This mechanism is at the heart of a rifle reloading setup, and options abound. Here’s what really matters, and how to know what you need (and what you don’t). READ MORE
A press is usually the first thing mentioned to a new handloader when the question is “What do I need to get?” Can’t, pretty much, load without one. The press houses the sizing and seating dies, and other tooling, and can also serve as a primer seater.
Shopping for presses shows a big range of prices, and sizes (usually related), and also some type or style options. The press type I’m going to be discussing here in this bit is called a “single-stage,” and it gets that name because there’s one receptacle for any thread-in appliance, such as a sizing die. It can then perform one single operation.
The standard receptacle has 7/8-14 threads.
The main option is the size of the press, which means the press body size, ram extension distance, and handle stroke arc and length.
When is a “big” press best? When operations require big leverage. Or for really big cartridges. Or when using a press to perform an operation that’s more power hungry than case resizing or bullet seating. Given a choice of “small,” “medium,” or “large,” as many times, I’d suggest going at least “medium.” Unless, that is, you have compelling reasons to get another. Don’t underpower yourself. On the other hand, you decidedly do not (usually) need a tower of power, and might even find it’s kind of in the way.
I like the operational efficiency of a smaller press, one that doesn’t have a big stroke arc. In sitting and doing a large number of press ops I really notice the additional effort of cycling a bigger press. However! There’s also sometimes no substitute for torque. Sizing unwieldy military cases, for instance, on a honking press takes a less effort from the self.
As I’ve mentioned in these pages before, I also like being able to move my tooling around on my workbench bench, or even into another environment. Smaller presses are easier to tote and easier to mount.
It really depends on what you are loading for. A smaller, shorter case, like a .223 Rem. or 6.5 Creedmoor, or a bigger round like .30-06 or .338 Lapua? As with many things, most things maybe, going bigger to start is a better investment. By “bigger” I mean a press with a window opening big enough (or that’s what I call the open area available between the shellholder and press top) and stroke long enough to handle the longest cartridge you might tool it up for.
Does weight matter? Not really. A heavier press doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more rigid or effective (or not for that reason). Modern alloys are every bit as good as cast iron, and there was a time when I was uncertain of that. Speaking more of materials, cast iron has been, and honestly still is, the “quality” material used in press construction. Cast iron is rigid. This material is, well, cast into the essential shape of a press, and then final finished (faced, drilled, tapped, and so on). The only part of a cast iron press that’s cast iron is the body of the press. Aluminum, other alloys, or steel are used to make the linkage and handle, and other pieces parts. Cast iron can’t really bend which means it can’t warp. Cast iron just breaks when it hits its limit of integrity. It can flex (just a little) but returns perfectly. Alloys or metal combinations used in the manufacture of presses nowadays are pretty much the same in performance and behavior under pressure as cast iron. The essential compositions vary from maker to maker. I have cast alloy body presses and others that are machined from aluminum stock. These are all lighter but just as rigid as cast iron. Press architecture has a whopping lot to do with how rigid it is (and its leverage has a lot to do with linkage engineering).
What matters much is the sturdiness of the bench and how well the press is mounted to it. What might feel like press flex is liable to be in the bench, not the press, or in the press handle itself.
Alignment — straightness — matters in a press. This is the concentric relationship between the threaded tool receptacle and the press ram. They, ideally, will be dead on, zero. Then of course the die has to be “straight,” with its threads correctly cut and insides reamed on center. And then the shellholder arrangement has to likewise be dead centered with everything else. There is a lot of play in a 14 pitch thread. All this means is that a “straight” press doesn’t automatically mean you’ll not see issues with tooling concentricity. More in another article shortly, but at the least the press (body and ram) should not contribute to create concentricity miscues. I know of no manufacturer that doesn’t claim correct alignment in its product, but I also don’t know if it’s something they’ll warrant.
Presses do require, or at least should get, maintenance. Keep it clean! There’s a lot of abrasive potential from incendiary residues, and that will, not may, wear the mechanisms. I have often and for many years recommended a separate decapping or depriming station.
The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. AvailableHERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit ZedikerPublishing.com for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.
Based on hand-fit and speed into action, this may be SIG’s best 9mm handgun. READ WHY
Not long after the introduction of the SIG Sauer P 220 9mm, SIG began modifying the handgun for other duties. The pistol was chambered in .38 ACP Super and .45 ACP for the American market. It was also re-designed into the compact P225 for German police use. After years of carrying the ineffectual Walther PPK in .32 or .380 ACP, the German police were none too keen on packing the full size SIG P220 pistol. The compact P225 was a happy mix of excellent features including a smooth double action first shot trigger, good sights, excellent accuracy, and soon to be legendary reliability. This slim pistol was carried by plainclothes officers and a few uniformed officers here in the United States. While its niche was taken to an extent by the P 239 pistol, the P225 enjoyed a loyal following. The SIG P228, a high capacity version of the P225, was very popular and adopted by the military as the M11. The popularity of these handguns and the availability of West German police surplus P 225 pistols at a very fair price led SIG to phase out the P 225. A couple of years ago SIG reintroduced the P225 as the P225A. It is a very different handgun, perhaps a better handgun, and while not immensely popular is a sweet shooting and handling handgun.
SIG watches trends and saw the popularity of the 9mm handgun and the vast market for concealed carry handguns. They felt that a revised P225 would be a good addition to the line. The new P225 is based upon the P229 and is arguably a single column magazine P 229. Since the P229 is among the best balanced and handling SIG pistols that is a good place to begin. The slide is machined stainless steel versus the stamped slide of the original P225. This slide was originally designed to handle the .357 SIG cartridge. Later P229 handguns were available in 9mm and .40 caliber. The new pistol is thicker in the slide than the original P225 but remains a compact handgun. This slide makes for what may be one of the strongest 9mm handguns on the planet. I feel that steady diet of +P or +P+ loads would not be daunting to this handgun. The old hooked trigger guard of the P225 is gone. The new trigger guard looks nice and is designed to allow the pistol to set lower in the hand, combating the typical double action pistol’s high bore axis. The pistol features G10 grip panels similar to the Legend series. The P225 A features the Short Reset Trigger. This is a shorter double action press and a faster reset. This trigger makes the pistol a much better shooter than the original. The grip is among the most ergonomic I have handled. This is a well designed and well thought out handgun. The P225A maintains the original frame mounted decocker, take down lever and slide lock. The test pistol’s DA pull breaks at a smooth 12 pounds. The single action trigger is a crisp 4.25 pounds. This is an excellent combination for all around personal defense use.
The double action and single action trigger system is a compromise that stresses simple readiness. Draw, press the trigger and fire. The slide cocks the hammer and subsequent shots are fired single action. The hammer is lowered by activating the frame mounted decock lever. While a striker fired handgun such as the Glock has only one trigger action to learn the SIG’s single action trigger offers excellent accuracy. The SIG demands time and effort- as well as ammunition- to master but once understood the SIG DA/SA guns respond well to those that practice. The long suit of the SIG is reliability. Government testing and extreme test programs worldwide have earned the SIG series the title of the world’s most reliable handgun. SIG’s accuracy is also worth the effort to understand as the pistol will respond well to a trained shooter. The P225A is also simple to field strip and maintain. The pistol is unloaded, the magazine is removed, and a takedown lever is rotated. The slide is removed forward off the frame and the barrel and recoil spring are pulled from the slide. My personal P225 A features self luminous iron sights. The tritium inserts have remained bright and useful for several years and provide an excellent sight picture.
The advantage of the P225A over other SIG handguns or any high capacity handgun is in hand fit and speed. This handgun feels right in the hand. The size is right; you can close your hand on the grip and be in control. Drawing from the Galco Stow and Go inside the waistband holster, the P225A is brilliantly fast on the draw and to a first shot hit. Those who practice will find a capable handgun. As for accuracy I have enjoyed working up handloads with this pistol, focusing primarily on the Hornady 124 grain XTP and Titegroup powder. At 1050 fps I have achieved accuracy on the order of a five shot group at 1.4 inch at 25 yards from the Bullshooters target rest. That is match grade in my opinion. I have achieved similar result with the Gorilla Ammunition 135 grain JHP and a 2.0 inch 25 yard group with the fast stepping Gorilla Ammunition 115 grain +P. Moving to +P+ rated loads the Double Tap 115 grain bonded core loading has given good results and remains controllable in this handgun.
The P225A is among the finest handguns I have had the pleasure to use and fire. I own a good number of SIG pistols, each with a well defined mission. The P225A is easily my favorite to fire. It is a great handgun well worth its price.
“This isn’t a two thousand dollar gun but it shoots like one!” Attention hard-hitting 1911 fans, here’s a 10mm Commander to check out. READ WHY
Some time ago the 10mm cartridge hit the ground running and enjoyed a flash of popularity. Soon after the 10mm was eclipsed by the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge. The 10mm was kept going by a small but loyal base. But the 10mm is enjoying a credible comeback. I think that a learned appraisal of the cartridge is part of the reason. The 10mm isn’t a .41 Magnum but with modern loads it nips at the heels of the .357 Magnum with certain offerings. There are 10mm loads with modest recoil that are easily handled and others that breathe fire and recoil like a drum roll. We have rapidly expanding frangible loads, jacketed hollow point bullets with an excellent balance of expansion and penetration, and hard cast bullets that feature deep penetration for game hunting.
I recently tested a very expensive handgun called “The Gun With No Name.” That three thousand dollar 1911 was stylish with no scroll work to distract from the beautifully machined slide. It inspired the handgun reviewed here, the Rock Island Commander 10mm — yep, a Commander-length 10mm — has had the slide “wiped” of the markings some of us find distracting (although this pistol still has ‘RIA’ in the serial number). It’s the Tac Ultra MS.
The Philippine produced Armscor pistols are affordable but workmanlike handguns that enjoy a deserved good reputation. The company produces bare-bone bones GI guns and also target pistols. The ‘Rock’ is offered in 9mm, .38 Super, 10mm, .45 ACP, and .22 Magnum, as well as the .22 TCM caliber. The pistol illustrated is a Commander type with 4.25 inch barrel. The kicker is this is a 10mm Commander, a relative rarity in the 1911 world.
While the slide treatment and refinish are aftermarket and custom grade, the best things about the handgun were already in place. The pistol features a bushingless bull barrel. This means that the barrel dispenses with the typical 1911 barrel bushing but uses a belled barrel to lock up with the slide. This makes the full-length guide rod necessary. The pistol features a bold front post sight with fiber optic insert. The rear sight is a compact but fully adjustable version. The ejection port is nicely scalloped with a unique and attractive treatment. The beavertail grip safety is an aid in insuring the grip safety is properly pressed to release its hold on the trigger. Those that use the thumbs forward grip sometimes form a hollow in the palm and fail to properly depress the grip safety. The RIA beavertail eliminates this concern. The extended slide lock safety is an ambidextrous design. The indent is clean and sharp. Trigger compression is a tight 5.2 pounds on my Lyman Electronic Trigger Gauge. The grips are checkered G10. The pistol is supplied with two magazines, and I added several additional MecGar magazines into the mix for testing.
For the test fire the magazines were loaded with SIG Sauer Elite FMJ 10mm. This load is clean burning, affordable, and accurate enough for meaningful practice. The pistol comes on target quickly and handles like a 1911. The low bore axis, straight to the rear trigger compression and hand fitting grip make for excellent handling. The pistol proved capable of center punching the target time and again at 7, 10, and 15 yards. The pistol is controllable but this isn’t a 9mm that you may punch holes in the target with at will. The much higher recoiling 10mm demands a firm grip and focused concentration. The mantra here isn’t a nicely centered group on target but a few solid hits with plenty of horsepower. Be certain you understand this before trying the 10mm. It isn’t something to be taken lightly. If you choose the 10mm you have a cartridge with excellent penetration, good wound potential, and, if need be, the ability to protect the owner against dangerous animals.
I also fired a number of first-rate defense loads. These included the SIG Sauer V Crown hollow point, the Buffalo Bore 155 grain Barnes X bullet, Hornady 180 grain XTP, and the Federal 200 grain HST. I fired a magazine full of each. No failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Even firing these loads the pistol remained controllable. I fired, allowed the trigger to reset in recoil, and fired again as the sights were returned to target. To test absolute accuracy I fired the pistol from a solid bench rest position at 20 yards. I used the Hornady 180 grain XTP and the SIG Sauer 180 grain FMJ loading. The results were good, with the average group at 2.5 inches. The Rock Island 10mm pistol is clearly accurate enough for personal defense and perhaps even hunting thin-skinned game or wild boar out to 35 yards or so.
This may be the most advanced 9mm handgun on the planet. READ WHY
When we look at a new firearm we like to know where it came from and what operating principles it is based on. The Bond Arms Bullpup is a result of Bond Arms purchasing the rights and machinery to the Boberg pistol. Before that there isn’t a lot owed to anyone for this design. The pistol uses the proven locked breech short recoil principle but with a twist — literally. The pistol features a rotating barrel. A rotating barrel lessens the need for a heavy recoil spring and guide while controlling recoil. This is important in a very small 9mm handgun. Recoil energy is expended over a longer period of time. The barrel rotates 14 degrees during the recoil cycle as the slide unlocks and shoots to the rear. The recoil spring is pretty light, with its main function moving the slide back into battery after the spent cartridge case is ejected. As a result of this design the slide is very easy to rack. Easier than any other 9mm I am aware of.
At first glance the pistol appears to have a very short barrel, when you realize the barrel takes up a lot of the slide. The 5.1 inch slide contains a 3.35 inch barrel. This means that the average velocity loss compared to a Glock 19 as an example is less than 40 fps average. That’s impressive and necessary as well as the 9mm demands good velocity to ensure bullet expansion. The Bullpup moniker comes from the pistol’s unique design. The magazine is loaded conventionally but the front of the magazine is closed and the rear open as the cartridge feeds from the rear. A dual tongued drawbar catches the cartridge case rim and pulls it from the magazine and feed it into the chamber. This is controlled feed at its nth degree. The cartridges must be carefully selected. The problem isn’t a blunt nose but cartridge integrity. A firm crimp is demanded. With this in mind, the company supplied a list of cartridges they have tested and which offer feed reliability. Included are inexpensive training loads and top notch defensive loads.
I am particularly impressed with the grip design. The supplied wooden stocks are attractive and offer good abrasion and adhesion. The stocks are wide enough to soak up recoil and remain slim and trim for concealed carry. The sights are good examples of combat sights. As for improvements over the original pistol the primary improvement is in fit and finish. The Bond Arms Bullpup is as well made as any handgun. It isn’t inexpensive but it is innovative and it works as designed. A big reason the new pistol isn’t as finicky as the original — and the Roberg ran fine with good ammunition and proper lubrication — is that the reciprocating barrel and barrel block now feature a frictionless space age coating. This eliminates the need to keep the barrel and locking block coated. The take-down is the same as the original using a lever to remove the slide. This lever may be turned to the six-o’clock position in order to lock the slide to the rear. The slide does not lock open on the last shot, it simply isn’t practical with the Bullpup design. Be aware during combat practice of how the pistol behaves. Get a rhythm going and perhaps try to count the shots and practice tactical loads.
When firing the Bullpup 9 I had a pleasant surprise. This is a very nice pistol to fire. It isn’t the lightest 9mm at about 22 ounces but recoil is decidedly light. The trigger action is very smooth. The Lyman digital scale measures 7 to 7.5 pounds on average. Press the trigger straight to the rear until it breaks cleanly and you have a good hit. During recoil allow the trigger to reset. The result is good control and surprisingly good combat accuracy. Most of the ammunition fired has been the recommended Winchester 115 grain FMJ, as well as Sig Sauer Elite 115 and 124 grain FMJ. The pistol is also reliable with modern expanding bullet loads including the Hornady Critical Defense and Critical duty and the SIG Sauer Elite V Crown loadings. Accuracy is exceptional for this size handgun. The pistol will exhibit a five shot 1.5 inch group with most loads at 15 yards, firing from a solid benchrest firing position. Of course this doesn’t have much to do with combat shooting.
Firing offhand it isn’t difficult to keep a full magazine in the X-ring well past 10 yards. I executed the 10 10 10 drill — modifying it to 10 10 7. Ten yards, ten seconds, and seven shots. The pistol stayed in the 8 and 9 ring. This is good performance. The pistol demands attention to detail, both in maintenance and in handling. The Bond Arms Bullpup comes with a hefty list of advantages foremost of which is its small size. Yet the pistol retains a full length, for a compact, pistol barrel and offers light recoil and excellent accuracy. This isn’t a handgun for the slightly interested. For the demanding shooter it is a top notch piece.
Among a very few concealed carry holster makers offering a suitable concealed carry rig for the Bond Arms Bullpup 9 is Alien Gear. The soft backing coupled with a rigid Kydex holster makes for good comfort and a sharp draw. There isn’t another holster offering a better balance of speed, retention and comfort along with real concealment.
Bob Campbell takes a look at this unique revolver that has in a short time become an iconic phenom. READ MORE
by Bob Campbell
Handguns are reactive instruments. They are carried on the person to answer a threat. They may be kept at home ready to address a threat in the home. If we have warning, then we are most often better advised to deploy a rifle or shotgun.
The handgun then is the weapon of opportunity. While handguns are not the most powerful firearms, they are the ones we are most likely to have on hand when a firearm is needed to save our life. I have spent several months evaluating the Taurus Judge and have formed a favorable opinion of the revolver for specialized use.
The Judge is a 5-shot revolver that chambers both the .410 bore shotgun shell or a .45 Colt cartridge. This means real versatility. By the same token, the design limits the accuracy and range of the revolver. As a pure, short-range home defender, the Taurus Judge has merit.
There is a considerable argument that getting on target fast and getting a hit — any hit — very fast is critical. This is true. I have taught that it is better to slow down and get a center hit than a fast miss. This doesn’t mean a fast hit isn’t possible; it simply demands practice.
The Judge addresses this need by offering a shot payload. The .410 bore isn’t a powerhouse, but with the right load — and that is the key — it offers a viable defense option. Surprisingly, my evaluation indicates the Taurus Judge may be viable for protection against predators at close range as well. My test piece is perhaps the most common Judge (there are several options), a steel frame revolver with a 3.0-inch barrel.
The revolver is light enough, handles better than its ungainly appearance suggests, and offers good hit probability for those that practice. Fit, finish, and smoothness of action are good. The revolver features a red fiber optic front sight. This sight offers a good aiming point and aids in rapid target acquisition.
A short barrel handgun with a smooth bore firing a shotgun shell is illegal, the .410 and the .45 Colt are close enough that Taurus was able to design and manufacture a revolver chambered for both the .410 shotgun shell and .45 Colt cartridge. There is rifling but it is fairly shallow.
Like all double action revolvers, the Judge is simple to operate. Open the cylinder, load the chambers, and press the trigger to fire. No slide to rack, and no safety to operate. The concept is to allow the shooter to get a fast hit with a load of shot. While each individual buckshot pellet doesn’t carry much energy the effect of the loads hitting instantly with several projectiles offers excellent wound potential.
You may have seen ill-conceived videos and hype in which the Taurus Judge is fired at a target and the target is peppered with hits. Birdshot is a tiny shot grade intended to humanely kill a bird with a few hits. It is by no means useful for personal defense. Like firing a full-size shotgun, birdshot is fine for practice but not personal defense. A charge of birdshot from 7- to 9 shot carries hundreds of small pellets that form a pattern.
At the typical personal defense range, this pattern runs 18 to 32 inches. This is 7 yards, past that birdshot is useless. Worse, the small shot penetrates only a few inches. A felon wearing a heavy winter jacket may not be hurt at all. At about 15 feet, the Federal 4 buckshot load, carrying #3 buckshot, holds a cohesive pattern of less than three inches. This is a preferred load for those using the .410 load for personal defense.
The Federal load is advertised at about 750 fps but actually clocked over 800 fps in the Judge. The total payload is 292 grains. Winchester offers a PDX load with a total payload of over 300 grains, with three flat disks and a load of BB Shot. With this load, the pattern is often quite large (as much as 16 inches at 15 feet) with the disks striking the center of the target.
The Hornady .410 defense load features a .41 caliber slug followed by two round balls. The slug generally tracks straight with the point of aim with the balls radiating around the center. It is essential you pattern the shot on a paper target to determine how the shot spreads at 5 to 10 yards.
In my opinion, 7 yards is the outside range for these loads, although the Hornady slug with its FTX design might be useful a bit beyond. The bottom line, buckshot and specialty loads are useful for home defense and for short-range defense against predators. Penetration tests in water jugs and wet newsprint indicate these loads will produce a serious wound.
According to A Prepper’s Guide To Shotguns, birdshot may penetrate a six-inch gallon jug and some shot will make it to the second jug, but very few. Federal’s 2 ½-inch shell with 4 OOO balls penetrates over 24 inches, which might correlate to 18 inches in gelatin. That is excellent.
The Winchester PDX load exhibits a much larger pattern. However, the three disks in the PDX offer a 3×4 pattern at 15 feet. The much larger pattern is made up of 12 BBs. The Hornady FTX slug penetrates 15 inches from this revolver, with the two round balls making a total 3 to 5 inch group at 15 feet.
These heavy loads should produce devastating results at 15 feet to perhaps 21 feet, the magic 7 yard average range. In truth across a room or bedroom is more likely. The Judge must be aimed, but the pattern has spread enough to aid in hitting at 10 to 15 feet. This handgun isn’t useful past 21 feet with shot loads.
Another option is to load the Judge with .45 Colt ammunition. In order to meet Federal law pertaining to handguns and shotshells the Judge is a .45 Colt revolver with the option of firing .410 shells. The barrel is rifled. The long jump of the .45 Colt bullet from the chamber to the barrel throat would seem to limit both velocity and accuracy. In some cases this is true. However, my most recent testing indicates that this loss isn’t always what we think it may be.
The Judge is plenty strong for the heaviest loads, including hard cast SWC bullet handloads. It depends on how much recoil tolerance you have. A good choice for personal defense is the Hornady Critical Defense. This 185-grain bullet has a good reputation for expansion and penetration. Velocity is 891 fps form the three-inch barrel Taurus Judge. Recoil is modest. This load strikes to the point of aim. At 15 yards, five shots fired from a solid benchrest firing position yielded a 3-inch group. This is plenty accurate for personal defense.
Another choice worth considering is the Winchester PDX 225-grain JHP. This load offers a heavy hitter at 780 fps. This bullet weight offers plenty of momentum. The .45 Colt is among a very few handguns that performs well without bullet expansion. This was proven in the Old West and in many engagements since.
A solid choice is the Winchester 255-grain lead bullet. This bullet exits at 770 fps from the Judge. (And 778 fps from a 4 ¾-inch revolver on hand for comparison.) Penetration is about 18 inches, ideal for personal defense, yet recoil is mild. This is also a relatively accurate load with a 3-inch, 15-yard group. If the Judge owner anticipates a long shot, the .45 Colt offers proven wound potential without high recoil.
The Judge is a specialized handgun. It isn’t a go-anywhere do-anything handgun by any means. But what it does, it does well. It is worth your time to explore the Judge.
Don’t take anything for granted! Safety and suitability are both at risk if you don’t take time to analyze and act on this important topic. READ MORE
As said often, it’s sometimes recent experience that leads to my Reloaders Corner topics. Whether it’s a question I’ve been asked, usually, or, in this case, a malfunction I’ve had, those things are fresh in my mind. I hope to believe, and have to believe, that any such topics aren’t only a question for them, or for me.
That brings us to bullet seating depths, which really means overall cartridge length, using some particular bullet.
Usually, when we’re loading for a rifle with a box magazine, either bolt-action or semi-auto, the cartridge overall length — that’s measured from the base of the case to the tip of the bullet — defines and determines the maximum length. Usually.
What ultimately determines the cartridge overall length maximum, though, is really the first point of contact that the bullet makes (will make) with the rifling or lands ahead of the chamber throat. That space, and therefore overall round length, has a whopping lot to do with the chamber reamer specs, and also the reamer operator’s judgment in some cases, but we need to know.
It also can have a whopping lot to do with the bullet! And that’s what the most of this next is all about.
So here’s the lesson to learn, and, for me, to relearn: Do not assume that if the round fits into the magazine it will be fine. I will, at the least, freely admit to my mistakes because, one, I dang sho should know better, and, two, if I know better and still don’t do better confession is my punishment. Well, not really, but it’s always a wake-up call.
Different bullets have different profiles, different ogive architectures. The ogive is the “curve” beyond the last point up the bullet that’s caliber diameter (meaning full diameter) ending at the bullet tip. My slang but descriptive term for this is “nosecone.” Tracing up this curve, some point will be equal to land diameter. So where this point is on the seated bullet and where this point is ahead of it in the chamber matters a lot.
Unless it’s done as a deliberate tactic, there needs to be some space, some distance between the land diameter point on the bullet nosecone and the lands. The amount of that distance is referred to as “jump,” because that’s descriptive. It’s the gap the bullet has to cross through to engage into the rifling. Usually the closer the better, and that “tactic” used often by precision shooters (mostly long-range and Benchrest competitors) is to purposely seat the bullet so it’s touching the lands. That’s done in the belief that if there’s no jump, then there’s no ill effects from jump. It’s very often right, and I’ve proven that to myself many a time. It’s not always right, but then if it was this all would be too easy.
The reason there needs to be some space is because when a bullet goes from just off to just on the lands, pressure jumps. It’s a “spike,” not a surge, but it’s enough to put a load that’s nearing the edge over the edge. In something like a .223 Rem. it’s about a half-grain-worth of propellant.
So. Here’s the lesson I learned again, but this one wasn’t my fault! Honest! Several years ago, however, here’s one that was my fault: new (to me) match bullet, a short 52-gr. I wanted to try for reduced-course NRA High Power Rifle events. Rifle had a Wylde .223 Rem. chamber. A Wylde has a throat length between a 5.56 NATO and a SAAMI-spec. .223 Rem. That means the throat is fairly much more generous than commercial .223 Rem. specs. The maximum cartridge overall length in an AR15 box magazine is 2.260 inches, and I go 2.255 for a margin. I checked some industry manual data for this bullet and did notice that the overall cartridge length listed in the data spec table was a good deal shorter than that. I quickly did some “math” but without numbers (so it wasn’t really math) and decided that since I had a longer chamber I’d ignore that and just seat the bullets to 2.255. Blew primers right and left.
Back home and gage in hand and, dang, they weren’t kidding! I was about 0.020 into the lands at that cartridge length. That’s a honking lot. That’s also ultimately dangerous because of the free-floating firing pin tapping off the primer when a round is loaded into an AR15. A bullet that’s getting jammed into the lands is greatly more resistant to chambering freely and fully.
I humbly learned my lesson.
Get a gage and use it! The best out there is the Hornady LNL Overall Length gage. This tool lets you very easily find the overall round length that touches the lands with your bullet in your barrel. Very valuable, that.
Use it in conjunction with its companion “bullet length comparator” insert for the very best precision. That tool measures a bullet at a point on its ogive that (usually) corresponds closely with land diameter. It won’t be perfectly the same, but it doesn’t have to be. What matters is that it gives a more accurate figure. Avoiding the bullet tip in a measurement eliminates that (guaranteed, by the way) inconsistency in accurate measurement because of bullet tip variations.
Now. To the recent experience: It was with a .300 Blackout (AAC) subsonic. I did not have the means to gauge this using my tools (then, but I do now). However, that wouldn’t have mattered in this case, and why is next.
Tested a factory load. Liked it. Noticed nothing unusual. Functioned perfectly, shot well. Brought it home and filled a magazine, loaded one in the chamber, and set it aside. Folks, just so you don’t think I’m irresponsible, that gun is what I keep at the ready for home-defense. So, my son, who had gone in to unload and then dry-fire the gun, came up and said, “Dad. The bolt won’t open.” Dang. It wouldn’t. I started thinking up all reasons that might be behind that. The bolt carrier would retract a little way, which was the limit of usual “play” in the bolt travel inside it, so I didn’t think anything was broken. To remove the round I pulled off the upper, took it to the shop, and pried back the bolt carrier from the underside. A couple of careful but firm enough strokes and it opened.
The bullet had really jammed into the lands! I mean really jammed. Extracting the round and looking at it, land impressions were clear, and measuring the extracted round showed it was 0.022 longer than the new, un-chambered round. Unseating the jammed round pulled the bullet that far out from the case neck.
I manually inserted another round of the same into the chamber and gave it a nudge-in with my finger, and, sure enough, there it sat not nearly fully into the chamber. Had to tap it back out.
So. Since it’s a factory load, I really couldn’t have had a clue that it wasn’t compatible with my chamber throat. But now I do. And, for a clue, do that same yourself. If the round won’t drop in and out of a chamber fully and easily, that might be a problem. I still don’t know what the actual measured amount of the excessive length might have been. To find that I’d have to get a box of those bullets and gauge them using the LNL tools. I’m not going to do that. I’ve chosen another load that’s no-issues.
I say “might be” because, again these rounds functioned well, but, also, well, that can’t be good…
I suppose I will now need to start handloading for that contraption. I have also written down 100 times: “I will always check the chamber throat, even if it’s not a long-range rifle…”
Witness the creation of the ultimate low-drag, high performance match bullet!
After weeks of teasers, we’re finally able to talk about the new projectile from the folks at Hornady. We actually got to visit Grand Island, Nebraska to tour the facility, and get a first-hand look at the new milled aluminum tipped bullets. This thing is beautiful!
“New to Midsouth Shooters and Hornady, the A-Tip MATCH bullets are the latest and greatest from the Hornady Ballistic Development Group! After years of research, testing, and a new advanced manufacturing process with state-of-the-art quality control measures, Hornady has created an all new Aluminum Tipped projectile. This precision machined tip is longer than polymer tips which moves the center of gravity, thus enhancing inflight stability. The aeroballistically advanced tip design results in tighter groups, and reduced drag variability.”
By using some of the most sophisticated tools in projectile development, Hornady created a bullet with a milled tip, 99% repeatable, and a Doppler Radar verified low-drag coefficient (super-high Ballistic Coefficient) with a winning blend of ogive, tip length, bearing surface, and optimized boat-tail within each caliber.
“We wanted to incorporate aluminum tips in a full line of match bullets for years because we can make longer tips than we can with polymer materials,” said Joe Thielen, Assistant Director of Engineering. “This longer tip is a key component that helps move the center of gravity of the bullet rearward, thus enhancing in-flight stability and reducing dispersion. The problem has always been the cost to produce a tip like this, but we’ve developed a cost-effective process for manufacturing these aluminum tips while staying affordable for serious match shooters. The longer aluminum tips are machined to be caliber-specific, and when coupled with highly refined AMP® bullet jackets, aggressive profiles and optimized boattails, the result is enhanced drag efficiency (high BC) across the board. Each bullet design is carefully crafted for minimal drag variability for the utmost in shot-to-shot consistent downrange accuracy.The materials, design and manufacturing techniques combine for the most consistent and accurate match bullets available.”
Right off the press, the projectiles are sequentially packed, for ultimate consistent performance, from lot to lot, ensuring your projectiles are truly YOURS every step of the way. Think of it like shooting clones of your load every time (100 in each box)! Minimal handling throughout the process means there’s less of a chance of YOUR bullet being marred, scuffed, or altered, which is why each box is packaged with a Polishing Bag for you to give the final buff to your beautiful new projectiles!
The Ruger GP 100 Seven-Shooter may be the best combat revolver of the century. Read why HERE
The buying public is voting for revolvers and buying them in great numbers. Fueling the new trend, Ruger introduced a 7-shot version of its popular GP100. While there has been a previous 7-shooter in .327 Magnum, this new model fires the .357 Magnum cartridge.
Ruger offers longer barrel versions, but the 2.5-inch version is, in my opinion, among the finest combat revolvers ever manufactured. There are many who appreciate tradition, and others, who simply trust revolvers.
While modern self-loading handguns are as reliable as a machine can be, the revolver is more likely to fire after long term storage while loaded. You may leave the revolver at home, ready, and it will come up shooting. The revolver may also be placed against an adversary’s body and fired. On the other hand, a self-loader may jam after the first shot in this scenario.
In its best versions, the revolver is accurate and powerful, making it well suited to outdoors use. This latest from Ruger, the GP100 7-shot, is an exciting handgun. It is accurate, well-balanced, and fast-handling.
The GP100 was introduced in 1986. Police service handguns in .357 Magnum had not always held up well to constant firing and frequent qualifications with the Magnum cartridge. The larger and more robust GP100 solved a lot of those problems. For many years, the majority of qualifications were done with the .38 Special 148-grain target wadcutter. Problems with this oversight led to court decisions forcing agencies to qualify with the issue load. A hot 125-grain JHP was hard on small parts and sometimes the shooter as well. The 125-grain .357 Magnum hollow point at 1,380 to 1,480 fps was the most powerful cartridge fielded by police agencies — and the most effective. However, it was also difficult to master.
Today, the police carry self-loaders. However, the .357 Magnum cartridge remains relatively unequaled for wound potential. Those who train hard and master the cartridge have a powerful loading that is effective against both two- and four-legged threats, and against light cover.
The GP 100 is capable of absorbing the pounding of a steady diet of .357 Magnum ammunition without going out of time or self-destructing. The shooter will be tired long before the revolver shows any signs of trouble. The GP100 is not only among the most rugged revolvers ever designed, and it is among the most accurate as well.
The GP100 will accept heavy handloads that will literally lock up other handguns. As an example, I worked up a load using H110 powder and Hornady’s 125-grain XTP that develops 1,628 fps from my 4-inch barrel GP100. This load never sticks in the cylinder or exhibits excess pressure signs. When the .357 Magnum was first developed an adventurer wrote, after killing an attacking jaguar — the .357 Magnum was like “having a rifle on your hip.” I agree.
The GP100 has been manufactured in 4- and 6-inch barrel versions, 3-inch barrel fixed-sight revolvers, and a .44 Special version. The new 7-shot revolver is certain to be popular. As said, mine sports a 2.5-inch barrel. It is surprisingly compact and well balanced. The sights are the Ruger fully-adjustable rear, and a green fiber-insert front sight; this combination makes for a good sight picture.
The compact grips are an aid in concealment, and they offer good control when firing Magnum loads. When working the action, the 7-shot action feels different from the 6-shot’s trigger press. Some of the cocking force is used to move the hand and cylinder while the rest cocks and drops the hammer. The GP100 action has always been smooth, but the action feels a bit shorter than the 6-shot version. This results in faster shooting. The heft is excellent — neither handle heavy nor barrel heavy.
The muzzle blast is sometimes startling, but with most loads the GP100 isn’t difficult to control. The balance is similar to the Smith & Wesson Model 27 with a 3.5-inch barrel, but the GP100 is lighter. There are other short-barrel revolvers that are difficult to use well. They twist in the hand, and their excessive muzzle flip is uncomfortable. The GP100 is the fastest-handling, and most controllable, short-barrel Magnum I have fired.
I began my test program with .38 Special ammunition. I suspect many shooters will engage most of their practice targets with .38 Special loads. That is the proven path to proficiency and marksmanship.
I used three choices from Double Tap ammunition in the first evaluation. These included the 850 fps 148-grain wadcutter, a 110-grain JHP at over 1,000 fps, and the 125-grain JHP at 959 fps. With these, this revolver was actually docile. It wasn’t difficult to make fast hits using double-action pairs. Moving to .357 Magnum loads, I fired a representative number of self-defense loads. First came the Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense. At 1,215 fps, this load hits hard and expands well. Velocity fell from the 1,383 fps exhibited in the 4-inch revolver — par for the course with short barrel Magnums.
The Federal 125-grain JHP broke at 1,221 fps. I also fired a handload I consider my favorite in .357 Magnum. At 1,250 fps from the 4-inch barrel, this load — using Titegroup powder — retained 1,180 fps in the Ruger. A handloader may tailor loads to the handgun, and using faster-burning powder clearly paid off in this application. This load isn’t difficult to control and makes a good all-around choice. The balance of expansion and penetration is on the long side. All threats are not two-legged, so penetration is desirable.
I continue to be impressed with this GP100 the more I work with it. With a smooth double-action trigger press and good sights, the revolver is well suited to use by a trained shooter. With proper load selection, the GP100 makes an excellent all-around defense revolver.
For protection against the big cats and feral dogs, I cannot imagine a better choice. Against bears, I would load the Buffalo Bore 180-grain loading, or one of my own handloads using a hard cast 175-grain SWC. Ounce for ounce, the GP100 offers plenty of power for the street or trail.
Slow-fire accuracy fired from a solid benchrest firing position at 15 yards, 5-shot group —
Federal 129-grain Hydra Shok +P 1.25 in.
Double Tap 110-grain JHP 1.5 in.
Buffalo Bore 158-grain Outdoorsman 1.4 in.
Buffalo Bore 158-grain Low Flash Low Recoil 1.2 in.
Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense 1.5 in.
Hornady 125-grain XTP 1.0 in.
A better question, given that the vast majority of popular rifle bullets are boat-tail, is why flat-base? KEEP READING
Good question! I have something that at least has elements of an answer.
A boat-tail bullet is the standard for the majority of rifle bullets, and the domineering choice of long-range shooters. Competitive Benchrest shooters favor flat-base bullets. Flat-base is also popular with varmint-hunters: the stellar Hornady V-Max line for good instance.
We all want best accuracy, so why the difference? Consider the overriding characteristic of a flat-base bullet: it’s shorter. Now, since not all flat-base bullets are shorter overall than a same-weight boat-tail (they’re usually not), I seriously need to clarify that!
Clarification: a flat-base can be shorter, and lighter, than it would be if the same ogive or nosecone profile used then added a boat-tail. More: if they’re both the same weight and at least similar in profiles, a flat-base often has a longer bearing area than a boat-tail bullet, again because the boat-tail is sticking down there, or not. These are both a bonus to Benchrest or any other shorter-distance circumstance where utmost precision is the goal. (When I refer to capital-b “Benchrest,” I’m not talking about a shooting rest, but a competitive sport.) Shorter bullets allow slower barrel twists (bullet length, not weight, chiefly governs needed twist). Slower twists offer a miniscule improvement in damping a bullet’s orbital pattern in flight, and considering the likewise near-caliber-size 5-shot groups these folks are after, that matters. Bullets fly in a spiral, like a well-thrown football. Again comparing those with similar profiles, flat-base bullets stabilize faster and sooner than boat-tails, it’s a smaller spiral. Bullets with longer bearing areas tend to shoot better “easier,” less finicky. And, flat-base bullets can provide more cartridge case capacity.
All those good points make it sound like flat-base provide superior accuracy. They might. By my experience, they do, but! Distance defines the limit of that truth.
The boat-tail provides an aerodynamic advantage, and the farther it flies, the greater this advantage. There are well-founded beliefs that boat-tails are less influenced by gas pressure thrusting against the bullet base. A good and most knowledgeable friend at Sierra told me that a boat-tail has an effectively more concentric radius at the base due to the junction point created by the angle on the tail and the bearing surface. Further, a flat-base, is, in effect, harder to make so that the base will have a radius that’s as concentric with the bullet bearing surface. Manufacture care and quality (related), of course, makes that more or less true or false. If the idea is that a good boat-tail is “easier” to make, that this shape makes the end product more forgiving of manufacturing errors, then I’ll accept that since it’s pretty hard to argue against, but, again, I really don’t think that boat-tail designs simply take up slack in quality tolerances. I’m sho no rocket-surgeon but I know that the tail slips the air better.
This can get pounded completely into the ground because adding a boat-tail (and I’ll show a great example of just that) to a similar nosecone also adds weight to the bullet, and that increases BC. It’s not exactly a chicken-egg question, though, because the tail helps otherwise.
You might have also heard said that boat-tails shorten barrel life because the angled base directs burning propellant gases more strongly at the barrel surface. They do, and many steadfastly uphold that as a reason against them. More in a bit. However! Beyond 300 yards, at the nearest, there are no disadvantages in using boat-tail bullets that come close to surpassing their advantages.
There’s another debated advantage of a flat-base and that is they tend to shoot a little better in a barrel that’s about to go “out.” I’m talking about a good barrel that’s pushed the limit of its throat. That one is true too!
And speaking of barrel life, another is that flat-base bullets produce less flame-cutting effect than boat-tails. A barrel lasts longer if fed flat-base. True! Flat-base bullets “obturate” more quickly. Obturate means to “block,” but here it means to close a hole, which is a barrel bore, which means to seal it. The angled boat-tail creates a sort of “nozzle” effect. Can’t much be done about that, though, because when we need boat-tails we need them. That is, however, a big score of help for the varmint hunter.
There is a relatively obscure “combo” out there called a “rebated” boat-tail. This has a 90-degree step in from the bullet shank (body) to the tail. It steps in before the boat-tail taper is formed (they look like a flat-base with a boat-tail from a bullet a couple of calibers smaller stuck on there). It’s common for competitive .308 NRA High Power Rifle shooters, for instance, to switch from the popular Sierra 190gr MatchKing to a Lapua 185 rebated boat-tail when accuracy starts to fall off due to throat wear. Sure enough, the Lapua brings it back for a couple hundred more rounds.
If anybody with heavy equipment making bullets for sale out there is listening: I’d like to see some more rebated boat-tail designs! It is, though, a challenge to make precisely.
So. What? So what? Well, if you are big into small groups, I very encourage some experimentation with flat-base bullets. Again, distance is the only limit to their potential goodness. 100 yards, yes. 200 yards, yes. 300 yards, no!
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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