“Exceptionally Lethal!” isn’t much of an argument

I’ve written about this “quantum behavior” of the 5.56×45 round before, primarily from the military perspective.   https://wanderingthroughthenight.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/the-quantum-behavior-of-the-5-56×45-nato-round/  But I think it is time to approach the same subject, but from the civil side.

One of the arguments made lately by anti-rights fascists after that want to limit your freedoms after the Parkland murders is that the AR-15 is somehow “exceptionally lethal” compared less scary looking firearms.

The data presented here doesn’t support that conclusion: https://www.buckeyefirearms.org/alternate-look-handgun-stopping-power

Even the US Army doing interviews with combat veterans discovered that the tactic of firing a “controlled pair” to adequately stop threats with the M4/M16 (which truly are assault rifles capable of automatic fire and regulated as machine guns): http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/1006163.pdf

The limitations of the M16 platform (and by extension the AR-15 which shares the common magwell size limitation) have even had one Ph.D. write passionately about how the entire system needs to be abandoned and replaced with something more effective on the battlefield: http://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/military-review/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20120831_art004.pdf

Now, if someone wants to point out a weakness in my argument, that an M16 at war is not the same thing as an AR-15 in the hands of a criminal. This is a good observation and my counter point becomes how in the world the same bullet, traveling at the same speed, somehow changes in lethality based on the setting? This question, if explored honestly, makes it quite obvious that the lack of lethality on the field of battle has quite a bit to do with that environment. And this brings up a very big problem for anyone who tries to sell “exceptional lethality” as an argument.

The problem with using “school shootings” as some proxy for actual “lethality” comes down to the fact that it is a target rich environment filled with people who can’t fight back. This is why the Hi-Point 9×19 carbine (often derided as a craptastic redneck toy) killed so many people in Columbine. The “lethality” comes from the environment, not the particular firearm. The Virginia Tech shooter used a 9mm and 22 rimfire pistol, neither of which have been accused of some magical “exceptional lethality.” So unless an anti-rights fascist is willing to be intellectually honest and say, “screw it, I’m hear to take away your guns!” at this point they’ve lost the “exceptional lethality” argument.

Schools are made to allow large amounts of people to stream into hallways and out, in case of a fire or other emergency. They are well lit, with long corridors and large open spaces that make it difficult for a disarmed person to hide. In short, if you want to catch fish, you need to go where the fish are. If you want to kill a lot of people, you need to shoot up a concert in Vegas or a High School filled with kids. None of this is news to anyone in the security industry, terrorists and crazies love target rich environments.

But…there are people who would rather disarm you than face up to the fact that security doesn’t come from disarming good people. Security comes from investing in the facilities, equipment, training, and payroll to harden targets. There are no shortcuts.

 

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How an under powered poodle shooter became America’s most popular rifle

The saga of the AR-15 is really quite something. At first it was dismissed by the Army, backdoored into service by the USAF and then Congress, and while there was a great conspiracy theory spun by the Atlantic that the Army ordnance department tried to sabotage the adoption of the M16 it did get adopted, and upgraded many, many times through the “Engineering Change” process that upgraded the aluminum, the geometry of the lower and upper receivers, chrome lined the bore., etc.

Somehow through all that, the rifle that started out as the “Mattel Toy” or “jam-o-matic” became a grudgingly accepted piece of kit to the point where the elite forces of the US, UK, Australia, Canada and many other allies.

Now, all of this would have been just an interesting side note in history except for the election of Bill Clinton, the first Democrat in the White House since Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton and the Democratic party immediately began their term of ruling the American public by passing a ban on “assault weapons” which they defined as any rifle featuring more than one “naughty feature” such as a pistol grip plus a flash hider and a bayonet lug. They also decided that 10 round magazines for all semi-automatics was the rule of the land, save for the ever valiant police and military forces which clearly required standard capacity magazines to deal with the threat of the unwashed citizenry.

because of that 1992 assault on the second amendment, two things happened. One was that “assault rifles” became really popular because the national motto for the United States may in fact be “E Pluribus Unum” most American’s think it stands for “You ain’t the boss of me!” and when told something is verboten, decide that is what they want most in life. The second thing is that now that semi-auto pistols were limited to 10 rounds or less, a lot of those “wonder nines” that started getting popular in the 1980s looked a lot less sexy compared to the old 1911 with an 8 round stack. This being back when “Federal Hydroshocks” and “Glaser Safety Slugs” were the most premium offerings on the defensive handgun ammunition market, having a 45 made a lot of sense.

So the 1990s saw a lot of people buying an “assault rifle” for the first time, and a lot of manufacturers upgrading their 1911 offerings. By this time all the patents for both the AR and 1911 had expired, but that didn’t stop Colt from taking other manufacturers to court of the use of the term “M4” and it didn’t stop Armalite from taking others to court over the use of the term “AR.” Colt lost, Armalite generally got some sort of settlement which is why those “Poverty Pony” rifles say “AM-15” rather than “AR-15” on the roll stamp.

But, in the 1990s you didn’t have many options for a quality AR-15. Colts even then were more expensive than they were worth, and Armalite right up there in cost. Bushmaster and DPMS started bringing down the price for more people, and “Olympic Arms” was never able to shake it’s reputation for having spotty quality control. But, at least there were options. You had the option of an A1 or A2 handguard if you wanted handguards, or you could have an A2 style national match free float handguard, or something that mostly resembled black aluminum pipe. If you wanted to attach a flashlight you had to get this wonky thing that filled up two holes on your A2 handguards to attache a 1″ flashlight using a scope ring, and then tape a light switch somewhere else.

Good times.

Then…it seems almost overnight now but was really a series of years then a bunch of machine shops and AR-15 specialty builders got in on the action. DelTon in South Carolina, Rock River in Illinois, Aero Precision and Mega in Washington. Anderson in Kentucky, even older manufacturers that weren’t AR manufacturers got in on the act, like Savage, Remington, and Smith and Wesson. The number of aluminum blank manufacturers increased, a lot. By making the AR-15 a commodity product, it lowered prices enough to make demand increase.

Now, the real secret as to why the AR-15 got to be so popular is because they are really fun to shoot. The 223 Rem is easy enough on the shoulder that you can shoot all day, even if you aren’t a particularly large person used to taking recoil. The ergonomics of the AR platform have been adopted by many other rifles, from the massive Barret M82/M107 and even many aftermarket “precision rifle chassis” adopting AR parts for ergonomics.

I must say that Hollywood and Silicon Valley have also played a role in the popularity of the AR-15, showcasing it in many venues from first person shooters to war movies. Think about what “Enemy at the Gates” did for the popularity of the Mosin Nagant 91/30 rifle.

There are those that claim the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also helped increase the popularity of the AR platform, but while I’m dubious the numbers say that they certainly didn’t hurt either. Having experienced an all expenses paid vacation to both countries, I’m honestly of the opinion that the M4 pattern is highly over rated, but likewise there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The longer 20″ barrel is superior in every combat situation except for getting in and out of vehicles when you have on way more kit and body armor than is designed for getting in and out of vehicles…

But no matter how you look at it, the AR-15 has come a long way. From a largely boutique rifle that was marketed to ranchers and law enforcement to a commodity parts market where there are more “frankenguns” than factory offerings most days. I will say that the innovation for the platform has clearly moved away from the military and into the civilian market. Do you want a milspec carpenter 158 bolt? Or do you want the 9310 bolt that Faxon arms says is 7% stronger? I have no doubts that Faxon arms did their homework on that number. Do you want a chrome lined milspec barrel? Or do you want a nitrided barrel? I recommend the nitrided barrel for both longevity and accuracy for most people. Both of those items came about for the civilian market, and the military would do well to adopt them at some point.

If you don’t have an AR-15, there really isn’t anything special about them, other than owning one will make you smile with the “screw you statist asshole” level of satisfaction that you have something that someone, somewhere, doesn’t want you to have. And there really is nothing more ‘Murican than that.

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Gear Review: Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24

There are a lot of 1-4×24 scopes with a 30mm tube coming out of China these days. Even the reputable companies like Vortex, Burris, and Zeiss all have a 1-4×24 that was manufactured in China as an offering in their line up. At the lower end you have Bushnell, Leatherwood Hi-Lux, Athlon and even straight up crap brands like NCStar and Barska (offering a 1-6×24 option) where every purchase gets a free helping of sorrow and regret.

If you don’t like buying something made in China, don’t buy something made in China, look into a Leupold 1-4×20 VX Freedom scope, it’s in the same price range as the “good” Chinese scopes. If you really don’t care one way or the other, here’s my take on the Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24

First, the name. “Crossfire” is an unfortunate name for a scope being used for High Power. I did in fact “cross fire” on the very first warm up match of the season (because it was a warm up match I just shrugged and reminded myself to double check the target number).

Secondly, now that I have three of these to compare, the quality is definitely a variable. I have two illuminated models and one regular. One of the illuminated models has a fleck on the reticle plane, and the illumination if set above “5” starts to have some washback that gets distracting. The other illuminated model has no additional flecks on the reticle plane, and the illumination doesn’t wash back even at max setting.

The regular scope is just as clear as the “good” illuminated version, although it has a standard “duplex” crosshair setup where the illuminated version has a center square “dot” that reflects the illume.

The good: Tracking seems to be nice and consistent. I started using the “good” illume version last August and it is tracking fine for High Power competitions. Turrets are easily set to zero using just a coin.

The bad: The turrets are smaller than I’d like, and the adjustments can be “mushy” so you need to be able to see the turret to make sure you are adjusting to the right graduation line on the turret.

The interesting: I shot my service rifle with the “good” optic on top in a pretty miserable match in March. The rain made everything wet, including the objective and ocular lenses, which I simply wiped the lenses off using the shemagh I had wrapped around my neck, and proceeded to shoot a personal best score. That’s not exactly a “hard use” scenario but it didn’t fog up, stayed tight, and let me do my job as the shooter.

The yet to be seen. I put together a “derp tier carbine” using Palmetto State Armory and Anderson parts, and got a “CCOP” mount (looks like a knockoff Burris PEPR mount which is also made in China) and hopefully I’ll get to run it through some paces. I don’t have any 3 gun matches or carbine classes on the immediate horizon, but we’ll see how she does when I can get a chance to test her out, rifle and optic.

Why don’t I use Vortex’s unconditional guarantee to replace the scope that has illume washback and a fleck on the reticle? Because I want to see if it’ll hold up first. If it gets through a couple hundred rounds with no problems, odds are it’ll get through a couple thousand rounds as well based on my experience with things made in China.

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The US Army not the Best in the World? A pointed response to get better

The defense blogosphere has taken one sentence of a much larger report and run with it.

“Many of our allies, and likely some of our potential enemies, are now tactically better than we are at company level and below because we do not train enough at home station.”

Even Tom Ricks used it as a “teaser” to get people to click on the actual article: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/06/09/best-in-the-world-nope-in-fact-our-small-units-are-no-longer-as-well-trained-as-those-of-our-allies-reports-this-army-captain/

You can find the original here:  http://www.benning.army.mil/armor/earmor/content/issues/2017/Spring/2Metz17.pdf

I have a passing familiarity with the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC). I’ve actually worked with CPT Metz before. In my experience his observations are correct based on multiple years of training at JMRC myself. However, his observations don’t address any solutions to the problems he identifies.

So why is this lack of home station training a problem? There are several factors that go into it, and there is no one “smoking gun” cause but lots of little things that add up.

First, the US military, and specifically the US Army, have been downsizing. Part of this downsizing is the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. This takes smaller bases and shuts them down to save money, putting more units at larger bases. Now you have more units fighting for training resources such as land, ammunition, and ranges on fewer posts.

Second, Company Commanders generally have little to no experience truly doing long range resource forecasting, as a Company training schedule really only goes out six weeks into the future. Major land and range resources need to be finalized at least a quarter of a year out (12 weeks) and those resources get allocated in a “quarterly land grab” where people who already have a plan get the resources they need.

Third, ammunition resources need to be forecast an entire YEAR out, and generally the only way to do that is by putting some sort of “wild ass guess” as to what your company might be training on. The ammunition draw and turn in processes are also designed to favor the bean counters and not Companies. Try doing an exercise with ammunition that crosses over a calendar month…

Fourth, which is the consequences of points one through three, in order to get these long range forecast resources into Company commander’s six week training schedule, it requires Battalion and Brigade staff Officers and NCOs who can forecast resourcing needs against unknown training plans based on often vague “annual training guidance” and a “long range training calendar” that puts major training events down in quarters and months. These Brigade and BN Officers and NCOs are there as additional duties, or because they were undesirable for a leadership role, NOT because they are an important member of the unit.

Fifth, and this problem is slowly correcting itself, the Army Force Generation Cycle (ARFORGEN) that would heavily resource units prior to deployment, then rape that unit for resources after it returned, created a “ripple effect” where three years after a unit redeployed, all of its experienced leadership all hit the PCS season at the same time, replaced by fresh leaders. This seems like a small problem, but it is larger than it should be as it takes months for a BN or Brigade Commander (or S3s and XOs) to get good at their job of resource management in order to maximize training value. In fact, the ARFORGEN cycle has been replaced by the “Sustainable Readiness Model” which seeks to do the same thing as ARFORGEN but different.

Sixth, the last problem, specifically for our Armor and Mechanised Infantry communities is fuel. A single day of training on an M1A2 main battle tank will cost the Army 500 gallons of fuel. And this is 500 gallons of fuel that the Army has to purchase from the Defense Logistics Agency at prices set by the DLA. Historically the DLA has used the fuel prices as a way to create a “slush fund” for other stuff: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/at-the-pentagon-overpriced-fuel-sparks-allegations–and-denials–of-a-slush-fund/2017/05/20/c5ff4bf4-31b2-11e7-9dec-764dc781686f_story.html

So with all regards to GEN Milley, “Readiness is number one, and there is no other number one.” that isn’t particularly helpful when “readiness” is defined as having soldiers meet the minimum level of training through “Objective T” evaluations rather than mastery of tactical competence. The deck is stacked against an aggressive, “get after it” Company Commander and 1SG going out there to train on combined arms maneuver before a CTC rotation is slim. These training events just cost too much in terms of manpower, money, and resources so they are set aside for a CTC when there is dedicated time, manpower, and money to execute them.

So what is the way forward?

  1. Adjust the Professional Development Timeline for 11B, 12B, and 19D/K to include “Land and Ammo NCO” as a Key Development Position for 12 months at the grade of E6.
  2. Adjust the Professional Development Timeline for 11B, 12B, and 19D/K to include “Training NCO” as a Key Development Position for 12 months at the grade of E5.
  3. Include “Training Resource Management” as dedicated one week block of instruction at ALC and SLC for all combat arms (including engineer) MOS.
  4. Adjust the Professional Development Timeline for 11A, 12A, and 19A/B to include Company XO as a Key Developmental Position the same as Platoon Leader (historically prior service OCS officers make XO way too quickly because they end up working for a Captain who just wants things to run smoothly).
  5. Adjust the “Company Training Meeting” from focusing on the 6 to 8 week training window to the 6 to 8 MONTH training window. This means the outputs for company training meetings include projected training events that require external resources such as land, ranges, and ammo.
  6. Make Company Long Range Training Calendars (and updated outputs from the Company Training Meeting) a contract  reviewed quarterly between the Company Commander and Brigade Commander. The Colonel is in charge of certifying Company performance for readiness, and that means the Colonel is ultimately in charge of resourcing that readiness.
  7. Aggressively use surrogate training systems for high expense equipment. Simulators should never be idle waiting for Soldiers to come train. And even getting multiple tank or IFV crews out in HMMWVs to practice mounted maneuver techniques (moving from movement to maneuver, practicing vehicle bounding) is better than sitting around the motorpool or having Joe play XBox in his room.

Now…those 7 changes won’t take place overnight. They will literally take years to properly implement then it will take time beyond that feel the positive effects of those changes. But the Army spends millions of dollars every year teaching junior leaders to be tactically proficient, without spending a similar amount on teaching those junior leaders on how to work through the “Corporate Army” to create units that effectively work together in the tactical fight.

The good news about all of these is that they are cheap solutions. They require changes to policy and doctrine first, then changes to training pipelines and periods of instruction, and finally that should drive the cultural shift needed to make Companies successful at maintaining excellence in ground combat proficiency.

Comments are open.

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Service Rifle AR-15 Barrels

If you plan on assembling your own AR-15 from parts, pretty much everything on the cheap end will be “milspec” with the exception of the barrel and stock (lots of cheap plastic stocks that are the correct dimensions without meeting actual milspec). There are a lot of options, and a huge price range to go with it. I honestly do not recommend a milspec barrel for a Service Rifle build, mainly because they aren’t rigid enough.

Now if you are trying to build a “1/2 MOA rifle” then you should stop reading right now, go buy a White Oak or Compass Lake Engineering upper, and be done with it. If you are like me, and can’t hold 1/2 MOA even when fully slung up in the prone, well feel free to read on…

For the purposes of this post, I’m only talking about 5.56×45 ammo builds for Service rifle. That means an 18″ or 20″ barrel. You can get 18″ barrels with midlength gas system dimensions, but I don’t recommend it. I recommend you stick with a rifle length gas system on a 20″ barrel for Service Rifle competition. If you want to build a “match rifle” on an AR platform, that opens up your caliber options quite a bit and is a bit beyond my personal experience.

Full disclosure, I’ve shot 20″ HBARs from Colt (1:7), Krieger (1:7.7), Criterion (1:8), Bushmaster (1:9), and military 20″ M16A2 barrels made by FN (1:7). I don’t see much difference in accuracy at the 1:7 twist rate no matter if the barrel is naked, stainless, or chrome lined for a barrel that hasn’t been “shot out.” I’ve got barrels from Bear Creek (nitride, standard rifling 1:7, 5.56 chamber), AR Stoner (stainless, 1:8 5r, Wylde chamber), and Anderson (nitride, standard rifling, 1:7, can’t remember chamber) all waiting in the parts pile for when they are needed. The Bear Creek barrel was just put into an upper to give me a dedicated 600 yard prone midrange upper as a match rifle so I don’t have to put more rounds through my service rifle to compete in midrange prone, just swap to a match upper and drive on.

If you have a choice between a Wylde chamber and a 5.56 chamber, the Wylde is the slightly better option. That shouldn’t stop you from building on a 5.56 chambered rifle if it is in your price point and skill level. The 10 ring on a High Power target is 2 minutes, and all of the barrels that I’ve discussed so far are quite capable of slinging a match bullet downrange with groups tighter than 1.5 minutes for ten shots with my budget handloads (the Colt had a 5.56 chamber and let me shoot Expert level scores for at least one match with it).

So…here are some barrels that I recommend for people who want to get into High Power without breaking the bank.

Budget Build Friendly:
Bear Creek Arsenal 20″ 1:7 5.56 nitride (113, on sale for 102)
Bear Creek Arsenal 20″ 1:8 Wylde nitride (112, currently not in stock)
MidwayUSA’s ARStoner brand 1:8 Wylde Stainless 5r (129.99, can be had on sale every once in a while, bought one for my spare pile for 85 dollars on sale).

Getting expensive:
Yankee Hill Machine 1:7 5.56 melonite 20″ (216.50)
Rock River 1:8 Stainless (235.00)
Criterion 1:8 Wylde chrome lined (269.99)

There are a lot of more expensive options; Wilson, White Oak, Shilen, Krieger, and Faxon, but having a Kreiger on your rifle isn’t going to help you become a better shooter any faster than having a Criterion (for half the price) or an ARStoner stainless barrel is. You get to be a better High Power service rifle shooter by spending your time on the line competing, practicing holds, dry firing, and by the time you are a good enough shooter that you need a Wilson or Krieger, you’ll know it. And if you have juniors starting out, don’t waste the money on a top end barrel, get them a rifle that can stay within 2 minutes with a decent “cross the course” load, and load them up about 5,000 rounds of that load, and have them compete (with a coach if at all possible).

Now, it is possible that you’ll get a bad barrel, or get a barrel that doesn’t like to shoot a load that is good in a different rifle. Sad to say, but it happens now and again. If a normal load workup doesn’t fix the problem, then swap it out with a different barrel, after all you can get an AR Stoner and a Bear Creek together for less than the cost of a Criterion.

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Building a CMP/NRA legal Service Rifle to get started

One of the problems with 10m Air Rifle or High Power rifle is the cost of entry. With a hobby like golf you can go to a thrift store and get a set of used clubs for cheap and go golfing, with balls and range fees your biggest expense. For a sport like 10m air rifle, you are looking at about 800 bucks to just get the rifle, not including the money you’ll need for jacket, pants, etc. For High Power, you will need a rifle capable of meeting the competition rules, and eventually you will need a jacket. If you have the coin you can buy a pre-assembled service rifle from many reputable companies. Rock River is always a favorite.

But, this post is about minimizing costs to get new shooters into the sport of High Power service rifle. And in that line of thought it becomes pretty obvious you can save a little bit and build one yourself. What I describe here is based solely on the prices available today, and not reflective of any future panic buying based on threats of gun bans.

So here is the basics for an A4 build (with A2 comment for the front sight block).

50 dollar lower receiver (PSA, Anderson, doesn’t matter who makes your lower)
80 dollar upper receiver (brand doesn’t matter as long as it is A2 or A4 compliant)
90 dollar complete BCG (I’ve used Brownells, PSA, etc)
63 dollar A2 stock kit **
50 dollar lower parts kit (brand really doesn’t matter, AR Stoner, DPMS, etc)
130 dollar barrel (AR Stoner 20″ 1:8 stainless) *
8 dollar flash hider
5 dollar peel washer (crush washer will work too, but I think peel washers are more precise)
125 dollar free float tube **
10 dollar gas tube and roll pin
20 dollar gas block (if you are going for an A2 build, you’ll want an Armalite clamp on front sight post, which is more expensive)
120 dollar RR NM trigger * and ***

That’s 751 dollars for what I call a “club level rifle” that will get you on the line competing and having fun. If you want to drop the price further, the single asterisk items can be replaced with even less expensive options.

102 dollar Bear Creek Arsenal 1:7 nitride finished 4150
69 dollar ALG defense ACT (with purple spring to get a 4.5 lb pull)

That drops the price to 672 dollars.

If you want to shave off even more money, you can choose a cheap quad rail like a UTG Leapers for 90 bucks on sale (or a “Field Sport quad rail” off of ebay for 43 bucks), and save another 35 (or 82 for the ebay special) over the Rock River national match free float tube, and the price drops to 637 (or 590 for the ebay rail option). A cheap “airsoft grade” UBS clone stock can drop another 6 bucks off the cost of a stock, to 631 (not recommended though).

If that is too pricey, you can use the trigger that came in the Lower Parts Kit, and polish it yourself, and upgrade the springs (another ten bucks) and the price gets down to 578 dollars. You won’t get a world class trigger this way, but you can get it down to below 5.5 lbs with little creep and excellent consistency, and you can save your pennies for a G2S (170 bucks usually) later.

Now if you are going to build an AR-15 service rifle you will need some tools, or a friend with tools. You can get by without the gunsmith punches and action blocks, but you will want a bench vise and probably a 20 dollar AR armorers tool (in addition to various pliers that you should already have as an adult human being).

You’ll also need one tube of blue loctite for the gas tube (nothing more disturbing than having a gas tube wiggle loose on you during a match, ask me how I know), and one of red for the flash hider. All told your complete build should take less than 2 hours even if you are following along with a youtube (or pornhub now, guess it depends on who hosts the video) build guide.

At the end, assuming you torqued everything to spec, you should have a rifle easily capable of 1.0 to 1.5 MOA accuracy with a standard “cross the course” High Power load. That’s good enough to stay inside the 10 ring if you are. If you didn’t buy a Rock River NM trigger, eventually get a GS2 or SSA from Geissele, or even a Hi-Speed NM trigger.

I recommend an A4 build, because you can always use a clamp on front sight block and a detachable carry handle to compete with iron sights, but you can’t go the other way with an A2 easily (the gooseneck adapter to put a red dot optic on the rifle was always a hokey thing).

Good luck shooting!

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Reloading for High Power across the course

So you have a 20″ HBAR with a 1:8 or 1:7 twist barrel, all A2 or A4 style compliant for CMP or NRA matches as a service rifle, and you need to feed that sexy beast.

Do you:

A: Purchase some quality match ammo.
or
B: Assemble some quality handloads cause you’re a cheap bastard?

Invariably in the High Power game, you are going to choose option “B” unless you happen to be wealthy beyond the standards of a bell curve distribution for High Power shooters.

So, here is what you’ll need, component wise.

Brass. For years the standard for High Power shooters has been Lake City, because it was generally cheap and available and “good enough.” This is still true, however now Israeli surplus brass (headstamp TZZ) or Taiwan surplus (TAA headstamp) have proven themselves every bit as good as Lake City.

Commercial brass, specifically Winchester and Lapua, I’ve seen on the line, but reserved for the 600 yard prone stage. One High Master commented that he gained a few points by switching from LC to Win brass as it shot just a tad more consistent for him, and that it was worth it.

Powder. For years the go to powder was IMR4895, but no more. H4895 is much more temperature stable, as is Varget. A bunch of folks are still using Reloader 15 despite it not being as temp stable it has very consistent performance in consistent temperatures so if you know how it performs at the temperature you are shooting you can do very well with it.

One thing you’ll notice is that all the “go to” powders are extruded stick powders. I loaded up a few thousand match loads using Alliant PowerPro 2000-MR and did ok. Then I switched to Varget and saw a 30 point jump in my scores, using the same primers, brass, and bullets. So I guess if I had to use a ball powder again, I’d use a primer more suited to ball powder than the Wolf KVBMs I was using.

Primers. CCI 41 and 450 small rifle magnum are the go to primers for feeding an AR. For while (before the sanctions cut them off) the Wolf KVBM primers were really popular. S&B small rifle primers have been used with good success by some, and you’ll find folks using Federal GMM primers (as well as Remington) at the 600 yard line.

Bullets.

Cheap but Good (under 20 cents per bullet):

Prvi Partisan 75gr BTHP. These things come in two varieties, one with a 0.350 G1 BC, and an improved version with a 0.360 G1 BC. These have a traditional tangent ogive so are not very sensitive about jump, literally just load them to mag length and they should be fine for 300 yard and 200 yard strings, although they shoot fine at 600 in calm conditions you’ll eventually want something with a better BC for when the wind kicks up. In bulk, 14 to 16 cents per bullet when bought in bulk.

Hornady 75gr BTHP. These come with a respectable 0.395 G1 BC, and many folks have started off their juniors with a “cross the course” load built around these bullets. Works best in a Wylde chamber as they have a secant ogive and a longer 5.56 throat doesn’t do them any favors. In bulk 14 to 17 cents per bullet.

Nosler CC 77gr without cannelure. Very similar to the Prvi Partisan but generally more capable of tighter groups due to more consistent nose profiles, although with a 0.340 G1 BC comes in at the bottom of bullets recommended for a “cross the course load” although the tangent ogive makes them very forgiving for jump. In bulk around 19 cents per bullet.

Hornady 73gr ELD-M. When on sale and bought in bulk, around 19 cents per bullet. If your rifle can shoot them well, these have a slightly better BC than the 75gr BTHP bullets by Hornady at 0.398 G1 BC but that’s measured at a further distance so they perform a bit better at 600 than the “plain jane” 75gr version. Can be loaded to mag length for a viable cross the course load.

Hornady 75gr ELD-M. 0.467 G1 BC at the muzzle at Mach 2.25 and 0.441 downrange below Mach 1.75 (1950 fps). When on sale and bought in bulk, around 18 to 20 cents per bullet, best loaded LONG for single load at 600 although it is possible to load them to mag length it is not recommended. If you can get them to shoot accurately for you, a great choice from a ballistics standpoint.

Middling price range (between 20 and 30 cents per bullet).

Nosler 70gr RDF. An impressive 0.419 G1 BC, can be loaded to mag length for 200/300 or loaded long and hot for 600. If your rifle shoots this bullet well, it is a solid choice to simplify your reloading bench. 27 cents per bullet in bulk. NOTE: if you have a 1:9 twist HBAR, this bullet will make you competitive with the rifle you have without needing to move to a tighter twist, which at the cost of over 100 dollars a barrel, makes the Nosler 70gr RDF a decent bargain if you just want to try the High Power game.

Sierra 77gr Match King. 0.372 G1 BC, but very consistent. The classic “Mk262 Mod0” bullet for military rifle teams. At 26 cents per bullet I believe there are better options for most people though (unless Sierra is sponsoring you).

Sierra 77gr Tipped Match King. An impressive 0.420 G1 BC. can be loaded to mag length for an across the course load, or loaded long and hot for 600. 29 cents per bullet on sale in bulk. Longer than the regular match king, may require a denser powder to get best results.

Sierra 80gr Match King. 0.420 G1 BC same as the 77gr TMK, but can be found for 27 cents per bullet in bulk. Single load only.

Upper End price ranges (over 30 cents per bullet).

Berger 75gr VLD. The US Army Marksmanship Unit uses this as their go to bullet for 600 yards, loaded long over H4895 to about 2,900 fps. In bulk 35 cents per bullet. 0.423 G1 BC.

Berger 80.5 gr Fullbore. 0.436 G1 BC You can still find boxes of this that have a 1:8 recommended twist or tighter on the label, but Berger recently revised that to 1:7. For several years this was the go to bullet for folks who were trying to make a 223 keep up with the 308s in F/TR class. 34 cents a bullet.

Learn from my mistakes, and successes…

When I was starting out I bought a 5,000 bullet pack of Prvi Partisan bullets for 200/300 yard shooting, and a 600 bullet pack of 80gr Amax bullets. At the time I was shooting a Colt HBAR 1:7 upper. I’m still using the Prvi Partizan, with the measly 0.350 G1 BC, but have transitioned to a 1:8 upper so the 80gr Amax bullets don’t group worth a darn at 600 as they don’t achieve stability, which caused me to switch to the 75gr Hornady ELD-Ms (the Amax line has been replaced by the ELD-M line).

That old load of 24.4gr PowerPro 2000-MR, LC Brass, Wolf primer, and 75gr Prvi or 80gr Amax got me into the NRA sharpshooter ranks, with one match shot at the bare minimum Expert score. The change to allow optics, and a swap from PowerPro 2000-MR to Varget and the 75gr ELD-M and my scores are firmly into the Expert range. I think the bulk of the change comes from being able to use a Vortex Crossfire II 1-4×24 scope though, as my scores with the Prvi load using each powder are still in the same “maximum” for 200/300 rapids. For the record, I just can’t seem to break past the 97 per string best scores, but that’s me, not the load, and my overall scores have been rising steadily so I have confidence I will set a new personal best string eventually.

I did all my load workup at 100 yards, imitating Dan Newberry’s “Optimal Charge Weight” method since I was doing bulk reloading on a progressive press (a Lee 1000, which if you set it up for only one load, and never change anything, can actually load a lot of ammo fast).

Reviewing my scores from when I really started out, I’m really glad that I’ve stuck with the sport (despite a few year hiatus due to my job taking me where I couldn’t compete in High Power, but I got two  years of 10m Air Rifle in).

Next up..how to build a High Power service rifle on the cheap.

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