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John Stewart

Reloading - Prepare for a good beginning

Lyman Ultrasonic Cleaner

After each shooting session, I decap and clean brass.  Decapping consists of using a Universal Decapping Die in my single stage press to remove spent primers.  The de-primed cases are then cycled through an ultrasonic cleaner to remove powder residue.  My choice is a Lyman Ultrasonic Cleaner with a citric-acid based cleaning solution that does not weaken the molecular structure of the brass.

The cleaned brass is rinsed (preferred in distilled water) and dried.  I use compressed air to remove most of the rinse water followed by about thirty minutes in a toaster oven set to 140 degrees to complete the drying.

Once cleaned and dried, brass is sorted into 50 round lots and prepped for the next step - inspection and trimming as required.

Prior to reloading, each case must be inspected and measured to determine if it can be safely reloaded.  Shell cases are made of brass and brass does change shape with each use.  Close inspection can reveal case head separation, case splits, and other potential problems.

Each cartridge has a standard not-to-exceed maximum length.  And, each cartridge has a minimum length.  In addition, once primer,  powder and bullet are added, each cartridge has a maximum Cartridge Over All Length (COAL or OAL).  These measurements are listed in the reloading manuals.

An essential tool for every reloaded is a caliper capable of accuracy to .001 inches. You can use old-school vernier calipers or new style digital or dial readout calipers.  While the digital readout provides the necessary accuracy, they do require a battery that is not available at the neighborhood convenience store.  My preference is for the dial caliper.

In the beginning is the cartridge length.  In general, straight-wall handgun cartridges remain fairly consistent in length through multiply loading and firing sessions.  It is important that you measure each cartridge as trim as necessary.  Again, while straight-wall handgun loads remain constant, it is important that all cartridges are kept to a consistent length as this length will impact the Cartridge Over All Length; also noted as COAL or OAL.

Next is to clean and prepare the primer pocket and chamfer the case mouth using my RCBS Case Prep Center.  The primer pocket requires cleaning to ensure new primers will seat to the proper depth which can be altered due to residual carbon buildup after each use.  The case prep center has several power driven stations where different types of cleaning heads can be attached.  In the five powered stations, I have installed a carbide pocket uniforming tool, a flash-hole uniforming tool, a pocket brush, and inside and outside case mouth chamfering tools.

Depending on the caliber, primer pockets are large, small, or crimped.  Large caliber handguns (.44 Magnum, .45 ACP and others) use Large Pistol Primers).

The .45 ACP is notable as depending on "head stamp" or manufacturer, the primer pocket can be either "large" or "small".  While not a complete list, Blazer .45 ACP ammo is "small" primer pocket. Other headstamp brass may or may not be "small" pocket.  Generally, a quick visual inspection will determine the difference.  If in doubt, a 3/16 pin punch will fit into the "large" primer pocket, but not the "small" primer pocket.

The other oddity primers are from military ammo with "crimped" primer pockets. Those are found in .45 ACP, 9 mm, 5.56, .308 and others.  From a visual inspection, they generally exhibit a defined ring around the primer pocket.  You can remove the crimp with either a press mounted swaging die or with a carbide "pocket uniforming tool".

The chamfering tools provide a slight inside case mouth bevel to ease bullet seating and to remove burrs left after case trimming.  The flash-hole uniformed tool provides a consistent sizing in the case flash-hole.  This step is only necessary once in the life of a cartridge.

As a final case prep step, brass is cycled through a tumbler such as the Lyman Turbo Pro 1200.  About an hour through the tumbling process (I use medium crushed walnut shell media) produces shiny brass with a majority of the case mars and tarnish removed.  Adding a couple of used fabric softener sheets cut into strips or squares helps remove media dust.

These steps provide the good beginning to preparing the cases for the final steps to produce reloaded ammo - sizing, flaring, primer seating, powder charging, bullet seating, and crimping; completing your ammo build.

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John Stewart

GUNVOTE 2014: Don't Risk Your Rights

Which scenario will become reality? Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is betting $50 million dollars that he can bring his agenda back to life on Capitol Hill. The Obama political machine is putting everything it has behind the same goal. Together, they hope to steamroll the voters into electing enough anti-gun politicians to provide Barack Obama with a rubber stamp for the sweeping federal anti-gun agenda he has thus far been denied.

Continue reading
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John Stewart

Ruger P-345: It's a keeper

I recently acquired a used Ruger P-345 .45 ACP semi-auto pistol that was very dirty and missing magazines. As the slide and rail showed no adverse wear and it was the de-cock model without the problematic external safety, I put money down and began the California mandated 10-day wait. 

After taking delivery, first step was a complete and detailed cleaning.  

After field stripping the pistol, the stainless upper parts (slide, barrel rod and spring) received a deep cleaning in my Lyman Ultrasonic Cleaner; two cycles of eight minutes each.The poly frame received a liberal dousing with SimpleGreen (I prefer the purple commercial). After cleaning, I used distilled water to rinse the poly frame to remove the SimpleGreen followed by drying with compressed air. Next, I applied a liberal spray with Kano Sili Kroil. I set that aside while I worked on barrel and slide.

The barrel received a soaking in Hoppe’s #9 and bronze brush to clean the inside.  Stubborn deposits on the feed ramp and around the chamber opening received attention from solvent applied by nylon brush.  A couple solvent-soaked patches through the barrel were required before a final wipe with a dry patch and light coating of MilTec-1 oil.

Last on the list was the slide. The slide went through two more ultrasonic cycles with manually moving the ejector and Loaded Cartridge Indicator between cycles before carbon residue quit appearing.  A rinse in distiller water, compressed air dry, soak in Hoppes #9, followed liberal spray of Rem gun oil and it was clean.

I considered stripping down and completely cleaning the the ejector and firing pin channels. But, after the extended ultrasonic, followed by wipe-down with Hoppe’s #9 and Rem gun oil, carbon residue quit surfacing.

After a final blow out with compressed air, I did a wipe down and reassembled the gun, added oil to a couple judicious points, began working the slide and wiping off excess oil.

What was interesting, I loaded a magazine and began working the action. The first two magazine cycles I had some failure to load.  After cycling about 100 rounds, I had no feed or ejection issues.

Next was a trip to the range to see if there were any issues with the neglected P-345.
In double-action, there is a long trigger pull. However, once a round is racked and hammer cocked, trigger action is clean and crisp. The grip and trigger feel was a good fit for my hand. In other words, the grip natural and comfortable in my hand.

I shot 64 rounds and was pleased with my groupings. Noted, my first 8 round group was within an 8 inch diameter. Subsequent rounds brought the grouping diameter within a 6 inch diameter based on a 10 yard target distance.

As a comparison, I shot with four pistols that trip.  With the P-345, my groupings were consistent center and high. With my Para Commander Elite and Rugar P-89, my groupings were consistent high and right. The outlier was my Ruger SR9C.  My grouping were more than 10 inches in diameter and low left.

I am still working with the SR9C and am considering the XS sights to replace the stock three dot sights.  But, that is another story.

Overall, I am very pleased with the feel and response of the P-345.  It is a keeper.

  5583 Hits
John Stewart

Reloading?? What’s that???

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Second, improved accuracy is not a given achievement.  There are a number of variables that determine accuracy improvement - ammunition, gun, and personal technique.

Reloading provides the opportunity to begin matching ammo with the specific gun.  Each gun has specific fixed characteristics such as barrel groove twist rate and bore/chamber tolerances.  By reloading, you can provide some measure of control over the variable characteristics such as bullet type and weight, shell case length, and powder.

There is no magic formula to provide the optimum load for your specific gun as each gun comes from the manufacturing process designed to meet specific not-to-exceed standards.  And, there are variances between guns as they are produced.

As the first step in reloading is safety and knowing the characteristics of ammo and gun, knowledge is important.  That knowledge is gained through reading and constantly referring to reloading manuals. The major bullet and powder manufactures publish reloading and reference manuals.  

Should you decide to enter the hobby of reloading, there are some steps I recommend.

1. Make a list of the calibers of ammo you expect to reload.  Then, begin saving the shell cases matching those calibers.

2. Buy a reloading manual.  Lyman's 49th Editor is an excellent resource for description of the steps involved.  And, one manual is not enough.  My favorite reference manuals are Lyman's 49th Edition and Sierra Bullets 5th Edition.  My library also includes manuals from Speer, Hornady, and Nosler.

In addition to the manuals, a separate notebook is recommended for your personal notes as you work through the reloading steps.

3. After studying the reloading reference manuals, determine the type and weight of bullet you expect to be using.  This step involves your decision on the expected use of the reloaded ammo and the type of firearm.  For example, if you have a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and want loads for general plinking/target practice, 115 or 124 grain full metal jacket round nose bullet is a popular choice.  If you are considering ammo for self defense, your choice might be 124 or 147 grain semi-jacketed hallow point.  

If you have a .223 Remington (5.56 mm) and your desire is for a varmint hunting load, a popular load is 55 grain jacketed hallow point.  However, your specific type of rifle may require a different bullet weight due to the twist rate of the barrel.

As a general rule, the firearm characteristics such as semi-automatic, lever action, bolt action, magazine type, barrel twist rate, and barrel length are variables governing type of bullet used.

4. Once type of bullet is decided, determine the type of powder necessary.  Seldom will you find one type of powder that will work for a broad range of bullet weight and calibers.  For example, a powder type developed for .223/5.56 is not suitable for safe use in a 9 mm semi-auto pistol load.

At this point, it is important to review your reference manuals to help your decision making.  The powder manufacture's websites are another source of information that needs to be reviewed.  Hodgdon and Accurate are two powder sources that provide load data for there powder with a variety of bullet types and calibers.

In summary, ammo, type of firearm, and personal technique are inter-related in the quest for accuracy.  Key point is to study each point and understand the characteristics of each.  The more you know about each, the more successful you will be in achieving your quest for accuracy.  Keeping your costs reasonable depends on the amount you shoot and the amount of equipment you buy.

As a cautionary note, there are many recipes for reloaded ammo that can be found on Internet forums.  These should be viewed with caution and only used after considerable research to verify the powder, primer, bullet, and caliber are compatible.  ALWAYS review the powder and bullet manufacturer websites for the latest information about their tested and recommended loads.

Reloading is fun, challenging, and satisfying.  Enjoy your new hobby.

Useful links:

Lyman Products - http://www.lymanproducts.com
Sierra Bullets - http://www.sierrabullets.com/
Hornady Manufacturing - http://www.hornady.com/
Nosler - http://www.nosler.com/
Hodgdon Powder - http://www.hodgdon.com/
Accurate Powder - http://www.accuratepowder.com

  6014 Hits
John Stewart


To illustrate how we as an industry and as sportsmen are the greatest contributors to wildlife conservation in America, providing nearly $9 billion over the past 76 years.  America's original and largest contributors to conservation: hunters, shooters and the firearms industry.

Click here to read more: National Shooting Sports Foundation

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