July 28th, 2017

How to Watch Mirage and Trace with a Spotting Scope

Spotting Scope Video mirage tipsUsing a spotting scope seems simple. Just point it at the target and focus, right? Well, actually, it’s not that simple. Sometimes you want to watch mirage or trace, and that involves different focus and viewing priorities. Along with resolving bullet holes (or seeing other features on the target itself), you can use your spotting scope to monitor mirage. When watching mirage, you actually want to focus the spotting scope not on the target, but, typically, about two-thirds of the distance downrange. When spotting for another shooter, you can also use the spotting scope to watch the bullet trace, i.e. the vapor trail of the bullet. This will help you determine where the bullet is actually landing, even if it does not impact on the target backer.

In this video, SFC L.D. Lewis explains how to use a spotting scope to monitor mirage, and to watch trace. SFC Lewis is a former Army Marksmanship Unit member, U.S. Army Sniper School instructor, and current U.S. Army Reserve Service Rifle Shooting Team member. In discussing how precision shooters can employ spotting scopes, Lewis compares the use of a spotting scope for competition shooters vs. military snipers. NOTE: You may wish to turn up the audio volume, during the actual interview segment of this video.

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July 22nd, 2017

National Trophy Infantry Team Match at Camp Perry

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU
NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU
NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

In an impressive performance, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s Service Rifle Team won the National Trophy Infantry Team (NTIT) Match on July 20th at Camp Perry, Ohio. In this match, also known as the “Rattle Battle”, six-member teams shoot at 200, 300, 500 and 600 yards with time limits — 384 rounds total. To win this match, the six shooters must work like a finely-tuned machine. This is a popular match with spectators as there is plenty of action in a short time span.

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

This year, the USAMU-Barnhart Team won the title with a score of 1439. The record for this match is 1466, set by the USAMU-Remily Team in 1996. 2017 Team Barnhart members included: SFC Shane Barnhart (coach), SFC Evan Hess (captain), SFC Brandon Green, SFC William Pace, SSG Cody Shields, SGT Joseph Peterson, SPC Lane Ichord, and PVT Forrest Greenwood. The second place USMC team scored a 1406. (U.S. Army photos by Michelle Lunato/released).

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

The National Trophy Infantry Team Match (NTIT) was first fired in 1922 and is part of the the CMP’s annual National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry. The NTIT is sometimes called the “Rattle Battle” because it emphasizes extremely fast, accurate fire.

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

Our friend Grant U., who runs the Precision Shooting Journal on Facebook, says the NTIT is a special match, a real “crowd-pleaser: “The National Trophy Infantry Team Match (Rattle Battle)… was always one of my favorite team events. It takes a hell of a lot more planning, practice, and precision than one might expect. You get one shot at it and the entire team had better be running on all cylinders because there are no alibis. Each team of six shooters is allocated 384 rounds and when the teams fire at 600 and 500 yards, it sounds like a war.”

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

NTIT National Trophy Infantry Team Match Rattle Battle USAMU

PHOTOS courtesy U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. See more on USAMU Facebook Page.
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July 19th, 2017

Smallbore National Championships — SSUSA.org Report

smallbore national championships Wa-ke-de
Photo courtesy Shooting Sports USA.

The NRA National Smallbore Championships (Conventional and Metric) took place July 8-17 at the Wa-Ke’-De Range in Bristol, Indiana. The NRA’s Shooting Sports USA website has extensive coverage of the event written by correspondent Hap Rocketto.

CLICK HERE to Read Full Report on SSUSA.org »

In team competition, the USAMU shooters dominated: “The [conventional] paper team match was an AMU runaway — they carded a 4766-338X to have a 30-point pad on the second place Coast to Coast Team’s 4736-267X effort. The Illinois State Association finished third with a 4679-210X.”

USAMU shooters on the firing line at the Wa-Ke’-De outdoor range in Bristol, IN.
smallbore national championships Wa-ke-de
Photo courtesy USAMU.

There were some great individual performances. In early prone competition, three shooters didn’t drop a point: “The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s (AMU) Patrick Sunderman… opened the tournament with a 400-38X. Mike McPhail, perhaps one of the best prone shooters in world, followed up with a score of 400-37X and … civilian Daniel Martz closed out the top three with his 400-36X.” Later, in kneeling position, McPhail shot his second perfect score of the day, 400-30X, to win the kneeling match.

Iron Man Competition
There was a special “Iron Man” title for the best performance over the entire 8-day cycle. Rocketto writes: “The final prone match, 40 shots on the metric target with any sights, was the deciding factor in the Iron Man competition when McPhail beat George Norton by four points. Over eight days, McPhail shot a 9504-711X, Norton 9501-655X, and last year’s Iron Man Sunderman scored 9478-640X.” Overall the Army swept the top three places.

The Iron Man podium: SFC Mike McPhail (Center), SSG George Norton, & SPC Patrick Sunderman.
2017 National Smallbore championship Iron Man

The last shot of the any sight metric position championship marked the end of the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Championships. The target frames have been stacked away until next year — when smallbore rifle shooters will again converge upon the Wa-Ke’-De Range in Bristol, Indiana.

Men and women now compete on equal terms at the National Smallbore Championship, gunning for the same honors in “gender-neutral” classifications.
Small Bore Rifle Championship NRA women category gender neutral
Photo courtesy Shooting Sports USA.

Camp Wa-ke'-de range Bristol indiana IN championship

Smallbore Rifle Championship (Wa-Ke’-De Range, Bristol, IN — July 8-17, 2017)
Webpage: CLICK HERE for National Smallbore Rifle Championships INFO.

The Key to 3P — Beginner’s Guide to Smallbore Position Shooting

Would you like to try smallbore position shooting? Here are some tips from one of the best 3P shooters on the planet, Olympian Matt Emmons. Matt Emmons Anschutz 3P three position shooting tipsMatt Emmons competed in the Three-Position Event at the Rio Olympics his fourth Olympic appearance. Matt has competed on the U.S. National Team since 1997, medaling in three Olympic games: Gold in 2004 in Men’s 50m Prone; Silver in 2008 in Men’s 50m Prone; and Bronze in 2012 in Men’s 50m 3X40. Although his specialty is Men’s 3-Position rifle, Emmons’ World Championship and Olympic Gold are in Men’s 50m Prone. He usually shoots an Anschütz or Bleiker .22LR rifle, with Eley Tenex ammo.

Here are shooting tips from Matt, courtesy Anschütz. Click image below to launch a large, full-screen PDF file.

CLICK Photo to Load Large PDF File
Matt Emmons Anschutz 3P three position shooting tips

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July 12th, 2017

Match Etiquette: Be Prepared, Know the Rules and Course of Fire

Match Etiquette USAMU Course of Fire Rules SFC Norman Anderson CMP Rulebook NRA

Match Etiquette USAMU Course of Fire Rules SFC Norman Anderson CMP Rulebook NRA

Don’t Be “That Guy” (The Bad Apple on the Firing Line)

By SFC Norman Anderson, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member
You know the guy, he’s still talking at the coffee jug when his preparation period begins, then his magazines aren’t loaded when the command “STAND” is given, and finally, he doesn’t know the rules when he argues with the block officer as his target comes up marked “9 and No”. Although this guy might be the highlight of the “after match” activities, he is the proverbial bad apple on the firing line. With this example fresh in your mind, let’s go over how not to be “that guy”.

While the sport of High Power shooting is a hobby for most, all are passionate about performance throughout the day. In order to achieve your maximum performance each and every day, it is essential that you conduct yourself as a professional competitor. As a competitor, you have a personal responsibility to know the course of fire as well as the rules and procedures that apply to it and to be prepared to follow them. Knowing this will not only make you a better competitor, but it will enable you to resolve situations with other targets besides your own. So what does all this mean? I’ll explain…

Know the Course of Fire
Know the course of fire. It sounds easy enough, as we all shoot plenty of matches, but it’s more than that. If you think about it, how many people in the pits, for example, do not really know what is happening on the firing line? This leads to targets being pulled early during a rapid fire string or missing a shot during a slow fire string. In cases like this, the result is the same, delays in the match and upset competitors. To avoid being “that guy,” it is imperative that you stay tuned to the events as the day progresses. When you are at the range shooting a match, be at the range shooting the match.

At any firearms competition — be sure you know (and understand) the course of fire.
CMP Match Etiquette

Match Etiquette USAMU Course of Fire Rules SFC Norman Anderson CMP Rulebook NRAKnow the Rules
Now, let’s discuss rules. As you have probably heard more than once, the rulebook is your best friend. Here is why. I can virtually guarantee that most competitors know some of the rules based only on the old “this is how we do it at home” adage. The funny part of that is, the same green NRA rulebook and orange CMP rulebooks are used to govern High Power matches all over the country.*

It is vital that all shooters be familiar with the rules as they are written, not with “how they are applied at home”. This creates consistency and continuity in how matches are conducted, from local club matches to state tournaments to National Championships. Knowledge is power when it comes to scoring targets under contention, what to do in the case of a malfunction, or even how to file a protest correctly. These rules are in place for a reason and it benefits everyone to both know and operate by these rules.

Maintain Composure and Humility — Exhibit Good Sportsmanship
One aspect of competing that cannot be forgotten is bearing. As I mentioned earlier, you must be prepared for both good and bad to happen. All too often we all see “that guy” (or that “that guy’s” gear) flying off of the firing line in disgust. Remember that we all must maintain our composure and humility in all conditions, not matter what happens. After all, it’s just a game. To put it into perspective, if it were easy, attendance would be a lot higher. Sportsmanship must be displayed in an effort to keep from ruining the day for all those around you. It doesn’t cost anything to smile, and smiling never killed anyone. So turn that frown upside down and keep on marching, better days will come.

Like a Boy Scout — Always Be Prepared
Lastly, I would like to cover preparedness. Being prepared goes beyond simply having your magazines loaded and a zero on your rifle. It means approaching the firing line, knowing what you are about to do, being ready for what is going to happen (good or bad), and being ready for the results. If you approach the firing line to merely shoot 10 shots standing in your next LEG match, you are not going to be pleased with the result. You must be prepared mentally and physically, not only for the next stage, but also the next shot. By being prepared physically (equipment ready), you give yourself peace of mind which is an essential part of being prepared mentally, and by being prepared mentally, you are less likely to become distracted and are more likely to maintain focus for each and every shot.

Conclusion — Informed Competitors Make for Better Matches
The culmination of these efforts results in a shooter that knows how to be ready for success on the range, but also and perhaps more importantly, a shooter who knows what it means to be a competitor. When you have a range full of competitors who know and follow the rules and proper match procedures, the match runs smoothly, everyone shoots well, and a good time is had by all. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?


* After this article was originally written, the CMP separated its rules into two different Rulebooks:

The 2016 4th Edition of the CMP Competition Rules for CMP Games Rifle and Pistol Matches governs all CMP-sanctioned matches for As-Issued Military Rifle and Pistol events including Special EIC Matches that are fired with As-Issued Military Rifles or Pistols.

The 2016 20th Edition of the CMP Competition Rules for Service Rifle and Service Pistol governs sponsored and sanctioned matches for Service Rifle, Service Pistol and .22 Rimfire Pistol events, including National Trophy Rifle and Pistol Matches, Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) matches and other CMP-sanctioned competitions.

This article by SFC Norman Anderson originally appeared in the CMP First Shot Online Magazine.

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July 12th, 2017

SFC Brandon Green Wins CMP 2400 Agg Title at Camp Perry

Story based on Report by Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
SFC Brandon Green, 32, of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, fired a score of 2368-97X to earn the championship title in the 2400 Aggregate Rifle event held during the inaugural Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) Cup Matches. The 2400 Aggregate award goes to the top shooter in the three combined 800 Aggregates. The 2015 National High Power Champion, SFC Green is a gifted competitor who has excelled in multiple rifle disciplines. In addition to Service Rifle and High Power events, Green has competed in PRS and tactical matches.

National Matches CMP Calendar Camp Perry Ohio
CLICK HERE to view larger version of this image.

CLICK HERE for 2017 National Matches Calendar (PDF).

SFC Brandon Green

Even before joining the USAMU Green was an ace marksman. As a junior, he earned Distinguished Air Rifle Badge #1. “I’ve been very fortunate to get support from friends, family and the ROTC programs in high school, and of course from the CMP and NRA as well, which kind of catered to someone like myself, coming in as a junior and shooting all the way up through the High Power sports,” said Green. “I’ve also been lucky enough to gain so many opportunities from being a part of the Army and the USAMU. It’s been a long learning journey, but it’s been a good one.”

The CMP Cup Matches, which kicked off the 2017 National Matches at Camp Perry, were introduced as an extra series of elite match and service rifle competitions. The schedule included a 4-Man Team Match, three consecutive days of 800 Aggregate matches, and an EIC Service Rifle Match.

CMP Matches
4-Man Team Match kicked off a week of events fired entirely on the CMP’s electronic High Power targets.

The CMP Cup Series week marked a new era at Camp Perry, with the first successful competitions fired on the base’s ranges using CMP’s mobile electronic targets. Over 36,000 rounds were sent downrange, with less than 50 questioned by competitors throughout the week. For many, the Cup Matches provided an initial look at the CMP’s target system.

Also making marks in the 2400 Aggregate match during CMP Cup Week was SSG Amanda Elsenboss, 28, of the Army Marksmanship Unit, who earned the High Woman Award, as well as Serena Juchnowski, 18, of Richfield, OH, who snagged the High Junior credit. Paul Terrence, 65, of Cleveland, OH, was named the High Senior of the event.

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June 29th, 2017

Reloading Tip: Bullet Bearing Surface and 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.]

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 3 Comments »
June 20th, 2017

Tactical Twins: Micarta-Stocked PRS Rigs for SFC Brandon Green

SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

What does a two-time High Power National Champion choose for PRS comps? A set of twins. Twin rifles that is. SFC Brandon Green of the USAMU is one of America’s best marksmen. He’s excelled in Service Rifle and High Power disciplines, and now he’s getting very serious about the Precision Rifle Series (PRS). Brandon recently took delivery of “Twins” — two impressive rifles optimized for PRS competition. Green told us: “The Twins are ready for business! The silver one is a 6XC and the black one is a 6.5×47 Lapua”. Both rifles feature Impact Precision actions (with AICS-type mags), 24″ Proof stainless barrels, and Fat Bastard muzzle brakes. Rifle work was done by Stuteville Precision (Wade Stuteville) and Exodus Rifles (Joe Walls).

SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks
In the 6XC, Brandon runs Berger 105gr VLDs in Norma 6XC brass. For the 6.5×47 Lapua he shoots 140gr Berger Hybrids or 143gr Hornady ELD-Xs in Lapua brass. Both rifles have stainless steel Proof barrels, but the 6.5x47L has a matte black Cerakote finish.

Brandon loves his new Twins. He said he likes the “feel” of the guns with the Foundation stocks: “These rifles weigh around 17 pounds with optics. They feel very solid under recoil — without the ‘tuning fork’ vibration you can get with a metal-chassis gun. They feel like a good wood-stocked gun, but the material is stronger and more rigid than wood. I’ve heard that guys are having success with these Foundation stocks with the actions installed without pillars or conventional bedding.” Currently Brandon is running both guns without action-screw pillars. He did have one skim-bedded, but he doesn’t think that was really needed. “Both rifles hammer now”, Brandon tells us.

Green Runs Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56mm FFP scopes on both rifles:
SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

High-Tech Micarta Stock Material
At first glance, those stocks may look like wood, but they are actually a special “Micarta” material that is strong, durable, and stable. Micarta, often used for knife handles, is a “a brand name for composites of fiberglass, carbon fiber, or other fabric in a thermosetting plastic.” The stock-maker, Foundation Stocks, says Micarta offers some distinct advantages over laminated wood or conventional fiberglass: “The solid block of material gives us a dense, homogenous material that is absent of any voids or air pockets commonly found in composite stocks. The high compression strength of the material allows us to build an action/DBM specific stock that requires no bedding or pillars. The material is very durable and stable in extreme environments. We use advanced CAD software to design and model our stocks, working in conjunction with action manufacturers and rifle builders to provide exact fitment.”

Here is a close-up of a Foundation Stock showing the distinctive Micarta texture:
SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

Tactical Competition vs. NRA High Power Competition
Brandon says PRS competition is tough: “PRS can be pretty humbling, but it’s been a lot of fun and a great challenge. For a shooter (like me) with a Service Rifle/High Power background, the variations in stages combined with the time limits can be very challenging. And the unusual shooting positions put a new spin on things. PRS is definitely a different ball game, but I really enjoy it. After the National Championships this summer I hope to shoot three or four PRS matches in September and October.”

SFC Brandon Green 2015 High Power National Championship
SFC Brandon Green honored as the 2015 High Power National Champion.

Life before the Twins… Here is Brandon, with his previous PRS rig, at the MasterPiece Arms Precision Rifle Shootout, a PRS event at the CORE Shooting Solutions Range in Florida:

SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

Permalink Gear Review, Gunsmithing, Tactical 12 Comments »
June 11th, 2017

Reloading 101: Primer Pocket and Flash-Hole Conditioning

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman
Case Prep Xpress photo courtesy Lyman Products.

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covers two basic case prep chores — uniforming primer pockets and deburring flash-holes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other tips.

USAMU Handloading hump day reloading tips

Primer Pocket & Flash-Hole Conditioning

This week, we’ll address a question that frequently arises: “Do you uniform primer pockets and deburr flash-holes?” As we tailor our handloading methods to the specific needs of each instance, the answer, not surprisingly, is “Sometimes!” However, don’t flip that dial just yet, as what determines our approach may be helpful in deciding how to address one’s own techniques. Moreover, we have a buried “Easter Egg” morsel that may bring a chuckle, as well as useful safety information!

Generally, the USAMU Handloading Shop does not uniform primer pockets (PP) or deburr flash holes (FH) of our rifle brass. We’re certainly not against it… Rather, this reflects the very high volume of ammunition we load, the fact that very few cases are ever re-loaded for a second firing, and the types of brass we use. However, as a need is perceived, we DO deburr flash holes. Of interest, we have fired many very small, 1000-yard test groups and aggregates using weight-selected, domestic brass that had not had PPs uniformed or FHs deburred.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Before and After — On the left is a fired, deprimed 7.62×51 case with primer residue intact. On the right the primer pocket has been uniformed to SAAMI specs. Note the shiny finish at the bottom of the pocket — evidence of the the removal of metal when uniforming the primer pocket.

As to the type cases we use, many thousands of our long-range 5.56mm cases come to us from the arsenal with the primer of our choice pre-installed and staked-in, per usual practice. Obviously, we cannot uniform either FHs or PPs on this live, primed brass. However, after careful sorting, inspection and preparation, we do obtain match-winning results with it.

Shooters who reload their brass several times may decide to uniform PPs and deburr FHs, especially on their “300-yard and beyond” brass. Here, they will use the cases many times, while the uniforming is performed only once. Also, most handloaders only process moderate amounts of brass, compared to our multi-thousand round lots.

Having high quality Long Range (LR) brass helps. Many of the better brass manufacturers install their flash holes so that no burrs are created. Still, it does pay to inspect even THESE manufacturer’s products, as occasional slips are inevitable. Very rarely, some of the best makers will have a significant burr in, say, 1 per 1000 or 2000 cases, and it’s worth catching those.

Exceptions can always be found. Recently, we began processing a large lot of match brass from a premier manufacturer. We were startled to find that every case had a significant burr in the FH — something we’d never before seen from this maker. We then broke out the FH deburring tools and went to work.

Some observers have noted that it can be difficult to truly verify the contribution to accuracy of these procedures — particularly when firing from the shoulder, in conditions. Members of this staff, as individual rifle competitors, do often perform these operations on their privately-owned LR rifle brass. One could ascribe this to the old Highpower Rifle maxim that “if you think it helps, then it helps.”

However, a World Champion and Olympic Gold/Silver medalist here commented on his own handloading (for International competition, which demands VERY fine accuracy). He noted that he did seem to see a decline in accuracy whenever he did not uniform FHs, deburr FHs and clean primer pockets before each reloading. (One might be tempted to counter that only a truly World Class shooter could reliably detect the difference.) However, with the wisdom of decades experience, our Champion also remarked that “It could have been that I just wasn’t shooting as well that day.”

For those who do opt for these procedures, note that various tool models may have adjustable depth-stops; pay attention to the instructions. Some FH-deburring tools (which enter the case mouth, not the primer pocket) are dependent upon uniform case length for best results.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Above is a flash-hole deburring tool on an RCBS powered case-prep unit. These case prep machines can save a lot of pain and misery, helping one perform various functions quickly and efficiently.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »
April 28th, 2017

Shot Costs Calculated for .223 Rem, 6BR, 6XC, .308 Win, 6.5×284

Shooting Cost by Cartridge Caliber type USAMU

Estimating Actual Cost per Round by Caliber
This article comes from the USAMU, which provide shooting and reloading tips on its Facebook Page. This week’s USAMU TECH TIP outlines a ballpark-estimate method of calculating the actual cost per round of different calibers. Some applications, and some shooters, by virtue of their high level of competition, require the very best ballistic performance available — “Darn the cost, full speed ahead!

If you are in serious contention to win a major competition, then losing even a single point to inferior ballistic performance could cost you a national title or record. However, this “horsepower” does come at a cost! Some calibers are barrel-burners, and some offer much longer barrel life. Look at this comparison chart:

Estimated Cost Per Round by Cartridge Type

Below are some estimated total expense per round (practice and competition) based on component costs, type used, expected barrel life and a standard, chambered barrel cost of $520.00 across calibers.

5.56x45mm: $0.46/round (barrel life 6,000 rounds)*

6mmBR: $0.81/round (barrel life 2800 rounds)

6XC: $0.97/round (barrel life 2200 rounds)

.308 Win: $0.80/round (barrel life 4500 rounds)

6.5-284: $1.24/round (barrel life 1100 rounds)

*Note the high round count estimate for 5.56x45mm. This is a bit deceptive, as it assumes a period of “lesser accuracy” use. The USAMU says: “Much of the difference you see here between 5.56 and .308 is due to using the 5.56 barrel for 100-200 yard training with less-expensive, 55gr Varmint bullets after its long-range utility is spent”.

Moreover, while some applications require specialized, high-cost components, others do not. And, if the shooter is still relatively new to the sport and hasn’t refined his skill to within the top few percentile of marksmen, a more economical caliber choice can help stretch a limited budget. Translation: More skill per dollar!

In this post, the prices for all items mentioned here were taken from a major component supplier’s current advertisements, and all brass was of top quality, except in the case of 5.56mm. There, 200 top-quality, imported cases were reserved for 600-yard shooting, and the other brass used was once-fired Lake City surplus.

Cartridge cases were assumed to be loaded 10 times each. [Your mileage may vary…] Bullet prices assumed the use of less-expensive, but good-quality match bullets for the bulk of shooting as appropriate.

The cost of top-tier, highly-expensive match bullets was also calculated for a realistic percentage of the shots fired, based on ones’ application. Barrel life by caliber was taken from likely estimates based on experience and good barrel maintenance.

Brass Costs Based on 10 Loads Per Case
Often, handloaders may calculate ammunition cost per round by adding the individual costs of primers, powder charges and projectiles. Many don’t consider the cost of brass, as it is reloaded several times. Here, we’ll consider the cost of enough top-quality brass to wear out a barrel in our given caliber, at 10 loads per case, except as noted above.

Don’t Forget Amortized Barrel Costs
Few shooters factor in the full, true cost of barrel life. Depending on caliber, that can dramatically increase the cost per round. For example, consider a long-range rifle in 6.5/284 caliber. This cartridge performs amazingly well, but at a cost. Ballpark estimated barrel life [in a top-quality barrel] is 1100 rounds. Some wear out faster, some last longer, but this gives a rough idea of what to expect.

Accurate barrels are a joy to use, but they are an expendable resource!
Shooting Cost by Cartridge Caliber type USAMU

A top-quality barrel plus installation was estimated at about $520.00. At 1100 rounds, barrel life adds $0.47 per round to our total cost. Thus, what had started out as an [components-only estimate, with brass cost] of $0.76/round now totals $1.24 per shot!

Cost Considerations When Choosing a Catridge Type
Some shooters might ask themselves if they could meet their present needs with a more economical caliber. If so, that equates to more practice and matches per available dollar, and more potential skill increase on the available budget.

Each shooter knows his skill level, practice needs, and shooting discipline’s requirements. Some might shoot NRA Service Rifle or Match Rifle using a 5.56mm with a long barrel life. Others might be Match Rifle shooters faced with choosing between, say, a 6mm BR vs. 6XC. A realistic assessment of ones needs, performance-wise, may help guide the shooter toward a caliber that’s most optimized to their needs at the moment.

Admittedly, the factors affecting cost for any individuals circumstances can vary significantly. However, hopefully this will provide one useful method of evaluating one’s training and competition choices, based on their skill, goals and needs.

USAMU reloading Facebook Page army tips tech

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 7 Comments »
April 7th, 2017

PRS Gas Gun Match — Winning Hardware and Match Strategies

PRS Gas Gun Match CORE Florida

Shooting Sports USA just released an excellent, in-depth article about the first-ever PRS Gas Gun Match. If you enjoy tactical-style shooting, or have an interest in modern semi-auto rifles, we strongly recommend you read this match report by SSUSA Editor John Parker. Offered in a magazine-style format, this SSUSA feature includes explanations of the rules and tactics for these matches, along with interviews with top competitors, including match winner SSG Tyler Payne of the USAMU.

CLICK HERE to Read PRS Gas Gun Match Report by Shooting Sports USA

Payne dominated the match, finishing 200 points ahead of the next competitor. Payne competed in Open Class shooting a JP Enterprises LRP-07 chambered in 6mm Creedmoor, running Berger 105gr 6mm Hybrids at 2975 fps. He used a Vortex Razor HD 4.5-27x56mm scope. With its 6X zoom ratio, this optic allowed SSG Payne to switch from a wide field of view to high magnification as the stage demanded. With targets out to 800 yards, having 27X on tap was useful.

There are three divisions in PRS Gas Gun Matches: Tactical Light (.223 Rem/5.56), Tactical Heavy (.308 Win), and Open. At this match, about 65% of shooters competed in Tac Light. Match Director Ryan Castle said: “The remaining 35% was split pretty evenly between Open and Tactical Heavy.”

Open Class Caliber Choices
“For Ammo in Open Class, 6mm and 6.5mm Creedmoor were popular — overall winner SSG Tyler Payne won using a rifle chambered in 6mm Creedmoor”. — John Parker, SSUSA

Gas guns to 800 yards, yep there are targets down there somewhere…
PRS Gas Gun Nightforce Optics CORE Florida AR15 AR
Jeff Cramblit Facebook photo

Gas Gun Match Loads — Short Range vs. Long Range
“The .223/5.56 [Tactical Light] guns had some lag time waiting on shot impacts. I believe the long-term solution may be to find a light and fast load for closer stages for near-instant reaction time and use a heavy load for the long shots to see splash and get the target to move a little more.” — Sean Murphy, Nightforce

Interview with Match Winner Tyler PaynePRS Gas Gun Match CORE Florida
SSG Tyler Payne told SSUSA: “This match has a lot of similarities to 3-Gun, which I’ve been shooting for 11 years now. With targets out to 800 yards, limited rounds and 30-second penalties, the match gave you the opportunity to go as fast as you wanted but really forced you to be accurate. Training for PRS has given me enough discipline to make my shots count and 3-Gun has taught me how to be efficient. Those two things helped me excel at this match. Having to slow down with a gas gun and make my shot count was very foreign to me. Usually at matches with a gas gun, you get as many shots as you want to take, so having to slow down was difficult.”

“If I had any pointers for someone wanting to try this type of match it would be to get out and confirm your data as far as you can. Don’t trust your ballistic Apps. Other than that, ask questions, watch the experienced shooters and have fun”.

Read more interviews HERE

PRS Gas Gun Series Rules

For the new PRS “Gasser” Competition, the PRS developed rules on gun types, scoring, match timing, penalties, safety and other key topics. CLICK HERE for Full PRS Gas Gun Series Rules.

Open Division: The Open Division rifles will not exceed a caliber of .30 or a velocity of 3,200 fps. With this and other divisions, Match Officials may request at any point during a match that a competitor fire their rifle through chronograph..

Tactical Light Division: Tactical Light Division rifles are restricted to 5.56 NATO/.223 Remington calibers only. Bullet weight cannot exceed 77 grains and muzzle velocity cannot exceed 3,000 fps.

Tactical Heavy Division: This class is restricted to .308 Win (7.62×51) gas guns. Most will be AR-10 platform rifles. Bullet weight cannot exceed 178 grains and muzzle velocity cannot exceed 2,800 fps.

Scoring and Penalties
The Gas Gun Series utilizes a time plus penalty-based scoring system for all match scoring. This means the score is the shooter’s total combined time on all stages plus any penalties accrued.

Penalties are as follows:
30 seconds for any rifle targets not engaged or neutralized.
15 seconds for any pistol targets not engaged or neutralized.
15 seconds for hitting a “No Shoot” target.
No more than 50% of the stages at a match can utilize an unlimited round count. At least 25% of the targets in Gas Gun Series match must be 2 MOA or smaller. Max distance is 800 yards.

Permalink Competition, Tactical No Comments »
March 22nd, 2017

Precision Handloading for Pistols — Tips from the USAMU

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

Each Wednesday the USAMU offers tips for handloaders on the USAMU Facebook page. This article from the “Handloading Hump-Day” archives should interest pistol competitors, an any shooter who enjoys getting the best possible accuracy from their fine pistols. In this article, the USAMU’s experts share key tips that can help optimize your pistol ammo. Follow this tips to produce more consistent ammo, that can shoot higher scores.

Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. Different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice ReloadingUse Consistent Brass
Brass is also important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor/handloader to use brass of the same headstamp and ideally one lot number, to maximize uniformity. Given the volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. However, for the “long line” (50 yards), purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea.

Importance of Uniform COAL
Uniformity of the Case Overall Length (COAL) as it comes from the factory is also important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, and so on. Cartridge case-length consistency varies from lot to lot, as well as by maker. Some manufacturers are more consistent in this dimension than others. [Editor’s note: It is easy to trim pistol brass to uniform length. Doing this will make your taper crimps much more consistent.]

Primers and Powders — Comparison Test for Accuracy
Pay attention to primer brands, powder types and charges. Evaluating accuracy with a Ransom or other machine rest at 50 yards can quickly reveal the effect of changes made to handload recipes.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

Bullet Selection — FMJ vs. JHP
Bullets are another vital issue. First, there is the question of FMJ vs. JHP. A friend of this writer spent decades making and accuracy-testing rifle and pistol bullets during QC for a major bullet manufacturer. In his experience, making highly-accurate FMJ bullets is much more difficult than making highly-accurate JHPs, in large part due to the way the jackets are formed. Small die changes could affect accuracy of FMJ lots dramatically.

The CMP now allows “safe, jacketed ammunition” in Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) Service Pistol matches, although wadcutter ammunition is prohibited. Thus, the option to use very accurate JHP designs simplifies the life of CMP Service Pistol shooters in pursuit of the prestigious Distinguished Pistol Shot badge.

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to any pistol shooters interested in accurate handloads, not just “Bullseye” shooters. Small tweaks to one’s normal routine can pay big dividends in improved accuracy and make practice and competition more rewarding.

Stay safe, and good shooting!

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »
March 22nd, 2017

Chronograph Testing — Tips from the USAMU

USAMU Marksmanship Unit Velocity Chronograph Testing Sample Sizes

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. This past week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article, the latest in a 7-part series, relates to chronograph testing and statistical samples. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tips that can benefit any hand-loader. Visit the USAMU Facebook page next Wednesday for the next installment.

Chronograph Testing — Set-Up, Sample Sizes, and Velocity Factors

Initial Chronograph Setup
A chronograph is an instrument designed to measure bullet velocity. Typically, the bullet casts a shadow as it passes over two electronic sensors placed a given distance apart. The first screen is the “start” screen, and it triggers an internal, high-speed counter. As the bullet passes the second, or “stop” screen, the counter is stopped. Then, appropriate math of time vs. distance traveled reveals the bullet’s velocity. Most home chronographs use either 2- or 4-foot spacing between sensors. Longer spacing can add some accuracy to the system, but with high-quality chronographs, 4-foot spacing is certainly adequate.

Laboratory chronographs usually have six feet or more between sensors. Depending upon the make and model of ones chronograph, it should come with instructions on how far the “start” screen should be placed from one’s muzzle. Other details include adequate light (indoors or outdoors), light diffusers over the sensors as needed, and protecting the start screen from blast and debris such as shotgun wads, etc. When assembling a sky-screen system, the spacing between sensors must be extremely accurate to allow correct velocity readings.

Statistics: Group Sizes, Distances and Sample Sizes
How many groups should we fire, and how many shots per group? These questions are matters of judgment, to a degree. First, to best assess how ones ammunition will perform in competition, it should be test-fired at the actual distance for which it will be used. [That means] 600-yard or 1000-yard ammo should be tested at 600 and 1000 yards, respectively, if possible. It is possible to work up very accurate ammunition at 100 or 200 yards that does not perform well as ranges increase. Sometimes, a change in powder type can correct this and produce a load that really shines at longer range.

The number of shots fired per group should be realistic for the course of fire. That is, if one will be firing 10-shot strings in competition then final accuracy testing, at least, should involve 10-shot strings. These will reflect the rifles’ true capability. Knowing this will help the shooter better decide in competition whether a shot requires a sight adjustment, or if it merely struck within the normal accuracy radius of his rifle.

How many groups are needed for a valid test? Here, much depends on the precision with which one can gather the accuracy data. If shooting from a machine rest in good weather conditions, two or three 10-shot groups at full distance may be very adequate. If it’s windy, the rifle or ammunition are marginal, or the shooter is not confident in his ability to consistently fire every shot accurately, then a few more groups may give a better picture of the rifle’s true average.

(more…)

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip No Comments »
February 20th, 2017

Mental Game — Thinking Your Way to Success

praslick emil usamu mental training game marksmanship

SFC Emil Praslick III is now retired from the U.S. Army, but he left a great legacy as one of the USAMU’s greatest coaches and team leaders. A highly-respected wind expert, Praslick also was known for his ability to help his shooters master the “mental game”, which is so important at the highest levels of competition. Here is an article from the CMP Archives in which Praslick explains how to focus your mind to achieve greater success.

Thinking Your Way to Success by SFC Emil Praslick III (Ret.)
Why does it seem that the same small group of shooters wins the majority of the matches? Within the Army Marksmanship Unit’s Service Rifle Team, the same effect applies. On a team filled with uncommonly talented shooters, the same two or three are consistently at the top of the final results bulletin. What is the difference among shooters who are technically equal? Confidence. A confident shooter is free to execute his shots without the fear of failure, i.e. shooting a poor shot.

Negative thoughts (can’t, won’t be able to, etc.) will destroy a skilled performance. The mind’s focus will not be on executing the task, but on projecting fear and self-doubt. Fear is the enemy, confidence is the cure.

How does a shooter on the eve of an important match (the President’s or NTI, for example) attain the confidence needed to perform up to his potential? A pre-competition mental plan can assist in acquiring that positive mental state. The plan can be broken down into a few phases.

Build a feeling of preparedness. Developing and executing a plan to organize your equipment and pre-match routine will aid you in feeling prepared on match day.

Avoid negative and stressful thoughts. Focusing on “winning” the match or shooting for a specific score (like making the “cut” or making the President’s 100) can cause undue stress. Good shooters focus on aspects that are within their control: their sight picture, their sight alignment, their position. Each shot should be treated as an individual event.

Train stage-specific tasks during your practice sessions. Instead of shooting matches or practice matches only, include some drills that focus on your problem areas. Training in this manner will assist your level of confidence.

As part of your pre-match routine, imagine yourself shooting perfect shots. Visualize getting into the perfect position, acquiring a perfect sight picture, and perfect trigger control.

Let a feeling of calm and well-being wash over you. Spend a few minutes alone thinking positive thoughts. Many shooters use their favorite music to help build the mood.

Once you develop your pre-competition mental plan, stick with it. Through your training you will develop the physical skills to shoot higher scores. The confidence you will need to apply them in match conditions will grow as you develop into a complete shooter; both physically and mentally.

Click HERE for More USAMU Shooting Tips

The USAMU’s article archives are a great resource for competitive shooters. Click HERE for more excellent instructional articles by Emil Praslick and other USAMU Coaches and shooters. You’ll find articles on Wind-Reading, Fitness, Equipment, Shooting Positions, Shooting Techniques, Match Strategies and much more.

Permalink - Articles, Shooting Skills 1 Comment »
February 10th, 2017

Team Match Day at the Berger Southwest Nationals

Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Thursday was TEAM DAY at the Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN). In the Sling, F-TR, and F-Open classes, dozens of 4-person teams shot under coaches at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. The key difference between the team game and individual competition is that (for the most part) shooters function as trigger pullers only. Wind and elevation calls are typically made by the coaches, who sometimes even dial clicks for the shooters. In the above photo Bryan Litz is just about to click his shooter’s elevation turret.

This year the Scottish Thistle Team won the Sling division, lead by a strong 449-27X performance by Angus McLeod. The Hayes Rays of Sunshine Team finished second, six points back. In the highly competitive F-TR class, North by Southwest took the team title, with Da Bulls in second.

In the F-Open class, the Cluster Ducks (clever name) took the win, edging out second place The Longshots by a single point. Third in F-Open was Tex-Mex #1. Kudos to AccurateShooter’s own Jay Christopherson, our site systems manager, who lead 4th Place Team Lapua/Brux with a strong 448-25X. Jay keeps our servers running smoothly — and he’s a great shooter in his own right.

Here’s Team Krieger (foreground) getting ready on the 1000-yard line.
Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Anette Wachter (in chair) shot a 450-36X in the Team Match — not dropping a single point. Outstanding!
Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

TEAM EVENT TOP THREE in SLING, F-OPEN, and F-TR
SLING
1st Place — Scotland Thistle 1786-100X
Angus McLeod, 449-29X
Sandy Walker, 447-27X
Ian Shaw, 445-24X
Michael Barlow, 445-21X

2nd Place — Hayes Rays of Sunshine 1780-97X

3rd Place — Sabine 1775-88X

NOTABLES: Annette Wachter, 450-36X (4th Place Team High)

F-OPEN
1st Place — The Cluster Ducks 1789-100X
James Laney, 450-27X
Kevin Shepherd, 448-24X
Norman Harrold, 448-21X
Joe Meyer, 443-28X

2nd Place — The Longshots 1788-103X

3rd Place — Tex-Mex #1 1781-93X

NOTABLES: Jay Christopherson, 448-25X (4th Place Team High)

F-TR
1st Place — North by Southwest 1773-74X
Daniel Lentz, 445-22X
Ian Klemm, 445-17X
Daniel Pohlabel, 443-18X
Ken Klemm, 440-17X

2nd Place — Da Bulls 1770-81X

3rd Place — Michigan F-TR Team 1764-85X

NOTABLES: Mike Plunkett 447-16X (4th Place Team High)

NEW F-OPEN TEAM Record: The Cluster Ducks set a new National Team Record for 800/900/1000 yards with their 1789-100X Score. In fact, the second-place Longshots also broke the previous 1786-104X record, set by Team Grizzly in 2014. Because the Cluster Ducks edged The Longshots by one point the Ducks will go down in the record books. But both teams can rightfully say they broke the then-current 1786-point F-Open record. Well done shooters!

Team Thunder-Struck from the Land Down Under brought along an inflatable mascot.
Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

GUNS and GEAR HIGHLIGHTS

Interesting Competition Hardware at Ben Avery

Eliseo F-Class Chassis with Two-Piece Barrel Block
Christine Harris was shooting a new prototype Eliseo F-Class stock with a two-part barrel block. This is similar to the Eliseo F1 stock but the bolt-together barrel block allows easier exchange of barreled actions.

Eliseo F1 Stock Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Stunning F-Open Rig from Cerus Rifleworks
Cerus Rifleworks showed us a jaw-dropping new F-Open rifle. This is an amazing combination of beauty and advanced performance. The CNC-milled stock is stiff and straight, with tolerances that put most wood stocks to shame.

Cerus Rifleworks Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

A Lady Soldier’s Coat and Rifle
This Monard shooting coat belongs to SSG Amanda Elsenboss, a shooter with the USAMU Team. The rifle features a Barnard action in what appears to be a classic Robertston Composites H&H-style prone stock. Nice hardware for a talented lady soldier.

CEBRUS Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

USAMU Amanda Robertson stock competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Pair of ‘Pods
We saw many SEB Joy-Pods on the front end of F-TR rifles. These light-weight bipods offer quick and easy aiming via a joystick-controlled coaxial head. The large flat feet allow the rifle to move back smoothly on recoil, and then slide right back on target.

SEB coax coaxial JoyPod Joy-PodTeam competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Gear-Hauler for Many Seasons
This cart has seen countless matches over the years. Those stickers are markers in time, recording decades of shooting matches in many venues. How many stickers can you identify?

Cart Ben AveryTeam competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Distinguished Rifleman’s Spotting Scope
The stories this old spotting scope could tell — how many targets has it seen over the years? The most important sticker, “Distinguished Rifleman”, bears witness to its owner’s skill and commitment to the sport.

Spotting Scope Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Nightforce Optics Competition Scopes
Nightforce, a major sponsor of the Berger SW Nationals, had a variety of scopes mounted on viewing rigs. You could quickly compare one scope vs. another. We’d like to see more optics makers demo their scopes at major matches.

Spotting Scope Team competition Berger Southwest Nationals SWN team match

Permalink Competition, New Product, News No Comments »
February 8th, 2017

Cartridge “Efficiency” — Factors to Consider from the USAMU

USAMU Handloading Guide Facebook cartridge efficiency

Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion.

USAMU Handloading Guide Facebook cartridge efficiency

Cartridge Efficiency: A Primer (pun intended!) by USAMU Staff

Each week, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading article on its Facebook Page. In this week’s article, the USAMU discusses cartridge case efficiency and its benefits. While this is oriented primarily toward NRA High Power Rifle and Long Range (1000-yard) competition, these factors also apply to medium/big game hunters. Assuming one’s rifle and ammunition are accurate, key considerations include ballistic performance (i.e., resistance to wind effects, plus trajectory), recoil, and throat erosion/barrel life.

Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion. A classic example in the author’s experience involved a featherweight 7x57mm hunting/silhouette rifle. When loaded to modern-rifle pressures, just 43-44 grains of powder pushed a 139gr bullet at 2900 fps from its 22” barrel. Recoil in this light rifle was mild; it was very easy to shoot well, and its performance was superb.

An acquaintance chose a “do everything” 7mm Remington Magnum for use on medium game at short ranges. A larger, heavier rifle, it used ~65 grains of powder to achieve ~3200 fps with similar bullets — from its 26″ barrel. Recoil was higher, and he was sensitive to it, which hampered his shooting ability.

Similarly efficient calibers include the 6mm BR [Norma], and others. Today’s highly-efficient calibers, such as 6mm BR and a host of newer developments might use 28-30 grains of powder to launch a 105-107gr match bullet at speeds approaching the .243 Winchester. The .243 Win needs 40-45 grain charges at the same velocity.

Champion-level Long Range shooters need every ballistic edge feasible. They compete at a level where 1″ more or less drift in a wind change could make the difference between winning and losing. Shooters recognized this early on — the then-new .300 H&H Magnum quickly supplanted the .30-06 at the Wimbledon winner’s circle in the early days.

The .300 Winchester Magnum became popular, but its 190-220gr bullets had their work cut out for them once the 6.5-284 and its streamlined 140-142gr bullets arrived on the scene. The 6.5-284 gives superb accuracy and wind performance with about half the recoil of the big .30 magnums – albeit it is a known barrel-burner.

Currently, the 7mm Remington Short Action Ultra-Magnum (aka 7mm RSAUM), is giving stellar accuracy with cutting-edge, ~180 grain bullets, powder charges in the mid-50 grain range and velocities about 2800+ fps in long barrels. Beyond pure efficiency, the RSAUM’s modern, “short and fat” design helps ensure fine accuracy relative to older, longer cartridge designs of similar performance.

Recent design advances are yielding bullets with here-to-fore unheard-of ballistic efficiency; depending on the cartridge, they can make or break ones decision. Ballistic coefficients (“BC” — a numerical expression of a bullet’s ballistic efficiency) are soaring to new heights, and there are many exciting new avenues to explore.

The ideal choice [involves a careful] balancing act between bullet BCs, case capacity, velocity, barrel life, and recoil. But, as with new-car decisions, choosing can be half the fun!

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Cartridges
For competitive shooters… pristine accuracy and ballistic performance in the wind are critical. Flat trajectory benefits the hunter who may shoot at long, unknown distances (nowadays, range-finders help). However, this is of much less importance to competitors firing at known distances.

Recoil is an issue, particularly when one fires long strings during competition, and/or multiple strings in a day. Its effects are cumulative; cartridges with medium/heavy recoil can lead to shooter fatigue, disturbance of the shooting position and lower scores.

For hunters, who may only fire a few shots a year, recoil that does not induce flinching during sight-in, practice and hunting is a deciding factor. Depending on their game and ranges, etc., they may accept more recoil than the high-volume High Power or Long Range competitor.

Likewise, throat erosion/barrel life is important to competitive shooters, who fire thousands of rounds in practice and matches, vs. the medium/big game hunter. A cartridge that performs well ballistically with great accuracy, has long barrel life and low recoil is the competitive shooter’s ideal. For the hunter, other factors may weigh more heavily.

Cartridge Efficiency and Energy — Another Perspective
Lapua staffer Kevin Thomas explains that efficiency can be evaluated in terms of energy:

“Cartridge efficiency is pretty straight forward — energy in vs. energy out. Most modern single-based propellants run around 178-215 ft/lbs of energy per grain. These figures give the energy potential that you’re loading into the rifle. The resulting kinetic energy transferred to the bullet will give you the efficiency of the round. Most cases operate at around 20-25% efficiency. This is just another way to evaluate the potential of a given cartridge. There’s a big difference between this and simply looking at max velocities produced by various cartridges.”

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 1 Comment »
February 8th, 2017

Excellent Video Covers Handgun Fundamentals

Pistol Fundamentals USAMU

If you shoot a pistol, you should watch this video. It covers the key fundamentals of handgun shooting: stance, arm position, grip, sight alignment, and trigger control. This excellent video features USAMU shooter SGT Shane Coley.

Arm/Elbow Position: You should not lock your elbows says SGT Coley: “Because my elbows are slightly bent, it allows the recoil to transfer into my shoulders, down my core, into my legs and to the ground, allowing me to maintain a flat-shooting gun … on multiple targets.”

Grip (Hand Position): SGT Coley explains how to divide the support between both hands: “In terms of grip pressure, I’m applying about 60% to my support hand, and 40% to my strong hand. This is because I need to maintain dexterity with my strong hand to operate the trigger at high rates of speed.”

Trigger Control: The placement of your finger on the trigger blade itself is very important notes Coley: “Putting too much (or not enough) of your finger on the trigger can cause you to pull or push your shots. When you squeeze the trigger, make sure to squeeze it all the way to the rear, in one smooth motion. A quick dry-fire drill to help you with this is to take an empty piece of brass and place it on the front of your slide. Aim at the target, and with the proper trigger control, you should be able to break the shot without the piece of brass falling.”

Pistol Pointers
On the web, you’ll find hundreds of pistol shooting videos — some good, some not helpful at all. In some of those “not helpful” videos the featured shooter has bad habits, or more often than not, he exhibits poor accuracy on target. You won’t find those kinds of shortcomings in this USAMU-sponsored video. SGT Coley doesn’t make foolish mistakes, nor does he exhibit bad habits when shooting. And his accuracy is outstanding. When you look for a pistol trainer — stick to someone like SGT Coley, who has solid fundamentals, the complete skill set, and superior accuracy. A trainer can’t teach a skill that he doesn’t understand himself.

Permalink - Videos, Handguns 1 Comment »
January 19th, 2017

Primer Pocket and Flash Hole Uniforming Basics

Reloading Case Prep Flash Hole Primer Pocket

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a series of reloading “how-to” articles on its Facebook Page. This post explains how to uniform primer pockets and remove burrs in flash holes. These brass prep operations can help ensure greater consistency, shot after shot. Visit the USAMU Facebook Page each Wednesday for other, helpful “Handloading Hump-Day” tips.

Primer Pocket and Flash-Hole Conditioning

This week, we’ll address a question that frequently arises: “Do you uniform primer pockets and deburr flash-holes?”

As we tailor our handloading methods to the specific needs of each instance, the answer, not surprisingly, is “occasionally!” Generally, the USAMU Handloading Shop does not uniform primer pockets (PP) or deburr flash holes (FH) of our rifle brass. That’s not to say we’re against it — rather, it reflects the very high volume of ammunition loaded, the fact that very few cases are ever re-loaded for a second firing, and the types of brass we use. However, as a need is perceived, we DO deburr flash holes (of which, more later.)

As to the type cases we use, many thousands of our long-range 5.56x45mm cases come to us from the arsenal with the primer of our choice pre-installed and staked in per their usual practice. Obviously, we could not uniform either FHs or PPs on this live-primed brass. However, after careful sorting, inspection and preparation, we do obtain match-winning results with it. Regular readers have seen photos of some of the tiny 1000-yard test groups we’ve fired with weight-selected domestic brass which had neither Primer Pockets uniformed nor flash holes deburred.

Reloading Case Prep Flash Hole Primer Pocket
Figure 1 shows a fired, deprimed 7.62×51 case with primer residue intact. In Figure 2, the primer pocket has been uniformed to SAAMI specs. Note the shiny finish — evidence of the metal removed to uniform and square the primer pocket.

Shooters who reload their brass several times may decide to uniform PPs and deburr FHs, especially on their “300-yard and beyond” brass. Unlike us, they will be using their cases many times, while the operations are only needed once. Also, most handloaders only process a relatively moderate amount of brass compared to our 20-thousand round lots. Having high quality Long Range (LR) brass helps. Many of the better brass manufacturers form their flash holes so that no burrs are created.

Still, it does pay to inspect even THESE manufacturer’s products, as occasional slips are inevitable. Very rarely, some of these makers will have a significant burr in, say, 1 per 1000 or 2000 cases, and it’s worth catching those. Recently, we began processing a large lot of match brass from a premier manufacturer, and were startled to find that every case had a burr in the FH — something we’d never before seen from this maker. We then broke out the FH deburring tool and went to work.

Reloading Case Prep Flash Hole Primer Pocket

For those who do opt for these procedures, note that various tool models may have adjustable depth-stops. Pay attention to the instructions. Some flash hole deburring tools which enter the case mouth, not the primer pocket, depend on uniform case length for best results.

Does It Really Make a Difference?
It can be difficult to truly verify the contribution to accuracy of these procedures, particularly when firing from the shoulder, in conditions. Members of this staff, as individual rifle competitors, do often perform these operations on their privately-owned LR rifle brass.

One could ascribe this to the old High Power Rifle maxim that “if you think it helps, then it helps”. Another thought is to “leave no stone unturned” in the search for accuracy.

However, an extremely talented World Champion and Olympic Gold/Silver medalist commented on his own handloading (for International competition, which demands VERY fine accuracy). He noted that he did seem to see a decline in accuracy whenever he did not uniform FH’s, deburr FH’s and clean primer pockets before each reloading; however, with the wisdom of decades’ experience, he also remarked that “It could have been that I just wasn’t shooting as well that day.”

Permalink - Articles, Reloading 2 Comments »
January 18th, 2017

Got Vertical Flyers? An Ignition Issue Could Be the Culprit

USAMU Handloading vertical dispersion ignition rimfire accuracy firing pin
Top to bottom – Remington firing pin assembly with ISS, Tubb SpeedLock alloy-composite system without ISS (current versions have dual, opposite-wound springs), and Remington short action firing pin assembly without ISS.

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Last week’s “Handloading Hump Day” article covered mechanical issues and related ignition irregularities that can cause vertical fliers even with good ammunition in an otherwise excellent rifle. We highly recommend you read this article, which offers some important tech tips.

USAMU handloading hump day

Vertical Dispersion: Mechanical/Ignition Issues?

Poor or inconsistent ignition has long been known to be one of the “usual suspects” when one encounters vertical fliers that just shouldn’t be there. By having a sense of some of the basic principles involved, and a few basic areas to check, the shooter may avoid colsiderable frustration, not to mention time, expensive loading components and barrel wear.

USAMU Handloading vertical dispersion ignition rimfire accuracy firing pinIs your well-built rifle of high-quality components plagued with vertical fliers across more than 1-3 handload combinations? Consider the bedding, crown and scope/sight mounts. Are they correct? If so, then you might check for ignition issues before boldly undertaking an extensive, expensive, and quite possibly fruitless quest for the “magic handload”.

SEEING IS BELIEVING: While the author had been aware for many years that poor ignition should be considered and ruled out when dealing with vertical fliers in an otherwise-excellent rifle, actually seeing the problem and its almost instantaneous cure really drove the lesson home.

He was working with a “dot” rifle – a .22 LR match rifle that really stacked bullets into little piles at 50 yards and beyond. With one lot of ELEY Tenex, it produced consistent “bughole” groups at 50, but with another, selected lot of Tenex, similar groups were regularly ruined by single, vertical fliers that did not appear in other rifles. Rather than spending days burning up expensive, select ammunition looking for “magic lots”, he contacted a well-respected rimfire gunsmith and explained the situation.

Without so much as batting an eye, the highly-experienced ‘smith tore into the rifle’s action, and quickly found the cause(s) of the problem. He discovered a demonstrably weak firing pin spring, plus a chip out of the face of the firing pin where it contacted the cartridge rim.

After replacing and tuning the offending parts, the rifle immediately began shooting tiny, bughole groups with the previously “unacceptable” lot of Tenex. Centerfire rifles can also benefit from ensuring positive, consistent ignition. A wise riflesmith is literally worth his weight in gold!

So, what are some issues we as shooters can inspect in our rifles to help determine if ignition woes could be part of our problem? At the club level, ask yourself if that “experienced” Remington, Winchester 70, or even Springfield-based match bolt gun you’re using is still running its’ original 40-80 year-old factory striker spring? If so, a new replacement is cheap insurance against current or future problems. (And BTW, it might be best to stick to the normal, factory-spec spring weight. A super-powerful spring can cause vertical, just as a weak one one can.) Along with that, a routine check for proper firing-pin protrusion is a quick preventive measure that can rule out potential issues.

Other areas to consider are the centering and consistency of the firing pin’s operation in the bolt. Admittedly, with the increasing use of precision-machined custom actions, this is becoming less an issue every day. Below is the firing pin assembly from a custom BAT action:

USAMU Handloading vertical dispersion ignition rimfire accuracy firing pin

However, particularly with factory actions, a very quick and easy check is to remove the bolt, let the firing pin go forward, and look at the firing pin tip through the firing pin hole. Is the tip off-center in the hole, and possibly striking it as it moves forward? Is the hole out-of-round or burred from being struck repeatedly? If so, a trip to the riflesmith is likely in order.

Similarly, machining issues in the bolt/firing pin system can lead to rough and erratic firing pin movement, in which the firing pin drags against an internal surface of the bolt. In high-quality rifles these issues are relatively rare, but not unheard-of, and it takes mere minutes to rule them out. It may be worthwhile to remove the cocking piece/firing pin/spring assembly and look for any unusual gouges, dings, peening, burrs or signs of abnormal wear.

This task is especially easy with Winchester 70s, Springfields, and the similar Mauser 98s, involving little more than the push of a button and unscrewing the cocking piece assembly. This is just one of the many reasons these tried-and-true actions have earned such a loyal following in the field, among hunters who must maintain their rifles away from a shop.

USAMU Handloading vertical dispersion ignition rimfire accuracy firing pin

Particularly with older rifles, watch for and remove excess grease (or even Cosmoline!) from both the firing pin assembly and inside the bolt. This can help improve firing pin speed and consistency. Other bolt-action designs may need a take-down tool or other measures.

As part of this inspection, AFTER ENSURING THE RIFLE IS UNLOADED, slowly cock the rifle, dry-fire, and repeat several times. Listen carefully near the action for inconsistency in the sounds it generates. Does the striker falling make the same sound each time? Do you hear or feel grinding upon operation? If so, where?

Be sure to check the operation of the cocking piece (bolt shroud), firing pin within the bolt shroud, the cocking piece cam and the rear of the bolt body where the cocking piece cam operates. As with our examination for abnormal wear marks discussed above, look for marks indicating roughness or a possible need for light polishing. Then, clean and lightly grease the bearing surfaces while you’re at it.

Remington 700 bolt shroud and cocking cam
Rem 700 bolt cocking cam

These are relatively easy checks that shooters can undertake to perform a preliminary inspection on their own. Other mechanical issues can also cause ignition issues, chiefly centered around the action of the trigger, sear and sear spring. If these are suspected, a trip to an experienced, qualified riflesmith for diagnosis is recommended. We hope you find this information helpful! Join us again next week, and in the meantime, enjoy the shooting sports safely!

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January 14th, 2017

AR, Garand, M1A — Six Rules for Gas Gun Reloading

Reloading for Service Rifles
SFC Lance Dement as featured in CMP’s First Shot Online.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a great series of reloading “how-to” articles on its Facebook Page. This post covers key factors to consider when loading ammunition for Match Rifles and Service Rifles, with a particular focus on self-loading “gas guns”. Visit the USAMU Facebook Page each Wednesday for other, helpful “Handloading Hump-Day” tips.

We offer some “cardinal rules” to help new gas-gun handloaders with safety and efficiency. These address both Match Rifle and Service Rifle versions of the AR15, M1 Garand, M1A, and M110. However, they can also improve safe reloading for many other auto-loaders such as M1 Carbines, FALs, SIGs, etc. The author distilled these principles many years ago to help focus on the essential aspects of these rifles.

RULE ONE: Service Rifles Are Not Benchrest Rifles
Gas-guns require a relatively loose fit between ammunition and chamber (vs. bolt actions) for safe, smooth operation. Many techniques, such as neck sizing and keeping cartridge headspace quite tight, are popular in the extreme bolt gun accuracy realm. However, they are of little value with Service Rifles, and some could even be hazardous. Before adopting a specialized technique, seriously consider whether it is appropriate and beneficial in a gas-gun.

RULE TWO: Never Compromise Safety to Obtain Accuracy
Example: If choosing a brand of great, but ultra-sensitive match primers offers possibly better accuracy at the risk of slam-fires in your design of rifle, don’t do it! You are issued exactly two eyes and ten fingers (best-case scenario). Risking them trying to squeeze 0.25 MOA better accuracy out of an M1A, etc. simply isn’t worth it.

Reloading for Service Rifles

RULE THREE: Tailor the Precision to Your Individual Skill and Your Rifle’s Potential
This has been addressed here before, but bears repeating for newcomers. If you are struggling to break out of the Marksman Class, or using a CMP M1 “As-Issued,” then laboriously turning the necks of your 600-yard brass is a waste of time. Your scores will improve much faster by practicing or dry-firing. On the other hand, if the reigning champions anxiously check your scores each time you fire an event, a little neck-turning might not be so far-fetched.

Verifying Load Improvements — Accuracy hand-loading involves a wide variety of techniques, ranging from basic to rather precise. Carefully select those which offer a good return on investment for your time and labor. In doubt? Do a classic pilot study. Prepare ammo for at least three or four ten-shot groups with your new technique, vs. the same with your standard ammo. Then, pick a calm day and test the ammo as carefully as possible at its full distance (e.g. 200, 300, or 600 yards) to verify a significant improvement. A little testing can save much labor!

RULE FOUR: Be Your Own Efficiency Expert
Serious Service Rifle shooters generally think of ammunition in terms of thousands of rounds, not “boxes”, or even “hundreds”. Analyze, and WRITE DOWN each step in your reloading process. Count the number of times each case is handled. Then, see if any operations can be dropped or changed without reducing safety or accuracy. Eliminating just two operations saves 2000 steps per 1000 rounds loaded. Conversely, carefully consider any measurable benefits before adding a step to your routine.

RULE FIVE: In Searching for Greater Accuracy with Efficiency, Look for System Changes
For example, instead of marking your 300-yard rounds individually to differentiate them from your 200-yard ammo, would a simple change in primers work? If accuracy is maintained, using brass-colored primers for 200 and silver for 300 provides an indelible indicator and eliminates a step! Similarly, rather than spending hours selecting GI surplus brass for weight and neck uniformity, consider splurging on some known, high-quality imported match brass for your 600-yard loads. Results should be excellent, time is saved, and given limited shooting at 600 yards, brass life should be long.

RULE SIX: Check All Your Primers Before Packaging Your Loaded Ammo
This seems simple and even intuitive. However, many slam-fires (which were much more common when M1s and M1As were the standard) are due, at least in part, to “high” primers. Primers should be seated below flush with the case head. The USAMU has addressed this at length in a previous column, but each round should be checked for properly-seated primers before they are packaged for use.

Reloading for Service Rifles

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December 29th, 2016

Six Great Guidebooks for Pistol Shooters

Pistol Marksmanship training book

One of our Forum members asked: “Are there any good books on pistol marksmanship? I’m looking for a book that covers techniques and concepts….” Here are our recommendations — six titles that can make you a better pistol shooter. These books run the gamut from basic handgun training to Olympic-level bullseye shooting.

Pistol Marksmanship training book 1911 race gunGood Guidebooks for Pistol Shooters
There are actually many good books which can help both novice and experienced pistol shooters improve their skills and accuracy. For new pistol shooters, we recommend the NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting. This full-color publication is the designated student “textbook” for the NRA Basic Pistol Shooting Course.

Serious competitive pistol shooters should definitely read Pistol Shooters Treasury a compilation of articles from World and National Champions published by Gil Hebard. You could work your way through the ranks with that book alone even though it is very small. It is an excellent resource.

If you’re interested in bullseye shooting, you should get the USAMU’s The Advanced Pistol Marksmanship Manual. This USAMU pistol marksmanship guide has been a trusted resource since the 1960s. Action Shooters should read Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals by Brian Enos, and Ben Stoeger’s new-for-2013 Practical Pistol Book. Brian Enos is a well-known pistol competitor with many titles. Ben Stoeger is a two-time U.S. Practical Pistol shooting champion and a member of the USA Team at the 2011 World Pistol Championships. Last but not least, Julie Golob’s new Shooting book covers pistol marksmanship, along with 3-Gun competition. Julie holds multiple national pistol shooting titles.

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