From the High Ground
Don't Make an "Arse" of Yourself!

5 Sep 1997
By Condor

You know, reloading ammunition can be just as "involved" as shooting it. Just as, in shooting, you have to concern yourself with breathing, trigger squeeze, sight alignment, releasing the shot between heartbeats, and so forth... in reloading, you have at least as many things to be concerned about.

For example, examining my own practices, the brass needs to be "prepped." This includes uniforming the flash holes (only once, thank God), uniforming/cleaning primer pockets, sizing, trimming, and deburring. Then, if you're so inclined and if you have enough pieces of brass to make it worth your while, you can weigh each piece and develop "lots" of brass that are close in weight. And, depending on how obsessed you are with things, you might also start "turning" case necks to help minimize bullet runout.

Runout comes in two main varieties, bullet and case. In both "cases," the definition has to do with how far off the object being measured (case or bullet) is from its own center axis, which should -- of course -- be in line with the center axis of the bore. It just stands to reason that if things are lined up with the bore (especially the bullet), you'll have better accuracy.

After prepping the cases, they need to be primed, loaded with powder, and topped off with a bullet. The cartridge itself must have a specific "OAL" -- overall length -- which is, simply, the particular distance between your rifle's lands and grooves (in the bore) and the ogive (the curved portion of the bullet that culminates in the tip or "point." Such OALs are best measured off the ogive, instead of "from end to end" of the cartridge, because there are less variations in ogive dimensions than there are in bullet (component) lengths. And there are all kinds of tools you can buy that will help you determine the best OAL for your rifle.

Once you've assembled your ammunition, if you're really, really going for accuracy, you can weigh the loaded rounds, just as you did earlier with the brass, and develop like-weight lots of ammunition. Oh, and now that you've got your ammo put together, you can index each cartridge, by making a mark along the side of the case, at the point where the bullet runout is highest. Why? Well, so you can chamber each round in such a manner that the index mark is always at 12 o'clock. Consistency, consistency, consistency.

When I started getting "into" accuracy, I was poor(er). I did everything with handtools. Most everyone starts out the same way, though, whether they have money or not. If nothing else, using handtools teaches you: 1) What the tools are for and how to use them and how they should be used, and 2) How to appreciate the luxury of power tools that do the same job and make it easier! When I used to chamfer and debur case mouths, I used to do it by hand with Lee tools. Then, I moved up in the world and got a tool that I could chuck into an electric drill -- boy, I was in Heaven! However, RCBS (I hate RCBS, don't you?) came out with the Case Prep Center, which uniformly did a lot of the things I was either doing by hand or with the assistance of an electric drill... so, I bought one. Had to have it, you know. Couldn't live without it. And, at about the same time, I also bought the RCBS Power Case Trimmer. Now, with these two machines, I had gone from "crawl" to "run" in a timeframe that could only best be described as "overnight." I was really getting hooked on all these attachments.

Not too long ago, RCBS (Oh, I hate these people!) came out with the 3-Way Trimmer, in both .22 and .30 caliber versions. These little tools attach to the Power Trimmer and will trim, debur, and chamfer in just one operation! After this, all I do is uniform/clean the primer pockets, and my brass is basically ready to load. By my best estimates, the 3-Way Trimmer alone has reduced my brass preparation time to one-third of what it was previously!

Oh, we can't forget about charging the case. Just exactly how much powder is enough? Well, RCBS (I just can't stand these people!) came out with an electronic scale which eliminated the "wasted" time I used to spend waiting for a balance beam to stop teetering. (Being a 'Type-A' personality does not lend itself well to reloading ammunition, but I manage -- somehow.) I'll throw a charge with my Lee Perfect Powder measure, weigh it on my RCBS electronic scale, and then trickle the proper number of grains into the pan (using an RCBS Powder Trickler -- "ahem!") until I get the reading I want.

Now, so far, I haven't even talked about cleaning the brass, how to set and adjust reloading dies, or how to prime brass -- but take my word for it, there are all sorts of things that you can do in these areas to help you assemble more accurate handloaded ammunition.

If all of this has sounded a bit "tedious," well... I meant for it to. Everything I talked about, and a LOT that I didn't talk about, is done, or could be done, to ensure the likelihood of producing better, more accurate ammunition. My intention in all of this is to get you to understand yourself a little better. In your shooting and reloading practices, have you made an arse out of yourself??? That is, are you an anal-retentive shooter extraordinaire? See, you can REALLY get obsessed with this shooting stuff, and the money you spend on slick, efficient, time-saving gadgets (have I mentioned how much I truly loathe RCBS?) can be costly. It seems like everytime I turn around, there's a certain company -- whose name I won't mention (but whose initials are RCBS) -- that comes out with some little "gee whiz" tool that I've just got to have!

Personally, I spend a lot of time in the reloading process. I coat my bullets with molybdenum disulfide, have bought a Dillon XL 650, and have more dies and measuring tools than you could ever dream of. (Speaking of measuring things, did I tell you about the RCBS Precision Mic I have, that measures OAL and headspace?) Shooting is a costly pursuit in and of itself, but it's worse if you're a real arse about it! I don't know about you, but... I've got to get a life! I realized I was in trouble recently, real trouble, when I started budgeting for an RCBS Case Neck Turner with Auto Feed, for my Power Trimmer. (I just hate RCBS! I might as well go into the payroll office where I work and have them send RCBS an allotment from each of my checks. Might just as well, right? They seem to end up getting my money anyway.) Anyway, it looks like I'm going to start turning necks, at least for my rifle that's chambered for .308 Winchester. I'm really getting worried about myself. I mean, let's look at my life for a minute. I shoot, I reload, and then I spend the remainder of my time on the computer telling other people about how I shoot and reload. (However, I do take time out of my "busy" day to visit the mailbox and see if there is a dividend check from RCBS waiting for me. I haven't found one in there yet, but I'm sure it'll be there any day now. After all, I own enough "stock" in them.)

To find out if you've been making a real arse of yourself with the way you get all wrapped up in reloading, I've come up with a simple survey. Answering even just one of the questions with a "yes" is probably a strong indicator that you've gone over the deep end.

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If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, watch out. People are probably talking behind your back about what a real arse you are.

However, your ammunition is probably pretty darn accurate!



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