BLOG: January 11, 2007
NEWS, FEATURES, PRODUCTS, and RELOADING TIPS. BLOG ARCHIVE.
SHOT SHOW--Orlando hosts NSSF Shot Show, Jan. 11-14: The shooting industry's major event of the year opened Jan. 11 at the Orange County Convention Center, in Orlando, Florida. In its 29th year, the 2007 SHOT Show will be the largest ever, with 1,870 exhibiting companies. We have two "reporters" walking the floor this year, looking for innovative new products. Stay tuned for a full report when the Shot Show concludes. For more information, go to the Shot Show website, ShotShow.com.
INDUSTRY NEWS (Rumorville): In the past couple of weeks, we've received some interesting rumors. We'll fill in more details as they become available:
Winchester is gearing up to produce factory 260 Remington brass to be marketed by Black Hills. This will provide a second source, in addition to Remington, for this caliber. This is good news for reloaders as necking-down .308 brass can require neck-turning while necking-up .243 Win brass often leads to dough-nuts (brass build-up) in the neck-shoulder junction.
Thompson Center Arms (T/C), recently acquired by Smith & Wesson, has a new line-up of bolt-action hunting rifles based on a new T/C designed and built three-lug action. GA Precision will also build detachable-magazine tactical rifles using the new "Icon" action, which appears to be extremely solid and strong. It features three integral recoil lugs, CNC-milled bedding block, a large-diameter bolt, and extremely sturdy bottom metal. Click here for a large (and impressive) photo of a prototype "Icon" action. Note, production versions may have an integral full-length Picatinny rail and different magazines.
One of our sponsors reports that a new, high-end shooters' chronograph will be released early in 2007. The new product, from a manufacturer known for its foldable chronographs, is rumored to be competitive in price and performance with the Oehler 35, which, sadly, is no longer in production.
Bob Scoville (bobscoville @ Comcast.net) is developing a new wood and carbon fiber long-range benchrest stock. Like Bob's innovative barrel-block short-range BR stocks, the new long-range version will be asymmetric, meaning the barreled action will be placed off the centerline of the stock. This should reduce torque effects and potentially allow the gun to be more stable on the bags during recoil. Gunsmith Dave Bruno, (724) 274-6607, hopes to receive the first long-range prototype within a few weeks.
TACTICAL--T.A.B. Suppressor Covers Introduced: Our own Jason Baney has invented a great product for shooters who use a suppressor (aka "sound moderator" or "can"). One problem with cans is that they'll get very hot during rapid fire or extended strings in the varmint fields. The heat rising off the suppressor may produce severe mirage in the scope. And the suppressor may literally get too hot to handle.
Jason tested many products until he found an ideal heat-insulator that was durable, lightweight, and capable of being sewn into a form-fitting jacket for the can. The finished product, called SAS (Suppressor Anti-mirage Shield) comes in two versions, the SAS1 with Velcro closure, and the SAS2, with shock-cord at both ends. The adjustable SAS1, Jason's original design, is recommended for sport shooters, tactical competitors, and hunters. The non-adjustable SAS2, which works with either end in front, is designed along the "KISS principle" for the military. Either way you slide it on, it will stay in place.
Jason's hard work paid off. Testing with a digital thermometer showed the SAS keeps suppressor heat away from the scope. Caver101 reported on SnipersHide.com that: "At the silencertests.com shoot last year we used a digital thermometer with the wrap and without the wrap. There was something like a 200+ deg temp difference between the can and the outside of the cover." Another tester said after 100 rapid-fire rounds there was no problem of the Cordura cover melting. So far, SAS purchasers have been very positive. Medic08 reports: "I have one of these that Jason made for me a few months back. Let me tell you guys it is a great product. Helps me shoot more without the terrible mirage [you] get after only a few shots from a .308 with a can." Caver101 concurs: "These things are bomb-proof and mine goes everywhere my can does. I have probably close to 2,000 rounds through mine on a 308 and a AAC Cyclone with no problems. I shoot F-Class, ASC and several other little local matches throughout the year and without the cover the can would have to stay home." Manufactured by T.A.B. products, the SAS1 and SAS2 are priced at $48.00 and may be purchased from the website of the Rifles Only firearms training center in Texas.
TARGETS--New Targets Added to AccurateShooter.com:
We've added new sets of targets to our already sizeable collection. For load development, you'll find three new targets with vertical rows of multiple aiming points. We've also added new fun targets including our unique "Atomic" target (designed by Kiwi Michael Forester), and a special "Fly Shoot" Target. If that's not enough, you'll find 52 sight-in and training targets at the US Palma Team website, www.USPalma.com.
RELOADING--Hornady Now Markets Stoney Point O.A.L. Gauges: We've long been users of the Stoney Point OAL Gauge, together with the threaded modified cases. This tool allows you to determine, with precision, where the rifling actually starts in your barrel. Some of our Forum readers have been worried because this product had disappeared from online catalogs. Well, don't fret--Hornady has acquired the product. The O.A.L. Gauge is now officially the Hornady Lock-N-Load O.A.L. Gauge. From what we can tell, nothing has changed with the product. It is still available in both straight (Hornady item C1000) and curved (Hornady item C1550) versions. To get more details on the O.A.L. Gauge, call Hornady at (800) 338-3220.
ACTIONS--New Stiller "Tactical Actions" available: Jerry Stiller has three new "Tactical" actions. The largest is the TAC 338 for the 338 Lapua (shown with optional black bolt finish). The TAC 300 action (middle) is designed for long magnums. The TAC 30 is the smallest action, suited for 308s, 260 Rem, and 243 Winchester size cases. All actions are 416 stainless black oxide coated. The gray bolts are Armoloy coated, and a bent-back style will be standard. A variety of threaded-on bolt knobs will be available. Dealer price for the TAC 30 and TAC 300 is $725, while the TAC 338 costs $825.
Jerry Stiller tells us: "The TAC 30 and TAC 300 fit the Remington stocks perfectly. The TAC 338 is a little bigger. The main body is .465" longer. The tenon is .300" longer than factory. The lugs are .065" longer and .050" wider. There is an additional .10" length added to the body behind the lug-face for added strength too. The outside is 1.400", .050" larger than standard. This was required to accommodate the .750" diameter bolt and 1.05" diameter lugs. I just didn't feel comfortable with the 338 Lapua in the standard Remington size action after doing some structural analysis."
Jerry has already built a number of complete rifles using the new actions. Jerry reports: "We have both a 308 and a 300 Win Mag in Accuracy International (AI) chassis and the 338 in a McMillan A5. We designed a very easy bedding system to put them into McMillan and Robertson stocks using AI mags. From a design standpoint, the TAC 338 is just enough bigger to work well, but not so big that it's a problem to fit into a stock. In fact, the TAC 338 will work with Remington type bottom metal using an internal box from Weatherby we have adapted."
RELOADING--Tips for Using a Lee Collet Die: For those who prefer to neck-size their brass (rather than full-length-size), the Lee Collet Die is a popular, inexpensive option. It works by having collet tangs or "fingers" press the neck against a central mandrel. The benefit is that you get a very straight neck, which is sized consistently from top to bottom. However, some users have complained that the Collet Die grabs the case-neck too firmly, making the case hard to remove. There is a solution to this problem. First inspect the collet fingers and smooth the inner surface up a bit with polishing compond or an extra-fine sanding pad. Second, you can open up the fingers a little bit. Lee recommends that if your Collet Die is sticking, take a steel punch and tap the fingers apart a little bit so that the natural "unloaded" position is wider. Lastly, you should lightly lubricate the outside of the collet fingers (see arrows) before you re-assemble the die. This will ensure they slide smoothly. Also, to prevent the collet fingers from closing too tight, never load up the die with your press without putting a case in place first. Without a case neck between the collet fingers and the mandrel, the collet can clamp itself too tight as you raise the ram.
CLEANING TIP--Be Careful with Brushes and Jags: We recently had a discussion with the barrel-makers at Bartlein Barrels. They confirmed that they have seen many, many more barrels harmed by crown damage caused by improper cleaning than by anything else. If you use a bronze brush, Bartlein recommends that you remove the brush after it passes through the muzzle. This is because the bristles take a set (pointing to the breach) during the out-stroke. If you drag the brush backwards, you force these bristles to reverse direction abruptly right as they cross the delicate crown. In time, that can damage the crown.
Bartlein's experts also told us to be careful about the jags you use. Dewey-style jags in particular can cause problems. These have a long shaft with multiple rings with diamond-pattern "teeth". The teeth are designed to grip a patch. The problem is that the lower rings may be exposed below the patch fabric, so the teeth can grind directly on the rifling and/or crown. Bartlein says Dewey-style metal jags can damage a crown very quickly if any of the toothed rings are exposed, metal-on-metal. Tim North of Broughton barrels also advises against using the Dewey-style jags with toothed rings.
OPTICS--Weaver ETX-90 Spotting Scope Performs Well: Inspired in part by comments in our 2006 Holiday Buyers' Guide, Forum regular Gunamonth recently acquired a new Weaver (Meade) ETX-90 spotting scope. Employing a Maksutov-Cassegrain design, the ETX-90 offers a wide field of view with a bright image--even at very high magnification. Gunamonth was impressed right from the start. To his surprise, when he set up the scope, he could "see the slots on the hinge-screws on [his] neighbor's barn at 450 yards." For Gunamonth, the key question was "Can it resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards?" The answer was a resounding "YES". In fact, when tested side-by-side with Gunamonth's $2000+ Leica spotting scope, the Weaver actually did a bit better: "At 600 yards, 243 bullet holes in the white were obvious with the Leica and with the Weaver with 83x (15mm) eyepiece. In fact, they were a little more obvious with the Weaver." On a repeat test at 600 yards, Gunamonth noted: "In terms of image quality, the Leica wins hands down--but if the objective is to see .243 holes at 600 yards, the Weaver is actually a little better. One of the things I learned was to not center the target in the Weaver. About half-way between the center and edge works much better." Even with some limitations, the Weaver EXT-90's optical performance is outstanding for a scope that costs under $300 from OpticsPlanet.com, complete with two eyepieces.
HOME WORKSHOP--Buying/building a Bargain Loading Bench: In our last BLOG, we featured a neat collapsible loading bench using a Black & Decker WorkMate as a base. That inspired readers to ask us about low-cost (but solid) work benches for their reloading rooms. Here are two ideas. First, if you're not handy working with wood, look at used furniture stores for a large, heavy wood desk with drawers left and right. The kind school-teachers and bankers used to have. Often you can find these with a bad paint job or a missing drawer for just $20-$50. Search eBay for "Oak Desk" and "School Teacher Desk". For those that like to build stuff, the HammerZone.com shows how to build a solid, sturdy work bench for $20 with basic tools. Measuring 32" high by 26" deep and 48" across the front, the HammerZone bench doesn't have fancy cabinets or sliding drawers, but it will be a good, solid platform to hold your presses and loading tools. Click here to read a "how-to" guide for building the bench. NOTE: if you decide to build the bench, be sure to read the Detailed Version of the article, which contains more complete instructions and many more photos.
SMITHING--Making a Chamber Cast: In order to get exact dimensions for custom dies, and to monitor changes in the throat of your rifle, you may want to make a chamber cast. This will also allow you to get the exact land and groove diameters of your rifle--something not all barrel-makers provide. Normally chamber casts are made with Cerrosafe, a very unique compound that is ideal for the job. To cast a chamber, Cerrosafe is poured into the chamber and the first part of the throat. As it hardens it actually shrinks, allowing you to remove the cast from your barreled action. But, then what good is the cast, you might ask? Well, that is the magic of Cerrosafe. As it goes into its final hardening process, it "grows" back to the original dimensions of the bore. According to Brownells: "Cerrosafe shrinks during the first 30 minutes of cooling and then at the end of an hour, is EXACTLY chamber size. Cerrosafe melts between 158° - 190° F. It should be melted in a clean, iron ladle. Source of heat should be removed as soon as the alloy is completely melted, at which time it is ready to pour. The solidified casting should be removed from the chamber before, or when, it cools to room temperature. If allowed to remain in the mold over an hour, it will grip the chamber walls and be difficult to remove. Clean the chamber of the rifle thoroughly and apply a very thin film of oil or graphite. Plug the bore of the rifle immediately ahead of the throat with a small rag--but not so tightly it cannot be driven out. If possible, pour the molten Cerrosafe through a small tube into the bottom of the cast, gradually removing the tube as the chamber fills. If the barrel is cold, warm it to room temperature or above before making the cast. When cooled, remove from chamber, using a rod or dowel from the muzzle end of the gun." Cerrosafe kits are available from Brownells.com and other shooting supply centers. WARNING: Always wear safety goggles and avoid contact with molten metal. Be sure to try a few test castings with an old worn-out barrel before working on a fine firearm. To learn more, Click here for Gun collector Mark Trope's illustrated guide to chamber casting, found on SurplusRifle.com.
BARGAIN BIN--SkyMate 18 Wind Meter just $42.30: Whether you shoot at 100 yards or 1000, you need to gauge the wind to shoot small groups. A flag or wind-sock will show you the angle of the wind, but you'll still be guessing about its velocity. That's where a hand-held wind gauge comes in. A good gauge provides both current and averaged wind speed plus basic environmental info (such as temperature and wind chill). To get these features you can pay hundreds of dollars. Or, you can buy a Speedtech Skymate SM-18 Wind Meter for just $42.30. This is a quality product carried by many of the big name vendors. We scoured the web and manage to find it at a super-low price, 50% lower than you'd find elsewhere. The Skymate Wind Meter is accurate, rugged, water resistant, and affordable. This compact unit weighs just 2.3 ounces, and has a replaceable 400 hour lithium battery. "Smart" features include a data lock function, and an automatic power shutoff that kicks in after 15 minutes to save your battery. (Tripod not included.)
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