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December 3rd, 2022

How to Build Your Own Concrete Shooting Bench — Plans + Pix

build your own concrete shooting bench

Who hasn’t dreamed of having a professional-quality, permanent shooting bench on their own property? Well here’s an article that can help you make that dream come true. This “how-to” feature from the archives of RifleShooter Magazine shows how to build a quality concrete shooting bench step-by-step.

build your own concrete shooting bench

All aspects of the construction process are illustrated and explained. The author, Keith Wood explains: “Construction happened in three phases — first creating the slab foundation, then the support pillars (legs), and finally the table.”

Click image below to load article with slide show.
build your own concrete shooting bench

Each step in the process is illustrated with a large photo and descriptive paragraph. Starting with framing the foundation (Step 1), the article illustrates and explains the 15 Steps that produce the finished, all-concrete bench (see top photo).

Permalink - Articles, Tech Tip No Comments »
September 27th, 2022

How to Determine a Barrel’s TRUE Twist Rate

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

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

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

Sinclair’s Simple Twist Rate Measurement Method
If are unsure of the twist rate of the barrel, you can measure it yourself in a couple of minutes. You need a good cleaning rod with a rotating handle and a jag with a fairly tight fitting patch. Utilize a rod guide if you are accessing the barrel through the breech or a muzzle guide if you are going to come in from the muzzle end. Make sure the rod rotates freely in the handle under load. Start the patch into the barrel for a few inches and then stop. Put a piece of tape at the back of the rod by the handle (like a flag) or mark the rod in some way. Measure how much of the rod is still protruding from the rod guide. You can either measure from the rod guide or muzzle guide back to the flag or to a spot on the handle.

Next, continue to push the rod in until the mark or tape flag has made one complete revolution. Then re-measure the amount of rod that is left sticking out of the barrel. Use the same reference marks as you did on the first measurement. Next, subtract this measurement from the first measurement. This number is the twist rate. For example, if the rod has 24 inches remaining at the start and 16 inches remain after making one revolution, you have 8 inches of travel, thus a 1:8″-twist barrel.

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

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip No Comments »
September 11th, 2022

Parallax Explained — Nightforce Optics TECH TIP

Nightforce Optics Parallax Newsletter Scope Video
Nightforce Optics Parallax Newsletter Scope Video

PARALLAX – What is it and Why is it important?

Nightforce Optics Parallax Newsletter Scope Video

What is Parallax?
Parallax is the apparent movement of the scope’s reticle (cross-hairs) in relation to the target as the shooter moves his eye across the exit pupil of the riflescope. This is caused by the target and the reticle being located in different focal planes.

Why is it Important?
The greater the distance to the target and magnification of the optic, the greater the parallax error becomes. Especially at longer distances, significant sighting error can result if parallax is not removed.

How to Remove Parallax
This Nightforce Tech Tip video quickly shows how to remove parallax on your riflescope.

While keeping the rifle still and looking through the riflescope, a slight nod of the head up and down will quickly determine if parallax is present. To remove parallax, start with the adjustment mechanism on infinity and rotate until the reticle remains stationary in relation to the target regardless of head movement. If parallax has been eliminated, the reticle will remain stationary in relation to the target regardless of eye placement behind the optic.

This Parallax Discussion first appeared in the Nightforce Newsletter. Nightforce also offers a series of Informational Videos covering a variety of topics.

Permalink - Videos, Optics, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
August 6th, 2022

When and How to Use Bore-Snakes for Barrel Cleaning

Barrel brush bore-snake boresnake shake barrel cleaner brush

Handloading USAMU Facebook Bore Cleaning

In years past the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Facebook page regularly released reloading “how-to” articles each week. One “Handloading Hump Day” post covered bore-cleaning, specifically the use of pull-through style bore-snakes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other helpful tips.

Barrel Cleaning with Bore-Snakes

Today, we’ll shift from handloading to rifle bore cleaning and maintenance, with information courtesy of the USAMU’s Custom Firearms Shop. We recently had some inquiries about bore cleaning, and this seems a good opportunity to share. After all, even the best handloads won’t yield their full potential in a poorly-cleaned and maintained rifle.

NOTE: Hoppes claims a trademark on the term “BoreSnake” (one word, no hyphen). For this article, the USAMU has used the term in hyphenated form, two words. We believe the USAMU is referring to a Hoppes Brand Boresnake, not a different bore cleaning rope.

BORE-SNAKES: MIRACLE REPLACEMENT FOR THE CLEANING ROD?
The experiences of our both firearms test specialist and this writer have given no evidence that proper use of a clean bore-snake will damage a match barrel. Of course, one does not pull the bore-snake at an angle to the crown when removing it — pull it straight out, parallel to the bore’s direction, to prevent crown wear over time.

USAMU Handloading facebook page bore snake cleaningBore-snakes are very useful for some applications (primarily a hasty, interim wipe-down). In [my] experience they cannot replace a thorough cleaning with a proper rod and brushes. While the experiment cited here involves rimfire, it may help illustrate. Several years ago, the writer used his new, personal Anschutz to investigate the bore-snake issue. It had been fired ~350 rds with match ammo and had had 3 typical rod/brush cleanings.

Next, starting with a clean bore, the writer fired 300 more rounds without cleaning in order to build up a “worst-case” fouling condition. Afterwards, the writer examined the bore with a Hawkeye bore scope. There was a uniform, grey film down the entire barrel, with some small, intermittent lead build-up at and just forward of the throat.

Some bore-cleaning rope products feature separate, detachable bronze brush and bore mop segments. This allows more usage options (e.g. mop only), and makes it easier to clean the brush elements:
Barrel brush bore-snake boresnake shake barrel cleaner brush

A new bore-snake was then wet with solvent and pulled through the bore. The Hawkeye revealed that the grey fouling was gone, and much of the visible fouling at the throat was reduced. However, nine more passes with the bore-snake, checking after each with the Hawkeye, revealed no further improvement in cleaning. The writer then cleaned with two wet patches, observed, then one stroke of a new, wet bronze brush, and one wet patch to clean out residue.

USAMU Handloading facebook page bore snake cleaning

The Hawkeye showed a significant reduction in fouling at the throat; it was virtually gone. A second pass with a wet bronze brush and a wet patch removed the remaining fouling. Scrubbing the bore further, checking to see how much fouling was removed, revealed no significant improvement. The reason for this test was to learn what’s needed to get (and keep) this Anschutz clean with minimal cleaning rod use — and thus, minimal risk of bore damage/wear. Leaving fouling in the bore promotes corrosion over time.

Obviously, this applies to a nice, smooth rimfire match barrel, using good, well lubed ammo. It doesn’t apply directly to the use of copper-jacketed bullets, which leave a stubborn fouling all their own. However, it does suggest that while the bore-snake can be helpful and a useful field-expedient, to truly clean a rifle barrel one will still need a good quality rod, bronze brush and solvents. [Editor: Add a good-fitting cleaning rod bore guide.]

SO, WHAT ABOUT BORE SNAKES FOR BARREL BREAK-IN?
The goal of barrel break-in is to fire each shot through a clean barrel, preventing copper buildup and allowing the bullets their best chance at burnishing sharp edges. Thus, it seems this purpose would be best served by one’s usual rods, brushes and rod guides.

Permalink - Articles, Gear Review, Reloading No Comments »
July 20th, 2022

Color-Coat Bullet Tips to Better Define Long-Range Groups

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

When shooting groups at long range on paper it can be difficult to distinguish which bullet holes belong to a particular sequence of shots. If, for example, you shot three 5-shot groups at 600+ yards on a paper target, you would have 15 bullet holes on the target (assuming no misses). But at that distance it would be difficult to see the holes on target (even with a spotting scope). Accordingly, when you inspected the target up close, it would be hard to tell which shots belonged to which group. You might have a vague idea, but couldn’t be sure, without a target camera recording the shot sequence.

Here is a method to separate multiple shots into specific groups so you can better evaluate your load and shooting skills. The trick is pretty simple — mark your bullets with a color from a Sharpie or other felt marking pen. If you are shooting three 5-shot groups, mark five with red, five with green, and five with blue (or purple). Then, when you inspect the target, you can identify the group placements by the colors that appear on the paper.

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

Round Robin: Using colors you can shoot “Round-Robin” to evaluate seating depths, neck tension, or other variables without having the shot order (and barrel heating) affect group sizes unequally. For example you might have three different neck tensions, each marked with a different color on the bullets. Then shoot Red, Blue, Green in that sequence for five total shots per color.

Smart Tip to Show Colors More Vividly

If the bullet inks are not showing up on your target paper clearly, here is a simple trick that can make the colors “bleed” to be more visible. In your range kit, bring some alcohol solution along with some Q-tips. Then dab the shots on the paper target lightly with wet Q-Tips. Here is the front of a target before and after application of alcohol:

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

Forum Member NewbieShooter explains: “Dabbing a bit of alcohol on the bullet holes with Q-Tips makes the color pop a bit… especially on the back side.” See below:

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

In short order you will see the colors spread into the paper, clearly marking the shot holes by distinguishing colors. If you were shooting a dark bullseye, view the the BACK side of the target to see the colors on a light background.

Credits: Bullet Tips photo by Forum Member Dave Way; Target photos by Forum Member NewbieShooter; Story tip from Boyd Allen.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Shooting Skills, Tech Tip No Comments »
September 26th, 2021

Tech Tip: How to Determine a Barrel’s True Twist Rate

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

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

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

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

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

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
September 17th, 2021

Color Your Bullet Tips to Define Shot Groups at Long Range

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

When shooting groups at long range on paper it can be difficult to distinguish which bullet holes belong to a particular sequence of shots. If, for example, you shot three 5-shot groups at 600+ yards on a paper target, you would have 15 bullet holes on the target (assuming no misses). But at that distance it would be difficult to see the holes on target (even with a spotting scope). Accordingly, when you inspected the target up close, it would be hard to tell which shots belonged to which group. You might have a vague idea, but couldn’t be sure, without a target camera recording the shot sequence.

Here is a method to separate multiple shots into specific groups so you can better evaluate your load and shooting skills. The trick is pretty simple — mark your bullets with a color from a Sharpie or other felt marking pen. If you are shooting three 5-shot groups, mark five with red, five with green, and five with blue (or purple). Then, when you inspect the target, you can identify the group placements by the colors that appear on the paper.

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

Round Robin: Using colors you can shoot “Round-Robin” to evaluate seating depths, neck tension, or other variables without having the shot order (and barrel heating) affect group sizes unequally. For example you might have three different neck tensions, each marked with a different color on the bullets. Then shoot Red, Blue, Green in that sequence for five total shots per color.

Smart Tip to Show Colors More Vividly

If the bullet inks are not showing up on your target paper clearly, here is a simple trick that can make the colors “bleed” to be more visible. In your range kit, bring some alcohol solution along with some Q-tips. Then dab the shots on the paper target lightly with wet Q-Tips. Here is the front of a target before and after application of alcohol:

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

Forum Member NewbieShooter explains: “Dabbing a bit of alcohol on the bullet holes with Q-Tips makes the color pop a bit… especially on the back side.” See below:

sharpie felt marker bullet color tip painting group paper target

In short order you will see the colors spread into the paper, clearly marking the shot holes by distinguishing colors. If you were shooting a dark bullseye, view the the BACK side of the target to see the colors on a light background.

Credits: Bullet Tips photo by Forum Member Dave Way; Target photos by Forum Member NewbieShooter; Story tip from Boyd Allen.

Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
February 17th, 2021

TECH TIP: When and How to Use Bore Snakes

Barrel brush bore-snake boresnake shake barrel cleaner brush

Handloading USAMU Facebook Bore Cleaning

On Wednesdays, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit often publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. One “Handloading Hump Day” post covered bore-cleaning, specifically the use of pull-through style bore-snakes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page each Wednesday for other helpful tips.

Today, we’ll shift from handloading to rifle bore cleaning and maintenance, with information courtesy of the USAMU’s Custom Firearms Shop. We recently had some inquiries about bore cleaning, and this seems a good opportunity to share. After all, even the best handloads won’t yield their full potential in a poorly-cleaned and maintained rifle.

NOTE: Hoppes claims a trademark on the term “BoreSnake” (one word, no hyphen). For this article, the USAMU has used the term in hyphenated form, two words. We believe the USAMU is referring to a Hoppes Brand Boresnake, not a different bore cleaning rope.

BORE-SNAKES: MIRACLE REPLACEMENT FOR THE CLEANING ROD?
The experiences of both our firearms test specialist and this writer have given no evidence that proper use of a clean bore-snake will damage a match barrel. Of course, one does not pull the bore-snake at an angle to the crown when removing it — pull it straight out, parallel to the bore’s direction, to prevent crown wear over time.

USAMU Handloading facebook page bore snake cleaningBore-snakes are very useful for some applications (primarily a hasty, interim wipe-down). In [my] experience they cannot replace a thorough cleaning with a proper rod and brushes. While the experiment cited here involves rimfire, it may help illustrate. Several years ago, the writer used his new, personal Anschutz to investigate the bore-snake issue. It had been fired ~350 rds with match ammo and had had 3 typical rod/brush cleanings.

Next, starting with a clean bore, the writer fired 300 more rounds without cleaning in order to build up a “worst-case” fouling condition. Afterwards, the writer examined the bore with a Hawkeye bore scope. There was a uniform, grey film down the entire barrel, with some small, intermittent lead build-up at and just forward of the throat.

Some bore-cleaning rope products feature separate, detachable bronze brush and bore mop segments. This allows more usage options (e.g. mop only), and makes it easier to clean the brush elements:
Barrel brush bore-snake boresnake shake barrel cleaner brush

A new bore-snake was then wet with solvent and pulled through the bore. The Hawkeye revealed that the grey fouling was gone, and much of the visible fouling at the throat was reduced. However, nine more passes with the bore-snake, checking after each with the Hawkeye, revealed no further improvement in cleaning. The writer then cleaned with two wet patches, observed, then one stroke of a new, wet bronze brush, and one wet patch to clean out residue.

USAMU Handloading facebook page bore snake cleaning

The Hawkeye showed a significant reduction in fouling at the throat; it was virtually gone. A second pass with a wet bronze brush and a wet patch removed the remaining fouling. Scrubbing the bore further, checking to see how much fouling was removed, revealed no significant improvement. The reason for this test was to learn what’s needed to get (and keep) this Anschutz clean with minimal cleaning rod use — and thus, minimal risk of bore damage/wear. Leaving fouling in the bore promotes corrosion over time.

Obviously, this applies to a nice, smooth rimfire match barrel, using good, well lubed ammo. It doesn’t apply directly to the use of copper-jacketed bullets, which leave a stubborn fouling all their own. However, it does suggest that while the bore-snake can be helpful and a useful field-expedient, to truly clean a rifle barrel one will still need a good quality rod, bronze brush and solvents. [Editor: Add a good-fitting cleaning rod bore guide.]

SO, WHAT ABOUT BORE SNAKES FOR BARREL BREAK-IN?
The goal of barrel break-in is to fire each shot through a clean barrel, preventing copper buildup and allowing the bullets their best chance at burnishing sharp edges. Thus, it seems this purpose would be best served by one’s usual rods, brushes and rod guides.

Permalink Gear Review, Tech Tip 4 Comments »
February 16th, 2021

Reloading Rescue — How to Remove a Case Stuck in a Die

stuck72

Western powders, ramshot, norma, accurate

To err is human… Sooner or later you’ll probably get a case stuck in a die. This “fix-it” article, which originally appeared in the Western Powders Blog, explains how to remove a firmly stuck cartridge case using an RCBS kit. This isn’t rocket science, but you do want to follow the directions carefully, step-by-step. Visit the Western Powders Blog for other helpful Tech Tips.

Curing the Stuck Case Blues

decapstem72Sticking a case in the sizer die is a rite of passage for the beginning handloader. If you haven’t done it yet, that’s great, but it probably will eventually happen. When it does, fixing the problem requires a bit of ingenuity or a nice little kit like the one we got from RCBS.

The first step is to clear the de-capping pin from the flash hole. Just unscrew the de-capping assembly to move it as far as possible from the primer pocket and flash hole (photo at right). Don’t try to pull it all the way out. It won’t come. Just unscrew it and open as much space as possible inside the case.

Place the die upside down in the padded jaws of a vise and clamp it firmly into place. Using the supplied #7 bit, drill through the primer pocket. Be careful not to go too deeply inside the cartridge once the hole has opened up. It is important to be aware that the de-capping pin and expander ball are still in there and can be damaged by the bit.

Drill and Tap the Stuck Case
taping72drilling72

Once the cartridge head has been drilled, a ¼ – 20 is tap is used to cut threads into the pocket. Brass is relatively soft compared to a hardened tap, so no lube is needed for the tapping process. RCBS says that a drill can be used for this step, but it seems like a bit of overkill in a project of this nature. A wrench (photo above right) makes short work of the project.

RCBS supplies a part they call the “Stuck Case Remover Body” for the next step. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and have the bit and tap, this piece is easily replicated by a length of electrical conduit of the proper diameter and some washers. In either case, this tool provides a standoff for the screw that will do the actual pulling.

pulling72fingers72

With an Allen Wrench, Finish the Job
Run the screw through the standoff and into the tapped case head. With a wrench, tighten the screw which hopefully pulls the case free. Once the case is free, clamp the case in a vice and pull it free of the de-capping pin. There is tension here because the sizing ball is oversized to the neck dimension as part of the sizing process. It doesn’t take much force, but be aware there is still this last little hurdle to clear before you get back to loading. Don’t feel bad, everyone does this. Just use more lube next time!

wholekit72unstuck72

Article find by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
Permalink - Articles, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
January 22nd, 2020

TECH TIP — Check Barrel Tightness If POI Shifts Erratically

loose barrel vortex scope optics point of impact change fix

Are you seeing unpredictable changes in Point of Impact on your target? Think you may have a scope issue? Well maybe not — when was the last time you checked your BARREL?

Yes scopes do fail, and scope bases/rings do get loose. But sometimes problems with erratic POI shifts are caused by a LOOSE BARREL. This issue came up recently in our Shooter’s Forum. One member complained that his zero was shifting from day to day — by as much as two inches at 100 yards. He was convinced he had a scope problem, based on erratic POI:

“I think my scope loses 1 to 3 MOA per day. When I shot my rifle Monday it was dead on. On Tuesday it was 1″ low. Then on Wednesday it was 1 or 2″ lower. I don’t get it. — the elevation knob never touched. Scope will track and return to zero that day perfect. Yes EVERYTHING has been checked, nothing loose. What is the chance the erector tube spring has gone south? For the record this is a Vortex GE. Never had a bad scope, but this has me wondering”. — LB

On Forum member told LB to send the scope right back to the manufacturer. Two other members suggested mounting the scope on a different rifle to test. Good advice. That’s generally a smart strategy before you conclude a scope has gone bad…

Could Problem Be the Scope Base?
Two Forum members, ExPiper and Dickn52, suggested checking the scope base, recounting their past experiences with troublesome bases. This was intelligent — anyone with a POI problem should check all the optics attachments:

“Went crazy one day chasing my impacts on a 100-yard target. Shots would group fine for three then go nuts for 4-5. I cranked and un-cranked for about an hour. Then I reached up and the base wobbled on the rifle. Removed scope, tightened base screws and back in business.” — Dickn52

“Years ago I had a problem [where] shots were climbing with almost every shot. I was blaming the scope. However, when removing the scope I noticed that the 20 MOA base was cracked and getting wider with every shot. Needless to say I replaced the base and the problem was solved. — ExPiper

Eureka Moment — The problem was the BARREL, not the Scope

There were many helpful suggestions, but member PirateAmmo steered LB to the real problem — a loose BARREL: “We had a problem on a home-built AR-platform rifle once, barrel was loose a tad…”

Member Snert chimed in: “Yep — I had a PPC that suddenly went 19″ low. Picked up gun off bench by barrel and felt a wiggle. I tightened the barrel and the POI went 19 inches up”.

Problem Solved — Barrel Tightened up and POI Back to Normal
The gentleman with the POI problem took the advice of PirateAmmo and checked his barrel. BINGO! Low and behold, the barrel WAS loose.

LB posted: “Barrel loose by about 2%, checked it twice before and didn’t find it the first two times”.

After LB re-tightened his barrel, his rifle started shooting normally again. No more shooting low by 1-2 inches. Problem solved. The fix didn’t cost a penny and now LB doesn’t have to send a perfectly good optic back to the manufacturer.

Lesson learned? Check ALL the variables before you assume a scope has gone bad. Along with the barrel, also check your action screw tension, and of course the scope base and rings.

Permalink Optics, Tech Tip 3 Comments »
December 11th, 2018

Tech Tip: Shoot BR Cases with Rebated Rims in PPC Actions

PPC 6mm BR .308 bolt face Cutting Head for Rebating Rims

Butch Lambert of ShadeTree Engineering provided this tip. Butch notes that many 6 PPC benchrest group shooters also enjoy shooting in score matches. But to be really competitive in the BR for score game, that means shooting a 30 BR, which has a wider, .308-class rim (0.4728″ diameter). Likewise, if you want to compete in 600-yard registered BR events or in varmint matches, you probably want to run a bigger case, such as the 6BR, 6BRA, 6mm Dasher, or 6-6.5×47. Those cartridges also have the larger 0.4728″ rims.

PPC 6mm BR .308 bolt face Cutting Head for Rebating Rims

To convert a PPC-boltface action to shoot the bigger cases you can spend a ton of money and buy a new bolt. That can cost hundreds of dollars. The simpler solution is to turn down the diameter of the larger cases on a lathe. This is a relatively simple procedure with the right cutting tool.

Butch explains: “We’ve seen plenty of interest in rebating case rims. This lets you shoot a 30 BR in score matches using your PPC action. All you need is a new barrel. This saves buying another bolt, receiver, or rifle if you have a PPC boltface. Anyone who has access to a lathe can do this job pretty easily. Yesterday I turned 150 case in about an hour.” At right is the lathe form tool Butch uses to rebate the case rims.

Permalink Gunsmithing, Tech Tip 1 Comment »
September 7th, 2018

TIP: Polish Seating Stems to Eliminate Ring Marks on Bullets

Seating Stem Reloading Tip Sierra Bullet .223 Remington compressed loads

Here’s a helpful hint for hand-loaders from Sierra Bullets. While this article focuses on Sierra’s new Tipped Match-King bullets, the recommended solutions apply to other bullet types as well. The article explains how sharp edges on a seating stem can cause a ring to be pressed into the bullet jacket — especially with compressed loads that resist downward bullet movement. Here Sierra technician Rich Machholz diagnoses the problem and provides a solution.

Seating Stem Reloading Tip Sierra Bullet .223 Remington compressed loads

Solutions for Ring Marks Caused by Seating Stems

by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz
Now that the new Tipped MatchKing® (TMK) bullets are being shipped and shooters are putting them to use I have received several calls regarding marking on the bullet ogive from the seating stem.

The cause can be traced to one of several things. In the .223 and especially with the long, 77 grain TMK seated at 2.250” or even 2.260” most loads of Varget® and Reloder® 15 are compressed loads, sometimes heavily compressed. This puts a great deal of pressure on the bullet through the seating stem. The result of all this pressure is a mark of varying depth and appearance on the ogive of the bullet. [Editor: We have seen this issue with a variety of other bullet types/shapes as well, including non-tipped VLDs. The solution is profiling the internal cone of the seating stem to match your bullet shape.]

Some older seating stems might even bear against the tip of the bullet which can make a slight bulge in the jacket just below the junction of the resin tip and the copper jacket in a compressed load. If this is the case there is not a ready fix other than calling the die manufacturer and requesting a new deeper seating stem.

Polish Your Seating Stem to Remove Sharp Internal Edges
If the seating stem is of proper depth the culprit most generally is a thin sharp edge on the inside taper of the seating stem. This is an easy fix that can be accomplished by chucking a spare 77 grain bullet in your drill, coating it with valve grinding compound or even rubbing compound or in a pinch even tooth paste.* Remove the seating stem assembly from the seating die. Turn the drill on and put the seating stem recess over the spinning bullet with the polishing compound to break or smooth the sharp edge that is making the offending mark. This might take more than one application to get the proper polish depending upon what you use, but the more you polish the better the blend of angles which will [ensure the stem matches the bullet contours, not leaving a sharp ring].

If the above is a little more than you care to tackle you might try very fine emery cloth twisted to a point that can be inserted into the mouth to the seating stem and rotated to polish the inside to eliminate any sharp edges that might be present.

Load Advice for 77gr TMKs in the .223 Rem
And last but certainly not least. Actually, even though we don’t say you need additional data for the TMKs, remember you are dealing with heavily-compressed loads in some cases because of the additional bullet length. Due to the additional length of these new bullets and in the interest of gaining some room in the case you might consider trying a slightly faster extruded powder like BenchMark or the 4895s or an even more dense powder like the spherical H335®, CFE223 or TAC. The extra room will allow for trouble free bullet seating also.

Good luck and remember we are no further away than your telephone: 1-800-223-8799.

Sierra Bullets Match-King Reloading Bullet Seating

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Reloading, Tech Tip 5 Comments »
August 21st, 2018

Barrel Break-In — Essential Procedure or Total Waste of Time?

Barrel Breakin Break-in conditioning cleaning Wade Hull Shilen Walther Varminter.com Eric Mayer Video interview barrels
Photo courtesy Sierra Bullets.

The question of barrel break-in is controversial. Some folks advocate an elaborate, lengthy cycle of shooting and brushing, repeated many times — one shot and clean, two shots and clean and so on. This, it is argued, helps barrels foul less and shoot more accurately. Others say minimal break-in, with patching and brushing after 10-15 rounds, is all you need. Still others contend that break-in procedures are a total waste of time and ammo — you should just load and shoot, and clean as you would normally.

We doubt if there will ever be real agreement among shooters concerning barrel break-in procedures. And one must remember that the appropriate break-in procedure might be quite different for a factory barrel vs. a custom hand-lapped barrel. This Editor has found that his very best custom barrels shot great right from the start, with no special break-in, other than wet patches at 5, 10, and 15 rounds. That said, I’ve seen some factory barrels that seemed to benefit from more elaborate break-in rituals.

What’s the best barrel break-in procedure? Well our friend Eric Mayer of Varminter.com decided to ask the experts. A while back Eric interviewed representatives of three leading barrel manufacturers: Krieger, Lothar-Walther, and Shilen. He recorded their responses on video. In order of appearance in the video, the three experts are:

Wade Hull, Shilen Barrels | Mike Hinrichs, Krieger Barrels | Woody Woodall, Lothar Walther

Barrel Breakin Break-in conditioning cleaning Wade Hull Shilen Walther Varminter.com Eric Mayer Video interview barrelsDo I Need to Break-In a New Rifle Barrel?
Eric Mayer of Varminter.com says: “That is a simple question, [but it] does not necessarily have a simple answer. Instead of me repeating my own beliefs, and practices, on breaking-in a new rifle barrel, I decided to answer this one a bit differently. While we were at the 2016 SHOT Show, we tracked down three of the biggest, and most popular, custom barrel makers in the world, and asked them what they recommend to anyone buying their barrels, and why they recommend those procedures. We asked the question, and let the camera run!” Launch the video above to hear the answers — some of which may surprise you.

Long-Term Barrel Care — More Experts Offer Opinions
Apart from the debate about barrel break-in, there is the bigger question of how should you clean and maintain a barrel during its useful life. Some folks like aggressive brushing, other shooters have had success with less invasive methods, using bore foam and wet patches for the most part. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. In reality, there may not be one solution for every barrel. Different fouling problems demand different solutions. For example, solvents that work well for copper may not be the best for hard carbon (and vice-versa).

CLICK HERE for Long Term Barrel Care Article »

Shooting Sports Lohman Barrel

Chip Lohman, former Editor of Shooting Sports USA Magazine, has authored an excellent article on barrel maintenance and cleaning: Let the BARREL Tell You — Match Barrel Care. In this article, Chip shares the knowledge of a dozen experts including respected barrel-makers Frank Green (Bartlein Barrels), John Krieger (Krieger Barrels), Dan Lilja (Lilja Barrels), and Tim North (Broughton Barrels).

“Why worry about a little barrel fouling when the throat is subjected to a brutal 5,600° F volcano at 55,000 PSI? To investigate these and other questions about taking care of a match barrel, we spoke with a dozen experts and share their knowledge in this first of a series of articles.

After listening to folks who shoot, build barrels or manufacture cleaning solvents for a living, we concluded that even the experts each have their own unique recommendations on how to care for a match barrel. But they all agree on one thing — the gun will tell you what it likes best. Because the life expectancy of a match barrel is about 1,500 to 2,500 rounds, the objectives of cleaning one should include: preserve accuracy, slow the erosion, and remove fouling — all without damaging the gun. This article doesn’t claim that one cleaning method is better than the next. Rather, we set out to interject a little science into the discussion and to share some lessons learned from experts in the field.” — Chip Lohman

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May 13th, 2018

Cartridge Headspace — Understanding the Basics

Brownells Headspace Gauge cutaway chamber drawing SAAMI ANSI

Do you know what the inside of a rifle chamber (and throat zone) really looks like? Do you understand the concept of headspace and why it’s important? If not, you should read the Brownells GunTech article Gauging Success – Minimum Headspace and Maximum COL. This article explains the basics of headspace and shows how to measure headspace (and length to lands) in your barrels with precision. The article also explains how to adjust your full-length sizing dies to “bump the shoulder” as needed.

Why is headspace important? The article explains: “Controlling headspace and setting proper C.O.L. also represent improved safety and reduced cost of handloading. Excessive headspace can cause case head separation and gases in excess of 60,000 PSI escaping from a rifle’s chamber. Too little headspace can result in a chamber forced bullet crimp and a bullet that becomes an obstruction more than a properly secured projectile. Excessive C.O.L. can result in a rifling-bound bullet, a condition that could result in spikes of excessive pressure.” [Editor’s NOTE: It is common for competitive benchrest shooters to seat bullets into the rifling. This can be done safely if you reduce your loads accordingly. With some bullets we often see best accuracy .010″ (or more) into the lands. However, this can generate more pressure than the same bullet seated .010″ away from initial lands contact. As with all reloading, start low and work up gradually.]

Brownells Headspace Gauge cutaway chamber drawing SAAMI ANSI

How is headspace specified? Most cartridges used within the United States are defined within ANSI/SAAMI Z299.3-4. Brownells explains: “In the case of the .243 Winchester, as an example, there are pressure specifications, cartridge drawings and, as pictured above, chamber drawings. Armed with a chamber drawing, each manufacturer producing a firearm for the .243 Winchester knows the proper standard dimension to cut chambers and set headspace. Notice there are two headspace reference dimensions for the chamber. The upper is a place in the chamber where the shoulder is .400″ in diameter; the “datum” or “basic” line. The lower is the 1.630″~1.640″ minimum – maximum dimension from the breech face (bolt face) to that point in the chamber that measures .400″.”

The actual headspace of any firearm is the distance from the breech face to the point in the chamber that is intended to prevent forward motion of a cartridge.

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August 27th, 2017

Controlling Grip on Bullet — Why Bushing Size is Only One Factor

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 the ins and outs of neck tension, take some time and read this article carefully.

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 FL 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.

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.

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