I am a waffle

I’m almost done with reloading .38 Special. The last of the Titegroup is in the powder drop, just a few hundred rounds to go. I’ll get to it eventually… no big rush right now as vacationing is more important. 🙂

As you know, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do next. I was thinking to work on .308 Win loads because I was dreaming of an elk hunt with my Dad — I’d want to have the skills to nail a target at 500 yards on demand if I was going elk hunting. But after some talking with Dad, I don’t think that will happen (schedules, cost, physical demands and Dad’s getting up there in age; I also think he’d rather go fishing than hunting). So if an elk hunt isn’t in the near future, that lessens motivation to work in that area.

Then there’s my recent work with the Aimpoint CompM4s and just loving how well it works. I can’t help but think about the recent hog hunt, as I think the reason I missed was due to placement of cheek on gun and not getting the right sight angle, thus my point of aim was not the intended point of impact. But gosh, that parallax-free Aimpoint would render that moot. Furthermore, I see how Aimpoint markets towards hunters and I always was skeptical of how well that would work, especially lacking magnification and using a 4 MOA dot. But you know, the more I think about it, the more I think it could work. Sure I wouldn’t take a mountain goat at 500 yards, but a deer or hog up to 200 yards? Maybe… but I need to take the AR out to the range and try it and see how well I and my eyes can do it. Point is, the thought has recently perked my interest. The kicker is the Aimpoint is mounted on a .223 AR so… I’d need a substantial load, which means something like 62 grain Barnes TSX (or maybe the forthcoming .224″ TTSX!).

And when I think about that? it brings me all the way back to my first rifle handloading attempts… which had a lot of problems and failure to get a good load. I spent some time the other day re-reading all my blog posts on the topic. There’s a part of me that’s motivated to go back and solve that problem. I don’t want to leave that unfinished and unknown… but is that reason enough to bother? I have kinda moved on from exploring .223 as a hunting load since I bought the 6.8 SPC.

So I’m back to waffling.

But while I’ve been thinking about all of this stuff I’ve been reading and researching, trying to figure out what components I want to use. The biggest of which is what powder to use, because I want something that will not cause me headaches on the Lock-n-Load progressive press. What just hit me was reading about IMR 8208 XBR. That powder has perked my interest. It apparently meters well. It’s supposed to be resistant to temperature changes. It’s purpose-built for rounds like .223/5.56 and .308/7.62NATO, with an eye towards high velocity and high accuracy. I mean, that sounds like the perfect powder! What things I can find by Googling on the powder sound very positive and promising — everyone trying out the powder is impressed by the performance. There even seems to be a few people dabbling with it in 6.8 SPC loads, but there’s certainly not much information here (tho what there is is promising). So gosh… could that be the powder to try?  I got a Cabela’s gift card for Christmas. I’m thinking if the local store has a 1# jug that I’ll pick it up.

I hate that I’m waffling so much about what to do next. I think it’s because I need a tangible goal to work towards, instead of just reloading for the sake of reloading. When the elk hunt seemed possible, .308 was appealing. I think about the Aimpoint and hogs, so the .223 returns to being appealing, but not enough. Finishing what I started before? That has an appeal too. And I can always use more trigger time with the AR. Geez. Am I leaning that way now?

RCBS X-Sizer die

Most of my reloading efforts have been with pistol cartridges. My one set of .223 Rem trials just was not successful, but I’m going to try rifle again.

The one thing I don’t like about doing rifle is all the case prep work. There’s a lot of it, and it doesn’t really lend well to progressive presses. But I found something that, at least from doing Internet research, looks like it’s going to have a lot of potential: the RCBS X-die (RCBS refers to it as the “X die” and the “X-Sizer die”).  From their manual:

 

ABOUT THE X DIE

The X-Sizer die is a uniquely designed full length resizing die for bottleneck rifle cases. This die not only full length resizes the case, it also limits the growth of the case. This eliminates the need for repeated trimming after an initial trim is done to standardize the case. This die is not intended to shorten the length of the case, rather, as the case grows, the mandrel will reduce the normal rate of growth. This is the result of the case mouth coming in contact with the mandrel stop during resizing. Cases repeatedly sized in the X-Sizer die will grow a few thousandths of an inch initially, and will then stabilize below the maximum case length. Using the X-Sizer die eliminates the need to trim after each shot. X-Sizer dies can be used for full-length resizing with or without the X feature. Partial neck sizing can be done but only without the X feature.

 

 

Pretty neat. Google searching turns up good results, with people using it in progressive presses, getting longer case life, and still getting accurate results (perhaps not 100% as accurate as the most finicky of benchrest competition shooters would want, but far better than most of us will ever notice). Of course, there’s a lot of time-savings in subsequent reloads using then X-die, which is where the win is.

So I reckon once I start rifle reloading, I’ll just start with a lot of brass prep, doing initial casework on as many cases as I feel like dealing with on the old single-stage RCBS press (regular full-length resize, clean the primer pockets, debur the flash hole, trim the length according to the X-die instructions, and then mark these cases with a Sharpie so I know “this is a case prepped for the X-die”). It won’t be until the second go-round with these cases that I’ll actually try the X-die, so who knows how long it may be until that happens and then I see how results go. But, I picked up 2 X-Sizer dies, one small base .223 Rem and one small base .308 Win (I’d have gotten a 6.8 SPC if they had a die in that size). I’m curious to see how this will go.

 

Winchester ballistic coefficients

When I bought all that reloading equipment off Dock, I got a bunch of components as well: lots of Winchester FMJ bullets. The trouble is, I have been having a dog of a time trying to find information about them for running numbers. You look at the Winchester website and while it lists the products, it doesn’t list information like their ballistic coefficients.

But I think I have found them. Winchester has their own ballistics calculator and it’s pretty neat. I haven’t used it much because the data in the app is purely Winchester products, so it’s not that generally applicable. However, it’s that very product-centric setup that yielded results! I just plugged in their products and this is what it yielded.

Winchester 30 caliber (.308″), 147 grain FMJ BT bullets (WB762147N) have a B.C. of 0.415. 0.421

Winchester 22 caliber (.224″) 55 grain FMJ bullets (WB556MC55) have a B.C. of 0.255. 0.267

So that’s what the app told me, and I can only assume it’s right, tho I may be making a small leap in determining all of this. But it seems about right given other bullets of those same profiles.

Just recording it here for posterity sake.

Updated: James Rummel reposted my search for information. Thanx, James!

The thing is, the best way to get this information is to go straight to the horse’s mouth. When I first did this well, I knew that was the right thing to do, but I just couldn’t find a phone number. After James’ post I figured I should try again.

After more Google work I was able to find the phone number for Winchester Ammunition (800-356-2666). I called, pressed “3” for technical questions, and left a message asking for the data.  When/if I receive a callback, I’ll update it here.

Updated 2: When I left a voice mail at Winchester it said I’d get a callback within a business day. I didn’t hear back today so I called again. This time the phone message changed to say they were out for Christmas vacation, back January 3. Well, that explains why I didn’t get the callback. 🙂  Cool that they get 2 weeks off.  I’ll set a reminder for myself and call back first week of January.

Updated 3: It’s January 3, 2011 and I called Winchester at the above number. I asked for the B.C.’s of those 2 bullets and received them! I updated the above entry with strikthru’s and the proper numbers.

So, the B.C. listed in their little online calculator is for whatever bullet is in their loaded ammunition, which apparently is slightly different from the bullets they sell as components. I guess? Kinda curious how they’re different numbers, but there you go. I would have liked to discussed this further on the phone with the gentleman, but it was their first day back after 2 weeks vacation and they were VERY busy playing catch-up, so I got my information, wished him a Happy New Year, thanked him, and hung up. So, there you go.

What to do… what to do….

This is one of those times where the blog is more for me… where I want to write something to help me think through it, to help me remember what I’m thinking. But if someone wants to comment, great.

I’ve got some things rolling around in my head. Trying to think about what to do.

Guns, specifically reloading

One gun thing that I’m not waffling about… I need to step back on my formal working and step up my informal working. That is, be it teaching classes or taking classes, I have to be selective and moderate here. I’ve been really diving into this because there’s so much I want to do, but it’s consuming too much time and I have to pull back. Because the flip side is, I have to get to the range more regularly. The trouble is going to the range is a massive time sink for me but you know… if the ONLY thing I can do is go to the local indoor range and do “abridged” work (e.g. can’t practice draw from concealment, but I can practice press-outs, I can practice 25 yard groups) well, so be it. Some live fire is better than none, and if my only recourse is the local indoor range well, so be it.

On the reloading front…. as you can see, I’m getting back on the ball with .38 Special. If I keep up with it, even if I slack off a day or two here and there, it should be done by the end of the month. So… rifle time. But, what? .223? 6.8? .308?

I recall when I did rifle last time (which was my first time ever with rifle reloading), I had a dog of a time and it just wasn’t happening. Why? Potentially numerous factors, but too difficult and costly (time and money) to nail down. But my thinking then was to just load cheap 55 grain .223 FMJ’s using well-establish recipes and see how that did. Work out any bugs in technique or gun issues or whatever, then go back to serious loads (e.g. hunting stuff). Since that time I’ve gotten into 6.8 SPC and really want to reload for that… but the main reason there? Because I want to use those Barnes 6.8 SPC 95 grain TTSX’s, which you can’t get in a factory load. The thing is tho, reloading 6.8 is just costly, period. Even trying to do “cheap plinking loads” isn’t cheap. And for whatever reason, a few days ago I got some itch to do .308.

Yes. My present leaning is to do .308 Win. Why? I’m not really sure, but I think it’s because .308 is such a great caliber and well.. it’d be cool to do something beefy. 🙂  It’s kinda hard to do .308 wrong… so many people just say “yeah… 45 grains of Varget or 4895 and you’re good to go”. I’ve got a bunch of 147 grain FMJBT’s from Dock, I’ve got powder, I’ve got primers, I’ve got cases, I’ve got dies and shell holders and everything you need. Why not? My thinking? The new range up north has really long yardage. I’ve been toying with the idea of an elk hunt with my Dad. If I want to do that? I probably should be able to ring the gong on demand out to 500 yards. So… working up a .308 plinking load would be in my best interest. And once I can ring the gong like that, then get some Barnes 168 grain TTSX (or maybe 180 grain, if my rifle can handle it) and make a hunting load.

So I don’t know. I may well change my mind again. But I picked up 1000 CCI #200 large rifle primers today, and my present leaning is .308 Win, just cuz. 🙂

Empty Hand Martial Arts

I stopped Kuk Sool practice for 2 main reasons: tired of the political bullshit and greed, tired of the lame-ass training approach. The art is sound, and while it has things I don’t care about (e.g. sword), it’s rather solid in its foundations so long as it’s taught and trained in a practical way.

That’s part of why I went to Kali, Silat, Muay Thai, JKD, boxing: practicalness. I wanted to focus (thus why I didn’t add BJJ to the mix), I wanted more practical, where people did spar and go to town. Where a takedown was performed and you went to the mat because you were put there, not because you said “ok, and now I cooperatively fall to the ground”. The only real reason I stopped this was a practical one: just couldn’t make classes.

So I’ve been out of the formal mix for some months and want to get back to it. I have been thinking about Aikido and even paid a brief visit to a local dojo. Been talking to an old friend about it, reading up. And while there’s something about Aikido that interests me, for some reason I just can’t pull the trigger on it. Yes the philosophical notions are interesting to me to explore, but they conflict with my own philosophy. Furthermore, let’s just be frank — I like hitting things. 🙂  There’s really no striking in Aikido (yes there is atemi, but certainly nothing like say Muay Thai). Plus you have to find the right school, because Aikido spans so much and risks being watered down and too new-agey-touchy-feely; old-school Aikido I could be cool with.

So I found this one school, “Martial Arts Center of Austin“. I know the location and well, while the website doesn’t strictly say, I know that was Brian Duffy‘s place. Brian Duffy’s a legit guy in the world of Ed Parker’s American Kenpo. I even recall my old Kuk Sool teacher, Dewain Perry, telling me how he and guys from Duffy’s school would get together and full-contact spar all the time, only having to stop because they were getting too hurt from going too rough (they liked to “go”). 🙂 Thing is, last few times I drove by that place I don’t think I saw Duffy’s name on it. And if you look at this MACA website, they are really devoid of any idea of who is running the place… no instructor names, no instructor bios. But I do see Kenpo on the schedule. The schedule tho… it’s got a ton of stuff, seems an eclectic place. Not 100% sure what to make of it. Then over here, this guy reviews all the Aikido-related places around Austin and spoke highly of MACA. I’m not sure what to make of the place

But the real kicker? Watching the videos of that school rekindled a desire for particular training. Yeah, I kinda like traditional arts, formal but not uptight. In the end, the body only moves in so many ways, and heck, if we want to talk about Aikijujitsu lineages then Kuk Sool eventually falls from that tree (look at the Hapkido bridge). So really, what’s the difference?  I have had thoughts about rejoining Kuk Sool, because I didn’t get to leave it under the circumstances I wanted to. Especially now that Master Lee has broken off from WKSA gosh… he’s a great guy, worthy of respect because of who he is, not what he is. I know if I joined up that way, there’d be no real political b.s. to have to deal with. But what about training? As much as I love Master Les and know HE can be a pretty hardcore guy, the way he runs his school is very family oriented and NOT hardcore at all.

While out shopping I ran into an old training buddy, Ricky. We got our 1st degree black belts together, and were testing together for 2nd, so we were “classmates”. Of course, I left, but he stayed on because it’s been his dream to have his own school. Well, when Master Lee broke off, he did too, and started his own school. Running into him today was purely by chance, but it was really cool to see him and his wife and talk about things. He extended an open invitation for me to work out at his school any time and I may just take him up on it…. dust off the dobok and see how much I’ve forgotten. 😉  The cool thing? Talking to Ricky about how they train there. They are of similar philosophy to me, which is good. But also slightly different, for Ricky and the old school stable of friends well… they’re all at least 10 years younger and me and with slightly different motivations and goals than I have (e.g. I just can’t do the gymnastics they like doing). Will it mesh? Will it work? I’m not sure. Plus, could I have the long-term growth that I want? The freedom to explore and work “outside the box”? I’m not sure. But that this happened is good as it gives me more options.

So I don’t know. There’s a lot swirling around and perhaps there’s a reason I haven’t been able to pull the trigger on things. That I bumped into Ricky was odd, but perhaps part of the bigger picture. Don’t know, we’ll see.

But I think I might dust off my dobok and see how much I remember. 🙂

Happiness is…

…doing it yourself.

200 rounds of .38 Special. Loaded myself, same recipe.

Happy because there’s no factory load like this. I can do it myself and get exactly what I want. The materials, the performance, the quality, the satisfaction.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

It’s back to the reloading bench I go.

I don’t know why I stopped reloading, but I just stopped. My guess? The daily routine of loading 9mm until I had a mountain of surplus just burned me out. I don’t WANT to reload .38 Special, I feel this NEED to do it to use up the rest of my Titegroup, build up a bit of surplus there, and also finish pistol reloading so I can shift to rifle.

But you know… I just haven’t had a burning desire to do rifle reloading right now. I think it’s a matter of time and the lack of it. To properly do the rifle reloading I’d have to spend a lot of time at the range, more than usual, and it’s not that I don’t WANT to, but I just don’t have the spare cycles these days to do it, let alone all the researching to come up with a good recipe and so on. It’s not lack of want, it’s lack of resources mainly time. And when I look at all the things I need to spend my time on these days, other things are taking priority.

I think that’s why I didn’t hesitate to order another 100 rounds of SSA 6.8 SPC 85 grain TSX. It’s the time vs. money tradeoff. I’ve got the money, don’t have the time.

Nevertheless, I need to get back in a groove so…. enough writing. Off to reload some .38.

Rifle waffle

Deer season opens this coming weekend (gun; archery was last month). I’m getting excited. Already been having dreams, and have been waking up early in anticipation of having to get up early to get out to the property.

I need to run my rifles back by the local indoor range just to (re)verify zero. They should be where I want them, but I can’t help but want to re-verify to be sure. The thing is, using the 6.8 SPC rifle is new… and while I know it will do the job, gosh but something makes me want to use my .308 bolt-action instead. Maybe because it’s proven? Maybe because it’s a big-ass .308″ 168 grain Barnes TSX instead of a 85 grain .277″ TSX. I don’t know. I know it’ll work. I really want to use the 6.8 to take the deer, but the .308 is going to come with me. Maybe it’s the false start with the 6.8 that’s making me waver a bit.

So as I’m packing the rifles up for the range trip, I see that I don’t have as much Federal P308H as I thought I had. This is a Federal factory load, .308 Winchester, 165 grain Barnes TSX. It’s a good round, always performed well for me. But it got me thinking… I want to start on rifle cartridge reloads after deer season calms down. I thought to do .223 Rem to get me back into the swing of rifle reloading. 6.8 is something I want to do. But gosh… if I don’t have a lot of .308 maybe I should just do that to get stocked up.

Too many things buzzing through my head. 🙂 Right now, just need to focus on the deer.

Superformance powder – the limited skinny

So we know about Hornady’s new Superformance ammo. The gist is not just really accurate for factory ammo, but also achieving 100-200 fps more than other ammo yet staying within SAAMI pressure specs. That’s… just awesome.

I’m totally interested in this ammo. I blogged about it before because I can’t help but be interested in what this powder could do behind a Barnes bullet. Barnes bullets love velocity, especially the TTSX, so could this powder and that bullet be a winning combination?

And so it has been announced that Hodgdon will be releasing a Superformance powder for handloaders. But as I look for data, I can’t find much. I sent an email to Hodgdon asking. Here’s the reply I received (edited only for layout):

 

Here’s the deal.  Hornady uses many, many blends to load all of the cartridges in their Superformance line.  We are introducing one of those blends.  It has very limited application.  It will not work in a 6.8 Remington.  The only cartridges with Superformance powder data are:

22-250
243 Winchester
6mm Remington
243 WSSM
25 WSSM
300 WSM
300 Ruger Compact Magnum

There will not be any further cartridges used with this powder.  At some point, if this powder is successful, we may bring out other blends but that is unknown at this time.

Mike Daly
Customer Satisfaction Manager
The Hodgdon Family of Fine Propellants

 

 

So there you go.

It clarifies that Superformance powders are very specific blends, and each blend/flavor has very specific application. If you want to load for your favorite cartridge, you will need the Superformance powder specific to that cartridge — if it exists; if it doesn’t exist, you’re out of luck.

So… no .223 Rem, no .308 Win, no 6.8 SPC… which are my present centerfire rifle loads. So, no Superformance for me.

One thing that perks in mind tho. I know .243 Win is considered a good “youth deer gun” caliber. Could you pack a Barnes bullet here, perhaps a “weaker” load, yet still get the same performance? That is, if all things are equal you’d get 200 fps more well, if you drop the powder back to get no change in fps but now I’d assume some reduction in recoil, could that further help the “youth load” situation? Just thinking out loud.

I guess we just have to wait to see how the powder does in the market. Meantime, I guess we can always contact Hodgdon and let them know what we’d like to see. I know I’d like to see it for 6.8.

 

I bent my wookie

Reloaded another 200 rounds of .38 Special this morning.

It was anything but routine.

I broke the decapping pin on the sizing die. *sigh*  I’m not 100% sure how it happened, but here’s my guess. Earlier in the session I guess I didn’t get an empty case set in the shell plate correctly. I pulled the lever and it felt and sounded strange. I look at the shell plate and notice the old case was on its side and had been smashed flat against the bottom of the resizing die. Furthermore, the decapping pin had punched through the brass walls. Oops. I removed the damaged case and kept going. There were some hard to resize cases. I figure the pin had a crack or at least was stressed from the punch-through, and now with the difficult cases probably had more stress. Then on one pull of the handle I heard a strange noise and the pull felt weird. I looked, no more pin… it was in crumbled pieces inside the case I was attempting to resize and decap. *sigh*

Fortunately, I had an old set of Lee dies that I bought off Karl for cheap some time ago. I was able to put that sizing/decapping die in and finish the session.

So now I need to buy a new decapping pin. Thing is, I’m sure the cost of shipping it is going to be more than the pin itself (it’s about $3 for a pack of 5 pins). So, I need to find a way to make this worth my while. I am probably going to need to go to Cabela’s to get more bullets and probably some deer-hunting stuff, so if they have pins, great. If not well… I guess I’ll hope the Lee dies hold out until I’m done with .38 and then I’ll pick up pins whenever I next do an online order.

I’m just glad I had the spare dies and didn’t really have to break my stride. I’m itching to get .38 done with so I can get to working on 6.8 SPC loads with those Barnes .277″ 95 grain TTSX bullets. They won’t get used for hunting this season, but maybe hogs afterwards and into the future.

(Thanx to Ralph Wiggum for the title).

Back to .38

Now that I’m done (for now) loading 9mm, I’m switching to reload .38 Special.

The caliber conversion on the Lock N Load press went pretty smoothly, thanx to the bushing system. I had loaded .38 previously on the press, so all of the dies were already sized and set in their bushings, so just remove the 9 dies, insert the .38 dies. Done!

Well, not quite.

That did take care of the resize/decapping die, bullet seater, and then crimping die. The powder cop die? I don’t have a second one so I had to readjust that, but that’s trivial to do once you have your powder set up. And that’s where things took a bit of work. While resetting the powder drop itself wasn’t too hard, it’s just all the tedium of getting it to drop just the right amount (3.5 grains of Titegroup). And it’s not even the adjusting of the drop, it’s using the beam scale.

Yes, for Christmas I’d like a digital scale, please. One that plugs into the wall, no batteries.

Apart from that, the caliber conversion went smoothly, and I started loading .38. Gosh, it feels so different under my fingers. Going from those short stubby 9mm cases to long .38 cases. From the small 115 grain bullets to larger 158 grain bullets (and these Berry’s 158 grain DS RN are seating and working just fine). The feel is so different, the rhythm is different. Even the sound the rounds make when dumping out of the press into the bucket is different.

But it also feels neat to be done with 9 and onto something else. 🙂

I’ll keep loading .38 until the Titegroup is gone. Then, rifle. I’m really looking forward to that endeavor.