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June 29th, 2007

New Lightweight Front Rest for F-Class

At the request of Larry Bartholome, current member and former captain of the U.S. F-Class team, Butch Lambert of Shadetree Engineering & Accuracy (S.E.A.), has designed and fabricated a lightweight yet stable front rest prototype. Larry wanted a unit that was less burdensome to haul between firing lines than the typical cast-iron or “heavy metal” front pedestal. If all goes well, the new aluminum Lambert design will replace the rest shown in the photo below. (That’s Larry with his spectacular “Captain America” Shehane red, white, and blue MBR Tracker stock.)

Larry Batholome F-Class Shehane Tracker MBR

Other than the steel center hub, the rest is built from aircraft-grade 6061 T-6 aluminum, which can be TIG-welded and hard-anodized. To keep weight down, the three horizontal legs are hollow tubes with flutes or slots milled top and bottom. Butch sent us these photos of the new rest, noting: “It weighs 2.25 lbs without the top. I set one of our unfinished rest tops on it. I moved the back leg to the front to get it out of the way. Larry is ‘wrong handed’, so I made it left-handed. I hope to get it TIG-welded together next week and plated. It is definitely easy to lug around, but I do consider it too light for benchrest shooting. For F-Class, under a 22-lb rifle, Larry believes it should work well.”

Lambert ShadeTree Engineering F-Class rest

Lambert ShadeTree Engineering F-Class rest

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June 29th, 2007

Detecting Excessive Pressure in Cases

With the relentless pursuit of more velocity and the “next higher node” by many reloaders, it is important to pause and think about safety. And one has to remember that most brass will not hold up to high pressure the way Lapua or RWS does. Many readers have asked us–“How does one detect excess pressures.” Well first, one can obviously monitor the primer pockets and measure the diameter of the case near the web–excessive stretch or pocket loosening is a sure sign you’re running too hot. There are also many visual signs of over-pressure which you can see. Reader ScottyS provided this comparison photo of cases, showing the tell-tale signs of over-pressure.

rifle cartridge brass pressure signs

Scotty tells us: “These samples were from a lot of Federal soft-point hunting ammunition that were fired in a custom .308 with a chamber on the tight side (although still allowing a .308 Winchester ‘GO’ gauge). Among the pressure symptoms were heavy recoil, sticky bolt lift, and the left case had to be manually removed from the boltface. This demonstrates why: 1) you should never assume that all lots of factory ammo are the same (and safe); and 2) you should ALWAYS wear eye protection. This also shows how high pressure can spike once you approach maximum load levels.” Scotty noted that there was a big pressure difference between the left case and the right case, although both were from the same lot of ammo. So take heed–always take precautions when testing new ammo, even if it is factory-loaded.

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June 29th, 2007

Gun Marketing: Is the Latest Always the Greatest?

At, we like to see innovative new designs, particularly when they allow shooter to perform critical functions with greater precision and efficiency. Does that mean, however, that we need to replace our rifles every couple of years, as we might upgrade a kitchen appliance or cell phone? Noted writer Col. Jeff Cooper cautions that we should not always buy into the latest fad or marketing hype when it comes to rifles:

“Of all sorts of possessions, the personal firearm is the most nearly unique. This is because of its permanence….This makes the marketing of firearms a frustrating enterprise.

[T]he marketer must aim at making a prospective purchaser unhappy with what he already has. You wear out clothes and automobiles, you drink up wines, you shoot up ammunition, but your gun is still there, just as desirable and efficient as it ever was, assuming that you chose it wisely in the first place.”

Cooper’s words are worth considering. Readers of this website do like to learn about new products, and new rifles. But at the same time, we should not forget the value of classic designs that have stood the test of time. So if you have a great older rifle–shoot it, don’t sell it.

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