July 24th, 2021

USAMU Hosts Rimfire Small Arms Firing School at Camp Perry

CMP USAMU SFC Brandon Green SAFS small arms rimfire firing school camp perry
Junior shooter receives instruction from 3-time National High Power Champion SFC Brandon Green. This kid is a lucky young fellow — you won’t find a more qualified instructor than SFC Green!

The USAMU Service Rifle Team recently arrived at Camp Perry. Today, the day before the big National Rimfire Sporter Match, USAMU team instructors conducted a Small Arms Firing School session for rimfire shooters. This was done in cooperation with the CMP, which will host hundreds of Rimfire Sporter shooters tomorrow July 25, 2021. Today, the CMP conducted the official Rimfire Sporter Check-In. Competitors had their rifles weighed and triggers tested. To ensure that expensive match rifles don’t dominate the competition, all Rimfire Sporter rifles are limited to 7.5 pounds overall weight while the rifles’ triggers must break at 3.0 pounds or higher.

CMP USAMU SFC Brandon Green SAFS small arms rimfire firing school camp perry
CMP USAMU SFC Brandon Green SAFS small arms rimfire firing school camp perry
CMP USAMU SFC Brandon Green SAFS small arms rimfire firing school camp perry

The USAMU posted: “If you think things are a little too quiet around here, hang in there because High Power shooting will begin next week.”

SSG Brandon Green

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July 18th, 2021

Precision Reloading for Handguns — Smart Tips from the USAMU

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading
SSG Greg Markowski of the USAMU at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Today is the final day of pistol competition for the National Matches at Camp Perry. Many of the best pistol shooters in the country will be on the firing line, including members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Service Pistol team. Today, July 18th, the handgun phase of the CMP National Matches concludes with the Oliver Hazard Perry Pop-Up Pistol Match, Military & Police Pistol Match, 1911 As-Issued Pistol Match, and Glock Match. After the last match, trophies and awards will be presented to the top shooters.

If you want to compete in top competitions like this, you’ll need good ammo. The following USAMU article provides rock-solid reloading advice, explaining how to load accurate, reliable handgun ammo.

Camp Perry Pistol competition 2014
Camp Perry NM pistol firing line from CMP Photo Archives.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) fields pistol teams as well as rifle and shotgun competition squads. Consequently the USAMU’s Reloading Shop loads tens of thousands of pistol rounds every year. In this article, the USAMU’s handgun experts talk about reloading for handguns — with smart tips on how to achieve superior accuracy with 100% reliability. This article, which offers important insights on COAL, primers, crimps and more.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

Precision Pistol Reloading — Recommended Methods

Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. 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. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice ReloadingUse Consistent Brass
Brass is also 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/handloader to use brass of the same headstamp and ideally one lot number, to maximize uniformity. Given the volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. 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.

Importance of Uniform COAL
Uniformity of the Case Overall Length (COAL) as it comes from the factory is also 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, and so on. Cartridge case-length consistency varies from lot to lot, as well as by maker. Some manufacturers are more consistent in this dimension than others. [Editor’s note: It is easy to trim pistol brass to uniform length. Doing this will make your taper crimps much more consistent.]

Primers and Powders — Comparison Test for Accuracy
Pay attention to primer brands, powder types and charges. Evaluating accuracy with a Ransom or other machine rest at 50 yards can quickly reveal the effect of changes made to handload recipes.

Bullet Selection — FMJ vs. JHP
Bullets are another vital issue. First, there is the question of FMJ vs. JHP. A friend of this writer spent decades making and accuracy-testing rifle and pistol bullets during QC for a major bullet manufacturer. In his experience, making highly-accurate FMJ bullets is much more difficult than making highly-accurate JHPs, in large part due to the way the jackets are formed. Small die changes could affect accuracy of FMJ lots dramatically.

The CMP now allows “safe, jacketed ammunition” in Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) Service Pistol matches, although wadcutter ammunition is prohibited. Thus, the option to use very accurate JHP designs simplifies the life of CMP Service Pistol shooters in pursuit of the prestigious Distinguished Pistol Shot badge.

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to any pistol shooters interested in accurate handloads, not just “Bullseye” shooters. Small tweaks to one’s normal routine can pay big dividends in improved accuracy and make practice and competition more rewarding.

Stay safe, and good shooting!

TOP IMAGE: SSG Greg Markowski, a shooter/instructor with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and native of Poland, fires his pistol during the 2018 Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Pistol Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio July 13, 2018. At that event, Markowski claimed the General Mellon Trophy, General Patton Trophy and the General Custer Trophy. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato/released by Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

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July 16th, 2021

Cartridge Efficiency — Factors to Consider

USAMU Handloading Guide Facebook cartridge efficiency

Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion.

USAMU Handloading Guide Facebook cartridge efficiency

Cartridge Efficiency: A Primer (pun intended!) by USAMU Staff

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) published a series of reloading articles on its Facebook Page. In this article, the USAMU discusses cartridge case efficiency and its benefits. While this is oriented primarily toward NRA High Power Rifle and Long Range (1000-yard) competition, these factors also apply to medium/big game hunters. Assuming one’s rifle and ammunition are accurate, key considerations include ballistic performance (i.e., resistance to wind effects, plus trajectory), recoil, and throat erosion/barrel life.

Efficient cartridges make excellent use of their available powder and case/bore capacity. They yield good ballistic performance with relatively little recoil and throat erosion. A classic example in the author’s experience involved a featherweight 7x57mm hunting/silhouette rifle. When loaded to modern-rifle pressures, just 43-44 grains of powder pushed a 139gr bullet at 2900 fps from its 22” barrel. Recoil in this light rifle was mild; it was very easy to shoot well, and its performance was superb.

An acquaintance chose a “do everything” 7mm Remington Magnum for use on medium game at short ranges. A larger, heavier rifle, it used ~65 grains of powder to achieve ~3200 fps with similar bullets — from its 26″ barrel. Recoil was higher, and he was sensitive to it, which hampered his shooting ability.

Similarly efficient calibers include the 6mm BR [Norma], and others. Today’s highly-efficient calibers, such as 6mm BR and a host of newer developments might use 28-30 grains of powder to launch a 105-107gr match bullet at speeds approaching the .243 Winchester. The .243 Win needs 40-45 grain charges at the same velocity.

Champion-level Long Range shooters need every ballistic edge feasible. They compete at a level where 1″ more or less drift in a wind change could make the difference between winning and losing. Shooters recognized this early on — the then-new .300 H&H Magnum quickly supplanted the .30-06 at the Wimbledon winner’s circle in the early days.

The .300 Winchester Magnum became popular, but its 190-220gr bullets had their work cut out for them once the 6.5-284 and its streamlined 140-142gr bullets arrived on the scene. The 6.5-284 gives superb accuracy and wind performance with about half the recoil of the big .30 magnums – albeit it is a known barrel-burner.

Currently, the 7mm Remington Short Action Ultra-Magnum (aka 7mm RSAUM), is giving stellar accuracy with cutting-edge, ~180 grain bullets, powder charges in the mid-50 grain range and velocities about 2800+ fps in long barrels. Beyond pure efficiency, the RSAUM’s modern, “short and fat” design helps ensure fine accuracy relative to older, longer cartridge designs of similar performance.

Recent design advances are yielding bullets with here-to-fore unheard-of ballistic efficiency; depending on the cartridge, they can make or break ones decision. Ballistic coefficients (“BC” — a numerical expression of a bullet’s ballistic efficiency) are soaring to new heights, and there are many exciting new avenues to explore.

The ideal choice [involves a] balancing act between bullet BCs, case capacity, velocity, barrel life, and recoil. But, as with new-car decisions, choosing can be half the fun!

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Cartridges
For competitive shooters… pristine accuracy and ballistic performance in the wind are critical. Flat trajectory benefits the hunter who may shoot at long, unknown distances (nowadays, range-finders help). However, this is of much less importance to competitors firing at known distances.

Recoil is an issue, particularly when one fires long strings during competition, and/or multiple strings in a day. Its effects are cumulative; cartridges with medium/heavy recoil can lead to shooter fatigue, disturbance of the shooting position and lower scores.

For hunters, who may only fire a few shots a year, recoil that does not induce flinching during sight-in, practice and hunting is a deciding factor. Depending on their game and ranges, etc., they may accept more recoil than the high-volume High Power or Long Range competitor.

Likewise, throat erosion/barrel life is important to competitive shooters, who fire thousands of rounds in practice and matches, vs. the medium/big game hunter. A cartridge that performs well ballistically with great accuracy, has long barrel life and low recoil is the competitive shooter’s ideal. For the hunter, other factors may weigh more heavily.

Cartridge Efficiency and Energy — Another Perspective
Former Lapua staffer Kevin Thomas explains that efficiency can be evaluated in terms of energy:

“Cartridge efficiency is pretty straight forward — energy in vs. energy out. Most modern single-based propellants run around 178-215 ft/lbs of energy per grain. These figures give the energy potential that you’re loading into the rifle. The resulting kinetic energy transferred to the bullet will give you the efficiency of the round. Most cases operate at around 20-25% efficiency. This is just another way to evaluate the potential of a given cartridge. There’s a big difference between this and simply looking at max velocities produced by various cartridges.”

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July 6th, 2021

Fitness Training Methods for Older Shooters

conditioning fitness training older shooters

The following article by Tom Alves describes a very practical approach to physical training for those of us who are not as young and spry as we once were. Tom shows us how to give our bodies at least some of the maintenance we give our rifles. While we all realize that our rifles will outlive us, let’s see if we can’t narrow the margin a bit with some personal maintenance that just might help the shooting too!
This article originally appeared in the Rifleman’s Journal, and appears with permission of GS Arizona.

A Suggested Training Approach for Older Shooters

By Tom Alves
conditioning fitness training older shootersMost articles and discussions regarding competitive shooting center around equipment. Now and then one will come across an article about physical training such as the USAMU piece on Physical Conditioning for Highpower Shooting. If you break the articles down they often discuss “core strength” and durability. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate on those points with a bit different perspective. Many of the articles you will read in books about position shooting and the one mentioned before are directed more toward the younger generation of shooters in their 20’s. If you look down the line at a typical high power match these days you are likely to see quite a few folks who are in their middle 30’s and up. Many people in that age range have had broken bones and wear and tear on their joints so a training program needs to take that into account. For instance, while jogging for an extended period for heart and lung conditioning — often called cardio exercises — may be the recommended approach for younger folks, it may be totally inappropriate for older people. The procedure to repair meniscus tears in knees is one of the most frequently performed operations in this country. Another approach one often sees in training to improve core strength is the use of weight machines which isolate certain muscle groups in their operation. I would like to suggest an alternative approach that not only does not require special equipment but uses the body’s muscles in a coordinated fashion in the same way they are used in our natural movements. So, let’s set down some criteria:

1. The approach has to be low impact to conserve joints.

2. One goal is to improve the strength of the core muscles which are the muscles of our trunk that keep us erect and from where all movements initiate.

3. Along with core strength we need flexibility and full range of motion.

4. We want to improve our lung and heart function so we can have a good flow of oxygen going to our organs and muscles to reduce the rate at which we become fatigued during a competitive event.

Before I continue I believe it is appropriate for the reader to understand that I am a fellow shooter and this is a program I have designed for myself based on considerable reading and experience over a number of years. I am not a medical doctor, a formally trained exercise professional or any other type of specialist in the field. Consequently, this information is offered with the advice that you consult your medical advisor or similar authority before you embark on this or any similar regimen.

I will start with core strength and flexibility. Pilates exercises are resistance exercises that can incorporate the use of resistance bands, light weights and the weight of your body parts in order to strengthen the muscles in the abdomen, back, hips, chest and shoulders. The exercises can be performed alone but I recommend attending classes put on by a certified instructor who will ensure that you perform a balanced routine meaning you work on the front and back and both sides of your trunk. As to flexibility, yoga complements Pilates exercises and they are often taught together. In practical terms yoga strengthens through resistance using the weight of the body and increases flexibility by stretching the various muscle groups in a coordinated fashion. Some yoga exercises also work on balance which is helpful in position shooting and life in general. Again, I suggest attending formal yoga classes since an instructor can help you address such things as a joint misalignment. As an example, my right leg healed improperly after the femur was broken and my right foot splays out putting undue load on my left knee. There are a number of books available on Pilates and yoga and some of them get pretty involved; I leave that to the reader to explore. I will list some reference material at the end of the article that I have found useful.

Finally, heart and lung improvement. In order to exercise the heart and lungs while not abusing the joints, particularly the knees and hips, one has to resort to something other than jogging. Walking, bicycling, elliptical machines and swimming may be alternative methods you’d like to consider. Based on my reading, in order to get the most benefit it is important to exercise so that the pulse rate becomes elevated for periods of time rather than kept at a constant rate. The process I use, called PACE, is promoted by Al Sears, MD, http://www.alsearsmd.com/. It is interval training for the non-athlete. In simple terms one exercises, using whatever equipment one desires, to achieve a heart rate in which you are slightly above your ability to bring enough oxygen into your body to sustain the activity for an extended period. This is similar to wind sprints for a sprinter or a football player. After each episode you must rest until you have achieved recovery, meaning you can catch your breath easily. A series of three sets is recommended which covers a total time of about 20 minutes.

Report from the Author — Yes, Training Helps
As a result of this training program I have experienced increased strength in my legs and trunk, less joint stiffness, lower blood pressure, and lower resting pulse rate. The Pilates/yoga classes are usually attended 2 to 3 times a week and the interval training performed twice a week. [The author was 64 when this was first published. He is now 75, and still shooting Palma and Smallbore prone.]

conditioning fitness training older shooters

Before I close I would like to touch briefly on two other related subjects: hydration and visual training. When one is exerting oneself, the body produces perspiration to keep the body’s temperature at an acceptable level. As one perspires the blood gets thicker and the ocular fluid in one’s eyes thickens as well. The heart has to work harder to supply oxygen and nutrients to the body so visual and cognitive functions degrade and fatigue sets in rapidly. Essential chemicals called electrolytes are also carried out of the body with the perspiration. As a result, it is necessary to replace moisture and electrolytes to maintain basic health and a competitive level of performance. If one goes on the Internet there is a multitude of articles on hydration. Due to the kindness of my lead Pilates/yoga instructor, Ms. Annette Garrison, I have a pretty comprehensive article on various aspects of hydration that I have included, http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/hyponatremia-other-side-hydration-story , for your information.

conditioning fitness training older shootersLast I want to mention visual performance training. The New Position Rifle Shooting, A How-To Guide for Shooters and Coaches by Bill Pullum and Frank Hanenkrat mentions sports vision training amongst other aspects of vision in competitive shooting. If one goes on the Internet you will find training programs directed at golfers, baseball and football players. There is one site that has a demo which, if one looks at it for long, it is obviously very similar to a shooting gallery video game. The training involves rapid recognition and hand-eye coordination. Another source of visual training exercises, along with a wealth of other information, is the book Prone And Long Range Rifle Shooting by Nancy Tompkins.

Hopefully, I have provided some information which will be helpful in improving shooting performance and extending the time you can participate at a competitive level. It is important that you proceed at your own pace. I have pushed myself too hard in the interval training and now have to back off a bit. In closing I would like to thank Annette Garrison and GS Arizona for their help, patience and encouragement.

Additional Reference Material

1. Framework by Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD
This is required reading for anybody who has suffered an injury like a torn meniscus or has muscular skeletal issues. This is the book that led me to Pilates/yoga

2 P.A.C.E., The Twelve Minute Fitness Revolution by Al Sears, MD
The approach I use to interval training. I am sure there are other sources.

3. Physical Conditioning For Highpower Shooting by SGT Walter E. Craig, USAMU

4. Rifle, Steps To Success by Launi Meili

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June 28th, 2021

USAMU Wins Interservice Team Match at Quantico

2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match USAMU Quantico Virginia

This past weekend, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Service Rifle Team won the 2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match held in Quantico, Virginia. The USAMU squad finished with an impressive score of 4918-185X! This competition features 10-person teams. All the shooters have to perform well to secure the team victory.

2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match USAMU Quantico Virginia

This is a tough match, shot with multiple positions at 200, 300, and 600 yards. In this course of fire, all members of a 10-person team complete the following stages:

Stage 1 at 200 yards — 10 standing, slow fire shots with a total time of 66 minutes.
Stage 2 at 200 yards — 10 sitting from standing, rapid fire shots within 60 seconds per shooter.
Stage 3 at 300 yards — 10 prone from standing, rapid fire shots within 70 seconds per shooter.
Stage 4 at 600 yards — 20 prone, slow fire shots with a total time of 126 minutes.

2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match USAMU Quantico Virginia
2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match USAMU Quantico Virginia

Team members were: Sgt. 1st Class Walter Craig (coach), Lt. Col. Erik Andreasen (captain), Staff Sgt. Erin McNeil (497-21X), Sgt. Brandon Muske (495-22X), Sgt. Jarrod McGaffic (495-18X), Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Green (494-20X), Sgt. Jared Desrosiers (494-15x), Staff Sgt. David Bahten (492-19X), Spc. Kade Jackovich (492-17X), Spc. Luke Rettmer (489-16X) Staff Sgt. Verne Conant (487-13X) and Sgt. Lane Ichord (483-24x).

2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match USAMU Quantico Virginia SSG Erin McNeil

By earning the top score in this match, SSG Erin McNeil (shown above) also earned the Lt. Col. Reynolds Trophy. SGT Muske placed second in this category. The 2021 Interservice Match at Quantico concludes today with the well-known Infantry Trophy Team Match. See more Interservice match photos at: USAMU Flickr Archive (742 images).

2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match USAMU Quantico Virginia
2021 Interservice Rifle Team Championship Match USAMU Quantico Virginia

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June 27th, 2021

SSG Erin McNeil Wins 2021 Interservice Rifle Championship

USAMU SSG sergeant Erin McNeil wins 2021 Interservice Rifle Championship smallbore high power

The U.S. Armed Services’ new champion is a young lady. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (SSG) Erin McNeil claimed the 2021 Interservice Individual Rifle Champion title with an impressive score of 996-52X, beating out 86 other service members. That score also earned Erin the title of High Woman. The 2021 Interservice Rifle Championships (IRC) continued with other events, including the 1000-yard match. Shown below is SSG McNeil competing in the IRC 1K Match.

USAMU SSG sergeant Erin McNeil wins 2021 Interservice Rifle Championship smallbore high power

Staff Sgt. Erin McNeil hails from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She has a B.S. in Mathematics from Texas Christian University (TCU), and holds the military occupational specialty of battle management system operator. With the USAMU, SSG McNeil has served on the International Shooting Team and the Service Rifle Team. As a USAMU team member, SSG McNeil has earned the President’s 100 Tab, Rifleman’s EIC Badge, and Bronze Medal at the 2014 World Championship in 3-Position/50m Smallbore Rifle.

McNeil started shooting through a 4-H program while in the 8th grade and then shot in college with the TCU Rifle Team. Now, she serves as a shooter/instructor on the USAMU International Rifle Team. In the video below, SSG McNeil talks about her career in competitive shooting, and what she enjoys most about rifle competition — both smallbore and High Power. She notes she gets enjoys instructing young high school and collegiate shooters.

USAMU SSG sergeant Erin McNeil wins 2021 Interservice Rifle Championship smallbore high power

Erin enjoys shooting competition because “It’s really between you and the gun. It’s a very mental game. I think shooting is a great sport… as long as you are able to compete within yourself.”

USAMU SSG sergeant Erin McNeil wins 2021 Interservice Rifle Championship smallbore high power

Like Father, Like Daughter — Both Great Shooters
Erin noted: “My father was very influential in my shooting career. As a child, I looked up to him. I knew that he had been a world-class shooter in his youth. He asked me a few times if I would be interested in starting the 4H Rifle program He was excited when I started showing interest in the program. Although he never coached me for fear of crossing the father/daughter relationship with the athlete/coach relationship, but he was always my biggest supporter and even gave assistance when I asked for it. I had a natural talent for shooting and ended up joining my high school’s Army JROTC. I was given a NCAA scholarship; to TCU during my senior year. After completing college, I was accepted into the USAMU. My dad [was] the quiet, proud encourager of my shooting career[.]”

Words of Praise for SSG Erin McNeil from Facebook

“The nice thing about shooting sports is men and women can compete against each other and be on equal footing. Congratulations on the win!” — Doug Fraser

“Congrats Sergeant McNeil from an old shooter from the 1964 ARADCOM Interservice Rattle Battle matches at Fort Carson Colorado, Ft. Campbell, Ft Sheridan, et cetera. You make me proud of all you folks who carry on the tradition.” — Walter Colbert

“I’ve watched Erin shoot while I was calling the matches from the Tower at the Camp Perry smallbore championships. [She was] never bothered and never ruffled. Just keeps shooting those Xs.” — Ken Kelley

USAMU SSG sergeant Erin McNeil wins 2021 Interservice Rifle Championship smallbore high power
USAMU SSG sergeant Erin McNeil wins 2021 Interservice Rifle Championship smallbore high power

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June 19th, 2021

Accuracy, Velocity, and Temp Stability — Can You Optimize ALL?

USAMU Reloading tips Handloading Hump Day

This USAMU article explores three different “Philosophies” of precision reloading. Some handloaders seek to produce ammo that yields the very tightest groups (without factoring in the wind). Other shooters load their ammo to deliver the highest safe velocity. That’s because a projectile launched at higher velocity will drift less in the wind. The theory is that even if fast ammo doesn’t produce the tightest groups in zero wind conditions, it will yield higher scores in a the real world (where the wind blows). Lastly, some handloaders favor ammo that is ultra-consistent across a wide temperature range. This last philosophy dictates selection of a powder that is temp-insensitive, even if it may not produce the very best raw accuracy (or speed).

USAMU Reloading tips Handloading Hump Day

What’s Your Handloading Philosophy?

Objectives of Reloading — Accuracy, Velocity, Temp Stability
What do you, the reader, primarily value in your handloads?

Viewpoint ONE: Accuracy Trumps Everything
Some shooters prize consistent, excellent medium/long range accuracy enough that they’re willing to give up some extra velocity (and reduced wind deflection) to obtain that. Their underlying philosophy could be stated: “Superior accuracy is present for every shot, but the wind isn’t”. One’s ability to hold well, aim well and read the wind are all factors in making this type decision. The photo below shows stellar raw accuracy. This is an 0.67″, 10-shot group at 300-yards fired from a text fixture. The group measures just 0.67″. (This shows the USAMU’s 600-yard load with 75gr bullets).

Viewpoint TWO: Load to Highest Safe Velocity for Less Wind Drift
Some shooters value obtaining the highest safe velocity, even if one’s pure, consistent mechanical accuracy at medium/long range isn’t quite as brilliant. The theory here seems to be that a really good hold extracts as much mechanical accuracy from the rifle/ammo as possible, and faster bullets equal occasional “bonus” points snatched from the jaws of wind.

[For example] one of the USAMU’s many Service Rifle National Champions revealed his philosophy. It can be stated thus: a super-accurate, but [relatively] “slow” load “required him to have a Ph.D. in wind reading for every shot, while a faster, but less accurate load netted him more points.”

Note — this was not mere speculation; his score book data backed up his claims, due to less wind effects. Remember, however, this fellow has a consistent, National Championship-level hold, and other Champions on the same team would have opted differently.

USAMU velocity chronograph testing

Viewpoint THREE: Temperature Stability Is Key
Still another approach is to place heavy emphasis on fine accuracy with absolute stability in changing temperatures. When this writer was actively earning his Distinguished Rifleman badge, that was his goal. The reason? Sighting shots are not allowed in EIC (“Leg”) matches. The first shot out of the barrel was for score. It had to be 100% consistent, with very reliable, predictable elevation and wind deflection regardless of the ambient temperature — even if it wasn’t the lowest wind deflection possible.

Naturally, selecting a powder that is insensitive to temperature changes is a key element here. Elevation zeros and wind effects HAD to be consistent every time. Hunters and military snipers might be among those who fall into this camp, as well as those in pursuit of their Distinguished Rifleman badges.

Contrast that with a traditional High Power shooter who gets two sighter shots before each event (offhand, sitting rapid, prone rapid, prone slow fire.) If there is a zero change on any given day, he/she can correct during sighters. This writer well remembers talking with another very high-level Service Rifle competitor who was happy to have high temperatures boost the velocities of his ammunition above their usual level… As far as this SR competitor was concerned, 60-80 fps more velocity -– even if only due to high ambient temperatures -– meant less wind deflection, and he was mighty happy to have it.

summer temperature chart USAMU loading tips

Particularly in the summer, with hot daily conditions, you need to be concerned about temperature stability. Loads worked up in winter may not work in the summer time.

This article has been confined to NRA High Power Rifle competition, which has relatively generous 10-ring dimensions in relation to the accuracy of well-built competition rifles. Hopefully, it will provide food for thought. For some, this might be an opportunity to ensure that one’s load development approach helps them attain their desired results.

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June 12th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cleaning Lake City 5.56 brass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accuracy Potential of Mil-Surp 5.56×45 Brass

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

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

Saving Money by Using GI Brass

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

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

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

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June 3rd, 2021

Match Etiquette: Be Prepared, Know the Rules and Course of Fire

Match Etiquette USAMU Course of Fire Rules SFC Norman Anderson CMP Rulebook NRA

Match Etiquette USAMU Course of Fire Rules SFC Norman Anderson CMP Rulebook NRA

Don’t Be “That Guy” (The Bad Apple on the Firing Line)

By SFC Norman Anderson, USAMU Service Rifle Team Member
You know the guy, he’s still talking at the coffee jug when his preparation period begins, then his magazines aren’t loaded when the command “STAND” is given, and finally, he doesn’t know the rules when he argues with the block officer as his target comes up marked “9 and No”. Although this guy might be the highlight of the “after match” activities, he is the proverbial bad apple on the firing line. With this example fresh in your mind, let’s go over how not to be “that guy”.

While the sport of High Power shooting is a hobby for most, all are passionate about performance throughout the day. In order to achieve your maximum performance each and every day, it is essential that you conduct yourself as a professional competitor. As a competitor, you have a personal responsibility to know the course of fire as well as the rules and procedures that apply to it and to be prepared to follow them. Knowing this will not only make you a better competitor, but it will enable you to resolve situations with other targets besides your own. So what does all this mean? I’ll explain…

Know the Course of Fire
Know the course of fire. It sounds easy enough, as we all shoot plenty of matches, but it’s more than that. If you think about it, how many people in the pits, for example, do not really know what is happening on the firing line? This leads to targets being pulled early during a rapid fire string or missing a shot during a slow fire string. In cases like this, the result is the same, delays in the match and upset competitors. To avoid being “that guy,” it is imperative that you stay tuned to the events as the day progresses. When you are at the range shooting a match, be at the range shooting the match.

At any firearms competition — be sure you know (and understand) the course of fire.
CMP Match Etiquette

Match Etiquette USAMU Course of Fire Rules SFC Norman Anderson CMP Rulebook NRAKnow the Rules
Now, let’s discuss rules. As you have probably heard more than once, the rulebook is your best friend. Here is why. I can virtually guarantee that most competitors know some of the rules based only on the old “this is how we do it at home” adage. The funny part of that is, the same green NRA rulebook and orange CMP rulebooks are used to govern High Power matches all over the country.*

It is vital that all shooters be familiar with the rules as they are written, not with “how they are applied at home”. This creates consistency and continuity in how matches are conducted, from local club matches to state tournaments to National Championships. Knowledge is power when it comes to scoring targets under contention, what to do in the case of a malfunction, or even how to file a protest correctly. These rules are in place for a reason and it benefits everyone to both know and operate by these rules.

Maintain Composure and Humility — Exhibit Good Sportsmanship
One aspect of competing that cannot be forgotten is bearing. As I mentioned earlier, you must be prepared for both good and bad to happen. All too often we all see “that guy” (or that “that guy’s” gear) flying off of the firing line in disgust. Remember that we all must maintain our composure and humility in all conditions, not matter what happens. After all, it’s just a game. To put it into perspective, if it were easy, attendance would be a lot higher. Sportsmanship must be displayed in an effort to keep from ruining the day for all those around you. It doesn’t cost anything to smile, and smiling never killed anyone. So turn that frown upside down and keep on marching, better days will come.

Like a Boy Scout — Always Be Prepared
Lastly, I would like to cover preparedness. Being prepared goes beyond simply having your magazines loaded and a zero on your rifle. It means approaching the firing line, knowing what you are about to do, being ready for what is going to happen (good or bad), and being ready for the results. If you approach the firing line to merely shoot 10 shots standing in your next LEG match, you are not going to be pleased with the result. You must be prepared mentally and physically, not only for the next stage, but also the next shot. By being prepared physically (equipment ready), you give yourself peace of mind which is an essential part of being prepared mentally, and by being prepared mentally, you are less likely to become distracted and are more likely to maintain focus for each and every shot.

Conclusion — Informed Competitors Make for Better Matches
The culmination of these efforts results in a shooter that knows how to be ready for success on the range, but also and perhaps more importantly, a shooter who knows what it means to be a competitor. When you have a range full of competitors who know and follow the rules and proper match procedures, the match runs smoothly, everyone shoots well, and a good time is had by all. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?


* After this article was originally written, the CMP separated its rules into multiple Rulebooks:

The 2020-21 8th Edition of the CMP Games Rifle and Pistol Competition Rules for CMP-sanctioned matches for As-Issued Military Rifle and Pistol events including Special M9 and M16 EIC Matches, and Service Pistol, and Rimfire Sporter.

The 2020-21 24th Edition CMP Highpower Competition Rules for CMP-sponsored and sanctioned matches for Highpower Rifle events in National Trophy Matches, Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) Matches, CMP Cup Matches and other CMP-sanctioned competitions.

The 2020-21 24th Edition CMP Pistol Competition Rules for CMP-sponsored and sanctioned Pistol Matches in the National Matches, National Trophy Matches, Excellence-In-Competition (EIC) Matches, and other CMP-sanctioned competitions.

This article by SFC Norman Anderson originally appeared in the CMP First Shot Online Magazine.

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May 20th, 2021

Removing Primer Crimps from Military Brass — Tools & Methods

Marksmanship Unit USAMU Army reloading primer pocket crimp milsurp brass reloading tip swage crimps

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) regularly releases a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. Here’s a helpful USAMU guide on removing military primer pocket crimps. If you ever use surplus military brass, you really should this article. It contains vital information “learned the hard way”. The writer has tried many different options for removing/swaging out crimps. He weighs the pros and cons of various methods and provides some advice that will save you time and headaches. This article was the second in a 3-part series. Visit the USAMU Facebook page regularly for other informative articles on reloading methods.

A common question, and important issue with US GI surplus 5.56 brass is “what to do with the primer crimp?” Our Handloading Shop does not prime/re-prime GI 5.56 brass, as we receive it in virgin state (primed) and don’t reload it. However, our staff has extensive private experience handloading GI brass in our own competitive shooting careers, and have several tips to offer.

Once the brass is full-length sized and decapped, the staked-in ring of displaced metal from the primer crimp remains, and hinders re-priming. Some swaging tools exist to swage out this ring, allowing free access to the primer pocket. Some are stand-alone products, and some are reloading-press mounted. Early in this writer’s High Power career, he used the common press-mounted kit several times, with less than stellar results.

Setting Up Swaging Tools
Surplus brass tends to come from mixed lots, and primer crimp varies from very mild to strong. Also, primer pocket dimensions vary. So, setting up this “one size fits most” tool involves trying to find a happy medium for a selection of different types of brass in your particular lot. Some are over-swaged, some under-swaged, and some are “Just Right.” Overall, it was a time-consuming and sub-optimal process, in this writer’s experience.

Cutting Out the Crimp Ring with a Chamfer Tool
[After trying swaging tools] this writer evolved to using the ubiquitous Wilson/RCBS/Other brands chamfer and deburring tool to cut out only the displaced crimp ring at the top of the primer pocket. One caution: DON’T OVER-DO IT! Just a little practice will let the handloader develop a “feel” for the right degree of chamfer that permits easy re-priming without removing so much metal that primer edges start to flow under pressure. For this writer, it was three half-turns of the tool in the primer pocket, with medium pressure.

Here, as with all bulk reloading operations, mechanization is our friend. A popular reloading supply house has developed an inexpensive adaptor that houses the chamfer/deburr tool (retained by an allen screw) and allows mounting in a hand drill or drill press. This speeds the operation significantly, as does use of one of the popular Case Preparation Stations that feature multiple powered operations. (Say good-bye to carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis!)

military crimp removal USAMU

One advantage of chamfering the primer pockets lightly to remove remnants of primer crimp, vs. swaging, is that primer pockets are not loosened in this process. US GI (usually LC) NATO 5.56 brass has a great reputation for longevity due to the superior hardness of the case head vs. some softer brands of commercial brass. This means the brass will stand up well to multiple full-pressure loads without loosening primer pockets, and the chamfering method helps support this benefit.

Powered Case Prep Centers — What to Look For
A word of advice (often learned the hard way) — think carefully before jumping on the “latest/greatest” case prep center. One with a proven, long-time track record of durability and excellent customer support has a lot going for it, vs. the flashy “new kid on the block.” Analyze the functions each case prep center can support simultaneously — i.e., can it chamfer, deburr and clean primer pockets all at the same time, without having to re-configure?

Do the tool-heads that come with it look truly functional and durable? If not, can they be easily replaced with proven or more-needed versions, such as a VLD chamfer tool, or a solid/textured primer pocket cleaner rather than a less-durable wire-brush type?

military crimp removal USAMUTips for Priming with Progressive Presses
When re-priming, a couple of factors are worth noting. When re-priming using either single-stage presses, hand tools, or bench-mounted tools (such as the RCBS bench-mounted priming tool), precise alignment of the primer pocket entrance with the primer is easily achieved, and priming goes very smoothly. When using certain progressive presses, due to the tolerances involved in shell-heads, etc., one may occasionally encounter a primer that isn’t quite perfectly aligned with the primer pocket.

If resistance is felt when attempting to re-prime, DO NOT attempt to force the primer in — doing so can be dangerous! Rather, just exert SLIGHT upward pressure to keep the primer in contact with the case-head, and with the support hand, move the case back/forth a trifle. The primer will drop into alignment with the primer pocket, and then prime as usual. After priming, check each seated primer by feel. Ensure it is below flush with the case head (cleaning primer pockets helps here), and that there are no snags, burrs or deformed primers.


More Info on Primer Pocket Swaging
For more information about removing military crimps in primer pockets, we recommend you read Get the Crimp Out on the Squibloads Gun Thoughts Blog. This is a detailed, well-illustrated article that shows how to use various primer pocket reamers/cutters. It also has a very extensive discussion of swaging using CH4D, RCBS, and Dillon tools. The Squibloads author had much better luck with swaging tools than did the USAMU’s writer — so if you are considering swaging, definitely read the Squibloads article.

The illustration of primer pocket types is from the Squibloads Blog Article, Get the Crimp Out.

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May 13th, 2021

3-Time Nat’l HP Champ SFC Brandon Green — Fast with Bolt Gun

Brandon Green World Shooting Championship 2015 high power championship 2013 2018

SFC Brandon Green is a shooting superstar. Green won his third NRA National High Power Rifle Championship in 2018 at Camp Atterbury. He dominated the HP Championship cycle, finishing eight points and ten Xs ahead of his nearest competitor. Brandon also won High Power National Championships in 2015 and 2013. And in 2017 he set all-time Service Rifle Records at the CMP’s National Trophy Matches at Camp Perry. Just two weeks ago, he won the CMP 2400 Overall Aggregate at the 2021 CMP Eastern Games, (2379-97X), setting a new record 497-26X in the EIC Service Rifle match. When he’s “on his game”, SFC Green is very hard to beat. He has no weaknesses, excelling at all positions, both rapid-fire and slow-fire.

Wicked Fast and Smooth…
Brandon Shoots Bolt Gun, Rapid-Fire

In this remarkable video, Brandon shows why he is tough to beat in rapid-fire. Using a Tubb 2000 bolt-action target rifle, Green displays amazing speed working the bolt and then immediately recapturing a rock-steady hold. Our reaction when viewing this video was: “Wow… this guy is beyond good.” We think you’ll agree. Anyone who has shot prone with sling should appreciate the remarkable skills which make Brandon one of the USAMU’s top shooters. Watching this man in action is like watching Michael Jordan in his prime. You’re seeing one of the very best ever…

SFC Brandon Green — 300m Rapid Fire Prone Training with Tubb 2000:

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May 9th, 2021

Sunday GunDay: Tactical Twins – SFC Brandon Green’s PRS Rigs

SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

What does a three-time High Power National Champion choose for PRS comps? A set of twins. Twin rifles that is. SFC Brandon Green of the USAMU is one of America’s best marksmen. He’s excelled in Service Rifle and High Power disciplines, and now he’s getting very serious about the Precision Rifle Series (PRS). Brandon recently took delivery of “Twins” — two impressive rifles optimized for PRS competition. Green told us: “The Twins are ready for business! The silver one is a 6XC and the black one is a 6.5×47 Lapua”. Both rifles feature Impact Precision actions (with AICS-type mags), 24″ Proof stainless barrels, and Fat Bastard muzzle brakes. Rifle work was done by Stuteville Precision (Wade Stuteville) and Exodus Rifles (Joe Walls).

SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks
In the 6XC, Brandon runs Berger 105gr VLDs in Norma 6XC brass. For the 6.5×47 Lapua he shoots 140gr Berger Hybrids or 143gr Hornady ELD-Xs in Lapua brass. Both rifles have stainless steel Proof barrels, but the 6.5x47L has a matte black Cerakote finish.

Brandon loves his new Twins. He said he likes the “feel” of the guns with the Foundation stocks: “These rifles weigh around 17 pounds with optics. They feel very solid under recoil — without the ‘tuning fork’ vibration you can get with a metal-chassis gun. They feel like a good wood-stocked gun, but the material is stronger and more rigid than wood. I’ve heard that guys are having success with these Foundation stocks with the actions installed without pillars or conventional bedding.” Currently Brandon is running both guns without action-screw pillars. He did have one skim-bedded, but he doesn’t think that was really needed. “Both rifles hammer now”, Brandon tells us.

Green Runs Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56mm FFP scopes on both rifles:
SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

High-Tech Micarta Stock Material
At first glance, those stocks may look like wood, but they are actually a special “Micarta” material that is strong, durable, and stable. Micarta, often used for knife handles, is a “a brand name for composites of fiberglass, carbon fiber, or other fabric in a thermosetting plastic.” The stock-maker, Foundation Stocks, says Micarta offers some distinct advantages over laminated wood or conventional fiberglass: “The solid block of material gives us a dense, homogenous material that is absent of any voids or air pockets commonly found in composite stocks. The high compression strength of the material allows us to build an action/DBM specific stock that requires no bedding or pillars. The material is very durable and stable in extreme environments. We use advanced CAD software to design and model our stocks, working in conjunction with action manufacturers and rifle builders to provide exact fitment.”

Here is a close-up of a Foundation Stock showing the distinctive Micarta texture:
SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

Tactical Competition vs. NRA High Power Competition
Brandon says PRS competition is tough: “PRS can be pretty humbling, but it’s been a lot of fun and a great challenge. For a shooter (like me) with a Service Rifle/High Power background, the variations in stages combined with the time limits can be very challenging. And the unusual shooting positions put a new spin on things. PRS is definitely a different ball game, but I really enjoy it.”

SFC Brandon Green 2015 High Power National Championship
SFC Brandon Green honored as the 2015 High Power National Champion. Brandon also won the HP Championship in 2013, and in 2018.

Life before the Twins… Here is Brandon, with his previous PRS rig, at the MasterPiece Arms Precision Rifle Shootout, a PRS event at the CORE Shooting Solutions Range in Florida:

SFC Brandon Green PRS Rifle Micarta Foundation Stocks

SFC Brandon Green
Three-time National High Power Champion SFC Brandon Green (left above) set four new National Records at Camp Perry in 2017, when he won the Service Rifle Championship.

When He’s not Competing in PRS, Brandon Excels with his Service Rifle
This video shows SFC Brandon Green shooting his modern AR Service Rifle in the off-hand (standing), prone (2:20 time), and sitting (3:25 time) positions in competition.

SFC Brandon Green is a shooting superstar. Green won his third NRA National High Power Rifle Championship in 2018 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. He dominated the High Power Championship cycle, finishing eight points and ten Xs ahead of his nearest competitor. Brandon also won High Power National Championships in 2015 and 2013. And in 2017 he set new records at the CMP’s National Trophy Matches at Camp Perry, winning the Service Rifle title. One of the greatest marksmen in the nation’s history, SFC Green excels at all positions, both rapid-fire and slow-fire.

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April 22nd, 2021

AR, Garand, M1A — Six Rules for Semi-Auto Gas Gun Reloading

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

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

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

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

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

Reloading for Service Rifles

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

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

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

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

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

Reloading for Service Rifles

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April 16th, 2021

How Bullet Bearing Surface Length Can Affect Load Pressure

USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparison Safety Reloading
Three near-equal-weight 7mm bullets with different shapes and bearing surface.

This article, from the USAMU Facebook Page, concerns reloading safety. In the relentless quest for more speed and flatter ballistics, some hand-loaders load way too hot, running charges that exceed safe pressure levels. Hint: If you need a mallet to open your bolt, chances are your load is too hot. Stay within safe margins — your equipment will last longer, and you won’t risk an injury caused by over-pressure. In this article, the USAMU explains that you need to account for bullet shape, diameter, and bearing surface when working up a load. Don’t assume that a load which is safe for one bullet will be safe for another even if both bullets are exactly the same weight.

USAMU Reloading tips Army Marksmanship

Today, we continue our handloading safety theme, focusing on not inadvertently exceeding the boundaries of known, safe data. Bullet manufacturers’ loading manuals often display three, four, or more similar-weight bullets grouped together with one set of load recipes. The manufacturer has tested these bullets and developed safe data for that group. However, seeing data in this format can tempt loaders — especially new ones — to think that ALL bullets of a given weight and caliber can interchangeably use the same load data. Actually, not so much.

USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparison Safety Reloading

The researchers ensure their data is safe with the bullet yielding the highest pressure. Thus, all others in that group should produce equal or less pressure, and they are safe using this data.

However, bullet designs include many variables such as different bearing surface lengths, hardness, and even slight variations in diameter. In fact, diameters can occasionally range up to 0.001″ by design. Thus, choosing untested bullets of the same weight and caliber, and using them with data not developed for them can yield excess pressures.

This is only one of the countless reasons not to begin at or very near the highest pressure loads during load development. Always begin at the starting load and look for pressure signs as one increases powder charges.

Bullet Bearing Surface and Pressure
Bullet bearing surface length (BSL) is often overlooked when considering maximum safe powder charges and pressures. In Photo 1, note the differences in the bullets’ appearance. All three are 7 mm, and their maximum weight difference is just five grains. Yet, the traditional round nose, flat base design on the left appears to have much more BSL than the sleeker match bullets. All things being equal, based on appearance, the RN/FB bullet seems likely to reach maximum pressure with significantly less powder than the other two designs.

TECH TIP: Bullets of the same weight (and caliber) can generate very different pressure levels due to variances in Bearing Surface Length (BSL).

USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparison Safety ReloadingBullet 1 (L-R), the RN/FB, has a very slight taper and only reaches its full diameter (0.284 inch) very near the cannelure. This taper is often seen on similar bullets; it helps reduce pressures with good accuracy. The calculated BSL of Bullet 1 was ~0.324″. The BSL of Bullet 2, in the center, was ~0.430″, and Bullet 3’s was ~ 0.463″. Obviously, bullets can be visually deceiving as to BSL!

Some might be tempted to use a bullet ogive comparator (or two) to measure bullets’ true BSL for comparison’s sake. Unfortunately, comparators don’t typically measure maximum bullet diameter and this approach can be deluding.

Note: Due to time constraints, the writer used an approximate, direct measurement approach to assess the bullets’ different BSLs. While fairly repeatable, the results were far from ballistics engineer-grade. Still, they are adequate for this example.

Photo 2: The Perils of Measuring Bearing Surface Length with Comparators
USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparision Safety Reloading

In Photo 2, two 7mm comparators have been installed on a dial caliper in an attempt to measure BSL. Using this approach, the BSLs differed sharply from the original [measurements]. The comparator-measured Bullet 1 BSL was 0.694” vs. 0.324” (original), Bullet 2 was 0.601” (comparator) vs. 0.430” (original), and Bullet 3 (shown in Photo 2) was 0.602” (comparator) vs. 0.463” (original). [Editor’s comment — Note the very large difference for Bullet 1, masking the fact that the true full diameter on this bullet starts very far back. You can use comparators on calipers, but be aware that this method may give you deceptive reading — we’ve seen variances just by reversing the comparators on the calipers, because the comparators, typically, are not perfectly round, nor are they machined to precision tolerances.]

Thanks to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit for allowing the reprint of this article.

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March 23rd, 2021

Trick-Shot Tuesday — Shooting Aspirin Pills Off Inflated Balloon

Balloon pill trick shot trickshot USAMU SPC Ivan Roe

Now here is an example of truly impressive marksmanship skills and amazing aiming from a USAMU soldier. From a standing position, SPC Ivan Roe shoots a tiny aspirin pill off the top of a balloon — without breaking the balloon. In fact, he does this twice … with iron sights no less.

Balloon pill trick shot trickshot USAMU SPC Ivan Roe

Watch Video to See Aspirin Pill Shot Twice off Balloon:

Balloon pill trick shot trickshot USAMU SPC Ivan Roe

The first time the pill sits on a small piece of tape just millimeters above the upper edge of the balloon (Time mark 00:40-45). But the second time, the aspirin pill lies flat on the top on the balloon — an even tougher challenge. Watch Ivan nail that flat pill again without hitting the balloon at 00:59. No that is truly impressive — and remember it was done from standing with Iron sights!

Balloon pill trick shot trickshot USAMU SPC Ivan Roe
SPC Ivan Roe was using a German Feinwerkbau, an elite precision air rifle favored by Olympic and World Cup competitors. Originally from Montana, SPC Roe is a member of the USAMU International Rifle Team.

Did you like this demonstration of Trick-Shot marksmanship? Then visit the USAMU’s Facebook Page. Every Tuesday the USAMU releases a new trick-shot video on Facebook and YouTube. CLICK HERE for the latest USAMU trick-shot video — hitting a poker chip on a fast-moving target frame with a pistol. Very impressive.

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March 3rd, 2021

Marksmanship Training — PRO Tips from the USAMU

USAMU Shooting USA Pro tips

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), in cooperation with Shooting USA TV, has created a series of instructional Pro Tip pages covering a wide range of shooting disciplines. All totaled, there are more than 50 USAMU Pro Tips. Most relate to rifle marksmanship but there are also numerous tips for shotgunners and pistol shooters. Each Pro Tip entry includes multiple photos and 6-15 paragraphs, in an easy-to-follow format. Many Pro Tips also include an instructional video produced by Shooting USA. Here are three Pro Tip videos, and links to seven more Pro Tip web pages.

USAMU TOP TEN PRO TIPS

1. Reading the Wind with SGT Sherri Gallagher.
Apart from gravity, wind has the most pull on the bullet as it travels down range. Being able to accurately read the wind and mirage will greatly enhance your performance on the rifle range. National Champion, SGT Gallagher gives you some of her tips.

2. Angle Shooting with SFC (Ret.) Emil Praslick.
SFC Praslick shows you how to determine the angle to your target, and then how to include that to change your data necessary to hit your target on the first shot.

3. Rifle Grip, Stance and Body Position for 3-Gun with SFC Daniel Horner.
Professional 3-gun marksman SFC Daniel Horner, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU), give tips on how to properly handle a semi-automatic rifle, including grip, stance and body position.

4. Service Rifle Positions (with SFC Brandon Green)

5. Rifling and Twist Rate (with SFC Ret. Emil Praslick)

6. Setting the Right Zero (with SPC Ty Cooper)

7. Practice Drills (with SFC Lance Dement)

8. Using the Sling

9. Getting Your AR Zeroed

10. 3-Gun Rifles By Division (with SFC Daniel Horner)

USAMU Pro Tips Sherri Gallagher Emil Praslick Daniel Horner

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February 27th, 2021

Fundamentals of Marksmanship — Learn from a Champion

USAMU Basic Riflemans Course SFC Brandon Green High Power Shooting Training

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has produced an excellent series of videos covering the Basic Rifleman’s Course. If you are getting started in High Power shooting, or want to improve your position shooting skills, this series is well worth watching. And these videos are not just for service rifle shooters — even bench shooters can benefit from these videos, particularly Part 5, which explains how to estimate wind speed and direction. The lead instructor for these videos is SFC Brandon Green, three-time National High Power Champion, and 2017 Service Rifle Champion. When SFC Green talks, you should listen.

SFC Brandon Green is a shooting superstar. Green won his third NRA National High Power Rifle Championship in 2018 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. He dominated the HP Championship cycle, finishing eight points and ten Xs ahead of his nearest competitor. Brandon also won High Power National Championships in 2015 and 2013. One of the greatest marksmen in the nation’s history, SFC Green excels at all positions, both rapid-fire and slow-fire.

Part 5 — Wind and Weather Estimation (Very Useful for All Shooters)


Note: This video includes a hit location “target analysis” in the first 6 minutes.

Part 4 — Minute of Angle Explained

Part 3 — Ballistics and Zeroing

Part 2 — Positions, Sight Alignment, and Natural Point of Aim (Very Useful)

USAMU Basic Riflemans Course SFC Brandon Green High Power Shooting Training

Part 1 — Aiming and Sight Picture

SFC Brandon Green 2017 CMP Camp Perry USAMU Service Rifle
SFC Brandon Green (left above) has set multiple National Records at Camp Perry.

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February 23rd, 2021

Fitness and Cardio Training for Marksmen — It Makes a Difference

In the archives of The First Shot (the CMP’s Online Magazine), SGT Walter E. Craig of the USAMU discusses physical conditioning for competitive shooters, particularly High Power competitors. Fitness training is an important subject that, curiously, is rarely featured in the shooting sports media. We seem to focus on hardware, or esoteric details of cartridge reloading. Yet physical fitness also matters, particularly for High Power shooters. In his article, Craig advocates: 1) weight training to strengthen the Skeletal Muscle System; 2) exercises to build endurance and stamina; and 3) cardiovascular conditioning programs to allow the shooter to remain relaxed with a controlled heart beat.

SGT Craig explains: “An individual would not enter a long distance race without first spending many hours conditioning his/her body. One should apply the same conditioning philosophy to [shooting]. Physical conditioning to improve shooting skills will result in better shooting performance[.] The objective of an individual physical training program is to condition the muscles, heart, and lungs thereby increasing the shooter’s capability of controlling the body and rifle for sustained periods.”


» CLICK HERE to READ FULL FITNESS ARTICLE

In addition to weight training and cardio workouts (which can be done in a gym), SGT Craig advocates “some kind of holding drill… to develop the muscles necessary for holding a rifle for extended periods.”

For those with range access, Craig recommends a blind standing exercise: “This exercise consists of dry-firing one round, then live-firing one round, at a 200-yard standard SR target. For those who have access only to a 100-yard range, reduced targets will work as well. Begin the exercise with a timer set for 50 minutes. Dry-fire one round, then fire one live round and without looking at the actual impact, plot a call in a data book. Continue the dry fire/live fire sequence for 20 rounds, plotting after each round. After firing is complete, compare the data book to the target. If your zero and position are solid, the plots should resemble the target. As the training days add up and your zero is refined, the groups will shrink and move to the center.”

Brandon Green
Fitness training and holding drills help position shooters reach their full potential.

Training for Older Shooters
Tom Alves has written an excellent article A Suggested Training Approach for Older Shooters. This article discusses appropriate low-impact training methods for older shooters. Tom explains: “Many of the articles you will read in books about position shooting and the one mentioned above are directed more toward the younger generation of shooters in their 20s. If you look down the line at a typical high power match these days you are likely to see quite a few folks who are in their middle 30s and up. Many people in that age range have had broken bones and wear and tear on their joints so a training program needs to take that into account. For instance, while jogging for an extended period for heart and lung conditioning may be the recommended approach for younger folks, it may be totally inappropriate for older people.”

READ FULL ARTICLE by Tom Alves

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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.

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February 14th, 2021

Case Prep 101 — Primer Pockets and Flash Holes

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman
Case Prep Xpress photo courtesy Lyman Products.

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. One “Handloading Hump Day” article covered two basic case prep chores — uniforming primer pockets and deburring flash-holes. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other tips.

USAMU Handloading hump day reloading tips

Primer Pocket & Flash-Hole Conditioning

This week, we’ll address a question that frequently arises: “Do you uniform primer pockets and deburr flash-holes?” As we tailor our handloading methods to the specific needs of each instance, the answer, not surprisingly, is “Sometimes!” However, don’t flip that dial just yet, as what determines our approach may be helpful in deciding how to address one’s own techniques. Moreover, we have a buried “Easter Egg” morsel that may bring a chuckle, as well as useful safety information!

Generally, the USAMU Handloading Shop does not uniform primer pockets (PP) or deburr flash holes (FH) of our rifle brass. We’re certainly not against it… Rather, this reflects the very high volume of ammunition we load, the fact that very few cases are ever re-loaded for a second firing, and the types of brass we use. However, as a need is perceived, we DO deburr flash holes. Of interest, we have fired many very small, 1000-yard test groups and aggregates using weight-selected, domestic brass that had not had PPs uniformed or FHs deburred.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Before and After — On the left is a fired, deprimed 7.62×51 case with primer residue intact. On the right the primer pocket has been uniformed to SAAMI specs. Note the shiny finish at the bottom of the pocket — evidence of the the removal of metal when uniforming the primer pocket.

As to the type cases we use, many thousands of our long-range 5.56mm cases come to us from the arsenal with the primer of our choice pre-installed and staked-in, per usual practice. Obviously, we cannot uniform either FHs or PPs on this live, primed brass. However, after careful sorting, inspection and preparation, we do obtain match-winning results with it.

Shooters who reload their brass several times may decide to uniform PPs and deburr FHs, especially on their “300-yard and beyond” brass. Here, they will use the cases many times, while the uniforming is performed only once. Also, most handloaders only process moderate amounts of brass, compared to our multi-thousand round lots.

Having high quality Long Range (LR) brass helps. Many of the better brass manufacturers [make] their flash holes so that no burrs are created. Still, it does pay to inspect even THESE manufacturer’s products, as occasional slips are inevitable. Very rarely, some of the best makers will have a significant burr in, say, 1 per 1000 or 2000 cases, and it’s worth catching those.

Exceptions can always be found. Recently, we began processing a large lot of match brass from a premier manufacturer. We were startled to find that every case had a significant burr in the FH — something we’d never before seen from this maker. We then broke out the FH deburring tools and went to work.

Some observers have noted that it can be difficult to truly verify the contribution to accuracy of these procedures — particularly when firing from the shoulder, in conditions. Members of this staff, as individual rifle competitors, do often perform these operations on their privately-owned LR rifle brass. One could ascribe this to the old High Power Rifle maxim that “if you think it helps, then it helps.”

However, a World Champion and Olympic Gold/Silver medalist here commented on his own handloading (for International competition, which demands VERY fine accuracy). He noted that he did seem to see a decline in accuracy whenever he did not uniform FHs, deburr FHs and clean primer pockets before each reloading. (One might be tempted to counter that only a truly World Class shooter could reliably detect the difference.) However, with the wisdom of decades experience, our Champion also remarked that “It could have been that I just wasn’t shooting as well that day.”

For those who do opt for these procedures, note that various tool models may have adjustable depth-stops; pay attention to the instructions. Some FH-deburring tools (which enter the case mouth, not the primer pocket) are dependent upon uniform case length for best results.

USAMU Handloading hump day flash hole primer pocket uniforming case prep RCBS Lyman

Above is a flash-hole deburring tool on an RCBS powered case-prep unit. These case prep machines can save a lot of pain and misery, helping one perform various functions quickly and efficiently.

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