Tips and Tricks for New Reloaders

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A while back we asked our Facebook friends what tips and tricks they had for new reloaders.  Check out their responses below:

Walter Coats – “Just because a load manual says x grains of x powder with x bullet is max, your rifle could reach max pressure a grain or two before what the book says. Start low and work up.

Keith Shively – “Read all you can about it before you start!

Mark Ewing – “I put all my primed brass upside down (primer up) and as I charge the casing, I (of course) flip it primer down.

Glen Lundgren – “Check and double check. Everything. Every time. Only one type of powder on the bench at a time.

Bill Tinsley – “If, for any reason, you have to leave the bench while in the process of dropping powder charges, turn the next case to be charged upside down in the loading block so you know where you left off.

Erik Dyal – “Be patient, don’t be in a hurry, have fun and find your rhythm. Just tell your family your putting yourself in time-out. They will understand.

Eric J Ford – “Keep your bench area clean and put items away ASAP.

Jim Caldwell – “Relaxed but concentrated attention. Have fun enjoying a great hobby and pastime but stay focused.

James A Kimery Tony  – “One powder on the bench at one time, it might save your life.

William Stanley – “FOCUS , FOCUS , FOCUS—be patient–it AIN’T a race.

Michael Conniff – “Write down on a small card what you’re loading – bullet weight, powder weight, type of powder, & primer. And put it in the powder hopper. I am unloading .45 FMJ because I forgot what type powder was in the hopper.

Peter Eick – “Never start reloading or developing a load without a specific goal in mind. Second keep meticulous records.

Andy Pynckel – “OCD is a good habit to have with your loading bench. CLEARLY label everything!

For even more tips and tricks check out Five Things I’ve learned Reloading Ammunition by .

Did we miss something?  Share your tips in the comments below.

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Enter the Sierra Bullets Gun Beauty Pageant on Facebook

USAbluebackgroundFBCovHave a beautiful gun you love showing off?  Then don’t miss the 1st Annual Sierra Bullets Beautiful Gun Pageant!

Share one photo of your beautiful gun before 5 p.m. on Sunday, February 14 on the Sierra Bullets Facebook page to be entered. Be sure to include all the details about your gun. From the top 20 photos with the most likes we will draw 5 lucky winners to receive 500 bullets of their choice.

U.S. residents only. Other restrictions may apply.

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Magazines for Shooters

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

The Rifle Magazine #1 My dad’s uncle Kenneth used to share old shooting magazines with me when I was younger on a regular basis. I enjoyed reading every page, soaking up all the information I could and loved looking through the advertisements in the back. Usually, there would be at least one ad for surplus firearms at less than reasonable prices. The thing that really kept me coming back was the honesty in the article reports. They were a true interpretation of what the writer found in the testing. Some of my best reading came from the Handloader and Rifle magazines and to be honest, I still dive into the new articles with enthusiasm.

Handloader#1If I had to pick a favorite writer, I would say it was Ken Waters because he was a man that had been there and done that. Wolf Publishing presented his complete volume of Handloader articles in one book and it has a whopping 1,166 pages! It contains 187 articles covering specific cartridges and another 17 on general cartridges or other information. Holy smokes, that’s a lot of shooting!

I know it doesn’t conform to the same calm demeanor as a lot of other magazines but I found honest reports in articles published in Recoil. If ever there was a magazine that put the information right in your face and rubbed your nose in it, this is the one. No regrets and no remorse, tell it like it is with modern equipment and I hope it never changes. It isn’t for everyone so check it out at your local stand before you get a subscription. Now is the time to read, while the air is cold and the fire is warm. Spring will be with us again soon and it will be time to put our new knowledge to good use.

Till then, stay warm and dream of those tiny group sizes.

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Mid-Winter Blues Busters for Reloaders

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

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The joyous and festive days of the holiday season are behind us for another year and we are back in our normal routine once again for our work lives.  But what about those long winter nights?

Were I to use this time to my best advantage I’d start dragging out my brass from last season in a best case scenario.

The first thing I’d do is sort it by headstamp.  If I knew the number of times the brass had been fired I’d segregate it by times fired also.

If not, I’d move on to cleaning my brass.

Cleaning can be done many different ways.  The vibratory method is probably the most popular and is a very convenient way of getting your cases ready to load.  The various ultra-sonic methods all seem to get a relative clean case but not all get a clean primer pocket.  You do get a clean inside and out however if that is important to you.  It seems to me that the cleaning agent used has at least some bearing on the final result as does the number of cases.  This method also dictates that you have access to a sink and running water for rinsing.  Something we don’t all have plus you have to wait for the cases to dry so the cases aren’t immediately available.  Also, if you are expecting the cases to come out polished and shiny you’re in for a disappointment, they will be rather dull.  I tumble or vibrate mine after resizing which polishes them and removes the case lube. Then there is the Stainless Steel polishing media which is a wet application using liquid soap, lemon juice and water.  It is very effective and yields a very clean case.  New media really doesn’t give a bright polished appearance but it is clean.  Again a tumble or vibratory treatment with nut shell will restore the shine.

Various case spinning methods can turn the outside cartridge surfaces into jewelry quality but do nothing for the interior of the case and you still have to clean the primer pockets.  This method can be very useful but there is really only one polish to use and that is Flitz Metal Polish.  Steel wool works and so does Brasso and Mothers and … well the list goes on but Flitz sets the standard.

Now that we have clean and hopefully shiny cases they need to be carefully inspected for flaws, cracks and major dents.  Be sure to inspect the primer pockets for cleanliness and obstructions.

Throw out the junk.  To keep it may sound thrifty but it will cost you in the end.  Ruptured or stuck cases, face full of gas or just poor accuracy can result, in short nothing good comes out of a bad case.

Since this is the “off season” and we have time, all usable cases should be weighed.  The purpose of this may not to be to match them up by weight per se but to find any that are way out of the norm.

So the hunting loads for my 30-30 are sorted by manufacturer and sample checked for weight.  The way heavy and way light cases are removed but the remainder are ultimately usable.  This is a short range hunting rifle and is not subjected to max level loads so any case prep beyond this is over kill.

My longer range cartridge brass is not only segregated by manufacturer but also weight sorted.  This can be done several ways but a good way is to weigh 20 to get an average case weight.  Weigh the rest and keep all cases that fall within plus or minus of 1% of that average.  The heavy ones can be used for dummies and gauges and the light ones for replacement cases to the working batch should you lose one or two.

My competition brass is all weight matched.  If they are all the same weight that is great so long as I have enough to complete a full match with sighters.  I MIGHT allow a couple of 10ths one way or another if I am short a few cases especially if this is for one of my 600 yard guns.  The 1000 yard cases will all weigh the same.

The next step for competition brass especially is to uniform the primer pockets.  There are many tools to use for this but I have been using a set of Whitetails for years.  The object is to have them all be the same depth with square bottoms.  Following this operation the flash holes need to be uniformed.  Again there is a multitude of tools for this but I use a 4 inch #2 center drill with a .080” drill diameter.  Granted it doesn’t say Sinclair on it but it works for me.  This is a onetime operation and is good to perform on your hunting ammo if you like.

All cases need to be trimmed to length, even the 30-30.  Otherwise the cases vary in length and the crimps will vary even more!  By starting the year of with good even brass I’ll feel better whether I shoot better or not.

After trimming, chamfer and deburring are required.  The standard deburr/chamfer tools are entirely adequate for all but the most demanding shooting.  I like the tubing deburring style deburring tools but the common 3 legged tool on the end of the regular chamfer tool is very serviceable.

I have found that one chamfer tool stands out above all others for competition case prep and that is the K&M.  It has a built-in stop which makes it unique and it is of the VLD style with a very long cut.

There is another VLD style chamfer tool, the Lyman and it works very well.  Holland has one and I’m sure there are others also.

My next step will be bullets.  Now don’t jump out of your chair and holler at me through the computer.  I don’t sort my hunting bullets.  Sierra bullets don’t need to be sorted, especially hunting bullets.

I will admit to sorting my 1000 yard bullets sometimes however.  I sort them from ogive to base using a comparator but I don’t weigh them.  I started with the Davidson tools attached to my calipers which worked very well.  Then Mark King introduced me to the JB Ogive Checker which I like very much.  Darrell Holland has a good tool that is horizontal rather than vertical like the JB and we use it here at Sierra.  Forster makes a very handy tool that not only checks bullets but sized case datum comparisons.

When sorting bullets you aren’t throwing any away but you are grouping them by ogive to base dimension.  There is no value to this for anything other than long range target shooting.  In that scenario bullets of like dimension will group together and eliminate vertical dispersion induced by the varying BC of dissimilar bullets.  Some shooters sort to the thousandths, others two thousandths but all the top shooters sort.  That being said I do know a couple of nationally recognized top tier shooters that found some Sierra long range bullets that had only two thousandths variation over a 1000 or so bullet sort.  They quit sorting but we still check each box of each lot just to be sure.

So that is how I’ll be spending those dark, cold winter nights.  Providing I can get spousal permission of course.

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Easy Ways to Save Yourself Headaches at the Range (Part 2)

Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant

The tips below continue Easy Ways to Save Yourself Headaches at the Range (Part 1)

Five: Check Your Crimps

Overcrimped_Case_NeckRifle and handgun cartridges that are crimped with a roll crimp are often not trimmed to the same length as they should be. The short cases don’t get any crimp, the correct length cases crimp perfect and the long cases has a bulge right below the crimp that either keeps them from chambering or makes them really hard to chamber, depending on how much bulge there is. You can get some really erratic velocities also. Having the body of your seating die too low will also cause bulges either on the shoulder or neck. On taper crimp dies, the reloader sometimes doesn’t even get the case mouth bell smoothed out of the case and you can feel it actually still flare out. This does nothing to help hold the bullet firmly and will not feed smoothly into the chamber. Others will put the crimp so tight that it actually damages the bullet. The case mouth walls should feel smooth when you run your finger alongside of it. One way I like to check my crimp on a center fire pistol is to load about 3 rounds, measure the first one I put in the magazine, fire the first 2 letting the 3rd round chamber. Then I eject it and measure it to make sure it is the same length that it was when I measured it originally. If it isn’t, I adjust my crimp slightly more and repeat the process until the bullet stays the same length.

Six: Be Sure to Chamfer/Debur All New and Trimmed Cases

Not chamfering the inside/outside of the case mouth on bottleneck cartridges often causes problems also. When the case mouths are left square, there is often a tiny ring of copper gets shaved off the base or top of the boat tail on the bullet. Sooner or later one of those little rings will find their way into a chamber and will keep a round from chambering completely. Guess where they beat the gun at again.

Seven: Use the Correct Tool to Remove Crimped In Primers

Beveled_Primer_PocketA lot of surplus military cases available have crimped in primers. Besides being a little rough on decapping pins, they sometimes cause problems removing the crimp. Several companies make tools for removing the crimp such as the one that Dillon Precision makes that swages the primer pocket and leaves smooth rounded edges. Some others like Lyman, actually cut it out and faintly put a rounded edge on the mouth. A problem arises though when the reloader tries to use a case mouth chamfering tool to bevel the crimp out. They get to much bevel on it and the primer has a lot of unsupported area that stands a chance to rupture. (See the left side of the photo.) This not only spews gas and etches the bolt face, it can also get gas and metal particles into your eyes. If you are going to process crimped in primers, be sure to use the correct tool.

I could go on and on but hopefully this will help some of you that are having these problems cure them. As I was rummaging around making cases for these photos or looking thru junk ammo, I thought of several other problems. We will cover them another time. See you on the range. Hopefully you aren’t having to beat your rifle open!

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Easy Ways to Save Yourself Headaches at the Range (Part 1)

Written by Sierra Bullets Media Relations Manager Carroll Pilant

I had some gentlemen at my house last Fall getting rifle zeros for an upcoming elk hunt. One was using one of the .300 short mags and every 3rd or 4th round would not chamber. Examination of the case showed a bulge right at the body/shoulder junction. These were new cases he had loaded for this trip. The seating die had been screwed down until it just touched the shoulder and then backed up just slightly. Some of the cases were apparently slightly longer from the base to the datum line and the shoulder was hitting inside the seating die and putting the bulge on the shoulder. I got to thinking about all the gun malfunctions that I see each week at matches and the biggest percentage stem from improper handloading techniques.

One: Utilize a Chamber Gage

Since I shoot a lot of 3 gun matches, I see a lot of AR problems which result in the shooter banging the butt stock on the ground or nearest solid object while pulling on the charging handle at the same time. I like my rifles too well to treat them that way myself. I cringe every time I see someone doing that. When I ask them if they run the ammo thru a chamber gage, I usually get the answer, “No, but I need to get one” or “I didn’t have time to do it” or other excuses. That few minutes that it takes to check you ammo can mean the difference between a nightmare and a smooth running firearm.

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Chamber gage

Another problem is caused sizing the case itself. If you will lube the inside of the neck, the expander ball will come out a lot easier. If you hear a squeak as the expander ball comes out of a case neck, that expander ball is trying to pull the case neck/shoulder up (sometimes several thousandths). That is enough that if you don’t put a bulge on the shoulder when seating the bullet, like we talked about above, it can still jam into the chamber like a big cork. If the rifle is set up correctly, the gun will not go into battery and won’t fire but the round is jammed into the chamber where it won’t extract and they are back to banging it on the ground again (with a loaded round stuck in the chamber). A chamber gage would have caught this also.

Bad_Primer_WallsOversizing cases also causes problems because the firing pin doesn’t have the length to reach the primer solid enough to ignite it 100% of the time. When you have one that is oversized, you usually have a bunch, since you usually do several cases at a time on that die setting. If the die isn’t readjusted, the problem will continue on the next batch of cases also. They will either not fire at all or you will have a lot of misfires. In a bolt action, a lot of time the extractor will hold the case against the face of the breech enough that it will fire. The case gets driven forward and the thinner part of the brass expands, holding to the chamber wall and the thicker part of the case doesn’t expand as much and stretches back to the bolt face. If it doesn’t separate that time, it will the next time. When it does separate, it leaves the front portion of the case in the chamber and pulls the case head off. Then when it tries to chamber the next round, you have a nasty jam. Quite often range brass is the culprit of this because you never know how many times it has been fired/sized and in what firearm.  Back to beating it on the ground again till you figure out that you have to get the forward part of the case out. Just a quick tip. To extract the partial case, an oversize brush on a cleaning rod ran in to the point that is is still in the case and then pulled backward will often remove the case. The bristles when pushed forward and then pulled back act like barbs inside the case.  If you have a bunch of oversized case that have been fired, I would dispose of them to keep from having future problems. There are a few tricks you can use to salvage them if they haven’t been fired though. Once again, a case gage would have helped.

Two: Double Check Your Primers

Primer_ProblemsAnother thing I see fairly often is a high primer, backwards primer, or no primer at all. The high primers are bad because you can have either a slam fire or a misfire from the firing pin seating the primer but using up its energy doing so. So, as a precaution to make sure my rifle ammo will work 100% of the time, I check it in a case gage, then put it in an ammo box with the primer up and when the box is full, I run my finger across all the primers to make sure they are all seated to the correct depth and you can visually check to make sure none are in backwards or missing.

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Three: Check Your Overall Cartridge Length

Trying to load the ammo as long as possible can cause problems also. Be sure and leave yourself enough clearance between the tip of the bullet and the front of the magazine where the rounds will feed up 100%. Several times over the years, I have heard of hunters getting their rifle ready for a hunt. When they would go to the range to sight in, they loaded each round single shot without putting any ammo in the magazine. On getting to elk or deer camp, they find out the ammo is to long to fit in the magazine. At least they have a single shot, it could be worse. I have had hunters that their buddies loaded the ammo for them and then met them in hunting camp only to find out the ammo wouldn’t chamber from either the bullet seated to long or the case sized improperly, then they just have a club.

Four: Confirm All Cases Contain Powder

No powder in the case doesn’t seem to happen as much in rifle cartridges as in handgun cartridges. This is probably due to more handgun ammo being loaded on progressive presses and usually in larger quantities. There are probably more rifle cartridges that don’t have powder in them than you realize though. Since the pistol case is so much smaller internal capacity, when you try to fire it without powder, it usually dislodges the bullet just enough to stick in the barrel. On a rifle, you have more internal capacity and usually a better grip on the bullet, since it is smaller diameter and longer bearing surface. Like on a .223, often a case without powder won’t dislodge the bullet out of the case and just gets ejected from the rifle, thinking it was a bad primer or some little quirk.  For rifle cases loaded on a single stage press, I put them in a reloading block and always dump my powder in a certain order. Then I do a visual inspection and any case that the powder doesn’t look the same level as the rest, I pull it and the one I charged before and the one I charged after it. I inspect the one case to see if there is anything visual inside. Then I recharge all 3 cases. That way if a case had powder hang up and dump in the next case, you have corrected the problem. On progressive presses, I try to use a powder that fills the case up to about the base of the bullet. That way you can usually see the powder as the shell rotates and if you might have dumped a partial or double charge, you will notice as you start to seat the bullet if not before. On a progressive, if I don’t load a cartridge in one smooth stroke (say a bullet tipped over sideways and I raised the ram slightly to reset it) Some presses actually back the charge back adding more powder if it has already dumped some so you have a full charge plus a partial charge. When I don’t complete the procedure with one stroke, I pull the case that just had powder dumped into it and check the powder charge or just dump the powder back into the measure and run the case thru later.

I could go on and on but hopefully this will help some of you that are having these problems cure them. A case gage really can do wonders.  Stay tuned for Easy Easy Ways to Save Yourself Headaches at the Range Part 2!

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When It Comes to Guns – Oil is Cheaper than Machinery

Written by Ballistic Technician Gary Prisendorf

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Finally, it seems that 22 LR ammunition is starting to become more available.  A couple of weeks ago I was able to purchase 600 rounds of CCI Mini-Mags from one of the major reloading supply companies.

So that weekend it was off to the shooting range to get a little trigger time with my Browning T-bolt.  After a day shooting, I went home and gave my rifle a good cleaning, inside and out, and yes, that includes the inside of my barrel.

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So you are probably wondering,  why do I care if you clean your rifle or not?  Well I was taught at a very young age that if you shoot your firearm you clean it before putting it away.  In fact, my Grandfather had an old saying, “oil is cheaper than machinery.”

Now there are a lot of shooters out there that will tell you that you don’t need to clean the barrel on a 22 LR, but like most things you can’t really make a “one size fits all” type of statement for all firearms.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine brought his Ruger 10-22 over and asked me to take a look at it because he couldn’t hit anything with it. I took it apart and realized it hadn’t been cleaned in a long time, I mean this thing was filthy!  When I looked down the barrel I couldn’t even see riflings, it literally looked like a smooth bore.  So I broke out the Hoppes #9   and a bronze brush and went to work, but after about twenty minutes of scrubbing  it was still leaded up pretty bad.  I told him to leave it and I would get it back to him the next day.

12247096_1115152878518784_1582865297032176443_nThat night I soaked the inside of the barrel with Kano Kroil and just left it to soak all night.  The next morning I ran the bronze brush through it and started getting strips of lead pushed out of the muzzle.

I got the old 10-22 cleaned up real nice and gave it back to him the next day.  When I asked him when the last time he had cleaned it, he said he never had because his father had told him that you should never clean a 22 barrel.  He said his father had given him the rifle on his 16th birthday and he was 37 years old at that time, so that’s 21 years of shooting without cleaning his barrel.  A few days later he called me up and said he shot his rifle and it was hitting better than he could ever remember.

There are a lot of people who claim you never need to clean a 22 LR barrel, but that is not always the case. Let’s face it, you are not going to get a hand lapped barrel on a two hundred dollar rifle and a lot of them will have rough bores that foul pretty easily.  A fouled barrel will continue to build fouling until you can no longer hit the broad side of a barn.

Most 22 rifles do tend to shoot better with a fouled barrel.  After cleaning it, it usually takes 10 or 20 rounds before top accuracy comes back. If you switch to a different brand of ammo, it can sometimes take another 10 or 20 rounds to get your barrel seasoned to that bullets particular lube, before accuracy comes back again.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to clean a 22 rifle barrel as often as you do a center fire, but eventually when accuracy starts to suffer, you better give it a good scrubbing, you may be surprised how well that old gun can still shoot.

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