accuracy, and lower Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation (ES/SD). Lapua brass, particularly 6BR, 6.5×47, .243 Win and .308 Win comes from the factory with tighter-than-optimal necks. Before you seat bullets, at a minimum, you should inside chamfer the case mouths, after running an expander mandrel down the necks. The expander mandrels from both Sinclair Int’l and K&M will both leave the necks with enough neck tension (more than .001″) so you can then seat bullets without another operation. Put a bit of lube on the mandrel before running it down the necks — but remove any lube that gets inside the necks before seating bullets.
Both Sinclair and K&M Tools make a die body specifically to hold expander mandrels. The Sinclair version, is shown above. This $24.99 unit fits caliber-specific expander mandrels ($9.95) which measure approximately .001″ less than bullet diameter for each caliber. This is an updated “Gen II” design that completely captures the mandrel within the die so the mandrel cannot pull out. It also has an O-ring in the die cap that allows the mandrel to self-center within the case neck. Sinclair now offers three sizes of die bodies for expander mandrels: .17 -.310 Caliber (#849-011-715WS); .357 – .50 caliber (#749-008-843WS), and a special .50 Cal die body for large-diameter 50 BMG presses (#749-009-163WS, $49.99). All Generation II dies are machined from stainless steel and the standard diameter 7/8-14 dies include the Sinclair Stainless Steel Split Lock Ring.
Once you run the Sinclair expander mandrel down the necks of Lapua brass, after you account for brass spring-back, you’ll have about .002″ neck tension. This will make the process of seating bullets go much more smoothly, and you will also iron out any dents in the case mouths. Once the case mouths are all expanded, and uniformly round, then do your inside neck chamfering/deburring. The same expander mandrels can be used to “neck-up” smaller diameter brass, or prepare brass for neck-turning.
Forum member Mike Crawford adds: “These expanders can also reduce runout from offset seating. Prior to bullet seating, expand the sized necks to force thickness variance outward. With the Sinclair system, the necks will springback fine, and will not be pulled out of center. This leaves plenty of tension, and bullets seated more centered. I do this, even with turned necks, to get improved seating.”
Mandrels vs. Expander Balls on Decapping Rods
If you haven’t acquired an appropriate expander mandrel for your brass, but you DO have a full-length sizing die with an expander ball, this will also function to “iron out” the necks and reduce tension. However, using a die with an expander ball will work the necks more — since you first size them down, then the ball expands them up again. Typically (but not always), run-out is worse when using an expander ball vs. an expander mandrel.
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November 19th, 2014
Here’s a shocking video showing a massive Kaboom (KB) that literally destroyed an M1 Garand in the hands of a lady shooter. One second she has a classic .30-06 battle rifle in her arms, and the next second she has nothing but a pile of parts. She is fortunate to have survived this incident without apparent serious injury. She may have had a squib (undercharged round) in her prior shot at the 00:12 time-mark. At 00:15 it seems she may have experienced “click no bang” (we can’t tell for sure). The detonation occurs at time-mark 00:25, and is then replayed in slow-motion.
If this Kaboom wasn’t caused by a squib, there might have been a catastrophic failure of the cartridge that failed to fire at 00:15. The shooter herself, posting as ArizonaGirl24 on YouTube, thinks the gun may have fired out of battery. What do you think?
Text accompanying the posting of this video on LiveLeak, states: “A woman, her shooting partner, and their cameraperson are lucky to be alive. Her M1 Garand detonated after she failed to check the barrel for an obstruction due to an apparent squib round….
[After the shot at 00:12] she is obviously aware that something is amiss and seems to check the chamber, but does not unload the rifle to check for the presence of a barrel obstruction.
She raises the rifle and fires it again, causing a catastrophic weapon failure. Parts of the weapon fly in all directions. The video then terminates.”
What happened to the shooter? She reported: “I was very lucky with the outcome. I have lots of splinters and bruising, but nothing broken. My left hand took the brunt of the blow to my wrist and palm of my hand. Still pretty painful, but I will be fine.”
Video tip from Mark LaFevers. We welcome reader submissions.
LESSON ONE: If you experience any kind of malfunction, or what appears to be a light-recoiling (or soft-sounding) shot, you should STOP shooting immediately. Clear the firearm and check for barrel obstructions.
LESSON TWO: Always wear ear and eye protection when shooting any firearm, even rimfires.
LESSON THREE: With a semi-auto gun, ensure the bolt is completely in battery after every shot.
LESSON FOUR: When hand-loading check EVERY round for powder charges prior to seating bullets, and weigh your loaded rounds before boxing them. Also check for high primers on EVERY round. If using a progressive press, use a Lock-Out Die that will alert you to any under-loaded cartridge. Be wary of commercial reloads.
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November 16th, 2014
Most of us assume that if we weigh our powder carefully (down to the tenth of a grain or less) we can achieve a uniform powder fill from case to case in our handloads. Weighing does ensure that the weight of the propellant in each case is the same, but is the column of powder the same by volume each time? “Not necessarily” is the answer. An interesting experiment by our friend Boyd Allen demonstrates that the manner in which you place kernels in the case can make a significant difference in the height of the powder column within the brass case.
Using a Gempro 250 scale, Boyd measured exactly 30.6 grains of Vihtavuori N-133 powder. He then inserted this powder in the same cartridge case multiple times. (The case has a fired primer in place.) But here is the key — Boyd used various filling techniques. He did a slow fill, and a fast fill, and he also experimented with tapping and drop tubes. What Boyd discovered was that you can start with the exact same weight of powder (in fact the very same set of kernels), yet end up with vary different fill heights, depending on how you drop the kernels into the case. Look at the photos. Despite variations in lighting, the photos show the same 30.6 grains of powder, placed in the same cartridge, with four different methods.
Boyd Explains the Procedure Used for his Experiment.
EDITOR’s NOTE: So there is no misunderstanding, Boyd started with a weighed 30.6 grain charge. This identical charge was used for ALL four fills. After a fill the powder was dumped from the case into a pan which was then used for the next fill technique to be tried. So, the powder weight was constant. Indeed the exact same kernels (of constant weight and number) were used for each fill.
Boyd writes: “I used the same powder for all fills, 30.6 gr. on a GemPro 250 checked more than once. All fills employed the same RCBS green transparent plastic funnel. The fast drop with the funnel only overflowed when it was removed from the case neck, and 15 granules of powder fell on the white paper that the case was sitting on. The fast-funnel-only drop with tapping, was done with the funnel in place and the case and funnel in one hand, while tapping the case body with the index finger hard, many times (about 20 fast double taps). My idea here was to “max out” the potential of this tapping technique.
The slow drop with the funnel and 10″-long .22 cal. Harrell’s Precision drop tube, was done by holding the scale pan over the funnel and tapping the spout of the pan repeatedly on the inside of the funnel about 1/3 down from the top, with the scale pan tilted just enough so that the powder will just flow. Many taps were involved, again, to max out the technique.
Again, to be clear, after each case filling, the powder was poured from the case back into the scale pan carefully. You may notice the similarity between the fast drop with the drop tube, and the funnel only with tapping. Although I did not photograph it, fast tube drop and tapping (combined) improved on tapping alone, but only to about half as far down the neck as the slow with drop tube. Due to the endless possible permutations, I picked four and left it at that.
I believe that I can make the rough judgment that the scale pan funnel and drop tube technique, which involved a longer drop period, and probably less velocity at the top of the tube, left more room in the top of the case neck than the slow drop from the measure with the same drop tube. You have both pictures, so you can make the comparison.” — Boyd
Does Powder Column Height Variance Make a Difference?
Boyd’s experiment proves pretty conclusively that the method of dropping a given weight of powder can affect the height of the powder column in the case and the degree of powder compression (when a bullet is seated). He showed this to be true even when the exact same set of kernels (of constant weight) was used in repetitive loadings. This raises some interesting questions:
1. Will subsequent cartridge transport and handling cause the powder to settle so the variances in powder column height are diminished?
2. If significant inconsistencies in powder column height remain at time of firing, will the difference in fill level hurt accuracy, or result in a higher extreme spread in velocity?
3. Is there any advantage (beyond increased effective case capacity) for a tight (low level) fill vs. a loose (high level) fill?
We don’t know the answer to these follow up questions. This Editor guesses that, if we tested low-fill-height rounds vs. high-fill-height rounds (all with same true fill quantity by weight), we might see meaningful differences in average velocity. I would also guess that if you fired 10 rounds that exhibited quite a difference in powder column heights, you might see a higher ES/SD than if you shot 10 rounds loaded with a very consistent powder column height (either high or low). But further testing is needed to determine if these predictions are true.
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