June 27th, 2018

Accidental Annealing — Did Your Wife Kill Your Brass?

Oven anneal annealing Alpha Munitions Craig Arnzen Area419.com
NOTE: If you prefer drying your brass in an oven we recommend a temp setting no higher than 200° F. Better yet, use a dedicated case dryer that cannot possibly over-cook your cases.

Tech Tip by Craig Arnzen of Area419.com
As wet-tumbling brass has become more popular in recent years, guys have tried a LOT of ways to get their brass dry — towels, hair dryers, and even food dehydrators. (See Top Ten Brass Drying Methods). Another common method — albeit with some potential issues — is putting your wet brass in the oven to dry. Provided you monitor TEMP and TIME, this method is fast, effective, and easy (as long don’t use the wife’s favorite cooking pans — that’ll get you in trouble.)

With oven-drying, however, unexpected issues can arise, as illustrated by this worrisome story: “I put my brass in for an hour at 200° F and turned it off. Next thing I know I realize my wife has the oven pre-heating to 350° F. Is my brass ruined?”

Oven anneal annealing Alpha Munitions Craig Arnzen Area419.comIf you search the AccurateShooter.com Shooters’ Forum, you’ll find at least three threads with stories like that (i.e. higher-than-expected oven temps when drying brass), and answers on both sides of the line. I know this, because it happened to me — I had some 6XC brass drying and the wife pre-heated the oven. Concerned about my cases, I consulted a genuine annealing expert, Andrew Rixon.

Andrew is the Director of Engineering and Manufacturing at Alpha Munitions, makers of premium-grade rifle brass. I had baked a batch of Alpha’s new 6XC brass, which is exceptionally consistent and well-made.

Before Andrew would answer my question though, he gave me a little lesson on what really happens during annealing:

“Annealing is performed by heating the brass to specific temperatures. There are three phases of annealing: recovery, recrystallization, and grain growth. All of which have specific temperatures and or exposure times related to them. It is key for cartridge brass annealing processes to hit the recrystallization phase which allows for strain-free grains to grow. The growth of strain-free grains eliminate dislocations, drastically decreasing hardness and increasing ductility. For recrystallization to occur the material temperature must be within 600-1000 degrees Fahrenheit (F).”

Oven anneal annealing Alpha Munitions Craig Arnzen Area419.com

He then got into really answering the question, and was (fortunately) definitive in his answer: “If the temps do not exceed 450 degrees F then there is nothing to worry about as it did not exceed the critical temperature for annealing to occur.” Editor: Caution — do NOT assume that the temperature marked on the oven knob is the actual temperature INSIDE the oven, particularly near the back. Some older ovens can be off as much as 75 degrees F. Be conservative!

Well, there you have it. If you’ve baked your brass, you’re probably OK. If you got it hotter than 450° F then there can start to be some changes to the metal, but we will let you learn more about that directly from Andrew, who is working on a lengthy, detailed article on the science of annealing, to be released later this summer.

This TECH TIP brought to you by Area 419
Oven anneal annealing Alpha Munitions Craig Arnzen Area419.com

Want to learn more about Alpha Munitions? Visit AlphaMunitions.com.

Permalink - Articles, Reloading, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
June 11th, 2018

What You Need to Get Started in PRS Competition

PRS Precison Rifle Series getting started equipment list

Report by Craig Arnzen, Area419.com
It’s easy to think about shooting your first precision rifle match and worry about all of the gear and trinkets that you may need to make it through. In reality, the old rules apply — keep it simple.

We wanted to put together for you a no-nonsense list of the Top Five Gear Items you need for your first match. This list focuses on the “must-have” items you’ll need for PRS-Style competitions.

PRS Precison Rifle Series getting started equipment list support bag dope scope

1. A Rifle (That is Reliable and Sub-MOA Accurate)

Your rifle is the most obvious piece of kit, but we can give you a little more information. Most of the guys you’ll find out there are shooting 6.5 Creedmoor. Yeah, there are guys using .308 Wins and 6mm Dashers, but the 6.5 Creedmoor makes up more than half of the rounds shot in PRS competition, when looking at both national and club matches. Your comp rig needs to be mag-fed and shoot better than 1 MOA. It DOESN’T need to be better than 0.5 MOA (half-MOA). With most targets being 2-3 MOA in size, a half-MOA gun will do just fine. More accuracy is better of course, but you don’t need an exotic quarter-MOA rig to win.

[Editor’s NOTE: PRS does offer a Gas Gun division, but most guys start out with a bolt-action rifle, which will be less maintenance-intensive than an AR-platform rig.]

PRS Precison Rifle Series getting started equipment list support bag dope scope

Muzzle brakes, like our Area 419 Hellfire, are also very popular as much of the PRS game is recoil management. If you can’t see your misses, you’re sure to have more of them.

The rifle also needs an optic with repeatable clicks and a reticle with Mil- or MOA-based hashmarks. The clicks can be either Mil system or MOA system (Mil is more common), so long as the click values match the reticle (i.e. you don’t want 1/4-moa clicks with a Mil-marked reticle). How much power do you need? Anything that zooms in the mid-teens will suffice. I could shoot a match with a fixed 12X scope and not feel disadvantaged. We love the Kahles K624i, if you’re looking for a suggestion.

Oh, and you’ll want a bipod — but the choice in bipod deserves a whole separate article by itself. Nothing wrong with starting out with a Harris swivel. Then you might look at different bipods on other competitors’ rifles for comparison.

2. Ammunition — Factory Ammo and Hand-loads

Good ammo is important, but as we discuss above, 0.5 MOA is good enough. Also, speed is great but it matters FAR less than you’d think. Drop can be calculated with precision, and distances are normally known, so a slightly flatter trajectory doesn’t really matter. Wind matters, but the difference you’ll find when eeking out that last 50 fps is very, very small.

PRS Precison Rifle Series getting started equipment list support bag dope ammo ammunition
Federal, Hornady, and Prime all make quality ammo that is widely used by shooters from local to national matches. Facebook photo by CReece.

Precision Handloads
If you want to run down the rabbit hole of finding that perfect ammo that shoots in the “twos” (0.2 MOA), get yourself an AutoTrickler and some of our billet aluminum accessories — you’ll love the setup.

3. A Versatile Support Bag

There are countless bag options. But there is ONE bag you’ll see everywhere, and for good reason. The Game-Changer from Armageddon Gear is aptly named. Many shooters use it as a barricade bag as well as a rear bag, meaning a guy could get away with using only this bag for an entire match. If you need another bag when you get there, ask someone in your squad, they’ll share. I promise.

PRS Precison Rifle Series getting started equipment list support bag Gamechanger Game-changer Armageddon Gear dope scope

4. DOPE (Reliable Ballistics Info)

We’re not talking the kind of Dope you may find in a match outside Denver — we are talking about the kind that feeds you ballistic solutions. The software-enabled Kestrel is a very common item on the range, but you’ll also see lots of guys using mobile Apps such as Shooter or Applied Ballistics Mobile, and they have great results.

It’s also handy to have an armband or an item like the Hawk Hill data card holder for stages with various targets at differing ranges. Once the RO says “engage” and your mind stops working, you’ll appreciate having it written down.

5. Hearing Protection

PRS Competitors shoot with brakes and sometimes in enclosed spaces. That’s why you need serious hearing protection. We recommend NRR 33 earplugs, doubled up with Electronic Muffs to hear range commands. I have used the 33 dB NRR Mack’s foamies at matches for most of the last year, and the Howard Leight NRR 33 Max-1s are also very effective. The budget-priced (under $50) Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic muffs work well, but premium electronic muffs may be more comfortable.

PRS Precison Rifle Series getting started equipment list support bag Gamechanger Game-changer Armageddon Gear dope scope

Growing in popularity are high-tech, in-ear digital units like the ESP Stealth. I have a set of linked ESP Steaths on the way and hope to evaluate them soon. These are supposed to be very good, but the ESP Stealths cost $2100.00 per pair!

Think we missed something? Have more questions? Let us know.

Contact: Team@Area419.com

Permalink Competition, Gear Review, Shooting Skills, Tactical 6 Comments »