Category Archives: Ammunition

ammo, or ammunition category will be host to all topics related to factory ammo and ammunition. Everything from 22 LR to Bulk Pistol Ammo will be discussed here.

RELOADERS CORNER: Cartridge Cases, the Outside, Part 2: Case Cleaning

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Clean means “not dirty.” More details coming next. READ IT ALL

clean cases

Glen Zediker

Clean brass loads easier, keeps dies cleaner (and may help them last longer), and might even help your barrel last longer. Brass collected up off the ground almost always has some manner of grit clinging to it and, depending on range locale, that will cause more or less concern. If it’s sand, for instance, this debris can do serious damage to a die (and barrel). Plus, I’ve never had a semi-automatic that didn’t soot up the case neck and shoulder. And, since we’re needing to lubricate the whole case prior to sizing, there’s no place for gunk. As said last time, case lube should not be a case cleaner!

There is also always going to be firing residue, if not on the case, it will be inside the case, and in there will also be primer residue, which is very abrasive.

Brass doesn’t have to be polished to be cleaned, which is to say that it doesn’t have to be shiny to be clean. Get down to the bare metal and that’s “clean.”

The question is How?

Not counting all the methods and means I’ve heard tell of, which number well over a dozen, the two common are either dry media or liquid media. Dry media is most commonly corncob or walnut, and run through a rotary- or (more popularly) vibratory-style appliance. There’s another I’ve been impressed with and that is the use of steel media, and more in a bit.

corncob media
Good old corn cob works just fine, but make sure you get all the residues off the cases.

Liquid means can revolve around detergent-type solutions and agitation, or the “sonic” cleaners.

General: Advantages to dry media are, well, that it’s dry! Not (as) much mess. Disadvantages exist, however. The main one is getting all the residual dust and particulate out of the cases. I caution against using any additional abrasive additives to the dry media because what doesn’t get cleaned away will, not can, accompany a bullet down a barrel. Advantages to wet media are that it can do a thorough job of cleaning, no doubt. It also doesn’t leave any residue. But! It’s wet! And that means the cases need dried thoroughly prior to reuse. There are specialty appliances that can do it, but a cookie sheet in an oven set on “low” does the trick too.

hornady case cleaner
Hornady Sonic Case Cleaner

Back to the steel: That’s why I like this method. Dry, no residue. It in no way hurts the cases, and works pretty quickly.

steel case cleaner
A newer dry media is steel. It works well and leaves nothing behind. This magnet is how you separate media from cases. This one is from Frankford Arsenal

No media lasts forever. Corncob, especially, should be routinely discarded and the appliance cleaned out to avoid any resident grit mingling with the media particles. Much as in the same way gold panning works, heavier junk can settle to the bottom of the bowl. Tumbling media, by the way, doesn’t really wear out: it just gets crudded up.

Take steps post-cleaning to ensure that residues are gone, and also that primer pockets are free of particles. Some use compressed air to blow out the case inside, and others go as far as to rinse and dry.

Speaking of primer pockets! I very strongly suggest decapping prior to cleaning. That way the pocket will, indeed, be cleaned. This doesn’t take much time and requires only an inexpensive station as shown nearby.

decaping die
I strongly recommend decapping primers prior to cleaning. A setup like this doesn’t cost much, and the operation is pretty painless.

Additional steps? There are some long-used steps taken especially by precision shooters, such as brushing the inside of case necks, and also using a polishing cloth to thoroughly clean the case neck, case shoulder area, and separate attention paid to the pimer pocket. But. These steps originated with Benchrest competitors and the reason is because I never met one yet who uses the short of cleaning apparatus “we” use. Never a tumbler! Their cases never hit the ground either. Nothing more than a thorough run through the volume-cleaning media of your choice should be needed, and the primer pocket cleaner should likewise be unnecessary if you take the advice of cleaning deprimed cases.

Honestly, it’s better, and I say best, if the case cleaning media leaves no residues. That’s where dry steel media and the liquid cleaners come in.

Back to the basics: Clean is clean. “Nothing but brass” is “clean.” Polished and gleaming cases are not necessarily better, and matter not a whit to performance.

One last: my favorite case cleaning “story” ever. Middleton Tompkins, many-time Highpower Rifle national champion, showed me his case cleaning method on a visit. Mid (and his wife, dominant Long Range Rifle winner, Nancy) go well beyond “high volume” in their needs for clean cases. To that end, Mid purchased a small commercial cement mixer into which he dumped pounds of BBs and a solution of Joy dishwashing soap and water (later rinsed and drained and dried). Now, that’s a high-volume case cleaner!

Check out Midsouth products HERE

And decapping DIES!

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

 

NEW: Western Powders Handloading Guide

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Western Powders has released its new Handloading Guide, Edition 7.0. Plus a Hazmat Special from Midsouth Shooters This Weekend Only! READ MORE

western powders loading guide

This $2.99 print resource contains the latest load data for Western’s propellants.

You’ll find load data for over 100 rifle cartridges. The cartridge listings are up to date — including the popular new mid-sized competition cartridges, such as the 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, and also .224 Valkyrie, along with many popular wildcat varmint cartridges, such as the 20 Vartarg, 20 Tactical, and 20 BR.

This resource also features helpful articles on handloading methods and rifle maintenance and cleaning.

Click HERE to take a look!

Midsouth Shooters is also offering a FREE HAZMAT promotion this weekend only! Get $140 of any Western Powder, like Accurate, Norma, or Ramshot (including Blackhorn 209) and you get FREE HAZMAT!

Check it out HERE!

Winchester Ammunition Awarded U.S. Army Order

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Long-time ammo maker gets a big new contract! READ MORE

ammo plant

SOURCE: Winchester

The U.S. Army has recently awarded Winchester an $8.1 million order for 7.62mm ammunition under an existing “Second Source” contract. The ammunition will be manufactured in Winchester’s state-of-the-art facility in Oxford, MS with an estimated completion date of Dec 31, 2019. Winchester has received more than $285 million in orders on this contract since it was initially awarded in January 2016. “Winchester has a proud history of developing products for the military and is honored to have a role in supporting the American war fighter with the ammunition they depend on” said Matt Campbell, vice president of marketing and sales for Winchester.

 

There’s more Winchester arriving every day at Midsouth Shooters! Check it out right here!

RELOADERS CORNER: Primer Tech

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It may be the single-most influential reloading component, so learn all about it: the primer! READ MORE

rifle primer

Glen Zediker

This is one component in the collection that might not get all the attention it warrants. That’s because it is the one thing, above all other components, that you don’t want to just swap and switch around.

We’ve all heard cautions about testing new lots of every component, especially propellant, but primers not only change lot to lot, they vary greatly in their influence on any one load, brand to brand. The difference in one brand to the next can equal a good deal more or less pressure, for instance. While there are “general” tendencies respecting the “power” of various-brand primers, always (always) reduce the load (propellant quantity) when switching primers.

This has become more of an issue over the past few years as we’ve faced component shortages. I can tell you without a doubt that going from a WW to a CCI, or from a Remington to a Federal, can have a major influence on a load. I establish that from chronograph readings. No doubt, it’s best to have a good supply of one primer brand and lot that produces good results, and when that’s not possible, it’s a hard sell to convince someone to stop loading ammo and get back to testing. But. It is important. I can tell you that from (bad) experience. How I, and we all, learn most things…

When I switch primers, whether as a test or a necessity, I reduce my load ONE FULL GRAIN. There can be that much effect.

The Thing Itself
A primer is made up of a brass cup filled with explosive compound (lead styphate). Lead styphate detonates on impact. Primers don’t burn – they explode! In the manufacturing process, this compound starts as a liquid. After it’s laid into the cup, and while it’s still wet, a triangular piece or metal (the “anvil”) is set in. When the cup surface is struck by the firing pin, the center collapses, squeezing the explosive compound between the interior of the cup and the anvil. That ignites the compound and sends a flame through the case flash hole, which in turn lights up the propellant.

Primers are dangerous!

Don’t underestimate that. I’ve had one experience that fortunately only created a huge start, but I know others who have had bigger more startling mishaps. These (almost always) come from primer reservoirs, like fill-tubes. Pay close attention when charging up a tube and make sure all the primers are facing the right way, and that you’re not trying to put in “one more” when it’s full! That’s when “it” usually happens. What will happen, by the way, is akin to a small grenade. Static electricity has also been blamed, so keep that in mind.

primer tray
Take care in filling primer tubes! Make double-sure all are facing correctly, and a good primer tray helps. This photo shows the correct orientation for using primers one at a time. To fill a primer tube, make sure the “shiny side” is facing up! Flip the tray over.

Sizes and Types
Primers come in two sizes and four types. “Large” and “small”: for example, .223 Rem. takes small, .308 Win. takes large. Then there are pistol and rifle in each size.

Rifle primers and pistol primers are not the same, even though they share common diameters! Rifle primers should have a tougher cup, and, usually, a hotter flash. Never swap rifle for pistol. Now, some practical-style competitive pistol shooters using their very high-pressure loads (like .38 Super Comp) sometimes substitute rifle primers because they’ll “handle” more pressure, but they’ve also tricked up striker power. That’s a specialized need.

Further, some primer brands are available with a “magnum” option. Some aren’t. My experience has been that depends on the “level” of their standard primer. A magnum primer, as you might guess, has a more intense, stouter flash that travels more “deeply” to ignite the larger and more dense powder column. It reaches further, faster.

large rifle primers

large rifle magnum primers

There’s no real reason not to experiment with “hotter” and “colder” primers, whether the case is stamped “mag” or not. Keep in mind that the experiment is all about the initial flash effect. And keep in mind that this (without a doubt) demands a reduction in the propellant charge at the start.

Over a many years I’ve seen some tendencies respecting flash effect. Using routine cartridges, like .308 Win., single-base extruded propellants tend to shoot well with a cooler spark to start, and the double-base, especially spherical-types, seem to respond best to a hotter flash. Many seem to think that the coating (necessary to form the spherical) and the inherent greater density (less air space between granules) in a spherical demands a little faster start.

Flash consistency is very important, shot to shot. The consistency of every component is important: bullet weights, diameters, case wall thicknesses, and all the way down the list. We’re hoping to get more consistent behavior from a “match” or “benchrest” primer, and we’re paying more for it. I can tell you that some brands that aren’t touted as “match” are already consistent. That all comes from experience: try different primers, just respect the need to initially reduce the load each test. I can also tell you that my notes tell me that the primer has a whopping lot to do with how high or low my velocity deviations plot out.

One last: there are small variations in primer dimensions (heights, diameters) among various brands. These variations are not influential to performance. But! Small diameter variations can influence feeding through priming tools. This can be a hitch especially in some progressive loading machines. Manufacturers usually offer insight (aka: “warnings”) as to which are or aren’t compatible, so find out.

Check out Midsouth products HERE
Primer trays HERE

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

RELOADERS CORNER: 4 (More) Semi-Auto Details

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Beyond precision and accuracy, the base goal for any handload is safety: follow these recommendations to ensure yours! KEEP READING

Glen Zediker

Since I sincerely think it’s important to know what you’re up against, in one way of looking at it, when you load for a semi-automatic rifle, there’s more this time. I don’t mean to say “up against” like it’s some sort of adversarial relationship, a fight, but not respecting some of these points can create problems.

The gas port pressure issue was addressed last time, and it’s one of the most influential. Not only does too much port pressure create excessive action cycling, it also shortens case life. The cases take a bigger beating, more expansion mostly, when the bolt tries to unlock too quickly. Clearly, I’m back to using the AR15 as the central example, but virtually all semis succumb to the same set of behaviors (yes, including the gas-piston guns).

nosler brass
My current choice in a go-to for my “better” AR15 brass is Nosler. It’s not exactly thin but it is tough, and, by my experience, holds up to my standard. It’s also ready to load (well prepped).

One: tough brass
Therefore, next on the list is choosing a tough case! Tough, here, means “hard.” Brass is an alloy and the makeup varies from maker to maker.

The reason that a harder composition helps is because it’s more resistant to expansion, not as elastic. That might sound, on the front end, like a bad thing because harder brass is also more brittle so could tend to succumb easier to the ills of excessive expansion. Softer brass will conform more agreeably. True. It might seem like an equitable trade off, but I assure you that it is hardness ultimately that matters most. I notice the softness mostly in primer pocket expansion, or I should say that harder cases don’t open up as quickly.

Thicker cases, by the way, are not necessarily harder. Again, that’s in the alloy composition itself. Some high-dollar cases, Lapua for instance, are relatively soft despite being thick-walled.

The overall best choice for reuse in a semi-auto is probably good old Lake City. It’s exactly what it should be, and that’s been pretty well proven for decades. LC is easily available but, except in rare circumstances, will be once-fired. Most cases left over from commercially-available NATO-spec loadings are likewise fine. Lake City, as a bonus, also tends to be relatively thinner-walled (higher capacity) than many of the commercial brands, and its quality (wall thickness) is pretty dang good.

Check out what Midsouth has HERE

 

Two: adequate case shoulder set-back
Next, and this is a huge source of debate and disagreement amongst my readers, but, since now I’m strictly speaking of semi-auto needs I doubt there will be much dissent: full-length resize all cases! It’s a matter of degrees, and getting handle on port pressure (plus) taming down an excessively functioning gas system, reduces this difference: but most cases from most semi-autos will emerge with a pretty well-blown case shoulder. Make double-sure you’re sizing the cases down to at least 0.003 clearance. There are gages that help, and HERE is a link to one.

If you don’t there are safety and function problems ahead.

Three: adequate case neck “tension”
Likewise, make double-sure the case neck is being reduced an adequate amount to retain the bullet. There should be a minimum net difference of 0.003 inches between sized outside case neck diameter and loaded round outside case neck diameter. Reason: don’t take a chance of inadvertent bullet movement during the recoil and feeding cycles. That movement can be back or forward! It’s easily possible for a bullet to jump ahead when the inertia from the bolt carrier assembly chambers the next round.

sized case neck
Same as said about headspace: a bolt-action can “get away” with a lot, but a semi-auto round has to be constructed with an eye on cycling stresses. A firmly-held bullet resists stubs and intertia-induced movement. I recommend a minimum of 0.003 “grip.”

Four: tough primer!
Choose a tough primer! There’s a floating firing pin on an AR15 (M1A also) that is supposed to be held in check but that system doesn’t always work! If you load and extract a round and see a little dimple in the primer, that’s from the firing pin tapping off of it (again, created by inertia of bolt closing). A combination of a high primer and a sensitive primer cup assembly can create a “slam-fire,” which you do not want.

primer indentation
This always scares me. A tough-skinned primer is a very wise choice loading for anything with a floating firing pin, like an AR15 or AR10.
No! Check each and every primer to make sure it’s seated to below flush with the case head!

Brands? CCI has some mil-spec primers that work well, and I’ve had great success with Remington 7-1/2. Some of the well-respected “match” primers are a little thin. The CCI and Remington also hold up well to the (sometimes) greater firing forces working on the primer (again, from the quick unlocking).

And, finally, make double-sure that each and every primer is seated to below flush with the case head! That’s true for any firearm (because it also means that the primer is fully seated) but imperative for safety in a semi-auto. This is especially an issue for those who use a progressive-type loading press. There’s nothing wrong with the press but it may not give the sensitivity in feedback to know that the primer is fully seated without checking.

Here’s what I use from Midsouth

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

RELOADERS CORNER: Gas Port Pressure

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It’s not always possible to separate guns from loads, and there are some important things to know to get the most from your semi-auto. Here’s one! KEEP READING

casing in air

Glen Zediker

I have spent the last couple of segments taking a big step back recollecting my own (early) experiences and education as a handloader. Hope you’re happily indulging me, and hope even more that there’s been some good ideas that have come from it.

I started reloading as a matter of economy, and because I wanted to shoot more. Said then and said again now: if the impetus for reloading is saving money, you really don’t save money! You just get to shoot more for the same cost. Hope that makes sense, and likely you already understand that. Clearly, there are other reasons or focuses that attract folks to handloading, and personalizing ammo performance, improving accuracy, are leading reasons.

I’ve been at least a tad amount (to a lot) biased all along in my department topics toward loading for semi-automatic rifles. That’s been done for a few reasons, and the primary one is that, no question at all, there are specific and important details, a lot of dos and don’ts, in recycling ammo for a self-loader.

This is the reason I’ve been careful to specifically point out the “semi-auto” aspect of any tooling or preparation step. I’d like some feedback from you all with respect to your motivations and applications in handloading. Why do you do it?

Another reason is that, and I know this from much input, as happened with me 45 years ago, my interest in learning to reload came with ownership of a semi-auto that I absolutely loved to shoot! Here of late, my plumber, for a good instance, proudly announced to me outside the local hardware store that he had just purchased his first AR15 and showed me the paper bag full of .223 Rem. cartridges he had just purchased there. A scant few weeks later: “Could you help me get together some tools and show me how to reload?” I did.

Back to the focus, finally (I know) of this topic: what are those differences comparing semi-autos to anything else?

There are a few points, but one of the first, and one of the most important, is component selection. Case, primer, propellant. Propellant first.

AR15 gas port
As .224-caliber bullets get heavier, there’s a tendency toward many using slower-burning propellants. Often, the slower-burning fuels produce lower chamber pressures, which means more velocity potential (that’s true with just about any rifle cartridge). But! Gas port pressure will increase with slower and slower burning propellants. Can’t have it all, and make sure “function” is first on the list. That’s safe and sane function, by the way, not “over-function!”

I’ll assume, pretty safely, that the semi-auto we’re loading up for is an AR15, or some take on that platform. If so, it will have a “direct impingement” gas system. That’s a pretty simple arrangement whereby the gas pressure needed to operate the system, which cycles the action, is bled off from the barrel bore via a port. From there it goes through a manifold and then into a tube, and then back into the bolt carrier via the bolt carrier key. Gas piston operation is more complex, but what’s said here applies there also respecting propellant selection.

So, it’s kind of a wave. The idea is to get the wave to peak at a point where there’s not excessive gas entering the system, but there is sufficient gas entering the system. Mil-spec. 20-inch AR15 calls for 12,500 psi, for what that’s worth. And “piston” guns are nowhere near immune from concerns about port pressure.

The burning rate of the propellant influences the level of gas pressure at the gas port, and this, easy to understand, is referred to as “port pressure.” The original AR15 rifle gas system component specs (20-inch barrel, port located at 12 inches down the barrel) were created to function just fine and dandy with 12,000 PSI port pressure. Much less than that and there might not be enough soon enough to reliably cycle the works. Much more than that and the operating cycle is accelerated.

Port pressure and chamber pressure are totally separate concerns and only related indirectly.

Rule: slower-burning propellants produce more port pressure than faster-burning propellants. As always, “faster” and “slower” are relative rankings within a variety of suitable choices. The answer to why slower-burning propellants produce higher pressure at the gas port comes with understanding a “pressure-time curve.” A PT curve is a way to chart consumption of propellant, which is producing gas, along with the bullet’s progress down the bore. It’s what pressure, at which point. I think of it as a wave that’s building, cresting, and then dissipating. Slower propellants peak farther down the bore, nearer the gas port. Heavier bullets, regardless of propellant used, also produce higher port pressures because they’re moving slower, allowing for a greater build-up about the time the port is passed.

RE15
I put the (very safe) cut-off at H4895 burning rate. I’ll go as slow as RE15, and have with safe success, but its influential differences are noticeable. I can tell you that a 4895 is well within the optimum range to deliver intended port pressure (“a” 4895, mil-contract variety, was actually the early original 5.56 propellant).

To really get a handle on all this you have to picture what’s happening as a bullet goes through the barrel in a semi-auto, and keep (always) in mind just how quickly it’s all happening. Milliseconds, less than a few of them, define “too much” or “not enough.” As the bullet passes the gas port, there’s still pressure building behind it, and there’s more pressure building still with a slower propellant. After the bullet exits the muzzle, the pressure doesn’t just instantly go away. There’s pressure latent in the system (all contained in the gas tube and bolt carrier) that’s operating the action.

The symptoms of excessive port pressure come from the consequence of a harder hit delivered too soon, and what amounts to too much daggone gas getting into and through the “back,” the bolt carrier: the action starts to operate too quickly. The case is still a little bit expanded (under pressure) when the bolt starts to unlock and the extractor tugs on the case rim, plus, the increased rush of gas simply cycles the action too quickly. That creates extraction problems and essentially beats up cases. They’ll often show bent rims, excessively blown case shoulders, stretching, and so on.

Getting gas port pressure under control makes for improved function, better spent case condition, and less wear and stress on the gun hisseff.

There’s a huge amount more to talk about on this whole topic, and a good number of ways to get everything working as it should. But. For this, the most a handloader can do, and it’s honestly just about the most influential help, is to stay on the faster side of suitable propellants. Without any doubt at all, there will be rampant disagreement with my advice: no slower than Hodgdon 4895. Most all published data lists propellants from faster to slower, so find H4895 and don’t go below it. That’s conservative, and there are a lot of very high scores shot in NRA High Power Rifle with VARGET and RE-15, but those are edgy, in my experience, and define the very upper (slowness) limit.

m14 gas system
This doesn’t only apply to AR15s. The M1A is VERY sensitive to port pressure, which is also propellant burn rate. It’s a gas-piston gun. Same cut-off on burning rate is advised for these: H4895. I sho learned this the hard way by dang near wrecking my first M1A: bolt stuck back after firing a dose of H4350. That was before I met Sgt. Jim Norris and got the lecture I’me giving you. Thanks Sarge!

That alone doesn’t mean all AR15 architectures will be tamed (carbine-length systems are particularly over-zealous), but it does mean that port pressure will stay lower, an important step.

A caution always about factory ammo: some is loaded for use in bolt-actions (especially hunting ammo(, and might bea very bad choice for your .308 Win. semi-auto. AR15s are actually fairly more flexible in showing clear symptoms, some no doubt due to the buffered operating system and overall mild nature of the .223 Rem. cartridge.

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

 

PRODUCT NEWS: Shooters World SW4350 Propellant

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A newly-formulated old-favorite propellant gets put to the test by Olympian Ken Johnson. READ THE RESULTS

Ken Johnson

I’ve been having dreams about 4350. But not the kind of dreams you’d think a ballistician would have. The book, “The Art of Memory” therein provides clues as to why my brain thought it would be smart to sprinkle this stuff on my ice cream. WAIT! Before you wave your magic finger and go back to Facebook…

Well, sure enough, it’s a useful propellant. Moderately slow. Too slow for .308, but in terms of propellants better suited for higher chamber-to-bore ratios, it’s a wise choice to have on hand. And it seems to be the favorite punch to serve to the Prom Queen (Miss Jezebel Creedmoor) at the Prairie Revival School dance. More soon…

I shot 4350 in .243 Winchester with a 107 Sierra Match King, back when I won the very last 300-Meter 3-Position Rifle event at the Pan American Games, Argentina 1995. I have fond memories of Argentina. And, the accuracy of that 4350 powder.

Our manufacturer has been making 4350-speed propellant for approximately 70 years. They know the burn speed, and they know how to make it right. Recently, they upgraded the chemical stabilizer from 1940s technology to that of the European Chemical Hazards Agency compliant goop. Current vernacular describes this propellant as “REACH Compliant.” It’s good to know that you won’t be poisoned by this powder now, if you sprinkle it on your ice cream… That was a joke. Don’t do that.

Now, for those who’ve followed the history and application of THIS propellant in a parallel universe, you’ll know it to be slightly slower in burn rate than other 4350 offerings. In our analysis, we found that to be largely true.

So…about that dance with Miss Creedmoor… I decided to run a test of our SW4350 data against H4350 data to determine relative accuracy performance. It was a relatively warm July day in the Panhandle of North Florida, a few miles inland from the Forgotten Coast.

The thermometer read 94.5 degrees. The humidity would be classified as “swamp.” Mirage was switching left-to-right, and right-to-left again. Heavy at times, like shooting through a swimming pool, but as easy to read as Dick and Jane. Hornady virgin, unmolested brass. I did absolutely nothing to the brass, other than seat a primer, dump some powder, and cram in a bullet. All charges were weighed to 0.10-grains. Federal 210M primers. Nosler Accubond 130s. Fired at 250 yards. Standard SAAMI 6.5 Creedmoor chamber. I did all the gun plumbing. 1-7 twist 5-R Rock Creek 24-inch barrel. Predator action, torqued to 65 inch-pounds.

Now I’ll grant you, I didn’t shoot hundreds of rounds of each sample. But, I did double-blind the test. So, I didn’t know which ammunition I was shooting. All I knew was “1” went on top, and “2” went on the bottom. And, my apprentice had a good time playing with my head. She tends to do that, especially when “doing the dishes” is on the line! That bride of mine, she keeps life interesting.

Below, the various groups shot alternating between the two samples. According to my results, SW4350 had less vertical dispersion than the H-version.

SW4350 vs. H4350

I can tell you that the mirage was running that day. And I never noticed it boil at all. So, I cannot find cause for the vertical shots. But you be the judge, and let me know your thoughts!

ken johnson

As an added bonus to celebrate the release of the new SW4350, Shooters World Powder is covering your HAZMAT! When you buy 4 pounds of Shooters World Powder, you get FREE HAZMAT on your entire order. This is your chance to try one of the most popular powder types out there, at a better price, with some exciting results!

Click Here to shop all Shooters World Powders!

About the author: Ken Johnson works with Shooters World in the capacity of Ballistics Managing Partner, Laboratory Manager, and Ballistician. In addition, Ken has had a long and distinguished career as a championship shooter both with the USAMU and USA Olympic Team, having won numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Pan American Games, World Championship, and other international events, as well as national championships at Camp Perry. 

RELOADERS CORNER: Blissful Moderation

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Glen Zediker recollects and reflects on the first advice he ever got on choosing a load: all things in moderation, pressure and velocity included! READ IT ALL

range load
When you just want to load up and go have a go at the range, there’s no need for speed. But! There is a need for enough pressure-power for reliable, clean function. I suggest trying something in the “medium” range for daily use. Your rifle, your barrel, your cases, and your senses will all thank you for reducing the shock by taking “two steps to the left” to find a load. Promise: you will not notice anything at all negative from any lack of “power.”

Glen Zediker

I spend a great amount of space in this department warning, and I hope educating, on the signs, signals, dangers of excessive cartridge pressure. That’s all been and being done because, for the majority, maximizing velocity is an ammo-goal. Hunters, varmint and game, competitive longer-range shooters, usually want the most they can get from bullet flight performance, and also impact strength.

For me, there’s zero doubt that more speed is a better score on a full-length NRA High Power Rifle course. (Side note: it is a fallacy that lighter loads are more accurate. They’re not, or not because they’re lighter. Some of the best perforations I’ve seen are with maxed loads.)

But! I shoot a toned-down load for reduced-distance courses (as well as for the 200-yard events on full-length), and my general-purpose clods-and-cans load is a lower-stress recipe.

I mentioned last time that I had recently fired a good deal of current NATO-spec ammo and was, I guess “impressed” is the right word, with its power level. The stuff I make up for afternoon fun-runs is a good deal less stressed.

I’m not at all recommending a “light” load. Just let’s call it a solid “medium.” Looking over my notes for the past umpteen years, going through my last most current load-data notebook, I saw what was to me an interesting happenstance. I tended to be pretty much right at one-and-one-half grain less than maximum (and about two grains with .308-class rounds).

dirty case
Signs of a load that’s too “light” include, clearly, one that won’t cycle the action reliably on a semi-auto. Another couple, for any action type, include an unusually dirty chamber and sooted-up cartridge case necks and shoulders. A little lighter still and you might see a primer that’s backed out a tad. Those all result from the case not expanding fully to seal the chamber forward and stretch to comply closer to chamber dimensions end to end. A little reduction won’t normally show any of this, and, tip: go a tad toward the faster end of suitable burning rate for general use.

Thats not a light load! It’s “three halves,” three one-half grain drops. That half-grain, and some might recollect my mentioning this a few times in the past, is my always-recommended “come-off” step for any pressure sign (not a tenth or two, but a “full” half grain). Any other over-pressure indicator from that point then signals need to come off another “full” half-grain. So I pretty much come off those two halves from the get go, add another, and, guess what? Never nary a pressure concern.

Slightly faster-burning propellants, in my experience, lend themselves better to the “medium” power level reduction in terms of maintaining accuracy. As always, “faster” and “slower” are values within a small range of propellant rates suitable for a particular cartridge and bullet. And, in following this plan, when needed bump it up to full speed with predicatable results.

For .223 Rem.-class cartridges, a half-grain is worth ballpark 40-50 feet per second, again depending on propellant.

The advantages of a “medium” load are predictable, but here’s my list: plain old easier on the gun, and on the barrel, and on the self. Again (and again) I’m not talking abut a “light” load, just one that’s maybe 95-percent, a solid 150-200 feet per second less than published maximum. Case stress will be reduced, and that’s associated with length trimming frequency and overall “life” before primer pocket enlargement and general stretch-thinning, cracking symptoms retire the brass.

Back to my “story,” which was the interesting happenstance (all this was all brought back to me by the initial outing with my new old AR15 I talked about last edition, and my 16-year-old son asking me if I could teach him how to reload because we ran out of ammo so quickly…): So. When I first learned to reload I was 15. This event coincided with my first AR15 rifle, which was purchased new at a Skaggs drugstore. Right. My mother did not eagerly agree to sponsor a reloading setup, but, being a wise-enough woman, did interpret the math the same way I did: I could shoot a lot more for a lot less if I was doing my own. So, I had a friend, Gary. Most fortunate man to know. Gary, and I see this more clearly each year that passes, knew more about guns and shooting than any 10 people I have since encountered.

We went to Bald Bob’s Sporting Goods in Rifle, Colorado. He chose an RCBS kit for me, a piece at a time. Bob sold RCBS only. Press, dies, scale, meter, case lube, doo-dads, and, of course some propellant and brass and bullets and primers. And a Sierra Bullets loading book. So, back home, and a short time later, there I sat before my new array of green pride-and-joys. After stern lectures about things I was never supposed to do, and at least an equal number of things I was always supposed to do, we got this show flowing downriver.

Gary had chosen IMR 4198 for me for a propellant. He said it was clean-burning and economical. Didn’t take much of it. I had some Speer 55-grain full-metal-jacket bullets, some Remington cases to go along with the empties I had saved in a paper bag, and some CCI primers. Now. We looked at the loading tables in the Sierra Manual, and he had me find my cartridge and bullet. (He already knew exactly where we were going, so this was for my benefit.) He pointed out the “maximum” load and the “starting” load, one on the far right and the other on the origin point of the table on the left. He then counted back two places from the far right: 20.5gr. He said, “There. That’s the one. It’s not going to give you any troubles, and it’s adequate for function.”

“That was easy,” I thought.

I have since learned that advice was too good not to share.

If you’re looking for a good load, and you know the propellant is wisely-chosen, going two steps down from the manual-listed maximum should, indeed, be a great place to start, or to stay if you are sans chronograph. Time after time, I have noticed over the many, many years I have now been doing all this, that the “two steps back from max” procedure is safe, sane, and satisfying.

reduced load list
Here’s a page (“the page”) from my now-ancient Sierra manual. Not all manuals agree (not nearly) on max loads, and not all are done in multiple increments, but the essential advice is reducing the max load by two steps, or about one-and-one-half grains of propellant in this case (reduction amounts vary, certainly, based on the cartridge). It’s wise advice from a wise man, and I’m talking about Buddy Gary. I just pass it along because it sho works for me!

I shot about a gozillion rounds of 20.5 grains of 4198 through that SP1. Since it was not a max load, I could also change the bullets without worry, going from one brand to the next at the same weight, of course. I could change cases and even primers. It was a tenth shy of one-and-one-half grains under maximum. I don’t recollect ever grouping that rifle on a paper target. I zeroed it based on preference and I also don’t recollect ever missing anything I aimed at by more than a little bit, and never twice.

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

RELOADERS CORNER: 5.56 NATO: “GO,” “NO-GO”

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This “warning” has been around, and around, for years, but it’s still not always heeded, or understood. Read why and how it matters HERE.

nato stamp
The circle-cross stamp is a NATO-spec cartridge. Your barrel might be marked “5.56” or a more lengthy disclosure referencing its specs. If it’s “.223 Rem.” do not fire a NATO round through it! Your barrel might also not be marked at all. I’ve increasingly seen that. Get it checked. A NATO round will chamber perfectly in a .223 Rem. All exterior dimensions are patently the same, again, it’s the pressure level.

Glen Zediker

I know this is “Reloaders Corner,” but, every now and again at least, I rip open the end of a cardboard factory cartridge box, or five.

I just got finished building up a “retro” AR15 for a new book. Reasons for that are a few, but probably the main one was that I wanted to recollect the one that “got away,” well, the one that I let go. Errant short-sighted judgment, as is common in youthful people. So I built a replica M16A1, circa mid-60s, well, of course, with only two selector stops. At the heart of that rifle is an original-spec barrel, chrome-lined, NATO chamber.

5.56 stamp
This is a NATO chamber stamp. If it’s “.223 Rem.” that’s NOT the same!

That’s leading to this: I opened up a few boxes of “genuine” NATO 5.56 to check it out with, something I honestly haven’t fired for years and years. Dang. That stuff is potent. Over the past several years, the pressure level has increased. Current standard is a little over 62,000 PSI. (NATO is technically measured differently than commercial, but the figures I give here are accurate for comparison.) Compared to SAAMI specs for .223 Remington (commercial) that’s a solid 7,000 difference. (That SAAMI-spec figure has likewise increased over the years, judging from recent test figures I’ve seen respecting commercial .223 Rem.; most references heretofore were max at 52,000 PSI.)

The main impetus for this article, though, came from a recent experience at a local gun shop. I went in search of a sub-sonic .300 Blackout load, and they had one in .300 Whisper. The counter person told me that it was “exactly the same as .300 Blackout, just like .223 is the same as 5.56…” Whoa. Neither statement is true, although Whisper specs are plenty close enough to Blackout that no differences factor in safety or function. However! I didn’t take the time to lecture, but, dang, .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO are not nearly the same.

First point: do not fire NATO-spec ammo in a rifle with a chamber marked “.223 Remington.” It will, not may, be over-pressure. Reasons have to do with chamber specifications for 5.56x45mm NATO and those for SAAMI-spec .223 Remington. There is a significant difference in the leade or “freebore” cut comparing SAAMI to NATO. That’s the space in a chamber ahead of the cartridge case neck area that leads into the rifling. NATO is radically more generous, meaning “bigger”: longer, more volume. (About 0.150 inches, based on my measurements of bullet seating depths that touch the lands.) There is relatively much more room for expanding gases to occupy in a NATO chamber. In a SAAMI chamber there’s much less room for expanding gases to occupy. The additional pressure is about the equivalent of another full grain (or more) of propellant in the case. Yikes.

high pressure nato
Here’s what happens putting a factory-fresh NATO round through a .223 Rem. chamber. This case is clearly beat. Sure, it might, should, hold up for that firing, but the case is done and the gun took a needless hammering.

nato beat case

There are other little nit differences to pick between the SAAMI and NATO cartridge, and, therefore, chambering specs, but they don’t really factor in a material sense. There’s bound also to be just as many small differences in cartridge dimensions from one maker to the next. I’ve measured enough to tell you that’s true.

Now. What this has to do with reloading (finally, I know) is based on a question I’ve gotten over the years, a concern to some, or at least, as said, a question. And the answer is that you’re better off going with .223 Remington loading data for any ammo intended for “general” range use. That means blasting away on an afternoon. Just because it’s a NATO chamber does in no way mean you’re supposed to run NATO-spec ammo through it! Back it off and enjoy it more.

If you’re relying on a factory-published data manual to give a place to start, or stop (something from Sierra, Hornady, Lyman, or so on) pay very close attention to the test barrel specifications. Clearly, barrel length has a big influence on attaining the published velocities, and some load combinations are going to be worked up using considerably longer barrels than what the most of us have on our AR15s. But the biggest factor is the chamber used in the test barrel. If it’s a SAAMI-spec (sometimes called a “SAAMI-minimum”) chamber then the data should be on the conservative side. Should be. Do not, however, bank on any idea that you should jump straight to the maximum load listed if you’re loading for use in a NATO. There are, always, too many factors that otherwise create more or less pressure (primers, cases, propellant lot, and more).

As time goes by it probably is less likely to encounter a semi-automatic “.223” that’s not a NATO, but it will be marked as such! Clearly, most ammo is used in the most popular guns. That’s not going to be a bolt-action anymore. Make no mistake, though, AR15s exist plentifully that have SAAMI chambers, and I see a lot of aftermarket barrels that are cut with that minimum-dimension reamer.

ANOTHER OPTION
So what’s a “Wylde” chamber? This is a chambering spec developed by Bill Wylde, one of the early and leading pioneers in the quest for improved AR15 accuracy. It is popular and available, especially in aftermarket barrels. What it is, is a chamber that’s in-between SAAMI-minimum and NATO, leaning closer to NATO. Rumors are true: it’s safe to fire NATO-spec factory loads through a Wylde. The Wylde was designed upon the introduction of the heavier competition bullets with the idea of providing more freebore to accommodate the necessarily longer cartridge overall lengths necessary with something like an 80gr. Sierra, but keep the amount of jump to a minimum with shorter bullets fed from the magazine.

This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

Anti-gun Efforts to Expand U.N. Regulations to Ammunition Continue

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United States stands firm in its goal to exclude ammunition from PoA agreement. Read all about it HERE

UN gun control

SOURCE: NRA-ILA

Shortly before 4:00am July 7, the two week long Third Review Conference (RevCon3) on the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) finally came to an end.

Entering into the meeting several critical issues were on the agenda, none of which was more significant than attempts to include ammunition into the fold of the PoA. Getting ammunition into the PoA has been at the top of the anti-firearms agenda since the PoA’s inception in 2001, as it opens the door for calls to mark, trace, limit and require global register of its users. To understand this, you must recognize that everything at the U.N. must be viewed not in the present, but in the future, and just like the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) it is never about what is in the document when it is initially adopted, but what that language will allow it to become. Ammunition was the real issue at RevCon3, as including it in the PoA would mark an even more significant step forward in the anti-firearm agenda of the U.N. than the adoption of the ATT.

It is for this reason that the United States’ policy has always been to object to attempts to include ammunition, and why this meeting, more so than any other on the PoA in the past, was so critical. Review conferences provide a forum for enacting change, and while RevCon3 was the third time such a review had taken place, it was the first time a united front had been assembled to push for ammunition’s inclusion. Regrettably, even with a strong U.S. delegation staying true to the original red lines established by former U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton, nothing could have been done to stop the final outcome.

For the United States, trouble began during the first week of the conference. While the meeting started with the U.S. position receiving support from roughly half a dozen nations, the tide began to shift as the President of the Conference, French Ambassador Jean-Claude Brunet, emerged from the shadows of supposed impartiality to openly encourage the anti-firearms agenda represented by the majority in the room.

The critical turning point occurred mid-week, following statements from anti-gun group Civil Society, when the supposedly neutral President stopped the meeting and left his podium under the purported purpose of thanking those from Civil Society for their attendance. But instead of thanking everyone he pushed past the pro-firearm groups to have his picture taken with only those representatives supporting his shared anti-firearm agenda, a picture he proudly posted to his official Twitter account.

Brunet was sending a message, “I am on your side and will do what I can to help.” This message was clear and repeated throughout the remainder of the meeting, with his official Twitter account retweeting the messages of the anti-firearm groups in attendance and even carrying his own messages of support, including a picture celebrating wearing orange against “gun violence” and publicizing his closed meeting with the groups. Had his actions been limited to Twitter they might have been easier to swallow, but instead they carried onto the floor and began to impact and influence the course of the meeting. Brunet was supporting their calls to include ammunition in the PoA, and he was going to do whatever he could to help them achieve that goal.

As the body worked through five draft outcome documents, it was clear that the objections being noted on the floor were not being reflected in the progressive drafts. By the time the meeting had advanced to draft three, explicit calls to exclude ammunition from half a dozen countries, including the United States, had failed to be reflected.

Picking up on the President’s unwillingness to adhere to the objections from the floor, a coordinated effort focused on the most outspoken of the ammunition opponents, the United States, began to take hold. Challenges that should have been directed at all those who opposed the inclusion of ammunition instead became directed attacks, and while others remained in opposition it became far too easy for them to go silent and allow the United States to become the punching bag.

Round after round the onslaught continued, with the United States defending its position countless times. But the United States would not bend. At no point was this more clear then when the delegation took the floor to make three short, succinct points: ammunition was specifically not a part of the PoA when it was adopted in 2001, there has never been consensus on ammunition in any subsequent meeting of the PoA, and, as far as the United States was concerned, there never will be. As bold and direct as this was, the two paragraphs in every draft outcome document pushing for its inclusion remained, and it was clear the fight was going to go the distance.

By the second to last day Brunet and his cohorts were beginning to panic. The United States had not budged on the issue and was showing no signs that it would. This was not a delegation operating under the marching orders of our past administration, but instead a firm and solid team holding line.

Attempting to use the clock to his advantage, Brunet took the meeting late into the night on Thursday, hoping exhaustion might encourage compromise. But by 11:00pm he finally called the meeting, providing him with just enough time to strategize with his minions, and by Friday, the last day of the meeting, a plan was in place.

Working alongside Ghana and over 60 other countries pushing for the inclusion of ammunition, and utilizing the German delegation to work the floor to garner support, a coordinated attack was launched. Ammunition would be mentioned, requiring the United States to object, at which time the President would call for a break. During the break, proposals for alternate language would be quietly negotiated throughout the room, and then the meeting would reconvene for open discussions on the new language. Every time the result would be the same; no compromise. But this was expected. Brunet was trying to wear out the United States.

As the circus continued, by around 2:00am frustration started to set in with the President. Brunet had made the United States out to be a villain, the only country holding up consensus on the document and preventing everyone from going home, but the only way to end it was for the U.S. to call for a vote, which the United States was holding out on. In an effort to expedite the process he attempted to pass a motion by bringing the gavel down at almost the exact moment he finished speaking. The meeting had now gone from bad to ugly, and the United States was not having any of it.

In the U.N., it is never looked upon fondly to be the one to break consensus, after all, delegates are trained to compromise, but knowing the United States would not back down from this issue allowed Brunet to use it to his advantage. Finally, the United States made the call for the vote, and Brunet and his staff could implement their plan.

Up for vote were two paragraphs. The first, and less controversial of the two, called from the regulation of surplus ammunition stockpiles. The second, and far more significant, acknowledged States apply the PoA and other, undefined “relevant international standards” to ammunition. Again, a seemingly innocuous statement, but one that opens the door to full incorporation of ammunition into the PoA and its associated International Tracing Instrument, providing justification for later calls to globally regulate ammunition through such requirements as marking, tracing, stockpile limitations and registration.

Even before the votes were cast, it was clear the United States would not win, but it was a matter of principle. Majority rule does not apply to a consensus document, and the United States had to break consensus to keep ammunition out.

The results of the vote read like something out of the Human Rights Council (before our withdrawal); the United States and Israel on one side, 63 third world and Latin-American countries on the other, and 28 who supported our position but abstained nonetheless.

On to the second paragraph, or what would better between described as the second act of Brunet’s circus, but not before a two hour strategy session. When the meeting resumed, and before the vote could be cast, a motion was made and Brunet’s gavel was struck. No time for discussion, no opportunity to object. In what was clearly a coordinated effort, the original language on ammunition was reinserted into the document and passed at almost the exact moment the reading of it finished, forcing the vote to now be on language even more pervasive on the issue than that with which the U.S. had called to a vote. In other words, Brunet had got the ammunition language he wanted in, knowing full well that the voting results would be the same.

As the clock inched towards 3:00am the votes were cast and the results were are almost identical as the first. The United States and Israel on one side, 62 on the other, and 29 abstentions. Ammunition was in the final draft. All that was left now was for the remainder of the document to be adopted and the meeting to adjourn, but the show was not over. The circus had an encore.

In the push to get ammunition in the outcome document, a lingering issue with Syria remained. Syria had objected to the inclusion of references to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and specifically any in excess of target 16.4 since day one. The SDG’s are a collection of 17 global goals encompassing 169 targets the U.N. established in 2015 in order to promote their agenda of sustainable development, ranging from gender equality to significantly reducing illicit arms flows. They are used to push agendas far outside the scope of specific meetings.

Regrettably, the hour was late and the room was exhausted, so when voting was finally opened most were half asleep or too busy celebrating their “win” on ammunition to take note. Even Syria itself failed to object, but that was not the end of it for them.

Syria continued to express their issues with the document, noting that it could not be adopted because there was no consensus. But in a bizarre twist, they failed to express their own objection to it or call for a final vote. When all was said and done, Madagascar took the floor, called for a vote, and the final draft outcome document was adopted, albeit with the U.S. reinforcing its objection to the two paragraphs including ammunition.

What we were left with as the hour approached 4:00am and the meeting came to a close was a very dangerous document and even worse precedent having been set. The requirement for consensus had been set aside, and a document containing references to ammunition was adopted; a document that will form the backbone of future calls by anti-gun proponents to regulate and restrict ammunition globally.

While there are others out there reporting on this meeting, a lot of what they take issue with in the outcome document is simply the reassertion of language contained in the PoA. Furthermore, they have selectively excluded any limiting language included, such as that contained in the introductory language to each section. Make no mistake, ammunition was the real issue at RevCon3. They would have also recognized that the United States’ objection to ammunition resulted in a document that does not conform to the PoA’s consensus requirement, and for this we sincerely applaud their efforts. The attacks they faced were ugly and while they held firm and kept true to their red lines, nothing more could have been done to stop the U.N.’s anti-gun agenda from moving forward short of withdrawing from another U.N. farce incapable of adhering its own requirements.