The discussion of headspace and the 280 Ackley Improved has been going on far too long. Recently I decided to perform a test that would demonstrate the differences or similarities between the SAAMI (Nosler) gauge and the “Traditional” Ackley gauge.
First you can see that the shoulder angle is not the same. The SAAMI gauge is 40 degrees like the factory brass and ammunition. The Traditional gauge is 17 degree 30 minute just like the original 280 Remington gauge and factory 280 Remington ammunition or brass.
The Chamber gauges pictured below were both made with the exact same 280 AI reamer. The only difference between the SAAMI and the Traditional chambers are the headspace gauges, all other measurements are identical.
Each chamber gauge was stamped with the name of the gauge used to headspace it. The headspace was set to zero, or flush with the flat base of the gauge.
Once I had both chambers cut I swapped the gauges expecting to see some obvious disparity as the reamer makers have been emphatic that there is a difference. However, there was no difference between the two chambers.
How could that be?
Well, when you check the drawings from SAAMI and the Traditional drawings for the Ackley Improved you find that indeed there is a numerical difference between the two drawings of .014″. The problem stems from reamer makers applying a datum line to the Traditional Ackley drawing at the .375″ diameter on the shoulder, this is not where the datum line is on a traditional Ackley.
The drawing calls for a 40 degree shoulder, but the datum measurement is based on the traditional 17 degree gauge. In other words the systems of measuring are mixed. Ackley used the junction of the neck and shoulder to headspace his Improved chamber, not the datum line along the shoulder.
Hence we end up with a headspace length of 2.1542″ on the Traditional drawing. I measured this length on my cutaway chamber and guess what, that is the length to the junction of the neck and shoulder. Thus headspace matches the drawings correctly.
The 40 degree SAAMI gauges are made to the industry standard, datum line method. So the drawings are correct, the datum line is at the .375″ diameter along the shoulder. The length called out for this gauge is 2.140″, which appears to be .014″ shorter than the Traditional design.
What we have is two different methods of measurement. However they achieve the exact same result. Seeing is believing.
With all that said, for liability reasons I would still use the gauge the client asks for. It’s easier than explaining all this over and over again.
The obvious question will come up, “But I am still having trouble with headspace, so the Nosler brass must be wrong?” The answer is; More than likely a lazy or inexperienced gunsmith did not use a gauge to set headspace, but rather used brass. The Nosler brass should work in a “Traditioinal” chamber if the headspace was set between a go and no-go as prescribed by P.O. Ackley and every reamer maker that sells these tools.
Here are some additional source of information on this subject:
Book has recently been published, “P.O. Ackley, America’s Gunsmith”
Web resource for P.O. Ackley: https://ackleyimproved.com