Tag Archives: Glen Zediker

RELOADERS CORNER: Salvage

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You’re stuck with a lot of loser loads. Now what? READ MORE

Glen Zediker

Last time I threw out a circumstance where, during the will and want to deliver high-volume output a mistake was made and the result is that you’re left with honking pot full of substandard ammo. We talked about what might have gone wrong, but probably the worst is there’s something that’s created a load too hot. Too much pressure. There are other dimensional issues as well that might prevent graceful reuse. But, for the most part, unless the load produced is well over pressure, I’d be looking to send them downrange. Cut my losses, get the cases back, start over.

Directional miscues are pretty clearly decided on how to overome. Bullets out too far? Seat them deeper. It’s not going to be so little that there won’t be some influence, but not enough to escalate pressures.

I can’t say “how much” overpressure is safe to shoot, but can tell you that it’s likely to be a good deal more than you might think. Now, this doesn’t have to do accuracy or manners, just safety. That’s also not a recommendation from me to willingly ignore your own instincts. There’s varying of degrees or levels of abuse to be enured.

Digging all the way out from under this problem is also liable to require the use of specialty tooling, something like, dare I say, a bullet puller. One of these will salvage both propellant and bullet, and give the opportunity to crank right back up and a have another go at it. I have shot a plenty of pulled bullets and into very small shot groups. It was once popular among mil-spec-type target shooters to break down M193, replace the 55 gr. with a commercial 52, 53, or 55 match bullet and head to the firing line. Groups would be about 60-percent smaller. Right, just pull them and replace them. No extra sizing, no nothing.

Forster is my first choice for a bullet puller because it’s simple an fast, and because it allows the reuse of a bullet. It’s tedious, but way on better than the headache created by a kinetic type puller.

Back to the start: preparation prevents problems, as long as paying attention is involved! Taking time to make notes and run a checklist helps keep race cars on the track and airplanes in the air, and handloading ammunition safe. Take the time.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in Glen’s Top-Grade Ammo. Available at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads. Also, check out our new lineup of eBOOKS!

RELOADERS CORNER: House Arrest Handloading

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It’s on and we’re in and it’s pretty clear what might be a good focus during these times. A few thoughts coming next HERE

Glen Zediker

Corona, Covid-19, is daggone serious. I’m beyond on board taking the precautions I can to protect myself and mine. It can and has killed people. I have to keep that firmly in mind because about the time “we,” or at least those more immediately in vicinity where I live, really started to get into lockdown, shutdown mode now seems like a good while distant. Covid-19 isn’t nearly over with. It’s not yet even hit its stride. I’m not at all saying that to alarm or concern, just to keep firmly in mind that it looks like we’ll be all beyond arm’s length for a good long while.

Some of us will have more or less time on our hands.

But! Since we are interested in shooting, it sho could be worlds worse. There are so many ways to continue to productively participate in elements of our world. And, honestly, that’s an understatement. Some genuinely valuable things can be done and learned following a shooting focus away from target time.

I read and receive a lot of messages from handloaders digging into put-off projects (usually involving case prep or segregation, stockpiling, and on down a long list of opportunities to “finally” get something done that had been pushed back).

You might think about reviewing some of the Reloaders Corner articles in the past with respect to prep and segregation means, and also those dealing with ideas on how to bring the loading machinery into a little more comfortable, closer proximity. And! Always follow all the same rules, especially about cleaning up a the end of a loading session. Don’t leave primers or propellant to sit open.

We could all come out of this with from a little to a lot improved handloading accomplishments. Okay. I am admittedly grasping at straws, folks, because I’d rather just get back to normal, but I can tell you that shooting-related interests are way (way) easier to maintain and improve, certainly compared to something like mountain biking when there’s a forced layoff.

The status of range time access gets different answers. I know that virtually every organized tournament, outdoor or indoor, has been cancelled or postponed. I also just today see some conflicting views on the essential or non-essential angle of shooting ranges.

Finally, it looks like Reloaders Corner and the MSS Blog might be more frequent over the next bit, so keep looking for new material in these pages.

Check out Glen’s newest book America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Available at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

RELOADERS CORNER: When You Can’t Always Get What You Want

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And here’s hoping that, if you try sometimes, you get what you need. Sorry Mick. READ MORE

weigh brass

Glen Zediker

Yet one mo time: the topic for Reloaders Corner comes from recent letters on a topic, and this time it’s brass. Specifically, some were asking me about this and that such and such brands of brass that I’d had no direct experience with. The reason for the question was because my long-standing and well-known in-print recommendations had, for these folks, just not been possible to find. They were, by the way, looking for “good” brass, which can mean different things, but mostly new cases that were going to be consistent and had nothing that wouldn’t recommend them, if that made sense. If it didn’t, it means that the cases weren’t unusually hard or soft, or expensive, or, generally, exhibiting low or quirky quality.

These were competitive shooters, NRA High Power Rifle, by they way.

Anyone who’s read much from me on this topic knows I’m partial to American-made cases, WW in particular, and also (now) Nosler. Nosler isn’t cheap. You would also know that I am not a fan of European brands. I have used and continue to use a good deal of Lapua because I have a good deal of it, but it tends to be virtually perfect in dimension but soft in composition. And, gas gun or not, I do not like soft brass.

For this next to be as helpful as I’d hope it might be, the circumstance is this: We are going to try a few before we commit. We’re first going to buy a box before we get a case.

So after opening a container of new brass, how do you know “what you’ve got”? Have to find some way to measure it, then measure it, and start quantifying its quality or suitability. There are a few different checks myself and others make that provide numbers we can use to represent consistency. For the most part, and this will likely get the most support in agreement from others reading this now, case wall thickness consistency might well trump other checks that can be made. Of course (of course) there are tools that make this job — measuring wall thickness at 4 points around a case neck — easier and faster. Related but not exactly the same thing is running the new cases through a concentricity fixture (a “spinner”) that will show how much runout a case neck has. To make that truly reliably viable, though, all the cases much first be sized to round out the case neck cyclinder. That might not be such a chore, though, because in fact all those cases are going to need sized before they can be used. Otherwise, and this takes only a quick look to know, new case mouths are usually bent up and not nearly ready to accept a bullet.

There’s another way. Weigh them! Weigh them all. After a few tries and a few notes, you’ll get an idea of what represents the higher, lower weight range. Moving them into piles, a pattern, I guess we could call it, shows up. As with any segregation, the tolerance you’re setting determines on how many piles, but I suggest and try to keep it to three. Separation increments that are realistic and influential for case weight segregation varies on the physical size of the case and, of course, the tickiness of the operator. Again, though, if you weigh 100 cases and you have your numbers and your piles, you’ll start to see how both your criteria and your test pieces are relating. If your piles have cases that are under 1.0 grain difference each, meaning less than 3.0 grains total weight variance, that’s good! Really good. There are other surfaces (case rim for instance) where a little more or less material here and there contribute to the weight.

weigh cases
Weighing is going to be a little faster check especially when there’s a good number of cases in the mix. A good electronic scale makes it way on easier.

Weight is not (not nearly) an indicator of case wall thickness consistency. Well, or if it is, that’s sho not what the scale is directly showing you. It’s also not a direct indication of case volume, or of anything else for that matter! It is only showing a weight on each case. However! Over almost a half century messing with all this, I can tell you that — for some reason — it does without a doubt matter! It may only be some sort of clue to the “overall” quality of manufacture, I honestly don’t know.

I suggest it as an alternative to more “direct” means to gauge case quality just because everyone has a scale and initial weight readings are fairly fast and decidedly easy to take.

Now. Read just a little on this on the interweb and you’ll see weight segregation is most often discounted heavily as a viable criteria. As with much of what else you’ll read on the interweb it tends to be posted by folks who are long on opinion and short on resume. Right. They know it all but don’t actually go out and win anything.

weigh cases
Don’t confuse segregation means with segregration criteria. Case weight is not the same as wall thickness. Sorting by weight says you found the cases that weighted more nearly the same. They will, I assure you, shoot better than employing no segregation means.

One last, speaking of folks with impressive resumes, I know a good number of shooters on the U.S. Palma Team. These folks are all big into weight segregation. Since “real” Palma is fired with drawn ammo, the proven best way to find out which rounds in a box are going to shoot the closest together is simply to weigh all the loaded rounds and separate them by weight. That’s proven to do better than any other means for measure. It honestly does work for cases too.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in Glen’s newest book America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Available at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

RELOADERS CORNER: Crimp

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More “factory tricks” can be applied to handloads, if you feel a need. READ MORE

crimp
To get a sano crimp, the bullet has to have a crimping groove, or cannelure, for the case mouth to roll into, and the die itself has to be internally dimensioned to accommodate it.

Glen Zediker

A commonly used tactic in a factory round is a crimp to help hold the bullet in place before it’s launched, especially when there is a heavy bullet and heavy recoil. Inertia generated within the gun, in a big part, can make the bullet shift, usually outward (common in a magnum revolver). A crimp also helps guard against a bullet seating more deeply, as when there might some stubbing contact as the round is chambered.

For a true factory style roll crimp, the bullets must have a cannelure, or “crimping groove.” This is a ring cut into a portion of the bullet’s major diameter. The edge of the case mouth is turned or folded (“rolled”) into this groove to complete the crimp. The bullet seating die has to be tooled to provide this effect when it’s adjusted properly to engage the crimping groove. Not all seating dies can provide crimp.

If your die allows it, to get a crimp, adjust bullet seating depth to put the cannelure so it’s right on the end of the case mouth. Then adjust the die body downward to engage the crimping ledge so it will pinch the edge of the case mouth into the groove.

crimp
Here’s a good example of a good application of crimp. This 300 Blackout subsonic has a heavy bullet that otherwise can be prone to shift as a result of intertia induced forces at work during action cycling.

I don’t usually use a factory style roll crimp because I’ve never felt need for it, and also I convinced myself that it can’t be a good idea (ever) to squeeze in on a bullet, or not when best group size is the goal. Another reason is that I very rarely use a bullet that has a cannelure. However! I concede those times when it is a benefit. I crimp magnum handgun loads.

Also, if you crimp, it’s clear there are strict and unweilding limitations on bullet seating depth and also that all the cases have to be the same height for it to work properly, and that means at least a little additional tedium from efforts in case trimming.

crimp
Lee has a really good setup, in my experience and opinion, for those who want to closely duplicate factory treatment. It’s their “Factory Crimp” die.

An alternative to a roll crimp is a “taper crimp.” This is popular with practical-style pistol competitors and also with a couple of commercial .223 Rem. loaders I know. A taper crimp die does what it suggests or sounds like it does: it squeezes in some portion below the case mouth against the bullet using a gentle taper. Anyone who’s loaded straight-walled cases knows about “belling” the case mouth. Belling makes a little funnel-edge on the case mouth to allow easy entry for a bullet. That tiny trumpet-shaped area then needs to be ironed back flat so the round will chamber, and the seating die has a portion within it dimensioned and devoted to this chore. A taper crimp die works in the same, just more.

crimp
Here’s a taper crimp die. These give a progressive and relatively gentle squeeze down that adds a little more grip againt the case neck. It’s also an asset to feeding for a semi-auto.

And, as said, a taper crimp is a stand-alone die, which means it’s best used in a turret or progressive style press. Its use effectively increases the grip against the bullet. Some say it’s an asset to reliable feeding, and I can agree with that given straight-wall cases, but I don’t think it helps a bottleneck case in this regard. It will, however, keep the bullet better in place against outside forces seeking to change its location.

crimp
A healthy crimp is common also in hard kicking heavy bullet rounds like magnums. The idea here is to keep the other bullets in place in reaction to the firing forces trying to dislodge them.

Last, for now, is that there are also a good many who claim that crimping is an asset to improving round to round velocity consistency. Judge that, along of course with your chronograph, but I have yet to see it in rifle ammunition. Some pistol ammo, yes.

Check out Midsouth taper crimp dies HERE

Lee “Factory Crimp” HERE

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s newest book America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Available at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

RELOADERS CORNER: Factory Tricks

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A few factory “tricks” can be applied to handloads, if you feel a need. READ MORE

ammo storage
Handling precautions during round assembly and then good storage afterward extends the shelf life of reloads.

Glen Zediker

Last time we took a look at some of the differences between factory-loaded ammo and our own recipe handloads. That material wasn’t a total indictment on factory ammo as might have been expected coming from me and directed toward mine, and that’s because there are some times ready-made has its place.

One of the main-most good things that can be said about factory ammo is that it has a shelf life that, given decent storage conditions, will likely exceed that of handloads. Or not. “Not” depends on what steps or processes were applied to the handload.

Sealants
The main culprit in decreasing stored life of a loaded round results from corrosion. Some call it “sticktion,” and I’ve had it happen a few times. What it is, is the case neck and bullet corrode — stick — together. That will elevate pressure. I had a rash of blown primers from the batch I used.

There are a few ideas on how to reduce or eliminate stiction, and the first starts with eliminating the catalyst for the corrosion. Don’t touch the bullets with your bare fingers! Don’t touch the cases either. I know a few commercial loaders who produce precision ammunition and they’re all about surgical-style gloves.

I have run some tests using bullet sealant (applied as a liquid then UV-cured) and such a product will, indeed, virtually eliminate any worries over corrosion. Most factory, and virtually all mil-spec, ammo uses some formulation of sealant (bullets and primers). The reason I tried it, though, was because of the promise of greater accuracy. Glued bullets tend to produce from a little to a lot smaller velocity spreads. My jury is still out on the value of this additional step, and when there’s a verdict I’ll let you all know how it played out.

reloading sealant
Here’s a simple and easy sealant that works well. One bottle will last about 1000 rounds. Check it out at Midsouth HERE.

There are a few different bullet and primer sealers available. For the most part, these are fairly easy to apply and none are what I’d call expensive.

Giving loaded rounds a good cleaning, and then storing them at the least in air-resistant boxes, keeps the shine on and the corrosion away for a good long while.

Some run their loaded rounds in a routine-type case cleaner, like a vibratory tumbler. That’s all good, but I suggest not using anything but “pure” media to ensure that no residues are left behind.

I use denatured alcohol and a bath towel: place the rounds on half the towel, pour on the alcohol, fold over the towel and roll the rounds around. Let them dry and box them up.

Handling precautions during round assembly and then good storage afterward extends the shelf life of reloads.

More about another factory trick — crimping — next time.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

RELOADERS CORNER: Factory Ammo

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Factory ammo is a fact of firearms life. How does it relate to us, as handloaders, and, how do we relate to it? READ MORE

factory ammo
Trying a boxfull of a few different ideas might help settle on what ends up being handloaded. There’s a lot out there to try.

Glen Zediker

I’ve long been an ammo snob because of my focus on target sports, and on the creation of ammo for same (a focus both for myself and for my published materials). If you’re building ammo to stake a score on then it has to be the best, it has to be custom, and that is a substantial investment in a lot of time and tools. And testing. Testing testing testing.

I’m now shooting more factory-made rounds than ever, and one reason is because of I’m doing a lot more work with more varied firearms. For me, handloading is a serious step up, not a casual step in. I don’t load for several of the different guns I have because of that. My son, Charlie, has been doing a good deal of published reviews, for instance, and neither of us is about to set up a station just to test a firearm chambered in anything we don’t already load for.

factory ammo
I keep this sort of thing on hand, and I also use the “better” grade of mil-spec for use in my guns. Hornady Frontier works well.

factory ammo

I also have come to accept that it may be a more fair test of a gun to run ready-made through it, but only because that is how it’s usually done: get a gun, get a few boxes of ammo, go to the range, and see what you have. I have every confidence that, given enough of that time and testing, I can make any rifle out there shoot better with a handload — I’ve seen that over and over and over again. But, I say factory ammo is a fair test because overall and after enough different tests with different guns there will be a pattern develop reflecting ammo quality. There are, therefore, decided performance tendencies I’ve seen in factory ammo, and, as with many things that have, at a base level, cost as a variable — it’s predictable.

“Premium” factory ammo shoots better! Of course it does. That’s assembled with, mostly, a quality bullet. For rifles it’s the barrel, for ammo it’s the bullet that matters most. So, if you’re wanting to see how well your new gun can shoot, choose a box of factory ammo that’s got the better bullet. That also gives you the chance to get started assembling a component list when you spool up the press to make your own for it. If you doubt that, ask any old NRA High Power Rifle shooter about “Mex-Match.” And, since I’m handy, I’ll tell you! Pull the bullet from a mil-spec load and replace it with a commercial match-grade bullet of a suitable weight. Groups shrink 50-60%.

The Value Of Factory Ammo
Are there times when factory is prefereable to custom?

Yes. At least, maybe.

factory ammo
This is what sits in my magazines that sit in or near my guns kept at the ready. I don’t bust clods with it. I don’t handload NATO-spec.

I keep factory ammo in my “ready mags.” That might surprise some. Yes, of course I “trust” my handloads. Usually, though, I won’t be shooting a lot of whatever is loaded into my house gun, and that’s all about bullets. I’ll shoot a ton of handloaded rounds through my main carbine, but not with the bullet I want being there if needed.

On that topic: it is the bullet options that factory ammo provides that can give it an edge over a routine-use handload. For instance, some of the “specialty” defensive or hunting factory recipes use bullets that often aren’t even available otherwise (or not readily). Or, and as said, it’s a better value all-around to get a few boxes of what you have chosen to represent best fulfillment of needs, get a zero with some, and then keep the rest at the ready, than it is to load them yourself. That requires routine load recipe testing, which requires purchase of more bullets, maybe different propellants, and so on.

Plus, since most are treated to sealant or at the least little to no contact with humans, there’s less chance of “stiction,” which can and will happen. (That’s when the bullet “freezes” in the case neck, and it raises pressure.) I’ve seen it, and it’s from plain corrosion, which is fueled mostly from handling the components. I’ve had it turn up in rounds loaded for no more than a year (and they popped a few primers). Some use latex gloves, and I started up that after this experience.

Specifics
First I apologize for this short list because there’s a lottamo out there. I only feel right, right now, about telling you what I have used that I really like.

Of the factory ammo I’ve shot, and this is across a range of cartridges, the Hornady line has overall been the most impressive. That’s for handguns and rifles. Hornady has a wide range of specialized loads (specialized bullets) that are well thought out, and, by my experience, well constructed. Stuff shoots well! For instance, their lower-cost “mil-spec” simply shoots better than others similar I’ve tried. Likewise, for hunting, defense, and targets, there will very likely be a load that’s been well-proven. Again, it’s usually the bullet that’s the difference. I shot a lot of good scores with Hornady bullets in my handloads, and some of their designs for impact effectiveness have proven themselves indeed effective.

I also like Nosler. It’s not cheap. Neither are the bullets or brass used in it! Nosler has been my go-to for .223 Rem. brass for a good while. Its quality is very good and it’s ready to load right out of the box, and it’s tough enough. I switched to Nolser match bullets also. I mostly got to shooting Nosler factory ammo when I got my 22 Nosler. Hornady has a wider selection for different needs, but my experience has been that I haven’t found anything that beats Nosler on-target. And I get to keep the cases!

I’m leaving a lot of makers out. Clearly, there is good and not good factory-loaded ammo. Those I know with a lot more rounds downrange from freshly-factory-sealed containers have good things to say about Federal Premium, and often favor Black Hills, and also agree with me about Hornady and Nolser.

Variety
There are a lot (a lot a lot) of options in bullets especially for .300 Blackout, for instance. The Blackout is that much more variable because of super- and subsonic.

factory ammo
Those specializing in specialized ammo often have more than one take on a load concept. Here are two subsonic developments from Hornady: a little heavier and a little lighter.

The .223 Rem. range, along with other popular cartridges, includes the “target” use loadings. Some are pretty good. However! I honestly think there’s a tad amount, to a lot, of kidding the self to think it will be better than what you can load for yourself. If you want to really find out how well your gun shoots, getchaseff to the loading bench.

As suggested, it might be wise to try a few factory loads in a new gun before making the investment in choosing components for your handloaded ammo to come.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s newest book America’s Gun: The Practical AR15. Available at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

RELOADERS CORNER: Press Tricks, Linkage

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Reloading press designs vary, and some offer advantages, if they’re needed. Read more about which, what, and why HERE

rcbs summit
RCBS Summit

Glen Zediker

This is the last (for now) look at reloading press designs and features, and it’s all about power — leverage and linkage.

The more leverage a press can generate the less input effort from us is required in performing an operation, especially a more challenging operation like reforming cartridge cases, but that’s got another side to it. A longer stroke, and a heavier mass to move, also means more exertion on each stroke, and more time spent case to case.

Since we don’t always know the ultimately most demanding operation we’ll call on a press to perform, my advice is to err on the “stronger” side, and also on the “longer” side. I prefer a press with a shorter handle stroke (and a shorter ram stroke) because it’s less tedious to operate — but that’s true only when the press ops are not taxing. Yes, I’ll explain more: when the duties are sizing small to medium sized commercial brass cases (like .223 Rem. up to .308 Win.), seating bullets, decapping, seating primers then excess press isn’t needed. But when it’s more taxing, like in the case reforming already mentioned, and also sizing once-fired military cases, or loading for a honker like .338 Lapua, a longer ram stroke and more leverage is most welcome.

reloading press design
Forster offers a shorter handle option for its CoAx because there are many who want to increase feel on some ops. The shorter handle reduces leverage.

I’ve been doing all this long enough to have collected more than one press, at more than one “size,” and I’ve used them all over a good many years. The one I use the most is on the smaller, shorter end of the press spectrum, and that is only because the most of the loading I do now is decidedly not taxing. But give me a Kroger sack full of Lake City 7.62 and my Forster CoAx or Harrell’s Sportsman is getting mounted up on the bench.

Speaking of effort, case lube is decidedly important in smoothing out taxing sizing ops. I prefer a petroleum-based lube, but that’s not meant to start an argument!

There are a few different takes on the best way to design linkage (the levering mechanism that powers the ram), including those that operate more or less upside down. I’ve not used them all but have, generally, found that handle length has the biggest influence on leverage.

reloading press design
A press that’s set up to “cam-over” really means it’s set up to flex. Any press with enough leverage can warp over on itself. This is a Harrells Sportsman: huge leverage.

Cam Over
Speaking of linkage… Some reloading presses are designed with eccentric linkage such that it’s possible to “cam” the ram. The concept involves circular motion and linear motion, meaning that when the ram traveling in a linear path reaches full extension, the linkage which is traveling in a circular path, can move through the 0-degree mark and go to a negative degree — like a crankshaft in an engine. To get a picture of this: As the handle is moved downward to elevate the ram, the ram reaches its maximum height just short of the very limit of its travel upward, and, at the last little bit, lowers. So when the handle is all the way through its arc, the press ram is sitting a little lower. This action, called “cam over,” has essentially increased “ummph” in the linkage, and it’s done that by making contact (plus) with the die.

I’m not a fan.

Now, any substantial press, whether it has eccentric linkage or not, can produce the effect of camming-over. A Forster Co-Ax, for instance, can just about crush a chrome car bumper and doesn’t have eccentric linkage. To set up that press, any press, to cam-over, turn the die a little (1/8 turn or so) downward beyond what provides full and flush contact with the shellholder when the ram is at its full height. Then, when the press handle is fully down, the additional pressure in the last bit of the handle stroke goes toward flexing the press. Simple as that, and that is what camming-over does: flex the press. And, again, that’s true whether it has eccentric linkage or not.

Don’t do it. Just don’t.

There’s no need to cam-over a press for a case-sizing operation. It creates unnecessary stress. Dies can get deformed and bent, carbide dies can break, and the press hisself can suffer, and even break. Some defend this practice by saying presses are designed to “take it,” but eventually there’s a penalty for taking any machine to its limits, continually.

The real deal is that it’s just not necessary! Using a cartridge case headspace gage to determine sizing die positioning to get the correct amount of case shoulder setback, it’s clear that sure should occur at a point short of full contact between the die bottom and the shellholder surfaces. But, and this is important, if it’s not then trying to push a case farther up into the die by crushing the shellholder against the die isn’t going to do much. Done is done. The flexing might, maybe (maybe), increase setback 0.001.

If your sizing die doesn’t adequately set back a case shoulder, then that die has to be modified by having material ground off its bottom.

Camming-over a press is a “feel-good” measure for some folks: there’s this satisfying “ka-thunk” at the limit of press handle stroke, and that lets a loader know that they gave it all it could get. I’ve also had some claim that the stress and flex brings “everything into perfect alignment.” No it doesn’t. Alignment in a press was determined by the maker, not pressure. If your press hain’t straight, bending it more won’t help.

Cam-over has its application in some bullet making operations, but those are not on-topic here.

reloading press design
Here’s eccentric linkage at work. On left is the maximum height attained by the ram; on right is the ram position at the full-limit stop on the press handle. It’s 0.020 inches on this press, a Harrells Turret.

More, And Some Is Good!
To find out if you have a “cammer” run the press ram fully up (press handle fully down) and thread a die in until it touches the shellholder. Try to move the handle back down. If it won’t budge, it’s got eccentric linkage. It won’t move because the ram is trying raise again. Back out the die until the handle moves and pulls the ram away. It’s at this point where “flush” contact with a die bottom will be. As long as the shellholder is not being contacted, presses with this sort of linkage have a smooth feel to them and do a little more positive job of sizing. In effect, the case gets sized twice (the ram elevates again just as the press handle is lowered). Linkage, either way, has zero effect on setting up a die because you measure what you get anyhow, and adjust the die accordingly, after you see what it is that you got.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

 

RELOADERS CORNER: Press Tricks

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There are a few tricks and treats, and traps, in reloading press designs and associated pieces-parts. Shellholder first. KEEP READING

shellholder tricks
I honestly have had my best luck with Lee brand. Lee is inexpensive but I’ve yet to have a bad one, or one that wouldn’t work on different press brands (and I’m not alone in this opinion; a famous Benchrest competitor gave me the “Lee tip”). SEE IT HERE

Glen Zediker

Last couple of editions started a “press primer,” and this one should finish it off, at least for now.

Shell Holder Options
A correctly dimensioned and well machined shell holder is absolutely necessary.

Small differences in individual shellholders, and certainly in different brands of shellholders, mean that a shellholder change makes it necessary to check case sizing and bullet seating results again. Adjustment will likely be required. If a shellholder is a little bit thicker or thinner such as will influence the cartridge case “height,” then that’s transferred to the end result as measured in, for instances, cartridge case headspace and bullet seating depth.

That is exploited by some who produce shellholders with varying heights. These come in a set and have incremental differences that allow you to move a case up or down by swapping the shellholder. If you load for different rifles using the same die, and if these rifles all have a different ideal cartridge case headspace, for instance, then there can be less compromise without having to use a different sizing die.

shellholder tricks
Redding offers shellholders with varying heights to allow for small effective changes in sizing. Handy, for instance, for someone who loads for more than one rifle and wants to use the same die. There are 5 holders, each with 0.002-in. height difference. SEE IT HERE

Not all shell holders are interchangeable! They’re supposed to be, generally, but I’ve purchased different brands for use in differently branded presses, and they won’t fit.

Shellholder Tricks
Speaking of fit, check over a new shellholder for burrs and make sure it fits fully and freely into its slot in the press ram. And, speaking of its slot in the press ram, I have long been a believer in getting rid of the “spring clip” virually all presses use to secure the shellholder in place. The spring clip sits the shellholder askew atop the ram.

This clip can be removed. I use an o-ring as can be found at a real hardware store to fit into the outside slot formerly occupied by the clip. The elastic o-ring keeps the shellholder from coming slap out, but also takes a little (to a lot) of getting used to because the shellholder is free to spin and shift. It no longer snaps satisfyingly and firmly into place.

shellholder tricks
I’ve shown this before but it (really) works well to improve alignment odds. Canning the shellholder retaining clip so the part can sit flush and move a little helps it all self-center. This is a 7/8 o.d. x 11/16 i.d. x 3/32 thick o-ring that suits most press rams.

This arrangement lets the shellholder fit flat-flush against the ram and, very important, allows some “wiggle room” to let the shellholder float so the cartridge case can seek its own center as it enters the die.

I am absolutely convinced that a floating shellholder is a big help toward attaining concentricity in a round.

All mating parts surfaces have to have a tolerance. Lower (closer gaps) is better, but it can’t get too low or the dang parts won’t fit together. The way I see it, the more room for movement the bigger trick it is to get everything in alignment, if we want to lock it all in-line. Shellholders are fairly loose all around: the shellholder has to fit into the press ram slot and then the case has to fit into the shellholder and these fits are fairly free. Attempts to lock a shellholder in place, frankly, are contrary to best alignment, with maybe one exception.

On the other end of this, and this qualifies as a press “trick,” Forster has its own take on shellholder design. The Co-Ax shellholder uses what amounts to clamping jaws that are engineered to take up the slack in each individual case and lock it in dead alignment with the press ram. I’ve used Forster long enough and made enough gage checks, and shot enough high-x cleans with the resulting rounds produced on this machine, to tell you that it it, indeed, works. Years ago I tried an aftermarket add-on version of this concept produced by Quietics, makers of the original “inertia” bullet puller. It’s still available. Like the Forster, the same setting will work with a variety of cartridge sizes and that was the main draw to this “universal” shellholder.

shellholder tricks

shellholder tricks
Forster uses a proprietary system that gets a case centered with the ram and keeps it securely centered during a die op. Their Co-Ax design is pretty much a clamping shellholder. SEE IT HERE

Keep the shellholder and its slot clean. As often said, running a separate decapping station keeps the majority of gritty gunk off the main press parts.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

 

REL0ADERS CORNER: Reloading Presses: Options

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A very “busy” reloader might consider a turret press to save on time. Read all about why HERE

turret press

Glen Zediker

Last time I wrote about the most basic and essential of all reloading tools: the single-stage press. They come in a few shapes and all sizes. Which you choose, as said, has much to do with how much leverage you need to perform the toughest operations you face on the loading bench.

Beyond size, however, there are other options in a press, and some might suit your needs best. The first that comes to mind is a turret. I’m a fan of turret presses, and for reasons that will be pointed out throughout this article.

turret press
This is a honker of a press and it’s well worth the cost. Lyman Brass-Smith. 8 station ops. And it’s actually on sale now at Midsouth so I have to back up on telling you turrets always cost more! CHECK IT OUT HERE

First, a turret is, pretty much, a single stage press that has more than one receptacle for threaded dies. Instead of threading in and out each separate die for each separate operation, just leave them in the tool head. The head on a turret press can be moved to center each die receptacle over the press ram.

turret press
Redding T-7 has been a long-time “standard” for a big turret, and that’s because it’s stout! Very heavy, very sturdy, and 7 stations. Cast iron. SEE IT HERE

turret press redding

Some turret presses are on the very heavy duty end of the press spectrum. Others not so much. A “big” Lyman, Redding, or RCBS turret press can hold enough dies to load different cartridges without changing heads, or dies. Lyman offers 8 holes, Redding 7, and RCBS has 6. If you’re using only a sizing and seating die, as might most for loading rifle rounds, you can handle more than two different cartridges without ever threading in or out a die. That, to me, is a valuable thing. The dies stay adjusted and, no doubt, either of those presses has more than plenty leverage to handle any and all sizing, reforming, and any other press ops.

Lock-N-Load AP Auto Progressive Press

Take a tour of all available reloading presses at Midsouth Shooters HERE.

The ultimate value in a turret, in my mind, is getting one that allows for straightforward tool head swaps. That way you can leave all the (adjusted) dies in the tool head and when it’s time to change cartridges, remove the head and replace it with another that also houses the necessary adjusted dies. My choice in turrets, therefore, runs on the smaller-bodied side of available options. I prefer to keep all the dies for one cartridge in one head. To that end, a 3 or 4 hole turret fits my bill. The most popular and easily available is from Lee, and I’ve used one of those for years for case forming ops. I put all the needed dies for a cartridge conversion — forming dies, trimming die — in the turret head and shuck away, moving from station to station as needed.

I have known folks who used a turret press pretty much as a “manual-automatic” progressive, and auto-indexing can be incorporated into a Lee. Crank the handle, move the turret head one hole, crank again, move the head again, and so on. That’s not my way to run one. A true progressive press is way on better if you’re looking to speed up the overall loading process. Again, turrets help us move faster because we don’t have to stop and re-up the tooling for each case operation.

turret press
The Lee Classic 4-Hole Turret has been around a while and I’ve used one for a while too. I like it fine. Heads are inexpensive and really fast to change out. I am not a fan of its auto-index, but that is easily “switched off.” SEE IT HERE

I have found that running a 4-hole turret for my personal needs in loading my NRA High Power Rifle Service Rifle ammo (for an AR15) was the without-a-doubt best way to get me through the tooling tickiness I had developed in manufacturing those rounds, which was almost always done the night before. For that rifle and that venue, I used two different bullets and two different case neck dimensions (lighter constriction for the 600 yard load) so I ran a sizing die, which was set the same for all rounds; then an inside neck sizing mandrel to alter the case neck tension; then one seating die set for 77gr. magazine-length rounds and another set for 80gr bullets. That setup occupied the 4 holes I had available in my turret head. I saved a lot of time with this setup. The dies stayed put and therefore never a worry about consistency use to use. I did index-reference all the dies using a paint marker so I could see if anything had inadvertently rotated.

turret press harrells
This is my most-used press: Harrells 4-Hole Turret. This is a small-shop precision made machine and hain’t nearly cheap. It clamps just about anywhere and can be either a 2, 3, or 4 hole depending the head plate. SEE ONE HERE

Other ideas on making full use of a turret include incorporating one of the threaded-type priming tools (such as Lee Ram Prime) or even a powder meter station (using a meter with 7/8-14 threads). Clearly, turrets are great for pistol shooters who need sizing, expanding, seating, and often a separate crimping station.

I honestly am really tempted to wholesale recommend a turret press to anyone who’s got to deal with any or certainly many of the benefit potentials mentioned. Loading for more than one cartridge, needing more than a couple of dies, and so on. Only trick is that a turret press is going to cost more money. Making a play on the old hot-rodder adage: Speed costs money, so how fast do you want to spend? Time also can cost money, and how much do you want to save? If time is more valuable to you, by all means get a turret.

turret press

And, last, even though it’s always important to keep any press cleaned and lubed, it’s even more so with a turret.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

RELOADERS CORNER: Press Principals

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This mechanism is at the heart of a rifle reloading setup, and options abound. Here’s what really matters, and how to know what you need (and what you don’t). READ MORE

coax press

Glen Zediker

A press is usually the first thing mentioned to a new handloader when the question is “What do I need to get?” Can’t, pretty much, load without one. The press houses the sizing and seating dies, and other tooling, and can also serve as a primer seater.

Shopping for presses shows a big range of prices, and sizes (usually related), and also some type or style options. The press type I’m going to be discussing here in this bit is called a “single-stage,” and it gets that name because there’s one receptacle for any thread-in appliance, such as a sizing die. It can then perform one single operation.

The standard receptacle has 7/8-14 threads.

reloaders corner presses
This represents a “big” press. Forster Co-Ax. It’s a honking piece of metal with unique and worthwhile features. Powerful leverage. I’ve got a couple of these (one for decades) and the reason I chose to use it to illustrate this article is because it’s that good. Not cheap. Not chintzy. If you get one you will never (ever)need another press, or likely want another press. See it HERE.

The main option is the size of the press, which means the press body size, ram extension distance, and handle stroke arc and length.

When is a “big” press best? When operations require big leverage. Or for really big cartridges. Or when using a press to perform an operation that’s more power hungry than case resizing or bullet seating. Given a choice of “small,” “medium,” or “large,” as many times, I’d suggest going at least “medium.” Unless, that is, you have compelling reasons to get another. Don’t underpower yourself. On the other hand, you decidedly do not (usually) need a tower of power, and might even find it’s kind of in the way.

reloaders corner presses
Here’s my “personal” press: Harrell’s Precision Compact. These are precision machined, well designed. This one, though, maxes out at a .308 Win. case length. It’s not for case forming, but routine small-case sizing ops and seating are efficient and easy. See it HERE

I like the operational efficiency of a smaller press, one that doesn’t have a big stroke arc. In sitting and doing a large number of press ops I really notice the additional effort of cycling a bigger press. However! There’s also sometimes no substitute for torque. Sizing unwieldy military cases, for instance, on a honking press takes a less effort from the self.

As I’ve mentioned in these pages before, I also like being able to move my tooling around on my workbench bench, or even into another environment. Smaller presses are easier to tote and easier to mount.

reloading presses
Here’s my recommendation for most everyone loading most any routine rifle cartridge: Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic Single Stage Press. Alloy body, plenty of window and leverage, and a most fair price. See it HERE. If you want a similar cast iron press, you cannot do better than a Redding Boss. About the same cost. See it HERE.

redding boss

It really depends on what you are loading for. A smaller, shorter case, like a .223 Rem. or 6.5 Creedmoor, or a bigger round like .30-06 or .338 Lapua? As with many things, most things maybe, going bigger to start is a better investment. By “bigger” I mean a press with a window opening big enough (or that’s what I call the open area available between the shellholder and press top) and stroke long enough to handle the longest cartridge you might tool it up for.

Does weight matter? Not really. A heavier press doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more rigid or effective (or not for that reason). Modern alloys are every bit as good as cast iron, and there was a time when I was uncertain of that. Speaking more of materials, cast iron has been, and honestly still is, the “quality” material used in press construction. Cast iron is rigid. This material is, well, cast into the essential shape of a press, and then final finished (faced, drilled, tapped, and so on). The only part of a cast iron press that’s cast iron is the body of the press. Aluminum, other alloys, or steel are used to make the linkage and handle, and other pieces parts. Cast iron can’t really bend which means it can’t warp. Cast iron just breaks when it hits its limit of integrity. It can flex (just a little) but returns perfectly. Alloys or metal combinations used in the manufacture of presses nowadays are pretty much the same in performance and behavior under pressure as cast iron. The essential compositions vary from maker to maker. I have cast alloy body presses and others that are machined from aluminum stock. These are all lighter but just as rigid as cast iron. Press architecture has a whopping lot to do with how rigid it is (and its leverage has a lot to do with linkage engineering).

What matters much is the sturdiness of the bench and how well the press is mounted to it. What might feel like press flex is liable to be in the bench, not the press, or in the press handle itself.

Alignment — straightness — matters in a press. This is the concentric relationship between the threaded tool receptacle and the press ram. They, ideally, will be dead on, zero. Then of course the die has to be “straight,” with its threads correctly cut and insides reamed on center. And then the shellholder arrangement has to likewise be dead centered with everything else. There is a lot of play in a 14 pitch thread. All this means is that a “straight” press doesn’t automatically mean you’ll not see issues with tooling concentricity. More in another article shortly, but at the least the press (body and ram) should not contribute to create concentricity miscues. I know of no manufacturer that doesn’t claim correct alignment in its product, but I also don’t know if it’s something they’ll warrant.

reloaders corner presses
I use a tiny Lee-brand press to run a Lee-brand decapping die. Keeps grunge away from the “expensive” press. Wise. This whole setup costs about $50.

Presses do require, or at least should get, maintenance. Keep it clean! There’s a lot of abrasive potential from incendiary residues, and that will, not may, wear the mechanisms. I have often and for many years recommended a separate decapping or depriming station.

CHECK OUT DECAPPING TOOLS HERE

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.