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for Match Rifles
The purpose of this paper is to provide a reference guide for those attending Jim Owens' class on high power competitive rifle shooting. It is based on loading for rimless rifle cartridges. The two main caliber's in use at this time are .308 Win (7.62 x 51) and 223 Rem (5.56 x 45) because they are current for the issue service rifles. I will use the .308 as the primary cartridge for this discussion. We can go into details of other caliber's as time allows.
The main reason shooters handload is for economy. The cartridge case and the work to assemble and market a factory cartridge represent at least 1/2 the cost of store bought ammo. So, if you save your empty cases and provide the labor you can greatly reduce the cost of shooting. The price for large volume .308 loaded match ammo to users such as the army teams is about $0.45 ea. The price to handload that same round is about $0.21 ea. I should also mention taxes and proposed new taxes also add increasing amounts to the cost.
Even if you can purchase ammo cheaply such as some of the military surplus you will find another important reason to handload. That is to improve performance. Military ammo is made to be affordable and if it is used in burst fire weapons where pin point accuracy may not even be desirable. You can load with a bullet that provides accuracy and is streamlined for good flight characteristics (BC-Ballistics coefficient). You can select the propellant and the powder that is the best for your use. For short range ease of loading may be an over riding factor, for long range you will select components based on performance.
You can also tailor the load to your rifle. While there are generally loads that shoot reasonably well in most rifles, there are few that don't in a given rifle. Change of powder or a bullet will allow you to tune the cartridge to you rifle. Currently there is also an expanding number of custom made bullets that can be used to provide better long range performance than any factory ammo.
Let's get down to the reloading operations. The first operation will be the resizing of the fired cartridge case to bring it back to it's unfired dimensions. For target shooting you will have to understand this better than the average hunter or plinker. High power includes rapid fire which requires smooth feeding, easy bolt closing, and little effort to lift the bolt and extract. Any undue effort shifts your attention from shooting to function and harms your scores. On semi-autos you won't feel this but if your mind dwells on possible malfunctions it will also distract you and degrade your scores.
The major problem sizing the case is correct HEAD SPACE . This is the end play of cartridge in the chamber. In theory it is measured from the face of the fully closed bolt to about mid point on the shoulder. In .308 Win this is 1.630 inches minimum to a .400 diameter datum line on the shoulder. Maximum length is 1.634. I chamber my personal rifles to 1.631. What you want to do is match the cartridge case to the chamber. If you have excess head space you can adjust your resizing to allow for this. Excess head space is a problem on some service rifles.
What happens, during firing, the case is pushed forward. It then expands and clings to the chamber walls while the pressure rises. The pressure then causes the head to be pushed reward and the wall of the case stretches. Where the thick wall of the cup meets the thin wall of the body it will stretch causing a crack to form and eventually the case head separates from the body. You can take a piece of wire bent with a right angle hook and move it along the inside of the case wall and feel this stretch point. You can use this trick to sort out bad cases. Most failures of match cases in M-14's is caused by this, not the knurl at the rear of the case found on some match cases.
The cartridge case usually doesn't contact the .400 diameter ring at first closing. The normal contact is at the radius of the neck and the shoulder. The gun can actually be closed easily with a case .002 to .003 longer than the chamber at this point. This means you will eliminate the end play saving the case at the stretch point. The trick is how to read this. The answer is some form of a gage. The two, easy to use gages, are the ones made by Mo and RCBS. The one by Mo is large and easy to use. The one by RCBS is a little slower to use but has a bullet seat depth gage. Personally I like the one by Mo best. It would be possible to make a new chamber section for that gage with the reamer used on your custom barrel. The gage then would read direct to the chamber you have. You can also make a gage by simply chambering a piece of steel with a chamber reamer. Since the 50's I have made these for personal use by running the chamber in .050 deep and using a depth mike to read the case head location.
These gages should be used to set the sizer die for length. You want to compare a dummy round with a bullet seated in the case directly in your rifle. When you get a noticeable feel you want to size the case a few thousandth shorter. Simply adjust your sizer by turning it down toward the shell holder. Directions with both gages tell you to check fired cases but this simply doesn't work well. The reason is the cartridge case as fired isn't an exact duplicate of the chamber as it shrinks back after firing. Changes in the case wall hardness and thickness, change the shrink back. The radius in the chamber is not that of the die. By using the fired case you throw a third variable into the problem. The gage can be used with a fired case for a casual reloader but don't expect it to do the job for a match shooter.
Cases can be sized into a range of .004 or less for head space length. The best press for uniform sizing length I currently use is a Bonanza Co-Ax. Generally turret presses are the worst. Uniformity of cases is increased by trying to run a batch about the same number of firings. I place empties in a single box and then load from this so a cycle of equal use results. Careful lubrication of case and uniform speed of press operation is required. Dies are often chambered to go head space limits. That means you can't run the case deep enough into the die to allow for spring back. In such cases I face the die back slightly. I prefer this over changing the shell holder as the .125 depth is a standard. Such facing can be done with a carbide tool in a lathe or with proper grinding equipment. I suggest such facing be kept to the minimum to guard against inadvertent really excessive head space. (4-96 HS variation can occur from soft necks and etc. Check primer section.)
To check cases for length in you rifle strip the bolt, to be sure the drag of operating parts doesn't affect the reading. It's also important to prevent accidentally firing any loaded rounds. I check my rapid fire match ammo this way. While case sizing is important, I also find occasional high primers. I want to stress the stripped bolt and safe handling. Years ago a customer died doing this. He used an assembled rifle bolt and fired a round into a keg of powder resulting in a flash fire. BE CAREFUL.
You can simulate long cases by adding a shim such as a piece of tape to a case head. Example if your sized case closes easily you can double check by adding a piece of thin tape, for example .003 thick. You should get a feel or some effort to close the bolt if the case isn't too short. It will take some thought and effort to learn the details of head space sizing. I find it's the most difficult item to relate to a new shooter and even many experienced ones. This will be the single most important skill in making good long lasting easy functioning ammo.
Service rifles of course will be more difficult to work with as disassembly of bolts isn't easy. If you have a bolt rifle chambered like your service rifle you can use the bolt gun to run ammo into. I seldom have a malfunction with my M14, I simply run the ammo through my bolt gun. The guns were built to the same specs in the chamber. Some service rifles are chambered long or wear that way. You may have to increase the HS length some to correct for this. You will have to depend on the gage to check the ammo. If you have such a rifle, by keeping brass adjusted for that rifle and used only in that rifle, excess head space won't be a problem. Head space is simply the relationship of gun to the ammo. That goes for long chambered bolt guns. If you lose a number of case heads, check your die settings to that gun. Even with over 30 years of experience doing this I still get bit by this problem.
Sizing lube should not be oil as used for lubrication. The reason is petroleum product can cause damage to the priming and cause misfires. Just a trace will do. In past years gasoline was an every day cleaner. I often hear of cases cleaned that way. Even after drying the residue can be traced to primer failure. Use regular commercial sizing lubricants. These are usually a lanolin product.
Case should be rolled on a felt pad. A ready source for a pad is to cut it from the upper of an old felt boot liner. You can make the pad longer than the commercial pad and the felt works a lot better than the ink pad types. The only problem I have found is they can soak up a lot of lube. You can roll a case neck brush on the pad to pick up a trace of lube and then run the brush into the case neck. After you've done this a few time you'll get the feel for the proper amounts.
Primer pockets can be cleaned in volume by running a wire primer pocket brush in a drill chuck. You can also scrape the pocket with a small tool like a screwdriver. Small sticks of wood can also be used. Years ago primer boxes were wood and we simply broke the dividers out and used them as cleaning sticks. For most loads, cleaning of primer pockets or prepping the flash hole isn't worth the effort. Remember that in an 80 round match 60 shots are fired at short range in standing or rapid fire. Accuracy should be good, but shaving an 1/4 inch off the group size is far less important than lots of practice when it come to what will increase your score. Long range loads you may find that a little extra work may help. I find what it often does it eliminates having an excuse for a bad shot. The only one to blame is yourself. You will also have more confidence in your equipment.
I have found that many cartridge cases have a sharp corner at the outer edge of the primer pocket. I simply use the deburr tool running in a chuck to bevel the pocket, just like doing case necks. Don't get carried away and make this a funnel, just a small bevel to start the primer. Military cases which have been crimped along with many match cases can benefit from this. For crimped pockets a swage is the fastest and best way to fix these pockets. There are several types and they work in your loading press. There are several makes of hand reamer which work OK to do a small number of cases but you must be careful or you will enlarge the pocket and get a lose fit.
Case cleaning is often done by tumbling. You should be very careful doing this. Appearance of the case doesn't affect how it shoots. In some guns the smooth bright case may help on extraction and be a plus. One very negative aspect is that cleaning compound can be left in the case. It can reduce the volume and gives excess pressure. I have also traced the damage of several barrels, to small amounts of residue left from tumbling process, being blown down the barrel and scoring it as the next bullet is fired. I had one barrel come back with less than 3000 round fired through it. The small diameter in the barrel chambered for .308 Win was .3065 on the lands at the muzzle. The barrel was used for silhouette shooting and was used with only medium weight bullets and loads. When the barrel was new it had a .298 bore. In contrast I have shot several rifles personally past 6000 round with heavier bullets and loads. The diameter on those lands had opened to about .300 at the muzzle.
How critical should you be? Back in the old days, when we had just got around to loading from the rear end of the rifle, I carefully sorted some ammo for a Wednesday night practice. I had a box of 20 that everything was just perfect down to an equal weight of the assembled round. I shot a super score at 600 yard and being justly proud of it announced to everyone that I had shot this because of my total inspection and careful loads and I showed them the boxes sorted as to culls and best loads. Then was I shocked and still remember it well to this day. I had shot a box of culls by mistake. I thought the ammo I was shooting was the best and the only error would be me. I really bore down with full confidence in the ammo, but it wasn't the ammo that made the fine score. It was my shooting, the same thing that gave me bad scores. You constantly have to judge just how much gain there is in each of the loading details as to the time taken from practice.
Trim Length. When you size the case you squeeze the case walls inward. The sizer die is actually much smaller than the case. When you extract it from the die it springs back. This sizing action also causes the case to grow in length. If the case gets too long it can interfere with the release of the bullet and cause excess pressure. A sign of excess length often is a dimple found on the body by the shoulder. This will occur when the case gets within about .005 of chamber length. For my match course gun in .308, I trim to the short side to allow for a number of firing before I have to trim again. I trim to 2.000 where 2.015 is max. Again running cases through your rifle so each case gets fired the equal number of time is a way to keep trimming under control. I have a loading press set up on a drill press and use an end mill to trim the cases. It will trim the case about as fast as I can run them through the press. To hold the case I use a trim die which has been shortened somewhat to allow for the shorter size length and cutter clearance. The cases are then deburred by running a deburr tool in a chuck, first outside and then reversed to do all cases inside. You will probably start with a hand cranked tool. You will need one of these anyway to trim those special case like magnums that you just don't use in enough volume to warrant a power set up. There are a number of power trimmers on the market. Find a friend with one and check it out before you buy one. I have tried some and my homemade set still is the best and you may already have some of the parts or it gives you an excuse to buy a home shop tool useful on other projects.
Primers ignite by shock. Different brands and types of primers have a different amount of energy. In large cases you need more energy due to the cushioning of large powder charge or air space. Selecting the proper primer for a given powder can be very important, you will learn this through experimentation and talking with others loading the same caliber's. Primers can vary lot to lot. If you have trouble with a load, one of the first things is to check the primer by switching to a known lot. Primers of different brands and types have different strength levels. Some loads like a mild primer. Other loads like a hot one. It's up to you to select the right one. In extremely large cases magnum primers are commonly used. Federal is a basic type lead styphnate mixture which is a coarser type compound, for the same charge size it will be hotter than the others using a normal style compound which is finer particle mixture. Federal sorts out the best primer lots when they box them as match. CCI makes a line of premium primers called bench rest, I have had excellent results with them but they are also more expensive. They appear to be a different primer than their regular line. Remington makes a small bench rest primer, their number 7 1/2 and it is considered to be the standard for such primers and a stronger cup to reduce puncture.
Most presses have a priming feature on them. You may have to change parts and handle the primers with great dexterity. I have found an easy solution to this is the Lee hand priming tool. RCBS has just added a similar hand tool to their line. You hold it in one hand and squeeze the lever. Cases are handled with the opposite hand. Primers are held in a tray with a cover and it will easily hold a hundred primers. It also serves as a primer flipper to get them right side up. By handling primer in a tray rather than each by your fingers the chance of contaminating the primer is reduced. The tool is cheap and very fast. The negative is that if you have tight pockets you might not seat all the way down. It pays to visual check the case and if necessary a stubborn primer can be seated on your regular press. Another problem is the lever is cast pot metal lever will with a lot of use break, but parts are cheap. You do have to buy the special shell holder for this tool, it doesn't interchange but again it's cheap and changes from one rim size or primer size to another in a minute. Wash your hand before handling primers to be sure you don't contaminate them and get misfires.
Lee builds a version of this that screws into the die station of your press with the primer punch replacing the shell holder. There are several other brands of primer tools and auto primer setups made by various manufacturers. The progressive tools come with such a device. Before you buy one, talk to some one who owns one and see how well it works. I have loaded a lot of rounds on a progressive Hornady and for many years I have owned the Large Hollywood turret presses. At times they work just great but I still find the majority of my loading is done using a single station press and a loading block. Quality rather than quantity being the deciding factor.
4-96 During the 95 season I had problems with accuracy. My ammo just wasn't working like I expected. One day I was shooting a few rounds through the chronograph just outside of the shop. I got a hangfire. That led to two discoveries. First was a new lot of primers were not producing the same velocity as the older lot. They were weaker. These were CCI BR2 primers which I had found to be extremely good. However, like every brand some variation will occur and this was the year of primer shortages and you were lucky to have any. I had some older Federal 210's and switched to them for critical matches. I had the same problem with 210's only a few years earlier so it can happen with any primer make.
Next I took a look at my cartridge cases for headspace. I had some, which was the most likely cause of the hangfire. I had been expanding 243 cases too 6.5 for 600 yard loads and in the process some shoulders were pushing back with the extra shove from the expander ball. Also I had started neck annealing my nickel 7mm x 08 cases I used for the 6.5 due to neck splitting. The loss of hardness changed the spring back on sizing reducing the length from head to shoulder a few thousands.
To correct these problems I adjusted my full length sizer for the rapid fire loads and I switched to neck sizing the 243 cases and shot them the first time with 200 yards loads at practice.
During the 95 season we tracked down some ignition to short firing pins. The usual length is .055 with a max. length of .062. If you get too long you may cause the primer cup to pierce as the metal lows back around the point from the pressure. The point should be smooth and round like a ball, steps act as stress risers and may cause the primer cup to fracture on these lines.
Powder measures. The better ones are easily adjustable and have calibrated scales or dials. If you use a progressive press or turret press the measures usually can be screwed into a die station. Powder measures will usually throw a more uniform charge on a press in which the charging is mixed with cycles of the press, the vibration acts to tamp the powder in the measure drum. This could be a deciding factor in whether to load a given load via the loading tray or progressively. If one is making 200 yard ammo or practice ammo (not checked on a scale), speed can be a plus over a small loss in quality. But if the powder charge is tamped on the progressive you may level out charges and get more uniformity than separate charging. The way to find out is to experiment and check the powder weight. Powders, like the ball types, usually flow good through most measures but the IMR stick type powder decreases accuracy of thrown charges because the grains are longer. Usually a baffle in the powder hopper helps as it keeps a constant weight on the charge going into the drum.
I have found it useful to keep measures set up for different charges that I use constantly. Since these charges are usually checked on a scale I have found the Lee measure to work well and it is quite affordable but won't be my first choice if I could buy one measure only. These measures and others come with a bench bracket. I mount these to a wood plate and I can then move the measure anywhere on the bench. I just clamp it down with a c-clamp. This also makes dumping the powder measure when finished loading, easy. I take one of these along with a Lee Hand Press on trips to Camp Perry in case of loading emergencies. THEY DO HAPPEN. One year a new lot of cases had some soft heads mixed in and I pulled my long range loads apart and reassembled them in old practice cases I had brought along. Every year, someone in our group has an unexpected problem and these tools get used. In fact they often get used at local matches. One common problem is bullets seated too long causing problems in rapid fire. ZIP out with the nut cracker and the day is saved.
Powders are selected for performance and ease of loading. If you can get equal performance on a short range load from a ball powder or a coarse stick powder you will probably take the ball. It will run through the measure well saving time that will allow you to make a few more practice rounds. It's practice that makes points, not small savings in group size. Ball powder such as Accurate 2230 in the . 223 and 2520 in the .308 are low in price and have a reputation for good solid performance. My experience has been mostly with 2520 and I have used it extensively for short range shooting and even won a major national title at 600 yards with it. However I find that it is more sensitive to temperature which magnifies as the bullet weight goes up. This varies gun to gun as each barrel does have it's own likes. Eric has shot it more than I have and used it with 150's in his 308. He shot a 200-20X with on the 200/600 reduced target in a league match a few years back.
Temperature affects powder and is one readable variation and you should keep details as to sight reading and daily conditions in your score book. I recall one load that shot very good but the scores weren't all that good. Looking back over 4 to 5 weeks of plots in my score book I found the zero moved about 4 minute with a 25 to 30 degree temperature change. I changed to another powder and cut the zero range to about 1 MOA. Since points are obtained from a group fired in the center of the target good repeatable zeros become more important then group size. Hunters usually lose sight of this fact and spend hours testing groups from a bench, the result of which, may be meaningless in the field. Generally your single base stick powder are the least affected by temperature changes.
The recoil cycle is another affect of powder. The gun moves back in recoil when the bullet starts to move. This makes the zero very sensitive to sling tension, shoulder position and alike. This is why in rapid fire you may fire 2 or 3 little wads of shots in different places with the same call. Selecting a powder that performs well at reduced pressure for light recoil is important. Most powders like a certain pressure range to perform well. A commonly known case is IMR 4064, it seems to like hot load or backed down about 3 to 4 grains, but not in between. 4895 is more flexible generally. I have had good luck with Reloader 15 in .308. I found for the same velocity the acceleration of recoil is less than 4895. I replaced 41.5 of 4895 with 168's using 42 of Reloader 15. My 200 yard zero was 1 MOA higher standing. I thought the load had been slowed down. Going back to the shop I checked it, the velocity was 12 ft/sec faster. I was seeing recoil. Further use of this charge proved to reduce the difference between my standing zero and my rapid zero with a sling. I then went to 40 of Reloader 15 with 190's for 300 yards. The velocity was only 2415 but the zeros were very repeatable and the groups were little wads. That was the last year I shot a .308 at Camp Perry for the match courses. I lost only 4 points at 300 that trip.
In 1993 I switched to 6.5 x 08 in June. I used a charge of 38 of 4320 with 120 MK's. The load shot quite well and 4320 is a fine grain stick an meters extremely well. No need to scale each round, just charge a block. Returning from Camp Perry I decided to switch to N150 for the 120's. It didn't throw as well as 4320 and would have to be checked on a scale for match use. I had superior performance with N160 in the past 2 months so it's faster mate looked like a good bet. I loaded 37.5 of 150, the recoil was very mild and velocity was fair. Checking it over the chronograph showed a very low SD (standard deviation) and ES (extreme spread). I went to the regional with only a short test and shot a 400 agg. in rapid fire with this load. Over the following weeks I found that a 1/4 minute change on the zero took as much thought as a 4 minute change previously, the repeatability was so good. I learned this powder had for my 6.5 several virtues. It could be reduce loaded for low recoil with no loss in performance. It was also not sensitive to temperature changes as others I had used. The last match fired was in October and was very cold and windy so I experienced a range of at least 50 degrees.
In late 94 I found reduced velocity with N140 required more elevation on my 6.5 x 08 than required for N150 both pushing the 120 Sierra MK at the same velocity. This indicates that N140 may cause less problems with normal variations in rapid fire position. In the 95 shooting season I have to expand on this and look at N135, also.
I installed a 6.5 x 08 barrel on a Ruger M77 for hunting. Keeping in mind that zero was more critical than speed, one never knows from what position one will fire from crawling through the swamps and woods of Wisconsin, I loaded for reduced recoil. I ended up with a reduced load of N150 and the Nosler 120 at 2795 in a 27 inch barrel. My match rifle was shooting 2785 in a 28 inch barrel. I had loads that shot safely 200 ft faster but the recoil was noticeably greater. Zeroing it at a 100 yards I found that all shots from the bench, standing (if I broke it well), and sitting would go into the white center of the sighter target. This is what we want in a competitive rifle and should look for in our hunting rifles.
In the 94 season the work with the Ruger paid off. Kicked up a buck. He took off on the dead run and my first shot killed a large tree that jumped right between us. I picked an opening about 10 yards ahead and broke the shot on his shoulder as he jumped through. The shot was to far back to have the proper lead because I was limited by reaction time and have to stop the swing to find an opening. The shot hit dead on for elevation but to the rear hitting the front of the rear quarter. By the time I walked the 85 yards he was dead as a stone. The 120 Nosler BT gave very impressive performance. The light recoil held the zero and the nickel cases slipped in and out of the chamber with no effort. I even recall worrying about where the nickel empty went after the first shot and then realized how stupid that was as the deer was still running. Your mental process from constant shooting practice speeds up beyond what most people expect. I erred in not having the proper lead but proper selection of the load and practice allowed that quick 2nd shot that placed the buck in our freezer.
For long range prone shooting, especially magnums you will find generally the coarse stick powders work the best. These are generally of a slower burning rate as you will be using heavier bullets. In the last few years Hercules has added to their Reloader series numbers 15, 19, and 22. These are made in Sweden and are slightly double based. They will generally give you slightly more velocity for the same pressure. 15 is widely used in the .308 for short range and long range with heavier bullets. 19 and 22 are used in long range loads with heavy bullets. 22 is only about a grain slower than 19 and most shooters who use both seem to end up with 22. In small caliber's like 6.5 x 08 you will pick slower powder than the large bore 30's. That's because the volume of the bore increase at a slower rate as the bullet moves. 22 is a good choice in the smaller caliber's.
In 1993 I was provided with powder from VihtatVuori OY of Finland through their USA distributor. I had read some technical data from this company in the past that circulated through the ammunition industry and had been impressed with it. I stared with the N160 for long range in the 6.5 x 08 and then N150 for short range. I used N150 for long range near the end of the season and also used in the 7 x 57 with outstanding results. It is one of the most versatile powders I have ever used. Late in the season I also used N165 in the 7mm Rem mag for 1000 yards replacing my previous load of Reloader 22. In all instances I got outstanding accuracy and a very low SD on each load, sometimes below 5. Wayne shot N140 in his 308 this last weekend. The groups were very good and the velocity, SD and ES were excellent. He said it matched 4064 closely. I find the ES lower than many of my other loads, the wide velocity chance on a single round may not change your SD a lot, but it may be that unexplained shot. Personally I'll take a little higher SD if I keep my ES small. Experience in 95 confirmed VihtaVuori is a superior powder.
An extremely good line of rifle powder is Scott. I and Eric found that 4351 was the powder of choice with heavy bullet in our .308's. In the 7 x 57 my scores improved with 4065, it was a big improvement. However Scott was bought by Accurate to obtain the shotgun powder sales enjoyed by Scott. At this time it looks like they will not replace the supply of the rifle numbers. That is sad because I currently rate this line right with VihtaVouri powders as the best available at this time.
4-96 Varget is a new powder by Hodgdon. It's imported from Australia. It appears to be what they know as 8208 down there. I haven't shot it but I have heard many reports of excellent performance. However, like all powders it does appear to have it's problems. A leading Palma team shooter said he had experienced a very rough throat after 2400 rounds in his rifle even though the seating length hadn't changed much. He had another barrel with the same use but shot with 4895, the throat lengthen, but didn't roughen like the one used with Varget.
No powder is free of problems. Your barrel is going to wear. the new powders appear to reach higher pressures with less visible signs of such on the case or primer. Also in the Palma we are shooting medium weight bullets faster then in the past when these were reduced loads for 200 and 300 yards. The pressure time curve is higher and longer and this means more barrel wear. A number of shooters claim Vihta Vouri is harder on barrels. I have not found this to be the case, I suspect it's their change in use and that they are shooting hotter loads then they realize.
Bullets are the major cost in reloading. You can select a bullet for use at a given range that will combine needed accuracy, cost, and price. Some shooter feel that a bullet must have a label on the box that says match. That's simply not the case. One of the best bullets I have ever shot in 7mm is the 160 SBT Sierra. It's a soft point boat tail hunting bullet. It is also has a BC like a .308 190 but you will shoot it faster. People worry about soft points being deformed, well small amounts usually don't bother you and I simply place the loaded round point up in my ammo box. I used this bullet across the course in 1981 in a 7mm x 08. I won the State Championship that year with a 788-34X. That score stood as high on the state trophy for about 9 years and Wisconsin is one of the toughest shooting states in the country. I picked these bullets again in early 93 for use in my 7 x 57 and again I shot superior 300 yard scores and also used them back to 600 in the sniper matches.
That doesn't mean that all hunting bullets will work. I bought some bulk 120's for 6.5 made by one of the majors, they are marginally OK for standing practice at 100 yard but just don't work well enough to buy more. Buy a single box and try them first. Generally most bullets of the medium weight hunting design by Speer, Hornady , Nosler and Sierra work well for short range. However the price saving is usually so little it doesn't pay to make a special buy unless they fit a need where a match bullet doesn't work or wasn't available. The Nosler ballistic tip bullets have a very fine reputation for accuracy and are being selected by an increasing number of shooters for match use because of their performance, but they are not cheap.
In match bullets of the commercial makers Sierra is, without question, the leader. They offer the largest number of target bullets. One of Sierra's virtue is they have probably the best handle on making jackets of anybody in the world. They draw a heavy jacket which is extremely concentric. This jacket uniformity is one most important features of a bullet. If the wall is thicker on one side than the other the mass will not spin on true center. Bob at GTB who has spend 40 years making custom bullets says world wide Sierra has the best jackets.
However, Hornady knows this too and has a product improvement campaign on going and has been making some vastly improved match bullets starting with their 168's. Not every maker makes exactly the same design bullet so each make offers you something another may not. I am hoping to see Hornady look at more streamlined designs such like the VLD's and other caliber where match bullets are short such as 6.5mm.
Speer is probably the least noticed in match bullets but the few offering they have are outstanding. In tests I have seen with their 168's shot against Sierra in many groups the average group size was only a hair behind Sierra. In .308 they offer a short boat tail 190 that works well in marginal twist barrels. Some users feel they shoot right with the best custom made 190's. This could be a good choice for those wanting a long range bullet in a gas gun. The design will cause the bullet to shed a little more velocity than the others at 1000 yards but you need accuracy first. I have used a lot of 145 Speer match bullets in my 7 x57 with extremely good results, especially when coupled with 4065 for a powder.
Handmade custom bullets are being used by an increasing number of shooters. These bullets offer the extra quality hand selection and feel provide. One bullet maker tells me he throws bullets into a cull box when they don't feel right, even if they look good. The design of these bullets often differ from those of the factories. In the last few years Very Low Drag design known as VLD as taken over. These bullet simply slip through the air easier hence for the same launch velocity reach the target quicker. This means a design with a long sharp point ogive and a long boat tail. The dies to make these are very expensive and are not affordable for most reloaders with dies and presses priced in the thousands of dollars. The best dies are carbide.
These bullets, in the heavy weights, generally require some what faster twist than commonly used. Stability of a bullet is based on it's length which results in a tendency to overturn from drag on the nose. The spin of the bullet counteracts this.
I have found through observation that the VLD's require slightly less twist that an equivalent length bullet of conventional design. I assume this is due to reduced drag on the nose. Currently I feel that twist can be reduced about 10% of the revolutions per second required when compared to common bullets on which I have based my table from past experience. Testing in late 94 appears to confirm this. I think the bullet wants to spin around the center line of projection which is disturbed by muzzle blast. A discussion on this was held early in 95 with a man at Aberdeen Proving Ground tends to confirm my ideas, that we need to be careful in selection of powder and pressure, that we may be able to use much slower twist that originally thought possible.
Another point with VLD's is that you seat them farther forward so that you can use a heavy charge in small to medium cases and hence a higher velocity. This again reduces the rate of required twist. In .30 caliber using Wayne Anderson's 210 VLD we have found the velocity will increase about 100 ft/sec over the Sierra 220 and the required twist for top accuracy which with the 220 is 8 1/2 inches, but found to be inches for the 210 VLD or perhaps even a little slower. Since Wayne makes these in various weight you can cut the bullet weight to match your barrel twist. This is the way to get better long range performance from gas guns. Use Wayne's 180's and you will get to 1000 yard with out having the bullet drop back through the sonic barrier and weird shots that accompany this. We have a big advantage with Wayne as he is one of us and lives in Burlington. He shoots what he makes, check his scores.
Other VLD bullets are made by Delta (Rick Mulhern) in .30 caliber, in a wide range of weights. JLk (Jimmy Knox) is well know for his .22 VLD's in 70,75, and 80 grains. Jimmy added 7mm in 168 and 180's. Jimmy is adding a 6.5 in 140 grains and I have a few samples. I have shot a number of his 7mm 180's in my 7 x 57 and won 600 yard matches, they are extremely good. GTB is Bob Cauterucio, he's the old master of the trade. It took me a few years to find out that when the hot west cost shooter, when asked what bullet they had just shot a good score with at long range said 190's, they weren't telling you they shot GTB's. They look just like Sierra's at first glance but sure shrink the group. Bob has now gone to exclusively making bullets in 6.5 and 7mm. Most of these are the VLD design and are all with Sierra jackets. He also runs many bullet jackets down from the next larger caliber to get a thicker jacket. This reduces the problem with hammering on the boat tail. Eric's 798 x 52X in the 4 gun 600 at LaCrosse in 93 was with Bob's 6.5 141 VLD made on 7mm Sierra Jacket. Bob even goes so far that he makes his own lead wire.
Walt Berger has semi -production operation going now and is the largest volume maker of custom bullets. His 6mm 105 is what really got the 6mm off the ground as a serious match caliber. He is planning to add 6.5 but I've heard both he and Jimmy Knox are waiting on J-4 Jackets. Walt is the distributor for J-4's. In some of the bullet I've seen his bullets are slightly less aggressive than some of the other VLD's but have an extremely good reputation for accuracy.
David Hammett in Louisiana makes a lot of VLD's in 6mm and has quite a following. In Wisconsin we also have Timber Beast which is now making 22's with rebated boat tail design. Rebating is suppose to give up to a 5% gain on BC.
A Caution on VLD's. Many are made with J-4 Jackets, which are thinner that Sierra's. If you push them real hard you may upset the boat tail and get an erratic shot or even a miss. It is a common problem with 243's. You may also experience slightly more fouling. Don't think that doesn't mean they won't shoot. Wayne has made bullets on both jackets with extremely good results. I just want to warn you of the difference. In 95 a new maker named Wall, who makes excellent 7mm VLD's, is being reported from the Oklahoma area.
I have also found that if you shoot VLD's extremely hard you may get an erratic shot. In 7mm at least 3 of us found that we got unexplained shots at 10 or 2 o'clock. I recall shooting a 197-13X with a 9 and 8 not called at 2 o'clock. It took about a year to really wise up and simply cut the load back about 100 ft/sec and I lost the weird shots. In 6.5 x 08 Eric and I both experience wide shots not called at 600 on a hot day when first using this caliber. I had gone 48 straight 10's with this barrel before I shot a 9 and then the world almost ended. Checking the loads heated in the sun I found the velocity on some rounds had risen from the average 2835 to well over 2900. I cut the load back to below 2800 and it worked . But the barrel won't hold zero. Apparently I had blown a chip off the surface as it fouled. It would shoot 3 rounds on the spotter and then shift 1 1/2 MOA. The barrel still the shot short range load into the X ring. In 94 I set the barrel back and lapped it lightly. It shot very well confirming that I had damaged it with too hot of loads.
Eric's barrel had slightly narrower lands and less pressure, it suffered no damage as his scores proved. I had to switch to my back up rifle the day before leaving for Camp Perry. My daughter, Carolyn, made a trip to the range to pull targets so I could get Zeros. Boy, was I worried but the first time over the match course now bumped back to the Silver team because of the rifle change and uncertain zeros I shot a 490-22X in the Rumbolt and we placed just behind the gold team. Winnequah had placed 3rd and 4th in this team match. Perhaps the strongest showing ever for regular local club teams. Hey when you've done it, brag a little, makes up for all the crying towels one uses.
The point is by keeping records of my loads and performance I was able to identify mistakes and make corrections. In the case of the gun change it was the knowledge of how the load shot and what to expect from sighter and conditions. True it won't work that well every time but the odds of an educated guess sure beat blind luck. KEEP RECORDS.
Seating, I got carried away, talked of bullets but didn't seat them. I prefer Bonanza Bench rest seaters. They have a sliding bottle that gives good alignment of bullet to case. Some shooters spin their assembled round. However I don't find that necessary with a good die. Also such spinning means most where you use short bullets with short bearings. Bench resters like to do this but they use mainly .22 and 6mm with lightweight bullets. When we use such bullets it's for short range rapid or standing where such minor changes in accuracy are masked by the shooters wobble area. I suggest if you do such you limit it to long range loads or selection of proper tools and their adjustment.
Seating length should be off the lands some what. I generally figure about .025. I use dummy rounds to determine when I get contact and simply back down the require amount. A vernier calipers is a must and I would suggest an electronic digital type, while extra cost they simply work better. You can use lay out die or alike to see touch of the bullet. There are also some gages sold to do this, you'll have to work with each to see if it does the job. I am doubtful of these due to difference in bullet shapes and throat wear. Some people want to seat firmly in the lands. As a general rule this is not wise. The reason is that the bullet can't touch equally each time due to bullet variations within the same lot and wear or fouling in the bore. When the bullet touches you will get a spike in pressure. In tests with pressure guns I find this to be about 5000 CUP. That is a significant figure if you touch once and then don't. A slight run up generally provides the best uniformity.
In 95, Enco and other offer low priced micrometer sets. Enco has been offering on sales a 3 piece 0 to 3 inch digital micrometer set for less than $90. The micrometer sets may be a better option as they provide better accuracy reading to 1/10,000 and can be used to check bullets and various parts. If you go the micrometer route check out low priced conventional calipers. In the March sale the digital 0 to 3 set sell for $89.99. A conventional set 0 to 3 at $29.95 or 0 to 4 at $39.95. The larger set would cover all seating lengths. A conventional vernier scale calipers o to 6 sell for $12.99 and they offer a dial type for as low as $29.99. Don't wait to buy these tools. With the shrinking value of the dollar they will be going up as they are all imports. Watch for the sales. Enco has a new one about every month. Their Chicago line is 800-860-3400, local calls 312-745-3500. Or write Enco Manufacturing Co.; 5000 W. Bloomingdale Ave., Chicago, IL 60639.
There are cases where long seating does help. I have found such in .308 my 220's with 4064 shot better long but not touching. Using 4895 with 168's I seat short for rapid fire but the group will improve for slow fire if I long seat. Found this out shooting the league with the 200/600 target. Rapid fire does present a problem as long seating in most cases just won't work, you have to seat for function as a shot not fired is 10 points lost, a flier may only be the lose of an X or a point. I found in my switch to Reloader 15 with 168's the load was not sensitive to seating length and the change from rapid fire seating to long seating wasn't a significant change. Again records must be kept and all items examined on how they influence one another.
In these loads priming is important. The long seat changes the way a given powder burns early in ignition. Bob Jensen seats bullets with a lose sliding fit in cases sized in a special die. He also ran tests with primers used to propel air rifle pellets. He found Federal 210M primer to be the most uniform. RWS which he also used were weaker and not as constant. When fired in the rifle the weaker RWS primer shot the best with bullet engagement but the 210's did not negating any gain from contact. In fact quite a few shooter who research this find usually the small jump is better. You must touch the lands, is another one of those sound good tales that get printed in the pulp gun magazines or spread by word of mouth. Problem is, a lot of people simply accept what sounds good as true, yet it may really have no bearing in fact.
CAUTIONS; when loading don't smoke and wear safety glasses. Never function test ammo through a rifle unless you have the firing pin removed and then treat the rifle as loaded and will fire. Be careful of primers they are the one item that can exploded from a blow or fire. Many a shooter has been surprised with bangs from his trash burner when lost primers ends up there.
Powder can break down from age, look for rust like dust or moisture appearing on the grains. Powder should be stored where it is cool and dry. Ideally a freezer because the low temperature reduces deterioration. Year ago shooters in this area bought large quantities of surplus powder that was beginning to break down. We stored it in freezer and used it quickly when loaded. At least one person didn't do this and had a fire. Others had old ammo simply not fire. If you have any doubt simply flush it down a toilet if you live in an apartment or scatter it on your lawn. It will then fertilize your lawn.
Don't use cartridge cases that have been exposed to fire. The head of a case is hard, it gets this way from work hardening during manufacture. If you fire a case with an annealed head it will fail and may cause injury. If you anneal necks set the case in about a 1/2 inch of water and just turn the neck dull red. The water keeps the base from annealing. Case neck splitting can often be reduced by periodically annealing the neck
Examples of old wives tales. Barrels must be straight to shoot. Truth, unless bent, resulting in walk or a sharp corner the bullet doesn't sense the minor bow of a barrel until you exceed 4 km/sec. I have built barrels that go to 8 Km/sec. Groove diameter must be tight and extremely uniform In the early 60's Bob Jablonowski had a late 50's M70 match that he won the state championship with and shot a 250 on a possible 250 course of fire, the old 5V target. After pulling the barrel and air gauging it, I found the barrel was .0015 larger at the muzzle than the breech. Everyone would say it can't shoot but it did. The reason is that in single point rifling, the rifling head rides on the lands. The bore reamer was defective and as it wore in, it cut a funnel type hole which caused the inverse on the grooves. The lands drive the bullet not the grooves and they kept tightening on the bullets as it passed through the bore. Would I suggest making such, of course not but this has remained with me for many years and why I went to deeper rifling and odd number of lands. I have made a point to check not simply barrels that don't work, but also ones that do. Common mistakes often credited with horrible results can be found in good barrels. That means, what is the real problem may not be the obvious error. Hand loading is much alike. We look at easy to measure discrepancies and therefore miss the real problem. Lot to lot change of primers, powder, or bullet jackets usually cause far more problems than runout in spinning, variation in charge weigh, or seating length.
Another tool like this with perhaps more influence is a dial gage rig to test the uniformity of the case wall near the base. The theory is that it changes the thrust on the bolt head hence causing flex of a differing degree on the action. Greighton Auddette did some research on this and I have a gage he made. Again I suggest that for the Hi-power shooter the best thing is to use these gages is sort out bad lots of case or select the best for long range. If you can shoot regularly over 195 with good x-counts it might be worth while trying sorted cases with your gun to see if it helps. I have tried this and neck turning and really haven't found it that worth while, except I have no excuse, to let myself off the hook, for a bad shot.
Chronographs are getting to be very low priced. I think it's worth while to get one, perhaps share the cost with your shooting buddy. It gives you a handle on velocity and it's variation that can cut time out of test shooting. For any advanced level shooter it is now a necessity to be competitive.
Ammo Boxes. I prefer the use of 50 round plastic ammo boxes to store my ammo in. They are inexpensive and available in several sizes. I attach my loading labels right to the top of the box. During shooting I use the rows to double check my round count. In slow fire prone I go to the center and shoot my 2 sighters. Then I go back to the first row and proceed in columns of 5. In matches except for sighters or problems shots I give my attention to the shooting not the score book. The ammo box tells me where I am. On completion I mark my last shots and zeros in and then enter the score from the score card. I do listen to the scorer call out shots to be sure we agree.
In Rapid fire loading from rows of 5 also gives you a check on loading blind magazines such as the M-14 and the AR's. In some caliber's I shoot some hunting bullets like in my 7 x 57. The plastic box allows them to set point up so the point don't get hammered. When you pick up your fired brass also gives you a quick double check on what you've got. I shoot a lot of nickel brass now and that adds to the cost, getting it back helps.
Group testing isn't something I do a lot of. When I do such it may be at the range in a practice where I simply don't fiddle with sight and plots the shots at 600. Occasionally I will go to the local range and shoot 100 yards. On the heavy recoil rifles I shoot the groups prone and note bad calls. The rifles we shoot often have too much recoil to give the best performance from the bench. Remember the gun recoils before the bullet leaves the muzzle. If you shoot groups that way try some good known loads and compare against that, not the measurement. It all gets back to records and comparisons.
My log Book is laid out like this:
Sample from 1993 using 6.5 x 08 Rds on barrel 725
Sometimes I will sketch in where groups were by score as I enter all data by hand in a 3 ring binder. I use sheets with plastic strips so they won't tear out easily. Sometimes I copy pages from the score book or include other notes such as wind and temperature. I keep all my old score books so if I miss something I can go back to them. Like everyone else I started with fewer records. However as time went buy I have found them to be of increasing value. I find I often trace back result into the early 80's and wish I kept such records back into the 60's.
Useful information; the new VihtaVouri powders how then line up against more familiar powders.
N133 is faster than N135 and should be useful in small cases.
N 135 per the manufactures list falls between 4895 and 4064. This is the burning rate but not necessarily the actual charge rate. However it should be close as a starting point. Always start low and work up. I have been hearing of excellent results when used with 168's in the 308.
N140 is listed as slower than 4320 but faster than Reloader 15. Wayne says like 4064. I have shot more of this and it appears to be with about a grain of my N150 loads in my 6.5 x 08. In my last tests it appears to have an edge over N150 when using reduced velocities. I have had numerous good reports from customer using it in .308's.
N150 is listed as slightly faster than 4350. I have found that this powder performs exceptional well over a wide range of loads. It's ability to fire at reduced charge without loss of performance is exceptional. They list it in medium size cases often 5 or 6 grain less than 160. Result with my 6.5 x 08 looks closer to 3 1/2 grains. I suspect this is a problem relate to the pressure time curve in reading transducers, they chose the safe side on interpreting data.
N155 is a new offering. It is a short cut powder falling between 150 and 160. It runs through a measure better than the other two but in my experience is a little more selective in application.
N160 matches in well with 4831 and Reloader 19 per their listing. My loading confirms that. Also like 150 it seems to take a wide range of pressure with no loss in performance.
N165 They list it right at the fast edge of Reloader 22. In my 7mm REM Mag used for 1000 yard, the load and velocity, was almost exactly alike.
N170 is an extremely slow powder, listed to be slower than H1000. Very little of it has been available so I have no data. It should be a good powder for those extremely big wildcat. ( I have heard it may be renamed N167 as it a hair faster that thought previously)
N500 series is started to be marketed. It is a high energy powder producing more velocity for the same pressure. i have heard of some outstanding results with it by service shooters in the mouse-o-matic. It may be very useful with the VLD designs. Price is higher so this will probably be best used as a long range option.
Varget is a new powder by Hodgdon and appear to offer more velocity by being able to use a slower powder in smaller cases. Mid Tompkins reports good results. I haven't had chance to try it yet.
I would also like to point out something that many shooters miss, even those with a lot of experience. Powder burns by time, not the volume created as the bullets moves along the bore. That is what causes pressure excursions when the bullet hesitates in it's acceleration. This also means that when you have a large heavy bullet you do not need a large case. Select one that is only large enough to do the job. If you move excess powder along with the bullet it adds to the weight of the projectile and defeats what you are trying to do. It is the small bullet that easily accelerates that can actually make use of the huge case. These can be useful for varmint hunting where ranges are not extreme but trajectory on a small target is a problem. Distances up to about 500 yards. Antelope hunters have made use of the 7mm STW for this with 140 grain bullets because distance is hard to judge, especially for a non resident on a once a year hunt. But the STW makes a poor long range magnum for 600 to 1000 yard use.
Large powder charges and heavy bullets are very hard on barrels. Long range shooting for example at 1000 yard means the bullet may be in flight for over 1 1/2 seconds. The bullet drops at a rate of 32 ft per sec per sec. It's an accelerating rate so uniform velocity is critical. Barrel wear contributes to loss of uniformity. Also the large charge cushions the ignition sequence and the slow powders simply are harder to ignite. You will open up your velocity string and lose more than you gain plus consume a lot of $$$$.
Barrel length is one way to get more velocity, you need length with any large case and slow powders. If you use a reasonably long barrel with a medium size case not only will you gain velocity it will also be more uniform. A couple years ago I made a 36 inch barrel in .308 for General Dynamics to use for testing. I shot some of my .308 ammo through it and found the shot to shot velocity was really uniform. There was virtually no increase of velocity with medium bullets and a small amount with 220's. The case was to the small side but the increased uniformity was interesting. I don't advocate a 36 inch barrel for a match rifle but it could be a worthwhile point to consider between the shorter 24 inch barrels and the longer 28's or 30's. Barrel time will go up, a problem in standing, but in a long range gun it's all prone.
Purchasing components. Usually you can do better by buying in quantity. The price is often better, but even if not you may save on shipping cost or trips to you supplier. However, one of the most important consideration is you have a single lot. Powder often varies in charge data lot to lot. If you buy 8 pounds in 1 pound cans as needed you might end up with several lots, each requiring a change in charge weight. Primers are often subject to some change lot to lot. Considering the shortage of primer and some other supplies keeping a fair stock on hand may mean shooting or not shooting at times. People talk of rare coins for value, primers in 94 came close to being the same. In early 95 shortage in bullets and cartridge cases are visible but primer supply is better.
Cartridge cases can very from lot to lot, especially from year to year as changes in dies and material occur. Today most cases can be bought in bulk and at a good savings in cost. You can also buy in bulk nickel cases which gives you better function in bolt rifles.
Dies. In 308 it has been a problem to get dies that size the case small enough at the shoulder. If the shoulder isn't reduced enough the memory of case after firing will cause extra effort on extraction. Currently the .308 RCBS dies works very well. The small base is a misleading label as it isn't extra small but just about where it should be and the shoulder is tight. This may be more of a problem on G.I. cases with thick wall than some of the newer commercial cases.
Get a package of decapping pins and it probably would be wise to have an extra decapping rod, they can be bent or broken. If the die get scratched if can be polished out by spinning it in a lathe chuck. Use fine paper and a slotted rod to polish the inside of the die, a drop of oil helps.
If you tear the rim off the case which happens usually from lack of lube, pull the case via the following. Unscrew the decapping rod so it backs away from the base of the case. Drill out the primer pocket hole and tap it 1/4 x 28. Now find a ring to go around the case head but seats against the base of the die. Place a washer under the screw head that reaches the ring and use the screw to pull the case out. If you have access to machines you can make yourself a one piece cap to act as the puller. It will look much like a long screw type bottle cap with a hole in the center. These have been sold at times as commercial items.
4-96 For dies like 6.5 x 08 a simple way to make dies is to drill out the die with a carbide drill. Take a regular 243 die and ream the neck to size with a carbide reamer. The die is then filled with a surface hardening compound, heated bright red and quenched in water. The die is then place in a lathe chuck and polished on the inside with fine paper. Of course you have to know the proper neck diameter. You'll need the proper size expander ball. This offers easily availability to many special wildcat using regular inexpensive factory dies. The cost of special reamers to make sizing dies will exceed $100 each making this procedure very attractive. In 6.5 x 08 we got to doing this procedure even though custom factory dies were available because we found a need for small based sizer for better rapid fire extraction. Carbide reamers and drills are available at low prices from MSC.
Powder scales. They don't have to be fancy. Magnetic dampened scale work well. You want to watch the swing of scale as the center point is the correct weight. Reading while static, by dropping in a single grain or two might not cause a response of the beam. There are electronic scales but considering the cost I put these low on the want list for a new shooter who has more urgent wants. I charge a block of cases and then pour the powder into the pan to check those I weigh. It's much faster than moving the scale pan back and forth to the measure. You also get more uniform loads. In doing such I made a long plate to hold my measure. I clamp the plate in a bench vise and have room to move the loading block around. To dump the powder when though loading I simply open the vise and tip it into a funnel in the power can. I usually correct weight charges by simply taking pinches of power in my clean fingers. I use an empty bullet box for the powder. I have found it much faster than a trickler.
Books. Each bullet manufacture puts out a book on loads for their bullets. Some of the powder companies do also. You will want to obtain several of them and use them as reference guides. They have useful information on exterior ballistics. The loads from one book to another may not agree as they all have used differing components and gun to develop the loads. When they disagree use the lighter load and work up. Trim length and other useful details are also included.
Computer programs are also available. The most useful are those covering exterior ballistics. You want a program that gives you trajectories and wind drift to 1000 yards. A few programs are based on hunting and shorter distances. They often allow for target speed and height. The best programs take into account temperature, altitude, firing angle, humidity and other factors. By comparing many factors you can select the best bullet and caliber for your use. Two of the programs I have figure the speed and force of recoil. This can be significant in selection. Example, in a study of recoil for 1000 yard rifles it was found the 338 using the new Sierra 300 grain bullet increased the recoil by 50% over that of a 300 Magnum. The wind drift using Wayne's 210 low drag was only about 1 1/2 inches greater in a 10 mile an hour wind. The choice was then to consider problems of zero shift from the heavy recoil and fatigue from such recoil versus a small lose of wind bucking ability. For me it was an easy decision and I didn't have to fire a shot. It was the 300 Magnum.
I have also used the wind diagrams in one program to build wind charts for the score book for the bullets and velocities used. This program prints out 1/4 of a circle in either inches or minutes allowing you to correct for the angle of the wind. It is easy then to make a complete clock diagram to have chart just like in your score book, but for you load.
I just purchased a new program called on Target for Windows, version 1.0 by JBM (1994). It will figure the BC of an unknown bullet from form and twist rates required based on velocities. I'm just starting to use it so will take sometime before I can say how good it works. 4-96 This program hasn't worked out well. Tom Blank has studied it and found errors. I also bought the Pejsa Ballistics program. It's in an old basic format. It seems to work OK but not up to some of the other programs.
So far the best program is Ballistic 4.10 by W. R. Frenchu (1992). This program will work in several drag functions and will produce trajectory and wind graphs. My Sierra program is about a 1987 version and is not as nice as Frenchu's. There are quite a few programs available so I guess the best thing is try and find someone who has one and see if it does what you want.
There are some programs that even give you load data. If such loads refer to current reloading manual data it shouldn't be a problem. However one I heard about calculates loads from case volume and bullet. Such a program may be useful to a person working with wildcats with no data. I would add that such a person should be an experience reloader in development of such loads. I have worked with pressure guns for 25 years and built my first wildcat in the 50's. There are factors other than simple expansion ration to a given powder that change pressures. As mentioned earlier the contact of the bullet to the land or length of freebore will change pressure. In making 243 pressure barrels I experiment with changing the throat length. I change the length .025 and the pressure changed significantly and the velocity changed by 200 ft/sec yet the bullet did not contact lands in either case. Also the change in the cross section area of the bore or the finish on the bore will also cause differing pressures. I traced a problem once that cause bolt set back in a major brand of rifle in 7mm Rem mag. The barrel was 4 groove but the groove width used was that for a 6 groove barrel. There are many variable that interact, so I fear a new reloader might get into trouble due to a limited back ground.
Chronographs are now quite low in price. I recall being in Gander Mt's outlet and they were selling out reconditioned small units for around $60. Larger model go around $200 to $300. The better ones now have printers and proof channels.
Wayne and Mark just bought a nice unit for under $200. It has sky screens with 2 ft. separations and a large area. Wayne was testing groups prone while shooting through the screens. The display would hold each value and you could scroll back through the memory and see each shot and then record it. This feature allowed you do to what a printer will do but for about $100 less. A third proof screen to give a back up reading , shows a bad reading. However in most cases these reading will be far enough out that you know they are bad, so for normal use you can save by not buying this feature. The sky screen works best in overcast or clouds. Bright sunlight will cause glint on bullets and false readings. Light diffusers help but may not work when the sun is not directly over the screens.
Practice, often done alone. I have said, save some of your loading time for practice. I find that 100 yards on reduced target works very well. If you have a local range available it most likely is 100 yards. I shoot a lot at 100 yards. If I have doubts about a load I take primed cases, a powder measure and scale along with a hand tool to seat and test at the range while also getting in some practice. Targets are available for all stages reduced to 100 yards. One of the big advantages is you can see the bullets hole in your scope. One trick, cut your target out behind the center of the bull allowing light from behind. Large sections of card broad box make a handy target backing. You only need a few large 100 yard full face targets and then just keep replacing centers. Group testing on the 100/600 reduced gives you results scaled to the real thing and the practice at the same time, that is if you shoot groups prone.
Reduced loads referred to as plinker loads can also be used for shooting on limited ranges. In the early 60's we shot offhand matches in the shop after closing hours with a couple of friends. The bullet was a Speer plinker in .30 caliber pushed by a small charge of pistol powder. Another case I recall a 6 x 225 using 60 grain bullets and a small charge. It shot much like a 22 RF and gave me indoor practice for an early spring international match. The energy and velocity should be about that of a center fire pistol. The noise level low. It may be such a load can give you that extra practice. Some of the loading books give loading data for this.
4-96 BLOOP TUBES & VLD BULLETS. I installed a bloop tube on my 6.5 x 08 after the 95 Camp Perry matches. Like most shooters this was done to extent sight radius. I saw a drastic improvement in performance and lost the wild shots associated with VLD bullets. Some of this shooting was done with a scope so I wasn't simply experiencing sighting improvement. I recorded 15 twenty shot matches at 600 yards since the tube went on. During this shooting I lost only 12 points and most of these were traceable to my error in sight adjustment for wind. I recall one 9 I shot after shooting three 200's in a row, I shot the 9 and marked it in the score book before the target came back up. 3 were lost at Racine, late on a Wednesday evening when it was very dark. Another shot was lost at La Crosse dropping out the bottom, I simply went to long without cleaning. So, all 12 points lost were accounted for to shooter error.
I think what is happening is that the bullet is subject to variations in muzzle blast as it exits the muzzle. This effect appears to happen most with bullets of great length. I have noticed this in 6.5 and 7mm with reports coming from 1000 yd shooters using .30 caliber's. In my experience, slowing the velocity and using a faster burning powder has helped. The problem is seen less in 22's and 6mm's with shorter actual lengths. In some cases lost shots in the these were traceable to distorted boattails because many of these have thin jackets. My current thoughts are that the tube contains the gas from the muzzle blast producing a high density atmosphere uniformly around the bullet at exit. I think the Sierra design (7 to 8 R), being more blunt, has more point drag and is less likely to move off the projection axis then the sharp pointed VLD. This difference explains why the VLD is more likely to produce a wild shot. The high density from the tube increase the drag on the VLD correcting the tendency to wander off the intended course.
It has been suggested what I have seen is simply the damping of barrel whip. My tube is stainless steel where as other usually make these of aluminum. I point out, my barrel is a heavy with 12 flutes and was cryogenic treated. All loads seem to shoot better and I think a vibration change would still be sensitive to changes of load. Over the years, there have been numerous reports of improvement of accuracy with muzzle brakes which are screwed on, not those cut into the bore. In some cases this may be simply the reduction of recoils keeps the shooter from simply flinching as he shoots. In one recent conversation I got a report of improved grouping on a heavy bench type hunting rifle where shooter error is not likely.
I had a conversation with researcher at the Unv. of Arkansas. He feels like I do, that the wild shots are a function of length in actual length, not proportional in caliber length as commonly done for stability related to twist rate. He also pointed out that a lot of fine parts of powder, fractured by the ignition is blown out the muzzle. I have noted the problem is seen more with large cases with large charges of slow burning powder. This fit his scenario. He went on to speculate that what we may be seeing is ignition of some powder particles at the exit changing the uniformity of the muzzle blast surrounding the bullet. The bloop tube contains all the gas damping out this effect. This seems to be born out by my results as I also experienced better grouping with 120 MK's at 300 yards and 140 MK's at 600 yards. If irregular muzzle blast is a problem all bullets should be effected but we simply don't see the really wild shots with these shorter bullets.
I had a conversation with Bruce B. who is a leading builder of 1000 yd bench guns. I related what I had learned. Bruce had been experimenting with bloop tubes. He had used tubes with 1/2" and 5/8" inside diameter and hadn't seen any improvement. Al W. had experiment with small I. D. tubes with 308's, he found that 5/8 was too small and when he opened to 3/4", the gun shot well. My tube is .812 inside and extends 6 inches past the muzzle and has no vents. Another shooter had 4 guns with tubes in .223. The tubes were 5/8" on the I. D. Two shot well and the other two didn't which appears to confirm Al's experience. In the early 70's I built a number of laboratory test barrels. These were fired with an extension tube on short pistol barrels fitted in a universal receiver, the tube was required to support the system in a steady rest on the arsenal mount. Performance was screwed up until I vented the tubes. Note, this was with very slow moving bullets. It appears the tubes must be selected in a proper diameter and possibly length to prevent accuracy lost and if just right, may result in improvement of accuracy.
Bruce had attended a party hosted by Norma at the Shot Show. He had a conversation with an engineer from Norma. They had found that their real sharp VLD bullets shot well at shorter ranges like Bruce had at 600 yards. Bruce said he found accuracy deteriorated when the bullet approached 1000 yards. They confirmed this. In the past I had been sent tracking data from Norma. They can track a bullet in flight for several 1000 yards by a radar system. The engineer said as the bullet slowed down at long ranges it appeared to encounter some problem which I would think of as a turbulence. I have a sample of their early design and it has a ogive of 15 radius or more. He said the felt the problem was related to sharp transition point of point radius to the cylindrical portion. They changed the point to what was described as an 11 to 12 radius and the problems with accuracy appeared to have been corrected. This appears to match the design of the Lapua 138 in 6.5. It's as long as the GTB 141 but visually the radius on the point is less. Reports on the 138 from Joe. H who has shot them extensively at 1000 yards in a 6.5 x 08 is that they shoot extremely well. I have shot them twice at 600 yards and both scores were 200-11X. Corky T. commented Norma view appeared to match result we've had with bullets using a tangent ogive which gives a sharp transition point. Now this doesn't mean excellent score can't be fired with sharper VLD's as they certainly are, but give us some area to think on for future developments. It also might have some bearing related to wild shots and bloop tubes.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, PRACTICE SHOOTING TO IMPROVE SCORES.
Updates 4-97 VLD Design not proving out
There as been more information in the last few months about what appears to be errors in the concept of super sharp bullets. My experience with the 138 Lapua with a mild radius proved even more successful than reported last year. I fired them three times more at 600 and now have 100 records rounds without a point lost. Sierra has introduced a 142 grain 6.5mm bullet. An early sample I have shows it to be a close match to the Lapua when projected side by side on one of my comparators. Early reports from those who have used the new bullet confirm its performance is outstanding.
Randy Gregory reports a conversation with Larry Miller that is extremely interesting. Now please note what I am reporting is third hand. Larry teamed up with Scott Medesha and Mid Tompkins to do some long range tests on bullets. They made some chronograph screens used at 1000 yards. The screens were made by using thin insulation board with a sheet of aluminum foil on each side. The bullet passing through the screen made contact through foil and triggered the chronograph. I assume two screen were used at a proper spacing per normal practice. Most screens of this type work by a breaking of the circuit rather than closing it so some other change must have been made. Repeated shots could be fired through the screens.
The bullets discussed were the new 140 Hornady A-Max, the sharp point approx. 17 radius GTB in 141 or 144 weight, and the new 142 Sierra. The Hornady lost more velocity than the others and apparently it couldn't be fired as fast but proved to have fine accuracy at 600 yards. The Sierra 142 and the GTB show the same velocity lost at 1000 yards. The sharp point just didn't work out as projected from short range tests. The Sierra also proved to be more accurate.
I believe the problem is a greater turbulence with the long radius. Bill Sheane spend some time with Bubba Beal at Powell River labs. They shot the new tungsten core bullets all the way to 1700 yards. Greg from PRL told me the point of impact for a 12 radius and a 15 radius projectile launched at the same speed was the same. Bill reported that in watching the bullet through the spotting scope, the 12 radius looked like a dart but there was a noticeable wake with the 15.
Wayne Anderson has moved to improve his bullet and had a 10 radius nose forming die made. The limited test to date indicate a sharp increase in performance with only a slight increase in trajectory. Bruce Bear shot an outstanding group with these new bullet at 800+ yards. Randy Gregory reports fine performance and in the first Palma match at Lodi in 97 Wayne cleaned everyone shooting his new bullet in a 180 grain version. Likewise I have learned that Bob has modified his GTB bullets by getting a nose die like Wayne's. One report from a bench rester in the east indicates extremely good results with the new GTB 6.5mm 144.
Now of course there have been good scores with the sharp points. I have been using 180 VLD's in my Palma rifle. These were made by Doc Palmasano before he sold the die to Wayne. In my 308 they shot extremely well all the way to 1000 yards. In 97 I re barreled my magnum to 30-338. I worked up a load with these 180's at 3174 ft/sec using VV N560 powder. It shot very well at 600. I had a 199-11X at LaCrosse. The I went to Lodi and shot it twice at 1000 losing an average of 10 points per match. Something happened. I suspect the extra high velocity induced some problem in flight that became only visible past 600 yards.
Moly coating (spring of 97) is now coming on strong. I plan to start doing it myself and have been getting the supplies. There are a number of industrial source for the moly at reasonable prices. One in Atlanta sells 3 Lb. or more for $15 a Lb. That's more than you need so pool up with your buddies. Ball bearings are normally used but steel shot about BB size should work. Both tumblers and vibrators are used. If you use a vibrator be sure you close it or you will have a black cloud.
Many of the shooters do not wax the bullets. This means the moly will wipe off on your hands. I have also been told that the amount of wax is critical. I just got a barrel back that didn't seem to shoot as well as expected. The shooter reported a dark shadow in the barrel. After looking and cleaning I couldn't find it but noted the edges of the grooves appeared dark. Then I checked the muzzle with the microscope at 10X. The muzzle was OK but I saw what appeared to be paint in the corners of the grooves. Never saw anything quite like this before. Finally I scratch the surface with a brass pin and found the paint appearing substance was like a grease. I believe it is wax and possibly the cause of the accuracy problem. (Later-shooter said he didn’t use moly coated bullets?)
Those who shoot the moly coated bullets report less fouling. They can go through a match without needing to clean the bore. This is an advantage because most barrels take several rounds the settle down after cleaning which may cause a few lost points. The amount of powder required with these bullets to obtain the same velocity as previous, is usually about a grain more. What appears to happen is the bullet simply slips easier over the lands hence it goes farther down the tube in early stages of combustion. This is like having a bigger case. The volume per unit of time is larger, hence more powder is required.
Reports of less drop are common. This is probably a result of an easier flow of the bullet as it distorts in length to compensate for the area take up by the lands in the barrel. The bullet, I feel, simply retains a better form hence better flight characteristics. We just encountered an interesting case that illustrates how bullets go thorough the barrel. During the winter Randy Gregory fitted several custom made 9 groove barrels of another make. He recovered these along with others from the snow bank they were fired into. The bullets fired in the 9 groove barrel hadn't touched the grooves. the diameter was .304 to .305 and the lead core had squirted out of the open base of the 172 military bullets. This is visible proof of how bullets distort when passing through a barrel to compensate for the lands. Metal doesn't compress.
Seldom do you actually get to see results as clearly as in this test. I always tell people that mainsprings lose their cast and may cause problems with ignition. Often this is verticals at long range. Remember I said in my past use of this new barrel it didn't seem to settle down at 600 as well I thought it should.. I thought it was the barrel just breaking in and me adjusting to a new rifle.
The misfires and the wide spread in velocity on Monday's tests suggested a problem with the action. I pulled the spring out, it was lighter and shorter than the new Wolfe. It may also have simply lost compression. This action was made in the 60's and I think it's the original spring. This was an action from a spare rifle and hasn't been used much in last few years.
I dressed up and polished the pin point to make it smooth and round. I faced off a little metal down in the sleeve that stops the pin's fall. Moved protrusion from .055 to .060. Installed the new mainspring.
I had to clean the barrel so I shot some 120's through it to check another powder for short range practice and foul the barrel. To show the change I'm listing all the velocities tested.
6.5 x 08 w/142’s
Before new spring; 1. 2731, 2. 2732, 3. 2769, 4. 2758, 5. 2749, 6. 2730
After new spring 1. 2724, 2. 2724, 3. 2730, 4. 2723, 5. 2726 also after first 120’s I shot a remaining round from test before that misfired, it was 2734.
Note; excursions were to the high side, not the low as normally assumed from faulty ignition. Both loads were 39-N150, Lapua case, BR2 primer and 142 Moly coated bullets loaded to 2.855+ OAL
Question is, why didn't the 140's fired before the mainspring change show the extreme variation the 142 did? Load was 39 N150, Lapua case BR2 primer , 140 Moly coated bullet load at about 2.820 OAL. 1. 2732, 2. 2722, 3. 2728, 4. 2740, 5.2730
MOLY COATING (4-98). I used moly coating through the last half of the 1997 season. This process reduced vertical stringing in my well-used 6.5 x 08. The rifle had 4000 rounds on it when I switched to moly bullets. This was exceptional life and I credit cryo treating. This was done in 1995 and was my first barrel to be cryo treated. At 600 yards this barrel was starting to show more vertical shots. This comes from roughness in the throat. Cryo causes an alignment of the structure and appears to reduce the spauling in the throat but it’s a hedge, not a cure all. The moly coated bullets slide easier through the throat so roughness causes less velocity variation.
On July 20 of 1998 I shot a 198-15X with moly coated 142 Sierra’s to win the 600-yard stage at the Pig Roast in Eau Claire. I shot the same load again on the 23rd for practice at Racine and has 198-12X. The barrel was now has 4372 rounds through it.
I use no wax. I run them in a MIDWAY vibrator, with about 2 1/2 lbs. of 5/32" steel balls in it. It takes about a teaspoon of moly to charge the tumbler. I then run 2 boxes of bullets in it. It takes about 2 hours for the first batch. Then the tumbler is charged and time will be one hour or less. I add a small amount for each batch. I use a medium size, flat blade screwdriver as a spoon to pick up a small amount of moly.
You can make a strainer out of two plastic buckets like those used for ice cream. Take one and drill holes through the bottom for the steel balls to drop through. Simply shake the mixture so the balls drop through the first bucket into the second bucket. Now take a large plastic pan and cover the bottom with paper towel. Dump the bullets on the towel in the pan. Now take more towels and roll the bullets by hand. The excess moly will wipe off and you're ready to load
More on twist rates. I have found, contrary to popular opinion, that low drag bullets needed less twist. I had a chance to discuss bullet spin data with my friend Chris who does ballistic research. He is now with JPL. I asked him if he was aware of the change in design from VLD to LD due to turbulence. He said he was but felt another factor was over looked and the theory questionable. He pointed out that with too much twist the bullet my not rotated. That is tip over so the point is in the direction of flight. He said with too much spin the bullet my travel with the point up like a surfboard. This may account for the turbulence and added drag at long range with VLD’s
Some changes in 1998. Wayne has stopped making bullets for the time being. His work schedule has become somewhat hectic; he no longer has time for this part time business. He is keeping the dies and perhaps in the future he may start up some sales again. One problem for the small custom bullet maker has been reliable supply of bullet jackets.
I shot Wayne’s new 180 at Racine on September 9, 1997. It was in my 30-338 and it shows the quality of the bullet. At 600 yards the first score was 200-12X in the Any-Any match. I followed this up with a 200-16X in the Any-Iron match. The barrel was 30 inch with a 1-13 twist. The load was 74 grains of N165 in Remington cases with BR2 primers. The velocity was 3042 ft/sec. I have found the accuracy to be better with the regular powders, not the high-energy type, and loaded down some from max.
Hornady has started to make a new 180-grain .30 caliber bullet that appears to be a partial copy of Wayne’s new 180 LD. I haven’t seen it yet, but reports say the nose is like Wayne’s but the boattail is shorter. Machine production of bullets may require less drastic form details than those swaged by hand. Reports are that in Lab tests at Hornady they were getting groups in .3 to .4 range. That is extremely good. I’m looking forward to trying them.
The 175 Sierra .30 caliber has proven to be an excellent bullet. I have heard many favorable comments. I used these with moly coating for my last two Palma Matches. The scores were 446-28X in 97 and 446-21X on April 21, 1998. My load was 45 grains of N150 in Remington case with CCI BR2 primers. I have been making the military barrels for the SR25’s used by Special Forces. They report 9-inch groups with 175’s in 11 twist barrels that are only 20 inches in length. One caller reported that a person at Sierra told him the bullet should be stable at 13 inches of twist. My Palma gun’s barrel is 1-12. I have made 1-13.7 twist barrels for 300-meter rifles that used the 168’s. Wigger’s barrel that set 2 world records was a 1-14.08, but was a 30-06 so velocity was a little higher. So 1-13 twist with a .308 seems to be possible but is probably on the edge. The slower twist is an advantage for shooter who shoots the 155 or smaller bullets as required in some matches or in most other countries
If you are going to shoot 1000 yards don’t use the 168’s, they won’t make it. I was reminded of this during the April 98 Palma match at Lodi. The shooter next to me was at his first match at this distance. His load worked ok through 900 but at 1000 many of the bullets came in sideways. The bullet simply drops below the sonic barrier as it passes 900 yards and the shock wave tips it.
Sierra is making a 107 grain bullet in 6.5 and Lapua has bullet at 108 grains. The Lapua is a little longer than the Sierra. I will start shooting them this season. I have heard reports of good results when loaded at 2800 or just over this velocity. Randy used N140 and simply raised the load a bit. I had a conversation with a shooter in Kansas. He uses a 6.5 x 250 Savage. He was shooting the 107 Sierra’s in the mid 2600's and had good results at 300 yards. I want to make a slower twist barrel to shoot the lighter LD and VLD designs. If the slower twist corrects problems seen with bullets like the GTB 122 VLD it could be very good choice for ranges with 300 yards max. or 300 meters. It should also work well at 600 yards on most days. The reduction in recoil is a big plus for rapid fire and has seen score rise. On my new CM barrel installed the first of August 98 I ran, after sighting in, 106 rounds at 300 before losing my first point. This was with moly coated 120 Sierra’s at 2786. The case was Remington Nickel with Rem 9 1/2 primers and 37.5 grains of N140. I ended the season with a string of seventy 10’s and X’s. The light recoil and constant zero is responsible for the good performance, not the highest velocity or the smallest group
I used both the new 142 Sierra and the old 140 design in my new barrel for 600 yards. Both were moly coated. I used Lapua brass. It is a smaller volume case, like our gov’t brass. It seems to be a little softer and since it is premium brass I decided to keep the load down to be sure I didn’t lose primer pockets. The velocity was in the 2730’s with both bullets. I used N150 to keep the muzzle blast problems down even though the barrel has a 6-inch .812 ID bloop tube. The 142 Sierra has an advantage of less wind drift but the 140 proved to have the edge on accuracy. On days where the wind is mild and X’s are the big thing the 140 has the edge. At Racine in August of 97 I shot 199-14X with it and followed it up with a 200-18X. With the 142’s my records show a 200-10X, 200-21X, 198-11X, and 200-11X. It just doesn’t produce as many X’s for me. Eric did shoot a 200-17X at LaCrosse with his gun. All barrels are 8 3/4-inch twist. I just got some of the GTB 142’s with the new LD design nose. Dave Tubb used these to win at Camp Perry in 1997. (12-98, Used the new GTB bullet to shoot 200-8X in International postal match. 300 yards on 200-300 reduced center.)
The 138 Lapua has been an excellent performer. Until recently they have been hard to find. I got 2 boxes from customers and shot 5 matches at 600 with them. I had 5 scores of 200 with them. I now have a source for Lapua directly from the importer with the best prices so I and others can shoot them. (12-98 Change in distrabution just cut my supply.)
I have optained samples of the new .30 caliber 155 grain bullet made by Radyway Green in the UK. My sample is .3081 at the base. It has the core inserted from the rear. I also checked the 145 grains bullets from the UK and Australia. They are just under .308 diameter and also cored from the back. On ignition the core is force forward in the jacket expanding it. The use of undersize barrel simply is wrong. You increase the length distortion of the bullet. Lands are not compressed in, the metal displaced must flow somewhere else. My observations over many years and many barrels indicate slightly larger groove diameter barrels shoots better than the smaller diameter ones. Yes some tight barrels shoot very well, but is it because of or inspite of ? A lot of popular concepts simply aren’t true, they may work inspite of not because of.
12-98. The 142 Sierra has worked really well. Shot a 799 in 4 gun 600 at Lodi with them. Shot two clean with the older barrel that now exceeds 4500 rounds. The moly coating really leveled out the elevation. The new barrel used only with moly now has 3650 on it. Shot it in state 4 gun 600 and won with a 798-50. The second 9 was at 6.
I t was the 80th shot and target went down while I was aiming. A crossfire! Took the rifle down and called it to the scorer. Then change the round because it was getting warm. Then I shot a 9 in same place as round 57. I’m sure it was me. By the way switched to IMR 4831 for the last match. The velocity is 2758.
One thing I noted
with the newer barrel was the barrel lost velocity as I went a long. I think the
wear in the throat allows the moly-coated bullet to slip farther forward hence
greater volume. The roughness that resisted the bullet in the past now holds
moly and hence now aids the passage of the bullet. The solution is to simply
watch the velocity and up the charge as needed. With chronographs now very cheap
it’s easy to do.
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