All posts by glen Zediker

CORE 15 Scout Evaluation

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As an all-around, go-anywhere, do-anything rifle, the CORE 15 Scout carbine is a top contender. Accurate and reliable, this is also an affordable AR15.


by Bob Campbell


The AR15 rifle is, to me, the Winchester ’73 of this century. Useful for hunting or personal defense, useful as a lawman’s gun, and also a great all-around rifle for building skill, these rifles serve thousands of Americans well. There are more-powerful rifles and a few more accurate, but none as versatile as the AR15. The rifle illustrated is the newest addition to my modest AR15 battery. While “best” is a relative term, I do not own a rifle better made than CORE Rifle Systems CORE 15 Scout. Some have more features, but then so do the higher-grade CORE rifles.

AR15 carbine
The CORE rifle demonstrates classic lines. I added a rail mounted carry-handle to provide a back sight. Compact, powerful, and reliable the AR15 is quite an all-around rifle.

I have been prodded for the last year or so, not to test and evaluate this rifle, but to own and use an example. My oldest son, Alan, can do things with a rifle — and a lathe and press — I could never do, although I can still shoot with the best of them. Alan is also the best shot I know. Several times he has mentioned the fit and finish of the CORE rifle. The CORE slogan, “Where mil-spec is just a starting point” seems to be true.

The rifle illustrated is one of several models offered. The Scout is the base model. However, this is similar to a Colt 1911 Series 70 in concept. If you begin with a great handgun, you may upgrade the barrel and barrel bushing and have a match gun. You may add combat sights and have a good combat gun. On the other hand, you can just purchase a Combat Elite out the door.

The CORE rifle offers much the same options. If you buy a cheap 1911 or a cheap AR15, you will have to replace it at some point when you reach the skill level at which the firearm is limiting your performance. With the CORE rifle, you may add a superior optic or front rail at a later date. In my case, I already own a heavier AR15 with a heavy forend and a good quality scope. I like the Scout rifle for faster work and will probably leave it as issued.

CORE 15 Scout
The CORE 15 rifle is tight and demonstrated excellent accuracy. It is indeed a step beyond mil-spec. The fit and finish is outstanding.

I don’t think it makes horse sense to start with a cheap rifle. I have also seen many, many parts guns that simply did not work. It is fine to build your own if you use quality parts but so many do not. When you consider the amount you will expend on ammunition and training during the course of a few years, the price of a good rifle over a cheap rifle isn’t that great. Besides, the CORE rifle is affordable and well made of good material.

I began my examination by popping open the receiver and checking the bolt. The bolt carrier key must be properly staked or the rifle simply isn’t worth having. The CORE carrier looks good. Next, I checked the trigger. The compression is smooth enough with some take-up and a clean break. The rifle is delivered without sights, so I added a carrier handle with aperture sights. A good fit and all looked well.

The rifle is supplied with a single magazine. I added a stack of Magpul PMAGS and various aluminum magazines from the ready drawer. They have been proofed by previous use, so any problems would have been due to the rifle or ammunition, not the magazines.

Choosing my ammunition wasn’t difficult. The Winchester 55-grain FMJ USA White Box load is a great place to start. Accurate, clean burning, and always reliable, this is my number one resource for checking function in a new AR15 rifle. I lubricated the rifle well and locked the first magazine in. I loaded 25 rounds in the 30-round magazines. These first 25 rounds were far from boring but uneventful. Every load fed, chambered, fired, and ejected normally.

The rifle was sighted in at 25 and then 50 yards. Fifty yards is about the limit of my ability to register excellent groups, but the 100-yard groups are not bad, just below the potential of the rifle. It is no mean trick to keep three shots in two inches at 50 yards with iron sights, which I consider good off the bench rest. I fired a few of the Winchester Ballistic Silvertip loads. These are excellent choices for all-around use in.223. The Ballistic Silvertip is offered in 50- and 55-grain weights.

CORE 15 Scout
The CORE 15 is light in the hand and well balanced. It’s a joy firing offhand.

Frankly, with an iron-sighted rifle, it is almost just making empty brass to test such a load at long range. However, each load proved more accurate by a margin than the FMJ load. I like to confirm zero with a new rifle — just in case I get a shot at a coyote or broad-side a deer. I also fired five rounds of a dwindling supply of the Winchester 69-grain MATCH loading. This is a credible loading with much to recommend at the football-field mark.

Settling into a solid firing position off of the benchrest, I kept the rifle as solid as possible and squeezed the trigger straight to the rear with concentration on the sights. I took about a minute per shot. I usually fire three shots at 100 yards, but fired five and took the long walk with anticipation. I did not earn bragging rights, but three of the five rounds were in two inches, the other two opened the group to a full 3.5 inches. The dog will run, but it needs good glass to see the way.

Once I confirmed the zero, my grandson and I fired four magazines at targets at known and unknown ranges. Paper is good to confirm sight regulation, but firing at this type of target builds field skill. The CORE rifle handles quickly and has proven completely reliable. You cannot ask for more than that.

Contact CORE AR15 Rifle Systems


Bob Campbell is an established and well-respected outdoors writer, contributing regularly to many publications ranging from SWAT Magazine to Knifeworld. Bob has also authored three books: Holsters For Combat and Concealed Carry (Paladin Press), The 1911 Semi Auto (Stoeger Publishing), and The Handgun In Personal Defense (The Second Amendment Foundation).

Load Testing Insight: 5 “Rules” for Load Work-Up

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Don’t waste time and money collecting half-boxes of “loser loads.” Here’s how to start and finish load work-up in one day.


Glen Zediker


Last time I talked a little about keeping your ammo pressure-safe, under a range of conditions. Quite a bit of that dealt with observations made during load work-up. So this time I’d like to talk more about the work-up process I use.

The reason for the term “work-up a load” is pretty clear: we’re almost always looking to get the highest velocity we can, safely. High velocity, or, more clear, higher velocity, is usually all good. Shorter time of bullet flight to the target means less drop and drift, and a harder impact.

So working up means increasing propellant charge incrementally until we’re happy. Happy with the velocity or happy that the cases are still able to hold water. Ha. As said last time, it’s vitally and critically important to have a stopping place, a goal to be reached, prior to testing.

I also mentioned an “incremental” load work-up method that I have followed for many years, and it’s served me very well. I do all my testing and work-ups at the range. I load right then and there. I take boxes of sized and primed cases, and my Harrell’s powder meter, and a small press that I c-clamp to a bench. The press, of course contains my seating die. And the most important pieces of gear are a notebook and a chronograph.

load at the range
You don’t have to invest a fortune to take your handloading show on the road. Some c-clamps and one of these little Lee Reloader presses is all you need! And a good powder meter. One with a clamp is handiest, or just mount it to a piece of wood and clamp that down (even a pickup tailgate works just fine).

Before the trip, I have taken the preparation time, done the homework, to know exactly how much “one click” is worth on my meter. It varies with the propellant, but by weighing several examples of each click-stop variation (done over at least 4 stops) I can accurately increase the charge for each test a known amount.

reloading at the range
I map out the incremental values of each click on my Harrell’s meter adjustment drum with the propellant I’ll be testing, and it’s really easy to step up each trial with confidence. I carry the whole kit in a large tackle-type box.

I work up 0.20 grains at a time. Sometimes it’s more if I’m reading a low velocity initially. Since I have a meter with a “Culver” insert, which I trust completely, I actually reference the number of clicks in my notes rather than the weights. I check after the weights when I get back home, and I do that by counting to the setting and weighing the charge. It’s easy enough also to throw a charge into a case and seal it over with masking tape.

I started loading at the range because I got tired of bringing home partial batches of loser loads. And, you guessed it, the partial boxes usually contained recipes that were too hot. The only way to salvage those is to pull the bullets. Tedious. Or they were too low, of course, and fit only for busting up dirt clods. Plus, I’m able to test different charges in the same conditions. It’s a small investment that’s a huge time-saver.

During my work-up, I fire 3 rounds per increment. As it gets closer to done, I increase that to 5. Final testing is done with 1 20-round group. Does 3-round volleys seem inadequate? It’s not if there’s confidence that the rounds are being well-directed and speed is being monitored. If I’m seeing more than 10-12 fps velocity spreads over 3 rounds, I’m not going to continue with that propellant.

Here are a few things I’ve found over the years to better ensure reliable results. Learned, of course, the hard way.

  1. Limit testing to no more than one variable. I test one propellant at a time, per trip. If you want to test more than one on one day, bring the bore cleaning kit and use it between propellant changes. Results are corrupt if you’re “mixing” residues. Same goes for bullets. Otherwise, though, don’t clean the barrel during the test. Don’t know about you, but I fire my most important rounds after 60+ rounds have gone through it, so I want a realistic evaluation of accuracy (and zero).
  1. Replace the cases back into the container in the order they were fired. This allows for accurate post-testing measurements. Use masking tape and staggered rows to identify the steps. I use 100-round ammo boxes because they have enough room to delineate the progress.

    ammo pressure
    Keep track of the cases in the order they were fired. This helps later on back in the shop when the effects can be measured. This little outing here, though, didn’t require a gage to cipher: a tad amount hot on that last little go around (last case bottom row on the right). Thing is, I didn’t load a whole boxful of those chamber bombs to take with me, and that’s the beauty of loading right at the range.
  1. Use the same target for the entire session. (Put pasters over the previous holes if you want, but don’t change paper.) This helps determine vertical consistency as you work up (when you’ve found a propellant that shows consistency over a 3-4 increment range, that’s better than good).
  1. Exploit potentials. If you take the lead to assemble a “portable” loading kit, the possibilities for other tests are wide open. Try some seating depth experiments, for instance. Such requires the use of a “micrometer” style die that has indexable and incremental settings.
  1. Go up 0.20 grains but come off 0.50 grains! Said last time but important enough to say again here. If a load EVER shows a pressure sign, even just one round, come off 0.50 grains, not 0.10 or 0.20. Believe me on this one…

Last: Keep the propellant out of the sun! I transport it in a cooler.

shooting chrony
Chronograph each round you fire. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to get an accurate chronograph. This one is inexpensive and, my tests shooting over it and my very expensive “other” brand chronograph (literally one cradled in the other) showed zero difference in accuracy. The more expensive chronographs mostly offer more functions. The muzzle-mounted chronos are fine and dandy too.

The preceding was a specially adapted excerpt from the new book, Top-Grade Ammo by Glen Zediker. Check it out at ZedikerPublishing.com or BuyZedikerBooks.com

Shooting Skills: AR15 Trigger Choice

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A better AR15 trigger means a different AR15 trigger. Which essential type is right for you?


Glen Zediker


Good triggering mechanics aren’t wasted on a bad trigger, but a good trigger can quickly increase triggering skill. And, no kidding, it’s way on easier to control a shot break with a trigger that’s consistent and at the least not “heavy.”

So you have an AR15… We don’t really much talk about stock AR15 triggers. They’re bad. They’re safe and reliable, but it’s such a “mousetrap” design that it’s really not likely to make improvement using conventional approaches, namely files and stones. The metal is heat-treated and the hardness is shallow. Any intrusion beneath the surface of the sear (the nose-end of the trigger bar assembly) or the hammer hook reveals soft metal, too soft to maintain a geometry change.

One of the first to address improving the AR15 trigger system, the JP Ent. solution is essentially standard-form architecture with precision revisions. Notice the adjustment screws, lightened hammer, and proprietary springs. It’s a clean, light single-stage. It’s been a favorite of some of the speed demons in practical rifle and 3-Gun events.
One of the first to address improving the AR15 trigger system, the JP Ent. solution is essentially standard-form architecture with precision revisions. Notice the adjustment screws, lightened hammer, and proprietary springs. It’s a clean, light single-stage. It’s been a favorite of some of the speed demons in practical rifle and 3-Gun events.

So. We rely on aftermarket trigger systems. There are a good many. Problem is that not a many are good. This article will address trigger systems from a more “general” or overview approach. Yes. I have favorites. Yes, also, there are a few I don’t like. I’m more liable to name names in my books than I am here over the interweb in front of God and all the neighbors, and that’s because my preferences are largely subjective.

The aftermarket began addressing AR trigger issues a good long while ago, and the first idea was to produce essentially the same hammer and trigger pieces, but with improved precision and better geometry, mostly improved precision, in the mating surfaces, plus some mechanism adjustment means. The next steps were total redesigns, including adaptations from other systems. I’ll focus this rest on one of those designs.

Now I hope also to answer a question that I get time after time after time. It would be hard to have shopped AR15 replacement triggers and not come across “two-stage” triggers. So, the question is, “What’s a two-stage trigger?”

Here’s the original AR15 two-stage, and how it works. Developed by Charlie Milazzo and John Krieger, the MKII changed life for competitive AR15 shooters. There is still no better trigger for these rifles, in my opinion. Just a little difficult to find. This is a true two-stage (primary and secondary sear). There is zero question in my mind that two-stage triggers are safer, and even less question that they’re easier to develop triggering skills with. You’ll see.
Here’s the original AR15 two-stage, and how it works. Developed by Charlie Milazzo and John Krieger, the MKII changed life for competitive AR15 shooters. There is still no better trigger for these rifles, in my opinion. Just a little difficult to find. This is a true two-stage (primary and secondary sear). There is zero question in my mind that two-stage triggers are safer, and even less question that they’re easier to develop triggering skills with. You’ll see.

What it is, is, well, it is what it does: there are two separate and distinct stages or steps to the trigger pull. In a true two-stage, the first stage is free-run, of varying distance and resistance, taking up the secondary sear, and then there’s a stop, which is the primary sear engagement. Then any more pressure drops the hammer. So it pulls back, stops, and from that point, the shooter decides when to loose it. Or not. Shooter can let the trigger back forward, regroup, and go at it again. Being able to get on and off the trigger, and feeling it stop against the second stage, makes for a more competent, confident shooter. We know with certainty when the shot is going to fire. We’re in full control of it. We’re already holding some tension on the trigger. Makes the next bit easy. A two-stage doesn’t have the “delicate” feel of a single-stage.

Here’s another take on the two-stage from Arnold Jewell. It’s different. Very good trigger in action, but a little sluggish in its hammer fall. It’s one of the best feeling triggers I’ve used, and it’s nicely and easily adjustable. If you get a two-stage, make double-dang-sure you “stage it.” Feel the stop and learn to exploit it. It can transform your skill level.
Here’s another take on the two-stage from Arnold Jewell. It’s different. Very good trigger in action, but a little sluggish in its hammer fall. It’s one of the best feeling triggers I’ve used, and it’s nicely and easily adjustable. If you get a two-stage, make double-dang-sure you “stage it.” Feel the stop and learn to exploit it. It can transform your skill level.

This style is the preeminent design used in serious purpose-built competition rifles, and this trigger type has also been integrated into previous U.S. Armed Forces rifles, namely the M1 and M14.

Safety is the primary reason a two-stage was incorporated into service-rifle designs. As said, the two-stage gives the operator a clear signal. Unintentional shot release is far less likely.

There are a number of two-stage triggers available for AR15s. They vary widely in cost, and also in quality. Any and all, though, are a radical improvement over stock. For those looking primarily to fire focused, accurate shots, I very strongly recommend a two-stage. They are the bomb for “common” shooting circumstances.

But. They’re not for everyone, not for every application. Here’s what’s bad about two-stage triggers. First, foremost, and most noticeable, is the relatively huge distance-to-reset compared to a single-stage. Trigger “reset” is when the disconnector (which has captured the hammer as the carrier cycles) hands off the hammer to the sear. The hammer can’t fall again until the trigger resets, so the trigger can be pulled again. The trigger resets when it’s let back far enough forward to activate the sear. There is some amount of reset distance in any semi-auto trigger, and the AR15 already has a significant amount. The amount of movement from being pulled fully to the rear and let back forward until reset is what I’m talking about here.

Rapidly successive shots are a challenge with a two-stage. 3-Gun-type shooters, or any who are in wants or needs to fire shots in very rapid succession, are more effective with a good single-stage. All that swing in the trigger, back and forth, back and forth, is not conducive to best performance in hosedown-mode. It’s harder to ride the trigger at higher and higher speed when the trigger travels so far.

Next time I’ll talk more specifically about options and also the “modular” or “drop-in” AR15 triggers, plus a few tips and tricks to make any AR15 trigger better.

Okay. I’ll tell you. All of my competition rifles carry one of these, self-tuned. It’s a Geissele Automatics two-stage. There are several different versions from Geissele. This is the “match” variety. It’s very tunable, if you know what you’re doing, and the hammer hits quickly. Bonus.
Okay. I’ll tell you. All of my competition rifles carry one of these, self-tuned. It’s a Geissele Automatics two-stage. There are several different versions from Geissele. This is the “match” variety. It’s very tunable, if you know what you’re doing, and the hammer hits quickly. Bonus.

The preceding was a specially adapted excerpt from The Competitive AR15: ultimate technical guide. Available from Midsouth Shooters Supply, for more information visit Zediker Publishing.

New Jersey High School Student Suspended for “Anti-Gun-Control” Project

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A high-school student in Manville, New Jersey was suspended and ordered to undergo psychological evaluation resulting from his assigned classroom presentation on an “anti-gun-control” topic.

MSSS_school_story_1


Originally reported by News 12 (New Jersey)


Frank Harvey, a Manville High School (NJ) senior says that he was suspended from school and ordered to go for a psychological evaluation after an anti-gun control project he was assigned last year was found on his thumb drive.

He had left the drive in the school computer lab room, and evidently someone found it, saw the presentation, and alerted school officials. That was on a Monday. On Tuesday, Harvey was suspended by the Manville School District for the content on the thumb drive and said that he had to undergo a five-hour psychological exam before he could come back to school. Manville police were called in and questioned Harvey, but cleared him of any wrongdoing.

“I’ve never been a violent person,” said Harvey. “I’ve never had detention in my life.” Harvey’s mother, Mary Vervan, said she will not subject her son to such an evaluation for no reason, and decided to pull him out of school. He turned his books in on Wednesday and signed a school withdrawal form, and Harvey says he will now work towards earning his GED.

Harvey had been assigned the project during his junior year for a College and Career Readiness class. The assignment was to come up with a topic that, according to Harvey, would “provoke class discussion.” He chose an anti-gun control viewpoint, communicated through a video presentation he produced. The presentation was impressive enough to earn him an “A” on the project, he said.

His teacher, Rachel Gottfried, has since denied giving her College and Career Readiness class the assignment and approving his topic, Harvey said.

“It was assigned by the teacher, and I got the topic, which was anti-gun control, approved by the teacher. She said my project would be perfectly fine,” said Harvey, “I presented the video to the class and took a few questions from my classmates. My presentation went over well. The whole idea of the assignment was to expose students to an idea they hadn’t considered before.”

“What the response of the school tells me is that I’m allowed to do my school work as long as it agrees with their point of view on an issue,” said Harvey.

His presentation gave examples where people using guns have thwarted home invaders and argued that people should be able to protect themselves. The presentation also shows political cartoons suggesting that gun-free zones are ineffective.

School officials were contacted for comment, and Superintendent Anne Facendo said only, “The school district is not at liberty to make comment on any issue pertaining to confidential student information.”

There’s more information out there to be found on this story as it continues to unfold, and be debated. What do you think?


See Frank Harvey’s video HERE. (YouTube)

Leatherwood Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot Sight Review

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According to the Major, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a truly good red-dot sight…

by Major Pandemic

It used to be that you had to spend the price of your gun just to get a quality red-dot that would endure the abuse dished out in the field. Today we are fortunate that new manufacturing technologies and materials have advanced to the point that a good red-dot can be had for under $100 and a truly high quality red-dot such as this Hi-Lux model are just over $200.

Leatherwood, red-dot, AR15, optic sight, Hi-Lux
The Leatherwood Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot is rugged, reliable, and reasonable.

Leatherwood, red-dot, AR15, optic sight, Hi-Lux

Just after the initial release my then-new Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot sight was mounted on a basic AR15 pistol build and it was later moved to my Sig MPX 9mm pistol. One year and approximately 8000 rounds of .223 and 9mm later, the Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot has performed amazingly well, still holds zero, and I am still on the first factory included battery. From my perspective it is one of the top values for a high quality red-dot sight, so much so that I ordered another one.

This time the red-dot was mounted on a very special Aero Precision M4E1 custom AR15 pistol build.  The build has it all — AP M4E1 integrated handguard mount, a unique cool and functional upper design, an ambi-lower, KNS anti-rotate pins, Ballistic Advantage match barrel, HiperFire EDT2 trigger, and Phase 4 Tactical buffer tube, BCG, Charging Handle, and FatMan Brake. It is a heck of tricked out build that needed a great red-dot and the Hi-Lux is the perfect choice offering a lot of features, great optical clarity and a crisp red-dot.

FIT, FINISH, FEEL, FEATURES, AND FUNCTIONS
The Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot is typical high quality that you would see on all Leatherwood Hi-Lux optics. The red-dot design is robust and designed to take a lot of abuse. Once upon a time, only Aimpoint could boast about a 50K+ hour run time, but now this $220 red-dot can deliver that same long run-time.

The Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot also features a tintless tube which in turn provides an extreme amount of clarity and enhanced low light vision. It is one of the few red-dot sights which gives the shooter clear glass versus a dark sunglasses tint. From a form factor the sight is completely cross compatible with all Aimpoint T-1 mounts which are available everywhere. If you have a favorite Aimpoint T1 mount it will work with the Hi-Lux. A couple of my favorite mounts are the Sampson QR T-1 QD mount and American Defense Manufacturing ADM T1 Micro QD Mount. Hi-Lux offers its own $35 co-witness riser, which is hard to pass up for the price, and is the mount I ordered for this build.

The Hi-Lux Micro-Max is extremely compact 2.5-inch length and comes with flip-up lens covers, screw on/off kill flash filter, and spare CR2032 battery compartment in the battery cover. Dot size is 2 MOA, tube size 20mm. Of note, with the added kill flash filter and lens covers installed it does add a bit of bulk over an Aimpoint T1 or similar Primary Arms Micro Dot but not any significant weight. I think most people will appreciate the snap and screw on features unless they really need to strip all the add-ons off for some reason.

My initial Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot sight held zero perfectly through more than a few bumps bangs and scrapes and thousands of rounds of 9mm and 5.56 NATO. I did have some initial concern that the extremely lightweight Hi-Lux Riser might not hold up well to side hits due to the I-beam steel design; however, I have never had an issue and it is far stronger than it looks.

Instead of the typical rotary setting switch, Hi-Lux decided on using push-button operation instead that provides click ON, hold for OFF, and click UP/DOWN to cycle through the 12 dot brightness settings.

Leatherwood Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot, AR15, AR15 pistol, red-dot, optic sight, Aimpoint
I choose this red-dot for a prize AR15 pistol. It’s a fine compliment.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Hi-Lux Micro-Max B-Dot is one of my favorite red-dot sights. It functions perfectly, delivers excellent clarity, and offers plenty of daylight to low-light dot brightness settings. I will not likely be in a situation where I need a Kill Flash attachment, however the lens covers work extremely well. Owning a safe full of red-dot sights, my experience is that they get dirty quick and the flip-up covers really help assure the glass is clean and bright when I need to shoot.


major pandemic

Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly.  MajorPandemic.com

5 Steps to “Pressure-Proofing” Handloads

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Here’s a few ideas on how to proceed in load testing to find the safe maximum velocity, and keep it safe…

We’ve chosen the sometimes twisting path to becoming handloaders because we want to improve on-target results. The difference between a handloader and a reloader? My wise-crack answer, which is honest, is that handloaders start off with new brass… We’re not about to shoot factory ammo.

Part of the process of developing the load we’re seeking is learning how to safely set a cap on its pressure. Most of us don’t have pressure-testing equipment, so we rely on measurements and observation to know when we’re at the limit. The goal often, all other things being the same, is to find the highest velocity we can get. Less drift and drop, shorter time of flight, all good. However! Knowing that the maximum tested velocity is also going to be safe over the long haul is a much narrower line to walk.

There’s not room here to cover every pressure check, all the symptoms that can point out over-pressure ammo, but I’ll share my two leading indicators: primer pockets and velocities.

  1. Always start load development with new brass! There are a few reasons, but the leading one related to this material is that the primer pockets will be at their smallest. So. Fire the cases, size the cases, and seat new primers. It takes a little experience, which means a few times through this process, but my leading indicator of pressure is how easily the primers seat. They’ll go in easier than on the first use, but if there is much less to very little resistance felt the second time around, that load is over-pressure. Period. The case head has expanded (I put a max of 0.0005 on expansion, when it’s measured with a micrometer). The more you use the same cases and repeat this process, the sooner you’ll get a handle on the feel to know when the primer pocket has overly expanded.
seating primer to check pressure
My primary gauge for pressure is primer seating — how easily a new primer seats into a once-fired case. This is an indication of case head expansion. It won’t be as tight as new, but it should still be snug. A low-leverage tool, like this Forster Co-Ax, increases the feel and feedback of this operation.
  1. Jump back, don’t step back. If you encounter a pressure symptom, come off a “whole” half-grain. Not a tenth or two. And if you see it again, come off another half-grain. Folks, if anyone thinks the difference between over-pressure and safe-pressure is 0.10-grain, that same little bit exists in the difference in 20-degrees ambient temperature with many propellants. Don’t cut it that close. Keep the long-haul in mind.
  1. Select a temperature-insensitive propellant (related to the above). There will be one out there you’ll like. I use a single-base extruded (stick) propellant when loading for the season. The propellants I choose are coated to help reduce temperature-induced changes. That season is going to span a 50+-degree range, and I don’t want August (or October) to force me back to the loading room… Temperature sensitivity works “both” ways, by the way… Hot or cold can induce pressure increases.
  1. Read the speed on each and every round tested. Beforehand, I have to assume you’ve gotten an idea in mind of what you’re looking to get for a muzzle velocity. If not, do that… A journey of this nature has to have a destination. If not you won’t know when you get there. If you are reading velocities more than 40-50 feet per second over a published maximum, that’s a flag. That 40-50 fps is usually about a half-grain of most propellants in most small- to medium-capacity cases. Certainly, there are all manner of reasons some combinations can vary, but, despite what your mother might have told you, you are really not THAT special…
  1. Don’t assume anything. If you have one round out of many that “suddenly” exhibits pressure symptoms, don’t guess that it’s just a fluke. It’s not a fluke. You finally saw it. Overwhelming chances are that the load is over-pressure and has been over pressure, and the question is how much for how long? Back it off. (The way you know it might have been a fluke, and that happens, is again based on how close to a velocity ceiling it is: if it’s a real mid-range velocity load, it might have been a fluke.)
primer indicators for over-pressure ammo
Some over-pressure indications are pretty clear. Left to right: new, nice and safe (notice there’s still a radius on the primer edge), cratered and flat, yikes! It’s another article, but not all piercings are caused solely by high-pressure ammo; an overly large firing pin hole size in an AR15 bolt contributes.

One last about primer appearances. Usually the first thing a handloader will do after firing a round is look at the primer. I do. No doubt, if the primer is flattened, cratered, pitted, or pierced that’s a honking red flag, and the immediate response is, you guessed it, come off a “whole” half-grain. However. Small rifle primers (especially some primers in some cartridges) do not exhibit the common over-pressure appearances. They can look just fine and shiny until they blow slap out. If you ever see anything that looks like a pressure symptom, back it off; however, don’t assume a load can’t be running hot if the primers don’t show it.

over pressure ammo, primer appearance
Here’s what I mean about primer surface indications not always revealing high pressure. The middle one is an incredibly over-pressure load fired through one of my AR15 race-guns with an extra-heavy bolt carrier. Primer looks just fine. Right hand case is what happened without the extra weight. Neither case would hold a primer after this one firing.

Back to the start: primer seating and velocity are the leading indicators.


The preceding contains specially-adapted excerpts from the new book “Top-Grade Ammo” by Glen Zediker and Zediker Publishing. See it by visiting ZedikerPublishing.com.

Feds Use Local Police to Collect License Plate Info at Gun Shows

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Might want to park across the street… Privacy watchdog groups and firearms enthusiasts upset about spy tactics initiated by feds through local police.

gun show, privacy, wall street journal, license plate scan, police, ICE

A new report from the Wall Street Journal reveals that the federal government has on multiple occasions used local police departments to scan automobile license plates at gun shows. This has been done in an effort to collect and record information on gun show attendees.

The Journal reviewed a series of 2010 emails between the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and police departments in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, near the Mexican border. In the emails, federal agents persuade local police to use license plate readers to randomly scan cars at local gun shows. The agency planned to cross-reference that data with cars crossing the Mexican border to find and prosecute gun smugglers.

And there’s more… According to the Journal, the emails indicated that this strategy could have been employed elsewhere around the country. ICE has no policy that dictates the use of license plate readers, and nothing would have kept them from continuing the practice from 2010 until now.

No shock: the report has upset both privacy watchdog groups and firearms enthusiasts. It clearly raises Constitutional questions, to say the least.

Erich Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, told the Journal that his group opposes such surveillance: “Information on law-abiding gun owners ends up getting recorded, stored, and registered, which is a violation of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act and of the Second Amendment.”

What ICE doesn’t seem to realize is that, contrary to what the Clinton campaign would have us believe, gun shows are NOT hotbeds of criminal activity. According to an NIJ (National Institute of Justice, the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice) study released in December 1997 (“Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities”), only 2 percent of criminal guns come from gun shows. The vast majority of firearm sales at gun shows are being offered by federally-licensed gun dealers who must ensure that each customer passes a background check, which blocks firearms purchases by most known criminals as well as illegal immigrants. This is likely why, according to the Journal, “There is no indication the gun-show surveillance led to any arrests or investigative leads.”

No one familiar with gun shows would think to target attendees in an effort to locate criminals. Perhaps instead of invading the privacy of law-abiding gun show patrons, ICE should use its taxpayer dollars to target straw purchasers and criminals who steal firearms, both more likely sources of illegal guns than random gun show attendees.

What do you think?

Shooting Your AR15 (better)

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The skill of developing a good trigger pull is the difference between a hit and a miss. Here’s how to get started developing perfect mechanics.

Pulling the trigger is the “last thing that happens” in the shot process. Well, technically, there’s also hammer or striker fall, primer ignition, and so on, but breaking the hammer loose from the sear is the last part we influence. Yes, it’s important.

There’s an old saw that goes “let the shot be a surprise…” Wrong. That’s a great concept for teaching a brand-new shooter not to be afraid: keep putting pressure back against the trigger until the shot goes. That helps avoid anticipation-induced flinch. However. When we’re really shooting, sights on targets and time is important, you best know when the shot is going. Trick is to break the shot, pull the trigger, without moving the sights off the target. That requires a little technique, and that’s what this article is about.

First, the best point of contact with the trigger face is near the middle of the first pad of the index finger. Not farther in. Ideally, the last joint of the index finger (closest to the fist knuckle) will be parallel to the gun receiver. That helps produce a “straight back” pull.

point of contact with trigger
Here’s the point of contact with the trigger face for best mechanics. It’s not easy to attain on an issue AR15 trigger, but get as close as you can. Of great importance is that no other little bit of the finger touches the rifle. If it does, there will, not can, be rifle movement during the trigger pull.

Make double-sure that no other part of the index finger is contacting anything else! Done right, only the trigger finger moves to press the trigger. The rest of the hand stays calm and steady (no matter how tight the gripping pressure is). This is something to put on the checklist: learning and practicing isolating movement to only the trigger finger. And move it straight back. Any side-loads will also move the gun, which will move the sights.

This ideal architecture may be difficult to duplicate depending on the distance the finger has to reach to access the trigger face. Usually, especially with pistol-grip-equipped rifles, the distance to the trigger is closer than ideal. Be aware of what you’re trying to accomplish (pull straight back, no side pressure), and a little fudging in finger positioning will find a way. For me, and the eons of hours I spent fiddling with this, with an AR15 I decided that getting the last joint parallel to the receiver ultimately was a more influential factor than perfect placement of the trigger face on the first joint of my finger. I’m moved in closer to the first joint than to the fingertip.

When you’re practicing the “move only the trigger finger” tactic, you might notice that it’s difficult to do that without also having the thumb move. They’re a team. As best as I can, I effectively remove my thumb from the equation by holding it upwards (if possible) and keeping it either away from contact with the rifle or deliberately held against the rifle with constant force. The sympathetic “pinching” habit has to be overcome. Sympathetic, in this use, means unavoidably linked. Flexing the thumb in conjunction with moving the index finger will, not can, influence shot impacts.

A great trigger makes all this next a far sight easier, but the mechanics involved in a skillful trigger pull have a lot to do with what happens after the sear breaks. “Follow-through” has different definitions, and that’s because it’s as much of a concept as it is a technique. Follow-through, to me, is “staying with” the trigger break for a spell after the shot has gone. This spell might vary from a couple of seconds to no more than an eye blink, and the reason is the sort of “reverse” effect it has on all that goes before. A focus on this will, not can, improve your shooting! I focus on keeping the trigger held back and also watching the sight. Follow-through promotes smoothness, and reduces undesirable movement. Call it a trick, but it works.

Shooting a semi-auto rifle, like an AR15, keep your finger on the trigger shot to shot. “Ride the trigger.” Some folks treat a trigger like it’s hot: they poke it back with the trigger finger and then jump off it. Staying in contact avoids “slapping” the trigger, which creates all manner of shot impacts strayed from center. You should be able to feel the trigger reset on every shot. The reset is the little “pop” you feel when the disconnector hands off the hammer to the sear. Pull the trigger, hold it back, let it forward and feel the reset: the trigger is prepped and ready for its next release.

AR15 disconnector function
With any semi-automatic, you’ll do better if you keep the trigger finger in contact with the trigger face all the way through each shot, back and forward, for all the shots. Don’t jump on and off it. Ride it. Feel the disconnector work: pull back and hold (top photo), and then release forward and feel the “pop” as the trigger resets for another go.

Learning how this feels, and seeing how much it helps, might add a whole new dimension to your shooting.

In another article I’ll talk about trigger types and traits that can either help or hamper results. The answers might not be predictable.


Glen Zediker is a card-carrying NRA High Master competitive shooter and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information, and more articles, please check out ZedikerPublishing.com