March 10th, 2020

Uniforming Meplats — How to Point Bullets with Whidden System

whidden bullet pointing die system kit
Jason Baney photo from Whidden Bullet Pointing Die Review.

The new generation Berger LRHT Match bullets come with Meplat Reduction Technology™ (MRT) for more consistent BCs. Essentially they are “pointed” at the factory. Likewise, many of Sierra’s most popular MatchKing bullets are now factory-pointed in a final production stage. However, for most other bullet types, you can benefit from using a bullet pointing system to make the meplats more consistent.

Bullet pointing die system whidden

Gear Review by GS Arizona

This article originally appeared in the Rifleman’s Journal website.
Many of you have doubtlessly read Bryan Litz’s articles in our Daily Bulletin and on his Applied Ballistics website about various current long-range bullets. Bryan’s work carries a great deal of weight in the world of ballistics, so his comments (and mathematical proofs) regarding the benefits of bullet pointing certainly caught my attention. Bullet pointing, like meplat trimming, is an effort to reduce the ballistic inconsistency created by the somewhat jagged tip of the jacket where the bullet forming dies bring it to a point in the manufacturing process. Of course, we could eliminate this problem altogether by shooting closed-tip, open-base bullets like the Lapua D46, but that merely shifts the jacket problem to the other end of the bullet.

Whidden Bullet pointer tool

In any event, hollow point bullets rule the accuracy world today, so John Whidden, multi-time National Long Range Champion and a talented gunsmith to boot, came up with a very handy tool to let us make those hollow points pointier. Let’s have a look at John’s tool and see how it works.

Whidden Bullet pointer tool

The Whidden Bullet Pointing Die System uses a Forster bullet seating die body as its basic structure and that’s a good choice given the quality machining Forster does on these. The real heart of the tool comes in two parts: the caliber sleeve and the pointing die that fits inside the sleeve. In fact, to point up different caliber bullets, you only need to change the caliber sleeve, everything else remains the same. The last item is the bullet base that slips into a standard .308 shellholder and supports the bullet as it goes into the die body.

It took me less than five minutes to get everything set up, including changing the caliber sleeve from 6mm to .30 caliber. John’s instruction sheets are well illustrated and clearly written; you should have no problem getting up and running.

Pointing the bullets is as easy as sizing a piece of brass. You can see in the second photo above the difference between a few pointed bullets and a few un-pointed ones. The innermost pointed bullet in the picture was my first attempt and I adjusted the die a little after that, you can see that the others are closed a little more. John even includes a couple of sample bullets so that you can see one done right and one done wrong. That is a nice addition that can help you achieve the desired results.

This YouTube Video Shows the Whidden Bullet Pointing Die in Action

I think Bryan’s work supports the validity of this concept and John’s tool puts it into practice in a simple-to-use manner that makes it just about impossible to do any damage to the bullet. I have shot pointed bullets in various calibers at many matches now. Pointing is not a “miracle cure”, but I believe that pointing bullet tips can produce long-range accuracy gains, through reduced vertical dispersion, for many popular types of match bullets. The Whidden Bullet Pointing Die System retails for $220.00 (with one insert). Additional die inserts are $42.00 each. Extra caliber sleeves are also $42.00. You can purchase directly from Whidden Gunworks, or from Sinclair International.

Whidden Bullet pointer tool

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December 26th, 2019

Case-Head Separation — How to Detect Potential Problems

cartridge case separation

We are re-publishing this article at the request of Forum members who found the information very valuable. If you haven’t read this Safety Tip before, take a moment to learn how you can inspect your fired brass to determine if there may be a potential for case separation. A case separation can be dangerous, potentially causing serious injury.

cartridge case separationOn the respected Riflemans’ Journal blog there was an excellent article about Cartridge Case-Head Separation. In this important article, Journal Editor GS Arizona examined the causes of this serious problem and explained the ways you can inspect your brass to minimize the risk of a case-head separation. As cases get fired multiple times and then resized during reloading, the cases can stretch. Typically, there is a point in the lower section of the case where the case-walls thin out. This is your “danger zone” and you need to watch for tell-tale signs of weakening.

The photo below shows a case sectioned so that you can see where the case wall becomes thinner near the web. You can see a little arrow into the soot inside the case pointing to the thinned area. This case hadn’t split yet, but it most likely would do so after one or two more firings.

cartridge case separation

Paper Clip Hack for Detecting Problems
The article provided a great, easy tip for detecting potential problems. You can use a bent paper clip to detect potential case wall problems. Slide the paper clip inside your case to check for thin spots. GS Arizona explains: “This simple little tool (bent paper clip) will let you check the inside of cases before you reload them. The thin spot will be immediately apparent as you run the clip up the inside of the case. If you’re seeing a shiny line on the outside and the clip is really hitting a thin spot inside, it’s time to retire the case. If you do this every time you reload, on at least 15% of your cases, you’ll develop a good feel for what the thin spot feels like and how it gets worse as the case is reloaded more times. And if you’re loading the night before a match and feel pressured for time — don’t skip this step!”

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March 29th, 2019

Inspect Your Fired Brass to Avoid Catastrophic Case Failures

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-16 reloading semi-auto brass safety primer resizing
Close-up view of a sectioned case. This one here was “fixin’ to pop”, says Glen Zediker.

Here are highlights from an article Glen Zediker wrote for the Midsouth Blog. In this article Glen focuses on cartridge brass. Glen discusses the most common failures that appear with brass that has been shot multiple times, or which has been fired at excessive pressures. Glen explains some simple ways to check your cartridge brass to detect “early warning signs” of case failure, particularly case head separation, which can be dangerous.

Glen is the author of many excellent books on reloading. This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

Handloading for Competition
by Glen Zediker

The Competitive AR-15
by Glen Zediker

Top-Grade Ammo
by Glen Zediker

How Cases Degrade with Multiple Firings By Glen Zediker
This article explains when, and then how, to check after the progress of changes commencing with the firing on a new case. It’s the “progress of degeneration,” in a way of looking at it because the concern is getting a handle on when enough change in the brass has come about to require attention. Or abandonment. As said then, for me that’s 4 firings. That, as said last time, is when I might see changes that need attention. Also as said, that figure didn’t come out of a hat, but from my own notes in running my competition NRA High Power Rifle loads. [Editor’s Note: With Lapua brass, using moderate loads, in bolt-action rifles, we typically get about 10 good (match-worthy) firings. But if you anneal your Lapua brass, and run modest pressures, Lapua brass can perform well for 20 or more load cycles.]

The areas most affected are the case neck and case head area. Case neck walls get thicker [but] the case head area body walls get thinner. Primer pockets get shallower and larger diameter.

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-16 reloading semi-auto brass safety primer resizing

This case shows a cracked neck AND a crack (separation) above the case head. Zediker says it is “rare to see one case with both of the most common failures. [This case] was attacked by an M14.”

Case Head — Causes of Separation and Cracking
When a case is under pressure during firing, the brass, like water, flows where it can, where it’s more free to move. Of course, the chamber steel limits the amount it can expand. The case shoulder blows fully forward and the case base is slammed back against the bolt face. There is, therefore and in effect, a tug on both ends — it gets stretched. The shoulder area is relatively free to expand to conform to the chamber, but the other end, the case head area, is not. Since that’s the area of the case with the thickest walls, it doesn’t expand “out” much at all. What it does is stretch. The “case head area,” as I refer to it here, is the portion of the case above the web, which is just above the taper that leads in to the extractor groove. The “area” extends approximately an eighth-inch up the case body.

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-16 reloading semi-auto brass safety primer resizing

Here’s a “pressure ring.” You’ll see this after firing, if you see it. And, if you see it, that case is done. The bright ring indicates excessive stretching, which indicates excessive thinning. If you see a ring circling the case, noticeable because it’s lighter color than the case body, and it’s in this area, I’d say that case is done. And that’s right where a “head separation” occurs. It can crack and also blow slap in two, and that’s the “separation” part of case head separation.

Case-head case cartridge pressure ring separation head failure GS Arizona
Photo courtesy GS Arizona.

This is a spot to keep close watch on as cases age. It is also the area that is more “protected” by sizing with less case shoulder set-back. That is, pretty much, where the freedom for the stretching movement in this area comes from (the case shoulder creates a gap). If you’re seeing a sign that a head separation [might happen with relatively few firings], chances are the shoulder set-back is excessive, and also… the load pressure level.

Bent Paper Clip Case-Wall Gauge
Case-Head Separation paper clip Glen Zediker GS Arizona

Editor: You can use a bent paper clip to detect potential case wall problems. Slide the paper clip inside your case to check for thin spots. GS Arizona explains: “This simple little tool (bent paper clip) will let you check the inside of cases before you reload them. The thin spot will be immediately apparent as you run the clip up the inside of the case. If you’re seeing a shiny line on the outside and the clip is really hitting a thin spot inside, it’s time to retire the case.” Photo by GS Arizona.

Monitor Primer Pocket Dimensional Changes
Another case-head-area and pressure-related check is the primer pocket. As said, the primer pocket will get larger in diameter and shallower in depth each firing. As with many such things, the questions are “when” and “how much,” and the main thing, “how much?”

If the pocket gets excessively shallow, and that’s judged by a primer that seats fully but isn’t at least a tick below flush with the case base, there could be function issues. There’s a risk of a “slam-fire” with a semi-auto that uses a floating firing pin, and, if there is actual protrusion, that has the same effect as insufficient headspace. A primer pocket uniformer can reset the depth of a shallowed primer pocket to what it should be, but the real test for me is how easily the next primer seats into it. If it’s significantly less resistance, I’ll say that case is done. Shallower can be refurbished. That’s a primary function of a primer pocket uniformer. Larger diameter, though, can’t be fixed. I’ve mentioned in another article or two that, any more at least, my main gauge of load pressure has become how much primer pocket expansion there’s been.

AR15 Glen Zediker Practical AR-15 book newGlen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, are available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

Glen’s newest book, America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Check it out HERE!

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January 31st, 2017

Physical Training for Older Shooters

The following article by Tom Alves describes a very practical approach to physical training for those of us who are not as young and spry as we once were. Tom shows us how to give our bodies at least some of the maintenance we give our rifles. While we all realize that our rifles will outlive us, let’s see if we can’t narrow the margin a bit with some personal maintenance that just might help the shooting too!
This article originally appeared in the Rifleman’s Journal, and appears with permission of GS Arizona.

A Suggested Training Approach for Older Shooters

By Tom Alves
Most articles and discussions regarding competitive shooting center around equipment. Now and then one will come across an article about training such as the recent one from the AMTU posted on www.6mmbr.com/. If you break the articles down they often discuss “core strength” and durability. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate on those points with a bit different perspective. Many of the articles you will read in books about position shooting and the one mentioned before are directed more toward the younger generation of shooters in their 20’s. If you look down the line at a typical high power match these days you are likely to see quite a few folks who are in their middle 30’s and up. Many people in that age range have had broken bones and wear and tear on their joints so a training program needs to take that into account. For instance, while jogging for an extended period for heart and lung conditioning – often called cardio exercises – may be the recommended approach for younger folks, it may be totally inappropriate for older people. The procedure to repair meniscus tears in knees is one of the most frequently performed operations in this country. Another approach one often sees in training to improve core strength is the use of weight machines which isolate certain muscle groups in their operation. I would like to suggest an alternative approach that not only does not require special equipment but uses the body’s muscles in a coordinated fashion in the same way they are used in our natural movements. So, let’s set down some criteria:

1. The approach has to be low impact to conserve joints.

2. One goal is to improve the strength of the core muscles which are the muscles of our trunk that keep us erect and from where all movements initiate.

3. Along with core strength we need flexibility and full range of motion.

4. We want to improve our lung and heart function so we can have a good flow of oxygen going to our organs and muscles to reduce the rate at which we become fatigued during a competitive event.

Before I continue I believe it is appropriate for the reader to understand that I am a fellow shooter and this is a program I have designed for myself based on considerable reading and experience over a number of years. I am not a medical doctor, a formally trained exercise professional or any other type of specialist in the field. Consequently, this information is offered with the advice that you consult your medical advisor or similar authority before you embark on this or any similar regimen.

I will start with core strength and flexibility. Pilates exercises are resistance exercises that can incorporate the use of resistance bands, light weights and the weight of your body parts in order to strengthen the muscles in the abdomen, back, hips, chest and shoulders. The exercises can be performed alone but I recommend attending classes put on by a certified instructor who will ensure that you perform a balanced routine meaning you work on the front and back and both sides of your trunk. As to flexibility, yoga complements Pilates exercises and they are often taught together. In practical terms yoga strengthens through resistance using the weight of the body and increases flexibility by stretching the various muscle groups in a coordinated fashion. Some yoga exercises also work on balance which is helpful in position shooting and life in general. Again, I suggest attending formal yoga classes since an instructor can help you address such things as a joint misalignment. As an example, my right leg healed improperly after the femur was broken and my right foot splays out putting undue load on my left knee. There are a number of books available on Pilates and yoga and some of them get pretty involved; I leave that to the reader to explore. I will list some reference material at the end of the article that I have found useful.

Finally, heart and lung improvement. In order to exercise the heart and lungs while not abusing the joints, particularly the knees and hips, one has to resort to something other than jogging. Walking, bicycling, elliptical machines and swimming may be alternative methods you’d like to consider. Based on my reading, in order to get the most benefit it is important to exercise so that the pulse rate becomes elevated for periods of time rather than kept at a constant rate. The process I use, called PACE, is promoted by Al Sears, MD, http://www.alsearsmd.com/. It is interval training for the non-athlete. In simple terms one exercises, using whatever equipment one desires, to achieve a heart rate in which you are slightly above your ability to bring enough oxygen into your body to sustain the activity for an extended period. This is similar to wind sprints for a sprinter or a football player. After each episode you must rest until you have achieved recovery, meaning you can catch your breath easily. A series of three sets is recommended which covers a total time of about 20 minutes.

As a result of this training program I have experienced increased strength in my legs and trunk, less joint stiffness, lower blood pressure, and lower resting pulse rate. I will be 64 in June of this year. The Pilates/yoga classes are usually attended 2 to 3 times a week and the interval training performed twice a week.

Before I close I would like to touch briefly on two other related subjects: hydration and visual training. When one is exerting oneself, the body produces perspiration to keep the body’s temperature at an acceptable level. As one perspires the blood gets thicker and the ocular fluid in one’s eyes thickens as well. The heart has to work harder to supply oxygen and nutrients to the body so visual and cognitive functions degrade and fatigue sets in rapidly. Essential chemicals called electrolytes are also carried out of the body with the perspiration. As a result, it is necessary to replace moisture and electrolytes to maintain basic health and a competitive level of performance. If one goes on the Internet there is a multitude of articles on hydration. Due to the kindness of my lead Pilates/yoga instructor, Ms. Annette Garrison, I have a pretty comprehensive article on various aspects of hydration that I have included, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/hyponatremia-other-side-hydration-story , for your information.

Last I want to mention visual performance training. The New Position Rifle Shooting, A Comprehensive Guide To Better Target Shooting by Bill Pullum and Frank Hanenkrat mentions sports vision training amongst other aspects of vision in competitive shooting. If one goes on the Internet you will find training programs directed at golfers, baseball and football players. There is one site that has a demo which, if one looks at it for long, it is obviously very similar to a shooting gallery video game. The training involves rapid recognition and hand-eye coordination. Another source of visual training exercises, along with a wealth of other information, is the book Prone And Long Range Rifle Shooting by Nancy Tompkins.

Hopefully, I have provided some information which will be helpful in improving shooting performance and extending the time you can participate at a competitive level. It is important that you proceed at your own pace. I have pushed myself too hard in the interval training and now have to back off a bit. In closing I would like to thank Annette Garrison and GS Arizona for their help, considerable patience and encouragement.

Additional Reference Material

1. Framework by Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD
This is required reading for anybody who has suffered an injury like a torn meniscus or has muscular skeletal issues. This is the book that led me to Pilates/yoga

2 P. A. C. E., The Twelve Minute Fitness Revolution by Al Sears, MD
The approach I use to interval training. I am sure there are other sources.

3. Physical Conditioning For Highpower Shooting by SGT Walter E. Craig, USAMTU

4. Rifle, Steps To Success by Launi Meili

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