March 7th, 2021

Sunday GunDay: Half-Mile ‘Hog Rifle, John’s 6mm Rem AI

groundhog varmint rifle .243 6mm Rem Remington Ackley Improved AI

Spring varmint season is just around the corner. So here’s a very accurate Half-Mile ‘Hog rifle, that can drill a groundhog at long range. While just about any cartridge from a 22 magnum on up will do the job on a groundhog at close range, when you want to “reach out and touch” your prey at very long distance, it takes a case capable of tossing a heavier, wind-bucking projectile at ultra-high speeds. This week we feature a 6mm Remington Ackley Improved (6mm AI) belonging to our friend John Seibel, who ran the Varmints for Forum website for many years. John’s handsome BAT-actioned rifle sends the 87gr V-Max at a blistering 3675 fps. With its 1/4-MOA accuracy and flat-shooting ballistics, this gun is a varmint’s worst nightmare, a rig that regularly nails groundhogs at a half-mile (880 yards) and beyond.

Quarter-MOA Accuracy For Long-Distance Varminting

GunDay Report by John Seibel
John reports: “So far this gun has been an awesome long-distance varmint rig, with enough velocity to smack those critters hard at 800 yards and beyond. I have some more testing to do, but it seems that the 87gr V-Max (molyed) pushed by 52 grains of N160 or 51.5 grains of RL-19 shoots very well indeed. Velocity runs around 3675 fps. I shot consistent 1″ groups at 500 yards with both of these loads. Warning: These are max loads that work in my rifle, so start at least 10% lower and work up.

500yd SteelMy fire-forming procedure is just jam and shoot. I start with a powder (such as H414) that works for the parent case, fire a few cases as I work up the load to where I get a well-formed case, then shoot them at varmints. Then I work my load up with the newly-formed cases over a chrono. If a load looks good at 100 yards, I will go straight for 200 yards. I’ve seen that some loads which grouped well at 100 won’t shoot well at 200. If it is consistent at 200, then I’ll shoot it a steel plate at 500 yards. Then the truth will be told.

Man I love that BAT action! I have tried some Berger 88gr Lo-Drag bullets as well. They have the same BC as the V-Maxs but offer excellent accuracy. The action is BAT’s Model B round action configured Right Bolt, Left Port, with a fluted .308-faced bolt. The port is 3.0 inches wide — perfect for the 6mm Rem Improved cartridge’s OAL. I use a NightForce 8-32x56mm NXS scope mounted to BAT’s 20-MOA aluminum Weaver-style base. I use Burris Signature Zee rings because they are self-aligning and easy on scope tubes, plus you have the option of adding more MOA if needed.

Krieger with Harrell Brake
The barrel is a stainless Krieger 1:12″ twist Heavy Varmint contour, finished at 26″. I installed a Harrell’s muzzle brake because I hate recoil and I like to be able to spot my hits when target shooting and hunting–especially hunting.

When hunting I am usually by myself so when I eyeball a varmint I want to see my shot flatten him … and I hardly ever miss (heh-heh). Make sure you have your earplugs in though — that muzzle brake is loud!

Easy-Steering Thumbhole Varminter
The stock is Richard’s Custom Rifles Model 005 Thumbhole Varminter. This is a big stock that rides the sand bags very well. Took me a while to get used to this stock as I had never shot a thumbhole before. It is very comfortable and easy to control when you are shooting a moving target. In fact, my first kill with this rifle was a coyote at a little over 200 yards, she was moving along at a slow clip and I had to give her the ole’ Texas heart shot before she disappeared over a hill! (It’s pretty rare for me to shoot moving varmints though — at long-range, I want my cross-hairs steady on the target.)

Regarding the stock selection, I like Richard Franklin’s stocks because they are well-suited to my kind of shooting. I prefer a stock that is flat most of the way back towards the action because when I’m shooting out of my truck window it has to balance around mid-point. Also his stocks seem to track very well on the bench. I guess the stocks I like the most are his Model 001 and Model 008 F-Class. [Editor’s note: John often shoots from the driver’s seat of his truck because he is partially paralyzed. He also has a hoist in his truck bed for his wheelchair. Even with his mobility challenges, John tags more varmints in a season than most of us ever will.]

6mmChoice of Caliber — A 6mm with More Punch for Long Distance
I picked the 6mm Rem Improved mainly because it has that long neck for holding long bullets and it doesn’t burn the throats out as fast as a .243 AI would. I don’t use Remington brass; it splits when fire-forming and seems to work-harden fast. Another reason I picked the 6mm Improved was what I saw in the field–it seemed to be a perfect long-range groundhog getter. I saw my stocker, Richard Franklin, flat smack groundhogs out to 900+ yards with regularity. The OAL of a 6mm Improved does make it hard to remove a loaded round from a standard Remington 700 action. That’s why I went with the BAT Model B, with its longer 3.0″ port. For a standard action, a .243 AI might function better.

As for the 6 Dasher, from what I have read, I think it is a fine round. I’m a hunter though and a lot of case-forming isn’t worth it to me. Forming the Ackleyized cases is bad enough. The 6-250 is a real screamer and very accurate but it doesn’t have the capacity to drive the heavier bullets as well as the 6mm Improved. I have tried a .243 WSSM, also with a Richard’s stock (#008) and a BAT action. It may not shoot as well as the 6mm Rem Improved, but I like those short fat cases.

John’s Views on the Great Moly Debate
Editor: John started with moly-coated bullets for this 6mm Rem AI rifle, but he has moved away from that. He does have considerable experience with coated bullets, and now favors coated bullets for the smallest calibers, at least when running quality custom, hand-lapped barrels.

Moly or no moly… hmm? I have used moly and Danzac for several years, mainly Danzac. In my experience, both moly and Danzac can work well for somebody who shoots a lot of rounds before cleaning. A barrel has to be broken-in correctly whether you use moly or not. I have done break-in with naked bullets, using the conventional method of shooting and cleaning till the copper stops sticking. I have also gone through the break-in process using molyed bullets from the start. It seems to me the barrels broke-in more readily with moly bullets than with naked bullets. I think if there are any rough or sharp places in the barrel the slick molyed bullet doesn’t grab it as badly and the moly will “iron” the flaw out without leaving copper behind.

molybdenum danzac bullet collet moly varmint bullet

The main mistake I think most people make with moly is improper cleaning. By that I mean they don’t get the bore clean from the beginning. Some people will scoff at me for this but I use JB bore paste for most all my cleaning, hardly ever use a brush. Just JB and Montana Extreme or Butch’s Bore Shine. It works for me! Now shooting molyed bullets works fine to say 500 yards, but any further and you really need a lot of tension on the bullet. If not you will get bad flyers.

Personally, I use coated bullets only with .17 cal rounds now. I did use them initially in my 6mm Rem AI but I am starting to move away from that. With proper break-in, the fine custom barrels we have now will not copper if you clean correctly and don’t push those bullets too fast! And remember that powder-fouling build-up is an accuracy-killer too. That is another reason I use a lot of JB paste.

groundhog varmint rifle .243 6mm Rem Remington Ackley Improved AI
John lives and works on a farm in Virginia. Getting rid of intrusive varmints is part of the job of running the farm. Here is one of John’s bolt-action pistols, which is very handy when shooting from a vehicle.

The Guru of Varmints For Fun
For many years John Seibel ran the popular Varmints For Fun website (now offline). This site offered excellent advice for hunters and reloaders. John covered a wide variety of varmint chamberings, from big 6mm wildcats, to the popular 6BR, 22BR and .22-250 caliber varmint rounds, and even the micro-caliber wildcats such as the 20 Vartarg and 20 PPC. Shown below is one of his favorite rifles, a 20 PPC with a special short version of Richard Franklin’s Model 008 stock.

John tells us: “I guess one reason I started my web site is that I was getting a lot of inquiries about hunting groundhogs, custom rifles and reloading. Plus I thought it was a fine way to get young people interested in the shooting sports. Lord knows hunting and firearms aren’t taught any more. I get a lot of young hunters and shooters asking what’s the best caliber for hunting varmints, and they’ll ask for reloading help too. It’s a shame, but many of them have no one to teach them. I do my best to help.

Showing others that a person can still shoot, even with a disability, is another reason I started my web site. I am a C 6-7 Quadraplegic, which means I have no grip in my hands. Imagine shooting those 1.5 oz Jewels that way! I had a therapist tell me I wouldn’t be able to shoot or reload once I got out of the hospital…shows you how much he knows! First time I got home from the hospital it was deer season and I had Pops park me at the edge of some woods. Well I had a 7-point buck on the ground in thirty minutes! Being raised on a farm didn’t hurt none either–it helped me figger ways to jury-rig stuff. Of course I couldn’t have done much if it wasn’t for my family and my lovely wife Cathy[.]”

John’s Favorite 20 PPC Varmint Rifle

Cartridge History Lesson — the Original .244 Remington
Here’s bit of cartridge history. The 6mm Remington, parent of John’s 6mm AI, actually started its life with a different name, the “.244 Remington”. What we now know as the “6mm Remington” was originally called the .244 Remington. The cartridge was renamed because it was not a commercial success initially, being eclipsed by the .243 Winchester. The .244 Remington and the 6mm Remington are identical — only the name was changed.

6mm Remington cartridge .244 John Seibel varmint rifle

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March 4th, 2021

Shoulder Bump — Five Cool Tools to Measure Your Bump

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson

The Tactical Rifle Shooters Facebook Group recently showcased tools used to measure case headspace before and after “bumping” the shoulder. After a case is fired, hand-loaders who full-length size their cases will typically bump the shoulders back anywhere from .001″ to .0035″, depending on the rifle and application. With our 6mmBR and Dasher cases we like about .0015″ bump.

You want the amount of case sizing and bump to be the same for all your brass. To ensure uniformity, it makes sense to measure your cases before and after the FL sizing process. When we have time, we check every case. Other folks will simply check the first 3-4 cases coming out of the FL sizing die to ensure the FL die setting is correct and delivering desired headspace/bump.

1. Whidden Gunworks Shoulder Bump Gauge

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson

There are a variety of tools that can be used to measure shoulder bump. Our favorite is a special cartridge-specific bushing made by Whidden Gunworks. The Whidden Shoulder Bump Gauge enables you to adjust your sizing die to the desired measurement. The bump gauge is attached to your calipers with a set screw and determines the measurement from the base to the shoulder of the case. The photo below, from Tactical Rifle Shooters, shows the Whidden Bump Gauge for the .375 CheyTac cartridge.

2. Dave Manson Vertical Comparator with Dial Read-Out

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson
Background image courtesy Tactical Rifle Shooters; inset photo from Manson Precison Reamers.

Dave Manson states: “This tool was designed to make life easier for the advanced shooter and re-loader by allowing precise measurement of ammunition, case, and chamber headspace. With this information, the re-loader will be able to fine-tune clearances and fits between his ammunition and chamber, with resultant improvements in accuracy and case life.” The functions of the Manson Comparator are:

1. Measure headspace of factory or reloaded ammunition
2. Quantify chamber headspace by measuring headspace of a fired case
3. Ensure minimal shoulder set-back when setting up re-loading dies
4. Compare base-to-ogive length to ensure consistent bullet-to-rifling relationship.

In addition to the Dial Indicator and Stand, the $130.00 Vertical Comparator is supplied with multiple Datum Blocks of precise length and inside diameter (.3300″/.3750″/.4000″/.4375″). MORE INFO HERE — Catalog page 20.

3. Hornady L-N-L Headspace Comparator System

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson

Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Headspace Comparator system is easy-to-use and handy. You can get a kit with Red bushing-holder body and 5 bushings for $40.12. Hornady explains: “The Lock-N-Load® Headspace Comparator… gauge measures variations in brass before and after firing or re-sizing. It allows for headspace comparison between fire-formed brass and re-sized brass.” IMPORTANT: Hornady states: “To determine the proper bushing diameter for your cartridge, simply add the neck diameter and the shoulder diameter and divide that number by two. Use the bushing closest to that number.” Hornady offers five: .330″, .350″, .375″, .400″, and .420″.

One tip — We have found the Hornady gauges may vary a little from unit to unit even with the same nominal size. If you have more than one gauge for the same cartridge, test each on your brass — you may then note a slight difference in your bump measurements. There is also an Anvil Base Kit that mounts to the opposite blade on the caliper. This provides a more stable surface for the base of your case.

4. L.E. Wilson Case Gage Depth Micrometer

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson

If you are looking for precise “bump” measurements without having to mess with calipers and clamp-on gauge blocks, you may want to consider the L.E. Wilson Case Gage Depth Micrometer. This takes very precise, repeatable measurements, but you need to know your starting point. The manufacturer explains: “Every reloader should know exactly how much your Full Length Sizing Die is pushing back the shoulder. With the NEW Case Gage Depth Micrometer you can do just that! It has never been easier to measure you cases headspace before and after sizing. The Depth Mic allows you to slip the micrometer perfectly over the top of the Gage with your case inserted into the Gage and take a measurement. Micrometer has graduations of .001″. The Case Gage Depth Micrometer is set to a zero of .100″ on the scale at our factory. Because of differences in ‘feel’ and temperature, we include a the Gage Block for you to test Zero and to adjust if necessary.”

5. Pistol Brass Case DIY Bump Gauge

Last is a “field expedient” set-up if you do not have any of the comparator tools shown above. A sized .45 ACP case (or other suitable pistol case) can be used to measure shoulder bump. The mouth of the pistol case sits on the shoulder of your rifle cartridge brass.

Make sure the .45 ACP case is trimmed square and that it is round. We recommend you first run it through an expander, then size it, trim it and chamfer. Next, take the .45 ACP case and slip it over the neck of a fired, unsized rifle case with the primer removed. Align the two cases between the jaws of your calipers and note the length from rim to rim (See left photo below).

OK, now you have the length for a fired rifle case BEFORE sizing. Next, take a full-length sized rifle case (without primer) and do the same thing, placing the .45 ACP case over the neck of the FL-sized case (Right Photo). The difference between the two numbers is the amount of “bump” or set-back you are applying to the shoulder. Here the difference is .0015″. The amount of bump you need varies with your chamber and your load, but .0015-.002″ is a good initial setting.

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March 3rd, 2021

Reloading Can Be Fun … and a Stress-Reliever

Sierra Bullets Blog handloading stress relief

by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin for Sierra Bullets Blog
A lot of calls that come into the Sierra Customer Service Center are made by shooters [of retirement age]. Most of the time the shooter used to reload back when they were [younger] and stopped in order to raise a family, pursue a career, or both. Maybe their father or grandfather taught them back in the day and they are looking for an answer to the new whatchamacallit they found on the internet. The point is they are coming back to it because it was fun.

Reloading Can Provide Stress Relief
As a father of three, a husband, a brother, a son and son-in-law, and a friend and neighbor, I get pulled in a lot of directions. In all honesty, reloading and shooting has become a stress relief for me even though I work in the shooting industry.

Sometimes, the shooting gets put on hold for other more important things but there will always be another project or repair to accomplish. There are a lot out there that have found a way to balance the work life, the family life, and the play life. I would like to applaud you on your efforts because it is a hard thing to accomplish.

Remember to take time and relieve that stress. Do something fun, especially if it is shooting that special hand-load you just made.

AccurateShooter Comment — Hand-Loading and the Creative Process
Reloading your own precise ammo can be rewarding in many ways. First it allows you a temporary escape from work pressures, “Honey-Dos”, filing your taxes — whatever. It’s just you and Mr. Rockchucker spending quality time in the loading room. Second, hand-loading is a creative process that engages the mind. During load development, you are like an inventor, selecting a powder charge, choosing the bushing size, experimenting with seating depths, working to perfect your load.

Lastly, the process of hand-loading is rewarding because you are building something start to finish. You begin with components — bullets, brass, and powder, and end up with a finished product that (hopefully) is better than the best factory ammo you could buy. It is enormously satisfying to start with piles of bullets and brass and end up with beautiful hand-loads that can deliver great accuracy.

This post originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog.

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February 26th, 2021

7 SAFE: Seven Vital Safety Tips for Reloaders

seven reloading safety tips powder primers brownells manual

You can never be too safe when hand-loading your own ammunition. This helpful Brownells video outlines the Seven Fundamental Reloading Safety Tips. This is important information for novice hand-loaders and a good refresher for those with reloading experience!

Summary of the Seven Safety Tips:

1. Store your reloading supplies in a safe and dry location, away from children and away from any possible source of ignition. It is also smart to keep your powder and primers separate.

2. Get and use respected reloading manuals, especially for new cartridges. Start low and work up slowly while watching for warning signs of pressure and/or case fatigue.

3. Locate your reloading activity where you will not be distracted. If you get interrupted, stop. (Distractions will eventually lead to mistakes.)

4. Do NOT mix powders. Keep your powders clearly marked and dated. You can use masking tape to write the date on the container.

5. If you load the same cartridge type for different firearms, make sure your ammo headspaces properly in each gun.

6. Check cases frequently. Look for split necks, case head separation or other signs of fatigue and excessive pressure.

7. If reloading military brass, be aware that case capacity is usually reduced, and initial loads should be at least 10-15% lower than published data.


Here are some other tips that will help your avoid making costly mistakes (such as using the wrong powder, or undercharging a case):

  • Powder Type — Always double-check the label on your powder containers. After placing powder in the powder measure, put a piece of tape on the measure with the powder type written on it. Some guys write the powder type on a card and place that right in the hopper.
  • Scale Drift — Electronic balances can drift. If you are using a digital powder scale, calibrate the scale with a test weight every 50 rounds or so.
  • Case Fill — If you throw more than one charge at a time, look INSIDE every case before seating a bullet. Squib charges can be dangerous if you don’t notice them before firing the next round.
  • Progressive Presses — When using a progressive press, consider using an RCBS Lock-Out Die. This will detect a low charge and stop the machine. These dies will work with RCBS, Hornady, and Dillon progressives.

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February 25th, 2021

Watch Reloading Videos from Hodgdon Powder Company

Hodgdon Reloading Center Video

Hodgdon Reloading Center VideoHodgdon Powder Company (Hodgdon) offers a series of professionally-produced, “how-to” instructional videos through its online Reloading Data Center. These 3.5-minute videos present rifle, pistol, and shotshell reloading basics in an easy-to-understand,step-by-step format. These mobile-friendly, informative videos can also be viewed on a smart phone or tablet.

To watch the reloading videos go to the Reloading Data Center at hodgdon.com. Click to the right/left of the displayed video to switch between pistol, rifle, and shotgun videos. Or, for your convenience, we have embedded the Rifle and Pistol videos here. Just click to watch!

Click to Watch Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Video:

Click to Watch Hodgdon Pistol Reloading Video:

In addition to these videos, Hodgdon’s Reloading Data Center (RDC) provides a wealth of information on Hodgdon®, IMR®, and Winchester® propellants. Along with reliable load data, you’ll find explanations of reloading basics, safety procedures, plus answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ).

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February 18th, 2021

Recover Cartridge Brass Easily with Caldwell Brass Retriever

Caldwell pistol rifle cartridge brass rake retriever handle

Caldwell Brass Retriever
Tired of bending over or kneeling down to retrieve your fired cartridge brass? For older shooters (including this Editor) getting down on the ground to pick up brass is tough on the lower back and knees. Here’s a product that makes brass retrieval quick, easy, and pain-free. The Caldwell Brass Retriever works quite well with a little practice, once you apply the correct pressure. While it won’t always grab every fired case, it will capture nearly all, and that can really make the job go much faster. These days cartridge brass (along with other components) is getting more expensive — so you want to recover your brass after every shooting session.

One owner praises this as a “very good tool” that is “a lot easier on my back.” While it can work on grass, gravel, and hard-packed earth, the unit works best on smooth, hard surfaces. The Brass Retriever is under $40 at Amazon.

Caldwell states: “Spend less time bending over and picking up brass at the range and more time shooting. The Caldwell® Brass Retriever picks up brass, saving your back and time. Picking up spent brass is as easy as pushing a mop. The Brass Retriever can pick up rifle and pistol brass quickly and efficiently. The Brass Retriever works anywhere, even on grass and gravel. The retriever comes complete with a roll cage separator that allows you to dump the collected brass into a bucket quickly. It is collapsible as well, making it convenient to transport. The retriever’s handle expands from 28″ up to 57″ tall.”

Caldwell pistol rifle cartridge brass rake retriever handle

Caldwell Brass Retriever Owner Reviews
Here are Amazon reviews from actual purchasers. The device is not perfect and can miss a case or two. However, as you can see from the video, the Brass Retriever does pick the vast majority of brass on the ground, sized .223 Rem or larger diameter. This will save time and reduces stress on your back and joints:

“This thing … does a terrific job of collecting the brass from a standing posture quickly and efficiently. It helps to have the cases on a smooth surface like concrete or dirt without a lot of vegetation. But we used it on open desert yesterday and it collected nearly every case with a single pass.” — Hans H.

“This WILL save your back. The only drawback is you can’t overload it with brass. After couple dozen pieces (or less) it will start dropping brass while you’re attempting to collect others. That’s the limitation (one of them). There is a short learning curve (15 min.) in which you’ll learn how much brass is too much and how you need to orientate the wires to pick up the brass. It doesn’t do as well on gravel or high grass as it does on a smooth, firm surface. Even with its limitations, it’s a keeper. Just empty every dozen or so pieces and it works very well.” — Jeff M.

“It’s not perfect. But neither is using a broom or picking it up by hand. Sure, a 9mm might drop out while you’re picking up a .45 ACP. But you roll back over the 9mm and pick it up again. I now pick up my brass in a fraction of the time it used to take me and I stand upright while doing it.” — Johnny C.

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February 16th, 2021

Reloading Rescue — How to Remove a Case Stuck in a Die

stuck72

Western powders, ramshot, norma, accurate

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 how to remove 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

decapstem72Sticking 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
taping72drilling72

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.

pulling72fingers72

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!

wholekit72unstuck72

Article find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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February 4th, 2021

Important Reloading Safety Tips from Sierra Bullets

Sierra Bullets Reloading Tips

Here are some really smart tips for hand-loaders compiled by Sierra Bullets. These suggestions were submitted by Sierra’s Facebook fans — and some are very valuable indeed. Some of these tips will help you load more accurate ammo. Other selections will help you stay SAFE — which should always be your #1 priority. For example, we concur with the advice to “Check and Double Check. Everything. Every Time”. Also definitely keep “One powder on the bench at a time” — that could be a life-saver. You may want to print these “words of wisdom” and place them on a wall in your loading room.

Reloading Safety Tips — Sound Advice

ALWAYS START LOW: “Just because a load manual says X grains of X powder with X bullet is max, your rifle could reach max pressure a grain or two before what the book says. Start low and work up.” — Walter Coats

BE SAFE: “Check and double check. Everything. Every time. Only one type of powder on the bench at a time.” — Glen Lundgren

DON’T RUSH: “Be patient, don’t be in a hurry, have fun and find your rhythm. Just tell your family you’re putting yourself in ‘time-out’. They will understand.” — Erik Dyal

POWDER RULE #1: “One powder on the bench at one time, it might save your life.” — James A. Kimery

STAY FOCUSED: “Relaxed but concentrated attention. Have fun enjoying a great hobby and pastime but stay focused.” — Jim Caldwell

POLICE LOADING AREA: “Keep your reloading bench area clean and put items away ASAP.” — Eric J. Ford

BE PATIENT: “Focus, Focus, Focus — be patient — it AIN’T a race.” — William Stanley

RECORD YOUR LOADS: “Write down on a small card what you’re loading – bullet weight, powder weight, type of powder, and primer. And put it in the powder hopper. I am unloading .45 FMJ because I forgot what type powder was in the hopper.” — Michael Conniff

HAVE a PROCEDURE for INTERRUPTIONS: “If, for any reason, you have to leave the bench while in the process of dropping powder charges, turn the next case to be charged upside down in the loading block so you know where you left off.” — Bill Tinsley

LABEL EVERYTHING: “OCD is a good habit to have with your loading bench. CLEARLY label everything!” — Andy Pynckel

HAVE a GOAL: “Never start reloading or developing a load without a specific goal in mind. Second keep meticulous records.” — Peter Eick

RESEARCH THE JOB: “Read all you can about it before you start!” — Keith Shively

KEEP TRACK: “I put all my primed brass upside down (primer up) and as I charge the casing, I (of course) flip it primer down.” — Mark Ewing

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January 28th, 2021

Four Vital Ammo Checks You Should Always Do Before Shooting

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

Here’a useful article by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant. This story, which originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog, covers some of the more common ammo problems that afflict hand-loaders. Some of those issues are: excessive OAL, high primers, and improperly-sized cases. Here Mr. Pilant explains how to avoid these common problems that lead to “headaches at the range.

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

I had some gentlemen at my house last fall getting rifle zeros for an upcoming elk hunt. One was using one of the .300 short mags and every 3rd or 4th round would not chamber. Examination of the case showed a bulge right at the body/shoulder junction. These were new cases he had loaded for this trip. The seating die had been screwed down until it just touched the shoulder and then backed up just slightly. Some of the cases were apparently slightly longer from the base to the datum line and the shoulder was hitting inside the seating die and putting the bulge on the shoulder. I got to thinking about all the gun malfunctions that I see each week at matches and the biggest percentage stem from improper handloading techniques.

One: Check Your Cases with a Chamber Gage

Since I shoot a lot of 3-gun matches, I see a lot of AR problems which result in the shooter banging the butt stock on the ground or nearest solid object while pulling on the charging handle at the same time. I like my rifles too well to treat them that way (I cringe every time I see someone doing that). When I ask them if they ran the ammo through a chamber gage, I usually get the answer, “No, but I need to get one” or “I didn’t have time to do it” or other excuses. The few minutes it takes to check your ammo can mean the difference between a nightmare and a smooth running firearm.

A Chamber Gauge Quickly Reveals Long or Short Cases
Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

Size Your Cases Properly
Another problem is caused sizing the case itself. If you will lube the inside of the neck, the expander ball will come out a lot easier. If you hear a squeak as the expander ball comes out of a case neck, that expander ball is trying to pull the case neck/shoulder up (sometimes several thousandths). That is enough that if you don’t put a bulge on the shoulder when seating the bullet … it can still jam into the chamber like a big cork. If the rifle is set up correctly, the gun will not go into battery and won’t fire but the round is jammed into the chamber where it won’t extract and they are back to banging it on the ground again (with a loaded round stuck in the chamber). A chamber gage would have caught this also.

Bad_Primer_WallsOversizing cases also causes problems because the firing pin doesn’t have the length to reach the primer solid enough to ignite it 100% of the time. When you have one that is oversized, you usually have a bunch, since you usually do several cases at a time on that die setting. If the die isn’t readjusted, the problem will continue on the next batch of cases also. They will either not fire at all or you will have a lot of misfires. In a bolt action, a lot of time the extractor will hold the case against the face of the breech enough that it will fire. The case gets driven forward and the thinner part of the brass expands, holding to the chamber wall and the thicker part of the case doesn’t expand as much and stretches back to the bolt face. If it doesn’t separate that time, it will the next time. When it does separate, it leaves the front portion of the case in the chamber and pulls the case head off. Then when it tries to chamber the next round, you have a nasty jam. Quite often range brass is the culprit of this because you never know how many times it has been fired/sized and in what firearm.’Back to beating it on the ground again till you figure out that you have to get the forward part of the case out.

Just a quick tip — To extract the partial case, an oversized brush on a cleaning rod [inserted] and then pulled backward will often remove the case. The bristles when pushed forward and then pulled back act like barbs inside the case. If you have a bunch of oversized case that have been fired, I would dispose of them to keep from having future problems. There are a few tricks you can use to salvage them if they haven’t been fired though. Once again, a case gage would have helped.

Two: Double Check Your Primers

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

Another thing I see fairly often is a high primer, backwards primer, or no primer at all. The high primers are bad because you can have either a slam fire or a misfire from the firing pin seating the primer but using up its energy doing so. So, as a precaution to make sure my rifle ammo will work 100% of the time, I check it in a case gage, then put it in an ammo box with the primer up and when the box is full, I run my finger across all the primers to make sure they are all seated to the correct depth and you can visually check to make sure none are in backwards or missing.

Three: Check Your Overall Cartridge Length

Trying to load the ammo as long as possible can cause problems also. Be sure to leave yourself enough clearance between the tip of the bullet and the front of the magazine where the rounds will feed up 100%. Several times over the years, I have heard of hunters getting their rifle ready for a hunt. When they would go to the range to sight in, they loaded each round single shot without putting any ammo in the magazine. On getting to elk or deer camp, they find out the ammo is to long to fit in the magazine. At least they have a single shot, it could be worse. I have had hunters that their buddies loaded the ammo for them and then met them in hunting camp only to find out the ammo wouldn’t chamber from either the bullet seated to long or the case sized improperly, then they just have a club.

Four: Confirm All Cases Contain Powder

No powder in the case doesn’t seem to happen as much in rifle cartridges as in handgun cartridges. This is probably due to more handgun ammo being loaded on progressive presses and usually in larger quantities. There are probably more rifle cartridges that don’t have powder in them than you realize though. Since the pistol case is so much smaller internal capacity, when you try to fire it without powder, it usually dislodges the bullet just enough to stick in the barrel. On a rifle, you have more internal capacity and usually a better grip on the bullet, since it is smaller diameter and longer bearing surface. Like on a .223, often a case without powder won’t dislodge the bullet out of the case and just gets ejected from the rifle, thinking it was a bad primer or some little quirk.

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

For rifle cases loaded on a single stage press, I put them in a reloading block and always dump my powder in a certain order. Then I do a visual inspection and any case that the powder doesn’t look the same level as the rest, I pull it and the one I charged before and the one I charged after it. I inspect the one case to see if there is anything visual inside. Then I recharge all 3 cases. That way if a case had powder hang up and dump in the next case, you have corrected the problem.

On progressive presses, I try to use a powder that fills the case up to about the base of the bullet. That way you can usually see the powder as the shell rotates and if you might have dumped a partial or double charge, you will notice as you start to seat the bullet if not before. On a progressive, if I don’t load a cartridge in one smooth stroke (say a bullet tipped over sideways and I raised the ram slightly to reset it) Some presses actually back the charge back adding more powder if it has already dumped some so you have a full charge plus a partial charge. When I don’t complete the procedure with one stroke, I pull the case that just had powder dumped into it and check the powder charge or just dump the powder back into the measure and run the case thru later.

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January 20th, 2021

Doh! Make Sure Your Ammo Fits Your Chamber!

Ruptured Cartridge Case

If you don’t match your ammo to your chamber, bad things can happen, that’s for sure. A while back, Forum member BigBlack had an experience at the gun range that reminds us of the importance of safety when shooting. He encountered evidence that someone had fired the wrong cartridge in a 7mm WSM rifle. The problem is more common than you may think. This Editor has personally seen novices try to shoot 9mm ammo in 40sw pistols. BigBlack’s story is along those lines, though the results were much more dramatic. It’s too bad a knowledgeable shooter was not nearby to “intervene” before this fellow chambered the wrong ammo.

7mm-08 is Not the Same as a 7mm WSM
BigBlack writes: “I know this has probably been replayed a thousand times but I feel we can never be reminded enough about safety. This weekend at the range I found a ruptured case on the ground. My immediate thoughts were that it was a hot load, but the neck area was begging for me to take a closer look, so I did. I took home the exploded case and rummaged through my old cases until I found a close match. From my investigative work it appears someone shot a 7mm-08 in a 7mm WSM. Take a look. In the above photo I’ve put together a 7mm WSM case (top), the ruptured case (middle), and a 7mm-08 case (bottom).”

The photo reveals what probably happened to the 7mm-08 case. The shoulder moved forward to match the 7mm WSM profile. The sidewalls of the case expanded outward in the much larger 7mm WSM chamber until they lacked the strength to contain the charge, and then the case sides ruptured catastrophically. A blow-out of this kind can be very dangerous, as the expanding gasses may not be completely contained within the action.

Can’t Happen to You? Think Again.
This kind of mistake — chambering the wrong cartridge — can happen to any shooter who is distracted, who places even a single wrong round in an ammo box, or who has two types of ammo on the bench. One of our Forum members was testing two different rifles recently and he picked up the wrong cartridge from the bench. As a result, he fired a .30-06 round in a .300 Win Mag chamber, and the case blew out. Here is his story:

“I took two of my hunting rifles I have not used for over 25 years to the range yesterday to get new scopes on paper, a .30-06 and .300 Win Mag. I had four boxes of old Winchester factory ammo (two of each cartridge), which had near identical appearances. I accidentally chambered a .30-06 round in the Sako .300 Win Mag rifle. It sprayed powder on my face and cracked the stock at the pistol grip. If I had not been wearing safety glasses I might be blind right now.

Safety eyewear glasses
You should always wear protective eyewear, EVERY time you shoot.

“I feel lucky and am very thankful for being OK — other than my face looks funny right now. I am also grateful for learning a valuable lesson. I will never put two different cartridges on the bench at the same time again.”

READ More about this incident in our Shooters’ Forum.

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January 13th, 2021

Lyman Case Prep Express Full Review and Video

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

Product Review by F-Class John
Case preparation is critical for precision reloading. One must trim cases, debur/chamfer case mouths, clean necks, spruce up primer pockets and do other important tasks. Complete case prep can involve many separate processes, each requiring its own tools. With each of those tools comes additional cost as well as the need for more storage and bench space. To make case prep easier, faster, and more convenient Lyman created the Case Prep Xpress. The Case Prep Xpress, introduced a few years back, combines up to five prep stages into one well-built, stable, versatile unit. Watch this video to see the machine in action:

The Case Prep Xpress features five (5) independently-turning spindles all with the common 8/32 thread. This allows you to attach multiple tools supplied with the unit PLUS many other screw-on prep tools. For our testing we started out using a variety of the 12 included tools and found they cover the majority of case prep tasks. Lyman supplies deburr and chamfer tools, pocket uniformers, reamers and cleaners, as well as an assortment of neck brushes.

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

The deburr and chamfer tools worked really well, creating beautiful bevels all while leaving a nice flat edge across the top of the neck which is critical for accuracy and brass life. We found the primer pocket cleaning tool did a good job, but for truly clean pockets we recommend using the primer pocket uniforming tool, which very efficiently removes even hard residues.

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test videoLyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

The benefit of having interchangeable heads is that you can add your own accessories. We like to use a bore brush with bronze wool wrapped around it for use inside our necks. This worked perfectly once we screwed it in. In fact, we couldn’t think of any 8/32-threaded accessory that wouldn’t work well on this machine. Another great design feature is how all the accessories are oriented straight up. This allows for perfect visual alignment of your cases onto the tools which is critical — especially when performing cutting operations such as primer pocket uniforming.

Along with the five power stations there are six female-threaded storage spots on the sides where tools can be placed to ensure they don’t get lost. We like this feature since there will be more than five accessories you want to use and having them easily available is a great feature. You can keep 11 tools right on the machine (5 on top, 6 on the sides). That way you don’t have to dig through storage bins.

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

The Case Prep Xpress has a removable front bin to hold brass shavings, and there are two circular trays on either side of the bin. In front is a long tray that holds the provided brush. This makes it relatively easy to clean off brass shavings and other debris from case prep processes.

SUMMARY — Versatile Case Prep Xpress Is A Good Value
For the money, Lyman’s Case Prep Xpress is tough to beat. It performs multiple tasks well while being stable and easy-to-use. Yes there are some multi-spindle prep centers that offer variable or fast/slow RPM spindles while the Lyman’s spindles are all fixed RPM. (See, e.g. the RCBS Brass Boss). However those other systems don’t include all the convenient on-board storage of the Case Prep Xpress, and are more expensive. The Lyman Case Prep Xpress sells for $150-$160 “street price”. It costs $154.99 at Midsouth, and is in-stock now (1/13/2021). This makes the Lyman Case Prep Xpress a fine value — it offers great versatility while saving space and saving money compared to buying five or more separate, powered tools.

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December 23rd, 2020

Buchanan Hand Reloading Press — High Quality, Unique Design

Buchanan Hand Press reloading level-action portable sizing die lee

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com has tested the nicely-crafted Buchanan Hand Press. This symmetrical, twin-lever tool can handle pretty much any sizing and/or seating task as it offers plenty of leverage — even for full-length case resizing. Crafted by Buchanan Precision Machine, this Hand Press has a central mount for the die on top with a conventional shell-holder at the bottom. There is a handy spent primer catcher, plus an optional Lock-N-Load die insert adapter (Top Plate). This press is well-built, but the $250.00 price is steep. There is also a basic version without upper plate for $200.00, but even then you could buy FOUR Lee Hand Presses for the cost of a Buchanan.

You can see how this press works in this UltimateReloader video. Gavin demonstrates all the key functions, including decapping, sizing, and bullet seating. You can see that Gavin was impressed with this hand press, which is well-suited for loading at the range:

Gavin explains that the modern Buchanan Hand Press is based on a previous design: “This press is an evolution of an old press that has been out of production for years: the Huntington Industries Decker Hand Press. While it shares some of the basic design features, the Buchanan Precision Machine Hand Reloading Press takes quality and functionality to the next level. This press accepts standard shell holders, uses standard 7/8×14 dies (or dies with Hornady Lock-N-Load bushings as I showed in the above video), and has a COL capacity of 3 3/4″. Need to load 30-06 away from the bench? No problem, this press can handle it. Unlike other hand presses, this one stands by itself on a flat/level surface, and can be clamped to a bench in order to stay in one spot.”

Buchanan Hand Press reloading level-action portable sizing die lee

For more details, check out the full Buchanan Precision Hand Press Review on UltimateReloader.com.

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December 11th, 2020

TECH Tip: Powder Grain Shapes — What You Need to Know

Vihtavuori loading propellant reloading powder N133 N150 N140 N550 ball flake stick extruded perforated powders

POWDER GRAIN SHAPES — What You Need to Know

The shape of powder grains has a profound effect on the performance of the powder charge, as it concerns both pressure and velocity. There are multiple powder shapes including flake, ball, and extruded or “stick” (both solid and perforated).

All Vihtavuori reloading powders are of the cylindrical, single-perforated extruded stick type. The differences in burning rate between the powders depend on the size of the grain, the wall thickness of the cylinder, the surface coating and the composition. Cylindrical extruded powders can also have multi-perforated grains. The most common types are the 7- and 19-perforated varieties. A multi-perforated powder grain is naturally of a much larger size than one with a single perforation, and is typically used for large caliber ammunition.

Other types of powder grain shapes include sphere or ball, and flake. The ball grains are typically used in automatic firearms but also in rifles and handguns. The ball grain is less costly to produce, as it is not pressed into shape like cylindrical grains. Flake shaped grains are typically used in shotgun loadings.

Vihtavuori loading propellant reloading powder N133 N150 N140 N550 ball flake stick extruded perforated powders

Web thickness in gunpowder terminology means the minimum distance that the combustion zones can travel within the powder grain without encountering each other. In spherical powders, this distance is the diameter of the “ball”; in flake powder it is the thickness of the flake; and in multi-perforated extruded powders it is the minimum distance (i.e. wall thickness) between the perforations.

The burning rate of powder composed of grains without any perforations or surface treatment is related to the surface area of the grain available for burning at any given pressure level. The change in the surface area that is burning during combustion is described by a so-called form function. If the surface area increases, the form function does likewise and its behavior is termed progressive. If the form function decreases, its behavior is said to be degressive. If the flame area remains constant throughout the combustion process, we describe it as “neutral” behavior.

The cylindrical, perforated powders are progressive; the burning rate increases as the surface area increases, and the pressure builds up slower, increasing until it reaches its peak and then collapses. Flake and ball grains are degressive; the total powder surface area and pressure are at their peak at ignition, decreasing as the combustion progresses.

So how does the shape affect pressure and muzzle velocity? In general, it can be said that powder that burns progressively achieves a desired muzzle velocity at lower maximum pressure than a powder that burns neutrally, not to mention a degressive powder. As grain size increases, the maximum pressure moves towards the muzzle, also increasing muzzle blast. Muzzle velocity and pressure can be adjusted by means of the amount of powder or loading density, i.e. the relationship between the powder mass and the volume available to it. As the loading density increases, maximum pressure grows.

Learn More with FREE Vihtavuori Reloading APP »

Vihtavuori loading propellant reloading powder N133 N150 N140 N550 ball flake stick extruded perforated powders


This article originally appeared on the Vihtavuori Website.

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December 5th, 2020

Basics of Precision Reloading — 10 Steps Start to Finish

Sinclair Precison Reloading summery tech tips

Sinclair International has created a series of helpful articles on rifle cartridge reloading. Today’s feature lists ten basic steps for precision hand-loading, with links to longer, detailed Sinclair Int’l technical articles providing more complete information. There’s a lot of helpful info here guys, if you click all the links to access the ten “long form” articles.

Tying It All Together: 10 Steps To Precision Handloads

Feature based on article by Roy Hill, Brownells/Sinclair Copywriter

Sinclair Int’l offers a series of detailed articles on hand-loading precision rifle ammunition. The articles are included in Sinclair’s GunTech Articles Archive, but sorting through the index to find each article takes time. To help you access all these articles quickly, here’s a handy summary of ten key topics, with links to longer articles covering each subject in detail.

Part 1: The first step in making high-quality handloads is to carefully choose the best brass for your application. You need to know how to identify the different types of brass and how to choose the best kind for the ammo you want to load. CLICK HERE for Part 1.

Part 2: Even high-quality brass can have burrs around the flash hole that can interfere with the primer flame and cause inconsistent ignition – which can lead to shot groups opening up. Flash hole deburring is a critical step in making sure primers ignite powder consistently. CLICK HERE for Part 2.

Part 3: The next step is to make sure the primer pockets are square and uniform. Like flash hole deburring, primer pocket uniforming may reduce variations in primer ignition by ensuring more consistent primer seating. CLICK HERE for Part 3.

Part 4: Making sure all your cases are precisely the same length is crucial, especially when you use cases that have been fired before. Case trimming is the way to get there. CLICK HERE for Part 4.

Part 5: After trimming, cases still have to be resized. In order for them to work through the resizing die, they have to be lubricated. The case lube method you choose is crucial to making precision handloads. CLICK HERE for Part 5.

Part 6: Now it’s time to choose the dies that will resize your cases. There are several important options to consider in selecting the right sizing dies. CLICK HERE for Part 6.

Part 7: Wait! You’re not quite ready to start sizing yet. There’s yet more to consider before you start cranking cases through the press. Learn more about setting up and adjusting your sizing dies. CLICK HERE for Part 7.

Part 8: Once the cases are completely prepped, it’s time to start putting fresh components back into them. We start off by seating primers. CLICK HERE for Part 8.

Part 9: After the primers are seated, it’s time to drop in the powder. There are several tools that will help you handle powder for precision handloads. CLICK HERE for Part 9.

Sinclair Precison Reloading summery tech tips

Part 10: The final step in the process is carefully seating the bullet to just the right depth. And then… you’re ready to try your loads at the range. CLICK HERE for Part 10.

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November 20th, 2020

Smarter Reloader — Use Expander Mandrels with Your New Brass

Expander Mandrel reloading case neck tension cartridge brass

Before you load that nice new cartridge brass for the first time, run an expander mandrel down the case necks. This will iron out dents and provide more uniform neck tension. Chose a mandrel diameter that provides appropriate neck tension.

Lapua brass is so good that you’ll be tempted to just load and shoot, if you have a “no-turn” chamber. However, some minimal case prep will ensure more uniform neck tension. Keeping your neck tension very uniform allows more consistent bullet seating. That, in turn, usually yields better accuracy, and lower Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation (ES/SD). Lapua brass, particularly 6mmBR, 6.5×47, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win comes from the factory with tighter-than-optimal necks. Before you seat bullets, at a minimum, you should inside chamfer the case mouths, after running an expander mandrel down the necks. The expander mandrels from both Sinclair Int’l and K&M will both leave the necks with enough neck tension (more than .001″) so you can then seat bullets without another operation. We suggest putting a bit of lube on the mandrel before running it down the necks — but remove any lube that gets inside the necks before seating bullets.

Sinclair Expander Tool Mandrel

Both Sinclair and K&M Tools make a die body specifically to hold expander mandrels. The Sinclair version, is shown above. This $32.99 unit fits caliber-specific expander mandrels ($9.99) which measure approximately .001″ less than bullet diameter for each caliber. This is an updated “Gen II” design that completely captures the mandrel within the die so the mandrel cannot pull out. It also has an O-ring in the die cap that allows the mandrel to self-center within the case neck. Sinclair now offers three sizes of die bodies for expander mandrels: .17 -.338 Caliber (#749-011-715WS $32.99); .357 – .50 caliber (#749-008-843WS, $32.99), and a special .50 Cal die body for large-diameter 50 BMG presses (#749-009-163WS, $39.99). All Generation II dies are machined from stainless steel and the standard diameter 7/8-14 dies include the Sinclair Stainless Steel Split Lock Ring.

Once you run the Sinclair expander mandrel down the necks of Lapua brass, after you account for brass spring-back, you’ll have about .002″ neck tension*. This will make the process of seating bullets go much more smoothly, and you will also iron out any dents in the case mouths. Once the case mouths are all expanded, and uniformly round, then do your inside neck chamfering/deburring. The same expander mandrels can be used to “neck-up” smaller diameter brass, or prepare brass for neck-turning.

Forum member Mike Crawford adds: “These expanders can also reduce runout from offset seating. Prior to bullet seating, expand the sized necks to force thickness variance outward. With the Sinclair system, the necks will springback fine, and will not be pulled out of center. This leaves plenty of tension, and bullets seated more centered. I do this, even with turned necks, to get improved seating.”

Mandrels vs. Expander Balls on Decapping Rods
If you haven’t acquired an appropriate expander mandrel for your brass, but you DO have a full-length sizing die with an expander ball, this will also function to “iron out” the necks and reduce tension. However, using a die with an expander ball will work the necks more — since you first size them down, then the ball expands them up again. Typically (but not always), run-out is worse when using an expander ball vs. an expander mandrel.


* This .002″ tension is what we have observed with Lapua 6mmBR, 6.5×47, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win brass. This might vary with much smaller or larger cases, and of course a different brand of brass might yield different results. If you get too little tension with your current mandrel, you can get a smaller-diameter mandrel from 21st Century Shooting. 21st Century even offers low-friction Titanium Nitride-coated mandrels.

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November 17th, 2020

TECH TIP: Bullet Bearing Surface Length Can Affect Pressure

USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparision Safety Reloading
Photo 1: Three Near-Equal-Weight 7mm Bullets with Different Shapes

TECH TIP: Bullets of the same weight (and caliber) can generate very different pressure levels due to variances in Bearing Surface Length (BSL).

Bullet 1 (L-R), the RN/FB, has a very slight taper and only reaches its full diameter (0.284″) very near the cannelure. This taper is often seen on similar bullets — it helps reduce pressures with good accuracy. The calculated BSL of Bullet 1 was ~0.324″. The BSL of Bullet 2, in the center, was ~0.430”, and Bullet 3’s was ~ 0.463″. Obviously, bullets can be visually deceiving as to BSL!


This article from the USAMU covers an important safety issue — why you should never assume that a “book” load for a particular bullet will be safe with an equal-weight bullet of different shape/design. The shape and bearing surface of the bullet will affect the pressure generated inside the barrel. This is part of the USAMU’s Handloading Hump Day series, published on the USAMU Facebook page.

Beginning Handloading, Part 13:
Extrapolating Beyond Your Data, or … “I Don’t Know, What I Don’t Know!”

We continue our Handloading Safety theme, focusing on not inadvertently exceeding the boundaries of known, safe data. Bullet manufacturers’ loading manuals often display three, four, or more similar-weight bullets grouped together with one set of load recipes. The manufacturer has tested these bullets and developed safe data for that group. However, seeing data in this format can tempt loaders — especially new ones — to think that ALL bullets of a given weight and caliber can interchangeably use the same load data. Actually, not so much.

The researchers ensure their data is safe with the bullet yielding the highest pressure. Thus, all others in that group should produce equal or less pressure, and they are safe using this data.

However, bullet designs include many variables such as different bearing surface lengths, hardness, and even slight variations in diameter. These can occasionally range up to 0.001″ by design. Thus, choosing untested bullets of the same weight and caliber, and using them with data not developed for them can yield excess pressures.

This is only one of the countless reasons not to begin at or very near the highest pressure loads during load development. Always begin at the starting load and look for pressure signs as one increases powder charges.

Bullet bearing surface length (BSL) is often overlooked when considering maximum safe powder charges and pressures. In photo 1 (at top), note the differences in the bullets’ appearance. All three are 7mm, and their maximum weight difference is just five grains. Yet, the traditional round nose, flat base design on the left appears to have much more BSL than the sleeker match bullets. All things being equal, based on appearance, the RN/FB bullet seems likely to reach maximum pressure with significantly less powder than the other two designs.

Bearing Surface Measurement Considerations
Some might be tempted to use a bullet ogive comparator (or two) to measure bullets’ true BSL for comparison’s sake. Unfortunately, comparators don’t typically measure maximum bullet diameter and this approach can be deceiving.

Photo 2: The Perils of Measuring Bearing Surface Length with Comparators
USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparision Safety Reloading

In Photo 2, two 7mm comparators have been installed on a dial caliper in an attempt to measure BSL. Using this approach, the BSLs differed sharply from the original [measurements]. The comparator-measured Bullet 1 BSL was 0.694” vs. 0.324” (original), Bullet 2 was 0.601” (comparator) vs. 0.430” (original), and Bullet 3 (shown in Photo 2) was 0.602” (comparator) vs. 0.463” (original). [Editor’s comment — Note the very large difference for Bullet 1, masking the fact that the true full diameter on this bullet starts very far back.]

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November 12th, 2020

Variances in Load Data — Why Load Manuals Don’t Always Agree

load manual sierra reloading hornady data

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:

Sierra Reloading Manual Hornady Load Reloading

Here are five reasons why the load data varies:

The Bullet
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.

The Gun
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.

The Powder
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.

Conditions
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.

Conclusion
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.

Sierra Bullets Blog reloading information

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November 5th, 2020

Reloder 23 and Reloder 26 — Good for Magnum Cartridges

Alliant Bofors Nitrochemie Reloader Reloading RL Reloder powder 22 23 25 26

Do you shoot a magnum cartridge? Here are two modern-formulation powders you may want to try: Reloder 23 and 26. We have been particularly impressed with Reloder 23. It has worked well in competition for target cartridges such as the 7mm RSAUM. Reloder 23 is like a slower version of Reloder 16 — a very temp-stable powder which has proven a worthy rival to H4350.

Ever heard of Alliant Reloder 23? Or Reloder 26? These two relatively new European-produced Reloder propellants were introduced in 2014. Most folks haven’t tried these Reloder powders because it took quite a while for the first shipments of RL 23 and RL 26 to arrive in the USA. But now these two new propellants are available in the USA, with substantial inventories in stock at some larger vendors. For example, Powder Valley has both RL 23 and RL 26 in stock now at $23.50 per pound. Many other vendors have ample RL 23, but RL 26 is a bit harder to find.

From our Forum members who shoot large magnum cartridge types with heavy bullets, we have heard good things about both RL 23 and RL 26. Reports from the field indicate that both these powders are delivering impressive velocities with low velocity ES/SD.

What are the characteristics of RL 23 and RL 26? That question was answered by Paul Furrier who works for ATK, the parent company of Alliant Powders. Posting in our Shooters’ Forum, Paul writes:

“Let me provide some factual info about these products. Some of the stuff that gets propagated is not correct. Reloder 23 is produced by our Swedish partner Bofors, and Reloder 26 is produced in Switzerland by our extremely capable partner Nitrochemie. I have seen it stated that they are both made by Bofors, so that is incorrect.

I have also noticed people are equating Reloder 23 to Reloder 22, and Reloder 26 to Reloder 25. Both of those statements are definitely incorrect. We do state that the performance of Reloder 23 is similar to Reloder 22, and it is, in general burn speed terms, but they are most certainly not the same. We have worked quite a lot of recipes for Reloder 23, and they are not the same as Reloder 22. Reloder 26 is definitely slower burning than Reloder 25, so there shouldn’t be any confusion there either.”

Alliant Bofors Nitrochemie Reloader Reloading RL Reloder powder 22 23 25 26

Furrier says that RL 23 is NOT sensitive to temperature shifts: “Reloder 23 was developed to bring a truly temp-stable powder to the Reloder 22 burn-speed range using Bofors new process technology. This is the second product developed for us with this TZ® process, the first being AR-Comp™. We see terrific efficiencies, SDs, accuracy and flat temp response from these powders. Please try them, I think you will be impressed.”

(more…)

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October 25th, 2020

L.E. Wilson Case Gage Depth Micrometer Product Review

L.E. Wilson case gage gauge shoulder bump depth micrometer measureing tool

L.E. Wilson Case Gage Depth Micrometer Tool
Hands-On Tool Review by F-Class John
Are you looking for a better way to measure shoulder bump when sizing brass? When it comes to measuring your shoulder bump there has traditionally been just one way to do it and that’s with a set of calipers and some type of tool attached to a calipers jaw which contacts the case shoulder. While this method has worked well for decades there’s always been some inherent lack of consistency and repeatability. While a minor issue, the inability to get the exact number in completely dependent on the user’s pressure applied and the angle at which the jaws push on the brass.

Enter the L.E. Wilson Case Gage Depth Micrometer with its simple but effective use of Wilson case gauges to ensure a perfect measure of shoulder bump every time. The unit comes with the micrometer top as well as a check gauge which allows you to easily calibrate the micrometer whenever needed. On top of the micrometer unit, you’ll also need to purchase the appropriate case gauges for each of your cartridge types and then you’re ready to go. No other measuring instruments are needed (yep, no calipers are required).

L.E. Wilson case gage gauge shoulder bump depth micrometer measureing tool

Using the Wilson Depth Micrometer (perhaps a better name is Shoulder Bump Micrometer) is a straightforward process. Simply take your fired brass and insert it into the case gauge and place the micrometer top onto the primer side of the gauge. While holding the micrometer top firmly against the case gauge in one hand, slowly turn the micrometer until you feel it stop. You can back off and turn it again to verify the stop point and once you have it, look at the measurement on the micrometer. Now insert a sized piece of brass and repeat the procedure. Take note of the new number and subtract it from the fired brass number and you now have an exact amount of shoulder bump. Continue to adjust your sizing die until you have the correct amount of shoulder bump and you’re ready to size all your brass.

Watch Video to See how Shoulder-Bump Measuring Micrometer Tool Works

Guys, in this case a VIDEO is worth more than a thousand words. In may not be obvious from the photos how this system works. In fact, it is fast and easy. Drop brass into cartridge-specific case gauge, then put the Micrometer unit on top, and dial to touch. The video shows how this works.

SUMMARY — Tool is Fast, Precise, Repeatable, and Easy to Use — We Like It
The beauty of this tool is the simplicity with which it works. It uses a very accurate micrometer to simply measure how much further your brass is sitting forward inside the case gauge. After a couple uses, you’ll find that this tool is fast, accurate and incredibly repeatable. That gives you confidence that your brass is being sized properly. Ultimately, I found that using the micrometer top really became a joy as I set up a new set of dies and as I sized my brass, I could easily check the consistency as brass came off my press. If you’re looking to improve your sizing game, give the L.E. Wilson Case Gage Depth Micrometer a try. MSRP is $110.00.

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October 24th, 2020

Loading Accurate Pistol Ammo for Competition — USAMU Tips

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

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

Pistol Reloading USAMU taper crimp Brass

Loading Accurate Competition Pistol Ammunition — Part 2 of 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Using a Lock-Out Die with Progressive Presses
When reloading pistol ammo with a Progressive press, we strongly recommend the use of a lock-out die, or other system that can detect double charges or low charges. If your progressive is manually advanced, the possibility of a double charge is very real — and that can have disastrous consequences.

On UltimateReloader.com website you’ll find an excellent two-part series on the function and set-up of the RCBS Lock-Out Die. This die prevents loading if a high or low powder charge is detected. The video below shows setup of the RCBS Lock-Out Die on the Dillon XL-650 progressive press.

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