January 12th, 2020

Cartridge Headspace 101 — Understanding the Basicss

Brownells Headspace Gauge cutaway chamber drawing SAAMI ANSI

Do you know what the inside of a rifle chamber (and throat zone) really looks like? Do you understand the concept of headspace and why it’s important? If not, you should read the Brownells GunTech article Gauging Success – Minimum Headspace and Maximum COL. This article explains the basics of headspace and shows how to measure headspace (and length to lands) in your barrels with precision. The article also explains how to adjust your full-length sizing dies to “bump the shoulder” as needed.

Why is headspace important? The article explains: “Controlling headspace and setting proper C.O.L. also represent improved safety and reduced cost of handloading. Excessive headspace can cause case head separation and gases in excess of 60,000 PSI escaping from a rifle’s chamber. Too little headspace can result in a chamber forced bullet crimp and a bullet that becomes an obstruction more than a properly secured projectile. Excessive C.O.L. can result in a rifling-bound bullet, a condition that could result in spikes of excessive pressure.” [Editor’s NOTE: It is common for competitive benchrest shooters to seat bullets into the rifling. This can be done safely if you reduce your loads accordingly. With some bullets we often see best accuracy .010″ (or more) into the lands. However, this can generate more pressure than the same bullet seated .010″ away from initial lands contact. As with all reloading, start low and work up gradually.]

Brownells Headspace Gauge cutaway chamber drawing SAAMI ANSI

How is headspace specified? Most cartridges used within the United States are defined within ANSI/SAAMI Z299.3-4. Brownells explains: “In the case of the .243 Winchester, as an example, there are pressure specifications, cartridge drawings and, as pictured above, chamber drawings. Armed with a chamber drawing, each manufacturer producing a firearm for the .243 Winchester knows the proper standard dimension to cut chambers and set headspace. Notice there are two headspace reference dimensions for the chamber. The upper is a place in the chamber where the shoulder is .400″ in diameter; the “datum” or “basic” line. The lower is the 1.630″~1.640″ minimum – maximum dimension from the breech face (bolt face) to that point in the chamber that measures .400″.”

The actual headspace of any firearm is the distance from the breech face to the point in the chamber that is intended to prevent forward motion of a cartridge.

Finding Cartridge Length to Lands with OAL Gauge
Using a comparator on a set of calipers, you can quickly determine catridge base-to-ogive length. This is the measurement from the base of the case to the forward-most full diameter section of the bullet, typically called the ogive. Shown here, that ogive is 0.243″ diameter.

The next step is using a modified (threaded) case with a Hornady OAL tool to determine Length-to-Lands (LTL) in your rifle’s chamber. During this measurement process, the modified case, with a bullet in its neck, is inserted in the chamber. Go slow, take your time. Here are 5 tips that will help you get repeatable and reliable LTL measurements:

1. Start with a clean chamber and clean barrel throat.
2. Make sure the modified case is fully screwed down and seated on the OAL Gauge. It can sometimes unscrew a bit during repeated measurements.
3. Insert the modified case slowly and gently, but ensure the shoulder of the modified case is fully seated on the end of the chamber.
4. Push the gray plastic rod GENTLY. It is common for the bullet to be tilted a bit. You want to allow the bullet to self-center in the throat BEFORE you apply much pressure. Then tap a couple times and push until you feel resistance. Do NOT push too hard — that will jam the bullet in the lands.
5. Repeat the measurement at least 3 more times. If you follow our instructions, you should, typically, get a repeatable measurement, within 0.015″ or so, 3 out of 4 times.

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December 10th, 2019

How Changes in Cartridge OAL Can Alter Pressure and Velocity

Berger Bullets COAL length cartridge

Figure 1. When the bullet is seated farther out of the case, there is more volume available for powder. This enables the cartridge to generate higher muzzle velocity with the same pressure.

Berger Bullets COAL length cartridgeEffects Of Cartridge Over All Length (COAL) And Cartridge Base To Ogive (CBTO) – Part 1
by Bryan Litz for Berger Bullets.
Many shooters are not aware of the dramatic effects that bullet seating depth can have on the pressure and velocity generated by a rifle cartridge. Cartridge Overall Length (COAL) is also a variable that can be used to fine-tune accuracy. It’s also an important consideration for rifles that need to feed rounds through a magazine. In this article, we’ll explore the various effects of COAL, and what choices a shooter can make to maximize the effectiveness of their hand loads.

Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI)
Most loading manuals (including the Berger Manual), present loading data according to SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) standards. SAAMI provides max pressure, COAL and many other specifications for commercial cartridges so that rifle makers, ammo makers, and hand loaders can standardize their products so they all work together. As we’ll see later in this article, these SAAMI standards are in many cases outdated and can dramatically restrict the performance potential of a cartridge.

Bullet seating depth is an important variable in the accuracy equation. In many cases, the SAAMI-specified COAL is shorter than what a hand loader wants to load their rounds to for accuracy purposes. In the case where a hand loader seats the bullets longer than SAAMI specified COAL, there are some internal ballistic effects that take place which are important to understand.

Effects of Seating Depth / COAL on Pressure and Velocity
The primary effect of loading a cartridge long is that it leaves more internal volume inside the cartridge. This extra internal volume has a well known effect; for a given powder charge, there will be less pressure and less velocity produced because of the extra empty space. Another way to look at this is you have to use more powder to achieve the same pressure and velocity when the bullet is seated out long. In fact, the extra powder you can add to a cartridge with the bullet seated long will allow you to achieve greater velocity at the same pressure than a cartridge with a bullet seated short.

When you think about it, it makes good sense. After all, when you seat the bullet out longer and leave more internal case volume for powder, you’re effectively making the cartridge into a bigger cartridge by increasing the size of the combustion chamber. Figure 1 illustrates the extra volume that’s available for powder when the bullet is seated out long.

Before concluding that it’s a good idea to start seating your bullets longer than SAAMI spec length, there are a few things to consider.

Geometry of a Chamber Throat
The chamber in a rifle will have a certain throat length which will dictate how long a bullet can be loaded. The throat is the forward portion of the chamber that has no rifling. The portion of the bullet’s bearing surface that projects out of the case occupies the throat (see Figure 2).

Berger Bullets COAL length cartridge

The length of the throat determines how much of the bullet can stick out of the case. When a cartridge is chambered and the bullet encounters the beginning of the rifling, known as the lands, it’s met with hard resistance. This COAL marks the maximum length that a bullet can be seated. When a bullet is seated out to contact the lands, its initial forward motion during ignition is immediately resisted by an engraving force.

Seating a bullet against the lands causes pressures to be elevated noticeably higher than if the bullet were seated just a few thousandths of an inch off the lands.

A very common practice in precision reloading is to establish the COAL for a bullet that’s seated to touch the lands. This is a reference length that the hand loader works from when searching for the optimal seating depth for precision. Many times, the best seating depth is with the bullet touching or very near the lands. However, in some rifles, the best seating depth might be 0.100″ or more off the lands. This is simply a variable the hand loader uses to tune the precision of a rifle.

CLICK HERE to Read Full Article with More Info

Article sourced by EdLongrange. We welcome tips from readers.
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November 1st, 2019

Ogives, Meplats, Boat-Tails and Other Bullet Design Elements

Bullet Design Zediker

Noted gun writer Glen Zediker (author of Top Grade Ammo), regularly contributes tech articles to the Midsouth Shooters Blog. One of Glen’s Midsouth Blog articles covers Bullet Design. We suggest you read the article — even seasoned hand-loaders will learn a few things about projectile properties (and how to choose the right bullet design for your needs). Glen also wrote a recent Blog article on cartridge pressure signs, linked below

Read Zediker Bullet Design Article | Read Zediker Pressure Signs Article

Glen explains: “A ‘match’ bullet’s job is to perforate a piece of paper. A bullet designed for varmint hunting, on the other hand, is designed to produce explosive impact, and one for larger game hunting strives to strike a balance between expansion and penetration. However! No matter how it’s built inside, there are universal elements of any bullet design, and those are found on the outside.”

Bullet Design Zediker

In his article, Glen identifies the key elements of a bullet and explains how they are defined: “Base, that’s the bottom; boat-tail, or not (flat-base); shank, portion of full-caliber diameter; ogive, the sloping ‘nosecone'; tip, either open or closed (open it’s called the ‘meplat’). The shape of the ogive and the first point of ‘major diameter’ are extremely influential elements. The first point of major diameter can vary from barrel brand to barrel brand because it’s the point on the bullet that coincides with land diameter in the barrel — the first point that will actually contact the barrel as the bullet moves forward. When there’s a cartridge sitting in the rifle chamber, the distance or gap between the first point of major diameter and the lands is called ‘jump’, and, usually, the less there is the better.”

Bullet Design Zediker

Ogives Analyzed — Tangent vs. Secant Bullet Designs
Glen notes that bullet designs reflect secant or tangent profiles, or a combination of both: “The two essential profiles a bullet can take are ‘secant’ and ‘tangent’. This refers to the shape of the ogive. A tangent is a more rounded, gradual flow toward the tip, while a secant is a more radical step-in, more like a spike. Secants fly with less resistance (less aerodynamic drag), but tangents are [often] more tolerant of jump [or to put it another way, less sensitive to seating depth variations].”

Glen adds: “Ogives are measured in ‘calibers’. That’s pretty simple: an 8-caliber ogive describes an arc that’s 8 times caliber diameter; a 12-caliber is based on a circle that’s 12 times the caliber. The 8 will be a smaller circle than the 12, so, an 8-caliber ogive is more ‘blunt’ or rounded. Bullets with lower-caliber ogives are more tolerant of jump and (usually) shoot better, easier. Higher-caliber ogives [generally] fly better, farther. This is an important component in the ‘high-BC’ designs.”

Learn More in Zediker Books
Glen has authored a number of excellent books for hand-loaders and competitive shooters. Here are three of his most popular titles, including his latest book, Top Grade Ammo:

zediker book glen top grade ammo zediker book glen top grade ammo zediker book glen top grade ammo

All these titles are available from Midsouth Shooters Supply. Click each cover above to purchase from Midsouth.

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August 31st, 2018

Cartridge Base to Ogive (CBTO) Length — Factors to Consider

chamber length loading berger bullets
Here are two different bullet types, seated to the same CBTO length, but different COAL. Note the shiny scratches on the bullets made by the comparator tool which indicates a point on the bullet ogive near where the ogive will engage the rifling.

Berger Bullets COAL length cartridgeEffects Of Cartridge Over All Length (COAL) And Cartridge Base To Ogive (CBTO) – Part 2
by Bryan Litz for Berger Bullets.
Part One of this series focused on the importance of COAL in terms of SAAMI standards, magazine lengths, seating depths, and pressure levels. Another measure of length for loaded ammunition is highly important to precision, namely Cartridge Base to Bullet Ogive Length (CBTO).

Figure 2. Chamber throat geometry showing the bullet jump to the rifling or lands.
chamber length loading berger bullets

Look at Figure 2. Suppose the bullet was seated out of the case to the point where the base of the bullet’s nose (ogive) just contacted the beginning of the riflings (the lands) when the bolt was closed. This bullet seating configuration is referred to as touching the lands, or touching the riflings and is a very important measurement to understand for precision hand-loading. Due to the complex dynamics of internal ballistics which happen in the blink of an eye, the distance a bullet moves out of the case before it engages the riflings is highly critical to precision potential. Therefore, in order to systematically optimize the precision of his handloads, it’s critically important that the precision hand-loader understands how to alter bullet seating depth in relation to the barrel rifling. Part of the required knowledge is understanding how to accurately and repeatably measure the Cartridge Base To Ogive (CBTO) dimension. This is explained in the FULL ARTICLE.

Bryan Litz offers an extended discussion on how to measure CBTO using different tools and methods, including the Hornady OAL gauge. You can read this discussion in the full article found on the Berger Bullets website. CLICK HERE to Read Full Article.

Why Not Use CBTO as a SAAMI Standard?
If CBTO is so important to rifle accuracy, you might ask, “Why is it not listed as the SAAMI spec standard in addition to COAL?” There is one primary reason why it is not listed in the standard. This is the lack of uniformity in bullet nose shapes and measuring devices used to determine CBTO.

Benefits of Having a Uniform CBTO
There is another aspect to knowing your CBTO when checking your COAL as it pertains to performance. With good bullets, tooling, and carefully-prepared cases you can easily achieve a CBTO that varies less than +/- .001″ but your COAL can vary as much as .025″ extreme spread (or more with other brands). This is not necessarily bad and it is much better than the other way around. If you have a CBTO dimension that varies but your COAL dimension is tight (within +/- .002″) then it is most likely that your bullet is bottoming out inside the seater cone on the bullet tip. This is very bad and is to be avoided. It is normal for bullets to have precisely the same nose shape and it is also normal for these same bullets to have nose lengths that can vary as much as .025″.

Summary of Cartridge Base To Ogive (CBTO) Discussion
Here are four important considerations regarding bullet seating depth as it relates to CBTO:

1. CBTO is a critical measurement to understand for handloaders because it’s directly related to precision potential, and you control it by simply setting bullet seating depth.

2. Tools and methods for measuring CBTO vary. Most of the measurement techniques have pitfalls (which may give rise to inconsistent results) that you should understand before starting out.

3. A CBTO that produces the best precision in your rifle may not produce the best precision in someone else’s rifle. Even if you have the same rifle, same bullets, same model of comparator gauges, etc. It’s possible that the gauges are not actually the same, and measurements from one don’t translate to the same dimension for another.

4. Once you find the CBTO that produces the best precision in your rifle, it’s important to allow minimal variation in that dimension when producing quality handloads. This is achieved by using quality bullets, tooling, and properly preparing case mouths and necks for consistent seating.

CLICK HERE to Read Full Article with More Info
Article sourced by EdLongrange. We welcome tips from readers.
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