Author Archives: BangSteel

About BangSteel

Providing insight on Long-Range Rifley, OCW Handloading, and offering courses and consultation in both.

Virginia Patriots…

As many of you already know, the new Virginia legislature is attempting to force Chicago style gun control onto the citizens of our commonwealth. They want to ban AR-15’s… AK-47’s… Mini-14’s and the like. They want to ban any handgun that can accept a magazine that can hold more than a few rounds of ammo (Which is 90% of handguns in use today)… and they want to do a lot of other asinine things to the rights of free Virginians.

Fortunately, the citizens have responded by declaring 2nd Amendment sanctuary status in counties and municipalities all over the state. More than 90% of Virginia is now, by the will of the citizens, “2nd Amendment sanctuary” territory. More counties and cities are coming on board every day, so by the time you read this we’ll likely see only a couple of small areas in the state which do not recognize 2nd Amendment rights.

virginia flag

Read this National Review article on the subject of Virginia’s freedom minded majority.

Northam’s Losing Battle against 2A Sanctuaries in Virginia

Second Amendment sanctuary status means that the sheriff’s departments and court officials will not act on any of these unconstitutional laws, rendering them of no effect. Some counties have openly raised up militia groups to defend the sheriff and other county officials, should a power-grab be attempted by those who would infringe, or attempt to infringe on our rights. Our citizens will stand up for one another. And we’ll stand up for any American traveling through, working, or vacationing in our state. 

While it is highly unlikely that these socialist laws will get past the court system, it is still good for all Americans to be ready to fight tyranny. Someday such laws might in fact be approved by the courts. But our founding fathers have given us wisdom and example. Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts appear in our Constitution: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Virginia citizens have pushed back in a very big way. We are proud to be a part of Washington’s and Jefferson’s home state. This is the land of Patrick Henry, and many other great American patriots. We believe we are making those founding fathers proud by standing up for the rights that God has given us. We hope that other states are watching, and taking measures just as bold.

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Bring your rifle, ammo… and a notebook

I like to tell our clients as they come to the firing line: “Bring your rifle, your ammo, and your notebook…  And if you’re going to forget any of those three things, forget the rifle.”

We can tell who the serious riflemen are by watching who takes good notes.  If a guy comes to the firing line without a notebook, odds are overwhelming that he’s not applying enough intellect to the task for him to ever become a true American Rifleman.

We can’t force you to take notes, and if you just don’t want to, we’ll guide you through the class, you’ll hit your targets and probably enjoy yourself.  We do want to see folks have a good time.  But beyond that, we want to see at least a fair percentage of those folks who are serious enough about long range riflery to take copious notes.  This group will benefit greatly from keeping a detailed log book.  These are the guys who will serve our nation well if (God forbid) we have a conflict within our borders.


What kind of notes should you take?

Your handwritten trajectory, in 20 yard increments, out to a bit beyond the distance you expect to shoot needs to be in that book.  Adjusted trajectory notes for varied temperatures or elevation changes should also be in that book.

A series of impacts that are markedly higher or lower than the proven trajectory chart indicates they should be need to be recorded in the notebook.  Always indicate wind speed and direction for all shots–but especially for shots that are landing well high, or well low of the target with typical data dialed. (Wind can lift shots, or push them down in some situations).

You’ll want your particular load data, with either the lot number of the factory ammunition, or the lot numbers of the powder and bullets you’re using (powder in particular).    You’ll also want to record measured velocity of your load on different outings, and any velocity changes you experience when transitioning to another lot of ammo or loading components (for hand loaders).  It is not uncommon to experience velocity variations in different temperatures, especially with some powders which are more sensitive to temperature changes.

You should keep the best log possible of the number of shots down the barrel of your rifle.  Keep any maintenance you do to the rifle recorded in your notebook.  Keep a record of the torque values on the action screws, scope base screws, and scope ring screws.  Any changes you make to the rifle, scope, or scope mounting hardware should also be noted.

Every entry in your notebook should have a date, location, and time of day, temperature and other significant weather conditions (rainy, overcast, sunny, position of sun) written with it.  Include general direction of fire (north, south, NW, SE, etc)…

Logging the impact location of shots fired, and whether they hit or miss your target can be very helpful in piecing together patterns which could help you increase you hit count–simply by studying your notebook entries.  Always note the direction of the sun relative to the shot direction.  Light conditions, and direction of the sun will often have an effect on your aim.  As a rule, in brightly lit skies you’ll hit a bit low, and in dim light, the shot can go high.   How high or low?  Generally not more than a minute of angle, or .3 mils.  But of course that can put you over or under a small target at longer ranges.  Keeping notes on the data you have to dial on a particular day, with the temperature, lighting and wind hold needed to hit the target will be helpful as you review your results later on.

If your light wind 100 yard zero needs to be re-set on a particular day of shooting, there could be different reasons for that, ranging from loose scope hardware (a quality steel base and rings are well worth the money), a faulty scope erector and spring (internal), a large temperature swing effecting the powder’s burn rate significantly enough to move your point of impact at 100 yards (POI)… or the light conditions as mentioned earlier.  Show the sun direction, and indicate whether the sky is overcast or clear.  Soon you’ll be able to see a pattern emerge, such as “my shots go .2 mils high at 600 yards when the sky is overcast and it’s a bit dark… and they go .2 mils low when the sun is out bright and the sky is clear.

Keeping a range diagram (range card) for the area where you shoot, with distances to the different landmarks downrange is an extremely good idea.

Noting when the last battery change occurred in any battery powered devices you routinely use is something else you should have in your notes. (You should always have analog solutions for any shot you may need to make–never rely solely on electronic shot solutions.  We call these guys cyber-shooters)…  😮  🙂

Note your general physical condition and wellness as you log your shots.  Indicate whether you believe you were “in the zone” (so to speak) or having difficulty keeping things steady.  This could relate to what you had to eat not long before the shooting session (caffeine, or lack thereof if you’re used to a lot of coffee), or a food that is giving you indigestion.  Seriously, stuff like that will influence how well you shoot.

There are many other things you’ll likely want to record in your notebook which won’t be mentioned here.  Just know that if it could be relevant, it’s better to write it down than not to.

What kind of notebook?

Image result for quad paper notebookImage result for quad paper notebook

Some folks like graph paper pages with 1/8 or 1/4 inch squares (shown above).

You might have already noted that I didn’t use the phrase “data book” and that was perhaps by design.  You really don’t need the tacti-cool data book like you see advertised for 40 or more dollars.  Most of the pages in those things are all but useless (yeah, but they make me feel like John Lee Swagger!)… I get it.  🙂

A quality notebook of midsize (about 5×7 inches) with strong paper is really all you’ll need.  Ruled sheets, or 1/4″ graph paper is good.  And, very importantly, you’ll want to keep a second copy of your notebook safe at home just in case something happens to the main book–then you’ll have a back up that will allow you to re-create your notes.  Rewriting your notes in your back-up notebook will actually help you remember things even better.

A larger book can be used as your back up book which you keep at home or in some other safe location.  The large book can hold data on multiple rifles, and serve as back-up for various individual notebooks which would be kept with their corresponding rifles.

Image result for miquelrius notebook

The Miquelrius 400 page 6×8 bound journal (shown above) is a sturdy and very spacious book that would work well as a back-up note book.  In addition to duplicating your smaller note books for your individual rifle and load, this book has plenty of room for other observations you might want to add.

A small ruler or protractor (and a protractor can be used for estimating shot angle) can be kept with the notebook.  At least 2 good pens like Bic or Papermate should be kept as well. That said, I have found that pencil notes don’t “bleed” on the pages if the book gets wet. There are products such as Write In The Rain notebooks which come with a special pen that you might choose to take initial notes on if you know you’re going to be working in wet weather.  Transfer those notes to the primary note book and back-up notebook as soon as possible afterward.

You don’t have to go by any particular format for your note keeping.  Just make your notes and drawings in a way that you can understand.

Last pic… an example of a note page in the back-up notebook.  Studies have shown that the mere act of writing down information will help you recall that information even if you don’t refer back to the notes.  So take good notes!  It’ll make you a better rifleman, without a doubt.  This pic is of one page of the entry for the session being recorded. Shot impacts and target sketches will be added on facing page.



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Stepping “up” to the 6.5 … :)

If you’re a 30 cal shooter (most likely a 308) you have no doubt been inundated with claims that you need to start thinking seriously about going to the 6.5 mm caliber–either in the ubiquitous Creedmoor or one of the other variants.  The internet and gun shop and shooting match conversations surely by now have you feeling as though you’re kidding yourself if you think you can keep up the good shooting with a 308 Winchester.

Gold Medal Match

Amusingly, we also hear quite often that the 308 is a good “starter” rifle, that you’ll need to step up from once you’re able to ride without the training wheels.  I’ve still not understood such logic, but like many myths it just keeps proliferating.  😦

As of this writing, I know of at least four (4) long range gunners who shoot both the 308 and a second rifle which they’ve “stepped up” to in our long range matches (we allow them to enter both guns).  The 6.5 caliber was the choice in most of these instances. But based on match scores I’m looking at, they really haven’t stepped up; they’re actually (every one of them no kidding!) out-shooting their 6.5’s with the 308 that they cut their teeth on.  And they’re using those 308’s to shoot higher scores than 80 to 90 percent of the 6 and 6.5 calibers in the contest!

6.5 creedmoor

Is this because the 308 is a superior cartridge? No. The 6.5’s in fact do drift less in the wind, and trajectories are typically flatter when compared to most 308 Winchester loadings.  The real reason is simple:  They *know* the 308.  They began with it, they learned on it, and they *know* it.  Anything that their new 6.5mm does, it will always do in the shadow of the knowledge base they built shooting the 308.

If these four (and counting) shooters continue to shoot both rifles regularly, with the same amount of trigger time given to each one, developing the same skill level on each rifle, the day may come when the 6.5’s come to the front. But this will not be easy to do.  In order to keep up the good performance with the 308, they’ll need to hang on to the intuitive wind holds and flight times they learned in the beginning.  And the line will continue to blur when they switch to the 6.5mm cartridge.  The tendency would likely have them holding too much windage with one cartridge, and too little with the other.  Shooting each rifle to its maximum potential would be no easier than switching cars in the middle of a race.  Even if the second car is faster and handles better, you’re not going to drive it as proficiently as the one you began the race with.


So… with that said, when someone asks us what rifle to begin with for long range shooting, the answer is always the same:  The one you plan on staying with.  This will be the gun you build your foundation on, and the design of that foundation will dictate what you can and cannot do with the structure you build upon it.

In the BangSteel classes we see very often folks who have two different rifles, with a lot of money invested in each one, but which are two totally different animals.  Our advice is for them to choose one, and either sell the other, or re-barrel it so that their main rifle and back up rifle will work virtually the same.  This is the way to be your absolute best.

This isn’t to say that you can’t have more than one cartridge in your “arsenal” … :/   🙂  You can compliment the 308 Winchester with the 6.5mm Grendel.  Velocity and trajectory can be quite similar on these, at least out to a given range with selected loads.  You can compliment your 338 Lapua Magnum or 300 Win Mag with the 260 Remington or the 6.5mm Creedmoor using 140’s; the trajectories and velocities are quite similar if you choose the right loads for each cartridge.  The .243 Winchester shooting heavy bullets will behave much like the Creedmoor and other 6.5’s…  etc.

Your “shooting intuition” must be understood and maintained. Realize that there are mental processes going on behind your conscious thoughts for every shot you make.  (Read Secrets of Mental Marksmanship by Miller and Cunningham for a great treatise on this issue).  If you confuse those base understandings, and complicate the equations that are being sorted out intuitively… unconsciously… you’ll harm your hit count in the end.

We know that many of you who read this have gotten rid of your 308’s in favor of 6mm’s or 6.5mm’s long ago, and have not really looked back.  You’ve “reinvented” that foundation (if in fact you started with the “lowly” 308 Winchester), and you’re doing reasonably well with some trophies and prizes and perhaps money to show for it.  That’s great.  Keep up the good work!  But if you’ve found that you’re not living up to your own expectations after “stepping up” to the .243 or .260… and 308 shooters are still getting the best of you on match day, you might want to consider going back to your roots, and dusting off the old “starter” gun… your old 308 Win.  And perhaps it’ll surprise you.  Perhaps you’ll even surprise yourself. 😉

bangsteel brochure

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Rifle, scope, ammo recommendations….

We do spend a fair bit of time fielding emails and even phone calls asking about what rifle or scope or cartridge or particular ammo is best for long range shooting.  Many calls come in from folks who probably have no intention of attending one of our courses, but who still want to assemble a “sniper” rifle. :/  The voice mails (or emails) go something like “uh, yeah, I’m going to be coming to a shooting class at BangSteel here in a few weeks maybe, and I wanted to know what kind of rifle I should buy, and what kind of scope…”    So, it would seem useful to construct a short treatise that will serve the purpose of directing potential clients toward what we have found to be the best choices in rifles, scopes, and ammunition for doing the kind of work we do here.

Please note that we actually do see a *lot* of rifles come through our general and private classes, as well as our rifle matches that we host.  While most long range shooting schools hold one or two classes per month, we have been blessed with steady business throughout the week–even in the “off season.”  This is not to boast (boasting is foolish 🙂 )… this is rather to help the reader understand that the opinions being offered here are based on a larger body of information than the average shooting school will have amassed.

This body of information will be subject to change from time to time.  This recommended equipment list will added to, or taken away from–or otherwise modified based on our latest experiences with various rifle, scope, and ammo brands.  We will only recommend what we *know* for a fact will work.  Just because a particular piece of equipment is expensive, we cannot give it a pass and include it here.  What you’ll find here are items that we know for certain, based on actual experience and multiple examples will work.

If you do not see your favorite brand of rifle or optic listed here, that does not mean that it will be unsatisfactory.  It simply means that we’ve had either limited, or -zero- experience with that item.  So we will not recommend it until we’ve seen multiple examples perform well in use.

This list is not meant to imply that these recommended items are bullet proof.  😉  It is possible that we’ve seen very limited failures of the rifles or optics mentioned here, but feel that the product is still a good choice.  Nothing is perfect; things can malfunction.  We saw a 6000 dollar rifle which boasts a proprietary action with the Winchester model 70 style safety fail when the safety lever locked up like Fort Knox, rendering the rifle inoperative.  Some fiddling and finagling and some RemOil got it running again, so we chalked that up to a very rare occurrence.  Other rifles costing more than 5000 dollars have shown issues, especially esoteric AR based designs built around cartridges that the AR was never meant to work with.  Let that be enough of that, however… just suffice it to say that spending big money on a rifle does not necessarily mean that it won’t have problems.

Tried and true designs with widely available parts sources are usually a good bet.  If you simply must have something odd, or well off the beaten path because you just can’t bring yourself to shoot a “pedestrian” Remington 700 or Savage 10 action–you’ll be in for disappointment if that system fails, as it’ll likely need to be shipped back to the builder.  Not so long ago we delayed a private class for 90 minutes while waiting on a Fed Ex shipment to arrive with an extractor for a very expensive semi-auto 300 Winchester Magnum.  Two out of three of those rifles which have come to our classes and matches have failed to the point that a back up rifle had to be used.

So without further ramble, let’s get into the list.  Remember–this list will change from time to time, so check back here for potential changes.  Please don’t email asking why a particular rifle or optic is not mentioned.  We do not wish to impugn any particular brand here; our aim is to direct you to equipment that we strongly believe you can rely on.   If the equipment is not listed, it’s either because we have not seen a large enough sample of those items, or we have noted higher than average problems with those items.



As far as commonly fielded rifles that we’ve seen, the top two performers based on sheer numbers are Remington 700’s and Savage 10 (or 110) model rifles.  Our range rifles are generally Savage builds, but we must admit that the Remington 700 action seems to give fewer problems.  The Remington 700 trigger leaves a lot to be desired when compared to the Savage Accutrigger, but replacement triggers are widely available.  Savage rifles will at times need the Accutrigger adjusted, and can have very tight chambers that allow factory rounds to actually hit the rifling.  Not altogether a bad thing for accuracy and velocity, but a recent Savage LE 308 would hold onto the bullet so tight you couldn’t extract a loaded round (factory Federal Gold Medal match).  With ample break-in such a situation will normally resolve, but I mention that just as an example of what can be seen at times. Another thing we’ve seen with some Savage rifles is that the front action screw when properly torqued protrudes into the bolt lug channel, obstructing the bolt’s movement.  The rifle normally has shipped with a loose front action screw to accommodate the anomaly–no kidding.

Not to inflate the Remington lover’s heads too much here though… the average Savage has proven to be a bit more accurate.  This isn’t to say Remington’s wont shoot.  Let’s just say that when a Savage is right, “bring on the custom guns“… they really can be that good.

Ruger… the new Ruger Precision rifle is very good.  Other than some minor issues with the adjustment of the cheek riser that comes on the rifle, these really work.  The trigger is very good, the rifle comes with a 20 MOA scope base installed, and is very “tactical” friendly if you’re after that sort of thing.  We’ve seen 6 of these rifles as of this writing, and they’re fast becoming a favorite.

Tikka… no problems here, these work very well.  The replacement parts may not be as easily found as with more popular models, but the rifles are well made, and we’ve not seen a single Tikka give trouble.  Get a heavy barreled version and it’ll serve you well.  If you’re after a hunting weight rig, the T3 Light shoots well.

Browning… no problems to report, but we have only a modest number of examples as of now.  The quality of the Browning product seems to be top notch.  It’s likely a good choice.  We’ve even been impressed with the consistency of the Browning BAR (semi-automatic rifle).

Semi-auto AR-10 platforms.  As odd as it may sound, the DPMS seems to give less trouble than the more expensive versions.  While you wouldn’t think this would be the case, it nonetheless (in our experience) is.  Heavy barreled DPMS rifles generally give excellent long range accuracy.  We don’t at this time have any recommendations for other brands of AR-10 (308 win chambered) rifles.   There are obviously a lot of high end AR-10’s available out there, so if you plan to buy one please check online reviews before you drop a lot of cash.

scope level


This will get a bit controversial, but we need to call it like we see it.  If the scope of your choice is not listed here, and you’re fairly confident it’s a popular model, the odds are that we’ve seen too many crashes to recommend it.  That does not mean that your scope is bad; it just means that odds of a new buyer getting a bad one are too high for us to recommend that scope model.  There are brands that have both bad and good and “mediocre” models, all under the same company name. So keep that in mind also.

One other thing:  There are no doubt thousands of anecdotal mentions on the internet and elsewhere of “XYZ” scope breaking.  Very often (perhaps most of the time) these scope “failures” were not failures at all.  Improper installation, or ignorance of scope function and design capabilities can place the blame on a perfectly good scope, when it in fact belongs on the person who installed the scope, and/or the user.  Many shooters in high level competition matches may blame the scope when they do poorly–but the real culprit may have simply been a good shooter having a bad day.  Just sayin’  😉

Athlon Optics.   For high end optics, the Athlon Cronus is going to be very difficult to beat. If you can spring for the reasonable price (compared to other scopes costing over 2000 dollars) you’ll be very impressed, as we have been.

Leupold…  The Mark 4 Leupold scopes seem to be tough performers.  These may have to be obtained on the used market as of 2017, as word is Leupold is going to limit sales of these scopes to military and LE only.  Other than needing the usual “break in” of the turrets so that they’ll track true, these work well.  Glass is more than adequate, and overall design is proven in use over many years.  Unlike what is being mentioned by many, we’ve not seen (at this point) any marked difference in quality between older and newer Mark 4 Leupolds.  At this writing, we’ve seen dozens of Mark 4 Leupolds, and none have broken.

For a general use hunting scope that utilizes the coin dial style turrets, you can really get a lot for your money in the 3 to 9 power VX-1 or “Rifleman” Leupold scope.  These are tough, and seem to work well.  It’s a fairly old, tried and true design.  Not the best choice for long range shooting–but they can and do work!   The Leupold CDS versions of the VX2 and VX3, especially with the Wind-Plex reticle are OUTSTANDING scopes for not a lot of cash.

Vortex…  We can without question recommend the Vortex Gen-II Razor scopes.  These are reliable, solid performers.

Bushnell…  One of our favorites is the Bushnell Elite 10X (fixed power) mildot scope.  These things are built well, and we’ve not seen a failure at this point.  And for 200 to 250 dollars, they top our list of value priced scopes.  Tracking is excellent.  These will beat the living daylights out of many scopes costing 3 times as much–so don’t overlook them.

Nikon… these scopes can work well for a budget priced hunting rig.  The Prostaff and Buckmaster line seems to give good service.  We do not like the “12 MOA” revolution count on the turrets, however.  (Ten MOA revs are best, unless you get to the higher end 20 MOA rev turrets).

SWFA…  Probably our favorite scope to recommend below 1000 dollars, especially the fixed 10, 12, and 16 power models.  For 300 dollars, these scopes are an INCREDIBLE value, easily beating nearly every scope you can mention this side of 1000 dollars when it comes to precision of turret dialing, and overall robust construction.  The 12x “milquad” SWFA is one of our favorite scopes period.  We’ve never seen an SWFA scope fail, and we’ve seen a lot of them.  The SWFA’s are approved for use on the 50 BMG–so they can take a real beating and stay on zero.

Burris… the XTR series tactical scopes are priced around the 1100 dollar a copy mark, and are very good scopes from what we’ve seen.  The 3.5 to 15x, or the 5 to 20x will be excellent choices, both.  One particular XTR I reviewed has the odd distinction of being the crispest, clearest, most beautifully contrasted glass I’ve seen in *any* rifle scope at *any* price.  Not sure where Burris got that glass, but it was stunning.  I’ve not looked through a lot of other XTR’s, so won’t say this one speaks for all of them, but that particular scope still haunts me once in a while…  :/ 😮  🙂

Schmidt & Bender… they’re one of the very best, and the price reflects it.  Quality is second to none.  The PM line is the one you’d want.  Other than perhaps the tiny turret clicks which can make getting the exact setting something you’ll have to practice at, we can say nothing bad about the S&B scopes.

Nightforce… in our opinion, one of the very best.  Not that they have anything over the Schmidt & Bender product–but we’ve seen five Nightforce optics for every one S&B, and can attest that Nightforce scopes seem not to break. (!)  They just work.  Turret design and ease of use (remember, we get to watch a lot of different clients and competitors adjust and use their scopes) is a Nightforce standard.  If you don’t mind spending over 2000 dollars on a scope, a Nightforce scope is a very safe investment.  We’ve not seen a Nightforce scope break in use, or fail to track correctly.

US Optics…  Friend and seasoned competition shooter Lynn Houck is a dedicated US Optics scope user, and he assures me that these scopes are as tough and reliable as any on the market.  They’re pricey, as very good scopes will tend to be, but they’re worth the investment.



Not a lot to say here, other than you should avoid most general hunting ammo; it rarely does well at long range work.  Federal Gold Medal Match is pretty much always good, if they make it for your rifle.  Hornady match (standard grade) has been very good.  We’ve also become acquainted with BlackWater Precision ammo lately, and noted great performance and great prices.  Check out Creedmoor Sports on their ammo selection, it has all been good stuff.  Most big maker “match grade” ammo is good to go.  Do not buy Remington Core-lokt stuff; it’s good short range hunting ammo but is not designed for long range work. Avoid ammunition with flat based bullets for long range work.  ALWAYS get your ammo in the same lot number (by the case is best).

Handloads… please make sure you’ve contacted us with your exact handload recipe before you load up a bunch in anticipation of a class.  We need to be sure that it will be safe and effective for the course.



For your 20 MOA scope base, you’ll want to invest in a good one.  Unfortunately, the lower cost options are often not really 20 MOA bases; they’re merely flat bases repackaged and sold as 20’s.  This is a fact; we see it all too often.  If you’re shooting a fast 6mm or 6.5mm, you can probably get by without a 20 MOA base.  With the 308 Winchester or 6.5 Grendel, you will definitely need a 20 MOA base.  Faster magnums with high BC bullets can get by without a 20 MOA base.  This all said, it’s best to go on and install a 20 MOA lift of some sort for your scope if you plan to do much long range shooting.

Ken Farrell, Warne, Nightforce, Leupold Mark 4 and Badger are all good.  Obviously Spuhr is good. 🙂  If you don’t want to spend the cash on a better name 20 MOA base, you should check out Burris Signature rings with the offset inserts for your 20 MOA lift.

Bipods… the Harris 9 to 13 inch SLM models remain our favorite.  You can get two of these for the cost of the Atlas models, and the Harris SLM (watch folks use them) are normally easier to use.  That said, the Atlas is fine–it’s just that the return on investment doesn’t seem justified in our studied opinion.


Again, check back on this list from time to time.  We will add, remove, or modify the data here based on future developments.  Many good shooters with considerable experience may take exception to inclusions, exclusions, or commentary shown here.  We do understand that, and don’t intend any offense at all.   This list represents our experiences and observations, nothing more–nothing less. 🙂


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Formatting the Long Range Rifle Match…

Okay… yeah… ready set go. 😀

'Can of worms - do not open!'

We’ve hosted long range rifle matches at our facility in Southwest Virginia for the last three years or so, and have come to some decided conclusions as to what is good, and what is not, as to the formatting of such matches.

Our main interest at BangSteel is to see shooters trained to hit targets at long distance.  The most pleasure I get from a day’s work is seeing a class of 4 to 8 shooters finish up, ready to go home… happy, and knowledgeable as to how to nail 18″ plates at ranges out to, and exceeding 1000 yards.

Supporting the long range shooting community by hosting long range rifle matches is a secondary goal for us–but a very important one nonetheless we believe.

Our long range shooting philosophy (see Philosophy ) is to have as many Americans as possible learn long range rifle shooting, and not only that–but to learn how to field commonly found equipment in an effective manner.  We like to keep the emphasis on realistic scenarios; something that might actually happen in a “real world” situation.  This thought process will be the template for any given match we may hold.

For instance, if in a “real world” scenario you have a deer at 725 yards, and you need that deer to feed your family, and you’re unable to get closer (for whatever reason)… you’ll have to take that shot from where you are.  But how should you go about it? Is the grass too high for a prone shot?  Then you’ll shoot off sticks, or find a position over a rock or tree branch or something to support the rifle for the shot.  The key here is the decision as to how you’ll take that shot, in reality, is up to you.   There is no one there in the field with you telling you that you “have to do it this way”… i.e. you have to use this tree, and perhaps this certain limb, or this rock, or you cannot shoot from a seated position, or whatever…

We learn field craft with the rifle in different ways.  Our anatomies are different, our strengths and weaknesses vary from one shooter to another.  I’m blessed to be able to shoot pretty well left-handed (though I’m a right handed person), but many folks may not have good vision in both eyes, or perhaps there has been a shoulder injury which would prevent that shooter from holding the rifle in that way.  So in reality, he/she wouldn’t attempt such a shot.  Forcing that shooter to shoot in an uncomfortable (and perhaps unsafe) manner for the sake of a rifle match is not a good idea, in my opinion.  So… base the shot on reality… and let the shooter decide how to solve that problem shot.  You have a target, and you have a firing location.  Present those two implements to the shooter and let them work out the firing solution (under the careful observation of range officers for safety’s sake, of course).

Stressors…  Contestants often like to have what are called “stressors” in a match.  This means something that creates stress which will often cause a person to miss the target due to increased heart rate and adrenaline level.  This is often accomplished by having the person run a few yards, and/or putting the shooter on a very tight time limit.  It is good to have stressors which will duplicate what reality might mete out, so we’re all for stressors. But that said, what stresses one person out physically may not bother another person at all.  If my 14 year old son were to have to run 100 yards and drop down and fire the rifle accurately at long range, that’s an easy thing for him.  For me, it’s one of those things that just ain’t gonna happen. 😮  I’m just being honest. 🙂   So what might be a very light amount of stress for a young man in good shape becomes near catastrophic for an old guy like me who’s not at all in shape!  😮

So is the “foot race” a realistic stressor?  Probably not.  In a “real world” situation, those who can run well will do so, and those who can’t will not.  This latter group will just have to engage from where they are and let the chips fall where they may.  So the foot race amounts to forcing a person into an option which they would not choose in reality.

Stages… I’ve heard of all sorts of odd and often down right amusing stage designs at rifle matches.  A “boat simulator” was one; you had to step up on a platform which was swinging by chains and then shoot your target.  Shooters rightfully complained about this stage until the r/o’s allowed them to keep one foot on the ground to help stabilize the platform.  Never mind that one foot in the water would have accomplished no such effect. :/   Another scenario had the shooters being lifted up on a cherry picker mounted platform and they had to shoot targets while in vertical motion.  Huh?  (This was somehow supposed to simulate targets out in front of you which were rising or falling or something like that)…  still other situations have the shooter having to lay his rifle on the side and shoot through a thin crack between two closely sandwiched railroad ties.  Are you ever going to be in such a situation in reality?  I’m thinking probably not.

We have taken a fair amount of time here at BangSteel to evaluate what does–and what does not–comprise a realistic scenario for a match stage.  It must, in the end, come down to nothing more than this:  Present the shooter with the location from where he or she must shoot, and with the target… and do nothing more.  No “one foot on the ground, one off” or… shoot this from your weak side, or shoot this after having run 100 yards or having done 20 jumping jacks or whatever.  Anything added to the instructions beyond “here is your target, shoot it from here” goes beyond the reality based shooting match; there can be no other cogent view.

I should mention that roof tops and window opening shooting positions are very useful, and I do applaud the inclusion of these shooting stages in PRS and other type matches.  Add also shots across, or from within vehicles.  These situations make sense, and shooters should practice them.

And finally… an additional word about stressors.  I designed what I believe to be the most realistic stressor I’ve seen or heard of in a long range shooting match.  I called the stage “The Quick and The Dead,” (click link to watch a killer showdown from the Guardian match last September) borrowing the line from 2 Timothy.  We shoot 6 stages of a 7 stage match, then tally the scores among all shooters up to that point in the match.  Then, beginning with the bottom 3 shooters in the match we put them side by side on the firing line, and at the “go” command each shooter must begin engaging his target at long range, around 900 to 1000 yards.  The targets are also set side-by-side downrange, each its own color.  The first shooter to hit his plate gets top score for the stage, leaving the other 2 shooters to continue firing.  The next of those 2 shooters to hit gets a lesser amount of points, and the third person is then allowed to take one final shot at his plate to salvage half the points for the stage…

When the lowest 3 shooters finish, we move to the next 3 ranked above them, and so on.  The higher up the scale this stage proceeds, the better the shooters of course are, and the stiffer the competition becomes.  It’s super exciting to watch, and one heck of a stressor (if you really want a stressor, that is 😉 )… the psychology is that these two characters on the line beside you are shooting at you!  This is quite stressful, of course. 🙂  The complaint was brought that one could shoot a great match through 6 stages, then fall from 2nd or 3rd place to 10th or 11th in that final stage.  But isn’t that how reality can be?  You’re perhaps a great sniper with many kills–but a better counter-sniper has just ended your winning streak. It can happen.  😮

In the future, (and assuming that we do choose to host larger scale matches which involve different stage locations throughout the course) we’re going to have to be certain that course design does not divert into unrealistic scenarios in the match stages, or in the stressors which may be used.

I hope our position will be understood by the long range shooting community.  And please know, this mindset is not intended in any way to be an affront to the match design of other venues and disciplines.  Match directors should be at liberty to design and conduct matches in whatever way they deem appropriate.  We believe the same for ourselves.

bangsteel brochure

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The Target is the Final Arbiter…

I’ve had a saying I coined over a decade ago that I like to use when discussing hand-loading procedures, chronograph numbers, and such.  The target is the final arbiter.  No matter what the experts tell you, no matter what the chronograph says… the target gets the final say.  If the groups are tight, and remain tight at long range, you have a good load.  It’s really that simple.

And we like to apply this same manner of thinking to how the shooter lays prone behind the rifle.  If the target is being reliably hit, and if the shooter is seeing impacts in his/her rifle scope at distance, then the position is good.

These days, it is considered heresy in some circles to lay at an angle to your rifle.  Instructors walk down the firing line dragging shooters into a linear position behind their rifles.  “Recoil control” is the most often given reason.  And in truth, recoil control must be accomplished in some way, or the rifle (and rifle scope) move off the target area on recoil, and the strike cannot be seen.  If you can’t see your bullet miss left of the target, you have no idea what to do for a follow up shot.  Controlling recoil is absolutely necessary in order for you to see your missed impacts, and get back on the gun and get a hit on the second shot.

But is it always necessary for the shooter to be perfectly straight behind the rifle in order to accomplish this?  I believe not.  In fact, I have seen more than a few shooters suffer from being persuaded (or forced, in some cases) to lay straight behind the rifle.


What is often over-looked is the fact that the “straight behind the rifle” prone position is a relatively new recommendation.  In decades past, a slight angle to the body/rifle line was in vogue.  And that worked then, and still does today.

What you need is a comfortable position behind your rifle, which allows you to execute the shots well, and which also allows you to see your impacts in the scope’s field of view.  Must this position be linear to the rifle?  No. Experience has shown us time and time again that shooting position behind the rifle can vary, quite widely, from one excellent shooter to the next. I’m reminded of one of the earlier shooting matches we hosted.  One shooter laid behind his rifle at quite a severe angle, around forty-five degrees or so.  Each time he would come to the line to shoot, two “tactically schooled” fellows were putting their thumbs and forefingers on their foreheads, in an L shape, sort of “double entendre” meaning “L” for “loser” and also to mock the shooter’s position behind his rifle.  But the problem for them was, that shooter beat them both, and won the match!

We have long since decided to allow a shooter to find a comfortable, and *safe* position behind the rifle that works.  Our anatomies are not all the same, and for some folks, an angle to the rifle is the best position.  If you cannot get comfortable behind the rifle, you cannot shoot well.  Again–as long as the targets are being reliably hit, and the shooter is seeing impacts at distance in the scope’s field of view, all is well.

We have found that a “relaxed” approach to instruction is most often the best way for the shooter to learn.  As we watch each shooter on the firing line, it’s amazing how quickly a person can sort out a quite functional firing position if we simply give them some basic guidelines (with reasonable parameters) and let them work with the bipod, the rear bag–and yes, the angle at which they approach the rifle.  When they’re not shooting well, and/or they’re not seeing their impacts, then it’s time to consider moving their position on the rifle, or having them work with the rear bag, more bipod load, etc.

If you attend one of our shooting classes, please don’t mistake our approach.  If you’ve watched the ankle-kickers in some tacti-cool circles instruct on the firing lines, you may come expecting more of the same.  But in the end, the target has the final say-so as to how we’ll you’re really doing.


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Cyber-shooting… :o

An edited reprise of an article I did some time back, called Over-thinking Barometric Pressure.


In this age of gadgetry we’re seeing more and more emphasis on barometric pressure calculations when figuring your bullet’s trajectory. Do these numbers really affect your bullet’s flight? Yes–of course they do. But the question is, how much?

Our long range shooting training curriculum places a strong emphasis on freeing ourselves as much as possible from dependence on anything that requires a battery. It is our belief that if you become too dependent on your smart phone or your Kestral–or even your range finder, you’re going to be rendered largely ineffective in a situation where you don’t have these amenities. (And we must now wonder how anyone ever worked without these things, right?)  To hear the modern day cyber-shooter tell it, Carlos Hathcock couldn’t have shot himself in the foot in Viet Nam, as he had no cool toys.

I have long ago lost count of the times a shooter has come to a match, or range rental session, complaining that his data was totally off in his ballistic program.  That has nearly become the rule in fact–rather than the exception.  The question then becomes:  If you end up needing to tweak your ballistic program every time you come to shoot, or else you’re missing 18″ targets as close as 800 yards–then you may want to consider an altered game plan.  Computers are simply too prone to operator error.  “I’ve got my Kestral programming down to a science” one says.  I hope you’re right.  I hope that if the day ever comes that you really need that data, the instrument doesn’t let you down.

We highly recommend written or typed data cards with 25 yard drop and windage increments.  Once that chart has proven true for your rifle and load, you can get good hits in various atmospheric conditions simply by knowing how to compensate for condition changes in the weather.  Having 2 or 3 cards for various conditions is a very good idea.  This set of cards will also help you understand how precious little temperature and altitude changes will affect your data until the range exceeds 600 yards or so for a good long range load.

And If you use the cards regularly, something else happens:  You will begin to memorize the tables.  This seems never to happen with cyber-shooters who are always relying on their smart phones or Kestrals to tell them what to do.  I can name as many as three seasoned shooters (though I won’t name them, of course 🙂 )… who I’ve witnessed dial egregiously incorrect elevation solutions because they made a mistake in interpreting their electronic ballistics program.  The most common blunder:  “I picked data for rifle 1, and I meant to be using rifle 3 in the program.”  But when you dial 33 MOA of elevation to hit a 900 yard plate while shooting your 6.5/284 you’re going to miss really, really high… and you should have known that, no?  But alas, the Kestral wasn’t questioned, because the pattern had become to range the plate, then punch up the number, and dial up the scope setting with the autonomy of a robot.  The method seriously takes too much of the thinking out of the equation, and when blunders occur, they’re often embarrassing ones to say the least.  Compare this situation to the shooter who knows his/her trajectory almost (if not) by heart.  A mistake such as reading the wrong line on the card would be caught immediately, because of the ingrained knowledge of the trajectory table.

“But my Kestral tells me the barometric pressure, and that’s important.”
Yes, barometric pressure can only be known through the use of electronic devices (but you’d be surprised how these things can give different readings from the SAME place sometimes; watch next time they all come out of the shooting packs at the same time and see what I mean). You can go to Weather Bug on your phone, and it’ll tell you… if you have a Kestral, it’ll tell you… but if electrons cease to flow through your wires, you’re out of luck. How bad might that end up being?

Actually, not as bad as many would lead you to think. If you’re using a decent long range bullet (and if you’re not, you’ve got no business shooting it past 500 yards), then the average barometric pressure swings in a given area are not going to be enough to move you more than a half minute off vertical at 1000 yards. Ogilvie will contrive situations where he swears he would have to know BP to get a hit on an 18″ plate at 1000 yards… but he’s contriving, remember. 😉  I shoot mostly the 178 Hornady AMAX these days, at 2550 to 2600 fps. By looking at the yearly highs and lows for barometric pressure in my area, I can see that the most I’d be high or low (if I base my drop chart on the average) would be about 5 inches at 1000 yards.

Here is a local weather station chart for my area. Note the barometric pressure high and low for the year…

Weather History for Weather Station KVAWYTHE1 | Weather Underground

If you’re using a bullet that has a higher BC than my .308 bullet does, and especially if you’re driving it faster, you’ll see even less of an issue.  It is advisable to check the BP swings in your area to see what the average is, and how far above and below that point the pressure might likely go.

NOTE: I’m not saying that you should disregard your barometric pressure input if you have access to that information. I’m simply saying that you ought to make yourself aware of what to expect in your given area as far as pressure swings throughout the year.

The big things affecting your trajectory are altitude and temperature. If you’re keen on these two numbers, you should be able to hit within 1 MOA high or low at 1000 yards with any decent long range load recipe. And temperature and altitude are two things that are not hard to know without electronics.  The FDAC card (Field Density Altitude Compensator)  by Adaptive is based on this basic truth:  If you know the approximate temperature, and the approximate altitude, you can modify your long range trajectory numbers to ensure a hit.   Barometric pressure does not come into the basic equation.  FDAC

I do like to use one of these FDAC cards while teaching, as it is a useful tool for demonstrating to students how little the trajectory (of a good long range load) changes in different density altitudes out to 600 yards or so.  The card set is bullet specific (my cards are for the Sierra 175 grain Matchking bullet), and there are 5 different inserts for varied velocities from 2500 fps to 2700 fps.  Many bullet options and velocities are available, check with vendor at link above.

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7 shooting match hacks…

range 4

Many long range shooters enjoy competing in matches, and we host matches every 4 to 6 weeks here at the BangSteel range in southwest Virginia.  It’s a real pleasure to meet the shooters who come from all over, and I must admit that I love watching bullets though the spotting scopes as they go downrange.  And I do learn a lot by doing so.

In our matches, we generally use the “lone shooter” format, where the rifleman must spot his or her own shots at the target.  Shooting steel at ranges from 400 to 1000 yards, with proper technique on the rifle, you will be able to see where your shots land in the target’s vicinity–and you’ll therefore know how to adjust for a follow up hit, if you should miss on your first shot.

These tips will help you turn in a better score at our matches (and also at most other such matches):

1.  Spot your own impacts.  If you cannot see where your bullets land, you won’t be able to correct for a follow up hit.  It’s amazing how many folks who are otherwise excellent shots end up being unable to see their impacts in their scope’s field of view, and consequently have no idea where to hold for a follow up hit.   If you’ll dial down your magnification to 12 to 14 power max, your field of view will be increased and you will be much more likely to see your bullet strike in the distance.  Proper recoil control (stay as straight behind the rifle when shooting prone as you comfortably can) will help very much with spotting impacts.  And don’t forget to stay on the scope.  I once had a client who said he wasn’t able to see his impacts at 1000 yards.  He got behind the rifle, took a shot… and turned around and looked at me before his shot ever even arrived at the target! 😮

2.  If you know that ordinarily you can spot your long range bullet impacts in your riflescope, but find that on occasion you don’t see the shot land (and you miss the target), it’s highly likely that your shot went over the target, and impacted the ground behind the target.  Follow up by holding at the bottom of the target (with same windage) and there’s a good chance you’ll get a hit.  At the very least, the new aiming point might result in a ground strike that you see–and you can get a 3rd round hit with proper hold.  Whatever you do, if you’re unable to see your bullet strike, and you know you missed the target–don’t do the same thing for a second shot and expect a hit.  Hold more or less wind, or drop the elevation a bit for the follow up shot.  Doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result is, as they say, the definition of insanity. 😮

3.  Watch the plates.  As the various shooters in the match shoot at the targets, their shots will tend to congregate (as odd as it may sound) in the same areas on the steel targets.  I believe this is because on any given day, the weather conditions (wind in particular), and even target lighting due to cloud cover or lack thereof, will cause the collective group to favor sight settings that over-compensate (or under-compensate)  in the same direction.  If you’re called to shoot later in the match, take note of where all of the shots seem to be gathering on the steel plates.  For instance, if they’re favoring far to the right, and wind is coming from the left, most folks are underestimating the wind.  If there are some good shooters ahead of you, and it’s happening to them too, it might be a good idea to hedge your wind call up an MOA, or a quarter mil.


4.  Bring a spotting scope to the match, if you have one.  Spot the other shooters as they’re shooting, and see if you can see the bullet’s path as it moves through the air (heat trace).  This will show you what the wind is really doing, and you will often be able to see that there is little to no wind initially in the trajectory, but a pick up in the wind as the bullet nears the target begins to move it to the side.  Remember that when your turn comes to shoot, and scope the vegetation in that area to see if you can note any movement that would indicate that conditions are still the same when your turn to shoot comes up.

5.  Spot your first impacts on the plates (early in the match), and note whether your data is on–or if it’s running high or low.  If you see if you’re off one way or the other, remember this when you dial your scope to hit other plates at other distances.  If you’re shooting high at 500 yards, odds are you’re going to over-shoot the 800 yard plate as well.  Adjust as necessary.

6.  Relax.  Don’t get excited.  Getting excited results in poor performance, and ham-fisting bolts (and needlessly breaking them in some cases).  Just shoot steady, and as calmly as you can, and you’ll shoot much better.

7.  Bring good ammo.  Many folks will put together handloads for maximum velocity (feeling that this will give them and edge in competition).  If they load this ammo to max pressure, the rounds may not give pressure problems on the first or second firing of the brass, or in certain weather conditions.  But given the right circumstances, these loads will reach a tipping point.  Murphy says it’ll be during a shooting match.  Good ammo is reliable ammo.  Don’t load “pedal to the metal” with the notion that you’re going to get some wind drift or trajectory advantage over the competition.  The guy shooting the slower load may edge you out because his rifle is working–and yours isn’t.  😮

8.  (a bonus)…. HAVE FUN! 🙂

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A dozen reasons my rifle quit shooting… :o

70 gr SMK, 3031IMG_0028

We get a lot of feedback and queries from folks who are asking what has happened to the accuracy of their rifle.  Often, these questions are accompanied by an attached file of the target, showing horrible accuracy.  There are several things that can happen when a previously known good combination of ammo (either factory, or load recipe) and rifle all of a sudden “goes south” on you.  In the order of most likely to less likely, here are some ideas.

1.  Loose nut on the trigger.  The number one issue harming accuracy in a system previously known to be shooting well is a loose nut on the trigger.  That means you.  Sorry… I’ve been there and done that too, but many times we don’t realize that we are not shooting our best.  Yes, some days we can actually discern that we’re not on our game, but these days make it all the harder on us when the “gray days” come around… we don’t think we’ve done anything wrong… all seems well, but in truth, we’ve not done our best.  Lay off the coffee, and make nice with the wife before you leave home, and all will be better next time.

2.  Loose screws.  In order of most often, to least often, the screws which work loose on your scoped rifle are:  Action screws (which hold the barreled action into the stock), scope base screws (bummer, but you have to remove the scope from the base to check these), then scope ring screws.  Also, make sure your bipod screw attaching it to the forearm is tight.

3.  Heavy mirage in the scope, or failure to adjust the focus (parallax) before shooting.  Always be sure to set parallax (if your scope has that adjustment) before shooting for group.  And make sure you’re looking through the scope with the correct eye position behind it, eliminating all crescent shadow from the scope edges.  Read the set-up instructions which came with your scope for more info.

4.  Altered shooting position.  You had the rifle grouping well when you were shooting off the bench, but in the prone position it’s just not working right.  See number 1 above.  It’s you.  You’ll need to perfect recoil control in the prone position in order to get the accuracy back.

5.  Changed bullet lot, or powder lot.  While powder lots are normally pretty close, some bullet types are very sensitive to lot-to-lot variations.  Berger VLD’s seem to be the biggest offender in this category (that I’m aware of).  If you like shooting VLD’s, it’s a good idea to get a large batch of the same lot number–otherwise you’ll be re-developing the load when you go to a new lot of bullets.  Traditional style bullets are not nearly as picky in this regard, and this is the main reason I have always stuck with those types of bullets (i.e. Sierra Matchkings, Hornady AMAX’s, Nosler Ballistic Tips, and such)…  an aside:  We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt that you already know not to go to another make of brass case without re-developing the load. 😉

6.  Scope has crashed.  It’s not likely to happen, but it does happen.  A slightly loose lens can wreak havoc on your groups.  If you’ve ruled out the other possibilities, it might be a good idea to replace your scope with a known good one, and re-test your rifle.

7.  Bedding has come loose, or floating barrel is impeded by debris of some sort.  Remove the barreled action from the stock and inspect.

8.  Muzzle brake or threaded barrel thread protector has loosened.  Tighten it up.

9.  It’s freezing outside.  When temperatures plunge, it’s much more difficult to shoot accurately.  Your body’s response to freezing temperatures, compounded with lowered sensitivity in your trigger finger can make a 2 MOA rifle out of your tack driver.  Practice in very cold weather to improve accuracy.

10.  Temperature change has moved your load off of the accuracy node you had been on.  If you are not using an OCW load you will find that temperature swings will alter the accuracy of your load considerably.  And even when you are using a proven OCW load recipe, you might find that higher outside temperatures speed your bullet up to the point that it is exiting the muzzle well outside of the OCW zone.  This can also happen when it gets very cold outside (bullet slows, moving the muzzle exit off of the node).  Using temperature stable powders can help this situation.   If your bullet is only marginally stabilized (twist rate and velocity *barely* keeping the bullet stable), then a drop in temperature can cause the bullet to go unstable, due to the lower velocity.

11.  It’s time to anneal, or replace the brass.  When you reload the brass cases a few times, the necks will “work harden”… this means that consistent neck tension from one case to the next is no longer being achieved.  Anneal after 3 firings for most brass brands, and you’ll find that accuracy is much improved.  We have a short video and article here on this blog about annealing.

12.  Barrel is worn out, or crown of muzzle has been damaged.  It happens.  Barrels don’t last forever (except for our .308 barrels that is… ; )  )… I’m digressing… but barrels do wear out, and if you’re shooting a fast 6mm or 6.5mm, you can expect to be replacing the barrel somewhere between 2000 and 3000 rounds for many of these guns.  But do check the crown, or have a trained gunsmith check it.  Sometimes a slight nick in the crown can occur, and this ruins accuracy.

These 12 issues are by no means the total list of things that can cause accuracy problems in a previously known accurate system (rifle, load, shooter).  But they’re the most common, and should be considered when groups start to open up on you.

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Simple brass annealing…


After your brass has been fired a number of times, it will greatly benefit from an annealing.  Brass “work hardens,” meaning that as it is fired, resized, then fired again, the case neck area which used to be relatively soft (as it’s supposed to be) gets gradually harder.  This means that the cases become harder to size, and also the spring tension of the neck (it’s ability to grip the bullet “just right”) goes away.  You can often feel the need for annealing when you are seating bullets.  Some go in harder than others.  This is a clue that something is not right with the uniformity of your case necks. Perhaps they are work-hardened after several firings.

The solution is to “anneal” the brass.  This is done by simply heating the case neck area with a propane torch to a certain point (a certain highly debated point albeit), then allowing it to cool.  After it cools–whether it is water quenched or allowed to cool in the air–the case neck will be softened to the hardness level it was when the brass was new.

It is fine to air cool the cases, and it is also fine to water quench them.  Brass doesn’t harden back with water quenching as steel does.  I prefer to just let my cases air cool, so that way I don’t have to worry with drying them.

There are various methods of annealing, with various devices for the purpose (some ridiculously expensive).  However, unless you’re really trying to impress your friends on the troll-web forums, all you really need is a propane torch.  These can be had for less than ten bucks at your local hardware store.

Some folks will use a product called Tempilaq… and this paste turns a certain color at some specified heat level.  While it is certainly fine to use such products, in truth, you really don’t need them.  The most you need to do is watch for an orange glow on the case neck as you heat it in the flame (in the dimly lit room, see video).  Don’t make it cherry red, or you will discolor your brass, and some folks argue that you will damage the brass.  Other folks claiming to be metallurgists argue that you won’t damage the brass by making it red.  Forget the debates… I say make it orange, and it’ll retain its color well, and annealing will still be adequately accomplished.  The proof is always in the results.  My brass lasts as long as the next guy’s, and accuracy is always good.

When to anneal is debatable.  I like to anneal Winchester brass after 4 firings.  Lapua brass after 4 firings.  But Federal brass work hardens a bit faster (or sure seems to), so annealing after 2 or at most 3 firings when working with Federal (FC) brass is a good practice in my opinion.  Federal has improved their brass alloy in recent years, and it does seem to last longer than it used to.

Adding annealing to your brass care regiment will ensure the longest case life possible (fewer split case necks) and improve accuracy as well.

Here is how I do it:

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