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.

Two Essential AR-15 Case Preps

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This is a specially-adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book, “Handloading For Competition,” by author Glen Zediker, owner of Zediker Publishing. Click here to order from Midsouth.

by Glen Zediker

Maybe the headline above oversells two case preps I routinely perform, but if they aren’t “essential,” let’s at the least say they are “worthwhile.” I don’t like telling folks to endure more tedium than is necessary. Time is not only money: It’s also shooting, relaxation, family, and on down the list of activities that substitute for removing miniscule amounts of brass from cartridge cases.

The 3-pronged anvil is supposed to compress; if the pocket isn’t flat, it won’t do so correctly.
The 3-pronged anvil is supposed to compress; if the pocket isn’t flat, it won’t do so correctly.
Inside flash hole deburring: Just do it. It’s too easy not to.
Inside flash hole deburring: Just do it. It’s too easy not to.
This is a round that got placed into the chamber and then the bolt carrier released (how we load the “Slow-Fire” rounds in competition). The firing pin tapped off the primer and left a nice dimple. A primer sitting too high can more easily pop under this sort of abuse.
This is a round that got placed into the chamber and then the bolt carrier released (how we load the “Slow-Fire” rounds in competition). The firing pin tapped off the primer and left a nice dimple. A primer sitting too high can more easily pop under this sort of abuse.
Check each and every round you load to ensure that the primer is below flush with the case head. Just run a finger over it (use your own for reasons I can’t approach here). Uniforming pockets goes a long way to ensure correct, full seating, and is especially important if priming is done using a mechanism that precludes feedback, like a progressive reloading machine.
Check each and every round you load to ensure that the primer is below flush with the case head. Just run a finger over it (use your own for reasons I can’t approach here). Uniforming pockets goes a long way to ensure correct, full seating, and is especially important if priming is done using a mechanism that precludes feedback, like a progressive reloading machine.
I can always see a difference in the anvil prints on cases that have uniformed pockets and those that don’t. Telling…
I can always see a difference in the anvil prints on cases that have uniformed pockets and those that don’t. Telling…
There are a variety of primer pocket uniformers. The author prefers those that can chuck into an electric drill as well as also mount in a screwdriver-style handle. Way less tedious. Run it no more than 1100 rpm. The author doesn’t like doing this job by hand, so he uses an adjustable-depth tool. It’s safer to get a fixed-depth unless you have the sort of measuring device necessary to do an accurate job of setting the tool.
There are a variety of primer pocket uniformers. The author prefers those that can chuck into an electric drill as well as also mount in a screwdriver-style handle. Way less tedious. Run it no more than 1100 rpm. The author doesn’t like doing this job by hand, so he uses an adjustable-depth tool. It’s safer to get a fixed-depth unless you have the sort of measuring device necessary to do an accurate job of setting the tool.

However, for reasons I’ll hit upon, a couple of actions on the bench make things better, and one makes things safer. The first is a primer-pocket uniforming tool; the other is an inside-flash-hole deburring tool.

The tasks these tools perform only need to be taken once.

When a domestically-produced cartridge case is made, the primer pocket and the flash hole are formed, not cut. The primer pocket is done with a swaging process, and the flash hole is punched. The primer pocket and headstamp are normally produced at the same time with a punch called a “bunter.” I also call it a “blunter” because that’s the result: cross section a case and you’ll see that the bottom of the primer pocket is not square; it looks a little like a cereal bowl. The flash hole is normally punched separately.

A well-designed primer pocket-uniformer’s job, in my view, is mostly to put a 90-degree corner on the pocket bottom, so the bottom is flat. Primers are flat, coincidentally. And this is why it should be done. A uniformer also cuts the pockets to the same depth, which is also within the correct depth range; or, at the least and depending on the combination of the primer pocket and the tool itself, ensures that a minimum depth has been created. That’s between 0.118-0.122 inches for Small Rifle primers.

Now, there are differences among manufacturers in primer-cup heights. They’re small, but tend to be consistent brand-to-brand. A uniformed primer pocket pretty much eliminates the chance of a shallowish primer pocket combining with a tallish primer to create a primer that’s not seated beyond flush with the case bottom.

And all primers should be seated below flush! The actual amount advised or warranted varies with the source, but I give it a minimum of 0.006 inches.

So, after uniforming a primer pocket, the primer should be sitting “flat” on the pocket bottom (more in a bit); ultimately, this means all primers in all cases are seated fully. Measurement of the amount below flush with the case bottom doesn’t really matter; just that the primers are seated fully.

The reason I said “more in a bit” is because primers have an anvil. It’s the three-pronged sort of spring-looking piece on the bottom of a primer. (“Top” or “bottom” is a matter of perspective…) When a primer is seated, the anvil feet compress. Using a hand-held seating tool, you can feel it. They are supposed to compress and be sitting equally on the primer pocket bottom.

There are two reasons this is essential. One is a matter of performance. If the primer is not seated flush against the pocket bottom, then some force from the firing pin or striker is redirected toward fully seating the primer. It’s a softer hit, in effect. This leads to inconsistent ignition, and, to a smaller degree only worried about by the fastidious, differing initial vibration nodes.

The other reason I say this is essential for AR-15 ammo (or for any ammo destined for use in a rifle with a floating firing pin) is assurance against a “slam fire.” Out-of-battery discharge. Ugly. When the bolt carrier sends the cartridge home into the chamber, the inertia can cause the firing pin to continue forward and “tap” off the primer. It’s not supposed to happen, but it dang sure does. The mechanism intended to prevent this is faulty. A primer that’s sitting a little high gets tapped harder, and if it gets tapped hard enough: BLAM. It’s more of a problem with M1As, but I have seen them in ARs, more than once.

Inside-flash-hole deburring is too easy. Of course, you’ll need a tool, and there are several that all work well. When the flash hole is punched, there’s a burr turned up on the inside of the case. These vary in height and scope, but without a doubt interfere with ignition. It’s also possible that a die decapping pin can fold one such that it obscures the hole. Just get it gone. Takes virtually no effort.

It makes a noticeable difference on target, especially in small-capacity, small-diameter cases, like .223 Rem. Reason is clear: the flash from the primer enters consistently and therefore spreads consistently to get the propellant burning. A tall, narrow column of medium-burning propellant is a tougher chore to ignite, or that’s what I think.

Five Steps for Preparing New Brass

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These are brand-new high-dollar Lapua cases, which the author points out are a tad amount deformed about the case mouths. Most new cases will show this sort of irregularity. Just run them through your sizing die. It’s not so much establishing the neck size (although that’s wise also), but just rounding them out to accept a bullet. Also, lube new cases just like normal; even though they’re smaller than they will be after the first firing, they’re not that small.
These are brand-new high-dollar Lapua cases, which the author points out are a tad amount deformed about the case mouths. Most new cases will show this sort of irregularity. Just run them through your sizing die. It’s not so much establishing the neck size (although that’s wise also), but just rounding them out to accept a bullet. Also, lube new cases just like normal; even though they’re smaller than they will be after the first firing, they’re not that small.

For the handloader, it’s a great feeling to pop the flaps open on a new box of cases. New, shiny cases are a treat. However, new cases are not ready to load out of the box, and a look over them shows why — most will have noticeably dinged and dented case mouths. Here are a few tips on getting new brass ready to load:

Check Them All for Flash Holes

An easy flaw to watch for is a case without a flash hole. This is rare indeed, but I’ve seen one, and a few of my high-volume pistol-shooting friends have encountered more. Flash holes are almost always punched, but tooling isn’t perfect, or it breaks and goes unnoticed. I actually look at all of them just to get it off my mind.

Don’t Seat a Bullet to Size Case Necks

At the least run all the cases through a die that will size the outside and inside of the case necks. I just use my normal-duty sizing die. That way, I’ve also set case-neck dimensions to what I decided on; that means performance results consistent to my later loadings on these cases. There is not, or sure should not be, any worry about setting the case shoulder back to a shorter dimension than the new case has, if (and only if) the sizing die was adjusted in accordance with the concepts and process I outlined in the past articles.

Chamfer the Inside of the Case Mouth

After sizing, the next required step is to put a chamfer on the inside of the case mouth. The outside won’t need chamfering, unless you’ve decided to trim the cases.

I trim all my new cases, even though it’s not really necessary. For me, it’s more about squaring the case mouth than about shortening length. They’ll be plenty short enough. Just as I use the sizing die, I trim to the usual setting on my case trimmer that I have for used cases.

By the way, this is a simple way to set trim-to length on a case trimmer: Adjust the cutter head inward until it just touches the case mouth all the way around. That will be suitable from there on. Trimming, however, is purely optional.

Now the cases are ready to load. But there’s more you can do to get top results.

Do Any Other Case-Prep Steps

Any additional case prep steps are best done right now when new brass is at its softest. Especially if you want to outside-turn case necks, new brass is notably easier to work with. The exception is that I wait until after the first firing to do any primer-pocket uniforming. New primer pockets are snug.

Speaking of that first firing… This is important. “Fire-forming” is a term usually associated with describing changing a cartridge from its parent or original state into another state, which is a non-standard cartridge, when it’s first-fired in the non-standard chamber. Like making an Ackley-Improved version of a standard cartridge, or converting a .250 Savage into a 6XC. In other words, the firing itself expands and reforms the case to the shape of the new chamber. But! All cases are fire-formed to the chamber they’re fired in. That’s a lot of what I’ve been addressing in the past few articles.

Segregate Special Brass

I segregate my brass for my tournament rounds, and I do that when it’s new. Criteria and means are another article, but the reason I mention that now is because I select my “600-yard” cases, “300-yard,” and “200-yard” cases at the beginning, looking for the best, better, and good cases, respectively, for the three distances.

I need to know which are which before I make the initial loading because brass has a memory. More technically, it’s a “shape-memory effect,” a property that is shared by some other alloys also. It expands and contracts in a consistent pattern during each use.

Do not first-fire cases using a lighter (less pressure) load unless you intend to continue to use that load. Fire-forming with a lighter load and then using a nearer-to-max load in that same case will result in premature failures in that case. It doesn’t seem to matter much going the other direction, but, for instance, I would never charge up my 600-yard load in a case formed using my 200-yard load; there are significant pressure differences in those two.

And don’t forget to get dimensional checks and records on your new cases!

About the only (reasonably affordable) new brass that I’ve used that doesn’t need any pre-firing help is Nosler Competition Brass, but I still size it to ensure I’m running the same neck dimensions, and ostensibly bullet retention levels as I will on subsequent uses. There’s processed and prepped once-fired out there available through many outlets, but I still suggest sizing it.
About the only (reasonably affordable) new brass that I’ve used that doesn’t need any pre-firing help is Nosler Competition Brass, but I still size it to ensure I’m running the same neck dimensions, and ostensibly bullet retention levels as I will on subsequent uses. There’s processed and prepped once-fired out there available through many outlets, but I still suggest sizing it.

 

 

 

Burris Launches New Online Ballistic Services

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Burris Optics has released a set of ballistic tools to use with its riflescopes.
Burris Optics has released a set of ballistic tools to use with its riflescopes.

Burris Optics has released a set of ballistic tools to use with its riflescopes, including free software, cartridge and bullet libraries to match to Burris reticles, elements to build a dope card, help in programming an Eliminator LaserScope, and the ability to order custom elevation and windage knobs.

Vice President of Sales and Product Development Patrick Beckett said, “We are a company full of hunters and shooters, and we built these tools knowing we would want to use them ourselves. We believe our passion for the shooting sports and our riflescope and ballistics expertise have created a set of tools that will help anyone become a better, more confident shooter.”

The centerpiece of the roll-out are bullet libraries that contain nearly 7,000 cartridges and bullets from every major ammunition and bullet manufacturer. Rimfire, centerfire, muzzleloader and shotgun shells are included, as well as G1 and G7 profiles (where available) for precise accuracy. Other specific elements include:

Burris Reticle Analysis Calculator

This tool allows a user to select ammunition and define exact environmental shooting conditions, such as altitude, humidity, wind speed, and more to deliver accurate aiming solutions for a Burris reticle at any distance. The results are customizable and printable.

Dope Card Builder

The Burris Dope Card Builder is a customizable solution for determining bullet performance at any distance and getting it on a physical print out.

Eliminator Programming Tool

The Burris Eliminator LaserScope can range a target, calculate holdover, and provide a wind value to help you estimate the correct wind hold-off, all based on the exact ammunition you choose. The Eliminator Programming Tool helps you determine the correct Drop Number and Ballistic Coefficient, and lets you fine-tune your results by adjusting for your actual shooting conditions.

Custom Knobs

Burris customers can now order custom elevation knobs for many Burris riflescopes so you can tune your favorite load and exact shooting conditions for a whitetail hunt or a 3 Gun match.

Click here to see our inventory of Burris products at Midsouth Shooters Supply.

Barnes Offers New VOR-TX Ammunition and Component Offerings

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Barnes Bullets has added three loads to the VOR-TX ammunition lineup and new 300AAC Blackout and 450 Bushmaster components for handloaders.

The VOR-TX line extensions will bring three new loads to the Barnes VOR-TX family: A 308 Win. load featuring the 130-grain TTSX bullet, a 300 Winchester Magnum load with a new 190-grain LRX bullet, optimized for long-range performance, and a 35 Whelen load featuring the Barnes TTSX 200-grain projectile.

Click here to see our stock of Barnes VOR-TX ammunition and to check to see when the new loads are in stock.

For handloaders who want to fine-tune and optimize their 300 AAC Blackout and 450 Bushmaster ammunition, Barnes will now offer the 300 AAC BLK 120 grain TAC-TX BT bullet, previously only available in VOR-TX ammunition, as a separate item.

Also available for the first time, Barnes will offer a 275-grain TSX FB bullet specifically designed for 450 Bushmaster platforms.

Click here to see our stock of Barnes bullets and to check when the new bullets are in stock.

Barnes Bullets 300 AAC BLK 120 grain TAC-TX BT
Barnes 300 AAC BLK 120 grain TAC-TX BT
Barnes Bullets 275-grain TSX FB Bullet 450 Bushmaster
Barnes Bullets 275-grain TSX FB Bullet 450 Bushmaster
Barnes Bullets 300 Winchester Magnum 190-grain LRX BT
Barnes Bullets 300 Winchester Magnum 190-grain LRX BT

Top Hunting and Shooting Equipment Brands for 2015

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shooting-hunting-survey graphicSouthwick Associates, a Fernandina Beach, Fla.–based market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor-recreation markets, released what it says are the top brands for many hunting- and shooting-product categories in 2015. This list was compiled from internet-based surveys completed in 2015 HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com panels.

Midsouth Shooters Supply looked over Southwick’s product-category winners and assembled the 10-most-popular category winners for 2015:

Reloading Components

Top Reloading Bullet Brand: Hornady

Top Reloading Primer Brand: CCI

Top Reloading Powder Brand: Hodgdon

Ammunition

Top Shotgun Ammunition Brand: Winchester

Top Rifle Ammunition Brand: Federal

Top Handgun Ammunition Brand: Winchester

Top Blackpowder Brand: Pyrodex

Shooting Equipment

Top Scope: Leupold

Top Muzzleloader: CVA

Top Holster/Ammo Belt Brand: Blackhawk

In a previous survey of people who said they reloaded, 88 percent cited “saving money” as the key reason. The survey, conducted in September 2015, said that “improving accuracy” was the second largest interest of handloaders at 70 percent. “Obtaining rounds difficult to find in stores” came in third with 40 percent, and “reducing waste” was cited as a reason by only 30 percent. Survey participants could choose more than one reason.

Of the types of ammunition reloaded, 76 percent reload rifle ammo, 64 percent reload for their handguns, and 30 percent reload shells for their shotguns.

“Over time, ammunition can be the most expensive aspect of recreational shooting, so it makes sense that avid shooters see reloading as a way to cut costs without cutting time at the range,” said Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “Of course, a key byproduct of saving money through reloading is a person also becomes more knowledgeable about their firearm’s performance and can even potentially achieve better performance by fine-tuning a specific load to their firearm.”

You can participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com.

How do these survey results stack up, in your opinion?

 

 

U.S. Army Engineers Patent Limited-Range Projectile

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limited-range-projectile bullet
Awarded U.S. patent 9,121,679 B1, the limited-range-projectile bullet is equipped with a reactive material that will ignite when the bullet is fired and burn during flight, causing the bullet to become aerodynamically unstable.

Midsouth Shooters Supply customers may find it hard to believe, but three U.S. Army engineers have received a patent for a bullet that will become “aerodynamically unstable” after flying a certain distance.

The proof-of-concept bullet developed by the U.S. Army will disable after flying a certain distance, helping to prevent injuries from stray rounds.

Recently awarded U.S. patent 9,121,679 B1, the bullet is equipped with a reactive material that will ignite when the bullet is fired and burn during flight, causing the bullet to become aerodynamically unstable at the desired range.

Brian Kim, Mark Minisi, and Stephen McFarlane filed collectively for the patent on May 7, 2013 and were notified of its approval on Sept. 1, 2015.

“We wanted to protect the US government’s interests and position,” McFarlane said. “The biggest advantage is reduced risk of collateral damage. In today’s urban environments, others could become significantly hurt or killed, especially by a round the size of a .50 caliber, if it goes too far.”

The concept for the limited range projectile includes pyrotechnic and reactive material. The pyrotechnic material is ignited at projectile launch. The pyrotechnic material ignites the reactive material, and if the projectile reaches a maximum desired range prior to impact with a target, the ignited reactive material makes the projectile aerodynamically unstable.

The original idea was intended to apply to .50 caliber ammunition. However, the patent covers the idea and technology, so it could theoretically be used in various small arms munitions.

The concept for the limited range projectile came to fruition when the small caliber ammo development team was funded to investigate the feasibility of a pyrotechnically actuated disassembling limited range .50 caliber bullet.

“It was essentially my idea to create a self-destructing small caliber round akin to the larger caliber ones,” Minisi said. “The type of reactive materials to use and how to test it was Steve’s idea.

“Brian was instrumental with executing the effort, particularly the modeling and simulation to confirm the concept,” he said.

Currently, funding for the project has ceased. However, engineers hope that their concept will resurface as the constant need to provide greater technology for the warfighter increases.

Kim, Minisi, and McFarlane are employees of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) based at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

 

Federal Adds 90-Grain Bullet to Fusion 6.8 SPC MSR Lineup

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Federal Premium Ammunition is expanding the popular Fusion MSR line with a 90-grain option in 6.8 SPC. The load joins the existing Fusion MSR lineup, which includes 223 Rem. 62-grain, 6.8 SPC 115-grain, 308 Win. 150-grain and 338 Federal 185-grain options. Shipments of this new product are now being delivered to dealers.

Modern sporting rifles (MSRs) are the most adaptable class of firearms in history, handling everything from tactical applications to elk hunting. Fusion MSR loads are specifically designed for hunting with these rifles, performing to their ballistic peak through 16-inch barrels for AR15 platforms and 20-inch barrels for AR10 platforms.

The skived bullet tip ensures expansion at long ranges, and a fused jacket around a pressure-formed core produces excellent accuracy. Federal’s part number for the new 6.8 SPC 90-grain Fusion round is F68MSR2 and it lists for $29.95 per box of 20 rounds.

Midsouth Shooters Supply currently offers 112 Federal Ammunition loads. Click here to see when the new 90-grain round is in stock.

Federal Premium Fusion 90-Grain 6.8 SPC
Federal Premium Fusion 90-Grain 6.8 SPC

Reloaders Corner: Setting Cartridge Case Headspace

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The following is a specially-adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book, “Top-Grade Ammo,” by author Glen Zediker, owner of Zediker Publishing. Click here to order.

by Glen Zediker

A rifle chamber has a headspace; a cartridge case has a headspace. The first is set by the chamber reamer and its operator; the next is up to us on the loading bench.

This is the loose working definition for headspace necessary to understand for this next: It’s the space from the bolt face to the “datum line” on the case shoulder. SAAMI sets standards for this dimension for each cartridge, and a gunsmith or manufacturer can have a little leeway in establishing the exact dimension in a rifle chamber.

In practical terms: Chamber headspace dimensions are fixed; cartridge headspace dimensions are variable. In a semi-auto, there should be some room, space, ahead of the case shoulder when the round is fully chambered, not be a perfect, flush fit. This is necessary for safe function in a semi-auto. In a bolt-action, the difference between chamber headspace and cartridge headspace can be miniscule to non-existent.

A little extra space helps ensure reliable functioning in a semi-auto, and also, mostly, precludes the chance that the case might bottom out on the shoulder area in the chamber before the bolt is fully locked down.

Back to more definitions. A datum line is actually a diameter; the line itself (the point set by the headspace dimension) is the point along a case shoulder that coincides with this diameter. There are only 5 datums that apply to virtually all bottleneck rifle cartridges. (Modern bottleneck rifle cartridges headspace off the case shoulder. Belted magnums and rimmed cartridges are different stories, for a different story.)

To correctly resize cases, we need a gage. Of course we do! I prefer the one shown in this article. It reads from case base to datum line, just as it’s done in chambering a barrel.

I talked before about how semi-autos can often exhibit case shoulder growth in measurable excess of the chamber. Meaning: the case shoulder can be free to expand beyond the confines of rifle chamber dimensions, and that is from the premature bolt unlocking that accompanies most every gas-operated rifle. Even when the system is working optimally, the case shoulder can advance slightly as the bolt just begins to unlock and move away because the case is still containing pressure. The severity of the discrepancy has mostly to do with how much the gas system is overloaded.

To refurbish a spent case, the case body outside needs to be shaped up to near-to-new dimensions, and also the case shoulder needs to be “set back” an adequate amount to ensure positive chambering with just a tad of “rattle” between the chamber shoulder and the case shoulder. In a bolt-gun, the case emerges from the chamber holding essentially a dimensional mirror of the chamber itself (minus, always, the 0.001 “spring back” inherent in the brass material).

For best results, and case life, we need to figure out how much to set the shoulder back. Too much really won’t affect load performance, but, in my belief, deliberately creating what amounts to excessive headspace is not wise. It’s just that much more expansion, that much more “working” the brass has to endure. However! That’s not nearly as bad as leaving the shoulder too high! That’s dangerous.

For day-in, day-out use, I suggest setting back the case shoulder 0.004 inches from fired case dimensions for semi-auto ammunition. If you keep the chamber clean, then go with 0.003. I think that 0.002 is not enough in a semi-auto, but that is plenty enough in a bolt-gun, and 0.001 is the minimum. Commence argument, but I’ll stick by those numbers.

The numbers we need to get from our gage are these: new, unfired case shoulder height (where we started); fired, unsized case shoulder height (where we went to); sized case shoulder height (where we need to get back to).

 

 

 

Case Sizing 1: Sizing Die Selection

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The following is a specially-adapted excerpt from the forthcoming book,” Top-Grade Ammo,” by author Glen Zediker, owner of Zediker Publishing. Click here to order.

by Glen Zediker

Most discussions about reloading tend to center around tools, and the cartridge case–sizing die used to refurbish a spent case is one of the most important. Last time, we were left with a case that had been expanded to the limits of the chamber, plus maybe just a little. The sizing die gets it back in shape for a reuse.

First, I only advise the use of a full-length sizing die for bolt guns or semi-autos. As suggested, a full-length die contacts the full length of the case, the full diameter, from case mouth to case head, and can also contact the shoulder area. There are neck-only dies that, as suggested, only resize the case neck so it will hold another bullet. They don’t touch the case body, and many don’t contact the case shoulder.

As far as brands go, I’m partial to Forster. I like the expander design. It’s located high, so there’s more support about the case when the neck is withdrawn back over it. I still polish this appliance, and recommend always doing so if it’s possible.
As far as brands go, I’m partial to Forster. I like the expander design. It’s located high, so there’s more support about the case when the neck is withdrawn back over it. I still polish this appliance, and recommend always doing so if it’s possible.

A full-length sizer will compress the case body down to the die interior dimensions, which are close to those of factory new ammo. Keep in mind that we’re talking about scant thousandths of inches, but those add up.

Whether it’s a bolt-action, lever-action, semi-automatic, a rifle has to function, and ensuring that cartridges feed into and out of the chamber is the clearly most critical functioning necessity.

If you’re big into or only into single-shots, neck-only sizing is possible, certainly. But even then there’s honestly little to no accuracy or performance benefit from it. The idea is that maintaining the case-body dimensions that more closely replicate the rifle chamber generally tightens up everything and produces better accuracy. Makes sense. But unless we’re working with measurably perfected brass and perfectly concentric rounds and seating bullets to touch the lands or rifling, none of those attributes matter a whit. Any rifle with an ejector is going to warp case bodies, for instance, so the dream of case-to-chamber harmony just can’t exist.

This is a Redding Type-S conventional full-length sizing die. On these, the die interior is pretty much the same as the rifle chamber interior, just a little smaller.
This is a Redding Type-S conventional full-length sizing die. On these, the die interior is pretty much the same as the rifle chamber interior, just a little smaller.

If neck-only sizing was all that influential, then new cases wouldn’t shoot the good groups that they will.

Another thing a full-length sizing die does, or can do, is contact the case shoulder. This is critically important in sizing for repeating rifles.

Last time we talked about what happens to a cartridge case during firing, and it’s not pretty. One of the things that happens is that the case shoulder gets blown forward, which means that if the case were standing up on the bench, that the shoulder will be higher (taller) than it was before firing. To ensure function, and safe function, that dimension needs to be corralled and brought back to what it should be.

To polish the expander, chuck the stem (lightly) in a drill and use a wrap of masking tape to cushion the threads. I first run the edges of the expander over a hard stone to break them and smooth them over, but I don’t run the stone against the body of the expander. Then run it over wet 600-grit emery paper. I use emery paper available at many auto-parts stores. Aluminum-oxide lapping compound works well also. There should be no measurable reduction in the expander body diameter after using the 600-grit paper, but if there is, it’s not going to amount to anything that can have a harmful effect.
To polish the expander, chuck the stem (lightly) in a drill and use a wrap of masking tape to cushion the threads. I first run the edges of the expander over a hard stone to break them and smooth them over, but I don’t run the stone against the body of the expander. Then run it over wet 600-grit emery paper. I use emery paper available at many auto-parts stores. Aluminum-oxide lapping compound works well also. There should be no measurable reduction in the expander body diameter after using the 600-grit paper, but if there is, it’s not going to amount to anything that can have a harmful effect.

There are full-length sizing dies with interchangeable bushings that size the case neck. The idea is to control the amount of case neck reduction, and it also allows the use of a sizing die without an inside-neck sizing appliance (usually called an expander). Good idea. Still, I don’t recommend this style of die for most shooters. One reason why is that there’s a small amount of case neck that doesn’t get sized. Over time, this can create or increase the “case neck donut,” the small raised-up ring of brass that exists inside the case at the case-neck/ case-shoulder juncture. But the die is not the sole cause. Suffice it to say, the additional and inconsistent additional constriction against the bullet isn’t a good thing.

I also do not advocate running a sizing die without an expander or sizing button to control the case neck inside diameter (i.d.). That’s another touted advantage of the bushing dies. That only works well if case necks are perfectly uniform in thickness. Otherwise, it creates off-center case mouths, and ultimately, inconsistency, in bullet pull.

Neck-bushing-style dies (in conjunction with full-length sizing die body) seem like a really good idea, and they can be — but they are another step in controlling case dimensions that most of us don’t want to take or need to take. My biggest issue with bushing dies is that they don’t size the full length of the case neck, and that can create problems. The arrow points to the small area of the case neck that is sized.
Neck-bushing-style dies (in conjunction with full-length sizing die body) seem like a really good idea, and they can be — but they are another step in controlling case dimensions that most of us don’t want to take or need to take. My biggest issue with bushing dies is that they don’t size the full length of the case neck, and that can create problems. The arrow points to the small area of the case neck that is sized.

One of the reasons that the neck-bushing dies came about was from the warranted complaints that conventional sizing dies sized down the case neck outside too much. Most do. Then the expander or sizing button has to open it back up that much more. That’s a lot of stress on the case and the reason for polishing the expander. Another easy fix is to have a machinist open up the neck area in the die. That’s a good idea. I can’t get after the factory techs too much in setting the specs for their dies because they’re trying to cover their bases on all the potential combinations out there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve it. There doesn’t have to be more than 0.005 difference between outside diameters and inside diameters to ensure fully adequate sizing. In other words, if the case O.D. is sized down to 0.005 smaller than the measured O.D. after the expander has passed back through, that’s plenty. Check your die by sizing a case without the expander in place. Less is better, but don’t cut it too close; keep room to account for different brass brands, which have different wall thicknesses. This trick will help maintain more material consistency over the life of a case. Otherwise, it’s like bending a piece of metal back and forth until it breaks; the same effect does influence case life when there’s excessive material movement.

One of the best ideas in sizing dies is incorporating a neck-shoulder bushing. These work well because they allow for control over dimensions, including case-shoulder compression, and without the criticisms made against neck bushings. This is a set from Superior Shooting Systems LLC. It’s for 6XC but can also be used, with an appropriate bushing, for .308 Win. Full-length dies with neck/shoulder bushings can control the neck diameter and still get the full neck cylinder sized.
One of the best ideas in sizing dies is incorporating a neck-shoulder bushing. These work well because they allow for control over dimensions, including case-shoulder compression, and without the criticisms made against neck bushings. This is a set from Superior Shooting Systems LLC. It’s for 6XC but can also be used, with an appropriate bushing, for .308 Win. Full-length dies with neck/shoulder bushings can control the neck diameter and still get the full neck cylinder sized.

A small-base full-length sizing die is an option in some die makers’ catalogs. As implied, this reduces the lower portion of the case a tad amount more. I’ve never encountered the need for one in an AR-15. Most have fairly generous chambers, especially if it’s a true NATO-spec. However, I always use one in my M1As, especially when working with a tough case, like a Lake City, that has to fit back into a relatively undersized match chamber. One of the best I’ve used is from Dillon (just the standard die that comes on the Blue machines); Redding also makes a “National Match” sizer engineered just for that rifle.

Next time, I’ll go step-by-step on how to set up a sizing die.

Get looking around this website and locate a cartridge headspace gage, and get it bought. I’ll show you how to use it next time. Either the Hornady LNL Cartridge Headspace Gage or the Forster Datum Dial (shown here) is my recommendation. They both work well. There are also drop-in style gages that will suffice to keep your ammo safe, but won’t give a number to work from.
Get looking around this website and locate a cartridge headspace gage, and get it bought. I’ll show you how to use it next time. Either the Hornady LNL Cartridge Headspace Gage or the Forster Datum Dial (shown here) is my recommendation. They both work well. There are also drop-in style gages that will suffice to keep your ammo safe, but won’t give a number to work from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Custom Products

17217 Brookhouser Rd.

Saegertown PA 16433

814-763-2769

 

Superior Shooting Systems LLC

800 N. 2nd St.

Canadian TX 79014

806-323-9488

 

HODGDON’S RIFLE-CARTRIDGE LOADING HELP

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As we’ve previously noted, Midsouth Shooters Supply customers enjoy using Hodgdon powders, in part because the company makes great products, but also because the company’s experts supply plenty of help for shooters who want to get started in reloading.

We previously noted here that some of the company’s available materials appear in the Hodgdon Reloading Education section. Click here to see the landing page on which Hodgdon begins the education process. Click here to see Safety precautions. Then click the Reloading for Beginners tab to get an overview of the basics of handloading. This time, we want to probe more deeply into the data available for reloading rifle cartridges.

The Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Data page gets you started by asking you to select a cartridge from a pulldown menu. The lineup of available cartridges begins at the 17 Ackley Hornet and continues through the 50 Browning Machine Gun, or 50 BMG. What’s nice is there are dozens choices of currently available commercial favorites, such as the 30-06 Springfield, as well as popular wildcats (219 Wasp), new entries, such as the 28 Nosler, and proprietary rounds, such as the 240 Weatherby Magnum and others.

The Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Ackley Hornet through 50 BMG. Magnum and others. Step 2 is selecting a bullet weight, then a powder manufacturer, then a specific powder.
The Hodgdon Rifle Reloading Data page displays a pulldown menu with a lineup of available cartridges from 17 Ackley Hornet through 50 BMG. Magnum and others. Step 2 is selecting a bullet weight, then a powder manufacturer, then a specific powder.

Once you’ve selected a cartridge, which for our purposes here is the 25-06 Remington, you’re then able to select a range of bullet weights. In the case of the 25-06, that ranges from weights from 75 to 120 grains and a variety of bullet profiles.

When you select a bullet weight (or weights), the site returns a range of data for that load. Our search was to “select all,” which provided load data beginning with the 75-grain Hornady V-Max bullet. We then expanded that window and saw additional information about that choice, including Case: Remington, barrel twist (1:10”), primer (Remington 9 1/2, Large Rifle), barrel length (24 inches), and trim length for the case (2.484 inches).

Then, in more detail, the window for the 75-grain Hornady V-Max load lists the recommended powders, starting loads, and maximum loads, along with estimated pressure outcomes. The lowest-pressure starting load for the 25-06 75-grain Hornady V-Max round was with 58.0 grains of Hodgdon H1000, which will produce a velocity of 3,135 fps and develop 35,300 copper units of pressure (CUP).

The highest-pressure choice for the 25-06 75-grain Hornady V-Max round came with IMR 4451 (58.5 grains), which will produce 3,781 fps and 60,300 PSI (not CUP in this case).

Of course, you can deselect various elements to narrow your search. One particular bolt gun we have chambered in 25-06 Rem. has proven it can shoot commercial 115-grain Winchester Ballistic Tip ammunition (SBST2506) into three-quarters-inch groups if the shooter does his part, and its downrange performance with a 200-yard zero gives a bullet drop of -6.0 inches at 300 yards, so we can hold top of deer — but still on the target — and expect a center hit at 300 yards.

Unfortunately, that specific bullet isn’t available in the Hodgdon tables, but the data are still useful in building a test load to create something like it. We could select a similar bullet weight, such as the 117-grain Hornady SPBT, then look at which powders we wanted to work with to get the commercial round’s stated 3,060 fps muzzle velocity. (There are other considerations besides velocity of course, such as the bullets’ different ballistic coefficients, but first things first.) Or we could buy another 115-grain bullet, such as the Nosler Ballistic Tip, then use the 117-grain powder recommendations to begin working up profiles to build our own home-brew commercial load.

We’d choose one whose maximum load had a little velocity headroom in it — such as the Hodgdon Hybrid 100V that produces 3,111 fps with a maximum load of 50.5 grains and not the highest pressure. In this case, that’s 50,400 CUP. But there are plenty of other choices if that recipe doesn’t produce the results we wanted.

Also, you can narrow your selections by manufacturer or specific powder if you have already have pet loads you like to work with.

And that’s really the value of the Hodgdon rifle-cartridge reloading table: You’re able to select proven, safe, and varied mixtures of bullet weights and powder to begin making your own tack-driver loads.