Top to bottom – Remington firing pin assembly with ISS, Tubb SpeedLock alloy-composite system without ISS (current versions have dual, opposite-wound springs), and Remington short action firing pin assembly without ISS.
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Last week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covered mechanical issues and related ignition irregularities that can cause vertical fliers even with good ammunition in an otherwise excellent rifle. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tech tips.
Vertical Dispersion: Mechanical/Ignition Issues?
Poor or inconsistent ignition has long been known to be one of the “usual suspects” when one encounters vertical fliers that just shouldn’t be there. By having a sense of some of the basic principles involved, and a few basic areas to check, the shooter may avoid colsiderable frustration, not to mention time, expensive loading components and barrel wear.
Is your well-built rifle of high-quality components plagued with vertical fliers across more than 1-3 handload combinations? Consider the bedding, crown and scope/sight mounts. Are they correct? If so, then you might check for ignition issues before boldly undertaking an extensive, expensive, and quite possibly fruitless quest for the “magic handload”.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: While the author had been aware for many years that poor ignition should be considered and ruled out when dealing with vertical fliers in an otherwise-excellent rifle, actually seeing the problem and its almost instantaneous cure really drove the lesson home.
He was working with a “dot” rifle – a .22 LR match rifle that really stacked bullets into little piles at 50 yards and beyond. With one lot of ELEY Tenex, it produced consistent “bughole” groups at 50, but with another, selected lot of Tenex, similar groups were regularly ruined by single, vertical fliers that did not appear in other rifles. Rather than spending days burning up expensive, select ammunition looking for “magic lots”, he contacted a well-respected rimfire gunsmith and explained the situation.
Without so much as batting an eye, the highly-experienced ‘smith tore into the rifle’s action, and quickly found the cause(s) of the problem. He discovered a demonstrably weak firing pin spring, plus a chip out of the face of the firing pin where it contacted the cartridge rim.
After replacing and tuning the offending parts, the rifle immediately began shooting tiny, bughole groups with the previously “unacceptable” lot of Tenex. Centerfire rifles can also benefit from ensuring positive, consistent ignition. A wise riflesmith is literally worth his weight in gold!
So, what are some issues we as shooters can inspect in our rifles to help determine if ignition woes could be part of our problem? At the club level, ask yourself if that “experienced” Remington, Winchester 70, or even Springfield-based match bolt gun you’re using is still running its’ original 40-80 year-old factory striker spring? If so, a new replacement is cheap insurance against current or future problems. (And BTW, it might be best to stick to the normal, factory-spec spring weight. A super-powerful spring can cause vertical, just as a weak one one can.) Along with that, a routine check for proper firing-pin protrusion is a quick preventive measure that can rule out potential issues.
Other areas to consider are the centering and consistency of the firing pin’s operation in the bolt. Admittedly, with the increasing use of precision-machined custom actions, this is becoming less an issue every day. Below is the firing pin assembly from a custom BAT action:
However, particularly with factory actions, a very quick and easy check is to remove the bolt, let the firing pin go forward, and look at the firing pin tip through the firing pin hole. Is the tip off-center in the hole, and possibly striking it as it moves forward? Is the hole out-of-round or burred from being struck repeatedly? If so, a trip to the riflesmith is likely in order.
Similarly, machining issues in the bolt/firing pin system can lead to rough and erratic firing pin movement, in which the firing pin drags against an internal surface of the bolt. In high-quality rifles these issues are relatively rare, but not unheard-of, and it takes mere minutes to rule them out. It may be worthwhile to remove the cocking piece/firing pin/spring assembly and look for any unusual gouges, dings, peening, burrs or signs of abnormal wear.
This task is especially easy with Winchester 70s, Springfields, and the similar Mauser 98s, involving little more than the push of a button and unscrewing the cocking piece assembly. This is just one of the many reasons these tried-and-true actions have earned such a loyal following in the field, among hunters who must maintain their rifles away from a shop.
Particularly with older rifles, watch for and remove excess grease (or even Cosmoline!) from both the firing pin assembly and inside the bolt. This can help improve firing pin speed and consistency. Other bolt-action designs may need a take-down tool or other measures.
As part of this inspection, AFTER ENSURING THE RIFLE IS UNLOADED, slowly cock the rifle, dry-fire, and repeat several times. Listen carefully near the action for inconsistency in the sounds it generates. Does the striker falling make the same sound each time? Do you hear or feel grinding upon operation? If so, where?
Be sure to check the operation of the cocking piece (bolt shroud), firing pin within the bolt shroud, the cocking piece cam and the rear of the bolt body where the cocking piece cam operates. As with our examination for abnormal wear marks discussed above, look for marks indicating roughness or a possible need for light polishing. Then, clean and lightly grease the bearing surfaces while you’re at it.
Remington 700 bolt shroud and cocking cam
These are relatively easy checks that shooters can undertake to perform a preliminary inspection on their own. Other mechanical issues can also cause ignition issues, chiefly centered around the action of the trigger, sear and sear spring. If these are suspected, a trip to an experienced, qualified riflesmith for diagnosis is recommended. We hope you find this information helpful! Join us again next week, and in the meantime, enjoy the shooting sports safely!
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A customer of well-known gunsmith (and Hall-of-Fame shooter) Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez recently asked Speedy about bedding compounds. Speedy offered some interesting advice based on long-term testing of various materials. Speedy favors Marine-Tex because it is very stable over time, while other materials can shrink up to 6% dimensionally. A good bedding job should be a perfect fit to your barreled action. If the bedding material shrinks over time, that is NOT a good thing….
Speedy’s customer asked: “I know you’re not a Devcon man in regards to bedding compounds but I respect your input in such matters and my question is this in regard to aluminum actions. If Devcon was considered, for an aluminum action, would you prefer aluminum compound formula or steel formula? I personally prefer Devcon steel and Marine-Tex for steel receivers but my experience with aluminum is limited. Also do you have a release agent preference that works better with aluminum?”
Speedy answered: “My only preference of one epoxy over another is their stability over time. My buddy who works for the Texas State Weights and Measures Department had me cast several of the most common types of epoxies used for bedding into 1.000″ machined blocks. After one year of being kept in a controlled climate and measured for shrinkage monthly, the Marine Tex shrunk only 1/10th of 1% (i.e. 0.1%) whereas almost all the others (including Devcon Steel formula, Devcon Aluminum formula…) shrunk 3% to 6%. The only other compounds that matched the Marine Tex were Araldite 1253 and Araldite 2014, with the latter being quite expensive for daily use.”
Speedy added: “The Marine Tex Grey has no atomized metal in its makeup even though it appears that it does. This can be proven by the use of a strong neodymium magnet. What is humorous to me is that people don’t like aluminum yet will bed their actions atop aluminum pillars that have twice the coefficient of expansion (COE) of steel. Like Devcon, it is what people have always done and used. Thus [they] perpetuate the same old stuff. That’s my two cents’ worth. But as I tell everyone, ‘I’ll tell you what I know or do, but it’s not my job to convince anyone to do it my way’.”
Release Agents — Try Shoe Polish
Regarding release agents, Speedy stated: “I use Kiwi Neutral or Tan shoe polish. This works great and you can find it anywhere. Do NOT use the black or brown as it will stick.”
View More Photos of Speedy Inletting and Bedding Job CLICK HERE to see an interesting bedding job done by Speedy using a custom titanium bedding block. Speedy notes, “The stock was a raw blank requiring full inletting for the action to fit properly plus the titanium block. All the loading ports, bolt handle cut, bolt stop, and trigger guard cuts were done with diamond tooling to eliminate fraying and/or delamination of the wood.” You’ll find more projects by Speedy on his Facebook Page. Speedy is in San Antonio, Texas now, and accepting new projects with his company S.G. Rifles LLC.
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The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a great series of reloading “how-to” articles on its Facebook Page. This post covers key factors to consider when loading ammunition for Match Rifles and Service Rifles, with a particular focus on self-loading “gas guns”. Visit the USAMU Facebook Page each Wednesday for other, helpful “Handloading Hump-Day” tips.
We offer some “cardinal rules” to help new gas-gun handloaders with safety and efficiency. These address both Match Rifle and Service Rifle versions of the AR15, M1 Garand, M1A, and M110. However, they can also improve safe reloading for many other auto-loaders such as M1 Carbines, FALs, SIGs, etc. The author distilled these principles many years ago to help focus on the essential aspects of these rifles.
RULE ONE: Service Rifles Are Not Benchrest Rifles
Gas-guns require a relatively loose fit between ammunition and chamber (vs. bolt actions) for safe, smooth operation. Many techniques, such as neck sizing and keeping cartridge headspace quite tight, are popular in the extreme bolt gun accuracy realm. However, they are of little value with Service Rifles, and some could even be hazardous. Before adopting a specialized technique, seriously consider whether it is appropriate and beneficial in a gas-gun.
RULE TWO: Never Compromise Safety to Obtain Accuracy
Example: If choosing a brand of great, but ultra-sensitive match primers offers possibly better accuracy at the risk of slam-fires in your design of rifle, don’t do it! You are issued exactly two eyes and ten fingers (best-case scenario). Risking them trying to squeeze 0.25 MOA better accuracy out of an M1A, etc. simply isn’t worth it.
RULE THREE: Tailor the Precision to Your Individual Skill and Your Rifle’s Potential
This has been addressed here before, but bears repeating for newcomers. If you are struggling to break out of the Marksman Class, or using a CMP M1 “As-Issued,” then laboriously turning the necks of your 600-yard brass is a waste of time. Your scores will improve much faster by practicing or dry-firing. On the other hand, if the reigning champions anxiously check your scores each time you fire an event, a little neck-turning might not be so far-fetched.
Verifying Load Improvements — Accuracy hand-loading involves a wide variety of techniques, ranging from basic to rather precise. Carefully select those which offer a good return on investment for your time and labor. In doubt? Do a classic pilot study. Prepare ammo for at least three or four ten-shot groups with your new technique, vs. the same with your standard ammo. Then, pick a calm day and test the ammo as carefully as possible at its full distance (e.g. 200, 300, or 600 yards) to verify a significant improvement. A little testing can save much labor!
RULE FOUR: Be Your Own Efficiency Expert
Serious Service Rifle shooters generally think of ammunition in terms of thousands of rounds, not “boxes”, or even “hundreds”. Analyze, and WRITE DOWN each step in your reloading process. Count the number of times each case is handled. Then, see if any operations can be dropped or changed without reducing safety or accuracy. Eliminating just two operations saves 2000 steps per 1000 rounds loaded. Conversely, carefully consider any measurable benefits before adding a step to your routine.
RULE FIVE: In Searching for Greater Accuracy with Efficiency, Look for System Changes
For example, instead of marking your 300-yard rounds individually to differentiate them from your 200-yard ammo, would a simple change in primers work? If accuracy is maintained, using brass-colored primers for 200 and silver for 300 provides an indelible indicator and eliminates a step! Similarly, rather than spending hours selecting GI surplus brass for weight and neck uniformity, consider splurging on some known, high-quality imported match brass for your 600-yard loads. Results should be excellent, time is saved, and given limited shooting at 600 yards, brass life should be long.
RULE SIX: Check All Your Primers Before Packaging Your Loaded Ammo
This seems simple and even intuitive. However, many slam-fires (which were much more common when M1s and M1As were the standard) are due, at least in part, to “high” primers. Primers should be seated below flush with the case head. The USAMU has addressed this at length in a previous column, but each round should be checked for properly-seated primers before they are packaged for use.
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There are many reasons you might want to make a chamber cast. You may have acquired an older rifle and need to verify the chamber dimensions. Or, if you have a new reamer, you may want to check the exact “cut” dimensions against the blueprint specs. A chamber casting is also valuable if you run across a firearm that you believe has a custom barrel on it and you want to find out the dimensions of the chamber. Lastly, you may want to prepare a chamber casting to be used in the making of custom dies. (Most reloading die makers know how to work from Cerrosafe chamber casts.)
Cerrosafe is a metal alloy that has some unique properties which make it ideal for chamber casting. First, it has a relatively low melting point of 158 to 190° Fahrenheit. This makes it easy for the handloader to melt the Cerrosafe in his home shop. Second, it shrinks slightly during cooling which allows it to be extracted from the chamber easily. It then re-expands to the chamber’s original size after about one hour at room temperature. After cooling for about 200 hours, the chamber cast will expand to about .0025″ larger than the actual chamber size.
One of our Forum members has done many Cerrosafe castings and he offers this smart advice:
1. Remove the barrel from the action to make the pour much easier. If you don’t remove the barrel, it can be hard to pour through the action (even with a funnel) and can make a mess if you’re not careful.
2. Pre-heat the barrel for 5-10 minutes in the oven on the very lowest setting (170° F in my oven). (DON’T overdo it!). Allow to cool for a couple minutes so you can pick it up and it is under 120° F. Pre-heating the barrel helps the Cerrosafe stay liquid as you pour the casting. This helps ensure a good, complete fit to the chamber.
How to Use Cerrosafe for Chamber Casting
The basic ingredient of Cerrosafe is bismuth. Bismuth is a heavy, coarse, crystalline metal which expands when it solidifies, up to 3.3% of its volume. When bismuth is alloyed with other metals, such as lead, tin, cadmium and indium, this expansion is modified according to the relative percentages of bismuth and other components present. As a general rule, bismuth alloys of approximately 50% bismuth exhibit little change of volume during solidification. Alloys containing more than this tend to expand during solidification and those containing less tend to shrink during solidification.
What all this means for the gunsmith is that you can make chamber castings using only Cerrosafe and a few, simple hand tools. To make a chamber casting, first clean and degrease the chamber. Use a tight-fitting, cotton patch that’s wrapped around a bore mop or brush to plug the bore just ahead of the throat. I usually leave the cleaning rod attached to the plug until it’s time to remove the plug. Melt the entire bar of Cerrosafe in a heatproof container that you can easily pour the hot Cerrosafe out of. You can use a propane torch or heat over a hot plate or the burner of a stove. Cerrosafe melts easily at 158°-195° F. While the casting metal is still liquid, stir very well, skim off the dross, and pour your chamber. The real trick with Cerrosafe is not to overheat it. If you heat the solid slowly, and keep it within the required temperature range, you shouldn’t get any dross.
Note the time the casting was poured. The casting will take only a very short time to solidify, usually within a minute. Wait 30 minutes and then remove the plug from the bore. Turn the muzzle upward and the casting will fall from the chamber. At 30 minutes after initial solidification, Cerrosafe shrinks slightly, so removal is very easy. Allow the new casting to cool thoroughly then measure the casting exactly one hour from the time it was cast. The casting will give you an exact measurement of the chamber. Cerrosafe casting metal can be used over and over. Remelt the entire amount back together and pour the Cerrosafe into a small mold of the appropriate size. Always melt the entire Cerrosafe ingot to make a chamber casting. For best results, never cut off, or use, just a part of the ingot.
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“Shooting Chrony” is a product name. “Shooting Chrony” should not describe (post-mortem) what you have been doing to your chronograph. Sooner or later all of us may make a mistake, and ventilate our chronograph. With luck, the bullet just “wings” your chronograph, and the damage is minor. But if you hit the unit smack dab in the middle, you may have to retire your chrono for good.
A while back, Forum member Jeff M. (aka “JRM850″) experienced a “low blow” that put his Shooting Chrony out of commission. With tongue firmly in cheek, Jeff started a Forum thread entitled Chronograph Not Picking Up Shots in Bright Sunlight Anymore. Looking at the photo at top, the problem is obvious — he ventilated his Chrono.
This was Jeff’s first chrono kill in 23 years of use, so we shouldn’t be too critical. Jeff explained: “I didn’t realize a friend was shifting from a 300-yard target to 100 yards.” The agent of destruction was a low-traveling 58gr V-Max running at 3415 fps. What happened? Well, when one is shooting at 300 yards, the trajectory will be higher than at 100 yards. We should say, however, that this may have been a low shot, or the 100-yard aiming point may have been placed lower to the ground (closer to the bottom of the target frame), as compared to the 300-yard aiming point.
Other Forum members offered some sarcastic responses:
Try it on an overcast day – it might work again.
It looks like the V-Max performed just about as advertised.
Aww…a little duct tape and some Super Glue and you’re good to go.
Want to shoot better scores at your next match? Here’s a smart, inexpensive do-it-yourself project from the good folks at Criterion Barrels. For less than one dollar in materials, in just a few minutes you can create a handy, effective mirage shield, custom-fitted to your favorite rifle.
All precision shooters should be familiar with mirage, a form of optical distortion caused primarily by variations in air temperature. Savvy shooters will use mirage as a valuable tool when gauging wind speed and direction. Natural mirage is unavoidable, but there are many techniques designed to limit its influence in long-range marksmanship.
A form of mirage can be produced by the barrel itself. Heat rising from the barrel may distort sight picture through your optics, leading to erratic results. Mirage caused by barrel heat can be reduced dramatically by a simple, light-weight mirage shield.
How to Make a Mirage Shield
A mirage shield is an extremely cost-effective way to eliminate a commonly-encountered problem. Making your own mirage shield is easy. Using old venetian blind strips and common household materials and tools, you can construct your own mirage shield for under one dollar.
1. Vertical PVC Venetian blind panel
2. Three 1”x1” pieces adhesive-backed Velcro
3. Ruler or tape measure
4. Scissors or box cutter
5. Pencil or marker
1. Measure the distance from the end of the receiver or rail to the crown of the barrel.
2. Using a pencil and ruler, measure the same distance and mark an even line across the blind.
3. Cut across the line using scissors or a box cutter, shortening the blind to the required length. (Remember, measure twice, cut once!)
4. Expose the adhesive backing on the loop side of the Velcro. Center and apply the Velcro strips on the barrel at regular intervals.
5. Expose the adhesive backing of the fuzzy side of the Velcro.
6. Place the blind on the upper side of the barrel. Apply downward pressure. Once the Velcro has secured itself to the barrel, separate the two sides. Proceed to mold both sides of the Velcro to fit the contour of their respective surfaces.
7. Reaffix the blind. Barrel related mirage is now a thing of the past!
NOTE: You can attach the Velcro on the opposite side of the blind if you want the blind to curve upwards. Some folks thinks that aids barrel cooling — it’s worth a try.
How to Remove and Re-Attach the Mirage Shield
Removal of your mirage shield is accomplished by simply removing the blind. You can un-install the Velcro by pulling off the strips and then gently removing any adhesive residue left behind using an appropriate solvent. (Simple cooking oil may do the job.) Caution: With fine, high-polish blued barrels, test any solvent on a non-visible section of the barrel. Before storing the gun, re-oil the barrel to remove active solvents and residual fingerprints.
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Here’s a simple modification that makes your classic beam balance more user-friendly. For a few dollars you can enhance your balance scale system to improve work-flow and reduce eye strain. This clever modification makes it easier to see the balance’s zero-mark center-line when weighing charges.
When he chooses to measure his loads or sort bullets by weight, Forum Member Boyd Allen likes his trusty RCBS 10-10 scale. He finds that it works predictably, time after time, and it doesn’t suffer from the drift and calibration issues that plague some of the less-expensive electronic scales on the market.
To make it easier to see the balance point, Boyd has adapted a magnifying glass with a mirror. This makes the end of his balance beam easier to view from his normal position on the bench. Boyd explains: “This set-up uses a cheap magnifier with positioning arms that was probably designed to hold and magnify small objects while soldering them. I think that it came from Harbor Freight many years ago. The mirror lets you look at the scale as if is was at eye level, and of course the magnifier makes the image easier to see.”
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If you will be flying with firearms this winter, you should read this article. You need to familiarize yourself with current Federal Regulations on gun transport before you get anywhere near an airport. Thankfully, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a web page that states the important requirements for airline passengers traveling with firearms and/or ammunition.
You’ll want to visit the TSA Firearms and Ammunition webpage, and read it start to finish. In addition, before your trip, you should check the regulations of the airline(s) with which you will fly. Some airlines have special requirements, such as weight restrictions.
Here are the TSA’s key guidelines for travel with firearms:
1. All firearms* must be declared to the airline during the ticket counter check-in process.
The term firearm includes:
– Any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.
– The frame or receiver of any such weapon.
– Any firearm muffler or firearm silencer.
– Any destructive device.
2. The firearm must be unloaded. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 – “A loaded firearm means a firearm that has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.”
3. The firearm must be in a hard-sided container that is locked. A locked container is defined as one that completely secures the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be pulled open with little effort cannot be brought aboard the aircraft.
4. If firearms are not properly declared or packaged, TSA will provide the checked bag to law enforcement for resolution with the airline. If the issue is resolved, law enforcement will release the bag to TSA so screening may be completed.
5. TSA must resolve all alarms in checked baggage. If a locked container containing a firearm alarms, TSA will contact the airline, who will make a reasonable attempt to contact the owner and advise the passenger to go to the screening location. If contact is not made, the container will not be placed on the aircraft.
6. If a locked container alarms during screening and is not marked as containing a declared firearm, TSA will cut the lock in order to resolve the alarm.
7. Travelers should remain in the area designated by the aircraft operator or TSA representative to take the key back after the container is cleared for transportation.
8. Travelers must securely pack any ammunition in fiber (such as cardboard), wood or metal boxes or other packaging specifically designed to carry small amounts of ammunition.
9. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm.
10. Small arms ammunition, including ammunition not exceeding .75 caliber for a rifle or pistol and shotgun shells of any gauge, may be carried in the same hard-sided case as the firearm, as long as it follows the packing guidelines described above.
11. TSA prohibits black powder or percussion caps used with black-powder.
12. Rifle scopes are not prohibited in carry-on bags and do not need to be in the hard-sided, locked checked bag.
Weigh your gun case and ammunition
Most airlines will allow up to 11 pounds of ammunition. And, like any luggage, you will be charged more for any baggage weighing more than 50 pounds. This sounds like a lot, but when traveling to the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun competition last year, my case with shotgun, rifle, pistol and ammunition tipped the scale past the 50 pound mark.
Pack ammo in the same locking case
This is another area that’s misunderstood and full of internet myth. Your ammo just needs to be stored in some type of safe container and not loose. Technically, you can keep ammunition in magazines, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It meets the letter of the law storage requirement, but too many airline and TSA agents will give you grief. Use a plastic ammo box or original cardboard packaging and you’ll be fine carrying that in the same lockable case as your gun.
*Please see, United States Code, Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44 for information about firearm definitions.
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High-Tech Rimfire Rigs
If you watched the smallbore position and prone shooters at the 2016 Brazil Olympic Games, you couldn’t help but notice the exotic rifles competitors were shooting. There were wood stocks, metal stocks, factory-built rifles and customized specials. Why are there are so many different design features and stock types? To answer this question, the NRAblog’s editors called on Jessie McClain of the NRA Competitive Shooting Division.
“The customized rifles, like the Anschütz you showed me, can make a real difference in a shooter’s performance,” explained McClain. “I went from a decent shooter to making the varsity shooting team my freshman year because of the rifle.” As Jessie explained, one new feature out there is the adjustable stock, which she called the Porsche of the shooting world. Fully adjustable from the butt plate to the check piece to the hand stop and risers and bolt knobs, this component is fully customizable to the athlete … which can be a huge advantage. “Every person is different … a customizable rifle fits anyone. A rifle team can purchase four of these and field a shooting team for years.”
The Modern Anschütz Position Rifle
Smallbore match rifle makers are using modern materials in response to the need for greater adjustability (and enhanced accuracy). One of the popular new designs is the Anschütz model 1913 position rifle with a “1918 ALU Precise” brushed aluminum stock. This looks like it has been crafted in an aircraft plant.
While nearly everybody now favors digital photography over “old-fashioned” 35mm film, don’t toss those old 35mm film canisters, especially the clear Fuji-type with secure snap-in lids. Small plastic film canisters have a multitude of uses for the shooter and reloader.
Here Are Things You Can Do with Plastic Film Canisters:
1. Hold thrown powder charges. If you weigh powder charges after throwing them with a manual powder dispenser, throw the charges first into a film canister and then use that to drop the powder into the measuring pan on your scale. The canister will catch every kernel of powder. If you throw charges directly into a weighing pan, powder can sometimes bounce out. Using the film canister will help keep spilled powder off your loading bench and floor.
2. Store extra sets of foam ear-plugs in the canister. You never want to be without ear protection. This editor has four film canisters filled with plugs. Two go in the range kit, one goes in the car’s glove compartment, and a second stays in a lock box I use to transport pistols. This way I never find myself at the range without ear protection.
3. Place smaller cotton patches in film canisters, marked by caliber. If you use the water-tight Fuji-style canisters, you can even pre-soak the patches with solvent. You can have one canister for wet patches, another for dry patches. That saves time when you’re at the range, and avoids spillage. One caution–some solvents may react with plastic, so test this first before you put a solvent-filled canister in your range kit.
4. Store your neck bushings, sorted by caliber in film canisters. With a permanent marking pen, you can mark the side or top of the canister with the bushing sizes, or caliber.
5. Store your favorite Bolt Grease (for rifles) or anti-seize compound (good for pistol slide rails), in the canister. You don’t need to fill it all the way up — a little dab will do ya. We only recommend this with the snap-top Fuji canisters.
6. Protect your muzzles with canisters, during transport. When shipping a rifle or barrel, slip the film canister over the muzzle, then secure it with electrical tape. This will protect the precious crown of a match barrel from dings or damage.
7. Protect front sights with linked film canisters. Forum member SPClark explains: “I’ve seen several shooters use film canisters to make up front match sight protection. Use some elastic cord between two canisters… that’s easy to remove once you get to the line.”
TELL US Your Tips!
There are countless other uses for 35mm film canisters. We invite readers to respond with their own tips on using these handy containers. If you don’t have some stashed in your workshop already, you can get empties for free at most film processing centers. The clear plastic Fuji canisters are the best — you can see what’s inside and the lids are watertight.
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Brux Barrels, based in Lodi, Wisconsin, has earned a reputation for producing great-shooting tubes. Brux-made barrels have won their fair share of matches, and set some notable records in the process. A few years back, Rodney Wagner shot the smallest five-shot, 600-yard group (0.336″) in the history of rifle competition, using a Brux barrel chambered for the 6mm Dasher.
Folks often ask us why Brux barrels shoot so well. “What’s the secret?” they ask. We can only answer with what Brux explains on its own website: “To make a cut-rifled barrel you have to start off with the proper ingredients: the best steel available, skill, and experience. Since there are really only two main suppliers of barrel-quality steel, the skill and experience is what really makes a barrel maker stand out.” Here is how Brux’s co-owners, Norman Brux and Ken Liebetrau, explain all the procedures involved in making a Brux cut-rifled barrel:
Brux Barrel-Making Process, Start to Finish
We start out with either 4150 chrome-moly or 416R stainless steel double stress-relieved bar stock. The bar stock starts out at 1-9/32″ in diameter and 20-24 feet long so we cut it to length.
Step two is to rough-contour the outside of the barrel blank in a lathe.
Thirdly, the blank gets mounted into a Barnes gun drill. The cutter bit has holes through which oil or coolant is injected under pressure to allow the evacuation of chips formed during the cutting process. This is called “oil-through” or “coolant-through”. Without this, you wouldn’t want to even attempt drilling a hole 30” long and under ¼” in diameter. The combination of a 3600rpm and good flushing allows us to drill a beautifully straight and centered hole .005” under “land” diameter at a rate of 1” per minute.
Clean the barrel.
Next the blank is sent back to the lathe to machine the finished contour of the outside.
Clean the barrel again.
Now, the blank is sent on to the Pratt & Whitney reamer in which an “oil through” reaming tool is used to cut away the extra .005” left in the drilling process. The reamer makes an extremely accurate bore size and after it is finished the bore will have a better surface finish and will be at the proper “land” diameter.
Clean the barrel again.
In the sixth step we hand lap each barrel to remove any slight tool marks that may have been left by the reamer and inspect every one with a bore scope. If the barrel doesn’t meet our standards for surface finish and tolerance it doesn’t get any further.
Clean the barrel again.
The barrels then go onto the rifling machine which is responsible for cutting the all so familiar grooves in the bore. A caliber/land configuration-specific rifling head is used to progressively shave away small amounts of steel to form the rifling grooves. This is accomplished by simultaneously pulling the rifling head through the reamed blank as the blank is spun at a controlled rate. After each cut, the blank is rotated 90 degrees (for a four-land configuration) and after one full rotation (360 degrees) the rifling head is slightly raised to shave off the next bit of material. This process is repeated until we reach groove diameter.
Clean the barrel again.
Lastly, the barrel is hand-lapped again (to ensure a smooth bore), and a final inspection is performed with the bore scope.
The barrel is cleaned one last time, wrapped, packed, and shipped to [the customer].
Anyone reading this detailed description of the Brux barrel-making process will doubtless come away with a new appreciation for the time, effort, and dedication required to produce a premium match-grade cut-rifled barrel. Obviously, there are no easy shortcuts and great attention to detail is required each step of the way. As shooters we’re lucky that we have barrel-makers so dedicated to their craft.
Credit James Mock for steering us to this Barrel Making 101 feature on the Brux website.
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Here’s a handy invention by Forum member RayJay from Georgia. It’s a simple wire clip that will hold the lid of your plastic ammo box fully open during use. RayJay explains: “Everybody probably uses the cheap plastic cartridge cases. The only problem I have with them is the lid is always in the way and sometimes when trying to open the lid farther the cartridge box tips and you can dump out the cases. I did some cogitating and came up with these .061″ music wire clips. They work great and the unexpected benefit is that the cases are more stable while sitting at the bench.”
RayJay adds: “The round wire is ideal because it still allows a cartridge to fit in the hole where the clip is placed. Now all I need to do is make another 15 or 20 so I can have one in every case I own.”
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Many short-range Benchresters have thought about converting their 6 PPC to shoot a 30BR for score matches, or a Dasher for mid-range (or even 1000-yard) games. That way you have a rifle that does double duty, giving you the most bang for your buck. Though an action with a PPC bolt won’t normally work with 30BR/6BR/Dasher cases with their larger .308-class rim (0.4728″ diameter), there is a pretty easy solution that allows you to cycle these bigger cartridges with a 6PPC-style bolt (designed to fit .220 Russian rims).
“Rebating case rims … lets you shoot a 30BR in score matches using your PPC action. All you need is a new barrel. This saves buying another bolt, receiver, or rifle.” — Butch Lambert
Butch Lambert of ShadeTree Engineering provided this tip. Butch notes that many 6 PPC benchrest group shooters also enjoy shooting in score matches. But to be really competitive in the BR for score game, that means shooting a 30BR, which has a wider, .308-class rim (0.4728″ diameter). Likewise, if you want to compete in 600-yard registered BR events or in varmint matches, you probably want to run a bigger case, such as the 6BR, 6mm Dasher, or 6-6.5×47. Those cartridges also have the larger 0.4728″ rims.
To convert a PPC-boltface action to shoot the bigger cases you can spend a ton of money and buy a new bolt. That can cost hundreds of dollars. The simpler solution is to turn down the diameter of the larger cases on a lathe. Butch explains: “We’ve seen plenty of interest in rebating case rims. This lets you shoot a 30BR in score matches using your PPC action. All you need is a new barrel. This saves buying another bolt, receiver, or rifle if you have a PPC boltface. Anyone who has access to a lathe can do this job pretty easily. Yesterday I turned 150 case in about an hour.” Below is the lathe form tool Butch uses to rebate the case rims.
Cutting Head for Rebating Rims
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It’s December already. That means winter has definitely arrived — no doubt about it. If you plan to put away all or some of your firearms for the winter, here are TEN Tips for winterizing your firearms.
1. Bore Cleaning and Coating — Clean your barrels and neutralize any solvents you may have used. Then run a couple patches with a corrosion-fighter down the bore. We recommend Eezox 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. Other products may work well too. Just be wary of the “all in one” products that have a strong solvent, and don’t use any fluid that contains ammonia — this can actually promote corrosion. Here’s a test of various anti-corrosion products: Rust Block Comparison Test.
2. Crown Inspection — After cleaning the barrel, inspect the crown with a magnifying glass. If you see any unusual wear, abrasion, or “shark’s teeth” at the very outer edge of the rifling, make a note — it may be wise to recrown the barrel next spring. Before you place your rifle in the safe, we recommend putting a piece of electrical tape or blue masking tape loosely over the muzzle to protect the crown. This is just to protect the delicate crown during handling — you are NOT trying to seal off the bore.
3. Optics Storage — If your gunsafe is crowded, you may wish to remove the optics and rings from your rifles before winter storage. You can use a white crayon to mark the ring position (on the rail) for next season. We recommend that you store your optics inside a warm part of your house, where temperatures and humidity are relatively stable.
4. Trigger Group — Inspect your trigger assembly. Trigger housings accumulate dirt, grit, and oily gunk over the course of a season. If you have some basic mechanical skills, you may wish to remove the trigger from the hanger and clean it per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Don’t flood it with any kind of thick oil.
5. Bolt and Action – Clean the gunk off your bolt and raceway in your receiver. Put a thin coat of anti-corrosion product on the bolt, and re-grease the lugs and camming surfaces as recommended by the manufacturer. Don’t forget the fasteners and pins on the action and scope rail — these may not be stainless even if you have a stainless steel receiver.
6. Use Thin Gloves — When oiling firearms during the winterization process, we recommend you wear thin latex or nitrile gloves. This will prevent you from leaving skin oils and acids that can actually promote corrosion. This will also protect YOU from any chemicals in the corrosion-blockers you put on your guns.
7. Applying Surface Protectants — For blued firearms, put Eesox or other rust-fighter on a cloth and wipe the barrel and exposed metal. Eezox works best with a couple light coats. Don’t forget iron sights, bottom metal, trigger guards, bolt handles, and sling swivels — they can rust too if not protected. Use Q-Tips or small swabs to reach small, internal parts.
8. Use Gun Sacks — We put rifles and pistols in Bore-Store Gun sleeves. These thick, synthetic-fleece sacks cushion your guns, preventing nicks and scratches. The breathable fabric wicks away moisture, and the fibers are coated with corrosion inhibitors to help fight rust. Bore-Stores are offered in a wide range of sizes, so you can find something to fit everything from a Snub-nosed revolver to a 32″-barrelled 50 BMG. Rifle-size Bore Stores can be purchased for $10.00 – $22.00 from Brownells.com or Amazon.com. While we prefer Bore-Stores for regularly-used guns, if you have heirloom firearms that will be kept in storage for very long periods without seeing any use, you may want to grease them up and place them in the thin, but rugged three-layer storage bags sold by Brownells. Here’s one VITAL bit of advice for using these bags. Be absolutely sure, before you seal up the bags, that your guns are DRY and that all metal surfaces have been coated with an effective rust-blocker, such as BoeShield T9 or Eezox.
9. Take Your Guns OUT of Foam-lined Cases — These common foam-lined cases are Rust Magnets. This may be the most important Tip in this article. Just about the worst thing you can do in the winter (short of leaving your rifle outside in the rain) is to store firearms in tight, foam-padded cases. The foam in these cases actually collects and retains moisture from the air, acting as the perfect breeding ground for rust. Remember, those plastic-shelled cases with foam interiors are for transport, not for long-term storage.
10. Make Your Gun Safe Ready for Winter — If you don’t have a Goldenrod (or equivalent), buy one. Sold as a “dehumidifier”, the Goldenrod is a simple electrical element that can maintain temperature in your gun vault. This helps prevent moisture in the air from condensing on your guns. A small incandescent light-bulb can help as well (just make sure it cannot touch any flammable fabrics or objects). In addition, you may want to purchase Dessicant packs to put inside the safe to absorb moisture. If you have an electronic keypad for your safe, we recommend replacing the batteries at least once a year.
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It’s December, time to decorate your Christmas tree with sparkling lights. Maybe you should do the same thing with your gun safe…
Few, if any, gun safes come with adequate factory-installed lighting. Even if you have overhead lamps in the room where your safe resides, you’ll still find that the inside of your safe is dark, making it difficult to find small items. By adding interior lighting to your gun safe, you’ll lessen the chance of “bumping and grinding” your precious firearms as you move them in and out of the safe.
Here is a simple, do-it-yourself project that costs very little money. String LED lighting is now available at low cost. Called “rope lights” or “string lights”, these are strings of LEDs in lengths of plastic tubing. Gunsafe vendors sell strings for up to $35.00 per coil, but you can buy the same products at discount chains for under $5.00. Brian J. from Virginia reports: “I just went to Wally World’s Christmas clearance section and picked up two strands of Rope Lights for $3.50 each!” He then installed the strings behind the shelves of his gunsafe, as you can see in the photos.
LED string lights draw very little electrical power and have a very long life-span so you can leave your Rope Lights running continuously in winter. In addition to illumination, LED strings will provide some warming of the air in the safe, which helps prevent rust by raising the dew point. We still recommend that you use a GoldenRod or similar warming unit, placed at the bottom of your safe, plus desiccant packs to actually absorb moisture.
As you can see, Rope Lights provide a great lighting solution that illuminates even the small dark corners of internal shelving units. Rope Lights are easy to install. Just string the lights behind your shelves. Most safes come with a pre-drilled hole in the bottom for a dehumidifier. Just slip your Rope Light power cord through this hole and plug it into the wall.
Gun Safe Buyers’ Guide
For more tips on how to illuminate your safe and protect its contents from rust and corrosion, read our Gun Safe Buyers’ Guide. The most comprehensive Gun Safe Resource on the web, this article covers a multitude of topics including lock selection (electronic vs. manual dial), fire-proofing, door hinge design, water-proofing, wall construction, rust prevention, handgun storage options, and gun safe installation.
Gun safe interior photos by Brian J., used with permission.
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The 6.5 Guys have been testing the bargain-priced Magnetospeed Sporter chronograph. This compact chrono offers great utility at an affordable price — you can buy the Sporter for under $180.00. Strapped on your barrel, the MagnetoSpeed Sporter records velocities accurately without requiring any hardware to be placed downrange. Everything is self-contained at your shooting station, so you no longer have to waste time setting up tripods and aligning the bullet path through old-fashioned chrono skyscreens.
Watch Video Review of MagnetoSpeed Sporter by the 6.5 Guys:
The 6.5 Guys give the MagnetoSpeed Sporter two thumbs up:
“Optical chronographs have been in use for decades but can be cumbersome to deploy and don’t work well in certain weather conditions. The folks at MagnetoSpeed have addressed these shortcomings with a completely different technology that is extremely compact, cost effective, convenient to use, insensitive to weather conditions and, best of all, accurate.
We’ve been using the MagnetoSpeed since V1 and the only reason we use our optical chronographs is for situations where we cannot hang the bayonet from the gun barrel. This is the most convenient, accurate, and portable chronograph system that we have come across. You’re also less likely to damage your MagnetoSpeed when compared to optical chronographs (which seem to attract bullets). There are also a number of useful accessories available. As discussed in the video, the XFR adapter and associated smartphone application allows users with MagnetoSpeed Sporter and V3 displays to download their current (un-archived) shot series to their Android or iOS device.”
CLICK HERE for MagnetoSpeed Sporter specifications and operating instructions.
MagnetoSpeed Sporter in Stock Now at Grafs.com for $179.99
Priced at just $179.99 at Grafs.com, the Magnetospeed Sporter model costs less than half as much as Magnetospeed’s V3 models. This chronograph attaches directly to your barrel so you don’t have to go downrange to position tripods and set up skyscreens. For most people, the Sporter model contains all the features they need. READ Magnetospeed Sporter Review.
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A fire in the home is always to be feared. And a fire in your reloading room can be disastrous. Near your reloading bench you probably have flammable solvents, and maybe gunpowder. What would happen if an electrical fire started in your reloading room? Would you be alerted? Do you have a proper fire extinguisher at hand?
Here’s a true story from Forum Member Joe O. (aka “Joecob”) that provides a valuable safety lesson. After Joe started up his old tumbler, an internal connector worked loose, causing an arc which started a fire in his basement reloading area. Luckily Joe had a functioning smoke detector, and a fire extinguisher.
Very few of us would worry about fire when we plug in a tumbler or other AC-powered reloading tool. But there is always the possibility of a malfunction and a fire. Quick thinking (and a handy extinguisher) prevented serious damage to Joe’s reloading room and house — but things could have been worse (much worse), had Joe not responded quickly.
Fire in the Reloading Room — Report by Joecob
The day before ‘Sandy’ hit I was cleaning brass the way I always have. I set the vibratory tumbler on the back of my reloading bench in the basement. I loaded the media hopper with 40 fired empty brass cases (and walnut media), plugged the cord in, turned the tumbler on and went back upstairs to watch TV. I could hear the tumbler running in the background.
About half an hour later I heard the basement smoke alarm go off. I ran downstairs. Flames were licking from the melting plastic of the tumbler.
I grabbed the nearby ABC cannister extinguisher and squirted out the fire and soaked the charred bench areas with water. Good thing I had the extinguisher! And I was glad I religiously store powder and primers properly — away from the bench (and everything else).
What caused the fire? It looks like an internal AC connector finally vibrated loose enough to arc and ignite the plastic. WHEH! I had been using that thing for 25 years the same way without mishap. Guess I should have known to periodically check the guts of a thing that plugs in and vibrates for a living?
Today I went out and bought a new even bigger ‘Pro’ ABC extinguisher, plus a dual-detector smoke alarm, and an ultrasonic cleaner. That experience was scarier than the storm. I hope this true account might help someone else to avoid a bad experience.
In his account, Joe refers to an “ABC” cannister fire extinguisher. The “ABC” refers to the fire classification rating: Class A (trash, wood, and paper), Class B (liquids and gases), and Class C (energized electrical equipment) fires. There are many brands of ABC-rated extinguishers.
The rechargeable Kidde 210 unit contains four pounds of a multipurpose monoammonium phosphate dry chemical extinguishing agent. It has a discharge time of 13 to 15 seconds, a discharge range of 10 to 15 feet, and an operating pressure of 100 PSI. The seamless aluminum cylinder measures 4.5 inches in diameter and 15.7 inches tall. The Kidde 210 has a six-year limited warranty.
Check Your Fire Extinguishers Regularly
Forum member Steve Urban says: Make sure to inspect your extinguisher every year. Turn it upside down and then right-side up. You should be able to feel the powder move freely in the extinguisher. If not, it is time to get a new one.
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Many shooters are familiar with ballistics tables, weather programs, and even wind meters for smart devices, but few may know about a very handy Leveling Tool that comes factory-installed on Apple iPhones. The leveling function is a little-known option in Apple’s Compass App. It works well for a multitude of tasks.
There are a numerous reasons that a leveling tool should be in every rifleman’s range bag. From leveling optics during mounting to figuring out how much extra compensation is going to be required for a tricky angled shot, knowing just how far off things are from plumb can go a long way towards realizing success in the field.
This writer has used the leveling app on his iPhone to level a rifle on a rest while at the range. It definitely worked for “field expedient” leveling duties. That’s especially important for long-range applications. Just one degree of cant (tilt) can move your point of impact 7 inches at 1000 yards.
Of course, the iPhone level doesn’t use an actual bubble to find angles. Rather, it relies on the device’s sophisticated accelerometer to do so, and with a great degree of accuracy. Navigating to the level is done by first selecting the Compass App, at which point the device will need to be calibrated by rotating it a full 360 degrees. Once the compass is fully calibrated, simply make right swipe gesture to bring up the level — it will start operating immediately.
From there, use is intuitive and easy, like most iPhone Apps. Switching from horizontal plane to vertical is done by simply changing the physical axis of the phone. How do you know when you’ve got things just right — well the entire lower half of the screen turns green when everything is perfectly level. You’ll also see a zero° read-out, like this:
Bottom Line: If you already own an iPhone, you should definitely give this App a try. The price is right (free), and for a wide variety of tasks the iPhone Level App is actually pretty handy.
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All shooters, even rimfire enthusiasts, should always wear ear protection when at the range. A typical rifle gunshot is very loud — in the region of 140 to 170 decibels (the pain threshold is 130-140 db). Without ear protection, you can permanently damage your hearing during a single shooting session. We all know older shooters who are partially deaf, or who suffer from Tinnitus, because they didn’t use earplugs or muffs when they were younger.
How Humans Hear Sounds — Amazing Video Reveals All
The human sense of hearing involves multiple delicate internal membranes, bones, organs, and nerves. Shooters understand the importance of protecting their hearing, but they may not understand the bio-mechanics of human hearing. We hear sounds through Auditory Transduction. Sound waves vibrate the ear drum (tympanic membrane), but that is only the beginning. These vibrations are passed along via tiny rocker-arm-like bones to be “processed” in a spiral chamber, the cochlea. Vibrations moving through the cochlea are separated into frequencies and then sent as neural messages to the brain. It is an astonishingly complex process, one that truly seems miraculous when you examine the bio-engineering involved. In the Video below, the process of human Auditory Transduction is explained and illustrated with 3D animation. You really should watch this amazing video. By the end you will have a new-found appreciation for your ability to hear.
This remarkable VIDEO explains how humans hear sounds. We strongly recommend you take the time to watch and learn. The hearing you save may be your own!
Take a close look at these illustrations which show the key differences between the four main powder types: extruded (stick) powder, ball (spherical) powder, flattened ball powder, and flake powder.
Burn Rate Basics
Widener’s Guide to Smokeless Powders also has a useful discussion of Burn Rate (a confusing topic for many hand-loaders). Wideners explains: “While a gun powder explosion in the cartridge seems instantaneous, if you slow it down you will actually find that each powder has a different ‘burn rate’, or speed at which it ignites.” This video shows powders with two very different burn rates. Watch closely.
Different burn rates suit different cartridge types notes Widener’s: “In general a fast-burning powder is used for light bullets and low-speed pistols and shotguns. Medium-rate powders are used for magnum pistols, while high-velocity, large bore rifle cartridges will need slow powders[.]
It should be noted that burn rate does not have a standardized unit of measurement. In fact, burn rate is really only discussed in comparison to other powders; there is no universal yardstick. Specifics will change by cartridge and bullet types[.]”
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