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Converting a .223 Rem case into a 300 AAC Blackout round
Nov 5th, 2015 by RoundsReloaded

As a reloader I never, until recently, gave any attention to the 300 AAC Blackout round, mainly because I only reload calibers for which my firearms are chambered in.
As a reloading instructor, I had many people ask me about the 300 AAC Blackout round and, until now, I had always brushed it off as mass hysteria.

Things changed when I started building my own AR-15 rifle. I read something somewhere on the net that made me take a closer look at this round, in a nut shell this is what got my attention: You keep the same AR-15 lower, magazines; same bolt carrier group and same charging handle and only switch the upper and done! You got yourself a new rifle chambered in a 30 caliber round; what a cool idea!!!

Then, as a reloader, I started looking at what it was needed to convert a 223/5.56 NATO shell into a 300 AAC Blackout round and realized that it is easier than you might think, as I am about to show you here below.

If you already reload you already have many of the tools you need, what you will need additionally though are: a mini chop saw and a rig to hold the .223 shell in place while cutting it plus, of course, a set of 300 AAC Blackout dies.

Step 1: Sizing and depriming a 223/5/56 NATO case.

I started by sizing and depriming the shell casing, as I would do if I was preparing to reload another 223 round (Figure 01). At this time is a good idea to check the primer pockets and make sure to clean and deburr the primer crimp, if you are reloading military surplus rounds, they usually have a crimped primer.

Figure 01: .223 REM/5.56 NATO shell casing, sized and decapped

Figure 01: .223 REM/5.56 NATO shell casing, sized and decapped

 Step 2: Cutting the shell casing.

To accomplish this step I purchased an inexpensive mini chop saw with a 2″ blade (Figure 02). It seemed to be a tool made especially for this task. I also bought a jig specifically made to hold 223 cases firmly in position for cutting. It comes already made to accommodate the slight taper of the 223 round so the cut is perpendicular to the shell’s longitudinal axis. This eliminates excessive trimming later. One thing worth mentioning at this point is that the case holding jig was set on the base of the cutting tool by carefully measuring the location of the cut with a caliper and firmly tightening it into position. The mini chop saw and the holding jig are readily available online through various websites including Amazon.

Step 3: Measuring and trimming.

After cutting the case I measured it again to make sure the cut was accurate (Figure 03) and then I proceeded to trim the case (Figure 03) to its final new dimension as per SAAMI specs.

Figure 04: Measuring case after cutting

Figure 03: Measuring case after cutting

At this point I deburred the mouth of the case (Figure 04).

Deburring the case

Figure 04: Deburring the case

 

Step 4: Sizing and priming.

I run the case through the resizing die and I primed the case (Figures 05 & 06).

Sizing the case

Figure 05: Sizing the case

Priming the case

Figure 06: Priming the case

A 300 AAC Blackout case is now ready to load (Figures 07 & 08).

Figure 07: 300 AAC Blackout case

Figure 07: 300 AAC Blackout case

300 AAC Blackout case

Figure 08: 300 AAC Blackout case

 

From this step forward the process is the same as for any other round, that is, charge the case using reloading data found in any reloading manuals, sit the bullet, also selected by using data found in the reloading manuals and finally crimp the mouth of the cartridge.

I have not yet made it to the range to test the rounds I have made, therefore, as for performance the jury is still out.

I will report back once I shoot some rounds downrange. Until then, keep reloading my friends.

Cartridge Crimp Styles and Uses
Oct 5th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

Cartridge Crimp Styles and Uses

Lee 3-die set with taper crimp die.

Lee 3-die set with taper crimp die. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

Crimping, that final stage of handgun cartridge assembly. Whether done as a separate operation, or as a part of the bullet seating process, one simple fact remains – it must be done.

There are two distinct types of cartridge crimps: Roll crimping and taper crimping.

In the handgun world, it is a pretty clear distinction. Roll crimping is best used on the revolver cartridges, and taper crimping is the way to go for semi-automatic pistol cartridges. Here’s the why.

Cartridges designed for use in a revolver use some sort of a rim to properly headspace the case in the cylinder. Think .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .45 Colt, .44 Remington Magnum. This guaranteed headspacing allows the reloader to “roll” the case mouth around the cannelure of the bullet, ensuring that the bullet will not move during recoil. This also gives us a consistent overall length if you roll crimp on the cannelure.

I will note that a roll crimp should only be used with bullets that have a cannelure; if you try to roll crimp on a bullet without one, you risk bulging the case mouth, and it will not fit properly in the cylinder. We’ll get back to how to crimp a bullet with no cannelure for revolver use in a second.

The bullet seating die for most pistol cartridges can be adjusted to give a good, solid roll crimp. Read the die set instruction carefully, and follow the directions. It may take a few tries to get the proper crimp, and I usually make a dummy round, with no powder or primer, to use as a guide should the die come out of adjustment.

Those cartridges that work well in the semi-automatic pistols can’t be roll crimped, because those cartridges headspace on the case mouth rather than a rim, which most lack. You see, rimmed cartridges (generally speaking) don’t feed well from a pistol magazine, so the autoloaders usually employ a rimless design. Think .45 ACP, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, .380 Automatic.

The rimless design needs to headspace on something other than the rim, of which there is none, and the lack of a shoulder (as in a rifle cartridge) leaves only the case mouth. If we were to roll crimp, we would compromise the squared case mouth for headspacing. Yet, we still need to hold the bullet firmly in the case.

40 Smith & Wesson ammo needs to be taper cripmed.

40 Smith & Wesson ammo needs to be taper cripmed. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

This is where the taper crimp method comes into play. It squeezes the sides of the case wall tightly against the bullet, and effectively prevents the bullet from moving, while maintaining the nice square case mouth that allows the cartridge to headspace.

A taper crimp can solve the problem I previously mentioned, where revolver cases use a bullet with no cannelure, yet need to be crimped. No bulged cases, no mess. Taper crimp and fire away!

Most companies that make quality reloading dies will have a taper crimp die available for purchase. If you’re serious about your pistol’s performance, I highly suggest you invest in one.

Stay crimpy, my friends.

The Breaking Point of Brass Cases
Oct 5th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

The Breaking Point of Brass Cases

A close inspection of brass cartridges before every reloading is a must. Fine cracks such as the one above on the neck of the case render it useless.

A close inspection of brass cartridges before every reloading is a must. Fine cracks such as the one above on the neck of the case render it useless. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

The brass case is the only part of the cartridge that can be reused.

It is made of a material that is malleable; it can be reshaped to proper dimensions, and fired multiple times. But, like all good things in life, sooner or later the usefulness of that brass case will have reached the end.

Question is: How will you know?

There are several tell-tale signs, some are easily identified, and others take a bit more investigation. Here’s the skinny: you absolutely do not want a brass case to fail upon firing. It can be detrimental to your firearm, not to mention your health.

Brass becomes brittle as it is worked and reworked. In a bottle necked cartridge, the case mouth and shoulder gets most of the action inside the resizing die. Usually you will find that when a cartridge has become too brittle to withstand that reworking, it will develop a hairline crack in the case mouth, either at the edge of the case mouth, or just below it.

Cases with a split in the neck cannot be used any further, and should be immediately taken out of commission. The straight walled cases develop their splits at the case mouth, usually when they are sent up into the flaring die. This is the portion of the straight walled case that sees the most action.

Rigorous inspection of your cases, before, during and after loading, will ensure that things stay safe. I hold the cases up to a light source to check for splits, and do my best to keep a good record of how many firings a group of cases has seen.

The neck of the case isn't the only area that needs to be inspected for damage. Cases can break in two after repeated firings, due to the brass flowing forward.

The neck of the case isn’t the only area that needs to be inspected for damage. Cases can break in two after repeated firings, due to the brass flowing forward. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

In bottle necked cases, depending on the pressures and velocities, four or five firings is usually where I become overly suspicious and start to see split necks. Pistols and straight walled rifle cases generally tend to operate at lower velocities and pressures, so their useful life will tend to be a bit longer.

There is a process called annealing, where the case mouth and neck are heated and quenched, which will soften the brass to extend the life of your cases. You’ll often see a rainbow like color on quality brass that has been annealed; Hornady and Norma brass often come annealed from the factory.

There is another place you need to check for danger. The situation we are trying to avoid is referred to as case head separation.

I’ve told you that brass is malleable, and the brass in the case tends to ‘flow’ forward, toward the case mouth, upon repeated firing. The area of the case body about 1/3rd up from the rim tends to become thin as the brass flows forward.

What can happen is terrible: the brass case can actually rip in half in the chamber or the firearm. This can be deadly.

Pressures freak out, receivers can be destroyed, and the shooter can be injured or even worse, killed. I’ve seen case head separation happen quickly when the wrong ammunition is used; say firing a .270 Winchester in a .280 Remington chamber. It can also happen in a chamber that has excessive headspace, as the cases stretch quite a bit due to an oversized chamber dimension.

Here’s how you can check for this problem, and avoid disaster.

If damaged brass is discovered it must be disposed of. A good habit to get into is rendering damaged brass completely, by crushing it.

If damaged brass is discovered it must be disposed of. A good habit to get into is rendering damaged brass completely, by crushing it. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

First step is to keep your eyes open for a very shiny ring in the area I’ve described. As the brass thins in this area, it makes the brass shine brighter than the rest of the case. The second method is very, very high-tech. I use a straightened paper clip, with the last ¼” bent at right angles as a “feeler”, and if the brass is thin you’ll feel th e case wall change as the brass gets thin. Ok, not so high-tech, but effective. Perhaps there’s a market for matte black “tactical ballistic paper clips”, I might have to get on that…When I find a case that has seen the end of its days, I crush the mouth closed with a pair of pliers, so that there is no chance of having that case find its way back to active duty, and then discard the case in the recycle bin.

Check your brass, and check them well, and you’ll enjoy a lifetime of safe reloading.

Forming Good Habits at the Reloading Bench
Oct 4th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

Forming Good Habits at the Reloading Bench

Perhaps one of the most important reloading habits to get into is keeping a diligent records of your loads. This is vital data is as important as any tool on your reloading bench.

We all form habits, be they good or bad.

I’d like to give some advice that you may already adhere to, but I’ll sleep better having shared it with those of you who are new to reloading. Let’s form good habits, and stick to them, please.

Keeping a clean and tidy reloading bench is a must. Owning a custom ammunition shop, I have the privilege of loading many different cartridges in a number of configurations for my customers, which is awesome. So come safari season and the North American fall hunting seasons, things get rather hectic around here. I do my best to keep the Laboratory as neat and organized as I can, but it isn’t easy.

When you’re dealing with multiple calibers and cartridges that require different primers, powders and bullets, confusion lurks around every corner. As a self-imposed rule, I only keep the items I’m using for the particular load at hand on the bench: one box of primers, one canister of powder, one set of dies and one type of bullet at a time. This prevents any possible mix up, and the resulting dangerous load. It requires digging out new stuff for each project, which gets to be a pain in the butt, but in the name of safety I’ll deal with that.

Keeping your tools clean is a must also. Dirty, gummed up reloading dies can produce inaccurate ammunition. I keep a good supply of cotton swabs and a bottle of solvent – like Hoppe’s No. 9 – on hand for a quick cleanup of my dies.

As things start to slow down, I actually give my dies a nice warm bath in the ultrasonic cleaner to remove all of the gunk that builds up from the flakes of brass, nickel, copper and lead as it mixes with the case lubricant. You’ll be surprised what comes out of them!

Storing components can become a nightmare if you let it get out of hand. I keep my projectiles organized by caliber, and within each caliber by bullet weight. By keeping things well organized, I know just where to look for whatever I’m after.

Brass cases are organized in the same manner. If they’re once fired, I clearly mark the bag or container with the cartridge name so I can find them at a glance. Heavy duty freezer bags or empty coffee canisters (especially the newer plastic ones) make a great storage method for brass cases.

Keep your powder in a dry, dark place, safe from any possibility of sparks or open flame. And please, don’t ever store powder in a gun safe. God forbid it were to ignite, you’ve just created a half-ton bomb, a rather insalubrious notion! I keep my primers well organized and separated to avoid grabbing the wrong size or type of primer. And I keep them well away from the powder canisters.

When I store my reloading dies in their handy plastic boxes, I save the little silica gel packets you find in bags of beef jerky and put them in the die box. This draws all the moisture away from the dies and helps prevent rust. I also keep the presses well lubricated with gun oil so they don’t rust. You’d be surprised at how quick things can get rusty in the humid summer months here in Upstate New York.

I screwed a narrow strip of plywood to the wall and drove little finishing nails about 1.5” apart to store all my different shell holders. They are clearly labeled in permanent marker by number, and I even jotted down which cartridge they are appropriate for. Saves an awful lot of time, and is much easier than digging through a pile of shell holders.

Tricks, such as organizing case holders by number and appropriate case, can save time and create a safer reloading environment. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

Tricks, such as organizing case holders by number and appropriate case, can save time and create a safer reloading environment. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

Not everyone can have a loading area that is removed from the comings and goings of daily life, but do your best. What you want is a well lit space, as distraction-free as possible. Turn the cell phone off (you’ll live, trust me!), and keep the children at bay. “Oops” is a word that can lead to disaster in the reloading world.

Keep diligent records, please. After all the hard work that we reloaders go through, if you were to lose your load data, well, I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. My notebook is invaluable to me, and I even keep things backed up on my computer.

One last point, and this may be the most important of all: Never mix alcohol with reloading. It just doesn’t work.

You all know the guy who likes to crack a beer or sip whiskey while reloading. Don’t do it, please. It can be tough enough get things right while sober; reloading while under the influence of your particular form of recreation can lead to trouble. Save it for when the powder and dies are all put away!

The Essence of Reloading – Flexibility
Oct 4th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

The Essence of Reloading – Flexibility

The great thing about reloading is the ability to build a round to meet the situation. A .45 Colt can become a perfect plinking revolver with a light load. The same gun can halt a rouge bear if the powder and bullet weight are pumped up. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

As a reloader, you are able to control the ballistic parameters of the ammunition for your firearm. Whether it is a pistol or rifle, the ability to vary the bullet weight and velocity of your firearm makes each and every one of them much more flexible than most people would think.

There are oodles of great factory loadings available today, and it is better than it has ever been, but we handloaders have the wide world of bullet choices and powder selections at our fingertips.

Take a long look at your favorite rifle, and odds are that you can find a pretty wide choice of projectiles, that can serve in a multitude of different hunting situations. Let’s look at a few examples.

The classic .300 Winchester Magnum can use a selection of .308” diameter bullets that weigh between 110 and 250 grains. That’s quite a wide range, and each weight has its place in the hunting field.

Winchester’s .300 has earned a very good reputation with 180 grain bullets moving along at around 2,950 feet per second and that load is one I use often, especially when the possibility of a long shot exists, like moose across a Quebec lake, or kudu in the karoo of South Africa. Many elk hunters grab this configuration of ammunition, and with good effect.

My rifle loves the 180 grain Swift Scirocco II, handloaded with Reloder 19 to 2,960fps. But, you really don’t need that velocity or the heavy bullet all the time.

Let’s assume you have a .300 Winchester that you absolutely love (which I do!), and want to use it for pronghorn antelope on the Great Plains.

A fast, flat shooting 150 grain bullet will fit the bill perfectly. At 3,150 fps, you should be able to hit those goats out as far as you’d ethically shoot them, and a bonded core spitzer bullet will kill quickly without making a bloody mess.

If you want to take that same rifle deer hunting, a 165 grain bullet loaded to just under 3,000 fps will make a very effective whitetail load, regardless of the distance.

Sometimes, a specialty hunt will pop up that may force you to get creative; bear hunting over bait is one example that comes quickly to mind. The shot will usually be under 75 yards, yet you want something beefy because bears have claws and teeth after all. In these situations, I subscribe to the Elmer Keith “slow and heavy” school of thought.

I took a box of 220 grain Hornady round-nose bullets, and used IMR 4064 to reduce the velocity to 2,425 fps, similar to the older .30-’06 Springfield loads. Group size hangs around minute-of-angle, and these big heavy bullets will really thump a bruin.

As a matter of fact, that particular load has worked very well on whitetail deer as well. My eleven point buck from 2011 fell as if he were pole-axed. He weighed 180 pounds on the hoof.

The plains of Africa can present a diverse selection of game, from the diminutive Steenbok to the moose-sized eland, and you have to carry a load that can cover all the bases. I brought the 200 grain Swift A-Frame, loaded to 2,700 fps in my .300 Winchester and it worked out very well.

The .300 is just one example, and the same could apply to a .30-06, .280 Remington or .270 Winchester. Learn about the different types of bullets available in your favorite caliber, and utilize the different weights and construction available.

Pistols can benefit from the same mentality. My Ruger Blackhawk in .45 (Long) Colt is a very strong revolver, and that cartridge can be stoked up to bark!

The big 300 grain Hornady XTP bullets can be pushed to around 1,300 fps, which is a wonderful insurance policy while hiking in my native Adirondacks or Catskills. The same revolver likes to play cowboy with me though, and when you roll up some 250 grain hard-cast lead Falcon Bullets at a velocity of 850 fps, you can shoot all afternoon at paper hombres.

Lighter bullets like Rainier Ballistics’ 180 grain flat point, which are usually reserved for the .45ACP, can be loaded in the Colt case in either a high velocity situation or in a reduced velocity scenario, depending on the application, or your mood.

The larger caliber safari guns can be rather intimidating to a shooter who doesn’t have a ton of experience with them. The heavy recoil they produce, being a side effect of the big bullets and powder charges, can pose a problem.

Firearms, such as the .300 Winchester, are eminently flexible. Given the sheer amount of components that can be used with the caliber, reloaders can tailor the cartridge to nearly any need. Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group and JNJphotographics.

Reducing their velocity for practice is a wise idea. Drop the velocity by 150 or 200 fps and that recoil drops off quite a bit, making the rifle much more manageable. The classic .416 Rigby launches its 400 grain bullets at 2,400fps, with rather severe recoil. Drop the muzzle velocity to 2,200 fps and you can immediately feel the recoil drop off, yet you still have a potent big game loading.

The most popular chambering in safari rifles is undoubtedly the .375 Holland and Holland Magnum. The 300 grain bullets that made the cartridge so popular are loaded to 2,550 fps in most factory loadings. These bullets are wonderful for buffalo, elephant and brown bear, but that .375 can be used for much more than the big nasties.

Barnes makes a great 235 grain TSX bullet; it’s a solid copper hollowpoint that can be pushed over 2,800 fps. This makes a great long range elk and moose load. It also works well on black bear, and gives you more time afield with your favorite .375.

So, look at the possibilities for your favorite rifle, and don’t be afraid to use you reloading bench to make sure you have the perfect load for the hunting trip you’re planning. There are tons of great bullets and powders out there, and that’s something we reloaders should be very grateful for.

Metallic Cartridge Nomenclature
Aug 19th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

Metallic Cartridge Nomenclature
(How the .30-30, .30-06, and other favorites got their names)

By Chuck Hawks

Cartridge nomenclature has been haphazard at best, particularly in North America. Since the invention of self-contained ammunition, cartridges have been named in accordance with certain general customs in North America, Europe and the UK, but there have been many exceptions to these general rules. Here is how some of the common rifle and pistol cartridges got their names.

North American rifle and pistol cartridges

In the days of black powder, most North American centerfire metallic cartridges were described by their nominal caliber (the bore diameter of the barrel) and the powder charge they contained. Thus the .45-70 was a .45 caliber rifle cartridge that, in maximum loads, was powered by 70 grains of black powder. The .44-40 was a .44 caliber combination rifle and pistol cartridge charged with 40 grains of black powder.

Sometimes the bullet weight was added to the name, as in .45-70-405. That would be a .45-70 cartridge loaded with the standard 405 grain bullet. The .45-70-500 was the same cartridge loaded with a 500 grain bullet.

This basic system worked pretty well until the advent of smokeless powder. For while the energy per grain of different brands of black powder is essentially the same, smokeless powder can be manufactured in a nearly limitless number of variations. For example, the energy per grain of IMR 3031 powder is completely different than the energy per grain of Bullseye powder.

Early smokeless powder cartridges, such as the .30-30 Winchester and .30-40 Krag were, in fact, named following the old system. The .30-30 was originally loaded with 30 grains of the then new smokeless powder, and the Krag was loaded with 40 grains of smokeless.

However, it was soon realized that including the nominal powder charge in the name of smokeless powder cartridges was meaningless and potentially dangerous. So smokeless cartridges soon came to be named for their nominal bore diameter and the company that introduced them. This is how such familiar rifle cartridges as the .270 Winchester and .300 Savage were named. Sometime in the 1950’s it became fashionable to name cartridges for the groove (or bullet) diameter. This is how the .308 Winchester (a .300 caliber cartridge by bore diameter) and .338 Winchester Magnum (a .330 cartridge by bore diameter) were named. Ditto the .357 Magnum revolver cartridge (a .35 caliber cartridge by bore diameter).

Today the groove diameter/bullet diameter is the most common method by which modern North American cartridges are named. The .243 WSSM, for example, has a groove diameter of .243″ and uses .243″ diameter bullets. Conversely, the .300 WSM was named for its bore diameter, just like the old .300 H&H Magnum of 1920. The Swedish .308 Norma Magnum was named in the North American fashion for its groove diameter.

Many cartridges have been named for neither their bore nor groove diameters. The .280 Remington has a bore diameter of .277″ and a groove/bullet diameter of .284″. And the .260 Remington has a bore diameter of .256″ and a groove/bullet diameter of .264″. Probably the names of these two cartridges were chosen because the sales people at Remington thought that customers would like even numbers like .260 and .280 better than less common numbers like .264 or .284. Along the same lines, the .340 Weatherby uses standard .338″ bullets, and the .460 Weatherby uses standard .458″ bullets.

When sales of the .280 languished, Remington tried changing its name to “7mm Express Remington.” That name proved to be even less popular than .280, and Remington eventually reverted to the original “.280 Remington” moniker.

The bullet diameters of some popular cartridges are considerably overstated. The .380 ACP uses .355″ bullets, the .38 Special uses .357″ bullets, and the .44 Magnum uses .429″ bullets. It is common to find the bullet diameter of pistol cartridges overstated.

One that is not overstated is the .41 Remington Magnum; its bullet diameter is actually .410. An oddity is the .38-40 Winchester, an old black powder cartridge that actually uses .40 caliber bullets, not .38 caliber bullets. It should have been called the “.40-40 Win.”

A number of American cartridges since WW II have used metric designations for their bullet diameters. The cartridge that logically should have been named the “.280 Remington Magnum,” since there was already a .280 Remington, was actually named the 7mm Remington Magnum, and went on to become the world’s most popular magnum cartridge. When the fine .244 Remington didn’t win customer acceptance under that name, it was renamed the “6mm Remington” and sales picked up.

A metric designation did not help the sales appeal of the cartridge that could have been called the “.32 Remington Magnum,” (the original .32 Remington was introduced in the early years of the 20th Century), but was actually named the 8mm Remington Magnum. It has never caught on.

Winchester’s first fat, short action, rebated rim cartridge was given a proper American name, .284 Winchester, but it never gained wide acceptance. In an attempt to capitalize on the cachet of a metric designation, the latest fat, short action, rebated rim Winchester cartridge that uses .284″ bullets was introduced as the 7mm WSM. Only time will tell if this marketing ploy will be successful.

Other cartridges have been named in other ways. The famous .30-06 cartridge was designed for a .30 caliber bore and was adopted by the U.S. military in 1906. The 7mm-08 Remington has a 7mm bore and is based on a necked-down .308 case. The .25-06 has a .25 caliber bore and is based on a necked-down .30-06 case. These names reflect the cartridges’ parentage.

Lou Palisano and Ferris Pindell designed the well known .22 and 6mm PPC bench rest cartridges; “PPC” stands for “Palisano-Pindell Cartridge.” The .257 Roberts was introduced by Remington, but was named for its designer, Ned Roberts. The 7-30 Waters was designed by Ken Waters and introduced by Winchester. The .35 Whelen, standardized by Remington, got its name in a similar manner. The 7mm STW (for Shooting Times Westerner) was designed by Layne Simpson, a writer for Shooting Times magazine. All of these cartridges started life as wildcats and their names had become widely known before their standardization as factory loaded cartridges.

The .22-250 Varminter got its handle from J.E. Gebby, who trademarked the name “.22 Varminter” for his wildcat varmint cartridge back in the 1930’s. Other wildcatters simply called it the .22-250 because it was based on a necked-down .250 Savage case. When Remington standardized the round in 1965 they added their name, calling it the .22-250 Remington. Lots of shooters still call the cartridge the Varminter, though.

The .250-3000 is a standard .25 caliber cartridge (bore diameter .250), and it was the first factory loaded cartridge to offer a muzzle velocity (MV) of 3000 fps. Its name is intended to both promote and capitalize on its high velocity. So was the name of the .220 Swift, actually designed by Winchester technicians, and the .224 Rocket from Weatherby. Other cartridges with names chosen to catch the attention of consumers (much like the names chosen for automobile models) include the .22 Hornet, .221 Fireball, .218 Bee, .219 Zipper, and the Remington Ultra Mag series of cartridges. One can only conclude that North Americans have shown a good deal of creativity in naming their cartridges.

European rifle and pistol cartridges

Meanwhile, in Europe, cartridges have generally been named for their nominal bore diameter and their case length in millimeters (rounded off). One millimeter equals 0.03937 inch. Thus “7×57″ indicates a cartridge for a 7 millimeter (or approximately .276″) bore with a case length of 57 millimeters. Our familiar .308 Winchester is called the 7.62×51 in Europe, and that is also its NATO military designation. It has a 7.62mm (or .300”) bore diameter and a case 51mm long.

An “R” suffix indicates a rimmed case (i.e. 7x57R). Otherwise the case is assumed to be of rimless style. For example, 5.6x36R is the European designation for the American .22 Hornet, which has a rimmed case.

Sometimes the designer or company of origin is tacked onto the end, as in “6×62 Freres.” The Germans added a “J” to the suffix of their 8mm Mauser round to indicate an infantry cartridge, which resulted in that cartridge being known as the 8x57J. Later an “S” was added to indicate the use of a new spitzer bullet in a cartridge originally loaded with a round nose bullet. Thus the “8x57JS” cartridge used in the Mauser 98 military rifle with which the Germans fought two World Wars.

The European system is basically reasonable, but they are actually not much better than the North Americans when it comes to accurately describing the bore of their rifles in the name of their cartridges. For example, the rifles for the original 8x57J Mauser cartridge actually used 7.9mm (.318″) bullets. It wasn’t until the advent of the 8x57JS cartridge that the 8mm Mauser adopted standard 8mm (.323″) diameter bullets.

And Europeans have repeatedly described .22 caliber cartridges as both 5.56mm (as in the 5.56×45 NATO military cartridge) and 5.6mm (as in the 5.6×50 Magnum). Both use .224″ bullets, the same as standard North American centerfire .22 cartridges.

Europeans often label .25 caliber cartridges (.250″ bore and .256-.257″ groove diameter) “6.5mm,” which is actually .26 caliber (.256″ bore and .264″ groove diameter). The metric nomenclature for the .25-35 WCF, which uses standard .25 caliber (.257″) bullets, is 6.5x52R. True 6.5mm cartridges, such as the 6.5×55 SE, use .264″ bullets.

European handgun cartridges are likewise named for their bore diameter and case length. The famous 9x19mm pistol cartridge, which North Americans call the 9mm Luger, is a typical example.

British rifle cartridges

The British have their own somewhat unique system of cartridge identification. Like most American cartridges, British sporting rifle cartridges have been named for their bore diameter, and sometimes their groove or bullet diameter, usually followed by a manufacturers name.

They have also freely (and loosely) translated Continental European cartridges into their system. Thus the cartridge known the world over as the 7x57mm Mauser became the .275 Rigby in the UK, and rifles so marked are still turned out by the Rigby firm. These rifles shoot regular 7mm Mauser ammunition using .284″ bullets. When the British appropriated the 9.5x57mm Mannlicher-Schoenauer cartridge they renamed it the .375 Rimless NE (2 1/4″). Holland’s .244 Magnum actually uses standard 6mm (.243″) bullets, as did their earlier .240 Magnum. The British seem to have been no more accurate in naming their cartridges than the Americans or Continental Europeans.

The term “Express” was often used to indicate higher than normal velocity, usually the product of a lighter bullet loaded in some established cartridge. The .577 Express (a black powder cartridge) would be one example.

When smokeless powder (Cordite or nitro powder to the British) became available, the word “Nitro” was added to the name of the earlier black powder express cartridges upon their conversion to the new propellant. The example in the paragraph above thus became the .577 Nitro Express when loaded with smokeless powder. “Nitro Express” is often abbreviated “NE.”

Often the case length was included in the cartridge nomenclature, such as “.450 NE 3 1/4-inch.” If that cartridge were necked-down to accept .40 caliber bullets it would become the .450/.400 NE 3 1/4-inch. Opposite from American practice, the British put the original cartridge size in front of the new size.

If a cartridge is available in both rimless and rimmed forms, the rimmed form is termed “flanged” and the rimless version “rimless.” For example, the rimmed version of the famous .375 Belted Rimless Magnum (or .375 H&H Magnum) is called the .375 Flanged Magnum. The .375, by the way, is named for its groove diameter rather than its bore diameter.

Some British cartridges are known by more than one name, the .375 H&H mentioned in the paragraph above is one example. The .404 Jeffery is another, as this famous cartridge is also known in the UK as the .404 Rimless NE. Its case forms the basis, in much reduced length, for the Winchester WSM and WSSM lines of cartridges, and also the Remington Ultra Mag and Short Action Ultra Mag (SAUM) series.

British sporting rifle cartridge design was at its peak before the First World War. After the Second World War the British gun trade fell on hard times, due primarily to the dissolution of the British Empire and government interference. (The various socialist Labour Party governments have basically tried to stamp out the private ownership of firearms in the UK.) Kynoch, the British ammunition trust, stopped loading commercial ammunition in the 1960’s. Most of the famous British African cartridges became obsolete, and the introduction of new cartridges practically ceased after the 1955 debut of the .244 Holland & Holland Magnum Belted Rimless, which failed to attract an international following.

But not entirely. In 1988 Holland and Holland partnered with Americans Jim Bell and William Feldstein to introduce the .700 Nitro Express cartridge and rifles in which to shoot it. Rigby introduced a new .450 Rigby cartridge in 1995, and in 2003 Holland & Holland announced a pair of new big bore cartridges, the .400 H&H Magnum Belted Rimless and the .465 H&H Magnum Belted Rimless. The name Kynoch has been resurrected and ammunition is once again being loaded for many of the classic British Nitro Express rifle cartridges in the UK. Thankfully, and unexpectedly, there appears to have been at least a modest resurgence of the British firearms and ammunition industry.

How to Handle Squib Loads and Hangfires
Jul 25th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

How to Handle Squib Loads and Hangfires

The gun went bang…sort of. You know something’s not right, and you know you need to fix it safely. But how?

 

In our last discussion about handguns doing the unexpected, we discussed what some call the “loudest sound you’ll ever hear,” the dreaded “CLICK” when you’re expecting a “BANG.” But what about when your handgun goes “…bang…sort of?”  When something didn’t quite sound, or feel, right? If you hear a lighter-than-normal “bang,” and/or feel lighter-than-normal recoil, it’s possible that a “squib load” may have entered your ammo supply.

Though it’s extremely rare, a squib load/round is one whose propelling energy is less than necessary to push the projectile out of the firearm. This results in your handgun bullet being lodged somewhere between the chamber and the muzzle—a condition that could cause you major problems if you keep shooting. That’s because firing another round behind the squib might result in that following round— and the gases propelling it—getting stuck behind the lodged bullet. Consequences range from a mortally damaged handgun to a very seriously injured shooter.

While squibs are usually attributed to faulty powder charges,which in turn are attributed to careless reloaders, they can happen with any ammunition. I’ve seen high-quality factory ammo yield a squib or two. Still, squib rounds are rare, and in my career—having seen hundreds of thousands of rounds fired—I’ve witnessed five among handgun loads (three were reloads, two were factory ammo).

To safely and properly “fix” a squib load situation, first pay attention when you’re shooting! As soon as you noticed any difference in the sound or feel of a shot, stop. Unload the firearm. Then disassemble it, if possible, and examine the barrel by looking through it (for a revolver, drop a weighted string through the forcing cone and see if it comes through the muzzle). If there’s an obstruction, take a properly sized wooden dowel (it should be close to the diameter of the bore, but should move freely in the barrel), and place it through the muzzle or chamber end to determine where the stuck projectile is located in the bore. Then, take the dowel through the end of the barrel that’s furthest from the projectile, and gently tap the bullet out from the closest end of the barrel to it.

Even rarer, but potentially more dangerous if proper safety rules aren’t observed, is the “hangfire.” A hangfire is defined as a delay in the detonation of the propellant (gunpowder), which in turn results in a delay in the firing of the cartridge. The delay can be as long as seconds, but is often almost undetectable. It’s evidenced by a “click,” instead of a bang, but can also occur when you hear a much-lighter-than-normal sound upon on the firing of your handgun. Like squib loads, hangfires are often blamed on sloppy reloading habits, but can occur amongst any type of ammunition, including factory manufactured rounds.

The safest way to get past a hangfire is to keep your muzzle pointed on target (safe direction), wait for several seconds, and execute your “tap-rack-roll” move. How long do you wait? Opinions vary widely, and I’ve heard everything from five to 60 seconds prescribed. Then, there are those who insist that you should not wait, and should go ahead and conduct the “tap-rack-roll” action to clear the bad round and chamber a new one. The latter group (to which I belong) generally bases this advice on the ideas that:

A) If training for self-defense, waiting to reload the chamber could be far more dangerous than extracting the bad round, even if it detonates.

B) If the cartridge does eventually “go off,” but is outside the firearm, the chances of injury are minimal.

C) If the round is a hangfire, it’s impossible to know when it will detonate—or how long to wait. And, see item B).

Regardless of how long you wait to clear the cartridge, following the Four Safety Rules in combination with your chosen method will keep you safe. Likewise, paying attention to what you’re sensing when shooting will help you identify a squib situation. Just keep in mind that firearms, and ammunition, are man-made, mechanical products, and rare as it is, they can malfunction. The good news is, once you understand the malfunctions, you’ll see that you have the power to manage many of them, and above all, to stay safe while doing so.

Beretta Moves All Manufacturing Out of Maryland
Jul 25th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

Beretta Moves All Manufacturing Out of Maryland

 

While Beretta already announced in late January that it would expand its future manufacturing operations at its new Gallatin, Tenn., facility due to Maryland’s oppressive gun laws, things heated up today with the announcement that all manufacturing will now move to the far-more-firearm-friendly state of Tennessee. (Read the official press release here.)

Founded in Gardonne, Italy, in 1526, Beretta is not only the world’s oldest firearms manufacturer, but the family-held company is the oldest continuous maker of anything. Cavaliere Ugo Gussali Beretta has written about his concerns about the future of firearm manufacturing in Maryland, but the move surprised both the firearm industry as well as Maryland media outlets today. At stake are 160 manufacturing jobs that have been a boon to Prince George’s County. Maryland’s loss is Tennessee’s gain.

All manufacturing, which includes the standard sidearm of the U.S. military, the 9×19 mm U.S. M9, which still has active contracts, will move to Tennessee. Beretta is not completely abandoning the “Old Line State,” though, as it is said the company headquarters and some gunsmithing and repair operations will remain in Accokeek, Md.

While awaiting official word from Beretta, which we will follow up on tomorrow, the consequences of the anti-gun legislation passed last year and the current governor’s fascination with additional gun control in the state are clear. Not only did the company choose not to expand in the state, but now the jobs that have been there since the 1980s are moving to a far less hostile climate. We will have more as the story continues to develop.

Lack of Concentricity
Jul 18th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

Lack of Concentricity

Written by Sierra Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

I have had this experience personally and stumbled across one solution quite accidentally.  Of course there could be several things causing this, so we can explore this one by one.

If your neck is .001″ out before seating a bullet that will be amplified if measured on the bullet after seating.

The solution may be as simple as polishing the upper edge of the expander ball.  Both the seating die AND the sizing die need to be squared to a dedicated shellholder in a dedicated press.

This is not normally an everyday chore, but check it every time by raising the shell holder to the bottom of the die to a light touch and watch to be sure that more than just one side touches.  A light behind the press will help and if just one side does touch, resquare the dies.

If you find a true straight loaded cartridge use it to square the seating die as a quick fix by backing the seating die off and running the ram to the top of the stroke.  Now back your seating stem off to make sure you don’t disturb the original seating depth and screw the die body down until it contacts the crimping ledge in the seating die and back off a half turn.

Set the seating stem snugly against the bullet and tighten the lock ring.  Next tighten up and set the lock ring on the die body and you now have a quick fix.

A GOOD and UNIFORM inside champ here can solve a lot of seating problems, concentricity or lack thereof being one of them.

You can use the deep hole provision of your calipers to check the height of your shellholder as mounted in the ram and the ram itself for squareness.

Or … you can invest in a Forster Co-Ax press and benchrest dies and kiss concentricity issues good bye.  Or find a press that IS square.

Fighting concentricity is very frustrating and to think we didn’t even worry about it 20 years ago, maybe even less than that, but that is also the reason today’s rifles are so outstandingly accurate.

I hope you find the cure to your problem and good luck.

Army to replace 9mm pistol
Jul 13th, 2014 by RoundsReloaded

Army to replace 9mm pistol with more reliable gun packing better ‘knock down’ power

 
FILE: 2007: A U.S. army instructor fires with Colombian soldiers during a combat exercise in a southern Colombian. REUTERS

FILE: 2007: A U.S. army instructor fires with Colombian soldiers during a combat exercise in a southern Colombian. REUTERS

The Army wants to retire its supply of 9mm handguns and replace it with a more accurate and user-friendly model that also will provide soldiers with more “knock-down” power.

Army officials say their inventory of more than 200,000 semi-automatic Beretta M9 and Sig Sauer M11 pistols has become outdated, worn out and needs to be replaced with an updated model that also offers more reliability and durability.

 They also are considering new ammunition, which has sparked considerable debate among military and civilian weapons experts, too. 

“Advancements in firearms have taken place since the M9 was adopted nearly 30 years ago, and it is our intent to take advantage of these advancements,” a military spokesperson told FoxNews.com on Friday. “The Army is seeking to replace the M9 and M11 pistols with a handgun that is more accurate, ergonomic, reliable and durable than the current pistol.”

Officials seem opposed to an update version of the Beretta M9, despite the company offering to make changes.

“We have submitted numerous changes or product improvements that really address a lot of the shortcomings that are either perceived or real,” Beretta development manager Gabe Bailey recently told Military.com.

The Army has been considering a change for several years and on July 29 will hold a so-called “industry day” to brief gun manufacturers about the competition requirements for a winning proposal.

The Defense Department will reportedly buy more than 400,000 new pistols if and when officials agree on a new model.

Beyond the 9mm’s durability issues, which Army officials says are costing them too much in repairs, soldiers also say the pistol needs a more ergonomic grip, its safety device too often locks inadvertently and its open-slide bullet chamber allows in too much dirty, which results in jamming.

Still, the other big issue appears to be about the caliber of the new ammunition, considering most experts argue a person must be hit with several 9 mm rounds to be killed. 

“We are not dictating a caliber during the competition,” the spokesperson said. “A vendor may submit multiple calibers of ammunition. However, the ammunition must exceed the performance of the current M882 9mm round.”

Among those likely to be considered in the Modular Handgun System competition are the .40 and .45 caliber rounds.

The argument against the .40 caliber round is that its heavier weight and stronger recoil causes excessive wear on a 9 mm pistol.

There have been no reports on how much the new weapons will cost, amid budget concerns. However, in September 2012, Beretta received a 5-year, $64 million firm-fixed-price contract for up to 100,000 of its M9 9mm pistols, according to Defense Industry Daily.

Following industry day, the Army will release a draft Request for Proposal, which seeks input from manufacturers.

The Army will then consider the manufacturers’ comments and modify the request, if necessary. It will then hold a final industry day before issuing a final proposal before the end of the year.

The next phase will essentially be a tryout and elimination process, which officials say will be based on technical results and will rely “heavily” on soldier feedback.

“One of the primary requirements for this weapon system is to provide the soldier with increased terminal performance,” the spokesperson said. “Feedback from soldiers in the field is that they want increased ‘knock-down power.’ And the MHS program will evaluate commercially available weapons that meet that requirement.”

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