If you load pistol or rifle ammo with a progressive press, we strongly recommend you get a Lock-Out Die from RCBS. This unique reloading die will prevent your progressive press from advancing if the dispensed powder charge is more or less than about 0.3 grains too high or too low. The Lock-Out Die really works. Your Editor uses it on his RCBS 2000 progressive press. I can affirm that a Lock-Out Die has “saved my bacon” a half-dozen times over the years when there was an over-charge (which could cause a Kaboom) or a low charge (which could cause a squib load).
The Lock-Out Die works by using a central die detection rod that sets its vertical position based on the height of the powder column in the case. Through an ingenious design, if the powder column height is too low or too high, the rod locks in place as you start to pull the press handle. This halts the press before the ram can lift and the cartridge plate can advance. Unlike a beeping alarm system (which can be ignored or defeated), the Lock-Out Die physically stops the movement of the press ram and prevents a bullet being seated in the “problem” case.
It takes a bit of tweaking to get the Lock-Out Die detection rod setting just right, but once it is correctly positioned, the Lock-Out Die works smoothly in the background. The Lock-Out Die won’t interfere with the loading process unless it detects a high or low charge — and then it positively stops the progressive loading cycle.
While crafted for use in RCBS progressive presses, the RCBS Lock-Out Die can also be used on a Dillon XL Progressive (see video below) or Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive — though it does take up one station which could otherwise be used for a final crimp die (after the seating die). The RCBS 2000 has one more station than a Dillon 550/650, so it’s an ideal platform for using the Lock-Out Die.
Learn More at UltimateReloader.com
On the UltimateReloader.com website, run by our friend Gavin, you’ll find an excellent two-part series on the function and set-up of the RCBS Lock-Out Die. Part One explains how the Lock-Out Die functions, using cut-away illustrations. Part Two shows how to install and adjust the Lock-Out Die on various progressive presses. The video below shows setup of the RCBS Lock-Out Die on the Dillon XL-650 progressive press.
After purchasing a new set of dies from Forster, Hornady, Redding, or Whidden Gunworks, you’ll want to disassemble the dies, inspect then, and then remove the internal grease and/or waxy coatings placed on the dies by the manufacturer. This short video from Hornady shows how to de-grease and clean dies as they come “out of the box” from the manufacturer. A convenient aerosol spray cleaner is used in the video. You an also use a liquid solvent with soft nylon brush, and cotton patches. NOTE: After cleaning you may want to apply a light grease to the external threads of your dies.
Clean Your Sizing Dies and Body Dies Regularly
These same techniques work for cleaning dies after they have been used for reloading. Many otherwise smart hand-loaders forget to clean the inside of their dies, allowing old case lube, gunk, carbon residue, and other contaminants to build up inside the die. You should clean your dies fairly often, particularly if you do not tumble or ultrasound your cases between loadings. It is most important to keep full-length sizing and body dies clean. These dies accumulate lube and carbon residue quickly.
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They call Missouri the “Show-Me” state. Well here is something to show — a superb 100-5X 1000-yard target shot by Hornady employee, John Potratz, at the Missouri State IBS 1K Championship. This was a 10-shot heavy gun group. The cartridge was a big, .30-caliber wildcat based on the .375 Ruger parent cartridge. The bullet was the 208gr Hornady A-Max.
Missouri’s State IBS 1000-Yard Championship Match took place earlier this month at the Vapor Trail Valley range in Spickard, Missouri. Potratz set a new range record in the 1000-yard Heavy Gun Division with this 100-5X score. The group was impressively small as well: 5.571″. That was good for second best Heavy Gun group. With his combined scores and group for the event, John finished first place overall in the Heavy Gun Division (and now he’s got the trophy to prove it).
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We have all been there…..you place a piece of tumbled brass in the shell-holder of your press, raise it into the die, and suddenly it is like somebody hit the brakes. The case is stuck in the die. Your first instinct is to reverse it out. You crank on the handle, and BANG! The rim rips off the case head and you are looking at a piece of brass stuck in the die.
A stuck case is one of the boo-boos that all of us reloaders have faced from time to time. If proper lubrication is applied, then it should not be a problem. No matter if you are a seasoned reloader or new to it, this situation can happen. Take your time, use the proper procedures, and you will be back in business in no time! This article explains how to avoid stuck cases (through proper lubrication) and how to use a stuck case removal system.
What Causes Stuck Cases
One of the first common mistakes reloaders face is the stuck case. It can be caused by too much or too little lube. Too much and a vacuum can be formed causing the case to become suctioned into the die. Too little lube and friction is the culprit. So what is the cure? There is no exact cure, but the best lube that we have found so far is just a dab of Imperial Sizing Die Wax on your fingers and applied in a thin coat on the body of the case, not the shoulder or neck. Too much of this wax can cause the vacuum effect, or can eventually load your die up with gobs of residue. If it is applied to the shoulder area, or the leftover wax moves up into the shoulder region of the die, you will see dents or dimples in the shoulder. [AccurateShooter.com Editor's Note: For normal full-length sizing of small cases such as 220 Russian/PPC, 6mmBR, 6.5 Grendel, or 6.5x47 Lapua we recommend Ballistol (aerosol) lube. It is very slippery, goes on very thin, and does not gum up the die.]
A great way to ensure that your dies are clean is to use a simple chamber mop with a dab of your favorite solvent on it and clean out the die. Be sure all of the solvent is out after cleaning by spraying the die out with Quickscrub III or use a clean chamber mop. If you are storing your dies, you can apply a thin coat of a good oil to protect the steel such as TM oil or Starrett M1 Spray.
Using a Stuck Case Removal Kit
If you do stick a case in your die there are a few good stuck case removal kits available. Each one works in a similar fashion. I have found the Hornady kit very effective and easy to use.
Basically what you do is remove the die from the press. Unscrew the decapping assembly and pull it out as far as you can. You then need to drill/tap threads into the stuck case head (this is why it is suggested to unscrew the decapping assembly as far as you can to get it clear of the drill bits). Once this is done screw the die back into the press. You then install the included shellholder attachment on the shellholder ram, and thread it into the case via a small wrench. With some elbow grease you can reverse the stuck case out of the die with the leverage of the press, and not damage the die.
However if the case is stuck….REALLY stuck, you may pull out the threads on the case and you are still left with a stuck case in the die without any way to pull it out. If the case is really difficult to remove even with the use of a stuck case removal kit, do not try to be Hercules with the press ram. Here is a trick that may work. Take the die with the stuck case and place it in your freezer for a couple of hours. Then repeat the removal with the cold die. The freezing temperatures may cause the brass to contract, and make removal easier. If this does not work it is recommended to send it to the die manufacturer. They will be able to remove the case without damaging the die.
Another fix if you can remove the decapping assembly completely is to use a tap hammer and a punch or small wooden dowel to knock the stuck case out. This isn’t the best way since it is very possible that you will damage the die internally or externally on the threads, or both. Send the die to the manufacturer to have this done properly. You will be happier in the long run.
Quality .30-caliber bullets aren’t cheap. But here’s a deal that should make you take notice. Midsouth Shooters Supply has major-maker 175gr HPBT bullets in 500-count lots for just $99.01. That’s right, ninety-nine bucks for FIVE hundred 175-grainers from one of USA’s leading bullet makers. (Clever boys can probably figure out the source).
If you need match-grade .30-caliber bullets for your F-TR or tactical rifle, this is a very good deal — you’re effectively paying just $19.08 per hundred. We haven’t seen these kind of prices on .30-caliber bullets in a long time. If you’re interested, act soon — quantities are limited.
NOTE: These over-run bullets are also listed as OEM blem. That means there may be some cosmetic flaws, such as water spots or discoloration. But they should shoot fine.
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In our Shooters’ Forum, a member recently noted that he needed to pull down (disassemble) some ammunition that was loaded incorrectly by one of his shooting buddies. You can use an impact puller to do this task, but if you have more than a dozen rounds or so, you may prefer to use a collet-style bullet puller. These work very quickly and positively, making quick work of big jobs. The efficiency of the collet-style puller is worth the investment if you frequently disassemble ammo. These devices retail for under $25.00 (collets sold separately). Normally, you’ll need a specific collet for each bullet diameter. But collets are not that costly, so this isn’t a big deal, particularly if you only load a few calibers, such as .223, 6mm, and .308.
Collet bullet-pullers resemble a loading die with a lever or handle on the top. They screw into a standard reloading press. Hornady and RCBS both make collet-style bullet pullers. They use the same basic principle — the device tightens a collet around the bullet, and then the bullet is separated from the case by lowering the press ram. NOTE: Collet pullers may leave small marks on your bullets, unlike impact (kinetic) pullers.*
Hornady and RCBS use different mechanisms to tighten the collet around the bullet. On Hornady’s Cam-Lock Bullet Puller, a lever-arm on the top of the bullet puller serves to tighten the collet around the bullet. Simply rotate the lever from the vertical to the horizontal position to grab the bullet. Lower the ram to remove the case. The bullet will drop out when you return the lever arm to the vertical position. This is demonstrated in the video below:
Hornady Cam-Lock Bullet Puller Demonstrated
Like the Hornady tool, the RCBS Bullet Puller employs a collet to grab the bullet. However, the RCBS tool tightens the collet in a different way. The head of the RCBS tool is threaded internally. By rotating the lever arm clockwise in a horizontal circle you squeeze the collet around the bullet. To remove the bullet, after lowering the press ram, simply spin the lever arm back in the opposite direction. The use of the RCBS tool is demonstrated in this video:
RCBS Collet Bullet Puller Demonstrated:
WARNING: When removing bullets from loaded cartridges, always make sure there are no obsructions or debris in your shell-holder or under the loaded round. NEVER engage a primer seating accessory on your press when working with loaded rounds. You can cause a round to discharge by contacting the primer! Also, we recommend you keep your head and torso away from the bullet puller tool at all times.
*By contrast, impact pullers rarely mark bullets, particularly if you put a little bit of foam or paper wadding in the closed end of your impact puller. When dismantling loaded rounds, powder kernels can get trapped in the wadding, so you should remove and replace the wadding before changing to cartridges loaded with a different powder type (assuming you intend to save the powder).
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Ultrasonic cleaning machines are great for gun guys. You can clean your brass inside and out, and you can get carbon-coated gun parts (such as AR bolts, muzzle brakes, and muzzle-loader breech plugs) clean as a whistle with no scrubbing. Sound good? Well here’s an opportunity to get a name-brand ultrasonic machine at a discounted price.
Grafs.com Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine Sale
Right now Grafs.com is running a tempting sale on Hornady Ultrasonic Cleaning Machines and accessories. The entry-level Lock-N-Load Sonic Cleaner is marked down from $99.99 to $86.99. The more deluxe Heated L-N-L unit is discounted from $105.99 to $89.99, a 15% savings. This deluxe, 2-liter capacity unit, shown at right, features an 80 watt ceramic heater that enhances cleaning action, particularly for small parts.
The heavy-duty 3-liter L-N-L Magnum Sonic Cleaner with stainless case is now a full 20% off — with the price slashed from $224.99 to $184.99. (Sale price includes shipping after flat $7.95 handling fee). For “power users” who ultrasonically clean large quantities of brass, or regularly clean dirty gun parts, this metal-bodied unit (item #HRN043340) is the smart choice. Its stainless steel housing is durable and easy-to-clean, and the tighter mesh basket allows users to clean smaller parts.
Because it has TWO transducers, the Lock-N-Load Magnum Sonic Cleaner is superior to conventional ultrasonic cleaning machines with just ONE transducer. Moreover, the Lock-N-Load Magnum Sonic Cleaner features an adjustable heating element. This allows the user to dial-in the correct temperature to maximize cleaning efficiency without damaging delicate parts.
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Need a simple, easy-to-use drop chart for your rifle? Something you can tape right to the buttstock? Then check out Hornady’s handy Online Ballistics Calculator. This user-friendly calculator will compute your drops accurately, and output a handy “Cheat Sheet” you can print and attach to your rifle. Simply input G1 or G7 BC values, muzzle velocity, bullet weight, zero range and a few other variables. Click “Calculate” and you’re good to go. You can select the basic version, or an advanced version with more data fields for environmental variables (altitude, temperature, air pressure, and humidity). You can also get wind drift numbers by inputing wind speed and angle.
Conveniently, on the trajectory output, come-ups are listed in both MOA and Mils — so this will work with either MOA clicks or Mil-based clicks. There are more sophisticated ballistics solvers available on the web (such as the outstanding Applied Ballistics Online Calculator), but the Hornady Calculator is very simple and easy to use. If you just want a basic drop chart, you may want to check this out.
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Here’s good news for varmint hunters. Hornady just announced that it is ramping up production of the 17 Hornet: “For those of you who love the 17 Hornet, we are manufacturing ammunition right now and you should see it back in stores soon!” The 17 Hornet is a fun, fast cartridge that is ideal for ground squirrels and other small varmints. It has light recoil similar to a 22 WMR, but with the ability to reach out to 300 yards and beyond. Since the 17 Hornet is a centerfire cartridge with reloadable brass, it can actually be more economical to shoot than the 17 HMR, provided you “roll your own”.
Speed Kills — 3650 FPS
Based on the 22 Hornet cartridge case, the 17 Hornet can drive a 20-grain V-MAX bullet at 3,650 fps. At this velocity, the 17 Hornet can match the trajectory of a 55-grain .223 Remington load, but with much less noise and recoil. Take a look at the chart below. You can see that the 17 Hornet’s trajectory (blue line) is almost an identical match for the larger .223 Rem (red line) all the way out to 400 yards or so. The 17 Hornet is an economical, fun .17 caliber centerfire cartridge with way more “reach” than a 17 HRM or 22 WMR.
17 Hornet — Trajectory Comparison
3,650 fps muzzle velocity with a 20 grain V-MAX bullet.
Same C.O.L. as the 22 Hornet – uses the existing action.
Trajectory comparable to a 55 grain 223 Rem, but the felt recoil of a 22 WMR.
Lower cost and comparable quality to the 17 Fireball and .223 Remington.
Video Explains 17 Hornet Features and Performance
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Anyone who shoots 3-Gun matches, or who burns through a lot of pistol ammo, can benefit from a quality progressive reloading press. These machines have multiple stations with a rotating shell-holder plate that advances the cartridges. Once you’ve got everything set up and running, you can crank out hundreds of rounds per hour, producing a loaded round with every pull of the press handle.
Right now, Midsouth Shooter’s Supply is offering a great deal on the 5-Station Hornady Lock-N-Load AP (Auto-Progressive) reloading press. This high-quality machine, which sells for $450.00 or more elsewhere, is now ON SALE at Midsouth for just $389.99. To sweeten the deal even more, when you buy the L-N-L AP press you qualify for free bullets. That’s right — buy the Hornady AP Press and get 500 free bullets (retail value $70-$120).
The video below, created by our friend Gavin Gear for UltimateReloader.com, illustrates the features and functions of the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Press. You can see how the dies are positioned in the tool head, and how the rotating cartridge plate moves cartridges from station to station:
Video Demonstrates Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Press
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Here’s a tip we feature every year or so, because it is something that costs nothing, yet can be very useful in the reloading process. With a simple, easy modification to a fired case, you can determine the length to lands in your rifle barrel. As long as you set the tension right, the measurements should be repeatable, and you’ve just saved yourself $31 — the price of a commercial OAL gauge.
To achieve best accuracy with a rifle, you must control bullet seating depth very precisely, so all bullets end up in the same place relative to the entrance of the lands, every time. There may be multiple cartridge OALs which prove accurate. However, with each, you first need to determine a “zero” point — a reliable, and repeatable OAL where the bullet is “just touching” the lands.
There are tools, such as the Hornady (formerly Stoney Point) OAL Gauge, that will help you find a seating OAL just touching the lands. However, the tool requires that you use a special modified case for each cartridge you shoot. And, while we find that the Hornady OAL Gauge is repeatable, it does take some practice to get in right.
Make Your Own Length-to-Lands Gauge with a Dremel
Here’s an inexpensive alternative to the Hornady OAL tool — a slotted case. Forum member Andris Silins explais how to create a slotted case to measure length to the lands in your rifle:
“Here’s what I did to find length to lands for seating my bullets. I made four cuts into the neck of fire-formed brass. Then I pressed the bullet in lightly and chambered the entire gauge. As the cartridge chambers, the bullet slides back into the case to give you length to lands. It took less than five minutes to get it cut and working. A little light oil in the barrel just past the chamber helps ensure the bullet does not get stuck in the lands. It works great and is very accurate.
I made the cuts using a Dremel with a cut-off wheel. You can adjust tension two ways. First, you can make the cuts longer or shorter. Longer cuts = less tension. If you used only three cuts insted of four you would get more tension. The trick is to be gentle when you open and close the bolt. If you ram the bolt closed you may wedge the bullet into the lands. When you open the bolt it helps to keep a finger or two near by to guide the case out straight because the ejector wants to push it sideways.”
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Ever wondered how Hornady bullets and ammunition are made? You’ll see every stage of production in this interesting video from the Outdoor Channel. Starting with raw materials (lead, copper, and brass), this 9-minute “factory tour” video shows how bullet cores are produced, how jackets are crafted, and how cartridge cases are formed, headstamped, and inspected. If you watch carefully you’ll also see the massive, multi-stage cartridge loading machines. Now one of the most successful manufacturers of ammunition and reloading components in the world, Hornady Manufacturing has come a long way from its early days. In 1949, Founder Joyce Hornady started the company “making bullets… in a garage down on 4th street” in Grand Island, Nebraska.
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Lead cylinders are pressed into lead wire used for bullet cores.
Spools of flat copper are fed into cupping machines. The punched cups become bullet jackets.
All cartridge cases and loaded rounds are hand-inspected.
Hornady Manufacturing — The Early Years
During World War II, Joyce Hornady served as a marksmanship instructor at the Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant. Following the War, Joyce and his family stayed in Grand Island, Nebraska and opened a small sporting goods retail store that sold everything from basketballs to shooting supplies.
After WWII, shooters and hunters used surplus military ammunition. This surplus ammo however, did not offer the accuracy or performance needed for target shooting, big game, or varmint hunting. Recognizing the need for better bullets, Hornady and his original partner Vernon Speer built a machine that converted spent 22 rimfire cases into bullet jackets, and then into bullets. The business relationship between Hornady and Speer later faltered, and Vernon Speer moved to Lewiston, Idaho. Using a surplus bullet assembly press in a rented garage on 4th Street in Grand Island, Nebraska, Joyce Hornady began to produce his own .30-caliber bullet.
The first year of business, Hornady Bullets had total sales of $10,000 – a figure that increased three-fold the next year. Hornady added equipment and workers, confident that more growth lay ahead. During the Korean War, Hornady earned contracts to produce a variety of products not associated with bullets — aluminum hearts for bracelets, and condenser cans for the government. After the war, the can material and the technology developed to produce them was utilized to make ultra-thin copper jackets for varmint bullets.
In 1958, the company moved to its present location on the west edge of Grand Island. The new, larger facility featured an 8,000-square-foot plant. In 1960, Hornady added a 200-yard underground testing facility.
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