Category Archives: Rifles

REVIEW: Winchester XPC Chassis Rifle

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This venerable rifle maker jumped on board following the modern trends in bolt-gun construction and design in a big way with a new “chassis rifle.” Here’s all the details…

Winchester XPC
Winchester XPC

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated
by Steve Adelmann

The bolt-action rifle world sure has changed over the past 10 years. Even after the Y2K scares, rifles with traditional lines were still very much the norm. Contrast that with today’s bolt-action offerings: a plethora rifles with skeletonized, aluminum “chassis,” fully adjustable stocks, and copious rail-mounting space. That is a good thing in my book; it’s called progress, or maybe it’s just the natural evolution of things. Turnbolt purists may object, but I am fairly certain rifle purists of a century ago were still scoffing at any rifle that held more than one cartridge. Rifle manufacturers wishing to get into the tactical or long-range-precision markets all have at least one modernized bolt-action model in their catalogue now. Winchester Repeating Arms is no exception, and its new-for-2017 offering, the Winchester XPC chassis rifle, is a solid entry.

Now, I have to be perfectly honest before diving into my evaluation of the Winchester XPC. I am definitely not the best guy to cover the finer points of Winchester bolt-action rifles — at least not in any historical context. I have not had much exposure to them, but that also means my slate was clean going into this test. Uninfluenced by brand experience and bias, my approach to evaluating the new Winchester rifle was the same as any other new design: I looked at it in terms of reliability, durability, accuracy, practicality, and affordability. And performance.

The Winchester XPC is billed by the company as a “full-house precision chassis rifle,” and at first glance it seems to fit that category. But, you have to go deeper in to get the real details. It is based on the company’s existing XPR action, and strikes a nice balance between a precision target rifle and a long-range tactical tool. Its 20-inch, chrome-moly, button-rifled barrel wears Winchester’s “Permacote” matte-black finish and comes threaded with standard 5/8×24-tpi at the muzzle. My test gun was chambered in.308 Winchester. A knurled thread protector is included for use while you decide what to ultimately mount on it, if anything. At 0.75-inch in diameter at the muzzle, the meaty barrel balances nicely in its Cerakoted alloy chassis. A floating recoil lug is nested in that chassis, mating to a slot machined into the underside of the barrel. The fit is tight on both ends, and the lug can be removed when the action is out of the stock. A pair of screws mate action to chassis, one in front of the magazine well and one behind, concealed under the paddle-style magazine release.

Winchester XPC mag release

An extended freefloat tube continues the 20-MOA-slope receiver rail and provides ample space for day and night optics or other ancillary devices. The fore-end tube slides over a curved protrusion on the bottom of the chassis and is held in place with three Allen screws. Additional M-Lok-compatible rail sections can be added along the 3-, 6- and 9-o’clock sections of the fore-end.

Winchester XPC bolt

Ammunition feeding is handled by way of the increasingly popular AICS-pattern .308 Win. magazines. They drop free from the XPC action after pressing an easily accessible, paddle-style release located in front of the trigger guard. A beefy, three-lug, 60-degree throw, cock-on-opening bolt is the heart of the XPC action. A conical, oversize bolt handle is threaded-on in case the shooter wants to change it. The bolt head and fluted body are machined from a solid piece of steel and wear a nickel-Teflon coating to enhance smooth operation.

Extraction on the Winchester XPC rifle is well-managed by a Sako-style extractor with a spring-loaded, recessed plunger doing the ejecting through an oversize ejection/loading port. The bolt release is set into the tactical-familiar left-side of the receiver at the stock line. Incorporated is a two-position safety that locks the bolt when engaged; a separate button just in front of the safety unlocks it while on “safe” so the action may be opened. This is a bit cumbersome; however, the safety and bolt controls worked as designed.

Winchester XPC rail

Winchester chose to use an AR15-compatible buttstock and handgrip, giving a near-endless range of possibilities to customize the XPC to their needs. Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to any riflescope I tried for proper eye relief due to the length of the Magpul PRS Gen III stock that comes standard on the XPC. It is adjustable for cheek height, buttplate height, and length-of-pull and well-suited for modern sporting rifles, but is not the best choice on this platform. The rail on top of the rifle’s receiver is significantly forward of where it would be on an AR’s upper receiver, so a riflescope mount has to be placed in the rearmost slots and the scope must be slid as far back as possible in the rings or mount to see the target clearly.

Were this my rifle, I would swap the A2-style buffer tube for a carbine buffer tube and go with a collapsible stock. The stock has a socket for a QD sling mount and a longer sling-routing loop, and both can be swapped from one side to the other. The MOE-K pistol grip is also an odd choice here. I love this grip on light, fast-handling carbines or AR-type pistols, but it is a bit small for a precision rifle like the Winchester XPC.

Winchester XPC details

Winchester’s “MOA” trigger system provides an advertised adjustability range of 3 to 5 pounds, and my Timney scale measured the test sample at just a hair lighter than 3. The trigger was very clean and consistent, so I left it alone. Adjusting the trigger requires removal of the action from the stock to access weight and overtravel screws with a 1/16-inch Allen wrench. After ensuring the rifle’s bore was clean, the action and scope mounting screws were torqued to 65 inch-pounds, and after applying light grease to the locking lugs I headed for the range. Production rifles are supposed to have a 1:10-inch twist, but my test gun’s barrel turned out to have a 1:11.5-inch twist. I made sure to include a couple of lighter-projectile loads in the mix to ensure twist rate did not hamper accuracy testing.

I elected to shoot from the bench using a bag rest because being seated brought my eye closer to the scope eyepiece than when prone. Still, I struggled to maintain a clear target image throughout the test due to the Winchester XPC’s excessive length-of-pull. The only other problem I had was that the bolt knob loosened up every few shots. A couple drops of a thread-locking compound could solve that problem easily enough. The action was slick as a small-town lawyer and worked efficiently. The barrel’s weight helped the rifle remain settled during recoil. Federal Premium American Eagle’s 130-grain varmint JHP load managed the tightest group and barely edged out Black Hills’ match load for best accuracy. The 125- and 130-grain loads’ light recoil made the XPC particularly fun to shoot.

XPC testing

After testing three supersonic loads, I attached a SureFire muzzle brake and a SOCOM762 suppressor for subsonic-ammo testing. The rifle did not care for the 175-grain subsonic load and with a low standard deviation in muzzle velocity, I cannot really blame that on the ammunition. The subsonic Nexus ammo had very little recoil and my shots were clean, so the loose barrel twist combined with slow velocity were the likely culprits. Overall, accuracy was solid. Any production rifle that displays sub-MOA averages from multiple factory ammunition types has strong potential for a wide range of uses. If all Winchester XPC rifles shoot like my test gun, this model should be a solid performer for anyone.

I put a total of 125 rounds through the XPC without any hiccups. The rifle showed itself to be a capable shooter with a weight and size best-suited for long-range precision work. If I were in the market to buy a new tactical turnbolt, the Winchester XPC rifle would be hovering near the top of my list of possibles, alongside rifles that cost three or four times as much. I can no longer claim to have zero useful Winchester rifle experience, and I am a happier man for it.

The Winchester XPC is available in .308 Win., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor with an MSRP of $1599.00

Winchester XPC

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RELOADERS CORNER: Priming 3

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Correct primer ignition is a key to consistent velocities and good accuracy, and maybe even survival! Let’s make sure the primer pops proper. Read how…

Glen Zediker

Last two times we’ve looked at the tools and process of seating primers and also the thing itself. This time let’s take it another step and prefect the important step of priming a centerfire case.

primer pocket uniforming
Very important step, in my mind, in the reloading process: uniforming primer pockets.

 

As gone on about in the first article, it’s very important to seat each and every primer flush to the bottom of the cartridge case priming pocket. Tool choice has a whopping lot to do with how well attaining that goal can be reached, and that’s because it is a “feel” operation.

However! Probably the biggest asset to correct primer seating is a primer pocket that’s correctly dimensioned and correctly finished. And this, in effect, removes some of the importance or contribution of the “feel” needed and that’s because when the primer stops it will stop flat and flush. If the pocket is what it should be.

With the exception of a very few (and expensive) cases, the primer flash hole and the primer pocket itself are punched, not drilled and milled. That’s done, of course, in the interest of efficiency in producing the case. That manufacturing process, though, hain’t perfect.

Cross-section a case head and you’ll see that the inside bottom of the pocket is a little bowl-shaped; the corners aren’t square, which means the bottom of the pocket isn’t flat all across. Since the bottom of a primer cup is indeed flat, it’s way on better if these surfaces are a match.

primer pocket uniforming

A “primer pocket uniformer” fixes this to the same level it would be had it been machined: it will be at “blueprint” specs. A uniforming tool also sets pocket depth and will correct a shallow pocket. And again, the flat primer cup mated with an equally flat primer pocket bottom results in a truly well-seated primer.

In my estimation, I think this is an even more important procedure or preparation step for those using any automated or semi-automated priming process, such as encountered on a progressive-style press than it is for “precision” handloaders. In short: the less feel in the tool that’s available to guide you to know the primer has seated completely is offset a whopping lot by the assurance that flat-to-flat flush contact results pretty much just from running the press handle fully.

primer pocket uniforming tool
Primer pocket uniforming is done fastest and easiest with a tool that chucks into a drill. There are many available, and I recommend getting a “fixed” depth design. One thing: unlike virtually all other case-preparation steps, pocket uniforming is usually best one on once-fired, not new, brass. That’s because the pockets can be a little difficult for the tool to enter when the pockets are at their smallest, which they will be as new.

It’s another step, though, that adds time and tedium to the reloading process. Add power and it’s a lot easier, and, for the majority, has only to be done once. True, after enough firings a pocket will get shallower, and it will also be getting larger in diameter. Usually the increased diameter outruns the loss of depth in signaling the end of case life.

I use mine in place of a primer pocket cleaning tool. There is zero harm in running a uniformer each use for reloading. Uniformers are available as fixed- and adjustable-depth. I generally recommend getting a fixed tool, and then trusting it. Setting depth on an adjustable model is tedious, and critical. Too deep can weaken the case.

uniformed pocket
Here’s a little (important) something that you might notice after uniforming primer pockets. The case on the right shows very clear primer anvil impressions, and that’s because this primer was seated fully flush into a uniformed pocket; the case on the left was not uniformed and likewise the primer was not fully seated flush (couldn’t be).

If you’re wanting to load once-fired mil-spec cases, or have to load once-fired mil-spec cases, then the original primer crimp must be removed. A primer crimp is small lip of brass that’s pinched into the primer edge during the primer seating process. It holds the primer in place against inertia-induced movement that might unseat it. Now, you never ever need to worry about crimping your own ammunition. All that matters to us is removing the excess brass residual from the original crimp. The most simple, and fastest, way is using a primer pocket swaging tool. These are either press-mounted or stand-alone stations. Just run it, run it out, and the pocket has been swaged to unimpeded roundness again. It is possible to use a uniformer to remove crimp, but it’s a tool for another job and, almost always, it’s best to use specific tools for specific jobs. It’s a difficult chore with a uniformer, and the uniformer also may not smooth the entryway adequately.

primer pocket swaging tools
If you need to remove the crimp from mil-spec cases, get a swager. It’s the best tool for the job. They’re easy to use, and, as with other such processes, has only to be done once for the life of that case. After swaging, by all means run a uniformer if wanted. Check out tools HERE

Overall, get a swager and keep it simple. They’re not expensive, they’re easy to use, and, as with other such processes, has only to be done once for the life of that case. After swaging, by all means run a uniformer if wanted.

Should primer pockets be cleaned? Why not… There is probably no influence on accuracy if the pocket is dirty or spotless, but, why not… Deprime prior to case cleaning to get that area treated. I preach heavily on the virtues of a stand-along decapping station to keep grit out of the sizing die. A primer pocket cleaner is fast and easy to use, but, as mentioned, I instead just run a uniforming tool in its place.

As said a few times in this series, the most important thing is to know that the primers (all of them) have seated to at least slightly below flush with the case base. Just seeing that does, in no way, mean each primer is seated to perfection. There are variances in (un-uniformed) primer pocket depths. At the least, one more time, uniformed pockets will or sure should take a big step toward providing more certainty.

A “high” primer, one that’s not seated fully to the bottom of its pocket, results in a “soft” strike from the firing pin, and that’s because some of the inertia/energy in the speeding pin is siphoned away because it first will fully seat the primer… However! There’s another, even more important reason all primers should be seated fully: When used with a rifle having a floating-style firing pin, which is an AR15, the normal and unavoidable inertia-induced firing pin movement upon bolt closing will result in the firing pin tip contacting the primer. It will bounce or tap off the primer. If the primer is sitting out farther, there’s a greater likelihood of setting off the cap. That’s called a “slam-fire” and its aftermath ranges from shaken nerves to shrapnel infestations about the facial area.

AR15 firing pin indentation
Yikes! Here’s a round chambered and then pulled from one of my AR15s. Floating firing pins can “tap” off a primer, it’s intertia-induced. A more sensitive primer, and it could have gone off. This is not “supposed” to happen via rifle design, but, well, here it is. Make double-dang sure all the primers are seated below flush with the case head! It’s a problem with any floating-pin equipped rifle: M1A, M1, AR10, AR15. Primer composition matters. In this case, its resistance to detonation, and it should influence decisions on primer brands.

See what’s available at Midsouth HERE

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

REVIEW: 450 Bushmaster Ruger American Rifle Ranch

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The new Ruger American Rifle Ranch chambered in .450 Bushmaster was inspired in large part by new deer-hunting regulations in Michigan. The result is a handy, lightweight brush gun that packs plenty of punch. Read more!

SOURCE: NRA Publications/American Rifleman, by B. Gil Horman

Michigan expanded what was formerly known as the “shotgun zone” (in the lower peninsula) into the Limited Firearm Deer Zone in 2014, much to the delight of local hunters. In addition to shotguns, deer hunters can now use rifles chambered for straight-walled cartridges between 1.16- to 1.80-inches in length topped with .35-cal. or larger bullets. This definition allows for popular big-bore revolver cartridges including the .357 Mag., .44 Mag., .454 Casull, and .500 S&W.

However, there is a straight-walled rifle cartridge designed for the AR-15 platform which also meets the Michigan requirements. The .450 Bushmaster thumper round launches .452-cal. bullets weighing 250 gr. or 260 gr. from a 1.70-inch long cartridge case at velocities over 2000 fps. The resulting round boasts performance on par with the .45-70 Gov’t but in a more compact configuration. With Michigan hunters buying up straight-walled cartridge carbines and rifles like hotcakes, the folks at Ruger saw an opportunity to modify an existing platform to fill the niche.

.450 Bushmaster
.450 Bushmaster is a compact but hard-hitting cartridge ideal for whitetails in thickly wooded areas. At less than 6 pounds, recoil is stiff.

The new Ruger .450 Bushmaster American Rifle Ranch is the third member of the American bolt-action line designed to fire AR-15 semi-automatic cartridges, including models chambered for the .223 Rem. and .300 Blackout, and 7.62X39mm. The 16.12-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel is free-floated and has a muzzle threaded at 11/16-24 TPI. The muzzle is then fitted at the factory with a specially-designed muzzle brake.

The steel receiver is topped with a factory-installed 5-inch long aluminum optics rail compatible with Picatinny-type mounting surface. The single-piece, three-lug bolt features a full diameter bolt body, dual cocking cams, and a round knob bolt handle; the handle’s 70-degree throw keeps it clear of the optic.

Rifle Ranch safety
The tang-mounted sliding safety provides easy and intuitive operation. On the left side of the receiver is a bolt release which can be used to remove the bolt assembly without the need to touch the trigger.

The receiver is mounted to the lightweight Flat Dark Earth synthetic stock using Ruger’s patent-pending Power Bedding integral bedding-block system, which plays a key role in the rifle’s top-notch accuracy. The exterior of the stock is nicely shaped with non-abrasive texturing and serrations along the fore-end and grip. Other stock features include a rounded integral trigger guard, an exceptionally soft recoil pad, and front and rear sling swivel studs.

The Ruger Marksman single-stage adjustable trigger provides the feel and performance of aftermarket upgrades, which are often fairly expensive to buy. An Allen screw mounted to the front of the assembly (which is exposed when the action is removed from the stock) can be used to shift the trigger pull weight from 3 lbs. to 5 lbs. This particular trigger was set to 4 lbs. 4 oz. when it arrived, and exhibited a clean, crisp break with almost no overtravel. The safety lever found in the center of the trigger, much like that of a Savage Accutrigger or Glock pistol, locks the trigger and prevents it from cycling until it’s properly depressed.

Ruger Rifle Ranch trigger
Ruger Marksman single-stage trigger adjusts from 3 to 5 pounds.

Other versions of the Rifle Ranch ship with flush-fit 5-round rotary magazines. To accommodate the sausage-sized .450 Bushmaster, this rifle ships with one single-stack, 3-round magazine that extends about an inch below the magazine well. The magazine’s polymer release lever is incorporated into the front of the magazine instead of the receiver.

Rifle Ranch magazine
Due to the bulk of the cartridge, this Ruger Rifle Ranch model holds 3 rounds in a single-stack configuration, unlike its siblings which feature a rotary-style 5-round. The magazine release is built into the polymer magazine.

I’ve had the opportunity to handle a few different models of the American bolt action and I have to say that overall I am impressed with the line. They’re not fancy or pretty like some of the classic hardwood-stocked bolt guns. But the fit, finish and performance are a big step above their price tags.

Some folks may see the addition of a muzzle brake as a nicety, but in truth it’s a necessity for this gun. Experiencing the hearty recoil of this 5 lbs. 8 oz. rifle with the brake firmly installed quelled any curiosity I might have had to shoot a few rounds with the brake removed for comparison. This is not a gun for the recoil sensitive. However, the combination of the muzzle brake and effective recoil pad keeps the rifle manageable for those who don’t mind a little excitement when pulling the trigger.

At the range the American Rifle Ranch ran flawlessly. The bolt cycled smoothly and the trigger felt great. The rifle fed, fired, and ejected with zero malfunctions. All of the controls functioned properly. It’s a compact rifle that swings nicely and will be comfortable to carry on those all-day hikes.

Rifle Ranch bolt
The smooth-operating bolt features a 3-lug design and a short, 70-degree lift.

The primary limitation of choosing to buy a .450 Bushmaster these days is a limited selection of ammunition. At the time of this writing, the only two companies offering this cartridge are Hornady and Remington — with both providing just one option. Remington didn’t have any of its Accutip loads in stock for testing. So, the only load I had on hand to work with was Hornady’s Black label 250-gr. FTX with a listed velocity of 2200 fps. (using a 20-inch barrel) for a muzzle energy of 2686 ft. lbs. To see how this load performed out of the shorter 16.12-inch, 10 consecutive rounds were fired across a Lab Radar chronograph. The velocity average was 2184 fps. for a muzzle energy level of 2648 ft. lbs. That’s about a 1-percent drop in velocity with only a 38 ft. lb. loss of energy with a 3.88 shorter barrel.

Hornady .450 Bushmaster
There’s not a wide variety of different loadings available for .450 Bushmaster, but this Hornady Black demonstrated outstanding performance on target. Learn more HERE and HERE

For accuracy testing, the rifle was couched in a benchrest and fired at 100 yards using a trusty Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 3-9x40mm riflescope. Of the five, 5-shot groups, the smallest was 1.03-inches with an average of 1.10. Based on these results, if Hornady’s Black load is the only one on the dealer’s shelf, you’re going to do just fine.

Ruger’s new American Rifle Ranch chambered in .450 Bushmaster is another example of how the company is striving to meet customer needs with quality products at a reasonable price. This brush gun and ammunition combination is well-suited to taking medium and large game at moderate distances. If you prefer a wood stock to synthetic, then take a look at the new Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, which is now offered in .450 Bushmaster as well.

.450 Bushmaster group

Ruger American Rifle Ranch 450 Bushmaster specifications

Visit the factory information page HERE

RELOADERS CORNER: Priming, Part 2

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Last time the tooling and process of seating a primer got detailed, and now more details about The Thing Itself. Read all about it…

primer close up

Glen Zediker

A primer consists of a brass (usually) cup filled with impact-detonated explosive compound, lead styphate specifically. Right. Primers explode. The compound starts as liquid, not that that matters, and while it’s still wet, a triangular metal piece called an “anvil” is positioned in the opening. When it’s hit by the firing pin, the center of the cup collapses, squeezing the explosive compound between the interior of the cup and the anvil. That ignites the compound and shoots a flame through the flash hole. That ignites the propellant.

There are two primer sizes, and then type variations. The two sizes are “small” and “large.” For example, .223 Rem. uses small, .308 Win. uses large. Rifle primers and pistol primers are not the same, even though they have diameters in common. Rifle primers have a tougher cup, and, usually, provide a hotter flash. Do not substitute pistol primers for rifle primers! Some pistol shooters using very high-pressure loads substitute rifle primers, but also often need to increase striker impact power.

Variations: There are small variations in primer dimensions, heights and diameters, and also variations exist in new-case primer pocket dimensions, among various brands, and, of course, lot-to-lot variations can and do exist within any one brand. Usually, these variations are not influential to suitability. Usually. However! On occasion, small diameter variations can affect how well different primers will feed through various make priming apparatus. This can and has become a hitch in some progressive loading machines. Cup height variations can lead to seating depth (primer height) issues.

Remington 7-1/2 primers
I have my “go-to” primer, as do most, but I’ve found best results in certain circumstances with another brand. I will not vary primers, though, in my tournament ammo for any one day: as with propellants and bullets, each leaves a different residue in the bore, and that will, not can, influence zero making the switch. In other words, I won’t use CCI for short-line loads, and Remington for 600-yard ammo, not on the same day.

There are also “magnum” primers. These have a hotter spark. They are engineered to deliver a stouter kick-off to larger, more dense columns of slower-burning propellant. They also work well with spherical-type propellants (less air space between the granules). There are also “match” primers. These ostensibly are more consistent quality. Not all manufacturers offer these options. If they do, unless you have a scheme or more carefully-considered reason, just go with what fits your application. There’s no need for match primers in blasting ammo. There are, no doubt (and no doubt significant) differences among varying brand primers with respect to “output.” As mentioned earlier on, there are also pretty well-known tendencies that are either more or less preferable among varying primer brands.

The primer is, in my experience, the greatest variable that can change the performance of a load combination, which is mostly to say “pressure.” Never (never ever) switch primer brands without backing off the propellant charge and proving to yourself how far to take it back up, or to even back it off more. Don’t deny this one.

I back off one full grain of propellant to try a different primer brand.

Finding the best-performing primer for any particular combination of cartridge, bullet, and propellant isn’t just always as easy as putting a “match” primer in there. I have my preference, and it’s what I try first, but, to be certain, sometimes best accuracy and consistency (related) come with another. Again, it’s a combination of propellant fill volume, burning rate, propellant type (single-base, double-base, extruded, or spherical), and column “packing” density that favors either a “hotter” or “cooler” flash.

Priming cup composition also factors mightily in my final choice, and that’s a big factor in some semi-autos. More next time.

primer tray
Here’s handy. A primer “flip” tray puts all the primers in the sams orientation and orients them for easy loading into a primer magazine feed tube for use in many automated systems. See what’s available at Midsouth HERE

SAFETY
Do be extra careful handling primers! No kidding. It’s the most explosive element in a cartridge, and it’s intended to be detonated from impact, so… Wearing safety glasses at the loading bench might seem nerdy, but it’s wise. Likewise, and this has happened way on more than once, but, fortunately, never yet to me, is a mass detonation of primers contained in a feeding device, such as a primer feeding magazine tube. Such circumstance is grave indeed. Progressive loading machines, as well as many bench-mounted appliances, use a tube magazine that contains the primers. This tube must be filled, like any magazine. Make sure you know when full is full, and don’t try to poke in one more. This is usually when “it” happens. Remember, primers are detonated via pressure. Said before, but important enough to say again now: Never (ever) attempt to more deeply seat a primer on a loaded round. And keep the priming cup (the tool part that holds the primer for seating) clear of all debris. I’ve heard tell of brass shavings, leftover tumbling media, and the like, getting between the primer and the tool cup, and forming its own little firing pin.

See what’s available at Midsouth HERE

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

NEW: Springfield Armory SAINT™ AR-15 Pistol

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The long-awaited pistol version in the proven SAINT lineup has been announced by maker Springfield Armory. Here’s what they have to say about it: READ MORE

Springfield Armory SAINT Pistol 5.56

SOURCE: Chad Dyer, Springfield Armory

With the new SAINT™ AR-15 pistol, Springfield Armory brings the same impact of its SAINT platform to a whole new category. The SAINT Pistol is highly capable and upgraded out of the box but in stock-free pistol form.

Instead of a rifle buttstock, the new SAINT AR-15 pistol features a rugged SB Tactical SBX-K forearm brace to reduce size, stabilize recoil, and enhance accuracy in one or two-hand shooting. A 7.5-inch barrel with a 1:7 twist makes the SAINT pistol small, fast, and ideal for CQB. The 416R stainless steel barrel is Melonite® treated to be harder and more accurate than chrome, and is chambered for 5.56 NATO (.223) so ammunition is affordable, versatile, and seriously capable.

The SAINT AR-15 pistol is built around high-end features that make SAINT rifles so popular. Springfield Armory’s exclusive Accu-Tite™ tension system increases the tension between the upper and the lower receivers, ensuring an ideal fit and reducing slop — no shake or rattle. Upper and lower receivers are forged Type III hard-coat anodized 7075 T6 aluminum.

The SAINT pistol’s muzzle is equipped with a blast diverter that pushes sound, concussion and debris forward towards the target — instead of at the operator or fellow shooters — ensuring a more comfortable shooting experience.

The slender, agile handguard is Springfield Armory’s exclusive, patent-pending free-float design, with locking tabs and features a forward hand stop. The rifle’s crisp, enhanced nickel boron-coated GI single-stage trigger is paired with a Bravo Company trigger guard. The smooth-operating heavy tungsten buffer system, low-profile pinned gas block, GI style charging handle, and Bravo Company Mod 3 pistol grip are all well-proven in SAINT rifle models. Springfield Armory is known for no-compromise design and, as usual, the attention to detail is obvious.

To ensure durability, the M16 bolt carrier group is precision-machined from Carpenter 158 steel, shot-peened and magnetic particle inspected and finished in super-hard Melonite®. For ample shooting capacity, the SAINT pistol carries a Magpul Gen 3 30-round magazine.

The compact frame makes the SAINT AR-15 pistol an ideal choice for home defense. In addition to high-quality engineering, the SAINT AR-15 pistol is just 26.5 inches long, and weighs under 6 pounds. This pistol delivers the punch of a rifle caliber in a small, fast-handling frame. It’s highly accurate and it’s seriously fun to shoot.

SAINT™ AR-15 Pistol – 5.56

RELOADERS CORNER: The Priming Process

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Priming is the final case preparation step, and it’s one of the most important. Read how to do it right.

Glen Zediker

There are pretty much three different style tools used to seat primers.

The first, and way on most common, is the priming “arm” attached to most every single-stage press. This works, but it’s the least best way to do it. There’s too much leverage at hand, and that makes it hard to feel the seating process to its best conclusion.

Take a close look at how a primer is constructed: there’s a cylindrical cup, inside the cup is the incendiary compound, and then there’s the anvil (that’s the little part that extends below the cup rim; it’s like a flat spring with three feet).

rifle primer close up
Take a close look at a primer. The anvil is the tripod-shaped thin metal piece protruding above the bottom of the primer cup. Getting the primer sitting fully flush on the bottom of the primer pocket in the case, without crunching it too much, requires some keen feel for the progress of primer seating, and that’s where the stand-alone tools come in to help. I strongly suggest using one.

Ideally, a primer will seat flush against the bottom of the primer pocket, with compression, equally of course, against the anvil. Also ideally, there should be some resistance in seating the primer (if there’s not then the pocket has expanded an amount to cause concern, and a rethink on the suitability of reusing this case, and its brothers and sisters).

If it has to be a choice, even though it doesn’t have to be, it’s better to have “too much” seating than not enough. The primer cannot (cannot) be left too “high.” That’s with reference to the plane of the case head. There are both safety and performance concerns if it is. First, if the primer is not seated snugly to the bottom of its pocket, then the firing pin will finish the job. No doubt, there will be variations in bullet velocities if this happens because it affects ignition timing.

Each and every loaded round you ever create needs to be checked for this. Every one. Get in the habit of running your finger across the case bottom and feeling a little dip-down where the primer is. Look also. Rounds loaded on a progressive machine are susceptible to high primers. The reason is no fault of the machine but rather because the feel or feedback is that much less sensitive than even when using a press-mounted priming arm. If there are a half-dozen other stations on a tool head in operation at once, then the one doing the priming is that much more obscured from feel. And also because we’re not usually able or willing to inspect each finished round as it emerges from the rotating shell plate. But do check afterwards as you’re filing the loaded rounds away into cartridge boxes. Much more to be said ahead on this topic next edition.

correctly seated primer
Check each and every (every last one always) primer you seat to make sure it’s below flush with the case head.

The better priming tools have less leverage. That is so we can feel the progress of that relatively very small span of depth between start and finish. There is also a balance between precision and speed in tool choices, as there so often is. Also, so often, my recommendation is one that hits the best balance.

The press-mounted primer arm styles exhibit variations from maker to maker, but they’re all about the same in function. What matters most in using a press seater is going slowly and double-checking each and every result. Again, it’s the lack of feel for the progression of the primer going into the pocket that’s the issue.

press priming arm
Here’s the most common means for seating primers: the attached arm assembly on most single-stage presses. It’s tough to really feel the primer seat correctly because there’s a honking lot of leverage at work.

The best way to seat primers, or I should say the means that gives the best results, are the “hand” tools. They are also a little (okay, a lot) tedious to use, and, for me at least, aren’t kind to my increasingly ailing joints after priming a large number of cases. Those types that have a reservoir/feeding apparatus are less tedious, but still literally a pain. The reason these type tools give the best results is that they have poor leverage. The first few times you seat with one, you’ll be amazed at just how much pressure you need to apply to fully seat a primer.

LEE hand priming tool
Here’s a “hand” tool. This one from LEE works plenty well, despite its low cost. There are others similar from most major makers. The whole point to these designs is absence of leverage. Check it out HERE at Midsouthl

The best choice, in my book, are the benchtop stand-alone priming stations. They are faster than hand tools, and can be had with more or less leverage engineered into them. I like the one shown nearby the best because its feeding is reliable and its feel is more than good enough to do a “perfect” primer seat. It’s the best balance I’ve found between speed and precision.

Forster Co-Ax priming tool
Here’s a Forster Co-Ax bench-mounted tool. It’s a favorite. It provides relatively low leverage for better feel for the progression of primer seating.

Forster Co-Ax priming tool

Get a good primer “flip” tray for use in filling the feeding magazine tubes associated with some systems. Make double-damn sure each primer is fed right side up (or down, depending on your perspective). A common cause of unintentional detonation is attempting to overfill a stuffed feeding tube magazine, so count and watch your progress.

RCBS APS
Another good one is available from RCBS, the APS. Check it out HERE at Midsouth.

It’s okay to touch primers, by the way. Rumors abound that touching them with bare fingers will “contaminate” the compound and create misfires. Not true. All the primers I’ve ever used, and all those anyone else is likely to encounter, are treated to a sealant. Now, a drop of oil can penetrate the compound and render it intert, but not a fingerprint.

The priming process, step-by-step is almost too simple to diagram. Place a primer anvil-side-up in the device housing apparatus, position a case, push the primer in place. It’s learning feel of the whole thing that takes some effort. As mentioned, using a tool with poor leverage, you might be surprised how much effort it takes to fully seat a primer. On anything with an overage of leverage, there’s little to no sensation of primer movement into the pocket. It just stops.

TWO DONT’S:
Don’t attempt to seat a high primer more deeply on a finished round. The pressure needed to overcome the inertia to re-initiate movement may be enough to detonate it.

Don’t punch out a live primer! That can result in an impressive fright. To kill a primer, squirt or spray a little light oil into its open end. That renders the compound inert.

ONE (BIG) DO:
Keep the priming tool cup clean. That’s the little piece that the primer sits down into. Any little shard of brass can become a firing pin! It’s happened!

See what’s available here at Midsouth HERE

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

SHOOTING SPORTS: 3 Great Shooting Disciplines for New Shooters

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Fun and simplicity are the two keys to choosing a first shooting sport experience. These are proven great beginnings! Read more…

smallbore rifle
Smallbore rifle.

SOURCE: Shooting Sports USA, by John Parker

These days there is no shortage of new sports for prospective shooters who believe they are ready to take the plunge into formal competition. The three disciplines listed below are ideal for beginners.

ONE: BB Gun/Air Rifle
Air guns are traditionally regarded as guns for beginners. Some types, such as the familiar BB gun, are excellent as a “first competition gun,” while there are numerous other types designed and used by seasoned international competitors. One great reason for air rifle shooting is how easy it is to set up a range, even in your own home.

Juniors can compete in BB gun until their 16th birthday. NRA rules define BB guns as: Any shoulder held smoothbore BB gun with metallic sights, in which the propelling force is developed through the use of a compressed spring, gas or compressed air. Courses of fire are 40 shots; 10 each in prone, standing, sitting and kneeling, or the three-position course of fire which omits sitting. Also something to note: NRA BB Gun rule 7.10 provides for ISSF-style “Finals” for top competitors at matches to have a chance to show off their shooting prowess. Matches with Finals also provide for a great learning experience for those who plan to continue his/her shooting career.

The NRA Sporter Air Rifle Position rules govern the conduct of 10 meter three-position and four-position air rifle shooting. The rules allow for any type of compressed air or CO2 rifle with a few restrictions: Only .177-cal. pellets are allowed, and the weight of the rifle may not exceed 7½ pounds. Prone, sitting, kneeling and standing are the four positions utilized. Common courses of fire for sporter air rifle are: 10 shots each prone, standing, sitting and kneeling; 10 shots each prone, standing and kneeling; 20 shots each prone standing, sitting and kneeling; 20 shots prone, standing and kneeling; 40 shots standing; and/or 60 shots standing. NRA Sporter Air Rifle also has rules for a “Finals” for sanctioned matches, very much like BB gun.

BB guns and air rifles are an excellent way to begin competing in the shooting sports. In recent years, air guns have undergone dramatic improvements in reliability, durability and accuracy. These guns offer flexibility?because they can be fired safely by shooters of all ages and experience levels.

TWO: Smallbore Rifle
Smallbore rifle competition is the logical next step after learning the ropes with an air gun. It’s a sport that dates back to 1919, back when companies like Savage and Winchester introduced special .22 target rifles, the Winchester Model 19 NRA Match Rifle and the popular Savage Model 52. To be a precise and accurate smallbore shooter, you’ll need a quality rifle, sights and ammunition. But you really don’t need a new rifle to try out the sport of smallbore rifle; if you have a decent .22 LR in your safe, just use that to begin.

The NRA Smallbore Rifle rules allow for just about any .22-caliber rimfire rifle for use in competition. There are no restrictions on the barrel length or the weight of the rifle.

NRA Smallbore courses of fire are shot over 50 feet, 50 meters and 100 yards. There are four positions utilized (see Section 7 of the NRA Smallbore rules): prone, sitting, kneeling and standing. All four may be used, or even just one, depending on the match. NRA smallbore can be fired indoors or outdoors.

Recently a new form of prone shooting?Metric prone?has gained in popularity. It’s a combination of the two styles of smallbore prone shooting, NRA and ISSF, using a more difficult target with a shorter course of fire.

THREE: GLOCK Shooting Sports Foundation (GSSF)
Are you more interested in action shooting, rather than shooting at static paper targets? There’s no denying the satisfying feeling one has when shooting steel and hearing that characteristic “ding.” GSSF is one of the most popular practical shooting disciplines around, and not because it’s an easy sport?it’s mostly because the main requirement is the use of a GLOCK pistol, which isn’t that hard to scrounge up if you don’t have access to one already. GSSF stages will include steel plate racks or poppers, and others will use the NRA Action Pistol D-1 tombstone target, or combinations of both steel and paper.

Think of GSSF as “practical shooting-lite.” There’s a total of eight divisions: Civilian, Guardian (law enforcement, firefighter, military etc.), Subcompact, Competition, Heavy Metal, Major Sub, Masterstock, and Unlimited. No holsters are necessary, and the common G17 model can be used for any category except for Subcompact and Major Subcompact.

GSSF shooters are divided into masters and amateurs. Masters are defined as “competitors who are classified as ‘master class’ in USPSA, PPC, ICORE, NRA, Cowboy Action, or shoot on an Armed Forces shooting team, or have been promoted to master by GSSF.” All other shooters are considered amateur.

Want to learn more about the shooting sports? Visit www.ssusa.org!

RELOADERS CORNER: 4 Steps To Improve Standard Die Performance

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It’s easily possible to improve the alignment and concentricity of a die set, and the result is getting closer to perfection in your ammo. Here’s how…

Glen Zediker

Last time I wrote about some problems some dies can have. A couple of those things mentioned had a thing or two to do with preparation and setup, and I said then that “next time” I’d address a few ways to improve the results from the dies you already have. So here it is, sizing die first:

Many of the parts that make up a die, including the die body itself, have threaded couplings to allow for adjustment. Well, threads have gaps and that means there’s some amount of free movement afoot, or “afloat” more correctly. If there were no gaps between threaded surfaces then there would be no threading possible. To see it, loosen a locking or jam nut from a die part, the seating die or decapping stem for instance, and wiggle the part. It wiggles… Taking steps to, at the same time, take out that play and improve parts alignment pays off.

ONE: Let the shellholder float. One of the easiest mods to make to improve all die ops is to remove the apparatus that secures the shellholder into the press ram. It’s usually a wire spring clip. Pliers get it gone. Now the shellholder is free to slip in and out, mostly out, of its slot in the press ram, and an appropriately-sized O-ring banded around the slot area keeps it secure. Head to a real hardware store and find one easy enough. This mod has done two things: one is that the spring clip usually cocks the shellholder so it’s not sitting flat and flush with the ram top, which means neither is the case it’s holding, so now it is; and, two, there is now a self-centering action since the shellholder is free to move a tad. Always keep in mind that we’re dealing with small “tads” (0.001s of inches) and even though it might not be visibly noticeable, this floating setup will result in better alignment.

shellholder clip
Here’s an easy trick that will, not may, improve alignment in die ops. The ultimate result from all these steps is a more concentric round of ammunition, and most seem to think that’s worthwhile… It is.

TWO: Flatten the die lock ring. The next little help is to get the die body and press ram as closely aligned as we can. There’s a lot of gap resultant from the helix of 14-pitch threads. After adjusting the die body downward to produce the amount of case shoulder set-back you want, run a case fully into the die and, holding pressure (lightly, not forcibly) down against the press handle, secure the locking ring. This will ensure that the die is sitting “flat” atop the press. Then ONLY install and remove the die using the locking ring itself! Never the die body. By the way, and this actually is important: I don’t like lock rings that secure via a set screw; I prefer those that offer a clamping-style effect. The little set screw will lever against the angled threads on the die body and that, alone, can tilt the lock ring.

handling die by lockring
Once you get the dies secured as outlined here, handle them ONLY by their lock rings. That ensures all the careful prep stays intact. It also means no change of altering the die height, an asset toward maintaining correct case shoulder set back and also consistent bullet seating depths.

If you’re using a standard-form full-length sizing die, it will have an expander ball or sizing button (either term applies the same, just varies with who’s literature you’re reading). This part is mounted to the decapping stem and functions to open up the inside case neck after the case neck has been outside-sized by the die interior area. Depending on the difference in diameters between the newly-sized case neck inside diameter and the sizing button diameter, that’s more or less stress and friction the neck endures.

clamp-style lock rings
I use clamping-style die body lock rings, like these from Forster. Those with a set screw can tilt the lock ring when the screw tightens in against the angled threads.

I’ve talked more than a few times about the value of polishing the expander to reduce friction, but you still need then to make sure it’s sitting dead center within the die. So…

THREE: Align the expander ball. There’s a little bit of “feel” involved in this step, but it’s not hard to develop. The idea is to tighten the locking screw that secures the decapping stem against movement while the expander ball is captive in the sized case neck. After adjusting stem height (and, by the way, noticing the relatively huge amount of free movement the stem has) run a case up fully into the die and then retract it until you feel the expander engage within the case neck. Stop there. Now apply a little pressure against the press handle going the other direction (as if running the case back up) as you tighten the lock ring on the expander stem. That just set the expander in the center. If you have the tooling to determine this, select a case that represents your better examples of case neck wall thickness consistency for ultimate results.

 

expander ball adjustment
When it’s possible, and it usually is, secure locks for the pieces-parts when they’re doing their jobs. For instance, tightening the lock on a decapping stem when the expander is holding inside the case neck helps bring the stem into centered alignment, and the expander along with it.

Moving to the “other” die, the seater, the first step is the same as for the sizing die: flatten its seat atop the press, and that’s done pretty much in the same as for the sizing die. Instead of running a case into the die, though, I set an adequate number of flat washers atop the shellholder to bear some pressure against the die bottom. Then…

FOUR: Center the seater stem. Just like with the decapping stem, there’s thread play in the seating stem. Move the stem more toward an aligned center by simply securing its lock nut when there’s a bullet bearing up against the seating plug. As said, select a case with consistent neck walls to get best results. Now. The only foible with this is when you change seating depths by threading the stem up or down. It’s easy enough to repeat this op-step, but remember to do it. The BEST defense against alignment issues is purchase and use of a “competition”- or “benchrest”-style seating die. I’m talking about those having a spring-loaded sleeve that accepts the case fully before being run up to engage the seating plug. But, those still need to have their seating plug centered following the same sort of process used in these other “tricks”: snug the lock over a little pressure. That only has to be done once, though, for this die type.

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

REVIEW: A Long-Range Story: Hornady 4DOF Ballistics Calculator

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Here’s a new ballistics calculator that takes four important ballistic factors into account, not just BC, to provide radically more precise calculated bullet flight figures. Here’s how it works…

4DOF

by Richard Mann

The new Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator is so precise because it combines what Hornady calls the Four Degrees of Freedom. In other words, it takes into account windage, elevation, range, and angle of attack to generate a drag coefficient.

4 DOF

Recently, a few magazine editors visited for a week. Egos were on display and opinions were as thick as brass on the range at Gunsite Academy. The purpose of this get-together was to test about two dozen rifles, some purpose-built for connecting at extended distances. I have access to a 1,700-yard range and we spent the day there. My 17-year-old son, Bat, served as the official “range rat.”

After our 500-yard testing was complete, I told my associates I needed to get the DOPE (data of previous engagement) on my son’s African rifle. This would save a trip back to the range and give him some time behind the gun as payment for the support role he’d been filling.

The previous evening we had chronographed the Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X load for the 6.5 Creedmoor my son would be using. That velocity, along with the bullet and related specifics were entered into Hornady’s 4DOF ballistic calculator, which is available online. I’d printed the results and our goal was to confirm elevation come-ups out to 500 yards. Amazingly, this was done with 5 shots; my son connected center target at 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards. The data generated by the Hornady 4DOF calculator was spot-on.

Bat was having fun and shooting well, and since he now had the attention of the visiting editors, I figured, what the heck, he might as well try 700 yards. His first shot at 700 was about 2 inches high so he made a .25-MOA correction and fired again. Center hit! Now he really had their attention.

The next farthest target was at what I was told was 1,100 yards, and Bat asked if he could take a poke. I was skeptical and worried he’d blow the impression he’d already made on these experts, but figured the boy deserved a chance. The Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator data called for a 38.25-MOA adjustment at 1,100 yards. I got on the spotting scope and told him, “Send it.” He did, and he missed high, by what appeared to be several feet.

I Instructed Bat to walk the reticle in the Bushnell 2.5-10X Engage riflescope — yes, this was a 10X riflescope — down 1 MOA at a time. At 3 MOA below center, I called the shot just left. (Wind is a terrible thing at 1,100 yards.) My instructions were to keep the same elevation hold but to also hold 2 MOA off the right edge. He pulled the trigger six times and achieved six hits. The onlookers were stunned, I however, was confused.

With the 4 DOF calculator from Hornady you can input your data and go to the range with total confidence it will be precise. Of course, remember, garbage in, garbage out. You have to input the right information.

4DOF printout

How could the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator data be so correct out to 700 yards and be off so much at 1,100? A range finder and a return to the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator answered the question. Instead of 1,100 yards, the target was at 1,048 yards. Resetting the Hornady 4DOF calculator to display come-ups in increments of 10 yards, it showed the proper correction for that distance to be 35.25 MOA. With our original 38.25-MOA correction we were 3 MOA or about 33 inches high. Had we known the correct range to the target, the 4DOF-generated data would have allowed for an easy first or, since we had a bit of wind, second-round hit.

What makes all this possible is the math and mechanics behind the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator system. Its four degrees of freedom, taking into account windage, elevation, range, and angle of attack, allow trajectory solutions to be calculated with a drag coefficient instead of a ballistic coefficient (BC). It’s also the first publicly available ballistics calculator capable of determining the accurate vertical shift a bullet experiences as it encounters a crosswind, which is known as aerodynamic jump.

By using Doppler radar and actually shooting bullets, Hornady calculates the exact drag curve for every projectile in the 4DOF Bullet Library. (Currently there are more than 100 projectiles from Hornady, Lapua, Berger and Sierra.) BC can change as velocity changes, a drag curve doesn’t. Explained simply, instead of using BC, which gives you a snapshot of a bullet at various distances; Hornady has created a video of the bullet’s flight. This allows the 4DOF calculator to predict drop with perfection at any distance, every time.

The takeaway from all this — the one that’ll matter to you and your ammo — is that the Hornady 4DOF ballistic calculator is extraordinarily precise. Taking data this exact to the field on a first try is as rare as 17-year-old boys who can hit at 1,100 yards, six times in a row.

Check it out HERE

Download the app HERE for iOS

Download the app HERE for Android

RELOADERS CORNER: Problems Dies Can Have

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Reloading problem? First make sure it’s not your tools… Here are a few things that can happen, and how to correct them.

Glen Zediker

Over years and years (and years) I’ve encountered a few factory-faulty sizing and seating dies, and associated pieces-parts. It’s not at all common, but it happens, or has happened, enough that I wanted to share a few stories as to what these problems come from, and how to identify (and correct) them.

As has been my norm here of late, yep: got a phone call from a fellow having problems with a new 28 Nosler. Took a while to get through this one… Turned out that the sizing die was the culprit. Wasn’t easy to sleuth but there’s a Zen tenet that paraphrases to this: If you’re not sure what something is, then carefully consider all the things that it is not; what’s left is the answer…

forster concentricity fixture
A concentricity fixture is a handy tool to help identify any issues a sizing or seating die has.

By the way, I’m not going to mention brand names for one good reason: I’ve seen or been presented with issues in dies from every major maker.

Sizing die problems I have either encountered first-hand or been witness to via my circle have most often been a full-length die that will not adequately set a case shoulder back where we want to take it. Conversely, it’s much more common to have a die that’s erring on the more extreme end of that, and erring toward “too much” sizing potential is logically a direction a die maker might take to accommodate more circumstances. Once the shellholder is making full and flush contact with the die bottom, that’s all she wrote. Continuing to turn the die body downward does nothing but stress the press and possibly damage the die. To get the case farther up into the die, either thin the shellholder top surface or grind the bottom of the die hisself. Neither are hand-tool operations! Get to a local gunsmith or machinist.

Look at a hair from your head and that’s ballpark 0.004-0.006 inches. It doesn’t take much at all to make the difference between smooth function and a bolt that won’t close.

loaded round runout
Check loaded rounds to point out bullet seater problems. Check sized rounds to point out sizing die issues. Removing the expander and checking neck runout on a sized round usually points out any problem with the die itself. It should spin with no to very little runout.

Check out Midsouth tools HERE

Most sizing dies are reamed one-piece, one-shot like a rifle chamber; however, that’s not always the method. Some are done in two or more steps, using two or more cutting tools. Clearly, consistency and correctness favors the one-piece reamer. Assuming that the reamer is correct and correctly used. I have encountered one die that just wasn’t concentric, body chamber to neck area. I figured that one out by sizing without the expander and checking runout, and also by finding that I could shift off-center axis by rotating the (marked) case and running through again. Normally, sizing a case without the expander in place results in a case that runs flat-line on a concentricity fixture. Reason is primarily because any inconsistency in the case neck walls get “pushed” to the inside case neck. But if there’s wobble in a case that’s been sized sans expander, then, son, you got a die problem.

A bent or bowed expander stem will, not can, result in an expander that’s going to cock the case neck one direction. I watch for that when I polish the expander button. As described here before, that process involves chucking the stem (lightly) in an electric drill and spinning the ball against some wet emery to give the ball a shine. If it’s wobbling during this operation, that’s a problem.

polished expander
With one particular brand of bullets (which were a tad amount smaller diameter than usual) I experienced inadequate bullet grip, insufficient to retain the bullet in the case neck on magazine-fed rounds. That wasn’t really a die problem, but the (simple) solution was to reduce the expander ball diameter. The die maker replaced the stem assembly for me so I didn’t have to apply that extra tension to rounds loaded with my usual bullet brand. When you polish the expander (and you will do that right?) notice if there’s wobble. Don’t accept it.

Seating die issues, in my experience, usually revolve around plain old straightness of the seating stem, and, once, the concentricity of the reamed case body area. If you have a seating die that increases runout compared to what a concentricity fixture showed on the sized case neck, it needs looked into. Additionally, always (always) check to make sure the seating plug (the area that fits over the bullet to push it into the case neck) is deep enough the the bullet tip does not make contact with the inside of the plug. That’s a sure way to get a bullet tipped off kilter.

bullet seating stem check
Always check to see that the tip of the (longest) bullet you use doesn’t contact the inside of the seating die plug. If it does it will get skewed.

Now. Most importantly: What to do if you suspect a tooling problem? Short answer is: SEND IT BACK. Don’t accept it. I know of no maker who won’t profusely apologize and promptly return a new one. The fixes I mentioned are for those who prefer to solve such issues, and also for those who have the means to effect repairs. The point to this article mostly is to be aware that problems can and do exist, and don’t accept them, whichever direction you seek for the solution.

No matter how precisely a die maker produced the parts, there is and will be some gap in threaded pieces. This can disguise itself as a “die” problem, but it’s really not. It’s a set-up problem. I did an article a good while back here on a few ideas on improving tool/case alignment via some set-up tricks, and maybe that should be the next topic under the Reloaders Corner banner.

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.