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Reloading A to Z, from AGI

Guest Blog By Jack Landis

Showing case changes

Explaining how cases are changed when fired.

AGI Tech Services
Manager and Editor, GunTech Magazine

One of the questions I have most often fielded from AGI students and prospective students over the last several years is; “When are you folks going to do a comprehensive reloading course?”

Well, the stars finally aligned and we convinced Fred Zeglin to take the few weeks he had off between the courses he was instructing and his latest writing projects to use his impressive knowledge of reloading and cartridge design to teach this course.

Fred has an extensive background as a professional custom gunsmith, cartridge designer, and author. His books Wildcat Cartridges, Hawk Cartridges, and his AGI instructional video course, Taming the Wildcat are well worth studying by students of the subjects.

This new course is almost eight full hours of the information any reloader needs to know. As he says in the introduction, “There is something for everyone here. If you’ve never handloaded, everything you need to know to assemble safe, effective handloads is here. If you’ve loaded for years, odds are you will still find out things you never knew, considered, or completely understood.” Let’s take a look at what’s actually under the hood . . .

Disk 1 – Brief History of Reloading: This is no exhaustive history of every step in the evolution of loading firearms and cartridges, but rather a concise explanation of how we got to what we actually do today.
Reloading Components: Here Fred shows the various types of cartridge cases, bullets, primers, and powders. He explains their differences and the reasons why those differences exist. Why are spritzer bullets pointed?
Why are some powders shaped like little rods?
Ignition Theory: What happens from the moment the firing pin strikes the primer to the exit of the bullet from the barrel is carefully explained and shown in drawings.
Pressure Curves: A PressureTrace Internal Ballistics System is used to show the real-time gas pressure rise and fall from primer ignition until the bullet leaves the barrel, approximately 1.5 milliseconds. Fred draws curves
which demonstrate what the pressure curves would look like in the Fred Zeglin, Cartridge Designer
case of a dramatic overload, high pressure caused by an over-length case, and powder detonation which can
occur if a very small charge of slow burning powder is used in a large case.
Resource Books: Fred explains why the Cartridge Comparison Guide belongs in your library as well as other books
that give you information on a huge number of cartridge’s dimensions, shapes, ballistics, and terminal performance. The reference books discussed will help you decide what cartridge you might want in your next gun.
Reloading Manuals: Reloading without these “must have” sources is like driving with your eyes shut, a real recipe for disaster. You need more than one so you can cross reference loading data to make sure the load you are
contemplating is safe.

Disk 2 – Developing a load plan: What IS a loading plan and why do you need one? Have you
decided what the load you’re thinking about creating is supposed to accomplish? Do you have a purpose for loading it? What is it? Is it reasonable?

Powder and bullets shown

Selecting correct components for your load plan.

He explains to you why you shouldn’t be “That guy” who just searches for the hottest published load for his cartridge and doesn’t “Waste time” with Starting Loads. “Hey, if it’s published it’s safe, right? These guys always leave a safety
margin, right?” Why you need to keep a complete notebook recording loads, velocity, accuracy, etc.
The Bench: Where should it be, how should it be constructed, how sturdy does it have to be, how high should it be, and why. Press and Die Set-up: Learn how to properly set up the dies, shell holders, and decapping pins from a two die set in your press.

Prepping the Brass: Cleaning, Reaming Inspection: Why you need to clean and inspect your brass, chamfer ream the case mouth and clean out the primer pockets.

PressureTrace Internal Ballistics System
What’s in a “Complete loading kit?” Fred opens a big box from Hornady that contains everything you need to load quality ammo, other than cases, primers, bullets, and powder. Why these make sense for the beginner.

Lubrication: Fred shows you several different methods and products to lubricate the cases prior to resizing, and
why you need to do it.
Full-Length Sizing Dies vs Neck Sizing Dies: Ever wonder what the hoopla about neck sizing from accuracy buffs is all
about? Fred explains why you might want to do it, what makes you able to do it continuously with some cases, why you’ll have to eventually full-length size, and how to avoid “Over-sizing.” Do you know what guns you should not only
never neck-size for, and moreover why you’ll need a “Small base” die? What IS a small base die?
Sizing the Cases: By this time, you will be all set to make those cases like new again.
Priming the Cases: Fred shows you four different priming methods, and why some are better than others in his opinion.
Measuring the powder: Several different scales are shown and how to set them up. After that Fred dips, throws, trickles, weighs, and finally stands and watches a machine do it all.

Disk 3 – Charging Cases: Now we actually begin to load cartridges. Attach the powder measure to the press, verify it is throwing the correct weight, adjust the die so the case is just partially re-sized, and dump the powder into the case. Watch Fred set-up the bullet seating die for no crimp, set the bullet on the top of the case and feed it into the die, adjust its seating depth, and . . . voila!! A real live reloaded round of ammunition made by your very own self.
Seating Bullets with a Crimp: Here you will learn how to set the seating die so it will crimp the case mouth into the bullet’s cannelure just as the bullet reaches the correct depth, and why and when you sometimes need to do this.
Using the Lee Loader: Robart Schaefer demonstrates the use of the basic Lee Loader. Many of we “Senior” reloaders started with one of these tools. It gives you everything you need to load one caliber of good quality ammo for ~ $28. Just supply brass, bullets, primers, and powder. The box holding the tools will fit in the back pocket of your jeans, assuming you don’t fill them as full as some of us.
Fred at the bench demonstrating proper die set up
Next up is Robart Schaefer again, this time with the Lee Hand Press. This is basically a bench type press that
you can use sitting in your La-Z-Boy while watching football. And I have. While it won’t full length resize large
cases, it will do everything else. I probably used it more than anything else with a Lee decapping die, got
my youngest to do a bunch too, and then primed those cases with a Lee Auto Prime. Yep, thousands of them. Got them both for under $50 more than a couple of years ago.
Reloading Cartridges with a Three Die Set-up: Fred explains the use of three die sets. The third die is used to bell the mouth of straight wall cases and pour the powder charge through into the case.
Annealing Brass: Working (sizing) makes it hard and susceptible to cracking. Heating it softens it again and allows more loadings. Fred shows how to do this and gives several alternatives and cautions.
Case Trimming: Here’s where you learn how to trim those over length cases back to the correct size with a couple of different tools and ways of measuring.
Additional Case Prep Procedures: Learn about vibrating, tumbling, and ultra-sonic case cleaners. Learn how and why we uniform primer pockets and flash holes.
Reloading Cartridges Using a Progressive Press: Fred demonstrates a progressive loading press, and describes what happens, and how, at each station.
Disk 4 – Tools and Accessories: Fred wraps up the cartridge reloading portion with a “Show and Tell” of some specialty tools that will make your reloading easier. Shown are extended shell holders to ease the loading of really short cases, a competition shell holder set whose heights vary by .002 inches to allow you to set the exact amount of case sizing you want, powder measure baffle and drop tube, and neck lubers for neck sizing. Specialty dies include neck sizing dies with interchangeable bushings to adjust neck tension, Lee Factory Crimp dies, in-line feeding and micrometer seating
dies, and bullet pulling dies. An impact bullet puller is demonstrated as well.

Bullet Casting: Robart tells us why we should consider casting our own lead bullets and shows what tools and equipment are needed for the process.

Lead: What kinds of lead alloys are needed, where to scrounge what you need, or buy it pure or ready alloyed
if all else fails. The characteristics of the various alloys are discussed and their uses explained.
Pouring Ingots: How and where to heat your lead safely, why and how to flux, and cleaning the dross off the top. It’s kind of cool to see the steel wheel weight clips floating on top of the lead. How to pour the cleaned and alloyed lead into
smaller, easily handled ingots . . . into what looks like corn cob shapes in a jello mold. Why you can never have water around hot lead.
Casting Bullets: Now we get down to actually pouring lead into the molds. How to tell by looking at the bullets whether the lead, mold, or ladle is too hot or cold. He pours from a ladle into the top of single and double molds, and from the bottom into a six bullet mold.
Testing Hardness: Here is a tool the tests the Brinell hardness of the cast bullets and explains how you can determine how hard they have to be based on the chamber pressure of the cartridge they are going to be fired from.
Sizing and Lubing Bullets: Why cast bullets need to be sized and lubed after casting, and how it’s done. What to use for bullet lubes is a choice made based on the bullet’s expected velocity The Lube Sizer Press: This press has a heating
element that heats the lube before it deposits in the lube grooves, seats a gas check, and sizes the bullet, all in one
smooth stroke of the handle.

Final Thoughts on Bullet Casting: Robart wraps up his discussion of bullet casting with a reiteration of why it’s a cool thing to do, and repeats the cautions earlier expressed. Have fun and be safe!

Epilogue: Fred closes by showing a bullet neck concentricity gauge and explains what it tells you and why it is important as a lead-in to a discussion of why learning even more advanced techniques can improve your abilities as a reloader and shooter. If you have never reloaded a single cartridge, you can do so with success and confidence after watching this video course. You will also be able to make informed choices on what tools and equipment will fit your needs and budget.

As a bonus, AGI put Darrel Holland’s Advanced Reloading Techniques course in the package too!

Reprinted courtesy of Hot Brass Magazine

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28 Nosler Announced at Shot Show 2015

During the first day of SHOT Show 2015 I swung by Nosler’s Booth.  GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

And what to my wundering eyes did appear, the 28 Nosler. That’s right Nosler is adding to their line-up.  The 28 and 26 Nosler utilize the same headspace gauges.

Talking to Mike Lake, who did the design work on these cartridges for Nosler, he stated that everything from 26 to 9.3mm have been registered and approved by SAAMI.  For now, Nosler is only bringing the 28 Nosler to market.

When asked why Nosler took all the designs to SAMMI now Mike said, “We were aware of the wildcats that have appeared on the 26 Nosler case.  So, it just made sense for us to get the dimensions for all the calibers completed and registered with SAAMI.”

The 28 Nosler according to Nosler’s new catalog will push a 160 grain bullet at 3300 feet per second (fps).  A 175 grain bullet will launch at 3125 fps.  In case you were wondering that is faster than the 7mm RUM with less powder.  How is that possible?  Pretty simple really, the 7mm RUM is very over bore, in other words it has too much case capacity for the 7mm bore.

Last years introduction of the 26 Nosler was met with great enthusiasm by shooters.  There is every reason to believe that even more shooters will like the 28 Nosler, 7mm cartridges in general are more popular the 6.5mm in the U.S.  Look for this to be a much discussed cartridge in 2015.

I talked to Pacific Tool & Gauge and 4D Reamer Rentals LTD.  PTG says the 28 is in production already and 4D placed an order for it as soon as the cartridge was announced.  4D also ordered reamers for all the Nosler designs registered with SAAMI.

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Audio Report: Firearms Technologies Certificate program.

Katrin Frye of Montana Public Radio reported on both the NRA Short Term Gunsmith program and the new full time college credit certificate available at FVCC in Kalispell, MT.   The link below will take you direct to the audio file.

http://cpa.ds.npr.org/kufm/audio/2014/07/FVCC_Firearms_1.mp3

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New Approach to Firearms Education

Flathead Valley Community College will launch a new two-semester evening Firearms Technologies Certificate starting this fall.  The 27-credit program will feature curriculum developed to support the growing firearms industry in the Flathead Valley in Montana as well as across the country.

One of only a few colleges in the nation to offer firearms related programs. FVCC has taken a unique approach, developing the program as an enhancement to its existing industrial machine technology program introduced last year under the Department of Labor “Amplifying Montana’s Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Industry” grant (#TC-23760-12-60-A-30).  This approach will make FVCC the only school that focuses on manufacture of firearms and related parts.

The new program will provide students the opportunity to incorporate advanced machining skills with an understanding of firearms operational systems. Courses are tailored to emphasize the manufacturing of firearm components.

Fred Zeglin, curriculum coordinator for the program, developed the courses under the guidance and input from local firearms manufacturers.  “Manufacturers say they are seeking trained machinists who understand firearms.  Classes have been designed to build understanding of a wide variety of firearms and the way that they function.” said Zeglin.

Emphasis will be placed upon the completion of several gunsmithing projects involving blueprints and schematics using a combination of both hand and machine tools. This program will provide a clear understanding of firearms design and function, enabling graduates to assist with design implementation or tolerance issues in manufacturing environments.

The program will be held in the evenings with labs during the daytime on Friday and Saturday. Course topics will include firearms introduction and safety; manual mill and lathe systems; bench metal techniques; firearms theory and firearms repair; machine tools for gunsmiths; and precision rifle building.  This selection of courses are designed to increase the marketable skills of the students in the manufacturing realm.

The program will be marketed nationwide bringing focus to the local industry.  Prospective students must apply both to the program and for admission to FVCC. Program applications are due August 1 at 4 p.m. Applications are available online at http://www.fvcc.edu/firearms or in the Admissions Office in Blake Hall on the FVCC Kalispell campus. For more information, contact Jori Bullemer at 756-3905 or jbullemer@fvcc.edu or Will Richards at 756-4862 or wrichards@fvcc.edu.

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NRA Short Term Gunsmithing Program, Kalispell, MT

FVCC LogoFlathead Valley Community College is hosting the NRA Short Term Gunsmithing Program again this summer.  2014 will be the third year for this program at FVCC, the program has grown in attendance each year and this year should be no different.  New classes are being offered so if you attended or looked at the offerings in the past there is probably something new for you this year.

Quality instruction is the name of the game at FVCC.  The instructors for the Short Term Program are all top notch professionals who are well respected in the gunsmithing community.  For instance, Lee Helgeland is one of the premier stockmakers in the nation.   He has spent 30 years perfecting his craft and is a member of the American Custom Gunmakers Guild.  Another instructor new to the Kalispell program this year, Sam Hatfield, certified NRA and Sig Academy Master Instructor.  Sam was head gunsmith at Green Mountain Guns in Lakewood, Colorado and served as a member of the United States Army Marksmanship Unit as a gunsmith. Sam now owns Hatfields Gunsmithing Inc. in Manassas, VA.

To learn more about the instructors for this summers program check out this link:

http://www.fvcc.edu/continuing-education/gunsmithing-program/instructors.html

New classes this year include “S&W Revolver Action Work”, “1911 Handgun AMU Accuracy Rebuilding” and “Accurate Reloading for the Hunter”.  Perennial favorites like “Customizing AR-15 or AR-10” and “Introduction to Checkering” will still be on the schedule.

If you have ever wanted to learn more about gunsmithing but can’t take of the two years necessary for most schools, the NRA Short Term Gunsmithing Program is a great alternative.  Classes normally run or one week, Monday through Friday.  They are intensive hands on classes with small numbers of students, so you have great access to the instructor. This unique learning opportunity is set up as part of the Continuing Education Department of the College and the courses are non-credit.

If cost is a concern I noticed that the College has some Scholarships provided by NRA donations, details at this link:

http://www.fvcc.edu/continuing-education/gunsmithing-program.html

An electronic copy of the brochure for these classes is available at this link:

http://www.fvcc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Gunsmithing-Course-Brochure.pdf?2ebeaa

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How To: Inlet Your Barrel Correctly

A barrel should be inlet up to the center line of the bore, or in other words, half it’s diameter should be below the wood line.  All too many new gunsmiths and hobby gunsmiths just inlet until they can get the screws into the action and call it good.

There is a simple way to make sure your barrel channel is deep enough so that the bore line will be aligned to the top of the stock.  Take a square and place the outside 90 degree corner of the squared into the barrel channel.  If the square touches on all three sides then the barrel channel is a half circle.  GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

If the point at the bottom of the barrel channel touches and keeps the sides from contacting the top of the stock then your too shallow.  Conversely, if the point of the square does not touch but both sides are in contact with the top of the stock then your past 50 percent depth.

Fred Zeglin is working on a series of booklets, “Gunsmithing Student Handbook Series”.  This little how-to tip is just one peek into the upcoming books.  What gunsmithing tips would interest you?

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Savage Barrel Nut Wrench, New for SHOT Show 2014

4D Savage barrel nut wrench

Savage offers smooth barrel nuts on many of their bolt guns.  Until now, no commercial wrench for removing or installing these barrel nuts when headspacing a pre-fit barrel existed.  4D Reamer Rentals LTD has designed this new wrench for use with the smooth type barrel nuts found on many Savage rifles.  The wrench will not work with splined type nuts.

These smooth barrel nuts are commonly available in the market place and provide a nicer finished look without the splines cut into them.  These smooth nuts will work on all Savage 110 action variations, including Axis™ and Stevens™. 

Made from aircraft grade aluminum this wrench can be used for both Large (fat magnum) and Small (standard) thread barrel nuts.  

The finish on the production wrenches will be either painted or anodized, depending upon the buyers preference.  Graphic dipped models, as pictured here, would be for special presentation pr personalized gifts.

Dealer pricing available.
Savage Barrel Nut Wrench by 4D MSRP $49.95

Rental from 4-dproducts.com will be $15  they are carrying the smooth barrel nuts too.

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P.O. Ackley and the Trinidad Gunsmithing School

In post World War II, veterans were looking for a way to receive training so that they could start new careers.  Untold numbers of vets wrote to P.O. Ackley requesting training.

Tom Elliot_1947

Ackley returned home from a vacation to find a huge pile of mail on a desk in his office, all from men seeking a chance to learn gunsmithing.  P.O. had tried to train a few men in his business but found that it was counterproductive.  He took the mountain of mail to the Junior College in Trinidad and suggested they start a school to deal with the hundreds of G.I.s who had returned home and had veterans benefits to spend for training.

The school agreed to set up a program and in short order the first round or classes began.  P.O. Ackley taught at the school for the first three years of it’s operation.  He also helped choose instructors who could pass along quality training to the vets.

Ackley left Trinidad in 1951 when his business was sold to an out of state concern.  But the school lives on and is still training gunsmiths today.

A new book on P.O. Ackley will be available in 2017, it will cover his entire career.  From 1936 to 1989 Ackley manufactured scope mounts and barrels, he wrote articles and books, and he was “The Gunsmith’s Gunsmith”.  No other gunsmith of the 20th century was as influential in the firearms trade.  Six years of research have produced an amazing amount of new and interesting information.  You may think you know about Ackley, but trust me, when you read this book you will learn so much more…  

Book has recently been published, “P.O. Ackley, America’s Gunsmith”

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8th Annual Gunsmith Conference and Career Fair

This conference has become an important part of the firearms trade, helping gunsmiths and employers to locate each other.

The Gunsmith Conference and Career Fair is the perfect venue for prospective, student or working gunsmiths to interact the with industry’s top employers and personalities. Further, it’s great opportunity for those firearm-related companies looking for qualified gunsmiths, or to show off their products to key customers. As in year’s past, there will be no charge for individuals or companies to attend. The industry-exclusive event will again be held at the Downtown Marriott in Des Moines, Iowa, April 1-2, 2014.

In addition to the unique networking and potential employment opportunities, the Gunsmith Conference and Career Fair will feature a host of seminars ranging from firearm-specific topics to business tips for gun shop owners.

Among the speakers already signed up are Steve Sanetti, President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Les Baer, owner of Les Baer Custom, Stan Chen, owner of Stan Chen Custom, Jason Hornady, Vice President of Hornady Manufacturing, and legendary gunsmiths and gunmakers Joe Balickie, Jerry Fisher, Ron Power, Sharon Dressel and more. Doug Turnbull of Turnbull Manufacturing will deliver the keynote address at Wednesday evening’s banquet.

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Tricks the Pros Use When Rechambering a Barrel.

Chamber with ejector removed.

Many a chamber reamer has been damaged or broken when a novice gunsmith tried to rechamber a barrel with an extractor or ejector cut.  In this post I will explain how to get a high quality job without danger of damaging the reamer.

At right is the breech end of an NEF barrel that is about to be rechambered.  The mistake that is commonly made is to try to insert the chamber reamer into this existing chamber without preparing the chamber area.  Reamers are not made to work on an interrupted cut such as an extractor cut.  Trying to use a conventional drill bit will not work in this situation either, it will simply do a lot of damage and make a mess of the job.

There are two easy ways to handle this problem and end up with a nice clean chamber.

  1. Use a piloted counterbore to cut a recess that will accept the chamber reamer, eliminating the extractor cut.  The problem with this method is that you would need a specialty tool for every shoulder diameter that you might decide to rechamber for.
  2. Place the barrel in the lathe and use a boring bar or a simple boring tool ground for the purpose.  This method has the advantage of working on any cartridge combination that you might encounter.

Measure the bore to work with the reamer.

Bore out the area of the extractor cut to a dimension very close that of the shoulder diameter of the reamer you will be using.  The idea again is to prevent the reamer from cutting an interrupted cut.  As the shoulder of the reamer engages the chamber it will then cut uniformly and without chatter.  If you attempt to cut the chamber without performing this preparation each flute of the reamer will bang against the extractor cut as it comes around.  In most cases this will at a minimum damage the reamer, worst case it will brake the reamer.

hand ground boring tool.

At right is a simple hand ground lathe bit that will work for this job.  The under side of the tool must be relieved so that it can clearance the inside of the chamber area.  This is a finesse job, only remove as much as you need to get the reamer in full contact with the barrel.

What it looks like when bored correctly.

Here is the chamber area after the boring work is done and before the reamer has been used.  Note that we did not cut away any unnecessary material, only that which will make the reamer cut properly.

Chatter is a common complaint when rechambering a barrel.  The pilot is often either not engaged in the bore of the barrel or it does not fit the barrel properly.  Proper pilot diameter is .0005″ to .001″ smaller than the bore diameter (across the lands).  This allows for a slip fit to the bore.  An undersized pilot will promote chatter.

Finished chamber

A simple way to stop chatter that will not damage the tool is to wrap the reamer with a strip of wax paper.  The wax paper acts as a dampener against the chatter which is caused by vibration.  Do use cutting oil as normal when using the wax paper.

The chamber below completely cleaned up the old rim cut from the rimmed cartridge.  Of course the extractor would have to be modified for the rimless case.

Side note:  Reamers for straight wall cases like black powder and pistol type cartridges are prone to damage from the problems addressed in this post.  In addition they are prone to damage near the rim cutter when chips become trapped in the extractor cut.  So if your working with such reamers take extra care to keep chips cleared, especially when nearing the last few cuts.

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