Great Shooting Products
By Robert Whitley
©Copyright 2017, Precision Shooting Magazine
As time marches on, new and great shooting products keep coming to the market. These are, in many cases, the product of those making changes and innovations to the existing “state of the art”, all in the quest to make shooting better or more accurate. Here are some of the most recent items this author has worked with:
The U.S. Palma Team .308 Winchester Reamer (Pacific Tool & Gauge)
There are some great newer 30 caliber Palma and Fullbore bullets on the market these days. These offerings include the Sierra #2156 155 gr. “Palma” bullets and the Berger 155.5 gr. “FULLBORE” bullets. Recently, this author has been working with these newer 30 caliber bullets in a .308 Winchester. After working with these bullets, this author felt that many of the existing .308 Winchester chamber reamer designs on the market were not ideal for these new bullet designs, mainly because the new bullets have a rather short bearing surface and would be optimum with a shorter throat than is offered by most of the .308 Winchester reamers on the market. In late 2009, this author worked with JGS Precision Tool Mfg., LLC and made up a .308 Winchester “match” reamer, designed for shooting these newer 30 caliber bullets, and this reamer was written up and illustrated in the April 2010 issue of Precision Shooting. The reamer design also happened, by chance, to be somewhat close to the final design ultimately selected for the U.S. Palma Team as the team reamer for international shooting events.
Subsequent to the publishing of the April 2017 article, this author was contacted by Dennis Flaharty, the Captain of the U.S. Palma Team (currently the development team), who urged that it be clarified that the author's “2010 JGS .308 Match” reamer, while acceptable for U.S. based match and Palma type shooting (which is what it was designed for), might not be acceptable for certain (out of the U.S.) international matches because some of its dimensions are tighter than would be permitted under the current rules of the International Confederation of Fullbore Rifle Associations (ICFRA). The ICFRA is currently the governing body that oversees certain international shooting matches and events. In truth, if you do not plan on shooting international events governed by the ICFRA, this is a non-issue. This write up is a follow up to the April 2010 Precision Shooting article to clarify this compliance issue, and it is also being made to “showcase” the new Pacific Tool & Gage (Dave Kiff) U.S. Palma Team .308 Winchester Reamer that was set up to comply with the ICFRA rules for certain international shooting events.
The new Pacific Tool and Gauge U.S. Palma Team .308 Winchester match reamer is officially named the “2011 .308 FULLBORE” reamer, in expectation of its use by the U.S. Palma Team in the upcoming World Individual and Team Long Range Championships (an ICFRA event) to be held in Australia in 2011. Robert Gamboa, a current member of the U.S. Palma Team (i.e. development team), is credited as the designer of this reamer, and a number of .308 Winchester reamer designs were tested out extensively before the final selection of this design as the “final” design. The free bore on the reamer is .050" with a one and three quarters degree throat angle which works with the “new breed” of 155 – 155.5 gr. 30 caliber “Palma” or “Fullbore” type bullets. The body on the reamer hugs close to the minimum SAAMI .308 Winchester body dimensions, but with the neck set at a .3445" diameter and the free bore diameter set at a .3085" diameter, so as to comply with the ICFRA international rules. The reamer tolerances per the print are on the tight side (i.e. “Hold + .0002”).
Pacific Tool & Gauge (Dave Kiff) is a sponsor of the U.S. Palma Team and is also supplying the reamers to chamber the team rifles. The reamers themselves are nicely done and have a titanium nitride coating that gives them a gold jewelry like look, although Dave Kiff says that this coating on the leading edge of the cutting surfaces is “like Teflon” and makes it so nothing sticks to the reamer flutes to help guarantee clean reamer cutting. Great job, Dave - thanks for supporting the U.S. Palma Team!
The Berger 22 Cal. 80.5 gr. FULLBORE BT Bullets
In recent years, Berger Bullets has been making a lot of changes (mainly additions) to its bullet lineup. These constant changes have yielded some very excellent new bullets. Not that long ago, Berger released a 22 Cal. 82 gr. BT match target bullet that has been an excellent performer for longer range work in the .223 Rem./5.56 NATO and other cartridges. This bullet offers not only a high ballistic coefficient, but also a “forgiving” design that typically allows it to shoot well jumping or loaded into the lands. The design of the 82 gr. BT bullet has been very successful, and the bullet is seeing wide use among the shooting community, particularly with match shooters. As a follow up to the 82 gr. bullet, one of the recent and excellent additions is Berger's new “80.5 gr. BT FULLBORE” target bullet. This new 80.5 gr. bullet shares the same “footprint” and design as the well known and widely used 82 gr. bullet, but its bullet weight is reduced to 80.5 gr. to permit it to comply with the 81 gr. limit that exists in certain international long-range Palma type shooting matches and events.
This author has found both the Berger 82 gr. bullet and the 80.5 gr. “baby brother” bullet to be very excellent and accurate bullets. If you are trying to “tweak” a load and dial it into your rifle, this extra offering by Berger can be just what is needed to find the bullet that works best in your rifle. The B.C. on the 80.5 gr. bullet is listed by Berger as .454 for the G1 B.C. and as .234 for the G7 B.C., which is very good for the size and weight of the bullet. This author has also found over the years that there is typically a “chemistry” between a rifle and a particular bullet, and if the “chemistry” is right, the rifle and bullet combination can exhibit great consistent accuracy, but if it is wrong, the reverse can be true (but we won't go there because rifles that are not accurate are no fun). Sometimes, even a slight change in the bullet weight can make a difference in that “chemistry”, and from this perspective, having an additional bullet with a slight change in bullet weight is a welcome option to the shooter looking for the best and most accurate combination in a rifle.
As a side note, this author measured and tested these new 80.5 gr. bullets and they were very consistent, not only in weight, but also in bearing surface and overall length. This bullet-to-bullet consistency is always welcome, particularly if time is tight and you just want to load bullets “out of the box” and go shooting. Additionally, the meplat (front tip where the bullet jacket is closed) of both the Berger 82 gr. and 80.5 gr. bullets are small and tight, which helps to keep the ballistic coefficient of both high. For long-range shooting, a fair number of shooters like to “point” the tips of the bullets and close the meplat even tighter to maximize the ballistic coefficient of the bullet. After examining many bullets out in the marketplace, the meplats of these Berger bullets are about as good as it gets for “out of the box” long-range shooting. If bullet tipping is desired, this author found that the Hoover bullet-tipping die, used in conjunction with the Hoover B-4 tipping punch, did an excellent job with both the Berger 82 gr. and 80.5 gr. bullets. Honestly, Berger did such a good job on closing up the meplats of these bullets, it makes one wonder how much extra ballistic coefficient is potentially gained by pointing or tipping these bullets.
Clearly, if you are shooting a 22 cal. center fire rifle and you are looking for a great long-range accurate bullet, the new 80.5 gr. Berger FULLBORE BT bullets are worth trying out!
Hornady's New 6.5 Grendel Brass
For a number of years, this author has had extensive “hands on” experience with Lapua's 6.5 Grendel brass, using the brass as it exists with either the “Lapua” head stamp or the “Alex-A” (Alexander Arms) head stamp. Without question, the Lapua 6.5 Grendel brass has been an excellent product under either head stamp, however, there have been periods of short supply for it and the pricing of it does not always suit some shooters' budget. Recently, Hornady Manufacturing Company has released its own “Hornady” head stamped version of 6.5 Grendel brass, and this author has been able to test and evaluate this new offering. The testing of this new brass was done predominantly with the 6mm AR-15 Grendel based cartridges that this author typically shoots. These 6mm cartridges are the 6mmAR cartridge (which is the 6.5 Grendel case necked down to 6mm) and the 6mmAR Turbo 40 Imp. cartridge, which is a 40 degree shoulder Ackley Improved “hot rod” type 6mm cartridge made from 6.5 Grendel brass (for more info, visit www.6mmAR.com).
After working with the Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass, this author was pleasantly surprised with the quality and consistency of the Hornady brass. The Hornady 6.5 Grendel brass is not quite as hard in the web area as the Lapua 6.5 Grendel brass, but it is still very usable and serviceable, and with moderate loadings yields good case life. Some of the specifics of the Hornady brass relative to the Lapua brass are as follows:
Flash hole diameter = .078"
OAL of the new brass = right about 1.515"
Weight of cases = around 111.7 gr. - 113 gr.
Web diameter of unfired brass = .4375"
Shoulder diameter of unfired brass = .428"
6.5 Grendel loaded neck = .2895"
6mmAR loaded neck = .270"
Water capacity of new unfired Hornady brass = 35.1 gr. water weight
Flash hole diameter = .061"
OAL of new brass = right about 1.515"
Weight of cases = 111 gr. - 112.5 gr.
Web diameter of unfired brass = .4385"
Shoulder diameter of unfired brass = .424" (on the small side considering shoulder of chamber around .432")
6.5 Grendel loaded neck = .290"
6mmAR loaded neck = .271"
Water capacity of new unfired Lapua brass = 35.0 gr. water weight
It is noteworthy that the water capacity of the cases goes up to about 36 gr if you fire and re-size the cases with a re-sizing die, so the new brass is a bit undersized from what is really necessary for feeding into a chamber.
One of the key features of this new brass is the dimensional similarity it has to the pre-existing Lapua brass, especially the “loaded neck” diameter, that was used as the basis to set up the design, tooling, die sets, etc. for the 6.5 Grendel and its progeny. This dimensional similarity is important because it assures that the Hornady brass will work and interchange well with pre-existing die sets, chambers, magazines, etc.
One dimensional difference between the two different makes of brass is the flash hole size for the brass (i.e. the Lapua brass has a drilled flash hole around .061" diameter and the Hornady brass appears to have a punched flash hole around .078" diameter), but this author has not noticed a discernable difference in the functionality or accuracy of loaded rounds using this larger flash hole. It should be borne in mind that the testing of this brass was done in AR-15 rifles (the rifles the 6.5 Grendel brass was designed to be used in) where .5 MOA accuracy is deemed to be excellent. The flash hole size may make some difference for bolt gun true bench rest type shooting, but not necessarily out of a semi automatic AR-15.
All in all, Hornady's offering here is an excellent addition to products offered to support the 6.5 Grendel.
The Hoover Bullet Tipping Die – Alternate Bullet Tipping For The Busy Shooter
In recent years, the tipping of bullets has become incorporated into a larger part of accuracy shooting, particularly with long-range shooting where every bit of extra ballistic coefficient can make a difference in wind drift. The tipping of bullets typically takes the factory bullet tips that may be somewhat open in the front and closes them so there is less wind resistance as the bullet pushes through the air (a higher ballistic coefficient). Previously this author reviewed and completed a write up on the Hoover Meplat Uniformer and Bullet Tipping Die, and thereafter, Precision Shooting published the write up on these items in its March 2010 issue. The Hoover Meplat Uniformer and Bullet Tipping Die are products made and sold by John Hoover (a very well known successful bench rest and F-Class shooter) and these are both excellent products. John developed an entire system around these tools for sorting, uniforming and tipping bullets, to guarantee that the shooter has the best and most consistent available projectiles (bullets) to shoot. Many of “the best of the best” shooters have been successfully using the Hoover method and tools to produce match-winning ammunition. Hoover's entire method (as more fully discussed in the March 2010 Precision Shooting write up) is very thorough, and produces superior end results, but it does require a fair amount of work and attention to detail to obtain a finished batch of bullets to shoot.
This author's background is high power match rifle shooting and while working on the prior magazine piece, it occurred to this author that there were alternatives to John's “full blown” technique. As a practical matter, many non-bench rest shooters want the higher ballistic coefficient that a tipped bullet can deliver, but they don't necessarily need the ultimate level of bullet selection and consistency that is deemed necessary for certain bench rest applications. For example, a high power shooter can easily work with a rifle that consistently shoots in the range of .3 to .5 moa, because the targets are more forgiving, and there are other factors that enter into that discipline (i.e. no support for the rifle other than a sling and shooting jacket, body movement, etc.), but a bench rest shooter might as well “pack up and go home” if he or she shows up at a match with a set up and only shoots in the “3's” to the “5's”.
Many shooters in certain disciplines use bullets “out of the box” and do nothing at all, yet others sort for certain stages of fire, and all may do very well in the shooting discipline in which they engage. For the high power shooter, the use of bullets “out of the box” may be fine in most cases. However, as a high power shooter that has to shoot at 600 yards where wind drift is a factor, the idea of availing myself of the highest ballistic coefficient my bullets can offer is appealing. If pressed for time (or if lazy) what would be best is a set up to just tip the long-range bullets consistently for the 600 yard stage without all the extra work of sorting by bearing surface and meplat trimming. The reality is this can be done.
The sorting of bullets by bearing surface and the meplat trimming of bullets is done to obtain the most dimensionally consistent projectiles. Thereafter, the bullet tipping is done just to increase the ballistic coefficient of the trimmed projectiles. If a shooter has a box of bullets, and the consistency of the bullets works sufficiently to use them “out of the box”, then the steps this author has used to tip bullets consistently are as follows:
1. Sort the bullets quickly by overall length only (just use a basic set of dial calipers to measure the overall length of the projectiles). You can use whatever overall length increments you want for sorting, but this author has used .003", and with many boxes of bullets about 85% - 90% of the bullets in the box wind up in two or maybe three piles. If there is a bullet with an odd or way crooked tip, put it aside and relegate it to the “practice bullets”, and don't bother even measuring it or tipping it.
2. Set up the Hoover tipping die to tip the group of bullets that fall within the .003" of each other and tip them – done!
3. Once done with the first batch of bullets, use the micrometer top on the Hoover Tipping Die to adjust it up or down (usually by .003", depending on whether the next batch of bullets is .003" longer or shorter) and then tip the next batch of bullets.
The author has found that this three-step process has worked well to make up batches of tipped bullets for shooting. If it's late the night before a high power rifle match and you are just getting around to loading your ammo for the next morning, and all you need is 22 tipped bullets for the 600 yard stage, you can quickly measure out a group of 22 bullets within .003" overall length of each other and then tip them – done!
Bear in mind this “quick and dirty” bullet tipping technique only requires a set of dial calipers and the tipping die (i.e. no bearing surface sorting with special tools or meplat trimming with a special meplat trimmer). While the Hoover Meplat Uniformer is an excellent tool and serves the dual role as a bullet sorter and the meplat uniformer, the reality is it take time and work to do this, and if bypassing these steps is feasible there's no reason not to.
The Hoover bullet-tipping die is well thought out and designed and very well made. It is composed of a few component parts, all made to assure the highest quality and uniformity of the final projectiles. The basic universal die body with a micrometer top is used in conjunction with a caliber specific sleeve for the bullets to slide up into, and a bullet specific tipping punch to tip the bullets.
After working with the Hoover tools, it is clear that if you employ John's method and the Hoover tools to sort, meplat uniform and tip your bullets, you will wind up with some of the most consistent and accurate high B.C. bullets you have ever shot, but you can also use this author's alternate method for bullet tipping only and it works well too. The website for these Hoover products (www.bullettipping.com) is also very well done and informative and “worth a look”. These products are also available from John's Accuracy One company at www.accuracyone.com.
Pacific Tool and Gauge, Inc.
P. O. Box 2549, 598 Avenue C
White City, OR 97503
4275 N. Palm Street
Fullerton, CA 92835
Hornady Manufacturing Company
3625 West Old Potash Highway
Grand Island, NE 68803
Accuracy One Shooting Supplies
4040 Keefertown Road
Tyrone, PA 16686