One of the hottest calibers of 2018, the 224 Valkyrie keeps the hype comings and suppliers are working hard to keep up with customer requests. It continues to impress shooters across the nation, but as it’s popularity gains, more and more people are hungry for better standardized data to build their own ammunition.
Hodgdon Powders, one of the most trusted names in reloading powder, and reloading data, has stepped up to the plate with their amazing reloading web tool, and offered a full menu of reloading data for the 224 Valkyrie. Use this guide to hone your reloads!
Much to the excitement of our Do-It-Yourself customers, the reloading data comes at a time when there are more component options available than ever. You can find everything you need to load your own 224 Valkyrie right here at Midsouth shooters Supply!
Will this wicked new caliber continue to live up to the hype? Have you started reloading for it yet? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
Beyond precision and accuracy, the base goal for any handload is safety: follow these recommendations to ensure yours! KEEP READING
Since I sincerely think it’s important to know what you’re up against, in one way of looking at it, when you load for a semi-automatic rifle, there’s more this time. I don’t mean to say “up against” like it’s some sort of adversarial relationship, a fight, but not respecting some of these points can create problems.
The gas port pressure issue was addressed last time, and it’s one of the most influential. Not only does too much port pressure create excessive action cycling, it also shortens case life. The cases take a bigger beating, more expansion mostly, when the bolt tries to unlock too quickly. Clearly, I’m back to using the AR15 as the central example, but virtually all semis succumb to the same set of behaviors (yes, including the gas-piston guns).
One: tough brass
Therefore, next on the list is choosing a tough case! Tough, here, means “hard.” Brass is an alloy and the makeup varies from maker to maker.
The reason that a harder composition helps is because it’s more resistant to expansion, not as elastic. That might sound, on the front end, like a bad thing because harder brass is also more brittle so could tend to succumb easier to the ills of excessive expansion. Softer brass will conform more agreeably. True. It might seem like an equitable trade off, but I assure you that it is hardness ultimately that matters most. I notice the softness mostly in primer pocket expansion, or I should say that harder cases don’t open up as quickly.
Thicker cases, by the way, are not necessarily harder. Again, that’s in the alloy composition itself. Some high-dollar cases, Lapua for instance, are relatively soft despite being thick-walled.
The overall best choice for reuse in a semi-auto is probably good old Lake City. It’s exactly what it should be, and that’s been pretty well proven for decades. LC is easily available but, except in rare circumstances, will be once-fired. Most cases left over from commercially-available NATO-spec loadings are likewise fine. Lake City, as a bonus, also tends to be relatively thinner-walled (higher capacity) than many of the commercial brands, and its quality (wall thickness) is pretty dang good.
Two: adequate case shoulder set-back
Next, and this is a huge source of debate and disagreement amongst my readers, but, since now I’m strictly speaking of semi-auto needs I doubt there will be much dissent: full-length resize all cases! It’s a matter of degrees, and getting handle on port pressure (plus) taming down an excessively functioning gas system, reduces this difference: but most cases from most semi-autos will emerge with a pretty well-blown case shoulder. Make double-sure you’re sizing the cases down to at least 0.003 clearance. There are gages that help, and HEREis a link to one.
If you don’t there are safety and function problems ahead.
Three: adequate case neck “tension”
Likewise, make double-sure the case neck is being reduced an adequate amount to retain the bullet. There should be a minimum net difference of 0.003 inches between sized outside case neck diameter and loaded round outside case neck diameter. Reason: don’t take a chance of inadvertent bullet movement during the recoil and feeding cycles. That movement can be back or forward! It’s easily possible for a bullet to jump ahead when the inertia from the bolt carrier assembly chambers the next round.
Four: tough primer!
Choose a tough primer! There’s a floating firing pin on an AR15 (M1A also) that is supposed to be held in check but that system doesn’t always work! If you load and extract a round and see a little dimple in the primer, that’s from the firing pin tapping off of it (again, created by inertia of bolt closing). A combination of a high primer and a sensitive primer cup assembly can create a “slam-fire,” which you do not want.
Brands? CCI has some mil-spec primers that work well, and I’ve had great success with Remington 7-1/2. Some of the well-respected “match” primers are a little thin. The CCI and Remington also hold up well to the (sometimes) greater firing forces working on the primer (again, from the quick unlocking).
And, finally, make double-sure that each and every primer is seated to below flush with the case head! That’s true for any firearm (because it also means that the primer is fully seated) but imperative for safety in a semi-auto. This is especially an issue for those who use a progressive-type loading press. There’s nothing wrong with the press but it may not give the sensitivity in feedback to know that the primer is fully seated without checking.
Looking for a super-clear long-range scope with all the bells and whistles? This one delivers all the most-wanted features at a lot lower price than its competition. READ ALL ABOUT IT
One of the trends I am seeing in the market are optics manufacturers really starting to push themselves again to deliver exponential jumps in quality. The Burris’ premier XTR II lineup at this year’s SHOT show is a great example. The XTR II is Burris’ new flagship optic line. The Burris XTR II 5-25x50m was a must for a top end Devil Dog precision rifle build.
First off let me say that I was disappointed with how the demise of Devil Dog Arms unfolded, however they still made one of the best quality AR format rifles in the industry complete with premium Black Hole Weaponry barrels and HiperFire Triggers. This Devil Dog .308 has proved to be an exceptionally accurate gun with the capability to easily deliver groups in the 1/2 MOA range — the high power crystal clear capabilities of the XTR II 5-25x50m allowed me to take advantage of that accuracy. The SCR Mil Reticle also allowed a lot of data for on-the-fly windage and elevation compensation adjustments without the need to touch the dial.
The original XTR v1 line of scopes was a huge success for Burris, but customers were asking for even more. Not only did Burris deliver a crystal clear 5-time zoom range on this XTR II 5-25x50mm optic, but they upped the tube thickness by 25-percent over the original. Burris also configured the optic design as a First Focal Plane (FFP) scope. FFP is the hot feature among precision and sniper-style shooters. It, in essence, zooms the reticle along with magnification changes. The result is that whatever holdover you have on the BDC or Mil-dot is the same at any magnification, in this case from 5X all the way through 25X. The big thing is that this design makes elevation and wind holdovers simple and easy without having to think about what magnification you are on. If you have a 5-MPH cross wind on a 300-yard target and that is the second dot down and a quarter mil over based on your zero, then no matter what magnification you are on that same holdover will deliver the same shooting solution. Pretty cool. When comparing this to a standard BDC equipped standard second focal plane scope, the reticle does not zoom, so your hold at the maximum range is not the same at any other magnification level.
I choose the SCR (Special Competition Reticle). This is designed to offer the faster-paced long range shooter a significant amount of data including 1/2 Mil-Dot markings, 1/10 Mil-Dot ranging brackets, and an extended illumination reticle. The goal of the design was to provide the shooter with all the data they needed to take the shot quickly and accurately whether they reached for the turrets or used the precision Mil-Dot hold over points in the reticle. Once a shooter knows their bullet drop holds based on Mil-Dot target sizing, they can quickly take a precision shot extremely quickly even at multiple targets at different distances.
FIT, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTIONS
There is a lot to love about this high-tier optic. At around $1400 on the street, it’s priced up there with the premium Japanese and German scopes, but, for the quality it is considerably less expensive than many with similar features at double that price. The glass is unbelievably crisp and clear, and this is what you get in the higher tier.
Burris has everything packed into this optic with the exception of laser ranging including the new style thicker and heavier duty and allegedly brighter 34MM tube, big audible click turrets with MRad adjustments matched to the Mil-Dot reticle (as they should be). And the reticle is even illuminated.
I generally have serious gripes about illuminated reticles because most companies try to deliver sunlight red dot illumination brightness, however in this case Burris delivered perfection. Too many times, manufacturers make illuminated reticles far too bright for the night work they were originally developed for. The illumination on this 5-25x50mm XTR II delivers 11 settings of illumination plus “OFF” positions between each setting so you don’t need to cycle through all the brightness settings just to turn the reticle illumination on or off.
Burris even has a well-thought-out side-focus knob. Then there is the huge magnification range! Normally you would see a 3-10X or 3-14, but here we have a scope that can deliver everything you might need on close targets all the way out to very long distance.
This optic has lived on a few builds already but settled on my Devil-Dog-based AR .308 build.
I am not one of those who likes or enjoys figuring out the math on a reticle calibrated for 25X when I need to be at 5X of magnification. For me, simpler is better and I like the FFP concept both in theory and in use. Literally just print out a ballistics card noting all the holdover points for your pet round and you are good to go at any magnification. This is a great optic which deserves to be on a rifle that can match its precision, and that’s the reason I tightened it onto one of my most expensive and accurate AR10 builds.
[Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. Click HERE to learn more.]
Not everyone agrees on laser sights for handgun defensive use, but Kyle Schmidt thinks it’s a great training tool. READ WHY AND HOW
SOURCE: Team Springfield, by Kyle SchmidtAlthough some people seem to disagree on whether or not a laser on a pistol is a “good” aiming device for self-defense shooting. One thing about them is undeniable: lasers are a great training tool.
Occasionally, when I am training friends, clients, or co-workers how to shoot, I will attach a laser to their gun to help them better understand some basic shooting concepts.
Before using the laser though, I like to make a target that has multiple areas to aim at with some level of contrast so it is easier to identify exactly where the laser is aimed.
LASER TARGET TIME
I make a dry practice target out of 2 USPSA targets. I use USPSA targets because they are different colors on each side. USPSA targets have an upper head with an A and B-zone and a body with A, C, and D-Zones. You will need a razor or a pair of scissors. You will only cut one of the targets, the other will remain intact. For simplification, we will refer to the target that we are cutting as Target 1 and the target which will remain intact as Target 2.
TARGET 1 CUTS: Cut out the A-zone of the head (upper target zone). Cut the C-zone out of the target. The body A-zone is included in this cut. Be careful to leave the head attached (don’t cut off the head); You need to razor / cut under the perforations while trimming near the head.
Target 1 should now have two big holes in it; one where the A-zone head was and one where the body C and A-zones were.
Cut the body A-zone out of the C-zone piece you previously removed (Step 2). Keep the body A-zone, but discard the left over C-zone piece.
Stage Target 2 with the shoot side (tan side) facing up. Stage Target 1 with the no-shoot side (white side) facing up. Place what remains of Target 1 on top of Target 2.
This should make a white colored target in the D and B-zones, with the tan colored target in the C and head A-zones. Use small pieces of white tape to tape the top, bottom and sides of the two targets together.
This is your new Laser Target 1.
Flip the targets over so Target 2 (white side) is facing up. Place the tan colored side of the body A-zone (that you cut from Target 1, step 4) on top of Target 2 A-zone. If you have trouble lining up the A-zones, you can push a small push pin through the diagonal corners of the A-zone on Target 2. Use the push pin holes to align the corners of the body A-zone.
To finish the dry practice target off, I add a one-inch black square piece of tape to the center of the corresponding scoring zone. I like to measure the center of the C-zone’s height, as the perforated “A” is NOT the center of the A-zone.
This is your new Laser Target 2.
Now you should have one practice target that has 5 distinctly noticeable scoring zones; A-zone body, A-zone head, entire head, C-zone body, and the entire target. Additionally, you have a one-inch black piece of tape on each side of the target.
ATTACH AND ZERO LASER
Before you begin your laser dry practice, attach and zero the laser at the distance you plan to practice. This is critical for some of the drills we are going do with the laser. (Check out sights HERE.)
Here is how I zero the laser for dry practice:
Choose your distance and target. Point / aim gun at specific spot on target. Line up the fixed notch and post sights on target. Adjust the dot (from the laser) so it is 1) centered (left and right) on the front sight and 2) the front sight covers half of the dot (up and down). Only the top half of the dot will be visible.
Because the laser is mounted so far below the fixed sights, the laser will need to be realigned with the sights if you want to try a drill at a different distance.
HOLDING / AIMING LASER DRILL
When I was writing this, I had just returned from Camp Perry where I was learning about shooting the sport of Bullseye. This is the ultimate challenge in fundamental pistol accuracy. It requires execution of some of the most fundamental techniques required for extreme accurate pistol shooting. If you are not familiar, all of the strings of fire are shot with your strong hand only, at 25 yards and 50 yards, on a target with the 10-ring measuring just under 2.5 inches. Bullseye, in short, is a very difficult shooting discipline.
One of the things I noticed as I am trying to shoot the 50-yard line strings is how much my gun is moving (or appears to be moving) compared to the center of the target. This is not only a problem in bullseye shooting, it is just greatly magnified due to the distances.
A shooter must know what their ability to “hold” on a target is, with varying degrees of difficulty. One of the best ways to test this is with a laser, and generally, it is easiest to see the laser in reduced lighting. Try this “holding” drill: Get your Laser Target 1 — with the C-zone side visible. Set the target up at the distance of your choice, let’s say 15 yards for this example.
With the laser turned off, use the iron sights to aim in the center of the C-zone. Make note of how stable the gun is while you are aiming in the middle. We are not pressing the trigger yet, only aiming the gun.
Now turn on the laser and shift your focus to the laser’s dot on the target. Make note of how stable the dot is on the target while you are aiming. It’s probably moving around more than you would think or like.
Try to keep the dot inside the C-zone — hopefully this is fairly easy. It should be readily apparent when the dot leaves the C-zone and enters the white background of the D-zone on the dry practice target.
When you can easily do this, flip the target over to use Laser Target 2, and repeat the drill.
First steady the dot in the body’s A-zone.
Once you are able to keep the dot in the A-zone of the body, move up to the head and see if you can “hold” the dot in the head reliably. This may not be as easy as it seems.
Once you have mastered the entire head, move to the head’s A-zone (on Laser Target 1).
Finally, test your hold on the 1-in. black square of tape.
You can continue to experiment at different distances to see how well you can hold in the different scoring zones.
WHY DOES HOLDING MATTER?
Quite simply, if you can’t “hold” or keep the gun aimed in a particular target zone, it is unlikely that your bullet will impact the desired scoring zone reliably.
You can use this dry practice tip to determine if you are improving your ability to keep the gun steadily aimed in the intended target area.
The National Rifle Association recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Washington Secretary of State’s decision to certify the significantly flawed and inaccurate petition sheets for Initiative 1639. AND WON! READ MORE
On August 17 the Thurston County Superior Court ruled in favor of the National Rifle Association and ordered a writ of mandamus to prevent I-1639 from appearing on the ballot. The judge agreed the signature sheets did not comply with state law — the font size was too small to be readable and didn’t include strikethroughs.
“The National Rifle Association is glad to see the court today recognized how negligent, if not worse, gun control advocates were in their signature-gathering for this ill-advised ballot initiative,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA. “We got involved because I-1639 tramples on the rights of Washington state voters, and because the way these anti-gun activists went about pushing their agenda was egregious. We applaud this decision, and will remain vigilant in protecting the constitutional freedoms of all Americans.”
Among other things, I-1639;
Creates a gun registry for any transfers of commonly owned semi-automatic rifles;
Introduces a 10-business day waiting period on the purchase of semi-automatic rifles;
Imposes criminal liability on otherwise law-abiding gun owners who fail to store their firearms to state standards;
Increases the age limit to possess or purchase semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21;
Mandates training prior to purchase;
And authorizes a $25 fee to be assessed to semiautomatic rifle purchasers.
The initiative proponents will likely appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our law-abiding members in the Evergreen state.
“Being an actual, admitted communist … is less harmful to one’s career prospects than being an NRA member.” Whoa. READ THE WHOLE STORY
Like most people, we understand that educational institutions and staff tend to lean left. The degree and intensity of the bend varies across universities, but a leftward orientation is actually expected today.
We’re aware that some — perhaps even many — academics look upon the NRA and gun owners with disdain. We always hoped this didn’t extend to the individual level, that the disdain was limited to the aggregate, and that personal interactions could be open-minded or — gasp! — even cordial.
The thought that academics would consider NRA members the bottom of the proverbial barrel never occurred to us. We never imagined that more college professors would be comfortable with an avowed communist than with an NRA member. It sounds like a joke, like an appeal to extremes to call attention to the absurd, but that’s precisely what a new study has discovered. A sociology professor at the University of North Texas found that political biases in academia peak with NRA members.
Professor George Yancey wanted to investigate possible hiring discrimination in higher education. He asked professors across the country how their support for a job applicant would change if they knew the applicant was a member of certain groups. Of all the groups Yancey tested, “NRA membership was ranked as the most likely to hurt an aspiring professor’s chances of getting hired.”
NRA membership was more damaging than being a Republican, a Libertarian, a vegetarian, a member of the ACLU, or a member of the Green Party. NRA membership is considered more damaging than being a communist.
Overall, more than two in five professors say a person’s membership in the NRA would “‘damage’ an applicant’s chances of getting hired.” Yancey suspects that, “academics envision individuals in the NRA as being on the far right.” Yancey also found that “meat hunters, evangelicals, and fundamentalists also are less likely to be hired.”
Imagine that. Being an actual, admitted communist — who proudly acknowledges being as far left as left can go — is less harmful to one’s career prospects than being an NRA member.
We’ve heard about high school teachers kicking students out of class for wearing NRA shirts. We’ve heard politicians disparage this association and its membership. But to hear that college professors would rather work with a communist than an NRA member is just sad. We found two takeaways from this: first, an inability to explain one’s adherence to a political and economic ideology with an absolute perfect failure rate probably doesn’t matter in academia and, two, academia is somehow even more out of touch with America than any of us thought.
Remember that the next time “academics” release a “study” on “gun violence.”
Simple as it might seem purchasing a firearm from a private citizen still has to satisfy state and federal law, and that responsibility is squarely on you! READ MORE
Last year, a Florida man named Brown Dimas was looking to purchase a firearm. So he did what many folks do and looked at a gun classifieds website called FloridaGunTrader.
After purchasing a gun from a man named John Michael, Dimas called the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and asked them to check the serial number on the firearm. When the Florida deputies ran the serial number, they discovered the gun had been reported stolen in Tennessee.
In other words, Dimas was in possession of a stolen firearm. That’s pretty serious. As Dimas told local media outlets, “I could’ve been riding home and got pulled over and went to jail because I had that firearm on me, even if I had just purchased it.”
Dimas is incredibly lucky he contacted the sheriff’s office and wasn’t stopped by police with the gun. Since he did the right thing and called the police himself, he wasn’t criminally charged for having a stolen firearm.
That being said, he did have to turn over the gun and he’s out the $500 he paid John Michael. Not surprisingly, after this incident no one — including the sheriff’s office — was able to get a hold of Mr. Michael.
Many gun owners prefer to purchase guns through private sales for a number of reasons. This is exactly what I do — I’ve bought a number of guns from private sellers. If you decide to go the second-hand route, it is your responsibility to make sure you do so legally.
The first thing you need to do when considering buying a firearm from a private party is make sure it’s legal to do so in your state.
In California, for example, all private sales are required to be conducted through a licensed firearms dealer. Even if you are selling a gun to your best friend, both of you need to go to a licensed dealer together for them to process the transaction. So make sure you know the laws in your state.
Next, no matter what state you live in, you can only buy a firearm from or sell a firearm to a private party if they live in the same state.
Since I live in Utah, I can’t sell a firearm to a family member who lives in Nevada. If I want to sell my out-of-state relative a firearm, we both need to use a licensed dealer — one in each state.
Basically, I need to send the firearm from a licensed dealer in Utah to another licensed dealer in Nevada. (Keep in mind licensed dealers will typically charge a transfer fee, usually between $20-30.)
Now, let’s say you’ve found a firearm that you are interested in purchasing from a gun classifieds website in your state. Once you and the seller have agreed on a price and you are ready to make the purchase, ask them for the serial number on the gun. (Anyone who is legally selling a firearm should have no problem giving you this information.)
Once you have the serial number, call your local police department and ask if they are able to run the serial number through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This is a law enforcement database where all stolen firearms are supposed to be logged.
This is how the Lee County sheriff’s office was able to tell Mr. Dimas that the gun he purchased was stolen. Most police departments will run the serial number through NCIC as a courtesy. They should be able to tell you right away if the gun you want to purchase was reported stolen.
After you have determined the gun isn’t stolen, set up a time and place to meet the seller. I recommend choosing a parking lot or somewhere there is a lot of traffic. You want to conduct the sale in a public place. In addition, I suggest noting the license plate number on their vehicle in case you need to help police identify them at a later date.
When meeting with a potential buyer (or if you’re the seller), bring along a bill of sale to fill out. You can find a sample bill of sale online. Be sure to include the make, model, caliber and the full names and addresses of both parties involved.
Lastly, the most important thing to remember when buying (or selling) a used firearm is that if it sounds like too good of a deal, don’t go through with it. If someone is selling a gun for $100 that normally sells for $500, it could be a sign that it’s stolen.
Likewise, if someone offers you $800 for a firearm you only paid $300 for, it could be a sign that person can’t legally buy a gun so they are willing to overpay.
Either way, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, visit www.SpyEscape.com.
When a new projectile enters the reloading market, it’s a pretty big deal. It’s always exciting to see innovation coupled with precision, and performance. The GameChanger Bullets, a new offering in the tipped GameKing bullet line, are touted as the “…perfect blend of exceptional Ballistic Coefficients (BC), Accuracy, and Deadly Terminal Performance on tough wild game.” The bullets feature a synthetic tip for smoother chambering, improved flight and better expansion on target (game) impact. The open pocket design below the poly-tip further expands the lead core, while the precisely engineered jacket wall concentricity makes for an incredibly accurate bullet.
Tuned ogive for industry-leading BC.
Boat tail design creates stable flight and accuracy.
Open pocket (Hollow Point) expands lead core instantly on impact.
When it comes to the release of new projectiles, reloading data can be difficult to find. We’ve obtained some load data from the ballisticians at Sierra for select calibers. For more calibers not listed, please contact Sierra for assistance! The load data provided is to be used to their exact specifications.
The hunt dates are October 13-19, 2018. If the hunter has not been successful in Zone 1 after 7 days, then all the zones will be available for an additional 7 days. EHZ 1 is a 6,827 acre zone that has been hunted since 2009. The zone was rested during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The zone has a very high success rate and contains multiple wildlife openings.
Bass Pro Shops will sweeten the deal even further by outfitting the winner with a brand new Tikka T3X Lite Stainless bolt-action rifle in 7mm Rem Mag topped with an Oculus Pro Team HD 3x9x40mm rifle scope.
The raffle winner will be announced at the TFWC August 23-24 meeting.
10 raffle tickets are still available but only through midnight, August 15, 2018.
One lucky winner will be selected to participate in the fall 2018 rifle elk hunt on North Cumberland WMA in the premier Elk Hunting Zone 1.
The hunt dates are October 13-19, 2018. If the hunter has not been successful in Zone 1 after 7 days, then all the zones will be available for an additional 7 days.
EHZ 1 is a6,827 acre zone that has been hunted since 2009. The zone was rested during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The zone has a very high success rate and contains multiple wildlife openings.
The winner will also be outfitted with a brand new Tikka T3X Lite Stainless bolt-action rifle in 7mm Rem. Mag topped with an Oculus Pro Team HD 3x9x40mm rifle scope.
For only $10 per ticket you get a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime hunting opportunity and a prize package valued at more than $1,000. There is no limit on the number of raffle tickets a customer can purchase. Take your best shot at a Tennessee trophy elk and enter today! Raffle and hunt details can be found by visiting the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation site.
Tennessee state law requires that you must be at least 18 years old to enter. You need not be present to win. The winner must be a U.S. citizen eligible to legally own a firearm according to federal law. The winner is responsible for all taxes and fees associated with the prize, and must possess the required licenses and permits to participate in the hunt.
Connie King, District 6 Commissioner for TWRA recently stated, “This is the first year for the elk raffle. Previously it had been a draw for a few very lucky people then an auction for one tag. With the raffle, all participants are winners to some extent since each raffle dollar will contribute to the success of the elk program here in Tn.”
It’s not always possible to separate guns from loads, and there are some important things to know to get the most from your semi-auto. Here’s one! KEEP READING
I have spent the last couple of segments taking a big step back recollecting my own (early) experiences and education as a handloader. Hope you’re happily indulging me, and hope even more that there’s been some good ideas that have come from it.
I started reloading as a matter of economy, and because I wanted to shoot more. Said then and said again now: if the impetus for reloading is saving money, you really don’t save money! You just get to shoot more for the same cost. Hope that makes sense, and likely you already understand that. Clearly, there are other reasons or focuses that attract folks to handloading, and personalizing ammo performance, improving accuracy, are leading reasons.
I’ve been at least a tad amount (to a lot) biased all along in my department topics toward loading for semi-automatic rifles. That’s been done for a few reasons, and the primary one is that, no question at all, there are specific and important details, a lot of dos and don’ts, in recycling ammo for a self-loader.
This is the reason I’ve been careful to specifically point out the “semi-auto” aspect of any tooling or preparation step. I’d like some feedback from you all with respect to your motivations and applications in handloading. Why do you do it?
Another reason is that, and I know this from much input, as happened with me 45 years ago, my interest in learning to reload came with ownership of a semi-auto that I absolutely loved to shoot! Here of late, my plumber, for a good instance, proudly announced to me outside the local hardware store that he had just purchased his first AR15 and showed me the paper bag full of .223 Rem. cartridges he had just purchased there. A scant few weeks later: “Could you help me get together some tools and show me how to reload?” I did.
Back to the focus, finally (I know) of this topic: what are those differences comparing semi-autos to anything else?
There are a few points, but one of the first, and one of the most important, is component selection. Case, primer, propellant. Propellant first.
I’ll assume, pretty safely, that the semi-auto we’re loading up for is an AR15, or some take on that platform. If so, it will have a “direct impingement” gas system. That’s a pretty simple arrangement whereby the gas pressure needed to operate the system, which cycles the action, is bled off from the barrel bore via a port. From there it goes through a manifold and then into a tube, and then back into the bolt carrier via the bolt carrier key. Gas piston operation is more complex, but what’s said here applies there also respecting propellant selection.
So, it’s kind of a wave. The idea is to get the wave to peak at a point where there’s not excessive gas entering the system, but there is sufficient gas entering the system. Mil-spec. 20-inch AR15 calls for 12,500 psi, for what that’s worth. And “piston” guns are nowhere near immune from concerns about port pressure.
The burning rate of the propellant influences the level of gas pressure at the gas port, and this, easy to understand, is referred to as “port pressure.” The original AR15 rifle gas system component specs (20-inch barrel, port located at 12 inches down the barrel) were created to function just fine and dandy with 12,000 PSI port pressure. Much less than that and there might not be enough soon enough to reliably cycle the works. Much more than that and the operating cycle is accelerated.
Port pressure and chamber pressure are totally separate concerns and only related indirectly.
Rule: slower-burning propellants produce more port pressure than faster-burning propellants. As always, “faster” and “slower” are relative rankings within a variety of suitable choices. The answer to why slower-burning propellants produce higher pressure at the gas port comes with understanding a “pressure-time curve.” A PT curve is a way to chart consumption of propellant, which is producing gas, along with the bullet’s progress down the bore. It’s what pressure, at which point. I think of it as a wave that’s building, cresting, and then dissipating. Slower propellants peak farther down the bore, nearer the gas port. Heavier bullets, regardless of propellant used, also produce higher port pressures because they’re moving slower, allowing for a greater build-up about the time the port is passed.
To really get a handle on all this you have to picture what’s happening as a bullet goes through the barrel in a semi-auto, and keep (always) in mind just how quickly it’s all happening. Milliseconds, less than a few of them, define “too much” or “not enough.” As the bullet passes the gas port, there’s still pressure building behind it, and there’s more pressure building still with a slower propellant. After the bullet exits the muzzle, the pressure doesn’t just instantly go away. There’s pressure latent in the system (all contained in the gas tube and bolt carrier) that’s operating the action.
The symptoms of excessive port pressure come from the consequence of a harder hit delivered too soon, and what amounts to too much daggone gas getting into and through the “back,” the bolt carrier: the action starts to operate too quickly. The case is still a little bit expanded (under pressure) when the bolt starts to unlock and the extractor tugs on the case rim, plus, the increased rush of gas simply cycles the action too quickly. That creates extraction problems and essentially beats up cases. They’ll often show bent rims, excessively blown case shoulders, stretching, and so on.
Getting gas port pressure under control makes for improved function, better spent case condition, and less wear and stress on the gun hisseff.
There’s a huge amount more to talk about on this whole topic, and a good number of ways to get everything working as it should. But. For this, the most a handloader can do, and it’s honestly just about the most influential help, is to stay on the faster side of suitable propellants. Without any doubt at all, there will be rampant disagreement with my advice: no slower than Hodgdon 4895. Most all published data lists propellants from faster to slower, so find H4895 and don’t go below it. That’s conservative, and there are a lot of very high scores shot in NRA High Power Rifle with VARGET and RE-15, but those are edgy, in my experience, and define the very upper (slowness) limit.
That alone doesn’t mean all AR15 architectures will be tamed (carbine-length systems are particularly over-zealous), but it does mean that port pressure will stay lower, an important step.
A caution always about factory ammo: some is loaded for use in bolt-actions (especially hunting ammo(, and might bea very bad choice for your .308 Win. semi-auto. AR15s are actually fairly more flexible in showing clear symptoms, some no doubt due to the buffered operating system and overall mild nature of the .223 Rem. cartridge.
This article is adapted from Glen’s books, Handloading For Competition and Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information about other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com
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