October 16th, 2019

Save $$ By Using Lake City 5.56x45mm Once-Fired GI Brass

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. A recent “Handloading Hump Day” post covered preparation of once-fired 5.56x45mm brass. This article, the first in a 3-part series, has many useful tips. If you shoot a rifle chambered in .223 Rem or 5.56x45mm, this article is worth reading.

This week, Handloading Hump-Day will answer a special request from several competitive shooters who asked about procedures for morphing once-fired GI 5.56mm brass into accurate match brass for NRA High Power Rifle use. The USAMU has used virgin Lake City (LC) 5.56 brass to win National Championships and set National Records for many years. In this 3-part series, we’ll share techniques proven to wring match-winning accuracy from combat-grade brass.

GI brass has an excellent attribute, worth noting — it is virtually indestructible. Due to its NATO-spec hardness, the primer pockets last much longer than most commercial brass when using loads at appropriate pressures.

Preparing Once-Fired GI 5.56 Brass for Reloading (Part 1 of 3)

Assuming our readers will be getting brass once-fired as received from surplus dealers, the following steps can help process the low-cost raw material into reliably accurate components.

1. Clean the Brass
First, clean the brass of any dirt/mud/debris, if applicable. Depending on the brass’s condition, washing it in a soap solution followed by a thorough rinsing may help. [This step also extends the life of the tumbling media.] Approaches range from low-tech, using gallon jugs 1/2 full of water/dish soap plus brass and shaking vigorously, to more high-tech, expensive and time-consuming methods.

cleaning Lake City 5.56 brass

2. Wet-Tumbling Options (Be Sure to Dry the Brass)
When applying the final cleaning/polish, some use tumblers with liquid cleaning media and stainless steel pins for a brilliant shine inside and out, while others take the traditional vibratory tumbler/ground media approach. Degree of case shine is purely personal preference, but the key issue is simple cleanliness to avoid scratching ones’ dies.

If a liquid cleaner is used, be SURE to dry the cases thoroughly to preclude corrosion inside. One method is to dump the wet brass into an old pillow case, then tilt it left/right so the cases re-orient themselves while shifting from corner to corner. Several repetitions, pausing at each corner until water stops draining, will remove most water. They can then be left to air-dry on a towel, or can be dried in a warm (150° F-200° F max) oven for a few minutes to speed evaporation.

Shown below are Lake City cases after cleaning with Stainless Media (STM). Note: STM Case cleaning was done by a third party, not the USAMU, which does not endorse any particular cleaning method.

3. Inspect Every Case
Once dry, inspect each case for significant deformation (i.e., someone stepped on it), damaged mouths/necks and case head/rim damage. Some rifles’ ejectors actually dig small chunks of brass out of the case head — obviously, not ideal for precision shooting. Similarly, some extractors can bend the case rims so badly that distortion is visible when spinning them in one’s fingers. These can be used for plinking, but our match brass should have straight, undamaged rims.

Dented case mouths are common, and these can easily be rounded using a conical, tapered tool, [such as a .223 expander mandrel. A dummy 7.62 or .30-06 cartridge with a FMJ spitzer can also work.] If most of your brass is of one headstamp, this is a good time to cull out any odd cases.

4. Check the Primers Before Decapping
Your clean, dry and inspected brass is now ready for full-length sizing, decapping and re-priming. Historically, primer crimps on GI brass have caused some head-scratching (and vile language) among handloaders. Our next installment will detail efficient, easy and practical methods to remove primer crimp, plus other useful handloading tips. Until next week, Good Shooting!

NOTE: The USAMU Handloading (HL) Shop does not RE-load fired 5.56 brass. We use virgin LC brass with our chosen primer already staked in place. However, our staff has extensive personal experience reloading GI brass for competition, which will supplement the Shop’s customary steps. In handloading, as in life, there are many ways to accomplish any given task. Our suggestions are note presented as the “only way,” by any means. Time for loading/practicing is always at a premium. Readers who have more efficient, alternative methods that maintain top accuracy are invited to share them here.

Accuracy Potential of Mil-Surp 5.56×45 Brass

So, how accurate can previously-fired GI surplus brass be in a good National Match AR-15? Well, here’s a data point from many years ago that might be of interest. A High Power shooter who wrote for the late Precision Shooting magazine took a Bill Wylde-built AR match rifle to a registered Benchrest match. His first 5-round group ever fired in a BR match was officially measured at 0.231″ at 200 hundred yards. This was fired in front of witnesses, while using a moving target backer that confirmed all five rounds were fired.

He recounted that his ammo was loaded progressively with factory 52gr match bullets and a spherical powder using mixed years of LC brass with no special preparation whatsoever. Obviously, this was “exceptional”. However, he had no difficulty obtaining consistent 0.5-0.6 MOA accuracy at 200 yards using LC brass and a generic “practice” load that was not tuned to his rifle.

Saving Money by Using GI Brass

So, with good commercial brass readily available, why would one go to all the extra steps necessary to process fired GI brass? [Editor: It’s about saving money.]

Economically, it makes great sense. When the author was actively practicing and competing with the service rifle, he had ~3,000 rounds of 5.56mm brass, which allowed him to load during winter and spend most time in the summer practicing. If one were wealthy and wanted to shoot nothing but the finest imported brass, the current cost of 3,000 is ~$1920 (plus shipping.)

Dropping down to good, but less-expensive new, U.S. commercial brass brings the price to a much more realistic ~$720. However, at current rates, the same amount of surplus GI once-fired brass costs between $120 — $150, leaving lots of room in the budget for other expenses. [Editor: that’s less than 10% of the cost of the best imported brass.]

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Reloading No Comments »
October 13th, 2019

Bargain Finder 212: AccurateShooter’s Deals of the Week

Accurateshooter Bargain Finder Deals of Week

At the request of our readers, we provide select “Deals of the Week”. Every Sunday afternoon or Monday morning we offer our Best Bargain selections. Here are some of the best deals on firearms, hardware, reloading components, optics, and shooting accessories. Be aware that sale prices are subject to change, and once clearance inventory is sold, it’s gone for good. You snooze you lose.

1. Palmetto State Armory — $30 Rebate on Savage Hunting Rifles

Savage Hunting Rifle Rebate
Savage Hunting Rifle Rebate

Palmetto State Armory is running a promo on Savage hunting rifles this month. Purchase any AXIS/Trophy/Apex or Engage Hunter and receive a $30 Mail-In-Rebate. If you’re looking for a deer rifle with a nice camo finish — this is a good deal. Rifles start at just $329.99, so with the $30 rebate your net cost is just $299.99. NOTE: This $30 Savage Factory Rebate applies to purchases made from ANY Savage dealer, as long as you purchase from 10/1/2019 through 10/30/2019. For example, Sportsman’s Guide has the Savage Axis in .308 Win for just $289.99. That’s just $259.99 after Rebate.

2. Precision Reloading — $10, $20, $30 Off Codes — Act Soon!

Precision Reloading Discount codes save $20 $30

Right now you can save big with discount codes for Precision Reloading. These codes provide INSTANT SAVINGS for nearly all in-stock items. You save $10 on orders of $100 or more with Code 1PR19. If you spend $200 or more, use Code 2PR19 to save $20. And, likewise, use code 3PR19 to save $30 on orders of $300 or more. But act soon! This deal expires at 11:59 pm on Monday October 14, 2019.

3. Palmetto State Armory — S&W 9mm Shield $199.99 w/ Rebate


smith wesson 9mm shield rebate

Right now at Palmetto State Armory you can grab the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm carry pistol for just $249.99. Add the $50 S&W Manufacturer’s Rebate, and your net cost is just $199.99. Other retailers change $440.00 or more for this trusty little 9mm handgun. Visit the Smith & Wesson Rebate Site to get your $50 Rebate.

4. CCI Primers — 20% Rebate on $100 or more of CCI Primers

CCI Federal Primer Reloading primers rebate

Spend at least $100 on CCI reloading primers before 10/31/2019 to get 20% of the purchase price back. With CCI’s Primed for Action Special, you get a prepaid Giftcard with the purchase CCI rifle, pistol, or shotshell primers. Minimum spend $100.00 required. Maximum rebate of $100.00 per person or household. Rebate amount calculated on purchase price only. NOTE: CCI’s sister company Federal is also offering 20% off all Federal reloading components, including primers, as part of Federal’s Handload and Save promo.

5. Amazon — Teslong Digital Borescope, $50.99

teslong digital borescope

The impressive Teslong digital borescope offers capabilities that rival optical systems costing $700 or more. This compact, electro-optical, cable-type borescope outputs sharp, high-resolution images and VIDEO to desktop computers, laptops, as well as Android tablets and smartphones. Check out our Full Teslong Review complete with inside-the-barrel videos. At $50.99 this is a great value. NOTE: This unit does NOT currently work with iPhones and iPads.

6. Brownells — Athlon 20-60X Spotting Scope, $149.99

brownells athlon 40-50x80mm spotting scope sale

Here’s a killer optics bargain at Brownells. The Athlon Talos 20-60x80mm Spotting Scope is just $149.99 right now. This Athlon spotter comes with 20-60X zoom eyepiece and multi-coated lenses. Of course, this inexpensive spotting scope will not compete for sharpness or clarity with high-end optics. But it is more than adequate for spotting mirage and seeing bullet holes out to 300 yards. This spotter measures 16.5″ overall and weighs 38.5 ounces.

7. Grizzly — Bald Eagle Precision Priming Press, $70.97

grizzly priming press

Primer seating is one of the most critical steps in reloading. There are lots of priming tool options but no device anywhere near the price can match the Bald Eagle Precision Priming Press. This high-quality tool is close-out priced at $70.97 — a very good deal. This beautifully-made priming press is click adjustable to .002″ and incredibly repeatable. If you’re in the market for something that’s easy on the hands and works like units costing hundreds more, grab one of these now.

8. EuroOptic — Vortex Strike Eagle 4-24x50mm, $299.99

vortex strike eagle

Vortex makes a great product and offers one of the best warranties in the business. So when we saw the Vortex Strike Eagle 4-24x50mm scope for only $299.99 we had to feature it. It has a great 6 times zoom range and features Vortex’s popular EBR-4 MOA reticle. If you are looking for a SFP MOA-based scope for varminting or practical matches, this is a very good offering for the price — a real bargain.

9. Midsouth — Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler Lite, $99.99

Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler Lite

Lots of people love wet-tumbling their brass in stainless pins but not everyone want to do it in a giant unit. We found a sweet deal on the Frankford Arsenal Rotary Tumbler Lite. Midsouth has this unit on sale for $99.99. This tumbler is small enough to fit on a counter but still big enough to hold 300 pieces of .223 Rem brass. For folks on a limited budget who want to get started with wet tumbling, this is a solid choice.

10. Home Depot — Low-Profile Muffs + Shooting Glasses, $16.01

Walker low profile ear muffs eye protection glasses sale

Every shooter should have an extra set of shooting muffs and protective earwear. These will provide vital protection for friends/guests you bring to the range. And let’s face it, sooner or later you’ll forget your own muffs, so it’s wise to keep an extra set in your vehicle at all times. Home Depot a great deal on Walker’s NRR 22 Muffs + ANSI Z87.1-rated Shooting Glasses. Get both as a Combo Set for just $16.01. Midsouth also has this combo for $19.99.

Permalink Hot Deals, News, Optics, Reloading No Comments »
October 11th, 2019

Revolver Kaboom Provides Important Safety Lessons

Revolver kaboom wheelgun explosion mistake reloading powder safety

This shocking Revolver Kaboom resulted from “user error”. Our friends at Midsouth Shooters provided this cautionary tale, noting that you must ALWAYS be careful when hand-loading any ammo. Check your loads and don’t have multiple powder containers in your reloading area.

Revolver kaboom wheelgun explosion mistake reloading powder safety

“Ever wonder what happens when you don’t pay attention to detail? A word of advice from the reloader who brought this in — always double-check the load data.

Thankfully, the shooter was unharmed in the explosion. A live round we recovered from the remaining portions of the cylinder contained 12.8 grains of powder. The shooter had multiple powders on his bench and was unable to recall which one had been used while loading.” — Midsouth Shooters

Revolver kaboom wheelgun explosion mistake reloading powder safety

How to Avoid Kabooms

1. Never have more than one powder container open on your reloading bench at the same time — when you are finished with a powder, seal the bottle and put it away.

2. If there is already powder sitting in your dispenser, and you’re not 100% sure what it is — throw it out. We suggest, whenever you fill a powder hopper, put a piece of paper in the powder hopper with the name of the powder and the date.

3. When loading a new cartridge or when using a new powder, get load data from more than one source. Always load conservatively to start!

4. Always double-check your Load Data before starting the loading process.

5. In short handgun cases, bullet seating depth can make a BIG difference in pressure levels. Be sure to check your Cartridge OAL.

Revolver kaboom wheelgun explosion mistake reloading powder safety

Credit Boyd Allen for Finding this content.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Handguns, Reloading 4 Comments »
October 10th, 2019

How to Succeed at Club Matches — Six Tips

During shooting season, there are probably 400 or more club “fun matches” conducted around the country. One of the good things about these club shoots is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on equipment to have fun. But we’ve seen that many club shooters handicap themselves with a few common equipment oversights or lack of attention to detail while reloading. Here are SIX TIPS that can help you avoid these common mistakes, and build more accurate ammo for your club matches.

Benchrest rear bag1. Align Front Rest and Rear Bags. We see many shooters whose rear bag is angled left or right relative to the bore axis. This can happen when you rush your set-up. But even if you set the gun up carefully, the rear bag can twist due to recoil or the way your arm contacts the bag. After every shot, make sure your rear bag is aligned properly (this is especially important for bag squeezers who may actually pull the bag out of alignment as they squeeze).

Forum member ArtB adds: “To align my front rest and rear bag with the target, I use an old golf club shaft. I run it from my front rest stop through a line that crosses over my speed screw and into the slot between the two ears. I stand behind that set-up and make sure I see a straight line pointing at the target. I also tape a spot on the  golf shaft that indicates how far the back end of the rear bag should be placed from the front rest stop. If you don’t have a golf shaft, use a wood dowel.

2. Avoid Contact Interference. We see three common kinds of contact or mechanical interference that can really hurt accuracy. First, if your stock has front and/or rear sling swivels make sure these do NOT contact the front or rear bags at any point of the gun’s travel. When a sling swivel digs into the front bag that can cause a shot to pop high or low. To avoid this, reposition the rifle so the swivels don’t contact the bags or simply remove the swivels before your match. Second, watch out for the rear of the stock grip area. Make sure this is not resting on the bag as you fire and that it can’t come back to contact the bag during recoil. That lip or edge at the bottom of the grip can cause problems when it contacts the rear bag. Third, watch out for the stud or arm on the front rest that limits forward stock travel. With some rests this is high enough that it can actually contact the barrel. We encountered one shooter recently who was complaining about “vertical flyers” during his match. It turns out his barrel was actually hitting the front stop! With most front rests you can either lower the stop or twist the arm to the left or right so it won’t contact the barrel.

3. Weigh Your Charges — Every One. This may sound obvious, but many folks still rely on a powder measure. Yes we know that most short-range BR shooters throw their charges without weighing, but if you’re going to pre-load for a club match there is no reason NOT to weigh your charges. You may be surprised at how inconsistent your powder measure actually is. One of our testers was recently throwing H4198 charges from a Harrell’s measure for his 30BR. Each charge was then weighed twice with a Denver Instrument lab scale. Our tester found that thrown charges varied by up to 0.7 grains! And that’s with a premium measure.

4. Measure Your Loaded Ammo — After Bullet Seating. Even if you’ve checked your brass and bullets prior to assembling your ammo, we recommend that you weigh your loaded rounds and measure them from base of case to bullet ogive using a comparator. If you find a round that is “way off” in weight or more than .005″ off your intended base to ogive length, set it aside and use that round for a fouler. (Note: if the weight is off by more than 6 or 7 grains you may want to disassemble the round and check your powder charge.) With premium, pre-sorted bullets, we’ve found that we can keep 95% of loaded rounds within a range of .002″, measuring from base (of case) to ogive. Now, with some lots of bullets, you just can’t keep things within .002″, but you should still measure each loaded match round to ensure you don’t have some cases that are way too short or way too long.

Scope Ring5. Check Your Fasteners. Before a match you need to double-check your scope rings or iron sight mounts to ensure everything is tight. Likewise, you should check the tension on the screws/bolts that hold the action in place. Even on a low-recoiling rimfire rifle, action screws or scope rings can come loose during normal firing.

6. Make a Checklist and Pack the Night Before. Ever drive 50 miles to a match then discover you have the wrong ammo or that you forgot your bolt? Well, mistakes like that happen to the best of us. You can avoid these oversights (and reduce stress at matches) by making a checklist of all the stuff you need. Organize your firearms, range kit, ammo box, and shooting accessories the night before the match. And, like a good Boy Scout, “be prepared”. Bring a jacket and hat if it might be cold. If you have windflags, bring them (even if you’re not sure the rules allow them). Bring spare batteries, and it’s wise to bring a spare rifle and ammo for it. If you have just one gun, a simple mechanical breakdown (such as a broken firing pin) can ruin your whole weekend.

Permalink Competition, Reloading, Shooting Skills 6 Comments »
October 9th, 2019

How’s Your Headspace? Four Tools to Measure Shoulder Bump

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson

The Tactical Rifle Shooters Facebook Group recently showcased tools used to measure case headspace before and after “bumping” the shoulder. After a case is fired, hand-loaders who full-length size their cases will typically bump the shoulders back anywhere from .001″ to .0035″, depending on the rifle and application. With our 6mmBR and Dasher cases we like about .0015″ bump.

You want the amount of case sizing and bump to be the same for all your brass. To ensure uniformity, it makes sense to measure your cases before and after the FL sizing process. When we have time, we check every case. Other folks will simply check the first 3-4 cases coming out of the FL sizing die to ensure the FL die setting is correct and delivering desired headspace/bump.

1. Whidden Gunworks Shoulder Bump Gauge

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson

There are a variety of tools that can be used to measure shoulder bump. Our favorite is a special cartridge-specific bushing made by Whidden Gunworks. The Whidden Shoulder Bump Gauge enables you to adjust your sizing die to the desired measurement. The bump gauge is attached to your calipers with a set screw and determines the measurement from the base to the shoulder of the case. The photo below, from Tactical Rifle Shooters, shows the Whidden Bump Gauge for the .375 CheyTac cartridge.

2. Dave Manson Vertical Comparator with Dial Read-Out

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson
Background image courtesy Tactical Rifle Shooters; inset photo from Manson Precison Reamers.

Dave Manson states: “This tool was designed to make life easier for the advanced shooter and re-loader by allowing precise measurement of ammunition, case, and chamber headspace. With this information, the re-loader will be able to fine-tune clearances and fits between his ammunition and chamber, with resultant improvements in accuracy and case life.” The functions of the Comparator are:

1. Measure headspace of factory or reloaded ammunition
2. Quantify chamber headspace by measuring headspace of a fired case
3. Ensure minimal shoulder set-back when setting up re-loading dies
4. Compare base-to-ogive length to ensure consistent bullet-to-rifling relationship.

In addition to the Dial Indicator and Stand, the $130.00 Vertical Comparator is supplied with multiple Datum Blocks of precise length and inside diameter (.3300″/.3750″/.4000″/.4375″). MORE INFO HERE.

3. Hornady L-N-L Headspace Comparator System

shoulder bump headspace gauge comparator tool whidden manson

Hornady makes comparator gauges matched to the red comparator holder that mounts on your caliper. These Lock-N-Load Headspace Gauges are inexpensive. You can get a set of five gauges for $31.99. Hornady explains: “The Lock-N-Load® Headspace Comparator… gauge measures variations in brass before and after firing or re-sizing. It allows for headspace comparison between fire-formed brass and re-sized brass.” IMPORTANT: Hornady states: “To determine the proper bushing diameter for your cartridge, simply add the neck diameter and the shoulder diameter and divide that number by two. Use the bushing closest to that number.” Hornady offers five: .330″, .350″, .375″, .400″, and .420″.

One tip — We have found the Hornady gauges may vary a little from unit to unit even with the same nominal size. If you have more than one gauge for the same cartridge, test each on your brass — you may then note a slight difference in your bump measurements.

4. Pistol Brass Case DIY Bump Gauge

Last is a “field expedient” set-up if you do not have any of the comparator tools shown above. A sized .45 ACP case (or other suitable pistol case) can be used to measure shoulder bump. The mouth of the pistol case sits on the shoulder of your rifle cartridge brass.

Make sure the .45 ACP case is trimmed square and that it is round. We recommend you first run it through an expander, then size it, trim it and chamfer. Next, take the .45 ACP case and slip it over the neck of a fired, unsized rifle case with the primer removed. Align the two cases between the jaws of your calipers and note the length from rim to rim (See left photo below).

OK, now you have the length for a fired rifle case BEFORE sizing. Next, take a full-length sized rifle case (without primer) and do the same thing, placing the .45 ACP case over the neck of the FL-sized case (Right Photo). The difference between the two numbers is the amount of “bump” or set-back you are applying to the shoulder. Here the difference is .0015″. The amount of bump you need varies with your chamber and your load, but .0015-.002″ is a good initial setting.

Permalink Gear Review, Reloading, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
October 7th, 2019

AutoTrickler V3 Updates — Report by UltimateReloader

UltimateReloader Gavin Gear Powder dispenser Autotrickler v3 update report

Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com has been testing the AutoTrickler V3, a microprocessor-controlled powder-dispensing system that works with super-precise force restoration scales. Combining an automated powder measure with a motorized trickler, the AutoTrickler can deliver a full powder charge, with single-kernel precision, in a few seconds.

» GO TO AutoTrickler V3 Report on UltimateReloader.com

AutoTrickler inventor Adam MacDonald has developed numerous enhancements to his powder-dispensing system, which will be incorporated into the latest AutoTrickler V3 production version. Gavin Gear reviews all these important new features in a new video released on October 6, 2019. Check it out:

Key Enhancements for AutoTrickler V3 Production Version:

1. Improved, Larger-Capacity Clear Powder Hopper
The new clear plastic powder hopper is much larger than the old Lee red-colored hopper it replaces. That’s good news for folks loading large magnum cartridges.

2. Taller Glass Powder Cup and Improved Diffuser
When the main powder charge comes down from the hopper, it passes through a plastic “diffuser” into a glass cup. Both these products have been enhanced.

3. New Simple V-Shaped Stop for Powder Cup
With the V3, it is easier to center the powder cup on the scale unit. Gavin explains: “Instead of a ramp and ‘landing pad’, the cup stop is now a super-simple angled back stop. If you push the cup back towards the center of the pan, it will guide itself into the centered position every time.”

Here is the original AutoTrickler V3 Video Report from UltimateReloader.com:

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading No Comments »
October 4th, 2019

Click-Adjust FL Die Systems from PMA Tool & Whidden Gunworks

click-adjustable die micro-adjusting lock ring PMA Tool Whidden Gunworks

One of the most important aspects of precision reloading is setting the shoulder bump during the full-length (FL) sizing process. You want the amount of “bump” to be precise and identical for every loaded round. However, when you switch brands of brass you may need to change the die position to get the desired bump and case body sizing. And even with the same brand of brass, you may find that you need to adjust your FL die as the number of brass load cycles increases. Brass that has been fired many times will behave differently than new or near-new brass.

Also, even with the same cartridge type, brass loaded for a semi-auto rifle may need more bump than brass fired in a bolt gun. For example, with .223 Rem ammo, you’ll normally want to push the shoulder back farther if the ammo will be shot in a AR15 as opposed to a bolt-action rig.

So how do you make all these needed adjustments for your full-length dies? You can move a conventional locking ring up and down, but that can be a tedious, trial-and-error process. Some guys use shims in one-thousandth intervals, but that still requires taking your dies in and out of the press. Well there is a better way now…

PMA Tool Micro-Die Adjuster

Wouldn’t it be great if you could precisely adjust your FL die up and down in half-thousandth increments, with a simple indexed click. That is now possible with products offered by PMA Tool and Whidden Gunworks. PMA Tool offers a Micro-Die Adjuster that replaces your existing lock ring and can be used with nearly any 7/8-14 full length sizing die. The engraved marks correspond to approximately .001″ of shoulder bump adjustment. Splitting the engraved marks is therefore approximately equal to .0005″ (half a thousandth). Users love this product, saying it adds precision and saves time.

Whidden Click-Adjustable FL Sizing Die System

Whidden Gunworks offers a complete click-adjustable FL sizer die with a special, indexed ring. With Whidden’s patent-pending Click Adjustable Sizer Die system, the die and lock ring work together to allow rapid, precise bump adjustments. One click changes the bump .001″. It’s simple and fast. Included with the Click Adjustable Sizer Die is a shoulder bump gauge. John Whidden (in video below) explains:

“There has become a need for an easier way to adjust the sizer die properly. Until now there have been few options other than trial and error to get the shoulder setback correct. Anyone who has done this can attest that it’s a slow and imprecise job! Our die and lock ring work together to give the user a clicking feel to the adjustment. Each click moves the shoulder bump .001” so you can easily find the exact shoulder bump that you desire.” — John Whidden

General Tips on Setting Up and Using Sizing Dies

Permalink - Articles, - Videos, Reloading 1 Comment »
October 3rd, 2019

Stick, Flake, and Ball — Do You Know Your Powder Properties?

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener’s Reloading & Shooting Supply recently published a helpful introduction to reloading powders. Widener’s online Guide to Smokeless Powders shows the various types of powders, and explains how the differences in powder kernel/flake size and shape, and burn rate affect performance. We recommend you visit Widener’s website and read the Powder Guide in full.

Take a close look at these illustrations which show the key differences between the four main powder types: extruded (stick) powder, ball (spherical) powder, flattened ball powder, and flake powder.

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Widener's Reloading Smokeless Powder propellant Guide

Burn Rate Basics

Widener’s Guide to Smokeless Powders also has a useful discussion of Burn Rate (a confusing topic for many hand-loaders). Wideners explains: “While a gun powder explosion in the cartridge seems instantaneous, if you slow it down you will actually find that each powder has a different ‘burn rate’, or speed at which it ignites.” This video shows powders with two very different burn rates. Watch closely.

Different burn rates suit different cartridge types notes Widener’s: “In general a fast-burning powder is used for light bullets and low-speed pistols and shotguns. Medium-rate powders are used for magnum pistols, while high-velocity, large bore rifle cartridges will need slow powders[.]

It should be noted that burn rate does not have a standardized unit of measurement. In fact, burn rate is really only discussed in comparison to other powders; there is no universal yardstick. Specifics will change by cartridge and bullet types[.]”

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading 1 Comment »
October 2nd, 2019

Four Vital Ammo Checks — Avoid Big Problems at the Range

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

Here’a useful article by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant. This story, which originally appeared in the Sierra Blog, covers some of the more common ammo problems that afflict hand-loaders. Some of those issues are: excessive OAL, high primers, and improperly sized cases. Here Mr. Pilant explains how to avoid these common problems that lead to “headaches at the range.

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

I had some gentlemen at my house last fall getting rifle zeros for an upcoming elk hunt. One was using one of the .300 short mags and every 3rd or 4th round would not chamber. Examination of the case showed a bulge right at the body/shoulder junction. These were new cases he had loaded for this trip. The seating die had been screwed down until it just touched the shoulder and then backed up just slightly. Some of the cases were apparently slightly longer from the base to the datum line and the shoulder was hitting inside the seating die and putting the bulge on the shoulder. I got to thinking about all the gun malfunctions that I see each week at matches and the biggest percentage stem from improper handloading techniques.

One: Check Your Cases with a Chamber Gage

Since I shoot a lot of 3-gun matches, I see a lot of AR problems which result in the shooter banging the butt stock on the ground or nearest solid object while pulling on the charging handle at the same time. I like my rifles too well to treat them that way (I cringe every time I see someone doing that). When I ask them if they ran the ammo through a chamber gage, I usually get the answer, “No, but I need to get one” or “I didn’t have time to do it” or other excuses. The few minutes it takes to check your ammo can mean the difference between a nightmare and a smooth running firearm.

A Chamber Gauge Quickly Reveals Long or Short Cases
Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

Size Your Cases Properly
Another problem is caused sizing the case itself. If you will lube the inside of the neck, the expander ball will come out a lot easier. If you hear a squeak as the expander ball comes out of a case neck, that expander ball is trying to pull the case neck/shoulder up (sometimes several thousandths). That is enough that if you don’t put a bulge on the shoulder when seating the bullet … it can still jam into the chamber like a big cork. If the rifle is set up correctly, the gun will not go into battery and won’t fire but the round is jammed into the chamber where it won’t extract and they are back to banging it on the ground again (with a loaded round stuck in the chamber). A chamber gage would have caught this also.

Bad_Primer_WallsOversizing cases also causes problems because the firing pin doesn’t have the length to reach the primer solid enough to ignite it 100% of the time. When you have one that is oversized, you usually have a bunch, since you usually do several cases at a time on that die setting. If the die isn’t readjusted, the problem will continue on the next batch of cases also. They will either not fire at all or you will have a lot of misfires. In a bolt action, a lot of time the extractor will hold the case against the face of the breech enough that it will fire. The case gets driven forward and the thinner part of the brass expands, holding to the chamber wall and the thicker part of the case doesn’t expand as much and stretches back to the bolt face. If it doesn’t separate that time, it will the next time. When it does separate, it leaves the front portion of the case in the chamber and pulls the case head off. Then when it tries to chamber the next round, you have a nasty jam. Quite often range brass is the culprit of this because you never know how many times it has been fired/sized and in what firearm.’Back to beating it on the ground again till you figure out that you have to get the forward part of the case out.

Just a quick tip — To extract the partial case, an oversized brush on a cleaning rod [inserted] and then pulled backward will often remove the case. The bristles when pushed forward and then pulled back act like barbs inside the case. If you have a bunch of oversized case that have been fired, I would dispose of them to keep from having future problems. There are a few tricks you can use to salvage them if they haven’t been fired though. Once again, a case gage would have helped.

Two: Double Check Your Primers

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

Another thing I see fairly often is a high primer, backwards primer, or no primer at all. The high primers are bad because you can have either a slam fire or a misfire from the firing pin seating the primer but using up its energy doing so. So, as a precaution to make sure my rifle ammo will work 100% of the time, I check it in a case gage, then put it in an ammo box with the primer up and when the box is full, I run my finger across all the primers to make sure they are all seated to the correct depth and you can visually check to make sure none are in backwards or missing.

Three: Check Your Overall Cartridge Length

Trying to load the ammo as long as possible can cause problems also. Be sure to leave yourself enough clearance between the tip of the bullet and the front of the magazine where the rounds will feed up 100%. Several times over the years, I have heard of hunters getting their rifle ready for a hunt. When they would go to the range to sight in, they loaded each round single shot without putting any ammo in the magazine. On getting to elk or deer camp, they find out the ammo is to long to fit in the magazine. At least they have a single shot, it could be worse. I have had hunters that their buddies loaded the ammo for them and then met them in hunting camp only to find out the ammo wouldn’t chamber from either the bullet seated to long or the case sized improperly, then they just have a club.

Four: Confirm All Cases Contain Powder

No powder in the case doesn’t seem to happen as much in rifle cartridges as in handgun cartridges. This is probably due to more handgun ammo being loaded on progressive presses and usually in larger quantities. There are probably more rifle cartridges that don’t have powder in them than you realize though. Since the pistol case is so much smaller internal capacity, when you try to fire it without powder, it usually dislodges the bullet just enough to stick in the barrel. On a rifle, you have more internal capacity and usually a better grip on the bullet, since it is smaller diameter and longer bearing surface. Like on a .223, often a case without powder won’t dislodge the bullet out of the case and just gets ejected from the rifle, thinking it was a bad primer or some little quirk.

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

For rifle cases loaded on a single stage press, I put them in a reloading block and always dump my powder in a certain order. Then I do a visual inspection and any case that the powder doesn’t look the same level as the rest, I pull it and the one I charged before and the one I charged after it. I inspect the one case to see if there is anything visual inside. Then I recharge all 3 cases. That way if a case had powder hang up and dump in the next case, you have corrected the problem.

On progressive presses, I try to use a powder that fills the case up to about the base of the bullet. That way you can usually see the powder as the shell rotates and if you might have dumped a partial or double charge, you will notice as you start to seat the bullet if not before. On a progressive, if I don’t load a cartridge in one smooth stroke (say a bullet tipped over sideways and I raised the ram slightly to reset it) Some presses actually back the charge back adding more powder if it has already dumped some so you have a full charge plus a partial charge. When I don’t complete the procedure with one stroke, I pull the case that just had powder dumped into it and check the powder charge or just dump the powder back into the measure and run the case thru later.

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October 2nd, 2019

Smart Reloader — Die Shims For Full-Length Sizing Dies

Sinclair Die Shims

When your cases become hard to extract, or you feel a stiff bolt lift when removing a cartridge, it’s probably time to full-length size your cases, and “bump” the shoulder back. With a hunting load, shoulder bumping may only be required every 4-5 loading cycles. Short-range benchrest shooters, running higher pressures, typically full-length size every load cycle, bumping the shoulder .001-.002″. High Power shooters with gas guns generally full-length size every time, and may need to bump the shoulders .003″ or more to ensure reliable feeding and extraction.

Use Shims for Precise Control of Shoulder Bump
Some shooters like to set the “default” position for their full-length die to have an “ample” .003″ or .004″ shoulder bump. When they need less bump, a simple way to reduce the amount of shoulder movement is to use precision shims in .001″ (one-thousandth) increments. You can get a set of seven (7) shims for your standard 7/8-14 FL sizing dies for just $11.99.

Here are reports from Forum members who use the shims:

“Great product. I have my die lock ring(s) adjusted for the shortest headspace length on my multiple chambers 6BRs and 6PPCs. When needing a longer headspace, I just refer to my notes and add the appropriate shim under the lock ring. Keep it simple.” — F.D. Shuster

Mats Johansson writes: “I’ve been using [shims] since Skip Otto (of BR fame) came out with them. I set up my dies with the .006″ shim, giving me the option of bumping the shoulder a bit more when the brass gets old and hardens while still having room to adjust up for zero headspace, should I have missed the original setup by a thou or two. Hunting rounds can easily be bumped an extra .002-.003″ for positive, no-crush feeding. Being a safety-oriented cheapskate, I couldn’t live without them — they let me reload my cases a gazillion times without dangerous web-stretching. Shims are a must-have, as simple as that.” — Mats Johansson

Sinclair Die ShimsBrownells offers a seven-piece set of Sizing Die Shims that let you adjust the height of your die (and thereby the amount of bump and sizing) in precise .001″ increments. Sinclair explains: “Some handloaders will set their die up to achieve maximum sizing and then progressively use Sinclair Die Shims between the lock ring and the press head to move the die away from the shellholder. Doing this allows you to leave the lock ring in the same position. These shims are usually available in increments of .001″ and work very well.”

Seven Shims from .003″ to .010″
Sinclair’s $11.99 Die Shim Kit (item 22400 or 749-001-325WB) includes seven shims in thicknesses of .003, .004, .005, .006, .007, .008, and .010. For ease of use, shim thickness is indicated by the number of notches cut in the outer edge of each shim. Even without looking you can “count” the notches by feel.

NOTE: Brownells also offers a 10-shim set for use with L.E. Wilson seating dies used with arbor presses. Frankly we prefer micrometer-top Wilson dies, but if you have the standard dies, these shims come in handy. Order Brownells Code 749-001-326WB, $12.99.

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October 1st, 2019

Don’t Ruin Primer Pockets — Adjust Your Decapping Rod Properly

One of our Forum members complained that he wasn’t able to set his primers flush to the rim. He tried a variety of primer tools, yet no matter what he used, the primers still didn’t seat deep enough. He measured his primers, and they were the right thickness, but it seemed like his primer pockets just weren’t deep enough. He was mystified as to the cause of the problem.

Well, our friend Boyd Allen diagnosed the problem. It was the decapping rod. If the rod is adjusted too low (screwed in too far), the base of the full-diameter rod shaft (just above the pin) will contact the inside of the case. That shaft is steel whereas your case is brass, a softer, weaker metal. So, when you run the case up into the die, the shaft can actually stretch the base of the primer pocket outward. Most presses have enough leverage to do this. If you bell the base of the primer pocket outwards, you’ve essentially ruined your case, and there is no way a primer can seat correctly.

The fix is simple. Just make sure to adjust the decapping rod so that the base of the rod shaft does NOT bottom out on the inside of the case. The pin only needs to extend through the flash hole far enough to knock the primer out. The photo shows a Lyman Universal decapping die. But the same thing can happen with any die that has a decapping rod, such as bushing neck-sizing dies, and full-length sizing dies.

Universal decapping die

Whenever you use a die with a decapping pin for the first time, OR when you move the die to a different press, make sure to check the decapping rod length. And it’s a good idea, with full-length sizing dies, to always re-check the height setting when changing presses.

Lee Universal Decapping Die on SALE for $10.96
Speaking of decapping tools, Midsouth Shooters Supply sells the Lee Universal Decapping Die for just $10.96 (item 006-90292), a very good deal. There are many situations when you may want to remove primers from fired brass as a separate operation (prior to case sizing). For example, if your rifle brass is dirty, you may want to de-cap before sizing. Or, if you load on a progressive press, things will run much more smoothly if you decap you brass first, in a separate operation.

Lee universal decapping die

NOTE: Some Euro Small Flash Holes are 1.5mm or 0.059″.

The low-cost Lee Universal Decapping Die will work with cartridges from 17 Fireball all the way up to big Magnums. However, NOTE that the decapping pin supplied with this Lee die is TOO LARGE for LAPUA 220 Russian, 6mmBR, 6.5×47, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win (Palma) and Norma 6 PPC flash holes. Because the pin diameter is too large for these brass types, you must either turn down the pin, or decap with a different tool for cases with .059″ flash-holes. Otherwise, the Lee Decapping Die works well and it’s a bargain.

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September 29th, 2019

Road Warrior — Reloading Station Inside “Toy-Hauler” RV

Smart Car Toy Hauler
Smart Car Toy Hauler

It’s summer time. That means many of our readers are on the road (attending major shooting matches or enjoying summer vacations). How do you do your reloading chores while living like a gypsy for a few weeks? Here’s a solution from Forum member Dave Gray (U.S. Army Retired).

Dave is a self-declared “full-time RVer” who spends most of his time on the road. Behind his Ram 3500 pickup, Dave tows a huge 41-foot Heartland Cyclone toy hauler featuring a 12X8 foot garage in the rear. In the rear garage area, which holds a Smart Car, Dave has set up a removable reloading bench complete with RCBS Rockchucker single stage press and Dillon progressive press.

Smart Car Toy Hauler

Smart Car Toy HaulerReloading Bench Mounts to RV Wall with Brackets
Dave explains: “I used a 2″X6″X5′ board for the bench. It’s perfect for my needs, and is easy to disassemble. I made it this small so that I can park my Smart Car in the garage during travel to my destinations. The bench, attached to the wall frames, is very solid. The presses’ centers are 3″ and 6.5″ from the brackets. [There are] four bolts on the wall into aluminum wall frame and 3 bolts in the bench. If I ever have to replace the current board, I’ll do so with oak or birch or hickory. When I’m not reloading, I remove the presses and store them in a protected space. I can easily attach other equipment to the bench by using C-Clamps.” Dave’s “rolling reloading room” looks very well thought-out. We commend Dave for his inventiveness.

Smart Car Toy Hauler

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September 25th, 2019

How to Make a Modified Case for Measuring Length-to-Lands

Hornady Stony Point Tool OAL O.A.L. gauge bullet seating length ogive checker

Our friend Gavin Gear has just released an excellent video showing how to make a threaded Modified Case for use with the Hornady Lock-N-Load Overall Length Gauge. You can watch Gavin make a Modified Case start to finish in the video below:

Video Shows How to Drill and Tap Modified Case

Gavin has some clever tricks. First he uses a sizing die to hold the cartridge case during the threading process. Second he uses two drill bits in sequence — a smaller bit to ream out the primer pocket, and then a larger “M” bit to increase the hole diameter before threading the brass. Finally he leaves the threading tap IN the brass, locks the tailstock, and then “gently pulls on the quill” to remove the brass from the die held in his lathe (See 5:46 timemark).

Get the Right 5/16″-36 RH Tap
Unfortunately, Hornady has selected an uncommon thread type for OAL Gauges. You probably won’t be able to buy the correct 5/16″ – 36 RH HSS Tap at your local hardware store. However you CAN order this special tap from Amazon for $9.99.

Modified Case Gavin Gear Ultimate Reloader

Why do I need a Modified Case?
Every serious reloader should have a Modified Case for each cartridge type they shoot. The reason is that this allows you to get very precise measurements of the length-to-lands in your chamber. When used with the Hornady OAL Gauge, with some practice, you should be able to get repeatable length-to-lands measurements within about 0.015″. We generally do 4-5 measurements with the OAL Gauge and usually 3 or 4 will be “on the money”. NOTE: We recommend a gentle, easy pressure on the plastic pusher rod. Don’t push too hard or you will jam the bullet hard into the lands, which produces inconsistent results.

Can’t I Just Buy a Modified Case?
Hornady makes a variety of Modified Cases sold on Amazon and through retailers such as Midsouth. While Hornady makes modified cases for many standard cartridges, if you shoot a wildcat such as the 6mm Dasher or .284 Shehane, you’ll need to create a custom modified case. And even if you shoot a standard cartridge such as the .308 Win, you can get more consistent measurements with a custom Modified Case.

If you do decide to make your own modified case, you’ll want to start with a case that’s been fired in your rifle. That way you get the best fit to YOUR chamber. Also, you won’t need to expand the neck to provide bullet clearance. Then you need to drill out the primer pocket and tap the base of the case to match the threads on the Hornady OAL Gauge tool. Make at least two modified cases, as you’ll probably misplace one at some point.

Erik Cortina Makes a Modified Case

If you want to learn more about making Modified Cases, top F-Class shooter Erik Cortina has also created a helpful video showing the process he uses to make modified cases. In Erik’s video, he shows how he taps a case to work with the Hornady Lock-N-Load Overall Length Gauge (formerly the Stoney Point Tool). Erik also explains how to get the best results when using the Modified Case to measure length to lands.

MORE INFORMATION: Want to learn more? We published a much longer story in which Erik explains in greater detail how to made the Modified Case. That article illustrates the 5/16″ – 36 RH HSS Tap required and shows how to set up the lathe to drill and tap your case. If you are serious about making your own Modified Cases, you should Read the Full Article.

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September 23rd, 2019

Cartridges of the World (16th Edition) Covers 1500+ Types

Cartridges of World Barnes 15th Edition

Cartridges of the World (16th Edition), belongs in every serious gun guy’s library. This massive 688-page reference contains illustrations and load data for over 1500 cartridge types. If you shoot a wide variety of cartridges, or are a cartridge collector, this book is a “must-have” resource. The latest edition (release date 7/23/2019) includes 50 new cartridge types and 1500+ photos. This print version can be ordered for about $30.00 at Amazon.com (plus shipping and tax), while a Kindle eBook version costs $14.99.

Updated 16th Edition Released Late July 2019
The 16th Edition of Cartridges of the World includes cartridge specs, plus tech articles on Cartridge identification, SAAMI guidelines, wildcatting, and new cartridge design trends. Cartridges of the World, the most complete cartridge reference guide in print, now includes a lengthy full-color section with feature articles such as 7mm Rem Magnum, .44 Special History, and “P.O. Ackley’s Best Improved Cartridges”.

Cartridges of World Barnes 15th Edition

Cartridges of World Barnes 15th Edition

Cartridges of World Barnes 15th Edition

Cartridges of World Barnes 15th Edition

Cartridges of the World 16th Ed. CHAPTERS:
Chapter 1: Current American Sporting Cartridges
Chapter 2: Obsolete American Rifle Cartridges
Chapter 3: Wildcat Cartridges
Chapter 4: Proprietary Cartridges
Chapter 5: Handgun Cartridges of the World
Chapter 6: Military Rifle Cartridges of the World
Chapter 7: British Sporting Rifle Cartridges
Chapter 8: European Sporting Rifle Cartridges
Chapter 9: American Rimfire Cartridges
Chapter 10: Shotgun Shells
Chapter 11: U.S. Military Ammunition
Chapter 12: Cartridge ID by Measurement

Cartridges of the World by author Frank C. Barnes was first published in 1965. The 16th Edition is edited by W. Todd Woodard, Editor of Gun Tests magazine and author of several firearms reference books. Frank Barnes (1918-1992) began collecting information on handgun cartridges at the early age of 12, thanks to his father, a police officer. Frank Barnes was an innovative cartridge designer, who invented the original 308 x 1.5″ Barnes, predecessor of the 30BR case.

Before Frank began a law enforcement career, he was a college professor. Frank was also a pilot, and a race-car driver. Learn more about Cartridges of the World (15th Ed.) at www.gundigest.com.

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September 22nd, 2019

Power User Tips for Ultrasonic Cleaning Machines

Ultrasonic Cleaning RCBS Ultrasound .308 Winchester 7.62x51 brass casings

Tumblers and walnut/corncob media are old school. These days many shooters prefer processing brass rapidly with an ultrasonic cleaning machine. When used with the proper solution, a good ultrasonic cleaning machine can quickly remove remove dust, carbon, oil, and powder residue from your cartridge brass. The ultrasonic process will clean the inside of the cases, and even the primer pockets. Tumbling works well too, but for really dirty brass, ultrasonic cleaning may be a wise choice.

READ FULL UltimateReloader.com Article on Ultrasonic Case Cleaning.

Our friend Gavin Gear recently put an RCBS Ultrasonic cleaning machine through its paces using RCBS Ultrasonic Case Cleaning Solution (RCBS #87058). To provide a real challenge, Gavin used some very dull and greasy milsurp brass: “I bought a huge lot of military once-fired 7.52x51mm brass (fired in a machine gun) that I’ve been slowly prepping for my DPMS LR-308B AR-10 style rifle. Some of this brass was fully prepped (sized/de-primed, trimmed, case mouths chamfered, primer pockets reamed) but it was gunked up with lube and looking dingy.”

UltimateReloader.com Case Cleaning Video (7.5 minutes):

Gavin describes the cleaning exercise step-by-step on UltimateReloader.com. Read Gavin’s Cartridge Cleaning Article to learn how he mixed the solution, activated the heater, and cycled the machine for 30 minutes. As you can see in the video above, the results were impressive. If you have never cleaned brass with ultrasound before, you should definitely watch Gavin’s 7.5-minute video — it provides many useful tips and shows the cleaning operation in progress from start to finish.


The latest Gen2 RCBS ultrasonic cleaning machine has a large 6.3-quart capacity. That’s nearly 100 percent larger than the first generation machine in Gavin’s video. The Gen2 machine features a second ceramic heater and transducer to better clean brass cases and firearm parts. The LED is easily programmable, and the timer can be set for up to 30 minutes of cleaning. The $380.00 Gen2 RCBS ultrasonic machine qualifies for a $40 RCBS Rebate now through the end of September 2019.

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September 20th, 2019

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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September 15th, 2019

Sunday GunDay: Back-to-Back Championship Winning .284 Win

Charles Ballard F-Open National Champion 2008 2009 .284 Win Winchester

With the U.S. F-Class National Championship running this week in Raton, NM, we thought we’d highlight a very important .284 Win rifle. This is the .284 Winchester rig that Charles Ballard used to win back-to-back F-Open titles in 2008 and 2009. Ballard’s huge success with the .284 Winchester cartridge helped make the .284 Win (and .284 Win Improveds) the dominant cartridge in F-Open competition worldwide. Enjoy this trip back in time to when the .284 Win was the “new kid on the block”.

Ballard Wins Back-to-Back F-Open Championships
In a very short span, Ballard and this rifle racked up an impressive string of performances. Ballard won the NRA Long-Range Regional, setting a new National Record in the process — 200-23X at 1000 yards. He also won the North Carolina F-Class Championship with the gun, and then captured the 2008 F-Open National Championship, followed by a second F-Open title in 2009. At the 2008 Nationals in Lodi, Wisconsin, Charles shot a 1337-65X with Berger 180gr bullets. At the 2009 F-Class Nationals, held at Camp Butner, NC, Ballard shot a 1328-62X to win his second straight National title.

Ballard’s “Purple Haze” rifle features superb components, including a BAT MB action, Nightforce 12-42 BR Scope, and a wickedly accurate 32″ Broughton barrel.

Charles Ballard F-Open National Champion 2008 2009 .284 Win Winchester
Charles Ballard always used eye and ear protection. For these photos, he removed safety glasses.

Building a Championship-Winning F-Classer

by Charles Ballard
.284 Win F-Class

This rifle project began several years ago. My purpose was to find a cartridge that would launch the high-BC, 180gr 7mm bullets at competitive velocities for F-Class competition. I also sought barrel life that would be far superior to that of a 7mm WSM or 6.5-284. I read the article on 6mmBR.com about Jerry Tierney’s .284 Winchester and the cogs began to turn. After speaking with Mr. Tierney at the 2006 US F-Class Nationals, I decided the .284 Win would be the chambering for the new gun, despite several shooters telling me I would not be able to obtain the desired velocities. Jerry said “go for it” and, as it turned out, the rifle delivered the velocity I wanted, plus extraordinary accuracy to boot. This gun has more than exceeded my expectations, winning matches and setting a new 1000-yard, single-target F-Class National Record (200-13X).

Rifle Specifications–All the Hardware
My action of choice was a beefy 1.55″-diameter, round BAT MB, Left Bolt, Right Port. I chose this action based on BAT Machine’s impeccable reputation. I also liked the fact that the MB (medium long front) action offered an extended front end. This would provide better support for a very long barrel and give more bedding surface. The action is topped with a stainless BAT tapered (+20 MOA) Picatinny scope rail. Housed in a polished, stainless BAT trigger guard is a Jewel trigger set at 5 ounces.

.284 Win F-Class

The barrel is a 32″ Broughton 5C. The chamber was cut with a reamer made for Lapua 6.5-284 brass necked up to 7mm. It’s throated for the 180gr Bergers. I selected a Broughton 5C because, as my gunsmith says, “They just shoot”. This is a 1:9″ twist, 1.250″ straight contour for 32″. Yes, that’s a long, heavy barrel, but I think the length gives me a velocity advantage. On other guns, a 32″ tube could cause the rifle to be front-heavy and out-of-balance. The stock by Precision Rifle & Tool has a 3″-longer fore-end which solves the problem. The purple .284 balances very well and tracks great.

.284 Win F-Class

Speaking of the stock, there was only one choice, a “Purple Haze” laminated F-class model from Precision Rifle & Tool. This stock features a fully-adjustable buttplate plus a removable cheek-piece with thumb-wheel adjustment. Most importantly, the stock features an extra-long, super-stiff, low profile fore-end. This design rides the bags better than any stock I have ever shot. The action area of this stock has been beefed up to house the large BAT MB action. The final component on this rifle is a 12-42×56 Nightforce BR with DD-1 reticle set in Leupold Quick Release rings.

.284 Win F-Class

.284 Win F-ClassThe Ultimate F-Open Rig
To start this project, I contacted Ray Bowman of Precision Rifle & Tool, PrecisionRifleSales.com. The first order of business was to get the action ordered, knowing how long it would take to get a BAT left bolt, right port action, plus scope rail, and trigger guard. We knew we wanted a Broughton 5C, but what twist rate? Based on the success I had shooting 210s in my 300 WSM with a “slower” 1:11″ twist we opted to go with a 1:9″ twist 7mm to shoot the 180gr Bergers. A dummy round was sent to Pacific Tool and Gauge to have a reamer ground to our specs.

Not shooting free recoil, I needed a stock that would fit me like a prone stock but track like a benchrest stock. Precision Rifle & Tool’s F-Class stock fit this bill to perfection. Ray keeps Jewell triggers in stock so the only piece left to acquire was the scope. On the old F-Class targets I would have been content with a Leupold 8-25 LRT, but on the new target a scope with 1/8-MOA adjustments and high magnification is a must. I considered the Leupold competition scopes but ultimately decided on the Nightforce BR. The variable power and unobstructed DD-1 reticle of the NF were deciding factors.

.284 Win F-ClassNOTE: Charles Ballard always employs eye and ear protection when shooting. For these posed photos, he removed his safety glasses.

Ballard’s Tips for F-Class Competition

In this section, Charles Ballard explains the basics of shooting an F-Class match, from the initial prep period to end of match. He covers sighter strategies and techniques for record fire, and he also explains, in detail, how he dopes the wind and judges hold-offs based on mirage.

.284 Win F-ClassThree-Minute Prep Period
I spend the first part of my 3-minute prep period making sure my front rest and rear bag are in-line. This insures the gun returns to the same spot after recoil. After I am happy with my set-up, I take a position similar to that of a conventional prone shooter. My face rests on the stock and my shoulder is placed firmly into the buttplate. With the Right Bolt, Left Port action, I can shoot the entire match with minimal movement. The last segment of prep time is spent trying to dope the wind.

Sighter Strategies
In a match with only two sighters, I’ll make a wind call and try to hit the center with my first shot. In matches with unlimited sighters, I generally hold dead center with a no-wind zero and use the point of impact as feedback. If I feel there is a constant condition, I will click for the wind. This allows me to use the center as my primary hold. After I get the feedback I need from my sighters it’s time to go for record.

Record Fire
After record fire begins I shoot very fast, holding off for the wind. I’ll make my wind call while the target is in the pits; if my previous shot went where I thought it would I will take my next shot as soon as the target stops. I predominantly shoot and adjust my aim based on mirage. If I have switching conditions, I will remove all wind from the scope, slow down, use the flags and mirage, still holding off. I do this because I have never had success waiting on a condition to come back.

Cleaning Procedures
I do not clean until the match is over. This means I typically shoot 120 to 150 rounds on average between barrel cleanings. I quit cleaning every relay after reading Mr. Tierney’s article, but I would still clean on Saturday night after I got home. After getting in late one Saturday night, I forgot to clean my rifle. I remembered this as I was preparing to shoot the first relay Sunday morning. At the time I was shooting a 300 WSM. Well, guess what… that relay I shot a 200-19x, and the next relay I shot a 200-17x (these scores were on the old, larger F-Class target). I found that the 300 WSM’s vertical really tightened up after about 50 rounds. The same has proven true of my .284 Winchester–vertical improves once 50 rounds are through the bore.

When I do clean, it’s simple. I use Bore Tech Eliminator on three patches, then follow with a wet nylon brush. These steps are repeated until the bore is spotless. I then push one wet patch of Eliminator through the bore and leave it.

Load Development and Accuracy Testing

My philosophy on load development differs from many shooters. I don’t primarily shoot for groups. The only goal I have is to obtain the lowest ES and SD I possibly can. Holding elevation in F-Class is crucial. Uniform velocity gives me more consistent vertical point of impact.

As we commenced load development, Jerry Tierney’s .284 Win load data posted on this 6mmBR.com gave us a good starting point. We loaded 53.0 grains of Hodgdon H4831sc and shot one round, cleaned, shot three rounds, cleaned, then shot 10 rounds and cleaned. From this point we worked up in half-grain increments until pressure signs developed at 2950 fps. Then we backed the powder charge down until the bolt lift was smooth and the primers were nice and round. [Editor’s Note: Jerry Tierney is no longer with us. We mourn his passing.]

Success: 2910 FPS with Ten-Shot ES of 7 and SD of 3
At this point I began working with different primers, neck tension and seating depth. After trying Federal 210m primers, CCI BR-2 primers, light tension, heavy tension, jamming, jumping, we settled on 56.0+ grains of H4831sc with CCI BR-2 primers. We ran about .002 neck tension with the 180s seated just touching the lands. This load gave us 2910 fps velocity with an Extreme Spread (ES) of 7 fps and a Standard Deviation (SD) of 3 fps over ten (10) shots.

NOTE: If you’re skeptical of those single-digit chron readings, click on the Video Playback screen below to view Ballard test-firing a load that delivers an ES of 5 and SD of 2 for five shots. At the end he holds the Oehler Chrono up to the camera so you can view the readout yourself. Seeing is believing!

Houston–We Have a Problem
I thought we had a load dialed-in, so I was fairly confident going to the North Carolina Long-Range State Championships. Let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. I encountered vertical, vertical, and more vertical. Turns out this was my fault. I had committed a big reloading “No-No”. I had used the ball expander in the die to neck the cases up from 6.5 to 7mm. Big Mistake! The cases we had previously used for load development were first necked-up with Ray’s expander mandrel and then run through the Redding bushing dies. Lesson learned: use an expander when necking-up the brass! This step was performed on the cases for the next match and it corrected the problem, as I lost no points to elevation.

.284 Win F-ClassSurprise–Velocities Rise, So Load Must Be Tweaked
After the NC State Champs, the gun went into hibernation for the winter. In February of 2008, NSSC held its annual winter Palma match. On Saturday my .284 was absolutely hammering, but Sunday I started noticing a hard bolt lift. Eventually, at the end of my last string, the gun blew a few primers. Luckily, however, it was still shooting very well. On the following Monday, we went back to the test bench and chrono. To my surprise 57.0 grains of H4831 was now shooting 2975 fps! That’s way too hot. At this point the barrel had 439 rounds through it. I started calling anyone I could thing of to see if they had any idea what could be causing this problem. Nobody I spoke with had ever experienced this problem until I spoke with a very knowledgeable F-Class shooter named Andy Amber.

.284 Win F-ClassAndy informed me that this had happened to him with several rifles. For whatever reason, between 100 to 300 rounds, as the barrel gets broken-in, the velocity climbs significantly.. Andy told me if I loaded back to the previous velocity, in his experience, it would stay there. Andy was spot on. My load came back together with 54.5 grains of H4831sc. The Oehler consistently gave me readings of 2892 fps to 2902 fps with an SD of 4 fps using once-fired brass. New brass gave slightly slower velocity but better numbers: ES of 7 to 9 fps, and SD of 2 to 3 fps. All this data was duplicated on several occasions. This rifle now has 554 rounds through it, but only .003″ throat erosion. The bullet was moved out .003″ to maintain position relative to the lands.

Getting Single-Digit ES: Ballard’s Loading Methods

I’m very exacting in my loading procedures. I think that’s why I’ve been able to build loads that consistently deliver single-digit Extreme Spreads with ultra-low SDs. Here’s my loading method.

Case Prep: I start with Lapua 6.5×284 brass necked up to .284 with an expander mandrel. Next I sort the cases into one-grain lots, for example 194.0 to 194.9 grains, then 195.0 to 195.9 grains, and so on. After the brass is sorted, I chamfer the case mouths with an RCBS VLD tool. Any residual lube from case expansion is then cleaned out of the case mouth with alcohol on a bronze brush. Finally all the cases are run through a Redding Type ‘S’ FL sizing die with .312″ neck bushing.

Loading Procedure: My CCI BR-2 primers are seated with a RCBS hand priming tool. Powder charges are dispensed and weighed with an RCBS ChargeMaster Electronic Dispenser, which is regularly calibrated with check-weights to assure accuracy. Then the 180gr bullets are seated using a Redding Competition Seating Die.

Processing Fired Cases: My fired cases are tumbled in walnut shell media, then cleaned off. Cases are full-length resized, but I bump the shoulders only .0005″ (one-half thousandth). After sizing, the case mouths are cleaned with a spinning bronze brush.

IMPORTANT TIP: After 3 firings I will uniform the primer pockets and anneal the case necks. I found this very important in holding good elevation (minimal vertical dispersion).

RCBS Redding Reloading

CALIBER CHOICE: The Case for the .284 Win

Comparison: 6.5-284, .284 Win, and 300 WSM
For shooters who are not sold on the .284 Winchester, I give you a real-world ballistics shoot-off. We comparison-tested a 6.5-284 rifle launching 142 SMKs at 2975 fps, a 300 WSM rifle firing 210 Bergers at 2850 fps, and my .284 Winchester shooting 180 Bergers at 2900 fps. We had three shooters and each rifle was fired simultaneously with no-wind zeros on three separate targets set at 1000 yards. The shooters then exchanged rifles and we repeated the test a couple times. The 6.5 and 300 stayed consistently within an inch of each other. But my .284, with its high-BC Berger 180s, shot inside both the 6.5 and 300 by at least 3″ every time. BC rules in the wind. I was sold!

.284 Win F-Class

Cost Comparison: .284 Win vs. 6.5-284
The cost of reloading the .284 Win is roughly $.07 more per round than that of the 6.5-284. The .284 uses a grain or two more powder than the 6.5-284, and 7mm bullets cost about $6.00 more per 100-count box. However, to truly compare the cost of shooting the two calibers you must figure in barrel life. My 6.5-284 barrel went south at 900 rounds. My .284 barrel now has 1,036 rounds, and by all indications it will shoot well to 3,000+ rounds. For cost comparisons sake, let’s use 1,200 rounds for the 6.5-284 and 3,000 rounds for the .284 Win. The average cost of a barrel, chambered and fitted, is $500.00. Using these figures, the barrel cost of a .284 Win is $.17 per round vs. $.42 per round for the 6.5-284. That’s a $.25 per round difference, equivalent to a 60% savings for the .284.

OK, if we now net the barrel cost savings (-$.25) for the .284 with the higher cost of 7mm reloading components (+$.07), I figure the .284 Win costs $.18 per round LESS to shoot than the 6.5-284. Over the span of 3,000 rounds, that’s a $540.00 savings.

Editor’s NOTE: These numbers are 10 years old. But the key fact is the extended barrel life of the .284 Win overcomes the increased bullet cost.

Gun Handling and Recoil
If there is a down-side to the .284 it would be recoil. Now don’t get me wrong, at 22 pounds with a decelerator recoil pad, the .284 is comfortable to shoot. The recoil difference between the 6.5-284 and the .284 is about the same as the difference between a 6x250AI and a 6.5-284. In the versatility section I will elaborate more on this subject.

Ease of Load Tuning
Despite the issues I explained in the load development section with low initial velocities on new barrels, I would say the .284 is fairly easy to tune. The barrel with which I shot my record was removed after that match so I don’t put too many rounds on it before the Nationals. The new barrel on this rifle was tested using the same load. As with the first barrel, the second barrel yielded 2775 fps with a “starter load” of 53.0 grains of H4831sc. With only 11 rounds through the new tube, I shot a 600-yard match on June 22, 2008. I loaded 44 rounds using 55.0 grains of H4831sc. This load ran at 2825 fps. After my first string this load started hammering. I shot a 200-7X with no elevation change on my last string.

Multi-Discipline Versatility
The .284 is my hands-down choice for shooting F-Class. I recently shot my first 600-yard benchrest match. I shot the .284 Win in heavy gun. In this match I found the first weakness in my beloved .284. On a bench you do notice the recoil. The 6mmBR pilots could run off five shots before I could shoot two. My groups were respectable: a four-group, 3.055″ Agg. But, the added recoil of the .284, even with front and rear rests aligned, took me off target. All this being said, if a man wanted just one caliber for F-Class, long-range benchrest, and hunting, I would still suggest the .284 Win.

WARNING: The loads stated in this article may be TOO HOT for many .284 Win rifles. Always START LOW and work up gradually in small increments, looking for pressure signs. With 7mm Sierra 175s, Hodgdon’s starting load is 52.0 grains of H4831sc.
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September 12th, 2019

Dollars and $ense — Bargain 9mm Ammo Vs. Handloading

Sig Sauer P210 Legend

Everyone should have a 9mm Luger (9x19mm) pistol. The 9mm Luger round feeds/cycles great, recoil is moderate, and a vast array of excellent 9mm handguns are available. And, perhaps most importantly, quality factory ammo is affordable. In fact because 9x19mm ammo is produced in such quantity, it is some of the cheapest centerfire pistol ammo you can buy. Today we’ve found some great 9mm Luger ammo deals for you, with big-name factory stuff for under 18 cents per round.

At that price, it may not be worth reloading. Consider this — typical 9mm component costs easily approach fifteen cents per round even with free brass: Bullet ($0.08 – $0.10), Powder ($0.02), and Primer ($0.04). Given the costs of bullets, powder, and primers, it may not be worth reloading 9mm Luger, especially if you value your precious time!

Hudson H9 9mm pistol

Should You Reload 9mm Ammo? Run the Numbers, Then Decide…
While this Editor reloads almost all his .45 ACP and .44 Magnum ammo, I generally shoot factory ammo in my 9mm Luger pistols. Why? When you give some reasonable value to the time you spend setting-up and operating your reloading press, it is hard to beat factory ammo at around $10 per 50-count box (i.e. $0.20/round). While once-fired 9mm brass is plentiful (and cheap), you can easily spend 15-16 cents per round just on bullet, powder, and primer. So reloading may only save you 4 or 5 cents per round. Hence if you load 200 rounds per hour (including set-up time), you only recoup $8 to $10 per hour (at best) for all your effort. You may decide, as I did, that my time was worth more than that.

Great Deals on 9mm Luger (9x19mm) Factory Ammunition

Sellier & Bellot 115gr FMJ at Brownells
$189.99 for 1000-rd Case
$15 OFF + Free S/H with CODE NCS
Net Cost: $174.99 for 1000 rounds

9mm 9x19mm factory ammo deal sale bargain

Browning 9mm 115gr FMJ at Grafs.com
$109.99 for 500 rds ($10.99 per 50-rd box)
Flat Rate Shipping $7.95

9mm 9x19mm factory ammo deal sale bargain

Fiocchi 9mm 115gr FMJ at Natchez
$8.49 per 50-rd box ($0.17/rd)
Shipping Extra

9mm 9x19mm factory ammo deal sale bargain

CCI Blazer Brass 9mm 115gr at MidwayUSA
$10.99 for 50 rds ($0.22/rd)
$209.99 for 1000 rds ($0.21/rd)
Shipping Extra

9mm 9x19mm factory ammo deal sale bargain

HK H&K Heckler Koch P7 PSP P7M8 9mm Luger pistol

HK H&K Heckler Koch P7 PSP P7M8 9mm Luger pistol

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
September 12th, 2019

Father and Son — Memories of Reloading Together

Herters Press Sierra Bullets Reloading Prisendorf Father son

Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf has written a nice essay about how reloading can become a life-time hobby, a rewarding pastime that can bring together a father and son…

Memories of My Father — Reloading As a Life-Time Hobby

by Gary Prisendorf
For as long as I can remember I have been around reloading. I have tons of childhood memories of my father reloading and shooting. I remember how he would let me help him load his ammunition, by letting me clean primer pockets or wipe the sizing lube off of his cases. I really thought I was doing something. Well, I guess I was, I was spending quality time with my father doing something that would become a great hobby and eventually land me a great job working for Sierra Bullets.

If you are a reloader, teach someone. You may just give them a hobby for the rest of their life and who knows, you could help them find an enjoyable career, doing something that they love. — Gary Prisendorf

Herters Press Sierra Bullets Reloading Prisendorf Father son

I remember watching my father sizing cases on his Herters press, dropping his powder charges with a Belding & Mull powder measure and weighing powder charges with his Texan scales. Heck, I can even remember when he would buy powder at a local pawn shop, and they would weigh it out and put it in a paper sack. He would save his empty powder cans, wrap them with masking tape and write what the powder was on them with a black magic marker.

When I was in Junior High, I got my first shotgun, a 20 gauge Mossberg 500 and within a couple of weeks my father came home with a 20 gauge Lee Load-All and a pound of Blue Dot. He gave me a crash course on how to use it, and got me up and running with a couple of safe loads. I put a lot of shells through that old 20 gauge.

From that day forward I was hooked. If I got a new gun, I was loading ammunition for it. I don’t buy factory ammunition unless I just want to shoot it up so I can get some once fired brass. I reload everything that I shoot, except for rimfire stuff, and if I could figure out how to do that safely, I would probably load that too.

Through the years I have learned to appreciate things — such as once-fired military .30-06 cases that can be converted to obscure cartridge types. And I know the value of a five-gallon bucket of lead wheel weights that will be melted down and cast into bullets.

I remember finding 19 once-fired Norma 7.7×58 Arisaka cases laying on the ground at a public shooting range, and it was like Christmas came early. I must have looked for that 20th case for about thirty minutes, but I never did find it.

I can’t thank my father enough for getting me started in reloading, he gave me a great hobby, many wonderful memories and taught me the skills that gave me a career doing something that I love.

Herters Press Sierra Bullets Reloading Prisendorf Father son

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September 7th, 2019

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!

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