December Cover Page

December 1909  

The Rifleman's Journal

A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics

Charles B. Winder - 1903 Leech Cup Winner

15 Cents  

History: Short Items 1

Short Items from Old Books and Magazines
First in an Ocassional Series

We'll begin with a couple of articles from Popular Science, Vol. 92 (1918), written by Edward Crossman, a well known shooter and writer of the era and then move on to another piece by Crossman.  While they can be a bit tough to read due to the low image quality, I believe they are worth preserving as they offer us a relatively fresh perspective, one that was contemporaneous to the subject, on what we now view as historical items.  Crossman's books, The Book of the Springfield and Military and Sporting Rifle Shooting, are well known and preserved today, but his magazine articles are less well cataloged, so this is a rare glimpse into that side of his writing.  Enjoy!  -GAS-

Another article by Crossman, this one about John Browning, who needs no introduction to modern readers, but was not as well known in 1918 despite over forty years of genius level design work at that time.

Finally, here's another Crossman article, this one on sights from The Outing magazine, volume 49 (1911 - 1912).

Equipment: Sorting Out the New Rifle

Sorting Out the New Rifle
by: Germán A. Salazar

Sorting out a new rifle is always a bit of a process; it would be nothing but a stroke of extraordinary good fortune for the new rifle to behave perfectly from the first day out.  Even when a new rifle is very similar to an existing one, each is still, to a large extent, an individual piece of machinery and must be adjusted and understood as an individual.

On December 24, I put the finishing touches on a new Eliseo R1 Tubegun and I think the process of getting it to a competitive state should be instructive to some and at least entertaining to others.  As I write these first few paragraphs it has only been a few days since then and I have only shot one match with it, so this will of necessity be only an introduction to the subject, although I expect to add a bit more as the weeks go by.

The rifle, briefly, consists of a Borden Tubegun Special action in an Eliseo Competition Shooting Stuff R1 stock for Remington pattern long actions with a 28" Hart 1:11" twist .30 caliber barrel chambered in .30-06.  It also has a CG X-treme trigger, a Warner rear sight and a Riles front sight.  That's a lot of links!  Follow them if you want more specific information, you can also find articles about some of them on this site.

I have an almost identical rifle but with a Remington action rather than the Borden.  In fact, it was the introduction of Jim Borden's tubegun special action that made me decide to take the plunge and get a second one.  Once Jim gave me a delivery date for the action, I called Gary Eliseo to order the stock and Scott Riles to order the front sight; everything else was already on hand.  Within a few weeks, everything arrived and was assembled into a rifle rather than a pile of parts; now begins the fun part.

My first opportunity to shoot the rifle after the December 24 completion would be on December 26.  Our club had a Palma match scheduled for that day and that, of course, calls for a .308 not a .30-06.  Still, I planned to shoot it a few shots at 800 yards after my record string with a .308 and then perhaps again at 1000 yards.  The idea was to simply get some basic zeros for the sights and to have some fired brass from which to check a few dimensions, most importantly headspace.  Since the chamber was cut with the very same reamer as my other .30-06 rifles, headspace would be the only variable.

Leveling the sights on a rifle before you fire it is a fairly critical operation - if you don't get it right, odds are you won't be on paper and the longer the range, the more likely that is to happen.  Since the Riles front sight has a spirit level, I decided to place a small spirit level in one of the grooves of the Weaver rail on the tube, and then level it, while semi-simultaneously leveling the front sight using the spirit level in it.  That little project went along smoothly and I was confident in the result.  For an elevation zero I simply set the rear sight and front sight to the 800 yard settings that I use on the other tubegun - a perfectly logical and practical solution.

December 26 dawned cold and windy - very windy.  At the range we were undecided for a while as to whether we would even try to shoot because the 15 to 25 mph headwind made it difficult to keep the target frames in the air and it was extremely unpleasant in the prone position in the middle of our very open range.  Nonetheless, we shot and I stuck to the plan of firing a few shots through the new rifle after the 800 yard stage.  My perfectly logical sight settings and careful leveling weren't particularly good!  The first shot hit the front berm in between my target's number board and the one next to it.  I added 12 minutes of elevation and six minutes of left windage and was rewarded with another low-right miss.  Those adjustments really should have been enough, but since the first shot was actually the first shot ever through the barrel, it might have been an oddball.  I added more elevation maybe four minutes, I can't remember now, and another three minutes of left windage.  The next shot hit the paper with good elevation but wide right.  Three more minutes of windage and I hit the X ring.  That was enough shooting for the moment since I was very uncomfortable in the cold wind and eager to move back to the 900 yard line and keep the match moving.  As it turned out, the day got nicer but I didn't fire the rifle again, so those four shots were all that it would have that day.

Upon arriving home, I ran a few wet patches through the barrel and let it soak.  Not that four shots really requires a barrel cleaning, but old habits die hard and I always clean a rifle after shooting it.  Meanwhile I checked the brass on a headspace gauge and found that it was 0.002" over SAAMI minimum (checked with a Go Gauge in the headspace gauge).  That's just exactly where I like it as I can set my die to "0" headspace and have the two thousandths setback that I prefer.  I cleaned up the .308 rifle from the day's match, and then ran another patch through the .30-06's barrel.  Much to my surprise, I got a very green patch, showing a fair amount of copper, especially for only four rounds fired.  After letting it soak a while longer the next patch also showed green so I ran a patch with IOSSO paste through it a few strokes, flushed it out and checked it with the borescope.  Other than a minute trace of copper at the muzzle, the bore was clean and copper-free.

A look at the rear sight showed that it was about 14 minutes left of center, far more than is desirable.  When I finished the 800 yard stage with the .308 I had about two minutes of windage on the rifle to compensate for the wind; while it was a strong wind, it was almost directly from 12:00, so it didn't require a large adjustment.  Assuming that the .30-06 would require a similar adjustment, I took two minutes off the sight, which left me twelve minutes left at what should be close to a decent windage zero.  Twelve minutes translates to 48 clicks at 0.0021" per click, so the sight was 0.1008 left of center.  In order to center the rear sight, I would also have to move the front sight by that amount.  These adjustments are still a rough estimate, because they are based on the guess of how much windage the rifle really needed when I fired it at 800 yards (my 2 moa guesstimate).

With the buttstock still off the rifle, I clamped the barrel into padded vise and set up a dial indicator on a magnetic base so that the tip of the indicator was bearing on the front sight body even with the aperture.  I then loosened the sight clamping screws and moved the front sight to the right by 0.101", just the amount needed to center the rear sight and have a good windage zero.  With the sight work completed (for the moment), I turned my attention to ammunition. 

Since the club had a 1000 yard match on December 27, my plan was to shoot the new rifle for the entire 60 shot match to see what needed attention.  There are two basic options on ammunition: try something new or go with the well-proven combination.  There will be plenty of time to experiment with different bullets and loads in this rifle, but for the first match, and especially because it was a 1000 yard match, it made more sense to me to simply use the well-proven load.  I didn't even want to try small variations on the load, such as a half of a grain more or less of powder at each stage, because there might be rifle adjustments to be made or other unexpected situations cropping up on that first day and I didn't want the ammunition to be a complicating factor.  Those first four rounds fired on the 26th were my standard 600 and 1000 yard load and as usual it showed no pressure signs, so that would be the load for the first match: 53.5 grains of H4350, a moly-coated Sierra 190, PMC primers and Lapua brass.  I use Winchester brass for the most part, sometimes Lake City Match, but earlier this year I got a good deal on 150 pieces of Lapua with a nice "100 Years .30-06" headstamp and the new rifle seemed like a good home for it.

Speaking of brass, I checked that Lapua brass for wall thickness runout and of 75 pieces, only 5 showed runout of 0.002", the rest being under that.  Since 0.003" is my normal point of rejection, this really was excellent brass.  The necks, however, weren't as uniform as I prefer, with as much as 0.0015" variance in neck wall thicknes being common.  Loaded rounds averaged 0.336" neck diameter, with some variance, of course.  I concluded that I would turn the necks, just as I do with Lake City, but not for the first match as time was short and I prefer to turn after one firing as the process of firing and resizing gives a cleaner definition to the neck/shoulder junction that makes setting the cutter stop easier.  With my chamber neck diameter of 0.340", the turning would be simply for uniforming and not for clearance.  While I normally turn to 0.0125" thickness, I think these will all clean up at 0.0135" and I might do that this time despite the fact that it would change my process a bit.

With the barrel cleaned, the ammo loaded, the sights re-zeroed and the stock adjusted to match all the settings on my other Tubegun, I went to the match on the 27th.  When my relay's turn came and the command to commence fire sounded out, I put two minutes of windage on for the wind condition I saw and fired that first shot.  Anytime you're at 1000 yards with an unknown or untested setup, that first shot carries a bit of anxiety - will it hit the target at all?  I was rewarded instantly as the target went down, indicating that the shot had indeed made it through the paper.  The puller quickly marked and raised the target, showing a 9 at 8:00.  It appears that the sight move was successful, I was probably no more than one minute off a true windage zero and that would be close enough to get through the day's match.

The stock adjustments were an exact duplicate of my other tubegun, and not surprisingly, there were no problems with that as they are identical in all respects.  The load was my major concern - would it be accurate in this new barrel?  In fact, would the barrel be any good?  This barrel is also identical to the one in the other rifle, but barrels are genuinely the most individual of all rifle components, so I was eager to see how it would work out. 

The first string was a 194-5X, not too exciting, with a couple of high and low shots, but most points lost to windage which is no one's fault but mine.  A stint in the pits for a couple of hours preceded the next string and then when I came out I scored one relay first, allowing me to really observe the conditions.  The second string was much better with no elevation shots and a 196-11X; all the points lost were from two 8's on the right side, both times on quick let-offs in the wind that happened while I was aiming.  I wasn't displeased at all, the rifle had settled into a very small elevation pattern and as I looked around I saw that only Mid Tompkins fired a higher score on that string (a 200-9X) and it was a large match.  Hmmm, maybe things were working out ok after all.

The final string of the match had conditions similar to the first two, a moderate wind, rising and falling quickly in velocity.  My score of 199-6X was the high score fired and the aggregate of 589-22 was second to Mid's 593-25, a good barometer of how the rifle and I handled the day.  In general, I was very satisfied with the outcome, especially after seeing the elevation settle down after the first string.  I wonder if that was related to the barrel being brand new or if it was just that my mind was more on the rifle than the shooting.  I don't think there's a clear answer to that, but it points out the logic of having decided to stick with one load for the entire day.  Had I been trying different loads, it would have been tempting to erroneously blame the intial elevation dispersion on the load. 

As things turned out, I know that my basic load is a good one in this rifle, as it has been in several other .30-06's that I shoot.  The sight setting for windage is close and will require only a bit of refining on a calmer day and the stock adjustments are good.  The only other item that might require some attention is the trigger.  I think that I would like a very slightly lower second stage weight of pull, I found myself hesitating a bit on the trigger break now and then during the match.  This is a simple process with the CG trigger and I'll take care of that this week.  A small adjustment is easy to feel when in position, so I prefer to make really small changes in the trigger and maybe take a few sessions to arrive at my final setting than to overshoot it and find myself with an uncomfortably light trigger at a match.

So, after a reasonably successful first outing, can the rifle be considered "sorted out"?  No, there's a lot of work ahead, but I can see that it will be a competitive rifle and the barrel appears to be a good one.  Apart from the minor sight and trigger tweaking described above, the main effort will be in load development.  I tend to be fairly conservative in this area, meaning that I prefer to use bullets and powders that are reasonably familiar to me and I stay away from any load that is excessive in pressure.  Fortunately, I have the ability to do some pressure testing on handloads which keeps me safe, but when in doubt I simply look at the loads and pressure published in the Hodgdon and IMR manuals and adhere to those maximums.

I'm intersted in trying several of the new Berger bullets in this barrel, especially the 185 BT; these bullets are working very well for several top shooters in our area and they might be a plus at 1000 yards.  Although I've done a fair amount of work with Reloder 17 in the past and it is well suited to the .30-06, I don't forsee doing much, if anything, with it at the moment, as I'm not really looking for super high muzzle velocity and I just don't want to lose a lot of time and effort on what may be an chimerical quest.  The .30-06 works very well with 180 gr. to 190 gr. bullets in the 2750 fps to 2850 fps range, and that's where I'm comfortable looking for the load that delivers top accuracy with reasonable wind drift.

Update 1- Dec. 28, 2009.  The barrel cleaned up very nicely after the match (77 shots), with no trace of copper after soaking for a little over a day.  I don't know why it showed copper after the first four shots on the 26th, maybe that was my "barrel break-in" a concept I've never really bothered with.  In any case, I was happy to see that it cleaned up well with just wet patches, over the course of the day I ran 7 or 8 patches through it at long intervals.  The borescope shows a nice clean surface, no carbon, no copper.

A fellow .30-06 shooter who corresponds with me recommended that I try Reloder 22 with the 210 Bergers.  I'm not sure if the 1:11" twist barrel will handle the 210, I've shot them in a 1:10" with no problem, so I think what I'll do is try them with RL22 in the 1:10" barrel which is on another rifle, then if the load works out, I'll try it in this rifle with its 1:11" barrel.  Berger's website shows that a 1:11" twist should stabilize the 210; of course that's velocity dependent to a large degree, so we'll see - I hope it works, that would be interesting.  Hopefully, Bruno's has RL22 in stock.

Update 2 - Jan. 1, 2010.  I tested two loads with the Berger 175 gr. BT today at 500 yd. They were 55.0 and 56.0 (moly coated).  I've used the 55.0 load in other rifle and it has always been very good, but I decided to also try 56.0 after reviewing my chrono and pressure tests from last summer.  I noted that 56.0 was still under max. pressure and the SD of pressure was slightly lower.  The firing test was inconclusive, as both loads held X ring elevation at 500; one was slightly tighter but not dramatically and with only ten shots of each it isn't enough data.   I plan to shoot our 600  yard match tomorrow with 55.0, 55.5 and 56.0 loads and try to make an evaluation.  In any event, either load seemed to shoot better at 500 than my usual load with Sierra 190's, but given my large supply of 190's, I won't be giving up on them anytime soon.

I also adjusted the trigger a bit today.  Despite my earlier comment about reducing the second stage weight of pull, I actually increased it a bit and changed the proportion of sear engagement between the first and second stages to give a better defined break.  This kind of adjustment is really dependent on the shooter's feel for a trigger and is very hard to describe in writing, unfortunately.  However, the importance of adjusting the trigger to suit the preference of the shooter cannot be overstated - an improperly adjusted trigger is an annoying distraction at best, a danger at worst and a certain score killer regardless.  Every bit of effort spent on the trigger is well spent.  I will see tomorrow if today's adjustments are truly a step in the right direction.

Update 3 - April 6, 2010.  I hadn't thought about this article in a while, but here's a small update.  The trigger adjustment worked out well but a couple of months later, I was shooting a match when I suddenly found that the second-stage stop point was gone.  The trigger felt like a long-pull single-stage.  A quick adjustment at the range restored the second stage, but it went away after a few shots.  When I got home and disassembled everything, I found the cause - solvent and oil contamination in the trigger.  As it turns out, my old bore guide has a fairly tight entry and sits right over the trigger - that's not a good combination as I was squeezing a drop of solvent or oil onto the top of the trigger with every patch pushed into the bore guide.  I was able to get an extra long bore guide from Bob Hahin which solved the problem.

Load testing has been minimal, I've mostly shot the 190 Sierra, 200 Sierra and 175 Berger, although I intend to try the 190 Berger VLD a bit more also.  The 200 Sierra has shot extremely well from the 1:11" twist barrel and both it and the 190 Sierra are scoring well at 1000 yards (199-9X each last time out) and at 500 and 600 yards (high of 200-14X).  H4350 remains the powder of choice.

This tubegun has an all metal buttplate, no rubber like the first one I received from Gary.  I think I prefer the rubber, it seems to stay put in the shoulder better.  I'm not positive about that, though; I should probably shoot both of them side by side to really find out.  It might just be a perception issue.

More to come...

Christmas Cover Page

December 1959  
The Rifleman's Journal

A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics

Merry Christmas to all our little Riflemen!

15 Cents 

History: Historic Shooting Books

Historic Shooting Books
by Germán A. Salazar

In the spirit of the season, here is my gift to you: free books.  I can think of no better gift than knowledge, in this case knowledge of the early days of ballistic science, organized competitive shooting, the National Rifle Association of America and much more.  Google, a company we all know for its internet search service, has undertaken a massive project known as Google Books under which they are scanning and making available millions of out-of-print books with uncertain copyright ownership.  While the project has not been without controversy and is currently under attack by both the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division and the French government, we as shooters are the beneficiaries of this project so let's hope it lasts.

Below you will find a list of books, each with a brief description and a clickable link (the title will be the link).  The link will take you to the Google Books page for each book.  You can read the entire book on it's Google Books page, or you can download it as a .pdf file and save it to your computer or print it.  You can also create your own Google Library and save the books there for access from any computer.  Most of these books are hundreds of pages long, so consider your paper and toner supply before printing!  I present the books in no special order other than my interest level, so pick and choose as you will and enjoy some history.

The Bullet's Flight From Powder to Target, Franklin W. Mann, 1909, 384 pages.
This is the original and still widely read and highly regarded book on internal and external ballistics.  Dr. Mann was a tireless experimenter and had the resources to pursue his interest with the best equipment available.  A close friend of Harry Pope as well as other notable experimenters in the early days of smokeless powder, Mann's work is thorough and well documented.  If you have an interest in ballistics, this is the foundation that you must know in order to understand the ensuing century of work in that field.

Irish Riflemen in America, Arthur Blennerhassett Leech, 1875, 216 pages.
This book chronicles the Irish rifle team's trip to America in 1874 to compete against the best of America's riflemen as organized by the Amateur Rifle Club of New York when the fledgling NRA ignored the Irish challenge.  The book also includes a great deal of history of Irish target shooting and an account of a hunting trip in the American West by members of the party.  Well worth reading.

Report of the Executive Committee of the Amateur Rifle Club - The International Rifle Match at Creedmoor September 26, 1874.  1875, 80  pages.
Absolute gold mine!  The report on the Irish-American match from the American side.  A late addition to our list but an absolute "find".

The American Rifle, Townsend Whelen, 1918, 637 Pages.
Townsend Whelen was - and remains for many of us - the dean of American firearms writers.  Here is a man who truly did it all and wrote about it with the authority of experience and the modesty of a true gentleman.  Despite his roots in Philadelphia society, Whelen sought outdoor adventure and hard living and he found it; we are all richer for his ability to document it so well.  This book, written immediately after (and during) the Great War gives a great insight into the period from a rifleman's perspective: equipment, reloading, shooting - it's all here.  A long book and worth every page.

Suggestions to Military Riflemen, Townsend Whelen, 1909, 243 pages.
Townsend Whelen's pre-war book on marksmanship which brought him to national prominence in the military establishment.  Whelen, who coached the national championship winning Army rifle team at Sea Girt in 1906, covers all aspects of shooting the Model 1903 rifle, including long-range shooting.  There is also an appendix covering the Krag-Jorgensen as it was still used by various state guard units at the time.  Positions, sights, zeroing, windage, score books, slow-fire, rapid-fire, long-range, ammunition, vision; it's all here.  Every topic you see covered in a modern book on marksmanship was covered by Whelen in this book.  You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been - this is a "must read" for the serious marksman and student of history.

Modern Rifle Shooting From the American Standpoint, Walter Guy Hudson, 1903, 155 pages.
Dr. Hudson was one of the leading lights of the early smokeless era (as well as the Schuetzen era), a contemporary and friend of Mann and Pope, Hudson was a tireless investigator of all things related to accuracy.  This very hard to find book is an introduction to target shooting with a detailed overview of equipment and practices and is well illustrated with many plates of top level equipment of the day; a real gem.

How I Became a Crack Shot; With Hints to Beginners, W. Milton Farrow, 1882, 204 pages.
Milton Farrow was one of the top shots of his time.  Well bred and well educated, modesty was not among Farrow's virtues which makes for entertaining reading as he describes his travels and his many shooting accomplishments.  The Hints for Beginners section has advice that remains sound even these many years later.

Annual Report 1902, 1903, 1904, National Rifle Association of America, hundreds of pages.
The NRA annual report of the three year period cited, this volume contains complete membership rosters for each year, association business, results of state, national and international matches including the Palma.  The 1902 Palma was won by the US with Krag rifles fitted with Pope barrels, later determined to be a violation of the rules and resulting in forfeiture of the trophy.  Many period photos and advertisements, a researcher's gold mine.

Annual Report 1905, 1906, 1907, National Rifle Association of America, hundreds of pages.
The NRA annual report for the three year period cited.   Contents as in the volume referenced above.

The Gun and its Development, William Wellington Greener, 1907 (8th Ed.) 786 pages.
Originally published in 1881, Greener's book covers all aspects of the firearms world at that time and this 8th edition has many updates.  While much of the text focuses on shotguns, there is a great deal of other material in this massive tome, including coverage of gunpowder and explosived, pistols, rifles, target shooting, rifle clubs and much more of interest to the modern rifleman.  Many great period advertisements at the end will make you wish for a time machine!

Rifles and Rifle Shooting, Charles Askins, 1919 (reprint of 1912 edition), 256 pages.
This book is by the elder Askins, not his son, who is more known to the current generation of readers.  His style is more readable than the son's, but equally lacking in technical rigor.  A broad but superficial coverage of the topic including some Schuetzen discussion.

Cartridge Manufacture, Douglas Thomas Hamilton, 1916, 167 pages.
This book is a well written, technical presentation of small arms cartridge manufacturing during the Great War.  An inside look at all processes at the Frankford Arsenal including case manufacture, bullet manufacture, loading and packaging.  A useful historical treatise on the topic.

Sporting Rifles and Rifle Shooting, John Caswell, 1920, 283 pages.
A broad coverage of sporting rifles, emphasis on hunting rifles but with an appendix by Harry Pope describing his rifle barrels and some coverage of Schuetzen rifles.  A well written work providing broad coverage of the time period.

Manual for Rifle Practice: Including Suggestions for Practice at Long Range, George Wood Wingate, 1879, 303 pages.
Wingate was the central figure in the founding of the National Rifle Association of America and like Whelen's manual 30 years later, Wingate's book was adopted as the training manual by many military organizations.  An authoritative view of state of the art marksmanship instruction in the day of the Trapdoor Springfield, Sharps, Remington Rolling Block and Peabody military rifles including diagrams and instructions for their care.

The Book of the Rifle, Thomas Francis Fremantle, 1901, 558 pages.
This English book is a very thorough history of rifles and of the British target rifle shooting.  There is so much here that is is difficult to summarize; it would be best for the prospective reader to sift through the contents as he will surely find something of interest.

Description and Rules for the Management of the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1903, United States. Army. Ordnance Dept., 1904 (5th revision 1914), 72 pages.
Here is the original US Army manual for the new Springfield Model 1903.  A must-have for the Springfield 1903 buff or student of history.

Description and Instructions for the Management of the Gallery-Practice Rifle, Caliber .22, Model of 1903, United States. Army. Ordnance Dept., 1907 (2nd Revision 1913), 12 pages.
The original US Army manual for the .22 caliber training version of the Model 1903.  This is not the Model of 1922 but rather the early subcaliber conversion which had a .22 barrel but used .30-06 size cartridge holders to hold the .22 rimfire cartridges.  A hard to find reference for a very rare rifle.

Military Rifle Shooting, U.S. Cartridge Company, 1902, 122 pages.
Overview of military rifle shooting in each state, coverage of ranges, courses of fire, targets, trophies.  Great coverage of early Palma shooting and a picture of the original trophy at pages 94 through 98.

U.S. Marine Corps Score Book: A Rifleman's Instructor, Captain William Curry Harllee USMC, 1912, 122 pages.
A scorebook as used today in Highpower shooting, but with many instructional tips and wind tables.  A nice look at an early work of this sort by Capt. Harllee who was instrumental in the development of Marine Corps marksmanship in the modern era.

Our Rifles: Firearms in American History, Volume 3, Charles Winthrop Sawyer, 1920, 413 pages.
A very complete history of rifles in America including a well detailed description of rifle manufacturing in 1920 and a call for a renewed interest in marksmanship among civilians - a call we must still heed!  Sawyer was a graduate of MIT and later a professor of architecture there; the book reflects his scholarly methodology while being easy to read.

The Scientific American War Book: The Mechanism and Technique of Warfare, Albert Allis Hopkins, Scientific American, Inc., 1916, 338 pages.
A broad coverage of warfare at the time of the Great War, and while most of the book is not directed towards rifle accuracy, the chapter on powder manufacture at page 171 and the chapter on bullet streamlining by Edward C. Crossman at page 143 are worthwhile to the student of rifle accuracy.

Machine Guns: Materiel, Captain Julian S. Hatcher, 1917, 233 pages.
An early work by Hatcher, a good read for the student of firearms mechanisms or the machine gun.

Equipment: Front Sights

The Front Sight Also Rises
by Germán A. Salazar
Alvin York is said to have applied a thin coating of saliva and dirt to his front sight in order to reduce the glare. In later years, riflemen seeking a clearer sight picture on the firing line at Camp Perry would use miners’ carbide lamps to smoke the front sights of their Springfields, Garands, M14’s and even the toy-like M16. The object of their efforts, the simple, upright, military post front sight, is becoming an increasingly rare sight on our rifle ranges. Whether a victim of simple demographics as the average age of competitive shooters increases, or perhaps of our somewhat increased resources, the service rifle with its utilitarian post front sight is seen less frequently on the rifle range these days. In its place we find the modern match rifle, a technological marvel of adjustability, superior ballistics and sights that would have left Pershing’s doughboys scratching their heads in wonderment and confusion.

The front sight has evolved from the Springfield’s simple steel slab to a fairly complex system, typically adjustable for height, containing an adjustable iris, often a lens and a spirit level and increasingly sunshades on both ends. I hope to reduce a bit of the confusion for the prospective match rifle shooter as he contemplates the broad range of choices and sometimes conflicting information regarding the front sight that arises at every range discussion on the topic. For the sake of clarity, we will focus on the models offered by two of today’s top manufacturers, Scott Riles of California, whose sights are seen on more over the course and long-range rifles than any other and Centra, a new entrant to the front sight game with their Goliath model, a very high quality 30 mm sight that is sure to gain a lot of fans quickly.  Both of these sights were designed from scratch as Highpower sights and made with the ruggedness our discipline requires.  I've seen too much adapted Smallbore equipment fail in Highpower usage to trust that type of equipment on a centerfire rifle of any caliber.  Both of these sights mount by the now standard barrel clamping method, the old dovetail mount having passed into history some years ago.  The universally accepted dimension is 0.750" for the mounting tenon, but special sizes can be had on request.

Photo: Riles Palma and Tubegun sights.

Both the Riles and the Centra are ladder type sights as this type of sight has largely supplanted the old fixed height front sight in most Highpower applications. By allowing height adjustment on the range without tools, the ladder front sight allows the shooter to make his coarse elevation adjustments on the front sight, fine tune the zero on the rear sight and keep a constant head position relative to the rear sight at all distances. AR15 match rifle shooters using the standard buttstock have come to appreciate this feature most of all, but even with an adjustable cheekpiece, the benefit of a constant head position should not be overlooked as it is one of the small details that contributes to a winning score.

Early ladder sights tended to be somewhat spindly in their construction, subject to damage from even a slight bump. Even today one sees some truly Rube Goldberg type contrivances on the firing line, often with a frustrated owner trying to keep all the bits together long enough to fire one more string. The Riles and Centra sights, by contrast, are of robust construction and can easily take the rough handling and recoil that are part and parcel of Highpower shooting as we pick it up, pack it up and move it back from line to line all day. The Riles is made from aircraft strength 7075-T6511 aluminum, the Centra sight base and elevation plate are also made from 7075 aluminum.

The Centra is made by a combination of CNC machinery and wire edm for making the flat parts. Originally designed by the venerable Robert Chombart and re-designed to be a 30mm sight as a joint effort between Robert and Tom Myers of X-Treme Shooting Products, it has 40 minutes of elevation adjustment with 0.050" pitch notches yielding approximately 5 minutes of elevation change per notch. The Centra includes a very positive, robust index ring to allow the sight to be removed for travel or to be used on another rifle.

Photo(L): Centra Goliath with various height risers.

Photo (below): Riles 22 mm Tubegun sight.
The Riles sight is adjusted by moving the side arm in relation to the base, both of which are serrated, or more correctly, cut with a 0 pitch thread. The Riles serrations are cut on CNC machinery and are held to 0.0003" of the design specification, essentially perfect. Riles marks his sights with clear, easy to read numbers on the base with matching index marks on the side arm. It is recommended that the sight be installed with the markings facing forward as that will make adjustments simpler as one looks at the sight from the muzzle end of the unloaded rifle.

Photo (below): Riles 22 mm Palma sight.
The first significant choice that must be made in choosing a new front sight is the size of the sight body itself. Today, there are essentially three choices, the 18 mm, 22 mm and 30 mm sizes.  While the Riles sight is available in all three globe sizes, the Centra is only offered in 30 mm. The 18 mm size was first developed by Anschütz, and because of that origin, a huge number of accessories were developed for that size. Whatever type of accessory or attachment one might desire can be found in the 18 mm size first and from there, as demand warrants, they are made for the larger sizes. The 18 mm size is the lightest of the three, a small factor in overall rifle weight and balance, but at times an important one. Nonetheless, the 18 mm size has largely fallen out of favor with Highpower shooters as the increased clarity through the larger sizes is an advantage, especially at long range.
The 22 mm sight bodies have become the Highpower standard over the past decade or so. In that time all of the commonly used accessories have been developed for that size. The 22 mm sights evolved from the premise that bigger is better when it comes to seeing the number boards and target clearly. Why the large body itself leads to to clearer vision is a subject I’ll leave to the ophthalmologists (professional and amateur) among us.  However, one undisputable benefit of the larger body is in the higher quality of lenses made for it. It is apparently easier to more consistently make a high quality lens in the 22 mm size than the 18 mm, resulting in less distortion and a clearer sight picture. We’ll discuss lenses further on, but, given their increased usage in long-range shooting, this is no doubt part of the drive towards bigger sight bodies.

Photo (below): Centra Goliath 30 mm.

My good friend Allen Elliott tells me that I sometimes get too involved in the historical aspects of a subject when straightforward technical information is what he, and presumably others, are looking for. Heeding his caution, I will simply say that while the 30 mm front sights are the newest arrival on the Highpower match sight scene, extra large front sights are hardly new.  Womack and Freeland produced them for the Smallbore community decades ago; however, those old sights are best left to the collectors as they are not particularly suited to Highpower, being somewhat fragile, hard to mount and very limited in iris selection and other accessories. Today, Riles and Centra lead the way in the 30 mm size with their offerings in both standard heights and the tall models suitable for Tubeguns, Spaceguns and Tubb rifles all of which have high sight lines. Everything that can be said about the 22 mm sights is applicable to the 30 mm units: more light, greater field of view, sharper lenses.

Photo: Centra Goliath 30 mm sight.

I've been using the Riles 22 mm front sight for a few years and really like them both in terms of sight picture and quality of construction.  I have them on conventionally stocked rifles as well as Tubeguns.  Recently, I've added a Centra Goliath to my 6XC long-range rifle and have come to like what I see through it as well.  Both the Riles and the Centra are extremely well manufactured, the quality of machining and finish leaves nothing to be desired unlike some other recent entries into this product category.  Both Riles and Centra offer spirit levels in their sight bodies for those who prefer them; I am trying it out on the Centra and the Tubegun Riles, but am not yet convenced that they are especially helpful.  I tend to shoot quickly to minimize wind changes between shots and time spent looking at a spririt level just slows me down; generally, the crossbar in the front iris is all the level I need.  Still, I realize that many shooters like the comfort of seeing a centered bubble and there's nothing wrong with that.

I'm slowly working my way into the 21st Century with respect to front sights having now replaced almost all of my 18 mm sights with either the 22 mm Riles or the Centra 30 mm.  The rifle on which I installed the Centra, a 6XC long range rifle, previously had an old RPA 18 mm fixed height front sight which I can't say was too detrimental to my performance as I won a lot of 1000 yard matches with that old sight.  However, looking through the Centra was almost literally like switching from a 60 watt light bulb to a 100 watt bulb.  I immediately noticed a brighter sight picture and a crisper view of the front sight iris and this can only help performance.

Many shooters, especially those who are over 40, prefer to use a lens in the front sight to aid target definition.  These lenses are available in all three globe sizes, but it appears that the larger sizes are cut more accurately and with their optical center closer to the actual center of the lens.  These factors will improve the quality of the sight picture and reduce zero shift if the lens is removed and re-installed which was a common problem with the 18 mm lenses.  The Centra lenses come in 0.3 and 0.5 diopter versions, the 0.3 is typically used for 600 yards and below whereas the 0.5 is used for distances over 600 yards.  I don't use a front lens in my rifles and therefore, don't have any comment on them for the moment.  I may install one for evaluation purposes soon and if so I will edit this article to include my impressions.

The Riles 18 mm and 22 mm sights use any of the commercially available front irises, the 30 mm version and the Centra call for a special 30 mm unit sold by Centra.  Centra front iris comes 4 choices of adjustable iris ranges: 2.3mm - 4.3mm; 2.8mm - 4.8mm; 3.8mm - 5.8mm; and 5.0mm - 7.0mm.  Using a front lens will require use of the larger sizes to maintain a correctly proportioned sight picture.

If you're looking for a new front sight, whether for an existing rifle or a newly built one, the Riles and Centra sights will give you the quality, options and performance you need in Highpower shooting and the durability to take the pounding from the recoil of a centerfire rifle.  We've come a long way from the Springfield's blade front sight - thank goodness!

Reloading: Neck Turning

This article is an introduction to neck turning for Highpower shooting.  The reasons we might choose to turn necks are different from those of other disciplines and our focus is solely on Highpower shooting.  I intend to cover two topics: why to turn necks and how to turn necks.  There are, undoubtedly many other ways of doing this, I'm simply presenting my way, it works well for me and is simple enough to duplicate without too much expense.  Remember that all of the pictures can be enlarged by clicking them, this will help with small details.  If you can see the details without enlarging, you shouldn't be worried about neck turning, you could be shooting a service rifle!

Neck Turning Basics
by Germán A. Salazar

Why Should You Consider Neck Turning?
Let's assume that your rifle doesn't have a tight neck chamber that requires neck turning; if you have a tight neck chamber, of course, the answer to the question is "because you have to".  For the rest of us, and that includes the vast majority of Highpower shooters, neck turning isn't a requirement, but it can be a useful way to bring your ammunition a small but meaningful step closer to that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: perfection.  I'm not talking about a theoretical improvement, but a real one, an improvement that lies in equalizing and optimizing the neck tension of your loaded rounds.  Inconsistent neck tension is a real contributor to increased muzzle velocity variance which itself is a significant factor in increased elevation dispersion at long range.  So there's our basic reason for neck turning: to equalize and optimize neck tension in order to reduce elevation dispersion.

Before we get into the how-to section, let's do a bit of thinking and some basic math (not too much, I promise).  We'll use my .30-06 chamber and a piece of Lake City brass as examples.  The neck in my chamber measures 0.340" in diameter; I happen to know this because I have a print of the reamer used to cut it.  If you don't have a print of your chamber reamer, measure the neck diameter of a piece of fired, unresized, brass that's reasonably new and add 0.001" to the dimension, that will be very close to the chamber neck diameter and certainly close enough for our purposes here. 

Now let's measure the neck diameter of a loaded round with the brass we propose to use and neck turn.  In this case, the loaded LC brass measures 0.335" although there is some variation depending on exactly where I measure; a little rotation changes the reading a bit.  The reason is simple enough, the neck is not of uniform thickness all around.  Basically, though, we have a 0.340" chamber neck and 0.335" loaded ammunition neck, for a clearance of 0.005" (clearance will always be expressed as total diametrical clearance, not radial clearance).  That's a reasonable amount of clearance (if only it were uniform) and ideally we would like to stay close to it, but whether or not we can depends to some extent on the brass quality and some convenience factors.  We'll discuss these considerations further along; for now, at least we know where we are beginning the process, so let's get on with the how-to.

The Tools of the Trade
Here you see everything I use and a bit more.  The press, a cordless screwdriver (always plugged in, turning is tough on the old battery), a couple of K&M neck turners (one set up for 6mm, the other for .30 caliber) an expander for each size, some Imperial lube, an old toothbrush or two to keep the cutter clean, a handle with a caseholder (for those emergencies when the screwdriver dies and there's just one more case to go!), steel wool and a tubing micrometer finish the list of tools.  Hey, I left the dial calipers out of the picture!  They're always handy, keep them around, but they are useless for measuring neck thickness, so don't try.  I usually use an Optivisor magnifier while I turn necks, very handy for a clear view of what's happening on the neck.

Here are a couple of tubing micrometers, an electronic Mitutoyo and a nice, old-fashioned, no battery required model from Sinclair.  You might have noticed a method to my madness by now, anything that depends on electrons has a non-electron backup - prudence...  If you aren't familiar with a tubing micrometer, enlarge the picture (we've already estalished we need to enlarge, right?) and notice that the fixed anvil is round, allowing the moveable flat anvil to make point contact and get an accurate thickness measurement at a specific point along the radius of the neck.  You can't do this with a conventional micrometer and certainly not with calipers as they will cover an area rather than a point and will be affected by varying thickness over that area as well as by the radius itself. 

While the purpose of this article isn't to teach the proper use of measuring tools, I should note that the while the Mitutoyo reads to five decimal places, that is in no way necessary for our purposes.  I usually cover the fifth decimal place with a bit of tape to keep it from distracting me.  In fact, that fifth decimal digit is completely unreliable unless you are in a temperature controlled environment and have really high measuring skills.  In a home workshop, measuring brass which is pretty malleable, don't kid yourself, it's irrelevant and the 4th decimal place is only slightly less so.  I only trust the 4th decimal place by rounding to a "5" or a "0" and for our purposes, that's enough.

Using the tubing micrometer is no different from any other micrometer, it takes a bit of practice to develop a good feel though the ratcheting thimble is useful as you go.  Note the little pad that I'm indicating with the pointer; it's there to provide a consistent resting point for the case mouth so that I always read at the same point.  The pad is just a tiny scrap of thick leather held on with tape, not too high-tech.  I haven't yet developed a simple way to do this on the Sinclair micrometer.  As you can see, the case neck measures 0.0136" at the point we're checking; this case varied by over 0.001" around its circumference.  I normally check brass at four points around the neck.

Initial Measurements and Decisions
Now comes an important moment, deciding how thin to turn the neck.  One way to make that decision is to measure a decent sample of the lot of brass you're working with, say 10 to 15 cases, make note of what you generally see as the thinnest dimension, and turn to slightly less than that.  This minimizes the amount of brass that you have to remove and keeps you from creating excessive chamber neck clearance.  Excessive clearance can lead to premature neck splits in the brass, but in reality, if the brass is properly sized with a bushing die or a well-matched non-bushing die that isn't a problem unless the clearance is grossly excessive.  Most commercial non-bushing dies work the brass much more than the minimum required, as they depend on the expander ball to bring the neck's inside diameter to final size; therefore whether or not the neck is turned, they will cause neck splits sooner.

I take a slightly different approach to determining my desired neck thickness; because I use Lake City, Winchester, Remington, Lapua, Norma and Federal brass in my .30-06 loading, I've simply standardized on 0.0125" as my desired neck thickness so that I'm not constantly changing the bushings in my dies.  This dimension is thin enough to clean up irregularities in even the thinnest of factory brass (Winchester) and leaves me with 0.007" diametrical chamber neck clearance.  While that's a bit more clearance than I consider ideal, I can live with it for the sake of simplicity in my reloading.  Uniform neck tension is more important to the Highpower shooter than a close fitting chamber neck. If I were to get another .30-06 reamer, I would specify a 0.337" neck instead of 0.340" but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

Brass Preparation
Before we go any further, size your brass with a full length non-bushing die and trim to uniform length, then run it over the expander made or recommended by the maker of your turner.  If the brass is new, you can size it first or just run it over the expander and trim to uniform length.  Bushing dies shouldn't be used for this sizing operation because you have to size the neck all the way to the shoulder junction and a bushing die always leaves about 0.030" or more unsized due to the bevel at the entry to the bushing (by design, you can't fix that).  If all you have are bushing dies, I recommend the Hornady New Dimension as your non-bushing die, they are well made and leave the brass very concentric.

The Expander
The expander is closely matched in diameter to the cutter arbor, so you must use the same manufacturer's expander and turner if you expect to get good results.  Let's set up the expander in the press; there's not much to it, it screws in like a die.  The K&M expander comes with a long screw which you adjust to bottom out in the case just before the neck crashes into the expander body.  Just measure the depth of a case with the back shaft of your calipers and set the screw about 0.050" longer than that.  If you somehow bend the screw and are too embarrased to call K&M for a replacement, I have it on good authority that you can get by just fine without it as long as you aren't too ham-handed on the press when you expand.

Lube, Lube, Lube
Put some lube on the inside of the case neck and run it into the expander, really, this isn't hard.  I prefer to expand each case immediately before turning it as opposed to expanding all the cases and then turning them.  Brass is somewhat springy and will tend to go back toward its original size; therefore, by expanding and turning immediately, you are more likely to have all cases fit the mandrel with the same degree of tightness and to get a more consistent depth of cut.

Expand the case, dab a bit more lube inside the neck, then slide the case onto the caseholder and tighten with a wrench.  Hand tightening will not do, the case will inevitably slip if you try.

Lube the cutter mandrel, you're getting the hang of this lube thing now, aren't you?  K&M offers regular steel and carbide mandrels; I really prefer the carbide ones as they have much less tendency to grab the case and thus make the turning process much smoother.  You can get by without lubing the carbide mandrels in many instances, but if it feels tight or begins to get hot, use some lube.  There's some judgment involved here, so I can't give an absolute tule on this aspect of it.

The carbide mandrels have cutting teeth on the end to get rid of any incipient donuts at the base of the neck, they can also do some damage to the inside of the neck also if you aren't careful - so be careful and guide the case in carefully.  Don't power the case on and off the mandrel, guide it to the blade without rotation and stop the power on the outbound side just as the case neck clears the cutter.

Cutter Adjustment
I've glossed over, okay totally skipped over, adjusting the tool for the proper cutting depth.  While I use the K&M, I realize that there are many other makes of neck turning tools out there and there's no sense in describing the adjustment procedure for one tool and not all or many of them.  Since I can't do that, it's more logical to do none.  More importantly, all the tools I've seen have pretty good adjustment instructions.  The only thing they don't tell you is that you should have five to ten spare cases to get it right initially.  Anything of the right diameter will do while you learn, for instance, just use that cheap surplus .308 brass to do initial setup and save the precious .30-06 for when you know what you're doing.  Be patient and make your adjustments slowly; you'll need to set the cutter for thickness as well as length of cut (just into the shoulder).  The depth of cut (brass thickness) takes a bit of fiddling, the length of the cut is generally easy to set.  It's best to keep the children away during this process, inevitably some things will be said that the little ones shouldn't hear.  Later we will come to acknowledge that the tool designer came from a well documented family, but in the heat of the moment, one does at times raise the other possibility.

If you have decided on a cut that will reduce thickness by 0.0015" or more, you should make two passes on the brass.  Limit the first pass to a 0.0015" reduction and finish the operation on the second pass. Obviously you won't be resetting the cutter twice for each case, so do them all at the first setting, readjust and then do the second pass on all of them.  If you have to cut that much to get the brass to clean up, you might consider better brass.  If you're cutting it to fit a particular chamber or to maintain a uniform thickness across several types of brass (as I do) then that's just the breaks of the game.  A second cutter might be a useful idea; that's another nice thing about the K&M, it's price is low enough that having a few isn't a tremendous burden as it might be with some of the pricier models out there.

Cutting Brass
Here's the moment of truth: start the case onto the arbor, power up the screwdriver and feed the case into the cutter.  Screwdriver rotation should be as if you were driving a screw IN (clockwise).  Advance at a slow but steady pace, 20 seconds or so to make the cut to the shoulder and about the same amount of time to back it out is just about right.  Don't stop the screwdriver and whatever you do, don't reverse the rotation to back it out, you'll really hurt the blade on the cutter.  Just keep it turning and feed the case on and off the cutter at a nice, even rate.

You'll remember that I said earlier that the cases all had to be trimmed to a uniform length, here's why.  The K&M and most tools, use the case mouth as the stop point for the cutter - if the cases aren't trimmed to the same length, the depth of the cut will vary accordingly.  Since we want to have the cutter just bite into the shoulder, we need to have very uniform case lengths to keep from undercutting or overcutting at this critical point.  Visually, you should see a small shiny ring form right at the neck/shoulder junction, just cutting into the shoulder.  This is a judgment call because you really can't measure it, but keep it small.  The purpose of cutting into the shoulder is to ensure that you got 100% of the neck which will prevent donuts from forming at the inside base of the neck.  If there's a small, unturned ring at the base of the neck, when you fire the brass for the first time, the 55,000 psi of chamber pressure blows the neck out to the chamber wall and the neck will no longer have that bulge on the outside, it will now be on the inside and there's your donut which will make bullet seating difficult and will wreck our attempt to get uniform neck tension.  On the other hand, if you cut too far into the shoulder, you'll weaken the neck/shoulder junction and blow the necks off the cases.  I saw a nice example of this recently; I should have asked for one of the neckless cases.

Case Cleanup
Before you remove the case from the caseholder, spin it while pressing firmly onto the neck with some 000 or 0000 steel wool.  There shouldn't be any grooves from the turning operation, if there are you fed it in and out too fast.  The steel wool is just a little fine polishing step but shouldn't be used to fix bad turning practice, it won't do that.  Before you finish, turn the case mouth into the steel wool just in case there are any burrs left from the trimming and chamfering operation.  Remove the lube from the inside of the neck with a cotton swab, it'll interfere with measuring and you need to get it out before loading anyway.

So here we are, a nice turned neck, cut just into the shoulder and looking nice.  Not too hard to do.  On a good session it takes me an average of two minutes per case to expand, turn, polish and measure. so I can do about thirty per hour.  Normally that's my limit for an evening, so I spread the 70 cases I prepare for a match set of brass over two to three evenings.  I prefer to do that than to find myself rushing through the operation because I want to get it over with.  You'll be shooting the brass for a long time, there's no sense in compromising its preparation - take your time.

Final Check
And here's the payoff, a perfect, 0.0125" thick neck.  It's very uniform around the circumference, usually I only see 1 or 2 ten-thousandths variance which is perfect as far as we're concerned for this purpose.  As a final bit of math (0.0125" x 2) + .308" = 0.333" so we calculate 0.007" clearance for a loaded round in our 0.340" chamber neck.  Now, with the necks uniformed like this, we can select the bushing size that will give us our preferred neck tension and experiment with various levels of tension, secure in the knowledge that all of the cases will actually have the desired neck tension and thus give a meaningful result to our experimentation.

Related Articles:
Should I Turn Necks?
Measuring the Case

Reloading: Range Reloading

This article is intended for those of you who do not currently do any reloading at the range.  If you already do this, there is nothing new in here, it is a basic introduction to the subject. - GAS -

Reloading at the Range: Equipment and Techniques for Load Development
by: Germán A. Salazar

Load development is an important part of Highpower shooting.  While there certainly are those who overstate it, it really can't be overlooked.  Every time you change a lot of powder or type of bullet and certainly when you work with a new cartridge, some degree of load development or redevelopment is necessary.  Preparing a set of loads at home and then going to the range to chronograph them and shoot them for accuracy is the slow way to do the job because if the loads didn't work out or if you just didn't bring enough of a variety, you've lost the day.  Loading at the range takes care of that problem and lets you make useful changes as you see in which direction things are headed.  Anything from a small change in seating depth to a different primer is much simpler when done at the range.  And don't ignore the convenience of not having to go home and pull down those loads that just didn't work out, either!  When you load at the range, you'll catch those before you load too many of them.  Let's look at the equipment for range reloading as well as some tips; remember that all the pictures can be clicked to enlarge.

The classic Kennedy machinist's toolbox is a range reloading favorite, but any sturdy toolbox will do. Everything I use at the range is in the box (and more).  This box normally sits on my workbench at home and holds a lot of my home reloading tools, many of which aren't used on the range.

As we open the lid we can see the powder measure, a jar of powder, a mini electronic scale (in the pouch on the left) and a funnel.  The measure is a Neal Jones unit, but any measure that you can attach with a C-clamp will work just as well.  Note the swing-out aluminum bracket on the right front corner of the box; this, or something like it, is a very useful piece of equipment.  You can make something like this from aluminum or even wood.  This one was bought through an ad on Benchrest Central, but I've unfortunately lost track of the fellow who made it.  The arbor press is under the visible items, broken down into its various component parts.

I keep primers and priming tools in one of the drawers.  When I do load development I often try different primers; sometimes the object of the day's testing is primer selection, so I make sure to take a good variety of primers in the appropriate size.  I use the Sinclair priming tools because they are reliable and give excellent feel when seating the primer.  Note the loading block, arbor press, Wilson seating die and dial caliper already set up on the metal front cover of the toolbox.  Although its not quite in the picture, the powder measure is already clamped to the swing arm. 

Depending on the type of work surface available at your range, you could take a conventional press like a Rockchucker and C-Clamp it to the table; the same can be done with a powder measure on a stand.  While the type of equipment shown here is convenient to pack and carry, it isn't the only way to load at the range.

The bottom drawer of the tool box carries the heavier items, like dies and bullets.  In this photo, you can see Wilson dies for .308 (in the green RCBS box) and for the .30-06 (in the yellow Wilson boxes) as I was loading for both of those calibers on this day.  There's also a box of bullets, a powder trickler and a few other items.  Normally I don't resize brass at the range.  Apart from being time-consuming, it's not possible to full-length size with my arbor press setup and I prefer not to neck size.  However, I always have neck dies and bushings with me, because if the project becomes more involved than anticipated and I run out of sized brass, I'd rather neck-size and continue than end the day before completing the project.

The middle drawer holds some small tools and calipers.  Of these, only the small screwdriver and calipers are really used at the range; they are needed to check seating depth and to adjust the seating stem on the Wilson die.  Wilson offers a micrometer top for their seating dies, but it's so simple to adjust them with the caliper and screwdriver that I've never considered the expense to be worthwhile.  Just remember to shorten the stem for a longer OAL!

This drawer holds a lot of headspace checking tools which I don't use at the range, and the Sinclair hex nut for checking seating depth which I definitely use at the range.  Before going out, I check the OAL needed to contact the lands with whatever bullets I'll be shooting and make notes in the little blue notebook you see on the right.  By measuring beforehand, I can make quick and effective changes to the seating depth at the range and not spend any time checking with the Stoney Point (Hornady) tool which isn't that accurate on a dirty barrel anyway.

There's not a lot to say about priming at the range that's different from priming at home, just get the job done.  While I have a lot to say about priming generally (see the primer articles in the November and June 2009 section of this site) I won't repeat it here.   I normally put a few primers into the open area of the loading block to keep them from flying around and then prime the cases.  Normally, I load three to five cases at a time if I'm checking a new powder or a new lot of a powder.  There's no sense in loading more until you've had a quick look at the load over the chronograph or on the target.  If I'm chronographing a new powder, I'll often load just three rounds of each charge as I work up and make a graph of powder charge versus muzzle velocity.  That really helps you to get to your desired MV range quickly and keeps component waste to a minimum as you work up the ladder.

Charging the cases with powder is without a doubt the area of range reloading that requires the greatest level of thought and preparation.  While Benchrest shooters typically throw their charges without weighing, the powders we use in Highpower are generally the coarser extruded powders and even with a top quality measure they will not throw with the level of consistency we need for the final phases of load development.  I take a two-step approach to case charging; one for the initial phase of load development, and another for the final phase.

Before heading to the range, I make a chart correlating average charge weight to powder measure setting over a useful range for the powder and cartridge being tested.  With the chart settings, I can do the initial workup of three shots per load to determine the average MV per charge at the range.  Since we're just establishing the MV range at this point and not looking for the lowest SD yet, this can be done with thrown charges with no detriment. 

For the final phase, I prefer to weigh the charges.  There are a number of small electronic scales available today that can be used at the range for load development.  The one shown here is from CED and is representative of the genre, it sells for about $120.  Hornady makes one that sells in the $30 range, but I haven't tested it yet.  Like any electronic scale, you have to deal with drift issues as well as sensitivity to the flow from the trickler; additionally, there is the wind effect outdoors.  You can see in the picture that I make a wind shield on the side of the toolbox with a cloth and some clips.  If needed, I also lower the lid as much as I can while trickling.  That gets a bit tricky and its a slow way to load, but once the useful velocity range is reached and we're fine tuning the load, we really need to have accurately weighed charges to pin down the actual MV and SD of the load. 

The trickler is a standard RCBS, the "pan" is actually the cap from some hair preparation my wife uses and is much easier to handle than the little plastic pan that came with the scale.  The metal pans we use in home reloading weigh much more and might max out the small scale's capacity with some loads; also, the high sides of the plastic cap/pan are useful in preventing spills as we move around these tight confines.

Seating bullets with the arbor press and Wilson die is fast and simple.  The only thing to be aware of, as noted earlier, is seating depth.  The die has a small lock screw which holds the seating stem at the desired setting; loosening it and adjusting the setting is a matter of a minute or so.  Check the stem length with your calipers, seat a bullet, verify the OAL with the calipers and an OAL tool like the Sinclair hex nut and you're ready.

And finally, we get the the fun part!  Here's John Chilton, Phoenix's finest F-TR shooter checking loads on his Savage .308 over the chronograph.  In the space of a couple of hours today, we chronographed five loads with Varget at two seating depths, two loads with IMR 4320 at one seating depth and then shot test targets for accuracy from the ground in F-Class position with the best of the Varget and 4320 loads.  There's no way we could have accomplished all of that with pre-loaded ammunition as we simply wouldn't have know how hot we could go, which way to go on seating depth, etc.  Loading at the range made for a very efficient test with a minimum of wasted time or components.

And now, for something completely different...Here's a picture of Darren Sucato's range reloading setup with conventional equipment on a regular plastic folding table.  Darren uses an RCBS Partner press bolted to the table and a Redding powder measure clamped to the table.  This is sturdy enough for throwing powder and seating bullets, though not really for full-length sizing.  Darren also uses the table as a shooting bench for chronographing.; again, not really sturdy enough for accuracy work, but just fine for the chrono.


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