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May 20th, 2022

How Muzzle Velocity Changes with Different Barrel Twist Rates

applied Ballistics Barrel Twist rate velocity testing test bryan Litz
Many barrel-makers mark the twist rate and bore dimensions on their barrel blanks.

Does muzzle velocity change with faster or slower barrel twist rates? Absolutely, but much less than you might think. Faster twist rates do slow down bullets somewhat, but the speed loss is NOT that significant. With Bartlein .308 Win barrels of identical length and contour, a 1:12″-twist barrel was only 8 fps faster than a 1:8″-twist barrel. That was the result of testing by Applied Ballistics.

The Applied Ballistics team tested six (6) same-length/same-contour Bartlein barrels to observe how twist rate might affect muzzle velocity. This unique, multi-barrel test is featured in the book Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, Vol. 1. That book includes other fascinating field tests, including a comprehensive chronograph comparison.

applied Ballistics Barrel Twist rate velocity testing test bryan Litz

applied Ballistics Barrel Twist rate velocity testing test bryan Litz
Barrel Twist Rate vs. Velocity — What Tests Reveal
by Bryan Litz
When considering barrel twist rates, it’s a common belief that faster twist rates will reduce muzzle velocity. The thinking is that the faster twist rate will resist forward motion of the bullet and slow it down. There are anecdotal accounts of this, such as when someone replaces a barrel of one brand/twist with a different brand and twist and observes a different muzzle velocity. But how do you know the twist rate is what affected muzzle velocity and not the barrel finish, or bore/groove dimensions? Did you use the same chronograph to measure velocity from both barrels? Do you really trust your chronograph?

Summary of Test Results
After all the smoke cleared, we found that muzzle velocity correlates to twist rate at the average rate of approximately 1.33 FPS per inch of twist. In other words, your velocity is reduced by about 5 FPS if you go from a 1:12″ twist to a 1:8″ twist. — Bryan Litz

Savage Test Rifle with Six Bartlein Barrels
Barrel Twist Rate Velocity Modern Advancements Book Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics

Most shooters don’t have access to the equipment required to fully explore questions like this. These are exactly the kinds of things we examine in the book Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting, Vol. 1. In that book, we present experiments conducted in the Applied Ballistics lab. Some of those experiments took on a “Myth Buster” tone as we sought to confirm (or deny) popular pre-conceptions. For example, here’s how we approached the question of barrel twist and muzzle velocity.

Six .308 Win Barrels from Bartlein — All Shot from the Same Rifle
We acquired six (6) barrels from the same manufacturer (Bartlein), all the same length and contour, and all chambered with the same reamer (SAAMI spec .308 Winchester). All these barrels were fitted to the same Savage Precision Target action, and fired from the same stock, and bench set-up. Common ammo was fired from all six barrels having different twist rates and rifling configurations. In this way, we’re truly able to compare what effect the actual twist rate has on muzzle velocity with a reasonable degree of confidence.

Prior to live fire testing, we explored the theoretical basis of the project, doing the physics. In this case, an energy balance is presented which predicts how much velocity you should expect to lose for a bullet that’s got a little more rotational energy from the faster twist. In the case of the .30 caliber 175 grain bullets, the math predicts a loss of 1.25 fps per inch-unit of barrel twist (e.g. a 1:8″ twist is predicted to be 1.25 fps slower than a 1:9″ twist).

Barrel Twist Rate Velocity Modern Advancements Book Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics

Above, data shows relationship between Twist Rate and Muzzle Velocity (MV) for various barrel twist rates and rifling types. From fast to slow, the three 1:10″ twist barrels are: 5R (canted land), 5 Groove, 5 Groove left-hand twist.

We proceeded with testing all 6 barrels, with twist rates from 1:8″ to 1:12″. After all the smoke cleared, we found that muzzle velocity correlates to twist rate at the average rate of approximately 1.33 fps per inch of twist. In other words, your velocity is reduced by about 5 fps if you go from a 1:12″ twist to a 1:8″ twist. [Editor: That’s an average for all the lengths tested. The actual variance between 1:12″ and 1:8″ here was 8 FPS.] In this case the math prediction was pretty close, and we have to remember that there’s always uncertainty in the live fire results. Uncertainty is always considered in terms of what conclusions the results can actually support with confidence.

Barrel Twist Rate Velocity Modern Advancements Book Bryan Litz Applied BallisticsThis is just a brief synopsis of a single test case. The coverage of twist rates in Modern Advancements in Long-Range Shooting Vol. 1 is more detailed, with multiple live fire tests. Results are extrapolated for other calibers and bullet weights. Needless to say, the question of “how twist rate affects muzzle velocity” is fully answered.

Other chapters in the book’s twist rate section include:
· Stability and Drag — Supersonic
· Stability and Drag — Transonic
· Spin Rate Decay
· Effect of Twist rate on Precision

Other sections of the book include: Modern Rifles, Scopes, and Bullets as well as Advancements in Predictive Modeling. This book is sold through the Applied Ballistics online store. Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting is also available as an eBook in Amazon Kindle format.

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May 20th, 2022

Make Your Own Length-to-Lands Gauge — Quick & Easy

case OAL gauge home made

Here’s a tip we feature every year or so, because it is something that costs nothing, yet can be very useful in the reloading process. With a simple, easy modification to a fired case, you can determine the length to lands in your rifle barrel. As long as you set the tension right, the measurements should be repeatable, and you’ve just saved yourself $47.66 — the combined cost of a Hornady commercial OAL gauge ($42.00) and Modified Case ($5.66).

To achieve best accuracy with a rifle, you must control bullet seating depth very precisely, so all bullets end up in the same place relative to the entrance of the lands, every time. There may be multiple cartridge OALs which prove accurate. However, with each, you first need to determine a “zero” point — a reliable, and repeatable OAL where the bullet is “just touching” the lands.

There are tools, such as the Hornady (formerly Stoney Point) OAL Gauge, that will help you find a seating OAL just touching the lands. However, the tool requires that you use a special modified case for each cartridge you shoot. And, while we find that the Hornady OAL Gauge is repeatable, it does take some practice to get in right.

Make Your Own Length-to-Lands Gauge with a Dremel
Here’s an inexpensive alternative to the Hornady OAL tool — a slotted case. Forum member Andris Silins explais how to create a slotted case to measure length to the lands in your rifle:

“Here’s what I did to find length to lands for seating my bullets. I made four cuts into the neck of fire-formed brass. Then I pressed the bullet in lightly and chambered the entire gauge. As the cartridge chambers, the bullet slides back into the case to give you length to lands. It took less than five minutes to get it cut and working. A little light oil in the barrel just past the chamber helps ensure the bullet does not get stuck in the lands. It works great and is very accurate.

How to Adjust Tension — Length and Number of Neck Cuts
I made the cuts using a Dremel with a cut-off wheel. You can adjust tension two ways. First, you can make the cuts longer or shorter. Longer cuts = less tension. If you used only three cuts instead of four you would get more tension. The trick is to be gentle when you open and close the bolt. If you ram the bolt closed you may wedge the bullet into the lands. When you open the bolt it helps to keep a finger or two near by to guide the case out straight because the ejector wants to push it sideways.”

Permalink Reloading, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
May 19th, 2022

Reloading Bench — How to Optimize Case Neck Tension

Case Loading Neck Tension Sierra Bullets Paul Box

by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Paul Box
One thing that plays a major role in building an accuracy load is neck tension [one of the factors that controls the “grip” on a bullet]. I think a lot of reloaders pretty much take this for granted and don’t give that enough thought.

So, how much neck tension is enough?

Through the years and shooting both a wide variety of calibers and burn rates of powder, I’ve had the best accuracy overall with .002″ of neck tension. Naturally you will run into a rifle now and then that will do its best with something different like .001″ or even .003″, but .002″ has worked very well for me. So how do we control the neck tension? Let’s take a look at that.

First of all, if you’re running a standard sizing die with an expander ball, just pull your decapping rod assembly out of your die and measure the expander ball. What I prefer [for starters] is to have an expander ball that is .003″ smaller than bullet diameter. So for example in a .224 caliber, run an expander ball of .221″. If you want to take the expander ball down in diameter, just chuck up your decapping rod assembly in a drill and turn it down with some emery cloth. When you have the diameter you need, polish it with three ought or four ought steel wool. This will give it a mirror finish and less drag coming through your case neck after sizing.

Tips for Dies With Interchangeable Neck Bushings
If you’re using a bushing die, I measure across the neck of eight or ten loaded rounds, then take an average on these and go .003″ under that measurement. There are other methods to determine bushing size, but this system has worked well for me.

Case Loading Neck Tension Sierra Bullets Paul Box

Proper Annealing Can Deliver More Uniform Neck Tension
Another thing I want to mention is annealing. When brass is the correct softness, it will take a “set” coming out of the sizing die far better than brass that has become to hard. When brass has been work hardened to a point, it will be more springy when it comes out of a sizing die and neck tension will vary. Have you ever noticed how some bullets seated harder than others? That is why.

Case Loading Neck Tension Sierra Bullets Paul Box

Paying closer attention to neck tension will give you both better accuracy and more consistent groups.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
May 19th, 2022

Reloading Tip: Pulling Bullets Using Press-Mounted Collet Tools

Collet Bullet Puller Hornady RCBS Press Mount Reloading

Do you have some ammo that got loaded incorrectly, perhaps with the wrong powder? Then you’ll want to disassemble the ammo for safety’s sake. You can use an impact puller to do this task, but if you have more than a dozen rounds or so, you may prefer to use a collet-style bullet puller. These work very quickly and positively, making quick work of big jobs. The efficiency of the collet-style puller is worth the investment if you frequently disassemble ammo. These devices retail for under $25.00 (collets sold separately). Normally, you’ll need a specific collet for each bullet diameter. But collets are not that costly, so this isn’t a big deal, particularly if you only load a few calibers, such as .223, 6mm, and .308.

Hornady and RCBS use different mechanisms to tighten the collet around the bullet. On the Hornady Cam-Lock Bullet Puller, a lever-arm on the top of the bullet puller serves to tighten the collet around the bullet. Simply rotate the lever from the vertical to the horizontal position to grab the bullet. Lower the ram to remove the case. The bullet will drop out when you return the lever arm to the vertical position. This is demonstrated in the video below:

Hornady Cam-Lock Bullet Puller Demonstrated

Collet bullet-pullers resemble a loading die with a lever or handle on the top. They screw into a standard reloading press. Hornady and RCBS both make collet-style bullet pullers. They use the same basic principle — the device tightens a collet around the bullet, and then the bullet is separated from the case by lowering the press ram. NOTE: Collet pullers may leave small marks on your bullets, unlike impact (kinetic) pullers.*

Hornady collet bullet pullerLike the Hornady tool, the RCBS Bullet Puller employs a collet to grab the bullet. However, the RCBS tool tightens the collet in a different way. The head of the RCBS tool is threaded internally. By rotating the lever arm clockwise in a horizontal circle you squeeze the collet around the bullet. To remove the bullet, after lowering the press ram, simply spin the lever arm back in the opposite direction. The use of the RCBS tool is demonstrated in these two videos:

RCBS Collet Bullet Puller Demonstrated:

WARNING: When removing bullets from loaded cartridges, always make sure there are no obstructions or debris in your shell-holder or under the loaded round. NEVER engage a primer seating accessory on your press when working with loaded rounds. You can cause a round to discharge by contacting the primer! Also, we recommend you keep your head and torso away from the bullet puller tool at all times.

*By contrast, impact pullers rarely mark bullets, particularly if you put a little bit of foam or paper wadding in the closed end of your impact puller. When dismantling loaded rounds, powder kernels can get trapped in the wadding, so you should remove and replace the wadding before changing to cartridges loaded with a different powder type (assuming you intend to save the powder).

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May 19th, 2022

Make Your Own Empty Chamber Indicator for Rimfire Rifles

Medler Rimfire Empty Chamber Indicator

Larry Medler has come up with a smart little invention — a simple, inexpensive Empty Chamber Indicator for rimfire rifles. It is made from a section of plastic “weed-wacker” line and a wooden ball from a hobby shop. Larry says he was inspired by Juniors who used something similar for their 17-Caliber Air Rifles.

How to Make the Empty Chamber Indicator

Construction Method: First, drill a 7/64″ diameter hole all the way through the 1″-diameter wooden ball. Then enlarge half of that 1″-long hole using a 13/64” diameter drill. Next insert an 8″ piece of heavy duty (0.095″ diameter) weed wacker line through the ball, leaving about 2″ on the side with the bigger-diameter hole. Then, with the short end of the line, fold over the last half-inch so the line is doubled-over on itself. Then slide the line into the ball, stuffing the doubled-over section through the 13/64″ (large) hole. Finally, pull the longer end of the line until the doubled-over section is flush with the outside of the ball. This gives you a sturdy line attachment without messy adhesives. When the assembly’s complete, hold the ECI by the tail and dip the ball in yellow paint. If you’re making more than one ECI, you can drill horizontal holes in a spare block of wood and use that as a drying rack.

rimfire sporter
At a Rimfire Sporter match like this, all shooters must have an Empty Chamber Indicator.

The Empty Chamber Indicator for Smallbore Rifles
Larry explains: “At all Highpower rifle matches, silhouette matches, and other shooting events I have attended, Open Bore Indicators (OBI), or what are now called Empty Chamber Indicators (ECI) have been mandatory. The NRA’s yellow ECI for Highpower rifles is easy to use and has been well-received by the shooters. However, I had not seen a truly workable ECI for 22 rimfire rifles — until I visited Michigan’s Washtenaw Sportsman’s Club where I saw juniors using ECIs for their 17 Caliber Air Rifles. Someone at the club made the empty chamber indicators by attaching an 8″ piece of weed wacker line to a 1″-diameter wooden ball, painted bright yellow. I now make similar ECIs for the 22 rimfire silhouette matches I run.”

Permalink Competition, Tech Tip No Comments »
May 18th, 2022

Optimal Barrel Twist Rate — Factors to Consider

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth
Here’s an extreme range of .224-Caliber bullets: 35gr varmint bullet and 90gr match bullet. Of course, along with bullet length/design, you need to consider MV when choosing twist rate.

Even with the same caliber (and same bullet weight), different bullet types may require different rates of spin to stabilize properly. The bullet’s initial spin rate (RPM) is a function of the bullet’s muzzle velocity and the spin imparted by the rifling in the barrel. You want to ensure your bullet is stable throughout flight. It is better to have too much spin than too little, according to many ballistics experts, including Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. The late Glen Zediker put together some basic tips concerning barrel twist rates and bullet stability. These come from Glen’s book, Top Grade Ammo.

Choosing the Right Twist Rate
I’d always rather have a twist too fast than not fast enough. Generally… I recommend erring toward the faster side of a barrel twist decision. 1:8″ twist is becoming a “new standard” for .224 caliber, replacing 1:9″ in the process. The reason is that new bullets tend to be bigger rather than smaller. Don’t let a too-slow twist limit your capacity to [achieve] better long-range performance.

Base your next barrel twist rate decision on the longest, heaviest bullets you choose to use, and at the same time realize that the rate you choose will in turn limit your bullet choices. If the longest, heaviest bullet you’ll shoot (ever) is a 55-grain .224, then there’s honestly no reason not to use a 1:12″. Likewise true for .308-caliber: unless you’re going over 200-grain bullet weight, a 1:10″ will perform perfectly well.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo Midsouth

Bullet Length is More Critical than Weight
Bullet length, not weight, [primarily] determines how much rotation is necessary for stability. Twist rate suggestions, though, are most usually given with respect to bullet weight, but that’s more of a generality for convenience’s sake, I think. The reason is that with the introduction of higher-ballistic-coefficient bullet designs, which are longer than conventional forms, it is easily possible to have two same-weight bullets that won’t both stabilize from the same twist rate.

Evidence of Instability
The tell-tale for an unstable (wobbling or tumbling) bullet is an oblong hole in the target paper, a “keyhole,” and that means the bullet contacted the target at some attitude other than nose-first.

Glen Zediker Twist Rate .223 Rem Barrel Top Grade Ammo MidsouthIncreasing Barrel Length Can Deliver More Velocity, But That May Still Not Provide Enough Stability if the Twist Rate Is Too Slow

Bullet speed and barrel length have an influence on bullet stability, and a higher muzzle velocity through a longer tube will bring on more effect from the twist, but it’s a little too edgy if a particular bullet stabilizes only when running maximum velocity.

My failed 90-grain .224 experiment is a good example of that: I could get them asleep in a 1:7″ twist, 25-inch barrel, which was chambered in .22 PPC, but could not get them stabilized in a 20-inch 1:7″ .223 Rem. The answer always is to get a twist that’s correct.

These tips were adapted from Glen’s popular 2016 book, Top-Grade Ammo, now $38.95 on Amazon. That work has numerous helpful articles on technical topics. Here are links to this title and other books by Glen Zediker.


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May 17th, 2022

Krieger Cut-Rifled Barrel-Making — Start to Finish on Video

Krieger Barrels Cut Rifling Cut-Rifled Barreling

How Krieger Builds Barrels

This video shows the process of cut-rifled barrel-making by Krieger Barrels, one of the world’s best barrel manufacturers. Krieger cut-rifled barrels have set numerous world records and are favored by many top shooters. The video show the huge, complex machines used — bore-drilling equipment and hydraulic riflers. You can also see how barrels are contoured, polished, and inspected.

For anyone interested in accurate rifles, this is absolutely a “must-watch” video. Watch blanks being cryogenically treated, then drilled and lathe-turned. Next comes the big stuff — the massive rifling machines that single-point-cut the rifling in a precise, time-consuming process. Following that you can see barrels being contoured, polished, and inspected (with air gauge and bore-scope). There is even a sequence showing chambers being cut.

Click Arrow to Watch Krieger Barrels Video:

Here is a time-line of the important barrel-making processes shown in the video. You may want to use the “Pause” button, or repeat some segments to get a better look at particular operations. The numbers on the left represent playback minutes and seconds.

Krieger Barrel-Making Processes Shown in Video:

00:24 – Cryogenic treatment of steel blanks
00:38 – Pre-contour Barrels on CNC lathe
01:14 – Drilling Barrels
01:28 – Finish Turning on CNC lathe
01:40 – Reaming
01:50 – Cut Rifling
02:12 – Hand Lapping
02:25 – Cut Rifling
02:40 – Finish Lapping
02:55 – Outside Contour Inspection
03:10 – Engraving
03:22 – Polish
03:50 – Fluting
03:56 – Chambering
04:16 – Final Inspection

Krieger Barrels

Pratt & Whitney Cut rifling hydraulic machine

“At the start of World War Two, Pratt & Whitney developed a new, ‘B’ series of hydraulically-powered rifling machines, which were in fact two machines on the same bed. They weighed in at three tons and required the concrete floors now generally seen in workshops by this time. Very few of these hydraulic machines subsequently became available on the surplus market and now it is these machines which are sought after and used by barrel makers like John Krieger and ‘Boots’ Obermeyer. In fact, there are probably less of the ‘B’ series hydraulic riflers around today than of the older ‘Sine Bar’ universal riflers.” — Geoffrey Kolbe, Border Barrels.

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May 15th, 2022

Sunday Gunday: 20 PPC Pistol — Great for Varmint Adventures

varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel
varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel

This week’s featured firearm belongs to John “SnakeEye” Seibel, founder of the VarmintsForFun website. In recent years, John has become a “true believer” in the little 20-Caliber cartridges. He says this light-recoiling 20 PPC, Rampro-actioned pistol is perfect for a quick shot on a critter, taken from the front seat of his truck. John tells us: “A long-range pistol is an ideal truck gun in my opinion. It stows in a small area and doesn’t take up the room a rifle does. Just keep ear protection near by at all times! I’ve taken varmints as far as 400+ yards with this 20 PPC pistol, so why would you need a rifle?”

Perspectives on Pistols for the Varmint Hunter

by John Seibel
I decided to try my hand at shooting varmints with a pistol one day when I grew tired of wrestling a rifle around in the truck for a quick shot. Many times when traveling around on the farm you’ll spy a groundhog or fox that usually isn’t more than 200 yards away. A single-shot pistol like the Thompson Contender could fit the bill. With its compact length, around 20 inches, a long-barrel pistol can lay on the truck’s passenger seat for easy access. I usually keep my two leather brick-style sandbags laying beside the console and seat. I have a box made from hard rubber that I lay across the top of the door. I then lay the two bags on top. This makes a nice platform to rest the pistol’s forearm. I like to use a forearm that is at least two inches wide. That lets the gun lay steady—almost like you are shooting from a bench rest. For the shooting hand, I prefer a pistol grip with finger grooves and a slight overhang or flare for the web of your hand.

As for optics, I tried long-eye-relief pistol scopes but they lacked the magnification you need for long-range target shooting or varminting. Those pistol scopes have really long eye-relief because they are designed to work with the pistol held at arm’s length. When shooting at the bench or from a truck that’s not what you want. By the time you find the target and get your eye in the exact location, the varmint has moved on or died of old age! After much fiddling around with pistol-type scopes, I finally decided to use rifle scopes on my long-range pistols. The minimum I use is a 4.5-14×40. Eye relief on a Leupold 4.5-14x40mm is about 3.5 inches at 4.5 power. Field of view is better with rifle scopes too and it’s easier to acquire your target. For this type of shooting a light-recoiling caliber is essential or you will have scope-eye bad! I currently have three long-range pistols and use them to shoot 17M4, 20 PPC, 22 BR, and .223 Rem. The featured gun may be the most accurate of my pistols, and your editor thinks it’s the most handsome of the three.

varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel

The Rampro Pistol Project — Working with John Illum
A couple of years ago I called John Illum of Rampro about building the ultimate long-range pistol. It just so happens that John was a big time long-range pistol shooter. I told him that I wanted a gun that didn’t recoil badly and wouldn’t torque when fired. As I am a quadriplegic, with no grip in my hands, the gun had to handle well under recoil so I didn’t drop it. Recoil had to be straight back–no twisting.

Well Illum listened to me and came up with a gun that performs just the way I wanted. Illum suggested a rear grip stock of his own design. It has a 2.25″ wide forearm and a rear grip with a slight palm swell that fits your hand perfectly. Another nice feature is the finger grips. It has an extended overhang or “beavertail” that fits comfortably in the web of your hand. Of course it had to be walnut! I chose Rampro’s STP small action with a PPC bolt. His bolt uses a Sako-type extractor. The action is a single-shot. Being right-handed, I chose a right bolt, left port configuration. This works really well in a pistol. You can load with your left hand and see the round laying in the action–that’s what you want in a pistol without a safety.

Gun Specifications
John Illum’s Rampro actions are chrome-moly steel. Commonly you’d see them blued, but I had him put a brushed nickel finish on the action and rings. From a few feet away it looks like stainless. The trigger is Illum’s own design set at 8 ounces, and there’s no creep that I can detect. The action has Remington barrel threads and will accept Remington type triggers. One neat thing is that the action was milled with an integral recoil lug (much like the current Surgeon Action). And the bolt is milled all in one piece–no soldered-on handles. My only gripe with this bolt handle is that it could be a tad longer, but it still is manageable for a single-shot. You’ll also note how slick and streamlined the scope rings are. Illum made those as well. His rings mount to the action via two screws from the inside of the ring, a very elegant set-up for sure. (I currently have a 6.5-20x40mm Nikon scope on this gun. If I had to do this project over again the only thing I would change would be installing a 30mm scope because I like ‘em!).

The barrel is a PacNor Super-Match heavy taper with flutes milled by John Illum, who did all the gunsmithing on this pistol. Twist rate is 1 in 12 inches, with an 11° crown, polished to a mirror finish. The barrel was bead-blasted on the exterior to cut glare. I had Illum cut a 20 PPC minimum-spec chamber, with a .237″ neck. That way I don’t have to turn necks on the Lapua Brass (220 Russian necked down to .204). This is a varmint gun–there’s no need for turned necks. [Editor’s Note: Rampro is no longer in business. However, John tells us “I haven’t had any problems with the action so far. If I did, most competent gunsmiths could fix them easily.”]

Handgun Handling Tips
If you want to shoot a long-range pistol but have never have shot this kind of gun before, try to find a mentor — someone with a gun like this who can school you a bit in the correct technique. The first thing you notice is that you have no comb or cheek piece to help align your head and neck. And getting used to the optics takes some practice. Most people fit a pistol-type (long eye-relief) scope, but these can be awkward to use, and somewhat frustrating at first — the field of view is very restricted. Move your head very slightly and you can lose the sight picture completely. You can solve that problem by using a standard rifle scope, but that will put your head very close to the eye-piece — just three to four inches. With that arrangement, if you don’t hold the gun correctly … POW instant scope-eye!

Now once you get the hang of shooting a long-range pistol you will find it can be just as accurate as a rifle. But there is a trick to shooting them. Shooting a long-range pistol is a whole new world — you need to hold it just right. If you don’t let the gun roll back a little (i.e. if you grip too hard) you will get vertical stringing. I hold my hand against the back of the grip to guide the gun but let it almost free recoil. Looking at how compact the pistol is, you might think “Hey, this would make an ideal ‘walking-around’ varminter.” Well, that’s not really the case. For real precision shooting a solid benchrest type set-up is a must. You can attach a bipod to a long-range pistol, but you would need a flat surface. A fence-post top would work pretty well without a bipod if you carry a small light bag. Overall though, this type of pistol works best as a sandbag gun. For a walking-around gun, you’d be happier with a rifle I think.

Load Development and Accuracy
When I built this gun, Hornady had just released the 32gr V-Max (see footnote), a good match for my barrel’s 1:12″ twist. I choose the 20 PPC because of the very good Lapua brass (220 Russian parent case). I figured teaming Lapua brass with the little .204 bullet would offer excellent accuracy combined with very low recoil. My expectations were fulfilled. The brass proved to be excellent and the PacNor loved the little V-Max pills.

I tried quite a few different loads and most powders that I tried worked very well. These included: H322, Benchmark, AA 2460, and Reloader 7. Amazingly, with just 14″ of barrel, all of these powders delivered impressive velocities–ranging from 3914 to 4074 fps. I settled on 48 Harrell’s clicks of Accurate Arms (AA) 2460, which drives the 32gr V-Maxs to 3995 fps.

With AA 2460 the gun will shoot in the low 3s at 100 yards consistently — as long as I steer the gun right, which takes some practice. I think groups in the low 0.3″ range is excellent for a non-benchrest factory bullet. Despite having no buttstock to grab, recoil on my 20 PPC pistol is very minimal — it just rocks back into your hand. The main problem is to keep the scope from smacking you, since I used a rifle scope with short eye-relief. Muzzle flash and noise are tolerable but DO NOT shoot one of these without good ear protection. Your ears are very close to the muzzle.

I also have a 20 PPC rifle built on a BAT action with a Richard’s #008 laminated stock cut down in size. That gun’s 1:9″-twist Lilja barrel lets me shoot the Berger 50gr LTB bullets. In the wind, these perform quite a bit better than the 32s. My two favorite loads for the 50 grainers are: a) 26.0gr VV N135, CCI 450 primers, 3615 fps; and b) 27.3gr Hodgdon Varget, CCI 450s, 3595 fps. The BAT 20 PPC also shoots really well with the 40gr V-Max, pushed by N135 and Fed 205M primers.

Pistol Action Legal Issues
One important thing to remember if you build a pistol is to make sure the receiver came from the factory as a pistol and was titled as a pistol. Rifle actions are illegal to use as a pistol. Yes, that’s a nonsensical law, but it’s still on the books. You can use factory pistol actions such as the XP 100.

If you want a new custom action such as a BAT (my favorite), you can order it as a pistol action and when you get it, register it as a pistol. Note, in some states there may be additional fees, waiting periods, or restrictions for pistol actions (as opposed to rifle actions). Check your local laws before ordering the action.

Future Trends in Varmint Hunting — Plenty of Twenties

I think these sub-caliber rounds, both 20s and the 17s, are the future of recreational varminting, at least out to medium distances. The Twenties offer low recoil, excellent accuracy, and components keep getting better and better. The bullet-makers are finally making high-quality bullets in appropriate weights. Compared to something like a 22-250, I’ve noticed that my 20 PPC rifle has a lot less noise, a plus when you want to be quiet around other people and varmints.

The flat trajectory is another big advantage in the field. With the 20 PPC, zeroed at 100 yards, I can pretty much hold dead center and get hits out to 300 yards or so without touching the scope to add elevation. [Editor: The same is true with the 20 Practical cartridge, basically a .223 Rem necked down to .20 Caliber. It has proven very accurate and easy to tune.]

The 20-Caliber cartridges we have now, in particular the 20 PPC and 20 BR, are very well-refined. You don’t have to do a lot of tuning or tinkering to have a very accurate, effective varmint-slayer. In fact, if I could dream up a signature “20 VFF” (Varmints For Fun) cartridge it would basically be the 20 PPC. In truth, nearly any of the popular 17- or 20-Caliber cartridges will perform well if you start with top-quality brass. The sub-calibers have less recoil and burn less powder, and there are very good components for most varmint and target-shooting applications. To me it seems that these small calibers work so well because of good components, low recoil, and efficient cartridge designs (particularly in the VarTarg and PPC cases).

varmint 20 ppc rampro pistol John Seibel

WARNING: For your own safety, ALWAYS reduce all starting charges by 10% and work up carefully! Ambient temperature changes, powder lot variations, and differences in barrel friction can result in significantly increased pressures.

20 PPC LOAD MAP
Bullet GR Maker Powder Charge Primer Case Velocity
fps
Barrel
Twist
Comments
32 Hornady
V-Max
H322 27.6 Rem 7½ Lapua 4000 Lilja 1:12 WarrenB Form Load
32 Hornady
V-Max
AA 2460 29.5 Rem 7½ Lapua 3995 PacNor 1:12 SnakeEye
Pistol Load
32 Hornady
V-Max
H4198 25.1 CCI BR4 Lapua 4222 PacNor 1:12 A. Boyechko Load
39 Sierra
BlitzKing
H322 26.0 Rem 7½ Lapua 3700 Lilja 1:12 WarrenB Load
39 Sierra
BlitzKing
VV N540 28.8 CCI BR4 SAKO 4064 PacNor 1:12 D.Moore, Low 2s
40 Hornady
V-Max
VV N135 27.8 Fed 205m Lapua 3950 Lilja 1:9 SnakeEye Load
50 Berger
LTB
VV N135 26.0 CCI 450 Lapua 3615 Lilja 1:9 SnakeEye Load
50 Berger
LTB
Varget 27.3 CCI 450 Lapua 3595 Lilja 1:9 SnakeEye Load

Footnote: When first manufactured, the small Hornady 20-Caliber V-Max bullet was actually 33 grains, not 32 grains as sold currently. I still have some of the 33-grainers. I’ve observed no functional difference between the 33s and the current 32-grainers.

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May 14th, 2022

Saturday at the Movies: Gun Safes — Features and Installation

Gunsafe gun safe saturday movies video showcase vault security modular

Today’s Saturday Showcase covers gun safes. Every firearms owner should have a secure, quality gun safe with ample capacity. There are numerous choices in gun safes — but we have one key bit of advice — buy BIGGER than you think you need, because your gun collection will likely grow over time. Also you should consider the fire rating of your safe. There are other key factors to consider, such as wall thickness, lock type, shelf and storage layout, and humidity control. We recommend that all Bulletin readers read our detailed, Gun Safe Buyers Guide. This in-depth 9400-word article covers ALL these topics:

Anti-Corrosion
Budget Safes
Bolt Layout
Door Seals
Fire Proofing
Handgun Storage
Hinges
Humidity Control
Installation Tips
Interior Layout
Interior Lighting
Locks–Dial vs. Digital
Modular Safes
Rotary Racks
Size and Weight
Temperature Control
Wall Thickness
Water Proofing

Technical Features of Gun Safes — What You Need to Know

This is a very sensible, informative video that examines the technical features of gun safes. You’ll learn about the steel “gauge” or thickness, the different types of hinges, lock controls, and fire-proofing options. We think anyone contemplating purchase of a large home safe should watch this video, prepared by a respected safe retailer in Las Vegas.

Assembly of SnapSafe Titan XXL Double Door Modular Safe

In this video Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com shows the unpacking and assembly of a large, twin-door SnapSafe modular safe. This video shows how individual panels are assembled one by one, and how the twin doors are attached. Gavin also shows the process of installing the interior insulation panels which provide basic fire protection. Remarkably, this entire XXL modular safe can be put together with simple tools in less than an hour. SEE Full Article HERE.


Gunsafe gun safe saturday movies video showcase vault security modular

Features of a Quality Safe under $1000

Even if you already have a safe, this video is well worth watching. The host shows a variety of accessories and upgrades that all gun safe owners should consider. The host explains why you should have a dehumidifier or Golden Rod. He also shows how to install handy interior lights that activate automatically when the door is opened.

The Gun Vault — The Next Step Beyond a Jumbo Gun Safe

If you have a very large gun collection and are building a new custom home, you may want to consider a Gun Vault. This is essentially a large, secure room, with a very heavy door and thick walls. In this interesting video, Atlas builds a large walk-in gun vault using the Gallow Tech Shelving System and a Fort Knox Gun Vault door.

After the Fire — What Actually Happens in a Burned Safe

In this video, the hosts open a “fireproof” gun safe that went through an actual house fire. See what happens when a gun safe that is supposed to be fireproof actually is exposed to a major fire. The results are surprising to say the least. This video shows that you need to do your homework before buying a “fireproof” safe. Understand how the fire rating systems work, and learn how the interior materials and construction make a big different in real world fire protection.

Mechanical Locks vs. Electronic Locks — What You Need to Know

One important decision when buying a gun safe is the choice of locking mechanism. Should you go with a mechanical lock or an electronic lock? There are pros and cons to both dial locks and e-locks, and as long as you get a quality lock, neither is a bad choice. To help you make your decision, This video explains the differences between the two, and reasons why you might choose one over the other.

How to Assemble a Modular Safe with Simple Tools

For gun owners who move frequently, or who may live in an upstairs apartment or condo, a modular safe makes sense. Steelhead Outdoors, based in Minnesota, offers three different safes: Nomad 26, 32, and Nomad 38. The video below shows how to assemble a Steelhead Outdoors Nomad series safe. If you have basic skills, these safes can be assembled easily in 60-90 minutes. Steelhead recommends having two people to do the job. The entire safe ships in four (4) boxes. Wrenches are included with the safe.

This time-lapse video shows the entire process of assembling the safe, start to finish.

Guide to Quick Access Handgun Safes

A quick access safe can keep your pistol secure, but also readily accessible. But not all of these devices are created equal. This video explains the features you need in a small pistol safe. The video also examines the pros and cons of seven different handgun safes. We recommend that you do NOT keep your handgun safe in plain view, such as on a bedside table. There are other locations where you still have quick access, without tempting home intruders.

Wireless Hygrometer Reports Temperature and Humidity Inside Safes

The Hornady Security® Wireless Hygrometer monitors temperature and humidity in real-time, all without opening the gun safe. The wireless hygrometer employs a remote sensor inside your safe, which measures temperature and humidity data. This data is then sent to an external base display. Wireless technology eliminates the need to open the safe and check the storage environment, preventing temperature and humidity spikes from the outside air.

The display features a large touchscreen that shows current high/low data from both the base and remote units in Fahrenheit or Celsius. The hygrometer pairs with Hornady Security’s in-safe dehumidifiers to combat oxidation-causing moisture.

Gun Safe Installation Recommendations

Every safe, when possible, should be anchored in place with heavy-duty fasteners. Ideally, use multiple bolts in the bottom of the safe, anchored to concrete or solid foundation. Choose the appropriate lag bolts or anchors for the material below your safe. If you can’t mount to the floor, bolt the safe to wall studs. You can locate the position of the studs with an inexpensive electronic “Stud Sensor” available at home supply stores.

Check the thickness of your safe floor. If the steel on the bottom of your safe is fairly thin, place a steel backing strip between the bolt heads and the safe bottom. (Large washers will work, but a backing strip is better.) Without such reinforcement, the bolt heads may pull right through thin-gauge steel if the safe is rocked, or levered from the bottom with a pry-bar.

Locate your safe in the corner of a room or in a recess that blocks access to one or more sides of the safe. On many gun safes, the steel on the top, sides, and rear is thinner than on the door. Blocking access to the sides makes it much more difficult to use power tools on the sides, where the safe is most vulnerable. It’s also wise to place the safe in a relatively tight space with limited room to maneuver. Anything that makes the safe harder to move helps deter would-be thieves.

Many people place their safe in a garage or basement. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but people also tend to store their tools in the same locations. Don’t store your power tools next to the safe. One safe-maker told us how a customer’s safe was defeated using the owners’ own cutting torch which was stored right next to the safe!

Inspect the area around the safe. Avoid locations where there are a lot of wood beams, paint cans, or other combustible material nearby. In the event of a serious house-fire, these items will fuel the flames, increasing the likelihood that items inside your safe will be heat-damaged. Chris Luchini, co-author of Rec.Gun’s Guide to Gun Safes, offers some practical advice: “Get an alarm system. If the burglars hear an alarm go off, they are less likely to stick round to finish the job. Alarms on both the house and the safe area are a good idea.”

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May 12th, 2022

Good Resources for Do-It-Yourself AR-Platform Rifle Projects

AR15 Varmint rifle AR gunsmithing robert whitley
AR15 Varmint rifle AR gunsmithing robert whitley

AR15 construction guideMany of our readers use AR-type rifles for Service Rifle matches, varmint hunting, 3-Gun competition, or defensive use. AR-platform rifles can be configured in a multitude of ways to suit the application. But if you plan to put together your own purpose-built AR rifle, how do you get started?

For AR Do-It-Yourselfers, we suggest reading the late Glen Zediker’s book, the Competitive AR-15 Builders Guide. Following on Zediker’s The Competitive AR15: Ultimate Technical Guide, the Builders Guide provides step-by-step instructions that will help non-professional “home builders” assemble a competitive match or varmint rifle. This book isn’t for everyone — you need some basic gun assembly experience and an aptitude for tools. But the Competitive AR-15 Builders’ Guide provides a complete list of the tools you’ll need for the job, and Zediker outlines all the procedures to build an AR-15 from start to finish.

One of our Forum members who purchased the AR-15 Builders Guide confirms it is a great resource: “Much like any of the books Mr. Zediker puts out this one is well thought-out and is a no nonsense approach to AR building. I can not stress how helpful this book is from beginner to expert level.”

Along with assembly methods, this book covers parts selection and preparation, not just hammers and pins. Creedmoor Sports explains: “Knowing how to get what you want, and be happy with the result, is truly the focus of this book. Doing it yourself gives you a huge advantage. The build will honestly have been done right, and you’ll know it! Little problems will have been fixed, function and performance enhancements will have been made, and the result is you’ll have a custom-grade rifle without paying custom-builder prices.” Other good resources for AR projects is Gunsmithing the AR: The Bench Manual, and the Building Your AR from Scratch DVD.

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May 11th, 2022

When Scopes Go Bad — How to Diagnose Rifle Optics Issues

Riflescope Repairs

Riflescopes are mechanical contraptions. One of the sad realities about precision shooting is that, sooner or later, you will experience a scope failure. If you’re lucky it won’t happen in the middle of a National-level competition. And hopefully the failure will be dramatic and unmistakable so you won’t spend months trying to isolate the issue. Unfortunately, scope problems can be erratic or hard to diagnose. You may find yourself with unexplained flyers or a slight degradation of accuracy and you won’t know how to diagnose the problem. And when a 1/8th-MOA-click scope starts failing, it may be hard to recognize the fault immediately, because the POI change may be slight.

How to Diagnose Scope Problems

When you see your groups open up, there’s a very good chance this is due to poor wind-reading, or other “driver error”. But my experience showed me that sometimes scopes do go bad. When your accuracy degrades without any other reasonable explanation, the cause of the problem may well be your optics. Here are some of the “symptoms” of scope troubles:

1. Large shot-to-shot variance in Point of Impact with known accurate loads.
2. Uneven tracking (either vertical or horizontal).
3. Change of Point of Impact does not correspond to click inputs.
4. Inability to zero in reasonable number of shots.
5. Unexpected changes in elevation click values (compared to previous known distance come-ups).
6. Visible shift in reticle from center of view.
7. Changed “feel” or resistance when clicking; or uneven click-to-click “feel”.
8. Inability to set parallax to achieve sharpness.
9. Turrets or other controls feel wobbly or loose.
10. Internal scope components rattle when gun is moved.

Scope Failure mechanical Point of Impact

Even expensive scopes can fail, or start to perform erratically — and that can happen without warning, or for no apparent reason. Here are some signs that you may be having scope issues.

1. Click count has changed significantly from established zero at known range.
2. Noticeably different click “feel” as you rotate turrets, or turrets feel wobbly.
3. Inability to set Adjustable Objective or side focus to get sharp target image.
4. Shot Point of Impact is completely different than click value after elevation/windage change. For example, when you dial 2 MOA “up” but you observe a 6 MOA rise in POI.

When An Expensive Scope Goes Bad — Crazy Vertical Case Study

A few seasons back, this editor had a major-brand 8-25x50mm scope go bad. How did I know I had a problem? Well the first sign was a wild “drop-down” flyer at a 600-yard match. After shooting a two-target relay, I took a look at my targets. My first 5-shot group had five shots, fairly well centered, in about 2.2″. Pretty good. Everything was operating fine. Then I looked at the second target. My eye was drawn to four shots, all centered in the 10 Ring, measuring about 2.4″. But then I saw the fifth shot. It was a good 18″ low, straight down from the X. And I really mean straight down — if you drew a plumb line down from the center of the X, it would pass almost through the fifth shot.

Is My Scope Actually Malfunctioning or Is This Driver Error?
That was disconcerting, but since I had never had any trouble with this scope before, I assumed it was a load problem (too little powder?), or simple driver error (maybe I flinched or yanked the trigger?). Accordingly, I didn’t do anything about the scope, figuring the problem was me or the load.

Problems Reappear — Huge POI Swings Affirm This Scope is Toast
But, at the next range session, things went downhill fast. In three shots, I did manage to get on steel at 600, with my normal come-up for that distance. Everything seemed fine. So then I switched to paper. We had a buddy in the pits with a walkie-talkie and he radioed that he couldn’t see any bullet holes in the paper after five shots. My spotter said he thought the bullets were impacting in the dirt, just below the paper. OK, I thought, we’ll add 3 MOA up (12 clicks), and that should raise POI 18″ and I should be on paper, near center. That didn’t work — now the bullets were impacting in the berm ABOVE the target frame. The POI had changed over 48″ (8 MOA). (And no I didn’t click too far — I clicked slowly, counting each click out loud as I adjusted the elevation.) OK, to compensate now I took off 8 clicks which should be 2 MOA or 12″. No joy. The POI dropped about 24″ (4 MOA) and the POI also moved moved 18″ right, to the edge of the target.

Riflescope RepairsFor the next 20 shots, we kept “chasing center” trying to get the gun zeroed at 600 yards. We never did. After burning a lot of ammo, we gave up. Before stowing the gun for the trip home, I dialed back to my 100-yard zero, which is my normal practice (it’s 47 clicks down from 600-yard zero). I immediately noticed that the “feel” of the elevation knob didn’t seem right. Even though I was pretty much in the center of my elevation (I have a +20 MOA scope mount), the clicks felt really tight — as they do when you’re at the very limit of travel. There was a lot of resistance in the clicks and they didn’t seem to move the right amount.

And it seemed that I’d have four or five clicks that were “bunched up” with a lot of resistance, and then the next click would have almost no resistance and seem to jump. It’s hard to describe, but it was like winding a spring that erratically moved from tight to very loose.

At this point I announced to my shooting buddies: “I think the scope has taken a dump.” I let one buddy work the elevation knob a bit. “That feels weird,” he said: “the clicks aren’t consistent… first it doesn’t want to move, then the clicks jump too easily.”

Convinced that I had a real problem, the scope was packed up and shipped to the manufacturer. So, was I hallucinating? Was my problem really just driver error? I’ve heard plenty of stories about guys who sent scopes in for repair, only to receive their optics back with a terse note saying: “Scope passed inspection and function test 100%. No repairs needed”. So, was my scope really FUBAR? You bet it was. When the scope came back from the factory, the Repair Record stated that nearly all the internal mechanicals had been replaced or fixed:

“Replaced Adjustment Elevation; Replaced Adjustment Windage; Reworked Erector System; Reworked Selector; Reworked Parallax Control.”

Source of Problem Unknown, but I Have a Theory
Although my scope came with a slightly canted reticle from the factory, it had otherwise functioned without a hitch for many years. I was able to go back and forth between 100-yard zero and 600-yard zero with perfect repeatability for over five years. I had confidence in that scope. Why did it fail when it did? My theory is side-loading on the turrets. I used to carry the gun in a thick soft case. I recently switched to an aluminum-sided hard case that has pretty dense egg-crate foam inside. I noticed it took some effort to close the case, though it was more than big enough, width-wise, to hold the gun. My thinking is that the foam wasn’t compressing enough, resulting in a side-load on the windage turret when the case was clamped shut. This is just my best guess; it may not be the real source of the problem. Remember, as I explained in the beginning of this story, sometimes scopes — just like any mechanical system — simply stop working for no apparent reason.

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May 10th, 2022

Beware Barrel Bore Obstructions — These Can Cause Blow-Ups

Obstructed Barrel Explosion Accident kaboom
Above is a sectioned barrel showing an 80gr Sierra that was fired in a .223 bolt action with a cleaning rod in the bore. Both the bullet and the rod are still in the bore.

A Negligent Shooter Gets Lucky
“Here we have a story so filled with negligent acts that I can only marvel that the shooter survived the experience. The photo and narrative were provided by the gunsmith who took in the repair job, my comments are in italics. It’s worth reading, we can’t get enough safety warnings in our hobby.” — GS Arizona, Rifleman’s Journal

Description of Incident (with Commentary)
The shooter had a stuck case in his .223 chamber. The stuck case was actually a loaded round that didn’t fire. It wouldn’t extract because it was a .222 case that got mixed in with his .223 brass. [He had loaded the wrong brass.] I saw the loaded round with an 80gr bullet in it and a light primer strike. Negligent Act #1: Wrong brass was mixed in with the brass being reloaded.

The shooter removed the stuck case with a 3-piece aluminum rod. Negligent Act #2: Hammering out a loaded round with a cleaning rod. People have been killed doing this as the round can fire and drive the cleaning rod right into you. I remember one such incident about 5 years ago, the shooter was pounding out a stuck round, the cleaning rod went right through him, he didn’t survive.

The shooter didn’t notice only two segments of the cleaning rod came out when he removed it. Negligent Act #3: If you put anything at all down the barrel of a rifle you’d better make darn sure you got it all out before doing anything else!

He then chambered another round and fired it. Negligent act #4: If you’ve had a barrel obstruction of any kind, and if you’ve put something in the barrel, look through the barrel before proceeding! Within the past two years I know of an incident in which a benchrest shooter was killed in exactly this manner. The pressure built up and the rifle bolt came out of the receiver and into his chest.

The shooter is ‘OK’, but did not escape unscathed. He said there was a huge explosion and after regaining his senses found he was bleeding heavily from his forehead. The blood was thick enough that it ran in his eyes and he couldn’t see. In his words “I thought I was going to die”.

He has what looks like a pretty deep cut about an inch long on the side of his head, right in line with his right eye starting where the eye socket turns out to the side of the skull. And no telling what he’s got in the way of brass particles embedded in his forehead.

He was shooting on private property, and was alone when this happened. Negligent Act #5: Don’t shoot alone! Accidents happen, this is just one more example. If we could predict accidents, we wouldn’t have them. Always shoot with at least one other person.

He managed to get the bleeding stopped, or at least under control, packed his car and drove himself home without seeking immediate medical attention. Negligent Act #6: This one could have cost him his life after being lucky enough to survive the incident. There’s no way to know what’s happened just after an incident like this. He should have been at a hospital getting checked for shrapnel in the head.

The rod and slug could not be driven out. Since the barrel had a high round count there was no point in trying to salvage it. Note that the aluminum rod is expanded to a tight fit in the bore for the first couple inches. The base of the bullet is a little over 2″ from the mouth of the chamber.

What we’ve seen here is negligence and an absolute indifference to the established rules of safe reloading and gun handling, from start to finish, capped off with the shooter’s foolish avoidance of medical treatment. This shooter is lucky to be alive, but he’s surely used up all his luck. Don’t assume you’ll be so fortunate.

This article originally appeared in the Rifleman’s Journal website, which is no longer available.

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May 8th, 2022

Bullet Concentricity and Alignment — What You Need to Know

Sinclair concentricity 101 eccentricity run-out reloading plans

Sinclair International reloading toolsSinclair International has released an interesting article about Case Concentricity* and bullet “run-out”. This instructional article by Bob Kohl explains the reasons brass can exhibit poor concentricity, and why high bullet run-out can be detrimental to accuracy.

Concentricity, Bullet Alignment, and Accuracy by Bob Kohl
The purpose of loading your own ammo is to minimize all the variables that can affect accuracy and can be controlled with proper and conscientious handloading. Concentricity and bullet run-out are important when you’re loading for accuracy. Ideally, it’s important to strive to make each round the same as the one before it and the one after it. It’s a simple issue of uniformity.

The reason shooters work with tools and gauges to measure and control concentricity is simple: to make sure the bullet starts down the bore consistently in line with the bore. If the case isn’t properly concentric and the bullet isn’t properly aligned down the center of the bore, the bullet will enter the rifling inconsistently. While the bore might force the bullet to align itself with the bore (but normally it doesn’t), the bullet may be damaged or overstressed in the process – if it even it corrects itself in transit. These are issues we strive to remedy by handloading, to maintain the best standard possible for accurate ammunition.

The term “concentricity” is derived from “concentric circle”. In simple terms it’s the issue of having the outside of the cartridge in a concentric circle around the center. That goes from case head and center of the flash hole, to the tip of the bullet.

Factors Affecting Concentricity

The point of using this term is to identify a series of issues that affect accurate ammunition. Ideally this would work best with a straight-walled case; but since most rifle cartridge cases are tapered, it equates to the smallest cross section that can be measured point by point to verify the concentric circle around the center. For the examples below, I’m working with .308 Winchester ammo.

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 1: The cartridge.

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 2: Centerline axis of the case, extending from flash hole to case mouth.

The case walls have to be in perfect alignment with the center, or axis, of that case, even if it’s measured at a thousandth of an inch per segment (in a tapered case).

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 3: Case body in alignment with its axis, or centerline, even in a tapered case.

The case neck must also be in alignment with its axis. By not doing so you can have erratic bullet entry into the bore. The case neck wall itself should be as uniform as possible in alignment and in thickness (see the M80 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge in Figure 5) and brass can change its alignment and shape. It’s why we expand the case neck or while some folks ream the inside of the neck and then turn the outside for consistent thickness, which affects the tension on the bullet when seated.

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 4: Neck in alignment with center of the case axis.

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 5: Variations in case neck wall thickness, especially on some military brass, can cause an offset of the bullet in its alignment. This is an M80 ball round. Note the distinct difference of the neck walls.

Having a ball micrometer on hand helps, especially with military brass like 7.62x51mm in a semi-auto rifle, where there are limits as to how thin you want the neck walls to be. In the case of 7.62 ball brass you want to keep the wall to .0145″.

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 6: A ball micrometer like this RCBS tool (#100-010-268) can measure case neck thickness.

Turning the outside of the neck wall is important with .308 military cases regardless of whether you expand or ream the neck walls. There are several outside neck turning tools from Forster, Hornady, Sinclair, and others. I’ve been using classic Forster case trimming (#100-203-301) and neck turning (#749-012-890) tools for 40 years.

Bullet Run-Out
The cartridge, after being loaded, still needs to be in alignment with the center of the case axis. Figure 7 shows a bad example of this, a round of M80 ball. A tilted bullet is measured for what’s known as bullet “run-out”.

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 7: An M80 round with the bullet tilted and not aligned with the axis. This will be a flyer!

Run-out can be affected by several things: (1) improperly indexing your case while sizing, which includes not using the proper shell holder, especially while using a normal expander ball on the sizing die (it also can stretch the brass). (2) The head of a turret press can flex; and (3) improper or sloppy bullet seating. This is also relevant when it comes to using a progressive press when trying to load accuracy ammo.

Mid Tompkins came up with a simple solution for better bullet seating years ago. Seat your bullet half way into the case, back off the seater die and rotate the case 180 degrees before you finish seating the bullet. It cuts down on run-out problems, especially with military brass. You also want to gently ream the inside of the neck mouth to keep from having any brass mar the surface of the bullet jacket and make proper seating easier. A tilted bullet often means a flyer.

Concentricity run-out cartridge case
Figure 8: Proper alignment from the center of the case head to the tip of the bullet.

CLICK HERE to READ FULL ARTICLE With More Photos and Tips »


*Actually some folks would say that if we are talking about things being off-center or out-of-round, we are actually talking about “eccentricity”. But the tools we use are called “Concentricity Gauges” and Concentricity is the term most commonly used when discussing this subject.

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May 7th, 2022

Guide to IMR Enduron Powders — Temp Stable, Reduced Fouling

IMR Enduron Powder 4166 4451 7977

Have you tried IMR Enduron powders yet (IMR 4166, 4451, 4955, 7977, and/or 8133)? We’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen. IMR’s line of Enduron extruded powders offer excellent temp stability, reduced copper fouling, and good load density for many popular cartridges (such as .223 Rem, 6mmBR, .308 Win, .30-06, 300 WSM to name a few). Some of our Forum members have reported excellent results with IMR 4166 in the 6mmBR, Dasher, 6.5×47 Lapua and .308 Win. One member wrote: “in my 6.5×47… 4166 gives speeds and accuracy pretty much exactly the same as Varget.” And other shooters have observed reduced copper fouling with Enduron series powders, so IMR’s Enduron anti-fouling chemistry does seem to work.

IMR now offers five (5) Enduron powders: IMR 4166, IMR 4451, IMR 4955, IMR 7977, and IMR 8133. Shooters looking for good alternatives to hard-to-find extruded powders should definitely check out the Enduron line-up. Precision shooters will find an Enduron option well-suited to most popular precision cartridge types. For example, IMR 4166 is a good replacement for Hodgdon Varget (commonly used in the .223 Rem, 6mmBR and .308 Win), while IMR 4955 is a fine substitute for H4831 (favored by F-Open shooters for the .284 Win and 7mm WSM cartridges).

enduron IMR Powder Hodgdon extreme

The Enduron Line-Up of Five Powders

IMR now offers five Enduron powders that cover a broad range of burn rates. They are suitable for a wide variety of cartridges, from small varmint cartridges all the way up to the .338 Lapua Magnum.

IMR Enduron Powders

IMR 4166 possesses the fastest burn rate in the Enduron lineup. It is the perfect burn speed for cartridges such as .308 Win, 7.62mm NATO, 22-250 Rem and 257 Roberts. A versatile, match-grade propellant, IMR 4166 is comparable to Hodgdon® Varget.

IMR 4451 is a mid-range burn speed powder, ideally suited for cartridges such as .270 Winchester, .30-06 and 300 Winchester Short Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4350.

IMR 4955 is a medium burn speed powder, falling in between IMR 4451 and IMR 7977 in burn speed. It provides top performance in big game cartridges such as 25-06, 280 Remington and 300 Winchester Magnum. This powder is comparable to Hodgdon H4831.

IMR 7977 is a slower burn rate in the Enduron family. Loading density is perfect for magnums. This is a true magnum propellant yielding outstanding performance in .300 Winchester Magnum, 7mm Remington Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum. IMR 7977 is comparable to Hodgdon H1000.

IMR 8133 IMR Enduron 8133 is the slowest burn rate in the Enduron family. Loading density is perfect for the very large magnums, including the 6.5mm and 7mm magnums. This is a true magnum propellant yielding outstanding performance in 6.5-300 Weatherby, .264 Win Mag, 28 Nosler and .300 Rem Ultra Mag, among other cartridges.

IMR Enduron Technology powders are sold in one-pound (1 lb) and eight-pound (8-lb) containers through quality retailers including Graf & Sons, Midsouth, and Powder Valley. Check frequently for current availability as these will sell out quickly after arrival. Also check your local sporting goods dealers for recent powder shipments.

IMR Enduron Powders 4955 4451 4166 7977

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May 6th, 2022

Air Rifles: A Buyer’s and Shooter’s Guide

pyramyd air airgun field target pnematic

We like air rifles both for fun shooting and for competition. However, so many options are now available that is easy to get overwhelmed with the choices. Thankfully, there is a good book that helps air rifle shooters make informed decisions about air guns and accessories. Steve Markwith’s comprehensive resource, Air Rifles: A Buyer’s and Shooter’s Guide offers a wealth of useful information. This 154-page book is now available for $12.95 (paperback) or $9.95 (Kindle).

Air Rifle book olympic

Steve Markwith Air Rifle Pneumatic airgun book Amazon.com Free download
This is a very informative book explaining the ins and outs of air rifles, their capabilities and limitations. I highly recommend this book to anyone considering purchasing an air rifle for marksmanship practice or small game hunting.” – L. Stanek, Verified Amazon Reviewer

Read Free Sample Chapters Online
If you go to Amazon.com and click on the cover of this book, you can view a FREE preview with extensive samples from many chapters. The book covers all the most important types of air rifle systems, both pre-charged pneumatics and other self-charging guns. Markwith reviews the wide variety of pellets available, offering suggestions for particular applications. You’ll also find a useful discussion of Airgun Power, Range, and Accuracy. This will help you pick the right air rifle.

Markwith explains the many attractions of airguns. They are not considered firearms (in most jurisdictions) so they can be purchased at local shops or mail-order outlets without FFL fees or background checks. You’ll find a huge online selection of airguns at PyramydAir.com that can ship direct to you — no FFL required. Air rifles are also quiet and very inexpensive to shoot. While .177 and .22 caliber air rifles are most common, there are also larger-caliber airguns offered for hunting or special applications.

Pyramyd Air has dozens of helpful videos about air rifles and air pistols.

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May 5th, 2022

How-To Feature: Jewell Trigger Installed in Kelbly Panda Action

Erik Cortina Lapua Jewell Trigger Panda Stolle Action Kelbly Kelbly's

In the video below, Forum member (and F-Class ace) Erik Cortina shows how to install a Jewell Benchrest trigger into a Kelbly F-Class Panda action. You could follow the same simple procedure to install a Jewell in a standard Panda action. Kelbly’s sells both standard and long versions of the F-Class Panda action. Both versions feature integral recoil lugs in the front.

To see more detail in this “how-to” video, you can zoom it to full-screen size. Simply click the full-screen icon (4-cornered frame) just to the right of the YouTube logo in the lower right.

Erik Cortina Lapua Jewell Trigger Panda Stolle Action Kelbly Kelbly's

Erik Cortina Lapua Jewell Trigger Panda Stolle Action Kelbly Kelbly's

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May 4th, 2022

Make Your Own Mirage Shield from Low-Cost Venetian Blind

make your own mirage shield for rifle

make your own mirage shield for rifleWant to shoot better scores at your next match? Here’s a smart, inexpensive do-it-yourself project from the good folks at Criterion Barrels. For less than a dollar or two in materials, in just a few minutes you can create a handy, effective mirage shield, custom-fitted to your favorite rifle.

All precision shooters should be familiar with mirage, a form of optical distortion caused primarily by variations in air temperature. Savvy shooters will use mirage as a valuable tool when gauging wind speed and direction. Natural mirage is unavoidable, but there are many techniques designed to limit its influence in long-range marksmanship.

A form of mirage can be produced by the barrel itself. Heat rising from the barrel may distort sight picture through your optics, leading to erratic results. Mirage caused by barrel heat can be reduced dramatically by a simple, light-weight mirage shield.

How to Make a Mirage Shield

A mirage shield is an extremely cost-effective way to eliminate a commonly-encountered problem. Making your own mirage shield is easy. Using old venetian blind strips and common household materials and tools, you can construct your own mirage shield for under one dollar.

Materials Required:
1. Vertical PVC Venetian blind panel
2. Three 1”x1” pieces adhesive-backed Velcro
3. Ruler or tape measure
4. Scissors or box cutter
5. Pencil or marker

1. Measure the distance from the end of the receiver or rail to the crown of the barrel.

make your own mirage shield for rifle

2. Using a pencil and ruler, measure the same distance and mark an even line across the blind.

make your own mirage shield for rifle

3. Cut across the line using scissors or a box cutter, shortening the blind to the required length. (Remember, measure twice, cut once!)

4. Expose the adhesive backing on the loop side of the Velcro. Center and apply the Velcro strips on the barrel at regular intervals.

make your own mirage shield for rifle

5. Expose the adhesive backing of the fuzzy side of the Velcro.

6. Place the blind on the upper side of the barrel. Apply downward pressure. Once the Velcro has secured itself to the barrel, separate the two sides. Proceed to mold both sides of the Velcro to fit the contour of their respective surfaces.

7. Reaffix the blind. Barrel related mirage is now a thing of the past!

make your own mirage shield for rifle
NOTE: You can attach the Velcro on the opposite side of the blind if you want the blind to curve upwards. Some folks thinks that aids barrel cooling — it’s worth a try.

How to Remove and Re-Attach the Mirage Shield
Removal of your mirage shield is accomplished by simply removing the blind. You can un-install the Velcro by pulling off the strips and then gently removing any adhesive residue left behind using an appropriate solvent. (Simple cooking oil may do the job.) Caution: With fine, high-polish blued barrels, test any solvent on a non-visible section of the barrel. Before storing the gun, re-oil the barrel to remove active solvents and residual fingerprints.

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May 3rd, 2022

How to Remove a Case Stuck in a Die — Case Removal Kits

By Pete Petros, Lead Reloading Technician, Sinclair International

We have all been there — you place a piece of tumbled brass in the shell-holder of your press, raise it into the die, and suddenly it is like somebody hit the brakes. The case is stuck in the die. Your first instinct is to reverse it out. You crank on the handle, and BANG! The rim rips off the case head and you are looking at a piece of brass stuck in the die.

A stuck case is one of the boo-boos that all of us reloaders have faced from time to time. If proper lubrication is applied, then it should not be a problem. No matter if you are a seasoned reloader or new to it, this situation can happen. Take your time, use the proper procedures, and you will be back in business in no time! This article explains how to avoid stuck cases (through proper lubrication) and how to use a stuck case removal system.

What Causes Stuck Cases
One of the first common mistakes reloaders face is the stuck case. It can be caused by too much or too little lube. Too much and a vacuum can be formed causing the case to become suctioned into the die. Too little lube and friction is the culprit. So what is the cure? There is no exact cure, but the best lube that we have found so far is just a dab of Imperial Sizing Die Wax on your fingers and applied in a thin coat on the body of the case, not the shoulder or neck. Too much of this wax can cause the vacuum effect, or can eventually load your die up with gobs of residue. If it is applied to the shoulder area, or the leftover wax moves up into the shoulder region of the die, you will see dents or dimples in the shoulder. [AccurateShooter.com Editor’s Note: For normal full-length sizing of small cases such as 220 Russian/PPC, 6mmBR, 6.5 Grendel, or 6.5×47 Lapua we recommend Ballistol (aerosol) lube. It is very slippery, goes on very thin, and does not gum up the die.]

A great way to ensure that your dies are clean is to use a simple chamber mop with a dab of your favorite solvent on it and clean out the die. Be sure all of the solvent is out after cleaning by spraying the die out with Quickscrub III or use a clean chamber mop. If you are storing your dies, you can apply a thin coat of a good oil to protect the steel such as TM oil or Starrett M1 Spray.

This video shows how to use an RCBS Stuck Case Removal Kit:

Using a Stuck Case Removal Kit
If you do stick a case in your die there are a few good stuck case removal kits available. Each one works in a similar fashion. I have found the Hornady kit very effective and easy to use. [Editor: Forster, Lyman, and RCBS also make good kits for removing a case stuck in a die.]

lyman stuck case kit

hornady stuck case kit

Basically what you do is remove the die from the press. Unscrew the decapping assembly and pull it out as far as you can. You then need to drill/tap threads into the stuck case head (this is why it is suggested to unscrew the decapping assembly as far as you can to get it clear of the drill bits). Once this is done screw the die back into the press. You then install the included shellholder attachment on the shellholder ram, and thread it into the case via a small wrench. With some elbow grease you can reverse the stuck case out of the die with the leverage of the press, and not damage the die.

However if the case is stuck… REALLY stuck, you may pull out the threads on the case and you are still left with a stuck case in the die without any way to pull it out. If the case is really difficult to remove even with the use of a stuck case removal kit, do not try to be Hercules with the press ram. Here is a trick that may work. Take the die with the stuck case and place it in your freezer for a couple of hours. Then repeat the removal with the cold die. The freezing temperatures may cause the brass to contract, and make removal easier. If this does not work it is recommended to send it to the die manufacturer. They will be able to remove the case without damaging the die.

Another fix if you can remove the decapping assembly completely is to use a tap hammer and a punch or small wooden dowel to knock the stuck case out. This isn’t the best way since it is very possible that you will damage the die internally or externally on the threads, or both. Send the die to the manufacturer to have this done properly. You will be happier in the long run.

This article appears courtesy Sinclair International. It first appeared in Sinclair’s Reloading Press Blog.

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May 2nd, 2022

Do Chron Your Factory Ammo — Stated Velocities May Be Wrong

muzzle velocity applied Ballistics MV chronograph

Why You CANNOT Rely on the MV Printed on the Ammo Box!
When figuring out your come-ups with a ballistics solver or drop chart it’s “mission critical” to have an accurate muzzle velocity (MV). When shooting factory ammo, it’s tempting to use the manufacturer-provided MV which may be printed on the package. That’s not such a great idea says Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics. Don’t rely on the MV on the box, Bryan advises — you should take out your chrono and run your own velocity tests. There are a number of reasons why the MV values on ammo packaging may be inaccurate. Below is a discussion of factory ammo MV from the Applied Ballistics Facebook Page.

Five Reasons You Cannot Trust the Velocity on a Box of Ammo:

1. You have no idea about the rifle used for the MV test.

2. You have no idea what atmospheric conditions were during testing, and yes it matters a lot.

3. You have no idea of the SD for the factory ammo, and how the manufacturer derived the MV from that SD. (Marketing plays a role here).

4. You have no idea of the precision and quality of chronograph(s) used for velocity testing.

5. You have no idea if the manufacturer used the raw velocity, or back-calculated the MV. The BC used to back track that data is also unknown.

1. The factory test rifle and your rifle are not the same. Aside from having a different chamber, and possibly barrel length some other things are important too like the barrel twist rate, and how much wear was in the barrel. Was it just recently cleaned, has it ever been cleaned? You simply don’t know anything about the rifle used in testing.

2. Temperature and Humidity conditions may be quite different (than during testing). Temperature has a physical effect on powder, which changes how it burns. Couple this with the fact that different powders can vary in temp-stability quite a bit. You just don’t know what the conditions at the time of testing were. Also a lot of factory ammunition is loaded with powder that is meter friendly. Meter friendly can often times be ball powder, which is less temperature stable than stick powder often times.

3. The ammo’s Standard Deviation (SD) is unknown. You will often notice that while MV is often listed on ammo packages, Standard Deviation (normally) is not. It is not uncommon for factory ammunition to have an SD of 18 or higher. Sometimes as high as 40+. As such is the nature of metering powder. With marketing in mind, did they pick the high, low, or average end of the SD? We really don’t know. You won’t either until you test it for yourself. For hand-loaded ammo, to be considered around 10 fps or less. Having a high SD is often the nature of metered powder and factory loads. The image below is from Modern Advancements in Long Range Shooting: Volume II.

muzzle velocity applied Ballistics MV chronograph

4. You don’t know how MV was measured. What chronograph system did the manufacturer use, and how did they back track to a muzzle velocity? A chronograph does not measure true velocity at the muzzle; it simply measures velocity at the location it is sitting. So you need to back-calculate the distance from the chrono to the end of the barrel. This calculation requires a semi-accurate BC. So whose BC was used to back track to the muzzle or did the manufacturer even do that? Did they simply print the numbers displayed by the chronograph? What kind of chronograph setup did they use? We know from our Lab Testing that not all chronographs are created equal. Without knowing what chronograph was used, you have no idea the quality of the measurement. See: Applied Ballistics Chronograph Chapter Excerpt.

5. The MV data may not be current. Does the manufacturer update that data for every lot? Or is it the same data from years ago? Some manufacturers rarely if ever re-test and update information. Some update it every lot (ABM Ammo is actually tested every single lot for 1% consistency). Without knowing this information, you could be using data for years ago.

CONCLUSION: Never use the printed MV off a box of ammo as anything more than a starting point, there are too many factors to account for. You must always either test for the MV with a chronograph, or use carefully obtained, live fire data. When you are using a Ballistic Solver such as the AB Apps or Devices integrated with AB, you need to know the MV to an accuracy down to 5 fps. The more reliable the MV number, the better your ballistics solutions.

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May 1st, 2022

Six Tips for Success at Local Fun Matches

Varmint silhouette fun match

Summer’s almost here! Every summer weekend, there are hundreds of local club “fun matches” conducted around the country. One of the good things about 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 Bag
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 have a piece of tape that I’ve placed on the golf shaft that indicates how far the back end of the rear bag should be placed from the front rest stop.”

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.

varmint fun match groundhog

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 mechanical 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 with a low-recoiling rimfire rifle, action screws or scope rings can come loose during normal shooting.

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.

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