February 22nd, 2020

.224 Valkyrie Barrel Cut-Down Velocity Test — 4 Ammo Types

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMK

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMKVelocity vs. barrel length — How much speed will I sacrifice with a shorter barrel? Hunters and competition shooters often ask that. Today we DO have solid answers to that question for many cartridge types thanks to Rifleshooter.com.

Rifleshooter.com has conducted a series of barrel cut-down tests for many popular chamberings: .223 Rem, 6mm Creedmoor, .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua Magnum and more. And recently Rifleshooter.com added the new .224 Valkyrie cartridge to the list, cutting a 28″ Shilen barrel down to 16.5″ in one-inch increments. Rifleshooter.com measured the .224 Valkyrie’s velocities at each barrel length with four different types of factory ammo.

For its .224 Valkyrie test, RifleShooter.com sourced a Shilen Match Barrel and fitted it to a Rem 700 short action employing a one-piece PT&G bolt with the required .440″ (SPC-sized) bolt-face. The barreled action rides in a MDT LSS-XL Gen 2 Chassis.

READ .224 Valkyrie Barrel Cut-Down Test on Rifleshooter.com »

Bill, Rifleshooter.com’s Editor, explained his test procedure:

“I gathered four different types of factory Federal 224 Valkyrie ammunition, the 90gr Sierra MatchKing (SMK), 90gr Fusion soft point (SP) (referred to a Fusion MSR), 75gr Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) and 60gr Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint (NBT). After a brief barrel break in and zero, I fired 5 rounds of each cartridge at each barrel length (except the 75 TMJ, I fired 4 rounds at each barrel length due to limited resources). I recorded the average muzzle velocity and standard deviation for each ammunition and barrel length combination and cut the barrel back 1 inch and repeated the process. I recorded barrel lengths from 28″ to 16.5″ (I try to save these barrels as finished 16″ tubes so they don’t go to waste).”

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMK

The Heavy Bullet 90gr Ammo Lost about 21 FPS per Inch
How did the test turn out? You’ll find all the results summarized in helpful tables with inch-by-inch velocity and SD numbers. For the two, 90gr ammo samples, results were similar. The 90gr SMK ammo started at 2782 fps (28″), finishing at 2541 fps (16.5″). That’s a loss of 241 fps, or 20.96 fps average per inch of length. The ammo loaded with 90gr Fusion SPs started at 2797 fps (28″) and ended at 2561 fps (16.5″), a drop of 236 fps. That’s 20.5 fps loss per inch. NOTE: Ambient temperature during the test was 45° F. You could expect the overall velocities to be a bit higher during hotter summer months.

See 90gr SMK Velocity/Length Test Chart | See 90gr Fusion SP Velocity/Length Test Chart

.224 Valkyrie Velocity Cut-Down Test

With a the smaller bullets, the effect was even more dramatic. As you’d expect they started out faster. The ammo with 60gr Nosler Ballistic Tips (NBT), a good choice for varminters, started at 3395 fps (28″), and declined to 3065 fps (16.5), a total velocity drop of 330 fps. Average velocity loss was 28.7 fps per inch of barrel length. Rifleshooter.com also tested Federal 75gr TMJ ammo.

About the .224 Valkyrie Cartridge

224 .224 Valkyrie barrel cut-down test velocity 90gr Sierra MatchKing Fusion SP TMK

The new .224 Valkyrie was introduced late last year as a Hot Rod cartridge that will work in AR15s. Designed to rival the .22 Nosler while still running well in ARs, the new .224 Valkyrie offers excellent long-range performance when loaded with modern, high-BC bullets. We expect some bolt-action PRS shooters might adopt the .224 Valkyrie. Why? Reduced recoil. With the 90gr SMK, the .224 Valkyrie offers ballistics similar to the 6.5 Creedmoor but with significantly less felt recoil. Check out this chart from Federal showing comparative recoil levels:

.224 Valkyrie Federal Rifleshooter.com cut-down barrel

.224 Valkyrie vs. .22-250 Remington
The Social Regressive explains: “There are two key reasons why the 224 Valkyrie is unique and desirable. First, it is specifically designed to fit the limitations of the AR-15 platform. It does so even when loaded with gigantic bullets, like the 90-grain SMK that Federal announced. .22-250 Rem is too long and too fat to work in the AR-15 platform; it needs an AR-10 bolt and magazine.”

Image from Social Regressive .224 Valkyrie Youtube Video.

The new .224 Valkyrie is basically a 6.8 SPC case necked down to .22-caliber. You can use your existing AR15 lower, but you will need a dedicated .224-Valkyrie upper, or at the minimum a new barrel, modified bolt with proper bolt face, and 6.8-compliant mags.

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February 22nd, 2020

Doh! Make Sure Your Ammo Fits Your Chamber!

Ruptured Cartridge Case

If you don’t match your ammo to your chamber, bad things can happen, that’s for sure. A while back, Forum member BigBlack had an experience at the gun range that reminds us of the importance of safety when shooting. He encountered evidence that someone had fired the wrong cartridge in a 7mm WSM rifle. The problem is more common than you may think. This Editor has personally seen novices try to shoot 9mm ammo in 40sw pistols. BigBlack’s story is along those lines, though the results were much more dramatic. It’s too bad a knowledgeable shooter was not nearby to “intervene” before this fellow chambered the wrong ammo.

7mm-08 is Not the Same as a 7mm WSM
BigBlack writes: “I know this has probably been replayed a thousand times but I feel we can never be reminded enough about safety. This weekend at the range I found a ruptured case on the ground. My immediate thoughts were that it was a hot load, but the neck area was begging for me to take a closer look, so I did. I took home the exploded case and rummaged through my old cases until I found a close match. From my investigative work it appears someone shot a 7mm-08 in a 7mm WSM. Take a look. In the above photo I’ve put together a 7mm WSM case (top), the ruptured case (middle), and a 7mm-08 case (bottom).”

The photo reveals what probably happened to the 7mm-08 case. The shoulder moved forward to match the 7mm WSM profile. The sidewalls of the case expanded outward in the much larger 7mm WSM chamber until they lacked the strength to contain the charge, and then the case sides ruptured catastrophically. A blow-out of this kind can be very dangerous, as the expanding gasses may not be completely contained within the action.

Can’t Happen to You? Think Again.
This kind of mistake — chambering the wrong cartridge — can happen to any shooter who is distracted, who places even a single wrong round in an ammo box, or who has two types of ammo on the bench. One of our Forum members was testing two different rifles recently and he picked up the wrong cartridge from the bench. As a result, he fired a .30-06 round in a .300 Win Mag chamber, and the case blew out. Here is his story:

“I took two of my hunting rifles I have not used for over 25 years to the range yesterday to get new scopes on paper, a .30-06 and .300 Win Mag. I had four boxes of old Winchester factory ammo (two of each cartridge), which had near identical appearances. I accidentally chambered a .30-06 round in the Sako .300 Win Mag rifle. It sprayed powder on my face and cracked the stock at the pistol grip. If I had not been wearing safety glasses I might be blind right now.

Safety eyewear glasses
You should always wear protective eyewear, EVERY time you shoot.

“I feel lucky and am very thankful for being OK — other than my face looks funny right now. I am also grateful for learning a valuable lesson. I will never put two different cartridges on the bench at the same time again.”

READ More about this incident in our Shooters’ Forum.

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February 21st, 2020

Gunsmithing Gone Bad — How NOT to Headspace a Barrel

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales
This barrel’s shoulder was 0.025″ off the action because Red Locktite had been used on the threads.

Gunsmith Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzales offered this interesting report about how NOT to headspace a barrel. Hopefully you never discover something like this…

“A good friend and customer sent this rig in for repair after FedEx damaged the rifle during inbound transport from another smith. After repairing the stock and rebedding it, I decided to re-polish the barrel to make the repair perfect. Well this just added insult to injury as the barrel did not want to come off. After a few choice words, the barrel finally broke free only to reveal something very disturbing. It seems the barrel had been ‘headspaced’ by using RED Loctite to hold it in place.” [Editor: That’s definitely NOT how barrels should be fitted.]

Speedy was not happy: “I hope the smith that did this sees the photos and realized what jeopardy he put my customer in or anyone who shot the rifle for that matter. When cleaned up, the shoulder on the barrel was over 0.0250″ (25 thousandths) away from the face of the receiver.” [Editor: That’s a lot in this business]. Check out the images below to see how much the barrel rotated further inward when cleaned up. The barrel spun in nearly another eighth-turn or more. Not good.

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales

Locktite Red barrel shoulder headspace Thomas Speedy Gonzales

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February 20th, 2020

Where You Can Shoot F-Class Matches — 100+ Ranges Listed

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

F-Class shooting (both F-Open and F-TR) is one of the fastest-growing forms of rifle competition. Each season many new shooters hit the line and attendance at the major F-Class matches increases every year. But if you’re new to the game, you may ask “Where can I shoot an F-Class match?”. Well, Forum member Rod V. (aka Nodak7mm) has compiled a useful list of 112 ranges throughout the USA where F-Class matches are held. With venues from Alabama to Wyoming — you should find an F-Class program not too far from home. The list, in Excel spreadsheet format, provides range locations and weblinks (where available). Click the link below to download the F-Class Range List (.xls file):

Download F-Class Range List, Revision 20 (12/24/2015) (.XLS file, right click to “save as”)

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

Note — this list, now in its 20th Revision, is augmented regularly, but info is still being gathered. No claim is made that the list is comprehensive. But it still covers the the lion’s share of the important F-Class venues nationwide. If you know of a range that should be added to the list, please post the location on our F-Class Range List Forum thread. Rod will update the list as new range info is received. Rod writes: “Range information is wanted and welcomed. I would like your help on collecting specific info on Clubs/Ranges where known F-Class matches are held.” Here’s a partial sample from Rod’s list:

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

Accurateshooter.com F-Class Excel range list

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February 20th, 2020

Zediker Book Helps with Build-You-Own AR-15 Projects

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 Glen Zedicker’s book, the Competitive AR-15 Builders Guide. Following on Zedicker’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 AR-15 Builders’ Guide provides a complete list of the tools you’ll need for the job, and Zedicker 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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February 15th, 2020

Changes in Humidity Can Alter Powder Burn Rates — IMPORTANT

Tech Tip Norma Powder gunpowder moisture temperature humidity

Most shooters realize that significant changes in temperature will alter how powders perform. That’s why you want to keep your loaded ammo out of the hot sun, and keep rounds out of a hot chamber until you’re ready to fire. But there are other factors to be considered — HUMIDITY for one. This article explains why and how humidity can affect powder burn rates and performance.

We’ve all heard the old adage: “Keep your powder dry”. Well, tests by Norma have demonstrated that even normal environmental differences in humidity can affect the way powders burn, at least over the long term. In the Norma Reloading Manual, Sven-Eric Johansson, head of ballistics at Nexplo/Bofors, presents a very important discussion of water vapor absorption by powder. Johansson demonstrates that the same powder will burn at different rates depending on water content.

Powders Leave the Factory with 0.5 to 1.0% Water Content
Johansson explains that, as manufactured, most powders contain 0.5 to 1% of water by weight. (The relative humidity is “equilibrated” at 40-50% during the manufacturing process to maintain this 0.5-1% moisture content). Importantly, Johansson notes that powder exposed to moist air for a long time will absorb water, causing it to burn at a slower rate. On the other hand, long-term storage in a very dry environment reduces powder moisture content, so the powder burns at a faster rate. In addition, Johansson found that single-base powders are MORE sensitive to relative humidity than are double-base powders (which contain nitroglycerine).

Tests Show Burn Rates Vary with Water Content
In his review of the Norma Manual, Fred Barker notes: “Johansson gives twelve (eye-opening) plots of the velocities and pressures obtained on firing several popular cartridges with dehydrated, normal and hydrated Norma powders (from #200 to MRP). He also gives results on loaded .30-06 and .38 Special cartridges stored for 663 to 683 days in relative humidities of 20% and 86%. So Johansson’s advice is to keep powders tightly capped in their factory containers, and to minimize their exposure to dry or humid air.”

Confirming Johansson’s findings that storage conditions can alter burn rates, Barker observes: “I have about 10 pounds of WWII 4831 powder that has been stored in dry (about 20% RH) Colorado air for more than 60 years. It now burns about like IMR 3031.”

What does this teach us? First, all powders start out with a small, but chemically important, amount of water content. Second, a powder’s water content can change over time, depending on where and how the powder is stored. Third, the water content of your powder DOES make a difference in how it burns, particularly for single-base powders. For example, over a period of time, a powder used (and then recapped) in the hot, dry Southwest will probably behave differently than the same powder used in the humid Southeast.

Reloaders are advised to keep these things in mind. If you want to maintain your powders’ “as manufactured” burn rate, it is wise to head Johannson’s recommendation to keep your powders tightly capped when you’re not actually dispensing charges and avoid exposing your powder to very dry or very humid conditions. The Norma Reloading Manual is available from Amazon.com.

Real-World Example — “Dry” H4831sc Runs Hotter

Robert Whitley agrees that the burn rate of the powder varies with the humidity it absorbs. Robert writes: “I had an 8-lb. jug of H4831SC I kept in my detached garage (it can be humid there). 43.5-44.0 gr of this was superbly accurate with the 115 Bergers out of my 6mm Super X. I got tired of bringing it in and out of the garage to my house for reloading so I brought and kept the jug in my reloading room (a dehumidified room in my house) and after a few weeks I loaded up 43.5 gr, went to a match and it shot awful. I could not figure out what was going on until I put that load back over the chronograph and figured out it was going a good bit faster than before and the load was out of the “sweet spot” (42.5 – 43.0 gr was the max I could load and keep it accurate when it was stored in less humid air). I put the jug back in the garage for a few weeks and I now am back to loading 43.5 – 44.0 gr and it shoots great again. I have seen this with other powders too.”

If you have two jugs of the same powder, one kept in a room in your house and one somewhere else where it is drier or more humid, don’t expect the two jugs of the same lot of powder to chrono the same with the same charge weights unless and until they are both stored long enough in the same place to equalize again.

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February 15th, 2020

Seven Ways to Save Money on Your Shooting Hobby in 2020

Money Saving Discount Codes Shooters Shopping Demo Optics

The true cost of living has risen significantly in recent years. Accordingly, it’s important to save money whenever possible. General prices are going up, health costs are rising significantly*, and the cost of components (bullets, brass, powder) continues to climb. To help you hang on to those hard-earned dollars, here are seven ways shooters can save money on gear purchases and other shooting-related expenses.

1. Watch for Our Deals of the Week. Every Monday, in our Daily Bulletin, AccurateShooter.com offers some of the best deals to be found. We search the web to find great deals on ammo, reloading components, optics, tools, firearms, gun safes, electronics and more. It’s not unusual to find savings of 20-35% through our Deals of the Week. And many of our vendors are now offering special deals just for AccurateShooter.com readers.

AccurateShooter deals of the week

2. Check Out the Forum Classifieds. There are great deals to be found every day in the AccurateShooter Shooters’ Forum. The latest deals are displayed in the right column of every Forum page. To see all the listings, browse through the Forum MarketPlace section which has four main categories:

  • Guns, Actions, Stocks, & Barrels
  • Tools, Dies, Rests, Reloading Components & Misc
  • Scopes, Optics, Sights, Rings, Bases Etc.
  • Commercial Sales by Paid Sponsors

3. Share a Ride to Matches. Fuel prices are on the rise — Mid-grade gasoline is nearly $4.00 per gallon in Southern California now and around $2.80/gallon nationwide. With many shooters living 30-100 miles from the nearest range, fuel remains a big part of a shooter’s hobby budget. We’d say 90% of shooters drive solo to matches, often in large, gas-guzzling trucks. If you drive 200 miles round-trip to attend a match in a 20-mpg vehicle, you’ll burn over $28.00 worth of gasoline on your trip. That adds up. By simply sharing the ride with one fellow shooter you cut your fuel expenditures in half. And, if you alternate vehicles with a buddy from one match to the next, you save on vehicle wear and tear. At $0.50/mile (overall operating costs) consider the savings.

4. Use Discount Codes to Save. It’s always smart to check for discount codes before you buy. In the Daily Bulletin, we feature “Deals of the Week” every Monday morning, and we provide discount Coupon Codes when available. These can reduce the price substantially or lower shipping costs. Search codes for Creedmoor Sports, Brownells, Sinclair Int’l, Cabela’s, MidwayUSA, and Precision Reloading. Check your email also — some discount codes are only announced in email newsletters. If you can’t find a Coupon Code for your preferred vendor, visit Gun.deals and/or RetailMeNot.com. Both those sites list current coupon codes, and RetailMeNot.com covers thousands of vendors.

5. Shop for “Demo” Optics. Modern high-quality optics can easily cost $1500.00 or more, often exceeding the value of the rifle on which they are mounted. However, you can often save 20-30% by purchasing demo optics. These are normally display units used at trade shows. They may have slight ringmarks, but otherwise they are “as new”, having never been carried in the field or used on a rifle that has fired live ammo. When purchasing demo scopes, you should always ask about the warranty before consummating the sale. However, most demo scopes from name-brand manufacturers come with full factory warranties. EuroOptic.com and SWFA.com are two respected vendors that offer a good selection of demo optics.

6. Train with Rimfire Rifles. The true cost of shooting a match-grade centerfire rifle, when you consider barrel wear along with bullets, powder, primers, and brass, can exceed $1.20 per round. READ Shooting Cost Article. By contrast, quality .22 LR target ammo sells for under $0.15 per round. Good rimfire barrels last a long, long time, so you don’t have to be concerned about wearing out your barrel quickly. A quality rimfire barrel can retain its accuracy for 10,000 rounds or more. If you run the ballistics, a .22 LR round at 100 yards can emulate the wind drift experienced by a centerfire cartridge at long range. This allows for effective cross-training with much less expensive ammo.

7. Take Advantage of Factory Rebates. Every year there are some attractive rebates available from quality manufacturers such as RCBS, Hornady, Savage, CCI, Federal, Nikon, and Remington. You’ll find rebates on rifles, pistols, optics, ammo, powder, bullets, reloading tools — you name it. Yes, many rebates are used to move less-popular merchandise. But some rebates apply to a very wide range of merchandise (perhaps with a dollar total minimum), so it’s hard to go wrong if you shop smart. Just make sure that, when you buy a product, you retain the sales slip and the original packaging (it’s also wise to print out online orders). To qualify for the rebate, you may need to mail in a product identification code found on the box, along with your original sales receipt.

* Since the adoption of Obamacare, there has been a huge increase in medical insurance costs for self-employed persons above a modest income level. Prior to Obamacare, this Editor was paying about $330/mo for Blue Shield insurance in California. Now my Blue Shield policy (similar coverage but with higher deductibles) is over $1350 per month — a 409% increase! And the office visit co-pay free has risen from $25.00 to $75.00, a 300% increase.

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February 14th, 2020

Get Smart — Read FREE Applied Ballistics TECH Articles

Want to improve your understanding of Ballistics, Bullet Design, Bullet Pointing, and other shooting-related tech topics? Well here’s a treasure trove of gun expertise. Applied Ballistics offers three dozen FREE tech articles on its website. Curious about Coriolis? — You’ll find answers. Want to understand the difference between G1 and G7 BC? — There’s an article about that.

“Doc” Beech, technical support specialist at Applied Ballistics says these articles can help shooters working with ballistics programs: “One of the biggest issues I have seen is the misunderstanding… about a bullet’s ballistic coefficient (BC) and what it really means. Several papers on ballistic coefficient are available for shooters to review on the website.”

Credit Shooting Sports USA Editor John Parker for finding this great resource. John writes: “Our friends at Applied Ballistics have a real gold mine of articles on the science of accurate shooting on their website. This is a fantastic source for precision shooting information[.] Topics presented are wide-ranging — from ballistic coefficients to bullet analysis.”

READ All Applied Ballistics Articles HERE »

Here are six (6) of our favorite Applied Ballistics articles, available for FREE as PDF files. There are 31 more, all available on the Applied Ballistics Articles Webpage.

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February 13th, 2020

Brain Trust — Bryan Litz, Emil Praslick, and the AMP Team

Ultimate Reloader Video interview Bryan Litz Applied Ballistics Berger Bullets Emil Praslick III AMP Annealing

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com was a busy man at SHOT Show 2020 in Las Vegas. He visited many leading vendors, and he also interviewed some of the most knowledgeable experts in the world of precision shooting. Today we present three important video interviews hosted by Gavin — the SHOT Show Brain Trust series.

First up is Bryan Litz, world-renowned ballistics expert and founder of Applied Ballistics LLC. The software developed by Bryan’s company is used by top competitive shooters and military marksmen. The second member of the Brain Trust is Emil Praslick III. Former Coach of the USAMU rifle team, Emil is considered to be one of the best wind-readers on the planet. Finally, we showcase a father and son team from New Zealand, Alex and Matt Finlay, developers of the Annealing Made Perfect (AMP) electrical induction annealing system.

Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics LLC.

This interview with Bryan Litz is a “must-watch” for any serious long-range shooter. Bryan, founder of Applied Ballistics LLC., explains many important ballistics concepts. In addition Bryan discusses bullet design qualities that can reduce drag, increase BC, and improve bullet-to-bullet consistency.

Emil Praslick (U.S. Army Ret.) of Capstone Precision Group

Emil Praslick III, former coach of USAMU and USA Long Range teams, has been hailed as a “wind guru” — a master of wind reading. Emil now works for Capstone Precision Group, Parent of Berger Bullets, Lapua, Vihtavuori, and SK. In this wide-ranging interview, Emil talks about wind-reading strategies, modern bullet designs, and ballistics challenges in Long Range shooting.

Alex and Matt Finlay of Annealing Made Perfect (AMP)

Father Alex and son Matt Finlay have brought break-through technology to the world of precision hand-loading. Their innovative AMP annealing machines are true “game-changers” that extend useful case life and improve loading consistency. The computer-controlled AMP MK 2 annealing system is the most advanced and precise annealer available for the general consumer.

Comment from Interviewer Gavin Gear
It’s an absolute privilege to have access to the “best in the business”. I have so much respect for these innovators: Bryan Litz and Applied Ballistics, Emil Praslick: King of 2 Mile winning team member (2017), and the Annealing Made Perfect team (Alex and Matt). In each case, there’s very interesting innovation happening, and I’ve applied much of what I’ve learned from these people into my daily work on UltimateReloader.com.

Credit: In top photo, brain graphic Designed by Yo_Han / Freepik.

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February 13th, 2020

Primers and Pressure Tolerances — How Primers Vary

Primer Pressure signs

by James Calhoon
(First Printed in Varmint Hunter Magazine, October, 1995)

Primers and Pressures

In the course of talking to many shooters, it has become clear to me that the manufacturers of primers have done a less than adequate job of educating reloaders on the application of their primers. Everybody seems to realize that some primers are “hotter” than others and some seem to shoot better for them than others, but few reloaders know that primers have different pressure tolerances.

Primer Pressure Tolerance
When loading a .223 to the maximum, I was getting primer piercing before I reached case overloading. I don’t know what prompted me to try CCI 450s instead of the 400s which I had been using, but I did. Presto! No more piercing! Interesting!? A primer that has a hotter ignition and yet withstands more pressure! Thats when I decided that it was time to do a dissection of all primers concerned. The chart below shows my results.

Primers and Pressures
NOTE: These primer dimensions were measured many years ago. There may be some differences in current production specifications.

By studying the numbers (Cup “A” thickness), one can see which primers in the small rifle sections should be more resistant to primer cratering and/or piercing. Primer cup diameters are all similar and appear to follow a specification, but check out the cup thickness in the small rifle primers (Dimension “A”). Some cups are quite a bit thicker than others: .025″ for CCI 450 vs. .0019″ for Fed 200. Large rifle primers all appear to have the same cup thickness, no matter what the type. (As a note of interest, small pistol primers are .017″ thick and large pistol primers are .020″ thick.)

If you are shooting a 22 Cooper, Hornet, or a Bee, the .020″ cup will perform admirably. But try using the .020″ cup in a 17 Remington and you will pierce primers, even with moderate loads.

Considering that cup thickness varies in the small rifle primers, it is obvious that primer “flatness” cannot solely be used as a pressure indicator.

Another factor which determines the strength of a primer cup is the work-hardened state of the metal used to make the primer cup. Most primers are made with cartridge brass (70% copper, 30% zinc), which can vary from 46,000 psi, soft, to 76,000 psi tensile strength when fully hardened. Note that manufacturers specify the hardness of metal desired, so some cups are definitely “harder” that others.

What does all this mean to the reloader?
- Cases that utilize small rifle primers and operate at moderate pressures (40,000 psi) can use CCI 400, Federal 200, Rem 6 1/2, or Win SR. Such cases include 22 CCM, 22 Hornet and the 218 Bee. Other cases that use the small rifle primer can use the above primers only if moderate loads are used. Keep to the lower end of reloading recommendations.

– Cases that utilize small rifle primers and operate at higher pressures (55,000 psi) should use CCI 450, CCI BR4, Fed 205 and Rem 7 1/2.

– All the large rifle primers measured have the same thickness. Therefore choose based on other factors, such as accuracy, low ES/SD, cost, cup hardness, and uniformity.

Hope this clears up some primer confusion. If you want more information about primers, priming compounds, or even how to make primers, the NRA sells an excellent book called “Ammunition Making” by George Frost. This book tells it like it is in the ammo making industry.

Jim Calhoon Products

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February 12th, 2020

Six Tips for Better Results at Local Fun Shooting Matches

tip advice training prep club varmint groundhog match

Every summer weekend, 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.

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February 9th, 2020

Technology Insight: How Carbon-Wrapped Barrels Are Made

Proof Reseach carbon fiber barrel wrap aerospace composites

Montana-based PROOF Research has released a revealing video showcasing carbon fiber firearms technology and the company’s barrel-making process. Viewers will find the 8-minute film an intriguing introduction to composite barrel-making, which employs aerospace carbon fiber wrapped around a steel barrel core. The video showcases the high-tech machines used at PROOF’s production facilities.


This video shows how PROOF Research employs aerospace-grade, high-temperature composite materials to build match-grade carbon fiber-wrapped barrels.

Proof Reseach carbon fiber barrel wrap aerospace composites

Proof Reseach carbon fiber barrel wrap aerospace composites

Dr. David Curliss, General Manager of PROOF Research’s Advanced Composite Division, and former head of the U.S. Air Force High Temperature Composites Laboratory, explains how aerospace expertise helps in the development of PROOF’s firearms-related products: “We are able to provide premier materials for PROOF Research for firearms barrels applications as well as the aerospace market. We’re probably the only firearms technology company that has composite materials in orbit around the earth.”

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February 6th, 2020

Take Notice — Recall of Accurate 2495, 4064, 4350 Powders

Accurate Powder Western 2495 4065 4350 propellant powders recall safety fire hazard

Readers — if you reload with Accurate-brand 2495, 4064, or 4350 powders, check your containers now! Accurate Powder is recalling certain lots of these powders in both 1-lb and 8-lb containers. This is serious. The manufacturer says: “The use or storage of this product may result in combustion, fire damage, and/or possible serious injury or property damage.” The problematic powders being recalled were manufactured for Western Powders Inc. prior to 10/1/2016, but they may have been sold anytime after that.

Check the Lot Number on the back or bottom of the containers. The lot number is the last digit or last two digits (right-most digits). Here are the recalled lots:

Accurate 2495 Lots 2-17 | Accurate 4064 Lots 2-16 | Accurate 4350 Lots 2-22

If you have any of the affected powder you should fill the container immediately with WATER. Then contact Western Powders at 406-234-0422 or customerservice@westernpowders.com .

Accurate Powders Recall Notice for 2495, 4064, 4360 Powders

Accurate Powder Western 2495 4065 4350 propellant powders recall safety fire hazard

Recall tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.

You Should Inspect Your Powder Supplies Now
This Powder Recall was first announced in November 2019, but we are repeating it now for our readers who may still be unaware of the issue. Some of our Forum members have observed some powder degradation with affected lots. But they also report that the refunds were handled promptly and fairly.

Member Snert noted: “I went through my inventory and found an 8-pounder and a 1-pounder, 2495 and 4350 respectively. The 4350 was going….changing color and stunk, red mist. The 2495 hadn’t obviously gone, but was part of the recall.

I called and the process is easy. Read the tags and tell em what you have. Write down the info they give you. Take a photo of the product and tag, send your contact info and a claim number. I found that they are sending me back more money than I paid. Very fair refund. I was happy with the customer service. Stand-up guys who were helpful. I’d buy from them again.” READ FORUM Recall thread.

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February 6th, 2020

Reading the Wind — Good Guidebook from M.Sgt. Jim Owens

Reading the Wind Jim Owens book CD DVD Creedmoor Sports

Readers often ask for a good, authoritative resource on doping the wind and reading mirage. Many of our Forum members recommended M.Sgt. Jim Owens’ Wind-Reading Book. With 22 sets of wind charts, this 166-page resource is offered for $14.95 in print format or $12.95 in CD format.

Owens’ Reading the Wind and Coaching Techniques clearly explains how to gauge wind speeds and angles. Owens, a well-known High Power coach and creator of Jarheadtop.com, offers a simple system for ascertaining wind value based on speed and angle. The CD also explains how to read mirage — a vital skill for long-range shooters. In many situations, reading the mirage may be just as important as watching the wind flags. Owens’ $12.95 CD provides wind-reading strategies that can be applied by coaches as well as individual shooters.

As a separate product, Owens offers a Reading the Wind DVD for $29.95.

NOTE: The Wind DVD product is completely different than Owens’ $12.95 CD. The DVD is like an interactive class, while the CD is basically an eBook.

Played straight through, the DVD offers about 75 minutes of instruction. M.Sgt. Owens says “You will learn more in an hour and fifteen minutes than the host learned in fifteen years in the Marine Corps shooting program. This is a wind class you can attend again and again. [It provides] a simple system for judging the speed, direction and value of the wind.” The DVD also covers mirage reading, wind strategies, bullet BC and more.

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February 4th, 2020

How to Avoid a Train Wreck at Berger SW Nationals This Week

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

The 2020 Berger Southwest Nationals kicks off 2/5/2020 at the Ben Avery Range outside Phoenix, AZ. The big event starts with a 600-yard Mid-Range Match. Many of the nation’s most talented F-Class and sling shooters will be there. But no matter what your skill level, it is still possible to make major mistakes that can spoil the day and/or put you out of the running for the entire match. This article aims to help competitors avoid the big errors/oversights/failures, aka “train wrecks”, that can ruin a match.

Berger SW Nationals mid-range match
Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher.

Berger SW Nationals mid-range match

In any shooting competition, you must try to avoid major screw-ups that can ruin your day (or your match). In this article, past F-TR National Mid-Range and Long Range Champion Bryan Litz talks about “Train Wrecks”, i.e. those big disasters (such as equipment failures) that can ruin a whole match. Bryan illustrates the types of “train wrecks” that commonly befall competitors, and he explains how to avoid these “unmitigated disasters”.

Urban Dictionary “Train Wreck” Definition: “A total @#$&! disaster … the kind that makes you want to shake your head.”

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballisticsTrain Wrecks (and How to Avoid Them)
by Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics LLC

Success in long range competition depends on many things. Those who aspire to be competitive are usually detail-oriented, and focused on all the small things that might give them an edge. Unfortunately it’s common for shooters lose sight of the big picture — missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.

Consistency is one of the universal principles of successful shooting. The tournament champion is the shooter with the highest average performance over several days, often times not winning a single match. While you can win tournaments without an isolated stellar performance, you cannot win tournaments if you have a single train wreck performance. And this is why it’s important for the detail-oriented shooter to keep an eye out for potential “big picture” problems that can derail the train of success!

Train wrecks can be defined differently by shooters of various skill levels and categories. Anything from problems causing a miss, to problems causing a 3/4-MOA shift in wind zero can manifest as a train wreck, depending on the kind of shooting you’re doing.

Berger SW Nationals Train Wreck Bryan Litz

Below is a list of common Shooting Match Train Wrecks, and suggestions for avoiding them.

1. Cross-Firing. The fastest and most common way to destroy your score (and any hopes of winning a tournament) is to cross-fire. The cure is obviously basic awareness of your target number on each shot, but you can stack the odds in your favor if you’re smart. For sling shooters, establish your Natural Point of Aim (NPA) and monitor that it doesn’t shift during your course of fire. If you’re doing this right, you’ll always come back on your target naturally, without deliberately checking each time. You should be doing this anyway, but avoiding cross-fires is another incentive for monitoring this important fundamental. In F-Class shooting, pay attention to how the rifle recoils, and where the crosshairs settle. If the crosshairs always settle to the right, either make an adjustment to your bipod, hold, or simply make sure to move back each shot. Also consider your scope. Running super high magnification can leave the number board out of the scope’s field view. That can really increase the risk of cross-firing.

2. Equipment Failure. There are a wide variety of equipment failures you may encounter at a match, from loose sight fasteners, to broken bipods, to high-round-count barrels that that suddenly “go south” (just to mention a few possibilities). Mechanical components can and do fail. The best policy is to put some thought into what the critical failure points are, monitor wear of these parts, and have spares ready. This is where an ounce of prevention can prevent a ton of train wreck. On this note, if you like running hot loads, consider whether that extra 20 fps is worth blowing up a bullet (10 points), sticking a bolt (DNF), or worse yet, causing injury to yourself or someone nearby.

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

3. Scoring/Pit Malfunction. Although not related to your shooting technique, doing things to insure you get at least fair treatment from your scorer and pit puller is a good idea. Try to meet the others on your target so they can associate a face with the shooter for whom they’re pulling. If you learn your scorer is a Democrat, it’s probably best not to tell Obama jokes before you go for record. If your pit puller is elderly, it may be unwise to shoot very rapidly and risk a shot being missed (by the pit worker), or having to call for a mark. Slowing down a second or two between shots might prevent a 5-minute delay and possibly an undeserved miss.

Berger SW Nationals
Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher.

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics4. Wind Issues. Tricky winds derail many trains. A lot can be written about wind strategies, but here’s a simple tip about how to take the edge off a worse case scenario. You don’t have to start blazing away on the command of “Commence fire”. If the wind is blowing like a bastard when your time starts, just wait! You’re allotted 30 minutes to fire your string in long range slow fire. With average pit service, it might take you 10 minutes if you hustle, less in F-Class. Point being, you have about three times longer than you need. So let everyone else shoot through the storm and look for a window (or windows) of time which are not so adverse. Of course this is a risk, conditions might get worse if you wait. This is where judgment comes in. Just know you have options for managing time and keep an eye on the clock. Saving rounds in a slow fire match is a costly and embarrassing train wreck.

5. Mind Your Physical Health. While traveling for shooting matches, most shooters break their normal patterns of diet, sleep, alcohol consumption, etc. These disruptions to the norm can have detrimental effects on your body and your ability to shoot and even think clearly. If you’re used to an indoor job and eating salads in air-conditioned break rooms and you travel to a week-long rifle match which keeps you on your feet all day in 90-degree heat and high humidity, while eating greasy restaurant food, drinking beer and getting little sleep, then you might as well plan on daily train wrecks. If the match is four hours away, rather than leaving at 3:00 am and drinking five cups of coffee on the morning drive, arrive the night before and get a good night’s sleep.”

Keep focused on the important stuff. You never want to lose sight of the big picture. Keep the important, common sense things in mind as well as the minutia of meplat trimming, weighing powder to the kernel, and cleaning your barrel ’til it’s squeaky clean. Remember, all the little enhancements can’t make up for one big train wreck!

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February 3rd, 2020

Rear Sand Bag Tuning — Fill Levels, Sand Types, Bag Designs

With the Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN) taking place this week in Phoenix, we are reprising this discussing of rear bag designs and fill levels. By “tuning” your rear bag you can reduce hop on shot-firing and help your rifle track better. All that can translate to better scores, particularly with large-caliber rifles.

Tuning Your Rear Sand Bags

Over the years, noted gunsmith and a Benchrest Hall-of-Fame inductee Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez has learned a few things about “tuning” rear sandbags for best performance. On his Facebook page, Speedy recently discussed how sand bag fill levels (hard vs. soft) can affect accuracy. Speedy says you don’t want to have both your front and rear sandbags filled up ultra-hard. One or the other bag needs to have some “give” to provide a shock-absorbing function (and prevent stock jump). And you want to tune your fill arrangements to match your shooting style. Free recoil shooters may need a different fill levels than bag squeezers (who a softer bag but harder ears).

SAND BAGS & HOW TO FILL THEM by Speedy Gonzalez

I was asked several times by competitors at the S.O.A. Matches and F-Class Nationals as to how I fill my sand bags for benchrest competition. Here is a copy of a reply I gave several years ago:

Back in the old days, Pat McMillan told me: “You can not have two bags filled so hard that you gun bounces on them in the process of firing round at your target, especially if you have a rig with a very flexible stock. The bags must be set up in a manner for them to absorb the initial shock of the firing pin moving forward and igniting the primer.

Then [they must] maintain their shape and absorb the second shock wave as well the rearward thrust and torque of the rifle. What happens to the rifle when this is not done? Well let me tell you. The rifles have a very bad tendency to jump and roll in the bags. This causes many of those wild, lost shots that one can’t explain.”

Here’s some Good General Advice for Bag Set-up:

1. You should not have TWO hard bags [i.e. both front AND rear] in your set-up.

2. Heavy sand magnifies these phenomena.

3. If you are a bag squeezer, pack ears hard and leave bag pliable enough to squeeze for the movement required. You may pack front bag as hard as rules permit.

4. Free recoil shooters pack both bags firm, but not so hard as to allow stock jump. Especially if you have a stock with a very flexible forearm.

5. We use play-ground sand, also know as silica sand. I sift mine to get any large impurities out then mix it with 25% to 50% with Harts parakeet gravel to the desired hardness that I am looking for. The bird gravel keeps the sand from packing itself into that solid as a brick state.

Speaking of bricks — another thing that happens when shooters employ that heavy zircon sand is the ears form a low spot under them from recoil and then tend to rock back and forth with the rifle causing many low shots to crop up. Edgewood makes an Edgewood/Speedy rear bag specially reinforced under the ears to eliminate this scenario.

General Thoughts about Bag Construction and Ear Materials
I do not like the solid double-stitched leather bottoms. While this seems like a good idea, I see more shooters have problems because of them. They tend to slide around the bench and or slide with the rifle on recoil. The standard Protektor with Cordura rabbit ears and an Otto ring bag with a Cordura front would be what I would suggest to the new shooter or one of the Edgewood / Speedy rear bags, these mimic the “Donut” and feature a ring of leather around the bottom circumference that keep the bottom from rocking on the bench or ground[.]

One last note –If you use the Cordura bags, keep them sprayed with a good silicon spray or “Rain-Ex”. This keeps them from getting sticky. — Speedy

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February 2nd, 2020

How Powder Moisture Content Affects Pressure and Speed

vihtavuori vv moisture content powder propellent
This Technical Report Comes from the Vihtavuori website.

Powder Moisture Content — Did You Know?
Variations in moisture content change the burning rate of a powder and thereby chamber pressures and muzzle velocity. The moisture content of the Vihtavuori N100 and N300 series powders is usually around 1%, while the N500-series’ normal moisture content is 0.6% because of the added nitroglycerine.

So what difference does moisture content make? Here’s an example. In a test, a [Vihtavuori] powder sample was dried by heating it, losing about 0.5 % of its weight. Cartridges were then loaded with the dried powder and fired using a pressure gun. Chamber pressures and muzzle velocities produced by these special cartridges were compared to those produced by cartridges loaded with untreated powder. (The powder charge and bullet were of course the same in both sets of cartridges.)

After Powder Drying:
Pressure Increased 11% from 320 MPa to 355 MPa
Velocity Increased 2.6% from 2526 to 2592 FPS

Comparing results showed chamber pressures increased from 320 MPa to 355 MPa with the dried powder, and the muzzle velocity increased accordingly from 770 m/s to 790 m/s (2526 to 2592 FPS). And note, this is only one example, of one caliber and loading. The difference might be much higher depending on the cartridge and loading combinations.

Recommendation: Store powder below 68°F in 55-65% humidity.

What does this tell us? Well, it seems we need to forget the old saying “Keep your powder dry”! Instead, focus on proper powder storage, at a temperature below 20°C/68°F and humidity between 55 and 65%. Safe reloading everybody!

vihtavuori vv moisture content powder propellent

Tech Tip sourced by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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February 2nd, 2020

Barrel Twist Rate — How to Determine the True Twist Rate

FirearmsID.com barrel rifling diagram
Erik Dahlberg illustration courtesy FireArmsID.com.

Sometimes you’ll get a barrel that doesn’t stabilize bullets the way you’d anticipate, based on the stated (or presumed) twist rate. A barrel might have 1:10″ stamped on the side but it is, in truth, a 1:10.5″ twist or even a 1:9.5″. Cut-rifled barrels, such as Kriegers and Bartleins, normally hold very true to the specified twist rate. With buttoned barrels, due to the nature of the rifling process, there’s a greater chance of a small variation in twist rate. And yes, factory barrels can be slightly out of spec as well.

After buying a new barrel, you should determine the true twist rate BEFORE you start load development. You don’t want to invest in a large supply of expensive bullets only to find that that won’t stabilize because your “8 twist” barrel is really a 1:8.5″. Sinclair International provides a simple procedure for determining the actual twist rate of your barrel.

Sinclair’s Simple Twist Rate Measurement Method
If are unsure of the twist rate of the barrel, you can measure it yourself in a couple of minutes. You need a good cleaning rod with a rotating handle and a jag with a fairly tight fitting patch. Utilize a rod guide if you are accessing the barrel through the breech or a muzzle guide if you are going to come in from the muzzle end. Make sure the rod rotates freely in the handle under load. Start the patch into the barrel for a few inches and then stop. Put a piece of tape at the back of the rod by the handle (like a flag) or mark the rod in some way. Measure how much of the rod is still protruding from the rod guide. You can either measure from the rod guide or muzzle guide back to the flag or to a spot on the handle. Next, continue to push the rod in until the mark or tape flag has made one complete revolution. Re-measure the amount of rod that is left sticking out of the barrel. Use the same reference marks as you did on the first measurement. Next, subtract this measurement from the first measurement. This number is the twist rate. For example, if the rod has 24 inches remaining at the start and 16 inches remain after making one revolution, you have 8 inches of travel, thus a 1:8 twist barrel.

Determining Barrel Twist Rate Empirically
Twist rate is defined as the distance in inches of barrel that the rifling takes to make one complete revolution. An example would be a 1:10″ twist rate. A 1:10″ barrel has rifling that makes one complete revolution in 10 inches of barrel length. Rifle manufacturers usually publish twist rates for their standard rifle offerings and custom barrels are always ordered by caliber, contour, and twist rate. If you are having a custom barrel chambered you can ask the gunsmith to mark the barrel with the twist rate.

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January 30th, 2020

Airline Travel With Rifles — Important Advice for Travelers

travel air berger SWN southwest nationals rifle transport
Berger SWN Photo by Sherri Jo Gallagher

The Berger Southwest Nationals (SWN), 2020’s biggest centerfire rifle match west of the Mississippi, is coming up next week. We know that many of our regular readers will be flying to Phoenix to attend the SWN. Here are some travel tips from experts in the industry.

If you’ll be traveling by air in the days ahead, be careful when transporting firearms through airports. It is important that you comply with all Homeland Security, TSA, and Airline policies when transporting guns and ammunition. Following the rules will help ensure you (and your gear) make it to your destination without hassles, delays or (God forbid), confiscations.

berger SWN Air Travel FAA TSA rules

Good Advice from an Airport Police Officer
To help our readers comply with rules and regulations for air travel, we offer these guidelines, courtesy “Ron D.”, a member of our Shooters’ Forum. Before he retired, Ron D. served as a Police Officer assigned to Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Here Ron offers some very important advice for shooters traveling with firearms and expensive optics.

gun transport caseFirst, Ron explains that airport thieves can spot bags containing firearms no matter how they are packaged: “Don’t think you’re safe if your guns are placed in cases designed for golf clubs or trade show items. Baggage is X-Rayed now and cases are tagged with a special bar code if they contain firearms. It doesn’t take long for bad guys to figure out the bar coding for firearms.”

Carry-On Your Scopes and Expensive Items
Ron advises travelers to avoid placing very expensive items in checked baggage: “When traveling by air, carry on your rangefinder, spotting scope, rifle scope, medications, camera, etc. You would be surprised at the amount of people that carry-on jeans and shirts, but put expensive items in checked baggage. Better to loose three pairs of jeans than some expensive glass.”

Mark Bags to Avoid Confusion
Ron notes that carry-on bags are often lost because so many carry-on cases look the same. Ron reports: “People do accidentally remove the wrong bag repeatedly. I frequently heard the comment, ‘But it looks just like my bag’. When de-planing, keep an eye on what comes out of the overhead that your bag is in. It’s easy to get distracted by someone that has been sitting next to you the whole flight. I tie two streamers of red surveyors’ tape on my carry-on bag.” You can also use paint or decals to make your carry-on bag more distinctive.

General Advice for Air Travelers
Ron cautions: “Keep your hands on your items before boarding. One of the most often heard comments from theft victims was, ‘I just put my computer down for a minute while I was on the phone.’ Also, get to the baggage claim area quickly. If your family/friends can meet you there, so can the opportunists. Things do get lost in the claim area. Don’t be a Victim. Forewarned is forearmed.”

Choosing a Rifle Transport Case

Forum member David C., who will compete at the 2020 Berger SWN, offers this advice: “If you plan to fly with your rifle, a 55″-long case such as the Pelican 1770 may be too big and heavy. The 1770 is 36 pounds on its own and is quite unwieldly to move around. I would recommend going with a smaller case such as the Pelican 1720 with 42″-long interior. It weighs 19 pounds and if you separate your stock from the barreled action, everything fits just fine, as you can see below.” Editor: Note that you can also store a full-size spotting scope in the case along with your rifle:

travel air berger SWN southwest nationals rifle transport

Retired Airport Police Officer Ron D. advises: “Buy the best [rifle case] that you can afford. Don’t cry when your $3,000+ Benchrest rifle has a cracked stock or broken scope. Think about what it would be like to travel across the country and arrive with a damaged rifle. Baggage handling is NOT a fine art. There is no guarantee that your rifle case will be on top of all the other baggage. Then there is shifting of baggage in the belly of the plane. Ponder that for a while. Rifle and pistol cases must be locked. It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that a simple pry tool will open most case locks. There is not much that you can do to disguise a rifle case. It is what it is, and opportunists know this. Among thieves, it doesn’t take long for the word to get around about a NEW type of case.”

Great Deals on Plano All-Weather Cases at Amazon

plano tactical rifle case

Match season has begun, and that means hauling gear either in cars or on planes. Either way you need good cases for your firearms. We found the Plano All Weather Gun Cases at bargain prices. These are well-built and designed to protect whatever you put in them for a third the cost of some other brands. No Plano cases are not as refined as Pelican or SKB cases, but if you’re on a tight budget, the Planos can do the job. Read this article for more information on Plano cases.

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January 30th, 2020

Can You Predict Useful Barrel Life? Insights from Dan Lilja

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Barrel-maker Dan Lilja’s website has an excellent FAQ page that contains a wealth of useful information. On the Lilja FAQ Page as you’ll find informed answers to many commonly-asked questions. For example, Dan’s FAQ addresses the question of barrel life. Dan looks at factors that affect barrel longevity, and provides some predictions for barrel life, based on caliber, chambering, and intended use.

NOTE: This article was very well-received when it was first published last year. We are reprising it for the benefit of readers who missed it the first time.

Dan cautions that “Predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject — there is not a simple answer. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.” Dan also notes that barrels can wear prematurely from heat: “Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups.”

Q. What Barrel Life, in number of rounds fired, can I expect from my new barrel?

A: That is a good question, asked often by our customers. But again there is not a simple answer. In my opinion there are two distinct types of barrel life. Accurate barrel life is probably the type most of us are referencing when we ask the question. But there is also absolute barrel life too. That is the point where a barrel will no longer stabilize a bullet and accuracy is wild. The benchrest shooter and to a lesser extent other target shooters are looking at accurate barrel life only when asking this question. To a benchrest shooter firing in matches where group size is the only measure of precision, accuracy is everything. But to a score shooter firing at a target, or bull, that is larger than the potential group size of the rifle, it is less important. And to the varmint hunter shooting prairie dog-size animals, the difference between a .25 MOA rifle or one that has dropped in accuracy to .5 MOA may not be noticeable in the field.

The big enemy to barrel life is heat. A barrel looses most of its accuracy due to erosion of the throat area of the barrel. Although wear on the crown from cleaning can cause problems too. The throat erosion is accelerated by heat. Any fast varmint-type cartridge can burn out a barrel in just a few hundred rounds if those rounds are shot one after another without letting the barrel cool between groups. A cartridge burning less powder will last longer or increasing the bore size for a given powder volume helps too. For example a .243 Winchester and a .308 Winchester both are based on the same case but the .308 will last longer because it has a larger bore.

And stainless steel barrels will last longer than chrome-moly barrels. This is due to the ability of stainless steel to resist heat erosion better than the chrome-moly steel.

Barrel Life Guidelines by Caliber and Cartridge Type
As a very rough rule of thumb I would say that with cartridges of .222 Remington size you could expect an accurate barrel life of 3000-4000 rounds. And varmint-type accuracy should be quite a bit longer than this.

For medium-size cartridges, such as the .308 Winchester, 7×57 and even the 25-06, 2000-3000 rounds of accurate life is reasonable.

Hot .224 caliber-type cartridges will not do as well, and 1000-2500 rounds is to be expected.

Bigger magnum hunting-type rounds will shoot from 1500-3000 accurate rounds. But the bigger 30-378 Weatherby types won’t do as well, being closer to the 1500-round figure.

These numbers are based on the use of stainless steel barrels. For chrome-moly barrels I would reduce these by roughly 20%.

The .17 and .50 calibers are rules unto themselves and I’m pressed to predict a figure.

The best life can be expected from the 22 long rifle (.22 LR) barrels with 5000-10,000 accurate rounds to be expected. We have in our shop one our drop-in Anschutz barrels that has 200,000 rounds through it and the shooter, a competitive small-bore shooter reported that it had just quit shooting.

Remember that predicting barrel life is a complicated, highly variable subject. You are the best judge of this with your particular barrel. Signs of accurate barrel life on the wane are increased copper fouling, lengthened throat depth, and decreased accuracy.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Benchrest Barrel Life — You May Be Surprised
I thought it might be interesting to point out a few exceptional Aggregates that I’ve fired with 6PPC benchrest rifles with barrels that had thousands of rounds through them. I know benchrest shooters that would never fire barrels with over 1500 shots fired in them in registered benchrest matches.

I fired my smallest 100-yard 5-shot Aggregate ever in 1992 at a registered benchrest match in Lewiston, Idaho. It was a .1558″ aggregate fired in the Heavy Varmint class. And that barrel had about 2100 rounds through it at the time.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

Another good aggregate was fired at the 1997 NBRSA Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona during the 200-yard Light Varmint event. I placed second at this yardage with a 6PPC barrel that had over 2700 rounds through it at the time. I retired this barrel after that match because it had started to copper-foul quite a bit. But accuracy was still good.

Lilja Rifle Barrels barrel life 3-groove AR15 Barrel heat

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