January Cover Page

January 1940  

The Rifleman's Journal

A Collection of Articles Dealing with Rifle Accuracy Topics

Inventor John C. Garand at work in the Springfield Armory shop

35 Cents  

Cartridges: Lapua Small Primer .308

Lapua Small Primer .308 Brass
by Germán A. Salazar

We've all seen the recent reports about the new Lapua small primer .308 brass.  The old saying "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been" is very applicable here; let's review the history of small primer .308 brass. 

My first reaction to the announcement of the new Lapua brass was "old news" as this brass does not appear to be different in any material way from the Remington small primer .308 brass which I've worked with quite a bit in the past.  I still have several hundred of the Remington and I don't use it because I've never found a performance improvement with it at long-range despite significant amounts of testing.  When Remington made their small primer brass, it was intended to be reformed into .22 BR, 6 BR and 7 BR, in fact some of the ones I have are even headstamped .22 BR.  The small primer is adequate and correct for the BR capacity but not necessarily for the full-length .308.  Remington did not intend for this brass to be used for .308 shooting.

If you've read my primer articles (small primer article, large primer article), you will recall that the fundamental conclusion was that the best primer was generally the primer which had the lowest flash level and produced the lowest muzzle velocity.  All of this, of course, assumes that the primer provides enough energy for consistent and reliable ignition.  Primers are an excellent example of what I like to call the Goldilocks Conundrum: finding the "just right" point along an imprecisely defined continuum.  In this case, the continuum of ignition energy to be applied to the powder charge. 

Simply stated, the small primer in the .308 case is at the low end of acceptable ignition under ideal conditions - and conditions are often not ideal.  As ambient temperature drops and especially if ignition systems are modified (uselessly, I might add) with lighter firing pins, ignition reliability declines.  A system which is marginally acceptable under ideal conditions will then begin to produce hangfires and misfires.  In many cases, when shooters used the Remington small primer cases as a full-length .308, this is exactly what happened.  Heavier powder charges and slow-burning powders further add to the difficulty of ensuring reliable ignition.  With the typical Palma load of 46 grains of Varget, a moderately slow powder, I will venture to say that many small primers will be inadequate to ensure adequate ignition under all environmental conditions.

Before the arrival of the Russian primers, most large rifle primers were more powerful that was necessary for a .308 case and a reduction of primer energy could, in some circumstances be beneficial.  However, most of the shooters who used the Remington small primer brass, after experiencing some ignition trouble, switched to the Remington 7 1/2 (if they kept using the brass at all).  The irony of this is that the Remington 7 1/2 primer produces more flash than almost any large rifle primer; yes, it is a small primer that produces more flash than most large primers!  Go back to the primer articles and look at the pictures.  In essence, by switching to the Remington 7 1/2, these shooters were returning to a large primer level of ignition energy.  Today, we have an excellent small flash large primer - the Russian - which has, in my considered opinion, eliminated the problem of too much flash in the .308 case without introducing the problems of too little flash.  It is the Goldilocks primer for the .308 and similar size cases: just right.

The only truly successful use of the Remington small primer brass which I am aware of was by Bob Jensen who used it for 300 yard rapid fire loads.  Bob had a fairly light load for rapid fire, knows primers well enough to have selected a reliable and mild primer and shot the brass only in the summer months.  The small primer kept ignition consistent with his mild load and he fired many very high scores with the small primer brass - in 300 yard rapid fire.  Tellingly, however, Bob did not use the brass for his 600 or 1000 yard .308 ammunition at the time and he certainly didn't specifiy it when he was tasked with loading 98,000 rounds of .308 long-range ammunition for the US Army Marksmanship Unit or when he loaded 300,000 rounds for the 1992 Palma match.  Those long-range rounds all used regular Winchester large primer .308 brass.  Now we are being told that small primer .308 brass is the latest, greatest thing for long-range shooting...

Lester Bruno gave me 24 pieces of the new Lapua to try out and I intend to give them a good trial.  Given that Lester had a grand total of 29 pieces on hand, this was a very generous offer and I appreciate it!  Selecting the correct primer for them is really the biggest part of the testing because the entire purpose of the project is the use a primer which is milder than a good large rifle primer while still producing enough energy to reliably ignite the charge.  As an initial matter, I suspect that the Russian small rifle primer will be too mild and the Remington 7 1/2 too harsh (it always is).  I have some Federal 205 Magnum (yes, 205 Magnum) primers which have always tested consistently and are relatively mild, though not as mild as the Russians.  My concern over using these for the testing is that they are no longer available so the test becomes useless.  The CCI BR4 primer is just a tiny bit stronger than the Russian, and it contains aluminum particles which disperse through the powder charge to aid ignition.  The lack of those particles is one of the Russian primer's great aids to consistency, but in this case, they might be of some value.  The standard Federal 205 might also be a useful choice, though the lot to lot variance on these is more than other brands.

Later today I will post some basic weights and measures on the new brass.  This will include weight and variance, neck thickness and variance, case body wall variance (as measured with the Audette tool).  I will shoot them this weekend at 1000 yards, side by side with my normal large primer brass and report back as well.  At some point, hopefully soon, I'll do some chronograph testing of the brass with a few different primers, but I don't know how soon I'll be able to do that.  In any event, I'll post my findings as they develop.

Case Weight and Variance
I weighed 20 of the cases on my Ohaus Navigator scale, the lightest weighs 173.7 gr. and the heaviest weighs 174.6.  All but the one lightest case are between 174.0 and 174.6, for my purposes, this is very uniform brass in terms of weight.  I wouldn't bother to sort it on this basis.  Modern Winchester brass typically weighs 155 grains, so this brass is distinctly heavier (although the same as Lapua's large primer .308 brass) and I will have to adjust my load somewhat to compensate for the reduced internal capacity.  I'll check capacity before loading and decide on the appropriate adjustment.

Neck Thickness and Variance
I measured case neck thickness with an electronic Mitutoyo ball micrometer.  Case necks were relatively uniform, with most cases exhibiting just over 0.001" variance in thickness around their circumference.  Typical thickness was 0.0142" to 0.0152" per case with some going a few tenths thicker or thinner.  Since I neck turn all my brass, this doesn't especially bother me, but I expected the variance to be somewhat lower.  Maybe my expectations were too high.

Case Body Thickness Variance
Using the Audette tool, I checked the cases for variance in case wall thickness 0.250" up from the inside of the base.  Frankly, I was very disappointed with this result.  The cases average 0.003" variance which is right on my reject point for this measurement which I consider this to be the most important measure of case uniformity.  Only four of the twenty cases measured were under 0.003" variance and more than that were over 0.003".  My Winchester .308 brass rarely hits 0.003" with most falling between 0.001" and 0.002"; even the Winchester and Lapua .30-06 brass is usually in the 0.002" range.  Why this brass is distinctly worse, I don't know as shorter brass is theoretically easier to draw uniformly.

Neck Turning
As I mentioned earlier, I need to turn the necks on this brass to fit my chamber which has a 0.336" neck diameter.  I turn all my .308 brass to 0.0125" neck thickness which produces a loaded neck diameter of 0.333" for 0.003" diametral clearance.  Turning this much off the necks is best done in two passes.  Tonight I turned them to 0.0136", that killed the charge on my little Craftsman power screwdriver.  I'll make the second pass tomorrow and then load them for the weekend.

Neck turning is now complete, all are at 0.0125"  to 0.0127".  That was a lot of brass to remove!

Flash Hole Size
As I was looking at the brass, I noticed the flash holes look small, real small.  The decapping pin from the Redding .308 die measures 0.062" diameter and will not go through the flash hole.  The decapping pin from the Redding 6BR die measures 0.057" and will go through the flash holes.  Looks like I'll be swapping decapping assemblies from the 6BR die to the .308 die in order to reload these cases.  Not a major hassle, but something to be aware of before reloading or you'll get the decapping pin stuck in the flash hole.  This problem was common with 6BR brass when it first came out, until Lapua and Norma slightly enlarged the flash hole.  Sinclair makes a little reamer just for that purpose; I'll see if it opens the flash holes just enough for the 0.062" pin, that would solve the problem.

I neck sized the brass to 0.331", primed with CCI BR4 primers and loaded with my normal Palma load, slightly reduced for the heavier brass.  I had to remove the decapping pin from the neck die and will have to decap with a Wilson PPC punch, but that'll be allright for a small quantity like this.  Of course I had to try one case with the decapping pin in place and predictably, it got stuck in the flash hole and had to be driven out.  Don't try it, the decapping pin is no substitute for the flash hole reamer. What is really needed, however, is for Lapua to actually drill the holes to 0.065" so that a 0.062" decapping pin will fit!

Shooting the new brass - finally!
Palma match in Phoenix today, so I took ammo loaded in the new brass as well as my normal load in Winchester brass.  The plan was to shoot the Palma with the standard load and then to fire an extra 15 shot string at 1000 yards with the new brass.  As things turned out, I was able to do exactly that and better yet, I was able to fire the two strings on consecutive relays after one of the shooters on my point dropped out.

Conditions were reasonably good, temperature around 65 degrees, good illumination on the targets despite a few clouds and wind in the 3 to 12 mph range.  While the wind was more that we'd like to see for ammunition testing, it's fairly typical for our area and reflects the realistic conditions under which we shoot Palma and under which this brass will have to prove itself.  I often had to make 3 moa to 6 moa corrections for consecutive shots as the wind velocity was changing quickly on both strings although it got a bit tougher with each relay.

I fired my first 1000 yard string on the second relay; this was with Winchester large primer brass and Russian primers, which gave me a 147-6X.  The was the top score on that relay and only beaten overall by a 148-4X and a 148-2X fired on the first relay.  My second string was with the Lapua small primer brass and CCI BR4 primers.  I shot a 146-4X which was the highest score on the third relay (the last of the day and the trickiest).  Both strings had comparable elevation dispersion and no elevation change was required on the sight between the two loads, so I must have made a reasonably accurate estimate of the powder charge change to keep velocity equal between the two types of brass.

My first impression, therefore, is that this was one heck of a lot of work for no noticeable improvement under typical Palma conditions.  Elevation dispersion was the same and the scores were about the same.  Increased risk of reduced ignition under adverse conditions for no performance gain under ideal conditions is a poor trade-off.  I'll shoot this brass again at least once, but I don't see any magic - not that I expected any.

For detailed primer testing information, please see the articles linked below:
A Match Primer Study in the 6BR Cartridge

A Match Primer Study in the .30-06 Cartridge

Update, August 2 -2010
I found this posted on a forum today, no surprise...

Well finally got my hands on the new Palma brass with the small primer, what a dissapointment. Loaded my normal load of 44.6 of 2206H (H4895) using CCI450's and 155 HBC,I use these primers in my 6BR with no issues, loaded the first round and pulled the trigger "click" !!! oh well maybe I didn't put any powder in that one (came home pulled the bullet and found I had filled with powder !!) put the next round in and pulled the trigger click BANG !!! and hit 3.5moa low @ 600M, went back to the LR brass with the same batch of powder and all is good,temp was about 18 deg C.

Has anyone else had this problem ?? I have read that there was a velocity drop of 20-30 FPS but 3.5moa @ 600 is more than 20-30FPS and the click BANG is a worry, thought and advice welcomed.

Update, August 23, 2010
I shot the small primer brass for one string at 500 yards yesterday.  First I shot a string with Winchester large primer brass, PMC (Russian) primers, scored a 200-16X in mild conditions.  The next string with identical conditions, using the Lapua small primer brass yielded a 198-10X with double the elevation dispersion and two 9's which were completely off call.  I used CCI BR4 primers with the Lapua brass and the powder charge was adjusted to match the MV of the Winchester brass.

Update, October 13, 2010
The following was posted by Kevin Thomas of Lapua on the forum at http://www.accurateshooter.com/ (underlining is ours)  http://www.accurateshooter.com/forum/index.php/topic,3751998.0.html

[T]he flash holes on the new Palma SRP cases are indeed 1.5mm, as opposed to the more standard 2.0mm used on most of our other cases. We utilize the smaller (1.5mm) flash holes on a number of cases, all of which are primarily accuruacy oriented. The 220 Russian, 6mm BR and 6.5x47 are the others, with the 308 Palma being the latest. Yes, you will need to switch out your decapping pin in most 308 Win dies to avoid sticking a pin in the flash hole. Do apologize for the inconvenience here, but as has been pointed out, we were responding to customer's requests here, and it does indeed seem to work. There have also been several comments here about the potential reliability in cold weather, and we agree with those assesments. The cases were intended for competitive shooting, which is generally conducted in nice, warm, sunny weather (at least, that's the way I like it!). We discourage reloaders from using this brass for cold weather hunting, or heavy charges of slow burning, hard to ignite powders, because there is a real possibility of poor ignition, hangfires or outright failures to fire in such situations.

Kevin Thomas
Lapua USA

And another related quote from Kevin about the .308 small primer case:
...you're perfectly correct that this is pretty much the outer limit of what a small primer can reliably ignite. To that end, we're marketing this as a competitive case, and not recommending it fro many hunting applications. Extreme cold temps or harder to ignite charges of slow burning powders could be a problem here with hangfires or that sort of thing. However, with the normal powders used for competition (such as Varget) and the conditions competitions are normally held under, this is not a problem. Give them a try, and see if they don't help reduce the variables I've discussed here.

Kevin Thomas
Lapua USA

I don't want to give the impression that I'm gratuitously bashing the small primer case, however, I think it bears emphasizing that the small primer carries with it the potential for misfires or squib ignition which can cost you a match and I have found no overwhelming performance gain (none at all actually) to justify risking a match in this manner.  This is simply another example of faddish trends and the prudent competitor would do well to stick to the well proven, time-tested large rifle case for the .308, whether Lapua or any other brand that you favor.  - GAS -

Update 01-04-11
I just saw the quote below on a forum and it really gave me a smile since I'm a big fan of Cheers.  I try to be as honest and straightforward as I can on any evaluation, but I suppose we all have biases.  In any event, this points to the possibility that the early batch of brass I got was not representative of current production in terms of wall thickness variance.  - GAS -  Here's the forum quote:
I think German is basing his experience on a bad lot of brass. He reported an AVERAGE of .003" wall thickness variation. Using my NECO and inspecting 100 cases, I found 2 with .0015" and those were the worst. The average for my batch was .0007".

German bags on these every chance he gets, but when he shot them the first time, I don't think he even worked up a load with them... new brass and new primers require at least a new load workup.

I am a huge fan of German's and am a religious reader of his blog, but he gave this brass short thrift. It reminds me of an old quote from Cheers, "I tried that positive thinking crap and I knew it wouldn't work and sure enough, it didn't."
Related Article
Large Flash Hole vs. Small Flash Hole Test

Horror: Butchery in Phoenix

A Savage Is Savaged!
by Germán A. Salazar

These are the times that try men's souls...

Thomas Paine, of course, wrote those memorable words in 1776 to remind us of our duty to fight tyrrany.  Today, we face many trials and equally, we must fight; we must resist the siren song of artificial optical enhancements, the lure of a well formed piece of glass, the temptation of magnification!  No, not for us the easy path, we must be true to our history, true to the iron sights that made of us - iron men!

Sadly, tragically, one of our own has fallen and it is a macabre scene.  Depicted below is the visual record of one man's fall from grace.  This is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart - remove the women and children from the room, for these images, once viewed, will not soon be forgotten.  We present this evidence, not to appeal to the prurient interest, but as an example of the terrible fate that can befall a seemingly normal man, an upright, well regarded member of the community, once he falls to the temptation.  Hold fast men, for we must not allow another tragedy such as this!

It all began innocently enough - a new rifle arrives, normally a moment of joy, a cause for a gathering of friends and eager anticipation of joyous, sun drenched days on the range amidst the lizards, snakes, scorpions and spiders with whom we share the crust of this earth.  The clues to the depredations to come were there to be seen, but who could have imagined it?  Surely, that black box proudly proclaiming it's lurid contents was just a gag - it was, wasn't it?

The new member of the family was welcomed, no one suspecting the brutality that lay in wait.  There she was, innocent, untried - her adjustable cheekpiece waiting to be nuzzled, her 3 way buttplate sashaying as she turned, her slender 30" barrel proudly jutting forth.  Some might say she was just a Savage, but can that excuse the despicable acts that followed?  Look carefully and you'll see the evil glint in her handler's eye, betraying his criminal intent; oh, the despair she might feel if only she could see!

And then it began - without a word, she was forced down, held against her will as the device, the "rail" as they call it, was attached to her proud topside.  Were that it were but clamped on, but no, for the evil one then applied a heavy dose of epoxy to make sure that she could not be rescued, could not be returned to her former glory - his perfidy, her shame, were forevermore.

I ask you: what manner of man is it who could smile as he holds such an instrument of torture and degradation above the victim as she lies in the rack, wet with epoxy and quivering with fright of what surely is to come? A beast, I say to you, only a beast!

We are all men of the world here, but there are some things simply too gruesome, too contemptible to show.  Out of a simple sense of decency we cannot show the horrid act itself.  But here is the beast, with his accomplice reveling in the aftermath, holding the limp and defiled victim - now the slave of the glass demon.  Light a candle, Lucy, another one is lost to the dark side.

Compounding the felony, the perpetrators turn their attention to other forms of mayhem.  Not enough for them to leave the innocent Savage shattered, branded, hobbled, no, they seek to further terrorize the countryside as they coldly and callously throw fresh-faced Finnish brass and bullets into the Rube Goldberg "loading device".  Do they intend to feed this Gatling gruel to the once proud Savage?  Know they not, that the Rockchuck is its natural form of nutrition?  Is there no end to the havoc these miscreants wreak upon our fair land?   Though my heart be in pain as I view this foul den of iniquity, I must return to the words of Paine, who ended his famous appeal thusly:

"Look on this picture and weep over it! And if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.

Reloading: Western Shooters' Pet Loads for Long Range

Western Shooters' Pet Loads for Long Range

by: Germán A. Salazar

NRA long-range prone shooting is popular all over the country,  and we certainly have our fair share of it, and then some, here in the Western states.  Ken Waters' "Pet Loads" articles have been a favorite of mine for decades, I even have three copies of it in book form!  It occurred to me that a similar piece dealing with some of the long-range loads used by our local shooters might be of interest to our newer shooters.  If anyone else benefits from it, so much the better.  I asked each shooter for his Palma load as well as another load and tried to get a useful variety of cartridges and minimize duplication.

It should go without saying by now that you should never take a load from a third party source - like this site - and just use it in your rifle without a workup from a lower level - that could be catastrophic.  That goes double for the loads presented here because long-range loads are, by their very nature, on the upper end of the pressure spectrum for any given cartridge.  When you also consider the variations in the actual burning rate of various powder lots, differences in barrel dimensions, differences in bullets, even of the same weight and make, it should be glaringly obvious that only a negligent fool would copy a load without working up.  And you're no fool, right?

With that having been said, considered and taken to heart by all of you, let's have a look at Palma and other long-range loads and techniques from a number of our club members.

Mid Tompkins - Prescott, ArizonaAt Camp Perry, in 1963, Mid became the first shooter to win the Highpower National Championship with the .308.  He won it six times, as well as the Long-Range Championship, the Wimbledon Cup and the Leech Cup, not to mention being on countless Palma teams as shooter and coach.  I can't think of anyone more qualified to open this article.

Tompkins .308Mid's load for the Palma rifle is a fairly standard one in some respects but not in others; let's have a look.

Brass: old Winchester .308, weighs 170 gr., same as Lapua in capacity.
Powder: Varget, 46.0 gr.
Primer: Russian LR Magnum
Bullet: Berger 155.5 gr. Fullbore
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2975 fps
Barrel: 0.2980" x 0.3075" with a 1:13" twist, 30" long.

Mid soft-seats all bullets, meaning they have very light case neck tension and are seated long in the case.  This allows the bullet to slide back in the neck as it touches the rifling when the bolt closes; he says: " My chamber is my seating die."  In order to get the neck tension just right for soft-seating, Mid turns the necks on his brass and sizes for light tension with a bushing die.  Then, just before loading, he runs the case necks over an expander mandrel that gets the inside diameter exactly to his desired dimension.  Mid commented that bushings and mandrels have to be carefully selected and sometimes changed, to get just the right neck tension on the bullet.  As for other case preparation, Mid said: "It's a waste of time to do primer pocket and flash hole uniforming" but he checks cases on the Audette tool for case wall runout.  In a final comment, Mid noted: "It's easy to go too hot on muzzle velocity; you can't see the difference in wind drift on the target from an extra 50 fps."

Tompkins 6.5-284Mid shoots a 6.5-284 for Any-Rifle matches; in fact he pioneered that cartridge for long-range shooting.  "You can use either Winchester or Lapua brass, but you must match the reamer to the brass.  You can shoot Winchester brass in a Lapua chamber (though not the opposite), but you'll get shorter brass life because the primer pockets will expand quicker due to the bigger chamber" says Mid.  He goes on to say: "Winchester brass has to be necked down from .284" and you can get a donut at the base of the neck.  Most people don't seat the bullet that deep so it doesn't make much difference."  Mid also soft-seats in the 6.5-284 using the same process as described above for the .308.  He mentioned that pre-loading for a number of rifles before going on a summer shooting tour as he does each year makes soft-seating the only way to conveniently ensure that bullet seating in relation to the rifling remains constant as the barrels erode during the course of a few thousand rounds fired.

Brass: Winchester .284W necked down
Powder: Hodgdon 4350
Primer: Russian LR Magnum
Bullet: 140 Berger or 142 Sierra
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2975 fps Berger, 3075 fps Sierra
Barrel: 1:8" twist, standard internal dimensions, 30" long.

Mid tells us that he is able to load one grain more of powder with the Sierra bullet than the Berger bullet before seeing pressure signs, thus the difference in muzzle velocity between the two.

Bob Jensen - Paradise Valley, ArizonaI think it's safe to say that Bob Jensen has loaded more .308 ammunition for Palma shooting than any other person I'm aware of.  Bob, of course, loaded over 300,000 rounds for the 1992 Palma Match, ammunition that was used by competitors from all nations; and before that, he loaded 98,000 rounds for the US Army Marksmanship Unit.  Additionally, Bob is a tireless experimenter and a careful observer of the data produced from that testing - nothing gets past his well experienced eye and keen mind for reloading.  Winner of the Wimbledon Cup in 1977 with a .30-338 Magnum, Bob now shoots a 6.5-284 for Any-Rifle matches, but I asked him to give us the magnum load for some variety and for its historic importance.

Bob sorts his cases by weight and neck turns to 0.0125" for uniform neck tension.  Unlike Mid, with whom Bob has shot for many, many years, Bob does not like soft-seating and cautions that if soft-seating isn't done perfectly, the bullets can drop into the case (to the powder level) and that will create big elevation shifts.  Bob says: "If you think a certain procedure will help, it will, so do it.  Most of this is about having confidence in your ammo."  Bob's most unique method is case sorting by score; if a case fires a 9 that is not accountable by wind or call of the shot, the case is rejected and won't be fired in competition again.

Bob is the real primer expert in this group; everything I know about primers I learned from Bob and he has guided a great deal of my own experimentation with them.  While the loads listed below (which are from 1992 and 1977) use Federal and RWS primers, Bob now uses only the Russian primers; he was the original importer of these and for good reason - they are the best, most consistent primers ever made.  One common denominator of many of these loads is the use of the Russian primers, that is not a coincidence!

Jensen .308Although he is constantly trying load variations, Bob is particularly proud of that famous 1992 Palma load and it is still a fine shooting load used by many competitors. 

Brass: Winchester .308
Powder: IMR 4895, 44.8 gr.
Primer: Federal 210M
Bullet: Sierra 155 (2155) 2.80" OAL
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2980 fps
Barrel: 0.300" x 0.308", 1:13" twist, 30" long

Jensen .30-338 MagnumDuring the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's, the .30-338 Magnum was the king of 1000 yard shooting.  Well adapted to the available powders, particularly 4350, easy to make by necking down .338 Magnum brass (or necking up 7 mm Magnum brass), the .30-338 ruled the range.  Bob's 1977 Wimbledon Cup winning load is a real classic for the .30-338, hard to improve on even 33 years later.

Brass: Winchester .338 Magnum, necked down to .30 caliber
Powder: IMR 4350, 65.0 gr.
Primer: RWS
Bullet: Sierra 190
Average Muzzle Velocity: never chronographed, Bob reports he didn't have a chrono back then.
Barrel: 0.300" x 0.308" 1:11" twist 28" long, Hart

Allen Elliott - Florence, ArizonaAllen is one of the top shooters in our area and always does well at Camp Perry and other big matches; he's also a fine Smallbore shooter and brings that same high level of intensity and attention to detail to his long-range shooting and reloading.  I won't say much more about Allen, because he'll get a swelled head if I really say how good a shooter I think he is and now that they're getting electricity in Florence he might read this down at the library.

Elliott .308Allen believes in very careful case preparation for all of his ammo.  For his Palma loads, he and two friends recently bought 5000 pieces of Lapua brass to divide among themselves.  They beveled the flash holes, squared the primer pockets, turned all necks to 0.0135" thickness (not always a 100% clean up), checked case wall runout on the Audette tool (which resulted in only 25 cases out of the 5000 being rejected for more than 0.003" runout)  Then they weighed all the prepped cases, split them into three lots and each took one lot.  Bullets are subject to equally careful inspection and preparation: each is spun on a Juenke tester and those showing over 5 units of deviation are rejected.  Allen the trims the meplats, points the meplats with the Whidden tool and sorts bullets by bearing surface length.  I asked if he dips them in holy water too, he said no, just a simple blessing by his parish priest (the bishop for Camp Perry bullets).

Brass: Lapua, approx. 170 gr. case weight
Powder: Varget, 46.6 gr.
Primer: Russian LR
Bullet: Berger 155.5 gr. Fullbore or Sierra 155 (2156) (No preference) Bergers seated to jump 0.010", Sierras seated to jump 0.020"
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2985 fps
Barrel: 0.300" x 0.308", 1:13" twist, 30" long, Krieger or Hart, no preference

Elliott 6.5-08
Like a lot of us, Allen shoots a few different cartridges in Any-Rifle matches, but he has had a lot of success with the 6.5-08 so we'll have him cover that one.  Allen does the same brass and bullet inspection and preparation for the 6.5-08 as described for his .308 except that necks are turned 100% and to the thickness required to give 0.002" chamber neck clearance on a loaded round.  This is pretty tight clearance and not recommended for the relatively new shooter.  Whle Allen tried Remington .260 brass, he was unable to get a high enough percentage of it to pass the Audette inspection to make it worthwhile.  Consequently, he uses Federal .308 brass necked down in two steps (7-08, then 6.5-08) and neck turned.  He uses Federal because it checks well on the Audette test and he had a lot of it available.  Allen said: "I have a lot of problems with donuts at the base of the neck with this one.  I got a cutter and it barely touched the donut, then I got another cutter which turned out to be slightly larger (by coincidence) and it cuts them out but it's better to do it in two steps, using the smaller cutter first, then the larger one because it's too much to take out in one pass."

Brass: Federal .308 necked down and neck turned
Powder: H4350 41.6 gr.
Primer: Russian LR
Bullet: Sierra 142 seated to jump 0.020"
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2765 fps
Barrel: 1:8" twist, standard internal dimensions, 29" long, Krieger

German Salazar - Phoenix, ArizonaMy loading technique emphasizes quality and consistency of assembly over quality control of components.  I don't weigh cases or bullets, and I don't check bearing surface length or trim meplats though I do a bit of other preparation as described below.  Generally speaking I believe that good scores come from quality ammunition and perfect shooting technique so I don't overemphasize load development or component checking.  I always full length size and check the headspace to be 0.001" to 0.002" below the fired length.  Resizing is done with Redding bushing dies set for 0.002" neck tension and seating is with a Redding competition seater.  I weigh all charges on an Ohaus electronic scale, trickling to the exact desired weight or +0.05 gr. but never under.

Salazar .308My Palma loads vary a bit and use 155, 175, 185 or 190 grain bullets.  The one I'm shooting most now is the 175 Berger and it worked very well for me in the 2009 Arizona Palma Championship, so let's look at that load.  I use WCC 60 brass which weighs about 154 grains (new Winchester brass is about the same) and turn the necks to 0.0125" thickness to make sure of even neck tension on all bullets; this is my standard thickness for .308 and .30-06 brass.  My chamber has a 0.336" neck diameter, so I end up with 0.003" neck clearance.  I don't do any additional work to the brass, but I check it all on the Audette tool and reject anything over 0.003" case wall thickness variance at about 0.200" up from the inside base.  The remaining cases are marked at the thin spot and I try to index that mark up when I shoot.  Bullets are all moly coated and the tips pointed with the Whidden tool.  Remember that moly allows about one grain more than bare bullets, so reduce accordingly if you don't moly-coat your bullets.

Brass: WCC 60 or new Winchester (both weigh approx. 154 gr.), neck turned to 0.0125"
Powder:  H4895 44.5 gr.
Primer: Russian LR
Bullet: Berger 175 BT, moly-coated, seated to jam 0.010"
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2835 fps
Barrel: 0.300" x 0.308", 1:11" twist, 29" long Krieger

Salazar .30-06
As my friends know, I like shooting the .30-06 and find that it can be quite competitive at 1000 yards, even against all the sub-caliber wonder cartridges.  Like the .308, I use a lot of different bullets, but I have a basic "go-to" load that works perfectly at any distance including 1000 yards; nothing magic, just good, solid components and careful assembly.  I normally use Winchester brass which checks out very well on the Audette tool and reject anything over 0.003" case wall thickness variance, turn necks to 0.0125" and do no additional prep or sorting - really the same as my .308 brass.  On both cartridges, I do my final sizing with a 0.331" bushing for 0.002" neck tension and trim on a Giraud trimmer as needed.  Bullets are all moly-coated and pointed on the Whidden tool.

Brass: Winchester .30-06, neck turned to 0.0125"
Powder: H4350, 53.5 gr.
Primer: Russian LR
Bullet: Sierra 190, moly-coated, seated to jam 0.010"
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2800 fps
Barrel: 0.300" x 0.308", 1:11" twist, 28" long, Hart

Gary Eliseo - Orange, California Everyone knows Gary as the maker of the Competition Shooting Stuff Tubeguns; however, Gary is also among the West Coast's top shooters and has some interesting cartridges.  As far as case preparation goes, Gary sorts his brass by weight and also says: "I'm a big believer in annealing the cases, I do it every third firing, it keeps the neck tension and headspace very consistent and extends the useable life of the brass."  Let's examine three of Gary's loads, beginning as before with his Palma load. 

Eliseo .308
Brass: Winchester, weight sorted
Powder:, 46.5 gr. VV N150
Primer: CCI 200
Bullet: Berger 155.5 uncoated, jumping 0.020" to lands
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2970 fps
Barrel: Krieger 0.307" bore, 30" long  

Eliseo 6BRX
I don't generally recommend wildcat cartridges for newer shooters because there is plenty for them to learn without also learning to reform cases and deal with chamber and die compatibility issues.  The 6BRX, a lengthened version of the 6BR, is very popular in this area and while it requires reforming, it isn't too difficult.  The 6BR necks are expanded to 6.5 mm, then sized back down to 6mm just far enough to allow the bolt to close; this is the false shoulder method.  Bullets should be seated long to jam the rifling on the first firing to ensure the case head is against the bolt face and get a good blow-out of the case without separating the case near the base.

Brass: Lapua 6BR fireformed using the false shoulder method
Powder: 32.5 gr. of Varget
Primer: CCI BR4
Bullet: Berger 105 VLD, moly-coated, soft seated into lands
Average Muzzle Velocity: dependent on the barrel, 2975 to 3015
Barrel: 1:8" twist, 30" long Krieger, Hart and Broughton Barrels, all shoot equally well.

Eliseo 6 mm Remington
Gary hasn't shot this in a couple of years but this cartridge is a very good LR performer and I've seen him shoot some great scores with it.  Gary cautions: "This cartridge can push the 115's much faster, but be careful, the bullets tend to disappear if pushed too hard!"

Brass: Winchester, weight sorted and neck turned
Powder: 47.5 gr. of VV N165
Primer: CCI 200
Bullet: Berger 115 moly-coated, soft seated into the lands
Average Muzzle Velocity: 3120 fps
Barrel: Krieger 1:7.5" twist .237 bore, 30" long

Doug Frerichs - Scottsdale, Arizona Doug is a great shooter, competitive in Palma and Any Rifle matches and a lot of fun to be around, he is never at a loss for words!  I especially value his contribution because he has made a relatively quick and recent jump into the top level of shooters and might have a different perspective on things than those of us who have been "doing what works" without much change for many years.

Frerichs .308Doug says: "My Palma load is rather common, but involves a number of treatments that work well with the 30” Krieger on my T2K. Using Lapua brass, I neck turn to 0.015” thickness, then weigh and batch all brass to plus/minus 0.5 grains. For each reloading, brass is trimmed on a Giraud Trimmer to 2.007” – a length determined for my specific chamber with a Sinclair plug gauge. Resizing is done in three steps: Redding body die; Redding neck die with 0.334” bushing run to a depth of only 0.18” for soft seating; Berger 155.5 fullbores then seated to 0.015” rifling engagement.
Brass: Lapua, neck turned and weight sortedPowder: 45.8 gr. of Varget
Primer: Russian LR Magnum
Bullet: Berger 155.5 gr. Fullbore
Average Muzzle Velocity:
Barrel: 1:13" twist, 30" long Krieger

Frerichs 6XC
Doug shoots the 6XC for mid-range and long-range Any Rifle matches.  He tell us: "With Norma brass, I neck turn to 0.014” and size for 0.002” neck tension.  I then weigh and batch to plus/minus 0.5 gr or less, depending on luck o’ the lot. Using Tubb dies with a 0.268” shoulder/neck bushing, brass is resized and trimmed to 1.905” as established by a Sinclair plug gauge for the chamber on my Schneider barrel.  The bullets I shoot in the 6XC are moly and carnauba coated using the NECO process. For the 115s, I also use a Whidden Pointer to eke out a bit more BC."  Doug gave us a long-range load and a mid-range load for his 6XC; the mid-range load, which uses the 105, is also a very good long-range load for anyone who doesn't have 115's or has a 1:8" twist barrel.

Long-Range Load
: Norma 6XC

Powder: 38.5 gr. H4350
Primer: Russian LR Magnum
Bullet: 115 DTAC, moly-coated
Average MV: 2910 fps
Barrel:  1:7.5" twist, pentagonal rifling, Schneider 28" long

Mid-Range Load

Brass: Norma 6XC
Powder: 38.9 gr. H4350
Primer: Russian LR Magnum
Bullet: 105 Lapua Scenar, moly-coated
Average Muzzle Velocity: 3015 fps
Barrel: 1:7.5" twist, pentagonal rifling, Schneider 28" long

Bill Otten - Houston, TexasBill is a dedicated Palma shooter, a member of the US Veterans Team and a very thoughtful and careful reloader and experimenter.  Bill travels to many matches iin the US and abroad and is careful to build loads that can take the miles of vibration and rough handling that are part of international travel.  With the Veterans Team going to Australia regularly, Bill has been focused lately on developing loads with components available there in case the team requires that; he's always thinking ahead!  I've known Bill for almost 25 years and we correspond almost daily.  Although he shoots some other cartridges, the .308 is his main focus and he does some of the most carefully documented testing I've seen; his loads perform as well as anyone's and a lot better than most!

Otten .308
Bill tells us: "Case prep is where the most of my time is spent. Fired cases are decapped, then washed in a Lyman vibrator using hot water, liquid dishwashing soap (the kind with a degreaser agent in it) and a media of very small metal bits of varying shapes and sizes. After this the cases are annealed after every third firing. Then full length sized using the Warner sizing die, after which they are washed again to remove the lube.  I full length size every time to ensure consistency in the case size. The Warner die gives the loaded cartridge concentricity of 0.002" or less whether measured on the neck of the case or the ogive of the bullet.  I then trim and chamfer using a Giraud trimmer."

 Bill credits his frequent annealing with allowing him to maintain consistent neck tension with a non-bushing die.  He says: "The Warner sizing die is set up to give 0.002" neck tension, which give sufficient grip that the bullet does not move in the case during transport, especially when shipped ahead to a tournament or carried in my checked baggage.  There's no need for neck turning or weight sorting of the Lapua cases as they are very consistent and within tolerances.  Bill uses the Lapua 155 Scenar and comments: "I have found the Lapua does not like to be jammed at all and does not like to be jumped more than 0.010."  Let's look at the data.

Brass: Lapua .308, no special prep or selection
Powder: Varget, charge varies depending on the lot, as needed for MV shown below

Primer: CCI BR2
Bullet: Lapua 155 Scenar, no coating, no pointing
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2970 fps

Barrel: Bartlein, 1:12" twist, 0.3075" x 0.298", 30" long

Otten 6.5x47 Lapua
Bill's other cartridge is the 6.5x47 Lapua; as I mentioned above, Bill is principally a Palma shooter so the 6.5x47L or the "6.5 Finn" is his mid-range cartridge.  However, it is suitable for long range shooting and it is something not in widespread use today and thus of interest to many.

Bill explains his selection, saying : "I use this load in 300 yard and 600 yard prone matches.  I picked this cartridge because I wanted something with a little more bullet weight and wind bucking ability, especially at 600 yds, than I was getting from my 6BR."  Bill performs the same case preparation, annealing and sizing routine as with the .308 and also uses the Warner die for the 6.5x47L and again, does not neck turn or sort cases in any manner.

  As to load development, Bill comments: "The load was developed using the guidelines in the Lapua reloading manual. Lapua and Grunig & Elmiger  designed this cartridge specifically for 300 meter shooting and I presumed their testing was far more extensive than I could ever do. My testing differed from the factory setup in the barrel twist. Lapua’s testing was with a 1:8.5" twist, but after talking with Dan Warner we decided on a 1:9" twist barrel seeing that I was not going to be using the heavier 6.5 mm bullets, i.e. those above 130 grs."

Brass: Lapua 6.5x47L, no special prep or selection
Powder: VV N140, charge varies depending on the lot, as needed for MV shown below
Primer: Russian SR Magnum
Bullet: 123 gr. Lapua Scenar, no coating, no pointing, seated to jump 0.005" to rifling
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2850 fps
Barrel: Bartlein 5R, 1:9" twist, 0.256" x 0.264, 30" long

John Chilton - Phoenix, Arizona 
John shoots F-Class, F-TR to be specific and he has quickly risen to the top of that category through hard work and careful load development.  John is working on a prone rifle to expand his horizons a bit, but for now, let's tap his thoughts on a good F-TR .308 load.

Chilton .308John modestly says: "I am still new to the sport and learning the finer aspects of the technical area of the discipline and coming to love it. Initial brass preparation is fairly straight forward by first sorting Lapua Brass to +/- .5 grns. After the first firing I first clean the brass by tumbling. I carefully put the brass into the tumbler and extract it a piece at a time so not to damage the concentricity of the fired case necks. What can I say, "I have a thing for shiny bullets".

"The brass is then sized in two steps, first I send my brass through a neck sizing die with a bushing that will size the neck roughly half of the amount I need to get to proper neck diameter. Next I run the case through a full length sizing die with the bushing that will give me 0.002" pinch on the final seating. I find that the progressive neck sizing gives me a more consistent tension of the final product and the progression of neck sizing followed by full length sizing gives lower runnout."

"I then trim the brass to 2.008" and usually get three firings before trimming again. I have settled on the Russian primers as they give me really low SD's and are affordable. I do not sort bullets but do tip all bullets with the Whidden tool. When assembling midrange loads I simply use a RCBS Chargemaster and seat bullets as the cases are charged. This scale tends to drift so I shoot in the order in which I load. If a bullet seems to seat a little light or heavy on seating pressure, it goes into the sighter portion of the box. When building long range loads I run all charges over a Denver Instruments scale."

Brass: Lapua, weight sortedPowder: 44.5 gr. of IMR 4320Primer: Russian LRBullet: Berger 175 Grain Match Target BT, Jump 0.015"Average Muzzle Velocity: 2810 fpsBarrel: Krieger, 1:12" twist, 30" long

Mike StClair - San Diego, California
Mike is another of our dedicated Palma shooters, a member of the US Veterans Team and brings long experience in reloading for team shooting where uniformity and reliability of loads among team members and from year to year is essential in order for the coaches to do their job properly.  Mike's loads favor the well-proven approach with an emphasis on quality and consistency.  With California's year-round shooting weather, you can bet Mike's loads are well tested!

StClair .308
Mike buys Lapua brass in lots of 500, sorts them by weight when new and keeps each set boxed together from then on. The brass is discarded when primer pockets get loose, usually after 10 or so firings.

Mike explains his case prep techniques as follows: "I use Redding small base Type S full length dies with neck bushings. I never use an expander. After brushing out the inside neck and steel wooling the outside neck I lubricate with Imperial Sizing Die wax and resize the brass. My goal is to set back a fired case shoulder no more than .002 inches. I keep the over all length no more than 2.015 inches; this means using my Wilson trimmer and cutting back to 2.000 inches about every 3rd firing."

After sizing, Mike cleans the brass with this multi-step process: "I wipe the lubricant off and use an RCBS rotary tumbler to wash the brass in lots of 100 (1 box at a time). Hot water, a splash of white vinegar and 2 caps of Simple green detergent are the ingredients. I have some ceramic chips in the mix also. After 2 hours or so I rinse them out--dry them and then polish in a vibrator with corn medium."

Mike uses Varget powder which he buys in good quantity, and specifes that it all be from the same lot; this ensures a consistent load over a long period of time.  He says: "I weigh each load to the nearest .02 grains on my Denver MXX123 scale and seat bullets with a Redding Competition seating die. I watch the length from the base to the ogive and try and jump them about 0.020".  As for primers, I tried the Russian ones a few years ago and had some ignition problems so I went back to Federal.  I mostly shoot the Sierra 155; I also like the Berger 155.5 Fullbore but they are more expensive. I chronograph all new lots of powder to get just over 3000 fps at my home range which is at 2000 ft. elevation."

Brass: Lapua, weight sorted
Powder: Varget, charge varies by lot, as needed for Average MV shown below
Primers: Federal 210M
Bullets: Sierra Palma Match 2156, 155 gr. for 8-9-100 yards. Sierra 2155, 155 gr. for 300 to 600 yards.
Average Muzzle Velocity: Just over 3000 fps
Barrel: Kreiger, 31" long, Palma Countour, 0.298" bore x 0.3065" groove, 1:13" twist, 4 groove. My chamber is a tight modified Bisley --Doan Trevor does my barrels. I want to try the new 5 groove barrel some day.

Jim Cobb - Casa Grande, ArizonaJim is one of those guys who manages to do a lot with a little.  I consider him to be the best team shooter in our area, he can break a shot on command, calls them perfectly and they go right where he calls them.  That last item, of course, is our interest here as Jim knows how to build and feed very accurate rifles without breaking the bank.  

Cobb 6XC
Currently, Jim shoots a post-'64 Winchester Model 70 short action, in a McGee XTC pattern laminated stock in Any-Rifle matches.  Let's have a listen to what he says about the ammo, I think you'll agree that he has a great setup.  "I don't weight sort or use an Audette checker on my 6XC brass. Now that I received my long-range High Master card I may need to improve my reloading technique to try and run with the big dogs.

The Norma 6XC brass was fairly uniform out of the package. I trimmed all of the brass to 1.908” length. Surprisingly there were a few pieces that were only 1.895” out of the bag, eventually after a few firings they grew up. I uniformed the primer pockets on new brass with the Sinclair pocket uniformer. The only reason is so the primer seating operation has the same feel, case to case when seating primers with my RCBS primer tool. If I don’t perform this operation some primer pockets are significantly tighter than others causing the primers to be flatter than I would like when seating them. I don't neck turn or uniform the flash holes with this brass.

My fired rounds have a neck diameter of 0.272”+. I full length resize and
deprime using a 0.270” neck bushing in a Redding full length sizing die; the neck expander is not used. I bump the shoulder back 0.001" to 0.002”. Next operation is a neck size only, using a Redding neck size die with a 0.269” neck bushing. I trim the cases back to 1.908” and then wipe them down with a damp microfiber towel to remove the sizing wax.

The load I typically use year round is 38.8 gr. of H4350, Wolf large rifle magnum primer and Berger 105’s. The bullets are moly coated and seated 0.020” into the lands.  Bullets are seated with a Redding Competition seater die. Loaded round neck diameter is 0.270”. This load achieves approximately 2925 fps.

This combination has shot extremely well at both long and mid ranges. A 198-10X at 1000yds during the Arizona State Long Range Championships in November, with 2450 rounds down the barrel. At a Ben Avery 600 yard match this month, a 200-7X at 2500 rounds. In August, at a South Mountain 500 yard match, a 400-26X at 2250 rounds.

Overall this is a moderately priced and efficient package that has performed very well for me. A classic M70 XTC rifle that can still be loaded with stripper clips and fed from the magazine, imagine that. Barrel wear, all slow prone has been very reasonable: at 70 rounds I had a Sinclair comparator reading of 3.130” with a jam of 0.020”.  I now have 2504 rounds down the tube and a comparator reading 3.160” with the 105’s 0.020” into the lands. I also have one box of Norma brass that has at least 15 reloads on it."

Brass: Norma 6XC brassPowder: Hodgdon H4350 powderPrimer: Wolf large rifle magnumBullet: Berger 105 #24429, moly-coatedAverage Muzzle Velocity: 2925 fpsBarrel: Krieger #16 Palma, 0.237" x 0.243", 1:7.5" twist, 30” long barrel

Martin Tardiff - Los Angeles, CaliforniaMartin is one of California's top shooters, the 2009 California Palma Champion and the winner of the 2009 Bill Chapman Regional shooting his 6XC. These matches, held at the always challenging Coalinga range are a great test of the rifleman and his equipment; Martin is always a contender in our Arizona state matches as well. Here's what he has to say:

Tardiff .308"I use Lapua .308 brass. I lightly chamfer and deburr it out of the box and I use this from 300 to 800 and some 900 yd. matches. From this fire-formed brass, I will load my 1000 yard ammo. I do not weight sort any brass or bullet for any reason whatsoever. I figure Lapua and Berger are way better at that than me. I use a Redding bushing die with a 0.336" to get 0.001” to 0.0015” neck tension. I find that the Berger 155 VLD’s give me about 1/2- X ring elevation. I know this from the 800 yard 150-15x I shot last year at Coalinga. Noma Mayo was scoring me and had shot the same score on the previous relay but added that I had used about half of her elevation. I’ve been annealing my brass of late and find it gives me more consistent neck tension when seating bullets. My load shown below gives me 2930 fps. I have been told that this is a light load...I’m good with that."Brass: Lapua .308Powder- N-150, 45.5 gr. .
Primers - Russian, Lot 1-03.
Bullet: Berger 155 VLD (naked), jam 0.030” into the lands
Average Muzzle Velocity: 2930 fps
Barrel: Krieger, 30” long, 1:13” twist, 0.307” bore, ‘95 Palma chamber.

Tardiff 6XC
"I use Winchester 22-250 reformed to 6XC using Larry Medler’s mushroom free case forming method except for the neck turning bit. I can shoot this at 600yd matches and stay competitive. I use the Tubb SSS neck/shoulder-bump case forming die. When I first received the die I had some severe issues with it; the die would shave brass off the bottom third of the virgin case. Gary Eliseo did some of his magic and massaged it so that I could use the dang thing. I purchased a 0.269" neck./shoulder bushing from SSS which gives me 0.001” neck tension. I anneal this brass every 2 or 3 firings.

Doan Trevor chambers all of my barrels and he supplies a “0” headspace gauge with each one. This is really handy when sizing my brass. I just size my single load ammo 0.001" to 0.002” under the “0” reference on the gauge and I’m good to go. Doan uses my Dave Kiff 6XC no turn chamber which has a 0.273” neck. With the Winchester brass this gives me 0.001” clearance all around (0.002" total clearance).

Brass: Winchester 22-250, reformed to 6XC

Powder: H4831sc, 41gr.
Primer: Russian LR, Lot 1-03
Bullet: Berger 115 gr. VLD (naked) 0.030” jam into the lands
Average Muzzle Velocity: 3050 fps
Barrel: Krieger 30”, 1-7.5” twist, .236 bore

Brass: Powder: Primer: Bullet: Average Muzzle Velocity: Barrel:

Equipment: Palma Bullets and Barrels

The following is a question from a friend and my answer to him.  I'm posting them here because it's a very good question for the newer Palma shooter and hopefully the answer will provide the information needed when making a decision about bullets and barrels.  -GAS-

Palma Bullets and Barrels - A 2010 Overview
By: Germán A. Salazar

Germán ,

I just ordered my stock from Gary at CSS, looking forward to that arriving. While I am waiting, I am searching for the right barrel for this rifle. Since it will be used for Palma and High Power I am not too worried about just shooting 155's (I will not be shooting International Palma). I am looking at the 10-12 twist range, but am open to ideas. What my real question is about is the groove/bore diameters out there. Should I go with a tight 0.307" x 0.298" or stay with a 0.308" x 0.300" offered by many barrel makers. What are your thoughts on this and how many grooves in a barrel? I need someone to give me a start since I have formed no opinions yet. I have read a lot on the internet, but cannot find too much useful information on this topic. Thanks and have a great weekend.


Hi Jonathan,

That's a good question that deserves some thought, more people should ask.

As a bit of background, except 1976, Palma matches were shot with military ball ammo until the 1992 match.  The British continued to shoot ball until about three years ago, and because the bullets in ball were typically 0.306" to 0.307", the need for those tight barrels arose in order to get any sort of accuracy with them.  The same bad bullets are the root of the use of the 1:13" twist, as the faster you spin a bad bullet, the more likely it is to fly off course; good bullets such as current Sierra, Berger, Lapua, and other modern match bullets are very tolerant of spin rates in excess of that which is minimally required to stabilize them.  In other words, you can't spin good bullets too fast in a .308 so a slow twist is not required.  The only potential danger in spinning too fast is bullet blow-up and that isn't going to happen with a .30 caliber bullet at .308 velocities for reasons too involved to get into here.

With the introduction of the Sierra 155 bullet, which was designed for the 1992 Palma ammo loaded by Bob Jensen, the bad ammo era came to an end for the actual Palma match and there began a sea change in ammunition for all Palma shooting that is now complete - ball ammo is no longer shot in Palma shooting anywhere.

So now all that is ancient history internationally and more importantly to you and me, it is irrelevant to the American shooter who doesn't want to travel overseas. We have an incredible selection of .30 caliber bullets and there is no sense in choosing a barrel that limits one's choices. Let's think about a few possibilities. First bullets, then barrels to match.

Let's not rule out the 155; actually, there are some incredibly good 155's out today. My favorite is the Berger 155.5 Fullbore bullet; I consider it to be the most accurate 155 ever made. With the right load, this bullet is as accurate as any .30 caliber bullet and the wind drift is no worse than any normal weight (155 to 190) bullet other than the new Berger 175 and 185. When I run the numbers on the Berger 155.5 at 3000 and the Sierra 190 at 2640 (both are my true MV for each bullet) they come out essentially identical. Same happens if I compare them at 2800 for the 190 and 3150 for the 155 which is what I could do with them from the .30-06.

The Berger is a great bullet, but it isn't the only 155. The plain old Sierra 2155 is still a very accurate bullet and at 300 to 600 yards is worth shooting. It is the most wind sensitive of all the 155's but it's also reliably accurate. Besides, a little extra wind drift at 600 isn't a terrible thing, it'll keep you busy on the windage knob and seriously, that's good practice for any Palma shooter. The Nosler 155 is a good clone of the Sierra 2155. The Lapua 155 is an excellent bullet as is the new Sierra 2156, but I prefer the Berger to these although many shooters are using both of them with very good results.

Next is the Sierra 168 which can be used at 300 yards and should really go no further than that. Frankly, as good as it is for short range, there are better bullets and the only reason I can think of to shoot the 168 today is to use up an existing stock of them. Never shoot a 168 past 600 yards, it is absolutely impossible to keep it supersonic at 1000 from a .308 and it's flatly terrible at 800 and 900. It's no great joy at 600 either, you're always better off with something else.

The 175 class of bullets is next and right there is my current favorite overall Palma bullet, the new Berger 175 BT. The 175 is a slightly lengthened version of the 155.5 Fullbore and has shot very well for me in both .308 and .30-06 in barrels with twist rates of 1:13", 1:12", 1:11" and 1:10" as I would expect a good bullet to do. The wind drift on the 175 is less than the 155.5 when both are loaded to the same pressure level (the MV will be lower, but if pressure is the same on two bullets of the same type, the heavier will drift less). I shot the 175 Berger in the recent Arizona Palma Championship and finished well with it. I use H4895 powder with it. I haven't shot the Sierra 175 in a long time and never in a Palma so I can't comment on it, but I suspect that it does not have the aerodynamic characteristics of the Berger. You can check into that by running some numbers on them at JBM Ballistics select the Litz data for each bullet from the bullet list (it'll be obvious when you're there).

The new 185 Berger has been winning a lot of Palma matches, and is the current choice of Bryan Litz who is certainly a top Palma shooter. It says a lot that this is the bullet Bryan chooses for his own shooting since he is Berger's ballistics chief. Mid Tompkins shoots it also and he's a pretty sharp guy as you probably know. Theoretically, based on drift, this is the best Palma bullet available today. I have a few boxes and have tried them but have always felt the 175's were shooting better for me. This may simply be a case of inadequate load development on my part and that would be perfectly understandable since I tend to put loads together with small variations and try them in matches more than doing a more formalized development program. Still, the 175's have come together quickly and shot great for me, but not the 185's.

I shoot the old Lapua 185 FMJ D46 bullet a lot because I have a ton of them. However, like the Sierra 2155, it's an outdated design and not worth buying now. Burning up an old stock is fine and I shoot them at all distances. Like the old Sierra, you have to crank the windage knob a bit extra with the D46, but I don't mind. They will shoot very well in almost any barrel regardless of wear, a very attractive feature!

The 190 Sierra is my standard bullet for .30 caliber shooting. While it isn't very high in BC and it has a long bearing surface which keeps MV down a bit, it is reliably accurate at all distances and will work with a normal .308 chamber, although a slightly longer throat is a good thing but not essential. With a new barrel, I generally evaluate it's potential with the 190 and then try other things if it looks good. If it won't shoot 190's well, chances are it isn't going to shoot well at all (assuming proper rate of twist). The Berger 190 VLD is another good 190, but the 185 BT has really superseded it.

I've shot the Berger 210 and other heavy bullets in .308 but will omit them from this discussion because you really need to have a dedicated barrel for them with a 1:10" twist and a long throat. They're interesting, but a specialized area.

The bullet discussion was long because it sets up the barrel choices and allows the barrel discussion to be a bit shorter. First, all of the bullets mentioned will shoot perfectly well in a 0.300" x 0.308" barrel. I think the time for tight barrels has passed; they increase pressure and provide no useful benefit with modern bullets. Ball is dead in Palma shooting and the tight barrels should be buried alongside it.

Number of grooves is not something I place a great deal of emphasis on.  Most cut rifled barrels are four-groove although you can specify six-groove from some makers.  Bartlein and Krieger also offer five-groove barrel with some variation or other of the 5R type rifling.  Most button rifled barrels, such as Hart, are six-groove.  I have all of those variations and if there's something better about one or the other, I can't find it.  The 5R shoots and cleans well, but so do the normal ones.  I believe that a good quality barrel, properly lapped by the manufacturer, will shoot well regardless of number of grooves or groove configuration.  Theoretically an odd number of grooves should be less stressful on the bullet, so if a shooter is pushing bullets very hard and having some blow-ups, it's something to consider.  This really isn't an issue in Palma shooting with any of the available bullets; it tends to be a greater issue with high velocity, fast twist, smaller caliber rifles such as the 6.5-284.

Rate of twist is a more interesting question. As I mentioned earlier, slow twist barrels, on the ragged edge of stability, keep bullets of less than perfect construction flying slightly closer to the intended path. British shooters even liked 1:14" twist barrels for ball, again for that reason. We are shooting good bullets, so let's eliminate that consideration as we examine twist.

The rate of twist required to stabilize a bullet of a given caliber is directly proportional to its length. As bullets have become more streamlined for higher BC in any given weight category (as discussed above) they have gotten longer. Think about it a moment, the only way to increase the BC of a bullet at a given weight is to stretch the nose and maybe the boat tail to a more streamlined shape, thus lengthening it. That means that today's bullets generally should use a slightly faster twist than the old ones.

I consider a 1:12" to be the slowest desirable rate of twist for a Palma rifle today if one is not intent on shooting 155's. The 1:13" can shoot 175 and in some cases the 185 well, but it's easier to get them shooting from a faster twist. The 1:12" will shoot all of these perfectly well and in many cases the 190's as well, although that's not guaranteed.

The 1:11" twist is my general preference. It will handle all bullet weights with no concern. From a 155 to a 190, I never have to give rate of twist a second thought with a 1:11" and I can just conduct my load testing or match shooting with whatever bullet catches my eye that day (and I like to try a lot of different ones). Generally speaking, a 1:11" 0.300" x 0.308" barrel is my idea of a perfect .308 or .30-06 barrel.

The 1:10" barrel doesn't gain anything over the 1:11" for most uses because you need a long throat to shoot the 210 class bullets that the 1:10" allows you to shoot. That, of course, wipes out the barrel for light bullet use because you can't keep them in the case neck! My only 1:10" is on a .30-06 that I use for 210's on occasion - there's no good reason to use one for a general purpose .308.

What we need to talk about next is chamber reamers and they are a big topic unto themselves.


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