Gun Digest

Handloading Update: “Off Calibers” Are In

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Some of the new cartridges being loaded by Hornady, and for which handloading dies and components will be available: L/R: 30 T/C, 308 Marlin Express, 9.3 74mmR, 375 Ruger, 450/400 Nitro Express and 450 Bushmaster.

The big news for handloaders in 2007 was the introduction by Hornady Manufacturing of so many new cartridges, or loads for previously difficult-to-obtain cartridges, ultimately resulting in more reloading die sets and components – which Hornady is also producing. Among the new loads available now are the 30 T/C (Thompson/Center), 308 Marlin Express, 9.3 74R, 375 Ruger, 450/400 Nitro Express, and the 450 Bushmaster, with the 338 Lapua Magnum on the shelves by the time you read this. That's just for a start. There's a baker's dozen new bullets, plus the 7th edition of the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading , and a Joyce Hornady DVD on reloading and bullet accuracy. Loading dies and components are available for some of these new cartridges already, and the others are on the way.

One of the most unusual new products this shooter has seen for handloaders is Season Shot, a nontoxic, biodegradable, seasoned, dissolving shot. Initial offerings will be garlic and herb-flavored, with lemon pepper, Cajun, Terriyaki, mesquite and Mexican (hot?) flavors to be added. Invented by Brett Holm and his partner, Dave Feig, this new shot should on the market by the time you read this. The hardened pellets are said to be comparable in range and patterning to regular steel shot, with “knock-down” power out to 45 yards on upland birds, and 25 yards on turkeys. It will take ducks and geese if they are settling in to a decoy spread, but larger size shot is being developed for use on waterfowl.

Holm stated the shot was developed after he chipped a tooth while eating a bird bagged using steel shot. “I just knew there had to be a better way.” While hard enough to penetrate birds, the Season Shot pellets in the dressed birds melt from the oven heat, dissolving and providing flavor to the meat from the inside out. Bag your bird using Season Shot, clean and dress it, bake or roast, and enjoy eating garlic- and herb-flavored meat.

Lyman Products Corporation

Lyman has introduced four new loading die sets, a three-die set for the 5.7 28mm FN cartridge, plus similar sets for three ‘cowboy action' shooter cartridges, the 40-60, 45-60, and 45-75 Winchester rounds of yesteryear. (The new production '76 Winchester lever-action rifles are now available in these original chamberings.) Neck-sizing dies are also available for these cartridges. For those shooters wanting to take a step back further in time, the Lyman or Ideal 310 Tong Tool and dies are available for the 40-65 Winchester cartridge, in addition to some other old calibers, such as the 45-70 Government. (The 310 Tong may be slow, but having used one in his younger days, this shooter can vouch for the fact it does load shootable cartridges.)

For those handloaders who cast their own bullets, Lyman has brought back Ideal mould #403168. This mould will cast a 200-grain flat-nose bullet with two lube grooves and a plain base.

Shotshell reloaders will appreciate the new 5th edition of Lyman's Shotshell Reloading Handbook . This latest edition features more than 230 pages of data for reloading shotshells from the .410-bore to 10-gauge, using the most popular powders. Discussion of non-toxic shot, including the development and history, plus case identification featuring full color drawings, tips for producing better handloads and data for loading buckshot and slug are also included.

Forster Precision Products

Forster has added several calibers to their Bench Rest die sets. Some feature full-length sizing dies, some neck-sizing and seating dies, of course. New to the Forster line are dies for the 6mm Dasher (6mm BR Improved), 6mm XC, 6.8mm Remington SPC, and the 325 WSM. Also new are the Precision Plus Bushing Bump Sizing dies. The Bump dies are matched to the caliber of a specific rifle, and a set consists of three pre-selected or ‘you choose' smooth-as-silk bushings, which are available in thousandth of an inch (.001) increments. This permits the case neck to be sized for a specific chamber, and reduces the possibility of overworking the case neck.

Currently, the Bushing Bump Die, with three pre-selected bushings, is available for a baker's dozen cartridges, from the 204 Ruger to the 30-06 Springfield. By the time you read this, dies and bushings should be available for the 6.5mm/284, 7mm Remington Magnum, and 30 BR cartridges, with others possibly later. The bushings and the Bushing Bump Die can be purchased separately.

Handloaders who don't like to change a die setting once it's established, but have to in order to return the die to its box, will like the new Forster Deluxe Die Box. With an overall length of 8 inches, and a thickness of 2 inches, the new double-walled boxes will handle dies for the extra-long Ultra Mag calibers, in addition to the Ultra Micrometer Bench Rest dies.

Handloaders who salvage bullets from surplus ammunition, or replace full metal jacket bullets with a soft- or hollow-point design of equal or lesser weight, should appreciate Forster's new 8mm (.323″) Superfast Bullet Puller. The Puller will work in most presses taking x14-thread dies. While it will leave scratches on the pulled bullet jacket, it will pull even the tough, lacquered bullets from military rounds.

Not new – but a must for sizing cases – is a high-pressure lubricant which adheres to the case. Under the Bonanza label Forster has a lubricant that allows case resizing with a minimum of effort.

J & J Products

J&J has been in the thermoplastic injection-molding business for over three and one-half decades. Their various transparent ammunition boxes carry a lifetime guarantee against latch or hinge failure, and are designed to interlock to permit stacking of boxes for storage. Available in a variety of colors from smoke through red to camouflage, the boxes have capacities of 20, 50 or 100 rounds, depending on the model. The newest boxes in a 50-round hinge-top design will hold the 500 S&W and similar big-bore handgun cartridges – plus some of the shorter rifle cartridges of a similar size.

Redding Reloading Equipment

Redding has a host of new products available for handloaders; among which are ten new die sets. These include the 17 Remington Fireball, 6?47mm Lapua, 6.5?47mm Lapua, 6.5mm Grendel, 30 T/C, 308 Marlin Express, 9.3mmx74R, 375 Ruger, 45-60 Winchester and 470 Nitro Express. New also are the Universal Decapping Dies in two sizes, Small for calibers 22 through 50 and lengths up to 2.625 inches, and the Large, which will handle cases up to three inches in length, but with a neck diameter no smaller than 25-caliber. An optional 17-caliber decapping rod is available to fit the small die, and accommodate the small (0.060-inch) flash hole PPC and BR cases.

The Redding Big Boss II ‘O'-frame press features a one-inch diameter ram, with 3.8 inches of usable stroke. Another feature is the spent primer collection system, which funnels ejected spent primers through the ram and down a tube to a collection point below.

If ten new die sets aren't news, then the introduction of the Big Boss II Reloading Press definitely is ‘big news.' Featuring a one-inch diameter ram with 3.8 inches of usable stroke, this large ‘O'-frame press has the largest window opening of any press in its class, making it capable of reloading most of the larger cartridges. The Boss II features the “Spent Primer Collection System” in which spent primers automatically drop through the large-diameter ram into a flexible plastic tube that can be easily routed into a collection container for later emptying. The “Smart Primer Arm” on the Boss II automatically swings into position during the ram stroke and moves out of position when not in use. Priming is done at the end of the ram stroke to ensure maximum sensitivity while at the lowest possible leverage. (An optional bushing to handle 1″x14 threaded dies is available For the Boss II, as is an extra Slide Bar Primer Assembly for the T-7 Turret Reloading Press.)

Handloaders who are also competition shooters have found the uniformity of neck wall thickness to be a contributing factor to consistently accurate loads. Any large variation (over 0.0015-inch) in neck wall thickness can decrease accuracy. Redding has a new Case Neck Gauge that permits easy and rapid sorting of cases by neck wall thickness and uniformity. Two mandrel sizes are supplied with the Gauge to allow measurement of all cases from 17- to 338-caliber, including cases with small (0.060-inch) flash holes. The Gauge mounts directly to the reloading bench, and comes with a large dial indicator accurate to 0.001-inch. Pilot stops are required for each caliber, and two stops, 22-caliber (#06121) and 30-caliber (#06130) are provided with the Gauge. These stainless steel pilot stops, which also can be used with the flash hole deburring Tools, are currently available in fourteen sizes from 17-caliber to 338-caliber.

It may seem a small thing, but flash holes and primer pocket uniformity are more important than many handloaders realize. Redding has both primer pocket uniformers and flash hole deburring tools for small and large primer pockets and small (0.060-inch) and large (0.080-inch) flash holes. The primer pocket uniformers are designed for Large Rifle primers, but not for Large Pistol primers, while the tools for the Small Rifle primers are dimensionally correct for the Small Pistol primers. The tools come with handles and the deburrers are supplied with one pilot stop.

Redding has an easy to use SAECO Lead Hardness Tester that allows the user to check bullet metal up to approximately 22 Brinell. This is accomplished by the depth of penetration of a hardened steel indenter into a bullet. The relative hardness of the bullet is read off a Vernier scale calibrated in arbitrary units from 0 (pure lead) to 10 (approx. 22 Brinell). Magnum handgun and gas check rifle bullets work best if cast from an alloy with a SAECO hardness reading of 8 or over.

Cowboy Action Shooters use rather large quantities of cast lead bullets. Redding has a score of moulds to cast an assortment of classic design bullets from a 140-grain 30-caliber (#630) to a 525-grain 45-caliber (#745). All the designs feature rounded lube grooves, and a front band near bore diameter, tapering up to slightly larger than groove diameter. This type of bullet was preferred by the famed barrel-maker Harry Pope a century ago, and was frequently used by Schuetzen shooters.


RCBS has a number of new products for handloaders, beginning with an economical new AmmoMaster Chronograph. The AmmoMaster is self-contained and has its own carrying case, operates on a 9V DC battery and features a detachable keyboard display with a 100-shot memory. Velocity range is 50 to 7,000 feet/second, and the chronograph mounts on any standard camera tripod. The detachable keypad has a twenty-footcord to permit editing a string right at the bench. (The edit function allows the deleting of a particular shot, and will display high, low, and average velocities – plus extreme spread and standard deviation.)

Case tumblers aren't new items, but RCBS does have a new large capacity vibratory Mega Tumbler. The Mega holds up to six pounds of corncob or walnut hull media, and can clean and polish up to 1,000 38 Special cases at a time. Both 120- and 240-volt units are available, with the latter ideal for handloaders in Europe.

Ever wish trickling power onto a scale pan for weighing was easier? RCBS has a new Powder Trickler System that allows you to dispense and trickle a powder charge directly onto a scale pan without having to remove the scale pan for the initial filling. The dispensing chute adjusts to allow you to drop the powder charge directly onto the scale pan, and the unit can be adjusted for left- or right-hand use. (The Trickler system attaches to any Uniflow, Quick Change or Little Dandy powder measure, and is used in conjunction with the Advanced Powder Measure Stand.)

The Advanced Powder Measure Stand, which can be purchased separately, will accept any power measure having a -14 thread. It can be easily bolted to a reloading bench or table, and leaves plenty of space for positioning a loading block filled with cases, or a powder scale pan. RCBS has a new Black Powder Measure having a charging capacity of 120 grains. The metering cylinder is constructed of brass, with the one-pound capacity powder hopper and cap being aluminum. (The cap features a non-sparking powder level indicator to show how much powder is left in the hopper.) A 24-inch aluminum drop tube is available as an option.

New powder baffles are available for the Quick Change and Quick Change High Capacity (two pounds of powder) Powder Measures. Extra metering assemblies can be purchased to have them preset for favorite smokeless powder charges, and Quick Change Accessories can be purchased to upgrade Uniflow Measures to the QC system.

RCBS has an extensive line of reloading dies (over 3,300, sizing and seating) available to take care of handloading almost any modern cartridge, in addition to many obsolete calibers. These range from 17-caliber, with possibly a few 10, 12- and 14-caliber reamers still back in the stacks, to the 50 BMG round, and include the Precisioneered, Gold Medal Match Series, Competition, Legacy Series, Cowboy, X-Dies and Custom die series. The newest RCBS dies are for the 325 Winchester Short Mag (WSM), plus the Cowboy Shotshell Die.

The Shotshell Die is designed to size, decap and crimp 12-gauge brass shotshells in any single-stage RCBS press with a removable bushing. In the single stage, size the shell hull and decap it. Repriming is done using the standard priming device on this press. The sized, decapped and reprimed shell is then transferred to a regular shotshell loading press for charging with powder, seating of wads and spacers and charging with shot. The charged but uncrimped shell is placed back on the single-stage press, the resizing ring removed from the shotshell die, an overshot wad placed on top the shot charge and the shell run up into the die to crimp the case mouth. Result: a newly-handloaded 12-gauge brass shotshell. It may sound like a lot of work, but if done in batches of fifty shells at a time in a loading block, it's not difficult. Size, decap and reprime fifty shells, move and charge fifty shells, move back to the single-stage press and crimp fifty shells. You now have fifty newly-reloaded brass shotshells.

Shellholders have a tendency to become misplaced – not lost – just misplaced. RCBS has a new Shell Holder Rack that will hold two dozen shellholders, two on each of a dozen posts, plus six Trim Pro shell holders as well. The top of the plastic rack is clear, allowing a view of the shell holder number. The rack can be used on the bench, or mounted on the wall and additional racks can be snapped together if more storage space is needed.

Handloaders of shotshells will appreciate the new RCBS Handbook of Shotshell Reloading . This 284-page manual contains new information, cut-a-way and mechanical drawings, color photographs and more than 2,000 shotshell loads for various gauge shotshells. It features the use of RCBS reloading presses, contains a wealth of essential data not available elsewhere, and is destined to be a definitive handbook on the reloading of shotshells.

New cartridges require loading dies, and Teppo Jutsu LLC, home of the 458 SOCOM cartridge, has a couple of new ones. The big boy is the 470 Rhino, the largest of a possible line of Rhino cartridges, and the 30 HRT. The 470 is based on a shortened and necked-down 500 Jeffery case, while the 30 HRT is based on a neck-expanded 6.8?43mm SPC case. The 470 can push a 500-grain A-Framebullet out the muzzle at about 2,150 fps and was designed to used in an compatible receiver fitted to the AR-10 lower unit, as was the 500 Phantom. The 30 HRT can do anything the rimmed 30 Herrett can do, and can be chambered and fitted to a regular AR-15 receiver. (Current Savage, Remington, etc., rifles could be rebarreled for these cartridges.)

C&H/Lee Precision

Loading dies for the Rhino and HRT cartridges are available from C&H Tool & Die 4-D and Lee Precision Inc. C&H was one of the early firms turning out top quality loading dies and H-presses for handloaders some fifty years ago. (The Swage-o-Matic was a beauty.) With the death of founder, Charles Heckman, in an automobile accident, the firm disappeared for awhile. However, like the phoenix, the firm returned. Now in Ohio, C&H has the ability to provide die sets for some 1,420 different cartridges, including at least one 12-caliber, ten 14-caliber and right on up to the 50 BMG – and larger. There are also dies for forming belts on your favorite wildcat, if needed.

The C&H loading presses include the non-progressive No. 444, 4station H-press, and the 444-X Pistol Champ. Both presses use standard ?x14 dies, and are capable of loading up to 200 rounds per hour.

For handloaders of the ‘Big Fifty,' C&H has regular dies, a bullet puller, and a micrometer straight-line seater. All require a press capable of handling die bodies with 1?x12 threading. The regular loading dies consist of a full-length sizer and a crimp seater. The Puller die uses R-8 collets of the type used in Bridgeport milling machines, and replacement collets are available in several size increments up to one-inch, or from 4mm to 25mm. If you need to pull bullets from surplus military 50 BMG ammunition the C&H die, which has a roller thrust washer and spring ejector to ensure easy operation without marring the bullet, will do the job.

If you shoot the Big Fifty at 1,000 yards, using Barnes or Hornady bullets, you need to take a bit more care than loading with surplus 50-caliber bullets. The C&H Micrometer Die incorporates a micrometer spindle graduated in 0.001-inch with a Vernier scale to 0.0001-inch. It takes good equipment to turn out accurate loads, and if you need a precise setting when seating the 750grain bullets, this is the die needed.

If you happen to have one of the old Herter ‘C' or Lachmiller presses that used a non-standard shellholder (The shellholder on some such presses was held in position with one or two set screws.), C&H's adapter can help you. This adapter allows the use of regular snap-in shellholders used by all modern loading press manufacturers. Herter's also produced a few presses using a threaded shell holder and C&H has an adapter for this as well.

Magma Engineering Company

Magma, home of the Bullet Master and Magma Bullet Moulds, has moulds for ten new gas-check bullets, a Digital Temperature Controller for the Master Caster, Cast Master and Master Pot machines, and is now the home for the Littleton Shotmaker. The Controller, which can be located off the machines for ease and convenience of the operator, will maintain pot temperature to plus or minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Littleton Shotmaker is available with a choice of 120 or 220 VAC power unit, and is capable of producing thirty-five to forty pounds of high antimony, perfectly round shot per hour, using seven drippers. The unit measures a foot square by six inches high, and drippers are available in shot sizes 5, 6, 7, 7-?, 8, 8? and 9.

The new Magma gas-check bullet moulds are all flat-tip designs, and include a 115-grain for the 3220 Winchester, three 38-caliber designs, including a 260-grain for the 38-55 Winchester, a 260-grain for the 40-65 Winchester, two designs – 300 and 340 grains – for the 45-70 Government, a 265grain for the 454 Casull and two 50-calibers: 300 and 440 grains.

Wolfe Publishing Company

Anyone in the handloading game for long should know the name of Ken Waters. Wolfe has a new book, Ken Waters' Notebook, available. Featuring previously unpublished personal correspondence, with many personal insights on various subjects, this new volume also contains considerable reloading information.

Corbin Mfg. & Supply

Every handloader who loads for more than one caliber has found, at one time or another, the cannelure groove on the bullet being loaded wasn't where the crimp was being made. No problem. The Oregon firm of Corbin Mfg. & Supply has a hand-operated tool, the HCT-1 Hand Cannelure Tool, which will place the cannelure where you need it, on any bullet from 17- to 72-caliber. Just set the exact depth you want the cannelure, position the bullet and turn the crank. It's handy, fast, easy to use and produces aperfect cannelure where you need it.

UniqueTek, Inc.

Users of the Fillon 550 and 650 reloading presses may have noticed a bit of looseness in the toolhead fit to the frame. UniqueTek, Inc. has a kit to tighten the fit. It eliminates looseness, reduces any overall case length variation and stabilizes the shellplate alignment. It does not require any modification to the press frame, so standard toolheads can still be used. It comes with instructions.

Ayers Arsenal

Some four or so decades back when most shotshells used paper hulls, the case mouths sometimes became frayed before the pinholes began to appear above the case head. Slipping the cases mouth over a heated ‘shell former' for a couple of seconds usually straightened the mouth, especially on Winchester-Western hulls which contained a bit of wax impregnation. The Minnesota firm of Herter's had an electrically-heated plug die which could be hand-held with an oven glove, or mounted on a single-stage press to re-form the case mouth in the step after decapping. (Leaving a plastic hull on the former for any length of time would usually ruin the case, as the plastic had a tendency to shrink.) Unfortunately, the original Herter firm is long gone.

Wisconsin's Ayers Arsenal has what they call a Thermagic Conditioner that will do the same job as the old Herter die. The Thermagic unit operates on a 110-115 VAC line and can be bench-mounted or clamped in a vise. It incorporates a thermostat for use with different plastic or paper cases. (A bit of trial and error use is necessary, as not all shotshell hulls are of the same formula plastic, plus there are paper hulls still available.) Slip the hull mouth down onto the forming mandrel with a rotating motion for a few seconds, and remove with a rotating motion in the opposite direction. Quickly slip the hot hull onto a separate cooling mandrel, rotate, remove and examine. If it's not near-perfect, try leaving the hull on the forming mandrel a second or two longer. (Roll crimps form best when using new, uncrimped hulls, but a Theermagic-treated previously crimped hull will also produced some good roll crimps.)

Caldwell Shooting Supplies

Loading ammunition is only part of the game. It has to be accurate ammunition to be worth the time and effort. Check it for accuracy is required, and the best way to accomplish that is with the aid of a mechanical rest of some type. For handgun users, Caldwell Shooting Supplies, by Battenfeld Technologies, Inc., has the H.A.M.M.R. (Handgun Accurizing Mechanical Machine Rest). If used properly, this device allows a shooter to test a handgun for accuracy free from outside interference. (It does require a sturdy, non-moving shooting bench to which the HAMMR can be securely clamped or mounted.) Firing is done remotely, using a cable-operated trigger actuator bar.

The Frankford Arsenal Micro Reloading Scale. The cartridge on the pan is a 5.7 28mm FNH, and a quarter is shown to the right, above a pair of tweezers, and a powder dipper. This scale comes with a soft case, and will fit into a shirt pocket. Accurate to 0.1 grain, it's ideal for taking to the range, along with a small press, if any reloading of handgun cartridges, etc., needs doing.


Currently, stock grip inserts for the HAMMR are available to fit various Smith & Wesson and Ruger revolvers, plus Beretta, SIG-Sauer, Glock, Para-Ordnance and HK pistols, as well as the M1911 Colt and clones. There is also a Universal Grip Casting Kit available, and inserts for other models are forthcoming. The original stocks on pistols and revolvers must be removed prior to installing the HAMMR inserts, and it's possible some Ransom grip inserts can be used. If handguns with polymer frames and non-removable stocks are to be used for test work, care must be taken not to over-tighten the clamping knobs during installation.

Hyskore Power Aisle, Inc.

There are a number of mechanical rests for rifle users, including the excellent Lead Sled from Caldwell Shooting Supplies. One of the best new rests for checking accuracy is the Model 30012 Dangerous Game Machine Rest from Hyskore Power Aisle, Inc. This rest, as with the HAMMR, employs remote firing, but via a hydraulic trigger release in place of a cable. The rest should be attached to a non-moving shooting bench; a concrete bench would be ideal. The Dangerous Game Rest will handle rifles in calibers from the 223 Remington to the 416 Weatherby Magnum, using one of three compression dampers provided with the Rest. (A table listing the approximate recoil in foot-pounds of energy is provided for each of the three dampers – mild (#1), medium (#2), and heavy (#3) – when used with rifles weighing seven, eight and nine pounds. The #1 damper should be used with rifles chambered for cartridges from the 223 Remington to the 308 Winchester. Damper #2 will handle rifles chambered for cartridges from the 7mm Remington Magnum to the 375 H&H Magnum, and including 12-gauge shotguns. Damper #3 will take care of the larger cartridges, from the 338 RUM to the 416 Weatherby Magnum, including the 416 Rigby and 458 Winchester Magnum. However, the 458 is not to be used in the Rest if the rifle weighs less than eight pounds, nor should the 416 Weatherby be used in the Rest if the rifle weighs less than nine pounds. Otherwise, damage may result to the rest and/or the rifle, according to Power Aisle.

Power Aisle stresses caution in all aspects when using the Rest, following the instructions, calculating the anticipated recoil prior to beginning so the correct damper is used, and checking everything, including the Velcro security straps, after every third shot. As the instructions state: “If you do something dumb, bad things can happen.”

Ballistic Technology

Handloads intended for defensive or hunting use can be checked for expansion properties using the Bullet Test Tube by Ballistic Technology. (This shooter has used a variety of mediums over the years, from actual beef – it was cheaper then – to saturated wetpack. None provided a reliable, semi-permanent wound cavity for later analysis, although the wetpack and moist clay did well after drying for a period of time.) The bullet expansion material in the Test Tube can be melted and reused, using moulds that are available. Currently, the Bullet Test Tube can be obtained in sizes to handle handgun and/or rifle calibers. There are also moulds, material solvents, etc. available. For handloaders wanting to check the effects of their load/bullet combination, the Bullet Test Tube provides the means.

There's always something new for handloaders. It may be components, loading data, new or improved presses, dies, scale, powder measure – or even an ammunition box. What's been presented in this update represents some of what's new.

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