Category Archives: Rifles

REVIEW: MantisX: The Little Training Gizmo That Could


This new training aid is worth well more than its cost in ammo. Find out what it is…


by Frank Winn, Guns & Gear Editor
NRA America’s 1st Freedom

How enthusiastic would you be about a device that could turn you into a better pistol (or rifle) shooter in a hurry; weighed essentially nothing; worked on a huge variety of firearms; played no favorites by gender, stature, handedness (or hat-size, for that matter); worked in both dry- and live-fire modes; and could be had for a few week’s worth of pocket change?

Yeah — us too. So we present the MantisX Firearms Training System.

Physically, it’s an underwhelming sort of kit: A bland-looking Picatinny-attachable component (packed in the smallest Pelican case we’ve ever seen) comprises a compact sensor, and is accompanied by a single sheet of instructions and a USB-to-mini-USB charging cable. But unfold that sheet of paper, and you’ll start to cheer up, we promise. Eight steps that would fit legibly on both sides of a business card may be all you’ll ever read about the MantisX.

While we have suspicions about the need behind the complexity of the nuts and bolts, the concept behind the device is simple. Step One of those instructions is to get the brains to your phone — a free App Store or Google Play download — and Step Two puts the device on your rail. Next come prompted and self-terminating connection and calibration steps, and now you’re ready to train. Just push “start,” and you’re rolling. (Unless you’re at the range, remember to make sure a dry-fire session is truly dry: NO LIVE AMMO IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU ARE.)

The sensor and your smart device are now monitoring the movements of your pistol in near real time. The data stream that the sensor sends is stripped of the crucial milliseconds around the hammer or striker fall, and the segment compared to the “still” calibration position. Large-amplitude movements like cycling and actual shots are filtered out. The result is shot-by-shot analysis of your movements in generating the trigger press. Individual shots are scored, and the string as a whole is averaged on a 0-to-100 scale (100 demonstrates you’ve introduced no extraneous movement).

A lot of what you’ll see on your smart device in “Train” mode will remind you of a “Common Errors and Corrections” target that’s been around for years and years — one of those teaching aids that we love and hate at the same time. Pretty much everybody has seen these. They’re a spider-web-looking sort of target with a very pronounced center aim point, and labels that really give them away. They’re intended to help you identify and correct many gripping-architecture/mechanics problems that, if repeated, cause shots to stray in predictable ways. So far, so good. Their shortcomings are more difficult to apprehend, and the biggest are inseparably tandem: They have handedness (different for righties and lefties) built in, and this means they’re truly helpful only when you shoot on them with the named, single hand. As this is a huge departure from modern technique — both hands pressed together around the pistol grip just for starters — it’s no wonder their utility begins to fade. Certainly, their cues to remedy misdirected shots become less useful.

MantisX screeen

You can use your MantisX system in this way. In fact, knock yourself out: You will develop a fine trigger press with either hand. But don’t think for a second that the MantisX software shares the limitations of paper predecessors. Take a look at the “Learn” screens, and you’ll see that two-handed technique has been accounted for in the software. Whether the training suggestions are utterly perfect or not will soon be an afterthought. The real power is in revealing those tiny corrupting movements you had no idea you were making.

Two additional “Train” mode displays are where this becomes clear. The first is a line graph that looks a little bland on first inspection: Your string gets plotted left to right on the zero-to-100 scale as shots are made. Overlaid on this is a running average, recomputed and displayed as a line across the inevitable zig-zag of the successive, individual shots.

With an efficiency matched by nothing else we know, the MantisX gets you closer to repeatability in that all-important press.

This isn’t as ho-hum as it may sound, though it’s a little hard to describe why. We think the graphical presentation of the relative stillness of each shot is simply more obvious in the line plot: Shots that feel very similar will measure quite differently and — sometimes glaringly — illustrate the disastrous compounding of flaws that routinely spoils what feels like a technically sound shot. Nothing makes this clearer than an ugly, obvious 20- or even 40-point bounce from one press to the next. But stick with it, and this is where the near-magic happens. Between the MantisX sensor, software and your brain, a feedback loop is built, and we think you’ll be as astonished and impressed as we were how rapidly those infuriating swings begin to moderate. With an efficiency matched by nothing else we know, the MantisX gets you closer to repeatability in that all-important press.


The third Train-mode screen gives even better detail on variations in one crucial sense. While it goes back to the “bucket” display mode where shots are grouped by error type, it shows the degree of error, rather than a simple count. Reading this is therefore a bit more subtle: If you have small, concentric slivers all around the center, your technique is likely very sound. The mistakes you’re making are causing very small angular deviations, and are approaching irreducible levels that reflect biologic immutables (pulse, respiration, etc.), not technique blunders.

If your pattern is more spoke-like — with larger/deeper arcs more scattered — then your score will be lower, too. You may have fewer errors, but their magnitude is such that they’ll have big(ger) impacts on downrange results.

While it’s easy to get excited about the actual shooting benefits of the MantisX system, it’d be an injustice to overlook some other fine attributes. A favorite is the charging method: The supplied cable lets you charge your sensor in any handy USB. We have no idea why there isn’t more of this in small devices of every type.

Next is that charging port itself. If you plan to do mostly dryfire work and have a pistol to which you’ll leave the sensor mounted (don’t forget — it works with CO2 and Airsoft too), such a mount can be made with the port accessible; that is, pointing forward to make plug-in dead easy. If you are using the sensor in live fire, you’ll be well-advised to turn the charging connection rearward so that carbon and other detritus don’t find their way into the connector. Just remember, this is parameter for the sensor, and creates push/pull assessment errors if not set on the “Settings” screen.

We can hear some of you thinking, by the way. “Gee, what would it be like on my rifle?” That is easily answered in two ways. First, we tried it, and it works just fine, though obviously the technique tips are mostly meaningless because grip is so different. But in terms of telling you how “quiet” you are physically at the moment you break the shot, it’s grand. Second, and not coincidentally, MantisX tells us that a rifle version of the software is already well along and due this summer.

A “History” mode is built into the MantisX software, too, and it’s about as self-explanatory as it could be. It stores each string as a bar graph in 0-to-100 scale, and contains the individual “Train” mode results (all three plots). It divvies them up by “live,” “dry” and “all,” as well as presenting some summary statistics. All are shareable as well.

We expect it’s clear that the more we fiddle with the MantisX, the more we like it. It’s clever, reliable and affordable, and will allow disproportionately rapid improvement for modest investments along several axes. But make no mistake: Its genius is not merely in forging some new paradigm, but also in refocusing and capitalizing on a time-tested one. It will put the fun back in dry fire. And if we’re honest, the more seasoned you get, the more boring this becomes. Heck, the MantisX even allows this to become a mildly competitive pursuit, if you like.

As to a new paradigm, we’d suggest it does this too. Nothing in (LOUD) shouting distance allows a reconnection between dry and live practice like the MantisX system. Making one pay dividends for the other has never been frankly transparent, and we think that’s about to change.

If you’ll take our advice, don’t be on the tail end of finding out.

MantisX unit

Visit MantisX site HERE
MSRP of the MantisX Firearms Training Systems is $149.99

RELOADERS CORNER: REALLY Understanding Case Neck Sizing


Determining and setting the correct case neck diameter is a critical, crucial step in the handloading process: Here’s all you need to know!

sizing die bushing

Glen Zediker

Here’s another I get (too many) questions about, and when I say “too many” that’s not at all a complaint, just a concern… This next hopefully will eliminate any and all confusions about this important step, and decision, in the reloading process.

Basics: A cartridge case neck expands in firing to release the bullet. If the load delivers adequate pressure, it can expand to the full diameter allowed by that portion of the rifle chamber. That diameter depends on the reamer used. After expansion and contraction, the case neck will, no doubt, be a bigger diameter than what it was before being fired.

Back to it: To get a handle on this important dimension, the first step is tools. As always. A caliper that reads to 0.001 inches will suffice.

You need to find three outside diameter numbers: fired case neck diameter, sized case neck diameter, loaded case neck diameter. If you know the loaded case neck diameter then it’s likewise easy to find out the case wall thickness, or at least an average on it if the necks aren’t perfectly uniform (and they won’t likely be unless they’ve been full-on outside case neck turned).

Case neck sizing diagram
“All the math” works in either direction. Here’s how.

A fired case neck has to be sized back down to a dimension that will retain a bullet from unwanted movement (slippage) in the reloaded round. Case neck “tension” isn’t really an accurate term, in my mind, so I prefer to talk about “constriction.” The reason is that making a case neck diameter smaller and smaller does not, after a point, add any additional grip to the bullet. Once it’s gotten beyond maybe 0.005 inches, it’s just increasing the resistance to bullet seating not increasing the amount of tension or retention of the case neck against the bullet. The bullet is resizing the case neck, and probably getting its jacket damaged in the process. If more grip is needed, that’s where crimping comes in…and that’s (literally) another story.

Always, always, account for the “spring-back.” That is in the nature of the alloy used to make cases. If brass is sized to a smaller diameter it will spring back plus 0.001 inches bigger than the tool used; if it’s expanded to a bigger diameter, it will spring back (contract) to 0.001 inches smaller than the tool used. This is always true! The exception is that as brass hardens with age, it can spring back a little more.

How much constriction should there be? For a semi-auto, 0.003 is adequate; I recommend 0.004. For a bolt-action, I use and recommend 0.002, and 0.001 usually is adequate unless the rifle is a hard-kicker. See, the main (main) influence of more resistance in bullet seating is to, as mentioned, set up enough gripping tension to prevent unwanted bullet movement. Unwanted movement can come from two main sources: contact and inertia. Contact is if and when the bullet tip meets any resistance in feeding, and gets pushed back. Intertia comes from the operation and cycling of the firearm. If there’s enough force generated via recoil, the bullets in rounds remaining in a magazine can move from flowing forces. However! That also works literally in the other way: in a semi-auto the inertial force transmitted through a round being chambered can set the bullet out: the case stops but the bullet keeps moving. I’ve seen (measured) that happen with AR15s and (even more) AR-10/SR-25s especially when loading the first round in. Put in a loaded magazine, trip the bolt stop, and, wham, all that mass moves forward and slams to a stop. Retract the bolt and out comes a case with no bullet… Or, more usually, out comes a case with the bullet seated out farther (longer overall length). Never, ever, set a constriction level on the lighter side for either of these guns.

Most seem to hold a belief that the lower the case neck constriction the better the accuracy. Can’t prove that by me or mine. If there’s too much constriction, as mentioned, the bullet jacket can be damaged and possibly the bullet slightly resized (depending on its material constitution) and those could cause accuracy hiccups. If it’s a semi-auto and constriction is inadequate, the likewise aforementioned bullet movement forward, which is very unlikely to be consistent, can create accuracy issues, no doubt. My own load tests have shown me that velocities get more consistent at 0.003-0.004 as compared to 0.001-0.002.

Benchrest competitors use virtually zero constriction, but as with each and every thing “they” do, it works only because it’s only possible via the extremely precise machining work done both in rifle chambering and case preparation. It is not, decidedly not, something anyone else can or should attempt even in an off-the-shelf single-shot. As always: I focus here, and in my books, on “the rest of us” when it comes to reloading tool setup and tactics. Folks who have normal rifles and use them in normal ways. And folks who don’t want to have problems.

So, find out what you have right now by determining the three influential diameters talked about at the start of this article. Most factory standard full-length sizing die sets will produce between 0.002 and 0.003 constriction. Getting more is easy: chuck up the expander/decapper stem in an electric drill (I use oiled emery cloth wrapped around a stone), and carefully reduce the expander body diameter by the needed amount, or contact the manufacturer to see about getting an undersized part. I’ve done that.

polish expander
It’s easy to increase case neck constriction if you’re running a conventional sizing die setup that incorporates an expander or sizing button. Just make the button diameter smaller; then it won’t open up the outside-sized case neck as much as it is withdrawn from the die and over the expander.

If you want less constriction than you’re currently getting, about the only way to do that one is hit up a local machinist and get the neck area in the die opened by the desired amount (considering always the 0.001 spring-back). Or get a bushing-style die…

Redding S Die
It’s not perfectly necessary to use an inside case neck expanding tool if you’re using a bushing-style die. I think it’s wise for a multitude of reasons I’ve gone on about in the past, and may should again, but if the math is carefully done, and the cases are all same lot, outside neck reduction will result in consistent inside case neck diameter sizing. Example: Case neck wall thickness is 0.012, outside sized case neck diameter is 0.246 (from using, remember, a 0.245 bushing), then the inside case neck diameter will be 0.222, and that will be a 0.002 amount of bullet constriction (0.224 caliber bullet).

The bushing-style design has removable bushings available in specific diameters. Pick the one you want to suit the brass you use. If you run an inside case neck expanding appliance along with a bushing die, usually a sizing-die-mounted “expander ball” or sizing button, make sure you’re getting at least 0.002 expansion from that device. Example: the (outside) sized case neck diameter should be sufficiently reduced to provide an inside sized case neck diameter at least 0.002 smaller than the diameter of the inside sizing appliance. That’s done as a matter of consistency and correctness that will account for small differences in case neck wall thicknesses. And when you change brass lots and certainly brands, measure again and do the math again! Thicker or thinner case neck walls make a big difference in the size bushing needed.

Check out a few ideas at Midsouth HERE

The preceding was adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available here at Midsouth. For more information on this book, and others, plus articles and information for download, visit

SKILLS: Riflescopes: Lens Coatings


Lens coatings provide superior optical clarlty and utility. Here’s how and why…

coated lenses


In any optical system, some light is lost through reflection each time the light passes through a glass-to-air surface. The light loss can be significant in multi-element riflescopes; as much as 50 percent of the light may be lost to reflection as it passes through an uncoated lens system.

In the 1940s, it was discovered that magnesium flouride coatings on lenses would increase light transmission, color fidelity and image brightness considerably. Today, nearly all modern scopes have coated lenses that transmit from 95 to 99 percent of the light that enters the objective lens.

Coatings such as zinc sulfide and zirconium oxide are used, often in combination with magnesium flouride. A coated lens will appear tinted when viewed from the side. The exact color may vary from blue, green, purple, red or gold. Abrasion-resistant coatings have been developed for the exterior lens surfaces of modern riflescopes. Water-shedding coatings have also been developed.

Various levels of coating can be applied to lenses ranging from a single layer of magnesium flouride on the exterior objective and ocular surfaces, to as many as 15 layers or more on every surface of every lens. Typically, coating layers are only a few ten-thousandths of an inch thick.

The term “fully coated” when applied to a riflescope usually means that all lens-to-air surfaces have at least one coating layer. This includes the interior lens systems as well as the exterior.
The term “multi-coated” or “multiple-layer coated” signifies that multiple coating layers have been applied to some, but not all, lens surfaces. Normally, this means that only the outer lens surfaces have been multi-coated. “Fully multi-coated” signifies multiple coatings on all lens-to-air surfaces.

Lower-priced scopes may have from one to five lens-coating layers while more expensive scopes may have as many as 15 or even more. In lower-priced scopes, only the outside surface of the objective (front) and ocular (rear) lenses are coated. Higher-quality scopes have all internal and external lens surfaces multi-coated.

How many layers are enough? That depends on the quality of the lens system and the intended purpose of the scope. Adding more layers of coating rapidly reaches the point of diminishing returns, but on a high-quality scope where maximum light transmission and image fidelity are necessary, 15 layers of coating can be easily justified.

RELOADERS CORNER: 5 Simple Steps To M1A Reloading Success


The M14/M1A can be a cantankerous beast to reload for, so follow these suggestions to tame it down. Keep reading…

M14 match shooter

Glen Zediker

The “5 steps to success” are at the end of this article… First, read about why they will matter as much as they do!

A couple times back I decided that the best topic to write about might be the most current, and I defined that by the most recent questions I fielded on a topic. As the assumption goes: they can’t be the only ones with that question… So, over this weekend I had a series of questions from different people all on the topic of reloading for the M1A, the civilian version of the military M14.

Now. Since the M14 was the issue rifle of choice for a good number of years, and without a doubt the (previously at least) favored platform for the various-branch military shooting team efforts, it went through some serious modifications to best suit it to that very narrow-use objective: High Power Rifle competition. Although the M14 hadn’t been routinely issued to most troops for decades, it was still going strong in this venue. That changed in the mid-90s when Rules changes boosted the AR15 platform to prominence, and soon after, dominance.

Match conditioning an M14 involved modifications to virtually every system component, and resulted in a fine shooting rifle. Very fine. Amazingly fine. The one mod that prodded the impetus to write all this next was the barrel chambering specification changes. A while back I went on about what 7.62 NATO is compared to its fraternal twin .308 Winchester.

Match-spec M14 chambers are decidedly NOT NATO! They’re .308 Winchester, pretty much. I say “pretty much” because they’re on the minimum side, dimensionally, compared to SAAMI commercial guidelines for .308 Win. Lemmeesplain: the true “match” M14 chamber is short, in throat and in headspace. The reason is ammunition bound. I’ll explain that too: Lake City Match ammo was and is a universal competition cartridge. Military teams compete in, well, military team competitions. Some are open to civilians, some are not. All, however, used issued ammo across the board. You were given your boxes of Lake City Match, or Special Ball, or one of a couple other same-spec variants, prior to the show and that’s what you used for the event. Everyone used the same ammo. Civilian or Service. There were exceptions, like long-range specialty events, but what was said held true the vast majority of the time. That meant that everyone wanted the same well-proven chamber, civilians too.

Lake City Match ammo
Back in the day… Here’s what you got, which was the same as what everyone else got, for a DCM (now CMP Inc.) rifle tournament. “Here ya go son, and good luck…” and since we took as much luck out of the equation as possible, we all used a rifle chamber in our M14s and M1As that maximized Lake City Match ammo performance. And that’s why I’m writing all this…

Given this, that’s why a “match” M1A chamber is different than a SAAMI. It was built to maximize Lake City Match accuracy. That’s a short round. The headspace is a few thousandths under what’s common on a chamber based around commercial .308 brass. 1.630-inch cartridge headspace height is regarded as minimum for commercial.

Headspace reading Lake City Match
The true M14/M1A match chamber is a short chamber: headspace is very tight. That’s because Lake City Match ammo is short. Compare this to what you might want to use, and if you have a genuine match chamber, best make sure the ammo fits… Measure both the results of sizing operations and also any new ammo or brass before you fire it in one of these chambers! I have encountered commercial .308 Win. rounds that were too long out of the box (cartridge case headspace dimensions). Here’s a cartridge headspace read on a Lake City Match compared to a commercial Winchester match load (inset) I had on hand. Read taken with a zeroed Hornady LNL gage. And NEVER fire commercial ammo intended for hunting use; the component mix and round structure is almost certain to be wrong.

Check out  headspace gages  at Midsouth HERE

So sizing a case to fit a match M1A, especially if it’s a hard-skinned mil-spec case, takes some crunch. To compound difficulty, M1As and M14s unlock very (very) quickly during firing. The bolt is trying to unlock when the case is still expanded against the chamber walls. The little bit of space this creates results in a “false” headspace gage reading on the spent case. It’s going to measure a little longer than the chamber is actually cut. That can lead someone to do the usual math (comparing new case and spent case headspace reads) and end up with a “size-to” figure that’s too tall, that has the shoulder too high. For instance, let’s say the spent case measured 1.634 and the new case measured 1.627, indicating 0.006 expansion or growth. Given the usual advice (from me at least) to reduce fired case shoulder height by 0.004 (semi-autos) for safe and reliable reuse would net a size-to dimension of 1.630. But. There can easily be a “missed” 0.002-0.003 inches resultant from the additional expansion explained earlier. My advice for a match-chambered M1A is to reduce the fired case all the way back down to the new case dimension. That might sound like a lot, and it might sound excessive, and it might be — but, it’s the proven way to keep this gun running surely and safely. That, however, is not always an easy chore. Some mil-spec brass is reluctant to cooperate. And, by the way, don’t kid yourself about reducing case life. This gun eats brass; I put just three loads through a case before canning it.

M14 gas system
These rifles have an overactive gas system that tends to create premature bolt unlocking, and this leads to excessive case expansion. I recommend resetting the fired case headspace to match a new case reading for safety’s sake.

Two helps: one is to use petroleum-based case lube, like Forster Case Lube or Redding/Imperial Sizing Wax. And size each case twice! That’s right: run each one fully into the die twice. Double-sizing sure seems to result in more correct and more consistent after-sizing headspace readings.

A “small-base” sizing die (reduced case head diameter) is not necessary to refit match brass into a match chamber. It might help using brass that was first-fired in a chamber with more generous diameter, but sized diameter isn’t really the “small” part of the M1A match chamber. Again, the small part is the headspace.

Forster National Match dies
A Forster “National Match” die set is a guaranteed way to ensure adequate sizing for an M1A match chamber. This sizing die has additional shoulder “crunch” built in, and that’s the “National Match” part: it essentially replicates Lake City Match ammo dimensions.

Take a look at these dies HERE

So that’s the source the problem reloading for this rifle. And, again, “this rifle” is an M1A with a true mil-match armorer’s spec chamber. We best make sure that our sized cases are going to fit the chamber, plus a couple thousandths clearance for function and safety. And safety mostly. M1As are notorious for “slam-fires” which happen when the free-floating firing pin taps the primer on a chambering round delivering sufficient intrusion to detonate. Impressive explosions result. If the case shoulder is stopping against the chamber before the bolt can lock over, that can be all the pin needs to maximize the effect of its inertia.

Speaking of, there are three sources and fortunately the same number of cures for slam-fires. One, first, is the correct sizing on setting back the case shoulder so the shoulder doesn’t stop against its receptacle in the chamber. Next is making sure there are no “high” primers; each primer should be seated at least 0.005 inches under flush with the case head. Next, and very important: primer composition, which equates to primer brand. Do not use a “sensitive” primer, one with a thinner, softer skin. Although they are great performers, Federal 205 are too sensitive for this rifle. Better are WW, CCI 200.

My thoughts
I don’t like this chamber… I also used one because I competed in events with issued ammo. I don’t recommend a “true” M14 chamber because that’s a NATO. Plain old standard .308 Win. specs work better and allow more flexibility in ammo and component selection. Even though the true mil-spec match chambers are not common, the reason I’ve written as much as I have on this topic over the years is because a mistake can be disastrous. One of the folks who wrote me one question shared a story about a friend who blew up his match M1A firing improper commercially-loaded ammo through it. Whoa.

This gun needs a stout case. They won’t last long no matter what but they might not last at all if they’re too soft. I’ve broken some new commercial cases on one firing. Thicker/thinner isn’t the issue: it’s the hardness of the alloy. Harder material better resists reaction to the additional stress of premature system operation. New-condition mil-spec cases are great, if you can get them. Next best is Lake City Match that was fired in a match-chambered rifle. Stay completely away from anything, and everything, fired through a NATO-spec chamber. It’s nigh on not possible to size them enough to suit. For me, WW is the only commercial case I will run through my M1A. They’re thin, but pretty hard.

308 components
Here’s a full component set I recommend, and use, for true match chambered M1As.

I did a whole chapter solely on reloading for the M14/M1A for my book Handloading for Competition that didn’t get printed into it for various reasons. However! I have the entire chapter available as a PDF download on my website. Get it HERE

And for even more info on reloading for the  M1A, order the new book Top-Grade Ammo, available here at Midsouth. For more information on this book, and others, plus articles and information for download, visit


M14 loading dos/donts

SKILLS: Riflescopes: All About Reticles


This is the second in a series on optic basics, and it covers the most visible component of a scope: the reticle. Read on…

by NRA Staff

basic riflescope reticle

The riflescope’s reticle is the visible reference used as an aiming point to align the gun with the target. There are many reticle patterns ranging from simple to complex. The most popular remains the general-purpose crosshair. However, even the simple crosshair offers choices, such as tapered, ultra thin, duplex, mil-dot, ballistic compensating, range-finding, center dot, center ring and post, just to name a few. Each configuration is intended for a specific type of use and there are multiple versions of all. For example, tapered crosshairs are a popular choice for varmint hunting and duplex crosshairs are a common choice for big-game hunting. There seems to be no limit to the new reticle designs being offered, and most makers offer at least six or more types. Your best bet is to try out several at a local gun store, then consult with experienced shooters or hunters before making a final selection.

Reticles may be illuminated electronically, with tritium or with fiber optics to enhance their contrast against dark backgrounds; this is helpful especially at dusk or dawn or during heavy overcast conditions. Illumination remains an expensive option that may not work well in very cold conditions and has limited usefulness. Still, it has proven a popular addition to many scopes.

reticle choices

The reticle itself may be located inside the scope at the first, or front, focal plane or the second, or rear focal plane. The location is an issue only in variable-power scopes. Reticles located in the first focal plane in a variable-power scope will increase or decrease in size as the magnification is changed while those located in the second focal plane do not change size when the power is adjusted. For this reason, the latter location has become the most popular.

One situation in which a front-focal-plane reticle is clearly advantageous is in scopes with a mil-dot ranging system. This type of reticle employs dots spaced one milliradian apart on the crosshair. (A milliradian is the angle subtended by 3 feet at 1,000 yards.) An object of known size is bracketed between the dots, and a table is used to determine the range based on the number of dots the object measures. With a rear-focal-plane reticle variable, the mil-dot system is only accurate at one power setting. A front-focal-plane location maintains the same relationship to the target throughout the range of magnification, thus enabling mil-dots to be used accurately at any power.

A second benefit of placement in front of the variable-magnification lens system is that the reticle remains unaffected by tolerances or misalignment of the erector tube during power changes. With a rear-focal-plane location, these tolerances may shift point of impact as the power level changes.

In the past, many scope reticles were not constantly centered, meaning they moved off to the side when windage or elevation adjustments were made. Many shooters found this annoying. Today, nearly all riflescopes have constantly centered reticles that do not change position when adjustments are made.

Crosshairs or other reticle patterns are created by laser etching on optical glass or by ultra-thin platinum wires. Some early scope reticles used strands of hair, hence the name “crosshairs.” Others used spider silk…interestingly enough, the silk of the black widow spider, which has a better tensile strength than other types of spider silk.

David Tubb DTR Reticle
David Tubb’s DTR design takes a reticle about as far as it can go, offering built-in aiming dot compensation choices to even account for density altitude.



Don’t overlook details when setting up shop. Here are a few ideas on dealing with a few tools and tasks to get set up to reload.

bolts and fasteners

Glen Zediker

Set-Up Tools
Time after time, point after point, I address the use of specific tools used in the process of loading ammunition. There are a few tools that never get near a cartridge case or bullet, though, that matter much to contentment. These are the “set-up” tools and appliances that when needed are indispensable. And, as with the loading tools themselves, making the better choices pays off. I joke with myself sometimes that I spend about as much time at auto parts and hardware stores as I do reloading industry outlets…

Get real wrenches for all the dies and tools you own. It’s worth the investment to buy a quality combo wrench at an auto-parts store rather than buggering up all your fasteners with a set of slip-lock pliers. But. You need those too. Everyone needs a slip-joint pliers, like Channellock-brand, but avoid using it whenever possible. Again, correctly-sized quality wrenches won’t muck up your die parts.

craftsman wrenches
Good quality wrenches are a necessity, in my mind. Craftsman fits that bill nicely.

A good quality set of allen wrenches, or hex-heads, likewise is a relative joy to use next to the el-cheapo versions that come with the tools. Get the ball-end kind for even easier use.

reloading bench
I’m sho no carpenter, but after working with handloading enough, a fellow will develop a few essential skills. A few tools to purchase: appropriate sized drill bits for starting screw holes (never don’t drill a hole beforehand); appropriate drill bits for press mounting, usually 1/4 inch, and the kind with a starter point are the bomb; a corded drill, not cordless, and preferably with a level indicator. And drill down straight! Even a tad amount of angle in a bored hole can make it muy difficult to get the fasteners to cooperate.

Press and Tool Mounting
Make an investment in at least “good” grade tools for drilling holes and measuring where to drill them, and then for installing the fasteners. It really makes a difference to have proper size drill bits and drivers.

The press is the base for the dies. It’s important. Of course it is. Mounting is key. I suggest a workbench that’s mounted to a wall, along with its legs fixed down to the floor. It’s the press upstroke, not the downstroke, that taxes the stability or solidness of the workbench.

If you’re building a workbench, consider carefully the overhang and bench-top underside construction, or at least dimensions. What you don’t want, and what I have had so I know, is a combination of press hole mounts that conflict with workbench construction. Like when there is a structural crosspiece right underneath where a hole has to bore through. That’s a mess to deal with, or it can be. Then you have to drill a hole big enough to give a window to install a washer and a nut, and then that nut won’t want to stay tight. Check first before you settle on your plans. 6 inches of overhang (free underside) mounts anything I’ve yet used.

nuts and bolts
Bolt goes down through the press mounting hole, preceded by a plain washer. A fender washer then goes against the bottom of the bench, followed by a nut, either plain preceded by a star washer or nylock. If it’s a star washer, the star points face the nut underside. Get good hardware. And use the fender washer!

Do a template for press mounting. That’s easy by doing the “rub trick” with a soft pencil on a piece of paper taped to the press underside; some manufacturers provide templates, and that’s a nice touch. Otherwise, use a centering tool to mark the holes, used through the mounting holes on the press. Even being a little bit off hurts wonders. And drill straight! Get a drill with a level-bubble. The thicker the bench-top, the more mess a small angle error makes.

A cool trick for drilling holes in laminate or wood is to put masking tape over the marks for the drill bit start marks before boring. This keeps the material from splintering. Never (ever) use the press holes themselves as a guide for the drill bit.

I strongly suggest backing up the underside bench nuts with washers. Otherwise there will be compression of the nut into the bench material, and ultimately result in loosening. This is actually very important… Use a fender (flat) washer next to the wood, and a star (locking) washer between the nut and the fender washer (stars face the nut underside), or use nuts with “nylock” inserts.

After mounting the press securely, keep it secure. Check all the fasteners especially after the first use. And, as just recommended, here’s where washers and locking fasteners help. As said, the washers help avoid the compression into a wooden benchtop that can otherwise ultimately lead to a lifetime of snugging down the bolts — they’re not tightening, they’re just pushing in deeper… The locking fasteners are resistant to stress-induced movement.

I have increasingly become a fan of using threaded retainers in place of nuts to screw the bolts to. This is a great means to secure things like case trimmers, powder meters, or anything else that might need to come on and then off the workbench area. Threaded inserts, such as t-nuts, remain in place on the bench top underside and the bolts are just run down into them. That makes it simple to mount and dismount with allenhead screws. Less benchtop clutter also.

t-nut and bolt
I’m a big fan of t-nuts for mounting accessories to a bench. When you need the tool — small press, case trimmer, or what-have-you, bring it out and snug it down with an allen-head bolt. Helps keep the benchtop less cluttered. I often mount the tool, like a case trimmer, to a piece of wood using t-nuts and then secure the whole thing to the bench top using a c-clamp.

Supply Items+
Shop rags work better than anything, and that’s why they’re used in shops. Sometimes the obvious is true. Get them at an auto parts store.

Invest in some good rust preventative and then use it. A lot of the tools we use don’t have any or adequate protective finishes on them, so give them a wipe-down after use. Local climate has a whopping lot to do with the need and frequency for this. Plus, there’s always going to be unforeseen times you’ll need to free a stuck fastener. Kroil-brand penetrating oil is the best I’ve used. Tip: Always grease contact points between steel and aluminum. If you don’t it will “freeze.”

Light is an asset, and, especially as eyes get older (dang I hate to say that, so let’s say the more and more someone needs bifocals and won’t get them) some magnification is a help too at times. It’s easy to find one of the clamp-on arm-style magnifying lights at most office supply stores, and even easier to locate a pair of reading glasses.

The preceding was adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available here at Midsouth. For more information on this book, and others, plus articles and information for download, visit

SKILLS: Optics ABCs: What All Those Terms Mean


When it comes to optics for firearms, the specific terms that people use to describe them can be confusing. Here’s what all that argot actually means…in alphabetical order, no less.


rifleman with scope

The ability of an optical system to distinguish clearly and crisply between areas of light and dark is called contrast. For shooting purposes, always select the riflescope with the highest contrast.

Exit Pupil
Exit pupil is the diameter, in millimeters, of the beam of focused light transmitted by the ocular lens. The exit pupil can be calculated by dividing the diameter of the objective lens by the power, or magnification, of the scope. An exit pupil of about 5mm or larger in diameter is preferable. A large exit pupil provides a brighter image with greater contrast and a wide field of view for easy target acquisition. Exit pupils smaller than 5mm in diameter offer darker images with lower contrast and progressively narrower fields of view.

Eye Relief
Eye relief is the distance of the eye from the ocular lens when the image fully fills the lens and is not vignetted. Normally, eye relief figures are given as a distance range, for example 3.2 to 3.8 inches, due to differences in individual visual acuity. On a variable-power scope, eye relief typically changes with scope power. Too little eye relief is undesirable, particularly on a scope mounted on a hard-kicking magnum rifle, where it may contribute to a “scope bite” on the eyebrow. For this reason, most centerfire riflescopes have a minimum eye relief of 3 to 4 inches. A riflescope with an eye relief of less than 3 inches should only be used on a small-caliber rifle with low recoil.

Most riflescopes and shotgun scopes are designed to be mounted on the receiver, close to the eye, and thus have relatively short eye relief. Scopes to be mounted on handguns and on the barrels of long guns are classed as long eye relief (LER) or extended eye relief (EER) scopes. Some models provide as much as 18 to 20 inches of eye relief, enabling scope use on a handgun extended at arm’s length. Other models may offer an eye relief of 12 inches or less for scope mounting on a scout rifle. Note that the higher the magnification, the shorter the eye relief of such scopes.

Field of View
Field of view is the width of the area that can be seen in the image at a given distance. Normally, field of view is expressed as the number of feet in the image at 1,000 yards, for example 322 feet at 1,000 yards. Field of view decreases dramatically with increasing magnification. A narrow field of view makes it difficult to find the target and then to hold it in the image. For this reason, a wide field of view may be more important than high scope magnification.

When looking through a scope with a 100-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, a 100-foot-wide object viewed at that distance will just fill the visual field.

Focal Plane
The focal plane is the plane or distance from the objective lens at which light rays from an object converge to form a focused image inside the main tube. Objects in the same focal plane appear to the eye to be at the same distance, and therefore can be seen with equal clarity without the need to refocus the eye. One of the advantages of optical sights is that the target and the reticle are in the same focal plane. This eliminates trying to focus on both iron sights and the target at the same time. This is why riflescopes are so popular with shooters who have less-than-perfect eyesight.

There are two focal planes in a typical riflescope: The first behind the objective lens, and the second behind the erector lens set.

See the huge selection of riflescopes available here at Midsouth HERE

National Legal Update: Hearing Protection Act Rolling Into Bigger Bill


The Hearing Protection Act has been attached to the SHARE Act, a sportsman’s omnibus bill with a lot of pro-gun features. Among those features, the SHARE Act (Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act) would do the following:

  1. Moves silencers/suppressors from Title II to Title I status.
  2. Enhances the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) language to include travel by means other than vehicles.
  3. Creates remedies against states that violate the safe travel provisions, including a cause of action and attorneys fees.
  4. Eliminates the sporting-purposes language from the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the law on armor-piercing ammunition.
  5. Creates a blanket exception for shotguns to prevent arbitrary reclassification as destructive devices.

“The Hearing Protection Act has been one of the most important bills for sportsmen and women this Congress, which is why it’s common sense for it to be included in this year’s sportsman’s legislative package,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) Duncan, the bill’s sponsor, told POLITICO. “By changing the outdated regulation of suppressors to an instant background check, just like the requirements to purchase a typical firearm, I hope the sportsmen and women in the United States will have greater access to noise reduction technology as they carry the hunting and recreational shooting tradition to future generations.”

“If this bill passes,” said Texas & U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Michele Byington, “it will make suppressors Title I items like firearms—that is, not National Firearms Act devices—which means they will become more common and more widely transported. However, at least 10 states will likely ban suppressors even if this becomes law. About the same number of states have some kind of restriction on ammunition-feeding devices, also known as magazines. FOPA safe travel won’t do us much good if gun owners can still be arrested for magazines and accessories.”

“Attaching the HPA to a bill that should be easier to pass suggests that Congressional Republicans may have become serious about actually passing this,” she said. “Passing this bill would be a big win.” —Texas & U.S. Law Shield Staff



Check out these other great articles from U.S. Law Shield and click here to become a member:


The “purple paint law” became official in Texas on September 1, 1997. The law doesn’t appear to be common knowledge for every hunter in the Lone Star State, even though Texas hunting regulations describe it.
Can your employer restrict your ability to carry firearms at the workplace? Click to watch Emily Taylor, Independent Program Attorney with Walker & Byington, explain that in Texas, employers call the shots regarding workplace self-defense.
In this excerpt from a U.S. Law Shield News live report, watch Emily Taylor, independent program attorney with Walker & Byington, discuss the ground rules for carrying firearms into restaurants and bars. Click the video below to find out the significant differences between blue signs and red signs in Texas establishments, and how getting those colors crossed up could lead to some orange jumpsuit time.   If you would like to see these reports live on Facebook, click here to join the Texas Law Shield Facebook page and sign up for live notifications.

O Canada! Sniper Gains World Record


A Canadian Special Forces [sic] sniper looks to have taken out an ISIS fighter from a world-record distance of 11,316 feet, or about 2.2 miles away.

Now, as shooters and reloaders, we know there are a myriad of details which went into making a shot like this successful. “The spotter would have had to successfully calculate five factors: distance, wind, atmospheric conditions and the speed of the earth’s rotation at their latitude,” Says Ryan Cleckner, a former U.S. Army Ranger who served several tours in Afghanistan, and wrote the “Long Range Shooting Handbook.”

Atmospheric conditions also would have posed a huge challenge for the spotter.

Cleckner says, “To get the atmospheric conditions just right, the spotter would have had to understand the temperature, humidity and barometric pressure of the air the round had to travel through.”


“While the ammunition that Canadian special forces use in the TAC-50 is “off-the-charts powerful,” with some 13,000 foot-pounds of force when it comes out of the muzzle, the speed of a bullet, a 750-grain Hornady round, is not as important as the aerodynamic efficiency of the bullet.”

Yes. You read it correctly. The rifle is great, the spotter was spot-on, the shooter held to his technique.

One of the largest factors was the bullet. A HORNADY bullet.

This Hornady.

“The key to having a sniper round travel that far and hit a small target has less to do with speed and more to do with the efficiency with which the projectile moves through the air,” he said.

“That’s because while sniper bullets exit the muzzle at several times the speed of sound they eventually slow down to less than the speed of sound, and at that point they become less stable. An efficiently designed bullet reduces that instability, he explained,” Says Michael Obel of Fox News.

“When it all comes together, it’s ‘mission accomplished’.”

Well done, soldier! We appreciate you essentially disrupting a deadly operation about to take place in Iraq by these barbarians.

We have to ask! What’s your longest shot?

Wanna start shooting like this warrior? We have a few boxes left of the legendary bullet . Click Here to stock up!

RELOADERS CORNER: Inside Reaming Vs. Outside Turning


Some confuse these operations. Don’t! Here’s what each is, and isn’t…

Glen Zediker

I get a lot of questions. I always answer each one, and in doing so that experience reminds me of the wide span of topic knowledge needed to be a successful, and safe, handloader. I make an effort not to assume any level or depth of anyone’s understanding of any topic I might address. At the risk of “offending” all the experts out there by wasting their time with fundamental starts to technical pieces, I’d dang sho rather bore them than shortchange a newcomer out of elemental information.

I told folks in my last book that “grains” refers to a propellant weight, not a kernel-count. Right. But I’ve fielded that question more than once. That’s not, in my mind, a “stupid” question. Truth: The only stupid question is one that’s not asked, when there’s a need to know.

So, that was leading into this: Here’s a question I got just yesterday that sourced via someone who wasn’t even a little bit uneducated in the need for finer points of case prep. This fellow was confused about the relationship between inside case neck reaming and outside case neck turning. Here’s a longer version of the answer I returned to him —

First, there is no relationship between inside neck reaming and outside neck turning, and by that I mean they are not a combined process. As a matter of fact, these should not be combined!

They can be confused because they both ultimately accomplish the same thing, the same basic thing: each process removes material from a cartridge case neck cylinder, and that makes the case neck wall thinner. These two ops, however, are done for two different reasons.

neck reamer
Inside neck reaming is a treatment to thin excessively thickened case necks after several firings. If the neck walls get too thick, the outside diameter of the case neck might not have adequate room in the chamber to expand to release the bullet. Excess pressure! Shown is a Forster-brand accessory for its case trimmer.
IMPORTANT: “Standard” case neck reamers are for use only on fired but not resized cases! Exceptions are custom-size reamers, and I own a few of those that get use from time to time, but, as was said for tight-necked rifles, if you know about that then you already know about this…

An inside case neck reamer is intended to relieve excess material from case necks that have thickened excessively through use and reuse. Brass flows, and it flows forward.

Important! Most “standard” case neck reamers are intended to be used on fired, but not yet resized, cases! In other words: Use the reamer on the fired cases as-are. Do not use one on a case that’s had its neck resized because that will cut away way too much brass.

Another application where inside reaming is frequently recommended is in forming operations that require a reduction in case neck diameter. When a case is “necked down,” which means run through a sizing op that creates a .243 caliber from a previously .308 caliber, for instance, the neck walls thicken. An appropriately-sized reamer makes the shortest work of this tedious but necessary job. Most forming die packages either include or make mention of the specific-size reamer to use.

Outside case neck turning is done to improve the consistency of case neck wall thickness around the cylinder. It’s a step taken to improve accuracy. Outside case neck turning should be done only on brand new (unfired) brass. It’s more precisely effective and easier because that’s when the alloy is at its softest.

turned case neck
Outside neck turning is a “precision” case prep step that improves consistency of the case neck wall thicknesses. It can be done a little bit to clean up “high spots” and make the cases better, or full-area to make them nearly perfect. That, of course, also makes them universally thinner so your sizing apparatus might need to be dimensioned differently to maintain desired case neck inside diameter to retain adequate grip on the bullet.

There are specific, custom combinations that require a smaller than standard case neck outside diameter. The “tight-necked” rifle, which is just about exclusively encountered in Benchrest competition, has to have its brass modified to chamber in the rifle. The neck area of the rifle chamber is cut extra-small to provide a means to attain a “perfect” fit and minimal case neck expansion. If you’re into this, then you already knew that…

So, the primary role and use of an inside neck reamer is as a safety precaution; its secondary use is as a prep step in case forming. The primary role and use of an outside neck turner is to improve the consistency, quality, of a case neck cylinder. The idea is that more consistent wall thickness leads to a more centered case neck. And it does. Reaming does zero to improve consistency. Reaming just makes a bigger hole of the hole that’s already there; it doesn’t relocate its center.

drop test
The way (or one way) to tell if your cases need a ream is to take a fired case and see if a bullet will freely drop through the neck. If it won’t, they’re too thick. Thrown them away or refurbish them with a reamer. Resizing won’t change a thing.

Combining these ops might create a safety issue because the necks might get too thin, and that could mean there wouldn’t be enough grip on the bullet. Point is, ultimately, that reaming and turning are not equivalent even though they might seem to be doing the same thing. One is not a substitute for the other. It certainly would be possible to remove metal from the outside of the neck cylinder to overcome the effects of thickened necks, if (and only if) the neck is sized again using the usual die apparatus. When that’s the goal, though, a reamer is lower effort, faster, and less expensive to buy into.

Very important! Always (always) culminate either operation by running the cases a trip through the sizing die you normally use.

Check out a few tools at Midsouth HERE