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November 26th, 2022

How Humidity Affects Powder Performance — Important Podcast

Bryan litz science academy accuracy podcast book subscription membership

Bryan Litz and The Science of Accuracy Academy has released a new Podcast with vital information for all handloaders. This Podcast examines the effects of humidity variances on powder. Bryan notes: “If you want to know how much this can matter, we’re talking up to 200 fps difference for the same load of H4350 in 6.5 Creedmoor” at opposite extremes of humidity.

Bryan adds that “Most shooters don’t realize what a big deal this can be — it overshadows many of our efforts to make consistent velocity and hit targets. This can happen in loaded rounds not just for hand loading where you expose powder to ambient humidity. This is especially important for hunters considering the range of environments hunting ammo goes through.”

Bryan litz science academy accuracy podcast book subscription membership

25% Off Sale on The Science of Accuracy Academy Products

As a Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion, The Science of Accuracy Academy is running a 25% OFF Sale on everything in the store, now through Monday, November 28, 2022. Save on Bryan Litz’s six impressive books about Ballistics, Bullet Performance, and Long Range Shooting. The Berger Bullets Reloading Manual is also discounted. Use Discount Code BF2022.

In addition you can get your own subscription to the Academy, allowing you to access all podcasts, exclusive videos, learning resources, and bullet data sheets.

Bryan litz science academy accuracy podcast book subscription membership
Permalink Hunting/Varminting, Reloading, Tech Tip No Comments »
November 13th, 2022

Checking the Uniformity of Neck Bushings — Some Surprises

bushing neck die run-out concentricity

Do you use bushings to size your case-necks? Are you assuming that your bushings are actually round on the inside, with a hole that’s centered-up properly? Well you may be in for an unpleasant surprise, based on what our friend Jim de Kort recently discovered. Jim was concerned about the run-out on his brass. His cases went into his bushing-equipped FL die pretty straight, but came out of the die with up to .004″ run-out. “What gives?”, Jim wondered. “Could the problem be the bushings themselves?”

To answer that question, Jim decided to examine his bushings. Using an Accuracy One Wheel-drive concentricity gauge, Jim checked out some of his neck bushings. What he discovered may surprise you…


Neck Bushing Flaws Revealed

Trust no one… — Jim de Kort

Jim writes: “I measured the concentricity of my 6BR rounds today. I noticed they went into the neck-bushing equipped full-length sizing die with less than .001″ deviation but came out with .003-.004″. The culprit, it appears, was the bushing itself. Without it the cases stayed within .0005″ to .001″ deviation, so something was happening with the bushing.

One bushing had .00025″ deviation on the outside, yet almost .003″ on the inside, so it is crooked. But even when using a bushing that is within .001″ I still get .003″ runout after sizing. I repeated the same procedure for my 6×47 and got the same results. When using the bushing, concentricity suffers a lot.”

Before we bash the bushing-makers, we must acknowledge that many different things can contribute to excessive run-out and/or mis-alignment of case-necks. We don’t have all the answers here, and Jim would be the first to say that some mysteries remain. Still, these are interesting results that give all precision hand-loaders something to think about.

Jim Borden of Borden Accuracy also offers this tip: “Check the trueness of the face of the die cap. That has more to do with trueness than the bushing. Also check perpendicularity of hole in bushing to top surface. When I was making dies, the cap was made by threading and facing the threaded tenon in same setup.”


Editor’s Comment: Many people have great results with neck-bushing dies, but Jim isn’t the only fellow who has seen some very odd results. I personally employ honed, non-bushing dies for many of my chamberings. These non-bushing dies (with the necks honed for .002-.003″ neck tension) produce extremely straight ammo, with run-out consistently under .0015″.

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November 6th, 2022

Primer Problems? Check Your Primer Seating Tool

Priming Tool APS CCI magnum Primers Lee RCBS Priming

From time to time, we all encounter a primer that doesn’t go off. It’s normal to attribute the problem to a bad primer. But sometimes there are other explanations. George S., one of our Forum members, experienced a couple failures to fire, but he learned that the issue was his priming TOOL, not his primers. Here’s what George told us. There’s a lesson to be learned:

“I had issues with CCI 450s when I had my first 6BR barreled. I had probably three or four out of 20 rounds that failed to fire. the primers were dented but didn’t fire. I called CCI since I had bought a case of them. The tech was decent enough but had the audacity to tell me I was not seating the primers all the way in the pocket. I proceeded to let him know I had been reloading longer than he had been alive and I knew how to seat a primer.

Turns out that I did and I didn’t! I was using the RCBS primer tool I had used for years and the primers felt just fine to me. I finally decided to check the tool and since I had a new one I took the seating pins out and measured them. The seating pin on the tool I had been using for years was shorter by a few thousandths! I then used the pin from the new primer tool and darned if the primers that didn’t seat down to the bottom of the cup.

I switched to a K&M primer tool for seating the CCI primers and have not had a problem since. It was the combination of harder cup and lack of proper seating. I did call the CCI tech back and apologized for being an idiot.”

Another Forum member witnessed a problem cause by misuse of a priming tool: “I did … see a failure to fire on a Rem 9 1/2 primer only a week ago. That was in the new Rem muzzleloader that uses a primed case to ignite the pellets. After watching the muzzleloader’s owner seat his primers, I believe that it was operator error not the primer. He was seating the primer and then squeezing the priming tool so hard that his hands hurt after a few. We got that corrected.”

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, Tech Tip No Comments »
November 1st, 2022

Grip on Bullet — Many Factors Involved, Not Just Bushing Size

case neck bushing reloading die tension bullet release

Many novice hand-loaders believe that neck bushing Inside Diameter (ID) size is the only important factor in neck tension. In fact, many different things will influence the grip on your bullet and its ability to release from the case neck. To learn more about neck tension and “case grip”, take the time to read this article carefully. We bet you’ll gain knowledge that will let you load more accurate ammo, with better ES/SD.

Editor: Guys, this is a VERY important article. You really should read it over carefully, twice. Variations in the force required to release a bullet can significantly affect accuracy and ES/SD. You really need to know how the grip on bullet can be altered by many different factors.

Neck Tension (i.e. Grip on Bullets) Is a Complex Phenomenon
While we certainly have considerable control over neck tension by using tighter or looser bushings (with smaller or bigger Inside Diameters), bushing size is only one factor at work. It’s important to understand the multiple factors that can increase or decrease the resistance to bullet release. Think in terms of overall brass-on-bullet “grip” instead of just bushing size (or the internal neck diameter in non-bushing full-length sizing dies).

Bullet grip is affected by many things, such as:

1. Neck-wall thickness.
2. Amount of bullet bearing surface (shank) in the neck.
3. Surface condition inside of neck (residual carbon can act as a lubricant; ultrasonic cleaning makes necks “grabby”).
4. Length of neck (e.g. 6mmBR neck vs. 6mm Dasher).
5. Whether or not the bullets have an anti-friction coating.
6.The springiness of the brass (which is related to degree of work-hardening; number of firings etc.)
7. The bullet jacket material.
8. The outside diameter of the bullet and whether it has a pressure ridge.
9. Time duration between bullet seating and firing (necks can stiffen with time).
10. How often the brass is annealed.
11. Amount (length) of neck sized (e.g. you can size only half the neck).
12. Interior diameter of bushing, or neck section of non-bushing die.


– and there are others…

One needs to understand that bushing size isn’t the beginning and end of neck tension questions, because, even if bushing size is held constant, the amount of bullet “grip” can change dramatically as the condition of your brass changes. Bullet “grip” can also change if you alter your seating depth, and it can even change if you ultrasonically clean your cases.

5-time U.S. National Long-Range Champion John Whidden adds: “Our tests show us that the condition of the necks in regards to lubed or not, carbon inside or not, squeaky clean or not, etc., matter even more than the size of the bushing used. An ultrasonically cleaned or brand new dry case neck make for some quite high seating force.”

Redding neck bushingsIn our Shooters’ Forum a reader recently asked: “How much neck tension should I use?” This prompted a Forum discussion in which other Forum members recommended a specific number based on their experience, such as .001″, .002″, or .003″. These numbers, as commonly used, correspond to the difference between case-neck OD after sizing and the neck OD of a loaded round, with bullet in place. In other words, the numbers refer to the nominal amount of interference fit (after sizing).

While these commonly-used “tension numbers” (of .001″, .002″ etc.) can be useful as starting points, neck tension is actually a fairly complex subject. The actual amount of “grip” on the bullet is a function of many factors, of which neck-OD reduction during sizing is just one. Understanding these many factors will help you maintain consistent neck tension as your brass “evolves” over the course of multiple reloadings.

Seating Depth Changes Can Increase or Decrease Grip on Bullet
You can do this simple experiment. Seat a boat-tail bullet in your sized neck with .150″ of bearing surface (shank) in the neck. Now remove the bullet with an impact hammer. Next, take another identical bullet and seat it with .300″ of bearing surface in another sized case (same bushing size/same nominal tension). You’ll find the deeper-seated bullet is gripped much harder.

PPC lapua brassNeck-Wall Thickness is Important Too
I have also found that thinner necks, particularly the very thin necks used by many PPC shooters, require more sizing to give equivalent “grip”. Again, do your own experiment. Seat a bullet in a case turned to .008″ neckwall thickness and sized down .003″. Now compare that to a case with .014″ neckwall thickness and sized down .0015″. You may find that the bullet in the thin necks actually pulls out easier, though it supposedly has more “neck tension”, if one were to consider bushing size alone.

In practical terms, because thick necks are less elastic than very thin necks, when you turn necks you may need to run tighter bushings to maintain the same amount of actual grip on the bullets (as compared to no-turn brass). Consequently, I suspect the guys using .0015″ “tension” on no-turn brass may be a lot closer to the guys using .003″ “tension” on turned necks than either group may realize.

Toward a Better Definition of Neck Tension
As a convenient short-cut, we tend to describe neck tension by bushing size alone. When a guy says, “I run .002 neck tension”, that normally means he is using a die/bushing that sizes the necks .002″ smaller than a loaded round. Well we know something about his post-sizing neck OD, but do we really have a reliable idea about how much force is required to release his bullets? Maybe not… This use of the term “neck tension” when we are really only describing the amount of neck diameter reduction with a die/bushing is really kind of incomplete.

My point here is that it is overly simplistic to ask, “should I load with .001 tension or .003?” In reality, an .001″ reduction (after springback) on a thick neck might provide MORE “grip” on a deep-seated bullet than an .003″ reduction on a very thin-walled neck holding a bullet with minimal bearing surface in the neck. Bushing ID is something we can easily measure and verify. We use bushing size as a descriptor of neck tension because it is convenient and because the other important factors are hard to quantify. But those factors shouldn’t be ignored if you want to maintain consistent neck tension for optimal accuracy.

Consistency and accuracy — that’s really what this all about isn’t it? We want to find the best neck tension for accuracy, and then maintain that amount of grip-on-bullet over time. To do that you need to look not only at your bushing size, but also at how your brass has changed (work-hardened) with time, and whether other variables (such as the amount of carbon in the neck) have changed. Ultimately, optimal neck tension must be ascertained experimentally. You have to go out and test empirically to see what works, in YOUR rifle, with YOUR bullets and YOUR brass. And you may have to change the nominal tension setting (i.e. bushing size) as your brass work-hardens or IF YOU CHANGE SEATING DEPTHS.

Remember that bushing size alone does not tell us all we need to know about the neck’s true “holding power” on a bullet, or the energy required for bullet release. True bullet grip is a more complicated phenomenon, one that is affected by numerous factors, some of which are very hard to quantify.

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
October 27th, 2022

Reloading Advice: With Coated Bullets, Adjust Loads Cautiously

Moly Danzac Bullet Coating Anti-friction HBN

Coating bullets with a friction-reducing compound such as Molybdenum Disulfide (Moly) offers potential benefits, including reduced barrel heat, and being able to shoot longer strings of fire between bore cleanings. One of the effects of reduced friction can be the lessening of internal barrel pressures. This, in turn, means that coated bullets MAY run slower than naked bullets (with charges held equal).

To restore velocities, shooters running coated bullets are inclined to “bump up” the load — but you need to be cautious.

Be Careful When Increasing Loads for Coated Bullets
We caution shooters that when your start out with coated bullets in a “fresh barrel” you should NOT immediately raise the charge weight. It may take a couple dozen coated rounds before the anti-friction coating is distributed through the bore, and you really start to see the reduced pressures. Some guys will automatically add a grain or so to recommended “naked” bullet charge weights when they shoot coated bullets. That’s a risky undertaking.

moly coated bullets friction chronograph

We recommend that you use “naked” bullet loads for the first dozen coated rounds through a new barrel. Use a chronograph and monitor velocities. It may take up to 30 rounds before you see a reduction in velocity of 30-50 fps that indicates that your anti-friction coating is fully effective.

We have a friend who was recently testing moly-coated 6mm bullets in a 6-6.5×47. Moly had not been used in the barrel before. Our friend had added a grain to his “naked” bullet load, thinking that would compensate for the predicted lower pressures. What he found instead was that his loads were WAY too hot initially. It took 30+ moly-coated rounds through the bore before he saw his velocities drop — a sign that the pressure had lowered due to the moly. For the rounds fired before that point his pressures were too high, and he ended up tossing some expensive Lapua brass into the trash because the primer pockets had expanded excessively.

LESSON: Start low, even with coated bullets. Don’t increase your charge weights (over naked bullet loads) until you have clear evidence of lower pressure and reduced velocity.

danzac moly coated coat bullets

danzac moly coated coat bullets

Procedure After Barrel Cleaning
If you shoot Moly, and clean the barrel aggressively after a match, you may want to shoot a dozen coated “foulers” before starting your record string. Robert Whitley, who has used Moly in some of his rifles, tells us he liked to have 10-15 coated rounds through the bore before commencing record fire. In a “squeaky-clean” bore, you won’t get the full “benefits” of moly immediately.

To learn more about the properties of dry lubricants for bullets, read our Guide to Coating Bullets. This covers the three most popular bullet coatings: Molybdenum Disulfide (Moly), Tungsten Disulfide (WS2 or ‘Danzac’), and Hexagonal Boron Nitride (HBN). The article discusses the pros and cons of the different bullet coatings and offers step-by-step, illustrated instructions on how to coat your bullets using a tumbler.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip No Comments »
October 19th, 2022

Smart Tips for Neck-Sizing Cartridge Brass Using LEE Collet Dies

LEE Precision Collet Die

For those who prefer to neck-size their brass (rather than full-length-size), the LEE Collet Die is a popular, inexpensive option. It works by having collet tangs or “fingers” press the neck against a central mandrel. The benefit is that you get a very straight neck, which is sized consistently from top to bottom. Canadian shooter Jerry Teo explains: “LEE Collet Dies produce sized cases with very low runout (measured runout is under .001″ using a Sinclair concentricity gauge). You also don’t get the build-up of brass at the base of the neck, as can happen with bushing neck dies. The neck-shoulder junction stays nice and crisp.”

NOTE: For most handloading, we recommend FULL-LENGTH sizing of cases. You should always have a good Full-length sizing die for your brass. But there are some situations where neck-sizing may be useful. This article explains how to neck-size effectively with a LEE Collet Die.

Here’s a good video that explains how to use a Lee Collet Die to Neck-Size .243 Win brass:

LEE Precision Collet DieTIP ONE — Adjusting Tension
LEE Collet dies don’t have a specific mechanical adjustment for neck tension. But you CAN easily modify the die to provide more or less tension. If you want to adjust the neck tension using a Lee Collet die, you can simply chuck the mandrel in a drill and reduce the diameter with some sand-paper (to increase neck tension) or you can order a mandrel the next caliber larger and turn it to whatever diameter you want (the larger the mandrel diameter, the less the neck tension). You can also order custom mandrels from Lee sized to any diameter you want.

Regarding neck tension, Boyd Allen makes an important point: “The only way to properly get more neck tension with collet dies is to either reduce the diameter of the mandrel, or order a smaller-diameter mandrel from Lee. I remind folks that adjusting the die position to have more toggle at the top of the ram stroke (not the factory recommended method), or leaning on the press handle with more force than recommended will NOT increase neck tension.”

TIP TWO — Polish and Tune for Easy Case Removal
Some users have complained that their Collet Dies grab the case-neck too firmly, making the case hard to remove. There are solutions to this problem. First inspect the collet fingers and smooth the inner surface up a bit with polishing compound or an extra-fine sanding pad. Second, you can open up the fingers a little bit. LEE recommends that if your Collet Die is sticking, take a steel punch and tap the fingers apart a little bit so that the natural “unloaded” position is wider. Lastly, you should lightly lubricate the outside of the collet fingers (see arrows) before you re-assemble the die. This will ensure they slide smoothly. Also, to prevent the collet fingers from closing too tight, never load up the die with your press without putting a case in place first. Without a case neck between the collet fingers and the mandrel, the collet can clamp itself too tight as you raise the ram.

TIP THREE — Always Have a Case Inside When Operating Collet Die
Our friend Boyd Allen tells us that you need to follow directions and NEVER operate the die without a case inside. Boyd explains: “This is because doing so will spring the quadrants of the collet inward so that they interfere with the insertion of a case, and the user will have to figure out how to undo the damage if the die is to operate properly. This advice would not be needed if everyone read the instructions before using the die…. but many times, they don’t. Another thing that I tell new users is to take the die apart so that they will have a better chance of understanding how it works.”

Lee custom neck sizing collet diesTIP FOUR — Size Twice and Spin Your Case 1/8th Turn
After reaching fully “down” on your press handle, withdraw the case about an inch and manually rotate it about 1/8th (NOT 1/4 or 1/2) turn while still in the shell-holder, then size again. This will place the die’s collet petals on the four “high spots” of the case neck and will result in a rounder, more evenly-sized neck with slightly more bullet tension. This takes only about one second more per case and is well worth the slight extra effort. (We thank reader Stonecreek for this smart tip).

Get CUSTOM Lee Collet Dies for Your Brass
Yes LEE does make custom collet neck-sizing dies! LEE Precision currently offers Custom Collet Neck-Sizing Dies, made from two of your fired cases. LEE offers custom standard-thread (7/8×14) collet dies for $100.00 (plus S/H) and custom large-thread (1¼x12) collet dies for $300.00 (plus S/H). This is a good option if you run wildcats or have unusual chamber dimensions.
CLICK HERE to ORDER.

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October 18th, 2022

How to Inspect Your Barrel Crown with a Q-Tip

The last half-inch or so of your barrel is absolutely critical. Any damage (or abnormal wear) near the crown will cause a significant drop-off in accuracy. Here are ways you can check the end of your barrel, using a common Q-Tip.

Use Q-Tip for Barrel Inspection
To find out if you have a burr or damage to your crown, you can use an ordinary Q-tip cotton swab. Check the edges of the crown by pulling the Q-tip gently out past the edge of the crown. If you have a burr, it will “grab” the cotton and leave strands behind.

Larry Willis has another way to use a Q-Tip: “Here’s a neat trick that will surprise you with how well it works.” Just insert a Q-Tip into your barrel (like the picture below), and it will reflect enough light so that you can get a real good look at the last half inch of rifling and the crown of your barrel. In most cases you’ll find that this works much better than a flashlight. Larry tells us: “I’ve used this method about a jillion times. Q-Tips are handy to keep in your cleaning supplies anyway. This is a good way to judge approximately how well you are cleaning your barrel when you’re at the range. It’s also the best way to examine your barrel when you’re in the field.”

Larry Willis is the inventor of Innovative Technologies’ Belted Magnum Collet Resizing Die. Larry explains how this die works, and offers other reloading tips on LarryWillis.com.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip No Comments »
October 14th, 2022

Avoid Having a ‘Train Wreck’ at the 2022 F-Class Nationals

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

The 2022 NRA F-Class National Championships commence this weekend at the Ben Avery range in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mid-Range F-Class Nationals commence this Sunday, October 16, with practice on Saturday, October 15. The 1000-yard Long Range match starts on October 20th.

2022 NRA F-Class Nationals Ben Avery AZ train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

How to Avoid “Train Wrecks” In Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

train wreck Bryan Litz shooting tips ballistics

[Editor’s Note: The 2016 F-Class Nationals will employ electronic targets so conventional pit duties won’t be required. However, the following advice does apply for matches with conventional targets.]

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

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

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

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

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October 6th, 2022

Loading Accurate Pistol Ammo — Smart Tips from the USAMU

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a series of reloading articles on its Facebook Page. In this article, the second in a 3-part series, the USAMU covers the process of loading competition pistol ammunition. The authors focus on two key elements — the taper crimp and the quality/uniformity of the original brass. If you shoot pistol competitively, or just want to maximize the accuracy of your handguns, read this article. The taper crimp tips are very important.

Pistol Reloading USAMU taper crimp Brass
Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol FN 509 LS 9mm

Loading Accurate Competition Pistol Ammunition — Part 2 of 3

Today, we resume our series on factors affecting accuracy in pistol handloads. Readers who missed Part One can visit our USAMU Facebook Page. Scroll down to March 28, 2018 to find that first installment which is worth reading.

One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of taper crimp used, and its effect on accuracy. (NOTE: this article pertains to loading for semi-autos – revolver crimp techniques involve some quite different issues.) Briefly, different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors such as case neck tension. During machine-rest testing of experimental Service Pistol ammunition, many variables are examined. Among these, our Shop often varies a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ when re-testing for finest accuracy.

How to Measure Taper Crimp on Pistol Cartridges
One question that often arises is, “How do I measure the taper crimp I’m putting on my cartridges?” Using the narrow part of one’s dial caliper jaws, carefully measure the case diameter at the exact edge of the case mouth on a loaded cartridge. It’s important to take several measurements to ensure consistency. Also, be sure to measure at several places around the case mouth, as case wall thickness can vary. After measuring 2-3 cartridges with a given crimp setting, one can be confident of the true dimension and that it can be repeated later, if needed.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

However, for good results, one must use brass from one maker due to variances in case wall thickness. For example, the same degree of crimp that imparts a measurement of 0.471″ with Brand X brass may result in 0.469″ with Brand Y. Thus, for best accuracy, using brass from the same manufacturer is important — particularly for 50-yard Slow Fire. In a perfect world, it is better still to use brass from one lot number if possible. With the popularity of progressive presses using interchangeable tool heads, keeping separate tool heads adjusted for each load helps maximize uniformity between ammunition lots.

Brass Uniformity and Accuracy
Brass is important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor to pay attention to his brass – even if only for the 50-yard “Slow Fire” portions of “Bullseye” matches and practice. By segregating brass as described above, and additionally keeping track of the number of times a given batch of cases has been fired, one can ensure case neck tension and case length are at their most uniform.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

Given the large volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. In NRA Outdoor Pistol (“Bullseye”), the 10-ring is relatively generous — especially for a well-trained shooter with an accurate pistol and load. However, for the “long line” (50 yards), purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea. To keep track of your brass on the line, use a unique headstamp marking with 1 or 2 colors of marking pen ink.

Uniform Cartridge Overall Length is Important
Cartridge case Overall Length (OAL) uniformity as it comes from the factory is important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, headspace (rimless cartridges), etc. Cartridge case-length consistency varies noticeably by maker and, with lesser manufacturers, also from lot to lot. Some manufacturers are more consistent in their dimensions than others, and also in the hardness/ductility of their brass. Similarly, pay attention to primer brands, powder lot numbers, etc.

Consider Using a Lock-Out Die with Progressive Presses
When reloading pistol ammo with a Progressive press, we strongly recommend the use of a lock-out die, or other system that can detect double charges or low charges. If your progressive is manually advanced, the possibility of a double charge is very real — and that can have disastrous consequences.

On UltimateReloader.com website you’ll find an excellent two-part series on the function and set-up of the RCBS Lock-Out Die. This die prevents loading if a high or low powder charge is detected. The video below shows setup of the RCBS Lock-Out Die on the Dillon XL-650 progressive press.

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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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October 2nd, 2022

Sunday GunDay: Matt’s Screamin’ Yellow .243 Ackley Improved

.243 Win Ackley Improved ST1000 stock varmint rifle 1000-yard benchrest

.243 Ackley Improved for Long-Range Varminting and Benchrest Competition
Whenever Matt Bianchini brings his bright yellow .243 Ackley to the firing line, heads turn. This is one truly handsome rig–as good-looking as it is accurate. Built to smoke varmints at long-range as well as compete in 1000-yard benchrest matches, this rifle is proof that competition improves the breed. Fitted with a Farley action, Jewell trigger, Leupold LRT scope, and Lilja or Krieger barrel, the Yellow Ackley is a “no compromise” match rifle that can run with the big dogs in 1K Benchrest competition. And with the Ackley’s ability to toss 106gr Clinch Rivers at 3350 fps, this is one flat-shooting, hard-hitting varmint rifle.

.243 Win Ackley Improved ST1000 stock varmint rifle 1000-yard benchrest

Ultra-Fast, Ultra-Smooth Farley Action…and One Wicked Paint Job
The heart of Matt’s rifle is a Farley action. Farleys have found favor with Benchrest competitors, because the bolt can be worked so fast. And the Farley is as smooth as it is speedy. The difference is quite noticeable if you compare it to a blue-printed Rem 700, or even a recent Stolle Panda. Farleys were true customs, built one at a time by the Farley family in Oklahoma. Unlike a BAT action which is machined from billet steel, a Farley starts with a stainless investment casting, much like Ruger pistol frames. It uses a cone bolt for smooth, yet solid lock-up.

One of the unique features of the Farley is the ejector–it can be switched on or off, depending on the shooter’s preference. So, if you’re load testing some hot rounds, you can turn the ejector off. In a match you can turn the ejector “on” to function normally. Matt is now a confirmed Farley fanatic. He tells us: “I’ve got quite a few other very nice actions, including Nesikas. But none of them are as slick as that Farley. When you work the bolt it feels like it’s on ball-bearings.”

Matt’s Screamin’ Yellow Ackley–The Need for Speed

.243 Win Ackley Improved ST1000 stock varmint rifle 1000-yard benchrest

.243 Ackley Improved Speed Demon
In a long-range varmint rifle, speed kills. Ultra-high velocities will deliver flatter trajectories and more explosive hits on critters. That’s where the .243 Ackley Improved really shines.

.243 Win Ackley Improved ST1000 stock varmint rifle 1000-yard benchrest

Matt has explored the upper limits of .243 Ackley Improved (AI) performance with his yellow long-range rig, fitted with a 29″ Lilja 3-groove, 1:8″-twist barrel. Using a stout load of Alliant Reloder 25, Matt’s “Screamin’ Yellow Ackley” has topped 3340 fps with Clinch River 106s. That’s serious speed for heavy 6mm bullets. This shows a well-built .243 AI leaves Dashers and 6XCs in the dust when it comes to pure velocity.

.243 Win Ackley Improved ST1000 stock varmint rifle 1000-yard benchrestUltimate Evolution of the .243 Winchester
Matt’s show-stopping rifle is a .243 Ackley Improved (40-degree shoulder, .271″ neck), chambered with a Manson reamer. On top of the stainless Farley “S” action, in Farley 30mm rings, sits a Leupold LRT (1/16 MOA dot) boosted to 18X-40X by Premier Reticles. Matt has SIX barrels for the gun, three Lilja 3-grooves, a couple Kriegers, and a Shilen.

Matt’s gun currently sports an 8-twist 29″ Lilja 3-groove HV taper that Matt says cleans up like a dream. The stock is a Shehane ST-1000 Tracker made in fiberglass by McMillan, with a BAT trigger guard and Shehane polished billet aluminum buttplate. Prior to final finishing, Matt worked over the flats and some of the angles. That’s why the facets are so well-defined on this rifle compared to some ‘glass Trackers you may have seen. The gun was chambered by Dave Bruno of Cheswick, PA.

Matt bedded the stock and applied the stunning Sikken “Viper” yellow paint job himself. That flawless, smooth-as-glass Screamin’ Yellow finish is no ordinary paint-job, but then Matt Bianchini is no ordinary do-it-yourself painter. His family runs an automotive body-shop, so he had access to premium paints and a quarter-million-dollar spray booth with all the latest technology. Still, Matt spent many hours on this stock to get everything right, trying a couple colors before he settled on a Sikken automotive “Viper Race Yellow” formulated for the Dodge Viper sports car. After careful prep work, Matt sprayed two coats of Viper Yellow, and then added three coats of high-grade automotive clear, which was then baked-on in a heat chamber. Matt also painted the Sinclair front rest to match the stock, and even polished the surfaces of the Hoehn windage top. A lot of effort, Matt told us, was required to achieve the results you see here.

3300 fps for 1000 Yards
Though Matt’s Ackley has harvested its share of varmints, the gun was built with 1000-yard benchrest competition in mind. At left is the firing line at Thunder Valley, Ohio. Yep those targets (upper right) are 1000 yards away. Now you know why Matt has a 40-power scope.

.243 Win Ackley Improved AI varmint rifle

.243 Win Ackley Improved AI varmint rifle

The Yellow Ackley weighs just under 17 pounds to meet IBS and NBRSA “Light Gun” weight limits. While Matt says his bullets don’t “go to sleep” for a couple hundred yards, this gun can still shoot 1/4″ groups at 100 yards and hold that accuracy much, much farther. Matt reports, “my best-ever group was five shots in .397″ at 400 yards. Yep, I got lucky with the conditions, but this is a very accurate rifle.”

.243 Ackley Improved–More Velocity, Less Case Stretch

by Bob Blaine, Sinclair International

Parker Ackley reluctantly developed the .243 Ackley Improved (“AI”). Ackley finally gave in to his customers’ requests to develop the .243 AI. He had always felt that the .243 Winchester was already an improved configuration, but he did say that the best thing to be gained by improving the .243 Winchester was to substantially reduce the case-stretching problems. The .243 Winchester parent case has always stretched brass, almost as bad as the Swift. Even though you get more velocity with the improved .243, I’ve also found that the improved version gives a bit more throat life than the parent case does.

The .243 AI delivers more velocity by virtue of enhanced case capacity–roughly five grains more H20 capacity than a standard .243 Winchester. The .243 AI has a water capacity of approximately 57 to 58 grains, compared to 52-53 grains for the standard .243 Winchester.

Loading for Long-Range
For long-range shooting, Matt loads 106gr Clinch Rivers with 47.5gr of Alliant Reloder 25 for his Krieger barrels, a little more powder with the Lilja 3-grooves. The Lilja load runs 3342 fps, with a 3.228″ OAL. Cases are neck-turned Lapua .243 Winchester. He uses Wilson inline seater and Wilson eck-sizer dies (.267″ bushing), and a custom, reamer-cut FL sizing die.

Not Just for BR, This Gun Can Hunt
While Matt has a big stable of varmint rifles, the Yellow Ackley has seen plenty of duty in the ‘Hog fields. Matt is from a farming family and he can shoot practically right out his back door (see top photo at the farm). He has nailed some big ground-hogs at 800 yards and beyond. The .243 AI does kick a bit compared to other varmint cartridges, but even with 105-106gr bullets, it’s not bad. He has considered adding a muzzle brake at some point to one of the barrels, just so he can see impacts better.

Screamin’ Yellow Dasher?

Matt originally thought of building the gun up as a 6BR or a 6BR Improved. He has a Manson reamer similar to a 6mm Dasher, with a 40-degree shoulder and .008″ body taper. He actually chambered a couple barrels with that 6BR Improved reamer, but he hasn’t shot them yet. He was so pleased with how the gun performed in .243 AI, that he saw no reason to change. And it may be a while before he slaps a Dasher-chambered barrel on the rig: “I really like the way it shoots as a .243 AI. I’m so impressed with it that I don’t want to mess with anything. And I don’t think I’ll be running out of Ackley barrels anytime soon.”

Millender’s .243 Ackley Improved Page

matt .243 Ackley Improved yellow rifle

.243 Win Dies and Reloading Gear

Since the .243 Win is such a popular cartridge, all the major die-makers offer reloading dies. It’s hard to go wrong with a Redding Type ‘S’ Full-length bushing die–item 77114 for the standard .243 Win and item 77420 for .243 AI. Whidden Gunworks also makes great .243 Win sizing dies (and custom .243 Win AI dies on request). These will both resize the case (and bump the shoulder) as necessary, and allow you to adjust neck tension with bushings. Alternatively, you can go with a body die, and a separate neck bushing die.

If you load primarily one brand of bullets, another slick set-up is to buy a Forster or Whidden full-length, non-bushing .243 Win sizing die, and then have Forster or Whidden hone the neck for your desired amount of tension. This elegant one-pass sizing solution produces very straight rounds with low run-out.

For bullet seating, both the Redding Competition Seater (item 55114) and the Forster Ultra-Seater (item U00034) work great for the standard .243 Win case. If you shoot a .243 Ackley, Redding’s .243 AI Comp Seater (item 55420) costs quite a bit more than the standard version Forster doesn’t list a .243 AI seater in their catalog. However, you can just run your chambering reamer into the inner sleeve of either seating die to fit the .243 Ackley Improved case.

If you want the “Cadillac” of production seater dies for the .243 Win, order the Wilson Stainless Micrometer seater (item 50-1114S) from Sinclair International. Costing only a few dollars more than a Redding Comp seater, this die is a joy to use, providing very positive control over bullet seating depth. When used with a quality arbor press, the Wilson offers unrivaled “feel” for bullet-seating force. This can help you monitor neck tension, one of the most critical factors in maintaining low ES and SD for long-range accuracy.

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September 22nd, 2022

Lyman Case Prep Xpress — Versatile Unit with Five Tool Heads

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

Product Review by F-Class John
Case preparation is critical for precision reloading. One must trim cases, debur/chamfer case mouths, clean necks, spruce up primer pockets and do other important tasks. Complete case prep can involve many separate processes, each requiring its own tools. With each of those tools comes additional cost as well as the need for more storage and bench space. To make case prep easier, faster, and more convenient Lyman created the Case Prep Xpress. The Case Prep Xpress, introduced a few years back, combines up to five prep stages into one well-built, stable, versatile unit. Watch this video to see the machine in action:

The Case Prep Xpress features five (5) independently-turning spindles all with the common 8/32 thread. This allows you to attach multiple tools supplied with the unit PLUS many other screw-on prep tools. For our testing we started out using a variety of the 12 included tools and found they cover the majority of case prep tasks. Lyman supplies deburr and chamfer tools, pocket uniformers, reamers and cleaners, as well as an assortment of neck brushes.

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

The deburr and chamfer tools worked really well, creating beautiful bevels all while leaving a nice flat edge across the top of the neck which is critical for accuracy and brass life. We found the primer pocket cleaning tool did a good job, but for truly clean pockets we recommend using the primer pocket uniforming tool, which very efficiently removes even hard residues.

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test videoLyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

The benefit of having interchangeable heads is that you can add your own accessories. We like to use a bore brush with bronze wool wrapped around it for use inside our necks. This worked perfectly once we screwed it in. In fact, we couldn’t think of any 8/32-threaded accessory that wouldn’t work well on this machine. Another great design feature is how all the accessories are oriented straight up. This allows for perfect visual alignment of your cases onto the tools which is critical — especially when performing cutting operations such as primer pocket uniforming.

Along with the five power stations there are six female-threaded storage spots on the sides where tools can be placed to ensure they don’t get lost. We like this feature since there will be more than five accessories you want to use and having them easily available is a great feature. You can keep 11 tools right on the machine (5 on top, 6 on the sides). That way you don’t have to dig through storage bins.

Lyman Case Prep Xpress express chamfer clean machine center review test video

The Case Prep Xpress has a removable front bin to hold brass shavings, and there are two circular trays on either side of the bin. In front is a long tray that holds the provided brush. This makes it relatively easy to clean off brass shavings and other debris from case prep processes.

SUMMARY — Versatile Case Prep Xpress Is A Good Value
For the money, Lyman’s Case Prep Xpress is tough to beat. It performs multiple tasks well while being stable and easy-to-use. Yes there are some multi-spindle prep centers that offer variable or fast/slow RPM spindles while the Lyman’s spindles are all fixed RPM. (See, e.g. the RCBS Brass Boss). However those other systems don’t include all the convenient on-board storage of the Case Prep Xpress, and are more expensive. The Lyman Case Prep Xpress sells for $150-$170 “street price”. It’s currently on sale for $146.99 on Amazon. This makes the Lyman Case Prep Xpress a fine value — it offers great versatility while saving space and saving money compared to buying five or more separate, powered tools.

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September 21st, 2022

Neck-Turning TIP — Use Optimal Cutter Angle for Best Results

neck turning lathe cutter tip sinclair pma 21st Century

When neck-turning cases, it’s a good idea to extend the cut slightly below the neck-shoulder junction. This helps keep neck tension more uniform after repeated firings, by preventing a build-up of brass where the neck meets the shoulder. One of our Forum members, Craig from Ireland, a self-declared “neck-turning novice”, was having some problems turning brass for his 20 Tactical cases. He was correctly attempting to continue the cut slightly past the neck-shoulder junction, but he was concerned that brass was being removed too far down the shoulder.

Craig writes: “Everywhere I have read about neck turning, [it says] you need to cut slightly into the neck/shoulder junction to stop doughnutting. I completely understand this but I cant seem to get my neck-turning tool set-up to just touch the neck/shoulder junction. It either just doesn’t touch [the shoulder] or cuts nearly the whole shoulder and that just looks very messy. No matter how I adjust the mandrel to set how far down the neck it cuts, it either doesn’t touch it or it cuts far too much. I think it may relate to the bevel on the cutter in my neck-turning tool…”

neck turning lathe cutter tip sinclair pma 21st Century

Looking at Craig’s pictures, we’d agree that he didn’t need to cut so far down into the shoulder. There is a simple solution for this situation. Craig is using a neck-turning tool with a rather shallow cutter bevel angle. This 20-degree angle is set up as “universal geometry” that will work with any shoulder angle. Unfortunately, as you work the cutter down the neck, a shallow angled-cutter tip such as this will remove brass fairly far down. You only want to extend the cut about 1/32 of an inch past the neck-shoulder junction. This is enough to eliminate brass build-up at the base of the neck that can cause doughnuts to form.

K&M neck-turning tool

The answer here is simply to use a cutter tip with a wider angle — 30 to 40 degrees. The cutter for the K&M neck-turning tool (above) has a shorter bevel that better matches a 30° shoulder. There is also a 40° tip available. PMA Tool and 21st Century Shooting also offer carbide cutters with a variety of bevel angles to exactly match your case shoulder angle*. WalkerTexasRanger reports: “I went to a 40-degree cutter head just to address this same issue, and I have been much happier with the results. The 40-degree heads are available from Sinclair Int’l for $15 or so.” Forum Member CBonner concurs: “I had the same problem with my 7WSM… The 40-degree cutter was the answer.” Below is Sinclair’s 40° Cutter for its NT-series neck-turning tools. Item NT3140, this 40° Cutter sells for $14.99. For the same price, Sinclair also sells the conventional 30° Cutter, item NT3100.

Al Nyhus has another clever solution: “The best way I’ve found to get around this problem is to get an extra shell holder and face it off .020-.025 and then run the cases into the sizing die. This will push the shoulder back .020-.025. Then you neck turn down to the ‘new’ neck/shoulder junction and simply stop there. Fireforming the cases by seating the bullets hard into the lands will blow the shoulder forward and the extra neck length you turned by having the shoulder set back will now be blended perfectly into the shoulder. The results are a case that perfectly fits the chamber and zero donuts.”

* 21st Century sells carbide cutters in: 15, 17, 20, 21.5, 23, 25, 28, 30, 35, 40, 46 and 50 degrees. PMA Tool sells carbide cutters in: 20, 23, 30, and 40 degrees, plus other angles by special order.

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September 1st, 2022

How to Prep Once-Fired Lake City 5.56 Brass for Match Use

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit regularly published 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. You can obtain once-fired Lake City 5.56x45mm brass for less than half the cost of premium .223 Rem brass.

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.

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.

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!

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. 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.

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August 29th, 2022

Wrong Cartridge in Chamber — What Can Happen

Ruptured Cartridge Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ More about this incident in our Shooters’ Forum.

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