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October 4th, 2022

Four Ammo Safety Checks to Do Every Time BEFORE You Shoot

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

One: Check Your Cases with a Chamber Gage

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

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

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

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

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

Two: Double Check Your Primers

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

Three: Check Your Overall Cartridge Length

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

Four: Confirm All Cases Contain Powder

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

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

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

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June 9th, 2022

Gas Gun Reloading Rules — USAMU Tips for ARs, Garands, M1As

Reloading for Service Rifles
SFC Lance Dement as featured in CMP’s First Shot Online.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a great series of reloading “how-to” articles on its Facebook Page. This post covers key factors to consider when loading ammunition for Match Rifles and Service Rifles, with a particular focus on self-loading “gas guns”. Visit the USAMU Facebook Page regularly for other, helpful reloading and marksmanship tips.

We offer some “cardinal rules” to help new gas-gun handloaders with safety and efficiency. These address both Match Rifle and Service Rifle versions of the AR15, M1 Garand, M1A, and M110. However, they can also improve safe reloading for many other auto-loaders such as M1 Carbines, FALs, SIGs, etc. The author distilled these principles many years ago to help focus on the essential aspects of these rifles.

RULE ONE: Service Rifles Are Not Benchrest Rifles
Gas-guns require a relatively loose fit between ammunition and chamber (vs. bolt actions) for safe, smooth operation. Many techniques, such as neck sizing and keeping cartridge headspace quite tight, are popular in the extreme bolt gun accuracy realm. However, they are of little value with Service Rifles, and some could even be hazardous. Before adopting a specialized technique, seriously consider whether it is appropriate and beneficial in a gas-gun.

RULE TWO: Never Compromise Safety to Obtain Accuracy
Example: If choosing a brand of great, but ultra-sensitive match primers offers possibly better accuracy at the risk of slam-fires in your design of rifle, don’t do it! You are issued exactly two eyes and ten fingers (best-case scenario). Risking them trying to squeeze 0.25 MOA better accuracy out of an M1A, etc. simply isn’t worth it.

Reloading for Service Rifles

RULE THREE: Tailor the Precision to Your Individual Skill and Your Rifle’s Potential
This has been addressed here before, but bears repeating for newcomers. If you are struggling to break out of the Marksman Class, or using a CMP M1 “As-Issued,” then laboriously turning the necks of your 600-yard brass is a waste of time. Your scores will improve much faster by practicing or dry-firing. On the other hand, if the reigning champions anxiously check your scores each time you fire an event, a little neck-turning might not be so far-fetched.

Verifying Load Improvements — Accuracy hand-loading involves a wide variety of techniques, ranging from basic to rather precise. Carefully select those which offer a good return on investment for your time and labor. In doubt? Do a classic pilot study. Prepare ammo for at least three or four ten-shot groups with your new technique, vs. the same with your standard ammo. Then, pick a calm day and test the ammo as carefully as possible at its full distance (e.g. 200, 300, or 600 yards) to verify a significant improvement. A little testing can save much labor!


This video explains the procedure for ordering an M1 Garand from the CMP.

RULE FOUR: Be Your Own Efficiency Expert
Serious Service Rifle shooters generally think of ammunition in terms of thousands of rounds, not “boxes”, or even “hundreds”. Analyze, and WRITE DOWN each step in your reloading process. Count the number of times each case is handled. Then, see if any operations can be dropped or changed without reducing safety or accuracy. Eliminating just two operations saves 2000 steps per 1000 rounds loaded. Conversely, carefully consider any measurable benefits before adding a step to your routine.

RULE FIVE: In Searching for Greater Accuracy with Efficiency, Look for System Changes
For example, instead of marking your 300-yard rounds individually to differentiate them from your 200-yard ammo, would a simple change in primers work? If accuracy is maintained, using brass-colored primers for 200 and silver for 300 provides an indelible indicator and eliminates a step! Similarly, rather than spending hours selecting GI surplus brass for weight and neck uniformity, consider splurging on some known, high-quality imported match brass for your 600-yard loads. Results should be excellent, time is saved, and given limited shooting at 600 yards, brass life should be long.

RULE SIX: Check All Your Primers Before Packaging Your Loaded Ammo
This seems simple and even intuitive. However, many slam-fires (which were much more common when M1s and M1As were the standard) are due, at least in part, to “high” primers. Primers should be seated below flush with the case head. The USAMU has addressed this at length in a previous column, but each round should be checked for properly-seated primers before they are packaged for use.

Reloading for Service Rifles

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April 1st, 2022

European Primers Will Be Marketed in Elite Jewelry Stores

Primer jewelry precious metals tiffany cartier bulgari Leviev sak's 5th

Primer jewelry precious metals tiffany cartier bulgari Leviev sak's 5thIt was bound to happen sooner or later. With the price of primers rising dramatically, and supplies being extremely restricted, we are now seeing pistol and rifle primers being marketed as “precious metals”, distributed through elite jewelry stores. With highly desirable match primers selling for $350 or more (per thousand) on GunBroker and other websites, primer makers have realized that primers are an exceptionally valuable product. Modern primers, which appear like tiny gold-colored pearls, can actually be marketed successfully through jewelry outlets and precious metals vendors.

The “precious primer” marketing trend is coming from Europe, home of the world’s leading jewelry empires. Primer maker Sellier & Bellot has started this trend, announcing that its primers will be sold through elite jewelry vendors Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and Bulgari. Not to be outdone, primer maker Fiocchi intends to market its high-grade primers through Damiani, Leviev, and Harry Winston outlets.

Primer jewelry precious metals tiffany cartier bulgari Leviev sak's 5th

Starting in May, Sellier & Bellot primers will be put on display next to diamonds, rubies, and gold necklaces at Cartier, Tiffany, and Bulgari stores. Primer buyers will be able to purchase standardized primers, or special edition gold-plated primers with ruby-red internal cores. Initially the primers will be offered in sets of five, priced at $250.00.

Not to be outdone, Italian primer-maker Fiocchi plans to bring out its own jewelry line of primers, which will be offered in sets of four with Gold-tone, Silver, or Nickel finishes. These will be more affordable, with the silver-plated Fiocchis available for just $20 per set of four. There will also be a special 1000-pack of silver-coated primers for customers. This 1000-count Silver Collectors Edition will retail for $2500.00.

Primer jewelry precious metals tiffany cartier bulgari Leviev sak's 5th
Primer jewelry precious metals tiffany cartier bulgari Leviev sak's 5th

Primer jewelry precious metals tiffany cartier bulgari Leviev sak's 5th

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, News, Reloading 4 Comments »
March 9th, 2022

Keep Shooting Despite Shortage of Primers, Powder, and Bullets

Dennis Santiago component shortage reloading shooting sports usa ssusa

The last 18 months has been a frustrating time for hand-loaders, and particular competitive rifle shooters who want the very best components for their match loads. Some of the most popular powders, such as Varget and H4350, are very difficult to find. And the price of primers has skyrocketed, with vendors changing as much as $150-$200 per thousand of popular types such as CCI BR2s. And even brass for popular cartridges, such as 6.5 Creedmoor and 6mmBR has been in short supply. And there are dozens of scam websites now that claim to have primers and powder for sale. Be wary of ANY site that will not take major credit cards, but insist on CashApp, Zelle, Venmo Bitcoin etc. for payment.

Thankfully, there ARE some strategies that can help competitors keep shooting despite the component shortages. First, you can use different types of bullets for practice. Creedmoor Sports offers big-name factory seconds Practice Bullets in multiple calibers. Second, you can look for alternate powder sources if you can’t find the Hodgdon or Alliant powders you prefer. You’ll find a wide selection of Vihtavuori and Accurate powders in stock at many vendors and also look for Shooters World powders. Also if you check local gunstores you may get lucky and find the H4350 or Alliant Reloder 16 you need.

To help fellow shooters overcome the problems of component shortages, our friend Dennis Santiago recently wrote a good article for Shooting Sports USA. This article talks about strategies that can help you keep up your monthly round count. One is to use more available powder and bullets for off-hand practice, where the nth degree of load accuracy is less critical. Dennis also recommends connecting with fellow shooters in your area. You may find that you may trade one hard-to-find component you’ve got for the powder or primers you need. This Editor recently traded some CCI 450 primers for H4350 powder.

Dennis Santiago component shortage reloading shooting sports usa ssusa

We recommend you read the article by Dennis. There are many good suggestions that can help you maintain your live-fire shooting skills, and still attend matches regularly during this time of shortages.

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February 9th, 2022

How Primers Are Made — Video from Federal Factory

Federal Primer Priming Tool Magnum primers foil anvil primer construction reloading powder CCI

Do you know how gun primers are made — how the explosive elements are applied into those tiny cups? Find out by watching this video filmed at a Federal ammunition factory. It starts out with empty primer cups loaded, 1000 at a time, into trays using vibration (0:05 time-mark). While much of the process is automated, there is still a significant role played by production workers who apply a green, paste-like charging compound to the inside of hundreds of primer cups.

At the 0:17-second time-mark you can see the factory worker “charging” the primers with the priming compound. After the cups are filled, then the plate of cups “mates up with a plate of anvils” (0:40 time-mark). Then the primers are unloaded from trays and inspected.


Federal Primer Priming Tool Magnum primers foil anvil primer construction reloading powder CCI

Primer “Mysteries and Misconceptions” Article

There is an excellent article about primers on the Shooting Times website. This authoritative Shooting Times article explains the fine points of primer design and construction. The author reveals some little-known facts about primers and corrects common misconceptions. Here are some highlights:

Primer Priming Tool Magnum primers foil anvil primer construction reloading powder CCISize Matters
Useful Trivia — even though Small Rifle and Small Pistol primer pockets share the same depth specification, Large Rifle and Large Pistol primers do not. The standard pocket for a Large Pistol primer is somewhat shallower than its Large Rifle counterpart, specifically, 0.008 to 0.009 inch less.

Magnum Primers
There are two ways to make a Magnum primer — either use more of the standard chemical mix to provide a longer-burning flame or change the mix to one with more aggressive burn characteristics. Prior to 1989, CCI used the first option in Magnum Rifle primers. After that, we switched to a mix optimized for spherical propellants that produced a 24% increase in flame temperature and a 16% boost in gas volume.

Foiled Again
Most component primers have a little disk of paper between the anvil and the priming mix. It is called “foil paper” not because it’s made of foil but because it replaces the true metal foil used to seal early percussion caps. The reason this little disk exists is strictly a manufacturing convenience. Wet primer pellets are smaller than the inside diameter of the cup when inserted and must be compacted to achieve their proper diameter and height. Without the foil paper, the wet mix would stick to the compaction pins and jam up the assembly process.

Read Full Primer Story on ShootingTimes.com

Video find by Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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December 24th, 2021

Strategies for Finding Primers in Time of Shortages

primer sources supplies finding CCI Federal
Photo courtesy Laurie Holland, TargetShooter UK Magazine.

Reloading components are in short supply these days, particularly powder and primers. But primers may be the biggest challenge these days — finding them may seem like a Quest for the Holy Grail. That’s a big problem for handloaders. You may be able to find substitutes for your favorite powder and bullets, but if you don’t have primers, you can’t even get started.

To locate primers these days, you must consider ALL possible sources: local gunshops, local private sales, sale tables at shooting club meetings, gun/hunting forum classifieds, large outdoor stores, and mail-order vendors. Then yes, worst case scenario, look at the auction sites such as GunBroker.

You need to be looking at multiple places — local vendors, gun clubs, big retailers such as Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse. And get creative — talk to shooting buddies, check for estate sales.

primer sources supplies finding CCI Federal

Consider all Possible Sources — Not Just Online Vendors

The guys who are scoring primers these days are resorting to old-fashioned methods — visiting small, mom-and-pop gunstores, checking local estate sales, and “networking” with local shooting club members. First, if you are not a member of a local shooting club, you should join for a multitude of reasons. We recently acquired some powder at a local shooting club meeting, exchanging some H4198 for Hodgdon Varget straight across. A Forum member recently scored both powders and primers at the estate sale of a shooting club member.

For the best chance of success, regularly check 6-10 brick-and-mortar locations in your region. One good way to do this is by combining forces with shooting buddies. Get together with 3 or 4 guys and collectively scout ALL the local gunshops and outdoor stores with shooting supplies. You CAN get lucky. For example, we regularly check a small gunstore in a nearby mall. Just last week we were able to find CCI pistol primers! Yes, deliveries are happening, you just need to check. And check often.

How to Find Primers — SEVEN STRATEGIES

1. Make a list of ALL local gunshops and outdoor supply stores within a 70-mile radius. Call them on a regular basis.
2. Join a local shooting club. Attend meetings where you can sell/exchange products. (We recently exchanged pistol primers for rifle primers we needed).
3. Join local/regional gun forums. You may find listings for “face-to-face” transactions where you can buy/exchange primers. Our AccurateShooter Forum also has a thread on Where to Find Primers.
4. Bookmark multiple vendor websites and check daily (we provide a list below).
5. Combine resources with some shooting buddies. Get together with 3 or 4 guys and collectively scout ALL the local gunshops and outdoor stores with shooting supplies. Assign each guy a different “territory” (perhaps close to his work locations).
6. Search your garage and storage areas. This Editor recently found 5000 Winchester Small Pistol Primers in an unopened box. These were left over from his IDPA and 3-gun days, years ago.
7. Consider APS Primers. CCI sells APS primers pre-loaded in plastic strips. These can still be found gathering dust in some shops. You can remove the primers from the strips, or simply buy an APS priming tool and use them as intended.

primer sources supplies finding CCI Federal

Online Vendors for Primers

Here are leading online retailers that sell primers (along with other reloading components). NOTE: Most of these vendors’ primer inventories sell out quickly. So you need to check regularly. Persistence will pay off, eventually. Primer shipments DO arrive, they just sell out fast.

Brownells
Graf & Sons
Midsouth Shooters Supply
Powder Valley Inc.
Precision Reloading
Bruno Shooters Supply
MidwayUSA
Natchez Shooters Supplies
Sportsman’s Warehouse (check online AND in stores)
Academy Sports
Cabela’s

Best Strategy for Online Primer Purchasing (Not Auctions)
With these (and other) online vendors, you need to check “early and often”. Primers may arrive and sell out in a matter of minutes. You should bookmark multiple sources and check them multiple times each week.

The primer shortage has been worsened by dramatically reduced imports of Russian primers.
Russian Wolf Primers shortage

WARNING — SCAM Websites Want to Steal Your Money
BEWARE of websites that list unlimited quantities of hard-to-find primers. In recent weeks we have seen five criminal scam websites selling reloading products including powder and primers. Here a quick tip — if the website does not take regular credit cards (MC/Visa/Amex/Discover) it is likely a scam site. And if you can order 200 8-lb jugs of Varget it is definitely a scam site! Bottom Line — beware of ANY seller without an established history, and be very wary of sites that only take Zelle, Venmo, and Bitcoin.

Last Word — About Online Auctions for Primers
We are seeing persons selling primers at crazy high prices ($200/1000!) via online auctions at Gunbroker and elsewhere. Be careful… very careful. Primers are a HAZMAT product. They may ONLY be shipped legally by Hazmat-certified businesses. Some of the Auction sellers are not HAZMAT-certified. If your primer shipment is seized or not delivered because the seller was not properly certified, don’t expect to get your money back.

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April 29th, 2021

8.4 Million New American Gun Owners Drive Demand for Ammo

Ammunition shortage gun sales 2020

With reloading components and factory-loaded ammunition still in very short supply, gun owners are justifiably concerned. Every day, in our AccurateShooter Forum, members ask “Where are the primers?”, “Why can’t I get loaded ammo?”, “Why have component prices doubled or tripled?”. The answer is complex. Yes there have been production shortfalls (with the Remington Bankruptcy and some raw material shortages), yes there has been a reaction to the Biden election (causing panic buying), and yes there have been hoarding and profiteering (just look as the prices of primers on Gunbroker — over $300 per 1000!).

But probably the number one factor in the supply shortages has been the increase in gun owners in the past year, fueled in part by concerns over the BLM/Antifa led riots and social unrest, and Democratic Party attacks on gun rights. And, according to the NSSF, roughly 8,400,000 Americans purchased their first firearm in 2020. If each of these new gun owners purchased just two, 50-round boxes of ammo, that equates to 840,000,000 rounds of ammo. Think about that…the gun industry would have to produce an additional 2.3 million rounds of ammo EVERY DAY just to fill the demands from new gun owners. There are consequences for this increased production. Primers are in short supply because much of the available inventory is being used in loaded ammo.

Ammunition shortage gun sales 2020

This NSSF Infographic helps explain the situation. Among gunshops/dealers nationwide, there was a 95% increase in gun sales for the first half of 2020 (compared to 2019). And ammunition sales rose by 139%.

Ammunition shortage gun sales 2020

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February 19th, 2021

Blast from the Past — Old Prices on Powder and Primers

Powder low price history flashback inflation

Yes we miss the good old days… when reloading components were readily available and very affordable. Today, on Gunbroker, a single 1000-count box of primers may sell for well over $300. And some vendors are asking $90 for a single pound of powder that sold for $30 per pound just last year.

We can’t change prices for you, but we can offer a “sentimental journey” back to the “good old days” via a Flashback Thread in our Shooters’ Forum. There, Forum members have posted some items from their collections, with the original prices.

What is the best deal you can remember? How about $1 per pound forty-six years ago — member STS posted: “It was probably 1975 when I bought 100 pounds of H335 from Bruce Hodgdon for $100. It came in cardboard boxes with black trash bags inside. I shot every flake of it at prairie dogs.”

Reloder Powder from Hercules (Now Alliant) for $3.80 per Pound

Powder low price history flashback inflation

CCI and Winchester Primers, $16.30 and $13.00 per Thousand

Today some CCI primers are selling for over $300 per thousand on Gunbroker. Member JayHHI6818 said: “Found these the other day in a shoe box in our bedroom closet!”. Nice find Jay!

Powder low price history flashback inflation

Hodgdon H4350 for $10.87 per Pound

H4350 remains one of the most popular powders with competitive shooters. It’s ideal for many midsized cartridges, offering great accuracy and temp stability. Today it’s hard to find this powder at ANY price!

Powder low price history flashback inflation

Remington 2 1/2 Primers for $1.50 per Hundred

Remington Arms folded. However Remington primers will be produced by Vista Outdoor after the collapse and bankruptcy of Remington Arms. Vista Outdoor, which owns CCI and Federal, will take over the Remington ammunition production facilities.

Powder low price history flashback inflation

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January 28th, 2021

Four Vital Ammo Checks You Should Always Do Before Shooting

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

One: Check Your Cases with a Chamber Gage

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

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

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

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

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

Two: Double Check Your Primers

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

Three: Check Your Overall Cartridge Length

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

Four: Confirm All Cases Contain Powder

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

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

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

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January 21st, 2021

Finding Primers — How to Organize Your Quest

primer sources supplies finding CCI Federal
Photo courtesy Laurie Holland, TargetShooter UK Magazine.

Reloading components are in short supply these days, particularly powder and primers. But primers may be the biggest challenge these days — finding them may seem like a Quest for the Holy Grail. That’s a big problem for handloaders. You may be able to find substitutes for your favorite powder and bullets, but if you don’t have primers, you can’t even get started.

To locate primers these days, you must consider ALL possible sources: local gunshops, local private sales, sale tables at shooting club meetings, gun/hunting forum classifieds, large outdoor stores, and mail-order vendors. Then yes, worst case scenario, look at the auction sites such as GunBroker.

You need to be looking at multiple places — local vendors, gun clubs, big retailers such as Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Warehouse. And get creative — talk to shooting buddies, check for estate sales.

primer sources supplies finding CCI Federal

Consider all Possible Sources — Not Just Online Vendors

The guys who are scoring primers these days are resorting to old-fashioned methods — visiting small, mom-and-pop gunstores, checking local estate sales, and “networking” with local shooting club members. First, if you are not a member of a local shooting club, you should join for a multitude of reasons. We recently acquired some powder at a local shooting club meeting, exchanging some H4198 for Hodgdon Varget straight across. A Forum member recently scored both powders and primers at the estate sale of a shooting club member.

For the best chance of success, regularly check 6-10 brick-and-mortar locations in your region. One good way to do this is by combining forces with shooting buddies. Get together with 3 or 4 guys and collectively scout ALL the local gunshops and outdoor stores with shooting supplies. You CAN get lucky. For example, we regularly check a small gunstore in a nearby mall. Just last week we were able to find CCI pistol primers! Yes, deliveries are happening, you just need to check. And check often.

How to Find Primers — SEVEN STRATEGIES

1. Make a list of ALL local gunshops and outdoor supply stores within a 70-mile radius. Call them on a regular basis.
2. Join a local shooting club. Attend meetings where you can sell/exchange products. (We recently exchanged pistol primers for rifle primers we needed).
3. Join local/regional gun forums. You may find listings for “face-to-face” transactions where you can buy/exchange primers. Our AccurateShooter Forum also has a thread on Where to Find Primers.
4. Bookmark multiple vendor websites and check daily (we provide a list below).
5. Combine resources with some shooting buddies. Get together with 3 or 4 guys and collectively scout ALL the local gunshops and outdoor stores with shooting supplies. Assign each guy a different “territory” (perhaps close to his work locations).
6. Search your garage and storage areas. This Editor recently found 5000 Winchester Small Pistol Primers in an unopened box. These were left over from his IDPA and 3-gun days, years ago.
7. Consider APS Primers. CCI sells APS primers pre-loaded in plastic strips. These can still be found gathering dust in some shops. You can remove the primers from the strips, or simply buy an APS priming tool and use them as intended.

primer sources supplies finding CCI Federal

Online Vendors for Primers

Here are leading online retailers that sell primers (along with other reloading components). NOTE: Most of these vendors are sold out of most primers most of the time (as of 1/21/21). However, you should check regularly. Persistence will pay off, eventually. Primer shipments DO arrive, they just sell out fast.

Brownells
Graf & Sons
Midsouth Shooters Supply
Powder Valley Inc.
Precision Reloading
Bruno Shooters Supply (Not currently taking web orders)
MidwayUSA
Natchez Shooters Supplies
Sportsman’s Warehouse (check online AND in stores)
ReloadingEverything.com
Academy Sports
Cabela’s

Best Strategy for Online Primer Purchasing (Not Auctions)
With these (and other) online vendors, you need to check “early and often”. Primers may arrive and sell out in a matter of minutes. You should bookmark multiple sources and check them multiple times each week.

The primer shortage has been worsened by dramatically reduced imports of Russian primers.
Russian Wolf Primers shortage

Last Word — About Online Auctions for Primers
We are seeing persons selling primers at crazy high prices ($200/1000!) via online auctions at Gunbroker and elsewhere. Be careful… very careful. Primers are a HAZMAT product. They may ONLY be shipped legally by Hazmat-certified businesses. Some of the Auction sellers are not HAZMAT-certified. If your primer shipment is seized or not delivered because the seller was not properly certified, don’t expect to get your money back.

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August 5th, 2020

Primers 101 — What You Need to Know About Primers

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-15 reloading  brass safety primer resizing

Here is an article Glen Zediker wrote for the Midsouth Blog. In this article Glen gives important advice on selecting, handling, seating, and testing primers. The right primer choice can and will affect your load’s performance and accuracy. And proper primer handling is essential for safety.

Glen is the author of many excellent books on reloading. This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

Handloading for Competition
by Glen Zediker

The Competitive AR-15
by Glen Zediker

Top-Grade Ammo
by Glen Zediker

RELOADERS CORNER: PRIMER TECH

by Glen Zediker
The primer is one component in the collection that might not get all the attention it warrants. That’s because it is the one thing, above all other components, that you don’t want to just swap and switch around. We’ve all heard cautions about testing new lots of every component, especially propellant, but primers not only change lot to lot, they vary greatly in their influence on any one load, brand to brand.

The difference in one brand to the next can equal a good deal more or less pressure, for instance. While there are “general” tendencies respecting the “power” of various-brand primers, always (always) reduce the load (propellant quantity) when switching primers.

This has become more of an issue over the past few years as we’ve faced component shortages. I can tell you without a doubt that going from a WW to a CCI, or from a Remington to a Federal, can have a major influence on a load. I establish that from chronograph readings. No doubt, it’s best to have a good supply of one primer brand and lot that produces good results, and when that’s not possible, it’s a hard sell to convince someone to stop loading ammo and get back to testing. But. It is important. I can tell you that from (bad) experience. How I, and we all, learn most things…

When I switch primers, whether as a test or a necessity, I reduce my load ONE FULL GRAIN. There can be that much effect.

The Elements of a Primer
A primer is made up of a brass cup filled with explosive compound (lead styphate). Lead styphate detonates on impact. Primers don’t burn – they explode! In the manufacturing process, this compound starts as a liquid. After it’s laid into the cup, and while it’s still wet, a triangular piece or metal (the “anvil”) is set in. When the cup surface is struck by the firing pin, the center collapses, squeezing the explosive compound between the interior of the cup and the anvil. That ignites the compound and sends a flame through the case flash hole, which in turn lights up the propellant.

Primers Can be Dangerous — Particularly When Stacked
Don’t underestimate that. I’ve had one experience that fortunately only created a huge start, but I know others who have had bigger more startling mishaps. These (almost always) come from primer reservoirs, such fill-tubes. Pay close attention when charging up a tube and make sure all the primers are facing the right way, and that you’re not trying to put in “one more” when it’s full! That’s when “it” usually happens. What will happen, by the way, is akin to a small grenade. Static electricity has also been blamed, so keep that in mind.

Sizes and Types of Primers
Primers come in two sizes and four types. “Large” and “small”: for example, .223 Rem. takes small, .308 Win. takes large. Then there are pistol and rifle in each size.

Rifle primers and pistol primers are not the same, even though they share common diameters! Rifle primers [normally] have a tougher cup, and, usually, a hotter flash. Never swap rifle for pistol. Now, some practical-style competitive pistol shooters using their very high-pressure loads (like .38 Super Comp) sometimes substitute rifle primers because they’ll “handle” more pressure, but they’ve also tricked up striker power. That’s a specialized need.

Further, some primer brands are available with a “magnum” option. Some aren’t. My experience has been that depends on the “level” of their standard primer. A magnum primer, as you might guess, has a more intense, stouter flash that travels more “deeply” to ignite the larger and more dense powder column. It reaches further, faster.

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-15 reloading  brass safety primer resizing

Flash Consistency Counts
Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-15 reloading  brass safety primer resizingFlash Consistency is very important, shot to shot. The consistency of every component is important: bullet weights, diameters, case wall thicknesses, and all the way down the list. We’re hoping to get more consistent behavior from a “match” or “benchrest” primer, and we’re paying more for it. I can tell you that some brands that aren’t touted as “match” are already consistent. That all comes from experience: try different primers, just respect the need to initially reduce the load for each test.

Primer Dimensional Differences and Primer Tools
One last thing — there are small variations in primer dimensions (heights, diameters) among various brands. These variations are not influential to performance. However — small diameter variations can influence feeding through priming tools. This can be a hitch especially in some progressive loading machines. Manufacturers usually offer insight (aka: “warnings”) as to which are or aren’t compatible, so find out.

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-15 reloading brass safety primer resizingGet Midsouth products HERE

Get Primer trays HERE

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. Learn more about Glen’s books at ZedikerPublishing.com.

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February 13th, 2020

Primers and Pressure Tolerances — How Primers Vary

Primer Pressure signs

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

Primers and Pressures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Calhoon Products

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October 2nd, 2019

Four Vital Ammo Checks — Avoid Big Problems at the Range

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

One: Check Your Cases with a Chamber Gage

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

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

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

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

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

Two: Double Check Your Primers

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

Three: Check Your Overall Cartridge Length

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

Four: Confirm All Cases Contain Powder

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

Sierra Bullets Reloading Blog Matchking Carroll Pilant

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

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

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February 8th, 2019

Cartridge Brass Wisdom for Semi-Auto Shooters by Zediker

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-16 reloading semi-auto brass safety primer resizing

Here are highlights from an article Glen Zediker wrote for the Midsouth Blog. In this article Glen focuses on cartridge brass for semi-auto rifles, AR-platform guns in particular. Glen notes that semi-autos are tougher on brass than bolt-action rifles, so you need strong, durable brass, that has been full-length sized. And you need to be careful about neck tension, and primers. The article starts with Glen’s recommendations for tough, hard brass, and then includes the points outlined below.

Glen is the author of many excellent books on reloading. This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com.

Handloading for Competition
by Glen Zediker

The Competitive AR-15
by Glen Zediker

Top-Grade Ammo
by Glen Zediker

ONE: Full Length-Size Cases with Adequate Shoulder Set-Back

This is a huge source of debate… amongst my readers, but, since now I’m strictly speaking of semi-auto needs I doubt there will be much dissent: full-length resize all cases! Most cases from most semi-autos will emerge with a pretty well-blown case shoulder [taming down an excessively functioning gas system can reduce this]. Make double-sure you’re sizing the cases down to at least 0.003 clearance. If you don’t there are safety and function problems ahead.

TWO: USE Sufficient Neck Tension

The case neck [must be] reduced an adequate amount to retain the bullet. There should be a minimum net difference of 0.003 inches (three-thousandths) between sized outside case neck diameter and loaded round outside case neck diameter. [Editor — that means at least three thou of “grip”.] Reason: don’t take a chance of inadvertent bullet movement during the recoil and feeding cycles. That movement can be back or forward! It’s easily possible for a bullet to jump ahead when the inertia from the bolt carrier assembly chambers the next round.

Glen Zediker reloaders corner midsouth book AR-16 reloading semi-auto brass safety primer resizing

THREE: Use Tough Primers

Choose a tough primer! There’s a floating firing pin on an AR15 (M1A also) that is supposed to be held in check but that system doesn’t always work! If you load and extract a round and see a little dimple in the primer, that’s from the firing pin tapping off of it (again, created by inertia of bolt closing). A combination of a high primer and a sensitive primer cup assembly can create a “slam-fire”. Brands? CCI has some mil-spec primers that work well, and I’ve had great success with Remington 7-1/2. Some of the well-respected “match” primers are a little thin. The CCI and Remington also hold up well to the (sometimes) greater firing forces working on the primer (again, from the quick unlocking).

Here’s what I use from Midsouth.

FOUR: Be Sure to Seat Primers Below Flush

And, finally, make double-sure that each and every primer is seated to below flush with the case head! That’s true for any firearm (because it also means that the primer is fully seated) but imperative for safety in a semi-auto. This is especially an issue for those who use a progressive-type loading press.

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October 6th, 2018

Case Prep Tips from Western Powders

Western Powders Case Preparation prep inspection flash holes primer pockets reloading

Western Powders (which sells Accurate, Ramshot, and Norma powders) has published an article on case inspection and preparation. There are many tips in this article that can be useful to precision hand-loaders. For example, every time you open a new box of cartridge brass (particularly from domestic makers), you should inspect each case for flaws.

TIP ONE: Visual Inspection — Finding Flaws
Cases are mass-produced items and malformed ones are relatively common. Inspect each case carefully looking for obvious defects. A bench-mounted magnifying glass with light is a real help for the over-40 crowd. The main defects will be cracks in the neck or case body, crushed shoulders or deep creases in the neck. Next check the primer pocket. It is also fairly common to find flash holes that are damaged or, more rarely, not concentric to the primer pocket.

Western Powders Case Preparation prep inspection flash holes primer pockets reloading

Imperfections like small dings in the case body, or necks that are not completely symmetrical do not have to be eliminated at this step. Damage of this sort is usually from loose packaging and usually has not seriously damaged the brass. [Running an expander mandrel in the neck] and fire-forming will iron out these largely cosmetic issues.

The Western Powder article also talks about primer pocket uniforming. We do NOT normally uniform the pockets for Lapua or RWS brass from the start. However, pocket uniforming can be beneficial with some other brands of brass, including Lake City, Remington, and Winchester. If you shoot milsurp brass, set time aside for pocket uniforming.

TIP TWO: Primer Pocket Uniforming
Western Powders Case Preparation inspection flash holes primer pockets reloadingLike flash holes, primer pockets are mass-produced and prone to small dimensional changes. A uniforming tool is used to make the depth of each primer pocket consistent. In turn this allows similar firing pin strike depths on the primer which creates more consistent ignition characteristics.

A good uniforming tool should have a shoulder, or another positive stop, that sets the cutter’s depth. Its use is pretty straightforward. The cutter is inserted into the pocket and turned clockwise several times until the stop in flush with the case head and no more brass is removed from the juncture of the pocket’s base and sidewall. This a job best done by hand. You will feel when the cutting is finished by a change in how smoothly the cutter turns in the pocket. Very little material is actually removed; usually just enough to square the radius at the bottom of the pocket.


READ Full Case Prep Article in Western Powders Blog »

Western Powders Blog Case Prep Neck turning

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