August 12th, 2020

Young Soldiers Shoot Smallbore with Dreams of Olympic Glory

USAMU smallbore olympic competition ASSA championships Smallbore

Even with the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is great to see talented young shooters attending competitions — honing their skills with the goal of competing in the next Olympic Games. While few of us have the dedication to become competitive 3-position shooters, soldiers from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) are putting in the hours in the hopes of representing the USA in the World Cup and Olympics.

USAMU smallbore olympic competition ASSA championships SmallboreThe USAMU reports: “With the Smallbore Olympic Trials (Part II) still yet to happen, going to competitions now is even more critical for Olympic hopefuls to prepare. So with added safety precautions, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit International Rifle Team recently competed at the American Smallbore Shooting Association (ASSA) National Championships in Bristol, Indiana.”

After all the .22 LR rounds were sent downrange, USAMU soldiers took up the top four spots in both the Prone and Three-Position individual championships. And the USAMU won a Gold and Silver in the Team Championships. SPC Tim Sherry seized the ASSA National Prone Champion title with the score of 6393-515X. SGT Patrick Sunderman took Silver just one X behind — 6393-514X.

In the Prone Team Championships (shown below), USAMU Soldiers swept the podium. SGT Sunderman and SPC Jared Desrosiers combined for 1600-116X to win the Gold and top honors.

USAMU smallbore olympic competition ASSA championships Smallbore

USAMU Shooters Host Training Clinics
Between all the matches, USAMU Soldiers also conducted two separate junior athlete clinics to help young shooters advance their marksmanship skills. We commend the USAMU team members for helping to bring up the next generation of position shooters.

USAMU smallbore
USAMU shooters on the firing line at a past championship in Bristol, Indiana.

In the Three-Position Rifle Championship, USAMU soldiers again claimed the top four spots. SPC Sagen Maddalena won the ASSA National Three-Position Rifle Champion title with a 2324-102X. First Lt. Sarah Beard took Silver with a 2320-101X.

USAMU smallbore olympic competition ASSA championships Smallbore

The Hardware — High-Tech Rigs with Fully Adjustable Stocks

USAMU Smallbore match rifle Anschutz
Here is a modern Anschutz .22 LR Smallbore 3P Match Rifle.

If you want to get started in 3-Position smallbore shooting, read our Introduction to 3-P Rifle Competition by U.S. Olympian Matt Emmons. For starters, Click image below to launch a BIG full-screen PDF file.

Matt Emmons Smallbore position rifle

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July 29th, 2020

Legendary American Service Rifles on Shooting USA TV

Shooting Usa service rifles

This week Shooting USA TV has a great show, well worth watching. This episode features the history of U.S. military service rifles. Starting with the Trapdoor in 1873, and ending with the M14 in the 1960s, this episode traces 90 years of battle rifle development. This history lesson ends right before the general adoption of the M16 5.56x45mm infantry rifle.

In addition to history, today’s show talks about using Tripods in Precision Rifle Competition. PRS and NRL shooters can learn multiple ways to use a tripod for support during stages. These methods are explained by Staff Sergeant Tyler Payne from the USAMU Action Shooting Team.

Shooting USA airs Wednesday 9:00 PM Eastern and Pacific, 8:00 PM Central on Outdoor Channel. You can also watch Shooting USA any time online via Vimeo.com.

History of American Service Rifles
The Trapdoor was the first cartridge-firing service rifle, replacing cap and ball rifles. Then came the evolution to better, faster-cycling service rifles used in two World Wars, Korea, and the early Vietnam era. Those rifles were the Krag Jorgensen, 1903 Springfield, M1 Garand, and M14.

Shooting USA Krag Jorgensen

The Krag Jorgensen Served 1892 to 1907. First Smokeless Cartridge Rifle.
Caliber: 30-40 Krag

Shooting USA 1903 Springfield service rifle

The 1903 Springfield Served as Primary Service Rifle 1903 to 1936.
Cartridge: .30-06 Springfield

Shooting USA Craid Jorgensen

The M1 Garand Served 1936 to 1958. First Semi-Auto Service Rifle.
Cartridge: .30-06 Springfield

Shooting USA M14 Service Rifle

The M14 Served 1959 to 1964. First Select Fire Primary Service Rifle.
Cartridge: 7.62x54mm NATO (.308 Winchester)

Tripod Tips for Precision Rifle Shooters

Shooting usa usamu tripod PRS

This week’s Shooting USA episode has a great USAMU Pro Tips Segment showing how to use a tripod for rifle support. Along with clamping the rifle on the top of the tripod, you can used the deployed legs for support in multiple ways.

SSG Tyler Payne explains: “If you’re presented with a barricade where you can support the front of the gun, the tripod really shines as a rear support. With the front of the gun and the rear of the gun both supported, it’s like shooting off of a bench.”


Shooting USA Garand Presidents 100
Shooting USA is available On Demand via Vimeo.com. Watch a single episode for $0.99, or get a full-month subscription for $3.99 and watch as many shows as you like with limited commercial interruptions.

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July 26th, 2020

Sunday GunDay: Sharpshootin’ Shannon — Talented 11-Year-Old

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

11-year-old Shannon Moriarty is one of the youngest High Power Service Rifle competitors in the USA, having just started High Power competition last year. She shoots almost weekly with her dad, Christopher Moriarty, at matches in Maryland, her home state, as well as neighboring states. She also shoots .22 LR smallbore with an Anschutz M64 1903, and has recently started competitive air rifle shooting with a Walther LG 400. She is truly a young “phenom”. Before even reaching her teen years, she has earned NRA Across-the-Course Master and CMP Master Classifications in High Power divisions.

Shannon shot this 100-5X today in a team match at Reade Range in PA. Way to Go Girl!
Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

A year and a half after her first-ever High Power match, Shannon Moriarty of Maryland has made significant strides in her scores, experiences, and level of competition. At only 11 years old, she is an inspiration for young shooters. Shannon has gathered success from a combination of natural talent and hard work through dry-fire training and now cross-training with air rifle.

CMP Profile on Shannon Here: Training with Maryland Junior Shannon Moriarty

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz
Just 11 years old, Shannon already shows great standing form in Service Rifle competition.

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz
Here is Shannon shooting smallbore prone with her Anschutz M64 1903 Target.

Two Talented Ladies — Champion Shooter and Future Champion?

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

Shannon says that SSG Amanda Elsenboss, of the USAMU (former) and All-Guard (current) Teams, is her marksmanship inspiration and role model. Elsenboss was the 2019 NRA High Power Long Range Champion. Elsenboss helped Shannon progress in Service Rifle competition by giving Shannon an expensive match trigger that Amanda had won in a competition. Elsenboss was Shannon’s original Small Arms Firing School Coach at the CMP Eastern Games when Shannon first started shooting High Power. She is the person Shannon looks up to most in the shooting world.

“Amanda Elsenboss was scoring me”, Shannon said. “After I finished the match, I was putting away my gear at the truck. Amanda walked over and gave me a brand new Geissele trigger which she won during the NTI for High Woman in 2015″. Elsenboss then told Shannon: “You can have this trigger which I got for winning high woman. Once you win yourself one, you can give this one back to me”.

Shannon has set several goals for her marksmanship career. These include a spot on the President’s 100 at the National Matches, High Master classification, and earning a Distinguished Badge. She also wants to fire a perfect score at 600 yards, something she watched Elsenboss do.

Dry Fire Training with SCATT System

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

To improve her position shooting, Shannon uses the SCATT Dry Fire Training system. This tracks muzzle movement during the entire aiming cycle. A trace appears on a screen. Shannon’s father Chris posted: “Shannon [often does] SCATT training first thing in the morning. She’s holding the aiming black so far. Can’t think of too many 11-year-olds that would be excited to practice — this is absolutely a lot of work!”

Shannon Shoots with Father Christopher Moriarty as a Team

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

Shannon got her start in shooting watching her father Christopher at matches. Now she often shoots side-by-side in matches. He also coaches her in team matches. Above you can see Shannon competing with her father in a two-person Vintage Sniper Match. Dad posted: “This pic is cool — we’re shooting a Springfield 1903 A4 USMC sniper rifle, 2X scope, .30-06 at 600 yards in Vermont. We’ll be doing this again!”

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz
Father and daughter “Pair Firing” at 200 yards.

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

CLICK HERE to see Shannon shoot a 300-yard rapid fire prone relay at the 2019 CMP New England Games, CMP Cup match in Jericho, Vermont. NOTE: You will be directed to Facebook to watch.

Triple-Threat Shannon — HP Service Rifle, Smallbore, Air Rifle

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

Shannon also competes in rimfire matches with an Anschutz M64 1903 Target Rifle, and has recently started training with a Walther LG 400 Alutec Expert Air Rifle. She says the Air Rifle work has improved her hold and trigger control.

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

Chris notes: “Here is Shannon with her Precision Air Rifle. This should take her through the next few years in 10 Meter Air. It is a Walther LG 400 Alutec Expert with inside/outside sights. I’m very excited for her to begin training with it. I’m also really looking forward to watching her progress in this discipline. I wonder what she’ll name it? Her service rifle is named ‘Cameron’….”

Mom Frames Shannon’s First Clean 300-Yard High Power Target

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz

Shannon’s mother framed Shannon’s first 300-Yard Rapid Fire CLEAN — 100-5X! This will get hung in her room. This was shot at Camp Butner, NC using her new Krieger barrel from Krieger Direct. And guess what, Shannon shot another 100-5X at 300 yards today, July 25, 2020. Look at the top of the page. Not many 11-year-olds can shoot like this!

Krieger Barrels is Now Sponsoring Shannon Moriarty
Shannon Moriarty is now sponsored by Krieger Barrels. Chris Moriarty stated: “Krieger marketing reached out to [us] to offer their assistance and sponsorship to Shannon in her High Power rifle journey! Thank you so much Krieger and Mr. Todd House.”

Krieger sponsor Shannon Moriarty

Shannon Moriarty high power service rifle airgun Walther Anschutz
Gary Andersen, DCM Emeritus, knows a few things about marksmanship. Here he congratulates young Shannon Moriarty at a CMP Match.

Training with the SCATT System — How It Works

This text from Training with Maryland Junior Shannon Moriarty:

Shannon has followed a strict training regimen[.] She attributes a lot of her success to her heavy usage of the SCATT system – an electronic training tool that uses computer software to monitor hold, follow-through, focus, and other shot elements. Shannon shoots 30 shots standing, plus sighters, with a SCATT trainer three times a week, every week. She sometimes practices prone shooting too.

“There’s a feature in SCATT system for acoustic signaling for blind shooting and biofeedback. When using this feature, there is a very high frequency tone when you go into one of the rings”. Shannon and her father, Chris, set this tone to sound when they are holding in the ten ring. “The goal is to shoot a 10 or an X and then keep it there for three seconds”, Shannon says. “And the tone should still be on for those three seconds.”

Though it is easier to shoot with the tone, the reason for using it is to help improve and learn trigger squeeze and follow-through. Shannon usually shoots 10 shots without the tone, preceded and followed by a 10-shot string with the tone.

The use of the SCATT system makes it possible for Shannon to train during the winter months and during the school year, when it can be hard to get to a range. The system allows her to continue to train at home but with more information than dry-firing alone provides.

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June 24th, 2020

Efficient Big-Batch Case Lubrication — Best Methods

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. A while back, the USAMU’s reloading gurus looked at the subject of case lubrication. Tasked with producing thousands of rounds of ammo for team members, the USAMU’s reloading staff has developed very efficient procedures for lubricating large quantities of cases. This article reveals the USAMU’s clever “big-batch” lube methods. For other helpful hand-loading tips, visit the USAMU Facebook page on upcoming Wednesdays.

Rapid, High-Volume Case Lubrication

Today’s topic covers methods for quickly applying spray lube to cartridge cases prior to sizing. A typical order for this shop may be 25,000 rounds, so [speeding up] the lubrication process can be a real time-saver. While your ammunition lots probably aren’t this large, the efficient methods discussed here may help save a considerable amount of time over your handloading career. Our case lubrication rates range from 1500-1600 cases per hour, to 2400-2500 cases per hour, depending on caliber.

This shop uses virgin brass, whereas most home handloaders use fired brass, which necessitates some small changes at times. These will be discussed as they arise. Begin with fired brass that has been tumbled clean.

Ensure as much tumbling media as possible is removed from the brass, as when it gets into a size die, it can dent cases significantly. This is a good time to round out dents in the case mouths using a tapered tool to prevent damage from the decapping stem.

First, dump the clean cases into a large box or reloading bin. Shake the bin back and forth so that many cases are oriented with the mouths up. Next, pick up as many cases as is convenient with the mouths “up”, from natural clusters of correctly-oriented cases. With 7.62mm-size cases, this is usually 3-4, and with 5.56mm cases, this can be up to 8-10. Place the cases into the rack slots, mouth-up. Doing this in groups rather than singly saves considerable time. Once these clusters have been depleted, it will be time to re-shake the bin to orient more cases “up.”.

This photo shows a case lubrication rack made by a USAMU staffer.
accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Naturally, adjust the spacing to best fit the calibers you reload. We have found this size … convenient for handling through the various phases of case lubrication/transfer to progressive case feeders for processing. Note that the 1/2-inch angle does not cover much of the critical case area at the base, just forward of the extractor groove, where most re-sizing force will be exerted. As the USAMU uses virgin brass, less lubrication is required for our brass than would be needed for Full Length (FL) sizing of previously-fired brass.

NOTE: The amount applied using our rack is easily enough for our purpose. If using fired brass, be sure to adequately lube this base area to avoid having cases stick in the full-length sizing die.

Using a spray lube, coat the cases adequately, but not excessively, from all sides. Be sure to get some lube into the case mouths/necks, in order to reduce expander ball drag and case stretching/headspace changes. The spray lube this shop uses does not harm primers or powder, and does not require tumbling to remove after lubing.*

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

Take a close look at the photo above. The USAMU shop uses a common kitchen turntable, which allows the rack to be rotated easily. We place this in a custom-made box which prevents over-spray on to floors and walls.

Angled Box Method for Smaller Cases to be Neck-Sized
A refinement of the above method which especially speeds processing of 5.56x45mm cases is as follows. A small cardboard box which holds about 100 cases is fitted with an angled “floor” secured by tape. With the smaller 5.56mm cases, usually about 8-10 cases per handful can be picked up, already correctly-oriented, and placed into the box together. This prevents having to place them into the rack slots, saving time.

accurateshooter USAMU Handloading hump day case lube lubrication spray can cartridge brass reloading marksmanship

HOWEVER, note that this does not allow nearly as much lube access to the case bodies as does the rack. For our purposes — neck-sizing and setting neck tension on new brass, this works well. If using this procedure with fired brass, take steps to ensure adequate lube to prevent stuck cases.

As always, we hope this will help our fellow handloaders. Good luck, and good shooting!


*A two-part test performed here involved spraying primed cases heavily, while getting more lube into the case mouth/body than even a careless handloader would likely apply. The second part of the test involved literally spraying considerable quantities of the lube directly into the cases, drenching the primers. After a several-day wait to allow the lube to penetrate the primers, they were then fired in a test barrel. All fired normally; no unusual reports were noted. This bolstered confidence that normal amounts of the lube would not adversely affect our ammunition, and we have been pleased with the results over several years.

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June 22nd, 2020

Horner Wins USPSA Multi-Gun Nationals (Tactical Division)

Daniel Horner USPSA Florida multi-gun nationals

As a member of the USAMU, SFC Daniel Horner established himself as one of the top 3-Gun shooters on the planet. In fact, given his major championship titles, a strong argument can be made that Horner is the most successful Multi-Gun competitor in history — the best of the best. Now a civilian professional, Dan Horner competes as Team SIG Sauer’s 3-Gun ace.

Horner captured yet another prestigious Championship earlier this month, winning the 2020 USPSA National Championship. Horner finished first in the Tactical Division at the 2020 USPSA Multi-Gun Nationals at the Universal Shooting Academy in Frostproof, Florida, June 11-14, 2020. This is Daniel’s 12th victory at the prestigious Multi-Gun Nationals.

At the USPSA Nationals Horner competed through 12 stages with pistol, rifles, and shotgun. For pistol competition, Horner used a SIG Sauer P320 X5 LEGION pistol with iron sights. For the long-range competition, Horner used his SIG Sauer M400 rifle with a SIG Sauer TANGO6T riflescope, and a SIG KILO 3000BDX Rangefinder.

Daniel Horner USPSA Florida multi-gun nationals
Click Photo for full-screen diagram

Horner said the 2020 Multi-Gun Nationals were very tough — a special challenge:

“The competition at this year’s Multi-Gun Nationals was the best I’ve seen. Everyone that competed had obviously spent extra time training and practicing while they were at home over the past few months. With this being the first major nationals match since quarantine, the training showed and the competition was elevated. The accuracy and reliability of my SIG equipment, combined with my training routine, gave me the edge I needed to pull-off the victory[.]”

How Hot is Horner — Just Watch and Be Amazed

Here are two videos showcasing Horner’s Skills with Rifle and pistol. In the first video, Horner demonstrates how to move and shoot with an AR platform rifle. In the second video, Horner demonstrates his speed, mobility, and accuracy during the final stage of a 3-Gun Nation event.

Rifle Skills for Multi-Gun Competition — Grip, Stance, and Body Position

Daniel Horner Shreds 3-Gun Nation Stage with Blazing Speed

As a soldier with the USAMU, Horner was a true phenom with rifle, pistol, and shotgun, winning multiple 3-Gun titles against tough competition. When he was on his game, no one on the planet was better in the 3-Gun arena. His record of major multi-gun championships may never be rivaled. He has won over 125 major events/titles at the world, national, regional, and state level.

Daniel Horner Major Titles
10-Time USPSA Multi-Gun National Champion
4-Time 3-Gun Nation Pro Series Champion
2014 NRA World Shooting Championship Winner
2-Time Int’l Sniper Competition Team Winner
2-Time IDPA National Champion
IPSC Shotgun National Champion

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June 19th, 2020

Learn About Action Shooting — Live Q&A Today with USAMU

Live USAMU Q & A facebook conference

Do you enjoy 3-Gun competition or other types of “Action Shooting”? Then you should visit the USAMU Facebook Page today Friday, June 19th at 2:00 pm Eastern.

There will be a LIVE Q & A session today. Members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) will answer questions about Action Shooting, about the USAMU in general, and about the U.S. Army. This is a great opportunity to communicate directly with some of the top 3-gun shooters in the nation. If you have specific questions, then post a comment on the USAMU’s Facebook page before the session.

Want to learn more about Action Shooting? This Virtual Tour Video first tours the USAMU training center. Then team members show the rifles, pistols, and shotguns they use in Multi-Gun competition.

SFC Daniel Horner — Greatest 3-Gunner Ever?

Though now a civilian competing for SIG Sauer, SFC Daniel Horner was a USAMU superstar. One of the best 3-Gun competitors in history, Horner was blazing fast (and wicked accurate) with all three guns.

Daniel Horner SFC USAMU 3-gun Multi-gun champion

As a soldier with the USAMU, Horner was a true phenom with rifle, pistol, and shotgun, winning multiple 3-Gun titles against tough competition. When he was on his game, no one on the planet was better in the 3-Gun arena. His record of major multi-gun championships may never be rivaled. He has won over 125 major events/titles at the world, national, regional, and state level.

Daniel Horner Major Titles
10-Time USPSA Multi-Gun National Champion
4-Time 3-Gun Nation Pro Series Champion
2014 NRA World Shooting Championship Winner
2-Time Int’l Sniper Competition Team Winner
2-Time IDPA National Champion
IPSC Shotgun National Champion

Rifle Grip, Stance, and Body Position for Action Shooting Competition
In this action-packed video, SFC Horner gives tips on how to properly handle a semi-automatic rifle, including grip, stance and body position.

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May 18th, 2020

Fundamentals — Sight Alignment and Trigger Control

Marksmanship Fundamentals iron sights USAMU

This video from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit focuses on two key fundamentals of marksmanship: 1) Sight Alignment; and 2) Trigger Squeeze. This video can assist any Service Rifle or metallic sights shooter. The USAMU instructor explains: “You’ve probably heard a lot about fundamentals — Breathe, Relax, Aim, Squeeze… Well that gives a shooter a lot to think about. Here we teach two main firing tasks: 1) align the sights, and 2) squeeze the trigger without moving the rifle. This allows the shooter a much more simplified format.”

The following tips are transcribed from the video:

Task One: Sight Alignment
Sight alignment is the process of putting the tip of the front sight post, the rear aperture, and the shooter’s eyeball all on the same plane. It’s very important to maintain the tip of the front sight post centered in the rear aperture. Just .002″ of deviation can cause a miss at 300 meters. Allow your eye to do its job. While firing, the focus should remain on the tip of the front sight.

Task Two: Trigger Control
Your second firing task is [to] fire the rifle without moving it. This is done through proper trigger control. You’ve probably heard a lot of words about trigger control — “surprise break”, “snatch”, “pull”, “squeeze”… well we teach one thing here: “smooth”. No matter the speed at which I engage the trigger, it’s always going to be smooth. Imagine trying to pull the trigger straight through the rear of the buttstock, holding it to the rear while the gun recoils. It’s important to constantly engage the trigger, never letting your trigger finger disengage from the trigger while firing. This is achieved through natural trigger finger placement.

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May 6th, 2020

Shooting USA — SHOT Show Product Reviews and More

Shot Show shoooting usa 2020 tv broadcast gear review

Turn on your TVs and break out the popcorn — it’s a big week on Shooting USA. A full hour of SHOT Show coverage runs tonight (5/6/20) at 9:00 pm ET. This episode provides a “first look” at the new guns, optics, and gear introduced for 2020. Shooting USA’s team looks at over 65 new products.

2020 SHOT Show Highlights: Colt Python, Hornady A-Tip bullets, Manners PRS Stock, Volquartsen Summit .17 WSM, Ruger-57 Pistol, Pinnacle Precision Rifle, HK SP5, Impact Sport Muffs, Laugo Arms Alien Pistol, Vortex 1-10X Scope, Glock 44 Pistol, Hornady Rapid Safe and more.

This SHOT Show 2020 episode airs on the Outdoor Channel Wednesday, May 6 at 9:00 pm ET and Thursday, May 7 at 3:00 pm ET. If you miss those broadcasts, you can watch this and ALL episodes of Shooting USA on Vimeo.com by subscription. The SHOT Show 2020 edition is just $0.99.

Great Shooting USA Episodes

For our Bulletin followers, here are two of our favorite full-length Shooting USA episodes, and well as two excellent instructional segments, one with past NRA High Power Champion SGT Sherri Jo Gallagher.

Texas Varmint Silhouette Match — 200 Meters to 750 Yards

We love shooting reactive targets. This Texas varmint silhouette match features multiple target shapes, 10 at each distance: Tiny Prairie Dogs at 200m, 3″x3″ Armadillos at 300m; 3″x5″ Coyotes at 385m; 5″x4″ Hogs at 500m; Chickens (on swingers) at 600 yards; and Pigs (on Swingers) at 750 yards. Competitors are allowed 10 rounds and 10 minutes to hit each set of targets.

EDITOR: We strongly recommend you take the time to watch this Shooting USA feature — it shows some top-flight benchrest rifles, and also covers the origins of benchrest varmint silhouette in Pennsylvania. There are even some AccurateShooter Forum members on screen. John Scoutten also does a nice job explaining the challenges of shooting this discipline with a PRS rig. We think any benchrest or tactical shooter will really enjoy this video.

Shooting USA TV show varmint silhouette Texas benchrest Travis Frazier John Scoutten

Shooting USA TV show varmint silhouette Texas benchrest Travis Frazier John Scoutten

Travis Frazier of Field & Cave Outfitters says shooters love the reactive targets: “The most exciting thing is seeing your hits — these [targets] really go airborne”. Yep, that’s the best thing about Varmint Silhouette matches — hits deliver instant gratification. Travis designs and produces these steel targets.

Vintage Sniper Match and GAP Grind PRS Match

Historic Rifles are on the firing line! It’s the Vintage Sniper Match in Talladega for collectors competing with classic rifles and historically accurate optics from the two World Wars. A team from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit also takes the challenge with a reproduction 03A4.

vintage sniper rifle match

Plus, John Scoutten welcomes a new shooter to Precision Rifle (PRS) Competition. The two team up to take on 25 grueling stages at the Bushnell GAP Grind in Tennessee. With a special Pro/Am format, the GAP Grind is one of the most popular tactical matches in the country

GAP Grind

Reading the Wind — SGT Sherri Jo Gallager (USAMU)

This segment, created when Sherri Jo was shooting with the USAMU team, explains how to evaluate wind conditions and adjust your hold for long range.

Minute of Angle (MOA) Defined with Jim Scoutten

Minute of Angle (MOA) — what does it actually mean? And what do you get when a rifle manufacturer guarantees one-half MOA accuracy? Jim Scoutten answers these questions and explains MOA basics. One MOA is an angular measurement equivalent to 1.047″ at 100 yards.

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April 24th, 2020

Precision Reloading for Handguns — Smart Tips from the USAMU

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. If you load for pistols, take the time to read this article, which offers important insights on COAL, primers, crimps and more.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

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!

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Handguns, Reloading 3 Comments »
April 3rd, 2020

How to Watch Mirage and Trace with a Spotting Scope

Nikon MEP-30 Reticle Eyepiec
Nikon offers eyepieces with reticles for its flagship Monarch Fieldscopes. Eyepiece reticles help spotters call shot corrections with precise click values (MOA or Mils).

Spotting Scope Video mirage tipsUsing a spotting scope seems simple. Just point it at the target and focus, right? Well, actually, it’s not that simple. Sometimes you want to watch mirage or trace, and that involves different focus and viewing priorities. Along with resolving bullet holes (or seeing other features on the target itself), you can use your spotting scope to monitor mirage. When watching mirage, you actually want to focus the spotting scope not on the target, but, typically, about two-thirds of the distance downrange. When spotting for another shooter, you can also use the spotting scope to watch the bullet trace, i.e. the vapor trail of the bullet. This will help you determine where the bullet is actually landing, even if it does not impact on the target backer.

In this video, SFC L.D. Lewis explains how to use a spotting scope to monitor mirage, and to watch trace. SFC Lewis is a former Army Marksmanship Unit member, U.S. Army Sniper School instructor, and current U.S. Army Reserve Service Rifle Shooting Team member. In discussing how precision shooters can employ spotting scopes, Lewis compares the use of a spotting scope for competition shooters vs. military snipers. NOTE: You may wish to turn up the audio volume, during the actual interview segment of this video.

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March 27th, 2020

Introduction to Auto-Indexing Progressive Presses

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing

On Wednesdays, The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit regularly publishes reloading “how-to” articles on the USAMU Facebook page. One “Handloading Hump Day” article, part 5 of a 6-part series, relates to reloading on Progressive Presses. This article concerns proper procedures for Auto-Indexing Progressives, which advance the shell-plate with every pull of the handle. Auto Progressives are very efficient, but they also require special attention and focus, because so many things are happening at once. You need to train yourself to watch every station. If you run a progressive press now, or are considering getting a progressive, we recommend you read this article. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other helpful handloading guidance.

Progressive Loading Presses — Self-Advancing Shellplate Type

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

Recently, we addressed manually-operated progressive presses for the beginning handloader. This type press requires one to manually advance the shellplate after each handle stroke. An advantage for beginners is that nothing happens at any station until the loader wants it to. This helps users avoid problems from clearing malfunctions without noticing that the shellplate has advanced itself. (Read Previous USAMU Article on Manual Progressives.)

The next, more luxurious type progressive press advances the shellplate automatically whenever the handle is cycled. [Editor: This is also called an “Auto-Indexing” Progressive Press.] Typically, each stroke automatically sizes and primes a case, operates the powder measure (if used) and seats a bullet. Some also have case feeders that automatically put a new case in the shellplate with every cycle. Others require the loader to insert a case each cycle. With both types, the loader usually puts a bullet on each sized/primed/charged case.

[CAVEAT: While our Handloading Shop has several progressive presses, ALL of our powder charges are thrown/weighed by hand. We do not use powder measures on our presses. Our progressives are used for brass preparation, priming, seating, etc., but not for fully-progressive loading.]

The manually-advanced press can be a boon to beginners, but as one gains experience it can be a mixed blessing, depending on one’s style. If one pays close attention to every operation and loads without distractions, the manual press is very reliable and allows full scrutiny of each round as it is loaded. However, if one easily drifts into day-dreaming, or isn’t focused on paying careful attention at all times, the manual progressive can be a bit of a liability. The opportunity for forgetting a powder charge, leading to a squib load, is ever-present. [Editor: A lock-out die can help reduce the risk of a squib load, or a double-charge. See below.]

The automatically-advancing progressives help prevent this by ensuring a powder charge will be dropped each time the handle is operated. Experienced handloaders often appreciate this feature due to the savings of time and effort. Individual preferences between the two press styles are influenced by several factors. These include one’s comfort with more- vs. less-complicated mechanisms, how often one changes calibers (case feeders often must be converted, in addition to dies and shellplates), how many rounds one loads annually, relative ease of changing primer mechanisms from small to large, etc. Automatic progressives and their caliber conversion kits tend to be significantly more expensive than manual progressives and caliber conversions from the same maker.

One USAMU handloader, who likes simple, bullet-proof machines and maximum efficiency when converting presses, owns two manually-advanced progressives. One is set up for large primers, and the other for small primers. He can change calibers in the twinkling of an eye. As he loads for many different calibers, this fits his style. Another handloader here is just the opposite. He loads for a few calibers, but in larger quantities. He much prefers his self-advancing press with case-feeder for its speed. He makes large lots of ammo in a given caliber before switching, to improve overall efficiency. His caliber conversion kits are more expensive than those for the manually-advanced progressive, but he uses fewer of them.

Whichever type one chooses, it is VERY important to buy quality gear from a manufacturer with a long, well-established track record for quality, durability and good customer support. Avoid jumping on the “latest, greatest” model until it has a proven track record. For example, this writer knows a loader who got a brand-new, expensive, self-advancing model press some years back, shortly after its introduction. As is too often the case these days, the manufacturer released it before all the “bugs” were worked out.

Better Safe Than Sorry — the RCBS Lock-Out Die
RCBS Makes a “Lock-Out Die” that senses the powder charge. This will halt the Progressive press if you have a double charge, or an undercharge. Your Editor has the Lock-Out Die on his RCBS Pro 2000. It has “saved his bacon” a half-dozen times over the years. It can be used on Dillon and Hornady progressives as well as RCBS machines.

It would not fully seat primers to the correct depth. No amount of adjustment, extra force, or fiddling would do better than to seat primers barely flush with the case head. Any inattention could result in a slightly “high” primer, protruding above the case head. It created a risk for slam-fires, particularly in semi-autos without spring-retracted firing pins, such as the M1 or M1A. In desperation, he had a machinist buddy study the problem and machine a new part to correct it. No dice. Its engineering didn’t permit full primer seating, even with extended parts. He now wishes he’d heeded his shooting buddies’ advice to stick with the “tried and true,” reliable performer they all used.

Whichever press one selects, see if the maker has a kit or list of commonly-replaced parts. Having needed springs, pins, etc. on hand in the rare event that one breaks or “goes missing” can save the day when one is busy loading for a match! Another tip for improving one’s overall loading efficiency (rounds loaded with minimal set-up/tear-down time) is to plan one’s handloading by primer size. For example, if your machine is set to use small primers, load all the calibers that you intend to that take small primers, before converting the press to load large-primer calibers.

In our next chapter, we’ll discuss peculiarities of progressive loading for rifle cartridges, with remedies for problems such as excessive cartridge-case headspace variation when sizing, tips for ensuring best powder charge consistency, and so on. Until then, be safe, and good shooting!

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March 26th, 2020

AR, Garand, M1A — Six Rules for 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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March 11th, 2020

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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March 2nd, 2020

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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January 25th, 2020

TECH TIP: Bullet Bearing Surface Length Can Affect Pressure

USAMU Bullet Ogive Comparision Safety Reloading
Photo 1: Three Near-Equal-Weight 7mm Bullets with Different Shapes

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

Bullet 1 (L-R), the RN/FB, has a very slight taper and only reaches its full diameter (0.284″) 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!


This article from the USAMU covers an important safety issue — why you should never assume that a “book” load for a particular bullet will be safe with an equal-weight bullet of different shape/design. The shape and bearing surface of the bullet will affect the pressure generated inside the barrel. This is part of the USAMU’s Handloading Hump Day series, published on the USAMU Facebook page.

Beginning Handloading, Part 13:
Extrapolating Beyond Your Data, or … “I Don’t Know, What I Don’t Know!”

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.

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. These 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 length (BSL) is often overlooked when considering maximum safe powder charges and pressures. In photo 1 (at top), note the differences in the bullets’ appearance. All three are 7mm, 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.

Bearing Surface Measurement Considerations
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 deceiving.

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.]

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January 3rd, 2020

Improve Your Shooting Skills with USAMU Pro Tips

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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December 20th, 2019

USAMU Tips for Using a Progressive Reloading Press

Accurateshooter.com USAMU progressive press reloading

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. In this article, the USAMU’s reloading gurus help you avoid potentially disastrous mistakes with a progressive — such as double powder changes. The USAMU experts caution that: “beginners would be better served by starting on a single-stage press”. That said, owning a progressive makes sense if you shoot more than 100 centerfire rounds a week. If you own a progressive press, or are thinking of buying one, you should read this article.

USAMU Reloading

For those interested in progressives, we’ll examine different key features among the types and relate them to handloading processes. The first, and simplest, type is the manually-advanced progressive. The shellplate holds the several cartridges being processed with each stroke of the handle. On these presses, the loader must manually advance the shellplate after each handle stroke.

While this obviously slows production vs. a press that cycles the shellplate automatically, this feature does have advantages though. (The disadvantages follow shortly.) No case is advanced to the next station until the operator deliberately does so – which is especially helpful for the new handloader.

Problems that arise during loading can be diagnosed and fixed without fears of some “extra” operation happening unnoticed with cartridges at the other stations. Beginners NOTE: one way to positively prevent this risk is to remove the cases from each press station when a problem emerges, before beginning diagnosis. Usually, however, experienced loaders omit this step as a time-saving measure, being confident in their understanding of the loading machine, process and the appropriate remedy.

Progressive press reloading ultimate reloader USAMU

If all cartridge cases are left in place, the operator must monitor what’s happening at each station. For example, raising the press ram twice may result in a double-charge of powder. With rifle cartridges, this usually results in a massive powder over-flow, alerting the loader to the problem. With pistol cases or small rifle charges in large cases, such an over-flow isn’t guaranteed. [Editor — one way to be sure you don’t have an overcharge or undercharge is to use a Lock-Out Die — see below.] The manually-advanced progressive keeps all operations under the loader’s control at all times. This is intuitively easier for the beginning loader to understand and to operate with confidence.

However, this same characteristic can be problematic if the loader isn’t paying 100% attention to what they are doing during routine operation. Some new handloaders apparently aspire to load progressively while daydreaming and paying little attention to the operation. Their plan is to feed components in, like feeding potato chips to a monkey, while good ammo drops out at the other end. Unfortunately, such an approach may likely result in something other than “good” ammo dropping out at the end…

Forgetting to cycle the shellplate when appropriate will cause problems. As with all handloading, distractions MUST be kept to a minimum for safety purposes. Never watch TV, talk with friends, or have other distractions (such as a rambunctious pet or child) in the room when loading. Avoiding distractions will do much to ensure that one produces consistent, high-quality ammunition, free of defects. For example, when a case doesn’t line up correctly with the case mouth expander or powder drop tube, a difference in “feel” often alerts the loader to correct the problem without ruining a case. If one is interrupted or becomes distracted, be certain to examine ALL cases in the shellplate before resuming loading.

Better Safe Than Sorry — the RCBS Lock-Out Die
RCBS Makes a “Lock-Out Die” that senses the powder charge. This will halt the Progressive press if you have a double charge, or an undercharge. Your Editor has the Lock-Out Die on his RCBS Pro 2000. It has “saved his bacon” a half-dozen times over the years. It can be used on Dillon and Hornady progressives as well as RCBS machines.

Other advantages of the typical manually-advanced progressives are that they are usually simpler in design, with fewer moving parts to get out of adjustment. This appeals to the mechanically dis-inclined! Caliber conversion kits are usually cheaper and take less time to install. This especially benefits the enthusiast who reloads for a wide variety of calibers.

However, many popular manually-advanced progressives have fewer die stations than the higher-end, auto-advancing machines. One item that is very useful when actually dispensing powder on a progressive press is a cartridge case powder-level sensor. This warns if powder levels in each case are too high or too low; however, it does require a die station of its own.

This condition (incorrect powder charges) often results from powder (especially extruded rifle powder) “bridging” in the powder measure. That is, one charge doesn’t fully empty into its cartridge case. This leaves some extra powder hanging up in the measure to join the normal charge in the next case. With some extruded powders, this can be quite obvious without a sensor. However, the sensor can detect small variations that would not be obvious to even an experienced, attentive operator. Considering the machine’s potential to use a powder sensor in addition to one’s other customary dies is a wise idea.

Similarly, pistol shooters are best served to seat bullets and crimp cartridges in separate operations. This should be taken into account when selecting a progressive press. Whenever loading fully-progressively, choosing powders that dispense very easily, e.g., ball/spherical or very fine-grain extruded powders, can help keep charges quite uniform.

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December 16th, 2019

Rimfire Plate Shooting — Tons ‘O Fun at Low Cost

rimfire steel challenge keltec cp33 plate rack
The Action Target Sport Plate Rack is specifically designed for .22 LR Rimfire shooting. This rack features six 4″-diameter plates that reset with a provided cable.

Shooting plates is fun. You get immediate feedback — “instant gratification” when you make a hit. When shooting steel inside 100 yards, we like to use .22 LR rimfire guns. The ammo is inexpensive, noise levels are lower (though you still need ear protection), and at close ranges there are fewer issue with ricochets and bullet splash-back. Additionally, for busy folks who don’t have time to reload, you can pick up a .22 LR rifle or pistol, grab a couple $5 boxes of ammo, and get to the range in a few minutes. The convenience means it is easier to shoot every week if you like.

Above, SFC Joel Turner from the USAMU’s Action Shooting Team offers a few pointers on how to shoot plates quickly and accurately. He’s using a centerfire pistol, but the same principles apply for rimfire handguns. Click speaker icon to activate audio.

New .22 LR CP33 Pistol is Great for Plates

If you like shooting plates, one of the better new handguns for the job is Kel-Tec’s CP33. We tested this interesting handgun at the 2019 SHOT Show Media Day at the Range, and were impressed. The pistol is big, but balances well. The sights are easy to see, and the full-length rail lets you easily mount a variety of optics. The trigger is surprisingly good — better than 90% of rimfire handguns out there. For the plates game, this “quad-stack” gun can handle long stages without mag changes. The standard clear-sided CP33 magazine holds 33 rounds of .22 LR ammo.

rimfire steel challenge kel-tec cp33

If you are interested in an affordable, but very accurate, high-capacity semi-auto rimfire pistoldefinitely consider Kel-Tec’s new CP33. 22 Plinkster agrees — this is a nice pistol. In his video review below 22 Plinkster reports: “This handgun has been 100% reliable IF I load the magazine the right way… and it’s pretty dog-gone accurate.”

Shooting Sports USA (SSUSA) tested Keltec’s CP33 with a variety of ammo. The CP33 consistently shot about one-half-inch for five shots “from a 25-yard sandbag bench rest using the iron sights.” SSUSA noted that the gun disassembles quickly and easily by removing one central pin. SSUSA’s tester, Chris Christian, was impressed with the gun, saying it balanced well and the sights aligned naturally.

SSUSA notes: “The rapid growth of rimfire competition in Steel Challenge has prompted some gun makers to enter the fray. Kel-Tec is one, and their new CP33 .22 LR pistol has a lot of potential.

GunsAmerica also reviewed the Keltec CP33, which it called “The Most Innovative Gun of 2019″. Reviewer Riley Baxter liked the ergonomics and sights. He tested a variety of ammo, getting the best results with Norma Match-22. Baxter concluded: “I thoroughly enjoyed every moment that I spent shooting the KelTec CP33[.] The magazines took a little bit of trial and error… but once I had this down, the CP33 ran reliably and loading 33 rounds took no time at all. This is a gun that I would recommend to anyone who may be interested in buying a .22 pistol[.]”

rimfire steel challenge kel-tec cp33

Permalink - Videos, Handguns, Shooting Skills No Comments »
November 14th, 2019

TECH TIP: When and How to Use Bore-Snakes

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.

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.

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 1 Comment »
October 16th, 2019

Save $$ By Using Lake City 5.56x45mm Once-Fired GI Brass

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. A recent “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.]

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Competition, Reloading 3 Comments »