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May 2005 Blog

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May 27, 2005 -- NEWS, FEATURES, and PRODUCTS

GEAR SPOTLIGHT--Foster/Jewell Externally Adjustable Scope Rings: Gunsmith Mike Bryant let us know about this interesting new piece of technology. The basic idea is to eliminate the possibility of zero shift caused by recoil. The windage and elevation adjustments in the scope are removed, the internal erector tube is locked in place, and windage and elevation is set with external knobs on the rear ring. In practice this is similar to "old-fashioned" Unertl or Lyman externally-adjustable scopes. The Forster/Jewell's advantage over those older optics is that you can use modern glass with bigger objectives and more compact over-all length. However, a Unertl-style design is click-adjustable in fractional-MOA increments for windage and elevation. This Forster/Jewell design doesn't work that way--you simply use the adjusting screws to center the cross-hairs on target (a flexible gasket is used in the front ring to allow necessary movement in the rear). In other words, you manually set the reticle so POA = POI at your target distance. Because the set-up is not "click-adjustable" for moa, its utility is really limited to 100- and 200-yard "point-blank" benchrest. But for that it should be ideal, eliminating zero-stability problems lamented by many top competitors. Mike tells us: "Jim Foster had an initial run of 10 sets of rings made up and I'm sure he has another set on order. I'm planning on giving them a test in competition at the Bluebonnet shoot at New Braunfels." Stay tuned, we'll learn more about price and availability after Mike returns from the Super Shoot.

RELOADING GEAR--Full-Length Semi-Custom Die From Forster: Great news--Forster will hone the neck of a Forster 6mm BR FL sizing die (item #018121) to your specs for just $10! Using a Full-Length sizing die is a good idea when running stout charges in the 6BR case. However, most factory 6mm BR FL dies work the neck too much, reducing it down to .263" or so. What you want, for a .271-.272" necked chamber, is about a .267-.2675" neck diameter before you seat the bullet. That gives you about .002" tension on a neck that measures .269" diam. with a bullet in place. With moly bullets, .003" tension is recommended. With our no-turn 6BR brass we use a Redding FL sizing die with the neck reamed to provide about .002" tension. This provides perfect one-pass sizing, very good concentricity, and NO Doughnuts. Now you can do the same thing with a 6BR Forster Benchrest die, part #018121. If you purchase the Die, send it in to Forster and they will ream the neck to the dimension you specify for just $10 plus $4.50 shipping. Forster says to allow for about .002" springback on the brass, meaning you want a .265" die to get a .267" neck (before bullet seating). We've observed springback to be less with Lapua brass, so you may prefer to specify a .266" die for a .267" neck. Send your die (with a note listing the neck diameter you want) to: Forster Products, Attn. Customer Service, 310 E. Lanark Avenue, Lanark, Illinois 61046.

SHOOTING TIP--How to Reduce Vertical: Expert Shooter Speedy Gonzalez has written a new article that explains how to eliminate mechanical and gun-handling problems that cause vertical spread in your groups. This new article addresses both the human and the hardware factors that cause vertical. Here are a few of Speedy's tips: "Front Bag Tension--Vertical can happen if the front sand bag grips the fore-arm too tightly. If...the fore-arm feels like it is stuck in the bag, then the front bag's grip is too tight. Your rifle should move in evenly and smoothly in the sand bags, not jerk or chatter when you pull the gun back by hand. Sandbag Fill--A front sandbag that is too hard can induce vertical. Personally, I've have never had a rifle that will shoot consistently with a rock-hard front sandbag. It always causes vertical or other unexplained shots. Free Recoil--Free recoil shooters should be sure their rifle hits their shoulder squarely on recoil, not on the edge of their shoulder or the side of their arm. Trigger--A trigger sear with excessive spring load can cause problems. To diagnose, with an UNLOADED gun, hold the trigger in firing position and push down on sear with your thumb. If it is hard to push down, this will cause vertical problems." Click here for Speedy's full article.

INDUSTRY NEWS--Lapua Ammo and Brass should arrive in June: We were originally told that more Lapua 6BR loaded ammo and brass would be arriving in May. Well it looks like delivery will be sometime in June. Quantities of hard-to-find 6.5-284 brass will be in the shipment as well as bullets in 6mm and 6.5mm. We have attempted to purchase the 105gr Lapua loaded ammo for our interested readers, but we have no idea whether our order will be filled. Your best bet is to contact www.Grafs.com and place a back-order. Be sure to get an order confirmation and check in regularly. Graf's lost our last order which was placed over the phone.

PRICE WATCH--RCBS ChargeMaster Combo: MidSouth Shooters' Supply is still offering the best price on the RCBS Chargemaster Digital Dispenser and Scale Combo--just $259.99. The Chargemaster was the top-rated product in our recent Digital Dispenser Tests. FYI, since completing that test we have received further user confirmation of software problems with the Lyman 1200 scale. Note that the RCBS comes with a 2-year warranty compared to a 1-year warrranty with the Lyman. Here's another tip--Midway USA charges $294.99 for the Chargemaster Combo, but if you buy the Dispenser and Scale units separately, the price is less. The Dispenser, item 291931, costs $123.37 by itself, and the RCBS 1500 Scale, item 869423, costs $144.49. This is a total of $267.66--so you save $27 if you buy the two parts separately.

HOT DEAL--MidwayUSA $25 Digital Calipers: MidwayUSA.com has its Frankford brand Digital Calipers on sale this week for just $24.99. These won't compare with a high-end set, but they are good enough for most reloading chores and make a great back-up set for the bench or range kit. User Reviews are consistently positive: "These stainless calipers are well designed, easy to read,and hold zero setting well"; "Very well made. Holds up well and measures to .5/1000" reliably. Very little flex in the calipers gives you very consistent measures." Click Here to download MidwayUSA's June 2005 flyer with other great deals (such as 6mm Amax 105gr bullets at $13/100).

UPCOMING ARTICLES--Joel Kendrick and Terry Cross: Slated for June release will be feature article/interviews with Joel Kendrick and Terry Cross. Shooting a wildcat 6x44 smithed by David Tooley, Joel was the IBS 600-yard Shooter of the Year for 2004, while Terry Cross has dominated recent major Tactical matches with a .260 AI he smithed himself.

Bloggers Wanted: Do you have a great reloading tip to share, or news of a great special on gear? Have you learned some late-breaking report on a major match? Then contribute to our 6mmBR Blog. Just email your comment or news item to: Mailbox@6mmBR.com

May 20, 2005

RELOADING TIP--Monitoring Ammo Temperatures: Keeping your loaded cases at a controlled temperature is vital for maintaining good ES and case life. At a recent varmint match we observed pressure signs with cases that had been sitting in direct sunlight for about 15 minutes. As we were running a "moderate" Norma 203B load, the pressure indications were surprising. Testing over a chronograph, cases that had been sitting in direct sunlight showed velocities up to 70 fps higher than those that had been kept in the shade. Using QuickLoad's temperature function, we calculated from the rise in velocities that case pressures had increased by over 4,000 psi--just from 15-20 minutes in direct sunlight!

We will now keep a temp strip in our ammo boxes at all times. Neconos.com offers Bar-L Benchrest temp strips that visually display heat readings from 86 to 140 degrees (our cases got warm to the touch so they were probably about 110-120° F). Think of these strips as compact, unbreakable thermometers. With adhesive backing, they can also be used to monitor barrel heating. Put a strip on the side of the barrel and the barrel's temp will be indicated by a stripe that changes from black to green. There is also a "general purpose" strip that reads to 196 degrees (bottom row). The Benchrest strip is in the middle.

MATCH NEWS: Spots Still Available at Super Shoot
Kelbly's Super Shoot, the "Superbowl" of short-range Benchrest, will be held from May 25-28 in North Lawrence, Ohio. Match Director George Kelbly, Sr. tells us that they haven't reached their 420-shooter limit, so you can still join the fun and compete against many of the best shooters in the world. For more info, click the icon then scroll down the page for links to maps and registration forms.

GREAT GEAR--Holland Chamferer Mount: Fellow Ojai Shooter Mark LaFevers has come up with a slick adjustable fixture that delivers a precise, repeatable case-mouth chamfer every time. The Holland Chamfering Tool inserts through the top, indexing vertically off a shoulder. The tool mount can be raised or lowered with the adjusting bolts on all four corners. Simply slide a trimmed-to-length case in the middle, give the Holland Tool a few spins, and you get a perfect, identical chamfer every time. Now that's ingenuity! Mark isn't planning to produce these commercially, but if somebody offered him enough incentive he might just build you one.

INDUSTRY NEWS--Thunderbird to Fly Again?: Many top 6PPC shooters think that IMR 8208 ("ThunderBird") powder may be the most user-friendly BR powder ever made. Speedy Gonzalez says that his "T-Bird" powder loads work pretty much anywhere in the country, in nearly all conditions. By contrast, N133 or H322 can be more finicky. For those of you who'd like to benefit from T-Bird's great performance, take heart--Speedy and Tony Boyer are working with Hodgdon Powder to re-create the Thunderbird formula for a new generation of benchresters. Speedy has donated a couple jugs for testing, and Hodgdon's chemists are reverse-engineering the powder for possible future distribution. We'll just have to wait and see if that happens.

TOOL TIP--Make Your Own Handy Length-to-Lands Gauge:
Andris Silins has come up with a simple way to measure length to the lands in your rifle. "Here's what I did to find length to lands for seating my bullets. I made four cuts into the neck of fire-formed brass. Then I pressed the bullet in lightly and chambered the entire gauge. As the cartridge chambers, the bullet slides back into the case to give you length to lands. It took less than five minutes to get it cut and working. A little light oil in the barrel just past the chamber helps ensure the bullet does not get stuck in the lands. It works great and is very accurate. I made the cuts using a Dremel with a cut-off wheel. You can adjust tension two ways. First, you can make the cuts longer or shorter. Longer cuts = less tension. If you used only three cuts insted of four you would get more tension. The trick is to be gentle when you open and close the bolt. If you ram the bolt closed you may wedge the bullet into the lands. When you open the bolt it helps to keep a finger or two near by to guide the case out straight because the ejector wants to push it sideways."

EPITAPH for Keith Francis, Master Tool-Maker: Steve Kostanich reports that "I had a conversation with Hugh Henriksen, Keith's protege, and he told me Keith passed last week. Hugh thought him to be in his early 80's. We can all thank Keith in some way, as he is responsible for several of the current master tool makers that serve the shooting sports. Hugh was trained by and worked for Keith in the early years of his career. Dan Greene was associated with Keith at times, and I am sure Dave Kiff had associations with Keith when he was with JGS. And of course Keith worked as a consultant for JGS after he sold his business. Keith's legacy is pretty wide.

I would think that Keith is somewhere with Red Elliot talking about the 'old days' and how to stone a smoother land." -- Steve Kostanich.

Bloggers Wanted: Do you have a great reloading tip to share, or news of a great special on gear? Have you learned some late-breaking report on a major match? Then contribute to our 6mmBR Blog. Just email your comment or news item to: Mailbox@6mmBR.com

May 13, 2005

What's a Blog? It's short for weB LOG. Folks have asked for an informal guide to new features on the site, plus gun industry rumors, and late-breaking news. BLOG ARCHIVE.

Readers, We Need Your Help: It takes a lot of time, effort, and (increasingly) money to provide the kind of in-depth articles and interviews you've been seeing on this site. Our phone bill for the interview with Shooter of the Year Henry Rivers ran nearly $35 for example. To keep doing what we're doing, we need to attract industry support--from the reloading component makers, action fabricators, tool-makers, and gunsmiths. Here's our request--when you talk to gear or component vendors, or place an order, mention this site and suggest that they lend their support. That's how we spread the word. This will benefit your pocketbook as well, because it helps us arrange special discounts for 6mmBR.com users. With greater industry support, the site can grow, add info on more calibers, and provide more detailed tests like our Digital Powder Dispenser Review. With your help, we can expand the site and provide more new content every week.

RELOADING TIP: Don't Ream Those Flash-Holes! We did a Varmint Silhouette match today with the "Poor Man's Hammer." The Moderator didn't shoot well in the wind, but John Southwick steered the Savage to one of only two perfect 10/10 scores for the day, topping a number of expensive customs, including his own Borden 6-284. After the match I chron'd some loads. I had new brass, with no prep other than to expand the necks slightly and put a light chamfer on the mouth. It showed average velocity of 2901, with ES of 7 and SD of 3.1. By contrast, I had some once-fired brass which was full-length sized and had the flash-holes reamed to .068" with a K&M Tool. It chambered just as easily as the new brass. Velocity was 10 FPS higher, but the ES was 17 and SD was 7.5. Importantly, the brass with the small flash-holes extracted with ease, whereas the brass with reamed flashholes showed VERY stiff bolt lift. The fired brass with small flash-holes goes back into the chamber fine, but I need to full-length-size the brass with reamed flash holes to close the bolt without difficulty. Everything else was identical--bullets, primers (CCI 450), seating depth (.010" jam) and load (30.3 Norma 203B). So, the larger flash-hole raised peak pressure, ES suffered, bolt lift became a problem, and there was only a nominal velocity advantage. (And that extra V may simply be attributed to slightly higher temps--cases kept in the shade clocked 24 fps slower than cases that had been sitting in the sun in the load box for about 10 minutes.) Conclusion: Leave those Lapua flash holes alone!

PRODUCT UPDATE: TUBB 6XC (Third Lot) Brass Is Shipping. David Tubb reported today (5/13/05): "For all of you who have patiently waited--Thanks! SSS has been shipping about 3000 new 6XC cases each day this week. If you have a backorder on file with us it will be soon filled."

INDUSTRY NEWS: Hodgdon Says "No" to Norma. Retailer Graf & Sons has reported that Hodgdon will take over distribution of Norma powders. Chris Hodgdon quashed these rumors: "I know Graf has been saying that Hodgdon may take over the Norma line. To be honest we don't know why they are saying this. We have no plans to take the Norma line." We've also contacted Norma, and all they tell us is that a new distribution network for powder will be in place "in the second half of the year." We hope that happens soon. Norma 6BR brass is really quite good, Norma 203B is perfect for the 6BR case capacity, and Norma's loaded 6BR ammo is outstanding.

SPOTLIGHT: Surgeon Custom Actions. A new custom action built in Oklahoma is proving itself in tactical competition. Terry Cross won both the 2005 North American Snipers' Cup and 2005 Snipers' Hide Cup with a Surgeon-actioned rifle chambered in .260AI. The new Surgeon Chrome-Moly action features a built-in +20 MOA Picatinny rail, integral recoil lug, and oversize bolt handle. It is available in both a mag-fed "Tactical" model and a single-shot.

The Surgeon represents a good value for an all-CNC action with tightly controlled dimensions. Noted shooter, gunsmith and Pod-Loc creator Terry Cross tells us: "The Surgeon action was designed and developed by a handful of serious rifle shooters from Oklahoma. They also happen to be very experienced machinists with CAD/CAM, EDM and multi-axis machining capabilities. This action is very well thought out and offers many features that lend themselves nicely to serious tactical, long range and working rifle applications. The integral scope rail, recoil lug and bolt handle/cam provide strength, alignment and rigidity to the action. Remember that this action was designed and built to be used on serious rifles in the field. It is purposefully kept less tight than a benchrest action so that it could operate reliably in an extended field environment. However, all surfaces have squareness and parallel tolerances equal or better than any of your best bench rest actions. So my opinion is that the quality is absolutely top notch. As far as value, I think it is a bargain. When you compare Surgeon's pricing to other manufacturers [with less features] they actually come out very nicely. The actions are machined from the finest 4000 series carbon tool steel and are delivered "in the white" with a bead-blasted exterior. I am extremely impressed with the rifles we have built so far on these actions and plan to bring out our first "package" rifle on this action after 17 years of strictly custom / spec rifles. Note that I am not affiliated with Surgeon Rifles, nor do I receive product, payment or discounts. -- Terry Cross, KMW - Long Range Solutions." For more info, contact Surgeon Rifles, (405) 567-0183.

FROM REDDING--30BR Seaters in the Works: Reader Caduceus reports: "I just got off the phone with Redding. I was asking them whether or not it was possible to ream out the neck on the sliding sleeve of their 6BR competition style dies to make a set of 30BR dies. Learned a couple of interesting facts. Firstly, as I suspected, the inner sleeve in these dies is not hardened because it is not required to perform any resizing on the case. They advised me that is is therefore possible to ream out the neck to 30 cal without damaging your tools. Secondly, they told me that the 7BR neck sizing competition die actually has enough clearance to pass a 30cal neck so you just need to change the bushing and it will work. The 6BR is too tight for that though. Finally, they said that they are actually in the process of producing a 30BR competition seating die. The plans have been made, they just need to wait until a machine is available to produce them on. They estimate a few months away. So, if you are a fan of that particular style of die (which I am), and you want a complete set straight away, buy the 7BR set and use the neck die with a 30cal bushing and ream out the seating die and you will be good to go. If you don't want to ream anything, wait a bit longer and then you will be able to buy the 30BR seater off the shelf."

Bloggers Wanted: Do you have a great reloading tip to share, or news of a great special on gear? Have you learned some late-breaking report on a major match? Then contribute to our 6mmBR Blog. Just email your comment or news item to: Mailbox@6mmBR.com

May 6, 2005

PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: IMR 4895--As Good as Varget? We've been working with QuickLoad reloading software for a few weeks now. It is a very powerful and versatile program, and we've found that its computational abilities can spotlight a load combination that you may have overlooked. We punched in a desired max pressure, and requested 100% load density. QuickLoad provided a list of powders ranked by estimated velocities. In order, the Top Three Choices were IMR 4895, Norma 203B, and Reloader 15, with Varget ranked much lower. Now Reloader 15 is used by many 6BR shooters, maybe second only to Varget for the heavy bullets in fast-twist barrels. But IMR 4895 is less commonly used in this cartridge. Quickload predicted it could deliver higher velocities than Varget at the same pressure. (Quickload is only a software simulation, and it cannot take the place of field testing. But it did inspire us to buy some IMR 4895 and give it a try.) We tested some IMR 4895 loads this week, running charges from 28.5 grains to higher than we would like to print (yes we sacrificed some brass for the cause). Initial results were very positive.

In a 27" Pac-Nor 3-groove barrel, using CCI 450 primers and 105 Scenars in standard 6BR Lapua brass, IMR 4895 delivered about 25-30 fps more velocity than we were able to get with Varget. At velocities that worked fine with IMR 4895, we were seeing ejector marks on the Varget cases. Both Varget and IMR 4895 showed good ES and SD, and great accuracy, but IMR 4895 seemed a little more consistent with the lighter charges. We have more testing to do, but it looks like IMR 4895 is very well suited to the 100-107gr bullets, though perhaps more temp sensitive than Varget. IMR 4895 did produce more black fouling in our barrel than Varget, but that cleaned up easily. WARNING: Do NOT substitute Hodgdon H4895 for IMR 4895 straight up. Trust us, H4895 is different powder with completely different burn properties and density. H4895 may be better suited for lighter bullets--you can't expect to achieve 100% load density with the 105s in a standard case.

MINI-REVIEW--Lapua 105gr Scenar: We've now tested a couple hundred Lapua Scenar 105s and we are VERY impressed with this bullet. At 100 yards, it has produced 3-shot groups in the Ones and Twos (0.165-0.29) with four different powders, and velocities from 2720 fps to 2920+ fps. The Scenars were not fussy about OAL. They shot well seated both fairly deep into the lands, and jumped .012". Notably, bullet weights and base to ogive lengths are extremely consistent--as good as we've seen with any mass-produced bullets. Concentricity is excellent. The only issue we've found is that Scenar's jacket seems vulnerable to nicks or burrs on the case mouth--the jacket material will tear more readily than with Sierras. This is not a problem, however, if you chamfer your case mouths properly and run an expander through any necks that are dented.

F-Class champ John Brewer just tested some this week. He said "at both .015" in the lands and about .012" out, the bullets were like lasers. I had less than 1/2" of vertical at 300 yards." And Flatlander tells us: "I found Lapua 105s group at least a minute higher at 600 than Sierra 107 MKs when loaded with the same charge of Varget, in the same cases, with the same primers, out of the same rifle, on the same day. Velocity was within 10fps of being identical over my old M33 chrono. The only logical conclusion I could come up with is that the Scenar's BC must be considerably better (relative to the S107s) than what the catalogs show. The 107's [BC] is shown as .527, while Lapua claims only .530 for their 105. There's little doubt in my mind that the Lapua is also the most accurate bullet I've shot out of my BR Improved to date at 600." Best price for Lapua 105s we've found is at Powder Valley, $168/1000, for item LAPHL6045.


LAPUA DATA SHEETS: Lapua has made available its latest data sheets including 6mm loaded ammo, 6BR Brass, and 6mm Scenar bullets. CLICK HERE to download a .zip archive with data sheets in .pdf format.

SHILEN BARRELS Still on Sale: We're pleased to note that Bruno's is extending its sale on Shilen barrels. Here's the deal: ALL SHILEN 1.250" or smaller diameter barrels, 28" or shorter, are now $219.95. Go to BrunoShooters.com and click on "Specials" for more details, or call (800) 455-0350 to order. Be sure to tell them 6mmBR.com sent you!

COLLECTORS' CORNER--Blue Book of Gun Values: We know many of our readers shoot a variety of rifles, and enjoy handguns as well. Whether you are just starting a collection, or already have a safe full of firearms, you need to know their value for insurance and resale purposes. The Blue Book of Gun Values, the industry "bible" for gun pricing, is now on sale at MidwayUSA.com. Product #930225, it's priced at $19.99, $10 off the regular price. If you buy, sell, or trade collectible firearms, you need this book.

BULLET BARGAIN--Bergers from Extreme Accuracy: If you're looking for a good deal on Berger Bullets, go to ExtremeAccuracy.NET. This outfit beats most other vendors by $2-$3 per box. Both the Berger 95gr and 105gr VLDS are offered at $18/100 or $20/100 for moly. The Berger 105s are some of the most accurate bullets available for long range, and the 95 can be pushed to 3000 fps with a standard 6BR case.

Bloggers Wanted: Do you have a great reloading tip to share, or news of a great special on gear? Have you learned some late-breaking report on a major match? Then contribute to our 6mmBR Blog. Just email your comment or news item to: Mailbox@6mmBR.com

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