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January 13th, 2017

Perfection at the Core — Bullet Making Tips from BIB Bullets

Randy Robinett, founder of BIB Bullets, is a highly respected custom bullet-maker. In recent years, Randy’s 30-caliber projectiles have won countless benchrest-for-score matches, and captured many National titles. If you want to “run with the big dogs” in score competition, campaigning a 30BR with BIB bullets is a very smart way to go. In this article, Randy talks about the process of creating highly uniform cores for benchrest bullets.

This article originally started as an exchange of posts in Stan Ware’s Bench-Talk Forum. Stan, a gifted gunsmith, converted the Forum posts into an article, which first appeared on Stan’s Bench-Talk.com Website.

How to Make Benchrest-Quality Bullet Cores
by Randy Robinett, BIB Bullets

OK, Stan “made me do it”! A while back, Stan Ware asked if I’d submit a ditty on bullet-making. Here is the “picture is worth a few words” version. Below is a photo of a spool of lead wire. This is the first step in making benchrest-quality bullets. This spool of .250″ diameter lead wire will be cut into approximately 130 pieces, each about thirty inches long.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

The Core Cutter
Here’s a really neat machine built by my Uncle and BIG MIKE. This is the core cutter. We made it using scrap steel and borrowed the crank shaft out of a 1966 Yamaha motorcycle to get the desired reciprocating-motion slide. When properly “juiced”, this machine can cut more than 3000 cores per hour.

As you doubtless deduced, the “sticks” are inserted, then fed via gravity — straightness is a virtue here! The crank, for now, is powered by the human hand. The bucket contents are the result of loading the cutter and turning the crank wheel. This photo shows cores for 112 grain, .30-caliber bullets. There are about 2500 cores to the bucket.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

Here’s a close-up of the business end of the core cutter. Using recorded micrometer settings, this clever design allows us to get very repeatable length when changing through the length/weight cycle.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

The photo below provides a closer look at the just-cut cores. Note the relatively clean shanks and square, unflared ends. This bucket contains roughly 2500 cores. By contrast, a tour of the Hornady plant will reveal cores being cut and squirted via a single operation, and deposited into 50-100 gallon livestock watering tanks!

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

Upon my first tour of a commercial plant, I lost all feelings of guilt about the cost of custom, hand-made bullets. When one totals the amount of labor, “feel” and “culling” that goes into them, custom hand-made bullets represent one of the best bargains on the planet!

At Hornady, each press produces 50-55,000 finished bullets per 10-hour shift. By contrast, a maker of hand-crafted bullets, at best, may make 3% of that number during a 10-hour span! Yep, hand-made benchrest-quality bullets are a labor of love and should be purchased with these criteria in mind: 1) QUALITY; 2) availability; 3) price. There is no reason for a maker of hand-made benchrest-quality bullets to negotiate on price. His time is worth what one receives from the bargain!

Core-Making Q & A
Randy’s original Bench-Talk Forum posts inspired some questions by Forum members. Here are Randy’s answers to spedific questions about core-making.

Question by Stan Ware: Randy, a post or two back you said the cores were cut into 30″ lengths first and straightened. Why do you cut to 30″ lengths? What is the reason for this?

Answer by Randy: Stan, the wire is cut into 30″ lengths (sticks) and then straightened, following which it is fed into the core cutter and cut into the individual individual “cores”. If you look at the core cutter photo above, you’ll see a stick of lead wire sticking up -it’s toward the right hand end of the contraption. The cut cores are also “ejected” by gravity — the white “tickler” brushes the cores as the slide moves forward and dislodges the core from the cutter bushing.

Q by GregP: Randy, How do you straighten the 30″ sticks? Roll them between metal plates?

Answer by Randy: Greg, BIG MIKE may kill me for letting out the secret. WE “roll” the wire between an aluminum plate, which is equipped with handles, and the “plate” which you can see in the pic of cutting the wire. The straightening is really a drag. Eventually, we will have the new cutter hooked up to a “feeder/straightener” and the wire will be cut into core slugs right off the roll! Well, that’s the Dream….

Question by Jim Saubier: How much of a nub do you use at the end of the 30″ section? I imagine that every section you will lose a little from the feed end. Your cutter looks real slick, we are using the manual deal and it isn’t quick by any means.

Answer by Randy: Jim, Since I cut all of the sticks using diagonal-cutting pliers, the ends are, indeed, waste. However, only about 1/8th inch on the beginning end — the final core may be too short. I have attached a pic of my old reliable CH cutter. I still use this cutter for .22-cal and 6mm cores and, occasionally, an odd lot of thirties. The CH cuts very square ends which are free of bulges and/or flaring.

Robinett benchrest bullet spool lead BIB score 30 caliber

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July 30th, 2014

30BR Case-Forming Tips from Randy Robinett and Al Nyhus

30BR 30 BR case formingThe 30BR is an amazing little cartridge. However, 30BR shooters do have to neck-up 6mmBR brass and then deal with some issues that can arise from the expansion process. One of our Forum members was concerned about the donut that can form at the new (expanded) neck-shoulder junction. Respected bullet-maker Randy Robinett offers tips on how to deal with the “dreaded donut”.

The Forum member was concerned about thinning the brass if he turned his 30BR necks after expansion: “Everything I have found on 30BR case-forming says to simply turn off the bulge at the base of the neck caused by the old 6BR shoulder. I expanded my first case and measured the neck at 0.329″ except on the donut, where it measures 0.335″. Looking inside the case… reveals a groove inside the case under the donut. Now, it is a fact that when I turn that neck and remove the donut, the groove is still going to be there on the inside? That means there is now a thin-spot ring at the base of the neck that is .005 thinner than the rest of the neck. Has anyone experienced a neck cracking on this ring?”

Randy Robinett, who runs BIB Bullet Co., is one of the “founding fathers” of the 30BR who help prove and popularize the 30 BR for benchrest score shooting. Randy offers this advice on 30BR case-forming:

While the thinner neck-base was one of our original concerns, unless one cuts too deeply INTO the shoulder, it is not a problem. For my original 30BR chamber, thirty (30) cases were used to fire 6,400 rounds through the barrel. The cases were never annealed, yet there were ZERO case failures, neck separations, or splits. The case-necks were turned for a loaded-round neck diameter of .328″, and, from the beginning, sized with a .324″ neck-bushing.

The best method for avoiding the ‘bulge’ is to fire-form prior to neck-turning (several methods are successfully employed). Cutting too deeply into the shoulder can result in case-neck separations. I have witnessed this, but, with several barrels and thousands to shots fired, have not [personally] experienced it. The last registered BR event fired using that original barrel produced a 500-27x score and a second-place finish. [That’s] not bad for 6K plus shots, at something over 200 firings per case.

Check out the 30BR Cartridge Guide on AccurateShooter.com
You’ll find more information on 30BR Case-forming in our 30 BR Cartridge Guide. Here’s a short excerpt from that page — some tips provided by benchrest for score and HBR shooter Al Nyhus:

30BR Case-Forming Procedure by Al Nyhus
The 30BR cartridge is formed by necking-up 6BR or 7BR brass. You can do this in multiple stages or in one pass. Most of the top shooters prefer the single-pass method. You can use either an expander mandrel (like Joe Entrekin does), or a tapered button in a regular dies. Personally, I use a Redding tapered expander button, part number 16307. This expands the necks from 6mm to .30 cal in one pass. It works well as long as you lube the mandrel and the inside of the necks. I’ve also used the Sinclair expander body with a succession of larger mandrels, but this is a lot more work and the necks stay straighter with the Redding tapered button. This button can be used in any Redding die that has a large enough inside diameter to accept the BR case without any case-to-die contact.

Don’t be concerned about how straight the necks are before firing them the first time. When you whap them with around 50,000 psi, they will straighten out just fine! I recommend not seating the bullets into the lands for the first firing, provided there is an adequate light crush-fit of the case in the chamber. The Lapua cases will shorten from approx. 1.550″ to around 1.520″ after being necked up to 30-caliber I trim to 1.500″ with the (suggested) 1.520 length chambers. I don’t deburr the flash holes or uniform the primer pockets until after the first firing. I use a Ron Hoehn flash hole deburring tool that indexes on the primer pocket, not through the case mouth. — Al Nyhus

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