by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box
One thing that plays a major role in building an accuracy load is neck tension. I think a lot of reloaders pretty much take this for granted and don’t give that enough thought.
So, how much neck tension is enough?
Thru the years and shooting both a wide variety of calibers and burn rates of powder, I’ve had the best accuracy overall with .002″ of neck tension. Naturally you will run into a rifle now and then that will do its best with something different like .001″ or even .003″, but .002″ has worked very well for me. So how do we control the neck tension? Let’s take a look at that.
First of all, if you’re running a standard sizing die with an expander ball, just pull your decapping rod assembly out of your die and measure the expander ball. What I prefer is to have an expander ball that is .003″ smaller than bullet diameter. So for example in a .224 caliber, run an expander ball of .221″. This allows for .001″ spring back in in your brass after sizing, and still gives you .002″ in neck tension. If you want to take the expander ball down in diameter, just chuck up your decapping rod assembly in a drill and turn it down with some emery cloth. When you have the diameter you need, polish it with three ought or four ought steel wool. This will give it a mirror finish and less drag coming through your case neck after sizing.
Tips for Dies With Interchangeable Neck Bushings
If you’re using a bushing die, I measure across the neck of eight or ten loaded rounds, then take an average on these and go .003″ under that measurement. There are other methods to determine bushing size, but this system has worked well for me.
Proper Annealing Can Deliver More Uniform Neck Tension
Another thing I want to mention is annealing. When brass is the correct softness, it will take a “set” coming out of the sizing die far better than brass that has become to hard. When brass has been work hardened to a point, it will be more springy when it comes out of a sizing die and neck tension will vary. Have you ever noticed how some bullets seated harder than others? That is why.
Paying closer attention to neck tension will give you both better accuracy and more consistent groups.
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IMR® Legendary Powders now offers four (4) Enduron powders: IMR 4166, IMR 4451, IMR 4955, and IMR 7977. Shooters looking for readily-available alternatives to hard-to-find extruded powders should definitely check out the Enduron line-up. Precision shooters will find an Enduron option well-suited to most of the popular precision cartridge types. For example, IMR 4166 is a good replacement for Hodgdon Varget (commonly used in the .223 Rem, 6mmBR and .308 Win), while IMR 4955 is a fine substitute for H4831 (favored by F-Open shooters for the .284 Win and 7mm WSM cartridges).
Modern Powder Technology for Enhanced Performance
The technology in IMR’s Enduron line of powders provides four very important qualities that enhance both in-gun and downrange performance.
Copper fouling reduction – these powders contain an additive that drastically reduces copper fouling in the gun barrel. Copper fouling should be minimal, allowing shooters to spend more time shooting and less time cleaning a rifle to retain accuracy.
Temperature change stability – the Enduron line is insensitive to temperature changes. Whether a rifle is sighted in during the heat of summer, hunted in a November snowstorm or hunting multiple locations with drastic temperature swings, point of impact with ammunition loaded with Enduron technology will be very consistent.
Optimal load density - Enduron powders provide optimal load density, assisting in maintaining low standard deviations in velocity and pressure, a key feature for top accuracy.
Environmentally friendly - Enduron technology is environmentally friendly, crafted using raw materials that are not harmful to the environment.
The Enduron Line-Up of Four Powders
IMR now offers four Enduron powders that cover a broad range of burn rates. They are suitable for a wide variety of cartridges, from small varmint cartridges all the way up to the .338 Lapua Magnum.
IMR 4166 possesses the fastest burn rate in the Enduron lineup. It is the perfect burn speed for cartridges such as .308 Win, 7.62mm NATO, 22-250 Rem and 257 Roberts. A versatile, match-grade propellant, IMR 4166 is comparable to Hodgdon® Varget.
IMR 4451 is a mid-range burn speed powder, ideally suited for cartridges such as .270 Winchester, .30-06 and 300 Winchester Short Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4350.
IMR 4955 is a medium burn speed powder, falling in between IMR 4451 and IMR 7977 in burn speed. It provides top performance in big game cartridges such as 25-06, 280 Remington and 300 Winchester Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4831.
IMR 7977 has the slowest burn rate among the Enduron Technology powders. Its loading density is perfect for magnum cartridges and contributes to superb uniformity, yielding outstanding performance in 300 Winchester Magnum, 7MM Remington Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum. IMR 7977 is comparable to Hodgdon H1000.
The Enduron Technology powders are available in one-pound (1 lb) and eight-pound (8-lb) containers from quality reloading retailers. Learn more about Enduron powders at www.enduronimr.com. For info on other IMR powders, visit www.imrpowder.com.
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Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This week the USAMU’s reloading gurus addressed a question frequently asked by prospective handloaders: “How much neck tension is optimal, and how should I select a neck bushing size?” The USAMU offers a straight-forward answer, suggesting that hand-loaders start with a neck bushing that sizes the neck so that it is .003″ less than the loaded outside diameter with bullet in place. From there, you can experiment with more or less tension, but this is a good starting point for many popular cartridge types.
Determining Optimal Case-Neck Tension
This week, we examine determining the correct case neck tension for optimum accuracy. Our method is simple, but relies on the use of case sizing dies which accept interchangeable neck diameter bushings graduated in 0.001″ increments. (Those readers using fixed-diameter dies with expander balls aren’t forgotten, however. Methods of tailoring these dies for proper neck tension will be found below.)
In our experience across many calibers, sizing case necks 0.003″ under the loaded-case neck diameter usually yields excellent accuracy. In other words, the sized case neck expands 0.003″ when the bullet is seated.
Bushing Choice for Optimal Sizing
Over the years, we have periodically experimented with increasing neck tension to possibly improve accuracy. In testing with machine rests at 300/600 yards, accuracy often deteriorated as neck tension increased; thus, 0.003″ expansion (from sized neck to loaded neck) is where we usually start.
Using the .260 Remington as an example, our loaded cartridge case necks measure 0.292”. Simply subtract 0.003” from that, and use a bushing that sizes necks to 0.289” (after springback). There are exceptions — sometimes, brass may be a bit soft or hard. Some case necks might need, say, 0.001” more tension, but in general, this works well.
This .003″ standard of neck tension works very well for single-loaded, long range cartridges. Depending on your caliber and firearm, it MAY also work very well for magazine-fed cartridges. If this neck tension proves inadequate for your purpose, one can increase neck tension as needed while monitoring for possible accuracy changes.
Special Considerations for Coated Bullets: If you are using moly-coated bullets, this significantly reduces the “grip” of the case neck on the bullet, and you can expect to have to tighten your case necks accordingly — particularly for magazine-fed ammunition. In any event, we do not crimp rifle cartridges, and advise against it for accuracy handloads.
Tips for Using Expander Balls
Many savvy handloaders avoid the use of expander balls in high-accuracy reloading, if possible. These can stretch cases and/or disturb the concentricity of the case neck vs. case body. If using a die with an expander ball, tapering both ends of the ball and polishing it to a mirror finish can significantly reduce these effects. (Special carbide expander ball/decapping stem sets are available for this as well.)
The typical dies used with expander balls are intended to take any cases the user may find, and size them down well below the ideal “spec” to ensure any cases will give good neck tension. The necks are then expanded up to provide heavy to medium neck tension as the expander ball exits the neck. The brass is over-worked, leading to premature work-hardening, and seated-bullet concentricity may suffer. However, the cartridges produced are perfectly adequate for most handloaders. Those who seek finest accuracy generally prefer not to over-work their brass if possible.
Another Option — Custom-Honed FL Dies
There are companies which offer to convert one’s standard dies to accept neck bushings, and that gives excellent flexibility. Another, more “old-school” approach, is to have the neck of one’s FL die honed out to the desired diameter for sizing, based on one’s case neck thickness. The expander ball may then be reduced until it barely touches the case necks after sizing, or it may be eliminated entirely. However, once performed, this modification is permanent and leaves fewer options than the bushing route, if one later changes case neck thickness.
Those shooters who turn their case necks for optimum neck wall thickness uniformity, or for a tight-neck chamber, will want to take the reduced neck wall thickness into consideration. For example, when setting up a 7mm match rifle to use a standard hunting die without an expander ball, the slightly thinner necks resulted in a perfect 0.003″ reduction in the fired-neck diameter. The result was a low-cost die that fit with custom precision and yielded excellent, match accuracy!
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When Berry’s Bench Topper was first released a couple years ago, it proved very popular with hand-loaders looking for extra space on their bench. This unique all-metal riser lets you place a reloading press above your bench surface, clearing valuable space.
We’re pleased to report that the Bench Topper is back in production. The Bench Topper, from Berry’s Manufacturing, is a sturdy platform that holds a loading press and storage bins in a raised position above your bench — effectively creating additional room for scales, trimmers, and component storage below. The $111.30 Bench Topper (Midsouth item 037-00191) can bolted to your bench, or it can be secured with C-Clamps (for easy removal). Do you load at the range? The Bench Topper can be easily transported in your vehicle, providing a handy platform for your press and powder measure.
Bench Topper Specs:
6 x 20 x 1/4″
10 x 20 x 1/4″
Height: 11.5 Inches
Weight: 12.5 Pounds
Berry’s Bench Topper is crafted from CNC-machined aluminum and powder-coated black for durability. It comes with two aluminum hangers for storage bins for bullets or brass. All fasteners are recessed for a clean work surface. NOTE: The Bench Topper must be assembled by the purchaser, and YOU MUST DRILL YOUR OWN HOLES for installation of your press or other hardware. This requires a few minutes of initial set-up time, but this allows a secure, custom installation for any brand of reloading press.
Product Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome user submissions.
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Each Wednesday the USAMU offers tips for handloaders on the USAMU Facebook page. This article from the “Handloading Hump-Day” archives should interest pistol competitors, an any shooter who enjoys getting the best possible accuracy from their fine pistols. In this article, the USAMU’s experts share key tips that can help optimize your pistol ammo. Follow this tips to produce more consistent ammo, that can shoot higher scores.
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.
Use Consistent Brass
Brass is also 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/handloader to use brass of the same headstamp and ideally one lot number, to maximize uniformity. Given the volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. 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.
Importance of Uniform COAL
Uniformity of the Case Overall Length (COAL) as it comes from the factory is also 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, and so on. Cartridge case-length consistency varies from lot to lot, as well as by maker. Some manufacturers are more consistent in this dimension than others. [Editor’s note: It is easy to trim pistol brass to uniform length. Doing this will make your taper crimps much more consistent.]
Primers and Powders — Comparison Test for Accuracy
Pay attention to primer brands, powder types and charges. Evaluating accuracy with a Ransom or other machine rest at 50 yards can quickly reveal the effect of changes made to handload recipes.
Bullet Selection — FMJ vs. JHP
Bullets are another vital issue. First, there is the question of FMJ vs. JHP. A friend of this writer spent decades making and accuracy-testing rifle and pistol bullets during QC for a major bullet manufacturer. In his experience, making highly-accurate FMJ bullets is much more difficult than making highly-accurate JHPs, in large part due to the way the jackets are formed. Small die changes could affect accuracy of FMJ lots dramatically.
The CMP now allows “safe, jacketed ammunition” in Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) Service Pistol matches, although wadcutter ammunition is prohibited. Thus, the option to use very accurate JHP designs simplifies the life of CMP Service Pistol shooters in pursuit of the prestigious Distinguished Pistol Shot badge.
Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to any pistol shooters interested in accurate handloads, not just “Bullseye” shooters. Small tweaks to one’s normal routine can pay big dividends in improved accuracy and make practice and competition more rewarding.
Stay safe, and good shooting!
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Every summer weekend, there are probably 400 or more club “fun matches” conducted around the country. One of the good things about these club shoots is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on equipment to have fun. But we’ve seen that many club shooters handicap themselves with a few common equipment oversights or lack of attention to detail while reloading. Here are SIX TIPS that can help you avoid these common mistakes, and build more accurate ammo for your club matches.
1. Align Front Rest and Rear Bags. We see many shooters whose rear bag is angled left or right relative to the bore axis. This can happen when you rush your set-up. But even if you set the gun up carefully, the rear bag can twist due to recoil or the way your arm contacts the bag. After every shot, make sure your rear bag is aligned properly (this is especially important for bag squeezers who may actually pull the bag out of alignment as they squeeze).
Forum member ArtB adds: “To align my front rest and rear bag with the target, I use an old golf club shaft. I run it from my front rest stop through a line that crosses over my speed screw and into the slot between the two ears. I stand behind that set-up and make sure I see a straight line pointing at the target. I also tape a spot on the golf shaft that indicates how far the back end of the rear bag should be placed from the front rest stop. If you don’t have a golf shaft, use a wood dowel.
2. Avoid Contact Interference. We see three common kinds of contact or mechanical interference that can really hurt accuracy. First, if your stock has front and/or rear sling swivels make sure these do NOT contact the front or rear bags at any point of the gun’s travel. When a sling swivel digs into the front bag that can cause a shot to pop high or low. To avoid this, reposition the rifle so the swivels don’t contact the bags or simply remove the swivels before your match. Second, watch out for the rear of the stock grip area. Make sure this is not resting on the bag as you fire and that it can’t come back to contact the bag during recoil. That lip or edge at the bottom of the grip can cause problems when it contacts the rear bag. Third, watch out for the stud or arm on the front rest that limits forward stock travel. With some rests this is high enough that it can actually contact the barrel. We encountered one shooter recently who was complaining about “vertical flyers” during his match. It turns out his barrel was actually hitting the front stop! With most front rests you can either lower the stop or twist the arm to the left or right so it won’t contact the barrel.
3. Weigh Your Charges — Every One. This may sound obvious, but many folks still rely on a powder measure. Yes we know that most short-range BR shooters throw their charges without weighing, but if you’re going to pre-load for a club match there is no reason NOT to weigh your charges. You may be surprised at how inconsistent your powder measure actually is. One of our testers was recently throwing H4198 charges from a Harrell’s measure for his 30BR. Each charge was then weighed twice with a Denver Instrument lab scale. Our tester found that thrown charges varied by up to 0.7 grains! And that’s with a premium measure.
4. Measure Your Loaded Ammo — After Bullet Seating. Even if you’ve checked your brass and bullets prior to assembling your ammo, we recommend that you weigh your loaded rounds and measure them from base of case to bullet ogive using a comparator. If you find a round that is “way off” in weight or more than .005″ off your intended base to ogive length, set it aside and use that round for a fouler. (Note: if the weight is off by more than 6 or 7 grains you may want to disassemble the round and check your powder charge.) With premium, pre-sorted bullets, we’ve found that we can keep 95% of loaded rounds within a range of .002″, measuring from base (of case) to ogive. Now, with some lots of bullets, you just can’t keep things within .002″, but you should still measure each loaded match round to ensure you don’t have some cases that are way too short or way too long.
5. Check Your Fasteners. Before a match you need to double-check your scope rings or iron sight mounts to ensure everything is tight. Likewise, you should check the tension on the screws/bolts that hold the action in place. Even on a low-recoiling rimfire rifle, action screws or scope rings can come loose during normal firing.
6. Make a Checklist and Pack the Night Before. Ever drive 50 miles to a match then discover you have the wrong ammo or that you forgot your bolt? Well, mistakes like that happen to the best of us. You can avoid these oversights (and reduce stress at matches) by making a checklist of all the stuff you need. Organize your firearms, range kit, ammo box, and shooting accessories the night before the match. And, like a good Boy Scout, “be prepared”. Bring a jacket and hat if it might be cold. If you have windflags, bring them (even if you’re not sure the rules allow them). Bring spare batteries, and it’s wise to bring a spare rifle and ammo for it. If you have just one gun, a simple mechanical breakdown (such as a broken firing pin) can ruin your whole weekend.
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Here’s a helpful hint for hand-loaders from Sierra Bullets. While this article focuses on Sierra’s new Tipped Match-King bullets, the recommended solutions apply to other bullet types as well. The article explains how sharp edges on a seating stem can cause a ring to be pressed into the bullet jacket — especially with compressed loads that resist downward bullet movement. Here Sierra technician Rich Machholz diagnoses the problem and provides a solution.
Solutions for Ring Marks Caused by Seating Stems
by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz
Now that the new Tipped MatchKing® (TMK) bullets are being shipped and shooters are putting them to use I have received several calls regarding marking on the bullet ogive from the seating stem.
The cause can be traced to one of several things.
In the .223 and especially with the long, 77 grain TMK seated at 2.250” or even 2.260” most loads of Varget® and Reloder® 15 are compressed loads, sometimes heavily compressed. This puts a great deal of pressure on the bullet through the seating stem. The result of all this pressure is a mark of varying depth and appearance on the ogive of the bullet. [Editor: We have seen this issue with a variety of other bullet types/shapes as well, including non-tipped VLDs. The solution is profiling the internal cone of the seating stem to match your bullet shape.]
Some older seating stems might even bear against the tip of the bullet which can make a slight bulge in the jacket just below the junction of the resin tip and the copper jacket in a compressed load. If this is the case there is not a ready fix other than calling the die manufacturer and requesting a new deeper seating stem.
Polish Your Seating Stem to Remove Sharp Internal Edges
If the seating stem is of proper depth the culprit most generally is a thin sharp edge on the inside taper of the seating stem. This is an easy fix that can be accomplished by chucking a spare 77 grain bullet in your drill, coating it with valve grinding compound or even rubbing compound or in a pinch even tooth paste.* Remove the seating stem assembly from the seating die. Turn the drill on and put the seating stem recess over the spinning bullet with the polishing compound to break or smooth the sharp edge that is making the offending mark. This might take more than one application to get the proper polish depending upon what you use, but the more you polish the better the blend of angles which will [ensure the stem matches the bullet contours, not leaving a sharp ring].
If the above is a little more than you care to tackle you might try very fine emery cloth twisted to a point that can be inserted into the mouth to the seating stem and rotated to polish the inside to eliminate any sharp edges that might be present.
Load Advice for 77gr TMKs in the .223 Rem
And last but certainly not least. Actually, even though we don’t say you need additional data for the TMKs, remember you are dealing with heavily-compressed loads in some cases because of the additional bullet length. Due to the additional length of these new bullets and in the interest of gaining some room in the case you might consider trying a slightly faster extruded powder like BenchMark or the 4895s or an even more dense powder like the spherical H335®, CFE223 or TAC. The extra room will allow for trouble free bullet seating also.
Good luck and remember we are no further away than your telephone: 1-800-223-8799.
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The 50th Edition of the Lyman Reloading Handbook is here — and it’s bigger and better than ever. This 50th Anniversary Edition, the first to be produced in full color, includes more load data, and covers more cartridge and bullet types than ever before. This handbook has a strong heritage, starting with the Ideal reloading manuals from the early 20th Century. For more than a century the Ideal Handbook (and later) Lyman Handbooks have been popular and reliable data sources for hand-loaders. (In 1925, Lyman purchased Ideal Reloading Products, which produced the Ideal reloading handbooks.)
View Lyman 50th Anniversary Handbook at the NRA Annual Meeting in Louisville
The full-color Lyman 50th Edition will be available for the first time at the upcoming NRA Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky on May 19-22, 2016. The Hardcover Edition (item #9816050) is priced at $39.98, while the Softcover Edition (item #9816051) retails for $29.98. Notably, Lyman will donate $1.00 to the NRA for every Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook sold during the first year of its publication.
Lyman 50th Edition Handbook Features and Highlights:
There’s an all-new book from Applied Ballistics. Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting – Volume II, is now available for pre-order from the Applied Ballistics eStore. This 356-page hardcover resource is chock full of information, much of it derived through sophisticated field testing. The pre-order price is $34.95, $5.00 off the regular $39.95 price. The books are expected to ship in July, 2016.
AUDIO FILE: Bryan Litz Talks about Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, Volume 2. (Sound file loads when you click button).
Volume II of Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting contains all-new content derived from research by Applied Ballistics. Author Bryan Litz along with contributing authors Nick Vitalbo and Cal Zant use the scientific method and careful testing to answer important questions faced by long range shooters. In particular, this volume explores the subject of bullet dispersion including group convergence. Advanced hand-loading subjects are covered such as: bullet pointing and trimming, powder measurement, flash hole deburring, neck tension, and fill ratio. Each topic is explored with extensive live fire testing, and the resulting information helps to guide hand loaders in a deliberate path to success. The current bullet library of measured G1 and G7 ballistic coefficients is included as an appendix. This library currently has data on 533 bullets in common use by long range shooters.
Bryan tells us that one purpose of this book is to dispel myths and correct commonly-held misconceptions: “Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting aims to end the misinformation which is so prevalent in long range shooting. By applying the scientific method and taking a Myth Buster approach, the state of the art is advanced….”
Bullet Dispersion and Group Convergence
Part 1 of this Volume is focused on the details of rifle bullet dispersion. Chapter 1 builds a discussion of dispersion and precision that every shooter will benefit from in terms of understanding how it impacts their particular shooting application. How many shots should you shoot in a group? What kind of 5-shot 100 yard groups correlate to average or winning precision levels in 1000 yard F-Class shooting?
Chapter 2 presents a very detailed investigation of the mysterious concept of group convergence, which is the common idea that some guns can shoot smaller (MOA) groups at longer ranges. This concept is thoroughly tested with extensive live fire, and the results answer a very important question that has baffled shooters for many generations.
Part 2 of this Volume is focused on various aspects of advanced hand-loading. Modern Advancements (Vol. II) employs live fire testing to answer the important questions that precision hand loaders are asking. What are the best ways to achieve MVs with low ES and SD? Do flash hole deburring, neck tension, primer selection, and fill ratio and powder scales sensitivity make a difference and how much? All of these questions are explored in detail with a clear explanation of test results.
One of the important chapters of Part 2 examines bullet pointing and trimming. Applied Ballistics tested 39 different bullet types from .224 through .338 caliber. Ten samples of each bullet were tested for BC in each of the following configurations: original out of the box, pointed, trimmed, pointed and trimmed. The effect on the average BC as well as the uniformity in BC was measured and tabulated, revealing what works best.
Part 3 covers a variety of general research topics. Contributing author Nick Vitalbo, a laser technology expert, tested 22 different laser rangefinders. Nick’s material on rangefinder performance is a landmark piece of work. Nick shows how shooters can determine the performance of a rangefinder under various lighting conditions, target sizes, and reflectivities.
Chapter 9 is a thorough analysis of rimfire ammunition. Ballistic Performance of Rifle Bullets, 2nd Edition presented live fire data on 95 different types of .22 rimfire ammunition, each tested in five different barrels having various lengths and twist rates. Where that book just presented the data, Chapter 9 of this book offers detailed analysis of all the test results and shows what properties of rimfire ammunition are favorable, and how the BCs, muzzle velocities and consistency of the ammo are affected by the different barrels.
Chapter 10 is a discussion of aerodynamic drag as it relates to ballistic trajectory modeling. You will learn from the ground up: what an aerodynamic drag model is, how it’s measure and used to predict trajectories. Analysis is presented which shows how the best trajectory models compare to actual measured drop in the real world.
Finally, contributing author Cal Zant of the Precision Rifle Blog presents a study of modern carbon fiber-wrapped barrels in Chapter 11. The science and technology of these modern rifle barrels is discussed, and then everything from point of impact shift to group sizes are compared for several samples of each type of barrel including standard steel barrels.
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The last half-inch or so of your barrel is absolutely critical. Any damage (or abnormal wear) near the crown will cause a significant drop-off in accuracy. Here are ways you can check the end of your barrel, using a common Q-Tip.
Use Q-Tip for Barrel Inspection
To find out if you have a burr or damage to your crown, you can use an ordinary Q-tip cotton swab. Check the edges of the crown by pulling the Q-tip gently out past the edge of the crown. If you have a burr, it will “grab” the cotton and leave strands behind.
Larry Willis has another way to use a Q-Tip: “Here’s a neat trick that will surprise you with how well it works.” Just insert a Q-Tip into your barrel (like the picture below), and it will reflect enough light so that you can get a real good look at the last half inch of rifling and the crown of your barrel. In most cases you’ll find that this works much better than a flashlight. Larry tells us: “I’ve used this method about a jillion times. Q-Tips are handy to keep in your cleaning supplies anyway. This is a good way to judge approximately how well you are cleaning your barrel when you’re at the range. It’s also the best way to examine your barrel when you’re in the field.”
Sinclair Internationalhas released an interesting article about Case Concentricity* and bullet “run-out”. This instructional article by Bob Kohl explains the reasons brass can exhibit poor concentricity, and why high bullet run-out can be detrimental to accuracy.
Concentricity, Bullet Alignment, and Accuracyby Bob Kohl
The purpose of loading your own ammo is to minimize all the variables that can affect accuracy and can be controlled with proper and conscientious handloading. Concentricity and bullet run-out are important when you’re loading for accuracy. Ideally, it’s important to strive to make each round the same as the one before it and the one after it. It’s a simple issue of uniformity.
This is a grim tale. A man almost lost the use of his right hand, and did suffer terrible injuries to his fingers. All because he picked the wrong bottle of powder off the shelf.
Similar Labels, Disasterous Consequences
The shooter, Denny K., was assembling some rounds for his brand new 7mm-08 Savage hunting rifle. He thought he was loading with Hodgdon Varget. Instead he had filled his powder measure with Hodgdon TiteGroup, a fast-burning pistol powder. The labels are similar, so the mistake is understandable. But the results were devastating. Here’s what 41 grains of TiteGroup can do in a 7mm-08:
Posting on the Firing Line, in a thread entitled “Lucky to Be Alive”, Denny writes:
“This is the hardest post to post. I know if I had read it a week ago my comment would have been: ‘You have no business reloading’. I had everything perfect, except pouring the wrong powder in the powder measure. I type this slowly with my left hand, embarrassed but … possibly saving someone else a tragedy or, like me, a long drive to the Emergency Room and surgery to save my finger.”
The Still-Sealed Bottle of Varget
Denny did not initially comprehend exactly why the kaboom happened. He thought maybe his new Savage rifle was at fault. Then, on his return home, he discovered something…
Denny wrote: “The seven-hour period it took to go to ER, transport to Trauma Center and surgery made me think it was a Savage rifle issue. Brand new rifle, new brass, triple-checked loading data. The next day I was humbled when I realized the Varget powder was still sealed.
I knew what powder to use. I thought [Varget] was what I used. Not until the following day did I realize the Varget was still sealed.”
At that point, Denny realized what caused the accident — “operator error”. He knew he had to warn others about using the wrong powder: “I knew I needed to share my mistake, even though it is embarrassing, just to remind people. I’ve been reloading for 30 years…”
Editor’s Comment: Denny was not a novice reloader. His experience demonstrates that this kind of mistake can be made by any hand-loader, even one with decades of experience. Be safe guys, take your time when you load your ammo. Remove powders from measures after your loading sessions (pistol powders can look very similar to rifle powders). And by all means CHECK the LABEL on the jug. As the TiteGroup label says: “A little goes a long way.”
It’s not a bad idea to separate your pistol powders from your rifle powders, or perhaps even load for pistol in a separate part of your workshop.
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At the request of our readers, we provide select “Deals of the Week”. Every Monday morning we offer our Bargain selections. Here are some of the best deals on firearms, hardware, reloading components, and shooting accessories. Be aware that sale prices are subject to change, and once clearance inventory is sold, it’s gone for good. You snooze you lose.
1. Natchez — Special 5 Reloading Press Kit, $199.99
This is an excellent entry-level reloading kit, which is on sale for $199.99 at Natchez Shooters Supply. We like the relatively compact Special 5 press for most reloading duties. Eventually you many want to add an additional large heavy press, but this will get the job done. This kit includes an RCBS Powder Measure, Digital Scale, Powder Trickler, Hand Priming Tool, Load Manual, Loading Tray, and more. It’s hard to beat this combination of tools for under $200.00.
2. CDNN Sports — Remington 597 for $149.99
Looking for a “first rifle” for a family member? Consider this semi-auto Remington 597. It currently retails for just $149.99. That’s right, for under $150 you can get a reliable, self-feeding rimfire rifle that will provide years of fun for a young shooter. The 597 has a stock that’s sized right for both youngsters and adults. Receivers are dovetailed for standard rimfire rings and are also drilled and tapped to allow mounting of Weaver-style bases.
3. Grafs.com — Forster Co-Ax Reloading Press on SALE
If you’ve been patiently waiting to acquire a Forster Co-Ax® reloading press, now’s the time to strike. Grafs.com has Co-Ax presses on sale this week at $289.99. That includes shipping charges (with one flat $7.95 handling charge per order).
4. Grafs.com — NEW Nikon Wind Meter for SmartPhones, $28.99
Here’s a great new gadget for under $30.00. Nikon’s new Spot On™ Ballistic Wind Meter plugs directly into the headphone port on most popular smart phones. The Spot On Wind Meter reads both wind speed and direction and inputs the data directly into Nikon’s free Spot On Ballistics Mobile App (available for iOS and Android). This allows you to quickly determine and calculate wind drift corrections without needing a separate, dedicated wind meter. When not in use, the Nikon device easily fits in a pocket.
Everyone needs a good .22 LR rimfire handgun, and the Browning Buck Mark is a classic. This stainless, bull barrel version is marked down this week to $379.99. That’s a very good price. Buckmarks, with their excellent triggers and great ergonomics, are fun to shoot and VERY accurate. This is a pistol you can keep for a life-time and pass on to your kids. Browning says: “Every Buck Mark starts out as a solid piece of aircraft-grade 7075 aluminum alloy, and then is CNC machined to exacting tolerances. The crisp single-action trigger, hand reamed chamber, target crowned barrel and finely adjustable target sights mean the Buck Mark comes ready for fun straight from the box.”
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Sinclair International has created a series of instructional videos illustrating the basics of metallic cartridge reloading. The 8-part series starts with reloading basics and provides step-by-step, how-to instructions that will help new reloaders get started. Detailed, animated illustrations show you what happens inside the chamber when shooting, and inside the dies during each step of reloading. The videos can be viewed on Sinclair Int’l’s YouTube page. Shown below is the first video in the series:
Each of the eight videos is hosted by Sinclair Int’l President Bill Gravatt. Bill doesn’t just show you “how”, he tells you “why”. The how-to segments cover case inspection, proper die set up, case sizing, primer installation, powder measuring, bullet seating, crimping, and even goes into the record keeping needed for the handloader. “We wanted to give shooters who haven’t reloaded a look at all the advantages of creating your own ammo and how easy it is to get started,” said Gravatt, “without telling them they had to have any certain brand or type of equipment to do the job.” The eight videos are:
Part 1 — Intro to Video Series
Part 2 — Intro to Reloading Safety
Part 3 — Metallic Cartridge Components
Part 4 — The Firing Sequence
Part 5 — Tools for Reloading
Part 6 — Loading Bottle-Neck Cartridges
Part 7 — Loading Straight Wall Cartridges
Part 8 — Reloading Series Conclusion
Shown below is Part 5 of the video series, covering the tools used for precision reloading.
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At the request of our readers, we provide select “Deals of the Week”. Every Monday morning we offer our Bargain selections. Here are some of the best deals on firearms, hardware, reloading components, and shooting accessories. Be aware that sale prices are subject to change, and once clearance inventory is sold, it’s gone for good. You snooze you lose.
1. Stocky’s Stocks — Composite Stock with Bedding Block
Here’s a killer deal on a versatile Stocky’s Long Range Stock with aluminum V-block bedding system. For just $199.99, order this for Rem/Rem Clone long actions or short actions, with either narrow or wide (varmint/tactical) barrel channel. This would be a good choice for a varmint rifle. This is also offered with a matte black, tan, or olive baked-on textured finish for $229.97.
2. RCBS — Buy Green, Get Green Rebate
RCBS is running a very attractive Rebate Program currently. If you spend $300.00 on qualifying products you get a $75.00 rebate. Spend $50 and get a $10.00 Rebate. This program is limited to one (1) rebate redemption per calendar year, with a maximum of $75.00. CLICK HERE for more information. NOTE: To qualify, you must supply completed RCBS rebate coupon, original UPC barcodes from package, and original cash register receipt and/or dated, itemized sales invoice.
3. Midsouth — Nosler .308 Match Monster Bullets, $119.99 for 500
Looking for high-quality, name-brand .308-caliber bullets? You won’t beat the price on these Nosler bullets from Midsouth Shooters Supply. Five options are offered: 155 grain, 168 grain, 168 grain (with cannelure), 170 grain, and 190 grain. The 155s and 168s are just $119.99 for FIVE HUNDRED bullets. The 170s cost $131.28/500 while the big 190s cost $137.74/500. Those are insanely good prices, any way you cut it. The price on the 168s works out to just $23.99 per hundred. You could easily pay $40.00 per hundred for bullets of this quality. These are not seconds or blems — the are quality Nosler-made bullets produced for Midsouth’s Match Monster bulk sales program.
4. Sportsman’s Guide — Frankford Arsenal Case Tumbler Kit
For just $69.99, this Frankford Arsenal Kit provides everything you need to clean brass: Vibratory Tumbler, Rotary Media Separator, Bucket, Corn Cob Media (3 lbs.), and Brass Polish. The Case Tumbler holds up to 600 9mm cases or 350 .223 Rem cases. The separator system is generous, with a 3.5-gallon bucket. NOTE: Sportsman’s Guide Buyers Club members can purchase for $62.99.
5. CDNN Sports — Ruger American Ranch Rifle (Tan), $389.99
Here’s a nice little varmint rifle from Ruger with some nice features at a very attractive price, $389.99. This .223 Rem rifle features a 16.5″ hammer-forged barrel barrel threaded 1/2″-28 at the muzzle for brake or suppressor. The action, which features a 70° three-lug bolt, and Picatinny-style scope rail, sits in an aluminum bedding block. The crisp trigger adjusts down to 3 pounds. With a weight (before optics) of 6.1 pounds, this is a handy carry-around varminter.
6. MidwayUSA — Padded Scoped Rifle Case, $24.99
This 48″-long, thickly-padded gun case will hold most tactical-style rifles and hunting rifles. At a fraction of the cost of a big, cumbersome drag bag, this case may be all you need. The heavy duty padding is over 1″ thick on both sides to protect your rifle and optics investment from rough handling. A large pocket will hold a couple boxes of ammo and other accessories. We like this bag much better than the typical gun-store soft cases. It offers much better padding and more room for large scopes. It is on sale this week at MidwayUSA for just $24.99 in four colors: black, tan, OD green, and gray. In addition to the 48″ case shown, 40″ and 44″ versions are available.
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To err is human… Sooner or later you’ll probably get a case stuck in a die. This “fix-it” article, which originally appeared in the Western Powders Blog, explains the procedure for removing a firmly stuck cartridge case using an RCBS kit. This isn’t rocket science, but you do want to follow the directions carefully, step-by-step. Visit the Western Powders Blog for other helpful Tech Tips.
Curing the Stuck Case Blues
Sticking a case in the sizer die is a rite of passage for the beginning handloader. If you haven’t done it yet, that’s great, but it probably will eventually happen. When it does, fixing the problem requires a bit of ingenuity or a nice little kit like the one we got from RCBS.
The first step is to clear the de-capping pin from the flash hole. Just unscrew the de-capping assembly to move it as far as possible from the primer pocket and flash hole (photo at right). Don’t try to pull it all the way out. It won’t come. Just unscrew it and open as much space as possible inside the case.
Place the die upside down in the padded jaws of a vise and clamp it firmly into place. Using the supplied #7 bit, drill through the primer pocket. Be careful not to go too deeply inside the cartridge once the hole has opened up. It is important to be aware that the de-capping pin and expander ball are still in there and can be damaged by the bit.
Drill and Tap the Stuck Case
Once the cartridge head has been drilled, a ¼ – 20 is tap is used to cut threads into the pocket. Brass is relatively soft compared to a hardened tap, so no lube is needed for the tapping process. RCBS says that a drill can be used for this step, but it seems like a bit of overkill in a project of this nature. A wrench (photo above right) makes short work of the project.
RCBS supplies a part they call the “Stuck Case Remover Body” for the next step. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and have the bit and tap, this piece is easily replicated by a length of electrical conduit of the proper diameter and some washers. In either case, this tool provides a standoff for the screw that will do the actual pulling.
With an Allen Wrench, Finish the Job
Run the screw through the standoff and into the tapped case head. With a wrench, tighten the screw which hopefully pulls the case free. Once the case is free, clamp the case in a vice and pull it free of the de-capping pin. There is tension here because the sizing ball is oversized to the neck dimension as part of the sizing process. It doesn’t take much force, but be aware there is still this last little hurdle to clear before you get back to loading. Don’t feel bad, everyone does this. Just use more lube next time!
Article find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Duane Siercks
One of the first things new reloaders notice is that load data varies between reloading manuals. The Sierra Bullets Technicians frequently get inquiries asking us to explain why the load data appears to be inconsistent. This article explains five key factors that can influence published load data.
Example of load data variances for two 168 grain bullets:
Here are five reasons why the load data varies:
Basically, the similarities in the .30 caliber 168 grain Match bullets (for example) end with weight and diameter. The bullets likely have dimensional differences such as bearing surface length. Bearing surface has a large effect on pressure and velocity. There are also differences in boat tail, flat base, ogive and over-all lengths, which each help determine the cartridge over-all-length (COAL). With different COAL’s, we can expect changes in pressure and velocity also. In some calibers there are differences in bullet diameter with different bullet manufacturers.
It is also worth noting that bullet manufacturers do not all use the same copper alloy for their jackets. This produces more or less friction that results in load pressures and velocities. The solid copper bullets also vary quite a bit in comparison to a lead core and copper jacketed bullet.
Each gun is unique, even if you are using the same make, model, and caliber. Special consideration should be used to consider that not all firearm chambers are the same either, creating more variables that need consideration. There can be drastic differences in the throat length. This controls the amount of “jump” that a bullet experiences when the cartridge is fired.
Within normal manufacturing tolerances, you can see some variation in a given powders burn rate between different lots of the same powder. So naturally when two different Manuals are produced, it would be doubtful that the same lots would be tested.
The Cartridge Cases
New cases are almost always near minimum specs in dimension. A load fired in a new case would likely have slightly more pressure that when fired in a re-sized case. This would certainly be true if we were loading into fire-formed cases that have had minimal re-sizing done. Fired cases that are full length resized most of the time be slightly larger than the new unfired cases. This gives you differences in case capacity. The same powder charge placed within a new case and a full length resized case will produce different pressure levels and probably different velocities.
Temperature can cause pressure increases or decreases. Hot temperatures tend to cause pressures to increase, while cold temperatures will usually do the opposite. Humidity and altitude can impact pressures and velocities likewise.
As you can see, an amazing number of variables effect any load combination. With the differences in the manuals, you’re just seeing firsthand examples of what took place when the data was collected with that particular set of components and firearm. Think of a reloading manual as a report. In essence, a reloading manual says, “We tried this particular component combination, and these are the results we obtained.”
Remember that you may or may not reach the same maximum load safely. There is no “one load fits all bullets.” The minimum load data offers a safe place to start. The maximum load data listed should always be regarded as a safety guideline and not necessarily a goal! Your gun should shoot accurately without breaching the maximum load data. The best advice is: always start low and work your load up!
If you have questions about variances in load data or other reloading questions, please call our ballistic technicians at 1-800-223-8799 or send us an email at sierra [at] sierrabullets.com.
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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 6.5×47 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.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could quickly and easily adjust shoulder bump during the full-length sizing process, without struggling to move die lock-rings by trial and error (or fiddle with shims). Well you can. The PMA Micro Die Adjuster is a brilliant little device that replaces the lock ring on your FL sizing die. It allows you to move the die up and down in precise, tiny increments. The tool has .001″ index marks, but you can easily set your die between the marks to achieve .0005″ (half-thousandth) adjustments.
To see how the PMA Micro-Die Adjuster works, watch this video by our friend Boyd Allen:
Many of our Forum members now use the PMA Micro Die Adjuster, and they give this specialty tool high praise. Here are actual reviews by Forum members and other verified tool buyers. Read more comments in this AccurateShooter Forum Thread.
PMA Micro Die Adjuster User Reviews
“No more ‘close enough’ for headspace[.] With this tool set-up it’s easy to put headspace exactly where you want it, then repeat it exactly for subsequent batches for the same cartridge.” — JohnF
“I have four of these Micro Adjuster rings and all I can say is that it works and it is repeatable. I bump my brass .0005″-.001″ and this die lock ring will do it without issue.” — TrapperT
“I size brass for four different 6.5×47 rifles (chambered with three different reamers) using a single die, set in the PMA Adjuster. I have to say… I should have bought one sooner. Adjusting it is very quick and repeatable to well under .001.” — /VH
“Great product. Shims used to drive me crazy, put a .002 in and get .0035 of change. With this if you want .0015 set it and that’s what you get.” — John B
“I’ve been using PMA’s lock ring for some time now and find it to be very easy to adjust to within .0005″ on a single piece of brass. Very quick to do as well. One thing I have found is that if you still need that half-thou adjustment I will run the brass once more at the same setting before I make that .0005″ adjustment and 50 percent of the time that does the trick. The marked increments are in .001″ scale so if you go half way in between there’s your half-thousandth.
PMA Micro-Adjuster vs. Shims: With respect to using shims, that requires you to completely remove the die. That gets old rather quickly after having used the PMA adjustable lock ring.” — Patch 700
“I like mine — adjustments are easy and it will adjust very fine. I used to use .001″ shims. Now can adjust my bump as fine as I want.” — Joe139
“The PMA adjuster works just like they say it does and is very simple to use and adjust. I use JLC inserts as well … as nice as they are you’re still hobbled by a click. However with the PMA you can go between what would be clicks. And you can use them … with any die.” — Dusty Stevens
Product Description from PMA Tool
The PMA Tool Micro Die Adjuster (MDA) replaces your existing lock ring and can be used with nearly any 7/8-14 full length sizing die. We successfully used this tool with sizing dies from Redding, RCBS, Hornady, Lee, Harrells Precision and those made from Newlon Precision die blanks. It allows you to easily make adjustments to your “shoulder bump” as fine as .0005″. The engraved marks on the MDA are equal to approximately .001 inches (true adjustment .000992″) of adjustment to the shoulder bump. Splitting the engraved marks is therefore approximately equal to .0005″. The design of the MDA does not allow it to work with the Forster Co-Ax press. Some custom dies for very short cartridges may require the use of an extended shellholder. Micro Die Adjuster shown in use installed on Custom Newlon/Scott 6mm PPC Die and Harrells Precision Compact Press.
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Top to bottom – Remington firing pin assembly with ISS, Tubb SpeedLock alloy-composite system without ISS (current versions have dual, opposite-wound springs), and Remington short action firing pin assembly without ISS.
Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Last week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covered mechanical issues and related ignition irregularities that can cause vertical fliers even with good ammunition in an otherwise excellent rifle. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tech tips.
Vertical Dispersion: Mechanical/Ignition Issues?
Poor or inconsistent ignition has long been known to be one of the “usual suspects” when one encounters vertical fliers that just shouldn’t be there. By having a sense of some of the basic principles involved, and a few basic areas to check, the shooter may avoid colsiderable frustration, not to mention time, expensive loading components and barrel wear.
Is your well-built rifle of high-quality components plagued with vertical fliers across more than 1-3 handload combinations? Consider the bedding, crown and scope/sight mounts. Are they correct? If so, then you might check for ignition issues before boldly undertaking an extensive, expensive, and quite possibly fruitless quest for the “magic handload”.
SEEING IS BELIEVING: While the author had been aware for many years that poor ignition should be considered and ruled out when dealing with vertical fliers in an otherwise-excellent rifle, actually seeing the problem and its almost instantaneous cure really drove the lesson home.
He was working with a “dot” rifle – a .22 LR match rifle that really stacked bullets into little piles at 50 yards and beyond. With one lot of ELEY Tenex, it produced consistent “bughole” groups at 50, but with another, selected lot of Tenex, similar groups were regularly ruined by single, vertical fliers that did not appear in other rifles. Rather than spending days burning up expensive, select ammunition looking for “magic lots”, he contacted a well-respected rimfire gunsmith and explained the situation.
Without so much as batting an eye, the highly-experienced ‘smith tore into the rifle’s action, and quickly found the cause(s) of the problem. He discovered a demonstrably weak firing pin spring, plus a chip out of the face of the firing pin where it contacted the cartridge rim.
After replacing and tuning the offending parts, the rifle immediately began shooting tiny, bughole groups with the previously “unacceptable” lot of Tenex. Centerfire rifles can also benefit from ensuring positive, consistent ignition. A wise riflesmith is literally worth his weight in gold!
So, what are some issues we as shooters can inspect in our rifles to help determine if ignition woes could be part of our problem? At the club level, ask yourself if that “experienced” Remington, Winchester 70, or even Springfield-based match bolt gun you’re using is still running its’ original 40-80 year-old factory striker spring? If so, a new replacement is cheap insurance against current or future problems. (And BTW, it might be best to stick to the normal, factory-spec spring weight. A super-powerful spring can cause vertical, just as a weak one one can.) Along with that, a routine check for proper firing-pin protrusion is a quick preventive measure that can rule out potential issues.
Other areas to consider are the centering and consistency of the firing pin’s operation in the bolt. Admittedly, with the increasing use of precision-machined custom actions, this is becoming less an issue every day. Below is the firing pin assembly from a custom BAT action:
However, particularly with factory actions, a very quick and easy check is to remove the bolt, let the firing pin go forward, and look at the firing pin tip through the firing pin hole. Is the tip off-center in the hole, and possibly striking it as it moves forward? Is the hole out-of-round or burred from being struck repeatedly? If so, a trip to the riflesmith is likely in order.
Similarly, machining issues in the bolt/firing pin system can lead to rough and erratic firing pin movement, in which the firing pin drags against an internal surface of the bolt. In high-quality rifles these issues are relatively rare, but not unheard-of, and it takes mere minutes to rule them out. It may be worthwhile to remove the cocking piece/firing pin/spring assembly and look for any unusual gouges, dings, peening, burrs or signs of abnormal wear.
This task is especially easy with Winchester 70s, Springfields, and the similar Mauser 98s, involving little more than the push of a button and unscrewing the cocking piece assembly. This is just one of the many reasons these tried-and-true actions have earned such a loyal following in the field, among hunters who must maintain their rifles away from a shop.
Particularly with older rifles, watch for and remove excess grease (or even Cosmoline!) from both the firing pin assembly and inside the bolt. This can help improve firing pin speed and consistency. Other bolt-action designs may need a take-down tool or other measures.
As part of this inspection, AFTER ENSURING THE RIFLE IS UNLOADED, slowly cock the rifle, dry-fire, and repeat several times. Listen carefully near the action for inconsistency in the sounds it generates. Does the striker falling make the same sound each time? Do you hear or feel grinding upon operation? If so, where?
Be sure to check the operation of the cocking piece (bolt shroud), firing pin within the bolt shroud, the cocking piece cam and the rear of the bolt body where the cocking piece cam operates. As with our examination for abnormal wear marks discussed above, look for marks indicating roughness or a possible need for light polishing. Then, clean and lightly grease the bearing surfaces while you’re at it.
Remington 700 bolt shroud and cocking cam
These are relatively easy checks that shooters can undertake to perform a preliminary inspection on their own. Other mechanical issues can also cause ignition issues, chiefly centered around the action of the trigger, sear and sear spring. If these are suspected, a trip to an experienced, qualified riflesmith for diagnosis is recommended. We hope you find this information helpful! Join us again next week, and in the meantime, enjoy the shooting sports safely!
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