On loading density: what happens when there’s more air space in the case?

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I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend! The weather here in Oregon was wonderful (for a change) and I made the most of the sunshine and warm temperatures. In fact, I found it hard to come back to work!

I’ve received several emails in the last few months with a common complaint: unburned powder granules lodging underneath the extractor, causing cylinder lockups. I believe the ongoing ammunition shortage may be playing a big part in the sudden increase of ...

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Use-of-Force Myths: how many of these do you believe?

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The archives over at Force Science News continue to fascinate. Issue #68 deals with several myths about the use of deadly force, myths that a large percentage of the population (regardless of their level of firearms knowledge) believe. The whole article is interesting, but it’s the first myth – that of the Demonstrative Bullet – that is most immediately useful.

The article discusses the myth from the standpoint of those who judge an incident after ...

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Feedback from the Stopping Power series.

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I continue to get email from last year’s “Self defense, stopping power, and caliber” series. It remains the second-most visited page on the site, behind only my article on lubrication, and appears to be well received by the majority of readers. Thank you!

As you might imagine, such popularity generates feedback, and some questions pop up more than once. While not exactly a FAQ, here are some of the common ...

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Progressive presses and their powder measures.

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A common complaint with progressive presses is the throwing of inconsistent powder charges. Most people immediately blame the equipment, but some times it’s actually operator error.

We first need to admit that there are certain incompatibilities with regard to some measures and some powders (Dillon’s difficulty with metering flake or extruded powder, for instance, is often discussed on the various reloading forums.) However, even with a powder the measure “likes” unexpected variances often occur during a production run.

The variance usually comes ...

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Accuracy testing .22 Long Rifle ammunition: finding a load your rifle likes isn’t easy!

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As I’ve mentioned from time to time, shooting .22LR “seriously” can be a frustrating experience. It is almost expected that two identical rifles will have very different ammo preferences – and, unlike centerfire cartridges, the differences are often astounding.

For instance, I have one rifle that shoots its favorite load into an average 5-shot group of .275″ at 25 yards (from prone.) However, that same rifle shooting its least favorite load struggles to maintain 3″ at that same distance! What’s more, ...

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Some more primer talk: what about magnum primers?

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A question appeared in the comments to my last primer article. The commenter asked about magnum primers and their effect on the load.

First things first: I’ll limit my comments to Winchester Small Pistol Magnum primers, as those are what I have experience with. (Winchester uses the same Large Pistol primer for both regular and magnum loads.)

A couple of years back I was working up a 9mm +P load, to duplicate a factory offering for practice ...

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Is there really a difference in primers? You might be surprised.

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I’m not sure what’s up with Winchester these days. No one seems to have Winchester primers in stock, either walk-in or online, and backorders aren’t being taken. On the other hand, CCI primers are (at least in my area) available in quantity. Odd.

(Something else odd: I rarely see Remington primers around here, and it’s been that way as far back as I can remember.)

Anyhow, every reloading resource I’ve ever seen is quite adamant about the need to retest a load ...

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Preventing barrel leading in revolvers using cast bullets.

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A reader asked me to comment on successfully shooting lead bullets in revolvers. It seems that he’s been getting indifferent accuracy coupled with severe leading, and would like to know the “secret” to using lead in his gun.

I thought I’d covered this topic once before, but a thorough search of the archives failed to turn up the expected article. Guess I’ll have to do this from scratch!

Please note that I’m not a “hardcore” cast bullet shooter. I don’t cast my ...

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How important is quality rimfire ammunition? Depends on how often you want to hit your target.

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Serendipity, that’s what it is. Last week a consistent topic kept coming up in a variety of places: the necessity (or lack thereof) for “accurate” .22 long rifle ammunition.

“I don’t shoot groups, I hunt {insert favorite furry tidbit here}.”
“You can’t shoot really accurately in the field anyway, so better ammo isn’t worth the price.”
“The ammo already shoots better than I can, so I just buy whatever is cheapest.”

I believe such comments to be shortsighted. First, though, a bit ...

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Illustrating the concept of energy dump in defensive ammunition. Or not.

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A reader sent me this link to an old Richard Davis “Second Chance” video. The video has Davis shooting a fellow – who is wearing one of Davis’ vests, of course – with a .308 rifle and himself with a .44 magnum revolver. The reader’s comment was “if this doesn’t show an energy dump, I don’t know what it shows.”

I agree. With the second part of the statement, at least. Going back to our Continue Reading →

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My reloading setup: the dies I actually use daily.

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Someone emailed and asked me to detail my reloading die setups. With pleasure!

For handgun rounds, my setup for .38 Special is typical (and, not surprisingly, my most-used.) The sizing die is a Lee carbide, which I’ve had for decades. I would prefer an RCBS die in this spot, primarily for the better decapping pin system and easier handling of it’s knurled body, but the Lee is perfectly serviceable (and I’m too cheap to spring for the new die.) For certain ...

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By popular request: more on the reloading gear I prefer.

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From the comments and emails I’ve been getting, there is a resurgence of interest in reloading. At the price of factory ammunition, I can see why!

I’d like to touch on some things that reader Jerry brought up in an email. Yes, I have rather extensive experience with Lee, Dillon, and Hornady progressives. Frankly, each will produce identical ammunition; properly set up, there is no qualitative difference between the cartridges that come off any of those brands. If someone is having ...

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A bit of reloading gear discussion: the progressive press for serious handloaders.

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I recently received an email wherein the author took me to task for recommending the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP as the tool for the ‘serious’ reloader. His claim was that ‘serious’ reloaders always use Dillon, and nothing but.

Sorry to have to disagree with him.

My definition of ‘serious’ is the ballistic experimenter, not the appliance operator. Someone who reloads for a number of both pistol and rifle calibers and does a lot of load experimentation (different bullets, powders, cases, ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 9

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Stick with what works.

You’ve all heard of the “Gun of the Week” club, right? That’s the term used to describe an “enthusiast”, the guy (gals are too smart to engage in such nonsense) who carries or competes with a different gun every time he goes out. (Closely related is the “Holster of the Week” club. I’ll post an amusing story about that, soon.)

There is also the “Bullet of the Week” club. Some folks read the gun magazines assiduously, loading up ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 8

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“So, smarty pants – what the best self-defense caliber?”

I receive many emails asking, in essence, what the “best” self-defense caliber might be. (Those emails, in fact, have served as the motivation behind this series.) The correspondents are probably expecting sage advice, the wisdom of years, a sort of Ballistic Oracle. What they get is a non-committal “it depends!”

If you take nothing else from this series, take this: there is no such thing as “best” – there is only “suitability for ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 7

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There Is No Such Thing as a Magic Bullet

What does that mean, you ask?

One of the last bastions of the snake oil salesman is in the field of ammunition promotion. Claims that would make Professor Harold Hill blush are the norm, and are repeated in gunstores, shooting ranges, and deer camps across the country. They sometimes even make their way into magazines and the internet – though the latter’s instant exchange of information has helped to quell the worst of ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 6

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“What would I want with a reputation? That’s a good way to get yourself killed!”

– Jason McCullough, as played by James Garner, in “Support Your Local Sheriff” (my favorite movie of all time!)

What about “reputation”? Some cartridges or loadings have reputations for better effectiveness than others. Sometimes that’s valid, but other times it may not be.

Let’s take the mighty .357 Magnum, one of my favorite cartridges. The 125 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoint loads have the reputation of being superbly effective; ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 5

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More energy can be a good thing – as long as it actually does something useful.

Last time we discussed the concept of the hollowpoint as a way to increase the frontal diameter of the bullet in the target. I also introduced the idea that it takes energy to expand the bullet, energy that is also needed to push the projectile into something that it needs to reach.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. If we want the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 4

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The bullet is more important than the caliber.

We know that our bullet needs to do damage to whatever important thing it manages to find. How, exactly, is that going to occur? It just so happens that most animal tissue (including that of the violent felon who has just attacked you) is remarkably elastic, and consequently difficult to damage. Most tissues have a tendency to “close up” around puncture wounds, in the same way that they close up after a hypodermic ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 3

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Once it gets there, it has to do work.

In today’s installment, we’re going to look at the second of the Twin Tasks:

2) The bullet has to do rapid and significant damage to that thing when it arrives.

It may not be self evident, but kinetic (moving) energy is either used or conserved (stored.) In the case of a bullet, it starts being used simply by fighting the friction caused by traveling through the air. Unless it encounters a target, the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 2

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If it doesn’t get somewhere, it can’t do something.

OK, so we know about the Twin Tasks, the two things that a bullet has to do in order to stop an attacker:

1) It has to get to something the body finds immediately important, and
2) It has to do rapid and significant damage to that thing when it arrives.

Today we’ll be taking a look at Task #1: getting to something important.

Let’s start by pointing out that the user of the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 1 of a series.

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I’ve gotten a bunch of emails recently regarding the choice of an appropriate self-defense handgun caliber and/or bullet. Around this one topic swirls more misinformation – and outright inanity – than any other I can think of. And now, here’s mine!

What follows is a layman’s understanding, backed by research of available literature and years of hunting and shooting experience, of the practical mechanics of wound ballistics. It is not intended to be a complete and exhaustive study of the subject. ...

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Foreign ammunition plus your gun equals ignition troubles?

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I’ve gotten a number of inquiries over the past few months regarding ignition troubles in otherwise stock revolvers.

As ammunition prices continue their climb, many enthusiasts find their budgets strained. In order to continue shooting, those who do not reload their own ammo have been looking at less expensive options for feeding their guns. Brands like Fiocchi and Sellier & Bellot (“S&B”), brands that didn’t have many takers a couple of years ago, are now being featured at many sporting goods ...

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Defensive ammunition for the revolver: an update on Speer Gold Dot!

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It’s been several years since Speer introduced their Gold Dot Short Barrel Personal Protection 38 Special +P loading. It looked good on paper, and the Gold Dot line has a superb reputation for performance, but many of us prefer to carry well-tested ammunition. Let someone else be the guinea pig!

Sporadic reports have come in that the Gold Dot load is “working”; Massad Ayoob told me that he’s heard around the country that people are “satisfied” with the performance. Still, I’d ...

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Reloading equipment round-up, 2007 edition.

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This last year I’ve been using a number of new reloading tools and components. I’m generally one to “stick with what works”, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for something better!

Late last year I bought a new Hornady Lock-n-Load progressive press (known as the “LnL AP”.) This is a five-station auto-indexing press with a motorized casefeeder. I bought it after becoming disenchanted with my Dillon and Lee presses – though I can always find something to like about any ...

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More on the use of +P in older Colt revolvers.

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The internet “experts” just can’t let this one go!

If you’re new to this discussion, please read this short article on the use of +P ammunition in Colt revolvers. Apparently, the fact that a manufacturer would dare tell a customer what kind of ammunition they should use rubs some people the wrong way!

The latest argument from the “experts” delves into Colt advertising history. Way back when, Colt’s advertisements stated that their small revolvers were suitable for use with the .38-44 ...

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My favorite powders for handgun reloading.

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Every reloader has his or her favorite powders. When I first started reloading handgun cartridges, I used what everyone around me used — which I found wasn’t always the best choice for my needs. After experimenting with lots of powders, I settled on a few favorites.

As a general rule I prefer flaked powders over ball (spherical) powders. I’ve found that they meter more consistently in a wide variety of measures, and they seem to burn a bit cleaner than their ball ...

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More on the Dan Wesson .22 revolver.

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In response to Monday’s blog post about .22 accuracy, a couple of readers asked about the loads that had proven to be accurate in the Dan Wesson .22LR Model 15-2.

Before I answer, you need to keep in mind that your individual DW may not like the same ammunition mine does. With that understanding, my DW likes the Remington Match Target (subsonic, LRN bullet) and the Remington “Golden Bullet” bulk pack. Of the 23 ...

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Wringing accuracy from your .22 rimfire: yes, it can seem frustrating at times!

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I’ve been shooting a lot of .22LR on a recreational basis lately, and am reminded how fickle this round can be.

Many people seem to be unaware that you can’t put just any old .22 round into a gun – be it rifle, pistol, or revolver – and expect it to function correctly, let alone hit where it is aimed!

It is not unusual to find that any given .22 firearm will not function with certain ammunition. I’ve seen guns that didn’t ...

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