RELOADERS CORNER: Neck-Only Case Sizing


Neck-only resizing is an option for the bolt-action owner. Here are some ideas on why it works, and when it works best… Keep reading!

winchester bolt action
Neck-only sizing is for bolt-actions ONLY.

Glen Zediker

Cartridge case re-sizing is one of those topics that draws lines and forms camps. I am a big believer in full-length sizing, for any action type or use, and just saying that immediately draws argument.

Before getting into the “whens” and “whys” respecting full-length or neck-only sizing, here’s one that I think is an absolute: cases for reuse in a (any) semi-automatic should be full-length sized; neck-only sizing is only for bolt-actions. Having established that, all this next really only relates to what’s possible with a bolt-gun.

Backing up a bit: a “full-length” sizing die is one that returns the cartridge case body (and shoulder, if adjusted to do so) to near-to-new dimensions. A “neck-only” sizing die doesn’t touch the case body (and may or may not be able to touch the case shoulder). A full-length sizer also sizes the case neck, and, normally, the entire height of the case neck cylinder. A neck-only die can be adjusted to contact the height of the neck cylinder in various amounts.

hornady neck sizer
A neck-only sizing die doesn’t touch the case body, so there’s no reduction in case body diameter. This die can be adjusted to contact the case shoulder, and setting back the shoulder may still be necessary. Make sure you check cartridge case headspace!

The idea behind a neck-only die is to preserve fired case dimensions: make the case a closer mirror of rifle chamber dimensions. One advantage of neck-only sizing comes to those who expect, or need, to get a good many loadings from their cases, since this approach minimizes case stretching on subsequent firings.

However, the primary flag waved by neck-only fans says that it produces the best accuracy, and that full-length sizing is a compromise, favoring function over accuracy. I do and don’t agree, and the rest of this article I hope will clarify what I just said…

The reason I do and don’t agree is that I know folks who cannot get a good group unless they neck-only size, and I know other folks, and I’m one of them, who get very small groups following what many would say is “over-sizing” their cases.

forster neck sizing set
Here’s a nice set for neck-only sizing. The “bump” refers to the capacity to also contact the case shoulder to control its dimension, if wanted.

I believe that the main influence in realizing the virtues of neck-only sizing has a whopping lot to do with the rifle chamber. Specifically, factory-made, off-the-shelf bolt-actions tend to have relatively more generous chamber dimensions, as will many older surplus-sourced rifles. “More generous” is in reference to the tolerances established for the SAAMI blueprint for the cartridge. This is (wisely) done to help ensure that any and all factory ammo will chamber and fire, and also to help ensure general and all-around feeding reliability. Additionally, it’s common to find some (slightly) oval chambers in factory guns; that has a lot to do with the freshness of the tooling when that chamber was cut. It’s even more common to find them that are off-center.

Purpose-built bolt-action competition rifles, such as those constructed for use in NRA High Power Rifle competition, are custom-chambered* and, while few will use what we might call a “tight” chamber, it’s not likely to encounter one on the larger end of acceptable dimensions.
*”Custom,” here, doesn’t mean they are each unique, it just means that they are done by hand employing a precision-made reamer and therefore are what they ought to be, or we sure hope so. And they don’t tend to be overly generous in (any) dimensions.

neck sizing bushings
If you’re going to go, go all in: dies with interchangeable bushings let you control case neck diameter, adding another measure of control, and even less working and re-working of the brass.

So, in the circumstance where we have a chamber that’s a tad amount big and a cartridge case that’s been manufactured to (usually) the smaller end of SAAMI-set standards, that case will endure more expansion, in all directions, than if it had been in a tighter chamber. Sizing only the case neck to accept and retain another bullet, as said, reduces the subsequent expansion that will occur the next firing, but also, and this is likely if there is an accuracy improvement, the otherwise un-sized case might then be sitting more centered in the chamber. And one reason for that is, if the rifle is equipped with a plunger-style ejector (Remington 700 style) that will bear against one edge of the head of the chambered round, pushing the cartridge off-center, askew. (This ultimately creates another undesirable condition, a warp in the case, and we’ll talk about that another time.)

So, a little bigger case returning to a little bigger chamber likely has a little better chance of getting centered, and I truly believe that is why neck-only sizing can be a help to accuracy for a bolt-action. However! A dimensionally-correct case returning to a dimensionally-correct chamber will perform just as well on target. Full-length sizing a case for reuse in a rifle with what I call a “standard” chamber (which is really running a little closer to the minimums established by SAAMI) also makes for good groups. We prove that every High Power Rifle tournament.

Advice: If you notice your bolt-action doesn’t shoot too well with factory loads, neck-only sizing should pay off and is well worth a try. Do, however, make sure to gauge the cases as is often discussed in Reloaders Corner, and, specifically, cartridge case headspace. If the bolt isn’t closing easily, that’s liable to be the culprit right there: shoulder has gotten too tall.

If you’re running a factory bolt-action, by all means try neck-only sizing. If you want to compare results to full-length sizing, just make sure you’re doing that operation right.

david tubb
Now. Don’t go getting the idea that full-length sizing can’t shoot well. Here’s a 1000-yard prone group at the hands of David Tubb, originator of the 6XC cartridge. Tubb sets case shoulders back 0.002 inches, runs 0.004 case neck tension, and full-length resizes using what amounts to a “small-base” die (additional 0.0005-inch reduction at the case head). He’s also not shooting a factory chamber. (Photo note: the yellow pasters were sighters; red pasters indicate record shots).

Check HERE and HERE to get started…

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

A First Look at 2018’s New Guns


With the SHOT Show at hand, here are a few brand new for 2018 firearms. Keep going…

SOURCE: NRA Publications, by B. Gil Horman

With national firearm sales leveling off, thanks to a gun-friendly administration taking office this year, manufacturers are dusting off some new and interesting models that have been tucked away for a time such as this. Here is a quick look at just some of the new guns for 2018:


Bersa TPR Pistols
Eagle Imports is introducing the double action/single action Bersa TPR line of pistols to the U.S. market this next year. These pistols represent the next evolution of the Thunder Pro HC series originally developed for law enforcement and military applications. Available in Standard 4.25″ barrel and Compact 3.25″ barrel configurations, these semi-automatic pistols feature interchangeable SIG Sauer-type sights, an improved Browning Petter locking system, lightweight aluminum alloy frames, Picatinny accessory rails and loaded chamber indicators. The elegantly designed ambidextrous slide catch and thumb safety, along with a reversible magazine release, makes the pistol accessible to right and left handed shooters. Caliber options will include 9 mm (TPR9), .40 S&W (TPR40) and .45 ACP (TPR45). MSRP: $508-$528


Caracal USA Enhanced F Pistols
When the 4″ barrel striker-fired Caracal F 9 mm pistol first arrived on the U.S. market from the United Emirates in 2012, I was glad to be one of the writers who had an opportunity to review it. The pistol’s design seemed ahead of its time with its sleek reduced mass slide, lowered bore axis for reduced felt recoil and comfortable grip that fit a wide range of hand sizes. Just as Caracal was poised to give Glock, Springfield and Smith & Wesson a run for their money, the company enacted a voluntary safety recall that caused the pistol, much like its namesake, to slip quietly out of sight and off the market until now.

A new American-made series of Caracal USA Enhanced F pistols, with the safety issues resolved, will be shipping soon. These pistols maintain the positive qualities of the original models with three different sight system options, including the company’s proprietary Quick Sight System, 3-Dot and night sights. Customers will have a selection of new polymer frame colors to choose from including black, tan and OD green (shown). MSRP: $599-$699

Charter Arms XL

Charter Arms Bulldog XL
Charter Arms flagship five-shot Bulldog .44 Spl. series will be joined by the new Bulldog XL. The XL’s frame has been enlarged to handle bigger and more powerful cartridges. The Bulldog XL chambered in the popular .45 Colt offers customers a broad ammunition selection ranging from soft shooting cowboy loads to high-quality defensive hollow points. The real surprise of the show was the Bulldog XL chambered in .41 Rem. Mag. (shown). Considering what a handful the Bulldog can be when loaded with .44 Spl., it will be interesting to see how the XL handles when stocked full of magnum cartridges. MSRP: TBA


FightLite Industries SRC Raider Pistols
This year’s enthusiasm for Mossberg’s pump-action Shockwave 12-ga. has encouraged other manufacturers (like Remington) to look for ways to install a Shockwave-type grip on its guns. But who would have guessed that FightLite Industries would find a way to use this grip configuration on an AR pistol?

With an appearance reminiscent of a Star Wars movie blaster, the new Raider pistols are possible because they are based on the company’s SRC action system which was originally designed as the foundation for a 50-state’s legal AR platform. This configuration eliminates the typical AR buffer tube by attaching a hinged extension to the bolt carrier group, much like those found in some semi-automatic shotguns, that moves down at an angle into the shoulder stock. So, the same system that allows an AR lower to sport a traditional fixed hunting stock also works with an abbreviated Shockwave-style grip.

Raider pistols ship with a 7.25″ barrel chambered in 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem. or .300 BLK with an overall length of 20.25″, an unloaded weight of 3.9 lbs. and the customer’s choice of a Keymod or M-Lok handguard. It will be interesting to see how these guns handle. I’m guessing a single point sling, attached to the grip’s QD sling port for added stability, will make a difference when shooting off the bench. MSRP: $865


Heizer PKO9 Pistol
Although we are still waiting to get our hands on the super slim 0.80″ thick Heizer Defense PK0-.45 semi-automatic pistol chambered in .45 ACP (which was announced last year), the company is preparing to launch a 9 mm version called the PKO-9. Featuring a proprietary aerospace-grade aluminum frame and a stainless steel slide, the recoil assembly is set above the barrel to lower the bore axis for reduced felt recoil. Other features include a single-action trigger, drift adjustable sights and a grip safety. These pistols will ship with a flush-fit seven-round magazine and an extended 10-round magazine. Color options will include all black, two tone and custom Hedy Jane finish options. MSRP: $699


Israel Weapon Industries (IWI), has launched the newest member of the Tavor bullpup rifle family, the TAVOR 7 chambered in 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. with an overall length of 28.4″ and an unloaded weight of 9 lbs. The rifle’s body is built from high-strength, impact-modified polymer and has a hammer-forged, chrome-lined, free-floating barrel for enhanced accuracy and life cycle. Designed for military and law enforcement markets, this rifle is a fully ambidextrous platform. The ejection side and the charging handle can be switched from one side to the other quickly and easily by the user. Additional ambidextrous features include the safety lever, magazine release, and a bolt catch similar to that of the X95.

Two M-LOK slots are located at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions along with a MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail at the 6 o’clock position for the use of multiple devices and accessories. Other features include a short-stroke gas piston with a four-position variable gas regulator, a rotating bolt system, and an interchangeable pistol grip. The Tavor 7 will be available in four colors: Sniper Gray, OD Green, Black, and Flat Dark Earth, with replaceable barrels available in 17″ and 20″ lengths. This rifle is slated to ship the first quarter of 2018. MSRP: TBA


Just Right Carbines JRC 9 mm Pistol
Just Right Carbines is known for its blow-back operated pistol-caliber takedown carbines and rifles designed to accept popular double and single-stack magazines produced for Glocks and 1911s. This year the company is expanding its line-up to include pistol versions of its platform that offer the same modularity and takedown features as the rifles. The Model 1 version of the pistol (shown) features a foam padded Gearheadworks Mod1 Tail Hook buffer assembly and takedown fore-end. Model 2 is dressed up a bit more with a Gearheadworks Mod2 adjustable arm brace and a quad rail fore-end. MSRP: Starting at $699


Keystone Sporting Arms PT Rimfire Rifle
Keystone Sporting Arms has blended the best features of a precision rifle chassis and an enjoyable .22 Long Rifle bolt-action rimfire into the new PT rimfire rifle platform. The Keystone 722 action is paired with the customer’s choice of a 16.5 inch or 20 inch threaded heavy bull barrel. The action is tucked into an American Built Arms (A*B Arms) MOD*X PTTM aluminum chassis. The chassis is made from 6061 T6 aluminum and treated with a Class 3 hard-coat anodized finish. The A*B Arms Urban Sniper shoulder stock provides an adjustable length of pull ranging from 10.5” to 13.75″ while the A*B Arms P*Grip is compact and comfortable to work with. The PT rifle ships with one seven-round Keystone 722 magazine. MSRP: $599.96

mossberg shockwave

Mossberg 20-ga. Shockwave Pump-Action
Released in January 2017, Mossberg’s non-NFA 14″ barrel Shockwave 12-ga. pump-action has been one of the hottest selling guns of the year. So much so, that it garnered the company two NASGW/POMA Caliber Awards at the NASGW Expo this year, including the “Innovator of the Year” and “Best New Overall Product.” So it shouldn’t come as much of a shock (pun intended) that Mossberg is expanding the Shockwave line up for 2018. Along with new finish (Flat Dark Earth) and package (JIC water resistant storage tube) options for the 12-ga. model, the company has developed a new 20-ga. 590 version.

The 20-ga. Shockwave is a more important release than some folks may realize. This is the first time the company has offered a 20-ga. in a tactical 590 configuration. All of the components have been properly scaled down to fit the smaller cartridge while preserving important features like the drilled and tapped receiver and the removable magazine tube cap. This makes the overall package slimmer and lighter than the 12-ga. model while providing a lower level of felt recoil. With all the hard work of resizing the 590 platform already complete, it’s likely that we’ll see long gun versions before too long. As for a .410 Bore Shockwave, we’ll just have to wait and see. MSRP: $455

desert eagle

Magnum Research Desert Eagle L5 .50 AE Pistol
I’m not sure why Magnum Research customers have been chomping at the bit for a Desert Eagle L5 lightweight pistol chambered in .50 AE. Trust me when I say the Standard XIX model, which weighs about a pound more, has a level of felt recoil that will still blow your hair back when chambered in this cartridge. Nevertheless, since the arrival of the .357 Mag. L5 about two years ago and the .44 Mag. version, folks have been asking for a .50-cal. option. This model sports the same reduced-weight aluminum frame, 5″ barrel, integral muzzle brake and accessory rail as the other two calibers. MSRP: TBA

troy slide fire

Troy Industries SideAction Rifle
In order to help shooting enthusiasts keep running their preferred AR-type platforms in as many states as possible, Troy Industries released the 223 National Sporting Pump-Action rifle a couple of years ago. Many of the state regulations that ban certain rifle features on semi-automatic platforms do not apply those same restrictions to pump-actions. This year the company is adding the SideAction rifle to the lineup which employs a bolt action instead of a pump. An A2 flash hider is pinned and welded to the 16″ 1:7 twist RH rifled barrel. The 10.5″ SOCC handguard features M-Lok accessory slots. The side-charging bolt handle is topped with a target knob. The pistol grip, controls and trigger are all mil-spec. The folding shoulder stock is machined from aluminum billet. MSRP: $899


Walther PPQ M2 Q4 TAC Pistol

Building on the award-winning PPQ platform, Walther Arms has announced the arrival of the new PPQ M2 Q4 TAC which is both optics and suppressor ready from the factory. “The Q5 Match has been very popular and we have had a lot of interest in a 4″ more tactical version. We are excited to combine a suppressor-ready and optics-ready pistol into a best-of-both worlds platform,” said Luke Thorkildsen, vice president of marketing & product development of Fort Smith-based Walther Arms, Inc.

The 9 mm Q4 TAC arrives with a 4.6 inch 1/10 twist polygonal rifled barrel and a muzzle threaded at ½x28 TPI. The gun arrives with a second recoil spring weighted specifically for use with sound suppressors, one 15-round magazine and two 17-round magazines. The optics-ready slide features an LPA sight system with a fiber optic in the front and competition iron sight at the rear. The Q4 TAC shares the same optics mounting plate system as the Q5 Match. The plates are compatible with a variety of popular optics including options from Trijicon, Leupold, and Doctor. The PPQ Quick Defense trigger provides a smooth 5.6-lb. trigger pull and a short 0.1″ reset. The Q4 TAC is backed by Walther’s lifetime warranty. MSRP: $799


Winchester XPR Sporter Rifle
Winchester Repeating Arms is challenging the modern-day manufacturing practice of producing moderately priced bolt-action hunting rifles with polymer shoulder stocks as the only option. The latest version of the XPR rifle line up, called the Sporter, is fitted with a classically styled checkered close-grain Grade I walnut stock that only costs $50 more than its polymer stocked compatriots. Offered in barrel lengths ranging from 22″ to 26″ (depending on the caliber), this rifle’s Perma-Cote treated milled steel receiver houses a nickel Teflon coated bolt body. The MOA trigger system provides zero creep and no over travel for a crisp, clean trigger pull. The three-round magazines are detachable. The XPR Sporter’s twelve caliber options include .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 7 mm-08 Rem., .30-06 Sprg., 7 mm Rem. Mag. and 300 Win. Mag. MSRP: $599

First-Time Handgun Buyers Guide: 6 Steps to Success


There are a staggering number of choices available to the first-time buyer. Here’s a solid guide to help find the right gun for you!

first time gun buyer

SOURCE: NRA Family, by NRA Publications Staff

For several years, women have been the fastest-growing demographic of new gun owners, but many (and some men, too) don’t have a knowledgeable network of personal contacts that can help them acquire the information they need to choose their first gun. This is especially true when that first gun is a handgun for home defense or concealed carry. Fortunately, there’s a rational process they can follow to choose a handgun that fits their needs, familiarity level, and budget.

Step 1: Determining Your Needs
Why do you want a handgun? The answer to this question will determine many of your new gun’s characteristics. If concealed carry is your goal, you’ll want a gun that is short, small and light, while one for home defense may be larger and heavier. Understand that no one gun can do everything well. While there are a few double-duty handguns suitable for both home defense or concealed carry, it’s best for new owners to determine their handgun’s single most critical function and let that guide the selection.

Step 2: Choosing Between a Semi-Automatic or a Revolver
Two types of handguns are widely relied upon for self-defense: semi-automatics and revolvers.

By far the most prevalent are semi-automatics, also called self-loaders, which use the gas pressure generated when a cartridge is fired to cycle the gun’s loading mechanism. First, the slide moves rearward, which in turn, ejects the empty case and cocks the firing mechanism. When a spring returns the slide forward, it feeds a fresh cartridge into the gun’s chamber from a detachable magazine, which may hold anywhere from six to 20 rounds. There are various types of semi-automatics, but all share the same advantages over the revolver: more rapid reload-ability, greater cartridge capacity and, for citizens with carry permits, a thinner, more concealable profile. Compared to a revolver, however, the semi-autos may be a bit more complex to operate. The beginner will need more practice to gain and maintain proficiency. Also, the semi-automatic is potentially less reliable than the revolver, and shooters with limited hand strength may find slide retraction and magazine loading difficult. Finally, while the semi-auto functions best with ammunition of a certain power level, the revolver digests everything from light target loads to heavy defensive loads.

Modern revolvers have a cylinder that swings out to the side. The cylinder has five or six chambers into which cartridges are loaded, and the cylinder rotates with each shot to bring a fresh cartridge in line with the barrel. Firing is accomplished in either single-action mode (the hammer is manually cocked and then released by a short, light trigger pull) or double-action mode (a single long and relatively heavy trigger pull both cocks and releases the hammer). Defensive firing with a revolver is always performed in the double-action mode.

Step 3: Selecting the Proper Caliber
Next is the selection of the caliber of your defensive handgun — that is, the exact cartridge it is designed to fire. This choice is critical, as it determines both the level of recoil you’ll have to manage and the effectiveness of the handgun/cartridge combination in a defensive situation. Caliber choice also influences gun size; a 9mm Parabellum pistol, for example, can be made smaller and lighter than one for the physically larger .45 ACP.

In general, as bullet diameter, weight, and velocity go up, so do cartridge power, recoil, and effectiveness in a defensive situation. Thus, 9mm Para. is not as powerful as the .40 S&W, which in turn is bested slightly by the .45 ACP. Also, each cartridge is offered in a variety of loads featuring different bullet weights and types at different velocities. The beginning handgunner will usually shoot faster and more accurately with one of the lower-recoil cartridges suitable for self-defense — such as the .380 Auto or 9mm Para. in semi-automatics or .38 Special in revolvers — than with more powerful choices such as the .357 Magnum or .45 ACP. Remember, shot placement is more important than sheer cartridge power.

Cartridge choice is not made in a vacuum: A person unable to handle a 9mm Para. in a small gun may still be comfortable with a .40 S&W or .45 ACP in a heavier, large-frame pistol. Thus, an informed choice involves firing guns of different sizes, barrel lengths, and grip configurations in different calibers.

Step 4: Hands-On Shopping
Once you have established a preference for a particular gun type in a specific caliber, your best bet is to test-fire that model. Various makes and models of guns of the exact same type — say, medium-frame 9mm semi-automatics — will differ widely in how they operate, feel, handle and shoot. It’s important to experience all that firsthand.

However not all gun stores have the means for such test-firing, and if a would-be buyer doesn’t have personal contacts who can help, hands-on research may be a difficult proposition. But because it is important, we’d recommend making an effort, and there are a few ways to do so.

Whenever possible, identify nearby gun stores with in-house ranges. Frequently such shops have test or rental units of the most popular models, and in fact many indoor ranges rent guns to customers. Quite likely, those rentals will include examples of models that interest first-time buyers of carry or home-defense handguns.

Another option would be to sign up for an NRA Basic Pistol or Personal Protection Course. The instructor may be able to help arrange for a student to test-fire different models of the type of pistol being sought. Whether a gun has already been purchased or not, these courses are very beneficial and highly recommended for every new gun owner.

Of course it’s also possible that the gun-owning friend of a friend or family member would agree to let a newcomer shoot his or her gun. Most handgun owners understand perfectly why gun ownership is so important, and many will be glad to help mentor a new shooter.

Step 5: Test-Firing Potential Candidates
The first thing to consider during your test-fire session is safety. Applying lessons learned from personal contacts or from a basic pistol course, is the gun easy to operate safely? Are safety or decocking levers positioned within finger reach, and are they easy to manipulate? Integral safety locks, available on some guns, may be worth considering as they may foil inquisitive children, but they can be a hindrance if the gun is needed to meet an immediate threat.

Reliability is the most important characteristic of a self-defense arm. Test any gun under consideration with at least 50 rounds of defensive ammunition. Semi-autos should be scrutinized for their ability to feed, fire, and eject with a wide variety of loads. Also, the magazines should load securely, then drop freely when released.
Ergonomics and ease of use are also important in a defensive handgun, which may have to be handled and fired in a fast, natural manner. Does the gun fit the shooter’s hand comfortably and point naturally? Does his or her trigger finger engage the trigger properly, about halfway between the tip of the finger and the first joint? Are all the controls smooth to operate and can your fingers reach them easily? Is the gun easy to load and unload? Is the gun’s recoil controllable, enabling rapid shot-to-shot recovery?

Finally, if the gun is to be carried, does it conceal well in a pocket, purse, fanny pack, or holster? When you practice drawing it — unloaded, of course — does it catch on your clothing? Does its weight cause your clothes to bulge or droop?

Step 6: The Final Decision
When the decision boils down to multiple viable alternatives, make the final choice by considering other factors: finishes, options, reputation of the manufacturer, and the specific model. Price is another important factor; one can expect to pay from $350 to $750 or more for a new, high-quality handgun. But it’s false economy to let a concern for saving a few dollars heavily influence the choice of what will be a lifetime — and possibly life-saving — investment.
You should take advantage of all the information resources at your disposal, including gun store employees, NRA Certified Instructors, manufacturers’ catalogs and websites, videos, books, and periodicals. As is the case with every subject, the Internet is awash in info on defensive handguns, but much of it ranges from highly opinionated to ill-informed to virtually worthless. So be careful of what’s there.

Websites like NRA’s contain many handgun reviews and always strive to be fair and evenhanded.

Owning and learning to use a defensive handgun is a big responsibility, but it also can bring peace of mind, knowing that you now have the means to defend your life and your family.



The AR-15 has evolved to become one of the most variously configured guns in firearms history. Here’s yet another step… READ MORE

SOURCE: NRA Publications, by Barbara Baird

LWRCI Diadem AR-15

Guns come with stories. These stories create history, and history is being made with the first AR-15 built for women — per what women told engineers at LWRCI that they wanted in this type of popular rifle platform. The LWRCI Diadem is a limited-edition run of a direct-impingement (DI) rifle, produced because two guys from LWRCI met Carrie Lightfoot, founder of The Well Armed Woman (TWAW), a non-profit organization with a mission to educate, equip and empower female firearm owners. The organization boasts more than 335 chapters in 49 states, with approximately 11,500 members.

David Golladay and David Ridley of LWRCI heard Lightfoot speak on a women’s industry panel at a National Shooting Sports Foundation summit two years ago. They said they were impressed by TWAW and its impressive reach, as well as Lightfoot’s articulate and passionate methods for moving the organization forward. She is a go-to person in the industry for the women’s gun movement and has been featured in national media — including Time, “NBC Nightly News,” USA Today, Fox News, and NRA News.

Further conversations ensued between the two Davids and Lightfoot. She reached out to at least 140 women within the TWAW organization, asking them for their recommendations, and the wheels for the perfect woman’s AR started turning. LWRCI became involved with the women’s rifle movement, supporting TWAW and its chapter leaders by sponsoring and attending conferences. At these events, they talked to women on the range about what they wanted in an AR. The result was the LWRCI Diadem.

To build the LWRCI Diadem, Lightfoot and her team compiled a spreadsheet with the results and sent it to LWRCI to use as part of the design process. Lightfoot understood that LWRCI told its engineers to “give the women what they want.” The first gun rolled off the line in July 2017, with a run of 1,000 units and only available for a short time at a discount to TWAW chapter members across the country. The LWRCI Diadem now is available to the public.

I attended a media event in July 2017 at the LWRCI plant in Cambridge, MD, along with Lightfoot. For the first time, she met the team of engineers face-to-face and found out that the guys learned a few things about female gun owners throughout the process. One of the most surprising things to them was the fact that the women didn’t want any color on the LWRCI Diadem, except for the trigger — which is a Cerakote-applied purple, TWAW’s signature color. They did want, however, the TWAW logo embossed on the lower. Women also wanted grooves on the grip, a specially designed, slimmer compact rail, LWRCI rail panels, and a hand stop.

Lightfoot said they worked on the grip for a few iterations, and particularly wanted to get the feel and balance right. “The balance is remarkable; it almost becomes weightless because it’s balanced so well. And the handguard — it’s been designed for a woman’s hand, so that our hands can wrap the guard and control the gun. We wanted that feature,” she said. Other features requested by TWAW and included on the LWRCI Diadem include fully ambidextrous controls, an enhanced padded buttpad for recoil absorption, an H2 buffer to ensure reliable cycling, an ambidextrous charging handle, and LWRCI’s advanced trigger guard.

The name LWRCI Diadem is a play on the LWRCI DI line of rifles, and adds a touch of royalty. “The name is a DI rifle and also is a crown jewel. It’s a crown jewel of the AR-15 line,” Lightfoot said.

After the plant tour, we headed out to LWRCI’s private shooting range on Ragged Island. We shot a few thousand rounds through the present Diadems (as well as other LWRCI guns) on steel at 100 yards. Lightfoot was right. The handguard worked with my hand size, and the balance felt right. We sent hundreds of rounds downrange, mostly offhand, and at times rapidly. The LWRCI Diadem continued to deliver, pinging the gongs with no malfunctions. The only drawback for me was the trigger. I wanted to work with this gun more to see what it delivered.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
(l.) LWRCI’s commitment to ambidextrous operation is evident in the safety selector and bolt-catch release. (ctr.) All controls, including the magazine release, are duplicated on each side of the Diadem. (r.) Engraving on the magazine well and the purple ALG trigger further define this LWRCI DI rifle as the Diadem.

After receiving a test model to try, I took it to my range, and was illuminated. Spending some quality time with the LWRCI Diadem, I saw the rifle, as with all mechanical contraptions, was not perfect. Nevertheless, it came very close to meeting the TWAW requirements as they were explained to me. That said, guess what? All women (like all men) are different and we have our own preferences that might not perfectly match up with those of even a large group of other women.

Part of the difficulties I experienced in testing the rifle came from elements of the design, which, although they were features that satisfied the apparent desires for competition-based furniture, hindered quick and consistent medium- to long-range accuracy testing. For example, the trigger seemed similar to the much-maligned triggers on other LWRCI DI rifles in that it didn’t break consistently, was a little creepy and had a pull weight too heavy for accuracy testing at 100 yards.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
Both front and rear sights can be used as stand-alone iron sights, or folded down if an optic is installed, and both are adjustable using simple tools.

The angle of the specially designed pistol grip on the LWRCI Diadem was too extreme for comfortable and consistent benchrest shooting, and its finger grooves were poorly spaced for my hand when shooting from the bench. The combination of a lightweight, small-diameter fore-end and heavy fluted barrel resulted in slow barrel heat dissipation, causing shot groups at 100 yards to open up unless I allowed at least 3 minutes from shot-to-shot. Once the barrel got hot (difficult to touch with my bare hand), it stayed hot much longer (of course) than a “pencil-barrel” AR-15 I was also testing.

The included back-up iron sights (BUIS) have a rotating drum peep system in the rear sight, and a front post with Heckler & Koch-type “ears” in the front sight. I like how it’s like a ghost ring at its most-open setting. I didn’t use the BUIS for accuracy testing, but did use them for chronograph work. Since the LWRCI Diadem did not come with a scope or mounts, I borrowed my Leupold Mark 4 8.5-25x50mm from another rifle for accuracy testing.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
(l.) Proprietary rail mounts allow accessories to be added to the handguard at the 3-, 6- and 9-o’clock positions. (r.) The bolt-carrier group is nickel-boron coated and contains an integral gas key.

The LWRCI Diadem showed a preference for certain loads during accuracy testing. I shot both .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO commercial ammunition. With a 1:7-inch twist rate, one might expect heavier, longer projectiles to stabilize better than lighter, shorter ones, and this generally held true. The gun may have shown better accuracy if I had some ammo with 77-grain projectiles, but, alas, I did not and had to make do with bullets ranging from 52 to 69 grains.

The only operational failures during the LWRCI Diadem range time were occasional failures of the bolt to lock rearward when I was using 20-round Magpul PMags and a couple of 10-round sheet-metal variants. There were no lock-back failures with the 30-round PMag supplied with the gun. Admittedly, the smaller mags have already seen several thousand rounds each and may be a bit worn, but since only one mag came with the gun I had to dip into my stockpile for more. That brings up another point: gun manufacturers (I’m not aware of more than a few that are not guilty in this area) need to include more than one magazine with each gun, since failures with semi-automatic firearms of all types often begin with a faulty magazine.

According to my Lyman electronic trigger-pull gauge, the average pull weight over five hammer drops was 7 pounds, 2 ounces. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though; the pull weight spread was nearly a pound, showing the inconsistency I noticed during accuracy testing. I shoot better when the pull is consistent and averaging at least 3 pounds less than the trigger on this rifle. I have heard and read that companies building ARs are intentionally sacrificing consistent and lighter trigger weights to the gods of safety and reliability — and, the triggers smooth-out with use. I suspect LWRCI is trying to keep the price of the rifle down since “everybody installs aftermarket triggers, anyway.”

LWRCI Diadem AR-15
(l.) The Magpul CTR stock is equipped with an enhanced buttpad for comfort. (ctr.) ErgoGrip’s pistol grip is designed with a subtle texture and a palm-filling shape. (r.) Magpul’s 30-round, standard-capacity magazines keep the Diadem fed.

I don’t know if any of these thoughts crossed the minds of the designers, but just in case, I’d like to address these concerns. First, call me an idealist, but I don’t think the lawyers for the aftermarket trigger makers that produce consistent, lighter triggers are going to knowingly allow unsafe and unreliable products to ship. Next, this LWRCI Diadem came to me with more than 1,500 rounds on its odometer, so if the trigger was going to get better with use, it should have already done so. Last, I’m one of those who have replaced stock triggers in ARs, but not in all of them. At last count, of the nine AR-pattern rifles in my stable, I’ve seen the need to replace the triggers in two of them.

Some of my ARs have two-stage triggers, some are single-stage, but none are creepy, all are consistent and their drop points range from slightly more than 3 pounds to a little more than 6 pounds. This last argument for mediocre stock triggers certainly should not have been in the manufacturer’s plan for this design, since TWAW members specifically requested purple-colored triggers — it is doubtful they had any intentions to replace what came with the gun. That said, aftermarket options abound.

LWRCI did not create this rifle from whole cloth, as several of the LWRCI Diadem’s features are the same or similar to other rifles from the company’s DI line, including the integrated gas key on the rifle’s nickel-boron-coated bolt-carrier group, a spiral-fluted NiCorr-treated barrel and LWRCI’s Monoforge upper receiver. It did, however, meet the requirements for a group of women who knew what they wanted. To date, Lightfoot says feedback about the Diadem has been extremely positive. “The women appreciate that the gun is not ‘girly,’ and that it’s in black,” added Lightfoot.

LWRCI Diadem AR-15

LWRCI Diadem AR-15


Democrats’ Exciting New Hope Adheres to Tired Old Anti-Gun Dogma


In 1997, Charlton Heston lamented: “We’ve reached that point in time when our national social policy originates on ‘Oprah.’” Here it is again! Keep reading…



Democrats searching for a standard-bearer in the 2020 presidential election lit on long-time entertainment, media, and publishing figure Oprah Winfrey last week, following a speech Winfrey gave at a televised Hollywood extravaganza. Winfrey received wide acclaim for her remarks, but amidst the #oprah2020 mania that has followed, questions have arisen over what Winfrey stands for politically and whether she has the desire and skill set to lead the Free World. Some of those questions remain unanswered, but for gun owners, one thing is crystal clear: Oprah Winfrey embraces the staunchly anti-gun posture of contemporary Hollywood.

Winfrey’s anti-gun activism dates back to at least the 1990s when she was closely involved with the rabidly anti-gun group CeaseFire, Inc. The now defunct group’s website, still archived online, attests to its fanaticism. It’s Mission Statement, for example, explained:

Through a coordinated public service announcement (PSA) print and broadcast campaign, our mission is to mobilize a broad cross section of American leadership to educate and promote handgun-free homes and families. By highlighting the public health implications of handgun violence, Cease Fire can educate Americans to view handguns as the inherently unsafe and dangerous products they are, and not appropriate to have in any home. [Emphasis added.]

Oprah Winfrey was part of this “education” campaign, appearing in CeaseFire’s print and broadcast ads and in its fundraising materials.

CeaseFire pioneered elements of the modern anti-gun publicity playbook, heavily promoting dubious factoids and inflating statistics about firearms’ supposed toll on “children” by including statistics pertaining to 18- and 19-year-old adults (a common age for gang membership). Its ads featured actors such as Winfrey and Paul Newman gravely recounting media stories about gun owners accidentally killing their loved ones. Even gun safes, according to the group’s ads, weren’t to be trusted. Taglines included, “Before you bring a gun in the house, think about it” and “A Home is no place for a handgun.”

The legendary Charlton Heston, who would go on to be one of the NRA’s most iconic presidents, lamented in 1997, “We’ve reached that point in time when our national social policy originates on ‘Oprah.’”

Indeed, in 2000, Winfrey promoted the so-called Million Mom March (the march) on her popular daytime talk show. The march was actually a Mother’s Day rally of women in support of gun control on the National Mall. Although the actual number of “marchers” who attended the D.C. rally was considerably less than a “million,” the event received a major boost from Winfrey’s free publicity. The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence — which later merged with the anti-gun organization that formed around the march — recounts that the march’s website crashed from the crush of traffic generated when its online address was published during Winfrey’s show. Winfrey told her viewers that if they didn’t “do something” to stop “children” from being killed by firearms, they were “part of the problem.”

Insisting that she is “apolitical,” Winfrey nevertheless became a staunch supporter of Barack Obama’s hyper-partisan political career. Wikidpedia states that “Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama was one of the most widely covered and studied developments of the 2008 presidential campaign.” One paper by two economists from the University of Maryland estimates that Winfrey’s endorsement “was responsible for approximately 1,000,000 additional votes for Obama,” potentially swaying the 2008 Democratic primary in the two-term president’s favor. “Winfrey, for her part, described Obama’s political ascendance as “beyond and above politics” and “something new.”

Obama’s strongly pro-gun control views clearly did not diminish Oprah Winfrey’s support for him. Rather, she repeatedly used her vast public reach to support Obama’s gun control agenda during his presidency. At Harvard’s commencement in 2013, for example, Winfrey plugged the administration’s #1 gun control initiative, “universal background checks.” In 2016, she indicated support for an “assault weapons” ban (another Obama-backed measure) in the wake of a mass murder in Orlando, Florida. “Are we a country that really believes that assault weapons should be made available to anybody?” she commented. “Are assault weapons necessary? I … just say, ‘enough.’”

Fortunately, unlike most of her other high-profile endeavors, Oprah Winfrey’s gun control activism has been a failure, at least as measured by additional federal gun control laws. But it’s hard to overstate the immense cult of personality that surrounds her, as well as the reflexive adulation she engenders from her fellow elites in entertainment and media. Like Barack Obama — with whom she remains close — a President Oprah Winfrey could count on their unconditional support, as well as their protection against any serious scrutiny or criticism.

Gun owners know that the last thing America needs is another gun-control absolutist as president. Because while Oprah Winfrey is wrong that handguns do not belong in the home, it’s true that handgun abolitionists do not belong in the White House.

HUNTING: Why This Wildlife Biologist Hunts


Hunting, through the regulated taking of “targeted” game animals, ensures a healthy habitat, a dynamic balance of Nature, the perpetuation of the species. Read more!

larry weishunhn

SOURCE: American Hunter, by Larry L. Weishuhn, wildlife biologist and outdoor TV host

“All life on Earth more or less depends upon the death of something else!” Makes no difference whether the organism is vegetarian, carnivore, or omnivore, or it draws nutrients from the “air.” Our world is essentially a closed system. Nothing comes in from outer space other than sunlight.

I am a hunter and proud to be! I hunt to live. I love wildlife and their habitat. I take the lives, in my instances of fish, game birds, other game, and domestic animals both large and small, as well as vegetable matter to nourish my body and the bodies of my family and sometimes friends. The plants and seeds I eat are, or were, no less alive as the animals I take for food.

This fact of life, even though some seem to rebuke it, does not change things. This makes it easy for me to be a hunter. Food is not created in the “grocery store!” We have food because something living died.

As a professional wildlife biologist, I spent many years researching and working with wildlife species with emphasis on game animals — those with economic value — which, in turn, causes land managers to maintain wildlife species numbers within what the habitat can support in the worst of weather conditions. Doing so maintains a healthy habitat and healthy animals.

A healthy habitat means a variety of plants within that ecosystem. As a result, there is vegetative matter not only for the game animals to feed upon and use as cover, but also a much greater variety of insects for song birds to feed upon, as well as small non-game species. This same vegetation produces seeds which provide food for a great variety of wildlife and we humans. As plants die, their remains are broken down and become nutrients within the soil for ensuing generations of plants.

Hunting, through the regulated taking of “targeted” game animals, ensures a healthy habitat, a dynamic balance of Nature, the perpetuation of the species. But, it is the other animals and plants that exist on that same land where hunting occurs that benefit many times more.

We often forget “man” is part of the ecosystem and Nature, no less than the wild and domesticated animals and plants. This too, is a fact of life. As humans it is up to us to properly manage animals and habitat to maintain and improve the quality of life. From a wildlife biologist’s perspective, in today’s world, as in the time of ancient man, hunting is the most ethical and efficient manner while benefiting wildlife, habitat, and humans.

As long as hunters have a vested interest in wildlife they will continue to pay for conservation of all wild species. Had hunters not always paid the bills, many species — both game and non-game — would have long since disappeared!

About the Author
Legendary “Mr. Whitetail,” Larry Weishuhn, host and owner of DSC’s “Trailing the Hunter’s Moon,” is one of the most popular and widely-recognized wildlife biologists and outdoor media personalities nationwide.

Over the past five decades, he has authored multiple books and numerous articles on hunting and wildlife conservation. In 2004 his book, Trailing the Hunter’s Moon, was named ForeWord Magazine’s Gold Book of the Year in the Adventure and Recreation category.

A lifelong hunter, Weishuhn has long served as a featured speaker for the NRA and other organizations including the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) and the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA), where he was one of three co-founders promoting science-based wildlife management, firearms, and hunting. For more information, click HERE.

SKILLS: Will You ‘Get Killed on the Streets?’ — Personal-Defense Myths Debunked


Don’t believe everything you hear… Personal survival depends on planning and preparation, not opinion. Read more…

know it all

SOURCE: NRA Publications, by Tamara Keel

Here’s a thing that happens often enough that it’s become a meme, a trope, a truism. Walk into any gun store and listen to the conversation around the handgun counter (or, alternatively, belly up to your favorite online forum) and within a surprisingly short amount of time you will hear someone suggest something that gets belittled by the regulars. More importantly, it will be belittled in a rather specific way, like so:

“You want to do [RANDOM THING]? Don’t you know that [RANDOM THING] will get you killed on the streets?”

It’s to the point where “Killed on the streets” has become something of an inside joke. I’ve been trying to catalog these methods of self-induced demise, partly to debunk them, and partly in the hopes I can publish a phonebook-size compendium some day and profit handsomely. I’ll just go ahead and share some of these with y’all today, though, for free.

Carrying a revolver, for starters, will apparently get me killed on the street. This caught me off guard, because I’ve seen pictures of pre-1980s America, when revolvers were the predominant sidearm for law enforcement and private citizen alike. You’d think the streets in those pictures would be hip-deep in revolver carriers who had been killed in them, and yet they aren’t.

I mean, there’s a reason police have generally moved from revolvers, and yes, I think a quality semi-automatic pistol is capable of solving more defensive problems than a revolver, but that doesn’t magically render a revolver ineffective. There are reasons some prefer wheelguns, including simplicity and the fact that they depend on the trigger finger rather than the ammunition in order to function. For some, those factors outweigh the drawbacks, and some revolver enthusiasts shoot their guns remarkably well.

Similar to revolvers in their ability to apparently cause demise upon the public thoroughfares are reloads, or rather the lack thereof. I will say up front that, if carrying a semi-automatic pistol, then carrying a spare magazine is definitely Best Practice with a capital B and P.

This is not, however, in case the need should pop up for a 35-round exchange with ninjas in the middle of the Kwik-E-Mart parking lot. Instead, this is because the part most likely to go wrong with your pistol is the magazine. The number of ways it can go wrong are legion, and range from double-feed malfunctions to simply falling out of the gun. The quickest and surest way to fix this malfunction is to insert a fresh magazine and drive on.

However, modern pistols are exceedingly reliable devices and the belt and pocket space of the average American who can’t dress like a tactical hobo is finite. There are plenty of other things that you will use more often than a spare magazine, and if it comes down to choosing between a good flashlight or a tourniquet neatly folded onto a PHLster Flatpack TQ carrier and a spare magazine? Take the flashlight or the tourniquet. (And if you’re carrying two spare magazines and zero tourniquets? You’re wrong.) So, no, not carrying a spare magazine will probably not get you killed in the streets.

What about mechanical safeties on pistols? I hear that these will get me killed in the streets, too, because I won’t be able to deactivate them under stress. (In fact, I’m aware of one situation reported by a local detective where a citizen was victimized for exactly that reason.)

Thing is, not all safeties — nor all end users — are created equal. There are safeties which disengage vary nearly automatically with a final firing grip, and there are shooters who practice using those religiously in daily or near-daily dry-fire sessions. Then there are miserable little tabs that you practically need to manipulate with a thumbnail.

If you’re going to carry a pistol with a mechanical safety, make sure it’s one you can deactivate smoothly and automatically as part of the drawstroke, and not some fiddly thing that takes two hands and a jeweler’s screwdriver to manipulate. This should minimize the whole “killed on the streets” factor.

Another surefire killed-on-the-streets cause is carrying a caliber that the dispenser of wisdom feels is inadequate, which is usually any one “wimpier” than what they’re carrying. They’ve got a .44 Mag. and you have a .45 ACP? Killed in the streets. A .40 S&W versus your 9 mm? Likewise.

To hear some folk talk, carrying a certain caliber of handgun bestows bullet resistance to projectiles from lesser calibers. “Ha-ha! That goblin was carrying a .380 ACP, and I had my .44 Spl. …” I have bad news: Just because yours is bigger, dude, doesn’t mean the bad guy’s bullets are going to bounce off you like a spring shower off a freshly Rain-Xed windshield.

Conversely, just because you have a 9 mm or a .327 Fed. Mag. instead of some big-bore wondermagnum, it doesn’t mean that yours will bounce off him. Shot placement works, and there’s no magic chambering that will cause or prevent your getting killed in the streets.

The list goes on and on: Flashlights or lasers giving away your position? Killed in the streets. Retention devices on your holster? Killed in the streets. I could go on, but I only have so much space here. Plus, I need to save some for that big, thick book.

SKILLS: Resolve to Improve Your Self-Defense Skills


Start the year off with a review of your skills, and take steps to hone them: if you don’t use it you might lose it… Read on!

new years resolutions

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Sheriff Jim Wilson

As a general rule, I’m not a big one for making New Year’s Resolutions. However, for various reasons, I’ve been studying my own personal defense plan and feel the need to focus on improving it and making it better. When we neglect our shooting skills, they degenerate quickly. The same can be said of our personal defense skills. If we are to deal with a deadly encounter, we must stay focused and in practice. So here are some thoughts — resolutions, if you will — about improving my own situation.

I am going to make time to practice more. In most cases, that means practicing the basics. The basics of defensive marksmanship are the foundation that everything else is built upon. A smooth draw stroke and quickly and accurately hitting what I am aiming at will go a long way towards ensuring my safety. There is simply no substitute for regular practice.

Right in line with that, I need to practice what I preach and do a lot more Dry Practice. These winter days, when it may not be comfortable to get outside, are perfect for a few minutes of daily Dry Practice.

I also am going to book at least one defensive shooting school during this year. Good instructors always seem to be able to spot the little things that I am doing wrong and can’t seem to see for myself. Going to a defensive shooting school is just like getting the Jeep tuned up — things just run a lot better and a lot smoother.

I also need to improve my awareness of what is going on around me. The further away we see a potential problem, the more options we have for dealing with it. No one is at their height of awareness all the time but, if we really work at it, we can increase that awareness. A heightened awareness means that I may not get hurt and also means that I may not have to hurt another, and that’s a good thing.

Another important resolution is to seek out ways to help all of the folks who are just getting into defensive shooting. They feel the need to improve on their personal protection but often don’t know exactly how to go about it. They need a kind word, a friendly smile, and a helping hand. I can do that and you can, too.

In line with that, I need to find more and better ways to preach the important message of gun safety. Improving gun safety and reducing negligent discharges — along with resultant injuries — is a critical task that we all should be involved in. “How can I do it better?” is a question that I am going to spend a lot of time pondering.

While not a direct personal defense resolution, I am going to spend more time with the two fine .22 Smith & Wesson revolvers that I have but rarely shoot. Most of us got into the shooting sports because it was fun. Sometimes we forget that simple fact. A day spent plinking charcoal briquettes and other safe targets is good for my soul. It would be a good idea to invite some young shooters along, too.

RELOADERS CORNER: Cartridge Case Headspace


Knowing, and controlling, this dimension is a crucially important step in the case sizing operation, especially for semi-autos. Here’s what it is and why it matters. Read all about it!

Glen Zediker

Last time, and to start the new year off, I hit a few highlights on the first of what I think are some of the most important things to understand in reloading for bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles. A majority of those differences is in what’s allowable and possible in cartridge case sizing.

The reason I’m running these articles is to clearly define the differences in, essentially, what you can get away with (and can’t get away without) depending on the action type. Don’t confuse some of the tactics, tools, and techniques used for bolt-actions and (mis)apply them to semis. That can range from frustrating (function issues) to disastrous (blowed-up guns). I hope that these focused articles will clarify the basics before moving on to the finer points respecting each.

case headspace illustration
Here’s headspace: it’s a height based on a diameter. A .223 Rem. uses a 0.330-inch-diameter datum; the height to the diameter on the case shoulder that equals 0.330 inches is the headspace dimension, measured from the case base (this is measured from the bolt face to determine headspace in a rifle chamber). There are only 5 datums that apply to all standard bottleneck cartridges; the correct number for your cartridge will be referenced in the cartridge specifications. (Belted magnums and rimmed cartridges are different stories, for a different story.)

Following on that, here’s one: cartridge case headspace. A rifle chamber has a headspace; a cartridge case has a headspace. The second cannot exceed the first. Here’s how it goes:

The area in point is the case shoulder, the area between the bottom of the case neck cylinder and the case body. There are two dimensions associated with case headspace: the diameter of the “datum” line, and the height (measured from the case base) to that line. So, headspace is determined by the location of the datum line. There are only 5 datum diameters in use over the range of bottleneck rifle cartridges. Datum diameter will be indicated in the cartridge description in any good loading manual. (Belted magnums, which headspace off the belt, are the exception, and different stories, and so are rimmed cases.)

Chamber headspace is determined by the chamber reamer and also the one operating the reamer. There are SAAMI standards for all standard cartridges (which are coincidentally those having SAAMI specs). Ammo manufacturers set their cartridge case dimensions to work within those same specs, and almost always with (literally) some room for variations. That means that, usually (and, again, I’m talking about factory-chambered rifles) the cartridge case headspace will be a little shorter than the rifle chamber will accommodate.

When a round fires, as is by now well-known, the case expands in all directions under pressure, swelling and conforming to the chamber, then retracts immediately afterward when pressure dissipates. Since brass has a plastic property, dimensions are not going to return to exactly what they were prior to firing, and that’s what all the sizing tools and operations seek to rectify. So, among other changes, the case shoulder will have “blown forward,” after having snugged up into that area of the rifle chamber. That will have moved the datum line upward. As hit upon last article, semi-automatics are notorious for exhibiting a little more than they “should have” in expanding, and that’s because there’s a little (to a lot) of pressure latent in the case when the bolt starts to unlock and move rearward. This can effectively create additional space for case expansion within the chamber. The case shoulder measurement after firing in a semi-auto might actually exceed that of the actual chamber headspace, or, at the least, be a little taller than it would have been in a bolt-gun having the exact same chamber dimensions. The hotter the load, the more gas system pressure, the more this might show.

case headspace tools
Get a few de-primed once-fired cases and a gage and get to work. Here’s a Forster Datum Dial gage. Works well and works for all standard-architecture bottleneck cartridges, as does the Hornady LNL. Each or either gives a “real” headspace number (although it’s not perfectly congruent, without mathematical manipulation, to the figure from a headspace gage used for chambering; that doesn’t matter though: as long as the gage is zeroed it shows the difference, and that’s what matters). By the way, the old standard “drop-in” style case gages might keep ammo safe, but won’t provide this sort of detail in information. The numbers we need to get from our gage are these: new, unfired case shoulder height (where we started); fired, unslzed case shoulder height (where we went to); sized case shoulder height (where we need to get back to).

To be rechambered, this case has to have its case shoulder “set back,” which means that the sizing die has to contact the shoulder area enough to budge it, bump it, down to a tolerable height. Here next is how to find out what that “tolerable” height is.

The process of adjusting a sizing die to produce correct cartridge case headspace is plenty simple and easy, and requires a specialty tool (and you knew that was coming): a gage to determine datum line height.


First, and important: this has to be done on the first firing of a new case, either a factory-loaded round or your own creation. For more conclusive accuracy, measure 4-6 cases, and, very important: de-prime a case before taking a read (the primer might interfere).

Measure a new case. Write that down.
Measure your fired case. Write that down.

Again, in a semi-auto the chamber might not actually be as long as the fired case reading says it is. In a bolt-gun, the post-firing case headspace dimension is going to be a closely-accurate indicator of the chamber headspace (but always subtract 0.001 inches from any reading to account for the predictable “spring back” in brass).

headspace reading
New — 1.458 inches.
headspace reading
Fired — 1.464 inches
headspace setting
Die setting — 1.460 inches.

To set the die, take the fired case reading and reduce it. How much set back? I recommend 0.003-0.004 inches for something like an AR15 or M1A. That’s playing it safe, considering, again (and again) that there may likely have been additional expansion beyond chamber dimensions. I’d like to see folks set back their bolt-guns at least 0.001, but I’m not going to argue! I don’t like running sticky bolts.

Set up case sizing die
Thread the sizing die down to touch the shellholder when the press ram is at its highest point of travel (whether it “cams” or not). Then back the die up (off) one full turn. Lightly seat the die body lock ring against the press top, and repeat the following process: lube and size the case, check the headspace; adjust the die downward, check the headspace. Rinse and repeat. For a 7/8-14 thread, which is virtually all presses, a full turn equals 0.0714 inches. That little nod of knowledge helps keep from going too far too soon, and also shows just how fine the adjustments get right at the end. When you think you got it, size a few more cases and read them. When you know you got it, lock the die ring. Note: the expander/decapping assembly was removed from this die, for one, because t doesn’t factor in establishing headspace, and because I set it all up separately on a new die. Headspace is the first thing I set.)

A little extra space ahead of the case shoulder helps ensure safe and reliable functioning in a semi-auto, and also, importantly, reduces the chance that the case might bottom out on the shoulder area in the chamber before the bolt is fully locked down. Firing residue in a semi-auto chamber is also effectively reducing chamber headspace, and that’s another reason for the little extra shoulder set-back. Keep the chamber clean!

headspace reading
Don’t just set the die bottom flush against the shellholder and commence to shucking cases! Most die makers provide that as instruction, and some say drop it down another quarter turn or so beyond that. That’s excessive. Here’s the read I got from flush die-shellholder contact on a new Forster.

Why not just set the shoulder back, for either action type, to what the factory set for the new case? Doing that really wouldn’t affect load performance, but, in my belief, deliberately creating what amounts to excessive headspace is not wise. It’s just that much more expansion, that much more “working” that the brass has to endure, that much shorter serviceable brass life. However! That’s not nearly as bad as leaving the shoulder too high! That’s dangerous.

Bolt-Gun Only!
Do you have to do this with a bolt-gun? I say yes, but freely admit that, at the least, from zero to “just a tic” is safe enough. What you do need to do is know what you’re getting! For a bolt-action it is possible, and some think wise, to determine the necessary case shoulder set-back based on what is needed to close the bolt on the resized case: adjust the die down a tad at a time until the bolt closes. Depending on how stout the load is, it might be 2-4, or more, firings before the shoulder needs to be set back for a bolt-gun. But, rest assured, it eventually will. Just keep up with it. I think the bolt should close easily (and if you’re having issues with that in your handloads, there’s the first place to look for a cure). It’s really not possible to follow this plan with a semi-auto because the bolt will close with much greater force during actual firing. 

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.


REVIEW: Springfield Armory XD-E


This outstanding handgun flaunts a rebirth of a trigger mechanism, and design, that has been overshadowed in the vast array of common striker-fired pistols, but one that has strong merits. Read more…

springfield armory XD-E
The defining feature of the Springfield Armory XD-E is highlighted above, the DA/SA hammer-fired system that signals a return to an action often overshadowed by modern striker-fired defensive pistols.

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Tamara Keel

There was a time, back in the 1970s and ’80s, when giants strode the earth of the desert Southwest. At the time, semi-automatic handguns came mostly in two flavors: Single-action pistols — which were endorsed and carried by these giants –and pistols that were double-action on the first shot and single-action on subsequent shots, which were derided by the giants as “crunchentickers.”

The logic behind these sorts of pistols was that they could be carried safely decocked, yet be ready to fire with just a pull of the trigger. The downside was that the transition between the long, heavy initial trigger pull and the subsequent lighter, shorter pulls required more initial training and sustainment practice to maintain proficiency. So, the “crunchenticker” was seen as the lowest-common-denominator issue gun, while the real shooters used single-action pistols.

And, fast-forward to 1985, then came the striker-fired Glock and soon after all of its market competitors. Featuring only a single trigger pull to master, these pistols quickly became the singlemost-common variant in domestic law enforcement (and, anecdotally, coincided with a jump in qualification scores at police departments across America) and private-citizen use.

Fast forward to the present day, and in some sectors there’s a renewed interest in hammer-fired, traditional double-action (TDA, for short) pistols among a varied spectrum of serious shooters, and for a number of reasons.

In the competitive-shooting world, TDAs started owning Production Division in USPSA and IPSC. This was partially because so many current models were metal-framed and heavier than their striker-fired, polymer competitors. The TDA trigger itself was a big factor, too. As a friend explained to me, “You get one lousy trigger pull and 10 great ones, rather than 11 mediocre ones.”

On the tactical side of things, I know a few instructors who strongly favor the longer initial pull of the TDA in defensive guns for the reason that these pistols are threat-management tools. Guns get drawn — and even pointed — a lot more often than they get fired, they explained, and that longer trigger pull can be an added cushion against a nervous trigger finger getting into the wrong place.

One last reason for the renewed interest in hammer-fired TDA pistols is the increase in popularity of Appendix Inside-The-Waistband (AIWB) carry. When holstering in an AIWB holster, the user can control the hammer of a TDA pistol with the thumb of the firing hand. This serves the purpose of alerting the shooter to any unnoticed obstructions that may have gotten into the trigger guard and snagged the trigger by letting them feel the movement of the hammer.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts of the hammer-fired pistol, the selection on the market isn’t what it used to be, especially in the concealable, mid-priced variety. Furthermore, while Beretta, SIG Sauer, and Heckler & Koch all offer concealable TDA pistols, all but a couple up-market offerings from SIG are double-stack guns, and right now the market is madly in love with slim, single-stack concealment pistols for CCW.

The Springfield Armory XD-E, a single-stack, polymer-frame 9 mm, took the market by surprise early in 2017, representing a new addition to the company’s line of XD pistols.

While it uses the name and familiar styling elements of the XD series of guns, including the prominent “GRIP ZONE” markings on the grip, the Springfield Armory XD-E is pretty much an entirely different pistol. It shares almost nothing but the magazine and sights with Springfield’s existing single-stack line, the XD-S, and even there it only uses the XD-S extended magazines.

XD-E controls
(l.) One trigger, two trigger pulls — that’s the reality of the XD-E’s DA/SA system. (ctr. & l.) A red fiber-optic pipe sets the front sight apart from the twin-white-dot rear sight and makes rapid sight acquisition easier.

In size, heft and overall concept, the Springfield-Armory XD-E reminds one of the long-discontinued Smith & Wesson 3913. It’s just slightly larger than the Glock G43 or Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, since the standard magazine holds 8 rounds and the spare that ships with the gun is a 9-rounder with a grip-sleeve adapter. The magazines both come fitted with pinky rest extensions on their floorplates, but these can be switched with flat floorplates (included) for those who prefer a flush-fit contour for concealability.

The grip is as slender as you’d expect from a polymer-frame, single-stack gun. The widest point of the pistol, measured across the low-profile ambidextrous thumb safeties, is only 1.125 inches.

XD-E details
(l.) Ambidextrous controls and Mod.2 updates are evident in the XD-E. (ctr.) Slim in profile, the XD-E is a natural choice for carry. (r.) Two magazines, one with an extended baseplate, ship with the XD-E

Those ambi thumb safeties function in the same fashion as the classic 1911 thumb safety: up for safe and down for fire. Pressing down further past the off-safe position safely de-cocks the hammer. The magazine release is also fully ambidextrous, but the slide release is single-sided. The slide stop was a little difficult to run when the gun was new, but became easily useable after a few boxes of ammo.

Atop the slide on the Springfield Armory XD-E are sights compatible with the current XD dovetail dimensions (which are, entirely uncoincidentally, the same as the classic SIG Sauer P-series.) There’s a Novak-esque no-snag rear sight with two white-painted dots, and the standard front sight on the gun is a fiber-optic unit with a very visible red light pipe. Between the front and rear sights is the familiar loaded-chamber indicator of the XD-series — a hinged tab that pops up when there’s a round in the chamber.

Springfield Armory XD-E
(l.) A light, laser, or combo unit can be added to the accessory rail. (r.) Thumb-activated, the safety also serves as a decocker.

The slide has six broad, but shallow, grasping grooves on each side at the rear, and forgoes the current trend toward forward cocking serrations, which is probably a good idea on a pistol with a 3.3-inch barrel. All in all, the ergonomics on the Springfield Armory XD-E are solid. The textured areas are grippy without being too aggressive, and it’s not textured where it doesn’t need to be. The trigger guard could be a little larger, though. Folks with big fingers might have difficulty while wearing gloves when the trigger is in its fully forward, double-action position.

While it’s technically possible to carry the Springfield Armory XD-E cocked and locked in “Condition One,” the low-profile thumb safeties don’t exactly encourage it. Instead, the simplest thing is to load the pistol, chamber a round, use the safety/decocker to safely drop the hammer, and then holster up. Personally, I’d be interested in a decocker-only version to avoid the possibility of inadvertently actuating the safety when I didn’t mean to, but enough folks like the belt-and-suspenders approach of both a double-action pull and a manual safety that Springfield Armory chose to introduce this version.

At the range, the pistol shot well — frankly, better than I expected. I was anticipating an experience along the lines of what I’ve had with a G43 or a Shield, but the slightly larger size of the Springfield Armory XD-E pays dividends in shootability, thanks to a larger grip and enhanced recoil control. At the pistol’s launch event in Las Vegas, stages were set up with targets as far as 50 yards, and the better shooters among us were knocking those over with aplomb.

XD-E takedown
Adding a hammer did not change the XD-takedown procedure significantly; the XD-E breaks down easily for cleaning and maintenance.

This was aided by a very usable trigger. My Springfield Armory XD-E test sample’s double-action trigger pull gauged at 11 pounds and, while it stacked noticeably prior to break, it was plenty smooth. Single-action measured 5.5 pounds, with a short take-up before hitting a fairly abrupt “wall,” and then finished in a rolling break. Most impressively, through all the demo guns I fired over the course of the launch event, plus 750 rounds of assorted ammunition through my T&E sample, I have yet to see any malfunctions.

The Springfield Armory XD-E has a niche to itself for now. The only hammer-fired TDA single-stack 9 mm in the same size class is SIG Sauer’s metal-frame P239, which is 5 ounces heavier and has an MSRP nearly double that of the XD-E. Sitting right at the confluence of two trends, AIWB carry and single-stack, subcompact 9 mm pistols, it will be interesting to see how well the XD-E does in the marketplace. If it sells, will other models be spun off the gun’s TDA lockwork? Maybe a full-size, single- or double-stack service pistol? Stay tuned…

XD-E overall

XD-E specs