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Somebody explain Headspace.

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Unread 07-02-2008, 10:20 AM
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Somebody explain Headspace.

Would somebody please explain what exactly headspace is, what purpose it serves in accurcy,how to measure,etc.I've read a few books but they get to indepth for me, so would someone please help.
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    Unread 07-02-2008, 12:07 PM
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    In simplist terms as I understand "headspace" it is the distance from the boltface to the shoulder. It is measured with go and no go gauges chambered as you would a cartridge. I do not think there is a specific correlation between headspace and accuracy, but there is a big correlation between headspace and safety.
    I admit that I know just enough to be dangerous.....but dangerous at ever extending distances.
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    Unread 07-02-2008, 02:06 PM
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    I'll take a stab at it too. When you load any cartridge into a chamber, there is a minimum usable distance between the bolt face and the base of the cartridge which will reliably allow the bolt to close. -- Go Headspace Gage--. There is more importantly, a maximum safe distance between the bolt face and the base of the cartridge, beyond which the gun can be dangerous. -- No-Go Headspace Gage--. Some cartridges are held in position in the chamber by the shoulder of the cartridge, example; .30-06, some by a belt, example; .300 Win Mag, some by a rim, example; .30-.30, and some by the mouth of the case, example; .45 acp, but all have a safe headspace range which will allow the cartridge enough room to chamber reliably, but not enough room to be dangerous.

    Summing up; a bolt or breechblock that will close on a Go Gage will accept all SAAMI std ammo for that cartridge. Good. Acceptable headspace. But... a bolt or breechblock that will also close on a No-Go Gage is deemed unsafe and should not be fired. Too much headspace.

    It's a good system, and there are few exceptions (The Field Test Gage for some military weapons and cartridges is one). This isn't a rule, but the difference between a Go and a No-Go gage is just a few thousandths, like .004" to .006" depending on caliber and cartridge.

    All cartridge firearms whether mass-produced or custom built have to fall into the prescribed headspace range for that cartridge. Custom builders in general will hold closer to the minimum headspace (Go Gage) for better brass life, possibly better accuracy, and just plain pride of workmanship.

    Hope this is not too long-winded, and is understandable, Tom
    Texas State Rifle Association Life Member
    NRA Endowment Life Member

    A big fast bullet will beat a little fast bullet every time
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    Unread 07-02-2008, 04:34 PM
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    Not a Gunsmith

    I am not a gunsmith but like others will take a stab at it. I am sure one of the good gunsmiths on here with correct us.

    For my simple mind. i think of headspace as the distance from the bolt face to the center line of the shoulder for non belted cases.

    The belted cases are headspaced off the belt for SAAMI specs. but most people after the first firing of new brass headspace there reloads off the boltface.

    Too much headspace will allow the shoulder of the ammo to move to much and cause case head seperation. This is the resaon for a unsafe gun that has too much head space. Even if you do not get case head seperation, when you resize your brass you are over working it causing it to strech and get brittle.

    To little headspace and a round will not chamber..Just like when you reload a piece of brass and it becomes difficult to close the bolt. You need to push back the shoulder .002 or so, to allow it to chamber.

    I hope this helps.
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    Unread 07-02-2008, 05:35 PM
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    Headspace is primarily a safety issue as specweldtom stated
    but can have an effect on accuracy also.

    I will comment on the accuracy issue regarding headspace.

    No headspace is the best for accuracy but it is not practical
    for hunting,especially for dangerous game because of the need
    for multiple shots.

    If you start with a saami spec. loaded round it will have some
    headspace in the chamber. But once you fire it you will have
    no headspace with the fired brass and if you neck size only
    you will still have no head space.

    If you size the body of the case then you will again have some
    headspace depinding on how much you size.

    If the chamber of the weapon is true to the bore centerline of
    the barrel a fire formed case,neck sized only should align the loaded
    round with the barrel throat (The same as touching the lands with
    the bullet).

    When a loaded round is sized to go into the chamber easy it will lay
    in the bottom of the chamber (not aligned with the bore)until the bolt
    is closed forcing the round to square up to the bolt face.

    So the less headspace you have the better the alignment.

    On rifles with lots of freebore I like to use less than .001 headspace
    to force the round to square up in the chamber

    Reloading is much easier with .003 or .004 headspace but by reducing
    headspace and carfull reloading the accuracy should improve.

    Safety comes first then accuracy
    "PRESS ON"
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    Unread 07-08-2008, 04:59 PM
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    I thought it was the empty space measured between the ears and the brain. Some seem to have quite a bit more than others. Particularly noticed with drivers during rush hour traffic. In a rifle proper headspace keeps the firing pin from driving the case forward when it strikes the primer which can be very dangerous from hangfires to blowing up. With belted magnums the rim of the belt stops forward motion by matching the corresponding cut in the chamber the proper distance from the bolt face with a go-no go gauge. With non-belted cartridges the shoulder of the cartridge stops the forward motion so the headspace is measured to that point from the bolt face with a go-no go gauge. Maybe when enough of us describe the same thing all in different terms those of us with the greatest headspace can even understand it.
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    Unread 07-08-2008, 08:06 PM
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