October 20th, 2018

USAMU Advice for Progressive Press Users

Accurateshooter.com USAMU progressive press reloading

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. In this article, the USAMU’s reloading gurus address a question frequently asked by prospective handloaders: “Should I buy a single-stage press, or a progressive?” The USAMU says the best answer is Solomon-esque in both its wisdom and simplicity: “Get BOTH!” However, there is definitely more to the issue, as the USAMU explains below.

USAMU Reloading

Progressive Press Safety Considerations by USAMU Staff
Many are the beginning handloaders who have asked a friend about their “setting up” a progressive press for them. The idea is that the newbie could then just feed in components and crank out buckets of practice ammo without needing to really learn much about handloading. Tempting though this might be, that’s simply not how it works. Such an approach might be ok if there were never a malfunction with either press or operator, but that’s unrealistic. Our hypothetical newbie would then lack the knowledge to problem-solve most situations.

Worse yet, several different handloading operations would be occurring at different stations on the progressive press at the same time. It takes an experienced operator to keep track of, and truly understand the significance of, all those potential mini-problems. Loading without this experience is a recipe for potential disaster – such as a double powder charge (especially with pistol cartridges) dropped while the loader was attending to some other function, etc. Progressives are an animal unto themselves, and while they offer many benefits, they do take some getting used to – even by experienced handloaders!

ILLUSTRATIVE HORROR STORY
Here, enter a 40-year veteran handloader who decided to jump onto the progressive bandwagon late in his career, having used only single-stage presses all his life. A High Master NRA High Power Rifle competitor, he had no background in competitive pistol shooting, where historically most progressive presses are found.

Experienced Action Pistol shooters have typically encountered multiple episodes in which shooters “skipped” a powder charge for some reason, leading to a squib round and a bullet possibly lodged in the bore. Thus, at matches, it’s reflexive for them to yell “STOP!” in unison if they see a shooter get a “click” vs. a “bang”, and rack the slide to keep firing. This writer has personally seen several pistols saved in just such scenarios over the years.

Click No Bang — What NOT to Do
Our High Master set up a popular progressive press and began turning out .223 Rem 100-yard practice ammo with abandon. He was using a moly-coated 52gr match bullet and an economical, fast-burning surplus powder that gave great accuracy. Once on the range, he began practicing strings of rapid-fire. All was well, until he heard “Click!” rather than “Boom”.

Lacking the above experience or onlookers to halt him, he reflexively operated the charging handle on his expensive, custom NM AR15 Service Rifle, and the next trigger squeeze reportedly registered on seismographs over at least a three-state radius. He sat, uninjured but bewildered, until the hail of expensive bits and pieces quit raining down around him.

When the smoke cleared, he immediately cursed the horrid, evil, demonically-possessed progressive press for this, his first-ever reloading mishap. His $1400 NM upper was ruined, but thankfully, his $800 pre-ban lower… and he had escaped injury.

This tale is told not to discourage the use of progressive presses, but to emphasize the need to EASILY and IMMEDIATELY KNOW what is happening with the press at each station, every time the handle is cranked. Not to do so is, as they say, “bad ju-ju.”

It illustrates why we at the USAMU Handloading Shop agree in recommending that new handloaders should begin with a single-stage press. Once one thoroughly learns the steps in each phase of handloading by repeated experience, then one will be qualified to move on to a progressive press.

The single-stage press will REMAIN virtually indispensable for one’s entire handloading career, even after having purchased a progressive press (or two). There are endless small projects that are best handled on a single-stage press, and a poll of USAMU’s Handloading staff reveals that not one would willingly be without his single-stage press, despite owning at least one progressive.

Permalink Reloading 3 Comments »
October 18th, 2018

Definitive Book for AR-Platform Gear-A-Holics

AR AR15 Armalite Black Rifle Book Gun Digest
Photo Courtesy Cabela’s Gun Sports

Kevin Muramatsu’s black rifle book, the Gun Digest Guide to Customizing Your AR-15, is a great resource for fans of AR-platform rifles. All the AR options you can imagine are covered: suppressors, premium barrels, adjustable stocks, free-float handguards, ergonomic grips, buffer systems, tactical lights and much more. Those planning an AR rifle build will find application-specific suggestions for 3-Gun, Service Rifle, High Power (Space Gun), Hunting, and Self-Defense use.

AR AR15 Armalite Black Rifle Book Gun Digest AR AR15 Armalite Black Rifle Book Gun Digest

Firearms expert Muramatsu offers advice on choosing the right stock/barrel/optics configuration for your particular game. He also discusses the wide variety of options for slings, grips, magazines and other accessories. With over 520 photos, the book includes a large photo gallery of customized ARs, and includes bonus coverage of the FAL and other “tactical” firearms. The Gun Digest Guide to Customizing Your AR-15 is available from Amazon.com for $20.13, and a Kindle eBook version is offered for $14.99. The book is also sold by Barnes & Noble, and most other major booksellers.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tactical No Comments »
October 15th, 2018

.223 Remington vs. 5.56x45mm — Facts vs. Fiction

.223 Rem Remington 5.56 SAAMI CIP 5.56x45 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge ammo pressure test luckygunner ultimatereloader Gavin Gear

Probably the most popular centerfire rifle round in the Western Hemisphere is the .223 Remington and its metric match, the 5.56x45mm. Though many folks use “.223 Rem” and “5.56×45″ interchangeably, there are some meaningful differences in specifications for the original .223 Rem and the 5.56x45mm cartridge, as adopted by the U.S. military and NATO armies. The default chamber throats are slightly different and the .223 Rem is rated at 55,000 PSI vs. 62,366 PSI for the 5.56x45mm.*

.223 Rem vs 5.56x45mm — Key Differences
There is a truly outstanding, very thorough article on the subject, published by LuckyGunner.com.** This involved extensive testing, with pressure monitors, of 5.56x45mm ammo in .223 Rem chambers. Those tests revealed the peak pressures. Here is one of the ammo test charts:

.223 Rem Remington 5.56 SAAMI CIP 5.56x45 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge ammo pressure test luckygunner ultimatereloader Gavin Gear

NOTE: “The observed chamber pressure for Federal XM855 5.56mm ammunition in a .223 Rem chamber exceeded .223 maximum pressures, but not by a massive amount. The ninth shot (the red line) was an underpowered cartridge which exhibited significantly lower velocity and pressure than the other rounds, so it was excluded from the average velocity and pressure numbers for this chamber.”

And if you’re curious, LuckyGunner also fired .223 Rem ammo in a 5.56x45mm NATO-chambered AR15 rifle. As you would expect, the peak pressures were significantly lower, but the .223 Rem ammo still cycled the semi-auto AR-platform rifle perfectly well:

.223 Rem Remington 5.56 SAAMI CIP 5.56x45 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge ammo pressure test luckygunner ultimatereloader Gavin Gear

READ FULL LuckyGunner .223 Rem vs. 5.56x45mm ARTICLE »

UltimateReloader.com Explains .223 Rem vs. 5.56x45mm
To explain the key differences between the .223 Rem and 5.56x45mm cartridges our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com has created a very thorough 12-minute video. This covers the cartridge specifications and explains key considerations for hand-loaders. Gavin also addresses the oft-asked question “Can I shoot 5.56x45mm ammo in my .223 Rem chamber?” Gavin’s video is definitely worth watching. In fact, this is one of the most popular videos Gavin has ever created — it has been watched over 300,000 times on YouTube.

What Exactly Is the 5.56x45mm NATO Cartridge?
The 5.56×45mm NATO is a rimless bottle-necked intermediate cartridge family standardized by NATO with development work by FN Herstal. It consists of the SS109, SS110, and SS111 cartridges. Under STANAG 4172, it is a standard cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries.

Bullet diameter: 5.70 mm (0.224 in)
Maximum pressure (EPVAT): 430.00 MPa (62,366 psi)
Maximum pressure (SCATP 5.56): 380.00 MPa (55,114 psi)
Case length: 44.70 mm (1.760 in)
Rifling twist: 178 mm or 229 mm (1 in 7 in)
Parent case: .223 Remington (M193)

Ammo-Maker Federal Premium Compares .223 Rem and 5.56x45mm
Here is a video from ammo-maker Federal Premium explaining the difference between .223 Remington and 5.56x45mm NATO. Federal states that you may experience excessive pressures when firing a 5.56x45mm in a standard .223 Remington chamber:

One leading gunwriter has addressed the question of shooting 5.56x45mm ammo in .223 Rem chambers. He advocates caution (for more info, SEE pressure tests by LuckyGunner.com):

“I have received a slew of questions — many from first time AR-type rifle buyers — about the .223 Rem and the 5.56×45 mm NATO cartridges. Can I shoot 5.56×45 mm NATO in my .223 and vice-versa? Are these the same cartridge?

Externally, the two cartridge cases are identical. The main differences are that 5.56×45 mm NATO operates at a higher chamber pressure (about 60,000 PSI versus 55,000 PSI on the .223 Rem.) and the 5.56’s chamber is slightly larger than that of the .223 Rem. Also, the throat or leade is longer in the 5.56×45 mm chamber. What does this mean? You should not shoot 5.56×45 mm NATO out of a rifle that is chambered in .223 Rem. And be aware that some .223 Rem. ammunition will not reliably cycle through some AR-style .223 Rem. rifles, but it usually does. As a matter of fact, I have not encountered any difficulty with current .223 Rem. loads cycling through a 5.56 mm AR-style rifle.”
– Mark Keefe, Editor, American Rifleman


* According to the official NATO proofing guidelines, the 5.56×45mm NATO case can handle up to 430.0 MPa (62,366 psi) piezo service pressure. The U.S. SAAMI lists Maximum Average Pressure (MAP) for the .223 Remington cartridge as 55,000 psi (379.2 MPa) piezo pressure with deviation of up to 58,000 psi (399.9 MPa). The chamber for military 5.56×45mm NATO has a longer throat prior to the bullet contacting the rifling which results in lower pressures when firing 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition. If 5.56×45mm NATO is used in rifles chambered for .223 Remington the bullet will be engraving the rifling when chambered. which can increase pressures past SAAMI Max levels. NOTE: The C.I.P. standards for the C.I.P. civilian .223 Remington chamber are much closer to the military 5.56×45mm NATO chamber.

** The full-length LuckyGunner article is well worth reading. It even provides specifications for a number of .223 Rem reamer types, and compares the original .223 Rem, the 5.56x45mm NATO, and the modern .223 Wylde chamberings.

Permalink - Articles, - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
July 28th, 2018

F-Class — Best Cartridge Options for Mid-Range and Long Range

F-Open F-TR F-class competition cartridge guide comparison Emil Covan

Cartridge Choices for F-Class Competition

By Emil Kovan
Kovan Match Rifles LLC, www.matchrifles.com

There are hundreds of cartridge types capable of winning in F-Open. For F-TR you can shoot either the .223 Rem or .308 Win, but you have many load options. This article will focus on proven choices, currently used by the top F-Class shooters in the world. Our discussion will analyze cartridge selection based on the four different F-Class sub-disciplines: Open Mid-Range, Open Long-Range, F-TR Mid-Range, and F-TR Long Range.

F-Open F-TR F-class competition cartridge guide comparison Emil Kovan
Click image to view full-screen photo.

Mid-Range F-Open Cartridges

For starters, a .300 WSM is certainly capable of winning mid-range matches but it is not ideal. So what is ideal, and why? F-Class Mid-Range matches usually are usually shot at 300, 500, or 600 yards — or all three. At those distances the 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges rule. In moderate conditions, the 6mm Dasher is unbeatable. Its low recoil along with its super grouping ability and good ballistics make it my number one choice for Mid-Range.

Best bullets for the 6mm Dasher are: Vapor Trail 103gr, Berger 105 Hybrid, 108 BT, and 105 VLD (hunting). Best powders are: Varget, H4895, and Reloder 15.

Choices for Mid-Range in Tougher Conditions:
We all know that conditions are not always “moderate” that’s why something a little bit bigger will save you a “Nine” or two. The 6.5X47 Lapua was designed for 300-meter competition, but as soon as it was released, it was adopted by F-Class, benchrest, and tactical shooters. It offers great ballistics with very low recoil and big “accuracy window”. Lapua makes great brass for it (no surprise there) and Berger makes great bullets: 130gr VLD, 140gr VLD, 140gr Hybrids. Best powders in most barrels are Varget and H4350, I don’t use double-based powders such as Reloder 17 and the Vihtavuori N500 series because of their unpredictable performance day to day (greater temp sensitivity).

The 6.5X47 Lapua necked down to 6mm is also a great option for mid range matches. I was able to easily get 3200 fps with 105 hybrids and H4350.

Choice for Long-Range F-Open Competition

In Long-Range F-Open Class (out to 1000 yards), the big, high-BC bullets rule. If I had to pick one cartridge for F-Class (both mid- and long-range) I would pick the .284 Winchester or one of its variants. The .284 Win is currently dominating in F-Open competition. It offers great barrel life, it is super-easy to tune and its recoil is very manageable. The best bullets for it by far (in my opinion), are the Berger 180 Hybrids. But Sierra’s new 183gr MK bullet (with factory-uniformed meplats) seems to perform very well as does the Berger 180 VLD. Best powders for the .284 Win are H4350 and H4831SC.

F-Open F-TR F-class competition cartridge guide comparison Emil Covan

Long-Range Only F-Open Cartridge
As much as I like the .284 Win, for long-range competitions I like the .300 WSM even more. If you look at a .300 WSM and a 6mm Dasher side by side, they appear almost identical in geometry — the .300 WSM looks like an “super-sized” Dasher. Both cartridges are currently the “darlings” of long-range benchrest due to their extraordinary grouping ability and huge “node’’ windows. Big accuracy windows allow loads to perform well in different conditions and geographical locations. That’s obviously very important if you travel to compete. The .300 WSM loaded with Berger 215gr or 230gr Hybrids is very tough to beat at long range, and it is currently my number one choice.

The 7mm RSAUM is another outstanding long-range round. It resembles a 6BR on steroids and it is almost as easy to tune. Best bullets for it are Berger 180gr Hybrids, 195gr EOLs, and Sierra’s 183gr MatchKing. Best powders for the 7mm RSAUM are: H4350, H4831SC, and VV N160.

Top Caliber/Bullet Combos for F-TR

In F-TR competition, the choice is clear — a .308 Win throated for Berger 185gr BTLRs and 200gr Hybrids will win in mid-range AND long-range comps. Many championships have been won, and many records set with those two bullets in the .308 Win. To quote Danny Biggs (a two times FTR National Champion) “The 185 BTLR is the best bullet for .308 Win ever made”.

The Berger 215gr Hybrids have been used to win many competitions including recently the 2015 F-Class Nationals. Bryan Litz won both the Mid-Range and Long-Range 2015 Championships using 215s. Bryan’s rifle is shown below:

Bryan Litz F-TR 2015 National Championship rifle

I recommend chambers throated for the 185/200 grain projectiles over the 215/230 grain bullets. The reason is that if you have your barrel throated out for the 215s or the 230s, you could have a “slow” barrel and max out on pressure before the desired velocity is reached. Optimum freebore for the 230s is too long for the 185/200s, so you would be limited to using only 215/230gr bullets in that barrel.Furthermore, the recoil increase with heavier bullets is substantial, causing the rifle to be more difficult to shoot.

.223 Remington Cartridge Diagram.223 Rem — Not A Competitive Option
I would stay away from the .223 Remington. On paper the 90gr VLD will shoot inside most .308 Win loads even at a 1000 yards. But in reality, on average, the .223 Rem, regardless of what powder/bullet combo is used, cannot compete with the .308 Win. [Editor: The equipment lists at major F-TR matches will confirm Kovan’s conclusion here.]

Conclusion (and Other Options)
This article covers only the (currently) most popular cartridge/bullet combos for F-Class (F-Open and F-TR). As I said in the beginning, many cartridge types are capable of winning but are not listed due to their low popularity, case design, or lack of quality components. All of the above information is based on my personal experience and it is meant to help new shooters choose the right cartridges for F-Class matches. Thanks for reading and good luck — Emil Kovan

Emil Kovan F-Class competition bio photoEmil Kovan Competition History:

– 2014 F-Class Open National Champion

– 2015 F-Class Open National Championship, Silver Medal

– F-Class Open National Championship Teams, 2015, 2014, 2013, Shooting Team Member

– Over 15 wins in Regional and State Championships in Palma, F-TR, F-Open

– 2013 U.S. National Team Member

– 2017 U.S. National Development Team Member

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition 1 Comment »
July 21st, 2018

Kevin Nevius Wins 2018 NRA Long Range Championship

NRA Long Range National Championship Kevin Nevius Lapua 6.5x47 .308 Win Palma Camp Atterbury Indiana David Tubb Bob Gill John Whidden

Our friend Kevin Nevius, best known for his smallbore skills, went head to head against the nation’s top long-range aces this past week, and emerged on top. Besting the likes of past multi-time Long Range Champions David Tubb and John Whidden, Kevin Nevius shot superbly at Camp Atterbury to win his first NRA National Long Range Championship. Kevin finished with 1245-64X, one point ahead of Phillip Crowe, 1244-74X. Bob Gill, shooting a .223 Rem with iron sights, was third on X-Count, with 1244-68X. Kevin built his own rifles for the match, using Kelbly centerfire actions in a Grunig & Elmiger smallbore stock. Here is Kevin’s first-hand report of his 2018 LR Championship victory.

Click Here for 2018 NRA High Power Long Range Championship Full Results

2018 NRA Long Range Championship — Rising to the Challenge

by Kevin Nevius
NRA Long Range National Championship Kevin Nevius Lapua 6.5x47 .308 Win Palma Camp Atterbury Indiana David Tubb Bob Gill John WhiddenThis was my first opportunity to shoot the NRA Long Range Nationals since its relocation to Camp Atterbury, and it was great to see everyone and get back to the matches. It is always so humbling walking onto the range and seeing all of the people I read about and admire so much. I can’t think of another sport where people so accomplished will share so much and be so helpful.

Regarding the weather, we had generally great conditions with very mild winds in the mornings, building gradually as the days progressed. By the afternoon hours, there were certainly challenges as the air started moving. Obstructions to the wind on either side of this range vary, so you needed to pay attention for sure — it may be calm at the targets or firing line, only to show something to worry about on the mid-range flags. Mirage is my primary indicator shooting smallbore, but mirage over 5/8ths of a mile is a little less telling (and a lot more confusing, at least for me!). I think most competitors, including me, use some combination of mirage and flags to make corrections. At the start of the string, I try to gauge a predominant condition, and more importantly which indicator is the most reliable to look at to determine that condition.

NRA Long Range National Championship Kevin Nevius Lapua 6.5x47 .308 Win Palma Camp Atterbury Indiana David Tubb Bob Gill John Whidden

Smallbore shooting is where I learned to build a good position, and so much of that carries forward to Long Range High Power. It was a huge shock though, the first time I looked at a 44” aiming black through aperture sights at 1000 yards! Smallbore aiming blacks are twice as big, at one tenth the distance — the fact that we can hit something at 1000 yards with that sight picture still amazes me!

NRA Long Range National Championship Kevin Nevius Lapua 6.5x47 .308 Win Palma Camp Atterbury Indiana David Tubb Bob Gill John Whidden

Kevin’s Arsenal — 6.5×47 Lapua and .308 Win Barreled Actions in Smallbore Stock
I have always build my own rifles, and always struggled to get the individual rifles you need for the LR aggregate (Any and Palma) and smallbore to feel, balance and fit identically. This year for the first time, I machined bedding blocks that allowed me to put almost identical centefire barreled actions into my smallbore prone stock – effectively making the position and fit of all the rifles for all disciplines identical (it is, after all the same stock used for everything).

NRA Long Range National Championship Kevin Nevius Lapua 6.5x47 .308 Win Palma Camp Atterbury Indiana

I used two modified Kelbly Grizzly actions (one barreled in 6.5×47 for the any rifle matches, and one barreled in 308 for Palma) fitted to two identical aluminum bedding blocks. The bedding block footprint matches my smallbore barreled action – a Grunig & Elmiger Racer WC. The stock is a Grunig & Elmiger Hybrid, which is a composite aluminum skeleton and carbon fiber skin.

Championship-Winning 6.5×47 Lapua and .308 Win Loads
I was using a 6.5×47 Lapua in the “Any Rifle” matches. The barrel is a 1:8″-twist Benchmark medium Palma contour finished at 35 inches, throated +0.060″. My 6.5×47 load was Lapua brass, CCI 450 primers, VV N160 powder, and 140 grain Berger Hybrid bullets. For the Palma match, a .308 Win barreled action was fitted in the same Grunig & Elmiger smallbore stock. The .308 barrel was another Benchmark 35″ medium Palma, using the current Fullbore chamber throated +0.120″. I was using Lapua .308 Palma small primer brass, Federal 205M primers, VV N140, and 155 grain Lapua Scenar L bullets.

Shooting Between Champions — Tubb on the Left, Whidden on the Right
On the final day (the Palma Individual), we were squadded based on seed position, so David Tubb was on my left, and John Whidden on my right. I am not sure if a more intimidating position on the firing line exists, but it was so clear to me especially on that last day how blessed I was to be there. In every match, there is an element of luck — regarding weather, squadding assignment, target service, firing point condition, even equipment malfunction. A host of things can go wrong…

I lost my very first shot at 900 mostly due to elevation (I was coming a little unhinged with the realization I might be in the lead – just being completely honest!), and settled down to clean the remainder of the string. The wind had built by then, and would run both right and left with the small boils in between. At 1000 I lost two, and was pretty happy with that. It was getting pretty dicey, and I resigned myself to the fact that it was becoming one of those days where 10s were enough (and Xs were pure luxury!). John shot well at 1000, but he always does — I don’t think there is a better long range shooter in the country and it’s been that way for a bunch of years. I can’t say enough about him – he is a dear friend and everything a champion should be. (Editor: Whidden finished fourth overall, at 1243-78X, with high X-count for the event.)

To put it all together takes so many things — preparation, tuning, load development, position practice. And yes, it takes some divine intervention for sure. I will never forget this experience, and am so grateful to have been successful this year.

John Whidden of Whidden Gunworks congratulated Kevin: “I was really proud of my friend Kevin Nevius and his fine shooting over the match. Kevin is respected both for his shooting and his character. The match went well and a number of improvements were made over last year. The targets were better, the number boards better, and the match ran very efficiently. Kudos to those who made these positive changes happen.”

Tough Time for Tubb on Last Day
Kevin noted that it was intimidating to be squadded between David Tubb and John Whidden, two multi-time Champions. Unfortunately Tubb, who had shot brilliantly (800-50X) throughout the Long Range event, had issues with his .308 Palma rifle on the final day. Kevin noted: “Yes David had some problems with his .308. When we arrived at the range on the last day, for the Palma Individual, David was in the lead with 800-50X, having shot ‘clean’ (not dropping a point). Bob Gill was second with 798-43X, and I was in third place with 798-42X. As we started the 800-yard string, there was some commotion going on to my left, and all I know is that as we finished and started moving to 900 yards, David was not happy. I believe he had lost 4 points at 800. We went to the pits, and he said his rifle was not shooting well, and he was pretty unhappy to say the least. He tried to adjust the seating depth of his ammunition before heading back out to the 900-yard line, in the hopes the gun would shoot better”. But it ended up a very tough day for David, as his chances for another LR Championship vanished.

Editor: With a 800-50X total, David Tubb was the Winner of the Canadian Cup Trophy, earned before the last day.

Bob Gill Proves the .223 Remington (and Iron Sights) Can Be Competitive
There were many interesting stories at this year’s Long Range Championship. The .223 Rem Eliseo Tubegun belonging to Californian Bob Gill proved to be “the little rifle that could”. Gill shot his .223 Rem Palma rifle for the entire Long Range Championship cycle. And yes Bob shot irons the whole way, even during the Remington and Wimbledon “Any Sight” matches where scopes are allowed. Kevin observed: “Bob Gill was amazing, and that rifle must be pretty awesome too. I don’t think I have ever seen someone shoot a .223 Rem at 1000 yards that well — ever. I believe Bob was shooting 80 grain bullets. As I pulled for Gill on the third day, I can testify that his bullets were still plenty supersonic!”

Editor: Gill finished 3rd overall, just one point down from Kevin, and six Xs behind runner-up Phillip Crowe. Gill also won the Sierra Trophy.

CLICK HERE for all NRA 2018 National Championships Results

Permalink Competition, News 2 Comments »
July 2nd, 2018

How .223 Remington Ammunition is Made

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Here’s an entertaining video from Fog Ammunition. Starting with boxes of bullets and bags of cartridge brass, this video shows how components are bulk-sorted, then .223 Rem ammunition is produced on a modern, linear multi-stage loading machine. In assembly-line fashion, cases are primed, powder is added, bullets are placed, final seating depth is set, and then the case is crimped.

If you’ve never seen an automated loader in action you should definitely watch this video. With this kind of machine, a new round is produced every second or so (see video 1:15 to 1:55). The .223 Remington ammunition featured in this video is loaded with Sierra BlitzKing bullets. Fog offers both rifle and pistol ammo loaded with quality components.

Video Shows Automated Loading Process Start to Finish (Worth Watching):

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo 3 Comments »
June 12th, 2018

AR-15 Accuracy with Factory Ammo — Surprising Results

Criterion Barrels AR-15 AR16 ammo ammunition comparison test
Displayed are results with Federal Gold Medal Match — quite impressive accuracy!

Criterion Barrels has published an interesting Ammo Comparison Test, shooting seven (7) different varieties of .223 Rem ammunition out of an AR15 fitted with Criterion Barrel. Each ammo type was chronographed (10-shot string), then five-shot groups were shot at 100 yards. Along with handloads (69gr Sierra MK + Varget), six (6) types of commercial ammo were tested:

PREMIUM Type Ammo:
Federal Gold Medal Match (69gr SMK)
Creedmoor 75gr HPBT
Prime 77gr OTM (Open Tip Match)

BULK Type Ammo:
Federal American Eagle XM193 (55gr FMJ)
Wolf Gold (55gr FMJ)
Wolf Polyformance Steel Case (55gr FMJ)

Here are the results for the four best commercial ammo types tested: Federal Gold Medal Match (GMM) with 69gr SMK, Prime 77gr OTM, Creedmoor 75gr HPBT, and American Eagle XM193 (55gr FMJ). The Gold Medal Match shot the best of all factory ammo tested. In fact, the GMM even shot slightly better than the handloads, which averaged 0.79″ for the three accurized groups.

AR15 Factory Ammo testing

The results are quite interesting. The Federal GMM actually shot the best, beating “untailored” handloads. Basic accurizing efforts and a much better rest set-up showed significant benefits with most ammo types (but not the bulk Wolf Ammo). As you would expect, the more expensive ammo shot best: “Chart 1.2 [below] showcases the average [after accurizing] five-round group sizes with each type of ammunition at 100 yards, while Chart 1.3 lists the price per round of each ammunition type. It becomes immediately evident by reviewing these two graphs that there is an inverse relationship between group size and factory ammunition price.”


READ Full Criterion Barrels AR15 AMMO Comparison Test »

Criterion Barrels AR-15 AR16 ammo ammunition comparison test

Accurizing Improvements — Better Scope, Better Rests, Accu-Wedge
As you would expect, some basic accurizing efforts improved accuracy with the better ammo. The accurizing process included: 1) Swapping to a Vortex Viper PST Gen 1 6-24x50mm optic; 2) Adding an Accu-Wedge; 3) Improving fitment during reassembly, and 4) Switching from Harris bipod to a Sinclair Front Rest and Edgewood rear bag for added stability. The same 1:8″-twist Criterion barrel was used throughout the testing process.

Criterion Barrels AR-15 AR16 ammo ammunition comparison test

If you shoot an AR15, or even shoot a .223 Rem bolt gun with factory ammo, you should probably read this test in full. Criterion put a lot of time into the testing, and experimented with a variety of AR options showcased in a series of YouTube videos. SEE: Accurizing the AR-15 Video Playlist.

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tactical 3 Comments »
May 22nd, 2018

Father Develops .223 Rem F-TR Load for His Daughter

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Jeremy Rowland decided to put together an F-TR rifle for his eldest daughter, who enjoys competitive shooting. For his daughter, Rowland chose the .223 Rem option because it has less recoil and components are less costly than the .308 Win. Here is Rowland’s account of how he developed a .223 Rem load. For more details (with data charts), read Jeremy’s FULL STORY on Sierra Bullets Blog.

Journey to Find a .223 Rem F-Class Load

by Jeremy Rowland, Reloading Podcast
My oldest daughter has been to several matches with me, and has even competed in several, using her .243. I decided this coming season (2016), she would compete with a .223 Rem in FT/R. Looking for a good starter rifle, I settled on the Savage Axis Heavy Barrel since it has a 1:9″ twist. This would be a great little rifle for her to learn on. The rifle was shot unmodified, as it came from the factory. A Sinclair F-Class Bipod w/micro elevation adjustment was fitted to the front.

Next came finding the components I wanted to use for her match loads. After spending hours and hours running numbers on JBM stability calculator as well as in my iPhone Ballistic AE app, the 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKing® (TMK®) looked really good. So that’s what I decided to go with. I jumped in head first and ordered a bulk pack of the Sierra 69 gr TMKs. I had settled on Hodgdon CFE 223 since it shows good velocity. I decided to go with once-fired Lake City brass with CCI BR4 primers.

Next came the testing. I decided to run a ladder test (one shot per charge from min to max looking for the accuracy node). The ladder test ranged from 23.5 grains to 25.6 grains, in 0.3 grain increments.

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Ladder Test Conditions: Temp: 59.4° | Humidity: 63% | Elevation: 486 | Wind: 5-12 mph

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Bullet: 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKing®
Case: Lake City (mixed years, sorted by case capacity)
Primer: CCI BR4
Powder: Hodgdon CFE 223 (one round each from 23.5 to 25.6 grains)
Cartridge OAL: 2.378″
Base to Ogive: 1.933″ (.020″ off lands)

After his ladder test, Rowland settled on a load of 25.2 grains of Hodgdon CFE 223. He then fine-tuned his load with different seating depths: “I loaded up 5 rounds each at .020″ off lands, .015″ off lands, .010″ off lands, and .005″ off the lands. Here are the results from the best group for OAL/Ogive fine tuning. As you can see, I think I’ve found a winner in these 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKings.”

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Seating Depth Test Conditions: Temp: 36.3° | Humidity: 73.8% | Elevation: 486 | Wind: 5-7 mph

This article originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 5 Comments »
May 20th, 2018

Tikka T3 — Video Reviews of Popular Hunting Rifle

Tikka T3 Review new zealand hunting scotland varmint rifle

The Tikka T3 rifle is very popular with hunters around the globe — for good reason. These rifles offer smooth-running actions, easy sub-MOA accuracy with good ammo, crisp triggers, and ultra-reliable detachable box magazines. The Tupperware stocks aren’t super-rigid, but they are comfortable and easy to handle. If you are looking for a hunting rifle, the Tikka T3 is a smart choice, offering good performance for the price (which starts at less than $580.00 for the T3 Lite version). The T3 series is offered in a wide selection of chamberings, from .204 Ruger up to the large magnums.

Here are two good Tikka T3 video reviews, the first from New Zealand, the second from Scotland. Both reviewers are experienced hunters who explain why the T3 is well-suited for hunting applications. In the first video, Mitch of BushBrothersNZ reviews a T3 with polymer stock and stainless barrel chambered for the .270 Win. Mitch focuses on the T3’s controls and functions, with particular attention to the operation of trigger, safety, and bolt.

In this second video, David, a hunter and wilderness skills teacher from Scotland, demonstrates the features (and remarkable accuracy) of a factory Tikka T3, chambered in .223 Remington. With David’s handloads, this rifle has grouped just over an inch at 250 yards, as shown near the end of the video.

Tikka Fox HuntingTikka Fox Hunting

David uses his rifle primarily for fox-hunting (often done at night). He employs a variable-power scope with an illuminated reticle to target his night-time prey. David offers many tips for predator hunters. He prefers an extra-high Harris bipod. With the bipod’s legs fully extended, he can assume a comfortable and solid sitting position. The rifle is supported on his shoulder and on the bipod, leaving both of his hands free. Being able to support the rifle without gripping it is a major advantage, David explains. This frees his hands to search for animals with binoculars or scan distances with his rangefinder.

Permalink - Videos, Hunting/Varminting 3 Comments »
April 2nd, 2018

Vihtavuori Reloading Data Updates for 2018

VV Vihtavuori finland powder propellant reloading recipe data information mobile app pistol rifle .260 Rem .45 Acp .223 Rem .338 Lapua Magnum 2018 update

Vihtavuori markets a full line of quality, European-made powders for rifles and pistols. Finland-based Vihtavuori is operated by the same parent company, Nammo, that owns Lapua and Berger Bullets. If you haven’t tried Vihtavuori powders yet, you may be pleasantly surprised. For loading .45 ACP, our favorite powder is VV N320 — it burns clean and is very accurate. Likewise, VV makes excellent powders for rifle applications — from small varmint cartridges to large magnums.

New Reloading Data Released
VV Vihtavuori finland powder propellant reloading recipe data information mobile appVihtavuori offers free reloading data on its website, and through a free Mobile App. And now those resources are even more complete…


Rifle DATA | Pistol DATA | Mobile APP

Last week, Vihtavuori added new reloading data for ten different cartridge types, including some of the most popular pistol and rifle cartridges. You’ll find new pistol data for 9mm Luger and .45 ACP, and extensive new load data for .223 Rem, .260 Rem, .308 Win, and .30-06 Springfield (among others). Overall the 2018 data update features over 20 new bullets, with more than 140 new lines! All new data is also available in FREE Vihtavuori Reload App for iOS and Android. The updated online information supplements Vihtavuori’s Reloading Databases, which have dedicated sections for Rifle Cartridges, Pistol Cartridges, and Cowboy Action.

New Reloading Data is available for these TEN cartridge types:

VV Vihtavuori finland powder propellant reloading recipe data information mobile app pistol rifle .260 Rem .45 Acp .223 Rem .338 Lapua Magnum 2018 update

Story tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, News, Reloading 2 Comments »
March 31st, 2018

New CZ 527 Varmint MTR (Match Target Rifle)

CZ rifle 527 Varmint MTR 2018 new turkish walnut 6.5 Grendel .223 Rem Remington

CZ has a new rifle that should appeal to varminters and target shooters. The new CZ 527 Varmint MTR (Match Target Rifle) is designed to provide enhanced accuracy with a heavy-profile barrel and stock that works well from bench or bipod. The MTR features a fast Mini-Mauser action with a trigger that adjusts from 2.25 to 4.95 lbs (10 to 22 N).

Chamberings: .222 Rem (1:14″) | .223 Rem (1:9″) | 6.5 Grendel (1:8″)
Specs: OAL 44.5 inches | Barrel Length 25.6 inches | 8.8 pounds (without optic)

CZ rifle 527 Varmint MTR 2018 new turkish walnut 6.5 Grendel .223 Rem Remington
Click above photo for full-screen image with legible notations.

We wish we could tell you how the CZ 527 Varmint MTR shoots, but this rifle is so new that test samples haven’t made it to the USA yet. Based on experience with other CZ 527 models, we would expect about 1.2 MOA accuracy with decent factory ammo. With handloads you might get closer to 0.7 MOA for three shots. Sorry no USA price is available yet. However, the older CZ 527 Varmint, with a lesser-grade stock, has an MSRP of $725.00, so we expect the CZ 527 Varmint MTR to retail for around $875.00. We note that the latest model CZ 557 Varmint with similar, ergonomic Turkish Walnut stock has an $865.00 MSRP as listed in the 2018 CZ-USA Catalog.

CZ 527 Varmint MTR Features:
— Match-type stock design with wider, straight fore-end for good tracking on front rest.
— Slanted buttstock toe to adjust height in rear shooting bag
— Match-type ergonomic grip design with palm swell
— High-quality Turkish Walnut wood with oil finish
— Adjustable trigger pull from 2.25 to 4.95 lbs (10 to 22 N)
— Detachable 5-round all-metal magazine
— Heavy-contour 25.6″ (650 mm) hammer-forged barrel with threaded muzzle

CZ rifle 527 Varmint MTR 2018 new turkish walnut 6.5 Grendel .223 Rem Remington

Here is the manufacturer’s product description: “Thanks to the tried and tested CZ 527 system, the rifle is comfortable, reliable and fast to control. The trigger pull and pull weight may be set in the range between 10 and 22 N. Crucial for the high accuracy is the thick-walled 650 mm long barrel with a target pattern muzzle end and a thread for the attachment of accessories. The ergonomic walnut stock in oil finish is suitable for hunting as well as sport shooting. All users will also appreciate the superb ballistic properties of the 6.5 Grendel cartridge.”

CZ rifle 527 Varmint MTR 2018 new turkish walnut 6.5 Grendel .223 Rem Remington

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, New Product 5 Comments »
March 4th, 2018

Valkyrie Velocity: Barrel Cut-Down Test with 60, 75, 90 grainers

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMK

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMKVelocity vs. barrel length — How much speed will I sacrifice with a shorter barrel? Hunters and competition shooters often ask that. Today we DO have solid answers to that question for many cartridge types thanks to Rifleshooter.com.

Rifleshooter.com has conducted a series of barrel cut-down tests for many popular chamberings: .223 Rem, 6mm Creedmoor, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua Magnum and more. And recently Rifleshooter.com added the new .224 Valkyrie cartridge to the list, cutting a 28″ Shilen barrel down to 16.5″ in one-inch increments. Rifleshooter.com measured the .224 Valkyrie’s velocities at each barrel length with four different types of factory ammo.

For its .224 Valkyrie test, RifleShooter.com sourced a Shilen Match Barrel and fitted it to a Rem 700 short action employing a one-piece PT&G bolt with the required .440″ (SPC-sized) bolt-face. The barreled action rides in a MDT LSS-XL Gen 2 Chassis.

READ .224 Valkyrie Barrel Cut-Down Test on Rifleshooter.com »

Bill, Rifleshooter.com’s Editor, explained his test procedure:

“I gathered four different types of factory Federal 224 Valkyrie ammunition, the 90gr Sierra MatchKing (SMK), 90gr Fusion soft point (SP) (referred to a Fusion MSR), 75gr Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) and 60gr Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint (NBT). After a brief barrel break in and zero, I fired 5 rounds of each cartridge at each barrel length (except the 75 TMJ, I fired 4 rounds at each barrel length due to limited resources). I recorded the average muzzle velocity and standard deviation for each ammunition and barrel length combination and cut the barrel back 1 inch and repeated the process. I recorded barrel lengths from 28″ to 16.5″ (I try to save these barrels as finished 16″ tubes so they don’t go to waste).”

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMK

The Heavy Bullet 90gr Ammo Lost about 21 FPS per Inch
How did the test turn out? You’ll find all the results summarized in helpful tables with inch-by-inch velocity and SD numbers. For the two, 90gr ammo samples, results were similar. The 90gr SMK ammo started at 2782 fps (28″), finishing at 2541 fps (16.5″). That’s a loss of 241 fps, or 20.96 fps average per inch of length. The ammo loaded with 90gr Fusion SPs started at 2797 fps (28″) and ended at 2561 fps (16.5″), a drop of 236 fps. That’s 20.5 fps loss per inch. NOTE: Ambient temperature during the test was 45° F. You could expect the overall velocities to be a bit higher during hotter summer months.

See 90gr SMK Velocity/Length Test Chart | See 90gr Fusion SP Velocity/Length Test Chart

.224 Valkyrie Velocity Cut-Down Test

With a the smaller bullets, the effect was even more dramatic. As you’d expect they started out faster. The ammo with 60gr Nosler Ballistic Tips (NBT), a good choice for varminters, started at 3395 fps (28″), and declined to 3065 fps (16.5), a total velocity drop of 330 fps. Average velocity loss was 28.7 fps per inch of barrel length. Rifleshooter.com also tested Federal 75gr TMJ ammo.

About the .224 Valkyrie Cartridge

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMK

The new .224 Valkyrie was introduced late last year as a Hot Rod cartridge that will work in AR15s. Designed to rival the .22 Nosler while still running well in ARs, the new .224 Valkyrie offers excellent long-range performance when loaded with modern, high-BC bullets. We expect some bolt-action PRS shooters might adopt the .224 Valkyrie. Why? Reduced recoil. With the 90gr SMK, the .224 Valkyrie offers ballistics similar to the 6.5 Creedmoor but with significantly less felt recoil. Check out this chart from Federal showing comparative recoil levels:

.224 Valkyrie Federal Rifleshooter.com cut-down barrel

.224 Valkyrie vs. .22-250 Remington
The Social Regressive explains: “There are two key reasons why the 224 Valkyrie is unique and desirable. First, it is specifically designed to fit the limitations of the AR-15 platform. It does so even when loaded with gigantic bullets, like the 90-grain SMK that Federal announced. .22-250 Rem is too long and too fat to work in the AR-15 platform; it needs an AR-10 bolt and magazine.”

Image from Social Regressive .224 Valkyrie Youtube Video.

The new .224 Valkyrie is basically a 6.8 SPC case necked down to .22-caliber. You can use your existing AR15 lower, but you will need a dedicated .224-Valkyrie upper, or at the minimum a new barrel, modified bolt with proper bolt face, and 6.8-compliant mags.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gunsmithing, Tech Tip No Comments »
February 5th, 2018

New Official Load Data for Latest High-BC Sierra MatchKings

Sierra MatchKing 2018 New bullets 95gr 150gr 200gr 230gr .223 Rem .308 Win

In recent months, Sierra has unveiled four very serious, ultra-high-BC MatchKing bullets in .224, .264 (6.5 mm), and .308 calibers. And just last week Sierra has released initial load data for these four new projectiles. CLICK HERE to get the latest official load data for these four new bullets.

High-BC MatchKings Tipped at Factory
Sierra recently released a new-for-2018, 95-grain .224 projectile, Sierra product #1396, with a claimed G1 BC of 0.600 — mighty impressive for a .22-caliber bullet. Next up is the new 6.5mm (.264 caliber) 150-grainer with an 0.713 G1 BC. This could be a game-changer for the 6.5-284 and new 6.5 PRC short magnum. There are also two new .308-caliber MatchKings, a 200-grainer with 0.715 G1 BC, and a new 230-grainer with a stunning 0.800 G1 BC. Many of these New Generation MatchKings now come “tipped” from the factory for more uniform BC.

Sierra Bullets has LOAD DATA for these four new bullets. If you handload for .223 Remington, 22-250, 6.5 x284 Norma, .308 Winchester, or .300 Winchester Magnum, check out this new reloading data.


» GET 2018 New Bullet DATA from Sierra in PDF format

.224 Cal 95gr HPBT MatchKing #1396
6.5mm 150gr HPBT MatchKing #1755
.308 Cal 200gr HPBT MatchKing #2231
.308 Cal 230gr HPBT MatchKing #2251

Sierra Bullets Load Data MatchKing .223 .224 6.5 mm .308 200gr 230gr
Sierra MatchKing 2018 New bullets 95gr 150gr 200gr 230gr .223 Rem .308 Win

Sierra MatchKing 2018 New bullets 95gr 150gr 200gr 230gr .223 Rem .308 Win

Sierra MatchKing 2018 New bullets 95gr 150gr 200gr 230gr .223 Rem .308 Win

Sierra MatchKing 2018 New bullets 95gr 150gr 200gr 230gr .223 Rem .308 Win

Sierra bullets header

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 4 Comments »
September 13th, 2017

How Velocity Changes with Barrel Length — .223 Rem Test Results

.223 Rem Cut-Down Test barrel UMC m855

Most of us own a .223 Rem rifle. Now, thanks to our friends at Rifleshooter.com we can assess exactly how velocity changes with barrel length for this popular cartridge.

Rifleshooter.com performed an interesting test, cutting the barrel of a .223 Rem rifle from 26″ all the way down to 16.5″. The cuts were made in one-inch intervals with a rotary saw. At each cut length, velocity was measured with a Magnetospeed chronograph. To make the test even more interesting, four different types of .223 Rem/5.56 ammo were chron’d at each barrel length.

READ RifleShooter.com 5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Test Article.

Test Barrel Lost 25.34 FPS Per Inch (.223 Rem Chambering)
How much velocity do you think was lost, on average, for each 1″ reduction in barrel length? The answer may surprise you. The average speed loss of the four types of .223/5.56 ammo, with a 9.5″ shortening of barrel length, was 240.75 fps total (from start to finish). That works out to an average loss of 25.34 fps per inch. (See inch-by-inch data HERE.)

5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Speed Test 26″ to 16.5″ Start FPS at 26″ End FPS at 16.5″ Total Loss Average Loss Per Inch
UMC .223 55gr 3182* 2968 214 22.5 FPS
Federal M193 55gr 3431 3187 244 25.7 FPS
Win m855 62gr 3280 2992 288 30.3 FPS
Blk Hills .223 68gr 2849 2632 217 22.8 FPS

*There may have been an error. The 25″ velocity was higher at 3221 fps.

Rifleshooter.com observed: “Cutting the barrel from 26″ to 16.5″ resulted in a velocity reduction of 214 ft/sec with the UMC 223 55-grain cartridge, 244 ft/sec with the Federal M-193 cartridge, 288 ft/sec with the Winchester M855 cartridge and 217 ft/sec with the Back Hills 223 68-grain match cartridge.”

How the Test Was Done
The testers described their procedure as follows: “Ballistic data was gathered using a Magnetospeed barrel-mounted ballistic chronograph. At each barrel length, the rifle was fired from a front rest with rear bags, with five rounds of each type of ammunition. Average velocity and standard deviation were logged for each round. Once data was gathered for each cartridge at a given barrel length, the rifle was cleared and the bolt was removed. The barrel was cut off using a cold saw. The test protocol was repeated for the next length. Temperature was 45.7° F.”

CLICK HERE to Read the Rifleshooter.com Test. This includes detailed charts with inch-by-inch velocity numbers.

Much Different Results with 6mmBR and a Longer Barrel
The results from Rifleshooter.com’s .223/5.56 test are quite different than the results we recorded some years ago with a barrel chambered for the 6mmBR cartridge. When we cut our 6mmBR barrel down from 33″ to 28″ we only lost about 8 FPS per inch. Obviously this is a different cartridge type, but also our 6mmBR barrel end length was longer than Rifleshooter.com’s .223 Rem start length. Velocity loss may be more extreme with shorter barrel lengths.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Reloading 3 Comments »
August 8th, 2017

Smart Shopper: Compare Ammo Pricing with WikiArms

Wikiarms live ammo tracking

Wikiarms live ammo trackingIf you’re looking for loaded ammunition at affordable prices, WikiArms.com can help you find a good deal. WikiArms constantly searches the listings of ammo vendors across the web. Then WikiArms ranks the offerings by cost per round, low to high. This way you can instantly compare prices from multiple vendors including Ammomen, Ammunition Depot, Brownells, Cheaper Than Dirt, Lucky Gunner, Natchez, Slickguns, SG Ammo, Sportsmans Guide, and Walmart. Search bots refresh pricing constantly so listed prices are normally current within five minutes. WikiArms even displays the amount of product currently in stock for each vendor.

Using WikiArms is easy. Just click your choice of caliber (such as .22 LR, 9mm, or .308 Win) on the navigation bar, or hit the Good Deals link (bottom left column) to see a variety of cartridge types all at one time. WikiArms is fast, and it is FREE to use. Check it out.

WikiArms also tracks prices on reloading components — bullets, brass, primers, and powders. From the WikiArms Home page, look at the left column under the “Reloading” header. From there you can select the type of components you want.

There are some great deals now on quality .223 Rem ammo. Brownells is selling 800 rounds of Norma .223 Rem for $218.70 shipped with code “JNS”. That’s just $0.27 per round for very good stuff.

Wikiarms live ammo Brownells .223 Rem Remington bulk ammo sale

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »
July 31st, 2017

Choosing Optimal Barrel Twist Rate — Tips from Glen Zediker

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth
Here’s an extreme range of .224-Caliber bullets: 35gr varmint bullet and 90gr match bullet. Of course, along with bullet length/design, you need to consider MV when choosing twist rate.

Even with the same caliber (and same bullet weight), different bullet types may require different rates of spin to stabilize properly. The bullet’s initial spin rate (RPM) is a function of the bullet’s muzzle velocity and the spin imparted by the rifling in the barrel. You want to ensure your bullet is stable throughout flight. It is better to have too much spin than too little, according to many ballistics experts, including Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. Glen Zediker has some basic tips concerning barrel twist rates and bullet stability. These come from his latest book, Top Grade Ammo.

Choosing the Right Twist Rate
I’d always rather have a twist too fast than not fast enough. Generally… I recommend erring toward the faster side of a barrel twist decision. 1:8″ twist is becoming a “new standard” for .224 caliber, replacing 1:9″ in the process. The reason is that new bullets tend to be bigger rather than smaller. Don’t let a too-slow twist limit your capacity to [achieve] better long-range performance.

Base your next barrel twist rate decision on the longest, heaviest bullets you choose to use, and at the same time realize that the rate you choose will in turn limit your bullet choices. If the longest, heaviest bullet you’ll shoot (ever) is a 55-grain .224, then there’s honestly no reason not to use a 1:12″. Likewise true for .308-caliber: unless you’re going over 200-grain bullet weight, a 1:10″ will perform perfectly well.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth

Bullet Length is More Critical than Weight
Bullet length, not weight, [primarily] determines how much rotation is necessary for stability. Twist rate suggestions, though, are most usually given with respect to bullet weight, but that’s more of a generality for convenience’s sake, I think. The reason is that with the introduction of higher-ballistic-coefficient bullet designs, which are longer than conventional forms, it is easily possible to have two same-weight bullets that won’t both stabilize from the same twist rate.

Evidence of Instability
The tell-tale for an unstable (wobbling or tumbling) bullet is an oblong hole in the target paper, a “keyhole,” and that means the bullet contacted the target at some attitude other than nose-first.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo MidsouthIncreasing Barrel Length Can Deliver More Velocity, But That May Still Not Provide Enough Stability if the Twist Rate Is Too Slow
Bullet speed and barrel length have an influence on bullet stability, and a higher muzzle velocity through a longer tube will bring on more effect from the twist, but it’s a little too edgy if a particular bullet stabilizes only when running maximum velocity.

My failed 90-grain .224 experiment is a good example of that: I could get them asleep in a 1:7″ twist, 25-inch barrel, which was chambered in .22 PPC, but could not get them stabilized in a 20-inch 1:7″ .223 Rem. The answer always is to get a twist that’s correct.

These tips were adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth. To learn more about this book and other Zediker titles, and read a host of downloadable articles, visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gunsmithing, Reloading 2 Comments »
July 26th, 2017

New Lake City .223 Rem Brass on Sale at Midsouth

Midsouth Lake City .223 Brass sale bulk
Great deal on NEW Lake City .223 Rem Brass at Midsouth Shooters Supply. This is new production, unfired brass in bulk packaging.

Need a large supply of .223 Rem brass for your next varmint safari or 3-Gun match? Midsouth has a great deal right now on bulk-pack, NEW (unfired) Lake City .223 Rem (5.56x45mm) cartridge brass. The 500-count bag works out to a mere 15.6 cents per case, a fourth what some premium .223 brass costs. That’s great value.

Midsouth Lake City .223 Brass sale bulk

.223 Rem Still Shines for Varmint and Target Work
Even with all the “new and improved” cartridges (such as the .204 Ruger and 22 Nosler, the plain jane .223 Remington remains an excellent varmint cartridge, and the mainstay of service rifle competition. Here’s an example of how well the .223 Rem can perform in a good factory gun. The Tikka T3 offers excellent performance in this chambering. Tikka guarantees 1 MOA (or better) at 100 meters.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Hot Deals No Comments »
June 11th, 2017

Reloading 101: Primer Pocket and Flash-Hole Conditioning

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman
Case Prep Xpress photo courtesy Lyman Products.

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covers two basic case prep chores — uniforming primer pockets and deburring flash-holes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other tips.

USAMU Handloading hump day reloading tips

Primer Pocket & Flash-Hole Conditioning

This week, we’ll address a question that frequently arises: “Do you uniform primer pockets and deburr flash-holes?” As we tailor our handloading methods to the specific needs of each instance, the answer, not surprisingly, is “Sometimes!” However, don’t flip that dial just yet, as what determines our approach may be helpful in deciding how to address one’s own techniques. Moreover, we have a buried “Easter Egg” morsel that may bring a chuckle, as well as useful safety information!

Generally, the USAMU Handloading Shop does not uniform primer pockets (PP) or deburr flash holes (FH) of our rifle brass. We’re certainly not against it… Rather, this reflects the very high volume of ammunition we load, the fact that very few cases are ever re-loaded for a second firing, and the types of brass we use. However, as a need is perceived, we DO deburr flash holes. Of interest, we have fired many very small, 1000-yard test groups and aggregates using weight-selected, domestic brass that had not had PPs uniformed or FHs deburred.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Before and After — On the left is a fired, deprimed 7.62×51 case with primer residue intact. On the right the primer pocket has been uniformed to SAAMI specs. Note the shiny finish at the bottom of the pocket — evidence of the the removal of metal when uniforming the primer pocket.

As to the type cases we use, many thousands of our long-range 5.56mm cases come to us from the arsenal with the primer of our choice pre-installed and staked-in, per usual practice. Obviously, we cannot uniform either FHs or PPs on this live, primed brass. However, after careful sorting, inspection and preparation, we do obtain match-winning results with it.

Shooters who reload their brass several times may decide to uniform PPs and deburr FHs, especially on their “300-yard and beyond” brass. Here, they will use the cases many times, while the uniforming is performed only once. Also, most handloaders only process moderate amounts of brass, compared to our multi-thousand round lots.

Having high quality Long Range (LR) brass helps. Many of the better brass manufacturers install their flash holes so that no burrs are created. Still, it does pay to inspect even THESE manufacturer’s products, as occasional slips are inevitable. Very rarely, some of the best makers will have a significant burr in, say, 1 per 1000 or 2000 cases, and it’s worth catching those.

Exceptions can always be found. Recently, we began processing a large lot of match brass from a premier manufacturer. We were startled to find that every case had a significant burr in the FH — something we’d never before seen from this maker. We then broke out the FH deburring tools and went to work.

Some observers have noted that it can be difficult to truly verify the contribution to accuracy of these procedures — particularly when firing from the shoulder, in conditions. Members of this staff, as individual rifle competitors, do often perform these operations on their privately-owned LR rifle brass. One could ascribe this to the old Highpower Rifle maxim that “if you think it helps, then it helps.”

However, a World Champion and Olympic Gold/Silver medalist here commented on his own handloading (for International competition, which demands VERY fine accuracy). He noted that he did seem to see a decline in accuracy whenever he did not uniform FHs, deburr FHs and clean primer pockets before each reloading. (One might be tempted to counter that only a truly World Class shooter could reliably detect the difference.) However, with the wisdom of decades experience, our Champion also remarked that “It could have been that I just wasn’t shooting as well that day.”

For those who do opt for these procedures, note that various tool models may have adjustable depth-stops; pay attention to the instructions. Some FH-deburring tools (which enter the case mouth, not the primer pocket) are dependent upon uniform case length for best results.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Above is a flash-hole deburring tool on an RCBS powered case-prep unit. These case prep machines can save a lot of pain and misery, helping one perform various functions quickly and efficiently.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »
April 28th, 2017

Shot Costs Calculated for .223 Rem, 6BR, 6XC, .308 Win, 6.5×284

Shooting Cost by Cartridge Caliber type USAMU

Estimating Actual Cost per Round by Caliber
This article comes from the USAMU, which provide shooting and reloading tips on its Facebook Page. This week’s USAMU TECH TIP outlines a ballpark-estimate method of calculating the actual cost per round of different calibers. Some applications, and some shooters, by virtue of their high level of competition, require the very best ballistic performance available — “Darn the cost, full speed ahead!

If you are in serious contention to win a major competition, then losing even a single point to inferior ballistic performance could cost you a national title or record. However, this “horsepower” does come at a cost! Some calibers are barrel-burners, and some offer much longer barrel life. Look at this comparison chart:

Estimated Cost Per Round by Cartridge Type

Below are some estimated total expense per round (practice and competition) based on component costs, type used, expected barrel life and a standard, chambered barrel cost of $520.00 across calibers.

5.56x45mm: $0.46/round (barrel life 6,000 rounds)*

6mmBR: $0.81/round (barrel life 2800 rounds)

6XC: $0.97/round (barrel life 2200 rounds)

.308 Win: $0.80/round (barrel life 4500 rounds)

6.5-284: $1.24/round (barrel life 1100 rounds)

*Note the high round count estimate for 5.56x45mm. This is a bit deceptive, as it assumes a period of “lesser accuracy” use. The USAMU says: “Much of the difference you see here between 5.56 and .308 is due to using the 5.56 barrel for 100-200 yard training with less-expensive, 55gr Varmint bullets after its long-range utility is spent”.

Moreover, while some applications require specialized, high-cost components, others do not. And, if the shooter is still relatively new to the sport and hasn’t refined his skill to within the top few percentile of marksmen, a more economical caliber choice can help stretch a limited budget. Translation: More skill per dollar!

In this post, the prices for all items mentioned here were taken from a major component supplier’s current advertisements, and all brass was of top quality, except in the case of 5.56mm. There, 200 top-quality, imported cases were reserved for 600-yard shooting, and the other brass used was once-fired Lake City surplus.

Cartridge cases were assumed to be loaded 10 times each. [Your mileage may vary…] Bullet prices assumed the use of less-expensive, but good-quality match bullets for the bulk of shooting as appropriate.

The cost of top-tier, highly-expensive match bullets was also calculated for a realistic percentage of the shots fired, based on ones’ application. Barrel life by caliber was taken from likely estimates based on experience and good barrel maintenance.

Brass Costs Based on 10 Loads Per Case
Often, handloaders may calculate ammunition cost per round by adding the individual costs of primers, powder charges and projectiles. Many don’t consider the cost of brass, as it is reloaded several times. Here, we’ll consider the cost of enough top-quality brass to wear out a barrel in our given caliber, at 10 loads per case, except as noted above.

Don’t Forget Amortized Barrel Costs
Few shooters factor in the full, true cost of barrel life. Depending on caliber, that can dramatically increase the cost per round. For example, consider a long-range rifle in 6.5/284 caliber. This cartridge performs amazingly well, but at a cost. Ballpark estimated barrel life [in a top-quality barrel] is 1100 rounds. Some wear out faster, some last longer, but this gives a rough idea of what to expect.

Accurate barrels are a joy to use, but they are an expendable resource!
Shooting Cost by Cartridge Caliber type USAMU

A top-quality barrel plus installation was estimated at about $520.00. At 1100 rounds, barrel life adds $0.47 per round to our total cost. Thus, what had started out as an [components-only estimate, with brass cost] of $0.76/round now totals $1.24 per shot!

Cost Considerations When Choosing a Catridge Type
Some shooters might ask themselves if they could meet their present needs with a more economical caliber. If so, that equates to more practice and matches per available dollar, and more potential skill increase on the available budget.

Each shooter knows his skill level, practice needs, and shooting discipline’s requirements. Some might shoot NRA Service Rifle or Match Rifle using a 5.56mm with a long barrel life. Others might be Match Rifle shooters faced with choosing between, say, a 6mm BR vs. 6XC. A realistic assessment of ones needs, performance-wise, may help guide the shooter toward a caliber that’s most optimized to their needs at the moment.

Admittedly, the factors affecting cost for any individuals circumstances can vary significantly. However, hopefully this will provide one useful method of evaluating one’s training and competition choices, based on their skill, goals and needs.

USAMU reloading Facebook Page army tips tech

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 7 Comments »
April 13th, 2017

300 Blackout Basics — Specs and Cartridge INFO

300 BLK AAC Blackout

As the .30-Cal cartridge of choice for the AR15 platform, the 300 AAC Blackout, also known as 300 BLK, has become quite popular with black rifle owners. You can now purchase quality factory ammo and even premium Lapua 300 BLK brass. Some folks wonder — “why consider a 300 BLK”? Here are the key reasons you may want to acquire a 300 AAC Blackout upper for your AR:

FIVE REASONS to Shoot the 300 BLK:

1. Easy Conversion: Use your current AR lower, bolt/carrier, buffer, and magazine. The only part you need to change is the barrel.
2. Hunting Capability: 300 BLK conforms to state hunting regulations which may require a cartridge larger than .22 caliber. The 300 BLK shoots .308 caliber bullets.
3. Suppressor-Friendly: You can shoot heavier bullets subsonic. The subsonic capabilities of the 300 BLK make it ideal for use with a suppressed AR.
4. Great Barrel Life: With a .30-caliber bore and a modest powder charge, barrel life is outstanding.
5. Great Brass: No Case forming is required — just buy Lapua 300 BLK brass.

The 300 AAC Blackout was created by Advanced Armament Corp. and Remington primarily for the military as a way to shoot .30-caliber bullets from the M4/AR15 platform while using standard magazines. As explained by Robert Silvers, AAC’s R&D Director: “[You can] shoot 30 caliber from your AR while still using normal magazines with full capacity. Even the bolt stays the same, and all that changes is the barrel.” CLICK HERE for more information.

300 BLK AAC Blackout magazine

The concept of putting a .30-caliber bullet in a shortened 223 case has been done before, but not as an industry-wide standard that anyone can make products for, royalty-free. SAAMI, the industry standards organization, adopted and standardized the AAC 300 Blackout earlier this year. The SAAMI diagram for the 300 BLK is shown below.

300 AAC Blackout SAAMI Diagram
300 Blackout SAAMI Cartridge Specification

Affordable Factory 300 BLK Ammo is Available
Remington now sells a variety of 300 BLK ammo: 1) 125 grain open-tip match with a custom Sierra bullet; 2) 220gr subsonic, and 3) 125gr AccuTip (photo below). While the 300 BLK is easy (and inexpensive) to reload, Remington and AAC recognized that most people are not reloaders. So Remington will be budget-priced UMC-brand 300 BLK ammo through at just $12.99 per box — that’s less than most other rifle cartridges than are more powerful than the .223.

300 AAC BLK ammo

The 300 AAC Blackout definitely works for hunters who want to use their AR15-platform rifle. And it also serves as a specialized 30-Cal “rule-beater” that lets 3-Gun competitors “make major” with a low-recoil cartridge that also offers long barrel life. For those who need to run a .30-caliber cartridge from a standard AR15 platform (as opposed to the AR10), the 300 AAC Blackout makes sense. But for hunters using a bolt gun, there are any number of tried and true options, such as the 7.62×39, .30-30, and, of course, the .308 Winchester (7.62×51 NATO).

WARNING: With some bullet options (and setback during chambering) 300 Blackout rounds will go into a .223 chamber and fire. Putting a .308-caliber bullet in a .224-diameter barrel is a recipe for disaster. You can blow up your gun and sustain serious injury. That’s why we recommend you have a dedicated 300 BLK upper and mark your magazines. Also, always, always check your .223 magazines to ensure no 300 BLK rounds worked their way in when you loaded the mags. There have been a number of Kabooms recorded from 300 BLK rounds fired in a .223 Rem/5.56×45 chamber. CLICK HERE to see actual 300 BLK in .223 Rem chamber.

Other 300 BLK Resources
300 BLK by AAC: An Introduction by Paul Erhardt.
300 AAC Blackout Ammo Review
AAC .300 BLK AR-15, The Gun Blog.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tactical 5 Comments »