January 29th, 2008

Tunnel Tests Show Superiority of Turned Necks

Turning necks is widely, if not universally, done by short-range benchresters shooting 6 PPC and 22 PPC cartridges. On the other hand, many long-range shooters, using bigger cases with longer bullets, have had great success with sorted, but non-neck-turned Lapua brass. For example, Richard Schatz has set multiple world records, and won many major matches shooting his no-turn Dashers.

Turned necks still completely dominate the short-range benchrest game. But, do we have any hard evidence of how much of an advantage turned necks offer? And, is it fair to say that turning necks is less advantageous with longer, heavier bullets typically used for 600- and 1000-yard benchrest?

Lou Murdica is a very skilled benchrest shooter in California. This editor has personally seen Lou finish first in a short-range BR match competing against some of the best shooters on the West Coast. Lou does a lot of serious comparison testing of components, and he has access to an indoor tunnel. The tunnel allows Lou to eliminate (or at least minimize) wind effects when testing ammo. Over the past few months Lou has been testing turned vs. unturned necks, and he recently posted some interesting conclusions.

Lou writes: “I don’t want to say that what some people have done is wrong for them, but I have been testing for nine months, shooting three to four times a week. I have found that there IS a difference between turned brass and unturned brass. Turned brass has shot better every single time in my tests. However, I have also come to the conclusion that if you shoot with very, very light neck tension it is hard to tell the difference between turned brass or unturned brass. If you shoot with any neck tension, though, turning does make a difference and you can get flyers with unturned brass.

The benefits of neck-turning showed up more in the 22 calibers than the 6mm. Moreover, I shot thick necks in the 6mm better than the 22. I found that the 22 wanted more release that the 6mm. I could get the 6mm to shoot tight necks easier than the 22.

For what it’s worth, I think that everyone should at least clean up their brass with a turner. All these years people have tried to find short cuts in shooting benchrest and every time we always come back to the same steps and care in making brass as before. I think it’s a given that if you want to compete at the top you cannot take short cuts. You may get by once or twice, but in the long run it will hurt you.

Since 1991 when I was on the winning team at the 1st World Shoot in France, I started to experiment and shoot every weird thing I could find or build. I tried more crap, bought and built more guns and while doing this I tried to shoot every shoot I could across the country. I took Tony Boyer’s class three years back, and the first thing he told me was pick a couple of guns out of all of them and shoot 6 PPC and nothing else for the next couple years. He told me to spend my money on barrels for those guns. Well, I did as he suggested and boy, it made a difference in my shooting.

What I’m trying to say to all the guys that have been shooting benchrest for a while and are starting to travel to the bigger matches is, stick with proven goods that have dominated for years, like the 6 PPC, with turned necks. You can try the weird stuff in practice.”

Neck-Turning, Neck Tension, and Longer Bullets
–Does a Different Rule Apply?

Keep in mind that Lou is primarily talking about short-range PPC loads with short, flat-base bullets. Those who are shooting beyond 400 yards typically use longer boat-tail, high-BC bullets. These have a smaller, less pronounced pressure ring, a much longer bearing surface, and weigh two to three times as much as a 6mm PPC match bullet. The longer bullets are also propelled by slower powders, operating in a somewhat lower pressure range than is common for a competitive 6 PPC load. Notably, top 600-yard shooters like Terry Brady and Richard Schatz have found that these long bullets prefer relatively light neck tension, meaning the neck is sized to just .001-.002 under a loaded round.

This takes us back to one of Lou Murdica’s observations. Lou said: “I have also come to the conclusion that if you shoot with very, very light neck tension it is hard to tell the difference between turned brass or unturned brass.” Though Lou was mostly working with the lighter bullets, perhaps his observations explain why unturned brass has worked surprisingly well with the heavier bullets with long bearing surfaces. Since those long bullets typically work best with relatively light tension, maybe the benefits of turning necks are not so great, and that’s why someone like Richard Schatz can win with no-turn Dasher brass. Richard was the 2007 IBS 600-yard Shooter of the Year.

This is not to say that turned necks can’t benefit the 600-yard shooter. Murdica also shoots 600 yards, and he believes neck-turning helps long-range accuracy. Don Nielson absolutely dominated the NBRSA 600-yard Nationals using brass that was carefully neck-turned with his Pumpkin neck turning tool. Don strongly believes that his turned necks helped with accuracy and shot-to-shot consistency. So the jury is still out on the merits of neck-turning with longer bullets in bigger cases, but we applaud Lou Murdica for doing some serious research and putting in the “tunnel time” to confirm the benefits of turned necks for the short-range PPC shooters.

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