January 9th, 2019

Loading Accurate Pistol Ammo for Competition — USAMU Tips

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) regularly publishes a weekly reloading article on its Facebook Page. In this article, the second in a 3-part series, the USAMU covers the process of loading competition pistol ammunition. The authors focus on two key elements — the taper crimp and the quality/uniformity of the original brass. If you shoot pistol competitively, or just want to maximize the accuracy of your handguns, read this article. The taper crimp tips are very important.

Pistol Reloading USAMU taper crimp Brass

Loading Accurate Competition Pistol Ammunition — Part 2 of 3

Today, we resume our series on factors affecting accuracy in pistol handloads. Readers who missed Part One can visit our USAMU Facebook Page. Scroll down to March 28, 2018 to find that first installment which is worth reading.

One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of taper crimp used, and its effect on accuracy. (NOTE: this article pertains to loading for semi-autos – revolver crimp techniques involve some quite different issues.) Briefly, different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors such as case neck tension. During machine-rest testing of experimental Service Pistol ammunition, many variables are examined. Among these, our Shop often varies a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ when re-testing for finest accuracy.

How to Measure Taper Crimp on Pistol Cartridges
One question that often arises is, “How do I measure the taper crimp I’m putting on my cartridges?” Using the narrow part of one’s dial caliper jaws, carefully measure the case diameter at the exact edge of the case mouth on a loaded cartridge. It’s important to take several measurements to ensure consistency. Also, be sure to measure at several places around the case mouth, as case wall thickness can vary. After measuring 2-3 cartridges with a given crimp setting, one can be confident of the true dimension and that it can be repeated later, if needed.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

However, for good results, one must use brass from one maker due to variances in case wall thickness. For example, the same degree of crimp that imparts a measurement of 0.471″ with Brand X brass may result in 0.469″ with Brand Y. Thus, for best accuracy, using brass from the same manufacturer is important — particularly for 50-yard Slow Fire. In a perfect world, it is better still to use brass from one lot number if possible. With the popularity of progressive presses using interchangeable tool heads, keeping separate tool heads adjusted for each load helps maximize uniformity between ammunition lots.

Brass Uniformity and Accuracy
Brass is important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor to pay attention to his brass – even if only for the 50-yard “Slow Fire” portions of “Bullseye” matches and practice. By segregating brass as described above, and additionally keeping track of the number of times a given batch of cases has been fired, one can ensure case neck tension and case length are at their most uniform.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

Given the large volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. In NRA Outdoor Pistol (“Bullseye”), the 10-ring is relatively generous — especially for a well-trained shooter with an accurate pistol and load. However, for the “long line” (50 yards), purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea. To keep track of your brass on the line, use a unique headstamp marking with 1 or 2 colors of marking pen ink.

Uniform Cartridge Overall Length is Important
Cartridge case Overall Length (OAL) uniformity as it comes from the factory is important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, headspace (rimless cartridges), etc. Cartridge case-length consistency varies noticeably by maker and, with lesser manufacturers, also from lot to lot. Some manufacturers are more consistent in their dimensions than others, and also in the hardness/ductility of their brass. Similarly, pay attention to primer brands, powder lot numbers, etc.

This concludes Part 2 of our series – Part 3 will be upcoming soon. Stay safe, and good shooting!

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November 18th, 2018

Coast Guard Pistolero Dominates CMP New England Games

Coast Guard Petty Officer Charlie Petrotto Vermont pistol travel games CMP winner handgun bullseye

This fall in Vermont, Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class (PO1) Charlie Petrotto proved he is one of the nation’s top pistol shooters. At the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) New England Travel Games, held at the Camp Ethan Allen in Vermont in September, 34-year-old PO1 Petrotto won every single pistol competition during the event. As the “Top Gun” in every pistol match, Petrotto took home SEVEN plaques for his pistol marksmanship — a remarkable trophy haul.

Report based on story by Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
At the 2018 New England Games, Charlie Petrotto swept all the pistol events. Competitors during the pistol events saw the skies open up to periodic rain showers, but, according to Petrotto, the biggest challenge wasn’t the precipitation so much as the darkness brought on from the clouds overhead.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Charlie Petrotto Vermont pistol travel games CMP winner handgun bullseye

That created a challenge he explained, “Obviously you need to be hard on your front sights and smooth on the trigger, and it was hard to do the first part, so it was hard to get on your sights and stay on your sights – the target was so bright, and your sights were so dark. It was easy to just jump to the target. I shot a couple of 7’s that way, not paying attention to my sights.” Though adequately tested, he captured each win during the weekend.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Charlie Petrotto Vermont pistol travel games CMP winner handgun bullseye

Petrotto is passionate about marksmanship. He’s a Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class (Gunners Mate) currently stationed at the Coast Guard Academy. There he studies marksmanship and works with cadets and Officer Candidate School (OCS) candidates.

Being stationed at the Coast Guard Academy has definitely helped Petrotto’s skill set: “It’s really a fortunate opportunity,” he said. “I get to come in early to work, we have a range where I shoot air pistol, I shoot free pistol, .45, .22 – all the things – before we have a cup of coffee and get to work. With that, we really get to do a lot of shooting,” he said with a grin.

Petrotto has achieved both Pistol and Rifle Distinguished badges. And he has reached the President’s Hundred in pistol at the Camp Perry National Matches four years running. Petrotto’s love for marksmanship competition began when he was in A-school in the Coast Guard. Looking through a manual he saw a picture of the Distinguished Badges. He photocopied the pages, put them in his locker and told himself, “I have to get that.” And he did — he is now double-distinguished in both pistol and rifle.

READ Full Story on CMP Website HERE »

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June 11th, 2015

Precision Handloading for Pistols — Tips from the USAMU

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

This week, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit is pleased to host pistol teams from the various U.S. Armed Services in the 56th Annual Interservice Pistol Championship. Our Handloading Shop members have enjoyed discussing pistol accuracy and enjoying the camaraderie of competitive shooters from all over. In that spirit, this week’s topic will focus on handloading for best pistol accuracy, rather than our usual rifle-oriented information.

Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. Different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.

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July 14th, 2013

‘Gunny’ Zins Does It Again — Wins His 12th National Pistol Title

Report based on story by Kyle Jillson for NRABlog
Late last night at Camp Perry, Ohio’s Hough Theater, Brian ‘Gunny’ Zins stepped atop the podium and raised the coveted Harrison Trophy above his head to the cheers of the crowd. He had just won his 12th NRA National Pistol Championship, twice as many as any other shooter in National Match history.

Brian Zins Championship Pistol Cabot Guns
Photo by GOnraMedia

At the dawn of the championship’s second day it looked like Zins might have to wait a year to reach the even dozen. During the first day’s matches he had made the mistake of only firing four shots in a five shot string. And, exactly ten points behind the then-leader, he was kicking himself. “Having a saved round in the .22 Caliber Championship was a rookie mistake that will hopefully never happen again — knock on wood,” Zins laughed.

He’s able to laugh about it now because of his brilliant comeback. During the championship’s last two days Zins became a man possessed. Firing an 880 out of 900 and 885 out of 900 in the national championships’ two final events, Centerfire Pistol and .45 Caliber Pistol, he not only stormed back but finished with a 16-point lead. “But being able to pull it together, keep my head in the game and come back to win Centerfire and .45 was just huge for me,” Zins explained. “At age 44 I have twice as many national championships as anybody else and I’m not done yet. I think I have a few more left in me.”

If history is any indication, it’s certainly possible. But it’s no guarantee. Camp Perry attracts the country’s top shooters and Zins’ titles aren’t all consecutive. Since his first championship in 1996, competitors other than Zins received gold in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2009 and 2011.

Brian Zins Championship Pistol Cabot GunsZins Shoots a Cabot Guns .45 ACP Pistol
“Something people might not know is the gun I shot for the Centerfire and .45 championships was a straight, out of the box, Cabot production gun,” Zins said. “There was no fitting in the barrel, no bushing, the only thing we did was a trigger job. Everything Cabot Guns builds is that quality and now they’ve got a bullseye edition of their guns that can win national championships.” With a little practice, of course. [Editor: Cabot 1911s are no ordinary “production guns”. The lowest priced Cabot, the GI/Classic, costs $4750.00]

Cabot Guns Video from 2012 National Pistol Championships (Zins won in 2012 also)

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