Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wore Out, Plumb To The Bone.

I'm too old and decrepit for this. I'm so wore out I can barely use my fingers to type. Saturday's Adventure (see post immediately Previous) started the process. Between the heat and the walking I tottered around all day Sunday like a little old man.

Monday I was halfway recovered so I spent the day futzing about with cartridges, trying to find a big enough batch of .30-06 cases big enough for the first real range session with the Springfield Sporter. Yes, I'll have a couple of pictures up in time for the next Carnival of the Cordite.

Somehow in the chaos of my gunroom I've managed to lose the tool that I use to set my seating depth. Now this is hardly a tragedy and it will eventually float to the top as I rummage around looking for something else. It's merely the result of having way too much stuff in too small a space. At any rate I found two batches of cases that were usable, 50 each of PMC and Federal cases that were more or less load-ready. The fifty Federal cases were pretty much 'as is' with nothing done to them in the way of match prep. The other fifty were from PMC and they had complete match prep done to them. Now, match prepping cases is of dubious value in the average sporter rifle and to thoroughly describe each step would make for the longest post ever in a blog noteworthy for excruciatingly long, technical posts. Someday I'll do a series on each step.

Until then, though, I'll just list the steps in the match prep process:. The primer flash holes had been deburred and the primer pockets uniformed. The case had all been trimmed to the same overall length and weighed with any case varying more than 0.5 percent from the weight of the 'perfect' weight discarded from the batch. Finally, all cases had been neckturned, ie, excess metal shaved off the outside of the caseneck in a little hand-powered 'minilathe' for uniformity and concentricity. I'd bet that there was at least sixteen hours total of handwork in those fifty cases. Some of those steps can now be done faster with power tools. Trouble is, given that I already have the hand-powered versions of these tools, I can't really justify the expense of shifting to the power version. Especially since the actual improvement in an off the shelf hunting rifle is fairly minor. The time spent in doing the work and the money spent on buying the tools could be more productively spent on the rifle itself, tweaking the bedding, lapping the bore and locking lugs and getting the trigger to a light, crisp two and a half pound pull. I really only match prep cases so as to have something to do with my hands while listening to the radio or watching TV, I smoke less that way.

Anyhow, with a hundred cases ready to go, I got busy. Those particular cases had last been messed with back more than five years ago so they went into the vibratory case tumbler to shine them up. Then I got busy cleaning the rifle. All I'd done was to wipe it down, put some Birchwood Casey Sheath rust preventative on the metal and run a few cleaning patches through the bore, leaving it wet with Butch's Bore shine is my normal practice in cleaning rifles, I wipe down the outside, wet the bore with Butch's and leave it overnight. Normally I then just dry patch the bore until I get fairly clean patches, run a couple-three more wet patches through and leave it again I think about it I'll dry patch again in a few hours, otherwise I leave it overnight and repeat the dry patching, then wet patch and leave it again. I like to let the solvent do the work instead of assing around with brushing and scrubbing. Most of the time it takes a week or more to clean a barrel. This time it was different, I wanted to catch the Tuesday crowd at my favorite rifle range. Why Tuesday?

Well, for years my days off were Mondays and Tuesdays. I shot every Tuesday, plus some little extra, but Tuesday was my day to go to that particular range, Gibson's Outpost in Mesquite, Texas. There are a hardcore few weekday shooters several that show up nearly every Tuesday, over the years I've become friends with them. One in particular is another retired lawman, Asa, H. We call him Ace. Ace is the best rifle shot off the bench I've ever seen and this includes people I've seen shoot in the formal Benchrest Competition. He regularly cusses at the blown shot in a group that I would cut out of my target and carry around to impress people with. If anyone can show me a rifle's true potential, it's Ace. Plus he loves to shoot. He'll happily shoot anything with a trigger, all he wants to see with an unknown combination of shootin' iron and load is to see the owner of that combo shoot it first.

So, I had to do the quick clean, scrubbing and brushing. That sure is a lot like work. After the cases were shined up, I lubed them and full length sized them, then back in the tumbler to get the Imperial Sizing Wax off them. Scrub some more on that bore while that's going on.

Finally, after the sizing lube got cleaned off, I got them out of the tumbler and primed them. Using the RCBS Hand Priming Tool, that was short work, about ten minutes.

It was also quick work choosing the load. What I had on hand were two hundred Hornaday bulk packed 150 grain flat based spitzer soft points. This is as good a bullet for white tailled deer as any on the market. In the over four and a half decades I've been messing with the .30-06 I've found that any bolt action '06 that didn't shoot well with a near-max charge of one of the various 4350 powders in the 150-180 grain range probably won't shoot anything very well. I had a fresh jug of Hodgdon's version, H4350. I usually do. H4350 is one of those powders that when I first crack a new jug, it means it's time to buy another canister. I flat don't understand how a man can keep house without a jug of H4350. Some do, it's a mystery.

Now there are other powders that give near universal good results in the '06 with this weight bullet, why do I go first for the 4350? It's simple. In the '06 case we get the maximum load by running out of room to put more powder in, not by maxing out the pressure. Give me a choice of not blowing an expensive rifle (and me) up because I can't or because I'm so smart, I'll pick 'I can't' every time. My smart quotient is variable. I'm quite capable of putting on the stupid hat and wearing it around all day.

The max allowed load is 61 grains of H4350, I chose to load fifty rounds at 59 grains and fifty at 60. I avoided trying to get that last one-seven-thousanths of a pound in, it simply raises the level of the powder into the charged case to where it's a pain to try to work with. No critter is ever gonna notice that twenty feet or so per second velocity gain and no shooter alive will ever be good enough to care about the near imperceptible difference in trajectory that a small difference like that would make. Since I had been unable to find the Stoney Point tool for picking the longest seating depth for a particular rifle's chamber and throat, I just seated the Hornaday bullet to the top of the crimping cannelure. One of the tweaks for improving accuracy in handloads is the adjusting of seating depth. Seating to the top of the cannelure makes for a fairly short overall length (OAL). This means that in further load development I have lots of leeway to go to a longer OAL. My experience is that fooling around with the OAL will not magically turn a bad load good. What it can do is turn an accurate load into a load that we brag about.

Finally, it's close to two in the morning, the rifle is clean, the ammo loaded and I fall into bed. Big day tomorrow.

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