When your cases become hard to extract, or you feel a stiff bolt lift when removing a cartridge, it’s probably time to full-length size your cases, and “bump” the shoulder back. With a hunting load, shoulder bumping may only be required every 4-5 loading cycles. Short-range benchrest shooters, running higher pressures, typically full-length size every load cycle, bumping the shoulder .001-.002″. High Power shooters with gas guns generally full-length size every time, and may need to bump the shoulders .003″ or more to ensure reliable feeding and extraction.
Use Shims for Precise Control of Shoulder Bump
Some shooters like to set the “default” position for their full-length die to have an “ample” .003″ or .004″ shoulder bump. When they need less bump, a simple way to reduce the amount of shoulder movement is to use precision shims in .001″ (one-thousandth) increments.
Mats Johansson writes: “I’ve been using [shims] since Skip Otto (of BR fame) came out with them. I set up my dies with the .006″ shim, giving me the option of bumping the shoulder a bit more when the brass gets old and hardens while still having room to adjust up for zero headspace, should I have missed the original setup by a thou or two. Hunting rounds can easily be bumped an extra .002-.003″ for positive, no-crush feeding. Being a safety-oriented cheapskate, I couldn’t live without them — they let me reload my cases a gazillion times without dangerous web-stretching. Shims are a must-have, as simple as that.”
Sinclair Int’l offers a 7-piece set of Die Shims that let you adjust the height of your die (and thereby the amount of bump and sizing) in precise .001″ increments. Sinclair explains: “Some handloaders will set their die up to achieve maximum sizing and then progressively use Sinclair Die Shims between the lock ring and the press head to move the die away from the shellholder. Doing this allows you to leave the lock ring in the same position. These shims are usually available in increments of .001″ and work very well.”
Seven Shims from .003″ to .010″
Sinclair’s $12.49 Die Shim Kit (item 22400) includes seven shims in thicknesses of .003, .004, .005, .006, .007, .008, and .010. For ease of use, shim thickness is indicated by the number of notches cut in the outer edge of each shim. Even without looking you can “count” the notches by feel.
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Do you use bushings to size your case-necks? Are you assuming that your bushings are actually round on the inside, with a hole that’s centered-up properly? Well you may be in for an unpleasant surprise, based on what our friend Jim de Kort recently discovered. Jim was concerned about the run-out on his brass. His cases went into his bushing-equipped FL die pretty straight, but came out of the die with up to .004″ run-out. “What gives?”, Jim wondered. “Could the problem be the bushings themselves?”
To answer that question, Jim decided to examine his bushings. Using an Accuracy One Wheel-drive concentricity gauge, Jim checked out some of his neck bushings. What he discovered may surprise you…
Neck Bushing Flaws Revealed
Trust no one… — Jim de Kort
Jim writes: “I measured the concentricity of my 6BR rounds today. I noticed they went into the neck-bushing equipped full-length sizing die with <.001" deviation but came out with .003-.004". The culprit, it appears, was the bushing itself. Without it the cases stayed within .0005" to .001" deviation, so something was happening with the bushing.
One bushing had .00025" deviation on the outside, yet almost .003" on the inside, so it is crooked. But even when using a bushing that is within .001" I still get .003" runout after sizing. I repeated the same procedure for my 6x47 and got the same results. When using the bushing, concentricity suffers a lot."
Before we bash the bushing-makers, we must acknowledge that many different things can contribute to excessive run-out and/or mis-alignment of case-necks. We don’t have all the answers here, and Jim would be the first to say that some mysteries remain. Still, these are interesting results that give all precision hand-loaders something to think about.
Jim Borden also offers this tip: “Check the trueness of the face of the die cap. That has more to do with trueness than the bushing. Also check perpendicularity of hole in bushing to top surface. When I was making dies, the cap was made by threading and facing the threaded tenon in same setup.”
Editor’s Comment: Many people have great results with neck-bushing dies, but Jim isn’t the only fellow who has seen some very odd results. I personally employ honed, non-bushing dies for many of my chamberings. These non-bushing dies (with the necks honed for .002-.003″ neck tension) produce extremely straight ammo, with run-out consistently under .0015″.
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Here’s an inexpensive procedure that can help you load straighter ammo, with slightly better measured concentricity (i.e. less run-out) on the case necks and bullets. Simply use a rubber O-Ring on the underside of the die locking ring. This allows the die to self-align itself (slightly) to the case that is being sized. Without the O-Ring, if the flat surface on the top of your press is not perfectly square with the thread axis, your die can end up slightly off-angle. This happens when the bottom of the locking ring butts up tight against the top of the press. The O-Ring allows the die to float slightly, and that may, in turn, reduce the amount of run-out induced during case sizing.
Top prone shooter German Salazar has tried this trick and he says it works: “Go to your local hardware store and get a #17 O-Ring (that’s the designation at Ace Hardware, don’t know if its universal). Slip the O-Ring on the die and re-adjust the lock ring so that the O-Ring is slightly compressed when the die is at the correct height. Size and measure a few more cases. You will probably see a slight improvement in neck concentricity as the die can now float a bit as the case enters and leaves it. This isn’t going to be a dramatic improvement, but it’s a positive one.” We want to stress that adding O-Rings to sizing dies may help some reloaders, but we don’t offer this as a panacea. Try it — if using the O-Ring reduces measured runout that’s great. If it doesn’t, you’ve only spent a few pennies to experiment.
Lee Precision makes die lock rings with built-in O-Rings. Lee’s distinctive lock ring design allows the same kind of self-alignment, which is good. However, Lee lock rings don’t clamp in place on the die threads, so they can move when you insert or remove the dies — and that can throw off your die setting slightly. By using an O-Ring under a conventional die lock ring (that can be locked in place), you get the advantages of the Lee design, without the risk of the lock ring moving.
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A while back, Sinclair International’s Reloading Press Blog featured a “round-table” discussion of reloading techniques. Sinclair’s team of tech staffers were asked: “What do you feel is the one-most crucial step in precision reloading?”
Here are their responses (along with comments from our Editors):
Phil Hoham: “I feel that when working up a load do not go too high or too low in your powder charge. Stay away from “suggested loads” you hear at the range, or on the internet. Always be sure to use a published reloading manual that presents not only minimums and maximums, but also pressure, velocity, and a proper range of powders used. Do not get distracted in the reloading process, and remain focused at all times during each step involved.”
AccurateShooter.com: Some loads presented on the Internet are OK as a starting point, but it is absolutely critical to understand that pressure maximums will vary considerably from one rifle to another (of the same chambering). For example, one 6mmBR rifle shooting 105gr bullets can max out with 30.0 grains of Varget powder, while another rifle, with the same chamber dimensions, but a different barrel, could tolerate (and perform better) with half a grain more powder. You need to adjust recommended loads to your particular rifle and barrel.
Pete Petros: “This could be a very broad topic, but if I were to pick one, it would be making sure to pay close attention, and weigh each and every powder charge to ensure that each load is exact and consistent. This is important not only for accuracy, but also for safety reasons.”
AccurateShooter.com: If you’re shooting beyond 200 yards, it is critical to weigh your loads with an accurate scale. Loads that are uniform (within a few kernels) will exhibit lower Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation. And remember, even if you stick with the same powder, when you get a new powder lot, you may have to adjust your load quite a bit. For example, .308 Palma shooters have learned they may need to adjust Varget loads by up to a full grain from one lot of Varget to the next.
Ron Dague: “I feel that the most important step(s) in reloading for accuracy are in the initial case prep. Uniforming the primer pocket to the same depth to ensure consistency in primer seating is a crucial step. Additionally de-burring the flash holes, each in the same way to clean up and chamfer the inside is important. It ensures that the ignition from the primer is uniform and flows out in the same consistent pattern. Doing so will create uniform powder ignition and tighten up your velocity Extreme Spread.”
AccurateShooter.com: With some brands of brass, primer pocket uniforming and flash-hole deburring is useful. However, with the best Lapua, Norma, and RWS brass it may be unnecessary, or worse, counter-productive. So long as your Lapua brass flash-holes are not obstructed or smaller than spec, it may be best to leave them alone. This is particularly true with the small flash holes in 220 Russian, 6BR, and 6.5×47 cases. MOST of the flash-hole reaming tools on the market have cutting bits that vary in size because of manufacturing tolerances. We’ve found tools with an advertised diameter of .0625″ (1/16″) that actually cut an 0.068″ hole. In addition, we are wary of flash-hole deburring tools that cut an aggressive inside chamfer on the flash-holes. The reason is that it is very difficult to control the amount of chamfer precisely, even with tools that have a depth stop.
Rod Green: “I feel that bullet seating is the most important step. If you had focused on making sure all prior steps (case prep, powder charge, etc.) of the process have been carefully taken to ensure uniformity, bullet seating is the last step, and can mean all the difference in the world in terms of consistency. Making sure that the bullet is seated to the same depth each time, and time is taken to ensure that true aligned seating can make the load.”
Bob Blaine: “I agree with Rod. I strongly feel that consistent bullet seating depth is the most important step in creating the most accurate hand loads. I have seen the results in both my bench and long range rifles. Taking the time to ensure exactness in the seating process is by far, the number one most important step in my book.”
AccurateShooter.com: Agreed. When loading match ammo, after bullet seating, we check every loaded round for base of case to ogive length. If it varies by more than 3 thousandths, that round is segregated or we attempt to re-seat the bullet. We measure base of case to bullet ogive with a comparator mounted on one jaw of our calipers. You may have to pre-sort your bullets to hold the case-base to ogive measurement (of loaded rounds) within .003″.
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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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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.
The reason shooters work with tools and gauges to measure and control concentricity is simple: to make sure the bullet starts down the bore consistently in line with the bore. If the case isn’t properly concentric and the bullet isn’t properly aligned down the center of the bore, the bullet will enter the rifling inconsistently. While the bore might force the bullet to align itself with the bore (but normally it doesn’t), the bullet may be damaged or overstressed in the process – if it even it corrects itself in transit. These are issues we strive to remedy by handloading, to maintain the best standard possible for accurate ammunition.
The term “concentricity” is derived from “concentric circle”. In simple terms it’s the issue of having the outside of the cartridge in a concentric circle around the center. That goes from case head and center of the flash hole, to the tip of the bullet.
Factors Affecting Concentricity
The point of using this term is to identify a series of issues that affect accurate ammunition. Ideally this would work best with a straight-walled case; but since most rifle cartridge cases are tapered, it equates to the smallest cross section that can be measured point by point to verify the concentric circle around the center. For the examples below, I’m working with .308 Winchester ammo.
Figure 1: The cartridge.
Figure 2: Centerline axis of the case, extending from flash hole to case mouth.
The case walls have to be in perfect alignment with the center, or axis, of that case, even if it’s measured at a thousandth of an inch per segment (in a tapered case).
Figure 3: Case body in alignment with its axis, or centerline, even in a tapered case.
The case neck must also be in alignment with its axis. By not doing so you can have erratic bullet entry into the bore. The case neck wall itself should be as uniform as possible in alignment and in thickness (see the M80 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge in Figure 5) and brass can change its alignment and shape. It’s why we expand the case neck or while some folks ream the inside of the neck and then turn the outside for consistent thickness, which affects the tension on the bullet when seated.
Figure 4: Neck in alignment with center of the case axis.
Figure 5: Variations in case neck wall thickness, especially on some military brass, can cause an offset of the bullet in its alignment. This is an M80 ball round. Note the distinct difference of the neck walls.
Having a ball micrometer on hand helps, especially with military brass like 7.62x51mm in a semi-auto rifle, where there are limits as to how thin you want the neck walls to be. In the case of 7.62 ball brass you want to keep the wall to .0145″.
Figure 6: A ball micrometer like this RCBS tool (#100-010-268) can measure case neck thickness.
Turning the outside of the neck wall is important with .308 military cases regardless of whether you expand or ream the neck walls. There are several outside neck turning tools from Forster, Hornady, Sinclair, and others. I’ve been using classic Forster case trimming (#100-203-301) and neck turning (#749-012-890) tools for 40 years.
The cartridge, after being loaded, still needs to be in alignment with the center of the case axis. Figure 7 shows a bad example of this, a round of M80 ball. A tilted bullet is measured for what’s known as bullet “run-out”.
Figure 7: An M80 round with the bullet tilted and not aligned with the axis. This will be a flyer!
Run-out can be affected by several things: (1) improperly indexing your case while sizing, which includes not using the proper shell holder, especially while using a normal expander ball on the sizing die (it also can stretch the brass). (2) The head of a turret press can flex; and (3) improper or sloppy bullet seating. This is also relevant when it comes to using a progressive press when trying to load accuracy ammo.
Mid Tompkins came up with a simple solution for better bullet seating years ago. Seat your bullet half way into the case, back off the seater die and rotate the case 180 degrees before you finish seating the bullet. It cuts down on run-out problems, especially with military brass. You also want to gently ream the inside of the neck mouth to keep from having any brass mar the surface of the bullet jacket and make proper seating easier. A tilted bullet often means a flyer.
Figure 8: Proper alignment from the center of the case head to the tip of the bullet.
*Actually some folks would say that if we are talking about things being off-center or out-of-round, we are actually talking about “eccentricity”. But the tools we use are called “Concentricity Guages” and Concentricity is the term most commonly used when discussing this subject.
Story Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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New handloaders often ask us for advice on reloading techniques and equipment selection. It’s always best for novice reloaders to work under the guidance of an experienced mentor. Nothing beats “learning the ropes” with an experienced reloader at ones side. In addition, new handloaders should acquire one or more good reloading manuals, such as the Hornady Reloading Handbook (9th Ed.). We recommend reading the introductory chapters of a reloading manual to get a good understanding of the basic principles involved.
Along with print manuals, instructional DVDs are available. RCBS sells a 32-minute, step-by-step Precisioneered Handloading DVD, narrated by Shooting USA’s Jim Scoutten. This $9.19 DVD covers the basics of metallic cartridge reloading and shotshell reloading.
For those who have already mastered the basics, Redding offers a 45-minute instructional DVD, appropriately named Advanced Handloading: Beyond The Basics ($17.52 at Amazon.com). The Redding DVD, produced with help from Sierra Bullets, is narrated by John Barsness, field editor of Rifle and Handloader magazines. The Redding DVD does go “Beyond the Basics” but it really is more an intermediate resource — it doesn’t reveal some of the most sophisticated methods of case prep and load tuning used by competitive benchrest shooters. Nonetheless it is a good resource for those getting started with rifle cartridge reloading.
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Two months ago, the Daily Bulletin featured Six Shooting Tips by Bryan Litz. That article was hugely popular with our Bulletin readers and Facebook fans. In that article, as his Competition Tip Number Three, Bryan told readers to “Actively avoid major train wrecks”. In other words, you must avoid the big disasters (such as equipment failures) that can ruin a whole match. In this follow-up article, Bryan illustrates the types of “train wrecks” that commonly befall competitors, and he explains how to avoid these “unmitigated disasters”.
Urban Dictionary “Train Wreck” Definition: “A total @#$&! disaster … the kind that makes you want to shake your head.”
Success in long range competition depends on many things. Those who aspire to be competitive are usually detail-oriented, and focused on all the small things that might give them an edge. Unfortunately it’s common for shooters lose sight of the big picture — missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.
Consistency is one of the universal principles of successful shooting. The tournament champion is the shooter with the highest average performance over several days, often times not winning a single match. While you can win tournaments without an isolated stellar performance, you cannot win tournaments if you have a single train wreck performance. And this is why it’s important for the detail-oriented shooter to keep an eye out for potential “big picture” problems that can derail the train of success!
Train wrecks can be defined differently by shooters of various skill levels and categories. Anything from problems causing a miss, to problems causing a 3/4-MOA shift in wind zero can manifest as a train wreck, depending on the kind of shooting you’re doing.
Below is a list of common Shooting Match Train Wrecks, and suggestions for avoiding them.
1. Cross-Firing. The fastest and most common way to destroy your score (and any hopes of winning a tournament) is to cross-fire. The cure is obviously basic awareness of your target number on each shot, but you can stack the odds in your favor if you’re smart. For sling shooters, establish your Natural Point of Aim (NPA) and monitor that it doesn’t shift during your course of fire. If you’re doing this right, you’ll always come back on your target naturally, without deliberately checking each time. You should be doing this anyway, but avoiding cross-fires is another incentive for monitoring this important fundamental. In F-Class shooting, pay attention to how the rifle recoils, and where the crosshairs settle. If the crosshairs always settle to the right, either make an adjustment to your bipod, hold, or simply make sure to move back each shot. Also consider your scope. Running super high magnification can leave the number board out of the scope’s field view. That can really increase the risk of cross-firing.
2. Equipment Failure. There are a wide variety of equipment failures you may encounter at a match, from loose sight fasteners, to broken bipods, to high-round-count barrels that that suddenly “go south” (just to mention a few possibilities). Mechanical components can and do fail. The best policy is to put some thought into what the critical failure points are, monitor wear of these parts, and have spares ready. This is where an ounce of prevention can prevent a ton of train wreck. On this note, if you like running hot loads, consider whether that extra 20 fps is worth blowing up a bullet (10 points), sticking a bolt (DNF), or worse yet, causing injury to yourself or someone nearby.
3. Scoring/Pit Malfunction. Although not related to your shooting technique, doing things to insure you get at least fair treatment from your scorer and pit puller is a good idea. Try to meet the others on your target so they can associate a face with the shooter for whom they’re pulling. If you learn your scorer is a Democrat, it’s probably best not to tell Obama jokes before you go for record. If your pit puller is elderly, it may be unwise to shoot very rapidly and risk a shot being missed (by the pit worker), or having to call for a mark. Slowing down a second or two between shots might prevent a 5-minute delay and possibly an undeserved miss.
4. Wind Issues. Tricky winds derail many trains. A lot can be written about wind strategies, but here’s a simple tip about how to take the edge off a worse case scenario. You don’t have to start blazing away on the command of “Commence fire”. If the wind is blowing like a bastard when your time starts, just wait! You’re allotted 30 minutes to fire your string in long range slow fire. With average pit service, it might take you 10 minutes if you hustle, less in F-Class. Point being, you have about three times longer than you need. So let everyone else shoot through the storm and look for a window (or windows) of time which are not so adverse. Of course this is a risk, conditions might get worse if you wait. This is where judgment comes in. Just know you have options for managing time and keep an eye on the clock. Saving rounds in a slow fire match is a costly and embarrassing train wreck.
5. Mind Your Physical Health. While traveling for shooting matches, most shooters break their normal patterns of diet, sleep, alcohol consumption, etc. These disruptions to the norm can have detrimental effects on your body and your ability to shoot and even think clearly. If you’re used to an indoor job and eating salads in air-conditioned break rooms and you travel to a week-long rifle match which keeps you on your feet all day in 90-degree heat and high humidity, while eating greasy restaurant food, drinking beer and getting little sleep, then you might as well plan on daily train wrecks. If the match is four hours away, rather than leaving at 3:00 am and drinking five cups of coffee on the morning drive, arrive the night before and get a good night’s sleep.”
Keep focused on the important stuff. You never want to lose sight of the big picture. Keep the important, common sense things in mind as well as the minutia of meplat trimming, weighing powder to the kernel, and cleaning your barrel ’til it’s squeaky clean. Remember, all the little enhancements can’t make up for one big train wreck!
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AR this, AR that… sometimes it seems the gun world has gone AR crazy. There is even a book specifically dedicated to reloading for AR-platform rifles. This may seem superfluous when there are so many other reloading manuals on the market. However, there are some special factors to consider when reloading for ARs and other semi-automatic rifles. Cases should be full-length sized, with adequate shoulder bump and neck clearance (more than you might run with a bolt gun). Cartridge pressures must be appropriate for the AR platform, and you want to select powders that minimize fouling. Also, when loading for an AR you may want to experiment with cannelured bullets and crimping. And of course, rounds must be loaded to mag-length. Lastly, with the advent of the 300 AAC Blackout (and similar cartridges), many AR shooters now are experimenting with heavy 30-cal bullets in subsonic applications. AR owners will experience a “reloading learning curve” when moving from .223 Rem to the more exotic, subsonic 30-caliber cartridges.
These and other concerns are covered in Lyman’s new AR Reloading Handbook. This comprehensive reloading guide provides the AR shooter with reloading data for nearly all popular AR-platform chamberings. In addition to data for the standard .223 Rem, the following cartridges are also covered: 6.8 Rem, 300 AAC Blackout, 7.62×39, 450 Bushmaster, 50 Beowulf and others.
Lyman touts its new book: “Reloaders will appreciate the wealth of AR-specific reloading data [for] all popular brands of bullets and powders. Specialty cast bullet and sub-sonic data further expand the usefulness of the handbook. Interesting articles by well known and popular firearms journalists are also included. These cover such areas as ‘Reloading for Suppressors’ and ‘Cartridge Interchangeability”. Finally all this AR data is presented in a full size, easy-to-use 8 1/2″ x 11″ format.”
Sinclair International has produced an eight-part video series on metallic cartridge reloading, hosted by Sinclair’s former President Bill Gravatt. The entire series can be viewed (for free) via Sinclair’s “How-To Videos” archive. While this set of videos starts with the basics, it covers many more advanced aspects of reloading as well. Accordingly, both novice and experienced reloaders can benefit from watching the eight videos. We think everyone should watch Video No. 2, which outlines the hazards of reloading and provides guidelines for safe reloading practices.
We also strongly recommend Video No. 4 to readers who are getting started in reloading. This “How Things Work” segment covers the sequence of events inside the chamber (and barrel) when the cartridge is fired. The video includes helpful graphics that show what happens to the primer, powder, cartridge, and bullet when the round is fired. The video also illustrates “headspace” and explains how this can change after firing. We think this video answers many common questions and will help reloaders understand the forces at work on their brass during the firing process.
Watch Firing Sequence Video
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Our IT guy, Jay (aka JayChris in the Forum), was having some issues with his .260 AI. A load with known accuracy had suddenly and mysteriously stopped shooting well. Jay couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. Then he remembered he had cleaned his brass using a powerful ultrasonic machine.
He inspected his brass carefully and saw that the ultrasonically-cleaned necks were so “squeaky clean” that he was actually scratching the jackets on his bullets when seating them. As well, Jay noticed that it took more force to seat the bullets and the seating force became less uniform case to case. Jay solved the problem by applying NECO Moly dry-lube inside the necks of his brass before seating the bullets.
The Perils of Ultrasonic Brass Cleaning by JayChris
I rotate my brass so that I can keep track of each firing, so I keep a “clean/ready to load” bin and a “fired” bin. I have 400 pieces of .260 AI brass. So, all of it was on its first firing (after doing a Cream of Wheat fire-forming) until I hit the 400-round mark. To my surprise, things went south at the 500-round mark. The first time I noticed it (according to my range log) was at a match last year, when I dropped several points and had some vertical stringing issues. After that match, I had 400 rounds through the barrel and all of my brass had a single firing on it. So, it was time to clean.
I have used an ultrasonic cleaner for a while now. I recently got a more powerful Ultrasonic cleaner, although I don’t know if that makes a difference. My brass comes out dry and squeaky. Emphasis on the “squeaky”.
I found that my new US machine may have been getting the necks TOO clean. After ultrasonically cleaning my brass, I had noticed that it required a little more force to seat the bullets, but I didn’t really think too much about it. But then, after going over my ordeal with a shooting buddy and going over my process in minutiae, we had an “AH HA” moment when it came to cleaning (he uses good ol’ vibratory cleaning).
So, I used some moly dry-lube to pre-lube the case necks and took some rounds out to test at 200 yards. I used my last known good load and sure enough, the vertical flyers disappeared! I shot two, 10-rounds groups with .335 and .353 MOA vertical dispersion, which is consistent with the results I was originally getting.
Other folks have suggested necks may get “too clean” after ultrasonic cleaning. It was pretty sobering to actually witness, first hand, what can happen when brass is “too clean”. I had read some discussions of issues with neck friction/bullet seating after ultrasonic cleaning, but, frankly, I dismissed the idea. Now I understand. The “too clean” effect doesn’t seem to affect my Dasher at all (perhaps because Dasher necks are very short), but on the bigger .260 AI, it definitely does.
Close-Up Photos of Case-Necks
Here are photos Jay took with a microscope. You can see the difference between tumbled brass and ultrasonically-cleaned brass. Jay says: “Here, in sequence, are the Ultrasound-squeaky-clean case neck, a case neck after treatment with NECO moly dry-lube (you can see the particles that will help coat the neck during seating), and, finally, the neck from a case cleaned with corncob media in a vibratory tumbler. You can clearly see how much smoother the inside of the tumbled neck is. Yes, it’s dirty, but it’s also very, very smooth.
Close-Up of Scratched Bullet
Here is a close-up of a bullet that was seated in an ultrasonically-cleaned (“squeaky clean”) neck, with no lubrication. You can clearly see the damage done to the jacket — in fact, in a couple spots you can see the lead core through the scratches! Jay also observed that quite a bit more seating force was required to seat the bullet in a “squeaky clean” neck.
NOTE: The bullet jacket is naked — NOT coated in any way. It looks a little dark because of the shadow from the microscope lens, and the high contrast.
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AccurateShooter Forum member Allan, aka “1066″, has improved the performance of his RCBS balance-beam scale with some simple hardware modifications. In addition, Allan has cleverly fitted an inexpensive video camera to one end of his scale. This camera outputs a signal to Allan’s laptop computer, giving Allan a magnified, “big-screen” view of the pointer tip of his scale. That lets Allan observe ultra-small movements of the beam. With the hardware upgrades and video display, Allan has crafted a system with usable sensitivity to a single grain of Varget powder.
Hardware “Mods” Enhance Scale Reliability and Sensitivity
To upgrade his scale, Allan first fabricated a new U-shaped pan suspension hanger on the end of the scale. This allowed the pan to center more reliably and consistently. Next Allan extended the pointer arm at the opposite end, and attached a very fine graduated vertical scale to provide a more precise visual read-out. This scale has marks corresponding to 0.1 grains (one-tenth of a grain).
To improve the function of the beam itself, Allan “cleaned-up” the knife edges on which the beam moves, and Allan also fabricated a simple “approach to weight” fixture (with foam cushion) that gives the beam a smoother transition as it nears max travel.
Inexpensive Video Camera Displays on Laptop Screen
Allan’s real genius was in fitting an inexpensive video camera to display a magnified image of the pointer at the end of the beam. Seeing the “big picture” really helps get the best precision from the scale. Allan acquired a cheap web-cam and attached it via a simple bracket to the RCBS scale. A USB cable delivers the video output to Allan’s laptop. Allan says the web-cam cost less than $20.00 on eBay and required no special software. It was a “plug and go” installation. With the video camera running, the onscreen image is “super-sized” so Allan can track the smallest movements of the pointer tip. You can see how the whole system works in the video below. To dispense powder, Allan uses a slick automated trickler, explained next.
TargetMaster Automatic trickler Uses “Electric-Eye” for Automatic Shut-off
The final element in Allan’s high-tech balance beam scale system is a Targetmaster automatic trickler. This unique UK-made trickler is very advanced. It has two components — a dispenser, and a remote sensor that “watches” the movement of the balance beam. Allan pushes a button to start the powder flowing. As the load in the pan approaches the correct weight, an electric eye senses the position of the balance beam. Once the beam “hits the mark” for a correct load, the remote sensor shuts off the trickler. It sounds complicated but it works perfectly.
TargetMaster Trickler Components and Operation
The TargetMaster automated Trickler is a pretty impressive piece of kit that can be adapted to a wide variety of balance beam scales. The components and functions of the TargetMaster automated trickler are shown in the video below, provided by the manufacturer in the UK. To learn more about this reloading accessory, visit TargetMasterUK.com.
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