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RELOADERS CORNER: Understanding Ballistic Coefficient

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Math and myth both get involved in bullet Ballistic Coefficient discussions. Keep reading to separate the two and learn exactly what BC is, and what it isn’t. MORE

bc

Glen Zediker

Years ago I explained in great detail to a fellow here all about ballistic coefficient and how it was calculated and how it could be used and how it can change and so on, and he stopped me: “So you mean it’ll hit furtherer on up the hill…” That’s it.

A “ballistic coefficient,” or “BC,” is a number assigned to a bullet that suggests its aerodynamic performance.

That’s a key word, “suggests.” The main suggestion is how well this bullet will fly compared to that bullet, and the one with the higher BC ought to fly better. Fly better means less drop and drift, and those, factually, are a product of the higher-number BC. My best all-inclusive definition what a higher BC does for us: less speed lost over distance. Regardless of the muzzle velocity or the distance, one bullet with a higher BC will lose relatively less velocity over the same distance.

bullet blueprint
Here’s a blueprint. All the information needed to calculate a BC is contained here. It doesn’t have to be a real bullet because a BC model is not a real bullet either. Design factors that influence BC are virtually every design factor: length, ogive, boat-tail, meplat, weight. These factors, in this instance, calculate to a G1 BC of 0.560. By the way, there’s about a 5 point BC increase for each added 1 grain of bullet weight.

BC is calculated based on a standard bullet model. There are 7 of those. Two are normally used to determine BC for conventional rifle bullets, like what the most of us reading this use. Ballisticians and designers know which model to apply to different bullet types. The common model is a “G1” (another is G7, which is becoming the popular standard for boat-tail bullets; G1 is based on a flat-base). The flight of this G1 bullet has been calculated at varying velocities and distances. It’s “all math” because a G1 does not in fact exist. BCs are derived by comparison.

g1
The older standard for most rifle bullets was the G1. The newer, and better, standard is the G7. However! BC is never chiseled into stone regardless of the model. It’s a way to compare bullets, and a place to start figuring yours out.

g1 and g7

The standard bullet of any form-factor has a BC of 1.000. An actual bullet that’s compared to the model at points downrange will either be flying faster or slower than the model. If it’s moving faster, its BC will be greater than 1.000. If it’s going slower, it will be less than 1.000. It’s a percentage of the standard or model bullet’s performance.

Now. That is also all that it is!

BC is not an infallible factual statement about precisely what a bullet will be doing when it’s loaded and fired at that target than moment with that rifle. Not nearly, not hardly.

To me, BC gives us a place to start estimating drop (elevation) and also clues to how much it will get moved by a wind. It’s a way to compare bullets.

BC changes! Day to day, place to place, hour to hour.

Some bullet makers publish a BC for a bullet based on actual testing (chronographs) but now it’s pretty much “just math.” That’s fine. Which — math or measure — provides the best information? Some believe that a measured, tested BC is more realistic and, therefore, more valuable. But, if the point is to compare bullets, calculated BCs is more reliably accurate.

We (NRA High Power Rifle shooters) have gone to difficult and frustrating lengths to collect data to calculate “real” BCs (chronographing at 500+ yards hain’t always easy). Measured BCs are quite often lower, and they are quite often higher. Reasons follow.

The accuracy of drift and drop tables clearly revolves around what the actual, at that moment, BC performance is from the bullet you’re shooting (compared to what it’s “supposed” to be).

Anything that can influence bullet flight influences the actual, demonstrated BC performance.

BC uniformity is important. Bullets that show uniform BC performance produce less elevation dispersion. A source for variation is the meplat (bullet tip). Hollowpoint match bullets are notorious for inconsistency in this area. There’s a tool, a “meplat uniformer,” that fixes it. That’s pretty much the point to the plastic points on bullets like Hornady’s A-Max line.

Atmospherics, which add up as a list of factors, have a huge influence on BC performance. Air density is probably the most powerful influence. Any conditions that allow for easier passage of a bullet through the air don’t detract as much from its stated BC as do any conditions that serve to disrupt its headway. BCs are based on sea-level so can easily show as a higher number at a higher elevation. I can tell you that bullets fired at The Whittington Center in New Mexico have a noticeably better BC than those shot at Port Clinton, Ohio.

Range reality is that the demonstrated BC changes from morning to afternoon and day to day and place to place. The calculated BC is not changing, of course, but the mistake is assuming that a BC is a finite measure of bullet performance.

Bullet stability is even a factor. For a stated BC to be shown on a shot, the bullet has to be “asleep.” If it’s not stable, it’s encountering disruptions that will slow it down. The rotational speed of a bullet in a test can influence BC. We’ve seen differences comparing different twist-rate barrels, and the faster twists often show a little lower tested BC.

Factors that don’t matter in BC? Caliber. I’ve been argued at often over this next, but it is perfectly and absolutely true: BCs work the same regardless of caliber or bullet weight. Two bullets that each have a 0.550 BC, for instance, behave the same. That’s helpful, and at one time was more helpful than it is now. When we had to use paper tables to get drift and drop data and there was a new bullet that didn’t yet have those tables done, all you had to do was find data for another bullet with the same BC, go to the same muzzle velocity, and that data was 100-percent accurate. A .308 and .224 that both have the same BC share the same table. Remember, it’s not “real,” it’s a mathematical model.

So if you take a load to the target one day and you’re putting on more elevation than the BC-based calculation says you should, the BC isn’t wrong. The day is just different.

Finally, does it matter (really) if a bullet BC is based on a G1 or G7 model? Debates continue. But, not really, and I say that because BC is still only a suggestion. G7 is a more closely matched model to what we’re usually shooting when we think of a “high-BC” bullet, but all the same factors day to day also influence its accuracy. Given access to the data, I definitely, though, go with G7 calculations to have a place to start from. My experience has been that there is less difference in varying conditions, but, again, it’s still (plenty) enough change that you cannot dial it in and win anything…

The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen’s book 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: Case Trimmers

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An ideal case trimmer provides precision, speed, and affordability. Here are some ideas on avoiding compromise. READ MORE

Hornady Cam-Lok
Hornady Cam-Lock. Good trimmer at a fair price. See it HERE

Glen Zediker

At some point, or points, cases need to be trimmed to a shorter length. Brass flows. Therefore, a case trimmer is pretty much a given in the tool assortment for any handloader.

There are needs and wants, realities and ideals. That’s true with many things, and applies often to reloading equipment. Ideally, a case trimmer will go beyond just trimming the case to a shorter length. They all do that well enough. I think it’s important that a case has a square mouth — dead flat across the top. This is an asset to getting a bullet started well into the case neck during the seating operation.

A Good Trimmer
There are a variety of trimmers available from most of the popular industry tooling suppliers. And most follow a pretty similar form and formula: a little hand-cranked lathe. In these, the back end of the case is chucked into a collet-type fitting. A caliber-size pilot that’s centered in and surrounded by a cutting head goes into the case neck and supports the front of the case.

Not nearly perfect! There are a few reasons and sources for reduced precision. The tool alignment may be true at each “end” of the trimmer, but the case we’re working with probably isn’t true. Mostly, since there has to be a gap for the pilot to freely rotate, and since case neck walls aren’t all consistent in thickness, the fit isn’t close enough to prevent out-of-round rotation. Along with the inevitable case body warp there’s bound to be a tad amount of wiggle. Since the case is supported only at its head area, not by its body, there’s flex afoot.

None of that means the case neck won’t get trimmed to a shorter length, which is the general idea. It does, however, mean that it’s not liable to be perfectly squared up.

LE Wilson
LE Wilson. See it HERE at Midsouth.

A Better Trimmer
I rarely just overtly recommend one tool over all the others, but after a good many years working with case trimmers, I can and will tell you that the LE Wilson design is the best I’ve yet tried. I guess, yes, that is just opinion, but it’s really not.

The difference in this trimmer design is that the case is supported within a sleeve by its body. There’s no polarized suspension front and back. Mostly, there’s no pilot. The cutter on an LE Wilson faces off the front of the case squarely. The sleeve holding the case sit atop a pair of rails and the whole arrangement excludes case condition from the process.

le wilson sleeve
Tap it in… Then tap it out…

le wilson sleeve

So why doesn’t everyone use one? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. It is a different arrangement, and it’s not cheap, especially not if you accessorize the fool out of it with a stand, a clamping device, and a micrometer. It’s not more than the other higher-end manual trimmers though.

It’s also fast! There’s no clamp-twisting to get the next case in place, and back out again. The sleeves are slightly tapered inside so the case is tapped in and then tapped out. With a little experience it’s amazingly quick to get through your block full of brass.

Flexibility
Virtually all case trimmers can provide additional utility, do different jobs. The cutter can be replaced with a reamer, and some can get reworked into outside case neck turners.

My choice is usually a stand-alone station, and that’s mostly because it’s pretty tedious refitting the appliances. I am, or at least have become, lazy.

forster case trimmer
Forster. This is a good choice especially for those who want to make a multi-purpose tool out of their base unit. There’s a big collection of add-ons that let work over primer pockets, turn case necks, ream case necks, and even hollow-point bullets. Its precision is better than most.
forster accessories
A a few of the things that can go on a Forster. Very versatile tool!

As with all said about alignment for case length trimming, that is also all the same for using a trimmer for other chores. And, yes, I still think the LE Wilson works best as a reamer, for instance, and that is because all the alignment precision is built into the tool itself; the case doesn’t play a role.

About options, by all means fit up a “combo-head” if it’s available that will finish the trim with a nice inside/outside chamfer/deburr. Big time saver. These can be a trick to get set just right, but it sure saves time.

Power
It sure is nice to get a break from the crank! There are, though, as I see it, two kinds of power case trimmers. Those that replace the hand crank with an electric motor and those that are designed from the start to be powered.

Some trimmers offer a means to add your own power source, like an electric screwdriver or drill.

Gracey Match Prep
Gracey Match Prep. Pretty much a big motor! It’s intimidating on first use, but just push the case in and it gets trimmed (and chamfered). It’s way quick in use and produces precise results.

My favorite proprietary power trimmer is a Gracey “Match Prep.” Designed by the late Doyle Gracey as a fast and easy way to trim huge quantities of Lake City brass for NRA High Power Rilfe shooters, it’s a serious machine. It works like a gigantic electric pencil sharpener, at least in spirit. Pick up a case and push it forward into a collar and it’s trimmed and squarely faced. No clamps or sleeves. The case shoulder stops against the inside of the collar, so it’s imperative that all cases are resized prior to use. As said last time, though, that’s really the only time you’ll get consistent results with any trimmer.

gracey holder
A key to a Gracey’s speed is that the cases stop on the case shoulder: just push it it!

I don’t know how many cases I can trim in an hour because I’ve never spent an hour using a Gracey. I can easily do 100 in under 5 minutes.

Another very good power trimmer is the Giraud. Its essential means for and in operation are about the same as Gracey but it is a nicer package with more features. Gracey is pretty daggone simple. That’s not all bad. I’d say Giraud is the best, and its price does reflect that.

One Last
Again, it’s important to evaluate the overall condition of a batch of cases, related to how many uses they’ve had. Having grown a little longer isn’t likely to be the only thing that’s changed in a case that exceeds whatever limit you set for it.

And, speaking of, the “trim-to” length is usually 0.010 inches shorter than the maximum SAAMI-stated overall case dimension.

Next time we’ll look at tools used to treat the trimmed case necks and finish this task in fine style.

Check out some more options at Midsouth HERE

Gracey
Giraud

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Case Trimming

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We all have to trim bottleneck cases sometime. Question is when and how much, and then “how,” and here’s a place to start. KEEP READING

case trimmer

Glen Zediker

After going through that last series on keeping up with changes in cases resulting from their use and reuse, “flow” was a culprit behind the majority of detrimental changes. That is: Brass flows during firing. It moves from where it was to somewhere else. Since there’s a finite amount of material in a case, one place is getting thinner and another is getting thicker. The sources of the material, where the flow starts and where it stops, are primarily case necks and case heads.

To completely finish up on all this, the most obvious indication that there’s flow is measuring case lengths from base to mouth.

case trimming
The primary reason to trim is to keep overly-long cases from overrunning their space in the chamber. If the case mouth encounters the end of its allotted space, it can pinch in on the bullet, elevating pressure. Now, there’s usually a good deal of leeway before safety can be a question, but don’t push it…
measure case length
A caliper is the only tool needed to measure case length. It’s not really necessary to measure each and every case each and every time. It’s a whopping lot faster to set the trimmer so it just touches the shortest case you have (revealed through the process itself in setting up the trimmer) and trim all the cases using that setting locked in place.

First, and very (very) important: The ONLY time to check case length, or to trim cases, is after they have been sized! A fired, unsized case will be shorter than it was going in. The reason is because of the expansion in the case that resulted from firing. When the expanded areas are squeezed back to spec by a sizing die the case gets longer as it gets smaller in diameter, same as rolling a ball of modeling clay out on a table. After sizing is also the only time we can we know that the case shoulder area is consistent in dimension.

You’ll see two length figures published for your cartridge of choice: maximum length and trim-to length. Published trim-to length is usually 0.010-inches under what’s listed as maximum.

I got a gage umpteen years ago that could indicate the maximum case length a chamber could accommodate — technically, a “chamber length gage.” Man. I checked the chambers in my main rifles and found that they were all well more generous than the SAAMI-maximum. That didn’t really mean a lot, in fact, to how I proceeded. And it also didn’t mean I can advise ignoring the potential for danger in exceeding SAAMI-maximum. It just pointed out that there are differences in chambers, gun to gun, and at least showed me that not exceeding max stated length should easily keep you safe.

chamber length gage

If a case got too long, exceeded the amount of room given to it in the chamber, that would be a safety problem! The bolt may not close fully. And, if it did, the extra length would create a pinching-in constriction, and that would spike pressure.

We can easily imagine that there’s an influence from relatively longer or shorter case necks in their influence in consistently encasing the bullet. And I’m sure we’d be right. Trimming cases all the same should mean that all the case neck cylinders are the same height. Someone looking to maximize accuracy is liable to get worked up about that enough to trim each firing. I trimmed my tournament cases each use. And, no, none were remotely approaching maximum length. It’s reasonable to further suppose that more or less retention will influence velocity consistency.

Another performance asset may or may not happen, depending on the trimming tool chosen. But. A good trimmer will square the case mouth. I’ve seen a many new cases with a “half-moon” cut after trimming. A square case mouth helps a bullet start and finish straight when it’s seated.

case trimmer
Not all case trimmers are equal. We’ll talk more about some I like next time, and I’ll tell you why.

My routine for this sort of “accuracy-oriented” case trimming is simple — tedious, but simple. I don’t measure each case. I just run them all through a trimmer set to “some” length. Some are trimmed more or less, some just show a bright scuff on one little bit of the case mouth, but they are then all the same length. If I can’t prove it in group sizes, it sho does set my mind at ease that all the cases are holding all the bullets more nearly the same.

For those rifles that aren’t tournament guns, the only concern is that none, indeed, become too long. Those I will check at that “4-firings-in” point. Some may have reached SAAMI-maximum, most won’t have, but all will be longer than when started. I start them at a figure close to suggested “trim-to.” Stop and think about it, and if there’s been overall a 0.010-inch length increase, that’s significant.

As with all things associated with use and reuse in semi-autos compared to bolt-actions, cases are going to grow more and faster in a gas-gun.

Another instance where it’s important to keep up with case lengths, and that, again, really has to do with making them all the same, is for those who crimp (with a conventional cannelure method).

Now, there’s zero harm in using a longer “trim-to” length, and that may be more popular than my method. These lengths are stated in reloading manuals. Keeping up with it over years, I’ve seen no difference in the rate of lengthening trimming longer or shorter; I trim “shorter” solely as a matter of consistency over the (short) life of my semi-auto cases.

Next time more about the tools.

Get started shopping HERE

The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from Glen Zediker’s book Top-Grade Ammo.

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

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

par15

RELOADERS CORNER: 4 Firings In, Part Two

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Cartridge cases always fail on the “next firing.” Question is which one that might be. Need to know! KEEP READING

beat case
I apologize for the image quality, but these were taken a while ago. Fortunately, for me, I didn’t have anything on hand that shows even close to the beating this one took. Cracked neck, head crack. Rare to see one case with both of the most common failures. It was attacked by an M14.

Glen Zediker

I’d always rather say it all at once, but the realities of tolerance, and space, sometimes mean I have to split a bigger topic into smaller installments. The “tolerance” part is how many pages you all are willing to scroll through!

This multi-part topic is when, and then how, to check after the progress of changes commencing with the firing on a new case. It’s the “progress of degeneration,” in a way of looking at it because the concern is getting a handle on when enough change in the brass has come about to require attention. Or abandonment. As said then, for me that’s 4 firings. That, as said last time, is when I might see changes that need attention. Also as said, that figure didn’t come out of a hat, but from my own notes in running my competition NRA High Power Rifle loads.

The areas most affected are the case neck and case head area. Case neck walls get thicker, and that was the focus last time. Well, the case head area body walls get thinner. Primer pockets get shallower and larger diameter.

As started on: Brass flows during firing. It expands, then contracts, and when we resize the case, it contracts, then expands (a little). This expansion and contraction makes the alloy harder over the entire case, but with more effect in areas of more expansion, and flow. Replace “hard” with its effect, “brittle,” and that’s a clearer picture. This increasing hardness influences its reaction to being sized or otherwise stretched. As with many metals, bend it back and forth enough times and it will break. It will also fail if it loses enough resilience, or thickness, to withstand the pressures of firing.

Case Head
When a case is under pressure during firing, the brass, like water, flows where it can, where it’s more free to move. Of course, the chamber steel limits the amount it can expand. The case shoulder blows fully forward and the case base is slammed back against the bolt face. There is, therefore and in effect, a tug on both ends — it gets stretched. The shoulder area is relatively free to expand to conform to the chamber, but the other end, the case head area, is not. Since that’s the area of the case with the thickest walls, it doesn’t expand “out” much at all. What it does is stretch.

The “case head area,” as I refer to it here, is the portion of the case above the web, which is just above the taper that leads in to the extractor groove. The “area” extends approximately an eighth-inch up the case body.

case pressure ring
Here’s a “pressure ring.” You’ll see this after firing, if you see it. And, if you see it, that case is done. The bright ring indicates excessive stretching, which indicates excessive thinning.
head separation pic
Closer view of another sectioned case. This one here was fixin to pop. 

That portion of the case does not fully expand and grip the chamber, but the area immediately ahead of it does. So the case body expands and grips the chamber, and that last little bit back to the base can and does move. It stretches. If you see a ring circling the case, noticeable because it’s lighter color than the case body, and it’s in this area, I’d say that case is done. The ring will be evident after firing, not after; don’t confuse a shiny ring around the case in this area with what can be normal from sizing, especially if it’s been a hotter load. That is pretty much a scuff from the sizing die squeezing down this expanded area.

And that’s right where a “head separation” occurs. It can crack and also blow slap in two, and that’s the “separation” part of case head separation.

This is a spot to keep close watch on as cases age. It is also the area that is more “protected” by sizing with less case shoulder set-back. That is, pretty much, where the freedom for the stretching movement in this area comes from (the case shoulder creates a gap). However! As said many a time, semi-autos need some shoulder set back for function, and it’s the reason to use an accurate gage to determine the amount of set-back needed.

case head separation
Ultra-high-precision gage, made by me. Not really. It’s a selectively bent paper clip, and running this down inside the case and and then back up the case wall can signal a dip-in in the head area, which signals thinned walls. Feel it? Case is done.

Some folks unbend a paper clip and run it down inside a case and drag it up against the inside case wall as a sort of antenna to see if they detect a dip-in near the head area, which would indicate that the wall in this area has been stretched thinner. If there’s enough to feel it, that case is done.

Since I’m working off this “4 Firings In” checklist, if you’re seeing a sign that a head separation might be nigh in that few uses, chances are the shoulder set-back is excessive, and also too may be the load pressure level.

Primer Pocket
Another case-head-area and pressure-related check is the primer pocket. As said, the primer pocket will get larger in diameter and shallower in depth each firing. As with many such things, the questions are “when” and “how much,” and the main thing, “how much?”

If the pocket gets excessively shallow, and that’s judged by a primer that seats fully but isn’t at least a tick below flush with the case base, there could be function issues. There’s a risk of a “slam-fire” with a semi-auto that uses a floating firing pin, and, if there is actual protrusion, that has the same effect as insufficient headspace.

primer pocket uniformer
A primer pocket uniformer can reset the depth of a shallowed primer pocket to what it should be, but the real test for me is how easily the next primer seats into it. If it’s significantly less resistance, I’ll say that case is done.

Shallower can be refurbished. That’s a primary function of a primer pocket uniformer. Larger diameter, though, can’t be fixed. I’ve mentioned in another article or two that, any more at least, my main gauge of load pressure has become how much primer pocket expansion there’s been. I judge that without using the first gage, well, unless my primer seater is a gage. If a primer seats noticeably easier, that’s the clear clue that the pocket is too big. Another is seeing a dark ring around a fired primer, indicating a little gas leakage.

Measuring primer pockets is a waste of time, say my notes at least. First, it’s not easy to accurately (truly accurately) measure a pocket, especially its diameter, but, that’s not really what matters. It’s how much grip there is to maintain the primer in place during firing.

I pay close attention to resistance in primer seating and won’t reuse a case that’s too easy.

Good deal on what I think is good brass, especially if you’re an AR15 loader — HERE

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

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

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RELOADERS CORNER: 4 Firings In

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

old case

Glen Zediker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See REAMERS HERE

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

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

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RELOADERS CORNER: Choosing Your Brass

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

norma brass

Glen Zediker

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

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

There are three things to consider, maybe four.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations?
Yes. And no.

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

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

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

Sometimes brass chooses you!

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

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

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

Start HERE on Midsouth. Great deals! Great brass!

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

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

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RELOADERS CORNER: Fire-forming

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

Glen Zediker

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

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

So: definition: “Fire-forming” is a term usually associated with describing changing a cartridge from its original or “parent” state into another state, which is a non-standard cartridge, when it’s first-fired in the non-standard chamber. Like making an Ackley-Improved version of a standard cartridge, or converting a .250 Savage into a 6XC. In other words, the firing itself expands and reforms the case to the shape of the new chamber, and the case that emerges is then the new cartridge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first firing establishes that pattern. On subsequent firings, less is okay, but more is not. Lemmeesplain: I strongly recommend first-firing with a stout load, or at the least the stoutest load you plan on running through that case in future uses. When I segregate my new cases, I’m sorting them based on their function for me. My best go to the “600-yard” pile, then to 300 and then to short-line. Those are three different loads. I need to know which cases are for which before I make the initial loading. Fire-forming with a lighter load and then using a nearer-to-max load in that same case will, not can, result in premature failures in that case. It doesn’t seem to matter much going the other direction. I would never charge up my 600-yard load in a case formed using my 200-yard load; there are significant pressure differences in those two.

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

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

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

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Life in the Fast Lane

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

22 nosler

Glen Zediker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

odin adjustable gas block

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

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

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

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

valkyrie nos chart

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

LINKS

SMK 95

Adjustable Gas Block

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

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

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Beating The Fool Out of .223

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

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

Glen Zediker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, which is better?

YES!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RELOADERS CORNER: Two-Two-Three

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

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

Glen Zediker

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

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

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

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

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

salvo
SALVO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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