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July 29th, 2022

Velocity Per Inch in .223 Rem — Barrel Cut-Down Test Results

.223 Rem Cut-Down Test barrel UMC m855

Most of us own a .223 Rem rifle. Now, thanks to our friends at Rifleshooter.com we can assess exactly how velocity changes with barrel length for this popular cartridge.

Rifleshooter.com performed an interesting test, cutting the barrel of a .223 Rem rifle from 26″ all the way down to 16.5″. The cuts were made in one-inch intervals with a rotary saw. At each cut length, velocity was measured with a Magnetospeed chronograph. To make the test even more interesting, four different types of .223 Rem/5.56 ammo were chron’d at each barrel length. The Rifleshooter.com team that conducts these tests has a full-service gun shop, 782 Custom Gunworks — visit 782guns.com.

READ RifleShooter.com 5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Test Article »

Test Barrel Lost 25.34 FPS Per Inch (.223 Rem Chambering)
How much velocity do you think was lost, on average, for each 1″ reduction in barrel length? The answer may surprise you. The average speed loss of the four types of .223/5.56 ammo, with a 9.5″ shortening of barrel length, was 240.75 fps total (from start to finish). That works out to an average loss of 25.34 fps per inch.

5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Speed Test 26″ to 16.5″ Start FPS at 26″ End FPS at 16.5″ Total Loss Average Loss Per Inch
UMC .223 55gr 3182* 2968 214 22.5 FPS
Federal M193 55gr 3431 3187 244 25.7 FPS
Win m855 62gr 3280 2992 288 30.3 FPS
Blk Hills .223 68gr 2849 2632 217 22.8 FPS

*There may have been an error. The 25″ velocity was higher at 3221 fps.

See inch-by-inch Barrel Cut-Down Velocity Data HERE »

Rifleshooter.com observed: “Cutting the barrel from 26″ to 16.5″ resulted in a velocity reduction of 214 ft/sec with the UMC 223 55-grain cartridge, 244 ft/sec with the Federal M-193 cartridge, 288 ft/sec with the Winchester M855 cartridge and 217 ft/sec with the Back Hills 223 68-grain match cartridge.”

How the Test Was Done
The testers described their procedure as follows: “Ballistic data was gathered using a Magnetospeed barrel-mounted ballistic chronograph. At each barrel length, the rifle was fired from a front rest with rear bags, with five rounds of each type of ammunition. Average velocity and standard deviation were logged for each round. Once data was gathered for each cartridge at a given barrel length, the rifle was cleared and the bolt was removed. The barrel was cut off using a cold saw. The test protocol was repeated for the next length. Temperature was 45.7° F.”

CLICK HERE to Read the Rifleshooter.com Test. This includes detailed charts with inch-by-inch velocity numbers.

See More Barrel Cut-Down Tests on Rifleshooter.com
Rifleshooter.com has performed barrel cut-down tests for many other calibers/chamberings including 6mm Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, and .338 Lapua Magnum. See these test results at Rifleshooter.com.

.308 Win barrel length cut test

Much Different Results with 6mmBR and a Longer Barrel
The results from Rifleshooter.com’s .223/5.56 test are quite different than the results we recorded some years ago with a barrel chambered for the 6mmBR cartridge. When we cut our 6mmBR barrel down from 33″ to 28″ we only lost about 8 FPS per inch. Obviously this is a different cartridge type, but also our 6mmBR barrel end length was longer than Rifleshooter.com’s .223 Rem start length. Velocity loss may be more extreme with shorter barrel lengths. And, of course, different cartridge types and powder/bullet combinations will yield different results.

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July 26th, 2022

Comprehensive Print Guide to Factory Ammunition

Ammunition Ammo Factory commerical hunting load data ballistics hunt Bob Forker

Do you plan to use factory ammo in your hunting rifles? Perhaps you buy bulk centerfire ammo for your AR15s or varmint rifles. And you’ll certainly consider using factory ammo in all your rimfire guns. Then this book can definitely benefit you.

If you ever shoot factory ammo, you should consider getting Ammo & Ballistics 6. This resource lists over 2,600 different loads for 200+ cartridge types from .17 Mach 2 up to .700 Nitro Express, including the most popular centerfire and rimfire cartridges (both rifle and handgun). In this updated-for-2020 Sixth Edition, there are over 3,000 tables covering virtually every caliber and every load for all commercially-loaded hunting ammunition sold in the USA. Tables include velocity, energy, wind drift, bullet drop, and ballistic coefficients up to 1,000 yards.

Ammunition Ammo Factory commerical hunting load data ballistics hunt Bob Forker

Ammo & Ballistics 6 helps you select ammo for a hunt — quickly compare the velocity and knock-down power of various commercial ammo. This book can also help you choose a caliber/chambering for your next hunting rig.

Verified Book Purchaser Reviews
“Outstanding reference guide for shooters and ballistic enthusiasts alike. Has data on velocity, energy delivered, Taylor KO index, windage and elevation on numerous loadings for hundreds of [cartridge types]. Each cartridge has all dimensions labeled (i.e rim, case length, neck, etc.), and has an informative description of the cartridges history/relevance.” — S. Step, 2017

“Great heaps of data! This volume has pages and pages of new data for .22 LR like the hot Velocitor, and also on the .22 WMR from 30 grains up into the 50s. Most importantly there is lots of range data, drop, windage, kinetic energy, etc. — Terrific reference guide….” — E. Svanoe

Ammo & Ballistics 6 contains data and illustrations on virtually every sporting cartridge sold in the USA. This latest edition covers 200-plus cartridge types from .17 Mach 2 up to .700 Nitro Express.

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June 3rd, 2022

.300 Blackout Round in .223 Rem AR Upper — Instant Disaster

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56
Photos and Facebook post by Tactical Rifle Shooters

Yet another .300 Blackout disaster. Unfortunately, that .300 Blackout cartridge can fit in a .223 Rem chamber. Shooting a .308-caliber bullet in .223 bore is a recipe for disaster.

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56The .300 AAC Blackout aka “300 BLK”, is a compact 30-caliber cartridge designed to work in AR-15 rifles. It has a shorter cartridge case to accommodate the bigger 30-caliber bullet while still fitting in a standard AR-15 magazine. Unfortunately, that’s the danger. A careless shooter can toss a .300 Blackout cartridge in with .223 Rem rounds without noting. And because the case-head size is the same as the .223 Rem (5.56×45) the rifle’s bolt assembly will happily chamber and fire the .300 BLK round. Problem is, that forces a .308 diameter bullet down an undersized .223-caliber bore. Not good!

This images were provided by Tactical Rifle Shooters on Facebook. The message was clear: “Don’t try to run 300 Blackout in your .223/5.56mm. It won’t end well. The problem is identical rifles and identical magazines but different calibers.”

Image from Accurate Shooter Forum. Cutaway shows the jammed .30-Cal bullet:
.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

For those who MUST have a .300 Blackout, here are some things you can do:

1. Use different colored magazines for .300 Blackout vs. .223 Rem.
2. Fit all your uppers with caliber-labeled ejection port covers.
3. Mark .223 Rem upper handguards with the caliber in bright paint.
4. Mark all .300 BLK Rounds with heavy black marker.

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

Comments by Folks Who Viewed these .300 Blackout Disaster Photos:

“The .300 Blackout is simply a badly-designed round. A properly-designed round would have had a feature in the shape that would have prevented cross loading in the first place.” — D. Santiago

“I almost made that mistake… I had a magazine of 300 BLK inserted in my .223/5.56 all night. Fortunately, I never pulled the trigger. Once I realized the mistake, I almost got ill. [After that incident] I no longer own a 300 BLK.” — B. Welch

“Happened to me hog hunting from a helo. Gun exploded in my face.” — B. Hood

“Fire-forming projectiles [is] so wrong in centerfire!” — M. Stres

“Had some dude come into the store the other day wanting .300 Blackout ammo to shoot in his 5.56 AR. It took 15 minutes of explaining for him to understand you got to have a .300 Blackout Upper!” — R. Williams

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May 29th, 2022

Sunday Gunday: 20 Practical AR — Great Accuracy, Low Recoil

20 Practical AR uppers

If you want to use an AR-platform rifle in the varmint fields, consider getting a 20-caliber barrel chambered for the efficient, low-recoil 20 Practical cartridge. The 20 Practical is simply a .223 Remington necked down to 20 caliber. The parent .223 Rem cartridge of course works great in an AR, but the 20 Practical offers some notable advantages for high-volume varmint shooters. The 20 Practical delivers very high velocity with very low recoil while still providing outstanding accuracy. The 20 Practical is great option for folks who favor “fast and light” — smaller, lower-mass bullets traveling at very high velocities. This little cartridge can launch 40-grainers at over 3900 fps, and 32-grainers even faster. This makes the 20 Practical a great choice for an AR-based varmint rifle.

20 Practical20 Practical Ultimate Varminter
A decade ago, as a “proof-of-concept”, AccurateShooter.com created a 20 Practical AR15 Ultimate Varminter with a custom 20-caliber upper from Robert Whitley of AR-X Enterprises, LLC. That project rifle was ultra-accurate — every 5-shot group out of the gun was less than the size of a dime. That gun was auctioned off, but Robert Whitley continues to produce custom 20 Practical AR15 uppers. (The 20 Practical cartridge is simply the .223 Rem necked down to 20 caliber — you can use standard .223 brass and load with standard.223 Rem dies. Just swap in a smaller expander and use smaller neck bushings.)

Robert learned that the accuracy of the first 20 Practical AR15 was no fluke. After building six (6) more 20 Practical uppers, he tested them for accuracy and they all shot great. These uppers feature DPMS low-pro receivers with side-charging handles. They are fitted with PacNor 1:11″ twist, 3-groove stainless barrels.

20 Practical AR uppers

Robert reports: “We have been making more 20 Practical AR15 uppers and I have to say I am astounded by the accuracy of these things. For shooting little tiny groups out of an AR15 with bullets going 3500+ fps, it’s hard to beat the 20 Practical. Today I test-fired six more uppers, all with 11-twist barrels. Three of the uppers had 24″ barrels, two had 20″ barrels, and one had an 18″ barrel (we call it ‘Stubby’).

20 Practical Reamer print

In four of these uppers I shot re-sized Winchester brass using 25.3 grains of WC844 powder with Berger 40gr BTHP bullets loaded at 2.225″ OAL (about .015″ off the lands). WC844 is inexpensive military surplus powder that is nearly identical to H335. I tried three different primers and the choice did not seem to matter (CCI BR4, Rem 7 1/2s and Win Small Rifle — the old silver ones). All these four uppers shot great.”

Below is an animated GIF with targets from uppers #6, 10, and 11. All groups are mag-fed, 5-shot groups shot at 100 yards using a front rest and rear bag.


Targets Shot with Three Different 20 Practical AR Uppers

20 Practical AR uppers

For more INFO visit www.6mmAR.com, or email: rcw3 [at] erols.com.

20 Practical Shooters Explain Why They Love this Little Cartridge

A current thread in our Shooters’ Forum focuses on favorite variants of the .223 Rem cartridge. The thread asks: “What is your favorite and most versatile round that you have made from a .223 Rem parent case?” Many cartridges were named, but the wildcat cartridge cited most often was the 20 Practical. Here are some comments by Forum members, who explain the appeal of this great little 20-caliber cartridge:

“The 20 Practical is just a hoot to shoot. Outstanding precision, minimal recoil, easy case forming and inexpensive to shoot. What’s not to like? It’s a great way to introduce kids to centerfire, too.” — JLT

“The 20 Practical for me. Never had as much fun shooting a rifle as I did with the 20 Practical. Also, [it is] the easiest wildcat to form. Just get cases, a couple of bushings to get the right neck tension, and you are shooting.” — NMKid

“Favorite .223 Rem Wildcat? The 20 Practical hands down for me. I have two of them built on Savage actions right now. One has a 20″ BHW barrel and the other has a 26″ Criterion. It is my go-to caliber for shooting up a Prairie Dog town and the ones I have are insanely accurate. Here are some typical 100- and 200-yard groups with my 20 Practicals.” — IA_Shooter

.20 20 practical ar15 varmint cartridge wildcat .223 Rem Shooters' Forum

“My favorite was and is the 20 Practical. No fire-forming, no neck-turning, and with the increased BC of the 20 Cal bullets, it’s hard to wipe the smile off your face in a prairie dog town[.]” — Region Rat

“20 Practical and the [original] .223 Rem are my favorites. Accurate, cheap to shoot. The 20 Prac allows you to see your hits and it’s fast.” — Alguapo

“20 Tactical or 20 Practical. Both very easy to reload and/or form from .223 brass. And they are accurate, reach out on varmints at surprising ranges.” — Bill K

Smart Tips on Forming 20 Practical Cases

Varmint ace Warren B, aka “Fireball” in our Forum, explains how to form 20 Practical Cases. “Forming 20 Practical cases is very easy and no fire-forming is required. Start with any good quality .223 Rem brass. One can simply run the case into your bushing die with the appropriate bushing and call it done. I however like to make it a little more involved by doing the neck reduction in steps. I find that taking steps doesn’t overwork the brass as much as one step does. Also, if you resize the neck in too large of a step, sometimes, depending on the neck thickness, the neck will not be dimensionally what you would expect when finished. This is especially important towards the last step when one is getting close to the final required neck diameter.

For my cases the first thing I did was to run them into an old RCBS .223 Rem full length die with the decapping assembly removed. This will take care of any dented necks on the raw cases and bring the necks down to around 0.243″. Since all standard full-length dies oversize the necks way too much, starting with a .223 FL die actually reduces the neck diameter quite a bit–and obviates the need to buy an extra bushing for the first step. I then use my Redding Type-S die with two bushing sizes to get down to where I need to be. In other words, I start with the FL sizer, then move to a Type-S with a 0.233″ bushing and finish with a 0.228″ bushing. Notice how, as I get to the final step, I use progressively smaller increments in size between the reductions.” (Note: Depending on your brass your final bushing size may be different.)

20 Practical vs. 20 Tactical

Varminter Kevin Weaver, who shoots both the 20 Practical and 20 Tactical, states that: “Both the 20 Tactical and the 20 Practical are fine .20 caliber cartridges. However, my favorite would be the 20 Practical. The 20 Practical gives the SAME performance as the 20 Tactical without fire-forming, or having to buy expensive forming dies.

So with the 20 Practical you do less work, you shell out a lot less money, yet you give up nothing in performance. What’s not to like? To create 20 Practical cases, just buy a .223 Rem Redding Type “S” Bushing Die set with a .230 or .228 bushing and have fun with this great little cartridge.

The 20 Practical and the 20 Tactical are almost identical cartridges. There are only slight differences in case outside diameter, shoulder angle, and case body length. Neck length on the 20 Tactical is a bit longer, but there is still plenty of neck on the 20 Practical to grip the popular bullets, such as the 32gr V-Max.”

20 Practical and 20 Tactical Specifications:

Cartridge Bolt face to shoulder Shoulder O.D. Shoulder Angle Total length
20 Practical 1.5778″ .3553 23° 1.760″
20 Tactical 1.5232″ .360 30° 1.755″
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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 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 10th, 2022

Varmint Cartridge Options and Tips for Novice Varmint Hunters

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Here is one of Bill Reid’s 6mmBR (6BR) rigs. Like his Sako 6 PPC, this is exceptionally accurate.

AccurateShooter Forum member Bill White (aka “CT10Ring”) is a New Yorker who relocated to Idaho in his senior years. From his Idaho home, Bill enjoys long-range target shooting. But his favorite gun pastime is varmint hunting in nearby states — the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. Every year he loads up his truck and hits the road, often doing a grand circle route, visiting prairie dog havens in multiple states.

Bill has a large rifle collection, most of which see duty in the varmint fields of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Here are his key “take-aways” for his eight favorite varmint chamberings: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem, .22-250, .22 BR, .22-243, 6 PPC, 6mmBR, and 6-6.5×47 Lapua (aka 6×47).

Eight Great Varmint Cartridge Types — .204, .224, .243 Calibers

.204 Ruger — This delivers great velocity with the little .20-caliber bullets, with mild recoil. The .204 Ruger easily reaches out to 400 yards, but heavier winds do move the tiny bullet around. Tremendous splat factor under 250 yards. I use Sierra 39gr bullets with IMR 8208 XBR in a Sako 75. Even now, .204 Ruger ammo is relatively easy to find.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

.223 Remington — Probably the most popular centerfire rifle round in the USA, the .223 Rem offers inexpensive brass, and is a great choice for AR-15 owners. If you run short on ammo, you can find it nearly everywhere. I often bring one AR-15 and one .223 Rem bolt gun on varmint safaris. My Rem 700 5R 1:9″-twist barrel likes 53gr V-Max bullets.

.22 BR — My .22 BR is my first choice for most prairie dog missions. Accuracy is superb with necked-down 6mmBR Lapua brass — quarter-MOA and blazing fast. With the right twist rate, this chambering can shoot anything from 40gr FB bullets to 80gr VLDs. Load development is easy. Below is my .22 BR ammo for another varmint trip. I use 55gr Sierra BlitzKings with Varget in my 1:12″-twist Shilen-barreled rifle. 60gr Bergers are very accurate with a fairly flat trajectory for useful distances.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

.22-250 Rem — A classic varmint cartridge, the .22-250 with 50gr V-Maxs delivers spectacular hits. If three P-Dogs happen to be lined up, I’ve witnessed one .22-250 shot take ‘em all out with a triple hit. I currently have five .22-250-chambered rifles: 3 Sako 75s, one Rem 700, and a single shot Nesika that shoots tiny groups. I favor the very deadly Berger 52gr Varmint HP. Making a custom .22-250? With a 1:8″-twist barrel you can use the full weight range of .22-cal bullets, while spinning the lighter bullets fast for “red mist” effect. Remember this cartridge can be a barrel burner. Don’t shoot too many rounds too quickly.

.22-243 Win — This wildcat is even more potent than the .22-250, delivering devastating results on P-Dogs. Run a .243 Win case slowly through a full-length .22-243 die, with plenty of lube to form the brass. I start with Lapua .243 Win brass. There can be some issues necking-down the brass. Watch for donuts forming at the neck-shoulder junction. I bought my .22-243 rifle not sure how it would perform. But now I love shooting it. My .22-243 delivers half-MOA groups with 41.0 grains RL-22 and Hornady 75gr Amax bullets. With those 75-grainers, it’s great in the wind and good to 600 yards easily.

6 PPC — You may consider the 6 PPC a benchrest competition cartridge only, requiring fire-forming. However I have an original Sako 75 single-shot 6 PPC rifle that I load with Sako-headstamp 6 PPC brass (see below) so no fire-forming is required. This Sako 75 came with a test target that measured 0.113″! With my 6 PPC Sako, I found that 58gr V-Maxs, pushed by Vihtavuori N133, are potent out to 300 yards. [Editor’s NOTE: As the Sako brass is no longer available, new 6 PPC shooters will need to fire-form their brass, or try to find Norma 6 PPC brass.]

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6PPC 6 PPC Sako 75 Ruger

6mmBR — The 6mmBR Norma (6BR) offers a nearly unbeatable combination of accuracy, efficiency, and tunability. With the 6BR and a fast twist barrel, you can shoot everything from 40gr flat-base bullets to the latest 105-110gr match bullets. I load Lapua brass, Vihtavuori N135, and Hornady 58, 65, and 75gr bullets for my Krieger 1:14″-twist HV barrel. While this cartridge is capable of long-range accuracy, I usually limit my 6BR shots to 350-400 yards.

6-6.5×47 Lapua — I have a nice 6-6.5×47 Lapua varmint rifle, with Surgeon action and Manners stock. I Cerakoted the barreled action and then bedded the action. Shown below is 6-6.5×47 ammo I loaded for testing. Note how I separated different bullets and powder loads into multiple, labeled bags. Hodgdon H4350 is a great choice for this cartridge — 39 grains H4350 with 105gr Amax was the winner here, but 88gr Bergers also shot well. This cartridge has tremendous “critter dismantling” abilities out to 600-700 yards.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Six Tips for Novice Long Range Varmint Hunters

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

1. Take twice as much ammo you think you may need. The fields could be particularly rich, or, because of wind or other variables, you may have far more misses than expected.

2. When possible, set up with the wind at your back (or, alternatively, directly ahead). This will minimize the effect of cross-winds. Set up a stake with a ribbon to show wind direction.

3. Bring at least two rifles. Ideally one would be a low-recoil rifle with cheaper components for the closer shots. Then bring a rifle with higher-BC bullets for longer shots where wind is a bigger factor.

4. Check the weather before you head out. Prairie dogs like sunshine and calm conditions. If a cloudy, very blustery day is predicted, considering staying in town and cleaning the rifles.

5. Bring plenty of water on a trip. An adult male should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water (or other liquid) every day — more if it’s very hot or you are sweating a lot.

6. Preferably always hunt with a companion. If you do go out solo, have a Garmin inReach SatComm/GPS for emergencies if there is no cell coverage in your location.

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March 19th, 2022

Dad Develops .223 Rem F-TR Load for his Daughter

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Jeremy Rowland decided to put together an F-TR rifle for his eldest daughter, who enjoys competitive shooting. For his daughter, Rowland chose the .223 Rem option because it has less recoil and components are less costly than the .308 Win. Here is Rowland’s account of how he developed a .223 Rem load. For more details (with data charts), read Jeremy’s FULL STORY on Sierra Bullets Blog.

Journey to Find a .223 Rem F-Class Load

by Jeremy Rowland, Reloading Podcast
My oldest daughter has been to several matches with me, and has even competed in several, using her .243. [A few seasons back] I decided, she would compete with a .223 Rem in FT/R. Looking for a good starter rifle, I settled on the Savage Axis Heavy Barrel since it has a 1:9″ twist. This would be a great little rifle for her to learn on. The rifle was shot unmodified, as it came from the factory. A Sinclair F-Class Bipod w/micro elevation adjustment was fitted to the front.

Next came finding the components I wanted to use for her match loads. After spending hours and hours running numbers on JBM stability calculator as well as in my iPhone Ballistic AE app, the 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKing® (TMK) looked really good. So that’s what I decided to go with. I jumped in head first and ordered a bulk pack of the Sierra 69 gr TMKs. I had settled on Hodgdon CFE 223 powder since it shows good velocity. I decided to go with once-fired Lake City brass with CCI BR4 primers.

Next came the testing. I decided to run a ladder test (one shot per charge from min to max looking for the accuracy node). The ladder test ranged from 23.5 grains to 25.6 grains, in 0.3 grain increments.

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Ladder Test Conditions: Temp: 59.4° | Humidity: 63% | Elevation: 486 | Wind: 5-12 mph

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Bullet: 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKing®
Case: Lake City (mixed years, sorted by case capacity)
Primer:CCI BR4
Powder: Hodgdon CFE 223 (one round each from 23.5 to 25.6 grains)
Cartridge OAL: 2.378″
Base to Ogive: 1.933″ (.020″ off lands)

After his ladder test, Rowland settled on a load of 25.2 grains of Hodgdon CFE 223. He then fine-tuned his load with different seating depths: “I loaded up 5 rounds each at .020″ off lands, .015″ off lands, .010″ off lands, and .005″ off the lands. Here are the results from the best group for OAL/Ogive fine tuning. As you can see, I think I’ve found a winner in these 69 gr Sierra Tipped MatchKings.”

F-TR load development .223 Rem Remington Sierra TMK

Seating Depth Test Conditions: Temp: 36.3° | Humidity: 73.8% | Elevation: 486 | Wind: 5-7 mph

This article originally appeared in the Sierra Bullets Blog.

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March 5th, 2022

Saturday at the Movies: Ultimate Reloader Product & Tech Videos

YouTube Ultimate Reloader Video Showcase BAT action AMP Press reloading T-7

Gavin Gear, founder of the UltimateReloader.com website, has created a very popular YouTube Channel. Over the past 14 years, Gavin has produced hundreds of videos covering nearly every aspect of reloading, rifle assembly, and gunsmithing. When important new reloading products are released, you’ll often find that the very first, in-depth reviews come from Gavin. He seems to get the new stuff before ANYone else.

Gavin’s Ultimate Reloader videos are very professional, with high-quality lighting and audio, multiple camera angles, and careful editing. And unlike many of the YouTube video hosts, Gavin is also a talented shooter and skilled gun-builder. His shop is complete with modern lathes, mills and other tools so he can build his own very accurate rifles from start to finish.

BAT Machine Modular Bolt — Design Features and “How To”

With most rifle actions, if you want to run a variety of cartridges with different case head diameters, you will need multiple bolts. However, there IS an alternative to purchasing multiple pricey bolts. BAT Machine has come up with a great solution for the bolt face issue — the Modular Bolt System. In this video Gavin explains how the Modular Bolt System works. He explains the design, then shows, step-by-step, the entire process for swapping bolt head sizes. With a bit of practice, this can be done easily in a couple minutes. Showing a bolt head swap start to finish (00:50 — 2:15 time mark), Gavin shows how to use the BAT Bolt Disassembly Tool and BAT Sleeve Removal Tool to complete the task quickly and easily.

AMP Inline Press — Effect of Brass Prep and Neck Chamfer

In this video Gavin examines various cartridge brass prep processes, and then used the advanced, computer-controlled AMP press to determine how those processes affect bullet seating forces/consistency. Gavin noted: “Each process is examined and a graph is presented of the bullet seating forces. We anticipated some of what we saw, and were surprised by other things.” The computer-controlled AMP press provides a graph of the exact seating forces, allowing to improve your brass prep to achieve the most consistent seating. Gavin notes: “Lately we’ve been seeing the AMP Press used for tight quality control from precision reloaders around the world.”

In this follow-up video, Gavin employs the advanced AMP press to examine how case neck chamfering affects bullet-seating force and consistency. Gavin tells us: “In this video, we single out one variable: Chamfering Case Mouths.”

Creedmoor Sports TRX-925 Scale Review

This is NOT a magnetic force-restoration scale, but it is one of the best strain-gauge scales you can buy. And, priced at $349.95, the Creedmoor Sports TRX-925 Precision Reloading Scale costs less than half what a good force-restoration scale costs. That’s a big deal for folks on a budget. This TRX-925 scale offers very good performance for the price. We include a second, detailed, 25-minute review by F-Class John who says the TRX-925 offers excellent performance for the price. F-Class John, who has his own popular YouTube Channel, produces very comprehensive, thorough product reviews.

This Second TRX-925 Video is from F-Class John:

Finding Cartridge Length to Lands in your Barrel — Three Methods

In this video, which has over 250,000 views on YouTube, Gavin shows three (3) different methods to determine length to lands (L-to-L). This means you are finding the exact length of a case with bullet when the bullet first contacts the rifling in the barrel. It is important to determine this dimension with repeatable precision, so you can tune your load length for best accuracy. In addition, in some disciplines you’ll want to avoid seating into the lands.

Creedmoor Enhanced Press Head for Redding T-7 Press


Creedmoor sports redding t-7 enhanced turret head press

The new Creedmoor Enhanced Press Head for the Redding T-7 Turret Press is a direct upgrade that offers many advantages for precision, ease of use, and reloading. Made from solid 416 Stainless Steel, this Press Head boasts precision cut threads, integral detent/track system, and seven threaded handle position. Creedmoor states: “A machined stainless steel head, rather than one made from cast steel, allows for tighter tolerances, an improved surface finish, and ultimately makes a better product for our customers.” The Redding T-7, already a good turret press, functions better with this press head, which is precision-machined to ensure flatness of both upper and lower surfaces. The Enhanced Press Head, which can be installed in a matter of minutes, is available now from Creedmoor Sports for $179.95.

.223 Rem vs. 5.56x45mm — 6.3 Million Views

This video explains essential facts and corrects common misconceptions related to both .223/5.56 ammunition, as well as .223/5.56 rifles. Gavin provides insight on chamber specs, pressure levels, barrel twist rates, military 5.56 crimped brass, and other important topics. If you are new to the AR world, this video is definitely worth watching. And that’s why it now has garnered over 6.3 MILLION YouTube views, making it one of the most popular gun-related videos ever made. Gavin adds: “Don’t forget to check out the full write-up on UltimateReloader.com.” CLICK HERE for FULL STORY.

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February 24th, 2022

.223 Rem Velocity by Barrel Length — Cut-Down Test Results

.223 Rem Cut-Down Test barrel UMC m855

Most of us own a .223 Rem rifle. Now, thanks to our friends at Rifleshooter.com we can assess exactly how velocity changes with barrel length for this popular cartridge.

Rifleshooter.com performed an interesting test, cutting the barrel of a .223 Rem rifle from 26″ all the way down to 16.5″. The cuts were made in one-inch intervals with a rotary saw. At each cut length, velocity was measured with a Magnetospeed chronograph. To make the test even more interesting, four different types of .223 Rem/5.56 ammo were chron’d at each barrel length. The Rifleshooter.com team that conducts these tests has a full-service gun shop, 782 Custom Gunworks — visit 782guns.com.

READ RifleShooter.com 5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Test Article »

Test Barrel Lost 25.34 FPS Per Inch (.223 Rem Chambering)
How much velocity do you think was lost, on average, for each 1″ reduction in barrel length? The answer may surprise you. The average speed loss of the four types of .223/5.56 ammo, with a 9.5″ shortening of barrel length, was 240.75 fps total (from start to finish). That works out to an average loss of 25.34 fps per inch.

5.56/.223 Barrel Cut-Down Speed Test 26″ to 16.5″ Start FPS at 26″ End FPS at 16.5″ Total Loss Average Loss Per Inch
UMC .223 55gr 3182* 2968 214 22.5 FPS
Federal M193 55gr 3431 3187 244 25.7 FPS
Win m855 62gr 3280 2992 288 30.3 FPS
Blk Hills .223 68gr 2849 2632 217 22.8 FPS

*There may have been an error. The 25″ velocity was higher at 3221 fps.

See inch-by-inch Barrel Cut-Down Velocity Data HERE »

Rifleshooter.com observed: “Cutting the barrel from 26″ to 16.5″ resulted in a velocity reduction of 214 ft/sec with the UMC 223 55-grain cartridge, 244 ft/sec with the Federal M-193 cartridge, 288 ft/sec with the Winchester M855 cartridge and 217 ft/sec with the Back Hills 223 68-grain match cartridge.”

How the Test Was Done
The testers described their procedure as follows: “Ballistic data was gathered using a Magnetospeed barrel-mounted ballistic chronograph. At each barrel length, the rifle was fired from a front rest with rear bags, with five rounds of each type of ammunition. Average velocity and standard deviation were logged for each round. Once data was gathered for each cartridge at a given barrel length, the rifle was cleared and the bolt was removed. The barrel was cut off using a cold saw. The test protocol was repeated for the next length. Temperature was 45.7° F.”

CLICK HERE to Read the Rifleshooter.com Test. This includes detailed charts with inch-by-inch velocity numbers.

See More Barrel Cut-Down Tests on Rifleshooter.com
Rifleshooter.com has performed barrel cut-down tests for many other calibers/chamberings including 6mm Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, and .338 Lapua Magnum. See these test results at Rifleshooter.com.

.308 Win barrel length cut test

Much Different Results with 6mmBR and a Longer Barrel
The results from Rifleshooter.com’s .223/5.56 test are quite different than the results we recorded some years ago with a barrel chambered for the 6mmBR cartridge. When we cut our 6mmBR barrel down from 33″ to 28″ we only lost about 8 FPS per inch. Obviously this is a different cartridge type, but also our 6mmBR barrel end length was longer than Rifleshooter.com’s .223 Rem start length. Velocity loss may be more extreme with shorter barrel lengths. And, of course, different cartridge types and powder/bullet combinations will yield different results.

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February 13th, 2022

Slick Tricks — Big Batch Case Lube Methods from the USAMU

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

In years past, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit published weekly reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Here is a very informative USAMU article the subject of case lubrication. Tasked with producing thousands of rounds of ammo for team members, the USAMU’s reloading staff has developed very efficient procedures for lubricating large quantities of cases. This article reveals the USAMU’s clever “big-batch” lube methods. For other helpful hand-loading tips, visit the USAMU Facebook page on upcoming Wednesdays.

Rapid, High-Volume Case Lubrication

Today’s topic covers methods for quickly applying spray lube to cartridge cases prior to sizing. A typical order for this shop may be 25,000 rounds, so [speeding up] the lubrication process can be a real time-saver. While your ammunition lots probably aren’t this large, the efficient methods discussed here may help save a considerable amount of time over your handloading career. Our case lubrication rates range from 1500-1600 cases per hour, to 2400-2500 cases per hour, depending on caliber.

This shop uses virgin brass, whereas most home handloaders use fired brass, which necessitates some small changes at times. These will be discussed as they arise. Begin with fired brass that has been tumbled clean.

Ensure as much tumbling media as possible is removed from the brass, as when it gets into a size die, it can dent cases significantly. This is a good time to round out dents in the case mouths using a tapered tool to prevent damage from the decapping stem.

First, dump the clean cases into a large box or reloading bin. Shake the bin back and forth so that many cases are oriented with the mouths up. Next, pick up as many cases as is convenient with the mouths “up”, from natural clusters of correctly-oriented cases. With 7.62mm-size cases, this is usually 3-4, and with 5.56mm cases, this can be up to 8-10. Place the cases into the rack slots, mouth-up. Doing this in groups rather than singly saves considerable time. Once these clusters have been depleted, it will be time to re-shake the bin to orient more cases “up.”.

This photo shows a case lubrication rack made by a USAMU staffer.
accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Naturally, adjust the spacing to best fit the calibers you reload. We have found this size … convenient for handling through the various phases of case lubrication/transfer to progressive case feeders for processing. Note that the 1/2-inch angle does not cover much of the critical case area at the base, just forward of the extractor groove, where most re-sizing force will be exerted. As the USAMU uses virgin brass, less lubrication is required for our brass than would be needed for Full Length (FL) sizing of previously-fired brass.

NOTE: The amount applied using our rack is easily enough for our purpose. If using fired brass, be sure to adequately lube this base area to avoid having cases stick in the full-length sizing die.

Using a spray lube, coat the cases adequately, but not excessively, from all sides. Be sure to get some lube into the case mouths/necks, in order to reduce expander ball drag and case stretching/headspace changes. The spray lube this shop uses does not harm primers or powder, and does not require tumbling to remove after lubing.*

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Take a close look at the photo above. The USAMU shop uses a common kitchen turntable, which allows the rack to be rotated easily. We place this in a custom-made box which prevents over-spray on to floors and walls.

Angled Box Method for Smaller Cases to be Neck-Sized
A refinement of the above method which especially speeds processing of 5.56x45mm cases is as follows. A small cardboard box which holds about 100 cases is fitted with an angled “floor” secured by tape. With the smaller 5.56mm cases, usually about 8-10 cases per handful can be picked up, already correctly-oriented, and placed into the box together. This prevents having to place them into the rack slots, saving time.

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

HOWEVER, note that this does not allow nearly as much lube access to the case bodies as does the rack. For our purposes — neck-sizing and setting neck tension on new brass, this works well. If using this procedure with fired brass, take steps to ensure adequate lube to prevent stuck cases.

As always, we hope this will help our fellow handloaders. Good luck, and good shooting!


*A two-part test performed here involved spraying primed cases heavily, while getting more lube into the case mouth/body than even a careless handloader would likely apply. The second part of the test involved literally spraying considerable quantities of the lube directly into the cases, drenching the primers. After a several-day wait to allow the lube to penetrate the primers, they were then fired in a test barrel. All fired normally; no unusual reports were noted. This bolstered confidence that normal amounts of the lube would not adversely affect our ammunition, and we have been pleased with the results over several years.

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January 30th, 2022

Sunday GunDay: Cooper .204 Ruger M21 Montana Varminter

While many of our readers are caught in the wicked cold-spell hitting the Northeast, take heart — spring is not far away. That means folks will be getting ready for varmint safaris. Here’s a story that may help you choose a cartridge for your next varmint rifle.

For many years, Ken Lunde journeyed to South Dakota to visit with his father, and do a little varmint hunting. This article features Ken’s Cooper Model 21 Montana Varminter chambered in .204 Ruger. During past varminting holidays in South Dakota, Ken had a chance to try the speedy .204 against his “old reliable” .223. He came to favor the .204 for its accuracy, flat trajectory, and superior performance in the wind. Ken told us: “I love my .223, but the .204 has the edge for Dog-Town duty.”

The Cooper Montana Varminter in .204 Ruger

Story and photos by Ken Lunde
I’ve been a big fan of Cooper Arms rifles ever since my dad introduced them to me a few years ago. I prefer Cooper Arms rifles over others because they perform as they should out-of-the-box, and have outstanding workmanship and beauty. You get form and function. You don’t need to choose one over the other. For the price one pays, Cooper Arms rifles are a great bargain. I mount a quality scope, usually a higher-end Leupold with a 40mm objective, go through barrel break-in, and they always perform extraordinarily well. I should state that all of my rifle shooting is geared towards hunting. In other words, any shooting I do on paper is treated as preparation for using the same rifle for hunting, whether it’s for varmints such as prairie dogs, or for larger game.

Cooper Montana Varminter 204 Ruger
Photos Copyright © Ken Lunde, All Rights Reserved

Cooper Varmint Rifles–Components and Variations
The featured rifle is a Cooper Arms M21 Montana Varminter (aka “MTV”) chambered in .204 Ruger. It has a 24″ varmint-taper stainless steel barrel with a 1 in 12-inch twist. This twist rate seems to be typical of .204 Ruger barrels from other manufacturers. The stock is AA+ grade Claro Walnut, and has the varmint fore-end, “Buick” vents, and steel grip cap that are standard on the Montana Varminter configuration. Among Cooper’s three wood-stocked varmint rifle configurations — Varminter, Montana Varminter, and Varmint Extreme — I prefer the Montana Varminter as it seems to be the best balance of value versus features. Plus, I like the “Buick” vents. They’re very pleasing, at least to my eyes. Maybe that’s why I own seven of them, in M21 and M22 actions, and in a variety of calibers. [Editor: Ken’s father has a near-identical .204 Ruger Cooper, with consecutive serial number.]

For this rifle, I decided to mount a Leupold VX-III 6.5-20×40 LR scope with the Varmint Hunter reticle. The rifle came with Leupold STD bases in Matte finish, and I used Leupold 30mm STD rings in Medium height and Matte finish. I took the time to align the bottom rings on the bases, and properly lapped them. Other than mounting the scope, no custom work was done, because none was necessary. The trigger is superb out-of-the-box, which is typical of Cooper rifles.

Ruger 204 Cooper varminter varmint rifle gun load reloading South Dakota

Load Development and Accuracy
Cooper Montana Varminter 204 RugerI first tried factory ammo, loaded with Hornady 32gr and 40gr V-Max. The 32gr load shot the best — five-shot groups were slightly larger than a half-inch at 100 yards. My dad heard that Alliant Reloder 10X was a good powder for this cartridge, and he worked up a load using the Sierra 32gr BlitzKing bullet. He found that 26.5 grains was the right amount for his rifle. Considering that my rifle was probably made on the same day, having a consecutive serial number, I decided to try my Dad’s load, along with a half-grain up and down: 26, 26.5, and 27 grains of powder. I, too, found that my rifle prefers 26.5 grains of RL 10X. With this load, I could shoot consistent quarter-inch, five-shot groups at 100 yards. Cartridge OAL is 2.353″, or 1.990″ measured from the ogive.

I am using Winchester brass, Federal 205M primers, Alliant Reloder 10X powder, and Sierra 32gr BlitzKing bullets. I use Forster dies, and load with a Forster Co-Axial single-stage press. Here are two typical targets. As you can see, this .204 can shoot.

Cooper Montana Varminter 204 Ruger

WARNING: Current lots of Reloder 10X powder may be somewhat different. 26.5 grains of RL 10X may be TOO HOT for your rifle and 32gr bullets. Seating depth, throat length, and COAL will affect pressures dramatically. START LOW at 24.5 grains and work up.

Cartridge Smack-Down — .204 Ruger vs. .223 Remington

Ken made these comments when he first tested his .204 Ruger vs. his trusty (and very accurate) .223 Remington: “I brought along two rifles. The first was my ‘proven’ varmint rifle, the one chambered in .223 Rem. It has stunning wood, and clearly escaped the factory with AAA grade Claro Walnut. That rifle also shoots consistent five-shot, quarter-inch groups at 100 yards. For the .223, my preferred load uses Winchester brass, Federal 205M primers, Hornady 40gr V-Max bullets (non-moly), and 26.2gr of Vihtavuori N133 powder.

I found that I very much enjoyed shooting the .204 Ruger rifle, which explains why I used only the .204 Ruger during the second trip, although I also brought along the .223. Why did I favor the .204? Well, those little 32gr bullets really zing out of the barrel, with a very flat trajectory, like a .22-250. And, to my surprise, they buck the wind very well, perhaps even better than .223. While I am no ballistics expert, I think that this may be due to its high velocity, clearly over 4,000 fps.

Related to the flat-shooting characteristics of the .204 Ruger cartridge, I found that I was able to depend on my Leupold’s Varmint Hunter reticle for both bullet drop and wind compensation. It was a very pleasing experience. For determining ranges in the field, I used a new set of optics for this trip, Leica’s new Geovid 8×42 BRF range finder.

Comparative Ballistics: .204 Ruger vs. .223 Remington vs. 22-250
Cartridge Bullet BC Powder Max Load Muzzle Vel 400yd Drop 400yd 10mph Wind
.204 Ruger 32gr V-Max .210 Benchmark 28.0 4047 fps 25.50″ 17.88″
.204 Ruger 40gr V-Max .275 H4895 27.7 3741 fps 26.93″ 14.10″
.223 Rem 40gr Nosler BT .221 Benchmark 27.3 3666 fps 30.67″ 19.02″
.223 Rem 50gr Nosler BT .238 BL-C(2) 28.0 3428 fps 34.21″ 19.01″
22-250 40gr Nosler BT .221 H4895 37.0 4060 fps 24.73″ 16.67″

Load data from Hodgdon.com, for 24″ barrel. 2.250″ COAL .204s, Fed 205s. 2.210″ COAL for .223 Rem, Winch SR. 2.350″ COAL for 22-250, Winch LR. Always start 10% low and work up. Calculated at 1000′ altitude, 80° F.


This 2022 third-party video records the performance of .204 Ruger Hornady factory ammunition with both 32gr and 40gr V-Max bullets.

Dakota Dog-Town Adventures with Dad

Editor: When this story was originally written, Ken Lunde made two summer trips to South Dakota to hunt prairie dogs with his father. Here is his account of those summer-time adventures.

I drove to South Dakota twice [that year]. For the first trip, I brought two Coopers, both M21 MTVs, in .223 and .204 Ruger. My .223 Cooper was already proven during previous trips to South Dakota. I fired a total of 300 rounds, 200 from the .204 Ruger and 100 from the .223. I found the .204 Ruger to be flatter-shooting than .223, and it also seemed to buck the wind better, even with the light 32gr bullets.

For the second trip, I ended up shooting 301 rounds, all from the .204 Ruger rifle. I had discovered the importance of accuracy when hunting prairie dogs — and the .204 Ruger had exceptional accuracy. There are many variables with which to contend while shooting: wind speed, wind direction, variable distance to target, bullet drop, steadiness, and the accuracy of the load in the rifle. I find that the more of these variables I can control or compensate for, the greater the success.

Cooper Montana Varminter 204 RugerI estimate I bagged about 250 prairie dogs during each trip, meaning about 500 in total for this season. There were misses, of course, but those are generally 400 yards and beyond, when wind becomes too much of a factor, or shooter error. And, for each trip, I managed to get two or three “doubles,” which is lingo that means that a single bullet results in two dead prairie dogs. Prairie dogs tend to congregate, and when they do, “doubles” become possible, and “triples” are not out of the question. One of these “doubles” was clearly visible through my scope.

The best part of these trips is spending quality time with my dad, doing something that both of enjoy: shooting and hunting. I grew up in Wisconsin, and my parents moved to South Dakota in December of 2004. South Dakota, and sometimes Wyoming, have come to be our preferred hunting states, because they’re superb hunting destinations. It is great that my parents have decided to settle in one of those states. In fact, the drive from California is not bad. It takes a little over one day. I also brought my teenage son along. He enjoyed the chance to go fishin’ with Grand-Dad, and one day “teen-angler” managed to catch us six fine trout.

Cooper Montana Varminter 204 RugerMy first trip to South Dakota, at the end of June, offered a unique oppor-tunity, since First Stop Guns was having a show that coincided with my time in the area. Dan Cooper, founder and owner of Cooper Arms, was present at the show. My dad and I decided to host a small dinner at my parents’ new home, and we invited Dan Cooper and others. I brought tenderloin steaks from California for this. In addition to Dan Cooper, Mark and Steve Blote of First Stop Guns, along with Paulette Kok of Dakota Arms, attended the dinner. It was a pleasure and honor to be in their company. They’re all very personable.

My father has a rather vast collection of Cooper Arms rifles, so I naturally invited Dan Cooper to check them out. A couple of them turned out to be special. One turned out to be the very first .22-250 rifle that Cooper Arms built. It is a Model 22 Varmint Extreme with ebony fore-end tip. Another is an Model 21 Classic with Schnabel fore-end, and according to Dan, less than 30 such rifles were ever crafted. It’s in the rack picture at left. Two of Dad’s rimfires are also very early Coopers, with two-digit serial numbers. They were made before Cooper started using the magazine insert supplied by Anschütz. And check out the middle rifle in the rack. It’s a Dakota Arms Model 97 Deluxe Hunter that I bought for Dad. He hand-picked the amazing wood blank, and it turned into an outstanding rifle stock. You can see how it stands out in the photo. Interestingly, the day before our dinner, I used Dad’s M21 with the Schnabel stock, chambered in .222, to hunt prairie dogs in the 9,000 acres of public hunting land bordering the eastern side of my Dad’s 56-acre “recreational” property, situated just north of Hot Springs, SD. Here’s a photo. Yes, I’d say this is a great place to hunt and “get away from it all”.

.204 Ruger Montana vaminter cooper arms

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November 23rd, 2021

How .223 Remington Ammunition Is Made — Production Video

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

With ammunition in short supply these days, we know ammo production is on people’s minds. Top industry leaders have said the USA will face ammo shortages well into 2021. So ammo-makers big and small are ramping up production to meet demand. If you’re curious how ammunition is created on the assembly by a relatively small, speciality manufacturer, watch the video below to see the entire process, start to finish.

This video from Fog Ammunition reveals how .223 Rem ammo is made. Starting with boxes of bullets and bags of cartridge brass, this video shows how components are bulk-sorted, then .223 Rem ammunition is produced on a modern, linear multi-stage loading machine. In assembly-line fashion, cases are primed, powder is added, bullets are placed, final seating depth is set, and then the case is crimped.

If you’ve never seen an automated loader in action you should definitely watch this video. With this kind of machine, a new round is produced every second or so (see video 1:15 to 1:55). The .223 Remington ammunition featured in this video is loaded with Sierra BlitzKing bullets. Fog offers both rifle and pistol ammo loaded with quality components.

Video Shows Automated Loading Process Start to Finish (Worth Watching):

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

Remember when primers were plentiful and priced affordably?
Fog Ammunition .223 Remington Rem Ammo loading machine Sierra BlitzKing

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September 24th, 2021

Best Guide for Factory Ammo — .17 HM2 to .700 Nitro Express

Ammunition Ammo Factory commerical hunting load data ballistics hunt Bob Forker

The fall Hunting Season is here. Do you plan to use factory ammo in your hunting rifles? Perhaps you buy bulk centerfire ammo for your AR15 or varmint rifle. Then this book can definitely benefit you.

If you ever shoot factory ammo, you should consider getting Ammo & Ballistics 6. This resource lists over 2,600 different loads for 200+ cartridge types from .17 Mach 2 up to .700 Nitro Express, including the most popular centerfire and rimfire cartridges (both rifle and handgun). In this updated-for-2020 Sixth Edition, there are over 3,000 tables covering virtually every caliber and every load for all commercially-loaded hunting ammunition sold in the USA. Tables include velocity, energy, wind drift, bullet drop, and ballistic coefficients up to 1,000 yards.

Ammunition Ammo Factory commerical hunting load data ballistics hunt Bob Forker

Ammo & Ballistics 6 helps you select ammo for a hunt — quickly compare the velocity and knock-down power of various commercial ammo. This book can also help you choose a caliber/chambering for your next hunting rig.

Verified Book Purchaser Reviews
“Outstanding reference guide for shooters and ballistic enthusiasts alike. Has data on velocity, energy delivered, Taylor KO index, windage and elevation on numerous loadings for hundreds of [cartridge types]. Each cartridge has all dimensions labeled (i.e rim, case length, neck, etc.), and has an informative description of the cartridges history/relevance.” — S. Step, 2017

“Great heaps of data! This volume has pages and pages of new data for .22LR like the hot Velocitor, and also on the .22 WMR from 30 grains up into the 50s. Most importantly there is lots of range data, drop, windage, kinetic energy, etc. — Terrific reference guide….” — E. Svanoe

Ammo & Ballistics 6 contains data and illustrations on virtually every sporting cartridge sold in the USA. This 2020 Edition covers 200-plus cartridge types from .17 Mach 2 up to .700 Nitro Express.

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August 22nd, 2021

Sunday GunDay: .22 LR Conversion Kit for AR-15 Platform

.22 LR 22LR rimfire AR AR15 AR-15 conversion kit bolt magazine savings ammo ammunition

Over the past 18 months, popular ammo types, such as .223 Rem and 9mm, have been hard to find at reasonable prices. The high cost of .223 Rem centerfire ammo has driven more folks to shooting .22 LR rimfire ammo, both for fun and practice. This Sunday we look at a smart solution that allows you to shoot .22 LR ammo from your existing .223/5.56 AR-15 platform rifle. This is great because it allows low-cost training with no change in rifle balance, ergonomics, and/or optics.

The CMMG Bravo .22 LR Conversion Kit provides a replacement bolt/bolt carrier along with three 25-round magazines with special .22 LR-fitted followers and ammo slots. This allows you to shoot rimfire ammo from any AR-15 chambered for the .223 Rem (5.56×45). The CMMG Bravo has an integrated extension that fits into your current chamber. The rimfire bullet passes through this extension and then enters the barrel.

.22 LR 22LR rimfire AR AR15 AR-15 conversion kit bolt magazine savings ammo ammunition
The CMMG Bravo conversion Kit comes with blowback-operated .22 LR bolt carrier, rubber protector for bolt carrier tip, and three 25-round polymer magazines. To use, simply replace the rifle’s .223 Rem bolt and carrier with the Bravo .22 LR conversion unit and load up the included magazine(s) with rimfire ammo.

To use the CMMG Kit, simply remove the centerfire bolt/bolt carrier, and replace it with the CMMG silver colored bolt shown above. CMMG states: “For best performance use a round-style hammer as notched hammers can cause function issues.” Testers have stated that high-velocity .22 LR ammo works best, and CMMG notes that “36gr plated-nose bullets have proven to be the best choice for function.” The copper-plated bullets help reduce fouling.

Ultimate Reloader Tests CMMG .22 LR Conversion Kit

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com recently tested the CMMG .22 LR AR Conversion Kit. He observed that installation was very straight-forward and the CMMG magazines worked well. He and fellow tester Travis Fox shot the unit both slow-fire and rapid-fire successfully.

Gavin and Travis found the CMMG Kit easy to install and fun to use. With an AR that can shoot both .223 Rem and .22 LR, it’s like having “two guns in one”. Travis was impressed with the ease of use: “It is so simple to change over to the CMMG .22 LR AR kit! It took me about 68 seconds the very first time I tried. Each time after that it took me about 40 seconds — it’s that simple. It takes longer to fully load one of the mags than it does to switch over from .223/5.56 to .22 LR and back.”

The AR shot very well with the higher-velocity ammo types. 100% functioning was achieved with both 40gr Federal Game Shok ammo and American Eagle High Velocity 38gr Copper-plated HP ammo. NOTE: CMMG does recommend high-velocity Copper-plated rimfire ammunition.

Maintenance Tip — After converting back to your centerfire .223 Rem (5.56), Travis says “make sure to clean the gas tube and components as .22 LR tends to run dirty”. READ Full Test on UltimateReloader.com.

CMMG Bravo Conversion Kit Gets Thumbs Up from Gavin and Travis
“Does this conversion kit get the Ultimate Reloader stamp of approval? Absolutely! In these times of ammunition/component scarcity this gives options to shooters. Finding bulk .22 LR can sometimes be easier than 223/5.56. This kit gives that option at a great price. Any chance to keep skills up and familiarize new shooters to a platform is a good thing. Basically two rifles for a lot less than another rifle.”

.22 LR 22LR rimfire AR AR15 AR-15 conversion kit bolt magazine savings ammo ammunition

How to Install CMMG Bravo .22 LR Conversion Kit

The Brownells video below shows the installation process step-by-step:

In this instructional video, a Brownells gunsmith demonstrates (step by step) how to install, disassemble, clean, lubricate, and reassemble the CMMG AR-15 .22 LR Conversion Kits. Clear the rifle and make safe before you start the conversion. Separate the upper and lower, remove the standard bolt carrier group. You then install the conversion bolt and connect the upper and lower as normal.

Details of CMMG .22 LR Conversion Kit

.22 LR 22LR rimfire AR AR15 AR-15 conversion kit bolt magazine savings ammo ammunition

“For years I’ve had a CMMG conversion kit. It’s a drop-in system that’s … very reliable and it’s accurate. The [CMMG conversion] has lower recoil [and is] great for training. Even though ammo prices have gone through the roof, .22 LR is still cheaper to shoot than anything else.” — SootchGear

.22 LR 22LR rimfire AR AR15 AR-15 conversion kit bolt magazine savings ammo ammunition

This SootchGear video shows how to install the CMMG Bravo unit. The video also compares the original CMMG .22 LR bolt assembly with the latest integrated CMMG Bravo at 2:00-3:50. The older unit had a brass adapter and separate chamber insert. The host also tests a CMMG-equipped AR with various types of ammo. Watch a rapid-fire sequence starting at 1:48 time-mark.

Field Test with Two ARs — Rapid Fire .22 LR Testing

.22 LR 22LR rimfire AR AR15 AR-15 conversion kit bolt magazine savings ammo ammunition

The video below demonstrates rapid-fire .22 LR performance with two different ARs using CCI Mini-Mag ammo. The CMMG conversion is fast and easy: “In a matter of seconds you go from 5.56 to .22 LR”. Watch rapid-fire at 5:40 with CCI Mini-Mags in red/black rifle. Then the tester shoots a variety of ammo in a .223 Wylde-chambered all-black AR, starting at 9:40. The Mini-Mags worked flawlessly, but there were a couple fail-to-cycle sequences in extreme rapid-fire with cheaper “bulk” ammo. The lesson here is use good quality, high-velocity ammo.


NOTE: This 2018 video shows an earlier CMMG .22 LR conversion bolt that features a brass adapter and separate chamber insert. The current CMMG Kit has unitized bolt without a separate adapter or insert.

Interestingly, the Mini-Mag .22 LR ammo shot fine in the .223 Wylde-chambered AR. However, CMMG cautions: “Since .223 WYLDE is NOT a mil-spec chamber, we cannot guarantee fit or function with our 22LR conversion kits.”

Reviews from CMMG Bravo .22 LR Rimfire Conversion Kit Purchasers:

“Get it. Bought this for my Rock River AR. Bolt system goes in [easily] and fits perfectly. Took it to the range and put over 150 rounds through, only failing to feed/fire two rounds. I most definitely recommend this product to anyone looking to shoot their standard AR-15 .223 rifle on a budget.” — Pew P.

“I got this just yesterday and in two days time I have put a couple thousand rounds through it and no hick-ups. I have no complaints.” — Seth

“Best buy for anyone during this ammo crisis. Ammo is extremely expensive and hard to find. It was a ‘no-brainer’ once I found this kit. Ran 200 rounds to break it in for about $20 and had maybe 3 failures. Accurate up to 50 yards (I haven’t tried further) without optic adjustments.” — Joshua M.

“Purchased one of these in January. Took it to the range shortly after for my daughters to try out. We have three ARs and this thing functioned flawlessly. We practiced swapping out the 5.56 carrier with this back and forth, flawless. Enjoyed it so much now I’m purchasing another one.” — J.B.

“Great product. I bought this due to the high cost of ammo. I wanted to still shoot my AR and this was an alternative. This thing works great… works flawless with different types of .22 LR, from premium CCI to the cheap stuff. I recommend this to anyone thinking about getting one.” — Thom

* You can get also CMMG Conversion Kits from Brownells with one (1) 25rd mag for $219.99, or with three (3) 25rd mags for $249.99. There is also a CMMG kit with three (3) 10-rd mags for $249.99 for areas with capacity restriction.

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July 17th, 2021

Lapua Cartridge Brass in Stock at Creedmoor Sports and Graf’s

Lapua brass Creedmoor sports Graf Sons Graf's 6mmBR cartridge .223 Rem .308 Win 6mm 7mm .284 Winchester

Lapua brass Creedmoor sports Graf Sons Graf's 6mmBR cartridge .223 Rem .308 Win 6mm 7mm .284 WinchesterGood news for serious hand-loaders — a large selection of premium-quality Lapua brass is now IN STOCK at Creedmoor Sports and Grafs.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cartridge types available for purchase today at these two leading vendors. Check the lists below.

We’re happy to report that Lapua Brass is IN STOCK, because finding top quality reloading components (brass, bullets, powder, and especially primers) has been a major challenge over the past year. It looks like both Graf & Sons and Creedmoor Sports have received large shipments of Lapua cartridge brass recently. So if need good brass, check the availability list below, and then place your orders. Sorry, no 6mmBR, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5×55, 7mm-08, or .30-06 brass at either vendor right now.

As of 9:00 am on Saturday July 17, 2021, here are some of the rifle cartridge types we found in stock.

Creedmoor Sports Lapua Rifle Brass IN STOCK »

Lapua .220 Russian Brass $116.95
Lapua .223 Rem Brass $63.95
Lapua 22-250 Rem Brass $99.95
Lapua .243 Win Brass $109.95
Lapua 6.5×47 Lapua Brass $121.95
Lapua .260 Rem Brass $109.95
Lapua .284 Winchester Brass $137.49
Lapua .308 Win Brass Large Primer Pocket $83.95
Lapua .308 Win Palma Brass Small Primer Pocket $89.95
Lapua .338 Lapua Magnum Brass $299.95

CLICK HERE for Creedmoor Sports Lapua Brass Sales Page
NOTE: On that page, items IN STOCK are listed first. Back Order is allowed for most Lapua brass types not currently in stock. Prices subject to change.

Grafs & Sons Lapua Rifle Brass IN STOCK »

Lapua .220 Russian Brass $128.29
Lapua .223 Rem. Brass $68.99
Lapua 6mm Creedmoor Brass Small Primer Pocket $55.99 (50 ct)
Lapua .243 Win Brass $120.99
Lapua 6.5×47 Lapua Brass $134.99
Lapua 6.5 Creedmoor Brass Small Primer Pocket $103.99
Lapua .260 Rem Brass $120.99
Lapua .284 Winchester Brass $144.99
Lapua 7.62×39 Brass $85.99
Lapua 7.62x54R Russian Brass $158.99
Lapua 7x65R Brass $119.99
Lapua .300 Norma Magnum Brass $226.99
Lapua .338 Norma Magnum Brass $328.99
Lapua .338 Lapua Magnum Brass $321.99

CLICK HERE for Grafs.com Lapua Brass Sales Page
NOTE: On that page, items IN STOCK are listed first. You can Login to be notified when out-of-stock items are back in stock. Prices subject to change.

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July 11th, 2021

Sunday Gunday: Multi-State Varmint Adventures with Bill White

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
This photograph and all images for this story are by Bill White, aka “CT10Ring” in our Forum.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 RugerAccurateShooter Forum member Bill White (aka “CT10Ring”) is not your typical member. For 37 years, Bill worked in NYC as a studio photographer specializing in still lifes and products. A neighbor visiting Bill’s home in Connecticut with a .270 Sako inspired Bill to revive his interest (obsession?) with shooting after a 25-year drought. And he owns a few Sakos now! With his gun hobby renewed, for many years Bill drove to the Western USA to shoot long range steel and a LOT of prairie dogs in season. He loved the life of the varminter, so it made sense for him to move West after retiring. He choose Idaho as his new home.

From his Idaho base, Bill enjoys long-range target shooting. But his favorite gun pastime has been varmint hunting in nearby states — the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. Bill found prairie dog shooting rewarding and mapped out a western circuit route of ranches and National Grasslands in SD, ND, MT, and WY. Every year he loads up his truck and hits the road, often doing a grand circle route, visiting prairie dog havens in multiple states. In this article we feature photos from Bill’s annual “grand circle” varmint safari.

For his many cartridge types, Bill learned about reloading methods, loads, and vendors (and more) primarily from AccurateShooter.com. We start today’s story with the biggest caliber rifle he shoots regularly, his 6.5-284 Winchester. Bill favors this rig for his long-range steel shooting. He also uses it for prairie dog shooting, but only “sparingly”, because he wants to preserve barrel life, and he has many other dedicated varmint rigs.

6.5-284 for Long Range Steel Targets (and Sometimes Varmints)

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

In his home state of Idaho, Bill likes to shoot steel at long range. For distance work, Bill favors his McMillan-stocked 6.5-284 Win. This rifle was crafted in 2012 by Bob Green of York, PA, using a 1:8″-twist 28″ Krieger HV barrel (.298″ neck). The trued Rem 700 action was purchased from Long Rifles in Sturgis, SD. Bill did the Cerakote and bedded the action. For his 6.5-284, Bill loads 139gr Lapua Scenars, H4831sc powder and BR2 primers. He shoots both steel and varmints with this rifle, but the varmint work is limited because the 6.5-284 cartridge tends to be a barrel burner. The photo below from an Idaho range was taken near a 500-yard target, looking back at the firing line.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

In the Varmint Fields — Traveling Light

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Once situated, Bill (shown above) prefers to walk to Prairie Dog towns with a shooting mat, two bipod-equipped rifles slung up, rear bag, water, and his trusty Leica 10X42 GeoVid binoculars. While he has used a portable bench, he prefers to shoot from bipod, firing down from a mound if possible. This allows him to set up a line-of-fire that minimizes cross-wind effects. Bill notes: “While I often start early, end-of-day shooting has worked worked well for me. A setting sun shows targets better, the wind is usually down, and it’s not so hot. Often you can spot the bullet trace and that’s fun.”

Eight Great Varmint Cartridge Types — .204, .224, .243 Calibers

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Here is one of Bill Reid’s 6mmBR (6BR) rigs. Like his Sako 6 PPC, this is exceptionally accurate.

Bill has a large rifle collection, most of which see duty in the varmint fields of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Here are his key “take-aways” for his eight favorite varmint chamberings: .204 Ruger, .223 Rem, .22-250, .22 BR, .22-243, 6 PPC, 6mmBR, and 6-6.5×47 Lapua (aka 6×47).

.204 Ruger — This delivers great velocity with the little .20-caliber bullets, with mild recoil. The .204 Ruger easily reaches out to 400 yards, but heavier winds do move the tiny bullet around. Tremendous splat factor under 250 yards. I use Sierra 39gr bullets with IMR 8208 XBR in a Sako 75. Even now, .204 Ruger ammo is relatively easy to find.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

.223 Remington — Probably the most popular centerfire rifle round in the USA, the .223 Rem offers inexpensive brass, and is a great choice for AR-15 owners. If you run short on ammo, you can find it nearly everywhere. I often bring one AR-15 and one .223 Rem bolt gun on varmint safaris. My Rem 700 5R 1:9″-twist barrel likes 53gr V-Max bullets.

.22 BR — My .22 BR is my first choice for most prairie dog missions. Accuracy is superb with necked-down 6mmBR Lapua brass — quarter-MOA and blazing fast. With the right twist rate, this chambering can shoot anything from 40gr FB bullets to 80gr VLDs. Load development is easy. Below is my .22 BR ammo for another varmint trip. I use 55gr Sierra BlitzKings with Varget in my 1:12″-twist Shilen-barreled rifle. 60gr Bergers are very accurate with a fairly flat trajectory for useful distances.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

.22-250 Rem — A classic varmint cartridge, the .22-250 with 50gr V-Maxs delivers spectacular hits. If three P-Dogs happen to be lined up, I’ve witnessed one .22-250 shot take ‘em all out with a triple hit. I currently have five .22-250-chambered rifles: 3 Sako 75s, one Rem 700, and a single shot Nesika that shoots tiny groups. I favor the very deadly Berger 52gr Varmint HP. Making a custom .22-250? With a 1:8″-twist barrel you can use the full weight range of .22-cal bullets, while spinning the lighter bullets fast for “red mist” effect. Remember this cartridge can be a barrel burner. Don’t shoot too many rounds too quickly.

.22-243 Win — This wildcat is even more potent than the .22-250, delivering devastating results on P-Dogs. Run a .243 Win case slowly through a full-length .22-243 die, with plenty of lube to form the brass. I start with Lapua .243 Win brass. There can be some issues necking-down the brass. Watch for donuts forming at the neck-shoulder junction. I bought my .22-243 rifle not sure how it would perform. But now I love shooting it. My .22-243 delivers half-MOA groups with 41.0 grains RL-22 and Hornady 75gr Amax bullets. With those 75-grainers, it’s great in the wind and good to 600 yards easily.

6 PPC — You may consider the 6 PPC a benchrest competition cartridge only, requiring fire-forming. However I have an original Sako 75 single-shot 6 PPC rifle that I load with Sako-headstamp 6 PPC brass (see below) so no fire-forming is required. This Sako 75 came with a test target that measured 0.113″! With my 6 PPC Sako, I found that 58gr V-Maxs, pushed by Vihtavuori N133, are potent out to 300 yards.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6PPC 6 PPC Sako 75 Ruger

6mmBR — The 6mmBR Norma (6BR) offers a nearly unbeatable combination of accuracy, efficiency, and tunability. With the 6BR and a fast twist barrel, you can shoot everything from 40gr flat-base bullets to the latest 105-110gr match bullets. I load Lapua brass, Vihtavuori N135, and Hornady 58, 65, and 75gr bullets for my Krieger 1:14″-twist HV barrel. While this cartridge is capable of long-range accuracy, I usually limit my 6BR shots to 350-400 yards.

6-6.5×47 Lapua — In this story’s lead photo is my 6-6.5×47 Lapua varmint rifle, with Surgeon action and Manners stock. I Cerakoted the barreled action and then bedded the action. Shown below is 6-6.5×47 ammo I loaded for recent testing. Note how I separated different bullets and powder loads into multiple, labeled bags. Hodgdon H4350 is a great choice for this cartridge — 39 grains H4350 with 105gr Amax was the winner here, but 88gr Bergers also shot well. This cartridge has tremendous “critter dismantling” abilities out to 600-700 yards.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Six Tips for Novice Long Range Varmint Hunters

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

1. Take twice as much ammo you think you may need. The fields could be particularly rich, or, because of wind or other variables, you may have far more misses than expected.

2. When possible, set up with the wind at your back (or, alternatively, directly ahead). This will minimize the effect of cross-winds. Set up a stake with a ribbon to show wind direction.

3. Bring at least two rifles. Ideally one would be a low-recoil rifle with cheaper components for the closer shots. Then bring a rifle with higher-BC bullets for longer shots where wind is a bigger factor.

4. Check the weather before you head out. Prairie dogs like sunshine and calm conditions. If a cloudy, very blustery day is predicted, considering staying in town and cleaning the rifles.

5. Bring plenty of water on a trip. An adult male should be drinking at least 64 ounces of water (or other liquid) every day — more if it’s very hot or you are sweating a lot.

6. Preferably always hunt with a companion. If you do go out solo, have a Garmin inReach SatComm/GPS for emergencies if there is no cell coverage in your location.

Veteran Varmint Hunter Shares his Secrets

Where to Find Abundant Prairie Dogs — Generally, black-tailed P-Dogs are found in the Western high desert, in the same states/areas where cattle are raised. You’ll find good hunting in Montana, North and South Dakota, Colorado, and Wyoming. There are good hunting grounds on private ranches, BLM tracts, and U.S. National Grasslands. To find specific locations, I’d suggest calling the USFS, BLM, and State Fish & Game. Some have lists of ranches that allow P-Dog shooting. Give the agencies a call before your trip and then check in with ranchers. IMPORTANT: You need a current hunting license in some states.

How to Connect with Ranch Owners– A good varmint adventure can begin with a local connection. Stop into the local Ag/feed store and the town breakfast spot. I bet you’ll find some retired ranchers having coffee together who may direct you to a place that needs rodents thinned out. Let’s say you’re in Roundup, Montana. Stop by a local store and ask what ranchers allow PD shooting. Keep in mind that ranchers may be wary of allowing a total stranger to sling lead on their place. Show respect and if you had a good experience, send a thank-you note. A guided shoot is worth considering — the outfitter will know where the P-Dogs are and he has arrangements with landowners. He may even supply benches. I’ve taken two guided trips, with excellent results, one near Sturgis, SD, and the other on Sioux tribal land near Rosebud, SD.

Getting Set Up — I start early in the a.m. to mitigate mirage. Plus there is usually less wind at that hour. I prefer to drive to within half mile or so of a PD town, then walk and shoot prone. Most shooters like to set up a rotating bench on a knoll. This is a tried-and-true way to shoot long distances accurately, especially if you are on top of a hill and can shoot 360 degrees. I once shot from a rotating bench, but I prefer walking now. Some country is quite stunning and that’s half the fun — being out in nature. But yes there are negatives to shooting prone — ground hazards and tall grass can impede your vision.

Equipment for a Serious P-Dog Safari — In the field, I normally carry two rifles with Harris 9-13″ bipods, backpack, a rolled-up shooting mat, at least two liters of water, food, ammo, two rear bags, and binoculars. A good laser rangefinder comes in handy. If you prefer shooting from a bench you may want to have a front rest and a spotting scope. Many guys will shoot prone from the bed of a truck. That gets you off the ground without the need to haul around a heavy bench. But some locations restrict vehicles. Before a P-Dog trip, I make a detailed pack list and check off as I load my truck and camper. I would suggest bringing waterproof rubber or muck boots. June in South Dakota can be cold and wet, and the mud there is not to be believed. Don’t attempt to drive off road in it!

It’s good insurance to bring an extra 5 gallons of fuel for your vehicle in a jerry can and 2 gallons of H20. There may be NO shade for miles and dehydration is a real possibility. Having a couple heavy duty tarps will provide a sun shade and cover your gear in a rainstorm. I bring a 16″ X 20″ plywood target backer, a stand, and paper targets. This allows me to check zero on each rifle before I head out to the Dog Town.

Western Varmint Country Vistas

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger
Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Taking Photos on Shooting Adventures

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 RugerBill knows a thing or two about taking pictures, having been a professional photographer in NYC for many decades. He uses modern digital cameras for both his outdoor and indoor work. Most photos in this story were taken with a Canon EOS 5DSR MKIV. We asked Bill for some tips on taking good photos. Here are his FIVE Top Tips for Photography:

1. Take photos in the early a.m. and later p.m. when the light has definition. Mid-day results will not be so nice.
2. Use the highest-resolution camera available that fits your budget. Yes lens quality, focus, and exposure controls make a big difference.
3. When feasible, shoot using a manual setting with the lens wide open (for shallow focus). Set the focus on the most important object/subject in the frame.
4. Photoshop is useful, especially when RAW images need to be corrected to show the scene more faithfully, or enhance it.
5. After you take a picture, before you post it on social media, learn to crop the image, straighten the horizon, and do other basic fixes. This can make a big difference.

Bill white varmint hunting North South Dakota Wyoming 6x47 6.5-284 22BR .204 Ruger

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Hunting/Varminting 1 Comment »
June 12th, 2021

How to Prep Mil-Surp 5.56 Lake City Brass — Save Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

cleaning Lake City 5.56 brass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accuracy Potential of Mil-Surp 5.56×45 Brass

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

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

Saving Money by Using GI Brass

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

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

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

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
June 6th, 2021

Sunday Gunday: AR Service Rifle — Focus on Ammo & Reloading

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels
The 600-yard target has an X-Ring 6 inches (1 MOA) across, while the 10-Ring spans 12 inches (2 MOA).

The following article is about reloading for NRA/CMP Highpower Rifle competition and is geared toward competitors shooting the AR15 Service Rifle. In Highpower Rifle competition, shooters fire in four stages: Standing slow-fire at 200 yards, Sitting rapid-fire at 200 yards, Prone rapid-fire at 300 yards, and Prone slow-fire at 600 yards. Competitors use a sling for support in all positions but standing. A typical AR15 Service Rifle sports a 20″ free-floated barrel and a 4.5-pound trigger. Service Rifle scopes are limited to maximum power of 4.5X.

Thoughts on Loading for Service Rifles, Particularly for 600 Yards

by Danny Arnold, Team CMP
Article originally published in CMP Shooting News

Before we get started, I want to stress that all of the information that follows is geared toward the .223/5.56 Service Rifle. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing here for anyone else, but the .223/5.56 Service Rifle platform is where I’ve spent the majority of my time, so here we go.

There is only one “Perfect” 600–yard load for my rifle, True or False? This example is more anecdotal than scientific, but it provides some food for thought….

Team CMP spent the early part of March competing in the Orange Blossom Regional. As soon as we got on the range, Sara Rozanski (Team CMP member) started having problems with her 600-yard ammunition. Nearly 1/3 of her cases were exiting the chamber minus the primers. I offered to swap my ammunition for hers, suspecting that my Wylde chamber would be more forgiving than her CLE chamber — a solution that seemed to solve the problem. At least neither of us was blowing primers!

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels

Sara’s ammunition was a factory load using a well-known 80+ grain bullet with an unknown primer and powder, using brass from a respected manufacturer. My load was a different brand of 80-grain bullet, with my choice of powder and primer, all in brass made by someone else. Given the color of the primers, the only thing that our ammunition could possibly have had in common was the brand of powder… maybe. So, how did we shoot?

Sara and I shot the two-person team together and the entire 2,400 Aggregate, although on different relays. Sara’s combined 600-yard score was 780-28X (97.5%). Mine was a 783-24X (97.87%). Our scores were never more than two points apart on any of the four days. Keep in mind that we were using each other’s ammunition the entire time.

So, we had different barrels, chambers and ammunition, but similar results. That goes back to the idea that a good load will perform similarly if fired in a good barrel.

Are We Too Focused on Ballistic Coefficients (BCs)?
The revailing wisdom has always trended toward loading the highest-BC bullet we could find and pushing it as fast as possible. Back in the early ’90s when I got started with the AR15, the 80-grain Sierra was state of the art. Actually, I picked up all of my Leg points with it, although today it looks a bit dated — kinda like me.

So, the question I’ll pose is this: Would you rather shoot a high-BC bullet that groups 3/4-MOA (minute of angle) or a lower-BC bullet that groups into one-half-MOA traveling 50 feet-per-second faster? The reason that I posed this question is a situation I found myself in a decade ago. Our coach decided that he wanted us to pair-fire some 600-yard for practice. Unfortunately, I hadn’t gotten the memo and all that I had available was my normal short-line ammunition, loaded with a 77-grain bullet. The shooter I was paired with was using a higher-BC bullet than I was, but in the end, we both shot 198s.

Admittedly, using 77-grainers meant that coach had to work a little harder to keep us together on target, but it was a teaching moment for me. I knew that my upper shot 77s better than the available bullets in the 80-grain range, so I cranked out a windage table for the 77-grain bullet at 600 yards and shot those for the rest of the season. After all, the wind blows ALL bullets around. It’s just a matter of knowing what YOUR bullet is doing.

With the shortages that we’re experiencing right now, a lighter bullet may be all that you have available for the 2021 season. That doesn’t mean that you’re disadvantaged though.

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels
Danny Arnold teaching Highpower Clinic at 2021 CMP Eastern Games

Loading High-BC Bullets
In the past decade, several bullets have appeared that weigh 80-grains or more. One thing that many of them have in common is a very sharp nose profile, whether metal or polymer. The question is: Are you using the right seating stem?

The jacket material in the bullet’s nose is very thin. If you section a bullet, you’ll find that there is a surprising amount of air space in the nose. If you’re using older seating dies, your seating stem may be contacting the bullet nose too close to the tip, where the jacket is the both thinnest and is unsupported by the lead core. This can manifest itself either as a deformation at the very tip of the bullet or as a circular dent around the bullet nose that you can see and feel with your thumbnail. I think we can all agree that denting a bullet is usually considered a bad thing.

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels

One company goes so far as to recommend their proprietary seating stem for use with their high-BC bullets. Other companies leave it up to you to find a seating stem that will allow the bullet nose to go deeper into the seating stem, moving the contact point further down the bullet where the jacket is thicker and supported by the core material.

Seating Depth and Bullet Preferences
Some bullets don’t mind some “jump” into the lands, but some really do. Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t tell you much about that. Your chamber configuration (Wylde, CLE, or some hybrid of the two) and the bullet that you choose will determine your optimal seating depth. Long and short of it, a quality measuring tool to determine seating depth is a necessity these days. Keep in mind that if you’re doing this with a brand new barrel, the throat is likely going to change slightly in the first 200 rounds and may need to be re-measured. Actually, since all of your short range ammunition has to be loaded to magazine length, you’re probably better off developing your short range loads before starting on long range load development. That gives the throat a chance to wear in a bit on a new barrel.

Brass Prep — Why It Is Important
When match-grade AR15s first arrived on the scene, it was amazing how little it took to get them to shoot well. Other than making sure that I had brass from the same lot and running it through a set of match-grade dies, I did nothing. Of course, we were also using a post front sight. Was the occasional bad shot me, the rifle, the load or just an archaic sighting system?

Transitioning to optics has caused me to reconsider how and what I do in my reloading process: That, and having some extra time on my hands to experiment.

A little (or a lot) of time spent with a neck turning tool, a primer-pocket uniformer and a flash-hole reamer will quickly show you how consistent brass is by manufacturer and even by individual lot. That exercise also makes the prices charged for high-quality brass seem ridiculously cheap. That doesn’t mean that I advocate neck-turning or other uniforming practices, nor do I advocate spending scandalous amounts of money on long-range brass. However, our sport is about consistency. The consistency of your brass is a matter of choice, whether you choose to simply segregate cases by weight (cheap option), neck turn (labor intensive) or open your wallet a little wider for premium brass.

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels

Weighing Charges vs. Throwing with Powder Measure
To measure or weigh? For a long time, I used a powder measure to throw all of my 600-yard loads. The powder I was using metered well, and the results downrange didn’t justify the extra time spent with a scale. That was in the day of iron sights though. Nowadays, I’m throwing my charges and trickling up to the desired weight as measured on a scale that weighs to a 100th of a grain.

To quantify the difference between individually weighing each charge versus throwing charges with a powder measure, I weighed six kernels of powder that I trickled into the pan and then dumped them into the hopper. Going through that process 10 times, I came up with an average weight of .08 grains for six kernels. Next, I threw 50 charges for weighing using my powder measure. If I felt the measure hanging up as it cut kernels, I put the charge back into the hopper without weighing it.

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels
That’s six kernels of powder sitting in the pan — average weight .08 grains.

Those 50 smoothly-thrown charges varied .26 grains from lowest to highest, with the majority varying no more than .16 grains from highest to lowest. If the desired weight was exactly in the middle, at worst you’d be .13 grains (9-10 kernels) low or high, with the majority being off no more than .08 grains (6 kernels) above or below the desired charge weight. Is that enough to send a shot outside the 2-MOA 10-Ring? Probably not.

Has more consistent brass and weighing charges to one-hundredth (0.01) of a grain added up to higher scores? Honestly, this question is hard to answer. Looking at the results on paper at 200 yards, using a powder that meters well combined with a consistent touch on the loading lever doesn’t appear measurably different than meticulously weighing each and every powder charge. Looking back over my 600-yard plots however, I can see a trend toward a group that is closer to X-Ring height.

Since the bullseye is widest at the center, shooting groups that are the height of the X-ring gives you more room for error when the wind is blowing. That can translate into higher 600-yard scores.

How You Load Your Ammunition vs. How You Load Your Rifle
The loading/chambering cycle of the AR-15 is, in a word, violent. You have a relatively heavy bolt and carrier assembly under power of a stout buffer spring slamming forward to chamber each round of ammunition. By design, those rounds were supposed to be held securely by the magazine feed lips until the bolt stripped them off the follower. Obviously, due to their overall length, 600-yard loads can’t be chambered that way. Although the barrel extension is funnel-shaped, it’s also got a lot of “teeth” ringing the inside of it (see below).

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels

Whether you’re using a standard magazine or a single-round loading device (SLED), dropping a round in the loading port and releasing the bolt is an act of faith in that you’re trusting the bullet to arrive in the chamber undamaged.

Ask yourself, how many times have you seen someone drop a round on the follower, press the bolt release and watch as the bolt jammed on a cockeyed round? If that happens once every 100 tries, how many times did the bolt close on a scratched, dented, or misaligned bullet? Could that be the cause of the occasional errant shot?

My technique is to drop each round on top of the SLED and then push it slightly forward with my finger, partially chambering it before releasing the bolt. Admittedly, some people may be unable to do this due to body configuration or left-handedness, but why go to all the trouble of loading “perfect” ammunition and then damage it on the way into the chamber?

Now that we’ve covered bullets, brass, and assorted errata we can move on to discussing loads for 600 Yards…

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels highpower target
The NRA Highpower 600-yard target has a 6-inch (1 MOA) X-Ring, and a 12-inch (2 MOA) 10-Ring.

Load Development for 600 Yards

Finding a load for 600 yards is a lot like finding a load for short range. Once I decide on a bullet, powder, primer, velocity range and a measured guesstimate of seating depth, I load 10 rounds of each test load, increasing in 0.2 (2/10) grain increments. I test them from the prone position at 200 yards. Ideally, I want to see two loads that are 0.2 (2/10) of a grain apart that shoot almost identical groups. The load that I choose will fall in between the two best shooting loads that I tested. If the first load is XX.2 grains and the second is XX.4 grains, my chosen load will be XX.3 grains.

Why develop loads in 0.2-grain (tenths) increments if I have a scale that measures in 0.01-grain (hundredths) increments? Or, why not test in 0.1-grain increments?

For me, working in 0.2-grain increments gets me to the results quicker. Also, there is a difference between accuracy and consistency in this scenario. Developing loads in 0.2-grain increments gets me to an accurate load. Producing that load using a scale that accurately measures to .01-grain insures a consistent load, assuming that I do my part.

Once I’ve settled on a load, it’s time to play with seating depth, if I choose to. If I’m lucky and the groups are acceptable as-is, I won’t do anything. If I think there’s room for improvement, I’ll experiment a little. Depending on the bullet, changing the seating depth by a couple of thousandths one way or the other may change the group size. During this phase of testing, it’s a good idea to chamber a round and see if the entire round will then extract. If you leave a bullet stuck in the throat, your rounds are too long. Finding that out at a match can ruin an otherwise good day.

High Power service rifle AR15 reloading 600 yard Danny Arnold powder kernels
Danny Arnold shooting his AR15 Service Rifle, standing position at 2021 CMP Eastern Games.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your barrel is not static. Every round fired has an effect on the throat, vaporizing and scouring away metal until the distance the bullet travels before meeting the rifling measurably increases. If you have chosen a bullet that shoots best when close to the lands, you’ll need to periodically re-measure and possibly change your bullet seating depth to maintain that optimal relationship.

The Elephant in the Room — User Skill Level

There’s really not a delicate way to put this, so I won’t try. There’s little point in spending time and effort developing a load that shoots into half-MOA off the bench if you’re only capable of shooting 2 MOA using a sling right now.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. On the contrary, it just means that your time and effort is better spent practicing with some good short-range ammunition on reduced targets at a 100 or 200-yard range. At that distance, wind is not a factor and your technique can be improved more quickly so you’re in a position to benefit from that ½ MOA ammunition.

About Team CMP
CMP has created a Highpower Team with top competitors. Team CMP competes at several events throughout the year and most importantly, helps to teach Highpower Clinics at CMP Competition Events. Learn from Team CMP at Camp Perry during the Advanced Highpower Clinic, scheduled this year for July 30 through August 1, 2021. Visit the Highpower Clinic Web Page for more information.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally-chartered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, visit www.TheCMP.org.

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April 21st, 2021

Beyond .223 Rem — The Many Alternative AR Chamberings

AR15 AR AR-15 cartridge alternative
AR-15 Cartridge line-up image from 80% Arms, used with permission. This selection omits our favorite alternative — the 20 Practical (.223 Rem necked down to .204 Caliber).

Instead of using the standard .223 Remington or 5.56x45mm NATO round, you have many options for an AR-15, as shown above. This photo is from Complete Guide to Alternative AR-15 Rounds in the 80% Arms Blog. Some of the most notable alternative chamberings for AR-15s are:

20 Practical — Simply the .223 Rem necked down to .204 caliber. Requires new barrel. Same bolt, same magazines. Best Bang for the Buck.
6.5 Grendel — Moderately expensive, 6.5 Grendel requires a new barrel, bolt, and magazines. Most use the 6.5 Grendel for competitive shooting and/or hunting.
.300 Blackout — Moderately expensive, the .300 Blackout requires a barrel change. This is used for home defense, and hunting. WARNING — with some bullets this round can be chambered in a .223 Rem barrel, with disastrous consequences.
.458 SOCOM — Pretty expensive, requires new barrel and bolt. The .458 SOCOM round is typically used for hunting though it was originally designed for Close Quarters Battle (CQB).
.50 Beowulf — The most expensive alternative AR-15 cartridge, this requires new barrel and bolt. The .50 Beowulf was created for game hunting, but most hunters use something more practical.

Of these five options, our top choice is the 20 Practical, followed by the 6.5 Grendel. Check out our featured 20 Practical AR Rifle Report. This 20 Practical cartridge is highly effective on small varmints, and has shown outstanding accuracy in AR-platform rifles crafted by Robert Whitley.

20 Practical — High-Velocity, Affordable Alternative

The 20 Practical is simply a .223 Remington necked down to .204 caliber. This efficient little cartridge can launch 32-grainers at over 4200 fps, with impressive results on P-Dogs. This makes the 20 Practical a great choice for an AR-based varmint rifle.

20 Practical20 Practical Ultimate Varminter
A decade ago, as a “proof-of-concept”, AccurateShooter.com created a 20 Practical AR15 Ultimate Varminter with a custom 20-caliber upper from Robert Whitley of AR-X Enterprises, LLC. That project rifle was ultra-accurate — every 5-shot group out of the gun was less than the size of a dime. That gun was auctioned off, but Robert Whitley continues to produce custom 20 Practical AR15 uppers. (The 20 Practical cartridge is simply the .223 Rem necked down to 20 caliber — you can use standard .223 brass and load with standard .223 Rem dies. Just swap in a smaller expander and use smaller neck bushings.)

The 6.5 Grendel — Accurate, Plus Good for Hunters

The 6.5 Grendel round is one of the most accurate cartridges for the AR-15 platform. The 6.5 Grendel round offers a larger-diameter, .264-caliber (6.5mm) bullet running at good velocities. This provides ample energy for smaller game and deer. The 6.5 Grendel is often used for hunting deer up to 300 yards.

6.5 Grendel

History of the 6.5 Grendel Cartridge
The 6.5 Grendel originated as a 6mm PPC necked up to 6.5 mm. After Alexander Arms relinquished the “6.5 Grendel” Trademark, the 6.5 Grendel was standardized as an official SAAMI cartridge. It has become popular with target shooters and hunters alike because it is accurate, efficient, and offers modest recoil. Good for small to medium game, the 6.5 Grendel is becoming a popular chambering in lightweight hunting rifles, such as the Howa 1500 Youth Model.

6.5 Grendel Saami Hornady Brass

The .300 Blackout — Risky Business

The .300 Blackout appeals to folks who want a .30-caliber defense round. This can be loaded at various velocities. Loaded at subsonic speeds and shot with a suppressor, the .300 BLK offers very low sound levels. Unfortunately, that .300 Blackout cartridge can fit in a .223 Rem chamber. Shooting a .308-caliber bullet in .223 bore is a recipe for disaster.

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56The .300 AAC Blackout aka “300 BLK”, is a compact 30-caliber cartridge designed to work in AR-15 rifles. It has a shorter cartridge case to accommodate the bigger 30-caliber bullet while still fitting in a standard AR-15 magazine. Unfortunately, that’s the danger. A careless shooter can toss a .300 Blackout cartridge in with .223 Rem rounds without noting. And because the case-head size is the same as the .223 Rem (5.56×45) the rifle’s bolt assembly will happily chamber and fire the .300 BLK round. Problem is, that forces a .308 diameter bullet down an undersized .223-caliber bore. Not good!

This images were provided by Tactical Rifle Shooters on Facebook. The message was clear: “Don’t try to run 300 Blackout in your .223/5.56mm. It won’t end well. The problem is identical rifles and identical magazines but different calibers.”

Image from Accurate Shooter Forum. Cutaway shows the jammed .30-Cal bullet:
.300 AAC Blackout 300 BLK kaboom accident blowup cartridge failure barrel .223 Rem 5.56

For those who MUST have a .300 Blackout, here are some things you can do:

1. Use different colored magazines for .300 Blackout vs. .223 Remington.
2. Mark .223 Rem upper handguards with the caliber in bright paint.
2. Fit all your uppers with caliber-labeled ejection port covers.
4. Mark all .300 BLK Rounds with heavy black marker.

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