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February 28th, 2010

Berger Bullets Factory Tour — Kelly Bachand Reports

Berger BulletsWhile in Southern California recently I couldn’t pass up the invitation to spend some time with my friend Michelle Gallagher, the Marketing Coordinator for Berger Bullets. After my obligatory visit to Disneyland, Michelle offered me a tour of the Berger Bullets factory. That is something even a Sierra guy knows not to pass up!

The machines now run 24 hours a day to keep up with market demands. To increase production, Berger recently started a third shift, allowing the machines to run at maximum capacity. We walked into the factory to the sound of a machine pressing out bullet jackets: “ca-chung, ca-chung, ca-chung.” It is so loud that hearing protection is worn by the operator. Copper is fed into the jacket-making machine from a large coil. Then a series of sequentially deeper, narrower punches create one complete bullet jacket for every revolution of the machine’s huge crankshaft. The operator monitors the whole cycle, selecting jackets at random to test for dimensional accuracy.

After the jackets are formed, lead is placed into the jackets. As with the copper jacket material, the lead is fed into a large machine from a coil. Lead cores are then cut to length and given an approximate shape, a process called swaging. This particular core-forming machine has been in use since before WWII! Michelle said “these machines still work great so there is no reason to switch to anything else”.

Berger Bullets

Next the copper jackets and lead cores are combined and shaped using a successive series of precision dies. The bullets are swaged (squished really) from the bottom up once the lead is inserted into the jacket via a tube feeder. This ensures there are no air bubbles between the lead core and copper jacket. I watched as one such machine was set up and calibrated. It was started then tested and adjusted a number of times before it was left to run automatically. Even then, handfuls of bullets are frequently tested for weight, concentricity, and dimensional accuracy. I was told that if any lot is found to be bad — for whatever reason — the entire lot is just thrown away! Sorry, but this means no boxes of seconds or “blems” at bargain prices from the Berger factory.

Some details of Berger’s operation surprised me. A number of tasks that I assumed would be automated are still done by hand, ensuring both accuracy and consistency. Bullets are weighed, packaged, and checked by hand. I overheard one employee say that they had a few thousand bullets to weight-sort before they could be packaged because they feared something may have been slightly off during production. That was a time-consuming task, but they did weight-sort bullet by bullet to make sure nothing had gone wrong.

Berger BulletsNew Product Packaging
Berger is now offering “quantity packaging” for the most popular bullets in a number of different calibers. I was also surprised to see boxes in colors other than yellow on Berger’s shelves. Michelle explained to me that the yellow boxes are retained for match or target bullets. The thinner-jacketed hunting bullets now go in orange boxes while moly-coated bullets are packed in black boxes.

One last point worth noting is that if, like me, you (foolishly) wear a Sierra shirt to a tour of Berger Bullets, you will promptly be given a Berger shirt and hat to wear during the visit.

Michelle, thanks so much for the tour! — Kelly Bachand

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo 1 Comment »
February 28th, 2010

Special Lapua 30-06 and .423 Dakota Cases at

A few years ago, as a custom OEM order, Lapua produced a variety of cartridge cases for Dakota Arms. You may have seen the Dakota 20 Practical brass made by Lapua. Dakota ran out of money, so some of this brass was retained by Lapua. For quite some time, Lapua has been warehousing quantities of .423 Dakota cases and .30-06 Springfield cases, but now the left-over inventories are for sale at All of Lapua’s remaining 30-06 and .423 Dakota brass (produced originally for Dakota Arms) are being offered for sale at Once they’re gone, they are GONE!

Lapua 30-06 Brass

Lapua 30-06 100 Years Brass
The .30-06 cases are regular Lapua cases with a unique, 30-06 100 Years head stamp commemorating the 100 years of this cartridge. This special run 30-06 brass is Graf’s item DU4HH7067, prices at $16.57 per 20 cases.

Lapua 30-06 Brass

.423 Dakota Brass
While there are few .423 Dakota rifle in circulation, there has been good interest from wildcatters and other. Grafs comments: “This is perfect brass for adventurous wildcatters looking for a large case to play with. They’re a rimless design, having a .585″ head and are 2.475″ in length. After that, they can be anything you want with a little Imperial and some elbow grease.” The .423 Dakota brass, Graf’s item DU4HH4230, costs $19.99 for 20 cases.

Permalink News No Comments »
February 27th, 2010

Vihtavuori Releases NEW N570 Powder for Magnums

Vihtavuori (VV) has started producing N570, a new high-energy, double-base powder suited for magnum cartridges. The burn rate of N570 is similar to Vihtavuori N170 and Hodgdon H870, making it somewhat faster than 24N21 or Retumbo. The new N570 has the slowest burn rate of the five powders in N500-series of high-energy propellants. N570 is an extruded tubular powder with a large kernel size (similar to VV 20N41 and 20N29) and a high bulk density.

Vihtavuori N570

The characteristics of this slow burning, high-energy powder are well-suited for large volume cases like the 6.5-284 Norma, 300 Winchester Magnum, 300 Remington Ultra Mag, 338 Lapua Magnum or the 30-378 Weatherby Magnum.

Reloading Data for the new N570 Powder is available in the latest edition of the Vihtavuori Reloading Guide. (PDF).

CLICK HERE for Vihtavuori Reloading Guide (8th Ed.).

The new N570 was developed at the request of magnum cartridge reloaders. Vihtavuori told us: “Powder users have repeatedly asked for a powder suited to the needs of the largest magnum rifle cartridges. We have developed our new N570 High Energy powder to meet this special need in the market. N570 was developed to bring out the very best performance and velocity in large volume magnum rifle cartridges.”

VV Recommends Weighing N570 Charges
Because N570 has very large kernels, Vihtavuori advises that reloaders should always WEIGH N570 charges rather than rely on throws from powder measures: “We recommend that charges of this high-energy N570 powder be weighed, as measures do not always deliver consistent charges. This is especially true when the powder being used is of such a large kernel configuration. This may lead to a potential for either under- or over-charged cases, if the charges are thrown straight from the measure and not weighed.”

Vihtavuori Powders are imported in the USA by Hodgdon Powder Company and Kaltron Outdoors, and are marketed worldwide by Nammo Lapua,

Permalink New Product, News, Reloading 6 Comments »
February 27th, 2010

Free NRA Membership for Active-Duty Military Personnel

Military veterans make up a significant part of the NRA’s membership and Board of Directors. They shoot in the NRA’s competitive matches and often become NRA-Certified Instructors to teach gun safety and basic marksmanship.

In appreciation of the sacrifices made by members of the military, the NRA now offers a FREE one-year membership to all active-duty servicemen and women. The complimentary military membership provides all regular member benefits, including a subscription to one of three print magazines: American Hunter, American Rifleman, and America’s 1st Freedom. This offer applies to personnel currently serving with the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard.

CLICK HERE for FREE NRA Membership for Armed Services Personnel.

Other Programs for Active Military and Veterans
The NRA conducts many more programs of interest to the military, from tactical competitions to tuition-free armorer schools. The NRA has also supported many Wounded Warriors Hunts. A free Veteran’s Day shoot has been held for several years at the NRA Range in Fairfax, Virginia.

Permalink News 13 Comments »
February 26th, 2010

Armalite Brings Back AR10(T) Carbine — Good for Hog Hunters

The basic AR15, with upgrades to barrel, trigger, optics and “furniture” has evolved into an extremely effective varminter, chambered in .223 Rem, or a .20-caliber such as the 20 Practical. Hunters have also adapted the AR10 platform, with its ability to fire a .308 Winchester-sized cartridge, for use on deer and Elk. Now ArmaLite has “re-introduced” a handy, compact AR10 carbine that should be ideal for hog hunters.

The folks at ArmaLite received many requests for a lighter, more compact version of the AR10. Armalite responded: “We did a small limited run and we’re pushing its use as a varmint hunter… especially good against wild boars. One of our ArmaLite gunsmiths got the idea from some buddies in Texas who are using their Ts against the wild hogs. This AR-10(T) Carbine combines the light weight and compact size of the carbine with the accuracy of the Target Model.” This AR10(T) carbine features a 16″, 1:11.25″ twist barrel, fitted to a forged, flat-top receiver with built-in Picatinny rail. With a compact 37.5″ length, the gun weighs 8.6 pounds (3.9 kg). Included with the rifle are one 10-round mag, and one 20-round mag. MSRP is $1892.00.

Armalite AR10 T Carbine

Permalink Hunting/Varminting, New Product 1 Comment »
February 26th, 2010

IBS Issues Final AR Benchrest Competition Rules

Jeff Stover, President of the IBS (International Benchrest Shooters) just sent us the final rules and safety guidelines for AR benchrest competition under the IBS. Jeff noted: “Shooters should understand that the ranges and clubs will determine whether to allow AR rifles in their particular IBS benchrest matches.” This program is not mandatory, and each club will decide, based on its own priorities, whether ARs will be allowed to compete. When they ARE “invited”, AR-platform rifles will run in their own separate class.

Click the links below to download two .PDF files:

DOWNLOAD: IBS AR Benchrest Final Rules

DOWNLOAD: IBS AR Benchrest Safety Checklist

Permalink Competition, News 2 Comments »
February 26th, 2010

MidwayUSA offers $10 off to Readers

MidwayUSA has just launched a special, exclusive promotion for readers. It’s a very attractive offer: $10.00 off any order of $50.00 or more. There are a few limitations — for example you can’t use the promo for back-ordered items, but basically this deal can save you 20% right off the top of a fifty-dollar order. To get the $10.00 off promo code, click the link below. Be sure to tell your friends. This limited time offer ends midnight March 15, 2010.

Midway Promotion

Permalink Hot Deals, News 1 Comment »
February 25th, 2010

Custom Dies — The Hornady Option (Call Lonnie)

How would you like a full-length sizing die perfectly fitted to your fired brass? At one time that required you to purchase a die blank, a special undersized reamer (a chamber reamer is too big), and send the work out to a skilled gunsmith. You could expect to have $250-$350 tied up in your custom die when all was said and done.

Now Hornady’s custom shop offers a much less expensive alternative. For $121-$140, plus shipping, Hornady will produce a custom-made die based on your reamer print, spec sheet or fired brass. Lonnie Hummel and his team of skilled machinists have produced custom dies for many top shooters. Scott Parker had Hornady produce a custom full-length die for Scott’s 6BRX. Scott reports: “The die is great. I’m very impressed. The die is a perfect fit for my brass and the sized brass has very low run-out.”

Hornady’s non-bushing custom full-length sizing dies cost $121.00 for cases up to 2.60″ COAL, or $140.00 for cases 2.60″-2.99″ long. Add $20-$25.00 if you want a custom, non-micrometer seater die also. Hornaday also offers custom “match grade” bushing dies — both FL-sizing dies and bushing neck-sizers. These “match grade” (bushing-equipped) sizing dies (FL, or neck-only) cost $152.00 up to 2.60″, or $166.00 for longer dies.

To order any type of Hornady custom die (bushing or non-bushing) we recommend you send 3 or 4 fired cases along with a reamer print to Lonnie Hummel at Hornady Mfg., Box 1848, Grand Island, NE, 68802. Give Lonnie a call first at (800) 338-3220, ext. 208, to discuss design details and get an estimated delivery date.

Hornady Custom Dies

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading No Comments »
February 25th, 2010

Casio Military-Style Wave-Ceptor Watch Just $15

Here’s a great deal if you need a precise, rugged, but very inexpensive watch. For TODAY ONLY (the next 10 hours actually), a Casio Wave-Ceptor watch with tan nylon band, is for sale at for just $14.99 plus one penny shipping. That’s right — delivered price is just $15.00. Every day, this watch updates its time setting automatically, in response to the WWVB calibration signal from the Atomic Clock Center in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

DOWNLOAD User Manual for this Wave-Ceptor Watch (PDF)

NOTE: This is a one-day special price. Sale ends 6:00 pm PST on February 25th. This watch has a daily alarm and auto calendar (pre-programmed until the year 2099). Other features include water resistance to 30 meters (99 feet) and afterGlow LED electro luminescent backlight. That LED backlight is very useful. Case diameter is 38mm and the model number is WVQ140 if you want to compare pricing. Normally these watches sell for about $39.00.

Permalink Hot Deals, New Product 5 Comments »
February 24th, 2010

Young Champion Relies on Tack-Driving 6mmAR Upper

After we reported that Tyler Rico of Arizona won the Nevada Regional High Power Championship (at the ripe old age of 15), some of our readers asked about Tyler’s match rifle. Tyler, who earned his Distinguished badge at age 13 (the youngest ever to do do), primarily shoots AR-platform rifles. The AR with which Tyler won the 2010 Nevada Regional featured a custom 6mmAR upper built by Robert Whitley’s AR-X Enterprises. The 6mmAR chambering, basically a 6.5 Grendel necked down to 6mm, was popularized by Robert, who is himself an avid High Power shooter.

Tyler Rico’s 6mmAR upper has an interesting history. Whitley explained: “Originally we built it up for some testing by the Marine Shooting Team and we took it down to Quantico. They liked it a lot but did not have authority or funding to buy them. When Tyler’s father called me looking for an upper for Tyler, I offered a special deal on it because we wanted to help support a junior shooter.” Built on a heavy-walled DPMS Low Pro receiver, Tyler’s upper features a 26″ Krieger 1:8″ twist barrel, and a side-positioned charging handle.

According to Whitley, “My test rifle with Tyler’s upper shot great. Above is a photo of one of the initial 10-shot, 100-yard test targets I shot with the upper at 100 yards. This gun really hammered. Remember The ‘X’ ring is the size of a dime”.

Five Shots at 300m that Could Fit under a Quarter
Robert Whitley took the photo below at the Marine’s Quantico, VA, Precision Weapons Section facility. The photo shows a target shot with Tyler’s upper at 300 meters. That’s a five-shot group the size of a quarter. Robert reports: “The Marines wouldn’t let me take the target home, because they planned to use the target to support their lobbying effort for funds to purchase new 6mmAR uppers.”

Permalink Competition, Gunsmithing 3 Comments »
February 24th, 2010

MidwayUSA Contributions to NRA-ILA Pass $5 Million

The NRA announced that MidwayUSA has collected more than $5 million through the company’s “Round-Up” program, bringing MidwayUSA’s total giving to the NRA to over $8 million.

Created by MidwayUSA founders Larry and Brenda Potterfield in 1992, the “Round-Up” program asks customers to “round up” their order amount to the next highest dollar. The proceeds are then sent to the NRA-ILA’s National Endowment for the Protection of the Second Amendment. “Round-up” donations are held in trust, as an “endowment”. The NRA-ILA utilizes the interest from the account for fighting anti-gun legislation across the United States. “We’re proud the Round-Up Program has been so successful,” said Mr. Potterfield. “It’s an easy way to offer customers the opportunity to make a big difference in the future of hunting and shooting.”

Larry and Brenda Potterfield have been active patrons of the NRA for years, supporting programs such as “Round-Up,” the Bianchi Cup, Friends of NRA, the Keystone Endowment, and The NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits to name a few. “We can’t thank the Potterfields and MidwayUSA customers enough,” said Wayne LaPierre, NRA Exec. Vice President. “In the history of the NRA, no other company has given so generously to support the Second Amendment. Larry and Brenda’s idea for the Round-up program was pure genius[.]”

Permalink News 1 Comment »
February 23rd, 2010

Biathlon Enhanced — Hollywood Action-Movie Style

We are pleased to see shooting featured in the Winter Olympics — as part of the biathlon competition. But for those accustomed to Hollywood action movies, biathlon events may seem a little slow… even boring. In the spoof video below, one TV producer shows how Biathlon events could be “spiced up”, Hollywood-style, to generate higher audience ratings:

Credit goes to Steve of The Firearm Blog for finding this YouTube gem. And folks, we know that shooting sports should always be taken very seriously… but we couldn’t resist passing this video along… everyone needs a chuckle now and then. Remember it is satire, designed to mock Hollywood’s fascination with violence. (Definition of satire: “trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly.”)

Permalink - Videos 3 Comments »