Category Archives: Reloading Corner

RELOADERS CORNER: 4 Firings In

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Along with all the other operations we do to them, cartridge cases also need maintenance. A good question is “when”? That’s next… KEEP READING

old case

Glen Zediker

I tend to write much of what I do for those who reload for production. Those are folks expecting good utility in exchange for the expense and effort: a reliably-performing round of ammunition, over and over again. They’re loading and reloading because they like to shoot. It’s a big bonus to most, and I include myself in this group most of the time, if that good performance comes with a minimum of effort. Clean, size, prime, fill, seat, shoot. Five steps to get to the one thing that matters most: shoot! I am also in another group some of the time, not as often now as I once was, and those folks may add a few more steps before getting to the “shoot” part (case prep mostly).

It would be wonderful if that simple cycle endured without end. But it won’t.

Overall case condition after X-many firings varies A LOT because of a lot of factors, variables. What matters is getting a handle on it. I look over each case each time I load it, but I don’t break out the measuring tools. That’s not neglect. There is never (ever) any excuse for neglect. That’s not what this is about. It’s about working out a responsible, reasonable, and realistic schedule for when to take a close look at the progress in condition that new batch of cartridges cases has followed after some time.

In my experience, which is what’s in my notes, I say that’s 4 firings.

I went through the per-use checks enough times to know the schedule one brand and lot of brass, used with the same loads in the same barrel, follows with respect to changes. And by that I mean when changes require attention. I’m also starting with prepped cases, including trimming, before their first firing.

Let me make clear that I’m not suggesting that 4 firings is maximum case life! What I am suggesting is that this is the point where it’s likely to see measurable influences from use and reuse, and, as such, that it can be measured. That’s what we’re after now: take a check to see what’s happening, and that also is a big help toward getting clues about where and when these changes might get noticeably influential.

So, to be clear: the case has been fired four times, reused three times. Next loading, if there will be one, will be for the fifth use.

chamber reamer
We, or more correctly, our cases, are at the mercy of this thing: a chamber reamer. It sets the amount of space the case can expand into.

Changes
Continuing to use and reuse cases, we’re not really using the same cases each time. The cases change, and much of the change comes from material flow, which is brass.

Here’s how it goes, which is to say here’s how it flows: Case neck walls get thicker. The case head area body walls get thinner, over a short span of the body. Primer pockets get shallower and larger diameter. Overall, the alloy hardens over the whole case.

As gone on about a few times in this spot, there’s going to be more change in cases run through a semi-auto than those used in a bolt-action. That’s because of the necessarily additional (comparatively speaking) sizing and also the additional stress resulting from the firing cycle. There’s more flow because the cases are free to expand more.

drop bullet
A simple, and important, test to check if case necks walls have thickened excessively is to take a fired case and drop a bullet in it. If it won’t drop without resistance, stop! That’s way too much.

The Neck
All case necks expand to whatever the chamber allows. There’s no relationship between that and sized dimension because, clearly, there has to be a small enough neck inside diameter to retain the bullet. It is, though, one of the reasons case necks tend to give up quickest (plus it’s the thinnest-walled area on a case).

The case neck is my primary concern, and the first thing I check. If the walls get too thick it’s possible to cut the space too close between the case neck and the case neck area in the rifle chamber. There might be interference upon bullet release, and that creates excessive pressure, or sure can. All that depends on what the chamber allows for expansion room.

The most simple check is to see if a bullet will freely drop into a fired case neck. If it won’t, stop! Do not reuse that case as-is. A case that won’t pass this no-tool test has excessively thickened.

Somewhere in your notes should be a figure indicating loaded outside case neck diameter, on new brass. This dimension is exclusive of the sized neck diameter, because when the bullet is seated the neck is going to expand to accommodate the bullet. Another check of loaded outside neck diameter will show if there’s been thickening. If an inside neck sizing appliance is used (a sizing button), then that will tell you also, comparing it to what you also recorded for the new case after sizing it. (And it’s a good reason to always run new brass through your sizing die, even if it’s “ready to go” out of the box.)

I hope it’s clear enough why it’s important to “write everything down.” References, standards are big helps.

Direct checks of the neck walls themselves using a suitable tool will show thickening. However! Case necks don’t necessarily thicken the same over the entire height of the case neck cylinder. Remember, the brass is flowing so moves in a direction, and that part of the case has a wave going forward, toward the muzzle. There can and likely will be a tapering from thicker to thinner. Measure at more than one point.

Safety is one thing, and the most important thing, and then the other thing is accuracy. Case neck “tension” needs to be consistent from loading to loading to get reliable accuracy.

Fixing it? An inside case neck reamer is the easiest and most direct means. However! Make double-dang sure you know the numbers and therefore how and at what point to use it! Many are intended for use on fired (not yet resized) necks. Others are a specific dimension that you may or may not be able to specify. Thinning the case neck walls using an outside case neck turner is another direct remedy. A little tedious.

forster reamer
The best way I know to remove material to refurbish overly-thickened case neck walls is an inside case neck reamer. This is a Forster, designed to work with their case trimming base. Trick is knowing the case condition it was designed to be used with. This one is dimensioned for use on fired, unsized case necks (it’s 0.003 under bullet diameter). Run it on a sized neck and way too much brass comes off. Various sizes are available.

Reamer or turner, though, this job hasn’t finished until the refurbished case has been run through your usual sizing die, and checked again for diameter.

Well, so much for this here and now. Out of room! More next time…

See REAMERS HERE

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

Glen’s newest book, America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Check it out HERE

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RELOADERS CORNER: Choosing Your Brass

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It’s not all the same! Depending on needs and application, there are three decisions that can have an impact on your satisfaction. READ MORE

norma brass

Glen Zediker

Last time I offered a few ideas on loading the same cartridge for use in different rifles. Essential message in that was, in one word, “compromise.” There’s some give and take when we’re trying to please more than one at time, as such is life…

Choosing cartridge cases is a little, to a lot, the same. Different rifles, different action types, different uses, different budgets, all suggest input that helps determine what works best, all around.

There are three things to consider, maybe four.

One is the action type. Semi-autos need “tougher” brass. That, overall, means “harder,” not necessarily thicker. Due to the resizing requirements for good function, which means a little “more” in all areas, there’s likewise more expansion in each subsequent firing. Brass made of harder alloy is less, not more, susceptible to failures — by my experience. Considering the elastic and plastic properties of brass, harder exhibits a little less effect from each.

I prefer harder composition brass for a bolt-gun too. Most NRA High Power shooters do. Reason? It runs better! There’s less “stickiness” in running the bolt for rapid-fire events.

Two: case capacity. They are not nearly all the same! My experience has shown me that more capacity is better, and that’s especially if we’re wanting to edge toward max-pressure loads. Even though the pressure generated inside the case using more (larger case volume) or less (smaller volume) may get to the same level, there is usually more net velocity (at the same pressure) when there’s more room in the case. If it didn’t matter then other things done to expand case capacity (like shoulder angle changes) wouldn’t matter either.

cartridge case capacities
Case capacities vary, and, as you can see, a good deal. These .223 Rem. are each filled with an equal amount of spherical propellant.

Three: Precision standards. What do you expect, what are you willing to do to get it? After enough experience with enough different brands, that is a legit question. Some brass is “better” out of the box. Cost usually reflects on initial quality. Paying a premium for premium quality, which is three things: consistency, consistency, and consistency. That consistency will primarily, or at least measurably, be in wall thicknesses. The choice there is to buy it or make it. That choice is a balance between effort, value of time, and proven results.

lapua brass
Consider first-use or re-use? Good stuff! And you’ll pay for it! Lapua cuts case prep down to sizing: the case heads are milled, the primer pockets and flash hole are reamed. It’s also a little thick and a little soft. Single-shot-style use in a bolt-action, can’t really beat it, but my AR15 Service Rifle beats it to death.

After using enough different brands with varying levels of costs and claims, I think the most honest thing I can tell you is that you’ll likely end up with the overall “best” brass case you can have shopping in the middle, plus a little, and then getting to work on it. A good commercial “name” brand can be made at least effectively close to the dimensional equivalent of a premium brand, like Norma, but it’s not without effort.

Before spending any time weighing or otherwise sorting cases, do all the prep work you plan beforehand. If any prep involves material removal, even trimming, that influences weight accuracy and, therefore, the viability of segregation by same.

Recommendations?
Yes. And no.

About the time you decide there’s some certain way some certain thing is, they up and change it. I avoid making too many lumped-together, generalized statements about particular brands because of that. However! I can tell you that some of the “better” brands of brass also tend not to hold up as well, or won’t if there’s much working load to load (expansion, sizing). I’m thinking here of the better-known European brands, like Norma and Laupua. Those are near about dimensionally flawless out of the box, but they tend to be a little on the thick and soft side. I use Norma in my .22 PPC because the cost is worth it. If I drive from Mississippi to New Mexico to shoot a match, that’s the least of my expense.

nosler brass
This isn’t cheap either, but I have had good results with it. Nosler is, or can be, ready to go out of the box, including case mouth chamfer. It’s held up well for me in semi-autos.

This is also the reason that every serious competitive shooter I know says to buy up as much of one lot as you can, if you know it’s good stuff. That’s for all components.

Sometimes brass chooses you!

As said last time on the “Multiple Gun” loads, if you’re mixing brass things like case volume do factor. As also suggested then, the best solution is to pick a load that’s in around the 80- to 90-percent range of max. I mix brass all the time. I shoot quite a lot of factory ammo and, yes, I save each case we can retrieve. I clean them all, size them all, and fill them with a “compromise” load I worked up for can blasting. The need for those excursions is not quarter-minute precision.

If you’re looking to save as much as you reasonably can and still get “good” cases there’s honestly nothing wrong with Lake City. The more recent production 5.56 measures pretty well, and it’s tough, and relatively high-capacity. I sho can’t vouch for any other headstamp on mil-spec ammo beyond “LC.” However! I suggest purchasing it prepped. Avoid “range dump.” A big issue with once-fired is which chamber it was first-fired in. Avoid .308 Win. (7.62 NATO)! You DO NOT want to deal with M60 or Minigun leftovers.

lc nm brass
This is LC Match 7.62. No primer crimp! For reuse in a semi-auto, it has the right stuff, which means made of the right stuff: it’s hard, tough.

Start HERE on Midsouth. Great deals! Great brass!

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

Glen’s newest book, America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Check it out HERE

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RELOADERS CORNER: Multi-Rifle Loading

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If you shoot the “same” load for different rifles, here’s a few ideas on getting the most out of it for all of them. READ MORE

multigunj reloading

Glen Zediker

I have a few rifles…

Every time I do a new book I have more. This last time around, in writing America’s Gun: The Practical AR15, I built 10 AR15s, and half of those have the “same” chambering (5.56 NATO). My choices that I can case and then uncase any afternoon for some range time might all have the “same” chamber but they’re each and all, in some measured amount, different.

That’s literally in measured amounts, and more in a minute.

If you (like me) really don’t want to load separately, store separately, and use separately, then the only real choice is to employ a “lowest common denominator” tactic. With only one exception, I don’t load uniquely for any of these guns. I pretty much just want a sack-full of ammo at the ready. The one I load uniquely for has a tuned gas system (it’s a practical competition “race gun”).

old and new AR15
Both straight up NATO chambers, but the little one won’t run what the big one will. It’s a gas system architecture difference, and a little more challenge to find a “universal” load. Rifle-length gas systems like on my retro “602” M16 (left) are, by the way, more tolerant of load variations than tricked out short guns like the brand-new USASOC URG-I (right).

Variables
Assuming all the rifles have the “same” chamber, meaning only that the barrel stamp is the same, there still exist differences. There are differences reamer to reamer, and, depending on the operator, there might (will) be differences in headspace, and leade. They’re likely to be tiny, but tiny can matter. Some manifestations of pressure have some to do with the barrel bore (land diameter for instance).

I measure spent cases for all the different rifles. They don’t measure nearly all the same! Of all the set-by-sizing dimensions, cartridge headspace has shown the most variation in my samples.

That, also, is a very important dimension to set. As gone on (and on and on) in RELOADERS CORNER, the idea is to get adequate case shoulder set-back to ensure function, and also to keep it to the minimum necessary to prolong case life. The minimum necessary runs from 0.003 for a semi-auto to 0.001 for a bolt-action.

To set this dimension for multiple rifles that use the same batch of ammo, the means is pretty easy to anticipate: find the gun with the shortest headspace, set the die to set back the case shoulder where it needs to be for that one, and live with it.

If you don’t want to give in thataway, but rather prefer (or at least don’t mind, two technically different outlooks) running multiple dies with multiple adjustments, and keeping the ammo segregated, then here’s more.

I’ve had really good experiences using a turret press. For most rifle needs, one with, say, four spots will allow the use of two sizing dies, maybe three (depending on what occupies the other locations). These dies can be uniquely adjusted for cartridge case headspace. Of course, it’s easily possible to just swap dies in and out but the turret keeps them put and saves a step.

redding t7
A turret press is a sano solution to maintaining differently adjusted dies. Redding and Lyman both make good ones. This is a Redding T7.

If you’re a bolt-gun shooter and have a couple or more rifles that run the same cartridge, and if you’re wanting to get the most from your efforts in loading for each, you might consider this next. Redding has long-made a set of five shellholders with varying heights. They allow a shellholder swap on the same die to alter case headspace, for example. There are also shims available that go under the die lock ring to provide for die body height variance. This sort of setup lets the handloader alter-adjust headspace without readjusting the die.

redding shellholders
Redding Competition Shellholder set. Five shellholders, each 0.002-inches different heights. This allows, for one, different case shoulder set-back using the same die as set.

Levels
Now. As far as lighting on a load that they’ll all shoot their absolute best with. Sorry to say, but “not likely.” There sometimes seems like there is more mystery than there is known in “why some shoot better” with one load. And when I say “load” I’m talking about the dose, the amount of propellant. What that ends up being mandates at least some effort in evaluating more than one rifle when working up to a point you’ll call it “good.”

NATO-spec ammo is hot and getting hotter! I’m talking about true NATO-spec, not just lower-cost ammo sold in a “plain box.” This isn’t about NATO ammo, but it was for me. The difference between pressure levels of NATO and, say, a commercial-made .223 Rem. “match” load are enough that two of the guns won’t even run with that. I set up these guns from the workbench respecting NATO pressures, and that, in most cases, meant firming up the “back end”: heavier buffers and springs.

My good old “do it all” load no longer exists in my current notes. Amazingly, to me at least, it’s up the velocity equivalent of about a grain and a half from what I used to bust up clods and cans with. It’s also a different propellant (now H335).

No question: pressure symptoms must also define the “lowest common denominator” when loading the same for multiple guns. Since I also have to consider reliable function in my own example, and as just suggested, I’m loading up a little nearer the edge. I carefully evaluate spent case condition from each rifle and anything that reads or appears remotely as an excessive pressure sign means I’ll knock a universal half grain off the group load.

The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen’s newest book, America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Check it out HERE

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

LINKS
TURRET PRESSES

COMPETITION SHELLHOLDER SET

RELOADERS CORNER: Progressive Press Tips

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Progressive reloading presses are speedy and efficient ammo-creating machines, and here’s a few tips on getting the most from yours. READ MORE

Hornady AP

Glen Zediker

A “progressive” reloading press is a stellar invention. Originally conceived for use in commercial loading, the consumer segment latched onto them for the simple reason that those who consume mass quantities of ammo needed to take some of the time and tedium away from the necessary process of handloading. They were no doubt popularized with a lot of help from those involved in the (then) new sport of practical pistol shooting.

Clearly, if you think 1000 rounds is a reasonable expenditure in a day, you’ll probably be loading for your handgun on a progressive. However! They work for rifles too.

A question most have, or have had, is whether rifle ammo loaded on a progressive will shoot as well as that loaded up on a single-stage. If you have had that question, this article will help you answer “yes.” Some concerns using progressives revolve around overcoming some of the lack of control we can have using single-stage, stand-alone tools.

Hornady progressive press
Progressive presses are not just for straight-wall pistol cases. High-quality ammo can be produced on a progressive. Just need the right tooling and the right approaches. A “big” progressive, like this Hornady, can handle virtually any cartridge. I like Hornady, by the way, because of the tooling option flexibility.

The name “progressive” comes from the machine’s rotating shell plate that progressively moves a cartridge case from one step in the process to the next, from start to finish. Each pull of the press handle advances one case, another is added, and so on. A loaded round emerges at the end of the ride. Along the way each routine step in the reloading process gets done: decapping, sizing, priming, propellant dispensing, bullet seating. There are varying levels of automation, corresponding with varying levels of complexity, corresponding with varying levels of cost. Some require more or less user-supplied input (manual shell plate indexing, and so on) while others are near about hands-free, with case and bullet feeders and the like.

It’s a bench-mounted ammo assembly line.

As started on, each essential op is supplied by a toolhead that has four or more tool stations to correspond with the openings on the shell plate.

Most progressives I’ve seen arrive complete and ready to set up: all you need, all it needs. Take a look at what they’ve given you.

Get “good” dies. Most progressives will accept any 7/8-14 threaded die. Feel free, and encouraged, to use the “better” sizing and seating dies, just as you might for a single-stage press.

Hornady AP press
This’ll getcha done in a hurry! Hornady AP (“ammo plant”) with auto bullet and case feeding.

If it’s possible, upgrade the powder meter. This can often be done using a “conversion kit” if the press isn’t already outfitted with linkage that will cycle another powder meter operating handle. A good propellant dispenser always makes a difference!

Address primer pockets. The priming operation inherent in a progressive doesn’t provide the feel of a stand-alone tool. That’s not a problem at all if all primers are all seated fully. To help ensure that, I say it’s wise to run a primer pocket uniformer. That way, the pocket will be what it should be, so the priming operation should “automatically” result in a properly-seated primer. Sometimes adjustments to the mechanism are necessary, by the way.

Keep the press pieces clean and lubed. Most function issues come from neglect here. Remember that all ops revolve around the revolution of the shell plate so keep it clean and lubed appropriately. Pay attention especially to the priming mechanism.

And mount a progressive securely. There is a huge amount of pressure and stress involved especially on a “big” one. Think again about how many tasks are being processed each stroke, and consider those processes, and it’s clear that this big bad boy best be fastened down. It’s also noticeably easier to operate a progressive when it’s rigidly mounted. Press op feel greatly improves.

Reasons not to use a progressive? Not really, or none that really affect ammo quality. For me it’s primarily stepping up to the level of trust necessary. Single-stage? It’s all and each done one at a time. Chance for a mis-seated primer or short-charged case are more remote. Keep a close eye on results using a progressive. Don’t get either in too big a hurry or complacent. I check each round after the fact, looking mostly for high primers.

The more pre-progressive case prep you do (maybe) the better. Much of that depends on what you routinely do to or for cases. Trimming, for instance, primer pocket cleaning, primer pocket uniforming, and on down the list. The main reason I don’t use progressives more than I do is because I radically slow them down! All those ops are stand-alone station processes.

decapping die
Prior decapping is wise. I recommend this op prior to case cleaning (gets the primer pockets). But decapping prior to putting the cases on a progressive eliminates a huge amount of grit that otherwise will get onto and into the mechanism. Pay close attention to progressive priming parts: look out for any debris, which could conceivably detonate a primer; that can and has been catastrophic. And take care filling primer tubes! Know when to stop, know when they’re full.

The closer your starting point (sizing a clean case) is to your ending point (seating a bullet) the better a progressive will reward you.

Last: Keep a close watch on supply levels! The efficiency of a good progressive creates a time warp for me. I am always surprised how quickly primer and propellant supply empty. Warning buzzers are most welcome!

Check out PRESSES HERE
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Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, are available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com and check out more articles and a brand new book on AR15s! HERE.

RELOADERS CORNER: Fire-forming

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New cases? Decisions you make before that first firing have a lot to do with future success. Read why (and how) HERE

Glen Zediker

case segregate
I segregate my new cases before firing because I need to know which are for which. Do not first-fire cases using a lighter (less pressure) load unless you intend to continue to use that load in those cases for subsequent firings! I’ll use “old” 300- and 600-yard cases for offhand practice, but never the other way around!

The past few articles I’ve been begging indulgence from all the bolt-gunners out there by focusing on a few semi-auto-based topics, and so this time I’ll get to something of more interest to them (and it’s also of interest to “all of us”). In practical terms, which is living with reloads, it is at least of as much interest, or at least importance, to someone running an AR15 (if they’re looking to get maximum on-target performance from it). Subsequent case life has a lot to do with how you go about firing that first time.

So: definition: “Fire-forming” is a term usually associated with describing changing a cartridge from its original or “parent” 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, and the case that emerges is then the new cartridge.

But! All cases are fire-formed to the chamber they’re first-fired in.

Details: Brass alloy is both plastic and elastic. That’s the “technical” reason changes in a fired case can and does occur in the first place. Plastic means that brass can expand and flow to fit the chamber, and retain its new shape. Elastic means that it doesn’t fully and completely mold itself to become a new mirror of the chamber. It “snaps back,” retracts from its maximum expanded form. If it didn’t it wouldn’t want to come back out of the chamber. That “snap-back” amount is predictably 0.001 inches.

case mushroom
Here’s a good example of the plastic property of brass alloy. This is a .250 Savage case that’s been run through a 6XC sizing die. Next step is to load it up and fire it in the 6XC chamber. It comes back out looking just fine! By the way, the little dings and creases we see in spent cases sometimes are really nothing to worry about: they’ll iron out after firing again.

On any rifle with a “standard”-dimension chamber, a new brass cartridge case will be smaller than the chamber. Has to be. It wouldn’t fit if it weren’t. A “standard” chamber, here, means there may and likely will be small variations from chamber to chamber (reamers vary uniquely, as might the operator’s preferences and judgment regarding how “tight” the headspace will be), but nothing intentionally has been done differently to alter the chamber beyond SAAMI-spec dimensional tolerances. Anyone who has loaded for the same cartridge for more than one rifle, and who has recorded pre- and post-fired case dimensions, knows that it’s common for there to be at least a thousandth or two, or more, variance. That’s all fine, as long as it’s within spec. Some custom-done barrels might have a chamber that’s intentionally different than SAAMI blueprints, and that’s a whole different topic.

Back to it: Since the brand-new cartridge case is smaller than the chamber it’s going into, it’s going to expand, grow. That’s clear.

ppc tallboy
Here’s a .22 PPC (left) next to a wildcat version, the “Tallboy.” There’s a whopping lot of permanent stretch to make this round (which is the precursor to 6.5 Grendel by the way). It is really important that this initial firing be done with a stout propellant charge. They would, not may, fail if the first firing didn’t fully expand the shorter PPC case.

So, there are two “forms” fire-forming can take. As said, no matter what else, all cases are formed to the chamber on their first firing. However, for some there can be some benefit from approaching that initial firing following a method or means to establish the set-in behavior of that case on subsequent firings and reloadings.

Here’s why some planning and procedure matters: Brass alloy has a “memory.” This is, more technically, called a “shape-memory effect,” and is shared by some other alloys also. It expands (and contracts) in a consistent pattern each use.

The first firing establishes that pattern. On subsequent firings, less is okay, but more is not. Lemmeesplain: I strongly recommend first-firing with a stout load, or at the least the stoutest load you plan on running through that case in future uses. When I segregate my new cases, I’m sorting them based on their function for me. My best go to the “600-yard” pile, then to 300 and then to short-line. Those are three different loads. I need to know which cases are for which before I make the initial loading. Fire-forming with a lighter load and then using a nearer-to-max load in that same case will, not can, result in premature failures in that case. It doesn’t seem to matter much going the other direction. 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.

If it’s necessary to reform through firing, making a new cartridge case, there are a few different methods I’ve seen used, but, what really matters is that the case fully forms to the new chamber. The usual influential changes occur in the case neck and shoulder, and also stretching fore and aft. The bigger the change the more important it is to fire initially with a full-power load. For maximum effect, it’s better to fire-form with something closer to a “max” load than something lighter. Brass gets harder each use, less pliable. Starting life as a new cartridge after that first firing, case life is longer, and better, if the case was fully formed.

dead length seating
For maximum subsequent case life, it’s important that, one, a case fully forms to the chamber. But! Two, also that needless stretching is avoided. To that end, first-firing with the bullet seated to touch the lands minimizes stretch. Reduce the load since this will, not may, raise pressure.

To aid that, a “trick” that helps a lot is to seat the bullet into the lands, firmly. The reason is because that already has the base of the case firmly seated against the bolt face. That prevents the primer strike from moving the case forward, resulting then in additional body stretching (beyond what already might be necessary). If it’s not the routine means used for bullet seating, this tactic requires a reduction in the load. When a bullet is moved from “just off” to “just on” the lands, pressure spikes at least equal to the value of 0.2-0.3 grains of propellant.

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Life in the Fast Lane

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Here are a few tips for getting the most, the easiest, from high-velocity semi-auto .224s. READ IT ALL

22 nosler

Glen Zediker

Here’s the conclusion of my “trilogy” on the movement of .224-caliber rounds into the left lane of rifle cartridge choices. The focus last time was on the 22 Nosler and .224 Valkyrie, and here are some ideas on making the most from either, or another similar.

First: Getting high (higher) velocity is really not rocket surgery: make the bullet smaller and the case bigger. Rounds like .243 Win. showed that clearly. However!

Speed, greed, need, (and heed)
Higher and higher velocities bring about a “debate.”

After messing with all this for decades, there are two things I know for sure about bullet velocity: more velocity shoots better; more velocity shoots worse. But! It’s not velocity itself. It’s a common belief, and totally plain wrong (and wrong-headed), that lower-velocity shoots better groups. It’s also wrong that higher velocity shoots better groups. Working with one cartridge and one bullet, for example, I’ve had plenty of times when the faster the bullet went the better it shot, and the slower the bullet went the better it shot. That’s all to do with the “combination” of the propellant and bullet and barrel and son on and on and on. Point is: it’s way on better to find a combination that shoots better and better the faster the bullet goes. That didn’t have a lot to do with the point of this, but it is important to keep in mind — velocity is not evil.

I know I don’t have to go into benefits of higher velocity. Hard to argue with those. What I do want to go into is a look at how much more and at what cost. Virtually every downrange improvement has some sort of cost. The cost of higher velocity is barrel life, mostly.

As said, higher velocity comes from more propellant. More propellant produces more flame and more gas. There’s a term, “overbore,” that gets around in discussions of, usually, large cartridges, like magnums. It actually is a mathematical device that compares the barrel bore area to the cartridge case volume. It is “V” (case volume) over (divided by) “A” (barrel bore area) and the answer, “O,” is therefore a ratio. The bigger O gets the more overbore the combination is. Applying that, something like .243 Win. is overbore. That’s also why a barrel chambered in that round lasts no more than 1200 rounds at true peak accuracy. That round is not considered overly powerful by anyone I know, yet, has the same sort of (bad) effect on barrels as does something like a .300 Win. Mag.

As said last article: clearly, barrel life in Nos. or Valkyrie is going to substantially shorter compared to .223 Rem.

Suggested Mods
Higher and higher velocities also come from varying propellant choice. Specifically, slower-burning propellants literally fit better into higher-capacity cases. Recollecting back on something I’ve mentioned umpteen times in these pages: propellant burning rate has a whopping lot to do with semi-auto manners. Slower-burning propellants elevate gas port pressure, which brings on the “over-function” symptoms, none of which are good. There’s a comparison of 22 Nosler with .22-250. They’re similar in structure. General consensus is that a favored propellant in the .22-250 is H-380 (if you don’t like that one, and I don’t, it’s going to be another in that burning-rate range). So. Point: 22 Nos. and Valkyrie do not get the most they can get from a “safe” .223 Rem. propellant (I break that off at nothing slower than H-4895). For good instance, I run Varget in my Nos. and that’s the same propellant I run in my PPC. It’s a little too slow, my opinion, for a stock gas system in an AR15.

Most running a 22 Nosler or .224 Valkyrie are looking to exploit speed, so will, therefore, be shopping or specifying 24-inch barrels (that’s a “standard” available length). That, combined with a standard 12-inch “rifle” gas port location, will, not can, escalate pressure within the gas system. That combination also puts a .223 Rem. over-pressure. (Reason is that the post-port length add increases “dwell-time,” which is the duration that the gas system is containing maximum pressure.) The best solution to excessive port pressure is to move the gas port! “We” (competitive High Power Rifle shooters) have been doing that for better than 20 years.

Yardstick: Plus-1-inch for .223 Rem. and plus-2-inches for Nos or Valkyrie. That makes a huge difference! Of course, this mod is only possible if you’re going with a custom barreling op done by a competent and savvy builder.

long gas tube
More gas and a longer barrel team up to over-charge the gas system. The best initial solution is to get your barreler to move the gas port forward (which means custom parts). No step for a stepper! Custom tube shown with standard rifle-length (top).

Without that, there are two options that, I say, should be used in tandem: a valved gas block and increase buffer/spring mass and resistance. The adjustable block reduces the amount gas that gets into and is contained within the system and the other offsets the effects of the harder hit the bolt carrier group will be subject to.

odin adjustable gas block
An adjustable gas block will, indeed, work to reduce excess gas pressure. There’s going to be erosion in the mechanism, though, so over time it’s going to change in its function. My personal favorite is the Odin Works, and one reason is that it’s rebuildable.

odin adjustable gas block

I am a bigger fan of the “architectural” solution rather than the adjustable gas block. They won’t last forever…

Another important spec I want to hit on: barrel twist rate. As said last time, the .224 Valkyrie was, so they say, designed to handle the biggest of the high-bc .224 bullets and, specifically, the Sierra 90 MatchKing (and similar). That’s why, as also said last time, commonly offered twist rate with that chambering is 1-7. Folks, 1-7 isn’t enough, in my experience, for 90+ .224 bullets. I (“we”) use 1-6.5 twist for 90s and the others in 20-inch barreled Service Rifles (.223 Rem.). That’s quick. Those shoot 77gr “magazine” bullets really well also. With Sierra now offering a 95gr .224, go with a 6.5. The extra velocity from Valkyrie and 22 Nos does indeed boost rotation, but I strongly suggest not relying on that promise for stability. It’s edgy.

sierra 95 SMK
Dang. An SMK 95gr .224… 27-caliber ogive! Best get some spin on this bad boy. I recommend a 1-6.5. Experience has been that 1-7 is borderline adequate for any bullet in this length range, and I’m not a fan of borderline, or “adequate.”

1-6, by the way, tends to blow up bullets.

valkyrie nos chart

The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen’s newest book, America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Check it out HERE

LINKS

SMK 95

Adjustable Gas Block

Some (not all) sources for fast-twist barrels
(I’ve used these in happiness)
Pac-Nor
Krieger

Check out components at Midsouth HERE for Valkyrie and HERE for 22 Nosler.

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Beating The Fool Out of .223

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Hot topic! Zediker takes a look at 22 Nosler and .224 Valkyrie, two rounds that set out to maximize “sub-caliber” performance. READ ON

224 valkyrie and magazine
.224 Valkyrie seems poised to gain the most popularity, and for two good reasons: it’s more “available,” and it’s really, really good! Either of these new rounds needs a 6.8 SPC magazine due to the greater case body diameter.

Glen Zediker

Last time I nutshelled the history of the .223 Remington and suggested that round, and its 5.56mm NATO chambering in the “new” M16 was the start of the “sub-caliber uprising.” By that I mean in popularity ( Also as mentioned last time, there’s zero doubt that the motivation behind companies like Sierra developing better .224 caliber bullets came from military shooting team needs to use 5.56 in competition. We, pretty much, ended up with better bullets than the .223 Rem. could exploit.

Moving forward 55 years or so now two hot-rodded 22s seek to fully exploit the best of these bullets: 22 Nosler and .224 Valkyrie.

22 Nosler
What it is, is another way to stuff more into an AR15 upper and it’s impressive. 25-percent more case capacity compared to .223 Rem., which translates to solid +300 fps gains — close to a .22-.250. And anyone who doesn’t think .22-.250 is impressive is beyond me and mine. “Conversion” from a conventional .223 Rem. parts set takes a 6.8 SPC magazine and a new barrel with the new chambering, and you’re good to go. It’s a rebated rim so the case head stays at the .223-standard .378, and has same rim thickness, so no new bolt needed. It’s kind of a stretched and necked-down 6.8 SPC, and it’s the same overall case length as .223 Rem. The extra capacity comes from a .420 body diameter, supplemented also by its 30-degree shoulder. Unlike the other Nosler-brand cartridges which came off a .404 Jeffery, there’s no parent case for this one. Currently, brass has to come from Nosler. That’s a good thing. But it’s not cheap. Nosler makes great brass; it’s prepped and ready to load out of its box. It’s become my go-to brass for .223 Rem. when it matters.

nos vs 223
Way on back when I first started shooting an AR15 in Service Rifle competition I kicked back a question I had wayer on backer when I got my first AR15 broken in: Why didn’t they just make it .22-250? Well, in a way, they finally did! 22 Nosler is dang close to that legendary round in its performance. 22 Nos right, .223 Rem. left.

22 Nosler is an exciting thing, to me, because it’s a truly new cartridge that lets someone start off fresh with a SAAMI-standard-backed round that is significantly stouter than .223 Rem.

The variety of .224-caliber bullets make it flexible for all the uses a higher-speed round can be put to, including surely as a hunting cartridge, and, no doubt, as a paper puncher. As suggested, it’s pretty much a .22-.250. Even though I like the “shorter-fatter” direction in cartridges to optimize bullet seating architecture to optimize accuracy, 22 Nosler, for me, hasn’t shot one bit worse than .223 Rem., and dang sho leaves a more substantial contrail. Barrel life is going to be significantly shorter than .223 Rem. and it won’t be to the tune of the 25-percent increase in capacity relating to 25-percent shorter life; it’s more like 50-percent, at best. Trades. Maybe 3000 tops.

22 nosler, valkyrie, 223 compared
22 Nosler is faster than Valkyrie. By a fair amount, up to 100 feet per second, and easily a solid 50. I’m giving that from reputable manufacturer data. This chart is from Nolser. Speed matters, but it’s not everything for everyone. More about that next time.

.224 Valkyrie
About one year after the 22 Nosler, Federal countered with its proprietary creation. (These were each released at a SHOT Show.) At this brief moment in time, 2018, it’s the round that’s getting the biggest following amongst the higher-22-velocity seekers.

valkyrie versus nosler
Here’s what I (think) I think: If you’re wanting a simple switch and the most power the 22 Nosler is easy. The Valkyrie has better specs for the more serious target-precision-oriented, and a barrel in one will last at least a little bit longer. Valkyrie, left; 22 Nosler, right.

Valkyrie is based on the 6.8 SPC. It has a 1.600-inch case length, so is shorter than .223 Rem. or 22 Nosler. That’s good! It uses the same .422 bolt face as SPC, so that’s a needed part for a conversion. As with the Nos. it needs an SPC magazine.

Both the Nos. and the Valkyrie are well suited to handle the biggest of the .224 bullets, and, according to its maker, the Valkyrie was expressly intended to launch the 90-grain-range bullets. Given that, Valkyrie barrels tend to be 1-7 twist. That’s not “enough,” in my experience, and more about that soon enough.

So, which is better?

YES!

I like 22 Nosler. It gives the most speed. That’s pretty much the whole idea behind either one. There’s been some said about the ups and downs of the bolt face differences. The smaller .378 is a stronger bolt, but there’s more bolt thrust effect from the more powerful 22 Nosler, and that’s mostly on the case. I can’t see anything I’ve heard being a problem. I’ve not had issues. The Valkyrie case is shorter, and, as said, that is an advantage with longer bullets because the bullet doesn’t get seated as deeply into the case to end up at the same overall round length. That’s exactly in keeping with the “accuracy architecture” as was shown with the article on PPC.

22 nosler zediker
I bought into it enough that my “featured” rifle in my new book is a 22 Nosler, as is my “XL Carbine.” (As a matter of fact, half the project guns I built are NOT .223 Rem. Different cartridges can really re-purpose the utility of an AR-platform gun.)

Bottom-line, though, Valkyrie is an easier investment. Component prices (and availability options) are radically better. I think that for someone looking to explore the far end of the shooting range and ding some steel plates at 500 yards, the .224 Valkyrie would be my recommendation.

22 nolser components
Shopping seriously favors the Valkyrie! Nosler isn’t cheap. It’s also not cheap (outstanding quality). There, however, is a whopping price difference (right now) between the two respecting loaded ammo and cartridge cases.

But it’s not just nearly that simple! More about why, and more cartridges thrown in to add to the confusion, next time.

Check out components at Midsouth HERE for Valkyrie and HERE for 22 Nosler.

The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen’s newest book, America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Check it out HERE

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Two-Two-Three

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AKA: “.222 Remington Special.” Here’s where and how one of the most popular rounds in use today came from, and the influence it’s had. READ ON

high power service rifle
This right here drove the development of what we now have in .224-caliber bullets: High Power Rifle competition, and there’s none better at it than USAMU Sgt. Grant Singley, many-time National Service Rifle Champion.

Glen Zediker

Last time up I talked some about the PPC cartridge, and about the influence it’s had on those developed since. This time I want to talk about another influential cartridge that hasn’t exactly done quite as much for the direct evolution of currently popular rounds. Well, except for having the influence to spur on the development of cartridges that can beat it…

It seems that nobody likes .223 Remington… It also seems that everybody likes the AR15. Well, that’s clear if only going by the numbers of those guns out there, and the other angle is that there are a whopping lot of chambering options available nowadays that all set out to beat .223 Rem.

Next time we’ll look at a couple that beat it limp, but first, here’s where .223 Remington came from.

Understanding the development of .223 Rem. starts with understanding the development of the AR15 and, of course, along with that came a round to fit it.

All “this” (small-caliber mil-spec cartridge development) started a good while ago, and before the AR15 was a blueprint. Back in the early 1950s the Department of the Army SALVO project resulted from exploring a theory that a high-velocity sub-caliber (in mil-speak, anything under .30 is “sub-caliber”) round would be the quick ticket to the field hospital for enemy troops. A new bullet-maker, Sierra, produced the 68gr. .224s that were designed at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1953 by Bill Davis (later known for development of the “VLD,” which led all the current batch of high-ballistic-coefficient bullets to where they are now), and were drawn up pretty much as a scaled-down .308 147gr. I can’t find much documented about any conclusions or results. Another batch was made for Colt’s in 1964 for testing in an experimental heavy-barreled M16, but the Army showed no interest then in exploring the longer-range capabilities of that platform.

salvo
SALVO

The SALVO is a little piece of history, and forebearer, related to the “sub-caliber” uprising. This idea gained familiarity (we’ll leave “popularity” alone) shortly thereafter when General Wyman made a direct push to develop and employ what came to be the AR15. He insisted on equipping our troops with a lighter, smaller-caliber battle implement. But this isn’t about the rifle, it’s about the ammo.
Assuming that the SALVO got shelved, which is a right-minded assumption considering what came next, the “new” rifle needed a new round.

At the very start there was the .222 Remington. This was uniquely developed (no parent case) in 1950 as a cartridge for Benchrest competition. It was the first commercial rimless .224 cartridge made in the U.S. So, when Armalite, and others, started its Small-Caliber/High-Velocity (SCHV) experiments, this is what they started with. It was clear early on that this round wouldn’t meet the Continental Army Command (CONARC) velocity and penetration requirements so Armalite went straight to Remington. Remington in turn and in response created the .222 Remington Special, which had a longer case body and shorter case neck than its .222 Remington: more capacity. Springfield Armory concurrently developed the .224E2 Winchester, an even longer-bodied .222 Remington, which later became the .222 Remington Magnum. Springfield dropped out and in 1963 the Remington .222 Special got its designation as 5.56x45mm and was officially adopted for use in the new M16 rifle (that round was in use prior in early guns). The next year it got all SAAMI’ed up and emerged as .223 Remington in commercial loadings. I skipped details, but that’s the gist of it. That means .223 Remington has been with us a while now.

222/223
.223 Remington (right) literally grew from .222 Remington, which seemed to be the most closely suitable cartridge then available to chamber the “new” rifle in. The .222 grew to give more capacity and satisfy the military requirements for ballistic performance. .222 Rem. is awesome-accurate by the way.

.223 Rem. follows the lines of other popular U.S. Military rounds and shares some of the same attributes, including its 23-degree case shoulder. The one thing it hasn’t shared with something like .30-06, for good example, is accolades! That, of course, is because of its limited capacity and likewise resultant power limitation. It did, however, launch a whole different class of small-caliber projectiles to prominence. Maybe an intended pun.

As a result of High Power Rifle competition, a major part of which is Service Rifle Division, efforts were necessarily made to improve the downrange performance of .223 Rem. Long and complex story, but after both CMP and NRA changed Rules viewpoints in 1990 to one more liberal on “allowable modifications” to the AR15, two bullets then finally made it both viable and attractive to serious competitive shooters. That was all that it was waiting on (the dang things already shot small groups).

jlk 80
The impetus for “bigger” .224 bullets came from High Power Rifle competition. See, a “Service Rifle” absolutely has to shoot its native chambering to be allowable. When USAMU made the “switch” to the M16, they did not want to lose. That motivation is where bullets like the Sierra 80gr. MatchKing came from, shown here alongside the first of its kind, the JLK 80 VLD (on right). Note the moly coating, by the way: back in the daaaaay!

Sierra had, in my mind, resurrected the SALVO with its introduction of the 69gr. MatchKing in 1984, but that only gave two-thirds of a score; it hits the wall past 300 yards. In 1990, coinciding with those Rules changes to make the rifle more fairly competitive with the match-conditioned M14s, that same Bill Davis drew up a blueprint for a bullet for Jimmy Knox and Carlene Lemmons: the JLK 80 VLD. Sierra right thereafter introduced its 80gr. MatchKing.

When United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Col. Johnson mandated that the Team would, not should, use the M16 in competition commencing 1994, we quickly saw full and complete exploitation of those bullets and the resulting rapid demise of the M14 as the leading Service Rifle.

I honestly think that, had it not been for the military motivation to win, we’d not have seen the developments we have in .224-caliber bullets.

sierra 90
Funny, to me at least, that the diminutive .223 Rem. led to development of the biggest .224-caliber bullets. More about getting this one here downrange next time.

Well, enough history. Next time I’ll get right to today and go over and go on about two newer cartridges that radically further the “sub-caliber uprising.”

The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen’s newest book, America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Check it out HERE

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Cartridge Evolution

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Here’s a short retrospect on what’s set the standards for most new cartridge designs, and why… KEEP READING

Glen Zediker

ppc

I’m not an engineer, but, like all of us, we rely on those folks to develop just about all the things we have and use. When we look at a new development, one that’s proven to work better than the “old” way, sometimes it’s easy enough to understand why. Cartridge development over the years is a good example.

What makes a good cartridge? Answers, of course, vary with the intended use, the performance needs. For the most part, power (which mostly is velocity), and “efficiency” (which is essentially getting the most from the least amount of propellant, likewise increasing barrel life), and accuracy (always) top the list. And, to me, “accuracy” is a combination of small group sizes and, even more, small group sizes all the time! Consistency.

Case capacity has the most to do with the first: more room for gunpowder means more power. Also, it’s pretty clear that pressures have been going up! There’s a big (big) difference in the pressure levels of some of the “new” cartridges compared to the older, longer-lived rounds. Sometimes it’s not because the older round can’t “take” the additional pressure, it’s because the guns might not. A round developed turn-of-the-century fits a rifle from the same era. Well, steel has improved, manufacturing has improved, and, some no doubt, is that the trend toward “shorter, fatter” cartridge cases also contributes.

So. About that…

In my mind, and certainly in my “world,” which is competitive shooting, one of the most influential cartridges has been, and still is, the PPC. That was developed in 1975 by Ferris Pendell and Dr. Lou Palmisano (hence “Pendell, Palmisano Cartridge”), and the idea was to design the “world’s most accurate cartridge.” They did. It has the record to prove it. However, that’s in Benchrest (capital “B” meaning formal competition). Bechrest is nearly always a 100-yard event. The idea behind the PPC wasn’t to set the range on fire with excessive velocity, although it’s well more rapid than others then popular in that game. The idea was to improve cartridge structure to improve shot-to-shot consistency, and another part of that plan was to extend the duration of load-to-load consistency by slowing down firing-induced changes to the case. It’s native caliber is 6mm (.243).

(By the way, the PPC is based on .220 Russian, which is still how many get their brass: fire form it from that. That round is associated with 7.62X39mm, which came earlier and was based on the WWII German 7.92x33mm Kurz, the Mittelpatrone.)

PPC and .223
PPC isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive and not nearly the fastest available today. However, it sho has had its influence on modern rounds. It’s expensive, by the way, because of the available brass: it’s from Lapua or Norma and has machined primer pockets, and other such points of perfection. Compared to .223 Rem. (right) which, in configuration, follows pretty well accepted architecture, similar to .30-06 and other originally-mil-based rounds, the PPC is shorter, larger-diameter, and longer-necked.

A few reasons, offered by its creators, why PPC shoots so well: One, it’s a short case, a scant 1.515 inches overall. That makes it more rigid and less susceptible to warp. It also means it fits into a short action, also more rigid (and with shorter bolt travel). The case neck is relatively long, which means the entire shank of the bullet is within the neck, never below it. That means no influence from varying cartridge wall thicknesses (the case neck walls can be made near-perfectly consistent), avoiding the case neck “donut” at the neck, shoulder juncture. Its body area diameter is 0.440-vicinity, which is (was) a good deal larger than the more common 0.378 commonly used in Benchrest. Case shoulder is 30-degrees.

About that: Well before the PPC there was P.O. Ackley. Well-known for his “Ackley Improved” rounds, which, pretty much, were standard rounds with a sharper shoulder angle. In sharpening (flattening) the shoulder angle (usually from 23-degrees to 30 or even 40), that also elevated the shoulder, and that increased case volume. More speed! Another benefit of the sharper shoulder was a notable reduction in the “flow” of the brass. That meant less change firing to firing. The sharper angle on the shoulder essentially “caps” the flow in that area.

ackley improved
Dang. These always look so radical, but it’s a proven formula: the Ackley Improved. My Dad used one of these in .270 decades ago (P.O hisseff built his rifle) for elk hunting. Shown is an AI 280 Rem. which nearly equals the power of 7mm Magnum.

Other attributes engineered into the PPC have and haven’t been incorporated into subsequent new cartridges. Notable is the smaller-than-standard flash hole. This requires a likewise smaller sizing die decapping pin. Also, PPC uses a small rifle primer, which is fitting based on its overall round size. Over years, there have been retro-engineered common rounds with small primer pockets and those have worked well. For a spell, over the time it was available, small-primer .308 Win. brass found great favor among competitive shooters. Remington made it. Interestingly (again from a perspective of one who isn’t an engineer) pressures were higher compared to standard loads based on routine large-primer brass. Velocities tended to be more consistent.

Another reason for PPC perfomance is one I don’t pretend to understand, and that is its “efficiency.” That’s all in the science of internal ballistics and I only can attest to its influence. I have been a PPC user (the 22 variant) for a good while. It’s what my main NRA High Power Match Rifle is chambered in (AR15 platform). From virtually the same amount of the same propellant, there’s a solid +100 fps gain over the .223 Rem. The structure of the PPC indeed “works.” From that, and from “those” (High Power shooters), rapidly evolved experimental takes on the essential PPC.

Moving on, rounds like 6BR and 6.5 Grendel are outgrowths of the PPC format (“upgrowths” actually: they’re bigger capacity). We’ve also seen the essential influence in the popular 6.5 Creedmoor and the 6XC, which currently dominate competitive across-the-course and long-range shooting (“standard” long range, not the 2-mile stuff, that would be .375 Cheytak…).

6.5 grendel
Cuzzin to PPC is 6.5 Grendel (left), which grew from earlier experiments by NRA High Power Rifle shooters in creating PPC “tall-boys.”

Looking at semi-auto developments, many of which have been coming at us fast and furious, it’s clear cartridge developers are exploiting these same ideas. There is a (short) limit on what will fit into an AR15 upper receiver, for instance, because, one, it’s a finite amount of space, of course, and, two, there’s a magazine box, and these are related. More power in this platform means a fat case.

Now. I am in no way suggesting anyone run out and tool up for PPC in the next rifle! It can be soundly beaten in the “real world” of our needs from a cartridge. There are similar rounds with more velocity, easier availability, lower cost, and on down the list of desirables. In the next couple of issues, I plan to talk more about some of the newest rounds, but wanted to offer just a little retrospect on where it all came from before getting into where it’s gone!

This article was adapted from content in Glen’s newest book: America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Go check it out HERE

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

Check out AckleyImproved.com

RELOADERS CORNER: Improving Die Performance: 4 Simple Modifications

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Here are 4 low-to-no-cost setup tricks that will improve the concentricity of your loaded ammo. READ MORE

Glen Zediker

Cartridge cases and reloading dies all have centers. Trick is getting the centers to agree. When they do then that’s an asset to “concentricity,” and that’s attaining a major goal in the process of making better ammunition. A part that’s under pressure and moveable, such as a cartridge case being sized or a bullet being seated, moves toward a path of least resistance. If all associated tooling is “straight,” and the case itself is uniform, then the result is “straight.”

Accepting existence of tolerances and misalignments, taking steps to help two conflicting centers come close together comes from providing some free-play in the apparatus. I call it “floating,” and it serves to help, and here are a few ways.

To be clear: free-floating can help in two ways. One is to build-in float within the tool, and another is to create float and then use that to better center a tool. I’ll explain…

shellholder trick

1. Shellholder
Reloading presses with conventional shellholder arrangements use a spring clip to retain the shellholder in its slot. Remove it! It sits the shellholder off on an angle.

Get to a (real) hardware store and get an o-ring to secure the clip. The o-ring goes around the slot previously occupied by the clip. To install the shellholder just roll the ring down, slide in the holder, and the o-ring will pop back up to block  shellholder exit. Normally, the size needed is 7/8-inch outside diameter, 11/16 inside diameter, 3/32 thickness.

With the clip gone, the shellholder sits flat, as it should, and since the shellholder is free to move also allows some “wiggle room” so the cartridge case can center itself as it enters the die. This honestly makes a positive difference, especially in bullet seating, it seems.

NOTE: for these next “tricks,” choose a case that represents your “best,” one that’s got the most consistent neck wall thickness.

indexing dies on reloading press
Always put an index mark from die lock ring to die body to press top. That’s a simple way to verify return to “zero” when a die is installed back into your press. And ALWAYS install and remove the die holding ONLY the locking ring! Never the die body. Any bit of body rotation within the locking ring requires repeating the process of die adjustment.

2. Sizing die lock ring
Speaking of “wiggle room,” there’s just a little too much of that in a 7/8-14 thread. It’s pretty coarse. Taking up the play created by thread-to-thread gaps results in “straighter” die installation.

Always (always) secure a die body locking ring when there is a case inside the die, and with the ram in its fully upward position (press handle all the way down). This bit of pressure helps bring the die into better alignment. It also makes the die difficult to remove after snugging down the lock ring. Just get stout on it, and, after initial removal, subsequent re-fittings are easy. I use a “strap wrench” (plumbing supply and auto parts stores will have one). “Channel-Lock” pliers also work, but result in cosmetic, but not real, damage. Lock rings with wrench-flats are the bomb.

Before initial removal of the die after the snug-up step, draw an indexing mark from the die body to the die lock ring to the press top. That’s a simple way to return to “zero,” and also to know if anything got out of kilter. Use a paint marker.

3. Sizing button (expander) / decapping assembly
To get the sizing button in a sizing die holding on center, loosen the decapping stem lock nut and run a case fully up. Then slowly retract it until you feel the button enter and lodge into the case neck. Now. Put just a little pressure back in the “up” direction (down on the press handle) and then tighten the decapping stem lock ring.

This really makes a difference, by my notes.

adjust sizing die expander
When it’s possible, and it almost always is, secure the pieces-parts when they’re doing their jobs. For instance, tightening the locking rings on a decapping stem when the expander is holding inside the case neck helps bring the stem into straight alignment, and the expander along with it.

4. Bullet seater
Follow the same die-body-lock trick, after a bullet has been seated, and also just in the same as described for centering the sizing button (just keep the pressure “up” rather than retracting the handle) while you lock the seating stem. Flushing the die body makes a difference. Centering the seating stem may or may not, depending on the style of seating die you have. The “sleeve”-type seaters (like the Redding Competition) are already in alignment so the seating stem itself can’t be influenced. As said, the body can get a help.

index sizing die
O-ring trick: the flexible ring allows for some “wiggle room” to help case and die centers match. Trick is reinstalling the die to hold the desired setting, and the index mark really helps.

One more: Lock-ring o-rings
Here’s another trick I can suggest, but don’t really use… That’s because it, indeed “works,” but I prefer these other means. The trick: install an o-ring under the die body locking ring (for sizers and seaters). This allows some movement, positioning flexibility, in helping a case center as it’s entering the die.

If you do this one, most definitely index-mark the die ring to the die body and then the ring to the press top, as suggested. Never touch the die body itself to thread in or out the die. Hold only the lock ring! (And that’s true regardless.) O-ring size is 7/8-inch inside diameter and a thickness of 1/8-inch.

NOTE: My topics over the past few editions have tended be a tad amount “nostalgic,” and there’s some reason. I just finished a new book, and this one took me way on back to the start of when I discovered reloading, which coincided with discovering my first AR15. It’s called “America’s Gun: The Practical AR15.” It will be available here soon, but not just yet. But go take a look! Information is on my web site HERE. I’m really proud of it. 

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